Why are violets blue?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 November 2020
When we were growing up
discovering the power of love,
these nursery rhymes
were so sublime
we used to find
  every Valentine's
without knowing why
"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet.
So are you.
And I love you!"
Red means love
but what about blue
that has become violet too?
It is funny, though
now that I have become 
a priest and pastor
that I have come to know
why violets are blue:
According to one review,
violets mean
fidelity, humility,
modesty and simplicity
that to give
a violet is to reply
"I love you too!"
Like the season of Lent
when everything is violet,
Advent's shade is in blue
to keep things subdued
as we try to imbue 
value of patience and vigilance too. 
During Advent, violets are blue
the hue of God's mercy, that is so true.
In these four Sundays before Christmas
hear my prayer to you, dear Jesus
as I borrow the rhyme from "Mother Goose":
"Roses are red,
violets are blue;
let your Advent come true
because I love you too!" 

*All photos by author from our Advent celebrations in the parish this year 2020 (topmost collage) and last year 2019 (collage above). Flower arrangements by our liturgy commission head Ms. Imelda Santiago and Ms. Lucila Verana; am so thankful to their dedication and creativity in the past eight years, learning everything by experience, nurtured by prayer.

Crying is praying too!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2020
Revelation 5:1-10     >><)))*> + <*(((><<  ||  >><)))*> + <*(((><<     Luke 19:41-44
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Thank you, dear Jesus, in joining me in my tears, in my crying. I have been crying a lot lately for so many reasons. And what a wonderful feeling to cry because so often, it has become my prayers too, even my food for the soul.

In the first reading, St. John “shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it” (Revelation 5:4); while in the gospel, you wept over Jerusalem as you drew near the city for refusing to recognize and accept you as the Messiah (Luke19:41).

In both instances, tears express the deep love within us for one another, an outpouring of love that have become like beads of prayers.

Photo by author, Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) Church where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, 2017. Roof is shaped like tears.

Thank you dear Jesus for enabling me to cry like you for it means that my heart is still beating, my heart is aching because it is loving.

Tears do come from ducts near the eyes but they come from the soul longing for you, Lord, forming in the heart, secreted from those many scars left open whenever we give away a part of ourselves to somebody else out of love.

Tears are always a grace from you as they cleanse us inside, clearing our eyes of the many blurs so we may see your face among the persons next to us.

Bless us as we cry, O Lord, that our tears may eventually pave the way for smiles and joys some other day when like your prayer for Jerusalem, we may recognize your visitation in the many trials and tests we endure for our loved ones. Amen.

Refresh in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, 12 November 2020
Philemon 7-20     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 17:20-25
Photo from TurboSquid.com

How beautiful are your words, O Lord Jesus, today from St. Paul to Philemon! So techie! So timely:

Refresh my heart in Christ.

Philemon 20

As we continue to practice some forms of quarantine with the ongoing pandemic, help us, O dear Jesus to find time to “refresh – or reset – our hearts in you” like what we do we with our devices and gadgets when they “hang” and would not function properly.

Time and again have shown us how we have had too much of technologies and social media lately that have turned us away from you and from one another.

Teach us like Philemon and Onesimus, and St. Josaphat that true faith in you and the gospel demand changes in our social circumstances and conditions when our relationships with one another go beyond gender, race, and even religions and beliefs.

Let us refresh or reset our hearts in you, Jesus, and break all barriers that keep us apart from each other, preventing us to see the coming of the kingdom of God in you even if we have to pay this with our blood like St. Josaphat in trying to unite the Ukrainian Church and Rome. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred heart Novitiate, Novaliches, 2018.

Postscript-2 to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 October 2020
Statue of St. Paul at the Malolos Cathedral by the famed ecclesiastical artist Willy Layug.

Today we conclude our reflections – or “postscript” – to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about faith we heard proclaimed in the weekday readings two weeks ago from October 05-14, 2020.

A truly faithful person 
is one who is also free.

We have said that faith is a relationship with God and with others like in marriage and friendship. When our faith with God and with persons is strong with conviction and realistic, then the more we become free because there is no room for doubts that we are not loved.

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

Recall those times we have felt imprisoned and chained by the past with all of our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, failures and sins, and other painful memories: that was when we wavered in our faith, when we lacked conviction in our faith.

We have to be convinced that Jesus came to set us free from all forms of slavery that prevent us from growing and maturing in faith and freedom in him. When our faith is strong, then we are able to break the many barriers that imprison us like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Nourish our faith to be free to become our true selves!

Photo by author, 2019.

Faith works through love.

It is God’s gift of faith that enables us to do good, to do our works of charity and love. And because we are faithful and free, then we also love!

Incidentally, being faithful and free are always tied up with being able to love because love is a choice, a decision we make, not just feelings or emotions.

Every choice is made out of freewill and here is the most interesting part of being faithful and free and loving: like love, man is able to believe and trust because it is God who first believed and trusted us!

A faithful person is always a loving person because he is free to choose what is good, what is right. And the more faithful we become to God, to your spouse, to your family and friends, the more loving you become like them!

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

Without faith, it is difficult for us to love because of the pains that come always in loving.

Without faith, it is impossible to forgive and be merciful, to let go of others’ infidelity and lack of love and concern because these are virtues and values that come only from within, from a loving heart that is also faithful where Jesus Christ dwells and reigns.


A few years ago, GMA-7 launched its talent search called Starstruck inviting young people to… Dream. Believe. Survive.

For us Christians, it is… Dream. Believe. Live.

The moment we believe, then we are able to see, even God hidden among each one of us. Amen.

*All photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, 2020.

On being kind and loving during COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 October 2020
Photo by author, resthouse in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.
Methinks the saddest thing of this pandemic
is not in the restrictions it had imposed on us
from social distancing to other methods of quarantine
but more on the restrictions we have within
when we can be more loving and kind with others
then still choose to be harsh and brash.
We wash our hands to be clean
but the virus of sin clings deeper than skin
when forgiving or apologizing
can wash away that sting
of any guilty feeling within.
Even if we have to maintain social distancing
it does not mean we have to be apart;
it would be wonderful and most amazing
to everyone's part if we can let our hearts
sing the feelings deep inside like
"I love you, I miss you, I care for you"
than wring all the aching 
and sufferings we are enduring.
Lastly, always put on your masks
for everyone's safety
but let us trust and bask
in the warmth of our humanity
to keep our sanity.
In this time of COVID-19
when death is no longer lurking
but closing into our very being, 
let us be more of feeling than of thinking,
loving and caring, affirming each other
enjoying life together.
Photo by author, antique door of a resthouse in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Soften our hearts, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVI-A in Ordinary Time, 27 September 2020
Ezekiel 18:25-28   |+|   Philippians 2:1-11   |+|   Matthew 21:28-32
Cross of San Damiano before which St. Francis of Assisi prayed and received Christ’s commission to rebuild His Church. Photo from wikipedia.org.

Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:1-8

We priests and religious pray this beautiful hymn by St. Paul every Saturday evening. It is also proclaimed on Palm Sunday to show us Jesus Christ’s self-emptying (kenosis in Greek) to offer himself for our salvation. It is the most important text of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians that has played a vital role in the discussions of Christ’s preexistence.

Seen in the light of the gospel this Sunday, it is also part of St. Paul’s moral exhortation to the Philippians and us living today to be united as one in Jesus by following his pattern of kenosis that is similar with his teachings that “the first will be last, and the last will be first, that the greatest is the servant of all.”

It is the fundamental model of Christian life, the very essence of following Jesus by denying one’s self and taking up one’s cross but also the most difficult to learn and put into practice as it is exactly the opposite of the way of the world – “upward mobility” — of being rich and famous, of being in control that had divided us with massive walls of indifference, hate, and antagonisms making peace and joy more elusive.

Christ’s kenosis is the only way up in life to be back in God that leads us to unity, peace, and joy.

In this time of the pandemic when we are supposed to be more united and kind and nice with everyone, St. Paul’s call to imitate Jesus Christ’s kenosis is very timely and relevant, calling us to soften our hearts by emptying ourselves of our pride unlike the chief priests and elders of Israel to whom the Lord addressed his parable this Sunday.

Photo by author, wailing of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Our sense of entitlement

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”

Matthew 21:28-31

Beginning today in three successive Sundays, Jesus teaches us again in parables to soften our hearts and let go of our pride that we are better than others, that we deserve more than what is due us like those early workers to the vineyard in last week’s gospel.

In a sense, today’s gospel tells us that there are too many works to be done in God’s kingdom that we have to keep going, imitating Jesus and be careful of falling into the same trap of those workers in last Sunday’s parable who felt entitled to more pay because they worked longer than others.

Notice how Jesus directly addresses his parables in these three Sundays to the same crowd of “chief priests and elders of the people” who have always felt favored by God for being of his “chosen people” since Abraham’s time. They always looked down at others specially the “tax collectors and prostitutes” considered as sinners.

They are not just people from the past who have lived during Christ’s time more than 2000 years ago. Even among us today, there are still chief priests and elders who continue to live and exist!

And here is the rub — among these people who may really be good in faithfully keeping the commandments of the Lord, praying and doing all kinds of devotions and charities are also the worst. Their religiosity are tied only to themselves and never to God, without any love at all.

Keep in mind that every time we feel entitled like the chief priests and elders of the people, it means our hearts have gone hard and cold like the elder son of the merciful father of the parable of the prodigal son or the early workers hired to the vineyard last week.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, March 2020.

So many times it happens that those who are supposed to be on higher moral grounds turn out to be without any roots and grounding in God at all, becoming harsh and judgmental of others, more sinful than the ones they condemn.

Like the chief priests and elders of the people in the crowd listening to Jesus, they start as the vida only to end up as the contravida like when there is a “black sheep” in the family or a “rotten tomato” in class, that instead of helping them rise from their sinfulness, they who are the ones who condemn and sink others deeper into their holes!

That is why God questions, stirs their hearts through the prophet in the first reading,

Thus says the Lord: You say, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?

Ezekiel 18:25

Always examine our hearts for we must all be converted again and again.

We must keep on praising and thanking God for his mercies like in our responsorial psalm this Sunday because he gives us all the chances in life to change and become better persons. Here we find a semblance with the gospel the other Sunday why we must forgive without limits because God’s love for us is infinite.

Actions, not intentions, judge us

Last Monday we celebrated the feast of St. Matthew, the tax collector called by Jesus to become one of his Twelve Apostles who also wrote one of the four gospels. It is very interesting to know that in all gospel accounts, tax collectors and prostitutes are always grouped together because they are the worst sinners at that time.

Tax collectors not only enriched themselves with excessive collections from the people but were seen as traitors who worked for the Roman colonizers of Israel at that time. Prostitutes, on the other hand, have always been considered very low because as women supposed to give birth for the awaited Messiah, they have “dirtied” their womb. Together, tax collectors and prostitutes were seen as the worst sinners in Israel because they have sold their souls to the devil; hence, they were considered beyond redemption, beyond hope, a scourge to their families and to the community that nobody would want to deal with them.

And so, it was very radical, out-of-this-world and totally unimaginable for everybody then when they heard Jesus telling them how “tax collectors and prostitutes” were entering the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders of the people who were considered very holy at that time!

It was a serious warning to them and us today from the Lord who reminds us that our actions judge us. The parable is an echo of his warning that “not everyone who calls him ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter heaven” (Mt.7:21). St. Matthew is very particular in his gospel account of the complete jibing together of what we say and what we do, of “walking the talk”.

We have so many sayings expressing this important lesson of today’s parable by the Lord like “A single act of good deed is always better than the grandest and best intention” and “Actions always speak louder than words.”

Photo by author, sunset in the parish, August 2020.

In this time of the pandemic when church attendance is limited and we are advised not to sing and reply aloud in the Mass, it is best that we examine how we have become mechanical in our celebrations without realizing the gravity of things we say like when we acclaim after the gospel proclamation “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!”: do we really work hard in his vineyard or are we like the other son who said yes but did not go? When at the end of the Mass we are told “Go in the peace of Jesus Christ” and we say, “Thanks be to God”, do we really go home at peace or still having that festering anger or dislike to someone?

Make your joy complete. Ask Jesus to soften your heart. Take a step backwards like the first son though at first he seemed so bad to disobey his father in refusing to follow his command, do not be ashamed to take back your words and do what is right.

Be careful not with your words but with your actions for which the Lord would judge us in the end.

Find solace in St. Paul’s beautiful hymn this Sunday: the lower we go down, the higher we are lifted up like Jesus. Nobody had ever gone wrong and lost in life going down, of being humble. Many men and women have gone to oblivion, lost and forgotten when their ivory towers collapsed, burying them in the rubble.

Have a blessed Sunday and week ahead!

New heart, new person in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, 20 August 2020
Ezekiel 36:23-28 >><)))*> || + + + || <*(((><< Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, an oasis at the Dead Sea area, May 2017.

Thank you very much, dear God our Father in bringing us closer to you more than ever through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for “taking away our stony hearts and giving us natural hearts” (Ez.36:26) as you have promised your prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament.

Thank you for inviting us always into your “wedding banquet”, revealing to us your wonderful plan of being with you in eternity.

Forgive us, too, O merciful Father when despite our new and natural heart in Christ, we refuse to follow your Spirit within us to totally change our ways, when we forget to realize that for every gift from you is our responsibility to nurture and make this bear fruits in our lives.

Like the man who came to the wedding banquet not dressed for the occasion in the parable by Jesus, we always miss the chance of being truly one with you in loving charity when we fail to seek knowledge to serve you in others.

May we keep in our hearts these beautiful teachings by St. Bernard whose memorial we celebrate today that like him, may we nurture your gifts through constant studies and prayers:

There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity.

There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others: that is vanity.

There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve: that is LOVE.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Lord Jesus, please take away our stony hearts and give us natural hearts that beat with firm faith, fervent hope, and unceasing charity and love. Amen.

“What do I still lack?”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2020
Ezekiel 24:15-23 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:16-22
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2017.

The young man said to him (Jesus), “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:20-22

The young man’s question to you, Jesus, still echoes in me: “What do I still lack?” A question that reverberates in me on many occasions for different reasons. So many times, Lord, I felt the answer lies on something that my hands can simply grab or hold to take and be not lacking anymore.

What do I still lack? A question I automatically ask because I have always felt I have the answers, I can always work for it and have whatever I lack.

When tragedy and failures strike, I ask the same question, what do I still lack? What have I missed? What went wrong?

It is a question I have always felt as a problem needing solutions, of something missing that must be filled to be no more lacking.

But today, Lord, I felt the emptiness of the young man too.

It is not just lacking of something but more of a longing for you. It is an emptiness of the heart and soul that nothing can ever fill because “What do I lack” is not a problem to be solved but a situation, a condition to be with you always, Lord.

That is why, sometimes, you have to “take away the delight of our eyes” (Ez.24:16), Lord, so we may see what we lack ––YOU! Amen.

Photo by author, Palm Sunday 2020.

The “heart is false”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2020
Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 <*(((><< >><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of the Church of our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, 2019.

How beautiful are your words today, dearest God our Father. You never fail to surprise me with your deep personal involvement with us all that you can capture exactly what is inside us without any doubt at all.

After praising Israel’s great achievements that have brought them material prosperity, you remain impartial and fair in pronouncing your judgement:

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built. The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, and now they pay for their guilt. God shall break down their altars and destroy destroy their sacred pillars.

Hosea 10:1-2

Indeed, only you can read our hearts, our inmost beings.

How many times have we been deceived by outward appearances like material prosperity in life, thinking these are the crowing glory of one’s great efforts in balancing prayer and work only to be rejected by God for their hard headedness and pride?

A heart that is false is also a heart that has turned away from you, O God; sometimes, these are not evident right away because a heart can always fake outside what is inside.

A heart that takes pride in its grand designs and visions is a heart that is false. Most of all, a heart that refuses to look into the pains and hurts of others, their shortcomings and sins, is a heart that is false because it denies humanity, its being a human flesh tormented by love amidst pains and sufferings. A heart that is false is a heart that refuses to see other hearts with many hurts because it believes more with its self than with God’s love and mercy.

A heart that is false is a heart that has refused to grow and outgrow its previously held convictions and beliefs, more intent in looking at its own heart than into Christ’s meek and humble heart, eventually betraying Jesus and loved ones.

Incline our hearts into the Father’s loving heart, dear Jesus, and give us a heart that is both true and humble, accepting our many limitations, full of hope in becoming a better person in you like your Apostles who started out like us all with imperfect hearts. Amen.

Photo by author, Davao City, 2018.

Prayer to become small

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19 June 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 ><)))*> 1 John 4:7-16 <*(((>< Matthew 11:25-30
Photo from Google.

O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like yours — make me small and little in standing, hidden and unknown among many, simple and humble in a world now measured in influence, popularity, and following.

On this Solemnity of your Most Sacred Heart, I thank you dear Jesus in choosing to be small and little, always hidden in the simplest things of life like soft voices of kindness and mercy, reason and wisdom, gratitude and love.

You have shown us that to be truly loving like you, we have to be small and little like children.

Most of all, free to be ourselves as beloved children of the Father!

Free from inhibitions and guilt to truly express the love and joy within.

Help us, Jesus, to cast all our worries to you, to take your yoke that is easy, burden that is light.

It is so difficult to love when we are burdened by many concerns and considerations, when we cannot be our true selves that we lack spontaneity, of being natural and easy.

In the same manner, it becomes hard for us too to love or even please someone who sees him or her self bigger than reality, when they see themselves as “big shots” and “heavyweights” who have to be pleased and “followed” or affirmed.

May we always keep in mind the words of Moses so applicable also to us today:

“It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.”

Deuteronomy 7:7

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, you have given us your heart that bleeds due to the thorns of our sins, yet aglow with the fire of your immense love and mercy.

May we come to you, today and always to find rest, to learn from your gentle and humble ways so needed in our heartless world. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.