A Lenten Prayer in COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
It is Lent again, Lord;
forty days of prayer
forty days of sacrifices
forty days of good works
forty days of silence and self-control
forty days of preparations for Easter.
Forgive us that we always forget our daily life
is essentially a daily Lent:
a daily exodus of going to the wilderness
filled with temptations 
and calls for fidelity 
to your love and person.
In this time of COVID-19
when so many of us are suffering,
help me, O Lord
not to be carried by feelings
and emotions of the Lenten Season;
give me the courage to see
beyond ordinary things,
to care more and share
even with the least that I have,
to find more reasons
to forgive and understand
most of all, to be fair and just with everyone.
Let me find my way back to you, Lord
in this time when everything and everyone I have
is quickly disappearing or have been gone or lost;
despite the face masks we wear,
let me look more into the eyes
of others to see your image and likeness;
let me wash my hands clean of evil and deceit
as I keep distance from occasions of sins
and most of all, let me empty myself of pride
to realize and experience again
my one and only, first true love is you,
alone, O dearest God.  Amen.
Photo by author, Pulilan bypass road in Bulacan, February 2020.

The “gift” of face masks

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 09 February 2021
Genesis 1:20-2:4     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Mark 7:1-13
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

Praying over your words today, O Lord our God, made me rejoice and thank you in giving us the face masks that remind us of our being “created in your own image and likeness (Gen.1:26-27)”, helping us heal our broken relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you Lord for this face mask because we now look longer into the eyes of one another, trying to recognize everyone but most of all, trying to find you in every face we meet each day. Before the pandemic, we have taken everyone for granted. We would hardly even look into each one’s face and eyes but now, with masks covering our faces, we strive to recognize each one by looking into each other’s eyes, trying to listen to each one’s voice, trying hard to recall how we have met, trying to figure out how have we known each other.

Suddenly with the face masks, we have finally tried to look into each other’s face again to recognize each one as a friend, a brother and sister in you and to finally find you, too, sweet Jesus!

But there is still another blessing in disguise for us in the wearing of these face masks when we finally learned to become silent and appreciate silence too!

Before the pandemic without the face masks, we spoke too much, never looking into one another. We would rather speak and speak and speak without hearing nor listening nor feeling the other person, hardly looking into each other’s eyes, numbing our selves of our connectedness in the invisible ties that bind us as your children, almighty God our Father.

So true are your words today, Lord Jesus, especially before the pandemic when our mouths were exposed without masks that we have become a people more on lip service, “honoring you with our lips while our hearts are so far from you and from others that we nullify your words in favor of our traditions empty of meaning” (Mk.7:6, 13).

May we learn to internalize in our hearts the words we are about to speak so that like you, may we share in the power of your words that create than destroy, enlighten than darken so that one day, sooner or later, may contribute to the end of this pandemic.

Help us realize, God our Father, during these trying times that a more lasting solution to this pandemic is to go back to you in paradise, to experience true sabbath of having you as our God at the center of our lives, always listening and trusting in your voice and words. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

Celebrating family in COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 December 2020
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Trying to relax a day after Christmas, I felt so good watching the limited BBC series at Netflix called “JAPAN with Sue Perkins”. It is so unique that it presents the Land of the Rising Sun in a different perspective by this spunky and bubbly British journalist not afraid to admit her prejudices then be rectified in this short documentary.

At the same time, Ms. Perkins presents us with the latest trends in Japan, others are good while others are not so good especially its aging population with falling birth rates and many Japanese men delaying or not getting married at all.

One solution the ingenious Japanese have found are “wives for hire” – a growing business that offers women who act as wives to unmarried men who present to their aged parents as their “wives”. One man explained to Ms. Perkins how his elderly mother enjoys more in spending time together with a “family member” like a “daughter-in-law” than just with a care-giver. They tend to converse more freely and joyfully about so many things as a “family” — at least for a day.

That is how important a family is! That is why it is called the basic unit of the society from which springs forth life itself – biologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

That is why Vatican II rightly inserted in the Christmas Season the Feast of the Holy Family to remind us of the deep character of the mystery of the Incarnation that the Son of God came into the world to save us through the family, through the husband and wife of Joseph and Mary.

It is a great reminder to us in this time when family is quickly disintegrating and maybe in a funny twist, we have in the COVID-19 pandemic a great opportunity for us to go back to our family.

Photo by author, entrance to the Flight to Egypt Cavern Church in Cairo, 2019.

Human family a creation by God, a call from God

Since the very beginning, men and women have always banded together not only as a family we know of today, a nuclear unit of father, mother, and children. It was really more of an extended family like a clan or a kin who lived together as siblings and cousins, uncles and aunts along with neighbors who all would have been in and out of the house.

Some peoples like the Hebrews do not really have the term cousins where everyone is a brother or a sister, a kin; hence, we find in the gospels Jesus being told of having brothers and sisters.

To understand this is to think of our own concepts and terms in our extended Filipino family. Like the word pinsan for cousin. When I was in kindergarten until elementary, every summer some cousins would come home to the province for vacation. We would all sleep together on the sahig (floor) with banig (local mat) like puppies or kittens together — that is, magkakapisan usually in the old house or bahay na matanda of our grandparents.

My nieces, 2017.

On the other hand, uncles and aunties refer to their nephews and nieces in Filipino as pamangkin, from the expression “para namang akin” that literally means “just like my own child”.

Both pinsan or cousin and pamangkin or nephew/niece express togetherness, of being one as a family.

But in the Bible, we find something deeper in this banding together of peoples as families sharing joys and sorrows, work and play but also coming together as a creation by God as well as a call from Him.

See how in the Ten Commandments that only the fourth commandment carries a promise from God to underscore the importance of family life and of our parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Ex.20:12).

In the assigned first reading for the Feast of the Holy Family from the Book of Sirach we find the author elaborating and reflecting further on this beautiful nature of the human family that is divine in origin and orientation. We find at its first part the emphasis on children honoring and obeying their parents, the father and mother. This instruction is then capped by a touching reflection on the solemn duty of taking care for an aging parent with all the respect and patience due him/her. Likewise, we find at its conclusion something that echoes God’s covenant, of the need to be kind and merciful to everyone especially those in need.

Kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins — a house raised in justice to you.

Sirach 3:14

In the second reading, we find several challenges to every family to be kind, merciful, forgiving and peaceful because we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col.3:12). That is our identity as children of God our Father, making us members of His one, big family.

This is something many families have seemed to have forgotten due to so many concerns in life like the need to earn money, pursue one’s career that is interspersed with breaks that sometimes costly to family members like separation or migration, by choice or by circumstances.

This is one value that we hope to recover at this time of the pandemic when most parents and children are all working and studying from home. May families take this opportunities to renew their ties with one another, to pray anew together and renew or adjust their visions and dreams where they may all grow to maturity in Christ.

Photo of my mom with my two nieces, 2017.

Purifying our family in Christ

One beautiful thing that is so outstanding with the Holy Family is the fidelity of Joseph and Mary to God through temple worship, of how they sincerely and dutifully strive to fulfill all obligations stipulated by the Laws that we find reflective of Jesus in his adult life when He would come to attend synagogue worship.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord… and to offer sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance wit the dictate of the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon… and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary is mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:22-25, 34-35

Part of the good news of this feast is for us to realize too that the Holy Family was not spared of problems and trials just like us. In our gospel today, Simeon assured Mary of her heart being pierced with a sword, of facing trials and conflicts to happen like when Jesus was lost only to be found a day later in the temple when he was 12 years old. It must have caused too much stress and worries to Mary and Joseph.

Or when Jesus finally left home to begin His public ministry when people, including relatives thought he had lost his mind in His preaching!

And finally, when He was crucified. It must have been a terrible experience for the Blessed Virgin Mother.

No family is so perfect to escape trials and conflicts but the Holy Family teaches us something so perfectly valuable that can help us resolve our many imperfections in our family — of remaining in God, of being rooted in Him who is our identity as family, as a person.

The Presentation of Jesus by Mantegna from wikipediacommons.org.

It is in the family where we first encounter and experience God, both His presence and His “absence” if we may call that.

There are times when we feel so close, so near with God especially when everything is going so well with our lives when we have everything; but when the going gets rough and tough, sometimes that is when we feel too far from God or He is totally nowhere around us.

What a paradox that it is both in the family where we first experience love and care but at the same time where we also first taste our pains and hurts, and disappointments.

But between those two extreme realities of life, that is also when we find the conviction that God is real, Who is one with us in our joys and sufferings, never leaving us.

It is during those moments when the sword pierces our hearts when we discover who is inside us really, the ones most valuable to us, the ones we look up to, the treasures we have always kept and cared.

Sometimes, it is only when the heart is pierced by the sword do we find the treasures we keep inside.

This Christmas amid a pandemic, may we find anew the more important we need in our hearts — not things but persons we care most, who remind us of our identity as blessed and beloved. This pandemic period is the most opportune time for families to resolve conflicts, face trials in the light of Jesus Christ through prayers and openness to one another. Let us not take it for granted. See it as a blessing in disguise when we are finally able to heal all those festering wounds in us that have eaten us up as persons, families and Christians.

How sad that families often compete for material things that can always be easily superseded; but if we compete for kindness, for understanding, for love, for forgiveness, then nobody loses, everybody wins.

Sometimes, true peace in the family happens when we are willing to disarm ourselves of our natural defenses so we can carry or hold Jesus into our arms like Simeon, or like Mary when our heart is pierced with the Word to expose Jesus within who is love and mercy. Amen.

Photo from Aleteia.com.

Prayer for our own “flight to Egypt”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December 2020
1 John 1:5-2:2   >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 2:13-18
Photo by Ms. Janine G. Lloren, metal engraving of the flight to Egypt by the Holy Family on one of the doors of a church in Florence, Italy taken in 2015.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic with news of a new and more vicious strain possibly now spreading, I have come to realize this Christmas how you also went through worst scenarios during your birth and infancy.

From the moment of your birth, Lord, you have experienced so much dangers and uncertainties just like us today with many women giving birth in harsh and hostile situations like in the middle of an armed conflict or in a refugee camp, or maybe while being held hostage in human trafficking.

When I imagine how difficult it must have been during your time when you fled to Egypt because of Herod’s murderous ways, I feel so sad at how things have not really changed yet, of how such things continue to happen daily in so many parts of the world.

But with your coming, Lord Jesus, though there are still those dark clouds looming above us as Pope Francis had noted in his latest encyclical, hope and joy abound.

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5

So consoling are the words of your beloved disciple, Lord! Let your light shine on us! May our love and kindness to one another dispel the many darkness around us specially this year. And yes, forgive us too, Lord Jesus, at how we have been “treating” and calling this year 2020 with so many taunts and ridicules.

If there is one thing we have always been good at, it is the blaming game – we keep on blaming others except ourselves. Like Herod. At such great costs.

As we near the closing of this year, help us to remember how with your coming you have sanctified and made us all holy like you. Each year is always a blessed and good year from you. It is us who make it so bad, so defiled. We caused this pandemic. Long before it came, we have been distant from one another, have always washed hands, refusing to take a stand for what is true and just. Most of all, we have stopped looking at each other’s face to see you again.

May this pandemic be an “Egypt” for us all —- a time to pray and reflect about your light and coming, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Advent is a quarantine

The Lord is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-4 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Advent Week III, 19 December 2020
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 1:5-25
Photo by author of our altar after a “private Mass” at the height of the lockdown last summer when public Masses were suspended.

I just realized the other day how fast really time flies after seeing photos of some of the couples I have married early this year now happily cuddling their babies… It did hit me hard that we have been in quarantine for nine months already, enough time to conceive and deliver a baby!

It sounds funny but it is the reality showing us how the birth of every child is a milestone not only to the parents but even to everyone and to history in general. We shall wait until next year to find out if there was a big increase in babies born this 2020 due to the long imposition of lockdowns and the quarantine we are into.

It is interesting to know that “quarantine” was actually borrowed from our Catholic practice of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for Easter called Quadragesima or Quaresma, from the Spanish word for forty.

When plagues became so common in Europe with devastating effects even before the middle ages, officials in the port of Venice in Italy ordered all incoming ships to spend “quaranta giorni” or 40 days of being moored first before entry to ensure they carry no plagues. Quarantine had always meant a period of time until lately it had also referred to a place or holding area as in “quaratnine area” to cleanse and disinfect people, animals, plants and things.

Advent 2019.

Its concept of spending days for purification had always been in our Judaeo-Christian traditions dating back to the Old Testament when the prophets of God would go to mountains and desert to meet Him who were later emulated by holy people including John the Baptist, Jesus, monks and hermits.

The Church imitated that practice that led to our Seasons of Lent and Advent. In fact, Advent used to be as long as Lent in duration, starting a day after the Martin Mass, the feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11 but was later reduced to four Sundays to distinguish it from Lent that is meant to be more serious in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Now you see, my dear Reader, how interesting it is this year 2020 when we actually went back to our old practices of Lent, and now Advent in truly preparing for the Lord’s coming going through the quarantine.

Going back now to our gospel which is from Luke, we have heard how Zechariah doubted the good news he and Elizabeth would finally have a son after so many years of praying to God. For that, the angel Gabriel chastised Zechariah and made him speechless that people waiting outside the temple were amazed when he emerged from the Holy of holies unable to speak.

Then, when his (Zechariah) days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:23-25
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem (2017) where Elizabeth and Zechariah had a summer residence where they stayed when Elizabeth went into seclusion after getting pregnant with John.

Opening our selves to God and others

I find our gospel today so timely: Zechariah went home while his wife Elizabeth went into seclusion. They went into an Advent preparation for their son John the Baptist. They both went into a quarantine but not for the same reason: it was imposed on Zechariah while Elizabeth went into it voluntarily.

To lose one’s voice is to lose power and ability to lead. Zechariah was forced into silence in order to meditate and reflect more on the good news he had received from the angel. He was forced to go into silence to listen more to his true self, to others and to God to find new perspectives in life. As a priest, he must have been much sought after in their town for his wisdom and intelligence. Now that he is speechless, Zechariah was confined inside his home, to his very self to listen and most of all, to renew himself in God.

On the other hand, Luke shows us how Elizabeth seem to know better than her husband in dealing with their unusual situation by going into seclusion for five months. Observe how Elizabeth right away prayed to thank God as she meditated His mystery in “taking away her disgrace before others”. Remember that during that time, the only reason why a woman marries was to bear a child; failure to have a baby was seen as an embarrassment, almost like a curse or punishment from God.

In the first reading, we have seen this reality too but unlike Zechariah, the wife of Manoah believed the angel from God who told her she would bear a child despite her old age and being a barren. She was also instructed to go through a quarantine during her pregnancy when she was instructed to “be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean” (Judges 13:4). Furthermore, she was told not to cut the hair of her son to be born and named Samson “for this boy is to be consecrated to God… who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

Here we find the concept of quarantine, of separation from the usual things and people because of a special mission from God. If we can just truly appreciate the rich lessons we can learn from this pandemic, how wonderful to see that we are being quarantined like Elizabeth and wife of Manoah because God is preparing us for something greater.

From these stories of two old, barren women bearing a child we find Advent as the season that reminds us God comes to us hidden in our very time and space when we need to go to quarantine to create a space within us where we can be silent and be transformed as we listen more to ourselves, to others, and to God.

How sad that in our 24/7 world where we have made nighttime like daytime earning money to have everything, we have become more empty, more alienated, more sad and incomplete. Quarantine is essentially a sabbath when we are supposed to rest and be breathed on by the Lord with His Spirit, exactly what we like Zechariah needed so much

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Christmas negativity or Nativity?

One of the blogs I have been following for the past one and a half years is by a young Catholic lady in New York who is so full of enthusiasm in sharing Jesus in her writings as well as in the tasty recipes she dishes out weekly. Last week I found her blog so interesting, titled: “Christmas — negativity or Nativity?” (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2020/12/10/christmas-negativity-or-nativity/).

How sad that we are missing a very rare opportunity today during this pandemic not only to spiritually prepare for Christmas but to truly understand the things going on around us and in our very lives amid this pandemic. I have always believed COVID-19 has a spiritual dimension that we must face and address lest it happens all over again despite the discovery of a vaccine.

And what is that spiritual ailment? Too much negativities like Zechariah!

Imagine the very rare opportunity to incense the Holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple once a year with many other priests present and Zechariah was “chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense” (Lk.1:9)? That in itself could have been a great sign for him that something good may be happening.

Then, while inside the sanctuary of the Lord, an angel appeared to him with the good news, his news of a lifetime, something he and Elizabeth must have been praying all their lives: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall name him John (Lk.1:13).”

And we really wonder why did he doubt the angel’s good news? Did he not see it coming or at least, was it not the only thing he was always wishing for?

It is really so unthinkable. “Wow, ang labo naman” as teenagers would say.

What happened to Zechariah could also be going on to many among us these days that even if we have been praying and celebrating the Mass weekly or even daily with all of our professed faith, hope and love in God, we have also grown accustomed to the darkness of this pandemic with all its fears that unconsciously, we sully ourselves with many negativities, even cynicism and pessimism as if we would never make into better days.

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Sometimes it happens in our lives that our prayers have become mechanical and worst, our hearts have grown apart from God that we have become so resigned to our plight or predicament that we just pray and believe in God because we have to.

Here we need the creative courage of St. Joseph we reflected yesterday by keeping our love alive.

In telling us the story of the coming of John first before Jesus Christ, Luke is telling us to be ready for greater things about to happen with us if we become silent, take a few steps backwards and rest in the Lord to experience his presence in us and among us.

Whenever I feel low with my life, I just think of my other brother priests striving in the Lord’s vineyard or think of the cops and soldiers and simple folks who work so hard because they believe there is meaning in this life.

Let us drive away all negativities and focus more on the Nativity! Believe always in God and most of all, remain in love with Him, that He has plans for us and mission to make Him known into the world that has forgotten Him.

The fact that after almost a year of pandemic there are still so many women anywhere in the world delivering a baby every second, every minute means this planet is filled with life, is suffused in life that comes only from Life Himself, Jesus Christ.

Each one of us is a “John” – a grace of God, a reminder that Jesus Christ had come, will come again, most of all, is come! Cheer up, energize the sagging spirits of our many brothers and sisters who have become so negative this Christmas. Let them see the Nativity in our enthusiasm to live and to celebrate Christmas meaningfully despite the pandemic.

A blessed Saturday to everyone! Amen.

Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko!

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-01 ng Disyembre 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Unang Linggo ng Adbiyento, 29 Nobyembre 2020.
Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko 
sa gitna ng COVID-19
maski na kaunti
at mahina 
taginting ng mga kaha
dahil walang regalong 
iintindihin 
bibilhin o sale na susugurin;
simbahan sana ang tunguhin
upang manalangin
at linisin
puso at kalooban 
para kay Kristong
darating.
Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko
sa gitna ng COVID-19
at sana'y wala nang umawit
ng mga huwad na caroling
na paksa ay pag-ibig 
na sinungaling
puro lamang damdamin;
nang si Kristo ay dumating
ipinadama Niya sa atin
tunay na pag-ibig
handang hubarin
at limutin ang sarili
upang maging katulad
at samahan maski mahirap mahalin. 
Larawan kuha ng mga may-akda, Unang Linggo ng Adbiyento, 29 Nobyembre 2020.
Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko
sa gitna ng COVID-19
kahit kakaunti
ang pagkaing nakahain
sa mesa ng noche buena; 
mas masarap pa sa quezo de bola
ating mga kuwento at alaala 
ng mga pinagsamahan
sa nakaraan
na nagpapalakas
nagpapatibay 
sa ating buhay
na siyang ating gabay
patungo sa bukang liwayway.
Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko
sa gitna ng COVID-19
mayroon mang quarantine
at social distancing;
ang mahalaga'y 
patawarin nagkasala sa atin,
alisin na mga tampo
hinanakit, pait at galit
pati na pakla at asim
sa bibig at damdamin
upang malasap muli
at namnamin
sarap ng kahulugan
nitong buhay natin!
Tuloy pa rin ang Pasko
ngayong COVID-19
balot man ng kadiliman
itong ating buhay 
katulad ng gabing kulimlim
mas maliwanag mga bituwin
nagniningning, parang nakangiti
sa ati'y nakatingin;
sa tuwing puso at kalooban
ay ating binubuksan 
upang mahalin at paglingkuran
kapwa nangangailangan
Panginoong Hesus ay sumisilang,
Pasko ay tunay na ipinagdiriwang 
kaligtasan nararanasan
lahat ng hirap nalalampasan
Diyos sa ati'y nananahan
tayo ang kanyang sabsaban
pagkain pinagsasaluhan
tungo sa buhay na walang hanggan.

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Pasko 2019.

Ang Mahal na Birheng Maria at corona virus

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Nobyembre 2020
Larawan kuha ni Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2016.
Sana'y inyong ipagpaumanhin
at ako ma'y patawarin
ng Mahal na Ina natin
sa aking sasabihin
na noon pa man 
hindi ko inililihim:
Ano itong pagkahumaling
ng marami sa mga kapatid natin
sa pagkokorona sa Birheng Maria?
Mayroon pa bang hihigit
sa kanyang koronasyon 
sa langit?
Hindi kaya ito kalabisan
kaartehan 
o inggitan ng iilan
na ang tanging sandigan
ng debosyon kay Maria
ay panglabas lamang
upang hilig ay mapagbigyan
kahit walang kabuluhan
at katuturan
habang sambayanan
nanonood lamang
sa isang palabas na walang laman?
Pasiklaban, pabonggahan
tanging mga katangian nitong pagkokorona 
hindi birong halaga ginagasta
sa gitna ng isang pandemya
tila baga nawala na rin
panglasa at pang-amoy
nahawahan na rin
ng corona virus
debosyon sa masintahing Ina
di nila alintana
sila-sila lang nasa eksena
wala naman ang balana.
Larawan mula sa Pinterest.
Sana'y tigilan na
itong pagkokorona
ng Birheng Maria
na lumalaganap tulad ng virus
dahil natitiyak ko
hindi rin siya masaya
sa gayong parangal sa kanya;
malamang ipapaalala
din niya tulad ni Hesus
propesiya ni Oseas:
"habag ang nais ko
hindi mga susunuging hain."
Ang higit na nakakabahala
sa ginagawa nilang pagkokorona
sa Birheng Maria bilang Reyna
wala na ring pinagkaiba
sa mga monarkiya
lalo na sa Europa
na sadyang pang-aliw
na lamang sa mga turista
walang kahulugan ni
katuturan sa takbo ng buhay
maliban sa lumipas na kasaysayan
at yaman ng kanilang kalinangan.
Hindi ba ang korona
ng Birheng Maria
 ay ang putong niyang
katapatan at kababaang-loob
sa harap ng Diyos,
buod ng kanyang Magnificat?
Siya na ating Reyna
kayamanan at korona
ay mga dukha
at mahihina,
ningning at kinang
wala sa ginto at ano mang brilyante!
Balikan, higit sa lahat pagnilayan,
pagpapakita ng Birheng Maria
sa makabagong panahon
doon sa Lourdes, Fatima at Banneux
dama kanyang pagka-Reyna
dahil kaisa niya mga bata at dukha;
higit sa lahat, si Maria
ang tinutularan, pilit inaalam
kanyang larawan
hindi tulad ng kinagagawian
kanya-kanyang larawan
malayo sa katotohanan at kabanalan! 
Ang hamon ng Birheng Maria
siya ang ating makatulad
hindi siya manika o sagala 
na inaayusan dahil sa sariling kagustuhan!
Larawan niya ay karukhaan at kababaang-loob
hindi kapalaluan na pinaglalaruan;
huwag nating ipilit ang sa atin
korona ni Maria ay sirain
at maging koronang tinik
sakit at hapis ang kapalit;
koronang putik na ang dungis sa atin babahid
o corona virus sadyang wala na si Hesus!
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Our Lady of the Poor ng Banneux, Belgium sa retreat house ng Boys Town sa Cavite, 2007.

Righteous acts of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Revelation 15:1-4     >><)))*>  +++  <*(((><<     Luke 21:12-19
Photo by author, Red Wednesday 2020.

Once again, dear Jesus, we pray in the most special way this Red Wednesday for your persecuted Church including those severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic like the medical frontliners, the survivors and their families, and the poor who have sank deeper into poverty due to the prolonged lockdowns we have had.

We pray that we may find your good news behind every persecution we suffer and go through as a community of your believers and disciples because where there are sufferings, there are hearts and souls willing to comfort, willing to share, willing to sacrifice.

When there are sufferings, there is the color RED that means LOVE because that is when we have your Cross, Jesus Christ, and therefore share in your own destiny of glory!

It is in every shade of red like the blood poured out by Christ and the martyrs after him that the Father’s “righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev.15:4), that is, when we experience more of God’s protection and salvation in the face of grave dangers and even death.

Grant us the grace, Lord Jesus, to persevere in your words and ways so we may secure our lives in you. Amen.

Photo by author, Red Wednesday 2020.

Surely, there will be Christmas 2020….

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2020
Photo by author, Christmas decors at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
Surely, there will be Christmas this year
despite the pandemic
but there will be less traffic, 
less madness in malls and streets
and more praying and silence
in our homes and parishes.
There will be less dinging
of cash registers
and maybe more singing
from the hearts
as we begin to see more 
of Jesus in the other 
person despite 
the face mask.
Surely, there will be Christmas in this time of corona
as there will be more presence
of persons and loved ones
than presents and gifts recycled
or bought without any thoughts;
there will be more crèche
and boughs of greens
so we do not have to be mean
if we do not receive anything.
For so long
we have been receiving gifts
when it is not us celebrating
birthday but the Lord
who only asks for our open hearts.
Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.
Surely, there will still be Christmas amid COVID-19
when we shall finally be hearing
music celebrating Christ's coming
not cheesy songs masquerading as carols 
wishing for every maiden's Prince Charming;
there may be less cheese and ham and wine
for our Christmas dinner
with memories and dreams overflowing
as we gather filled with faith, hope and love;
it does not matter if there are no blinking lights
or even Christmas trees with all the trimmings
or boxes of gifts below or socks hanging
for as long as the glow of Christ's light
and warmth bursting in everyone's hello!
Surely, there will always be Christmas
no matter how favorable or
unfavorable each year
because Christmas
is more than a date to
keep and remember
but an event, a Person
to cherish and welcome,
to follow and imitate,
to care and let grow
within us, among us
the God who became human
 like us so we can be divine 
like Him.
Surely there will always be Christmas every year
but after 2020, may our Christmas be for real:
less hugging and kissing 
but more loving and caring;
less laughing and merrymaking 
but more of rejoicing and comforting;
less having and buying
more giving and sharing;
more sacrificing
more striving
for justice and peace;
less clapping, less "liking", less "trending"
more praying, more kneeling
to Jesus our Savior and everything!  AMEN.
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

Holy Rosary in the time of corona

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 October 2020
Bishop Dennis Villarojo of the Diocese of Malolos leading the praying of the Rosary during the 11th Healing Rosary for the World last May 27, 2020 at the Malolos Cathedral. Photo from Sandigan.

It is the world’s most powerful weapon in any war, the most potent medicine for any ailment but has always been shunned upon by many especially in this age of sophisticated technology and modern science.

This is the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so loved by most saints in the past 800 years, encouraged by the Mother Church, and now rediscovered by many in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

How prophetic were the words of St. John Paul II in October 16, 2002 when he declared it as “Year of the Rosary” by adding the Luminous Mysteries prayed on Thursdays.

The Rosary of the Virgin Mary… still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.

St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Introduction

It is very interesting to know that the celebration of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was instituted following the victory by the Spanish Armada over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto Bay on October 07, 1571. That decisive naval victory attributed to the praying of the Rosary ended the push towards Europe by the powerful Moslem Ottomans. That would be repeated less than a hundred years later at Manila Bay in 1646 when the Protestant Dutch navy retreated unable to break the defenses of the combined Spanish and Filipino forces who placed themselves under the patronage of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. Following their victory at the La Naval de Manila, the surviving soldiers walked barefoot to the Santo Domingo Church then in Intramuros.

There are so many other stories of how devotion to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary have led to many kinds of victories in various battles – not only in wars but also in plagues and diseases and other crises – waged by Christians both as a nation and as individuals not because the Blessed Virgin Mary is a “fighter” like a warrior but more of a woman of peace, a disciple par excellence of Jesus Christ.


The family that prays together,
stays together;
a world at prayer is a world at peace.
- Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton

Image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary whose feast we celebrate every third Saturday of October at Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

What makes Our Lady of the Holy Rosary so unique in fighting all kinds of battle in life is the path she takes, the path of Jesus Christ which is the path of peace. Here we find how though the Rosary is Marian in character, it is in essence Christocentric.

…to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). 

St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #6

Jesus had told us that the peace he gives us is not like the peace of the world but a peace that is won out of love, not of violence and power. Mary as Mother of Jesus offers us the most intimate and incomparable model in contemplating Christ the Prince of Peace, his very person, his words and teachings that leads into inner peace within each person first.

And that is what every mystery of the Rosary teaches us: we remember not just by going back to the past but by making present anew Jesus Christ in the many events of his life relevant with us today because they are very similar with our own experiences.

When we contemplate the Joyful Mysteries, we realize that real joy comes from welcoming and accepting, sharing and finding Jesus who comes to us in the most ordinary ways. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, we find in whatever suffering we find ourselves into, Jesus Christ went through it all first for us, assuring us he continues to be with us even in death that leads us to the Glorious Mysteries of Easter. In these mysteries that end with the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth, we are reminded and assured of our only “destiny” in life — to be back in the presence of God in heaven with Mary.

Mary in the Holy Rosary reveals to us that our fulfillment in life is found only in her Son Jesus Christ, the light of the world in whom everything must be seen and considered. All the rough edges, the dullness and darkness within us are dispelled when seen in the light of Jesus Christ. And that is why we find in the Luminous Mysteries the most “scriptural” part of the Rosary. According to St. John Paul II, though the gospels were silent about the presence of Mary in these Luminous Mysteries, it is most likely she was there present in silence, something so rare these days as we live our lives in the glitz and glamour of social media like Facebook and Instagram.


Photo by author, 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most unique battle man has ever fought, not only because the enemy is not seen and have made such visibly tremendous impact to our way of life in a global scale like World War II; it happened in the most unusual way that attacked and disturbed our inmost being as human persons desiring peace right in our hearts.

It exposed the sickness we have all been afflicted with, the lack of love, a love that is like the love of Jesus Christ willing to sacrifice, willing to forgive, willing to let go simply because of loving someone more than one’s self.

We have been in chaos within, longing for peace and love that have remained elusive because we have always been busy with everything except with God and our true selves. Long before we have adopted social distancing, we have long been distant from each other, even with those we live with in our homes – so cold and without love. Meals have become needs to feed one’s body, not as events to share one’s self with others as more and more people are getting used to eating by themselves, with cellphones beside them. Everybody is complaining about the face masks and face shields we have to wear without realizing when was the last time we really had a good look at each one’s face as a brother and a sister in Christ, an image and likeness of God, a person to be loved and cherished?

In praying the Rosary meditating in silence its mysteries, we not only discover the mystery of God but most of all our own mystery of being a part of his grand design and plan. That is why we feel anxious and fearful all of a sudden because death has become truer and closest to us in this time of the pandemic when “resting in peace” has become so common. And we know so well we have not loved enough!

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

By praying the Rosary, its beads make us enter the rhythm of life once again, that it is not just temporal and material but also eternal and spiritual. With Mary, the Rosary enables us to be conformed to Christ which is the very essence of Christian spirituality.

In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share his deepest feelings.

The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ!

St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #15

I have been wondering why despite our many prayers and Masses, why have we not conquered COVID-19 yet? How many rosaries do we have to pray before God answers our prayers for a cure to corona virus?

Perhaps, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is reminding us today that the problem with COVID-19 is not just medical but deeply spiritual, calling us to be conformed in the person of Jesus Christ that calls for many battles within us against our pride, selfishness, painful past and memories, vices and addictions, so many other negativities that please our senses but leave us empty and lost because they all lack love from which peace springs forth.

Take that Rosary again, learn from Mary that true blessedness is in believing that the words of God will be fulfilled (Lk.1:45) in us by welcoming Jesus, sharing Jesus, and becoming like Jesus in love like his Mother. Amen.

From Google.