Thursday, December 31, 2009


The New Year's prayer-resolution of one anonymous elderly goes:

"Lord, grant me the grace and senility to forgive and forget the people I never liked anyway,
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do,
And the eyesight to tell the difference.".

One's New Years resolutions changes to a certain relevance with the passing of years, although I know of one guy who makes the same resolution year, after year, after year. Usually, he would keep up with some determined, painstaking effort to fulfill his resolution for about a month, then his willpower would give in by the next. This year, I good-naturedly advised him not to make any New Years resolution anymore, instead he should just make a New Months resolution month after month. That seemed to please him. In turn, he advised me to make a New Weeks resolution every week. I said fine, but from now on I'll be keeping a close watch over him, or else I would advise him to make a New Days resolution day after day.

The Catechism says that our human nature is burdened by concupicence - a certain struggle of tendencies between "spirit" and "flesh" (CCC 2516). Thus the secular view insists that it is futile to battle natural tendencies. Such a worldview however, discounts the necessity of cultivating cardinal virtues (CCC 1805-1809) without which our world will be a world of chaos once we all give reign to our "natural tendencies". But how do we win in the "struggle"? Our sheer willpower alone would be sorely lacking, so much so that St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:13:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Everything is possible through Jesus Christ, even the fulfillment of New Years resolutions. I myself resolve to keep more healthy and fit, as I am not getting any younger either. Thus my New Years resolution would be to adapt a more healthy lifestyle. I will research and read a lot more about health and physical fitness. That is, if my eyesight does not fail me. So, may God strengthen my eyesight, and my will overall.

Happy New Year to everyone, and may you all have meaningful resolutions blessed and strengthened by the Lord.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Away in a manger

y youngest son participated in a Christmas play recently. These school nativity plays abounded the past few days. In once such play, the two main child actors are dressed up as Joseph and Mary. They cross the stage on their way to the inn at Bethlehem. Meanwhile, farther back is a boy in a shepherd's costume on his mobile phone.
He is calling the inn desperately trying to make a reservation.

Luke's account of the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:1-20), narrates that Mary "wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn". Various reasons have been proposed as to why Joseph and Mary ended up in an apparent stable, which was certainly far from being an appropriate accommodation for a mother about to give birth. The situation was that the governor Quirinus issued a decree for an empire-wide census, and Joseph had to register in his hometown. Naturally as a consequence, there could be a dearth of accommodations in Bethlehem due to the heavy influx of registrants. Joseph and Mary were obviously too late to secure their accommodations ahead of the rest. The straight distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles - a tough call for a woman heavy with child, riding a donkey, with her husband patiently walking beside her. But then again, Bethlehem was Joseph's birthplace, and presumably he was supposed to have many relatives in the area that could strive by any means possible to provide decent accommodation for a relative with a pregnant wife about to give birth. Surely, an expectant mother should have been given priority accommodation over the rest. However, much as the popular rendition suggests, there is no biblical record of an innkeeper actually turning down the couple. At any rate, assuming Bethlehem was filled with others who needed to be counted for a census, guest rooms in homes would have had multiple people in them. Not a good place for childbirth, adding the need for privacy and isolation according to Jewish customs. We cannot dismiss the customs of the times, and we have to understand that childbirth rituals would have rendered any vicinity "unclean", and would have displaced a multitude of residents at any inn for quite a time. Perhaps the stable, usually located in the inner or lower area instead of the upper room, was a more suitable compromise after all.

Reasoned guesses and plausible speculations aside, we can be sure of certain things. Jesus our King came as a Messiah stripped of the trappings of pageantry, power and riches. He was laid in a manger, amidst the most humble of surroundings. Our God is revealed in ordinary and bare circumstances -- because He came to serve and not be served

God is with us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The King and the humble Maiden

The King and the humble Maiden
(forwarded email)

My former teacher in the subject Revelation at the Loyola School of Theology shared with us a story by the famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise - the king took on a totally new identity - He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Odds and Ends 12/21/09


Recently a strange and dramatic event took place in Orissa, which has many people talking and wondering.

In recent months, herds of wild elephants have begun to storm villages that are home to some of the worst persecutors of Christians during the troubles. In one village, where in August a year ago the Christians had to run for their lives while their homes were being destroyed by rioters, a herd of elephants emerged from the surrounding jungle exactly one year later, in July 2009, at the same time of the day of the attack.

These elephants first attacked a rock crusher machine owned by a key leader of the persecution movement. They then went on to destroy his house and farms...Gaining momentum, they rampaged through other non-Christian homes, demolishing gardens and singling out the home of persecutors, leaving Christian homes untouched.
Divine retribution?
Sisters willing to stake life on Aquino’s integrity

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – “I can stake my life on it: my brother will not tarnish our family name and steal in office,” Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Aquino Abellada said of her brother, the late-blooming presidential aspirant, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Oh great. The presidential contest is all about who does not steal and who does. Integrity should be a given! Let's forget about platforms, track record, and competence.
Estrada, Revilla top senatoriables survey

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Jinggoy Estrada leads the senatoriables in the latest Pulse Asia Pre-Election Survey, with 55.1 percent of respondents saying they would include him in their senatorial line-up if the elections were held today...

Following Estrada is Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. (52.7 percent) ...

Leap for Joy

4th Sunday of Advent
Mi 5:1-4a; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45

"...For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy"

I could still remember when I was a kid and my mother was expectant with our youngest sibling. There were times w
hen she made me observe whenever the baby in her womb did some calisthenics. I was delighted when I actually saw my mom's tummy alternately bulging and receding in different places with what I thought was the playful acrobatics of our baby inside our mother’s womb. Amazing!

In the Gospel narrative when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb "leaped for joy", whereupon she cried out in a loud voice and said:
“Blessed are you among women, and bless
ed is the fruit of your womb.".

Mary greeted Elizabeth. It was not specified what exactly was the wording of Mary’s greeting which elated Elizabeth and the child in her womb, but it was probably the precursor of the earliest “Merry Christmas” greeting of all time. In today’s world, the greeting of “Merry Christmas” has been mostly separated from its rightful meaning. Some even just say “Happy Holidays”, disposing entirely of the reason for the season. The very reason is the child Jesus coming to us - through the “yes” of our Mother Mary. It is really for this that t
he child in each one of us leaps out in joy. And with that, I greet each and every one of you my dear Catholic friends…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Marriage is good, all the time

Marriage is good for the health -- global study

WELLINGTON – Despite the barbs of comedians and the spectacular bust-ups documented in the gossip magazines, marriage really is good for you, international research has found.

A study of nearly 34,500 people in 15 countries found married people are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and substance abuse, clinical psychologist Kate Scott of New Zealand's University of Otago said Tuesday...

The study was based on the WHO World Mental Health surveys across developing and developed countries conducted over the past decade.
If it is good for the health of the people, then it must be good for the health of society, which is good for mankind. The study just confirms there is a life and death reason behind natural law. Marriage is naturally designed to benefit people and society. Traditional marriage, that is.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nobody but You

3rd Sunday of Advent

Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD narrates that there was this story of a priest who blessed the congregation by saying: "Peace be with you...nobody, nobody but you.". Thereupon the people started dancing to the tune of the popular song "Nobody, Nobody But You". That tune by the Wonder Girls is such a smash hit that virtually every Christmas party I have attended so far featured a group presentation dancing to the beat. Why, I've even learned a few steps myself! No big deal, even my 4 year-old son can swing it.

Christmas parties abound, and the joy of the season is in the air. Fittingly, the liturgical theme on this 3rd Sunday of Advent is Joy.

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! " (Reading 1 Zep 3:14-18a)
"Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel." (Responsorial)
"Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always." (Reading 2 Phil 4:4-7)

In the Gospel, St. John the Baptist exhorts his listeners to show their conversion. (Lk 3:10-18)

“Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
"do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Anyone who has felt that the Lord is near is joyful in living the righteous way and sharing the blessings around. We rejoice in the Way, the Truth, and the life - nobody, nobody but Jesus. In the homily today, our priest succinctly emphasized what real joy is:

J esus O ver Y ou

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Voice of Christmas

(forwarded email, thanks Ernie.)
"The Voice of Christmas"

By Bob Perks

He had been a long time member of the church but refused to show up for services let alone join.

He was an integral part of the Christmas Choir, but would not attend rehearsals.

Still, everyone looked forward to seeing him once a year. So much, in fact, they would hold a seat for him at the candle light service everyChristmas Eve.

Many of the congregation would arrive early to get a good seat nearby the gentleman.

Was it his personality? No, he really kept to himself rarely sharing a word with anyone.

It was his voice. "Oh Holy Night" was his song.

Throughout his life he often wished for the chance to perform it at a local church. Although the spirit of Christmas had left his heart years ago with the passing of his wife, this one song, those special lyrics, belonged to him.

It was said that it was her favorite song and although poor, the richness of his voice was his gift to her. This church, that night, was always theirs.

As the service progressed anticipation would build. Everyone joined in singing "Silent Night," "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and others.

Then the big moment would arrive.

The choir would stand, the church organ would begin to play. "O holy night, the stars are brightly shining" was the intro sung by the 12 member choir. Then, as if Heaven had open its doors, the choir softly faded and the man began to sing...

"It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

You could feel the excitement as music began to build to the refrain...

"Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!"

By this time there was never a dry eye.

After the service the man would blend into the crowd and exit the rear door.

The tradition lived on until a month before Christmas that year.

He had joined his love, his reason to sing.

"What will they do?" one of the elders asked. "Who could take his place?"

No one. No one would dare attempt to fill his spot. It would be difficult indeed to come close to that long treasured moment.

"We will do the song in his memory" the choir director declared.

"But who among us will sing his part?"

"God had blessed us with his voice and His earthly choir is not made of only one single voice," he assured them. "He will bless us again."

That Christmas Eve, as everyone filled the church, you could hear the choir warming up in the basement.

A small piano began playing followed by, "O holy night, the stars are brightly shining" then silence.

The minister began by welcoming everyone and in particular the visitors, "Family and friends who return home each year." "In the center of the church you will notice a single seat holding a bouquet of Christmas flowers. It is in memory of a man we called, "The Voice of Christmas."

The service began building to that very moment they all waited for. Lights dimmed and a young child holding a single candle in his hand walked toward the front.

The organist began the intro and the choir stood to sing, "O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.."

There was a sudden hush and the faint sound of one small voice singing...

"It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

The organ stopped. The choir remained standing as everyone looked to see where the voice was coming from.

"Over there! I couldn't believe it. That beautiful voice was the child. The child holding the candle."

He slowly, nervously turned around toward the crowd and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..." and he began to cry.

The choir director rushed to his side and assured him everything was fine.

Then the young boy said, "I always sang along but no one could hear me. Some man was
always louder than me."

Laughter filled the church.

The minister declared, "God has indeed answered our prayers. We are blessed once again with "The Voice of Christmas."

The organist began again as the young boy was lifted up to sing and they all joined in...

"Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!"

We are each called to be His Voice not only at Christmas but all year long.

A Conversation with an Evangelical Protestant (2)


For the purposes of this thread, it is good to limit ourselves to the historical validity of Sola Scriptura vs. Tradition and Scriptures. Either approach must be based on sound theology, applicable at all time periods in history. It is good that we agree that Christ never left the Church. We can further debate on what the Church means and the keys to the Kingdom later on.

Sherlock Holmes used to say that when you have eliminated the all the impossible, whatever remains -- however absurd it may appear in one's own opinion -- must be the truth. Sola Scriptura is based on assumptions that call for the impossible. You ask: "How many Catholics study the bible? How many even have a bible?"

That is precisely my point. If one had the means and capability to acquire and study the bible, then certainly one would be seriously remiss if one did not do so. But what if the follower cannot afford to buy one? (don't be suprised that here in the Philippines, most people can't even afford to buy food) What if the follower is illiterate by force of circumstance?

Sola Scriptura is based on assumptions that call for the impossible. It presupposes many things. For one, the bible must be easily accessible. This is the major point I was emphasizing in my previous messages, that Sola Scriptura was largely contingent on the invention of the printing press. Secondly, it is premised on a high level of literacy. Take note that in medieval times, the flock was largely composed of illiterate peasants. How could they read, much less understand the bible? The same would be true for the underprivileged brethren in our modern times, and here we must recognize the irony of it all! especially when we consider the Scripture's preferential option for t he poor. Third, one must have the time, energy and the exceptional mental faculties that qualify for a cohesive reading and correct understanding of Scriptures. The bible contains 31,000++ verses. You have to read much if not all of it to get the context right. Not to mention that you must be able to process and distill the information very well. Now who and how many among those in the middle ages possess these qualities? Who and how many among us in these modern times as well?

Granted that the above three conditions are met (an incredible proposition at that), personal, unregulated interpretations tend towards chaotic divisions. God does not desire disunity in the Church. The global presence today of 30,000+ Christian denominations who disagree on essential doctrines attest to this fact. Contrast that with the Roman Catholic Church with a single and consistent belief system that has endured 2000++ years to this day.

Yes, the road is narrow and only a few will find it, but at the same time, scriptures also say that Jesus desired many to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. If Jesus desires many to be saved, will He impose something that severely contradicts His own desire? Again, considering all of these, is Sola Scriptura justified, both theologically and historically?

You will be familiar with the disciple Philip who caught up with a certain court official who was reading a page from Isaiah with much confusion. (Acts 8).
Philip asked: "Do you understand what you are reading?" The answer was: ""How can I, unless someone instructs me?"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Conversation with an Evangelical Protestant

My Protestant friend JDR raises the issue in our high school alumni groupmail that there are "differences between the bible and the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as compiled by the Magisterium". He maintains there are a "thousand and one issues", and proceeds to list 10 of them. He concludes by saying: "The list goes on and on. Isn't it better to just drop the bible altogether than to claim belief in it as the word of God, claim allegiance to God and then diametrically oppose it?".

My response:


The "thousand and one issues" - 10 of which you raise here, disingenuously implies a dichotomy between the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. You know that we have already tackled some of those items (was it more than a year ago?). There is no dichotomy between Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, but there is an inextricable link between them. Catholics always say that Tradition serves Scriptures, and in no way contradicts them.

Your top ten list is obviously written from a Protestant perspective, just by the way they are framed: "the bible teaches..(whereas)...the RCC teaches...", which upfront tries to frame a dichotomy where there is none.

Let us take for example your first issue:

1) The bible teaches that grace is a free gift (Romans 11:6). RCC teaches that grace is merited by good works (2010, 2027).

The Catholic doctrine correctly understood is Faith AND Works, and not by good works (only). In fact the sections of CCC you cited states:

"2010. Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. "

"2027 No one can merit the in itial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."

Nowhere in those two sections is it stated that grace is merited by good works alone. Catholics just emphasize BOTH Faith AND Works, for in CCC 2029 it says further

"2029 If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me".

Surely that last one is biblical, is it not? (Mt 16:24).

The other nine issues in your list would be tackled in similar manner. Only a selective reading (or a selective misreading) of the Bible along with the Cathechism, would seem to show that there is a dichotomy between the Bible and Sacred Tradition. There is none.

As I have said in my previous post, these are old issues which have been already addressed as early as the 16th century. What you are doing is just revisiting the issues. We are only having a disagreement because Protestants individually interpret the bible without a central authority. The analogy goes like saying that all lawyers are free to personally interpret the Constitution and there is no need for the judiciary or the Supreme Court.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once said:

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing."
- WillyJ

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Prepare na, now na

2nd Sunday of Advent
(Lk 3:1-6)

While I was pondering this Sunday's Gospel, I suddenly remembered that I wrote a related piece just a little over a year ago. My first post in CF actually: on the 1st Sunday of Advent - 2008. Check it out here.

Anyway, it is the second Sunday of Advent 2009, and the gospel is about St. John the Baptist's call for repentance - to prepare the way of the Lord. I want to share part of an amusing poem titled 'Repentance', by the writer-poet Robert William Service.
If you repent, the pastor said,
Your sins will be forgiven.
Yes, even on your dying bed
You're not too late for heaven.

That's just my cup of tea, I thought,
Though for my sins I sorrow;
Since salvation is easily bought
I will repent . . . tomorrow.
I guess that poem hits the mark in a sort of satirical way. When John the Baptist, the voice of one calling in the desert, called to prepare the way of the Lord, he meant immediate reconciliation and repentance. The word "prepare" automatically carries with it the inherent quality of immediacy. We simply cannot prepare and procrastinate at the same time. When we prepare our minds and hearts for the Lord, we profess our utmost love as in now, asap, pronto, a segundo mismo. After all, can we say to someone we heartily cherish that: I love you... tomorrow?

With repentance comes true reconciliation, and only then can we be ready and prepared to face the salvation of God. Imagine if today we postponed repentance for tomorrow or the day after, and then right in the very next minute the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. The adage "better late than never" always poses a huge gamble, especially when we bet with our souls.

From David Pekrul, here is another short poem:

To be on time is not my thing,
For I'm "Procrastination King",
But one day, be it late or soon,
I'll sing a very different tune.

Hmm. I hope the procrastination kings amongst us even get to sing tunes after the long haul. Otherwise, it would more like moaning.
On this, all of us pilgrims will surely need St. Paul's prayer in the second reading:

"---that your love may increase ever more and more, in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness, that comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God."


(x-posted for CatholicFriends)