Wednesday, March 5, 2014

FROM THE ASHES INTO NEW LIFE

Ashes signify man's overthrow by time. Our own swift passage, ours and not someone else's, ours, mine. When at the beginning of Lent the priest takes the burnt residue of the green branches of the last Palm Sunday and inscribes with it on my forehead the sign of the cross, it is to remind me of my death.
 
          Memento homo
          quia pulvis
          est et in pulverem reverteris.

Everything turns to ashes, everything whatever. This house I live in, these clothes I am wearing, my household stuff, my money, my fields, meadows, woods, the dog that follows me, my horse in his stall, this hand I am writing with, these eyes that read what I write, all the rest of my body, people I have loved, people I have hated, or been afraid of, whatever was great in my eyes upon earth, whatever small and contemptible, all without exception will fall back into dust.----Romano GUARDINI, Sacred Signs.

Our annual observance of Lent begins with the sign of the ashes pressed upon the warm flesh of our forehead, as a fitting reminder of our mortality. The rough feel of the burnt remains of what was once green and alive reminds us of our mortal fate, of the road that all men without exemption, no matter how influential or great, will have to take, a road that leads to death. Death entered into creation thanks to man's option--freely made--to go away from God. This option in man has been observable: to move away in an effort to assert his own independence from God, a mistaken effort. Lent shows us another path: one which leads to authentic freedom and fullness of life.

This is why Lent culminates in the celebration of the Paschal Triduum, at the climax of which is another sign: water, an element which harbors within itself the force necessary to destroy evil, to cleanse, reinvigorate, give life. The path begun by Ash Wednesday begins with the reminder of our mortality, so as to end with a celebration of life and light. This is why Lent isn't exactly a somber season; rather, it is characterized by joy and hope in the Christian struggle for inner renewal in Christ. In the liturgy there is sense in calling Lent a joyful season, there is sense in talking about "the glory of these forty days". 

 
 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

VOCATION CONUNDRUM


Some of our formators have just returned from Ormoc and Palompon after having conducted the opening salvo of the entrance exams for next school year. We would be conducting admission exams for the Saturdays of this month in various designated testing centers all throughout the Archdiocese. At this table this evening the discussion turned around the observation that the majority of the applicants came, not so much from Catholic schools, but from public institutions. This could also be observed in part with regards to the present population of the seminary. There are seminarians who are products of Catholic schools run by religious congregations, but there seem to be more who come from public schools. 

It would be natural to suppose that vocations would come from institutions that offer Catholic education. It would be natural to suppose that more vocation would come from the ranks of altar servers in the parishes and in these same schools. But somehow, this--in my opinion, and if those whom I have spoken with-- does not seem to be the case. SOMETHING SEEMS TO BE AMISS. 

Of course the problem concerning priestly vocations is intricate; it touches on many aspects, but I would like to focus on certain specific things. somebody voiced out--and I certainly agree with him, that THERE IS A CORRELATION WITH THE IDENTITY AND CATHOLICITY OF A CATHOLIC SCHOOL AND THE VOCATIONS THAT IT CULTIVATES. It is a correlation that could even be said to be necessary. Turning my eye to the parishes, it could be safely assumed that there ought to be vocations among the altar servers: proximity to the Sacrament of the Altar and to the priestly ministry, given the proper coordinates and conditions, should inspire somebody among the altar servers. If fact, this is one important end for which the Knights of the Altar exists: to encourage priestly vocations. This is another main reason why girls should not be allowed in this kind of apostolate. But there are fewer altar servers who are entering the seminary. 

In the Archdiocese of Palo, if there are lesser applicants for the seminary coming from schools run by religious congregations, or schools that are Catholic in identity, if fewer altar servers are joining the ranks of the seminarians, IT'BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN REMISS IN SOME ASPECTS.  Religious sisters, religious brothers, and parish priests need to do some serious soul-searching concerning this. HOW ARE OUR CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, YOUTH MINISTRIES AND SACRISTIES EFFECTIVE AND CONDUCIVE AS PRIMARY SEEDBEDS OF THE PRIESTLY VOCATION?

Tabo

Saturday morning I went to the market place of Palo to buy some garden rakes for the seminary. I remember one conference that I attended once when I was still in college, by an anthropologist who was studying Leyte├▒o culture that he enjoyed coinciden to market data because he could observe many thing: people, the local produce, the social interaction. 
I've been familiar with market day in Palo, ( which is also known in the local language as "tabo") which before used to fall on a Saturday. It still does nowadays, except that they've extended it to Friday afternoon as well. 
Market day is a social thermometer in any town, especially in Palo, a good-sized municipality known for its tradition, and yet rapidly opening itself to economic progress. Heavily damaged by super typhoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), it nevertheless sought to rise rapidly from the ashes despite of the immense devastation that it suffered. Market day resumed a week after Yolanda, another proof of the resilience of its people and the will to rise from the destruction. 
This morning I could see some of the structures in the market place still unrepaired. Some stalls have collapsed due to the string winds, and yet people still set up shop wherever they can, and the rhythm in the market still continues on as before the typhoon. There's one thing that I miss though. I could remember that as a child I used to see and hear vendors sing as they count the produce that they were selling. They weren't merely counting the fish that they were selling, they were singing what they were counting. 
I went around for a bit, and bought some of the homemade delicacies that would always be featured in any market day. I bought a small cake made out of sticky rice topped with melted caramel syrup. Very tasty.