Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Philosophy and DDS

Cogito, DCHerald

April 27, 2009

Perhaps, a scarry combination! But if Aristotle is right when he said: “No man willingly does wrong”, the only reason one takes the law into his hand is because he thinks it is right. He considers to be good subjectively what is truly and objectively evil. We could say, it is his moral philosophy or the lack of it.

I have wanted so much to forget this very sad experience, but news about the continued extra-judicial killings in Davao City remind me of an unforgettable and horrible incident that happened more than two years ago. As a newly ordained priest, I was assigned as spiritual director and philosophy professor in our pre-college seminary. One afternoon while the seminarians were doing their usual manualia (house cleaning), I received a phone call from a resident of NHA Village, Ma-a, informing me that the brother of two of our seminarians was dead. More shocking was the cause: he was gunned down by an unidentified man in motorbike right infront the rented house of my elder brother.

I waited for my companion formator to arrive before both of us could divulge the painful news to the two seminarians – one (the younger brother of the victim) was my student in Catechism in the pre-college; the other (the older) was in the major seminary and, at that time, was in his pastoral apostolate. The first could not contain his tears upon learning the news, the second was thunderstruck. The whole pre-college community was drowned in confusion, fear and sadness. The last topic we discussed in the class that day was: “If God is so good, why does evil exist?”

* * *

Evil exists, I suppose, because man misuses his freedom. Instead of exercising his freedom to do good, he employs it in doing evil. But it leads us back to the aristotelian principle: “No man willingly does wrong”.

Evil exists, then, because man, by judging erroneously what is objectively evil to be good (subjectively), employs wickedly his freedom. We see clearly here that in order to exercise well our freedom, we need to judge rightly what is good and what is evil. And this requires perception of the truth by the intellect.

In order to exercise well our human freedom, we need to see the truth clearly. This is what Pope John Paul II called the “fundamental dependence of freedom upon truth, a dependence which has found its clearest and most authoritative expression in the words of Christ: ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32) (Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 34).”

* * *

Taking the law into one’s hands, as what occurs in these extra-judicial killings, is never a right exercise of one’s personal freedom, although no doubt it is a free act (in the sense that it is done freely and consciously, hence, the agent is culpable). On the contrary, it is an act of enslavement. And this, in two ways: with respect to the perpetrators and with respect to the society.

The right use of freedom always uplifts human dignity. But the act of killing a person or murder is an offense, not only against the human dignity of the victim, but also of the murderer. The assassin loses his moral dignity. Hence, he is enslaved.

Moreover, if he is simply obeying orders or simply doing it for pay, the assassin is also enslaved by his own fears that one day he might be the next victim. How sure is he that the one who directed him to execute someone (without due legal process) would not ask another assassin to liquidate him? And this would go a long, long way until the last axe falls on the mastermind’s head. Could we imagine the terror that it sows in the society?

* * *

This may appear like sheer philosophizing, an academic drill and – as what most people think – philosophy has very little usefulness in life! (That’s why, very few study it). But the very fact that philosophy is useless (in the sense that it should not be used for functional or ideological purposes) is what makes it sublime and noble. And for being so, philosophy can dignify life and human persons.

Of course, one need not take up licentiate or doctorate in philosophy to learn how to respect the dignity and life of a human person. It is a mandate of our being human. In the film “Horton, Horton”, it is affirmed that “a person is a person no matter how small”. It simply means that every person has dignity no matter how wicked his actions may be – including the perpetrators of extra-judicial killings.

If the DDS thinks that taking the law into its hands is morally right (even for whatever good intentions it may have), I think, it should reconsider its “philosophy”!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another resurrection story

Cogito, DCHerald
April 12, 2009

What’s in the Tagalog mass that Filipinos in Tarragona would move heaven and earth to have it at least twice a month here? For an outsider, this may be an uninteresting question. But to more or less 300 Filipino OFW’s in this part of Spain, it is a question that’s worth reflecting. Or at least, to me, as I spent this Holy Week with them.

It all started as a wishful thinking a few months ago. They all knew that in Barcelona, the Filipino parish called Immaculate Conception and San Lorenzo Ruiz is so alive and growing, and is home to more than 15,000 Catholic Filipinos there. “How we wish we could also have masses in Tagalog here in Tarragona”, one middle-aged mother exclaimed, at one time when she met the parish priest, Fr. Bernie Alejo.

Last December 2008, on the occasion of Fr. Banny Pardillo’s short Christmas stay in Immaculate Conception and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, the Filipino Catholics in Tarragona (a one-hour travel by train from Barcelona) had its first mass in Tagalog at the church of San Juan Bautista, whose parish priest, Fr. Jordi Figueras, a catalán (native of Catalunya, another province of Spain), generously and gladly lent them.

Since then, the Filipino priests who are studying in Navarra would take turns twice a month to come, celebrate mass and hear confessions in Tarragona. During the Holy Week, I was requested to preside the celebrations like the Palm Sunday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, (a concelebration with the Spanish parish community), the Veneration of the Cross and the Easter Sunday. The idea is very much welcome on the part of Archbishop Jaime Pujol (who has been my professor in Navarra before becoming the archbishop of Tarragona). At least, the pastoral needs of Filipino Catholics in Tarragona could now be well taken care of.

* * *

Perhaps through a nostalgic desire to hear masses in our maternal tongue, God has drawn these OFW’s together to form a Christian community. Through a simple longing to sing Luwalhati sa Dios, or Ama Namin while holding hands together and with eyes piously closed, God has called these Filipino Catholics to be witnesses of authentic Christian life and to give testimony – in this corner of the world – of a unique Filipino Christian spirit.

Once again, God has called all of us, Filipinos – wherever we are and whatever our circumstances may be – to be true missionaries, even in the simply way of living our faith. We don’t need to do great things to become missionaries. Even ordinary things done with extra-ordinary love can become great in the eyes of God.

I remember how the lectors and other mass servers fumbled and committed lots of blunders (errors that could easily raise the brows of meticulous parish priests in the Philippines) during our liturgical celebrations, but I don’t mind them so much. I could see the purity of their intentions and the nobility of their desire to please God. Not a few Spanish priests and lay faithful had observed what my eyes saw. Truly, from the mouth of the humble and the simple-hearted, God could find His praises.

* * *

Jesus once said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw people to myself.” I believe, my experience with the Filipino Catholics in Tarragona is a concrete fulfillment of His promise.

As Jesus is lifted up on the cross, He draws these Filipinos to Himself to form a community of His disciples. It is not mere coincidence that this community is formed during the Holy Week when Christ Himself, while hanging on the cross, is “lifted up from the earth”. Neither should it cause us great surprise that this community takes its shape under the Cross of Christ. It is formed in and through that cross. It should be configured under the same cross.

Before our own eyes, the Passion and Death of Christ produces again and again abundant fruits. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it would not bear much fruit…” Once again, we see how Christ continues to work hard for our salvation, even after His resurrection. He never tires of drawing us, attracting us to Himself. And His most effective and efficient means is His own Cross.

From the perspective of Christ’s Cross, the story of the Filipino Catholic community in Tarragona has just begun. I think, it is a story that is worth meditating. For in the eyes of faith unfolds another resurrection story!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A moral responsibility

29 marzo de 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

One time I was requested by a journalist – a national paper correspondent whom I came to know during my one-year sojourn in DCHerald – to conduct a three-day spiritual retreat to a group of journalists. The idea did not materialize for some unknown reasons. But one thing struck me when that journalist told me: “Father, you can choose any topic you want. But please just don’t try to preach us what to write or how to write our article.”

Then, the journalist proceeded with an explanation that in the past, they had a retreat master who simply preached them some DO’s and DON’T’s in Newswriting or what to write or not to write, etc. But they don’t need this. What they need is something that touches the other dimension of their lives.

What struck me was the fact that among those who are working in the mass media, there is great hunger for spiritual (and of course, moral – the two being inseparable) nourishment. I wonder how we could lend them a hand.

* * *

There are media correspondents who think that their newspaper would sell if it is stuffed with sensational – although hardly truthful, if not half-truth – stories. Readers – they say – would go for what is sensational and controversial, rather than what is true.

I think those who maintain such argument may have enough knowledge about the readers’ psychology but very little about anthropology. Man, by nature, is attracted by the truth and is repelled by falsity.

If readers buy newspapers that contain sensational stories, it is simply because – in the first place – they presume that such newspapers tell the truth. Once they discover that the newspaper they are reading only misleads them by telling them half-truths and sensational stories, they would never buy and read that paper again. Same is true with TV and other mass media.

To those who say that there’s money in sensational stories, I’d say, “only if there’s truth behind these stories”.

* * *

But another question emerges: “If there’s no truth behind a sensational story, then, let’s create that ‘truth’.” Or at least, facts are altered and modified so that a certain sense of “truth” may serve to maintain the spectacle. This process is called “sensationalizing the story”, so it would sell.

The process starts with the author of the story himself. It is understandable that a news writer, for instance, should make his/her story interesting so to win the approval of his/her editor. Nothing is wrong with that. But if he/she does it at the expense of truth, an injustice here is committed against the public. The public has the right to know the truth of the story.

* * *

But not all kinds of stories – just by being truthful – have to be divulged: only those that will help achieve the common good of the society. The public has the right to know the truth of the story. But it doesn’t have the right to know all stories even if these are truthful. I think this is another facet that is left forgotten nowadays in the media: “Has the public right to know this kind of truth? Will it benefit the public?”

Will this story that I am writing benefit the reading public or benefit only the bank account of my editor? I am sure most of our modern-day journalists possess the best intention of contributing for the welfare of our reading public through their articles. Most, if not all, of our writers nowadays surely are thinking of the benefits the public could get from reading their stories.

But another set of questions arises: What kind of good the public could get out of the information (or the truth) that I write? Is it beneficial to all concerned or only to a certain group or individuals? Even if what I write is true, is this truth beneficial to all? Will it help build better relationships among all concerned?

* * *

We have seen that being a journalist is NEVER a mere profession: it involves the whole person of the writer. Writing an article for a newspaper, for instance, involves the whole moral gamut of the writer, so that one cannot say: “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.” Being a journalist is a moral responsibility.


March 22, 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

A man and his wife went hunting at a nearby local hunting area. After two hours of chasing wild boars, they decided to take a rest on the banks of a placid lake. The water was very inviting but both were hesitant to take a plunge for fear that the lake was deep.

Later, a young lad (most probably a native of the place) passed by. The wife asked the young man, “Is the lake deep?” He answered, “No.” She proceeded, “Could I and my husband take a plunge?” The man answered, “Of course, if you wish!”

At that, the husband took off his shirt and jumped into the water. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big crocodile showed up and seized the husband’s leg with its huge jaw. Hysterical, the wife blamed the young boy, “Why didn’t you tell us that there’s a crocodile in the lake?” The boy answered, “You did not ask!”

Half-truth is equally dangerous than lies.

* * *

It may sound just a tale, but half-truths nowadays are no telltale. Just a few days ago, we were shocked by the recantation of ‘Nicole’, a Filipina who accused an American Marine of rape in 2005. I have read the “shocking affidavit” in which she admitted that what happened could not have been rape. It could be that they “were just carried away”.

But the point is that the halftruth told three years ago had cost a very high price – not only the freedom of one man, but also his reputation; and the honor, not only of one person, but also of the whole nation or two. It is not only a mockery to justice; it is also a mockery to truth.

Once again, we have seen that halftruth is equally dangerous than lies.

* * *

“Honesty is the best policy”, runs an old adage that often hangs by the walls of an elementary school classroom. Yet the problem nowadays is not anymore that people often say lies; the problem is that almost everyone does not say the whole truth.

“The first thing that entered my mind was how would my mother and boyfriend react if they learn that I was last seen with Daniel Smith…” In order to avoid moral reproach for an immoral act done, ‘Nicole’ resorted to halftruths and made up her own version of the story.

One immoral action leads to another. To hide an immoral act, she resorted to another morally reprochable one. A lie always leads to another lie and form a chain of lies that ends up binding one’s conscience. “My conscience continues to bother me…”, says ‘Nicole’.

“Daniel Smith was convicted of rape because the court accepted my version…” The court would not have accepted ‘Nicole’s’ version had it discovered that it was halftruth. Here’s now the dilemma that not only the courts of our Republic, but also all Filipinos, especially those who love the truth, find enigmatic: “How do we know that an affirmation is halftruth?”

* * *

Once again, we are given a picture of the level of moral integrity our country possesses today. Judges and lawyers may argue on the legal implications of ‘Nicole’s’ recantation. But I think, the most crucial question is posed to us, parents, teachers, religious leaders, Church ministers, and to all Filipino people: “How to uplift the moral integrity especially among our youth?”

A few years ago, during my high school days, I came across with the Rotary Club of our school, the Sta. Ana National High School, in which I have learned what the club calls “The Four-Way Test”. It was composed by Herbert J. Taylor (1893-1978) during a business crisis in 1932, and was adopted as part of Rotary International in January 1943.

I think, in this moment not only of economic crisis but most especially of moral degradation, the “Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do” is quite applicable:

1) Is it the truth?
2) Is it fail to all concerned?
3) Will it build goodwill and better friendship?
4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
A simple observance to this test could effectively keep us away from the dangers of halftruths!

Generosity with God

March 8, 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

“Dios no se deja ganar en generosidad” (God is never outdone in generosity). It seems that this truth hardly rings a bell anymore nowadays. We are so preoccupied with having and accumulating that we tend to forget what St. Paul says: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.”

The story of Abraham in the First Reading this Sunday demonstrates this truth. With great trust in God, he did not hesitate to offer his son as God commanded him, believing that God could even raise his son back to life. His generosity has won for him God’s generosity that is beyond measure. God rewarded Abraham, not only the life of Isaac, but an everlasting promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

* * *

St. Paul, in the Second Reading, emphasizes that God is never outdone in generosity. “He who did not refuse to give His only-begotten Son for our sake, how could He not give us whatever we ask of Him through Christ?”

Oftentimes, out of sheer shortsightedness, we fail to recognize the manifestations of God’s generosity in our lives. Our negative experiences occupy our attention most of the time that we begin to overlook that we receive more good things than undesirable ones. If we just look intently at our lives with the eyes of faith, we will discover that we have more blessings than misfortunes.

* * *

“Bonum sui diffusivum est” (Good is in itself diffusive). It is a human tendency that whenever we receive a gesture of generosity – a good act – out of gratitude, we try to reciprocate such kindness. Kindness begets kindness, so to speak.

Here’s then, the secret of true piety: giving back to God the goodness that He has shown us. It means being generous to God, like Abraham, forgetting one’s self and believing that amidst confusion and apparent contradiction in His plan in our lives, God knows how to put order. After all, He is All-powerful, All-knowing and All-good.

* * *

“How can I repay the Lord for all the good things He has done to me?” prays the Psalm 115. Gratitude towards God means being generous in following His will. Generosity in following God’s will could mean denying one’s self of one’s caprices, self-interests and even the desire for comfort.

Lent is an appropriate time to learn how to be more generous to God. Lenten practices like fasting, almsgiving and prayer should be viewed from the positive perspective of being generous to God, not from a negative perspective of making one’s self suffer. These are practices that reduce our self-love and increase our love for God. Being generous to God means loving God more than we love ourselves.

* * *

Being generous to God also means being generous to our neighbors. Let us make it our aim this Lenten season to be a little bit generous in avoiding negative criticisms towards people we find unpleasant, in giving excuse to those who may have offended us unintentionally, in pardoning those who have done us wrong, in keeping a sweet smile although we don’t like it – all for the love of God.
Our generosity towards our fellowmen should be an expression of our generosity towards God. Our “experience in Mt. Tabor” with God should bring us into the sharing of such experience with our fellowmen. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

A sinner on his knees

March 01, 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

“The devil flees when he sees a sinner on his knees.”

Thus runs a famous tongue-twister I often gave my students in my English classes a few years ago in Davao del Norte State College. At the start of this Lenten season, I think this tongue-twister brings more good to the soul than to the tongue!

* * *

“A sinner on his knees” is a very despicable sight for the devil. It means losing an ally. It is like being betrayed by a friend. It entails weakening of his power. It implies his imminent defeat.

On the other hand, “a sinner on his knees” means “more joy in heaven”. It proves that love is greater than sin. It shows that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” as St. Paul says. It manifests God’s victory on the cross once again.

“A sinner on his knees”, moreover, is man’s return to Paradise. It is equivalent to the Prodigal son’s “Father, I have sinned”. It is actually the Father’s sweet embrace that elevates man’s dignity as a son of God, a dignity sullied by egoism and self-love.

* * *

However, “a sinner on his knees” is a target of the devil’s wiles. And it is just logical for he wants to win supporters and sympathizers. This is why, a sinner, who is often on his knees, frequently experiences the assaults of distractions, dryness, lack of inner drive in prayer and meditation. The devil flees but only to plan new tricks on how to get the sinner off his knees.

For this reason, “a sinner on his knees” is also an object of temptations. In themselves, temptations are not sins. But giving up to them is a sin. In themselves, they do not come from God. “How could be God be holy if He tempted us to evil?” asks Benedict Baur, author of In Silence with God.

“Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God” (James 1:13). God does not will that we be tempted but He permits temptations in order to purify the soul and to test whether this sinner is “really on his knees”. “To will” and “to allow” are two different actions we need to distinguish well in God in order to understand the true nature of temptations.

* * *

“A sinner on his knees” is a picture that the Church wants us to contemplate and to imitate as we enter once again into the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Notice how Christ, after having been baptized by John in the Jordan, was led to the desert to pray and to be tempted by the devil.

We may think that Jesus needed neither to pray (because He is eternally united with the Father, and prayer is no other than “union with God”) nor to be tempted (because He is God and the Scripture says, “Thou shall not tempt God”). But willingly, Jesus prayed to teach us how to stay united with God, and allowed Himself to be tempted to show us how to conquer sin and the devil.

Jesus, who is truly God, is truly man in all aspects except sin: “in all aspects” including temptations. “He who has no sin was made sin for us”, says St. Paul. In this way, He – being sinless – shows us how to assume the posture of “a sinner on his knees”.

* * *

“The devil flees when he sees a sinner on his knees”. Yet, this Lenten season, we don’t exhort all sinners – including myself – on their knees just to drive out the devil. Our observance of Lent is not only for the devil to flee but primarily to let God be in our lives.

If there are a lot of temptations that we encounter along the way, it simply means we have not given yet to God the total dominion over our hearts, something that belongs to Him by right. We have not totally detached ourselves from people and things. We still retain a portion (more or less) of our heart to ourselves and this share is what the devil employs to pull us down.

As Pope Saint Gregory says: “The devil has nothing of his own in this world, and naked he comes to battle. If you go clothed to fight him, you will soon be pulled to the ground: for he will have something to catch you by.”

“A sinner on his knees” is detachment from ourselves – our self-love, our pride, our sensuality – and attachment to God – His will, His love. St. Terese of Avila once said that “he who does not pray, needs no devil to tempt him”.

Frequent Confession

22 February 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

Sometimes, the idea of frequent confession still succeeds in raising eyebrows among the uninformed today. Some would think this is a bit exaggerated. Others would brush it off as something unnecessary. For instance, when I advised someone (a friend of mine) to go to confession once a week, if possible (and I think for this friend, it was possible), I could notice a shock in my friend’s face.

I could understand my friend’s surprise. Most people think (and I think they’re not wrong) that one goes to confession only when he realizes he has committed a grave sin. We call it mortal sin.

It is called mortal because it cuts off the “supply of grace” that flows into our soul when we are in the state of grace. It is the “death” of our soul, so to speak. The other type, the venial sin, does not cut off the life of grace.

The Church teaches that we should confess immediately (as soon as possible) the mortal sins because “to die in the state of mortal sin without having repented and received the merciful love of God means to be separated from Him forever by one’s own and free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and with the saints is what we call ‘hell’.” (CCC, 1033).

But the Church still encourages that we should confess the venial sins. This is why, we are highly encouraged to go frequently to confession. The most prudent is once a week (with a fixed day), or as necessary (when one realizes having committed a mortal sin).

* * *

Spiritual author Dom Benedict Baur, OSB, in his book Frequent Confession, Its Place in the Spiritual Life, has enumerated some advantages of going to confession frequently. He said that “the ‘profit’ of the confession of venial sins comes above all else from the fact that when we go to Confession we receive a Sacrament”.

First, we receive a “strengthening and deepening of the supernatural life already existing in the soul and an increase of the love of God”. Christian life is more than just avoiding mortal sins and erasing them once we commit them. It is absolutely erroneous to think that once we have avoided all kinds of grave sin or have confessed “once and for all” all mortal sins committed in the past, we are already living a perfect Christian life.

Christian life is loving God. And this love requires not only the eradication of grave sins but also its manifestation in smallest details. Love always finds a concrete and detailed manifestation. It would not allow even a venial sin.

* * *

Second, “when venial sins are forgiven in Confession a greater part of the temporal punishment due to them is forgiven than would be outside the sacrament with the same sentiments of contrition”.

The Church teaches us two things: (a) that venial sins can be forgiven outside confession through an act of contrition. Maybe this is what makes others think that frequent confession (especially when it is only of venial sins) is unnecessary; (b) that all sins bring with it two consequences – temporal and eternal punishment (CCC, 1472). Eternal punishment or hell is separation from God forever while temporal punishment is the purification of the sinner from all its attachment to creatures, whether here on earth (through all our sufferings) or in the Purgatory.

The confession of venial sins could spare us also from the temporal punishment of these sins. In case of the mortal sins confessed, the eternal punishment is removed while temporal punishment remains and takes many form (our suffering is one). It should not be understood as God’s punishment but as a consequence that goes with the nature of sins.

St. Teresa of Jesus once commented: “It is better to suffer in this world and be purified than in the purgatory.” All our sufferings (physical, moral, spiritual), if offered to God, could purify us of all temporal punishments that we need to undergo in the purgatory. The Church also says that a conversion that comes from fervent charity could lead to the total purification of the sinner, to the point that no punishment could subsist (Cf. CCC, 1472).

* * *

I THINK, the truth about frequent confession needs to be meditated today as we enter into the season of Lent. We need to teach this truth to others as it is our duty not only to know the truth about our faith but also help others know and understand it.
In so doing, we perform an excellent spiritual work of mercy. And like the four men who brought to Jesus the paralytic man through the ceiling (in the Gospel this Sunday), we too could bring to God’s mercy those who are paralysed by ignorance or by insufficient understanding about the Sacrament of Penance, in particular, about frequent confession.

Electronic addict

01 February 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

ATTENTION PARENTS: If you notice that your adolescent son or daughter locks himself or herself in his or her room, or spends a lot of time in an internet café nearby, or wears headphones all day, or worst, with both thumbs swollen, no doubt, he or she is an electronic addict.

It is not difficult to detect these symptoms among young people nowadays. But in saying so, I don’t exclude the possibility that the not-so-young sector may also be affected by this modern phenomenon called electronic addiction. We shall leave it to the experts in statistics to provide us with concrete data as to what electronic device is most commonly used among young boys or girls, or how much time they spend in videogames and internet café. These data – very informative as they are – tend to provide us only with a general picture, but do not necessarily evoke in us a strong desire to examine our own home and find out if we are already invaded by this cyber-virus.

Parents should start observing the signs. And if symptoms persist, consult the experts.

* * *

At what time your son or daughter usually returns home at night? Do you know where they hang out? Did you check it out if they were really doing their group project in their classmates’ residence, as they told you?

It is not sowing distrust among parents towards their children. But I think, one of the factors why a lot of young people are addicted to videogames and internet that they abound the net cafés along Ilustre and Duterte streets even up to 4:00 in the morning, is the insufficiency of parental guidance.

For families and parents who have internet connections at home or videogames, how much time do your children spent in front of the computer? Do you keep track if they are really reviewing their lessons at night, or are they just busy chatting or texting their friends? After all, for just 15 or 20 pesos, they can have free texting all day.

* * *

The assistant director of the Multimedia and Communication Laboratory and a professor in Informatics of the University of Navarra, Charo Sádaba, was once interviewed by Mundo Cristiano, a Catholic family magazine on this topic. One question was: “what attracts young people into electronics? Is it true that young people today are radically different from those of some few years ago?”

“There are various motives that could explain such attraction,” she said. “In the first place, these media are interactive, not lineal, and it is something that attracts the youth who feel at ease with a message that is not imposed on them, but something that they have to respond to.

“Besides, these are means of socialization, which is a vital axis in the adolescent stage. And they could reinforce their social connections in a more enjoyable way. Lastly, the youth are aware that the use of modern technology reaffirms the technological gap they have with the adults: in various cases, children know better about technology than their parents at home, and this is very attractive for them.”

* * *

“The principal risk,” according to Sádaba, “is that young people would believe that technology could be a guide to conduct one’s life and forget that it is just an instrument.”

I think, this is something that parents should consider seriously nowadays as they try to comply their already-difficult task of parenting. It is not a matter of creating panic or spreading fear among parents. According to our expert, we could still draw out something good from this phenomenon. Here are some simple tips for parents on how to confront the issue:

(1) Understand the usefulness and the attractiveness of technology on the part of your children. (2) Offer them other equally interesting and educative alternatives as occasions for them to disconnect from electronics: family excursions or games, etc. (3) Take advantage of the positive use of internet when it is done moderately; and (4) Argue not about technology (they know better) but about what is fundamental in life (life’s vital experience and what gives real meaning to life).
All I can say is: “Parents, befriend your children.”

Am I thinking?

25 january 2009
Cogito, DCHerald

(I’d like to dedicate this article to the formators and seminarians of St. Francis Xavier College and Pre-College Seminary, who celebrates Philosophy Day, 28 January, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas with the theme: “Silence and the Dynamics of True Thinking”.)

At the outset, anybody could well surmise the importance of silence to the activity proper to human beings called thinking. The logic is simple: if I want to think truly, silence is indispensable. But not to everybody, one might object. For I know of people who are capable of studying their lessons or writing an article with headphones and sometimes the volume surpasses the threshold of their sense of hearing. Due to the limits of time and space, I shall focus my reflection on true thinking and leave the rest of the theme for other minds to think about.

Thinking is an ambivalent word that means a lot of things to different people. In ordinary language, it is used to refer to an act of acquiring knowledge or information (I knew it!), to express an opinion or belief (I think that idea is erroneous.), to articulate an interior state or condition, whether psychological or emotional (I am thinking of you all day.) or even to affirm a paradoxical state of mind (I think I am not thinking!).

Most of our ideas about what true thinking is turn out to be what it is not. In the first place, thinking is not imagination. The sentence I am thinking of you all day is nearer to imagination than to thinking. One day our professor in Philosophy of Language, to distinguish thinking from mere imagining, asked a classmate to think of the word “woman”. The young lad obeyed. Then the professor asked: “How does she look?” To which he answered: “Brunette!” The professor retorted: “You’re not thinking; you’re imagining!”

Secondly, we often consider gathering information as an act of thinking, especially when we store it in our memory. Thinking is more than just memorizing! The former is a process of finding relationships between ideas, analyzing them and forming judgments about them. The latter is simply arranging ideas in its order, although at times, one has to think a little why such order of ideas takes place. Strictly speaking, we could not reduce thinking to acts of memory.

True thinking occurs when the intellect enters in contact with its object and dialogues with it. The object of thought could well be provided by a direct contact with reality (sense perception) or by memory and imagination. It is an act by which the intellect not only forms a concept but also develops a judgment with regards to such concept and relates it with other concepts or judgments previously acquired, thus forming what we call arguments or reasoning.

Hence, thinking implies content. There’s no thinking without an object of thought. When we ask: “What are you thinking?” and the answer is “Nothing!” we know, for a fact that the answer is, strictly speaking, false. It simply means: “I don’t want you to know what I am thinking”. Thinking (about) “nothing” is impossible!

Now, St. Thomas Aquinas said: “The goodness of the will depends on reason” (S. Th. I-II, q. 19, a.3). And the will is what governs our actions. By logical reasoning, we could say that right and good actions proceed from right and good thinking. If we want to act well, first, we need to think well!

In the seminary, the study of philosophy is geared towards this objective: to think well in order to act well. Obviously, human beings are capable of thinking but it does not mean that all men and women know actually how to think well. We are born gifted with reason but not with its excellent exercise. From the potentiality to think to the actuality to think well, a step is necessary. That step is education and philosophy is its effective ally.

However, there is no necessary logical connection between thinking well and acting well. Good thoughts are not necessarily put into virtuous acts. Why? Because the will is weak. Hence, the study of philosophy aims not only the development of the intellect but also of the will. But this is not achieved through reading philosophy books. It is achieved through putting good ideas into action, so that the repetition of good acts could develop into a habit. A good habit is called virtue.

Thus, the study of philosophy helps us in the exercise of the faculties that distinguish us as beings “created in the image and likeness of God”: the intellect and the will. Philosophical studies stimulate the intellect to search for the truth, which, once found, is presented as good by the intellect to the will. The will moves itself, attracted towards the good presented by the intellect, and translates such movement into moral actions. Repetitive good acts leads to the perfection of these faculties, which Aristotle calls virtue. Coupled with God’s grace received through the Sacraments, this is what we call the “realization of God’s image and likeness in us”.
The realization of God’s image and likeness in us is nothing else but knowing and loving God, because God is Truth and Love. What we are saying is that we need to develop our intellect and will, because through these faculties, we come to know and to love God. And to know and to love God is the meaning of our existence. Heaven consists simply in knowing and loving God. True thinking therefore consists in this: that we know the truth and we put it into action. True thinking is contemplation and action. And what is its breeding ground? The atmosphere of silence!

New Year slogan

“Probablemente, Dios no existe. Deja de preocuparte y disfruta la vida” (Probably, God does not exist. Stop worrying and enjoy life).

Thus runs a campaign slogan posted in some public buses in Barcelona, Spain starting January 12 this year. The campaign, says Alba, a Spanish national paper, is sponsored by the Cataluña Association of Atheists and the Union of Atheists and Free-thinkers. Barcelona goes a week behind London where the campaign has been spread in various cities. It is being financed through private donations that had reached at press time more than 3,000 euros. Its viability, continues the report, depends so much on voluntary donations.

According to its organizers, what they are trying to do is to “raise the sensibility of some atheist citizens, non-believers and freethinkers in general, about the necessity to come out in the open, manifest themselves and be proud of their own convictions, and to claim for the same recognition of the rights and freedom recognized in other citizens for the mere fact of having or manifesting religious beliefs.” Even atheists, nowadays, are claiming for the recognition of their rights! Since when were their rights suppressed?

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What a rare topic to start the New Year 2009, right? But if this column – Cogito (“I think”) – which has gone away for Christmas vacation (my apologies to the readers) – should be true to its name, this topic really makes us think.

First, the atheists begin the New Year with courage and determination to manifest their conviction: that God does not exist. Can we, Christians and Catholics alike, not do the same, that is, begin 2009 with courage to show the world that God is love?

St. Josemaría Escriva had a slogan which helped him a lot in his priestly ministry and apostolate. He called it DYA (Dios Y Audacia): God and Audacity. The atheists have audacity, but they don’t have God. We have both!

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Second, that the slogan uses the word “probably” where it could have said directly that “God does not exist” calls our attention. We are not saying that perhaps the atheists are beginning to doubt their conviction. What we see is not a categorical denial of God’s existence, but a practical one, meaning, people who live their lives as if God did not exist.

Why is it so? It is because it is difficult to deny categorically the existence of God. It is impossible to prove that God does not exist using rational arguments. But it is easier to prove that God does not exist in one’s life by living a bestial behavior. And this is the invitation of the slogan: “Stop worrying and enjoy life”.

God’s existence is never a source of worry. On the contrary, it is a source of strength and security. Conducting one’s life in God’s presence and doing the will of God is never a cause of unhappiness. On the contrary, only those who learn to spend their lives in God’s service are the truly happy ones. As the Psalm says: “Laetatur cor quarentium Dominum” (Blessed is the heart that seeks the Lord). Happiness without God is misery.

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Lastly, I think, that the atheists started the campaign in Barcelona at the beginning of the New Year is more providential than bad-timing. I believe that under God’s Providence, there is no such thing as coincidence.

It is as if God is telling us: start the new year with the best consideration man could ever reflect – the truth about God’s existence. That God exists is so evident to us that oftentimes we take it for granted. It is an invitation for all of us to consider the presence of God in our lives.

Have we already thanked God enough for the blessings we received in the past year? Have we already asked Him pardon for the sins and mistakes we have committed in the past? Have we already prayed for more graces in this year that just begins? If yes, then our slogan for this year – to counteract the pro-atheist one – should be this: “Gracias, Dios mío; Perdóname. Ayúdame más” (Thank you, my Lord; Forgive me; Help me more).

"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.