Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecostal Mule

A minister sold a blind mule to a fellow and told him the critter was trained to go when the rider said, "Praise the Lord", and to stop when the rider said "Amen".

The purchaser mounted the beast, said "Praise the Lord", and the mule raced away. Becoming excited, the rider kept saying "Whoah!" with no effect on the animal. Then he remembered, and said "Amen".

The mule stopped abruptly. The rider looked down and found that the animal had stopped right at the edge of the gigantic cliff...
Wiping his brow, he declared gratefully, "Praise the Lord".
Today is Pentecost Sunday.

In today's Gospel (Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15), the Lord said "From the Father, I will send you the Spirit of Truth" . From the day of the Pentecost, the Spirit has acted in the Church. The Acts of the Apostles records how the Spirit worked in the first disciples of Jesus. Before granting miraculous powers, the Spirit gave them joy, peace and mutual love, as well as inner certainty that Jesus has risen and was among them. The Spirit continues to work in every believer, through His bestowed gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (CCC 1831). When we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, we are actually using these gifts altogether to guide our thoughts and actions. St. Thomas Aquinas says that four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, reverence, and fear of the Lord or Wonder and Awe) direct the will toward God. The trouble begins when we rely too much on our intellect, especially when it is detached from God's inspiration. The trouble also begins when we rely too much on reckless intuition that is far detached from reason and faith. That is why the Psalmist prays, "Teach me to do your will for You are my God. Let your Spirit lead me on a safe path". Pentecost must remind us to be open to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and utilize them with prayerful discernment. Otherwise we will be just like a blind mule.

Time out

Off to Subic Bay! (5/30/2009)

The kids' summer vacation is almost over, the rainy season is just about geared up, and our
CFC unit just completed our first Christian Life Program for the year. We thanked the Lord for His guidance, the resources He gave us, and congratulated ourselves. It called for a celebration,
and a lot of fun.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Odds and Ends - 5/29

Episcopal Church fires 61 Central Valley priests

The Episcopal Church has fired, or in its words “deposed,” 61 priests and deacons in the Central Valley who followed former Bishop John David Schofield when he rebuked the national church and aligned with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, a conservative group based in South America.... Mr. Schofield was deposed in March 2008. He and the various priests and deacons objected to the Episcopal Church’s ordination of gays to the priesthood among other things...

In other related news...

Father Alberto CutiƩ joins Episcopal church, will marry...

The Rev. Alberto CutiƩ, the celebrity priest removed from his Miami Beach church after photos of him kissing and embracing a woman appeared in the pages of a Spanish-language magazine earlier this month, has left the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami to join the Episcopal church and announced that he will marry the woman he has dated for two years....


Bong Revilla resigns Senate position in disgust, joins showbiz

"Ayoko na!"
Senator Bong Revilla today resigned as senator to protest the uberdramatic attention given by the highest legislative body to the Kho-Halili sex video scandals, saying it is a 'sideshow' and a 'distraction'.
Revilla declares that there are infinitely more pressing matters of state concerns that merits the august body's cerebral focus. "I've had enough of this show, I would rather go where the real action is", he says. Lolit Solis is reportedly gearing up to be his manager.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On NFP and St. Bernadine of Siena

What is the meaning of ovulation?

How does the woman know if and when she has ovulated?

How long is a woman fertile during her monthly cycle?

Does NFP-BOM apply to irregular ovulation cycles?

What is the scientific explanation behind sex determination?

Usually, my wife and I ask some of these questions upfront from our NFP (Natural Family Planning - Billings Ovulation Method) seminar participants to get a feel of how we should focus the seminar topics. We are not surprised anymore when nobody from the audience can volunteer to give quick answers or even guesses. The same is true during our conduct of marriage precana seminars when the topic of Responsible Parenthood-NFP comes around. Interestingly, even highly-trained professionals seem to be in the dark about NFP. All the more it gives us greater reason to believe that a bigger deal of attention and resources should be directed into promoting and advocating NFP. For example, it surprises (and disappoints) us that we did not get any response (as in zero, nada, zilch) to the seminar invitations that we had announced on all Sunday Masses for three weeks. The sparse attendees to last Saturday's free NFP seminar only came due to personal invites. I guess we need genius marketing people real fast. This led me into thinking if there was a patron Saint for advertising/ marketing, to bring about divine intervention and inspiration to the NFP advocacy. It appears there is: Saint Bernadine of Siena, whose feast day was recently commemorated on May 20. According to this site, his preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc. The eloquent, energetic and charismatic St. Bernadine has often been compared to St. Paul. When he started out in a branch of the Franciscan order, there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. Got to learn more from this awesome saint. It also says that his surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience. Well, most of our participants are women. Hmm...

Monday, May 25, 2009

On Suffering (2)

Response email to the post “On Suffering” from my good friend A.L., who is also into Catholic Apologetics. Great insight.
How do we reconcile a merciful, providential God with suffering?

Sin kills the soul while effect of suffering kills the body, both lead to death. Evil and suffering are connected, therefore like the effects of suffering like sin is not caused by God but like evil He simply permits it to happen in our lives because of our God-given free will.

How do we distinguish between "merited" and "unmerited" suffering?

In (Rom 8:28) "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Even the most horrendous and inexplicable tragedies have value behind them as God allows them for greater good to happen; therefore no suffering is in vain.

Why does suffering occur to some and not to others?

This is truly a mystery. If God is all-just and all-powerful and all-knowing, it seems He must give each individual what he deserves; but no. Because the perfect man who ever lived on earth 2000 years ago, sinless and innocent is the “Man of Sorrows.” (Is 53) and suffered for the guilty.

Jesus preached "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Those who mourn recognize that one cannot, with human effort alone, reach blessedness of heaven. Only through suffering that we realize how vulnerable and weak we are and not in control of our lives, that’s when we often times only think of God and seek His help.

To quote C. S. Lewis put it, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world".

The suffering of Christ is sufficient for redemption and that the suffering of the saints/ faithful was/ is not in anyway adding to complete it. But as partakers of the divine nature (2Pet1:4) suffering is a mission for all faithful as a means of conforming themselves to Christ.

Rom 5:3-5, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

2Cor 1:5-7, For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Phil 3:8-11, Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Col 1:24-26, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.

Heb 2:10, For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.

1Pet 4:12-13, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

On forgiveness

I quote Henry Nouwen who says that “forgiveness has two qualities: one is to allow yourself to be forgiven, and the other is to forgive others”. The first quality is harder than the second. It may put one in an irrational defensive mode where one might say “I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t need your forgiveness”. We have ALL sinned against each other in one way or another, some more grievous than others, which calls for a contrite and deep examination of conscience. True restoration begins with the person.

On the subject, I received the following insightful piece in the mail, courtesy of my good friend Juni A.
Author Unknown
May 24, 2009

The most creative power given to the human spirit is the power to heal the wounds of a past it cannot change.

We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them.

The first person to benefit from forgiving is the one who does it.

Forgiving happens it three stages: we rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us; we surrender our right to get even; and we wish that person well.

Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey.

Forgiving does not require us to reunite with the person who broke our trust.

We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.

Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us.

Forgiving is not a way to avoid pain but to heal the pain.

Forgiving someone who breaks a trust does not mean that we give him his job back.

Forgiving is the only way to be fair to ourselves.

Forgivers are not doormats; to forgive a person is not a signal that we are willing to put up with with what he does.

Forgiving is essential; talking about it is optional.

When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is us.

When we forgive we walk in stride with the forgiving God.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Unitatis Redintegratio and Nostra Aetate

"In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds its deepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs!"
- Pope John Paul II, Ut unum sint

Unitatis Redintegratio and Nostra Aetate

Lately, I've been reading these two Vatican II documents from my old copy of the book "The Documents of Vatican II" by America Press, edited by Walter M. Abbott S.J. In his introduction to Unitiatis Redintegratio, Fr Abbot says that "It has been well said that the Decree on Ecumenism is not an end but a new beginning full of hope and promises...much has been accomplished by the Decree, but what counts more is what remains to be done". On the other hand, on the editor's note # 2 in Nostre Aetate, he says "The stress on what men have in common was one of Pope John's (XXIII) operative principles. As he often made clear, this approach does not deny or neglect differences; it simply gives primary consideration to common goals and interests". I have selected some key passages (emphasis mine) from these documents that are noteworthy for their significance. I have extracted the actual texts from the Vatican website as there are some differences in the translations from the book. Useful reference at these times but in the end, it remains enormously complex. In each and every particular situation, it is up to men of good will to shape effective policies of cooperation for the common good, with deep attention to these principles.

Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio)

For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect....

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ...

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church...

The term "ecumenical movement" indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity...

In addition, the way is prepared for cooperation between them in the duties for the common good of humanity which are demanded by every Christian conscience; and, wherever this is allowed, there is prayer in common...

When such actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity...

We believe that this unity subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.

However, it is evident that, when individuals wish for full Catholic communion, their preparation and reconciliation is an undertaking which of its nature is distinct from ecumenical action. But there is no opposition between the two, since both proceed from the marvelous ways of God...

The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded...

Before the whole world let all Christians confess their faith in the triune God, one and three in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord. United in their efforts, and with mutual respect, let them bear witness to our common hope which does not play us false. In these days when cooperation in social matters is so widespread, all men without exception are called to work together, with much greater reason all those who believe in God, but most of all, all Christians in that they bear the name of Christ. Cooperation among Christians vividly expresses the relationship which in fact already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant. This cooperation, which has already begun in many countries, should be developed more and more, particularly in regions where a social and technical evolution is taking place be it in a just evaluation of the dignity of the human person, the establishment of the blessings of peace, the application of Gospel principles to social life, the advancement of the arts and sciences in a truly Christian spirit, or also in the use of various remedies to relieve the afflictions of our times such as famine and natural disasters, illiteracy and poverty, housing shortage and the unequal distribution of wealth. All believers in Christ can, through this cooperation, be led to acquire a better knowledge and appreciation of one another, and so pave the way to Christian unity. ..

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate)

Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men. .
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.

We cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God. Man's relation to God the Father and his relation to men his brothers are so linked together that Scripture says: "He who does not love does not know God" (1 John 4:8).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Odds and Ends - 5/09

Hayden says sorry

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) After the kissing and telling (and taping) comes the apologizing.

Hayden Kho, the beauty doctor who video-taped his bedroom trysts with women (including actress Katrina Halili and other celebrities) apparently without their knowledge and consent, has said sorry for his actions...

“All I feel now is deep remorse,” he said. “I know it’s too much to ask for forgiveness right now. Pero sana someday people will learn to condemn the sin and not the sinner."

Agreed. But there is such a thing as consequences, you know.


Bush: It's 'liberating' to be out of office

ARTESIA (AP) – It was a humbling moment for the former commander in chief: President George W. Bush was walking former first dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood when it stopped in a neighbor's yard for relief.

"And there I was, former president of the United States of America, with a plastic bag on my hand," he told a group of graduating high school students in New Mexico on Thursday. "Life is returning back to normal."

Bush also reportedly added: "I spent many years dodging this thing, and now I'm picking it up".


U.S. defense chief lauds soldier in pink boxers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday praised an Army soldier in eastern Afghanistan who drew media attention this month after rushing to defend his post from attack while wearing pink boxer shorts and flip-flops.

In fact, Gates said he wants to meet the soldier and shake his hand the next time he visits Afghanistan.

"Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage," Gates said in remarks prepared for a speech in New York.

How heroic. And to think the guy still managed to put on those fashionable boxers. I wonder if it is the standard U.S. military issue.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On (In)Tolerance (2)

Father Jenkins C.S.C., the president of Notre Dame, delivered a glowing introduction to President Obama. A portion of that introduction goes:

"Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: 'Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.' "

Too bad Fr. Jenkins conveniently omitted the immediately succeeding portions from the text of Gaudium et Spes, which reveals the full context of the passage. It goes:

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.

Truth and goodness... love speak the saving truth to all men. When two ideas are diametrically opposed to each other, both cannot be true at the same time. Only one is. Some ideas are simply superior than others. We don’t treat all ideas as if they have the same merit, else we run into self-contradiction. We can not judge internal guilt, but we can and must judge actions based on its moral goodness. We treat persons with egality, but we treat ideas with objectivity. As Gaudium et Spes asserts: error always merits repudiation.

This is what the particular passage in Gaudium et Spes sets forth. This is the true principle that we, as disciples of Christ, must share
The full text of Fr. Jenkin's introduction may be found here.
Thanks JME.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great speech

Fair-minded words...
Some select excerpts from President Obama's Notre Dame speech:

The question, then - the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?

And of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions."

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do.
My thoughts:

- President Obama is a very eloquent speaker.

- ND honoring Obama still beats me why and what for. 68 U.S. Bishops also wonder.

- Can we work in common effort? Yes, as far as it allows us to be in consonance with the moral ethics of cooperation.

- How does each of us remain firm in our principles? We will be firm in actions as guided by our principle of objective morality (CCC 1755) which holds that a morally good act requires the goodness of the object, of the end, and of the circumstances together.

- So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Agreed, we will do that by advocating chastity, NFP, respect for the sanctity of life and marriage. As far as we pursue common effort towards a common goal, we will also keep in mind the non-negotiables in the public sphere among which is the protection of life in all its stages; recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family; and the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

- Let's make adoption more available. Sure.

- Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Of course.

- Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, You bet. (Uh, but why did your administration move to rescind the health care conscience rule?)

- make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Count on it. Although as I see it, you already overturned the Mexico City Policy, removed restrictions on ESCR, and moved to rescind the abortion conscience clause. What the ??

- as well as respect for the equality of women. No problem.

- Those are things we can do. Great, then let's do it.

- President Obama is a very eloquent speaker.

- and probably a good basketball player to boot. He says: "So next year, if you need a 6-2 forward with a decent jumper, you know where I live". Father Jenkins will only be too glad to make the behind-the-back assist pass.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Curb brain deaths instead

UN body urges the use of contraceptives

MANILA, Philippines—The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-Philippines has urged the use of contraceptives to curb the increasing number of maternal deaths as the world body celebrates safe motherhood week.

UNFPA Representative to the Philippines Suneeta Mukherjee called for an immediate “universal access to contraception” which could cut by 25 to 40 percent cases of maternal deaths.
Here we go again [sigh]. Why even stop at 25 to 40% ? What about the remaining 60 to 75% of maternal deaths ? Just let them die ?
Brain dead, are we ? Why not prevent pregnancy altogether by whatever means ? Now that would cut maternal deaths by 100 percent, right ???

Regarding universal access to prenatal care...oh, never mind.

Of the swine flu

A pandemic (from the Greek pan - all + demos - people) is an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads through populations across a large region; for instance a continent, or even worldwide.

GENEVA (AP) – The World Health Organization has raised its tally of confirmed human cases of swine flu to 5,251 in 30 countries, with 61 people dead from the disease.
Flashback to the deadly "Spanish flu", 1918-1919.

First identified early in March 1918 in US troops training at Camp Funston, Kansas. By October 1918, it had spread to become a world-wide pandemic on all continents, and eventually infected an estimated one third of the world's population (or approx 500 million persons). Unusually deadly and virulent, it ended nearly as quickly as it began, vanishing completely within 18 months. In six months, some 50 million were dead;some estimates put the total of those killed worldwide at over twice that number. An estimated 17 million died in India, 675,000 in the United States and 200,000 in the UK.

The virus was recently reconstructed by scientists at the CDC studying remains preserved by the Alaskan permafrost. They identified it as a type of influenza A H1N1 virus.

The "Mexican swine flu", is a strain of infuenza A H1N1.

Strangely in the case of the "Spanish flu", the pandemic mostly killed young adults, with 99% of pandemic influenza deaths occurring in people under 65, and more than half in young adults 20 to 40 years old. It appears that the strong antibodies of the young, healthy, adult people actually worked against them, as the stronger antibodies reacted in a haywire manner causing a more deleterious effect compared to the very young or older age brackets. Young, healthy, adult people...

This actually reminds me of the the tenth and final plague of Egypt that finally forced the Pharaoh to submit. The plague targeted only the death of all Egyptian first-born. No one escaped, from the lowest servant to Pharaoh's own first-born son, including the first-born of livestock. Except of course those who had lamb's blood on the door posts. Could have been the biblical equivalent of a particularly virulent and deadly strain of H1N1. Of course this is just pure speculation on my part.

"and that you may recount to your son and grandson how ruthlessly I dealt with the Egyptians and what signs I wrought among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD."
(Exodus 10:2)

Anyway, today looks like a fine day. Perhaps I'll walk the dog later. Drink a couple of beers. Eat some junk food. Read a good book. Hug the family...


Sunday, May 10, 2009

A typhoon-proof vine

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2009

...I am the vine, you are the branches...

(John 15:1-8)
Jesus' discourse on the vine and the branches presents a very rich allegory: faith, trials,
communion, spiritual gifts, good works, a life-giving relationship, salvation. I once had a lively debate with a fundamentalist friend with his contention of "once saved, always saved". How can he reconcile this with Jesus' assertion that the branches that does not remain in the vine are gathered, thrown and burned? In the first place, if the branch was once connected, and then was broken off later (as it did not bear fruit), it was clear that the branch basked in God's graces at one time but did not elect to stay connected. The branch did not bear fruit - good works to my mind. This is another flash point, as fundamentalists reject the salvific value of good works: faith is enough. Catholics on the other hand say: faith AND good works. I remember he launched into a Pauline discourse to the effect that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Sure I say, but we retain the will to accept or reject God's grace. He insists that Jesus' death would have been meaningless if "faith only" was not enough. But it's ok, although our discussion goes on in circles, this fundamentalist guy remains my friend even as we exasperate each other. I pray he gets to swim across the Tiber sometime.

Speaking of vines, I have this peculiar vine in our garden that never fails to be a conversation piece with
visitors. Funny thing is I don't even know the name of the plant, as I just inherited it from the previous owner. I transferred a sapling about two years ago and now it has grown to over 20 feet. Notice how it climbs up the wall with apparently no support except that its leaves seem to attach themselves tenaciously to the wall. Its round, flat leaves seem adapted to attaching to flat walls like there were an adhesive. It must also have a pretty sturdy stem underneath, as this part of the garden is buffeted by fairly strong winds. I think it is the collective strength of the leaves attached to a strong stem that makes the entire thing flourish in spite of the strong winds. That is why even many typhoons cannot strip this plant - the leaves provide strength to each other. Hmm, I think there's more to add to the allegory.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Angels and Demons and Clowns

"The idea that Copernicus was murdered by the Church is just too stupid for words."

So says John C. Wright , in his scathing review of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.
Fact: Copernicus died quietly in bed at age 70 from a stroke, and his research was supported by Church officials; he even dedicated his masterwork to the Pope.

The joker is the same Dan Brown who wrote the Da Vinci Code, a work of fiction shot full of errors. Nevertheless on his webpage, Clown, (Brown, rather) claims that "Because my novels are so research-intensive, they take a couple of years to write".

Bull feathers.

By the way, John C. Wright is a well-known sci-fi writer who used to be an atheist but converted to Catholicism last year.
Check out his blog here-

The Perfect Shepherd

May 3, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Easter

"I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...
they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd..."
(John 10:11-18)

There was this teacher who came up with a good problem.
"Suppose," she asked the second-graders, "there were a dozen sheep and six of them jumped over a fence. How many would be left?"
"None," answered little Norman.
"None? Norman, don't you know arithmetic?"
"Teacher, don't you know sheep? When one goes, they all go!"
I remember a trip we made to Australia a few years ago. On the tour, our family had an opportunity to visit the Warrook Cattle Farm in Melbourne. We were treated to a demonstration of a sheep dog aiding the shepherd in rounding up the herd. The flock must be in the hundreds, and it would be a tough task for the shepherd to herd the sheep all by himself. At the master's signal, the sheep dog ran circles around the flock while yelping and barking, and the scattered flock was soon organized into one close herd as they dutifully followed the shepherd to the gates. Fantastic! the herding was over in minutes.

Speaking about hearing, there is something peculiar about it compared to seeing. Our ocular view is limited to the direction that we turn our heads, whereas we hear things around us no matter what direction we face. Also, we can shut our eyes but we cannot shut our ears. By the running and barking of the smart sheep dog, the scattered sheep are organized into attention, close together where they are within earshot of the shepherd's voice. The analogy tells us that the good Shepherd may use many instruments and charisms in the Church, so that His voice may be heard loud and clear. That is why in the great commission, the Lord commands: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.". Jesus is not only a Good Shepherd, He is the Perfect Shepherd.

We must pay attention to what we hear, and make a discernment.
Oftentimes, our minds are just too preoccupied with our own voices.

As it goes, three hearing-challenged persons are having a walk one fine day.

One remarked to the other, "Windy, ain't it?"
"No," the second man replied, "It's Thursday."
And the third man chimed in, "So am I. Let's have a coke."

Pambansang kamao does it again

It was not exactly like a David and Goliath battle, although from some pre-fight indications, it does look like one. Hatton is certainly heftier and the stronger fighter from most accounts, plus he is a natural fighter at 140 pounds. As the fight unfolds, the waiting and suspense was arduously long (aggravated by those vexating, long-winded commercials), but the bout's end itself was swift in coming. It came at 2:50 of the second round, with a powerhouse left to the chin of Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton. Hatton went down like a log, motionless. For a while there it did seem like he was hit on the head by a large rock. After several minutes, Hatton was helped to his feet. Fortunately he seems fine. "It was a hard loss but I am okay," Hatton said.

Manny Pacquiao prays fervently during training, before and after a fight. Not too many people are aware that Manny is also a
pro-life advocate.

Stay on, Manny. Mabuhay ang pambansang kamao!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On Suffering

A CAF poster asks:

How do I explain to someone the meaning of suffering? In particular, I am looking to explain what it means to "offer up" your sufferings and "unite them to Christ's suffering on the Cross."
Tough question. When suffering is examined , it is usually from an academic standpoint. This revolves around the philosophical and theological views on suffering and its "meaning". How do we reconcile a merciful, providential God with suffering? How do we distinguish between "merited" and "unmerited" suffering? Why does suffering occur to some and not to others? For instance, witness the spectacle of tens of thousands of people living in the dumpsites, sickly children in the teeming slums, massive devastation by flood and landslides, victims of wars in Rwanda, Afganisthan, Nigeria, Poland, the Philippines. There is simply too much suffering for us to be able to give an ethical and hermeneutical analysis.

In the end, what remains is a mystery.The sufferer might not be able to appreciate an intricate explanation of theodicy. In intimate settings, it might be better to commiserate with the sufferer rather than explain something we cannot fully understand. To hold their hand, listen, emphatize, provide help if we can... as we remind them that God is also listening and in due time, His will prevails.