The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2021
Genesis 1:26-2:3 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of St. Joseph whom you have called to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of your Son Jesus Christ here on earth. In him, you have shown us the value of sharing in your work to nurture earth and its resources.
Most of all, in St. Joseph you have taught us to work centered on our Lord Jesus Christ by integrating work with family and with fatherhood to become truly a provider not only of food, clothing and other material needs but most of all in providing love and guidance to the family.
In St. Joseph, the motivation and the purpose of work is solely to serve Jesus Christ which is very evident in the gospel today.
Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?"
How beautiful that in the “wisdom and mighty deeds” displayed by Jesus, the people remembered St. Joseph the carpenter – what a marvelous job he must have done in forming and providing for our Lord!
He must have worked diligently for you, dear God, never focusing attention to himself so unlike these days when we have categories of workers like those doing “white collar jobs” and “blue collar jobs”.
Dearest God our Father, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost work and are now suffering the adverse effects of quarantine, we pray in the most special way for our workers to please protect them from all harm and sickness especially those working in the hospital.
We pray for those trying to find work these days so they may continue to provide for their families.
Open our hearts on this year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis last December 8 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal church:
The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 January 2021
It was a road trip that took us three years of planning. Though it just covered a little more than a hundred kilometers east of Metro Manila done in 12 hours, it was a road trip beyond maps and GPS as it turned out into some sort of a personal journey within.
Sometimes in life, the most wonderful trips are those made at the spur of the moment – “biglaan, nagkaayaan lang” – when an Invisible Hand guides us, sometimes purposely allowing us to get lost along the way with many detours leading to so many discoveries.
That exactly happened with this road trip with my kinakapatid Dindo (Fernando Alberto, Jr.) last January 07, 2021. It was his idea that we go on a road trip so we can share more of our many common interests like Steely Dan music, singing like crazy Kid Charlemagne’s, “Is there gas in the car?” that has become like a password in our conversations as well as in our chats.
And so, two weeks ago with a tankful of “gas in the car”, I left my parish in Bulacan at 5AM and headed south to pick up Dindo almost exactly an hour later reaching the Church of Baras via Sumulong Highway in Antipolo a little past 7AM.
"Reeling in the Years":
the charm and beauty of Baras Church
If you are looking for a good, old church near Metro Manila that has remained faithful to its past, then go to this Church of Baras town that has retained its quaint Spanish period Baroque architecture.
Set on top of a hill still surrounded by forests, its simple facade is “so cool” and very comforting at first sight that gives every pilgrim a sense of serenity and silence, so welcoming especially to those tired and confused in life.
What struck me first were the beautiful patches of mosses and fronds growing right on the steps all the way up to the bell tower made of adobe bricks exposed without plasters. I have always been amazed with mosses and fronds because they remind me of how life continues to thrive even in the most difficult and harsh situations while their luminous green color look like natural carpets ready to absorb whatever shocks and weight you may be carrying.
From afar, the Baras church looks like an oasis tucked in a lovely corner not far from the busy highway outside. Everything is green and so refreshing. Just looking at this church from the patio dotted with yellow spots for social distancing during Masses, one may already conclude upon arrival that it was worth the trip.
Even after we have missed its main entrance after the small bridge in the poblacion, our peg remained chillax after being welcomed by its sacristan mayor named Alvin who right away opened the main door for us so we can pray inside. And, voila!
Upon entering, one’s sights are directed upwards to its exposed wooden trusses supporting the roof. It has no ceiling like most old churches in Ilocos, exuding with that sense of freedom and openness as if the heavens were rent apart by God to assure that He listens to every prayer said by anyone who comes to this church.
One thing I appreciate in this church as a priest is the prevalence of that sense of coherence, of wholeness from which the word holiness came from. So unlike many churches these days that have become more like a hodge-podge of so many things and colors that distract you away from God.
Baras church is a rarity where that old maxim in liturgy is still kept so many priests ignore: noble simplicity. Nothing kitschy or baduy like tarpaulins and what-have-you that inhibit silent meditation and contemplation with enough room for God and His saints. And you.
The adobe bricks without plasters give you an impression of a relaxed life, safely and securely ensconced inside to rest in the Lord, literally and figuratively speaking. Nothing artificial, so natural is the feeling inside without the ubiquitous giant ceiling fans and flatscreen TV’s. Touch the walls and you can still feel the whispered prayers of the faithful long dead still reverberating!
Sauntering to the sanctuary to pray while feasting my eyes with the ancient wood carvings at the side walls, it was only then when I realized how blessed is this road trip, so timely to have happened that day, not earlier or even later.
"We find that after years of struggle
we do not take a trip;
a trip takes us."
Lo and behold! When Alvin turned on the lights of the retablo, I felt so blessed when I recognized St. Joseph is the Patron of this church, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ, my personal patron saint since seminary days!
What a tremendous blessing indeed that our first stop in this road trip is a parish dedicated to St. Joseph on the first month of the Year of St. Joseph as declared by Pope Francis last December 8, 2020 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
Most of all, it was a time in my life I was feeling so afraid, even scared and bothered almost like St. Joseph after finding out Mary was pregnant with a child not his that he decided to silently divorce her until an angel appeared in his dream, explaining everything. In my case, I have just received my new assignment as chaplain of a university and hospital in our diocese. Aside from that fearful feeling going into a new field of ministry, I was wary of the hospital setting in time of COVID-19.
But there before the altar of the Baras Church as I knelt praying, I felt the very same reassurance of God through St. Joseph, as if telling me, “Nick, do not be afraid to take that new assignment for I shall be with you always.”
After saying our prayers, I told Dindo the significance of our first Church that happened to be dedicated to St. Joseph.
And that’s when we realized how along the way we were sharing about our own beloved fathers now both gone to heaven, of their impact on us while growing up in their old-school brand of discipline and parenting that have molded us into who we are today weathering so many storms in life, never giving up, always fighting, always standing for what we firmly believe as true and good.
While there, I prayed to St. Joseph for all the fathers I know, including those priests who have blessed me and nurtured my vocation, deceased and still living. In a special way, I prayed for all dads silently crying in pain because of their great love for their children; dads never understood by their wife, always deferring for them for the sake of balance and peace at home; and, most especially, for dads who are sick after laboring for so long in raising their family.
At the left side of the nave is displayed prominently the original cross used in the church by the Jesuits who administered the parish from 1616 to 1679. Above that is a wood carving of Santiago de Compostela or St. James the Great, patron of Spain and elder brother of St. John the Beloved, the patron of my parish for nine years and seven months. The parish of Baras was originally dedicated to him. Why they changed it to St. Joseph, nobody could tell us.
But, Dindo and I at that time knew, this stop was meant for us both a father and for our own dads who are still cumpadres on a different trip in heaven. We had our light breakfast prepared by Dindo being a great cook himself who was part of the original Mandarin Hotel officers in Beijing three decades ago.
Join us next week at our next stop in Tanay where we met St. Joseph’s wife, Mary.
And along the way, we proved that rock and roll has always been a way of life since the time of Jesus…
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-3 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Advent Week III, 18 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10 >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*> Matthew 1:1-17
Today we continue the second part of Matthew’s genealogy that ended yesterday with a marked shift in its structure of begetting: “Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ” (Mt.1:15-16).
Matthew now fortifies this fact and conviction that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to the Patriarchs, the Son of God who became human like us. See his solemn pronouncement about the coming of Jesus Christ:
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ cam about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
It is so timely that on this rare occasion when we reflect on Joseph’s role in the coming of Jesus Christ that Pope Francis recently declared December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 as the “Year of Saint Joseph” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church with his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart).
A known devotee of Saint Joseph who popularized in 2015 during his visit to the country the image of the “Sleeping Saint Joseph”, Pope Francis said in writing Patris Corde how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.
The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).
Let us reflect on two beautiful traits of St. Joseph that made him love Jesus and Mary with a father’s heart according to Pope Francis: creatively courageous and being in the shadows.
Saint Joseph as a creatively courageous father
In describing Joseph as a “creatively courageous father”, Pope Francis showed us his deep devotion to this great saint described by Matthew as a “righteous man” or holy man who obeys the Laws of God.
Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like love and gaining eternal life in Jesus Christ.
According to Pope Francis, “creative courage emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had” (Patris Corde, 5).
The word courage is from the Latin “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. To have courage according to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen means “to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart” when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.
A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion. See how people so in love become so creative that they can write songs and poems, do wonderful works, and accomplish so many wonderful things.
A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).
Matthew tells us how Saint Joseph from the very start has always been creatively courageous when he decided to quietly divorce Mary after learning of her pregnancy: here we find Saint Joseph not only very courageous to face the bitter truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for her, he did not want her exposed to extreme shame and public humiliation in breaking the seal of their betrothal.
His love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when Joseph found so many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death.
See that when Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.
And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.
Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creatively courageous calls us Christians to always love the Church and the sacraments and charity, and most of all in loving the Church, we also love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat.
In this time of the pandemic, we are called to creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us and those so different from us because too often, they are the people we always take for granted, those too close to us and the strangers.
Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means also being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions that many times lack any sympathy or empathy with those living at the margins like the poor and the sick, those living alone, and those forgotten by families and by society.
Saint Joseph, a father in the shadows
I love the way Pope Francis started his Apostolic Letter about Saint Joseph because it is something very much alike with Matthew’s unique style in beginning his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus: the Holy Father began by citing how Joseph loved Jesus according to the gospels “WITH A FATHER’S HEART” written in all caps!
Pope Francis must be stressing to us these days of the need to have a father’s heart which is also rarely heard because most often, the heart is more associated with the mother. But that is what the world precisely needs now, a father’s heart like that of God our Father.
In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.
Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 7
To be with a heart of the father like God’s is to be “most chaste” like Saint Joseph which the Holy Father said is more than a sign of affection but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness.
Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
Pope Francis, Patris Corde
I am so glad that Pope Francis mentioned the need to be “most chaste” as opposite of possessiveness because there is an ongoing crisis in fatherhood among us these days. Not just to biological fathers but also to fathers in the other institutions especially the Church.
Are we not priests in deep trouble with chastity these days not only with the scourge of sexual scandals and misconduct this century but also in how we have been lording it over in our parishes that we have remained an institution seen more in terms of power and control that we have never evolved to Avery Dulles’ other models of the Church like a community of disciples?
Are we not also guilty in the Church like fathers in the family and other institutions who “possessed” those below them, totally forgetting it is the Lord’s vineyard, that we are His stewards tasked to lead our flock to growth and maturity when all we think of is our own prestige and popularity that Jesus Christ is forgotten and put to the sidelights because we feel so good, so great?
In this time of pandemic amid the many temptations of social media, we priests must pause before doing all those online projects to keep in mind that we are shadows of the fatherhood of God, that like Saint Joseph, it is best for us to work in silence and as much as possible be at the background because we remain the shadows of the Son.
Fatherhood in the real and Christian sense is being a shadow not only of God the Father but also of his Son, Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, fathers must learn to decrease so that Jesus may increase.
Lately I have been dreaming of my late father due to so many problems coming my way. When people ask me about my vocation story, asking how it all started, I have always considered it all began with my dad. He never asked me to become a priest nor even taught me how to pray but I grew up seeing him pray daily before our altar before leaving for work and upon coming home. How I love waking up to the scent burning candles wafting through our home as he always lit candles at the altar and our grotto outside. It was from him that I learned that lesson I taught my students to have a rosary in the pocket so we may pray anywhere, any time.
The only other thing my dad taught me by personally telling me was to study hard so that we could be of service to the people and never a burden to the society.
I think that is the best thing any father can do — to form their children into another shadow of the Lord, not necessarily be like them.
Lord My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 June 2020
A blessed happy Father’s Day to all the great dads of the world, especially those who have gone ahead of us and still watching us, guiding us, inspiring us.
Like David Gates who composed our Sunday Music today “Make It With You” in 1970, how I wish I could “make it to the other side climbing rainbows” to be with my dad even for a while to share him my joys and accomplishments, thanking him for all the love he had showered me with.
Hey have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes
According to an interview I have read last year which I can no longer remember where, Gates had admitted that he wrote this song primarily for his late father, of how he wished his dad were still around to see him successful as a composer and a musician.
It was only during its recording when they fine-tuned his composition to make it a love song that eventually became the theme song of so many couples and lovers during the 70’s up to this time that the popular group Ben&Ben made a cover early this year for a movie or a series.
See how the song is not just a flight of fantasy or a dream but something so real within, something those of us who are so close with our dads that even if they are now in eternal rest, we can still feel their presence among us.
Dreams they're for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you're wond'ring
What this song is leading to
I want to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl
In our Sunday Gospel today, we find Jesus telling us not to be afraid in fulfilling our missions in life for he is always with us, ensuring that “we make it through” with him and in him.
That is what makes a dad so special: he is full of courage, facing every fear in life to ensure his family can make it through in this life.
And just maybe, dads are always the first to go to heaven because even in eternal life, they still see to it “we make it through” here on earth and to eternity, but not so soon.
Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I choose the one
I'd like to help me through
I'd like to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl
Cheers to all the dads who face all fears, both here and hereafter! Amen.
*Photos of my dad Wilfredo Sr. who died June 17, 2000, the 61st birthday of my mom. He is most happy with my mom with whom he is so faithful.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2019
We continue with our enumeration of the best gifts of Christmas which is above all the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because of his coming as human like us, we have come to share in his dignity and glory, thus, making us also the best gifts to share and receive every Christmas!
We await Christmas every year because we await Jesus Christ, the most beloved person of all we can know and have as friend.
We wait only for persons, not things.
Waiting is beautiful because we never wait alone. There is always another person waiting with us, waiting for us. And when we finally come and meet with the other person also awaiting us, then we become present, a gift for one another.
In our presence with each other comes the wonderful gift of intimacy.
“God became a human being so that in one person you could both have something to see and something to believe.”
St. Augustine, Sermon 126, 5
Christmas is a story about persons called by God to bring us his Son Jesus Christ. It is a living story that continues to our own time. Here are some of the best gifts of Christmas coming from the gift of our personhood.
The gift of family. Christmas happens in a family of husband and wife and children. Very much like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Remove one and the Nativity scene becomes incomplete. Let us be thankful for our family, let us pray for the unity of our family. When Jesus was lost at the age of 12, Joseph and Mary decided to return to Jerusalem – symbolizing God – and eventually found him there in the temple. Let us always turn to God, ask for his guidance and protection of every family, for the healing of our family, for the mending of our broken relationships. Let us pray for all broken families whose members from the husband and wife to their children are all aching deep inside for the pains of separation.
The gift of women and of motherhood. When God created man, he found “it is not good for man to be alone” that is why he created the woman as man’s “suitable partner” (Gen.2:18). What a beautiful term for woman, part-ner, a part of man who is never complete by himself alone. How sad that until now, it is right inside the home where every woman first experience physical, verbal and emotional pains. Women are the best signs of fidelity and faith: Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed the words spoken to her by the angel from God will be fulfilled. Let us pray for the women in our lives especially own own mother and sisters, lola and aunties, cousins and nieces. Remember, the way we relate with women reflect to a great extent the way we relate with God. Love and bless the women!
The gift of men and fatherhood. When Jesus taught us how to pray, he taught us that God is like a “Father” whom we shall call “Our Father”. There is a crisis in fatherhood and manhood these days because many men have forgotten to be truly man enough like God our Father: a giver of life and protector of life as well. Most of all, when children lose this gift of life, it is the father who restores the life lost like the merciful father of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel chapter 15.
This Christmas break, spend time with your family, hug your mommy and your daddy tightly and feel their presence again.
Thank your family, your mom and dad.
Pray for your departed loved ones, visit the cemetery and say a prayer for them, talk to them. Most of all, listen to them and feel them again.