Bayan ng Diyos, Biyaya ng Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-20 ng Nobyembre 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019.

Labing-tatlong taon na akong pari nang ako ay maging kura paroko sa unang pagkakataon dito sa Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista sa Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan noong 2011. Dapat sana’y anim na taon lamang ang aking panunungkulan nguni’t dahil sa maraming pangayari na ang pinakahuli ay COVID-19, halos abutin na ako ng sampung taon dito hanggang sa paglilipatan sa 2021.

Wala akong pinagsisihan at pinanghihinayangan sapagkat tunay napagyaman ang aking pagkatao at pagkapari sa parokyang ito sa loob ng siyam na taon. At maipagmamalaki ko na maganda at mabuti ang parokyang ito sapagka’t kumbinsido ako na bawat parokya bilang bayan ng Diyos ay biyaya ng Diyos.


Unang aral sa parokya:
pangalawa sa Diyos ay mahalin
at pagmalasakitan ng mga tao kanilang parokya.

Wala akong mga karanasan at kaalaman sa buhay parokya bilang pari nang dumating dito nguni’t unti-unti sa pananalangin at pagninilay, aking natutuhan ang maraming bagay. Una na rito ang tungkulin ng mga tao pangalawa sa pag-ibig at katapatan sa Diyos ay ang pagmamahal at malasakit sa kanilang parokya na kinabibilangan.

Ang mga pari ay dumarating at umaalis, palipat-lipat ng mga parokya nguni’t ang mga tao ang naiiwan at nananatili sa kanilang parokya. Kaya dapat lamang sila ang higit na bigyan pahalagahan sa ano mang usapin ukol sa kanilang katipunan bilang mga alagad ng Panginoon.

Kaya naman tungkuling din naming mga kura paroko na unang ituro sa mga tao ang pagmamahal at pagmamalasakit nila sa kailang sariling parokya, lalo’t higit sa kanilang patron at mga kaugalian kung ang mga ito naman ay tunay na naunawaan at nasa katuwiran.

Isinasaad sa Vatican II lalo’t higit sa “Gaudium et Spes” ang pangangalaga sa kalinangan ng bawat lunan sapagkat doon nangungusap at naramdaman ng mga tao ang pagparito ng Panginoong Hesu-Kristo.

Malaking trahedya kapag nakalimutan ang mayamang kasaysayan at mga tradisyon ng isang bayan alang-alang sa mga kung anu-anong naiisipang gimik at kaartehan gaya ng sari-saring debosyon na umuusbong na wala namang pinag-ugatan sa karanasan ng mga tao.

Maliwanag wala doon ang Panginoong Diyos na palaging nagpapakilala sa isang pamayanan, hindi lamang sa iilan lalo na kung ito ang nagiging sanhi ng pagkakawatak-watak sa halip na kaisahan.

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Marso 2020.

Ang ating Patron ng Parokya,
gabay sa buhay dito sa lupa
hanggang sa kabila.

Isang bagay na nagpatingkad nito sa akin ang sariling karanasan ng aking Lola Cedeng na tiyahin ng aking Ina. Siya ang kauna-unahang may-sakit na aking dinasalan at pinahiran ng Banal na Langis matapos mag-comatose ilang linggo pagkaraan ng aking ordenasyon noong Abril 1998.

Akala noon ng aking Ina at kanyang mga kapatid ay magtutuluy-tuloy na sa kamatayan ang Lola Cedeng kaya dagli nilang inihanda lahat ng gagamitin sa libing – damit, kabaong, sementeryo nguni’t gaya ng kasabihan, humahaba pa raw ang buhay ng may sakit kapag pinaghahandaan kanyang kamatayan.

Pagkaraan nga ng isang linggo ay nagkamalay ang Lola Cedeng at tumagal pa ang buhay ng limang taon!

Dagli ko siyang dinalaw at ang unang hiniling niya sa akin ay ipanalangin siya kay San Martin ng Tours, ang patron namin sa bayan ng Bukawe (dalawa lang kaming bayan sa Pilipinas na ang patron ay si San Martin ng Tours;Taal sa Batangas ang isa pa na mas nauna).

At ito ang dahilan ng kanyang kahilingan: isinaysay sa akin ni Lola Cedeng kung paano sa kanyang NDE o “near death experience” habang naglalakad sa madilim na kalsada nang kanyang makita na dumarating si San Martin ng Tours nakasakay ng kabayo.

Sinabi raw sa kanya ni San Martin, “Cedeng… bumalik ka na sa Bunlo (ang aming baranggay). Nagkamali lamang at hindi mo pa oras,” aniya.

Pagkasabi daw niyon ay kaagad tumalikod si San Martin at umalis habang siya naman daw ay natigilan, iniisip paano siya nakilala ni San Martin?

Maya maya daw ay bumalik si San Martin at tinanong niya, “Hindi po ba kayo si San Martin ng Tours? Paano po ninyo ako nakilala at nalaman aking pangalan at tirahan?”

“Paanong hindi kita makikilala Cedeng,” paliwanag daw sa kanya ni San Martin, “hindi ba’t palagi kang nagsisimba sa Bukawe tuwing pista ng Mahal na Krus sa Wawa at sa akin tuwing Nobyembre onse? Sigue, umuwi ka na.”

Noon din daw ay natuwa ang aking Lola Cedeng, tumalikod at nagulat na lamang siya paano siya napunta sa Mt. Carmel Hospital!

Larawan mula sa Facebook ng Parokya ni San Martin ng Tours, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Naniniwala ako sa kuwento ng aking Lola Cedeng dahil pagkalipas ng limang taon, pagkaraan ng kanyang kaarawan noong ika-29 ng Hunyo 2003 bago sumapit ang Pista ng Krus sa Wawa noong ika-03 ng Hulyo ng taong iyon, siya ay aking dinalaw at mismong sa harap ko nalagutan ng hininga at pumanaw.

Habang hinihintay ko aking mga tiyo at tiya na tumawag ng duktor, kaagad ako nag-alay ng Misa sa tabi niya.

Pagkaraan pa ng ilang panahon mula noon nang aking mapagtanto mga kahulugan niyon, na kung paano si San Martin ng Tours ang gumabay sa aking Lola Cedeng habang nabubuhay, siya marahil din ang umalalay sa isang Bukaweñong tunay patungo sa buhay na walang hanggan.

Iyan ang kahalagahan ng mga Patron natin sa parokya. Sila ang ating mga tagapamagitan sa Diyos. Sila ang ating mga gabay at patnubay sa buhay hanggang kamatayan.

Kung saan marubdob ang pagmamahal at malasakit sa patron ng parokya, palaging buhay ang pananampalataya. Sino mang pari mapunta roon sa kabila ng kanilang maraming kapintasan maging kakulangan, palaging buhay ang parokya sapagkat sila’y nakasandig sa Diyos at hindi sa kung sinu-sinong tao lamang.

Gayon din naman, wala sa mga gusaling bato at kung anu-anong gawain matatagpuan ang buhay ng parokya kungdi sa buhay na pamimintuho sa patron nila na nagbubuklod sa kanila bilang isang bayan ng Diyos, mga alagad ni Kristo na nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa bawat isa.

Sa panahong ito ng pandemya, nawa higit nating makita wala sa karangyaan at luho ng simbahan at mga pagdiriwang ang diwa ng parokya kungdi sa pagiging payak at bukas palagi sa galaw ng Banal na Espiritu patungo sa higit na makabuluhang katipunan ng mga alagad ni Kristo. Amen.

Mary in the hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 September 2020
Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder of innocent babies. According to tradition, a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave that turned color of the stones to white.

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect example of one who had experienced God’s hiddenness in her life, teaching us with some important lessons in rediscovering and keeping God’s hiddenness specially in this age of social media when everything is shown and has to be seen.

We have mentioned in our previous blog that hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”; hiddenness is more than not being seen per se but that feeling with certainty that God is present though hiding because he wants to surprise us. If God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all. And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him too as seen in the life of Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/04/the-hiddenness-of-god/).

The hiddenness of Mary.

Simplicity and humility of Mary as venue for the perfect setting of God’s coming in Jesus Christ. Consider her origins: her town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee was definitely outside the more popular city of Jerusalem that was the place to be at that time. Most of all, it is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by the prophets for lack of any significance in the coming of the Messiah.

Nazareth was largely unknown with some hint of notoriety as expressed by Nathanael (aka, Apostle Bartholomew) when he expressed disbelief to Philip who told him they have found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Photo by author of chapel at the grotto believed where Mary received the good news of bearing Jesus Christ in her womb underneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel (2019).

But that is how God works in his hiddenness, coming to us in the most ordinary places and circumstances, even least expected like Mary who was definitely not “in” if we go by today’s popular standard of “who’s in and who’s out?”

In fact, she was so “outside” the circle of influence of their time with her being promdi as we say these days, without any illustrious lineage to be proud of like her spouse Joseph who was from the royal Davidic line or her cousin Elizabeth from the priestly branch of Aaron, the brother of Moses whose husband, Zechariah belonged to another priestly clan in Israel.

Yet, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ because of her hiddenness expressed in her simplicity and humility. It is a far cry from our extreme “Marianism” when we almost worship Mary forgetting Jesus Christ her Son and our Savior! Worst still is the growing trend of “triumphalism” in many parishes racing for the so-called “episcopal” and “canonical” coronation of their various images of the Virgin Mary that come in all kinds of names and titles that has come to look more of a fad than authentic Marian devotion.

Without any intentions of denigrating the role and stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our faith as well as her proper place in the life of the Church defined by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, I dare ask the following questions:

Photo by author, a replica of Our Lady of the Poor of Banneux, Belgium at Girlstown, Cavite (2009).

Is her coronation in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth not enough?

Why the need for these lavish spectacles for the coronation of the most simplest and humblest woman to have lived on earth?

It is a clear case of triumphalism – that exaggeration or overdoing our worship and rituals – especially if the Marian image is less than 200 years old without widespread devotions like the ones at Sto. Domingo (Quezon City) and Manaoag (Pangasinan).

I do not think the Blessed Mother would favor this considering her simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples seen in her many apparitions.

See the quaint and charming simplicity of Mary at Fatima in Portugal (1917) and lately at Banneux in Liege, Belgium (1933) where she identified herself as “Lady of the Poor”.

Note how the Virgin Mary reads “the signs of the times” in her apparitions and appearances when during the 1500’s at the height of European royalties and expeditions, she was always portrayed as victorious in regal clothes; but since Fatima in the 20th century as the world sank into the excesses of Industrial Revolution and affluence, Mary appeared simple, always in solidarity with the poor and suffering.

It is a cue we are sorely missing and sad to say, instead of renewing the world as St. Paul had asked us, we have allowed ourselves with the Mother of God to be transformed into the ways of the world by immersing in its showbiz frenzies, focusing on the material aspects like expensive clothes and jewelries.

Second example of Mary’s hiddenness is her oneness with Jesus Christ. She was never on her own, always seen in Jesus, with Jesus her Son and Lord. She believed in him so much, making him the focus at the wedding feast at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross where she expressed in the most strongest terms her solidarity with the Savior of the world.

This has always been insisted by the Church since Vatican II regarding our devotions to Mary that must always be in relation with Jesus and his mission — never on her own.

Photo by author, 2019.

In all her apparitions, the Blessed Mother has always been consistent with her messages of conversion and return to God through her Son Jesus Christ, the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession or Reconciliation.

Mary’s Christocentricity is best seen in her oneness with him in pains and sufferings like in the Pieta and the Mater Dolorosa where Jesus is the one standing out, not her. Nor anybody else.

When Mary, or anybody else for that matter goes on one’s own, Jesus is no longer hidden but removed from the scene. Then his Cross disappears and all that is seen is Mary in all her “beauty and glory” that are empty, very secular because these attributes come precisely from her communion in Jesus!

Perhaps, this pandemic is teaching us today to review our Marian devotions and processions that have become more of a show and a spectacle for Instagram than for deepening of our faith.

I pray that the Cofradia that holds the annual December 8 processions at Intramuros would take a rest this year until 2022 to discern their noble efforts before that have degenerated to pomp and pageantry among “devotees” specially camareros and camareras trying to outshine and outclass each other with some participation at the sidelights of their pastors and sacristans.

Keeping the hiddenness of God while we remain hidden in contemplation.

Of all the qualities of Mary we all must imitate to help people rediscover God’s hiddenness is her being hidden in prayer and contemplation.

St. John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae when he launched the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 that although the scriptures are silent about where was Mary during the other significant moments of the life of Jesus, especially at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was most likely that Mary was also present deep in prayer.

This we find clearly at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying at the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

Modern rendition of the Pentecost with Mary among the other disciples of Jesus. From Google.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shares with us his profound insight in his second Jesus of Nazareth book series (Birth of Jesus) how after the annunciation of the the birth of Christ to Mary, the angel left her totally without ever coming back to warn or instruct her unlike with Joseph. After saying “Yes” to the plan of God to be the Mother of Jesus, Mary immersed herself deep in prayers and contemplation, becoming hidden herself in God.

Since then, she never doubted Jesus her Son as the Christ, nurturing her faith with prayers beautifully expressed by St. Luke in saying how “Mary treasured things in her heart” when facing difficult situations like during his birth and his finding at the temple. It is not surprising that in the contemplation by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Risen Lord must have first appeared to his Mother upon rising from the dead because she was the first to believe totally in him (which became the basis of our tradition of the Salubong).

Mary has always been present in the hiddenness of Christ from his coming in the darkness of the night on a manger in Bethlehem, to his hidden years in Nazareth, to his ministry when he would always retreat to a deserted place to pray, to his Crucifixion and death and burial on Good Friday and finally, in the darkness of Easter.

In this age of social media where everyone and everything has to be seen and shown with nothing hidden anymore even without qualms and shame at all, part of our mission and ministry as priests and religious is to lead people back to God’s hiddenness like the Virgin Mary so they may realize anew that the best things in this life are not always seen.

To fulfill this is for us first of all to imitate God like Mary — be hidden!

How unfortunate that instead of leading the people back to God’s hiddenness, we priests and religious have in fact joined the secular world, imitating the “influencers” like bloggers and vloggers that instead of focusing on God who is hidden, we are concerned with our selves and all the “porma” for the sake of number of “likes” and “followers” we have in our posts.

The more we try so hard to make God visible in our ministry by imitating the styles and gimicks of some media personalities that make our liturgy look like a variety show complete with song and dance numbers with our altars heavily decorated like a studio set with giant tarpaulins like in EDSA, that is when we remove God totally – not only his hiddenness – from the scene and inverse proportionately, the more we priests and pastors become more popular than the Lord himself.

“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.

And that is how cults begin, with or without Jesus. It is very sad, even tragic and ironic because we have removed God himself – even Mary! – by unconsciously making ourselves the center of attention like pop icons and idols.

Mary had shown us the most perfect example of discipleship which is more of Jesus, less of self.

Can we not post without using our own pictures – no matter how profound our thoughts are – so the people may see the hiddenness of God in a photo of a lovely flower or a magnificent sunset? Unless you are a bishop or the Pope himself, having your photo published specially in the news is part of the information process about the person in focus. It is totally different in Church communications which is all about God and his message of love, not us.

The quarantine period invites us in the Church to appreciate and share this wonderful hiddenness of God by first becoming incognito, unknown and hidden from others, preferring to be at the background or “behind the camera” as we follow God in his hiddenness until we go to that great beyond of totally hidden from everybody except God.

Do not worry. We have Mary in every step along the way. Amen.

Mary is Queen because Jesus is the King

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Queenship of Mary, 22 August 2020
Isaiah 9:1-6 >><)))*> >><)))*> | + | <*(((><< <*(((><< Luke 1:39-47
Photo from Google.

Almighty God and Father, on this Memorial of the Queenship of Mary our Blessed Mother, we join her in that most beautiful song of praise to you, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk.1:47).

Remind us always, O Lord, specially in this time when we exaggerate everything that unlike the royalties of the world, Mary is our Queen not because of power and wealth nor of fame and popularity but precisely due to her humility and weakness before you.

In this time when we are so fond of “triumphalism”, when we overdo even our devotions and prayers to praise and glorify you, remind us O Lord it is not your way as shown to us by the Blessed Mother Mary.

Let us keep in our minds and hearts that Mary, along with all the saints, are venerated because of their obedience to you, fulfilling your will at all times, making you present among us in our weaknesses and helplessness.

We pray for more simplicity and humility, above all, sincerity in our devotions to Mary and the saints that lead to more authentic faith in you alone who is our God Most Holy.

Like Mary our Queen, may we always say “yes” to you O God our “King of kings”. Amen.

Aral ng COVID-19, III: Bisa ng panalangin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-05 ng Mayo 2020
Madalas batikos sa atin
ano nga ba saysay nitong mga 
debosyon at pananalanging 
ginagawa natin?
Maaalis nga ba ng pananalangin
itong COVID-19?
Maraming mabibigo
at marahil magugulat 
sa aking sasabihin:
hindi aalisin ng mga panalangin
itong COVID-19
o ano mang salot dumating sa atin.
Dapat nating tantuin
itong panalangin hindi binabago
kalagayan o sitwasyon natin;
hindi nito pipigilin ano mang 
kalamidad at sakit na maaring dumapo sa atin
maging kamatayan di nito kayang pigilan.
Pangunahing kabutihan ng panalangin
ay pag-isahin sarili natin 
sa Diyos na nagmamahal sa atin 
na sa tuwina'y sinasabi 
magagandang layunin para sa atin
na ni hindi natin pinapansin.
Sa pananalangin mahalaga mawala sarili natin upang sumaatin ang Diyos. Larawan kuha ni Bb. JJ JImeno ng GMA-7 News, 2019.
Higit na mahalaga sa pananalangin
mapakinggan ang Diyos sa Kanyang sasabihin
hindi ang ibig natin sa Kanya ay sabihin;
ani Jesus, bago pa man tayo humiling
batid na ng Diyos mabuti para sa atin
kaya "Ama namin" ang panalanging tinuro Niya sa atin.
Ang tunay na pananalangin 
ay kilanling kapatid na dapat mahalin
bawat kapwa ng sino mang nananalangin;
ito ang binabago ng panalangin -
ang pag-uugali at katauhan natin
na siyang magpapanibago sa sitwasyon natin.
Ano mang panalangin
walang mararating
kung hindi naman nababago
puso at kalooban habang ugali
at asal malayo sa dinarasal
dahil bibig at labi lamang ang umuusal.
Sa mga nangyayari
kahit marami ang nagdarasal
tila magtatagal pa itong COVID-19
hanggat hindi natin mapananaigan
hangad nating sariling kapakanan
sa halip na ang Diyos ang tularan at paglingkuran.

Lamenting in time of quarantine

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 03 May 2020
Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan. April 2020.

Against the advice of good friends, I went out to distribute Holy Communion in the streets to some parishioners who have participated in our Sunday Mass early this morning at Facebook Live.

I know the risks involved despite our best efforts in having all the precautionary measures but, what convinced me to go on with it is a beautiful Psalm so appropriate during this quarantine period.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?

Psalm 42:2-3
Photo from Reddit.

Sometime in March, I had some blues when I came across a reflection in one of the blogs I follow that soothed me like a gentle caress from God himself that I began praying Psalm 42 again (https://prodigalthought.net/2020/03/02/lament-in-silence/#comments).

And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.

This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.

Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!

I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.

What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.

And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.

Our empty church since March due to COVID-19.

Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.

Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.

And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:

My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”

Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,

When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:4-5

If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.

Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.

But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.

And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.

If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?

Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:6
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 10 April 2020.

After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.

There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.

In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.

My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1

I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.

May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.

Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 26 April 2020.

Building up the Body of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, 29 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 8:1-8 ><)))*> 000 <*(((>< John 6:35-40

Our empty church since March 17, 2020.

Once again, O Lord Jesus Christ, your Body the Church is facing severe trials and difficulties at this moment of history with the pandemic COVID-19 that have closed churches worldwide even in Rome, Italy which is one of the worst hit countries of the corona disease.

Since the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Church has always been persecuted but never defeated. On the contrary, it was during the persecutions when your Church had really grown beyond leaps and bounds, so to speak.

St. Catherine lived at that time when she was able to unite warring factions in Europe as well as in the Church with her counsels while through her, many individuals found directions in life with her holiness, teachings and directions.

And while churches remain closed with dim prospects of opening soon, you never fail to send us men and women full of devotion to you who continue to work tirelessly in building your Body, the Church.

One of them is Fr. Jun Villanueva from the Diocese of Balanga in Bataan who was infected with COVID-19 while serving in New York.

As he recovered from the deadly disease celebrating Mass in his parish, he had a wonderful realization that many of us priests have seem to forget:

“Then I realized that the Mass is not a show but our union with Jesus, whether there are people or none… from then on I started to look at the situation from that perspective”.

CBCP News, 27 April 2020

In the first reading we are told of the zeal of Saul in destroying the early church alongside the devotion of the early disciples in keeping the young church alive.

Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.

Acts of the Apostles 8:2

Only St. Luke used that adjective “devout” in the New Testament to describe people of “good heart, ready to believe, and then act openly and with courage” according to Timothy Clayton of the book “Exploring Advent with Luke”.

Devout people make thing happen for God like St. Stephen and the early Christians.

From Google.

Devout people give themselves to God wholly like St. Catherine and all the saints who remained attuned with the Holy Spirit like Philip in the first reading today, ready to follow its promptings and leads.

Give us the same gift of devotion to you, Jesus, the “Bread of Life” who had come down from heaven so we can build up your Church as your body here on earth.

Help us avoid the pitfalls of pride and self-centeredness that tend to destroy the unity of your Body, the Church.

Most specially, keep us devoted to you in the Blessed Sacrament like St. Catherine of Siena with whom you have shown in a vision while she was sick the celebration of the Eucharist in their chapel making her a patroness of those in television. Amen.

Lent is restoring God as our “default”

40 Shades of Lent, Thursday, Week I, 05 March 2020

Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 +++ 0 +++ Matthew 7:7-12

Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, 01 March 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

O God our Father, you know very well how ignorant I am with computers and the Internet. But, somehow, Lord, I have learned something very important with computers like the “default system” whereby a computer setting is on a desired preexisting configuration useful to the user.

On this season of Lent, help us to restore our default system in you, O God!

Make us stop “surfing” the universe for better default systems for there is no one better than you whom we must always have as our first option in everything, whether in good times or in bad.

Like Queen Esther in our first reading today who only had you as her recourse in seeking help for her countrymen:

“Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God… come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hands of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”

Esther C: 13, 24-26

Create a clean heart in me, O God, so that I may always seek and follow you.

Most of all, incline my heart to you always so you may dwell in me to let justice and love and mercy reign in me. Amen.

Deboto, debobo

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-11 ng Pebrero 2020

Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier, 09 Enero 2020 sa Quiapo, Maynila.
Deboto ang tawag sa isang tao
na malapit at namimintuho
Kay Kristong Nazareno o Sto. Niño
kasama na mga Santo at Santa
sa pangunguna ng Birheng Maria.
Kaya dapat bawat deboto totoo 
uliran at huwaran sa pamumuhay
taglay ay kabanalan nang sa kanya'y
mabanaagan larawan ng kabutihan
ng Diyos sa kanyang kadakilaan.
Kay laking katatawanan at kahangalan
kung ang debosyon ng sino man 
ay haggang simbahan lamang
nakikita paminsan-minsan 
tuwing kapistahan at mga prusisyon sa lansangan.
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier, 09 Enero 2020 sa Quiapo, Maynila.
Anong kahulugan at saysay
ng mga pagpupugay
sa Diyos at kanyang mga banal
kung sa kapwa nama'y manhid
walang malasakit at pakialam?
Nag-aalaga ng mga Poon
binibihisan tila laruan
ngunit pag-uugali at katauhan
malayo sa katuwiran at katarungan
ganyang debosyon dapat tigilan!
Ang tunay na deboto
puso ay malapit kay Kristo
at sa kanyang Ina at mga Santo
may pagmamahal, malasakit
sa kapwa tao na kanyang nirerespeto.
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier, 09 Enero 2016 sa Quiapo, Maynila.
Ano mang debosyon
iyong nakagawian o nakahiligan
araw-araw itong sinasabuhay 
pinaninindigan at tinutularan
aral at buhay ng sinusundang banal.
Sa dami ng mga deboto
bakit ganito pa rin tayo
walang pag-asenso
buhay ay kasing gulo 
ng eksena sa senakulo.
Ay naku!
Ano nga ba tayo,
mga deboto o debobo
asal demonyo, sobrang gulo
pinapako nating muli si Kristo!