Post-Valentine notes

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 February 2023
Photo by Elle Hughes on
It has been 24 hours since
Valentine's Day
and I wonder what happened
with all the flowers
not sold yesterday;
do the lovers still stay
and remain true with
all that they say
to love and behold each
other every day?
The flowers declare
what the hearts convey
but too often they are so
lovely beyond compare
when love is not that easy
because in reality,
love is difficult, even painful
that most likely I would
dare say that a loving heart
is more of thorns than of blooms.
A loving heart is first of all
a listening heart;
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that hears and feels
 the silent screams and cries
 of a beloved;
many times in life,
when our hearts are tired and weary,
saddled with burdens so heavy,
the most lovely company to have
is a listening heart
where words do not matter
because what we bear are too painful
to bare; just a warm, loving heart
that listens and cares is more than enough.
A loving heart is a heart that sings.
Have you noticed
the loveliest love songs
are those that speak
 of a love lost,
of a love that did not end
happily ever after,
a love hoping against hope
that someday would be
redeemed , if not here, even beyond?
A loving heart is able to sing
only when that heart is scarred
for not being loved in return,
of being disappointed,
even betrayed,
of losing
because a heart that continues to love
in darkness and pains
is the one that truly loves,
creating harmony and melodies,
a song or a poem
that ease and soothe
the many hearts hurting.
When a heart listens in silence
and sings amidst the pain,
then the heart celebrates
in finding love in what is true
and in what is good,
in self-sacrifice and
in self-giving;
only the ones who dare
to love even in pain of losing
one's self can celebrate
because in the end,
love prevails,
love triumphs;
that is why we have
Valentine's day -
a celebration of
how lovers of God and
lovers of fellowmen
overcame death
in giving their hearts,
their very selves.
Not just flowers
and chocolates.

A Valentine’s day prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Cyril, Monk & Methodius, Bishop, 14 February 2023
Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Mark 8:14-21
On this most joyous day of hearts,
dear God our Father,
I pray for us all with a heart
to have a natural heart
not hardened by sin and bitterness,
not a heart lacking in understanding
nor a heart so caught up with selfish
and personal agenda.

When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

Genesis 6:5-6
Give us a heart
inclined to you, O Lord,
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that rejoices in truth,
a heart that celebrates what is good,
a heart that sings amid the many scars
and pains of infidelity and betrayal, 
unkindness and unfriendliness,
a heart that is whole and undivided
in courage and freedom to do what 
is most loving, most self-sacrificing
and self-giving like that of Jesus Christ.

Let us not be carried away
and worst, give rise to the commercialization
of Valentine's Day that we forget the 
true meaning of loving which is 
forgetting one's self and thinking more of
the other person; how lovely it is to read how
you, O God, directed Noah to build an ark
to save his family from the great flood:
Everyone inside the ark was in pair -
Noah and his wife,
his three sons and each one's wife
as well as the animals with one male
and one female each to show us that
love is never alone,
always with another person
with a community of believers!
Many times, O Lord,
we miss your point because we are so
caught up with our own thoughts and ideas
that our eyes cannot see,
and ears cannot hear.
Teach like our brother saints today,
St. Cyril and St. Methodius
to seek your holy will 
so we may love truly
like Jesus Christ who
died on the Cross
for us.

Anniversaries are for the hearts

QuietStorm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Homily for the 55th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima University and
Fatima University Medical Center, 14 February 2022
From Facebook, 14 February 2022.

Every anniversary is a celebration for the heart, of the heart.

Every anniversary is an occasion to look and examine our hearts, to fill our hearts with gratitude and joy for the gift of life and existence, of mission that continues despite and in spite of so many things; a time to cleanse our hearts of pains from the hurts of the past; and, most of all, to open our hearts anew to more challenges and opportunities for deepening and fulfillment.

In keeping with our tradition, we gather on this Valentine’s Day to praise and thank God for his outpouring of blessings in the past 55 years to Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University Medical Center.

Despite the disruptions and problems COVID-19 had caused us that continues to this day, our hearts are overflowing with thanksgiving and great hopes for better tomorrow for our beloved OLFU and FUMC.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-3
Photo from Facebook/OLFU.

St. James reminds us today of yesterday’s sermon on the plains by Jesus Christ that truly blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and maligned and persecuted for standing for what is true (Lk.6:20-26).

Inasmuch as we greatly dislike inconvenience and sufferings, failures and powerlessness, poverty and sickness, we have experienced that true growth and maturity can only happen by going through difficulties that bring out the best in us through time than the instant gratifications and feel-good sensations offered by the world.

Those who have been with us for over 30 years have witnessed how our University and Medical Center have grown from initially two buildings – the old hospital and nursing school – here at the Valenzuela campus along McArthur Highway now composed with 16 buildings with five other campuses in Quezon City, Antipolo (with another medical center), San Fernando, Cabanatuan, and Sta. Rosa in Laguna.

There were so many difficulties and even mistakes during those years but everybody persevered, hurdling all the trials to establish Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University Medical Center as one of the leading centers of learning and medical sciences in the country with its innovative courses and programs available to more people.

We strived. And we never stopped.

Photo from Facebook/OLFU.

When the COVID-19 pandemic came in 2020, many of our plans were deferred but we continued to persevere in this modern crisis. It is still the most difficult trial we have ever faced in our lives, changing so much the way we live these days.

Despite the uncertainties and yes, fears, we sought ways and new methods in dealing with the crisis, becoming the first school of medicine to offer limited face-to-face classes. Eventually, we opened many of our courses to limited face-to-face classes last year still ahead of other schools and universities.

It was during these difficult years of the pandemic when our vision and mission have become most clear than ever to be a fount of “truth and mercy” during this great period of crisis by “rising to the top” through innovative new methods and approaches in the fields of education, medical sciences and management.

Truly, trials perfect and make us complete as men and women ready to serve and lead others to achieving their dreams and caring for the sick.

St. John of the Cross said “The soul that walks in love is never tired and never tires others.”

On this day of the hearts as we celebrate our 55th anniversary, let us borrow from this great mystic of the Church his words with a slight twist, “The heart that walks in love is never tired and never tires others”.

Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center in Antipolo, photo from OLFU/FB.

In the gospel we have heard the story of the Mary’s visitation of her cousin Elizabeth then six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary had just conceived through the Holy Spirit our Lord Jesus Christ and she hurriedly went to visit Elizabeth.

A beautiful scene of two great women together, conversing and rejoicing in God. Very rare in the bible do we find two women together in one scene and Luke presents this to us to remind us of the wrong perception at that time – that sadly persists to this day – of women taken for granted and looked down upon. Most especially the Virgin Mary who came from the obscure town of Nazareth and compared with her cousin Elizabeth who came from a family of priests, the Blessed Mother was a “nobody”, a simple, country maiden.

But in Mary’s simplicity, we find an important aspect of the heart – of being open to God, of always welcoming Jesus into our hearts to allow ourselves to be his instruments of change. What a beautiful coincidence or divine will that largely behind the success of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center are three great women too! – our late co-founder Mrs. Juliet Santos, our President, Dr. Caroline Santos-Enriquez and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Yvonne Santos-Guevarra.

Filled with love for God and for her cousin Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin Mary went in haste to visit her to show support and recognition to the plan of God to the baby in her womb; filled with love in her heart, Mary visited Elizabeth to share in God’s divine plan of saving mankind.

Aside from facing trials with perseverance, Elizabeth tells us today another thing about true blessedness through Mary: believing that the words of God will be fulfilled!

Photo from OLFU/FB.

My dear friends, the Administrators and Board Directors of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, our dear students and faculty members, fellow employees, and alumni: on this Valentine’s day we not only look into our hearts but also give our hearts to Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary had told us at Fatima, Portugal over a hundred years ago.

Like our Lady of Fatima, let our love for God flow to our love for one another.

Like Mary at Fatima, let our love for others be more intense and encompassing in leading men and women into knowledge and wisdom, well-being and health.

Like Mary at Fatima and through her prayers, let our hearts be cleansed and purified to make our faith more firm and our hope more vibrant in Christ who calls us to follow his truth and imitate his mercy. Amen.

A blessed happy 55th anniversary to you!

Valentine’s Is Love and Death Together

Lover’s Bridge in Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf, New Taipei City, Taiwan opened on Feb. 14, 2003.  Photo by author, 29 January 2019.

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 February 2019

 I thought last year’s Valentine’s Day was the most interesting in recent years because February 14 fell on an Ash Wednesday, a beautiful juxtaposition of the secular and the sacred that both remind us of love and death.  It happened again to me yesterday very early morning when I drove with my brother down south to visit a beloved aunt who is our late father’s favorite sister sick with Parkinson’s for the last seven years.  It was the closest experience I ever had with the realities of love and death intimately related.

 Unlike my previous visits to her in the last two years, the latest last January 03, Tita Neneng has always looked so sad and depressed with her situation, choosing to be left alone than be seen in her plight.  She used to be bursting with life, so busy with her career and family that upon retirement, she spent it going almost everywhere especially to visit her children in the US.  Yesterday, Tita Neneng was so different, almost like back to her old self as she smiled and talked a lot.  Her face was radiant, exuding with her beauty that had captivated so many men until her 50’s!  She was bubbling with joy as we reminisced the good old days when my father was still alive along with her older siblings, our many family reunions, and of course, our Lola Queta.  After anointing her with Holy Oil for the Sick and giving her the Viaticum, she told me something that made me cry so hard after:  “Father, I am ready.”

Of course, I knew what she meant but I had to lean close to her to ask her again what she just said.  “Father, handa na ako mamatay,” she told me with a smile on her lips while her eyes lovingly looked at me.  I asked her if she had told it to her husband, Tito Terry and she replied, “hindi pa.”  I told her she must tell it to Tito Terry so he would also be ready.  She then looked down, then faced me again and told me, “yung mga anak ko umaasa pa sa milagro.  Ayaw pa nila ako payagan.”  I looked at her and asked permission to inform her children in the States of her feeling ready.
She just smiled.  And I cried.  Very hard.
I had to excuse myself to run for some tissue in her bathroom as I could not contain myself crying and sobbing beside her.  Once in a while, a lesson from our pastoral psychology crossed my mind that as a pastor or minister, I should not cry in front of a patient, but, what can I do?  She’s my dearest aunt who had made me feel so loved and special even before I ever thought of becoming a priest in high school?!

Deep inside me, I also felt some joy amidst the sadness because I felt my Tita Neneng is indeed ready to go anytime soon because she was so composed without any tear in her eyes and always with that sweet smile on her lips.  Before, Tita Neneng would always cry to me, begging me to pray that God would take her as she could not endure her sufferings anymore.  That was before when she begged for death out of desperation as a way out of her pains and sickness.  But yesterday, she simply told me she was ready to die maybe because she must have found her direction in life already.

 Yesterday was actually a déjà vu for me, having experienced it before with my bestest friend from high school seminary, Gil who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in January 2013.  He would always cry to me whenever I would visit him, asking “why me” with the Big C?  Seven months after undergoing surgery and some chemo treatment, his doctors gave up.  It was time to face the inevitable as his cancer cells were so strongly active; but, surprisingly, my friend Gil accepted it gallantly, even with joy on his face!  I visited him thrice on his final week before he died.  And there I was, breaking into tears before him, crying like a child.  A reversal of roles had suddenly happened with Gil assuring me with everything, explaining things I should know more as a priest.  The most remarkable thing I have discovered with Gil as he approached death was the inner peace he head when he told me how he had forgiven his wife who had abandoned them, telling me how much he still loved her, vowing to keep his marital vows until his end!

 The beloved disciple of Christ wrote, “No one has ever seen God.  Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1Jn.4:12).

 Have you ever noticed how when our loved ones were diagnosed with serious illness, they always cried to us while we tried to assure them that everything would be fine?  Then, as our loved ones slowly embraced their mortality and faced death, we in turn cried before them who also assured us that everything would be fine?  There seems to be a reversal of roles when our loved ones embrace death because their love has been perfected that they no longer fear anything at all.  They must be so assured of where they are going to in life, unlike us who are still uncertain of what awaits us and that is why we cry when they go.  We not only cry for them but we cry more for ourselves because we have not seen the bigger picture yet that we still love imperfectly.  The great love stories of literature like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” show us that death and love always go together not only for a beautiful story but precisely because death shows the depth of one’s love.  It is in suffering and death love is perfected.  A heart willing to suffer and die for another is the heart that truly loves.  Though love is symbolized by the heart as we have it on Valentine’s day, love is best expressed by the Cross of Jesus Christ who showed us the way of true love.  Coming to terms with life is coming to terms with death and vice versa.  So, let us have Valentine’s day every day!

From Google.