“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.

Salamin, sabihin sa akin

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Pebrero 2022
Larawan kuha ni Jenna Hamra sa Pexels.com
Salamin, 
salamin sa dingding
sabihin sa akin at
ipakita rin
mga puwing 
na hindi ko pansin
ni ayaw kilalanin
ni tanggapin!
Ayoko sanang sabihin
ngunit ito binubulong
ng aking damdamin:
paano nga ba tayo humantong
at ganito ating narating
sa tuwing halalan darating
nagpapanting mga tainga natin
sa mga usaping alam na natin?
Paulit-ulit pinag-uusapan
walang kinahihinatnan
pagkatapos ng halalan
kaya paulit-ulit na lamang
walang katapusang 
mga pangakong binibitiwan
nakakalimutan, pinababayaan
pasan ng taong-bayan, di maibsan.
Tingnan nga natin
at suriin ang sarili
kung atin ding sinasalamin
magagandang adhikain
o mga paratang at
pambabatikos natin
dahil kung tutuusin
ang pamahalaan ay larawan natin.
Larawan kuha ni STANLEY NGUMA sa Pexels.com
Galit tayo sa mga sinungaling
dahil tunay nga sila'y magnanakaw rin;
nguni't paanong naaatim
ng marami sa atin araw-araw
magsinungaling sa kapwa
lalo na't nagtitiwala sa atin
maging Panginoong Diyos
pinagtataksilan natin?
Paanong diringgin
panawagan ng nagmamalinis
gayong batid kanilang
mga bahid na dungis
kaban ng simbahan
pinakialaman
para sa sariling kaluguran
maging kahalayan?
Sila ba'y naparusahan
marahil ni hindi pinagsabihan
at ang masaklap
hinayaan na lamang
alang-alang sa habag
at awa, palaging katwiran
kapatawaran
ng mga kasalanan.
Katapatan sa pangakong
sinumpaan, hindi rin mapangatawanan
kunwa'y maraming kaabalahanan
 ang totoo'y puro kababalaghan
maraming pinupuntahan
kasama'y mayayaman
mga aba at walang-wala
kanila ring iniiwan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2020.
Totoo na malaki ang papel ng Simbahan
na ginagampanan tuwing halalan
ngunit huwag sanang makalimutan
sa araw-araw na katapatan ang tunay na labanan
kung saan mga alagad at pastol ng kawan
magsilbing huwaran sa paglilingkod
kaisa ang bayan ng Diyos
sa karukhaan, kagutuman at kapighatian.
Salamin, salamin sa dingding
kami ba'y marunong pang manalangin?
Bakit tila hindi dinggin ating mga panalangin
gayong mabuti ating layunin?
Diyos pa ba pinagtitiwalaan,
pinananaligan natin o baka naman
lumalabis mga salita natin
habang salat mabubuting gawa natin?
Salamin, salamin sa dingding
kung kami ay magising
maging kasing ingay ng batingaw
katapatan namin sa araw-araw
na gampanin, hindi katiting
pinagaganda lang ng kuliling
lalo na kung mayroong nakatingin
para lang mapansin.
Ang dapat nating ipanalangin
hindi lamang ang halalang darating
kungdi makatotohanang pagsusuri
at pag-amin sa mga kasalanan natin;
pagkaraan ng limang-daang taon
pagkakanya-kanyang dinatnan ni Magellan
umiiral pa rin habang mga puna at pansin 
nina Rizal at GomBurZa nananatiling pangarap pa rin.
Larawan mula sa commons.wikimedia.org

Pursuing the most precious

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 September 2021
1 Timothy 6:2-12   ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*>   Luke 8:1-3
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, Singapore, August 2021.

But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Thank you for the wonderful
reminder today through St. Paul,
O God our loving Father.
It is so true that many times
in our pursuit of you
in worship and service,
in the practice of our faith,
we "suppose religion to be a means
of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5):
in your name we shamelessly
pursue money and fame using
our gifts and talents,
wasting precious time in useless
arguments and discussions.
Let us pursue only you, O God 
in Jesus Christ through the more
precious things that enrich our lives
and those of others leading to
eternal life.
Purify our motivations and intentions
in following you, dear Jesus
like those women you have healed
and decided to accompany you 
sharing their treasures and very selves.
Today,
let me dare confront myself
to examine my following you, Jesus:
has it led me to qualities mentioned
by St. Paul to Timothy or,
has it made me divisive?
What does my way of life
today speak really of who am I?
Give me, dear Jesus,
the clarity of mind
and purity of heart
of the great Jesuit priest
St. Robert Bellarmine.
Amen.

Sts. Peter and Paul, Mirrors of the Church

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2021
Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11 + 2Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 + Matthew 16:13-19
Easter Sunday 2019 at St. Peter’s Rome with Pope Francis, photo from vaticannews.va.

God our loving Father, thank you for this Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul who both mirror to us our primary tasks as stewards of the Church founded by your Son Jesus Christ. Despite our many differences in our personalities and backgrounds, help us find in them what the Church should be and would be by our love and faith in Christ Jesus and the mission he entrusted us.

Remind us we are stewards of the kingdom of heaven among our brothers and sisters – not their masters even if we are entrusted with the power of binding and unbinding

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19

Let us be won over by Jesus Christ, by giving him entirely our faith and love despite our many weaknesses. Like Sts. Peter and Paul, may we keep in mind that our primary task in the Church is to serve, not to rule over the people nor amass wealth and fame along the way.

Let us strive to be loved than be feared so that in every decision we make people may find and realize your Holy Will.

O dear God, as we face today another serious threat of a new COVID-19 strain called Delta variant that is believed to be more dangerous as it spreads so fast, may we witness in our lives as we proclaim in words and in deeds your saving love and mercy in Jesus Christ.

May we offer our very selves like St. Peter and St. Paul, messengers of your love to everyone especially those in the margins of the society so they may continue to keep their faith amidst the many hardships during this pandemic for you, O God is always among us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer to keep fellowship in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter, 18 April 2021
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19  ><)))*>  1 John 2:1-5  ><)))*>  Luke 24:35-48 
Easter Vigil 2021.
My dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Today I am celebrating my ordination anniversary.
Twenty-three years of giftedness and grace and mystery, 
until now I wonder why you called and chose me. 
Thank you very much 
for your love and mercy to me.
You know very well my sins and failures,
my weaknesses and limitations
that on many occasions
I have failed you.
There were times 
I was like Cleopas 
traveling back to Emmaus
trying to forget you
feeling at a loss and defeated
when my plans do not happen.
But you would join me,
walk with me even if I go the wrong direction
just to bring me back to Jerusalem,
back to the Cross where your Resurrection is.
So many times, 
my eyes cannot recognize you appearing to me,
but surely always within me
my heart burns while you speak softly
as you tell me our stories
when you never left me. 
In those twenty-three years,
dearest Jesus, what I treasure most 
is when you appear and speak to me unknowingly,
an inner awakening happens in me
opening my mind, purifying my soul
that the more I see my sinfulness before you,
the more I see my worth in you
that is when you are so true!
One thing I ask you, my Lord and my God
keep me in your fellowship of the table
of your new covenant; even if I am not worthy
to receive you under my roof, but only
say the word and I shall be healed.
Be my guest always, dear Jesus,
appearing, speaking, and breaking bread
at your altar, sustaining and nourishing me
with the Blessed Virgin Mary 
in this journey until you come again.  Amen.
Easter Vigil, 2021.

Praying to “smell like sheep”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, 22 February 2021
1 Peter 5:1-4     + + + + +     Matthew 16:13-19

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

On this feast of the Chair of St. Peter when we celebrate the sacred office of the Papacy you have bestowed upon St. Peter as your Vicar here on earth, I pray for us your priests.

Help us your priests to heed the call of Pope Francis to “smell like your sheep” which is so attuned with the call of St. Peter himself in the first reading:

Beloved: Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples of the flock.

1 Peter 5:2-3

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when we your priests demand so much from your flock that we forget to serve them faithfully and lovingly.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when we your priests are allured by social media and all forms of glitz and glamor that unconsciously we have replaced you, making our selves as the new gods to be worshipped and adored by the people.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when we your priests abandon your flock and go with the world that we look and smell like the rich and famous.

Chair of St. Peter in Rome. Photo from wikicommons.org.

Give us the courage and determination to first of all be centered in you, to pray daily and most of all, celebrate the Holy Eucharist with love and devotion so people may see you more, experience you more, hear you more and taste you more.

May we spend more time and energy with you, dear Jesus in prayers because it is you whom we must know first on a daily basis. Let us come to you always in Caesarea Philippi, your place of confronting us with that crucial question “But who do you say that I am?” that we never hear nor answer because we have left you. As a result, people are still confused of who you really are when we fail to live and serve in you.

May we keep in mind that the Primacy of St. Peter’s office, of our ministry and of every kind of leadership in our home and schools, offices and government is always the PRIMACY OF LOVE IN YOU. Amen.

From the Ear to the Heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 4:1-20

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).

So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.

Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.

So many things begin with our ears.

And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.

From hearing to listening to loving.

It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.

May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.

As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.

Van Gogh painting of “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

Being true collaborators of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, Bishops, 26 January 2021
2 Timothy 1:1-8    >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Luke 10:1-9
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, sunrise at Natonin, Mountain Province after a devastating landslide in October 2018.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

A day after celebrating the feast of the conversion of your great Apostle Paul, we now remember his two collaborators and companions in fulfilling his mission from you, Timothy and Titus, trustworthy men who carried out so many of his works.

And so today, we pray Lord Jesus in your name to please send us collaborators in your mission, men and women who are trustworthy who share in your vision and mission, endeavors and responsibilities. Collaborators in you, Lord, who are willing and ready to serve the Gospel with generosity like Timothy and Titus who represented Paul in many circumstances far from easy.

Send us, dear Jesus, more workers in your field, collaborators in you with our bishops and priests, even with our leaders in government who shall think more of serving the people, thinking more of the welfare of others than one’s personal advantages like power and fame.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:2-3

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become the wolves, unmindful of the needs of the people, forgetting their mission of proclaiming your Gospel, of celebrating your Holy Sacrifice of the Mass much needed these days?

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become afraid of doing what is true and right, trying to please men and women than God, avoiding problems and difficulties?

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, Carmelite Monastery, the Holy Land, 2017.

“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control … bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7, 8

Help us follow, dear Jesus, your Apostle Paul’s recommendation to Titus, “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply to themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men.”

May we be more committed to you, Jesus Christ than to anyone else, even to our selfish motives so that we may be rich in good deeds to open the doors of the world to you our Lord and Master. Amen.

Bayan ng Diyos, Biyaya ng Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-20 ng Nobyembre 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019.

Labing-tatlong taon na akong pari nang ako ay maging kura paroko sa unang pagkakataon dito sa Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista sa Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan noong 2011. Dapat sana’y anim na taon lamang ang aking panunungkulan nguni’t dahil sa maraming pangayari na ang pinakahuli ay COVID-19, halos abutin na ako ng sampung taon dito hanggang sa paglilipatan sa 2021.

Wala akong pinagsisihan at pinanghihinayangan sapagkat tunay napagyaman ang aking pagkatao at pagkapari sa parokyang ito sa loob ng siyam na taon. At maipagmamalaki ko na maganda at mabuti ang parokyang ito sapagka’t kumbinsido ako na bawat parokya bilang bayan ng Diyos ay biyaya ng Diyos.


Unang aral sa parokya:
pangalawa sa Diyos ay mahalin
at pagmalasakitan ng mga tao kanilang parokya.

Wala akong mga karanasan at kaalaman sa buhay parokya bilang pari nang dumating dito nguni’t unti-unti sa pananalangin at pagninilay, aking natutuhan ang maraming bagay. Una na rito ang tungkulin ng mga tao pangalawa sa pag-ibig at katapatan sa Diyos ay ang pagmamahal at malasakit sa kanilang parokya na kinabibilangan.

Ang mga pari ay dumarating at umaalis, palipat-lipat ng mga parokya nguni’t ang mga tao ang naiiwan at nananatili sa kanilang parokya. Kaya dapat lamang sila ang higit na bigyan pahalagahan sa ano mang usapin ukol sa kanilang katipunan bilang mga alagad ng Panginoon.

Kaya naman tungkuling din naming mga kura paroko na unang ituro sa mga tao ang pagmamahal at pagmamalasakit nila sa kailang sariling parokya, lalo’t higit sa kanilang patron at mga kaugalian kung ang mga ito naman ay tunay na naunawaan at nasa katuwiran.

Isinasaad sa Vatican II lalo’t higit sa “Gaudium et Spes” ang pangangalaga sa kalinangan ng bawat lunan sapagkat doon nangungusap at naramdaman ng mga tao ang pagparito ng Panginoong Hesu-Kristo.

Malaking trahedya kapag nakalimutan ang mayamang kasaysayan at mga tradisyon ng isang bayan alang-alang sa mga kung anu-anong naiisipang gimik at kaartehan gaya ng sari-saring debosyon na umuusbong na wala namang pinag-ugatan sa karanasan ng mga tao.

Maliwanag wala doon ang Panginoong Diyos na palaging nagpapakilala sa isang pamayanan, hindi lamang sa iilan lalo na kung ito ang nagiging sanhi ng pagkakawatak-watak sa halip na kaisahan.

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Marso 2020.

Ang ating Patron ng Parokya,
gabay sa buhay dito sa lupa
hanggang sa kabila.

Isang bagay na nagpatingkad nito sa akin ang sariling karanasan ng aking Lola Cedeng na tiyahin ng aking Ina. Siya ang kauna-unahang may-sakit na aking dinasalan at pinahiran ng Banal na Langis matapos mag-comatose ilang linggo pagkaraan ng aking ordenasyon noong Abril 1998.

Akala noon ng aking Ina at kanyang mga kapatid ay magtutuluy-tuloy na sa kamatayan ang Lola Cedeng kaya dagli nilang inihanda lahat ng gagamitin sa libing – damit, kabaong, sementeryo nguni’t gaya ng kasabihan, humahaba pa raw ang buhay ng may sakit kapag pinaghahandaan kanyang kamatayan.

Pagkaraan nga ng isang linggo ay nagkamalay ang Lola Cedeng at tumagal pa ang buhay ng limang taon!

Dagli ko siyang dinalaw at ang unang hiniling niya sa akin ay ipanalangin siya kay San Martin ng Tours, ang patron namin sa bayan ng Bukawe (dalawa lang kaming bayan sa Pilipinas na ang patron ay si San Martin ng Tours;Taal sa Batangas ang isa pa na mas nauna).

At ito ang dahilan ng kanyang kahilingan: isinaysay sa akin ni Lola Cedeng kung paano sa kanyang NDE o “near death experience” habang naglalakad sa madilim na kalsada nang kanyang makita na dumarating si San Martin ng Tours nakasakay ng kabayo.

Sinabi raw sa kanya ni San Martin, “Cedeng… bumalik ka na sa Bunlo (ang aming baranggay). Nagkamali lamang at hindi mo pa oras,” aniya.

Pagkasabi daw niyon ay kaagad tumalikod si San Martin at umalis habang siya naman daw ay natigilan, iniisip paano siya nakilala ni San Martin?

Maya maya daw ay bumalik si San Martin at tinanong niya, “Hindi po ba kayo si San Martin ng Tours? Paano po ninyo ako nakilala at nalaman aking pangalan at tirahan?”

“Paanong hindi kita makikilala Cedeng,” paliwanag daw sa kanya ni San Martin, “hindi ba’t palagi kang nagsisimba sa Bukawe tuwing pista ng Mahal na Krus sa Wawa at sa akin tuwing Nobyembre onse? Sigue, umuwi ka na.”

Noon din daw ay natuwa ang aking Lola Cedeng, tumalikod at nagulat na lamang siya paano siya napunta sa Mt. Carmel Hospital!

Larawan mula sa Facebook ng Parokya ni San Martin ng Tours, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Naniniwala ako sa kuwento ng aking Lola Cedeng dahil pagkalipas ng limang taon, pagkaraan ng kanyang kaarawan noong ika-29 ng Hunyo 2003 bago sumapit ang Pista ng Krus sa Wawa noong ika-03 ng Hulyo ng taong iyon, siya ay aking dinalaw at mismong sa harap ko nalagutan ng hininga at pumanaw.

Habang hinihintay ko aking mga tiyo at tiya na tumawag ng duktor, kaagad ako nag-alay ng Misa sa tabi niya.

Pagkaraan pa ng ilang panahon mula noon nang aking mapagtanto mga kahulugan niyon, na kung paano si San Martin ng Tours ang gumabay sa aking Lola Cedeng habang nabubuhay, siya marahil din ang umalalay sa isang Bukaweñong tunay patungo sa buhay na walang hanggan.

Iyan ang kahalagahan ng mga Patron natin sa parokya. Sila ang ating mga tagapamagitan sa Diyos. Sila ang ating mga gabay at patnubay sa buhay hanggang kamatayan.

Kung saan marubdob ang pagmamahal at malasakit sa patron ng parokya, palaging buhay ang pananampalataya. Sino mang pari mapunta roon sa kabila ng kanilang maraming kapintasan maging kakulangan, palaging buhay ang parokya sapagkat sila’y nakasandig sa Diyos at hindi sa kung sinu-sinong tao lamang.

Gayon din naman, wala sa mga gusaling bato at kung anu-anong gawain matatagpuan ang buhay ng parokya kungdi sa buhay na pamimintuho sa patron nila na nagbubuklod sa kanila bilang isang bayan ng Diyos, mga alagad ni Kristo na nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa bawat isa.

Sa panahong ito ng pandemya, nawa higit nating makita wala sa karangyaan at luho ng simbahan at mga pagdiriwang ang diwa ng parokya kungdi sa pagiging payak at bukas palagi sa galaw ng Banal na Espiritu patungo sa higit na makabuluhang katipunan ng mga alagad ni Kristo. Amen.

Mary in the hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 September 2020
Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder of innocent babies. According to tradition, a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave that turned color of the stones to white.

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect example of one who had experienced God’s hiddenness in her life, teaching us with some important lessons in rediscovering and keeping God’s hiddenness specially in this age of social media when everything is shown and has to be seen.

We have mentioned in our previous blog that hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”; hiddenness is more than not being seen per se but that feeling with certainty that God is present though hiding because he wants to surprise us. If God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all. And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him too as seen in the life of Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/04/the-hiddenness-of-god/).

The hiddenness of Mary.

Simplicity and humility of Mary as venue for the perfect setting of God’s coming in Jesus Christ. Consider her origins: her town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee was definitely outside the more popular city of Jerusalem that was the place to be at that time. Most of all, it is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by the prophets for lack of any significance in the coming of the Messiah.

Nazareth was largely unknown with some hint of notoriety as expressed by Nathanael (aka, Apostle Bartholomew) when he expressed disbelief to Philip who told him they have found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Photo by author of chapel at the grotto believed where Mary received the good news of bearing Jesus Christ in her womb underneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel (2019).

But that is how God works in his hiddenness, coming to us in the most ordinary places and circumstances, even least expected like Mary who was definitely not “in” if we go by today’s popular standard of “who’s in and who’s out?”

In fact, she was so “outside” the circle of influence of their time with her being promdi as we say these days, without any illustrious lineage to be proud of like her spouse Joseph who was from the royal Davidic line or her cousin Elizabeth from the priestly branch of Aaron, the brother of Moses whose husband, Zechariah belonged to another priestly clan in Israel.

Yet, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ because of her hiddenness expressed in her simplicity and humility. It is a far cry from our extreme “Marianism” when we almost worship Mary forgetting Jesus Christ her Son and our Savior! Worst still is the growing trend of “triumphalism” in many parishes racing for the so-called “episcopal” and “canonical” coronation of their various images of the Virgin Mary that come in all kinds of names and titles that has come to look more of a fad than authentic Marian devotion.

Without any intentions of denigrating the role and stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our faith as well as her proper place in the life of the Church defined by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, I dare ask the following questions:

Photo by author, a replica of Our Lady of the Poor of Banneux, Belgium at Girlstown, Cavite (2009).

Is her coronation in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth not enough?

Why the need for these lavish spectacles for the coronation of the most simplest and humblest woman to have lived on earth?

It is a clear case of triumphalism – that exaggeration or overdoing our worship and rituals – especially if the Marian image is less than 200 years old without widespread devotions like the ones at Sto. Domingo (Quezon City) and Manaoag (Pangasinan).

I do not think the Blessed Mother would favor this considering her simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples seen in her many apparitions.

See the quaint and charming simplicity of Mary at Fatima in Portugal (1917) and lately at Banneux in Liege, Belgium (1933) where she identified herself as “Lady of the Poor”.

Note how the Virgin Mary reads “the signs of the times” in her apparitions and appearances when during the 1500’s at the height of European royalties and expeditions, she was always portrayed as victorious in regal clothes; but since Fatima in the 20th century as the world sank into the excesses of Industrial Revolution and affluence, Mary appeared simple, always in solidarity with the poor and suffering.

It is a cue we are sorely missing and sad to say, instead of renewing the world as St. Paul had asked us, we have allowed ourselves with the Mother of God to be transformed into the ways of the world by immersing in its showbiz frenzies, focusing on the material aspects like expensive clothes and jewelries.

Second example of Mary’s hiddenness is her oneness with Jesus Christ. She was never on her own, always seen in Jesus, with Jesus her Son and Lord. She believed in him so much, making him the focus at the wedding feast at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross where she expressed in the most strongest terms her solidarity with the Savior of the world.

This has always been insisted by the Church since Vatican II regarding our devotions to Mary that must always be in relation with Jesus and his mission — never on her own.

Photo by author, 2019.

In all her apparitions, the Blessed Mother has always been consistent with her messages of conversion and return to God through her Son Jesus Christ, the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession or Reconciliation.

Mary’s Christocentricity is best seen in her oneness with him in pains and sufferings like in the Pieta and the Mater Dolorosa where Jesus is the one standing out, not her. Nor anybody else.

When Mary, or anybody else for that matter goes on one’s own, Jesus is no longer hidden but removed from the scene. Then his Cross disappears and all that is seen is Mary in all her “beauty and glory” that are empty, very secular because these attributes come precisely from her communion in Jesus!

Perhaps, this pandemic is teaching us today to review our Marian devotions and processions that have become more of a show and a spectacle for Instagram than for deepening of our faith.

I pray that the Cofradia that holds the annual December 8 processions at Intramuros would take a rest this year until 2022 to discern their noble efforts before that have degenerated to pomp and pageantry among “devotees” specially camareros and camareras trying to outshine and outclass each other with some participation at the sidelights of their pastors and sacristans.

Keeping the hiddenness of God while we remain hidden in contemplation.

Of all the qualities of Mary we all must imitate to help people rediscover God’s hiddenness is her being hidden in prayer and contemplation.

St. John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae when he launched the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 that although the scriptures are silent about where was Mary during the other significant moments of the life of Jesus, especially at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was most likely that Mary was also present deep in prayer.

This we find clearly at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying at the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

Modern rendition of the Pentecost with Mary among the other disciples of Jesus. From Google.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shares with us his profound insight in his second Jesus of Nazareth book series (Birth of Jesus) how after the annunciation of the the birth of Christ to Mary, the angel left her totally without ever coming back to warn or instruct her unlike with Joseph. After saying “Yes” to the plan of God to be the Mother of Jesus, Mary immersed herself deep in prayers and contemplation, becoming hidden herself in God.

Since then, she never doubted Jesus her Son as the Christ, nurturing her faith with prayers beautifully expressed by St. Luke in saying how “Mary treasured things in her heart” when facing difficult situations like during his birth and his finding at the temple. It is not surprising that in the contemplation by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Risen Lord must have first appeared to his Mother upon rising from the dead because she was the first to believe totally in him (which became the basis of our tradition of the Salubong).

Mary has always been present in the hiddenness of Christ from his coming in the darkness of the night on a manger in Bethlehem, to his hidden years in Nazareth, to his ministry when he would always retreat to a deserted place to pray, to his Crucifixion and death and burial on Good Friday and finally, in the darkness of Easter.

In this age of social media where everyone and everything has to be seen and shown with nothing hidden anymore even without qualms and shame at all, part of our mission and ministry as priests and religious is to lead people back to God’s hiddenness like the Virgin Mary so they may realize anew that the best things in this life are not always seen.

To fulfill this is for us first of all to imitate God like Mary — be hidden!

How unfortunate that instead of leading the people back to God’s hiddenness, we priests and religious have in fact joined the secular world, imitating the “influencers” like bloggers and vloggers that instead of focusing on God who is hidden, we are concerned with our selves and all the “porma” for the sake of number of “likes” and “followers” we have in our posts.

The more we try so hard to make God visible in our ministry by imitating the styles and gimicks of some media personalities that make our liturgy look like a variety show complete with song and dance numbers with our altars heavily decorated like a studio set with giant tarpaulins like in EDSA, that is when we remove God totally – not only his hiddenness – from the scene and inverse proportionately, the more we priests and pastors become more popular than the Lord himself.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

And that is how cults begin, with or without Jesus. It is very sad, even tragic and ironic because we have removed God himself – even Mary! – by unconsciously making ourselves the center of attention like pop icons and idols.

Mary had shown us the most perfect example of discipleship which is more of Jesus, less of self.

Can we not post without using our own pictures – no matter how profound our thoughts are – so the people may see the hiddenness of God in a photo of a lovely flower or a magnificent sunset? Unless you are a bishop or the Pope himself, having your photo published specially in the news is part of the information process about the person in focus. It is totally different in Church communications which is all about God and his message of love, not us.

The quarantine period invites us in the Church to appreciate and share this wonderful hiddenness of God by first becoming incognito, unknown and hidden from others, preferring to be at the background or “behind the camera” as we follow God in his hiddenness until we go to that great beyond of totally hidden from everybody except God.

Do not worry. We have Mary in every step along the way. Amen.