Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Third Sunday of Lent: To thirst is to Love

My dear brothers and sisters,

It is a known fact that living creatures are in need of certain elements, elements without which they cannot survive. Aside from the oxygen-rich air that we breathe, the earth that we tread upon, and the heat that we need in order to function well, we need water in order to subsist. It is a known fact to many of us that the human body is composed of water by 70%. A significant fraction of the human body is water. This all the more underscores the fact that we living beings, humans especially, need water or else we perish.

This need and importance of this element is made manifest in the readings of this Sunday, the third of the season of Lent. The experience of the Israelites in the desert show us this human need, a need that is so great, that they begin to grumble and doubt the providence of the Lord who had saved them from Egypt with His mighty arm and outstretched hand. Will the God who had rescued them from the tyranny of Egypt through the wonders that He had made manifest to them allow them to simply die of thirst in the hot and merciless desert? This is but one of the many instances that Israel would be tempted to withdraw its trust in the Lord. Aside from being an episode that shows the lack of faith in God’s providence on part of Israel, this episode also manifests the providence and care of God which is always prompt.

“I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink

As a token of His providence God gives his people water to drink. As a manifestation of His omnipotence he gives them to drink from a rock. The First Reading admonishes us to have trust in the Lord, who will always attend to our needs and who understands our concerns, and anticipates them, because of His loving providence. The Lord knows what we need, and what we REALLY need, and gives them according to His love and wisdom. He is not a mere architect of the universe, who creates the world and leaves it to its destiny; rather he is the Father who rules creation with his loving providence.

This is a reminder that is made out to us because too often we are so consumed with our own concerns we become deaf to the fact that the Lord is here telling us that we have nothing to fear actually, since everything is in His hands.  The Responsorial Psalm expresses this beautifully: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!

Nowadays so many things tend to harden our hearts to the Lord. So many needless preoccupations and anxieties, the vanities of this world, the unwarranted indulgence in pleasures that rather tend to lead us away from God, the temptation to view freedom as doing our own will and following our own law other than the Law of the Lord: these are the things that subvert and harden our hearts to the voice of God. To harden our hearts against the Lord ultimately means to allow ourselves to believe that we can be happy without God, that we can be the source of our own fulfillment; it is the temptation to believe the fallacy that one can live free and fulfilled EVEN if one chooses to live against the commandments of God.

This brings us to consider the scene of the gospel this Sunday, wherein we see the figure of that woman from Samaria. Here we see a woman who has a very deep thirst for life, a thirst which she had tried to quench, rather unsuccessfully, for she had tried to satisfy it with earthly waters. Her daily trip to the well might as well be a reflection of her attempt to fill her heart time and again with whatever may seem to promise her happiness. This woman knows that she is thirsting for love, and she has tried to satisfy it in her life, to no avail; the Gospel mentions that she had passed from man to man, seven in all, and that these relationships had only served to lead her farther and farther away from the happiness she sought. After so many attempts, she has her heart hardened and weary, so much so that she is deaf to the plea of the Lord whom she unwittingly meets one day at the well and who asks her: “Give me a drink”

There are only two incidents in the Gospel in which we see Christ beg for something to drink, in which we see Christ thirst; the first is here in this episode with the woman from Samaria, and the second, when he hangs upon the Cross and whispers, “I thirst”. These episodes are indicative of His sacred Humanity, of the physical need for water; but on the other hand, it “expresses the passion of God for every man and woman” (Lenten Message of Pope Benedict XVI, 2011). God thirsts for love as well, and man is seemingly indifferent to this thirst. Since he chooses not to heed this thirst, he in turn becomes indifferent to his own thirst for happiness, for life, which ultimately is his thirst for God in his life.

This thirst for God is only satisfied in his life by God himself. In the Gospel Jesus promises to give the Samaritan woman water that satisfies, water which will make springs of living water spring from the one who drinks it. This water is none other than God himself, the Holy Spirit that transforms everything it touches, that gives life, that satisfies. This water will come as a gift from Christ himself; just as in the Old Testament water flowed from the rock that was struck with the staff of Moses, so did the Holy Spirit flow from the Christ whose side was pierced by the lance.

In the end we could say that it is only God who can fully satisfy man. Only this water, which is the gift of the Spirit of God, can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it “finds rest in God”, as per the famous words of St. Augustine(ibid). Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thesis Proposal

I'm virtually joining thousands at Quirino Grandstand as I type away at this post from the comfort of my cozy retreat here in the seminary. Still months away from leaving for further studies at my alma mater, I've already been thinking about what my licentiate thesis would be all about. I'm taking up history, one of my interests (I love stories, so maybe that's why I'm interested in history), and since the Archdiocese of Palo would be celebrating its Diamond Jubilee as a diocese since its creation in 1938, I've decided to write something about its history. I'm getting set on writing about the second archbishop of Palo, Archbishop Pedro Dean, now living in retirement in Pasig City. It's a great idea; no doubt many would welcome it. Many of us would still remember him while he was still among us here in Palo, but that number won't remain forever. I think it's about time that something be written about him, especially considering the fact that he isn't getting younger by the day (though he's healthy than he's ever been. Being in charge of a large flock isn't exactly a walk through the garden). 

I may not be present for the Diamond Jubilee (daymmmn...), but at least with my work, I may be able to give my own contribution to the celebration. Who knows, after I defend it, I might as well convert it into a book for the Archdiocese! Proceed of the sale would go to the Sacred Heart Seminary (YEHEEEEEYYYY). I'm not even there yet, and I'm already full of ideas!!! I'm thinking of focusing most especially of his pontificate here in Palo, which spanned more than twenty years (he was Archbishop of Palo from 1985 to 2006) . I might as well brace myself for the big work ahead. But I think I'll enjoy it. 

Come to think of it, as I've said earlier, I believe many would welcome it, except one in particular, and that would be the subject of my thesis himself: Archbishop Dean. He always shuns the spotlight. His virtue is my disadvantage. But I hope that this would not be about him, but about the local Church in Palo (of course it would be about him as well, but if this would make him relax a bit, then ok....)

and now, the good archbishop as you've never seen him before:
Pedro Sr.

one of the enduring loves of the Archbishop: Dna. Luz Rosales Dean
the Archbishop as a child

First Holy Communion

With his brother, Ceasar
The Archbishop's brother, Ceasar Dean

the young seminarian during an outing to the beach, ca. 1950
The young Tomasino

at the Central Seminary of Sto. Tomas
The first blessing of a young priest: November 30, 1956

traveling as secretary to the Cardinal of Cebu

The Cardinal and the protege-nephew
the priestly vocation runs in the family: +Msgr. Basilio Rosales, +Julio Cardinal Rosales, Msgr. Pedro Dean

Taking a few moments of prayer by the tomb of his predecessor in the see of Palo, Archbishop Urgel, before taking possession of the Archdiocese, 1985.

Receiving the pallium from Pope John Paul II

A light moment with soon-to-be-beatified John Paul II
This was taken during his last trip to Rome in 2004

Thursday, March 24, 2011


even when I'm in a car as hot as mine (not just because I still have to get the A/C fixed)...
from the back...

a closer that no one may be confused...



That I was saying good-bye and relinquishing the office that I had as Dean of Students (or Prefect of Discipline or whatever you may call it) was consummated last Sunday evening during the gala tribute rendered by the College Seminarians on the last evening of the academic year 2010-2011. We did something new this year, by suggesting that we be attired formally for the evening (hence that explains the sartorial and clerical elegance of yours truly in the picture. The photo doesn't show however how stuffy black clericals and coat could get in the tropics). I believe that the seminarians looked eagerly to being dressed to the nines that night. The evening's main event was actually the tribute and farewell paid to the graduating class of 2011.
Another tribute was paid to me as I was leaving for further studies very soon (I hope to take up licentiate and most probably be continuing to take doctoral studies in Theological History at my alma mater, the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain)

That was one tribute which shows how these boys are also very much in touch with their heart. God bless them and God knows how much I love them. During his inspirational talk Fr. Gil Manaog, the Rector, mentioned that it makes him happy to observe that these seminarians were unaraid to express their love for their brothers. I mentioned it as well when I made my response. I feel rewarded and happy to think that there is this fraternal love in the community, and that people here are not afraid to express this noble love that has its center in Jesus Christ. My only regret, I said, was that, though of course I loved each of them very much,  I had not loved them even more. Truly, these three years that I had in the pastoral ministry of seminary formation are destined to be one of the best in my whole priestly adventure. As I have expressed in my last weekly Prefect's Conference, I have learned much from them, and have learned much about relationships, in how to love people, ultimately, what fatherhood means, with all the joys and sorrows that it entails. Of course I'll learn more, but at least I've started to learn it here in the seminary. My highest dream for these seminarians, and the guiding desire for which I have spent myself for them, was that they become better than me, holier than me, that they become the best, and that we may be faithful together as we answer the call of the Lord. I shall certainly miss them (actually I shall still be living in the seminary until July, when I finally leave for Spain), along with my fellow formators. It's a good thing to realize that not all farewells remain good-byes forever; sometimes they serve as a prelude to a reunion. I pray that this is not the end of my stint in the formation ministry.

This love was evident when the collegians welcomed the Pre-Collegians into the community.  That night, not everything was about farewells. I could see that some were moved with the ardent welcome that their elder brothers accorded them. I myself was moved when I witnessed this manifestation of solidarity and fraternal love between these young men. Please Lord, guide them well into your holy priesthood, and give them hearts as big so as to engulf the world!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


An ounce of a mother is worth a pound of clergy - Spanish Proverb

 "God could not be everywhere, therefore, he created mothers."
--Hebrew Proverb

"A mother understands what a child doesn't say."

--Jewish Proverb

 "Who takes a child by the hand, takes the mother by the heart."
--German Proverb

 "The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother."
--Napoleon Bonaparte

 "The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom."
--Henry Ward Beecher

 "Motherhood: All love begins and ends there."
--Robert Browning

 "Mothers are instinctive philosophers."
--Harriet Beecher Stowe
. "My mother is a poem
I'll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother."
--Sharon Doubiago


Friday, March 4, 2011

Like a lake among the mountains

I was reading a few lines from the renowned work of Khalil Gibran which I have recently posted here. I t was about farewells. The school year is almost ending, and with people silently bidding each other well, I myself may have do some leave-taking very soon myself, since the Lord seems to be asking  something different  from me this time. And so I withdrew to my cell and began to ponder on these lines by the poet. My attention was grabbed by the following lines:
In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses,
And your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all.
Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.
And oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains.
I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and your desires.
The lines, for some reason, led me to tears. I realized that being a formator precisely meant being with those whom the Lord has entrusted to me. Not that I have been remiss in this aspect. It's just that I never saw it in this way as the poet would actually express it: your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all. I was reduced to tears because the poet had masterfully captured the sentiments of the Good Shepherd who knew his sheep. 

What led me to more tears was to see this poetic image: oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains. These people were the mountains; sometimes I may think that I towered over them all, but the fact was, in some aspects, they taught more things; as formator I was the lake, placidly reflecting to them the image of their desires for the priesthood. The formator (since every priest is called to be one) is one who shows to those whom he forms the summits which they themselves cannot see yet, the great things that they are capable of achieving with God's grace, as well as the bending slopes that they have: I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and desires

I was just occasionally fond of poetry. I was never capable of shedding tears over one, until I came upon this one.

"The Farewell" from The Prophet of Khalil Gibran

People of Orphalese, the wind bids me leave you.

Less hasty am I than the wind, yet I must go.
We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.
Even while the earth sleeps we travel.
We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered. 

Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.
But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again,
And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.

Yea, I shall return with the tide,
And though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I seek your understanding.
And not in vain will I seek.
If aught I have said is truth, that truth shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in words more kin to your thoughts.

I go with the wind, people of Orphalese, but not down into emptiness;
And if this day is not a fulfillment of your needs and my love, then let it be a promise till another day. Know therefore, that from the greater silence I shall return.
The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain.
And not unlike the mist have I been.

In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses,
And your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all.
Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.
And oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains.
I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and your desires.


Thanks to The Crescat.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

reasons to fight the rh bill

Here are more reasons why concerned christians and true men of goodwill need to fight against this bill:

 It penalizes those who "“knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination” of information about “reproductive health,” which includes contraceptive measures that can cause abortions, especially the contraceptive “pill.”

*the ac...t claims that “conscientious objection of a health care service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected” it goes on to require such doctors to refer the patient to another doctor who will provide the service.

*The bill would also penalize “any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act,” a provision that opponents fear will be used against them if they speak out against the law. 

*The bill also states that the “ideal family size” is two children and that couples will be “encouraged” to limit themselves to this number, while claiming that the goal will not be compulsory. In order to achieve this “ideal,” the bill mandates the creation of a “Local Population Officer” for every municipality in the country.

*Those who violate the prohibitions of the act will be subject to one to six months of imprisonment and a fine ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 pesos (more cash to buy more condoms perhaps).

so much for freedom in a democratic country...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


...this time coming from the ordinary teaching of the Holy Father. Last January 12 Pope Benedict, in speaking about St. Catherine of Genoa, agreed with this saint who described Purgatory as a fire, not an exterior one but an interior one
For Catherine, instead, purgatory is not represented as an element of the landscape of the core of the earth; it is a fire that is not exterior but interior.

This is purgatory, an interior fire. The saint speaks of the soul's journey of purification to full communion with God, based on her own experience of profound sorrow for the sins committed, in contrast to the infinite love of God. We have heard about the moment of her conversion, when Catherine suddenly felt God's goodness, the infinite distance of her life from this goodness and a burning fire within her. And this is the fire that purifies, it is the interior fire of purgatory.

Here also there is an original feature in relation to the thought of the era. She does not begin, in fact, from the beyond to narrate the torments of purgatory – as was usual at that time and perhaps also today – and then indicate the path for purification or conversion. Instead our saint begins from her own interior experience of her life on the path to eternity.

The soul, says Catherine, appears before God still bound to the desires and the sorrow that derive from sin, and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the Beatific Vision of God. Catherine affirms that God is so pure and holy that the soul with stains of sin cannot be in the presence of the Divine Majesty. And we also realize how far we are, how full we are of so many things, so that we cannot see God. The soul is conscious of the immense love and perfect justice of God and, in consequence, suffers for not having responded correctly and perfectly to that love, and that is why the love itself of God becomes a flame. Love itself purifies it from its dross of sin.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


At this point I'm preparing a retreat that I am to preach to two batches of graduants from a state university in Samar. I've decided to divide the talks into considerations on the Four Last Things (No, I won't be talking about frills and feeling-good-about-ourselves-because-God-is-so-good kind of thing. I've had enough of chicken-soup for the souls. I'm bent on giving something substantial). These Four Last Things used to be staple in every lengthy Catholic retreat: Death and Judgment, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell. I was having research on material for the meditation on Purgatory when I came upon the revelations to Maria Simma. Entitled The Secret of the Poor Souls in Purgatory, the Austrian visionary talks about her visits done to her by a soul in purgatory. It's very enlightning; it's actually makes very good devotional reading (being a private revelation it's not Church dogma; however it keeps to what the Church teaches about Purgatory); it's not that long and one could be through reading it in less than an hour (that's even to long already). Anyway, among others, this caught my attention:
Are there priests in Purgatory?
Yes, there are many. They didn't promote respect for the Eucharist. So Faith overall suffers. They are often in Purgatory for having neglected prayer — which has diminished their Faith. But there are also many who have gone straight to Heaven.
What would you say, then, to a priest who really wants to live according to the Heart of God?
I would advise him to pray much to the Holy Spirit — and to say his Rosary every day.
The declaration that faith suffers because of the neglect of the Eucharist by many priests. And priests neglect the proper care and delicacy for the Eucharist because they have abandoned their prayer life. No wonder a lot of my brothers make up for lost time in Purgatory. 
This made me think of Angelo Reyes:
What happens to people who have committed suicide? Have you ever been visited by these people?
Up to now, I have never encountered the case of a suicide who was lost — this doesn't mean, of course, that that doesn't exist — but often, the souls tell me that the most guilty were those around them, when they were negligent or spread calumny.
At this moment, I asked Maria if the souls regretted having committed suicide. She answered yes. Often, suicide is due to illness. These souls do regret their act because, as they see things in the light of God, they understand instantly all the graces that were in store for them during the time remaining for them to live — and they do see this time which remained for them, sometimes months or years —– and they also see all the souls they could have helped by offering the rest of their lives to God. In the end, what hurts them most is to see the good that they could have done but didn't, because they shortened their lives. But when the cause is illness, the Lord takes this into account, of course.
This was an eye-opener concerning sexual sins as well, particularly concerning homosexuality:
Have you been visited by souls who, on earth, practiced perversions? I am thinking, for example, about the sexual domain.
Yes, they are not lost, but they have much to suffer to be purified. For example: homosexuality. This truly comes from the Evil One.
What advice would you give, then, to all those people afflicted by homosexuality, with this tendency in them?
Pray a lot for the strength to turn away from it. They should above all pray to the Archangel Michael; he is the great fighter par excellence against the Evil One.


After effectively fighting for Faith and family for decades against the Culture of Death, the Church and the people of the Philippines find themselves in a truly desperate situation. For the first time, there is a distinct possibility that this most Catholic of nations might embrace abortion.

For more than a decade, the death peddlers have pushed for the so-called “Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill),” which provides for the universal distribution of all methods of birth control, including abortifacient pills, injections, and IUDs. The promoters of the RH Bill allege that it will prevent abortions through the widespread promotion of contraception, but its sponsors are well aware that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that “… reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.”

The RH Bill provides for heavy fines and imprisonment for Catholic and other hospital personnel who refuse to distribute contraception or perform sterilizations. Additionally, anyone who distributes “malicious disinformation” about the RH Bill itself can be jailed. Naturally, the bill’s sponsors refuse to define this term, but we can be certain that they consider all opposition to the RH Bill to be “malicious.” The RH Bill also provides for mandatory comprehensive sex education beginning in fifth grade, which its proponents know is the best way to destroy the innocence of the children and get them “hooked” on contraception.

In other words, the RH Bill is a complete package designed to integrate the anti-life mentality into the fabric of the nation. It is plainly a “lethal injection” to the soul of the Philippines, as the European experience has shown us.

Benigno Aquino III (“Noy-Noy”) is the first Filipino President to say that he supports the RH Bill. Like John F. Kennedy, he says that he will keep his “Catholic” faith separate from his public life, and that the Church will play no role in shaping his decisions. Naturally, the population controllers and other anti-lifers are ecstatic over this, and anticipate legalized abortion in the Philippines in less than three years.

The purpose of my tenth mission to the Philippines was to speak at Human Life International’s 17th Asia-Pacific Congress, and to help our Regional Coordinator, Ligaya Acosta, assist the Church hierarchy and large Catholic lay groups in organizing and synchronizing their efforts.

The pre-Congress training sessions kicked off with an opening Mass celebrated by a dozen priests. We had pro-life representatives from Laos, India, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Uzbekistan and, of course, the Philippines. The three-day pre-Congress was designed to train pro-life leaders from each of the countries in the basics of the anti-life assaults, and to awaken and inform them as to the many directions they may come from. We also hosted a meeting of more than 150 high-level pro-life leaders, including bishops, senators, congressmen and judges, as well as large numbers of businessmen, doctors and lawyers.

The worst fear of the population controllers is a vocal Church working hand-in-hand with large and activist lay groups. The head of the Knights of Columbus of the Philippines was at the meeting, and he said that the combined strength of 300,000 fourth-degree Knights will be marshaled against the RH bill. They will be joined by the powerful Couples for Christ group, El Shaddai, and the Focolare, among others. Between them, these groups represent millions of Filipinos.

The 17th Asia-Pacific Congress officially began on November 6. Among the many bishops staying through the entire conference were Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, recently retired from the post of Archbishop of Cebu City; Archbishop Jose S. Palma, his successor; Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila; Archbishop Tomash Peta, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Kazakhstan; Archbishop Francesco Panfilo, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, Director of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life; and Bishop Nerio P. Odchimar, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The two and a half days of talks stretched from early Saturday to noon on Monday. We had eleven different talks, and the open forum discussions were extensive. As usual, the most important work happened behind the scenes with meetings and networking.

One of our speakers was Congressman Roilo Golez, the author of House Bill 13, which would protect all human life from fertilization. He presented me with a thick pile of papers proving statistically that the main causes of high maternal mortality in the provinces of the Philippines is not the lack of “safe” abortion, but a lack of attended childbirth. But the population controllers do not care about this; all they want is fewer Filipinos.

Cardinal Rosales encouraged all of us during his homily at the closing Mass of the Congress, emphasizing that prayer and action are both needed in the world today. We also outlined our plans for the next Congress, which will be held in Kazakhstan in September of 2011.

This was definitely the most productive trip we have had to the Philippines. More than 500 people attended the Congress, and there were more high-ranking Church officials there than at any other HLI conference we have ever held. We also helped achieve more strategic goals than at any other conference, the most important being the organization of the pro-life leaders of the entire nation to fight the Reproductive Health Bill.

To lose the Philippines to the culture of death would not only be a devastating blow to the morale of pro-lifers all over the world, it would open the floodgates to funds pouring in to devastate Filipino families. So we are appealing to all of our friends to support our efforts in the Philippines with generous donations. Please also pray fervently for the future of the Philippines. If the RH Bill passes, there will be abortion mills all over the country within three years, and the soul of this most Catholic nation will quickly wither and die. The West will have occupied the Philippines yet again, but this time the occupation would be in the form of anti-life resources and structures that would destroy what is so beautiful and unique about this great country: its faithful and joyful families, and indeed, its future.
Join us – don’t let it happen!

Brian Clowes, PhD
Director of Research and Training
Human Life International