Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Taming the Fox

Are you familiar with the classic novella, The Little Prince, the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944)?
If you do, then, it must be easy for you to recall how the Little Prince met the fox and how their conversation went. But in case you find it hard to recall, here, let me refresh your memory, though, pardon me if I skip some lines just to drive home my point:
* * *
“Come and play with me,” proposed the Little Prince. “I am so unhappy.”  

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”  

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the Little Prince. But, after some thought, he added: “What does that mean — ‘tame’?” 
* * *

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties." 

“‘To establish ties’?”  

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world...” 

* * *

“Please--tame me!” said the fox.  

“I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things already made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...” 

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the Little Prince.  

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day...”  

* * *

To drive home my point, let’s follow the lines above in bold letters.

I know of not a few friends who have grown “so unhappy” with what’s going on in our society this post-election period. But I have my little reflection and a theory of what’s going on. When the players are not friends, no game is possible. “I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”  

To tame means “to establish ties”. But sad to say, in our country, “it is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. Why do you think?

“I want to, very much, but I have not much time,” said the Little Prince. “I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.” What an irony! In our desire to have friends and to understand many great things, we often neglect the most important ingredient: the art of taming.

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “If you want a friend, tame me...” The fox is actually giving us a hint – the key to what we are looking for. If we are looking for friendships – and collaboration, solidarity, harmonious relationship, teamwork, healing and reconciliation, etc. – we should learn the art of taming. Do you really want to understand “a great many things”? Remember the wisdom of the fox: you only understand the things that you tame!

If you want to learn the art of taming, “you must be very patient,” said the fox. You must learn when and how “to say nothing” for “words are the source of misunderstandings.”

So, what do you think we need most this post-election period? I think we need to learn how to tame each other.
* * *

Last year, Pope Francis reminded the Italian bishops, during the opening of their Annual General Assembly in Vatican, “to act more like pastors than ‘pilots’ telling the faithful what to do… In reality, laypeople who have an authentic Christian formation do not need a ‘bishop-pilot’ or a ‘monsignor-pilot’ or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level from the political to the social, from the economic to the legislative. Instead, they need a ‘bishop-pastor’,” the Pope explained.

I think, a “bishop-pastor” should know how to tame the sheep (or the fox). What do you think?

 Cogito, 28 May 2016

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Feast of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo
12 May 2016 * Homily

How many of you have visited the famous Underground River of Puerto Princesa? Can you still recall the different images depicted in the marvelous rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites? The corn, mushrooms, eggplants, the human heart. Do you remember the “Cathedral”, a huge dome where you could see rock formations looking like images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativity, and the Three Kings?
 Then, the guide would explain to you how the stalactites and the stalagmites were formed. A stalagmite is “a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings.” Its corresponding rock formation is a stalactite that hangs from the ceiling, formed from the dripping of liquid that carries minerals from the surface. The mnemonics have been developed for which word refers to which type of formation: stalactite has a letter “C” for “ceiling” and stalagmite has a “G” for “ground”.

When stalagmites and stalactites meet each other, they form solid pillars. There is one huge pillar that you can see inside the majestic Underground River of Puerto Princesa. A huge pillar of stone or a large fragment of rock that is very strong is called in Latin language “Saxum”.

St. Josemaría nicknamed Blessed Alvaro del Portillo “Saxum”. In a letter he wrote to Don Alvaro in March 1939, St. Josemaría said: “May Jesus watch over you for me, Saxum. That really is what you are. I can see that the Lord is giving you strength and making my word come true in you: saxum! Thank him for it and be faithful to him, in spite of… so many things. […] If you could only see how greatly I desire to be holy and to make you all holy! A hug and a blessing. Mariano.” (St. Josemaría, “Letter to Alvaro del Portillo”, Burgos, March 23, 1939).

If you notice, in his letter to Blessed Alvaro, St. Josemaría already pointed out why his first successor was like saxum, a rock to him. “I can see that the Lord is giving you strength and making my word come true in you: saxum!” If Don Alvaro was faithful and dependable like a huge pillar of stone, it was because God continuously showered him with numerous graces. It was also because Don Alvaro corresponded generously to God’s gifts. The more God’s grace drips from above like the stalactites, the more Don Alvaro grows from below like the stalagmites!

What a beautiful picture to behold for us as we celebrate his second feast today since his beatification last September 27, 2014! We, too, are like stalagmites that rise from the ground thanks to the continuous dripping of God’s stalactites of grace. God’s stalactite has a letter “C” in it but it does not stand for “ceiling”; rather, it stands for “Christ”. Slowly but surely, as God’s grace drips unto us, we are being formed into the likeness of Christ.

When the stalactite of God’s grace is met with the stalagmite of our generous correspondence and cooperation, we can also become a “saxum” to others. Let us, therefore, learn not to put hindrance for God’s grace to work in our lives. Like the Good Shepherd in today’s Gospel, Blessed Alvaro also taught us how to be generous collaborators of God’s grace, through his example of fidelity even in small things and a life full of sacrifices.

A little anecdote: “St. Josemaría established as a general rule that every priest of Opus Dei should have, prior to ordination, a doctorate in a secular field as well as a doctorate in an ecclesiastical discipline. But as it happened, the first three priests were all engineers, and at the time that they were ordained, even the highest-level technical schools in Spain did not grant doctorates. So Blessed Alvaro, because he could not get a doctorate in engineering, signed up for the Philosophy and Literature program at Universidad Central, in Madrid. He was however exempted from class attendance. And so having done the course work on his own, he obtained his licentiate on April 24, 1943 and his doctorate a year later, on May 12, 1944, (72 years ago today). His dissertation was titled “The First Spanish Expeditions to California”. Later it was published as a book, a quite lengthy one, under the title 'Discoveries and Explorations on the Coasts of California.'” (Facebook, Alvaro del Portillo Daily).

For Bishop Alvaro, our pains and sacrifices can actually be very meaningful. They are never senseless or futile. In April 19, 1990, when he visited a daughter of his, named Camino Sanciñena, who met a terrible accident at the end of January and was still in a very serious condition in an isolation ward of Miguel Servet Hospital in Zaragoza, Spain, -- practically her whole body was covered with burns – he told her “that even though this is hard to understand, pain is actually a caress from God”.

Pain and suffering can be a source of joy. The whole life of Blessed Alvaro is a testimony to this truth. The words of St. Paul addressed to the Colossians in the First Reading today attest to it: “It  makes  me  happy  to  suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to  make  up  all  that  has  still  to be  undergone  by  Christ  for  the sake  of  his  body,  the  Church.”  St. Paul could endure his sufferings because Christ is in him, “Christ in us, our hope of glory”. “It  is  for  this  I  struggle  wearily  on,”  he said, “helped  only  by  his power   driving   me   irresistibly.”

Our struggles and difficulties in life contribute a lot so that Christ may be formed in us. They can be channels of God’s grace dripping unto us so that we may grow and become stronger like the stalagmites. Conversely, it is only when we allow Christ to be formed in us can we really endure and find meaning in our sacrifices and pains. Hence, allow yourselves to be formed by God’s grace. Correspond generously to His grace so that you can become like huge rocks for others to depend on.

Through the intercession of Blessed Alvaro and St. Josemaría, may we grow in our fidelity to grace and perseverance in our struggles. May we become like saxum to others. Amen. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

“Should a priest comment on politics?”

 "Padre, daghan lagi mga pari ug pipila ka mga obispo moapil-apil ug criticize o kaha moingon nga dili angay iboto ang usa ka kandidato. Mitugot ba diay ang Simbahan niini?

This question shows the degree of the faithful’s confusion nowadays on the legitimacy of the Catholic ministers’ involvement in political affairs. To what extent should priests and bishops get involved in the coming elections?

Let’s be clear, first, about certain facts!

Firstly, priests and bishops participate in the coming elections by casting their votes, thereby, exercising their rights as citizens of this country. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country” (CCC, 2240).

Secondly, the Church clearly prohibits priests and bishops to run for public office as it is “unbecoming to their state” (Canon 285). They must not actively campaign, endorse or publicly support particular candidates or political parties.

In the same manner, priests and bishops are also advised not to tell the people who not to vote for. Either to endorse or to oppose a political candidate or party is divisive; hence, it is “unbecoming” of Church ministers who are supposed to gather, not to scatter, the flock.

But I agree with Fr. Dwight Longenecker in his article entitled “Should a Priest Comment on Politics?” published in his blog, Patheos, on February 22, 2016, (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/02/should-a-priest-comment-on-politics.html), in saying that “Maybe we shouldn’t get involved in politics, but we can certainly comment on morality. Indeed, it is our duty to comment on the morality or immorality of certain issues”. If I may quote lengthily this priest-blogger:

“If a party or candidate supports abortion, genocide or euthanasia we must speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports indiscriminate deportation or incarceration we should speak out about it. If a party or candidate supports torture, killing of innocent civilians and indiscriminate bombing we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the widespread and indiscriminate use of capital punishment we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the oppression of the poor, an unfair wage and destruction of the family we should speak out about it. If a candidate or party supports the breakdown of marriage, sexual immorality and moral corruption of the young we should speak out about it.”

In other words, while Catholic clergy are advised not to actively interfere with political affairs, they are, not only allowed, but even expected to shed light on moral issues involving these affairs. So when priests and bishops comment on politics, it should not be about political concerns like who to vote for or not. Instead, they should comment on moral issues affecting the Catholic faithful’s exercise of their political rights.

As Fr. Longenecker rightly points out, “Commenting on the morality of issues is something a priest is called to. When there is evil in the world, he is called to exercise a prophetic ministry. This is not being ‘political’; it is being human. It is being Catholic.”

 Cogito, May 1, 2016

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.