Monday, March 27, 2017

Sharing St. Jude

March 26, 2017
I met Malou today, Sunday, on her way out of our church. Her face was radiant as she beamed with smile and greeted friends  after the mass. "You look great," I managed to shout in the midst of the crowd that separated us in that brief encounter with her.  "Yes, the Lord is good," she yelled back.
Upon getting back home, I thought of finally posting the following which had remained a draft in my bunch of unposted drafts.

Feb. 26, 2016
Third Friday of Lent, third Friday of doing the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Peace with the parish group. Our need to give, to share, to show the mercy that our Lord, Jesus Christ, has exhorted us to put into action all the days of our lives.
One of my Lenten offerings--sharing the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus, saint of Hopeless Cases, with Malu, a co-parishioner battling cancer. I had bought this statue in Manila during my visit there in 2010 and meant to donate it to OLP, hoping it would find a place in one corner of the church for St. Jude devotees who have been missing the huge statue in our church before the church was vandalized some dozen years or so ago. Imagine having my saint's statue for years since 2010 standing in a corner of my house, still wrapped, because I didn't have the courage to offer it to my church, thinking my pastors (previous and current) might find it too tiny in comparison with the life-sized images that adorned our church so beautifully.

Lately, however, I noticed this co-parishioner of mine wearing gauze mask I that covered her nose and mouth. I learned from the deacon's wife, that it was because she was diagnosed terminally ill, battling colon cancer. What an opportune time for me to finally be able to share this image of St. Jude and get others the chance to venerate the Saint with the 40-day novena that I resorted to some fifty years ago.
Half a century ago, I had what the doctors suspected was cancerous growth on my left jaw. I had just delivered a baby in Manila, and my husband was thousands of miles away in Iowa, United States. The lump on my jaw started as a small-size growth that slowly grew in size till it was like a ball that was beginning to plague me with pain. I finally allowed myself to undergo a biopsy procedure performed by two doctors at the San Lazaro Hospital. The doctors, or at least one of them, was supposed to be a relative of the executive assistant of the then Secretary of Health in whose office I was working as Information Officer. So. I trusted I was in good hands. While on the operating table, I  heard one of the doctors saying in the dialect Pampango that he could not go deeper because the knife was not sharp enough. They just assumed I would not understand. (My family happens to come from Tarlac where Pampango is one of the dialects spoken.)  The biopsy done, one of these doctors told me to return the following day, prepare blood for transfusion because if they find the cyst malignant,  they would do a major surgery. With what I overheard them say in the dialect while doing the procedure on me, I must admit I lost complete confidence in their being properly equipped somehow. Still,  I was alone (my husband at the University of Iowa where he was sent by the American Embassy as a Fulbright scholar), I had two babies I didn't want to leave motherless, could not afford to go to a private doctor, so what choice did I have?  I had to take a chance. 
When my father learned I had gone through that procedure without telling anybody in my family, he was upset. I did't want to worry anyone, least of all my family and my husband in far-away Iowa. But my father would not let me go back to the hospital without him just like when I delivered my Melissa. At that time, there was the whole family: my parents, brothers sharing in the excitement of birthing my baby. But this time, it was anxiety written all over the faces of my parents.  There was reason to worry. As I was to learn later on, numerous tumor types, both benign and malignant, originate in the jaw and could turn into cancer. 

It was my faith I had to fall back on. I turned to St. Jude I had heard about as the patron of hopeless cases. I went everyday to the Holy Spirit Church where a statue of St. Jude stood. Luckily, the church was just across the street from my place of work (Department of Health). What powerful intercessor was St. Jude to have raised my prayer to Mother Mary and to the Lord. The lump on my left jaw, that had grown to fist proportion for weeks, slowly subsided until completely gone on the fortieth day.
They say there's always a clinical explanation for anything we look at as miracle. But whatever the explanation was, the circumstance that brings it about I consider as miracle itself. God makes those circumstances possible; God paves the way. Were the doctors who did the biopsy wrong? Was our chance meeting with that doctor friend of my father on our way to another consultation paved by the traffic hand of God? The doctor friend prescribed a medication that induced me to get that much needed sleep I was deprived of because of caring for two babies and earning a living at the same time. Stress, lack of sleep, worries that can eat up your health. Whatever the circumstance that brought about the healing, I know was brought about by Divine Providence. I don't believe it was just my fear that prevented me from undergoing what could have been a major surgery scheduled for me. It was not just chance that my father and I met that doctor friend of his who, after feeling the growing lump, dismissed it as just a growth that must have resulted from stress and lack of sleep.

To share St. Jude as my intercessor to the miracle I had experienced is the least I can do to make known to others St. Jude. The image I have had for almost five years in my house, still wrapped since the time I had bought it from Manila in 2010 suddenly opened my eyes to start sharing the 40-day novena I prayed for St Jude's intercession during that critical stage of my life of being alone to shoulder all the burden of caring for my two babies while my husband was in Iowa. Malou was dying of colon cancer. Why not share my faith and trust in the Lord?
Malou thankfully accepted the St. Jude's image I lent her with her promise she would do the 40-day novena I copy-furnished her. After petitioning God through St. Jude for forty days, she informed me the doctor told her her cancer has been "sleeping," whatever that means. She further gave the good news that her doctor decided it best not to perform surgery on her lest "the cancer will activate and spread." Is it the intercession of St. Jude that is prolonging her life? She said she had prayed through a few other saints. But whatever it is, the fact remains that prayers have proved to be the powerful tools in reaching our Lord. And saints have proven, time and again, as succors praying for us if we call on them to intercede for us. The Lord listens, though whatever He wills, we must abide by. He knows best when to call us. In the meantime, we serve in gratefulness, humility, and love.

Mother Mary's Tears

March 25, 2017

Witnessed by Legionaries of West San Fernando Valley who came early today to the Annual Legion of Mary Acies Event at St. John Baptist DeLa Salle, the statue of the Blessed Mother Mary shedding tears. My iPad was out of battery and I wasn't able to take pictures. But a few others who took pictures captured the image so clearly: both eyes moist and two tears that fell down the cheeks and disappeared as the carosa carrying the image was wheeled into the church. Everyone was asking, Why is Mary weeping? Is it because the world is in turmoil and she wants us to pray more? Why did the tears disappear as we started our Acies ceremony? Is it because she was pleased that we, Mary's legion in the whole West San Fernando Valley, united en masse to renew our individual and collective fealty and receive her blessing for renewed strength in serving the Lord? Tears of joy, then? Our hope and our love, my Lady. We continue to pray to God unceasingly through Her intercession.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sharing this Catholic Teaching on Confession

Catholic Teaching on Confessioncontrib_john_trigilio.jpg
by Fr. John Trigilio, PhD, ThD.
Clear and concise Catholic Moral guidance on Confession

Q. Why should Catholics confess their sins to a priest?  What sins need to be confessed?

A. After Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, he appeared to the Apostles, breathed on them and said: “receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive, are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, are retained.” (John 20:22-23) Had Jesus not wanted or intended his ordained ministers to absolve sins, why would he have said this in the Gospel? Confession has been practiced in the church from day one. 

Pope St. Leo the Great in the middle of the fifth century said: “It is with regard to the reception of penance. An abuse has crept in which requires that the faithful write out their individual sins in a little book which is then to be read out loud to the public. All that is necessary, however, is for the sinner to manifest his conscience in a secret confession to the priests alone… It is sufficient, therefore, to have first offered one’s confession to God, and then also to the priest, who acts as an intercessor for the transgressions of the penitents.”  

confession2-287x300.jpgThe Catechism explains: 
During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this "order of penitents" (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the "private" practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day. (#1447)

Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize and therefore we have the sacrament of Baptism. He told them at the Last Supper to do likewise, so we have the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (also known as the Mass). Finally, He gave the power to forgive sins in His name and so we have the sacrament of Penance. It would be an act of disobedience were the church not to have confessions.

JesusForgives-287x400.jpgThe person confessing their sins is not telling the priest as an individual person, rather, he or she is confessing TO Jesus THROUGH the priest. The sacrament of Holy Orders (ordination) makes a man an alter-Christus (other Christ) who has the divine power to absolve (forgive) sins in the name of Jesus as the priest acts IN PERSONA CHRISTI (in the Person of Christ). Hence, the priest says: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.” Note that the priest does not say “Jesus absolves you.” He uses the first person pronoun “I absolve you.” Likewise, at Mass, the priest takes bread and wine and says: “this is MY body” and “this is MY blood”. 
The priest speaks AS IF Jesus himself were standing there saying the words. Christ is saying the words via the priest by virtue of Holy Orders.

Since the penitent is confessing his or her sins to Jesus through the priest, the priest is absolutely forbidden to reveal the identity of the person and cannot reveal the sins being confessed either. Furthermore, the priest cannot act upon anything he heard in the sacrament of penance. This secrecy or confidentiality is called the Seal of Confession. It is sacrosanct. No bishop or pope can make any priest reveal what he heard or from whom he heard it. He must be willing to die, be tortured or imprisoned rather than violate the seal.

Confession3-258x258.jpgAll mortal sins committed after Baptism and since the last valid confession must be confessed in the sacrament of penance before the next time the person receives Holy Communion or any other sacrament (Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders). Venial sins may be confessed in addition to all mortal sins or if no mortal sins can be remembered. Any mortal sins innocently forgotten are also absolved. Only ones that are intentionally, deliberately and consciously withheld are not forgiven and the entire confession is rendered invalid.

Names of cooperators or conspirators in sins are not mentioned and the date, time and place are not given either. Place would only be pertinent if the sin occurred in sacred space (church, chapel, oratory, shrine, convent, sanctuary, etc.) which would make the sin more terrible. Precise number of times can be approximated, for example, “I lied several times” or “I missed Mass all last month” whereas certain sins, like adultery, abortion, etc., require more specifics like “I had two abortions” or “I cheated on my husband five times”.

Confessional-166x300.jpgMortal sins must meet three criteria: grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate and free consent. If one or more is missing, then it is subjectively considered a venial sin. Hence, stealing a pencil is not grave matter but stealing a dollar from a homeless person is very serious. Some sins are intrinsically evil and are always considered grave matter (fornication, adultery, masturbation, rape, incest, murder, mugging, desecrating a holy place like church, synagogue or cemetery, cheating the poor, abusing children, lying under oath, etc.)  Other sins are grave due to circumstances of place or person. For example, slapping your brother or sister is bad but slapping your mother or father or grandparent is far worse. The insult is measured by the dignity of the person being offended. Slapping a stranger who verbally insults you is not grave matter but decking a nun is grave. Getting intoxicated and then driving is grave matter whereas having a few too many but having a designated driver take you home is a less serious offense.
 * * * * * * * * *
Practical Application:

Confession, or Reconciliation as it is commonly known, is par excellence the Sacrament of Mercy! During this Holy Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us take advantage of this wonderful sacrament and frequently cleanse our souls in the Blood of Christ and be strengthened by His grace.

Highlighting the importance of confession, a psychology professor once stated: “The Catholics have it right. Confession is the best thing for mental health. It provides the sinner with a chance to voice their sins, receive absolution, be completely forgiven, and start anew. Nothing is more beneficial for mental health than this!”

Thus, we see that Our Lord is both the Good Shepherd caring for His sheep and the Divine Psychologist who provides the remedy for all sin, all anxiety, all doubt and all fear.

Through a good confession, we can be certain that God has forgiven us. It is imperative, however, that we learn to forgive ourselves. No matter the gravity of our sins, Our Lord Jesus Christ forgives us through the Sacrament of Confession. This is the reason we can forgive ourselves and with humility and gratitude proceed forward along the path of virtue through God’s merciful grace.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Not miracles? How do you explain the fact that I got healed two weeks ahead of what two doctors had predicted would take before my wound would heal and any procedure (biopsy, etc) could be done to determine any cancerous growth? How would you explain that a stranger would ring my door bell practically in the middle of the night to warn me my garage door was open and then such messenger of God would disappear like a ghost? How would you explain that a neighbor I had never met before would come to my rescue at 9 pm when I got locked out of my back door and no locksmith shop was open? And how would you explain that another neighbor just happened to be driving into his garage when I desperately needed help to push back a steel cabinet that slid and blocked my garage door? So many other events in the past that had saved me from the lows, the vicissitudes of life. What about my child being saved from a drowning incident, almost not breathing but after the parents prayed  the rosary, came to life, throwing up all the water he had swallowed and the doctor himself saying "it was a miracle that he not only survived it but, upon examination, didn't have any brain damage usually suffered by those who had such drowning experience The skeptics say it's just pure chance. What a coincidence. Who hears prayers and wills these unexplained events would happen and save this undeserving soul? Who?
"Naturalistic scientists presuppose that the universe is structured and follows rational physical laws which can be determined by experimentation and observation. The Bible actually teaches this concept. But why is there constancy in the universe and why does it follow rational laws? Because there is a Creator, because God is logical and has imposed order on the universe. The universe obeys laws because God established them. And God has given us the capability for these laws to be discovered by man; God created our mind—we are made in His image. God also wants us to search out knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 1:5, 4:7, 16:16, 23:23, 25:2).
Does this of necessity mean that science must exclude the miraculous? Since God is capable of creating the universe and establishing the natural laws which govern it, would He not also be able to supersede those laws occasionally when He chooses? It is illogical to think that God could create the universe out of nothing but then would be powerless over it."

"Naturalistic scientists presuppose that the universe is structured and follows rational physical laws which can be determined by experimentation and observation. The Bible actually teaches this concept. But why is there constancy in the universe and why does it follow rational laws? Because there is a Creator, because God is logical and has imposed order on the universe. The universe obeys laws because God established them. And God has given us the capability for these laws to be discovered by man; God created our mind—we are made in His image. God also wants us to search out knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 1:5, 4:7, 16:16, 23:23, 25:2).
Does this of necessity mean that science must exclude the miraculous? Since God is capable of creating the universe and establishing the natural laws which govern it, would He not also be able to supersede those laws occasionally when He chooses? It is illogical to think that God could create the universe out of nothing but then would be powerless over it."         

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Darkness of the Soul

Darkness of the soul has burdened some saints, we read. But laymen even more so, especially when faced with injustice in a school that purports to work under a religious organization. One may think of himself as having a strong faith but can still experience disillusionment. What a struggle of the soul. St. John of the Cross describes it more aptly':
"Darkness of the happy night, 
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, 
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Turning octogenarian, I looked back and realized how much I have gone through: the joys, the pains, sufferings, all sorts of challenges, you name it. Tasted all kinds of work: managing editor of a monthly magazine--my first job, hands-on training (can't forget our beloved college dean, Father Panizo. O.P., sending me--based on my grades, he had said-- to the publisher, even while still in my senior year as a Journalism student, lasted five years there) ; PRO-ing at the Girls Scouts of the Phils. for two years, and later at the Dept. of Health, staying there for three years; subbing briefly as a creative writing instructor at UST; ghost-writing for the then Sec. of Soc. Welfare Dept. where I stayed 13 years,. heading the Dept.'s Prog. Planning & Evaluation Division through which I had witnessed first-hand the abject plight of the rural poor and the ferocity of the guerrilla NPAs, as I traveled around the country Then, experiencing the oppression of those in the Cory Aquino cabinet--ironical because I was one of those who rallied with the People's Revolution and put her up there.. Who would have known that after fighting the oppression of one, you would encounter another kind of oppression under the one you fought for? Incredible, huh?

Returning to the U.S., doing administrative work as head of the Learning Center of a non-profit org'n; working unpaid overtime hours, my volunteer assistant called a "bitch" by the Program Director--obvious discrimination because we're the only Filipinos among whites and Hispanics; couldn't help standing by, ended up fighting discriminatory behavior of the powers-that-be.and finally, pleading to the Lord to save me from cursing the darkness and to let me light my candle elsewhere I can serve better, He led me to the downtrodden, the alienated non-English speakers aching to be part of the mainstream, to the aged and infirm I must bring the Holy Eucharist to. I organized a community outreach to empower the non-English learners with English skills, integrating parenting skills to enable them to follow through their children's school lessons and pursue their own personal and spiritual growth. It was like getting into social work all over again, linked with teaching our learners to learn and to love it. Overseeing this for 18 years that went by unnoticed, enjoying it even as I settled as an ESL instructor at the Kennedy San Fernando Adult School with the much-loved principal Mrs. Sarina MacMillan who graciously agreed to sponsor my baby ESL Program at Our Lady of Peace. This in addition to my regular teaching hours at Kennedy. 

What does one do in times of loneliness when a loved one is called by God?  Back to writing poetry, fiction, essays that are mostly pushed to the back-burner because of the call to volunteerism. Published some poetry, essays, winning three contests along the way, though unknown to most--no big deal, as compared to the monumental writings of a husband, a giant in Philippine literature.

My third career, from journalist to social welfare program planner and now an English instructor, flourished as Mrs. MacMillan's husband, the equally much-loved Mr. MacMillan, then principal of Van Nuys Community Adult School, hearing about me from Mrs. MacMillan, offered additional hours at the Van Nuys CAS. Those were fruitful years as I savored that privilege of serving God by serving others while earning for my family to let my husband share his gift of writing with the world. The grace of God is truly amazing. I have continued serving the Lord and going on in my faith journey. Challenges, afterall, are mere trials to test our patience and faithfulness to God and to hone our character.

Beginning another chapter in life alone, overcoming more vicissitudes of life in solitude--a frail, aging woman can do that  only with the grace of God. The children have grown up and on their own, but a mother's mission is not over yet. To have raised them to be strong, loving, honest, self-reliant, trustworthy, just, and dependable is not enough. A mother never stops  mothering, worrying, praying for them long after they have left the nest. Her ultimate mission is to see them through that long day's journey into Light

 In the meantime, we look inward, we forgive our oppressors and those who have offended us as we ourselves ask for forgiveness for our own offenses. God is all-forgiving and merciful. Why shouldn't we be? That's what He came down on earth for--to redeem us and to show the way, right? Praise the Lord, O my soul, and thank Him no end for the blessings throughout these eighty years! Now, the wait will just be for loved ones to walk with me in that long, challenging, sometimes perilous, but exciting  journey into that final destiny we all must reach. That done, I can rest.#

Monday, June 13, 2016

Which Saint's way should I follow? by Neela Kale

Which saint’s way should I follow?

Question: Ignatian spirituality, Benedictine, Carmelite, Franciscan — I love them all. Love the thoughts, prayers; but how do I know which “way” fits me best? It feels peculiar to follow one “way” because then I feel as if I am veering from Jesus and “picking” St. Benedict’s way or St. Ignatius’ way, etc.
It sounds like you’re already following the way that fits you best — the way of Christ. Each of the strands within Catholic Christian spirituality that you mentioned is meant to lead you ever closer to Christ. The founder of a true Christian religious movement does not want others to follow him or her, but rather to follow Christ, and to reap the benefits of the founder’s spiritual insights on that journey. While some people have a deep affinity for one or another spiritual tradition, even those who are members of religious orders make their first and foremost commitment not in their religious profession but in the vows of baptism, renewed and reclaimed over the course of a lifetime. These spiritualities are also not mutually exclusive, and your affinities may change over the years. During particular times in your life, you may find great support in the Ignatian Examen, for example, or in the beloved prayers of the Franciscan tradition.
If you’re considering a more specific commitment, such as entering a religious order, you will need to
carefully discern what spirituality helps you to respond to the universal call to holiness in the unique way that only you can — your vocation. Your question reveals something that might be a good clue in your discernment: If you feel that you’ve veered away from Jesus and “picked” someone else, think twice about your choice. The temptation for charismatic leaders to get in the way, rather than to point the way towards Christ, has been with the Church since its earliest days. Consider Paul’s words in the first letter to the Corinthians: “One of you will say, ‘I belong to Paul,’ another, ‘I belong to Apollos,’ still another, ‘Cephas has my allegiance,’ and the fourth, ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ, then, been divided into parts? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Was it in Paul’s name that you were baptized?” (See 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). It’s not about Ignatius or Benedict or Francis, any more than it was about Paul or Apollos or Cephas in the early Church. Stay focused on Christ, in whose name you were baptized, and you will find the way.