Roadtrip in time of COVID-19, Part 2

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 January 2021

Every road trip is filled with music. A lot of music. In fact, it is not a road trip without any kind of music! As I was telling you, this road trip was inspired by that line from Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne, “Is there gas in the car?”

As we drove to Tanay from Baras Church, our playlist had Rod Stewart singing one of our generation’s staple music so “relate much” with our own experiences…

I didn’t know what day it was
When you walked into the room
I said, “Hello” unnoticed
You said goodbye too soon

Breezing through the clientele
Spinning yarns that were so lyrical
I really must confess right here
The attraction was purely physical (oh, yeah)

Okay. Suspend your judgments for now and let me say too that when men get together whether on a road trip or not, surely topic would always be on women and past relationships.

Always. Even with priests like me who had studied and worked for a long time “outside” the seminary. There is always that somebody in the group who would pop up with that question “have you had a girlfriend before”?

Sorry… you have to go with me in an actual road trip to hear my stories while I am obliged with the “seal of confession” of sorts to keep my lips zipped with Dindo’s stories as we talked about our past relationships while singing with Rod Stewart on our way to Tanay. One thing for sure, though, like real gentlemen, when we talked about women, it was very true, so divine, like those lines …

My love for you is immeasurable
My respect for you immense
You’re ageless, timeless, lace and fineness
You’re beauty and elegance

You’re a rhapsody, a comedy
You’re a symphony and a play
You’re every love song ever written
But honey, what do you see in me?

You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul
You’ll be my breath should I grow old
You are my lover, you’re my best friend
You’re in my soul

Main altar of the Parish of St. Ildephonse in Tanay, Rizal declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as “National Cultural Treasure”, another example of maintaining the noble simplicity of old churches.

The way we relate with women
indicates how we relate with God.

Twenty years ago, I have read from one of the writings by Papal Preacher Raniero Cardinal de Cantalamessa how an American Dominican exegete had put forward that the way we relate with women mirrors our way of relating with God.

That is very true.

Women are God’s loveliest creations that without them, we men would never be complete. Some even claim that women must be the one closest to God in appearance, more perfect than us men that is why she was created last.

What is amazing again with this road trip is how our second stop at the Tanay Church confirmed our discussions of women.

First, it was a woman who directed us to the main entrance to the church because its gate was partly hidden by some obstructions at that time from the main road. Then, inside the church, three women catechists warmly welcomed us near its magnificent altar.

And when I recognized its Patron is St. Ildephonse of Toledo in Spain, I realized again how this road trip “was taking us instead of us taking the trip” on that rainy Thursday, January 07, 2021.

When I was ordained deacon in 1997, I was assigned to help the late Fr. Johann Sebastian in a parish at Pinaod, San Ildefonso town in Bulacan. Of course, San Ildefonso is St. Ildephonse…

Next, Fr. Johann was a resident of San Ildefonso whose house was across the Parish Church where we used to watch the procession during his feast on January 23.

Most of all, it was from Fr. Johann that I learned so much about St. Ildephonse who had lived around the years 607-667 in Toledo, Spain that used to be the main seat of the Church in Spain before Madrid. Outside Fr. Johann’s room used to be displayed a huge painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to St. Ildephonse while giving him heavenly vestments (chasuble) as gifts for his efforts in propagating devotions to her. In fact, St. Ildephonse was one of the early bishops who had written about the Immaculate Conception of Mary that was finally declared a dogma of the Church in 1854.

Here we are in the beautiful church of Tanay recently declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a “National Cultural Treasure” under the patronage of St. Ildephonse, truly a holy and a gentleman with a great devotion to the Mother of God that mirrored his fidelity in serving God his Master and Lord!

Shortly after praying and exchanging stories with the three catechists, the Parish Priest, Msgr. Rigoberto de Guzman came to meet and formally welcomed us in his church. Actually, we were hesitant to meet Msgr. Rigs as we did not want to disturb him but we were told that he usually welcomed pilgrims to their parish.

Likewise, I was not so sure if he could still recall me since we have met only twice ten years ago when he was the Rector of the Antipolo Cathedral during the time of Bishop Gabby Reyes while I was with Radio Veritas. And, lo and behold — Msgr. Rigs still knew me, even telling me how he had come across some of my reflections in the Sabbath publication!

A very soft spoken and kind-hearted man of God, Msgr. Rigs thanked me on behalf of our diocese in forming many of their priests who have graduated from our Major Seminary. As a token of his appreciation especially after learning that I teach and serve as a spiritual director in our major seminary, he gave me a framed image of Our Lady of the Poor and Suffering known also as Our Lady of Banneux in Belgium where she appeared eleven times to an 11-year old girl in 1933.

Oh my God!

First, it was St. Joseph who greeted us at Baras; now, we have my second most favorite image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Banneux welcoming us in Tanay! As I thanked Msgr. Rigs for his gift, he led me to the side of their church where stood an exact replica of the Virgin of Banneux — something we have overlooked earlier due to the rains!

At that very moment, I felt the Blessed Mother’s comforting assurance of love and guidance, especially with my new assignment as chaplain of the Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center effective February 16, 2021. What a pleasant morning talking about the women in our lives now capped with the most wonderful woman of all, our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The first time I learned about Our Lady of Banneux was when I met the sisters in charge of the Boys’ Town and Girls’ Town in Cavite way back in 2007 after learning about the works of their founder, the Venerable Fr. Al Schwartz, an American priest who worked here among the poorest of the poor. He was a devotee of the Our Lady of Banneux who is very much like the Our Lady of Fatima, so lovely and very simple. Both appeared in the early 20th century in Europe to show Mary’s oneness with humanity going through so many sufferings and afflictions up to this age. It is something many devotees in our diocese in Bulacan seem to be missing with their pomp and pageantry in crowning every image of the Blessed Virgin to be found, even in a bodega or a patio!

That is the beauty and charm of the two old churches we have visited in Baras and Tanay: both are simply elegant, not extravagant nor loud where one can have time with God and the sacred.

After the rains have stopped, Msgr. Rigs prayed over us and blessed us as we left for Pililla while listening this time to Hall and Oates. More rock and roll reflections in our final installment. See ya!

Dindo Alberto, Msgr. Rigs de Guzman, and author.

E-mail me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Thank a woman today

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2020
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31     || + ||     John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, in giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too, to join us and accompany us in this life journey especially when there are pains and sufferings like when she stood by you at the foot of the Cross on that Good Friday.

As we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember also and pray for all the women in our lives, specially our mother and sisters, the wife of every spouse, our teachers, the nuns, and all those women who somehow “completed” our lives.

Because of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the word “woman” became so noble and wonderful again after it was marred by sin with the fall of the first woman, Eve.

But what is so striking with Mary and the word “woman” is how she was addressed in that word in the fourth gospel, beginning at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:4) that comes to full circle at the foot of the cross.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27

Lord Jesus and Mother Mary, I pray for all the women of the world, especially for those who stood by their men and children in times of trials and sufferings.

There at your crucifixion where everything was so sad with the stark realities of human sufferings and death, Mary and the other women present gave some breath of life and hope to the scene.

Photo of painting from stswithuns.org.uk.

With those faithful women led by the Blessed Mother around you at the foot of the Cross, your Passion O Lord, had a peaceful and calming ending, leading to your joyful and glorious Resurrection.

Their love and devotion, and compassion remained intact before you, O Lord after you had died. Is this also the reason you first appeared to women too on Easter? Beautiful.

These are exactly the same things the many women in the world and in our lives do when our chips are down like during this pandemic.

It is always the women who bring out the extra jolts and sparks needed to restart our lives, to jumpstart us when we are all down and desperate. Like your Mother Mary, Lord, most women are our greatest sources of inner strength and courage, and faith to forge on in this life.

How sad that we often forget to thank them and worst, neglect to recognize their presence and dignity as persons. May we imitate you, dear Jesus that in your dying moments, you remembered to entrust your mother to your beloved disciple to look after her.

O dearest Mother Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, please pray for the women we love, the women we have forgotten, the women we have used and abused for their kindness to us; so many women are crying in pain alone, some of them have been mourning for a long time after losing a beloved child or husband, a friend and a sibling, parents and those dearest to them. Soothe their pains, our Lady of Sorrows, a great woman of faith, woman of calmness, a woman for everyone. Amen.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Nobility of motherhood

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Monica, Married Woman, 27 August 2020
1 Corinthians 1:1-9 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 24:42-51
Photo by author of a pilgrim writing petitions to the Blessed Mother at a Madaba Church in Jordan, May 2019

This prayer, O Lord, is specially offered for all mothers as we celebrate today the Memorial of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, one of the great Saints of the Church.

Thank you, dear God our Father for St. Monica and all the other mothers who have offered their whole lives forming and transforming their children to reflect your image and likeness of holiness.

Truly, the gift of motherhood is one of your greatest grace ever bestowed to the human race for because of mothers, countless men and women selflessly work for peace and development.

This selflessness of mothers, in working hard for the success of their children, is the nobility of motherhood which is also a call for everyone exemplified by St. Paul in our first reading today:

I give thank to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all the discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you await for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:4-7

What a beautiful trait of every mother like St. Monica to imitate St. Paul’s joy, thanking God for the maturity of their children, to see their sons and daughters growing deeper in faith, hope, and love.

So many mothers can forgo their own career, forget their own well-being for the sake of their children. So often, they hide their tears when they are deeply aching from our many sins and lack of concern even respect for them because they do not want us to go out of focus with our goals in life.

To your question, dear Jesus, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time?” (Mt.24:45) — there is no other most faithful servant true to your calling except our mothers, Lord!

Photo from Google.

Bless all mothers today and always, Lord; lighten their burdens, be their joy in moments of sadness, clarify always their minds and their hearts so that every decision and action they take may always be through the leading of your Holy Spirit like in the experience of St. Monica.

Strengthen their faith especially of mothers who have lost their spouse or children to COVID-19 and other sickness and accidents; fill them with hope in you when things are getting so rough and tough for them especially at this time of the pandemic.

Many mothers are also suffering not only from COVID-19 but also other sickness during this pandemic. Heal them, dear Jesus.

Keep them healthy not only in body but also in mind, heart and soul so that they may continue to lead and enlighten their families in moments of darkness and trials.

Most of all, like St. Monica, fulfill their dreams and prayers for their children.

Likewise, dear Jesus, we remember and pray today for the souls of all the mothers who have gone ahead of us, now with St. Monica whose only request on her death to her sons was to bury her anywhere by including her always in St. Augustine’s celebration of the Eucharist. Amen.

St. Monica, pray for us especially for all the mothers to be like you!

Dalangin para sa mga Ina sa paggunita kay Santa Monica

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan nina Sta. Monica at San Agustin mula sa Google.
O Santa Monica,
matimtimang ina ni San Agustin
tulungan mong makarating aming dalangin
sa Diyos Ama nating mahabagin
na Kanya sanang pagpalain, ibigay mga hiling
ng lahat ng ina sa Kanya dumaraing
sa araw-araw na mga pasanin at gawain;
pagaanin kanilang mga tiisin
pahirin ang mga luha sa kanilang mga mata
ibalik ang sigla at tuwa sa kanilang mga mukha
samahan sa kanilang pangungulila
lalo na mga biyuda at nawalan ng anak;
higit sa lahat, Santa Monica
iyong ipanalangin mga ina na katulad mo
mapagbago asawa at anak na barumbado
tularan iyong pananampalataya at pag-asa
kay Kristo Hesus na nagkaloob sa atin 
ng Kanyang Ina si Maria
upang ating maging Ina
na siyang iyong ginaya 
at tinularan hanggang kamatayan.
Amen.
Larawan ng painting ni Titian ng “Assumption of the Virgin” (1518) mula sa wikidata.org.

Life after life after life

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 June 2020

Today is my mother’s 81st birthday and my father’s 20th year of death.

Since June 17, 2000, we have “stopped” celebrating my mother’s birthday as she ordered that date to be remembered more as my father’s birth into heaven.

So many things have happened in our lives as a family, most especially with me as a man and a priest being the eldest.

Yes, I always dread this date, feeling at a loss until now at how to behave or what to say when I come home. There is always a “drama” we have to go through when we get together, with a lot of “dead air” moments during Mass and later at the dinner table.

Though somehow they have lessened in these past 20 years, the sadness is still there.

I thought time heals.

True.

But the pain remains. And the more it gets painful.

Lalong bumabaon, as we say.

With her apos when still able to move freely; Sunday after Mass was always at my father’s gravesite.

Since her 61st birthday, Mamu as she preferred to be called when the apos came, she had “stopped” living because my dad was really her life. We believe her sorrow contributed to her stroke in December 2004.

Growing up until I have become a priest, I have always seen my father preparing coffee and breakfast daily for her. She had in fact forgotten how to cook or learn new dishes because my father was a superb cook — that is why we all have gout in the family.

Most of all, as I would always tell my students before, since childhood until I have become a priest, dad never ate his meals without Mamu at his side or at least to personally tell him to eat because she had gone to a party or some prayer meeting.

Every Sunday after my Masses in a nearby town, I would visit my father’s grave and surely find fresh flowers and candles earlier placed by my mom and sister’s family.

After praying and blessing his gravesite, I would talk to him, telling him, “Dad, there are 365 days in a year. Why did you die on June 17, 2000?”

It took my father more than a year before answering my question.

Yes, he spoke to me in his usual deep, whispering voice I heard from within as I looked down on his grave, “Nick, I died on your mother’s birthday so you would love her more like I have loved her.”

Tears swelled in my eyes and eventually rolled down my cheeks that I almost watered the grass on his gravesite!

It was a very tall order that until now, I really do not know if I have fulfilled.

Mothers are like God

God cannot be everywhere that is why He created mothers.

Jewish saying

Every Thursday I come home to visit Mamu on my day off, as well as during special occasions and gatherings like birthdays of my siblings and pamangkins.

Sometimes I ask myself if I have loved my mom that much as my dad had wanted me to.

This comes strongest to me when going to a sick mother in my parish to anoint with Holy Oil or when presiding at a funeral Mass of a deceased mother; I would listen intently to the “thank you speech” of a son or a daughter and marvel at how great his/her love for the deceased parent.

As a priest, I have always been with so many mothers but not so much with my own mom. But one thing I have experienced since my father died on my mother’s birthday 20 years ago is the life that continues to flow from her very self and presence which flows unto me and spills even up to my parish and community.

My mom as a teenager.

She’s from the “old school” who had taught me a lot about sacrifices, of keeping things in order like telling me after lunch that while resting, I should mop the floor and dust off the jalousies of our windows downstairs. Resting meant doing something worthwhile like removing cobwebs at ceilings; so, you can just imagine what is housecleaning for her!

Another thing I have learned from her is harimunan wherein you try to save little amounts of money with things you may forego like instead of taking tricycle, I walked for three kilometers or instead of buying soda, drink from the water fountain at school.

The only lesson that I have refused to learn from her which I now admit I should have taken into heart is the art of bargaining or asking “tawad” in the “palengke” (market). It is a gift from God I think reserved for mothers.

One important lesson I have learned from Mamu came via a picture I have found in a copy of a Reader’s Digest. I was five years old then while scanning the new copy of my dad’s magazine, I saw the picture of a baby crying so hard after being delivered.

I asked her why the baby was crying and her explanation had stuck into my mind since then that later as a priest I realized it so existentially true! According to her, when a baby is born crying, that means she/he is alive; if the baby does not cry, that means she/he is dead.

So simple yet so deep.

When we cry, we are alive.

And sometimes, to be alive, we have to cry. A lot.

And I believe that is why mothers continue to give life to us despite the passing away of their husband because they are the ones who cry a lot.

Mothers cry in silence, alone because they are the ones who can truly feel the flowing of life, the slipping away of life.

In a few hours I will be coming home and I could already visualize and feel my mother’s crying on her birthday.

As much as possible I hold my tears, praying that in God’s time, we would just be the ones crying so that finally, Mamu would no longer be crying.

But, that’s another thing I dread so very much…I hope not yet that soon because I really do not know how life will be for me and my siblings.

Thank God for all the Mothers who have given and nurtured our lives even in old age.

Thank God for their tears of love and joy for us.

At home with Mary our Mother

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Mary, Mother of the Church, 01 June 2020

Genesis 3:9-15.20 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 19:25-34

Mary Mother of the Church. From Google.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today is a very crucial period in our life as a Church here in the country moving into transition from Enhanced Community Quarantine to the lower case of General Community Quarantine. Some businesses and industries are slowly being allowed to open and operate.

Except our churches.

Today our Church leaders are meeting with the government to continue their talks for the opening of our churches to allow the faithful to celebrate the Holy Mass as a community.

We pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten the minds and hearts of our officials in their meeting to see the importance of spiritual nourishment in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary your Mother and our Mother too whom you have entrusted to your beloved disciple to care for us your Body here on earth.

Thank you very much Lord Jesus in giving us Mary your Mother to be our Mother too.

On this first day of the resumption of Ordinary Time, a day after Pentecost Sunday when we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to launch the Church, we also offer this day in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church.

Indeed, inasmuch as she had stayed by your side at the foot of the Cross, Mary has always been with us in our journey as your Mystical Body here on earth. She has always been home for us, taking care of us, looking after us, and reminding us of our mission in you.

Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

It is so unfortunate that we have always taken her granted.

Worst, some people have maligned and derided her important role in cooperating with all your plans for the Church.

May her charity and fidelity to you, Lord, inspire us to work further for the mission of the Church to make you present in the world now in pandemic, seeking the best ways to pick up the pieces and start anew their lives.

May the world be ready now to listen to the teachings of Mary your Mother to return to you and turn away from sins and evil. Amen.

Bago ang lahat, pag-ibig

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Mayo 2020

Sa gitna ng aking pananalangin
minsa'y sumagi kung maari
itong alaala o gunita ay himayin 
upang tukuyin at tuntunin
kailan nga ba nagsimula
tayo natutong manalig at sumandig
sa Panginoong Diyos natin?
Napaka-hirap alamin
simula ng pananampalataya natin
ngunit marahil kung ating tutuusin
bago ang lahat ay nalaman natin
unang naranasan higit sa lahat ay ang pag-ibig.
Ang Diyos ay pag-ibig
at kaya tayo nakapagmamahal 
ay dahil una Niya tayong minahal;
kaya nga pag-ibig ang suma total
ng lahat ng pag-iral sapagkat
ito rin ang wika at salita ng Diyos 
nang lahat ay kanyang likhain.
Bago nabuo kamalayan natin,
naroon muna karanasan ng pag-ibig
na siyang unang pintig sa atin ay umantig
sa sinapupunan ng ating ina
hanggang tayo ay isilang niya at lumago sa ating pamilya.
Bago tayo maniwala
nauna muna tayong minahal
kaya tayo ay nakapagmahal
at saka nanampalataya;
kung mahihimay man na parang hibla
ng isang tela itong ating buhay
natitiyak ko na sa bawat isa
ang tanging matitira 
na panghahawakan niya
ay yaong huling sinulid 
na hindi na kayang mapatid
sa atin nagdurugtong, naghahatid bilang magkakapatid.
Kaya palagi po ninyong ipabatid,
Panginoong Diyos ng pag-ibig
sa mga isipan naming makikitid at makalimutin
mga pagkakataon ng iyong bumabalong na pagmamahal
kailan ma'y hindi masasaid
habang bumubuhos sa bawat isa sa amin;
huwag namin itong sarilinin o ipunin
bagkus ipamahagi, ipadama sa kapwa namin.
Itong pag-ibig na ipinadama sa amin
ang siyang maaasahang katibayan
nagpapatunay mayroong Diyos na buhay at umiiral
na sa atin ay dumatal bago ang lahat, sa Kanyang pagmamahal.

Stay home, save lives in Christ like moms

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week V-A, 10 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 ><)))*> 1 Peter 2:4-9 ><)))*> John 14:1-12

Photo by Ezra Acayan for gettyimages.com, 2020.

Our Sunday celebration today is a confluence of things that perfectly jibe with our situation during this pandemic – the quarantine call worldwide to “stay home, save lives”, Mother’s Day, and Jesus telling us in the gospel we are one family going “home” to the Father.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

John 14:1-3
Photo from istock.com

Home is where the heart is

One good thing with this COVID-19 pandemic is how it has driven home so hard one lesson modern man has forgotten: the importance of home, of family life.

It is hoped that during this quarantine period, we do not merely stay home to prevent spread of corona virus but most of all to build anew our relationships in our family that we have neglected in our pursuits of so many things in life.

A home is more than a house; it is about relationships, of love and acceptance, kindness and forgiveness.

From Google.

Our Filipino word says it all – tahanan, from the root tahan which is to stop crying.

Tahanan or home is where you stop crying because that is where you are loved and accepted, safe and secured from any harm or danger.

Jesus assures us today in the gospel that we have a home in heaven where there is a room for everyone. This is the reason the same gospel text is the favorite in funeral Masses.

But there is something more about heaven than being a house with many rooms.

It is good that our lectionary used the modern translation of the Greek word “monai” or rooms into “dwelling places” because Jesus in this passage is not merely referring to a place or location but more specifically of a relationship with him in the Father.

In fact, the word “monai” is used only twice in the New Testament, both in the fourth Gospel: at this part and later when Jesus reprimands Philip in verse 23, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”.

Home and room are a dwelling — a relationship and a privilege of abiding in God’s presence!

Lent 2019 in our parish.

When Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be”, he never meant it to be taken in the literal sense because if it were so, that would be the only thing he has been doing in heaven these past 2000 years!

What Jesus is telling us along with the Twelve at that time is that by his going to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection after their supper, we are able to dwell, to abide in the loving presence of the Father even here on earth in this very life.

Such was the immense love of Christ when he assured the Apostles, including us in this time of pandemic to “Do not let your hearts be troubled” because his pasch is for our own benefit as our passageway into being with the Father in Jesus when we join him at the Cross.

Remember our gospel last week of Jesus as the “gate of the sheep” because he is “the way and the truth and the life” that now comes into full circle in the Last Supper.

It is in our sharing in his sufferings and pains on the Cross we enter heaven, we dwell in his loving presence that he also becomes manifest in us in this life.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Mothers know best

Connecting now our quarantine slogan of “stay home, save lives” and Sunday gospel with Mother’s Day celebration today, we are reminded of the importance of ties and relationships that we keep especially in this period of pandemic.

In the Old Testament, God is revealed to us like a mother because she is the epitome of fidelity:

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”

Isaiah 49:15-16

How unfortunate that again, the song based on this part of Isaiah “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” (I Will Never Forget You) has become a favorite song in funeral Masses when in fact it is best sung in weddings because it is a pledge of love and fidelity by God who is like a mother.

The mother is the premiere homemaker also referred as the “light of the home” who seem to always have that magic touch in everything, in turning out little things, even scraps, into something lovely and beautiful, and delicious!

Her love and dedication can never be measured and nothing can ever make her happy except the abiding love and presence of her husband and children.

Photo by author, painting of “Our Lady of the Grotto in Bethlehem”, May 2019.

And we all know of our mother’s presence that transcends time and space, not to mention their intuition that defies logic but always true!

No wonder, there is a Jewish saying that “God created mothers because he cannot be everywhere”.

When we are sick, when we feel low, mothers know them all. Nothing can be hidden or kept secret with our moms because they are a home, a dwelling place for each of us all.

In the first reading we have heard the “ordination” of the first seven deacons of the church whose primary task was to take care of the widows as the Apostles were busy proclaiming the Gospel.

Eventually, it paved the way for the many services and ministries in the church that have become the clearest signs of God’s presence in the world. There is no need to publicize the countless efforts of the Church in reaching out to all the marginalized sectors of the society in the whole world that is truly a sign of her being a mother to all.

Now more than ever, in this time of the corona pandemic, we in the Church are challenged to continue being the signs of the living and loving presence of Jesus Christ in the world that has become so materialistic, less humane, even loveless and so unkind.

Let us be a mother, a living and loving presence of God so that people may find a home in us in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Amen.

A blessed happy Mothers’ Day to all moms!

Photo by author of the entrance to the original chapel of Our Lady of Grotto in Bethlehem, May 2019.

Huwag matakot tulad ni San Jose

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-19 ng Marso 2020
Larawan ng mosaic ng panaginip ni San Jose mula sa clarusonline.it
"Huwag kang matakot, Jose
na tuluyang pakasalan si Maria",
mga salita na atin ding kinakailangan
sa panahong ito ng pagsubok at kagipitan.
Ating tularan si San Jose
huwaran ng kabanalan 
lalo ng mga kalalakihan 
at ama ng tahanan.
Kaya naman katulad niya,
manalangin tayo na huwag matakot
magsama-sama muli sa tahanan
mabuo muli pamilyang ating pinabayaan.
Huwag matakot 
mag-usap muli mag-asawa
di lamang makapakinig
kungdi muling magkaniig.
Huwag matakot
mga anak lumapit sa magulang,
magtapat ng saloobin
ihinga mga hinaing.
Gayon din mga magkakapatid
huwag matakot magkalapit-lapit
madalas kulang na sa malasakit
palaging mayroong hinanakit.
Larawan mula zenit.org, figurine ng “Let Mom Rest”.
Huwag matakot
tingnan din pangangailangan
ng mga maliliit sa lipunan
mga may-sakit, nag-iisa at aba.
Sila palagi nating
kinakalimutan at pinababayaan
higit ngayong nangangailangan
ng tulong at kaibigan.
Huwag matakot
ipadama pagmamahal
kapwa ay igalang
itigil na mga kabastusan.
Huwag matakot
humingi ng tawad
gayon din ng magpatawad
tunay na sukatan ng pagmamahalan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, dating gawaan ni San Jose sa kanilang tahanan sa Nazareth, Israel (Mayo 2017).
O aming San Jose
taong matuwid at banal
kami man ay ipinalangin
maging matapang tulad mo.
Huwag kaming matakot
lumuhod at manalangin muli
sa Diyos upang kanyang kalooban
aming malaman, masundan, at mapanindigan.
Higit sa lahat
katulad mo kami ay gumising
sa pagkakahimbing ng pagkamakasarili namin
upang si Kristo ay muling dumating!  Amen. 
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, kapilya ni San Jose sa Nazareth, Israel (Mayo 2017).

Best Gifts of Christmas, II

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2019

Italian artist Giorgione’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” (1510) showing an intimate scene set up against a distant landscape. The shepherds’ gently kneeling and bowing their heads down show their humility and fascination with the Infant Jesus while the long road behind them shows the long and tiring journey they have taken before reaching their destination.

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
The spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born now covered and protected by this hole under the main altar of the Church of the Nativity of the Lord in Bethlehem. May 2019

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
Aleteia, December 2019.

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.