Poverty in priesthood

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 01 September 2022
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church overlooking Old Jerusalem, 2017.

Along with the vow of celibacy, the vow of poverty has become very contentious even among us priests these days which is very sad that one wonders why they got ordained in the first place if they were not totally sold out to being celibate and poor.

For most people especially Filipinos, how their priests practice poverty weighs more than their fidelity to celibacy, claiming they could understand and forgive priests getting into relationships with women than priests becoming “mukhang pera” (money-faced). For them, a priest falling in love with a woman is natural and therefore, understandable and “forgiveable”; but, a priest who worships money to the point of making his ministry a business endeavor even stealing from the church funds and donation boxes is what people detest most. In some parts of Bulacan and Cavite, they have a saying which is so vulgar to stress this point, “hindi bale madapa and pari sa puki kesa sa piso” (better for a priest to fall on a vagina than peso).

Photo by Ka Ruben, 24 June 2022.

Of course, it is always wrong to break any of these two important vows priests have made along with the third one which is obedience to his bishop because celibacy and poverty are closely related with each other for they both lead us priests to intimacy with God, our Caller. That is why, most often, when a priest has become “mukhang pera”, falling into the trap of money and luxuries, most likely he also has problems with celibacy. Even St. Ignatius had warned in his Spiritual Exercises that money is the first temptation the devil uses against every priest.

Like celibacy, poverty is a spiritual reality that is lived and felt by everyone in the material sense. More than being poor or having less in life, poverty is a choice we make for it to be real.  It is our attitude with material things in life: there are priests with so much and yet still feel poor like in advanced countries where cars and appliances are very common and ordinary while there are those with almost nothing and yet so attached with the little they have or wish to have and possess! One priest may have a brand-new car extensively using it to reach and serve his parishioners while another may have a second-hand car or owner-type jeep he tinkers daily, possessing him in the process. 

In our previous blog, we have mentioned that people should rejoice when their priest gives away their gifts because that means Father is not selfish, acting as the vessel or conduit of God’s graces and blessings to the poor and needy (https://lordmychef.com/2022/08/08/prayerful-requests-of-a-priest-to-parishioners/). 

Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.

Poverty is not a question of how much do we have but more of the question of how much do we share. See that very often, we are preoccupied thinking what we already and must still have without ever thinking how much do we share.

It is in sharing when we truly experience poverty; a priest who hoards everything – even people like benefactors and friends – is a priest in trouble. Here we find the direct relationship of poverty and celibacy: we renounce marriage which is a wonderful kind of wealth in the spiritual sense for something higher and better which is to be solely for Jesus Christ. That is the essence of our poverty, our being poor and empty so that we are wholly for Christ alone and his Church. It is being poor, materially and spiritually do we find our true wealth as priests, Jesus Christ and his Church or “people of God” as Vatican II rightly called.

Like everyone else, no priest can have everything in life; nobody is perfect but it is always the truth that we evade, priests and lay alike. Many people including priests often convince themselves of being self-sufficient, that we are the greatest, the most powerful so that we never ran out of construction projects in the church.  This is the mentality of the “dream-teams” or the “powerhouses” who claim to have everything and yet in reality, they rarely last long nor achieve much.  When everybody feels like a “heavyweight” – literally and figuratively speaking, always throwing their weight around, soon enough, he/she would surely sink. The Greeks call it hubris, another common ailment among us priests.

Photo by author, Capernaum, Israel, May 2017.

In my 24 years in the ministry, I have found and experienced that the key in any community and organization including family, profession and vocation like the priesthood is not in having everything, materially and non-materially speaking like talents and abilities that always end up into a mere show, a “palabas” even if it may be spectacular.  Life is not about dazzling others with our gifts and abilities but finding our limits and poverty. When we focus on what we do not have like our weaknesses and other limitations, our poverty becomes a wealth because that is when we are most creative and productive, achieving more in life.  Why is it when we do not have much on the table that there is always a leftover with everyone feeling satisfied? But when there is a plethora of food, we just feel satiated, filled up but not satisfied? 

Look at how many of our churches have become like birthday cakes that are so kitschy or baduy, tastelessly overdecorated looking like dirty old men (DOMs) and their counterparts, the matronix afflicted with hepatitis with all their gold trimmings. Many parishes are afflicted with a different virus more contagious than COVID without a vaccine where priests go “imeldific” in church decorations and renovations including liturgies that even the Blessed Virgin Mary is turned into a Miss Universe being “crowned” amid all pomp and pageantry. It is the virus of triumphalism with its ugly face of priests have too much of everything except God. The best priest, the holiest priest is often the poorest one, the one with less because that is when we have more of God. It is in poverty – and celibacy – we priests witness Christ’s lesson that “whoever saves his life loses it and whoever loses his life gains it” (Mk. 8:37-38). 

The problem of the priesthood for me is among other things a problem of poverty. I know that not all priests are necessarily committed, by their priesthood, to absolute poverty. But for my own part it seems to me that the two are connected.

To be a priest means, at least in my particular case, to have nothing, desire nothing, and be nothing but to belong to Christ. Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum. In order to have everything, desire to have nothing.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, page 191.
Photo by Fr. Howard Tarrayo, August 2021.

Poverty is blessedness because in our weak and fragile humanity, God chose to be one with us so that we can share in his divinity and thereby share in his life.  When we see each other’s wealth, the more we feel so poor and helpless; but when we see each other’s poverty, the more we see each one’s value. And we start enriching each one’s life.  This is the beauty of our poverty as priests when being poor is not to be destitute but be available to God and everyone. No wonder, poverty is the first of all beatitudes taught by Christ, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt. 5:3).

When we try to have less and become poor, that is when we discover the value of life, of every person created in the image and likeness of God. Then, we begin to share and give, to sacrifice and let go, truly loving one another by being forgiving and merciful and kind like Jesus Christ, “who, though he is God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but rather emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:6-7).

Again, help us your priests live simple lives, to be poor so it would not be difficult for you to support us too. Thank you and God bless! 

Intimacy and our priestly celibacy

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 August 2022
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Intimacy with God and with others is a journey that is often long and difficult, painstaking but so wonderful. It is a process with highs and lows but something that could come out as a precious gift we must keep and nurture.

Mr. Webster defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship” or simply, “closeness”.

But being close does not necessarily mean intimacy. True closeness in intimacy means finding and sharing a “sacred space” with someone that is built on mutual trust and sincerity where we bare our true selves to offer it to the other person. It is in this sacred space where intimacy grows as we become “engaging” with the other person, even with God, like in bantering.

There is one beautiful incident in the gospel I always love relating with the topic of intimacy, the story of the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

Matthew 15:21-23
Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2017.

Here we find the first difficulty with intimacy which happens often in the most unexpected situations like Jesus going to a foreign territory where we are not most comfortable or most at home, where we are so uncertain with everything and everyone.

Is it not that is when we grow intimate with others and with God, when we were in the most desolate situations, when we were weakest when suddenly somebody came to strengthen us in our journey?

It was not a simple walk in the park though because it was as if like adding salt to our injuries when at our lowest point in our lives we were asked to even go lower, bare our vulnerabilities further until we were stripped naked of our pretensions and defenses, standing naked and true.


"That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one's self with the other person.  It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you."

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Notice how Jesus tested the Canaanite woman to see how engaging she could be in their conversation, of how willing was she to get closer to him and be intimate to gain his healing.

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15:25-28

I like this part; it was more of the woman bantering with Jesus than bargaining. Try situating yourself there as if the woman was already feeling close with Jesus, engaging him in their conversation when he used the colloquial expression “dog” used by Jews at that time to refer to Gentiles or pagans. Of course, there was no any racial or malicious intent on the part of Jesus in using that common expression of his time; in some translations, he used the word “puppies”.

And that is where intimacy kicked in: when the Canaanite woman told him how dogs – or puppies – eat just the scraps from the master’s table. Here is a woman baring everything to Jesus, taking off all her defenses totally accepting the realities of life, of them outside the own circle of Jesus who was a Jew but still believing in him and in herself that she is worthy of attention, of healing for her daughter.

Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, Israel, May 2017.

That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one’s self with the other person. It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you. This is very true for those who had undergone surgery when you were there on the narrow operating table, naked and everything, just praying and hoping everything would go well, without any complications later. That is why I admired doctors more than ever because after a surgery and you visit them for follow up consultations, it is as if he had not seen the worst in you, still friendly and casual. Most of all, trying so hard to keep you well and healthy!


"Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey."

To be intimate with Jesus is like continuing the journey with him in foreign territories like when a man and a woman get married not knowing what’s really in store for them or a young man getting ordained as priest or a lady taking religious vows without realizing the real weight of Christ’s cross to carry. Many times in life, we just forge on in life with our family and friends, and with God most especially, engaging him in conversations even debates to show him how convinced we are in ourselves, in our cause, in our prayers. We grow intimate only with someone who is willing to accept us.

Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey – you always have a companion, somebody you break bread with which is the literal meaning of “companion” from the Latin terms cum panis.

The most beautiful part of this journey in intimacy, whether with God or with another person is that as we become one in being intimate with the other, the more we become free, not constricted nor limited because the more we love, the more we trust each other that even when we are not together physically, we can still be intimate — because intimacy is actually a spiritual reality, a gift only God can give for those willing to take the difficult journey.

That is why, we priests remain celibate: our celibacy is the clearest sign of our intimacy not only with Jesus our Eternal Priest but also with you, our flock, the people of God which is the Church.

When parishioners give their pastors a good chance to pray and recreate to nurture their intimacy with Jesus, the more priests value their celibacy, the more they are true and faithful in serving the people, the Body of Christ, the Church.

Anyone who finds true intimacy finds true love who is God alone. That is the essence of our celibacy as priests. And that is why, priests and religious, as well as married couples and singles joyful in their state of life too who have found intimacy would never venture to look for other “loves” because they have already found God, our true intimacy. It would be madness to any priest to break his vow of celibacy or, even to married couples to go on extra-marital affairs when you already have God. Amen.

May you find and experience intimacy in your life journey.

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 04 August 2022.

Create a clean heart in us your priests, O God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of St. John Marie Vianney, Priest, 04 August 2022
Jeremiah 31:1-7   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 16:13-23
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP, Diliman, QC, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
dear Jesus for the gift of
priesthood!
Thank you for the grace of
St. John Marie Vianney our 
patron who taught us that
"The priesthood is the love
of the heart of Jesus". 
That is why on this day of the
priests, we pray like the psalmist: 
A clean heart create for me, O God, 
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.  
Cast me not out from your presence, 
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.  
Give me back the joy of your salvation, 
and a willing spirit sustain in me.  
I will teach transgressors your ways, 
and sinners shall return to you.  
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; 
should I offer a burnt offering, 
you would not accept it.  
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; 
a heart contrite and humbled, 
O God, you will not spurn.
(Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19)
Indeed, dear Jesus, 
it is the heart of us your
priests that must be cleansed 
and purified for it is where
your new covenant is written
as Jeremiah prophesied 
in the first reading today:  
"I will place my law within them,
and write it upon their hearts; 
I will be their God, 
and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to
teach their friends and relatives
how to know the Lord" 
(Jeremiah 31:33-34).

In your many teachings, Jesus,
especially in the Beatitudes,
you have always declared the heart 
as the wholeness of every person 
that must be purified to be open 
and free to see God because 
our intellect is never enough;
like Peter when he confessed "you
are the Christ" at Caesarea Philippi,
let our hearts be silent to listen to
the voice of the Father revealing 
you in our hearts (Matthew 16:16-17).

Most of all, purify and cleanse
the hearts of us your priests, 
dear Jesus so that we may have 
a loving heart that is obedient to you 
in serving your people; a heart that
is one with you, O Lord, on the 
Cross for it is only in humbling 
ourselves, in going down like you 
can we truly be loving to have a heart 
like your Most Sacred Heart.
Amen.

St. John Marie Vianney,
Pray for us priests!
Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 24 June 2022.

Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Praying to fulfill Christ’s prayer for us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After Pentecost, Feast of Jesus Christ, Our Eternal Priest, 09 June 2022
Hebrews 2:10-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 17:1-2, 9, 14-26
Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane, Israel, May 2017.
O dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
our Eternal Priest and Savior,
thank you so much for praying 
for us your disciples, 
thank you for consecrating us
to the Father in truth, most of all,
thank you for praying for our
protection against the evil one
(John 17:14-19).
How lovely it is that you, 
O Lord, personally prayed for us!
It is so touching, so humbling.
But most blessed of all, 
dear Jesus, is how you have
fulfilled yourself your prayer
said at the Last Supper right
away the following day on the Cross.

Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:17-18
Forgive us, Jesus
when we especially your ordained
priests live so detached from you,
when we have forgotten your priesthood
is for others, not for us; when we think
more of our comfort and well-being,
enslaved by the lures of the world,
from flesh to the latest gadgets and 
even way of life.
Forgive us, Jesus
when we especially your ordained
priests forget the very essence of
your victimhood as Priest, 
offering your very self, flesh and blood,
to nourish the people when we escape
and deny all kinds of pains and sufferings,
or the Cross itself.
Continue to pray for us, 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
our Eternal Priest that like you,
we your disciples especially us
your ordained priests may 
imitate you, live like you,
suffer like you so that we may rise
to new life like you.
Pray that we may fulfill your prayers
for us in words and in deeds.
Amen.
Photo from gettyimages.com.

Imitating Jesus, our Eternal Priest

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Pentecost, Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, 09 June 2022
Hebrew 10:11-18     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 17:1-2, 9, 14-16
Photo by author, 2020.

In a world becoming so callous and impersonal with one another despite the fresh lessons of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our recent celebrations this week after Pentecost are so well-timed for us to recover our lost “loving feeling” and attitude with one another.

Monday after Pentecost we had the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to remind us of imitating the beloved disciple in “taking care” the Church signified by Mary as well as the women sent to us by God like our own mother, your wife, our sisters and aunts.

Today, Thursday after the Pentecost, we celebrate the Feast of “Jesus Christ, Our Eternal High Priest” established in 1987 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to have Jesus as our model as believers and most especially for us priests who act in his person (in persona Christi) in the celebration of the sacraments.

You must have seen that viral video picked up by the news this week of the traffic enforcer bumped and later “intentionally ran over” by an SUV in a busy street corner in Mandaluyong. The video was so disturbing not only because it was so graphic but most of all, the inhumanity and utter lack of respect and mercy by the driver of the SUV who went into hiding after the incident.

Napaka-walang puso (so heartless)!


Our Feast today invites us to become like Jesus Christ, to imitate him in his gentleness and mercy, kindness and love. And the Feast itself shows us it is already in us, the ability to be like Jesus because he is our perfect mediator with God, our Eternal High Priest who became like us so that we become like him.

Photo from flickr.com, 7th-century mosaic from the church of Sant’Apollionare in Classe, near Ravenna, Italy.

This truth is found in the beautiful reflection by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews on the priesthood of Jesus as compared to the Old Testament priesthood at the temple of Jerusalem. For the author of this letter, Jesus is the the one heralded by the high priest Melchizedek mysteriously encountered by Abraham in Genesis out of nowhere. Nothing is mentioned of his origins or his whereabouts after meeting Abraham briefly; hence, Melchizedek is regarded as the type of Christ in the New Testament, “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.7:17).

Unlike the priesthood of the Old Testament was temporary and imperfect, Christ the Eternal Priest is perfect because he is truly human and truly divine (Heb. 2:17) who intercedes for us with the Father in heaven not just in a temple or sanctuary made by human hands, “able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercessions for them” (Heb.7:25).

Recall how we reflected two Sundays ago that Jesus did not ascend somewhere in the universe up in the heavens but actually entered into a higher level of relationships with us his disciples, making his Ascension more as relational than spatial in nature. In Jesus Christ, we have been one with God and with each other which is being stressed by this Feast of Jesus as our Eternal Priest.

But, what have happened to us lately? Have we forgotten the value of one another and of God and Jesus that the early days of the pandemic’s lockdown had wisely taught us? Where is our compassion and kindness to one another like that of Jesus especially to the poor and elderly, the sick and those others marginalized in our society?

Jesus as our Eternal Priest, so human like us who had gone hungry and thirsty, weakened and abandoned by friends, mocked and jeered by enemies who eventually died for us is the perfect model we must imitate and whom we can become because as priest, he had shared us his divinity. This he showed us not only in his dying on the Cross but even before that happened, he prayed for us.


Photo by author, 2021.

Imagine, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, praying for us. Like the “Our Father” he had taught us, his high priestly prayer for his disciples that included us today must be so powerful, one that is surely heard and fulfilled by the Father.

It was my mother who first taught me how to pray personally to God when I was about four or five years old. Every night before she would tucked me in bed, she would ask me to repeat after her by praying for everyone in the family including our relatives and friends by mentioning their names – one by one! As I child, there were times I did not like it especially when I felt so sleepy because it was so long. Later in life, I realized the beauty and value of praying for others by specifically mentioning their names as it gives us a personal link with one another. And that was how I realized as a priest that praying for other people by mentioning their names is as close as doing the simplest kind of deed to anyone that is so personal and so touching too!

Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 19 May 2022.

That is what Jesus Christ our Lord and Eternal Priest did for us at the Last Supper when he specifically prayed not only for his apostles but also for us all who would believe them in their teachings (Jn.17:20). In this prayer, Jesus repeatedly mentioned our consecration or sanctification to the Father, of being made holy, of belonging exclusively to God, not to the world.

When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said this, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him… I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.”

John 17:1-2, 14-15

One thing we can be sure of is the sincerity of Jesus in praying this for us as well as its fulfillment. We have always been taken cared of and provided with our needs. Today on this Feast, we pray that we do our share, our part in fulfilling that prayer of Jesus by becoming like him, of being in the world but not of the world.

Most special prayer we must pray also on this day is for us your priests, that we may lead lives worthy as priests like Jesus Christ, priests not for ourselves but for others in our life of prayer and witnessing. And like Jesus, that we priests may keep in mind that aspect of victimhood, of offering our very lives, our very selves for the sanctification of others. May we not mislead and drive the Lord’s flock away from him but instead truly remain a mediator, a bridge to God and to one another. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

The Visitation: Waking up from our “sleepwalking Christian existence”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Romans 12:9-16   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:39-43

It always happens with us, too, when we experience great privilege and honor be given us by others, most especially by God when like Elizabeth, we have that sense of awe and wonder to ask “who am I” to be accorded with such great honor. 

Many times we find ourselves asking God, “why me, Lord?” when given a great blessing in life (and also when experiencing extreme suffering and difficulty).  We believe there is somebody better and smarter than us, one who is more capable than us that we always wonder if God really has a plan for us. 

It is good to maintain such a sense of humility before God and others like Elizabeth, but sometimes, it can happen that after seeing clearly our role in the plan of God, we back out or worst, we pretend to be doing our part.  This is what the Orthodox Christian theologian Olivier-Maurice Clement, a friend of St. John Paul II who warned about “sleepwalking existence” wherein we pretend to be real disciples of Christ when we are actually dreaming.

As we come near to the closing of the Easter season with the approaching midyear on this last day of May after our recent elections, this Feast of the Visitation is the time for us to wake up from our sleepwalking existence, to face the discomforting realities of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

During our diocesan celebration of the World Communication Sunday, one of the more than 300 young people who attended our recollection asked our guest speaker Fr. Ilde Dimaano of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication how does he see our “failure in the Church in communicating the gospel with results of the recent elections?” I was so glad with Fr. Ilde’s answer when he clarified to the young people that we did not lost in the recent elections because we have all done so well in harnessing various forms of communications in spreading the gospel by educating the people. Without sounding partisan nor political, Fr. Ilde challenged our young parish communicators to review and study our communication efforts to find ways of getting better.

It is about time that we in the Church must accept that the recent elections show how we have disappointed the people again, of how we have been more aligned with the rich and powerful and our claims about “Church of the poor” are just poster signs than reality. 

Photo by author, Chapel of Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 2021.

We in the Church should never be surprised at all that we are maligned and misunderstood because that was how Christ was treated during His time.  It is time for us clergy to wake up from our sleepwalking existence and get real with our vocation of truly shepherding the Lord’s flock, of finally putting an end to our adventures and forays into partisan politics. Like Mary, we priests must first of all immerse ourselves in the Word, Jesus Christ, which Vatican II has long stipulated us to do. See how Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed in the words spoken to her would be fulfilled. Instead of continuing to stir into flame the frustrations and disappointments of the people, like Mary we priests must “go in haste to the hill country” to reach out to everyone and inspire them to find God’s plans for us in the next six years.

Whether in good times or in bad, God comes to us in Christ Jesus. Do we truly carry him like Mary or are we just sleepwalking?

This Feast of the Visitation is a good celebration for us to accept the real hard stuffs of Jesus Christ like witnessing to his love and mercy among the poor and the disadvantaged, of bringing him to those forgotten by their families and the society like Mary sang in her Magnificat.

And like Elizabeth, let us doubt no more that despite our nothingness, we are worthy before God, that he has plans for us in bringing Christ Jesus in this world even if our mission may look so different from others yet so closely related in establishing his kingdom here on earth.

May the calls of St. Paul in our first reading awaken us from our “sleepwalking Christian existence” to be like Mary and Elizabeth in nurturing the seeds of God’s kingdom here on earth by truly walking the dusty and difficult roads in this life. 

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

Romans 12:9-12

These are the real hard stuff we need these days as we seem to be having some semblance of end of pandemic – it is time for us to visit like Mary the many Elizabeths who have been into “seclusion” during these past two years. So many feel so lost, trying to find directions at this time as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives wrecked by COVID-19.

God is visiting us daily because he loves us, he believes in us. Most of all, he comes to us in Jesus so that we can share him to more people to experience the Father’s love and mercy, kindness and blessings. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Priests and the elections

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 May 2022
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images.

Like many of you, the people I elected lost last May 9. Fact is, I felt the same sense of loss and sadness and disappointment – but not depression nor anxiety – many of you feel today as early as 2016 when not even one opposition made it into the Senate.

It was in the 2016 elections when I realized that our people would continue to be less discerning in electing their leaders, of how it would get worst before getting any better, not even in my lifetime. The following morning after Duterte was elected president in 2016, our kasambahay came to me during breakfast to apologize, saying, “sorry po Father… binoto ko po si Bung (Bong Revilla) kasi baka wala pong bumoto sa kanya.”

You see, I have been trying to educate Manang to be more discerning in choosing candidates since the start of the 2016 elections campaign period but no amount of explanations seemed to have convinced her. Hence, I just told her, “kakaawa mo sa kanya, hayun, naging topnother si Bong Revilla, ngayon kawawa ang bayan natin.” The same thing happened last week that we now have Robin Padilla as Senator of the Republic too.

However, I am still filled with hopes in our future. We are not a hopeless case of going to the dogs if we start learning the lessons of these 2022 elections that were similar with 2016’s if we priests return to our original mission of teaching and sharing Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus. Enough with our political partisanship, of endorsements and campaigns for candidates no matter how worthy they may be.

Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.

This may sound very simple, even simplistic. As a priest, I feel and fear we have forgotten Jesus in these recent elections. Even a week after, many have not stopped in their “fight”, making all those unChristian comments in social media that prove we have indeed lost Christ lately.

“Oh, men of little faith!” is how Jesus would probably exclaim at some of us priests and bishops in this post-elections period.

Instead of educating the people, some priests and bishops went too far into campaigning even at the pulpit for particular candidates that led to disillusionment than enlightenment. And now, we are into this mess – the second elections in a row since 2016 – when the people resoundingly rejected not only the clergy’s candidates but also the Church we represent as an institution. What is tragic is how we priests still do not get it, even that simple lesson in history that every time priests endorse candidates, they turn out to be kiss of death!

It is so disappointing how most of the priests and bishops were so quiet, not silent, in 2020 when the quarantine period was prolonged more than twice or thrice that kept our churches closed, denying the people much needed spiritual guidance and nourishment during the pandemic. Sadly when the campaign period for the elections started last year, many priests were suddenly out, vocal and filled with courage in joining rallies even on Saturdays and Sundays when they should be celebrating the Mass in their parishes, when they should be praying and reflecting on the gospel to nourish souls but were instead baffling the faithful if their pastors were leading them to heaven or hell.

The double standard cannot be denied: when Leny declared her candidacy last October, some priests and parishes posted on social media pictures of Gaudete and Laudete Sunday’s pink motifs but, when Red Wednesday came in November to honor those persecuted in the Church, the same priests and parishes issued clarifications that the liturgical red motif was not in any way political.

Of course, it has always been non-political until they started it! Unfortunately, the bad taste of insincerity was all over and no one felt ashamed at all. Which brings us to the many sanctimonious “sermons” – not homilies (they are different) – that followed during Lent, filled with self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitudes as if there are no thieves and liars among us.

Photo by author, Stations of the Cross at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, March 2022.

The question being asked by the faithful – where is God? – following the results of the recent elections is an indictment of the priests who have abandoned Jesus and so believed in themselves and their candidates, denying Christ the chance to do that much-needed miracle we were all hoping for since the start of the campaign period.

A former student now based in Canada recently narrated how he and his wife told their eight year-old daughter the need to stand and defend the truth. I was impressed and touched that I congratulated him as I recalled those first 12 years of my priesthood teaching them in our diocesan school in Malolos City. I mentioned to him how it pained me that some of our graduates have joined the “dark forces” in politics with one notoriously grandstanding during the proceedings revoking the franchise of ABS-CBN.

We can only do as much but the most important thing is to remain focused in Jesus, in words and in deeds despite our weaknesses and unworthiness. When people experience and get to know Jesus, everything good follows. We called it in my former school assignment “Sanctitas in Sapientia” or “Holiness in Wisdom” – the more we get to know Jesus, the more we grow in wisdom and holiness becoming like him so that we also follow him and love him through others.

That is the challenge to us this post-election period: let us double time, spend our energies in bringing back the people, especially the young inside the churches not to the streets to learn more about Jesus in the Sacraments. Most of all, to reach out to those in the margins, the majority we love to bash in putting into office the same “unworthy” candidates as leaders of the nation.

A few days after the elections, we had the first Confession and first Holy Communion of our Grade III and IV students at the Basic Education Department of Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City. It was then when I got more convinced how in the past 24 years that priesthood is bringing Jesus to the people first through the meaningful celebrations of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist where his words are proclaimed and cracked open to let Jesus touch the hearts of everyone.

Both in the parish and in the school, I have seen that Jesus is the One transforming people, the One who changes people, not us priests nor anyone. We are merely his instruments.

Photo by Mr. Paulo Sillonar, Basic Education Dept., Our Lady of Fatima University, 11 May 2022.

In the beautiful story of the feeding of 5000, we are told that when Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do (Jn.6:5-6).

Jesus knows very well what he is going to do in every situation, especially elections. Our job is to listen to Jesus, to make Jesus present to everyone, to share Jesus.

Later after the feeding of 5000 in the wilderness, Jesus gave his bread of life discourse to the people who have followed him to Capernaum but they could not take his words that eventually, they left him along with the other followers of Christ. Only the Twelve remained with him whom he asked, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn.6:67-68).

Do we have the same faith and focus of Simon Peter in Jesus? Why worry after we have lost these elections?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that all our affairs in this life and in this world must always be seen beyond its social and economic, even medical and political implications but always in the light of Christ and his Cross. This reality is perfectly captured by the Inquirer photographer last August 2021 when the chapel of the QC General Hospital was converted into a COVID ward during a surge. The photo speaks loudly and clearly of the one reality we always forget, especially us priests.

Again, my views may be simple, even simplistic, compared to the learned but so many times, that is how God works too. Thank you for taking time to read. Join me in praying:

Lord Jesus Christ, 
so many times we leave you behind, 
following ourselves and others 
instead of you alone who is 
"the way and the truth and the life"
(Jn.14:6). Amen.

Have a blessed weekend!

Front page photo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2021.

“Fearful yet overjoyed”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday within the Octave of Easter, 18 April 2022
Acts 2:14, 22-33   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 28:8-15
From Facebook, April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord!”
Twenty-four years ago today,
dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
you gave me, along with my six
other classmates the most wonderful
gift of ordination to the priesthood;
thank you very much from the bottom
of my heart!  I could not ask for anything
else and if ever, indeed, I shall live my
life again and you call me, most likely
I would still say yes to you - "fearful yet
overjoyed" like Mary Magdalene 
on that Easter morning.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:8-10
How lovely it is to remember 
this date of our ordination
including the years leading to it
and the following ones after;
I was "fearful yet overjoyed" -
so afraid of mistakes and failures
yet so raring to explore and learn
so much in life and ministry;
most of all, I felt "fearful yet
overjoyed" so many times I might 
fall into sins and lose you yet
overjoyed because even in my 
lowest and darkest moments,
you were there, Lord, 
so faithful and loving, 
forgiving and merciful, 
never imposing nor insisting 
but always patient with me.
But there were also many occasions,
Lord Jesus, when I felt more fearful
without any joy at all; forgive me
for doubting you, for turning away
from you, choosing sin, believing
more to what others say, especially
the lies they spread against you and 
your truth.
Enkindle anew in me, dear Jesus,
the warmth and joy of your Resurrection
that I may continue to witness your 
presence and share this truth with 
those around me like Peter in the first
reading by being a living witness
of your Paschal Mystery.
I pray for my other classmates too,
Lord Jesus - Fathers Ed, Joshua,
Romy, Leonard, Arnel as well as 
Fathers Bien and Felix in Antipolo
and Bataan respectively, Fathers Jay
in Tarlac and Fr. Jay-El in the Military 
Ordinariate:  let us be focused more
on you, Jesus our Caller than with
your call, the priesthood; keep us open
to your presence and empty 
to be filled with your light  of truth 
and unity, gentleness and mercy,
 presence and perseverance.  Amen.
Our class together in our clergy retreat in Tagaytay, 2018.
Our class planning for our seminary homecoming in 2019.