Mary, advocate of grace and model of holiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella, Stresa, Italia, 2019.

Recently I saw on a Facebook post the photo of American model Kendall Jenner in a swimsuit showing what for many is the “perfect body” in a woman. The photo had reportedly gone viral last year.

What caught my attention was the other photo posted opposite Jenner: that of 19-year-old Alyssa Carson who became the youngest female in history to pass all NASA aerospace tests to train as astronaut for future travel to Mars! The caption said it so well, lamenting the fact how the world gives so much attention to “fashion models” with many going insane imitating their bodies forgetting the more essential like inner beauty and intelligence.

More sad is how we have fixed our human understanding and analogies of a “model” as someone who poses and remains still to be painted or photographed for glossy magazines and giant billboards that people are willing to buy or pay for just to view and let their senses feast on.

It may sound funny but those two photos accompanied me while praying and preparing for our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Sorry, I am not going to show you the link to those photos but wha I want to share with you are the two beautiful expressions depicting Mary as “advocate of grace” and “model of holiness” found in the Preface of today’s Mass (that is the prayer before the Holy, Holy leading to the consecration): “She, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son, the innocent lamb who would wipe away our offenses; you placed her above all others to be for your people an advocate of grace and a model of holiness.”

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Einsiedeln Abbey, Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 2019.

So often with Marian feasts, many people complain and find it hard to relate with the Blessed Virgin because they find them as celebrations of the privileges of Mary who was so blessed and unique, thinking she’s almost a god, not human anymore whom we cannot imitate and emulate.

That is totally untrue and baseless!

Of course, only she has the distinction of being immaculately conceived, one never stained by sin but, aside from that, Mary is like all of us, so human; and we too can be like her, full of grace and holy!

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will.

Ephesians 1:3-5

Very clear in this reflection by St. Paul in our second reading that our truest destiny is to be holy and without blemish – that is, immaculate. It is the plan of God since the beginning that we all become his people until sin came and destroyed momentarily that divine plan as we have heard in the first reading.

With the coming of Jesus through his sacrifice on the Cross, we were redeemed from sin to become God’s holy people which the same Preface mentions Mary as the “beginning of the Church”. The same prayer reiterates to us our universal calling from God which is to be holy and blameless before God through Jesus Christ. It is very doable and attainable “for nothing is impossible for God” as the Archangel Gabriel told Mary during the Annunciation (Lk.1:37). And Mary is our proof to that!

Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.

While it is very true that nothing is impossible for God, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception reminds of how God “needs” us to cooperate and participate in his beautiful plans for us like Mary to be his instrument or seedbed for his Divine Word to receive and grow and bloom.

That is the meaning of Mary as “advocate of grace” who became the vessel in the coming of Jesus Christ. See how St. Luke was very clear in narrating Mary’s “supporting” role and place in the plan of God: she remains a human being – not God – like us except she was full of grace, that is, immaculately conceived.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:31-33, 35

The Church Fathers used to call Mary as the “aquaeductus ecclesiae” or neck of the Church connecting Jesus the caput or head and us the corpus or body. Mary as an advocate of grace is that vessel of all blessings we now have in Jesus Christ because of her obedience and participation in that plan of God of sending Jesus.

Keep in mind that as advocate of grace, Mary brings us all to Jesus as the one Mediator, not away from him. True devotees of Mary bring others to Jesus not away from him for he alone is the Mediator. A true and authentic devotion to Mary always result in deeper knowledge and intimacy with Jesus and his gospel. Notice this in her apparitions especially at Fatima in 1911 where her messages call us to get closer to Jesus, not her.

Mary continues as our advocate of grace telling us the very same words she had told the servers at Cana to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn.2:5).

Do we do the same? Or, mislead others into putting Mary at par or even above Jesus her Son and Lord? In this time of pandemic, are we like Mary as an advocate of grace, a vessel and instrument of blessings to others or do we grab every credit of “charity” and “kindness”, grandstanding for more media mileage of “likes” and “followers” to be viral and trending?

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at the Cathedral of Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

From her being an “advocate of grace”, Mary thus becomes our “model of holiness” too as she reminds us of God’s original plan for us, created in his image and likeness destroyed by sin with the fall of Adam and Eve. See how God immediately promised salvation through the woman fulfilled in Mary as he reprimanded the serpent in tempting Eve:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike you at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Because of her being the advocate of grace of God by giving birth to Jesus, Mary stands before us as the perfect reminder of Christ’s work of purification and recovery of the image of God in us. Described as the “perfect disciple” and “doer of the Word”, Mary had shown us in her very life which continues to this day in her intercessions and apparitions how discipleship is a life-long process and commitment of holiness. From giving birth to Jesus to his dying on the Cross until his burial, Mary had always been with Jesus that on Easter, it was to her that the Risen Lord first appeared because she was the first to believe totally in him.

At the Pentecost, Mary was with the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit that became the coming out party of the Church. In her life, Mary is the model of holiness because she keeps on working with us and in us, guiding us in following Jesus our Lord and Master so that we might be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

Photo by author, Christmas 2020.

Holiness is not being sinless but being filled with God who is all-holy, being like Jesus Christ. Mary showed us the way to holiness is being humble before God, seeing herself as the “handmaid” or servant of the Lord.

If there is one thing the world needs now so badly in this time of the pandemic, it is holiness. Before the pandemic came, mankind was so filled with self, so arrogant and proud acting like god, manipulating everything.

How ironic that a microscopic virus with the simplest signs similar to the common colds made the world stood still for some time, reminding us that there is a God all-powerful who is in control of everything.

Through Mary, may this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception lead us back to God to recover in us his image and likeness, cleansed and purified of our blemishes and wrinkles of sin by having an enlightened devotion to her, the servant of the Lord par excellence. Amen.

A blessed day to everyone!

Advent is beginning with the end in sight

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-C, 28 November 2021
Jeremiah 33:14-16 ><}}}*> 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ><}}}*> Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, 2019.

Blessed happy New Year, everyone!

Today we are celebrating a new calendar year in the Church with this First Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming, it was adapted by the early Christians from the Roman practice of preparing for the visits or assumption to power of their emperors then considered as “gods”.

It is most fitting that we prepare not only outside but most especially inside our very selves for the coming of the true God and King of kings, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

Hence, Advent not only opens but also defines our whole liturgical year that is centered on Christ who has come, who comes now and will come again in the end of time. This is the reason why our gospel this Sunday is looking towards the end of time at the beginning of our Church calendar.

The three comings of Jesus Christ

Advent has two aspects: beginning today the First Sunday of Advent until December 16, all readings and prayers are oriented towards the Second Coming of Christ; from December 17 to the evening of the 24th, our focus shifts to the first coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Between these two comings of Jesus that the Season of Advent reminds us is what St. Bernard of Clairvaux called as the Lord’s “third coming” – his coming everyday into our lives, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2019.

Again we find that tension of his being here but not yet. It is in that between his first coming more than 2000 years ago and his Second Coming which no one knows exactly when where we are situated daily, making everyday Christ’s Advent.

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Luke 21:27-28

It may sound frightening to hear Jesus spoke of the signs of his coming but at closer look and reflections, we find it filled with joy because our redemption is at hand!

Yes, every ending forebodes destruction and passing of the old but that is in order to give way to something new, something better which Jesus had promised his disciples then and us now.

The grace of this season of Advent is the reawakening of our hope in the salvation that has already come in Jesus, who still comes now, and will surely come again in the end of time which is happening in every here and now.

That is why, there is also the sense of urgency and vigilance this Advent.

We are already living in the end-time Jesus had predicted as we have seen in the wars and conflicts going on among nations, the natural calamities happening around the globe made worst by the climate change plus this pandemic we are now having. But, it does not mean the creation will end soon as portrayed in many Hollywood films because these signs are calls for us to be ready and prepared for the final end that will prelude the new beginnings of all.

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah… In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice.”

Jeremiah 33:14, 16
Photo by author, 2018.

Meeting Jesus in Advent

Notice how Jeremiah’s prophecy so “pregnant” with meanings: more than the coming of the promised Messiah is the radical newness of the whole creation. Judah and Jerusalem, the main province and city of Israel at that time will be transformed, referring to John’s vision in the Book of Revelation of “new heaven and new earth”.

As we have said, Advent not only opens our liturgical calendar but also defines the whole year which is the daily coming of Jesus who had come over 2000 years ago and will come again at the end of time which nobody knows.

Meanwhile, in this “third coming” of Jesus everyday, we find God working in him silently and subtly in the human history and right in our individual lives.

It is in our faithful waiting when Jesus Christ comes. It is the beauty and joy expressed by Jeremiah’s words “the days are coming” that assure us no matter how dark and bleak are our days, despite all the destructions and even death around us, the days are coming when we see everything getting better because God never stops working in our midst in Jesus, the Emmanuel.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36

Last Sunday in our celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King we have reflected how Jesus spoke of the “truth” of his kingdom being among us, of how he had made us into his kingdom which is the reason why he was born and came into the world to testify to this truth (Jn.18:37).

See now the clearer picture of our life, of our time: we start our Church calendar preparing for the coming of Jesus our King and we end every year with the celebration of Christ the King. And we begin each new year with the end in sight of his Second Coming.

On this season of Advent, we are reminded how in our joyful waiting through prayers especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that Christ’s presence is little by little being unveiled, unfolding before us, and being revealed.

It is a call for us of deepening our prayer life to truly experience Christ’s coming in our daily life. This new year in the Church, St. Luke will be our guide in our Sunday readings during the Ordinary Time; one distinction of his gospel is his portrayal of Jesus in prayer always.

Jesus comes to us first of all when we pray, when we enter into communion with him, when we listen to his voice and follow his instructions. In prayer, we are filled with God, allowing him to work his wonders in us and through us and thus make Christ’s coming a daily reality.

That is how prayer truly leads to holiness: when we are filled with God, our prayers are translated into a life of kindness and acceptance, mercy and forgiveness and most of all, of loving service to one another especially those in need.

There will always be sins and shortcomings on our part but in prayers and vigilance, we slowly “increase and abound in love for one another… strengthening our hearts to be blameless before our God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. (1 Thess. 3:12,13)

A blessed happy new year again and a more blessed first week of Advent to you!

Fluidity in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop, 11 November 2021
Wisdom 7:22-8:1   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, La Union, 2018.
Today O God I am so struck
by your words from the first reading:
"For Wisdom is mobile beyond all
motion, and she penetrates and 
pervades all things by reason of 
her purity.  For she is an aura of 
the might of God and a pure effusion
of the glory of the Almighty; 
therefore, nought that is sullied
enters into her... Indeed, she reaches
from end to end mightily and
governs all things well" 
(Wisdom 7:24-25, 8:1).
What a beautiful description
of Wisdom, of you, dear God!
Someone so fluid, so natural 
like water:  everything flowing
naturally in order - so subtle yet
powerful, hidden but evident and 
felt that so often for those with 
closed minds and closed hearts,
you seem to be so far, even 
unrecognizable.

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is’. For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21
Teach me to be fluid, Jesus,
like St. Martin of Tours who
naturally cut his tunic into two
to share it with a poor beggar
one cold evening; his kindness was
instinctively filled with Wisdom, fluidly
finding you among the least of our
brethren; may we have the same grace
of  St. Martin to find you among the needy
and most specially to look up to heaven
for our soul's journey back to you.
Amen.
St. Martin of Tours, Patron of my hometown Bocaue, Bulacan; photo from the Parish Commission on Social Communication.

Being wise, avoiding sin

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2021
Wisdom 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 17:1-6
Photo by author, Israel, 2017.
Thank you dear Jesus 
for the assurance of your
love and understanding 
as well as the fair warning that
"Things that cause sin will 
inevitably occur.  It would be
better for him if a millstone 
were put around his neck and 
he be thrown into the sea than
for him to cause one of these
little ones to sin" (Luke 17:1-2).
I know, Lord, it is not an excuse
but a fact of life that we shall always
be fighting sins and evil while here
on earth as we strive to follow you;
but I know too well, dear Lord, of the
deep pains and sorrows, the widespread 
anguish every kind of scandal brings
to our family and society, most 
specially to the Mother Church.

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, his power, put to the proof rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

Wisdom 1:1-4
Forgive us, merciful Jesus,
strengthen us to live in wisdom,
keeping our hearts free from "perverse 
thoughts" so that your Holy Spirit of
instruction may fill and guide us to 
keep us from becoming a "skandalon"
or a rock that causes one to fall and sin.
Amen.

Remembering our call

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2021
Romans 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
who has called us through
Jesus Christ your Son 
to be your servants.
As we begin this brand new
week of work and school, 
let us be reminded
of this great honor from you
that we have taken for granted,
even forgotten and disregarded.
May we learn from St. Paul
to take pride in this calling
to be your servant.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God… among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1, 6-7
In Baptism, we have been called
to be your servant and apostle,
most of all called to be holy
like you, God our Father;
help us recapture the beauty
and honor of this call from you;
enable us to activate this call in us
set apart as a people for a very special
mission especially in this time of the
pandemic.
Most of all, let us remember today
your call for us to witness to Jesus Christ
and his Gospel of salvation through the
particular circumstances of our lives
lest that day of judgment catch us by
surprise immersed in sin and evil,
forgetting the sign of Jonah 
and Nineveh (Lk.11:29-32).
Amen.

And God said, “Sanaol”!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVI-B in Ordinary Time, 26 September 2021
Numbers 11:25-29 ><]]]*> James 5:1-6 ><]]]*> Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Photo by author, 2019.

One word I recently learned during my two week quarantine due to colds is the expression “sanaol” – short for “sana all” which is from “sana lahat”. Formed by combining the Filipino expression in making wishes “sana” and the English “all” for everyone, sanaol is said when you hear the blessings received by another person, wishing everyone is also blessed with same good things that range from ordinary things like food and money to girlfriend or boyfriend!

As I prayed over our readings this Sunday, I realized it must have been God who originally expressed “sanaol” on two occasions, first through Moses while in the desert and secondly through Jesus while with the Twelve at Capernaum.


From Twitter.com, 2019.

With God, sky’s the limit in doing good

It is so amazing this Sunday in our two readings how God sees us all as his children, his chosen people so blessed abundantly yet against this background is the human response of exclusivity and entitlement. Of pride and selfishness.

Consider how in the first reading when Joshua asked Moses to stop two men, named Eldad and Medad, from prophesying simply because they were not with him in the tent in meeting God while at the desert.

But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Number 11:29

“Sanaol prophets!” could have been the resounding reply by Moses to Joshua who misunderstood God’s freedom in bestowing his blessings to everyone. So many times not only with God but even with our own family, relatives or friends who have been generous with others that we stop and prevent them from sharing their goods, thinking we are doing a great service in jealously guarding their prerogatives.

Again, here we find like last Sunday our failure to find God in our way and journey in life that even his gifts we try to limit to ourselves.

At the least, it is a simplistic and myopic view on God’s and other’s generosities while at its worst, a selfish attitude within us to constrict God and others in giving away whatever good things they have.

Let us not forget the basic truth on the nature of God’s gifts and grace as ways and means for being of service and for the good of the community. Why limit those blessed to share gifts and blessings? Besides, God or whomever is totally free to give away whatever they have without denying or impoverishing anyone by giving away goods to others.

Photo from inquirer.net, May 2021.

This is the teaching of Jesus to the Twelve who reported to him how they have tried to stop someone from exorcising in his name because he did not belong to their group.

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Mark 9:39-40

“Sanaol good and helpful!” could have been the Lord’s reply to his disciples, reminding them the most obvious truth that with God and everything that is good, there can be no labels and divisions or groupings. We are all one in God our Father who is the source of all good; hence, we must neither monopolize the right to do good nor belittle the good others do even if they are not one of us or do not belong to our fold.

The Lord knows very well his own, we need not worry about such petty things on who’s who or to whom belongs whatever. God knows everything. What matters most is we keep on doing what is truly good so that despite the limitations we have in this life, we continue to strive to create a just and humane society here on earth as envisioned by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium.

Sin: the only limitation

If sky is the limit in doing good with God, Jesus reminds us today that the only limitation and obstacle in our lives is sin. The Lord is very clear with this truth that he had to explain things in details to the the Twelve lest they fall into this big trap.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye that with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”

Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47

“Sanaol understand” that all good gifts can come only from God, that is why we have to respect the freedom and conscience of everyone in the good deeds they do. Whoever keeps the laws of God faithfully are always blessed abundantly. No religious barrier nor label can hold that in check.

When pride and selfishness move into one’s heart, then everything is destroyed and made dirty. Recall how Jesus declared last month that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk.7:15). We have to examine our selves closely so as not to destroy the beauty of goodness and ability to do what is good planted in each of us by God.

Photo by author, 22 September 2021.

Here we are challenged by Jesus to closely examine our being his disciples, of how close have we been in knowing him as our Lord and Master.

Is it Jesus whom we are following or our very selves, our own thoughts and ideas of who is Jesus Christ not as he is?

Notice how in our gospel this Sunday we are presented with contrasts, first, of doing good that is without limits and committing sins that delimit us doing what is good, not affiliations and labels.

But the most wonderful contrasts we can find that gives us a clearer picture of life are found in Jesus: his meekness especially the sinful contrite of their sins and his sternness with the self-righteous who highly regarded themselves like the Pharisees and scribes, assuring they would never enter the kingdom of heaven because of such attitude; his open-mind with those doing good outside his circle of disciples and his strict demands of being good that whatsoever you do to the least you have also done to him.

Here we discover there are no compromises with Jesus, no gray areas that he demands everyone to “say yes if you mean yes and no if you mean no” (Mt.5:37) because the more we get closer to him, the more we realize the coherence of his teachings and of his person as the Christ of God.

It is always the same Lord who speaks, who is truth and life himself. Unlike us humans who suddenly change our stand and views on everything when tempted with money and riches. This is the reason why we have this portion of the letter by St. James: we are dared to examine our attitude with regard to riches and material wealth because it clearly reveals our world view in life. A lot often, attachment to earthly goods show our lack of belief in eternal life toward which this temporal life is directed. Jesus himself we cannot follow him if we are slaves to money and riches for you cannot serve both God and mammon.


Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, 2017.

Three Sundays ago at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked us like the Twelve, “who do you say that I am? (Mk.8:29)”. It is a very crucial question demanding from us a personal answer so we can truly enter into a deeper relationship with him and be able to forget ourselves, carry our cross and follow him.

The more we get to know Jesus, the more we can see him clearly, the more we will love him dearly, and the more we become like him eventually, willing to leave everything including wealth and riches of the world for the love of God through others. Amen.

“Sanaol follow Jesus!” Have a blessed week ahead.

Praying for holy hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 13 September 2021
1 Timothy 2:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 7:1-10
Photo from Google.
Your words today, O God our Father
through St. Paul are so difficult,
so hard to accept:

Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4
You know very well 
the kind of leaders and 
people in authority that we have;
however, you know so well too
how they came to power through 
our ignorance and/or arrogance.
Yes, Father, the fault is in us
and that is why we pray also
today that we may be gifted with 
"holy hands that pray without
anger or argument" as St. Paul
instructed Timothy.
Cleanse our hands through
your Son so we may imitate
the centurion in humility,
admitting before Jesus
 that he is not worthy
to have him enter under his roof
that is why he never bothered
to come near him too; but,
with clean and holy hands,
he asked Jesus to only say the word
and his servant shall be healed
and it was granted him! (Lk.7:6-7)
Through the intercession of
St. John Chrysostom whom you
have gifted with "golden mouth"
to speak what is true
following long hours of prayer,
cleanse us of our sins so
we may pray to you with holy hands
and holy lips, without anger or argument
for our leaders.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Praying with St. Monica

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Monica, Holy Woman, 27 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Matthew 25:1-13
Image from National Catholic Register (ncregister.com).
Today dear Father,
we pray for all mothers in a very
special way as we celebrate the
Memorial of St. Monica, mother
of your beloved servant St. Augustine.
We pray with St. Monica for all mothers
that they may truly be like the five wise
virgins in today's gospel who brought
extra oil for their lamps:  a lot of good works
and a lot, lot more of prayers when loved ones have
fallen away from faith in you.
We pray for mothers like St. Monica
for the grace of holiness expressed 
tremendously in the virtues of patience,
charity, and humility.
St. Monica with her son St. Augustine. From en.wikipedia.org
Like St. Monica, may mothers win
over their wayward husbands,
teaching them how to "disarm" and "tame"
their abusive and temperamental spouses,
remaining sweet and loving
yet firm even under pressures
 and sometimes duress,
in imitating Jesus Christ in humility
and patience.
Most of all, dear God, we pray
for mothers to be persevering and wise
in dealing with their problematic children
who have succumbed to the evils of the world;
You know very well, God, how so many
mothers cry and suffer in silence today
for their sons and daughters who have
fallen to atheism and modern paganism and
pseudo-spiritualities, consumerism and materialism,
promiscuity, early pregnancies, separation
and same-sex relationships;
substance abuse and alcoholism
and other Godless ways of living.
We pray for mothers who are sick,
those taking care of a sick loved one,
mothers forgotten by children left to
spend old age in foster homes;
and mothers suffering with
anxieties and depression
or themselves have lost faith in you.
God our Father,
so many mothers have already 
suffered so much; please ease
their pains and loneliness.
Through the intercession of
St. Monica, grant their prayers
and wishes before they meet you
in eternal life.  Amen.

Strengthen our hearts, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13   ><]]]]'> ><)))*> ><]]]]'>   Matthew 24:42-51
From inquirer.net, 20 August 2021.
Strengthen us, O God
in this trying time of the pandemic;
keep our body healthy and strong
to fight the virus and most especially
to take care of the sick among us.
Strengthen our hearts, loving Father
by cleansing it of our sins, taking away
our pride and filling it with your Son
Jesus Christ's humility, justice and love
that always have a space for those 
with less in life, to those most in need
like the sick, the children and elderly.
Strengthen our hearts, O God,
so that as St. Paul had reminded the
Thessalonians, we may "be blameless 
in holiness before you our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(1Thess.3:13) by being "faithful and prudent"
like the wise servant in the parable today.
Strengthen our hearts in Christ Jesus
so we may consistently seek and serve him
among one another at every moment
of our lives.  Amen.