Join us in a day of quiet and reflection.

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Do you know any young women who might be interested to go on recollection this Lent? Please share. Thanks and God bless!
 

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How a taxi driver taught the lessons of IEC 2016 to a nun.

Visita Iglesia and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Asilo de la Milagrosa, Cebu

Visita Iglesia and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at Asilo de la Milagrosa, Cebu

We just finished the Visita Iglesia of the International Eucharistic Congress 2016. It was late. My companions were all going the opposite direction and I did not know how to get back to the convent. I asked a barangay tanod who said that since many roads were closed, the best option was to take a taxi. He flagged a taxi and told the driver my address (in Cebuano).

Grateful to be on my way home after a full day, I observed the passing scene. Suddenly, the route seemed unfamiliar. The road was getting dark and winding. I started to get worried. It was my fourth day in Cebu and for the first time, I was traveling alone. I silently whispered, “Angel of God, my guardian dear…”

“Manong, parang iba po ang dinadaanan natin. Sa Daughters of St. Paul, Osmeña Blvd. po tayo, malapit sa Harrison Place.”
(Sir, it seems we’re on a different route. We’re supposed to go to the Daughters of St Paul in Osmeña Blvd, near Harrison Place.) I told the driver.
“Ay, Harrison pala. Akala ko sa Radisson,” (Oh, Harrison! I thought it was Radisson), he replied.
“Naku hindi po! Harrison. Ano po ba yung Radisson?” (No, sir, it is Harrison! But what is Radisson?), I asked.
“Malaki at magandang hotel yon – Radisson Blu.” (It’s a big and beautiful Hotel), he replied.
“Naku, Manong, hindi po tumutuloy doon ang madre. Sa kumbento lang po.” (Sir, sisters don’t stay in those hotels but in convents.)

Then we went back to where he picked me up, turned the meter back to zero, and restarted it. I was surprised, to say the least! This will never happen in Manila!
“OK lang po sa inyo? Hindi kayo lugi sa gasolina?” (Is that OK with you, sir? Won’t you be at a deficit?” I asked.
“OK lang ma’am. Mali ako eh. Dapat tinanong din kita.” (That’s OK, ma’am. It was also my fault. I should have asked your address as well.)

My worries flew out of the window, and we chatted through the traffic, as we passed by other groups still in procession. I asked about his family, his work, and the impact of IEC on Cebu and it’s residents. Courteous and simple, he readily opened his heart. He told me his dreams (a better life for his five children) and his disappointments (there were many). He is happy and proud that Cebu was chosen to host the IEC. What a great honor! Yes, there were inconveniences: traffic is worse, the hassle of closed roads and rerouting, etc., but it was OK.

We finally reached the convent. I was opening my purse to pay and give him a good tip, when he stopped me.
“Sister, huwag na po. Tulong ko na po sa misyon ninyo,” (No, Sister, no need to pay me. Keep it as my help for your mission), he said with a smile.
“Naku, Manong, kailangan nyo po ito, ng pamilya nyo,” (But sir, you need this, and your family), I insisted, giving him the money.
“Hindi po ako makakasali sa IEC, at wala naman akong maibibigay na iba. Yan na lang ang contribution ko para sa misyon,” (I cannot join the IEC nor volunteer, and I don’t have anything else to give. That’s the only contribution I can make to the mission), he said, as if pleading. “Sige na po.” (Please!)

I conceded and accepted the gift with a humbled heart. This was something extraordinary!  I was moved at the unexpected gesture of solidarity. I promised to pray for him and his family, and told him that all the sisters in my community in Pasay will do the same. (Will you please pray for him, too?)

Thank you, Manong Estrellito! You are one in a million!

Thanks to you and all the valiant volunteers who made IEC 2016 not only a huge success but also an experience of a lifetime. Thank you for showing me what the foreign delegates kept on repeating: “You are an amazing people! Always ready to help, always with a smile. Gracious and welcoming, respectful and dignified. And it’s not for show, either!”

Altars servers lead the procession to the next church.

Altars servers lead the procession to the next church.

An Irish delegate, Fr. John, observed: “Filipinos have a good heart; something you will not see anywhere else.” A heart that is grateful for having been chosen. A heart ready for any inconvenience or sacrifice in order to serve. A heart open and generous to give – whatever one can – to contribute to the common good. A heart that lives what it believes.

Yes, we heard brilliant theological discourses and touching testimonies about the Eucharist during the Congress. Yes, the Mass, the Adoration, the procession and Statio Orbis were glorious celebrations of the Eucharist. But it was the thousands of volunteers, the organizers and the people of Cebu, like Manong Estrellito, who allowed us to experience with them what being Eucharist truly means: being a people blessed, broken and shared!

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Contemplative Life and Mission

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Here’s my reflection for World Mission Sunday which appears in the Homily Guides and Reflections for World Mission Month 2015:

One of the most touching moments of Pope Francis’ visit to our country early this year was the Mass at Tacloban airport. He told the people of Leyte and neighboring provinces who suffered greatly because of typhoon Yolanda: “I come to tell you that Jesus is Lord, and he never lets us down… So many of you have lost everything… I do not know what to say to you – but the Lord knows… All I can do is keep silent… And I walk with you all, with my silent heart…”

We were moved, some even to tears, because in him we felt the very closeness of Jesus. We felt loved, and in spite of all our trials and sufferings, our weakness and poverty, and the inclement weather, we rejoiced! Through his presence, his gestures, his words and his silence, Pope Francis spoke to the heart of each single Filipino.

This is what mission is about – to speak of Jesus and to allow Jesus to speak to the hearts of people. Today, as we celebrate Word Mission Sunday, the Holy Father reminds us: “When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of this love which gives us dignity and sustains us. And we realize that this same love expands to embrace all humanity – and that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people.”

“He wants to make use of you…” yes, YOU… to get closer to all peoples – your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your co-workers, your Facebook friends, your co-parishioners. He also wants to get close to people who are in the “peripheries,” the people you evade or do not notice: beggars at the church doors; street children; young people lost in drugs; the elderly; children and women who are trafficked; people with HIV/AIDS; victims of natural disasters; corrupt politicians; IS terrorists; unscrupulous businessmen; etc. Yes, he wants to get close to and loves even your enemies, plus the billions of people who do not yet know him.
You may say, “I am just an ordinary person with no particular gifts, power, position, wealth or connections. How can Jesus make use of me?”

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples and all of us: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

To serve and to give one’s life. This is what Jesus did. Like the suffering servant of Isaiah in the first reading: because of Jesus’ affliction we shall see the light in fullness of days. Through his suffering, Jesus shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.

A 27-year old volunteer, Kristel Padasas, allowed Jesus to make us of her to get close to his people. Do you remember her? She died in an accident when Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Tacloban. Her dedication to the people affected by the typhoon extended beyond her official work with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). She traveled a great distance to volunteer at the papal mass and to remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. She came: “to serve and to give her life for many.” She volunteered and offered not only her talents, her time, her treasures but also her very life to serve the poorest of the poor!

Pope Francis recounts that when he was 21 he got seriously ill and had to have part of his lung removed. He was in great pain and the usual greetings did not help him. It was his catechism teacher, Sr. Dolores, who told him something that struck him and gave him peace: “Keep imitating Jesus.” In the light of those words, even everyday suffering took on a different value. Suffering was not taken away, but it gained significance. Thanks to a religious sister whose wise words continue to enlighten the Pope.

On this Year of Consecrated Life, we look to our brothers and sisters who have given up everything to follow the poor, chaste and obedient Jesus. Religious men and women who by their mission and by their life proclaim the Gospel “to the poor, the sick and those who are often looked down upon or forgotten.” It is their love for Jesus and for his people that impels them to bring the “Gospel, the source of joy, liberation and salvation for all men and women.”

“The mission of the servants of the Word – bishops, priests, religious and laity – is to allow everyone, without exception, to enter into a personal relationship with Christ… All the faithful are called to live their baptismal commitment to the fullest, in accordance with the personal situation of each.”

As we pray for all the missionaries in all corners of the world who continue to offer their lives for Jesus and his people, let us support them with our prayers, sacrifices and offerings.
Pope Francis appeals to all of us, but most especially to young people who are capable of courageous witness and generous deeds: “Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself.”

Jesus is calling you to be his presence by a total gift of yourself. Will you come? Will you allow him to send you forth and experience him “walking with you, speaking with you, breathing with you?”

May Mary, the Queen of Apostles, sustain and protect all missionaries. May she pray for many young men and women to answer the call for more laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.

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What makes a man? Big Game, the movie, shows us.

big gameFinn Oskari (Onni Tommila) faces what every Finnish boy dreams of on the eve of his 13th birthday: to prove himself a man by surviving a day and a night in the wilds, catch game, and do his father proud. It doesn’t matter if he can barely bend his bowstring, let alone hunt for deer on his own.  Meanwhile, Moore (Samuel L. Jackson), the President of the United States of America is on his way to a G-8 summit meet when Air Force One is suddenly attacked by missiles. He is promptly ensured safety through the escape pod by Morris (Ray Stevenson), head security officer, before the plane crashes on to the forest floor where Oskari is. The young boy finds the President and drags him along his solitary pursuit only to discover that Moore is being hunted by a psychopath with the help of his trusted security aid.  Will Oskari prove himself and bag the biggest game of all?

Read full review and ratings at CBCP CINEMA or continue below:

Big Game opens with a spectacular and breathtaking sweep of what is supposed to be Finnish mountains and woods (it’s actually Bavaria, Germany). The awesome opening sequence alone makes your movie ticket worth it. There is great chemistry between young Onni Tommila and Samuel L. Jackson who both wear their characters with a delightful and solid performance. The action sequences are well choreographed and the musical score heightens the thrill of the adventure. Some parts are ridiculous but the dialogue has wit and it has lots of fun. Plot holes and the war room scenes leave much to be desired. In spite of its flaws, Big Game is a great package of adventure, humor, and ingenuity that somehow works and manages to inject real inspiration without being preachy.

Big Game actually parodies current conceptions of what it means to be a man. It presents a bumbling president, a rich psychopath, a corrupt secret agent, an incompetent intelligence team, a well-meaning but unenlightened father, and a male community whose criterion for manhood is survival in the wild and a trophy kill. Instead the film shows man’s greatness in the capacity to forget himself and his pursuits in order to help another human being in need. When he surrenders posturing to getting his hands dirty, and valiantly defies any thought for self-preservation to save another, then he becomes a man.

There’s one poignant scene in the wilds when Oskari weeps not because his father made sure he’d be successful. He realizes that even his own father did not believe in him. He throws caution to the wind, and stands up to the challenge surprising even himself. As always, the temptation is to strive and struggle for power, possessions, prestige and position. Big Game teaches us, without any allusion to God or Jesus, the true measure of a man: “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as ransom for many.”

DIRECTOR: Jalmari Helander
LEAD CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Jorma Tommila, Risto Salmi, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent
SCREENWRITER:  Jalmari Helander
PRODUCER:  Will Clarke, Petri Jokiranta, Andy Mayson, Jens Meurer  EDITOR:  Iikka Hesse
MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Juri Seppä, Miska Seppä
GENRE: Action, Adventure
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mika Orasmaa
DISTRIBUTOR: Europa Corp.
LOCATION:  Germany
RUNNING TIME:  110 minutes

TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT:    3.5
MORAL ASSESSMENT:  3.5                      
MTRCB RATING: PG 13
CINEMA RATING: PG 13

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Three Ladies. One Masterpiece: Mother

It was Christmas Eve 2014 and the day’s itinerary was Basey and Marabut, Western Samar. “What surprises has God in store for me?” I wondered. While waiting for the jeepney to fill up, I looked around the terminal and took random pictures.

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The bus and jeepney terminal

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An empty shell of a house…

Then I saw a heap and asked a lady seated nearby what it was. She said it was the house built for their family after Yolanda. It collapsed like a house of cards under typhoon Ruby’s relentless downpour and strong winds for over two days.

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Newly-constructed house collapses under typhoon Ruby’s fury.

“So, where do you live?” I asked.
She pointed behind her: “This is where we stay for now.”

after_ruby

“This is where we stay for now.”

She ekes out a living with her five children by selling bottles of mineral water, soft drinks and iced tea to travellers. They keep their products cool in a Styrofoam chiller and the children help peddle the drinks at the terminal and elsewhere as early as 3:00 AM. Sometimes they earn enough for food.

I would have wanted to listen more to their story but the conductor called me to come. It was time for the jeepney to leave for Basey, Samar.

How can a family of seven fit in what appears to be a 12 x 6 sq. ft. structure? Do the children go to school? What if there is another typhoon?

Still wondering why this family had not been helped sufficiently, I noticed an old lady in front of me. I surreptitiously took her photo, pretending to capture the passing scenery behind her. The look on her face never changed.

lolaI noticed her hardworking hands, the strength of her shoulders, her far-away look, and her sad, sad eyes.
What anguish has she gone through?
Does she have somewhere to lay her head at night?
Will she be safe and warm when it rains?
Does she have enough to eat?
Is there someone for her?

lolaIt was drizzling and there was a nip in the air as I walked through the barangays of Marabut.

An elderly lady sat in front of her house and smiled as I passed by. I took a snap and showed it to her.

They built her a new house after Yolanda. But now, she lives alone. She tries to be content though, because some of her children live nearby and they bring her food.
lola2
I asked how old she is and she said: “Sixty.”
Surprised, I took another photo.

“No, that’s not true,” she said smiling, “I can’t remember anymore…”

 

 

Three ladies. All mothers. Valiant women who have suffered the fury of Yolanda, of Ruby and the many storms of life.

What goes on in their mind? in their heart?

What is their story? Who will tell it? Will we listen?

If what St. Therese said is true: “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother,” why are mothers often abandoned, neglected, ignored?

Pope Francis in his recent general audience observed: “All of us give credit to our mothers for life and many other things, but not always are they listened to or helped in everyday life…Their important contribution to the life of society, their daily sacrifices and their aspirations are not always properly appreciated.”

“It is they, mothers, who often give the first roots of the faith, the ones that permeate deepest; without them not only would the faithful be lost, but also a good part of the deepest fire of our faith,” he explained.

Look at the faces of these women, etched with the passage of time, with concern, with sacrifice, even with martyrdom.

What do you see?

How do they speak to you? to your heart?

What will you do?

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I believe. Personal credo of Jorge Mario Bergoglio (future Pope Francis)

IMG_7314-1Here’s a gem I found this morning. Just before ordination, the young Bergoglio went on a retreat and penned this personal credo.

I want to believe in God the Father who loves me like a child, and in Jesus, the Lord who infused my life with His Spirit, to make me smile and so carry me to the eternal Kingdom of life.

I believe in the Church.

I believe in my life story, which was pierced by God’s loving gaze, who on that spring day of 21st September, came out to meet me to invite me to follow him.

I believe in my pain, made fruitless by the egotism in which I take refuge.

I believe in the stinginess of my soul, which seeks to take without giving.

I believe in the goodness of others, and that I must love them without fear and without betraying them, never seeking my own security.

I believe in the religious life.

I believe I wish to love a lot.

I believe in the burning death of each day, from which I flee but which smiles at me, inviting me to accept her.

I believe in God’s patience, as good and as welcoming as a summer’s night.

I believe that Dad is with the Lord in heaven.

I believe that Fr. Duarte is there, too, interceding for my priesthood.

I believe in Mary, my Mother, who loves me and will never leave me alone.

And I believe in the surprise of each day, in which will be manifest love, strength, betrayal, and sin, which will be always with me until that definitive encounter with that marvelous face which I do not know, which always escapes me, but which I wish to know and love. Amen.

From The Great Reformer by Austen Ivereigh

 

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How does a nightmare become a blessing?

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Rodelia Gaddi in the living room of her newly-rebuilt house furnished through the help of family and friends.

 

Basey, Western Samar –

“For nights, I could not sleep. Every time I closed my eyes I could see my father clutching his chest, falling into the waters as it churned and swallowed him up.”

 

 

Rodelia Gaddi, 44, retells that fateful November day with a tremulous voice and tears, then beams a beautiful smile. “I learned a lot from the experience of Yolanda, and I am so blessed. I am convinced that I still have a mission. Even if there are problems now, I just smile. I have surrendered my life to God. Bahala na siya sa akin.”

Rodelia is the sixth of nine children. From childhood she has been sickly and her parents doted on her. Her brothers and sisters eventually married and had their own families. She took care of her sickly and aging parents, never married, and was happy managing a kind of general merchandise store at home. Her siblings would come to visit their parents and would assist her in whatever she needed.

On November 8, 2013, she started to bring some of their things to the second floor, in case of a flood. Her mother had died in January that year, and was living only with her father. They were advised about the oncoming typhoon but thought it was like the previous ones. There was no explanation from the authorities or the media what a typhoon surge is.

She told her father to go up after her and was busy putting the things in order on the second floor that morning when suddenly she heard her father call her and shout: “Water!”

She went to her father but the water has entered the house. She tried to get to him, saw him clutch his chest and fell into the water out of her reach. Then the water churned. She tried to go up again, but their house has become a sea. She let herself out of the second floor window and swam, clutching on an electric cable so as not to be carried away by the strong current. She eventually found shelter in a neighbor’s house on higher ground.

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Rodelia’s next door neighbor. Almost all the houses in the area were washed out.

The waters subsided. She was safe. But her father was gone. Nothing was left of their ancestral house except the floor. Even the electric posts and cables she clung to have been washed away. The only thing she had were the pyjamas she was wearing. Still grieving from the loss of her mother, she now had to endure this nightmare. It was just too much.

Her older brother brought her to his home where she stayed until she could find her feet. After four days, they dug her father’s body under the rubble, 500 meters from the house. Thanks to Tyson, his pet dog, who kept on howling as it circled the area where his body was.

Her brother rebuilt the house with the help of her other siblings and relatives. Slowly it is becoming a home. She said everything she has is a gift from her family, relatives and friends. She now lives alone with Tyson, and has a small sari-sari store that keeps her busy. She saved the money she received from friends and family and used it as capital for her store.

Rodelia said the experience deepened her faith in God. She took care of her parents all these years, and now she thinks this is God’s gift to her – that he takes care of her through her brothers and sisters, her neighbors, relatives and friends. They would come just to check on her. Sometimes they bring her meals or invite her to dine with them, or they come simply to be with her.

She also sees material things as transitory – in a blink of an eye, it can disappear. “My father’s entire savings were gone, swallowed up by the sea. Not even a photograph of the house was left.”

image“What remains is pakikipagkapwa – magandang pakikisama.” These words can be translated as: being one with others, solidarity, fellowship, establishing good relationships, camaraderie, neighborliness, etc. “I still weep from time to time but I was able to move on because I know I am not alone,” Rodelia said with a smile. This encourages her to face each day, and extend a helping hand to others who are also in need.

In Rodelia’s life mercy and compassion has come full circle. And in the midst of the tragedy of Yolanda, she has found a piece of heaven. For as Pope Francis said: “Mercy towards all is the key to heaven.” Through the mercy and love of God, her nightmare has turned into a blessing.

 

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