Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tragedy and Heroism in the Sichuan Earthquake

(Received this in pps format in the mail, which tells me that the innate heroism and compassion in man transcends race, color and creed. That in today's world marked by man's inhumanity to man, there is a white ray of hope amidst all tragedy and odds...)

Dedicated to the brave people in Sichuan Earthquake, 2008

An earthquake, magnitude 8.0, struck Sichuan province of China at 2:28PM, May 12, 2008. The epicenter of the earthquake, Wenchuan, is about 90 miles from Chengdu. The earthquake released more energy than 500 atomic bombs, 30 times more than the Kobe earthquake in Japan, 1995. By May 19, there are more than 32,000 confirmed dead, more than 20,000 still missing, and more than 4.7 million houses collapsed or heavily damaged. Cities close to the epicenter are flattened; whole mountains collapsed.

Millions of people lost their beloved ones, their homes, their belongings. Yet there is no looting, no complaints, just people helping each other.

Within hours, people rushed to rescue. Blood donation lines run for 100 yards, and people waited hours to donate blood; within 24 hours, all major blood banks ran out storage space. The highway to the earthquake struck city Dujianyang (20 mile from Chengdu) was almost jammed one hour after the earthquake, not by people fleeing the aftershocks, but by volunteers, led by over 1,000 taxi drivers, came from Chengdu to rescue.

Chen Guangbiao(陈光标), owner of a big construction company 1,500 miles from the disaster area, just 2 hour 30 minutes after the earthquake, started transporting 60 construction machineries and led 120 volunteers to rescue. They arrived at the disaster area 24 hours later, almost the same time as Army Engineering Corp.

Medical workers provided care under extreme conditions; they even delivered many new born babies on the parking lot.

Wen Jiabao(温家宝), 66, Chinese Prime Minister, boarded on a plane 30 minutes after the earthquake, and arrived in disaster area in 2 hours. He has been the chief of the rescue operation since then, working almost around clock at the frontline with rescue workers.

1000 paratroopers started boarding airplanes 2 hours after earthquake. Despite heavy rain, high wind and thick cloud, they jumped from over 20,000 foot high to remote mountain areas where they did not even know if there would be a place for them to land. The first jumped off plane was Senior Colonel Li Zhenbo(李振波), 51.

With roads buried by landslide and bad weather hammering airborne operations, a group of 600 soldiers and medical teams, let by Major General Xia Guofu(夏国富), 57, Commander in Chief of Sichuan Military District, walked 21 hours straight on foot in mountain area, carrying heavy relief supplies, risking landslide and falling rocks. They became the first group to arrive at the epicenter of the earthquake.

Soldiers and rescue workers working around clock to rescue people still buried. Unable to transport heavy machineries to the remote areas since roads are buried by landslides, they often have to use hands to move tons of concrete.

Song Xinying (宋馨懿), 3, pulled out from rubble after being buried for 2 days. She was in critical condition and lost a leg, but survived. Her parents hold each other’s hands and shoulders face to face to make an arch to shield her from the falling building. Her parents did not make it out.

A 5 year old boy was rescued after being buried under rubbles for 24 hours. His left hand was broken, but he smiled and saluted to his rescuers. His smile made everybody cry

Zhang Jiwang(张吉万), 11, carrying his sister Zhang Han(张韩), 3walked 12 hours straight to flee the disaster center.

Yuan Wentin(袁文婷), 26, first grade teacher. When the earthquake struck, she rushed to carry her stunned students from classroom on the 3rd floor to the ground. She managed to pull out most of her students, but the building collapsed when she was trying to pull out the last few. At the last moment of her life, she was trying to use her body to shield the students from falling concrete. Many teachers did the same thing. They are 谭千秋、张米亚、苟晓超、吴忠洪、杜正香......

This high school student was rescued from the collapsed building. She lost both legs, and her both hands are broken. The rescue workers were all in tears when they saw this. She smiled to them: “Be Brave!”

This baby, after being buried over 24 hours, miraculously, was rescued unscratched. He is about 3-4 months old, and his mother kneeled down, pinned her head and hands on the ground to shielded him from the falling concrete, and milked him. His mother did not make it out. A rescue worker found his mom’s cell phone in his wrapper. It had a text message left by his mother: “Dear child, if you survive, please remember, Mom loves you forever…”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Praying for our Enemies

Most prayers are normally directed in the form of supplications, to petition God for relief of pain, sickness, financial difficulties, all sorts of problems and worries for self, for family, relatives, and close friends. Most prayers are also directed to praising and thanking God for all the blessings that are given to us, especially those prayers made in gratitude to “answered prayers”. A little extraordinary probably would be praying for the “enemy”, praying for one who has seriously wronged you, hurt you, maligned you and most probably even continues to do so. In the order of priorities, I guess one prays for his enemies last, if ever. If one ever prays for the enemy as in: “Lord make him suffer for this…” – that is not true praying, and is actually an offense to God. Now if the prayer goes like: ”Lord, please touch him and make him change his ways…” well, I guess that is passable enough and would be closer to the proper intention, but not yet quite, as we take a look at Luke 6:27-28; 32-36.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Jesus certainly epitomized this mercy, even as he suffers severely on the cross, he prayed : “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.

Praying for the enemy is a tough act. This explains why some saints say it is the main criterion of holiness. People who make our lives miserable and cause us so much pain are least likely to receive a place in our hearts. It is the most difficult prayer of all because it is contrary to our impulses, and because you cannot really lift a person up to the Lord and at the same time continue to hate him. Before praying for our enemies, the first step then would be to remove the anger in our hearts, to substitute charity and compassion instead. As we then pray, it becomes a profound moment of reconciliation and solidarity with humanity, that in the eyes of God, we are no more and no less worthy of our enemies praying for us.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The British Parliament in the Island of Dr. Moreau

British Parliament has now approved one of the horrors that has always been rejected by ethics, says the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Members of Parliament approved 336-176 on Monday evening the creation of hybrid embryos, made by introducing human DNA into animal ova. The measure aims to compensate for a "shortage" of human embryos used for embryonic stem cell research.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia told Vatican Radio that the law is particularly grave from the ethical point of view since "it constitutes an offense against the dignity of man. It is an attempt of fertilization between species that until how has been prohibited by all the laws on artificial fertilization."

"Human-animal union, even if it is not sexual, represents one of the horrors that has always brought rejection in ethics," he said.

The prelate emphasized that "every time the wall between man and animal has been broken, very grave consequences, even involuntary ones, have arisen."

“Each preserved the quality of its particular species: the human mark distorted but did not hide the leopard, the ox, or the sow, or other animal or animals, from which the creature had been moulded”.

Now that last quote is not from the prelate, but a quote from the book “Island of Dr. Moreau”. It is an 1896 science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells, addressing ideas of society and community, human nature and identity, playing God and Darwinism. Today, the British Parliament appears to be playing God, and the “Island of Dr. Moreau” do not appear as fiction anymore.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is China ready for the Olympics?

From the looks of its expansive, swanky airport, is seems that indeed, China is ready.


There’s still a bit of some minor adjustments they have to do with those toilet signs.

Monday, May 19, 2008

POPE BENEDICT XVI on New Evangelization and Charisms in Ecclesial Movements

Back in December 2000, then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his address to Catechists and Religion Teachers
expounds on the need for “New Evangelization”:

“…This is why we are searching for, along with permanent and uninterrupted and never to be interrupted evangelization, a new evangelization, capable of being heard by that world that does not find access to ‘classic’ evangelization. Everyone needs the Gospel; the Gospel is destined to all and not only to a specific circle and this is why we are obliged to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to all.”

Eight years forward to this month, at the conclusion of the seminar of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on ecclesial movements last May 17, Pope Benedict XVI exhorts the 150 bishop participants:

.. “Go out to meet with much love the movements and new communities; let us make an effort to know their reality adequately, without superficial impressions or reductive judgments.”..

.."It also helps us to understand that the ecclesial movements and new communities are not a problem or an extra risk that further weighs on our grave duties.”..

..“No! They are a gift of the Lord, a precious resource to enrich our whole Christian community with their charisms. Thus, a confident welcome that gives space to and values their contributions in the life of the local Churches must not be lacking.”..

..“Those who are called to the service of discernment and leadership, should not lord it over the charisms, but should rather beware of the danger of suffocating them, resisting the temptation to make uniform that which the Spirit willed to be multiform to concur in the building up and the enlargement of the one Body of Christ, that the same Spirit makes firm in unity.”..

One cannot help but be moved everytime Pope Benedict XVI speaks.
One simply realizes he is the Vicar of Christ right now for purposeful reasons just when the Church needs him most.
Talk about heaven sent.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

On Doxology and Dancing at Mass

There are two odd things which I noticed when I attended Sunday mass today at a prominent church in Quezon City. The first was when the officiating priest encouraged the congregation to join him in reciting: “through Him, in Him, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit…” (Doxology) which I believe is reserved for the priest alone, in conformance to the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal). The second was towards the end of the mass, before the final blessings, when a group of young people presented a song and dance number before the whole congregation. It turns out they were part of the recent graduates of PREX (Parish Renewal Experience) who were asked to make a presentation at the mass. After the presentation, there was clapping all around. Certainly, I would encourage these young people to express their new found enthusiasm in the faith, but asking them to express this enthusiasm by performing a dance number at mass is a tad overboard. These kinds of presentations are best appreciated outside of the liturgy of the mass, as it simply takes away the solemnity and draws away the attention from God who should be the sole focus of the mass. It’s certainly a challenge how to call the attention of the parish priest on these matters, but it should be done.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Development of Doctrine and Humanae Vitae

"When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come" (John 16:13)

"Development of Doctine" is defined by Catholics as the increase in understanding - by means of the Holy Spirit, prayer, theological study, and the reflection of the Body of Christ as a whole - of
Christian doctrines that originated from the Lord Jesus himself and which have been passed down through the Apostles, the Fathers, the councils, and the Catholic Church in general (Catechism # 94, 158). Catholics call it the "Deposit of Faith". The meaning of doctrines unfolds over time, but the essence or substance of any particular doctrine remains unchanged. Our extent of knowledge or subjective grasp of any given dogma is what changes. The bible is not "absolutely clear", and requires the interpretative wisdom of the Church.

The Church's teaching against contraception provides a case in point. Throughout the whole history of the Church, it has been been clear and constant in its position on contraception. In fact, all Christian churches were united in their opposition to contraception until as recently as the early decades of the 20th century. It was not until 1930 that the Anglican Church went on record as saying that contraception was permissible, for grave reasons, within marriage. The first clamoring for change appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the widespread availability of the birth control pill. Some Catholic theologians began to think that the pill might be a legitimate form of birth control for Catholics because, unlike other kinds of birth control, it did not break the integrity of the sexual act. Amidst such controversy, the landmark encyclical "Humane Vitae" was released by Pope Paul VI in 1968. It clearly defined the intrinsic evil of contraception and even provided prophetic views that has since materialized. Subsequently, Pope John Paul II affirms Humane Vitae with his "Theology of the Body". On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae this month, Pope Benedict XVI states: "The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change. Quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses."

And going back to development of doctrine, it is noteworthy to cite St. Thomas Aquinas:

"Regarding its substance then, Faith does not grow with the passage of time, for whatever has been believed since was contained from the start in the Faith of the ancient fathers. With regards to its explication however, the number of articles has increased, for we moderns explicitly believe what they believed implicitly."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The mother, the child, and the rain

There was a sudden downpour while I was driving to the office this morning. On the way, I was held by a traffic light at a busy corner, when I notice this woman by the roadside hurriedly protecting a small, half-naked child with an umbrella. With one arm she then proceeded quickly to cover a pushcart with a sheet of plastic to shield it from the rain. The pushcart probably contained all their belongings, and provided a mobile home for them as well. There I was, in the relative comfort of my car, observing the plight of this poor mother and child, when I remembered my own wife and three-year old son who were safely ensconced in comfort back home. My reverie was interrupted with the impatient blast of a car horn behind me, and I was forced to proceed on my way.

I just hope CFC’s Gawad Kalinga and other similar initiatives for the poor is maximized to reach out to all the poorest of the poor, like the mother and child I just saw. Sad, but I think one can only do so much, as I remember Jesus saying ‘you will always have the poor with you’. While reaching out to these people we must also pray for them, as we trust that in God’s time, their suffering will cease. Like he did to the beggar Lazarus, we trust that the Lord in due time finally relieves them of their sorry plight in this world, and takes them to an eternal place where there is no suffering, no pains, no sorrow, and no rain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reproductive health is not only being moral?

In a statement, the Davao Teen Center (DTC) strongly expressed their support on the programs of the local government to address the reproductive health issues of the city. They challenged civil society to support the programs, as this is the "long hope of young people when it comes to accessibility of the reproductive health services of the city."

Jamail Lunar Macla, youth coordinator of DTC, expressed that the local initiative of passing and approving LDPC manifests the firmness of local leaders that reproductive health is more than moral and societal issue.

Macla said the issue is not just all about morality.

"Reproductive health is not only being moral. It is being human and humane to all citizenry where you let them choose to informed options based on the availability and accessibility of correct information and education that was given by all stakeholders in the society, which includes media, family, peers, academe and church," Macla said.

I wonder what Macla means when she says "Reproductive health is not only being moral.”
Let us try to get the secular definition of “moral” in merriam-webster’s dictionary.


a: of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical (moral judgments) b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior (a moral poem) c: conforming to a standard of right behavior d: sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment (a moral obligation)

Ah, now I see. Let me now attempt to rephrase Ms Macla’s statement:

"Reproductive health is not only being moral. It is not only being right or wrong. It is not only the concept of right behavior. It is not only about conforming to a standard of right behavior. It is not only one’s conscience or ethical judgment. It is being human and humane…”.

What is happening to our youth? Look at their concept of what is moral, as if it is the opposite of what is ‘humane’. These youth are going to bring these principles into this nation’s future leadership positions unless they are corrected.

There’s a lot to be done. But I think I’m about to cry first.

The Fallacy in Apostasy

Basically, what Fundamentalists, Mormons, Iglesia Ni Kristo, etc. insist on is that the present Roman Catholic Church (RCC) can not be the same Church that Christ founded at Pentecost, due to its many unbiblical teachings and practises. They maintain that the RCC apostasized sometime after the death of the last apostle, or after Nero’s reign, and that a small group of true Christians, the forerunners of the 16th century Reformists or the founding time of their church , surreptitiously maintained the tradition. They are under pain to explain that commission was continued all throughout the centuries before the reformation, in order to be consistent with the scriptures wherein Jesus says “I am with you always to the end of age” . My fundamentalist friend states thus: "The great commission was handed over to all of Christ's disciples through all generations (Matt 28:19-20), to spread the gospel and make disciples. Because Christians were martyred, many held bible studies secretly in dungeons to spread the word. RCC forced scriptures by reading them in Latin and explaining in English, paving the need of the reformation. Christ never operated by "chronos", the moment by moment elapsing of time. He is never bound by that. Rather He works by "cairos", significant moments in time."

The above position is invariably taken up by those who insist that the Roman Catholic Church has apostasized. I have taken a few points here, in my spirited email discussion with that fundamentalist, to show that such a position is untenable:

The early Christians were persecuted starting with Nero’s reign in AD 67 up to Diocletian in AD 303. It was during this period that the Christians met “secretly in dungeons” (catacombs you mean) to escape persecution. After this period, Christians practiced their faith openly. The Edict of Milan proclaimed religious toleration in AD 313, officially removing all obstacles to the practice of Christianity and other religions. It also declared unequivocally that the co-authors of the regulations wanted no action taken against the non-Christian cults. While religious tolerance was initially expressed, the successors of Constantine also gave rise to the convergence of church and state, where ecclesiastical tribunals sometimes merged with civil tribunals, in the prosecution of heretics. There were at various times Pelagians, Arians, Donatists, Amish, Cathars, Mennonites, Unitarians, Waldensians, etc., who were indeed subject to pressure, imprisonment, exile and sometimes death, but these pressures came nowhere near the massive persecution of the Christians in the first 300 years. The medieval inquisition against Catharists started only in 1184, while for the Roman inquisition, in 1542. The Spanish and the Portuguese inquisitions of the 15th century, were largely state affairs. All throughout, there was no known expurgation movements against any known group whose banner was Sola Fide/Faith only. It was only in the 16th century that this doctrine emerged with the Reformists, and thereby declared anathema by the Council of Trent in 1547. For over 15,000 years prior to the reformation there was only the Roman Catholic Church.

The point is that an objective analysis of historical data reveals that the 5-Solas doctrine never figured in any significant, observable instance in religious doctrine of the pre-Reformation era. Martin Luther himself used to be an Augustinian monk. The obvious conclusion being you can not observe something that does not exist. Facts and historical data are clearly on the side of this argument. Facing all odds, even willing to face death for preaching the Good News, doesn’t square with hiding in dungeons for over a thousand years. Anyway, dungeons are located in the underground of castles, coliseums, mainly used for imprisonment and torture. Where did you get this idea? Catacombs, probably. But ancient catacombs were ornamented with religious figures and paintings. I doubt if early reformists would have wanted to go anywhere near that for their bible studies.

They are bound to get noticed one way or the other. And what is there to hide for? There are many supposed heretics who stood out all those years (mentioned above) in spite of the severe repressions. All the while, the Roman Catholic Church certainly figured out prominently, and admittedly at times, regretably. Though Christ promised a Helper and His guidance always, He never promised to fill His church with impeccable people. Yet it is to the credit of the Church with the spirits guidance that even with the temporal excesses of the Church, heresy was never propagated out of the RCC. And what is this about “chronos” , “cairos”, “significant moments in time”? Let’s just pity the poor lost souls who were born at the wrong time? I thought fundamentalists insist on literal sense, so when Christ said “I will be with you always”, *always* should mean just that – *always*. This must be a very difficult reality for fundamentalists to come to terms with, because of their conviction that as RCC conveys a false gospel, and so it can not be the Church that Christ founded and protected all these years. That is just circular reasoning. Ok, you will say the bible says so: *all* Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof…”, literally likewise, “all” does not mean “*only *”.Without even going into discussions of doctrine, it is really only the Roman Catholic Church, that has a historically defensible claim to an unbroken line of succession and tradition, from year 33 upto the present. The only true Church that gives credence to Jesus’ Great Commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I used to be fascinated with Sir Conan Doyle’s books in early high school, and it now comes back to me: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

- WillyJ

An amusing and awesome Pentecost

Today is Pentecost Sunday, so I did some more re-reading of Acts Chapter 2.

While reading further, I can't help but be amused by a certain passage.
It is actually quite funny when you think about it. The Holy Spirit has just descended
upon the disciples and they "began to speak in different tounges". Most of the crowd was astounded because they hear the disciples speaking in each of their own native languages. How come the disciples suddenly knew how to speak in so many languages? Thus the crowd were all "astounded and bewildered". Now here comes the funny part. Apparently, "contravidas" also abounded among the crowd as these skeptical others said, scoffingly: "They have had too much wine". Clearly, these guys are making fun of the disciples, and were probably jealous of all the attention they were getting. Peter then retorts: "These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning".

Ha-ha. Of course who but the most rabid alcoholics would be drunk at 9 in the morning? And at the Pentecost Festival? Silly. Apparently, those crazy hecklers in the crowd hadn't given much thought to a good enough way to ridicule the disciples.

Immediately, Peter then launches into that famous Pentecost speech. Peter began to explain what the events the Jews had witnessed really meant. His speech takes up much of the remainder of the chapter. He makes a powerful and courageous witness to Christ as the promised Messiah. Now here comes the awesome part. At the end of his speech, "about three thousand persons were added that day". Wow. Imagine converting three thousand persons just by delivering a speech. With his knack for words, its a blessing to Christianity that Peter didn't opt to become a salesman instead. Of course we know it was the power of the Holy Spirit working in him. Two thousand years later and going, we still feel the power of that speech. Awesome.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What's in a name?


"The Name 'Couples For Christ' cannot be used by any other association"
Vatican Pontifical Council of the Laity letter to CFC
Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko
May 1, 2008

CFC comes out with this full-page ad in the Philippine Star, quoting Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko of the Vatican Pontifical Council of the Laity. It should write the final(I certainly hope so) chapter in a long and storied affair about which group is to be rightly accorded the legitimate use of the name “Couples For Christ”. The conflict was brought about over a year ago when the CFC split two ways, each group claiming rightful use of the name “Couples For Christ”. Now that the Vatican has decided with finality, that “your name 'Couples For Christ' cannot be used by any other association” there can be no more questions as to the legitimacy in the use of the name 'Couples For Christ', and should put the matter at rest once and for all.
But what's in a name? Surely all the Christian faithful regardless of lay affiliation, should be “for Christ” by the essence of their faith. All married couples, if they are living according to the Christian tenets of Christ-centered marriages, should be essentially 'Couples For Christ' in spirit. Christ does not divide but rather unites. This brings to mind that divisions in the church are as old as Christianity itself. The apostle Paul himself was faced with such division in his early ministry, as we see in Cor 1:10-13 which reads:

'I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided?'

Thus Paul straightens out the early Christians to focus on Christ. Today, Cardinal Rylko straightens out the use of the name Couples For Christ, because nobody should be fighting over names in the first place. Fighting the good fight of faith is all about fighting for Christ's glory. It should be both a righteous and disciplined fight, and discipline is always a must in a community. Henri Nouwen in 'Spiritual Direction', asserts there are three classic disciplines: (1) the discipline of the Heart, (2) the discipline of the Book, and (3) the discipline of the Church or community of faith. We have to follow the discipline of the Church or community, but mostly, we do not get ourselves into too much trouble and live the faith by simply following the discipline set in our hearts. It is written there by the Lord himself:

“the work of the Law is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:13)

In the final seat of judgment we will not be called to task whether we are CFC, FFL, CFC-GK, CFC-FFL, whatever, or whether the bishops “sided” with us, or whatever, because deep in our hearts, it is the name of Jesus Christ that will show if we inscribed HIS NAME in essence.