Your daily shot of hope & fun!

Dive

‘Dive into deeper connections’. This was the resounding call of the session last Sunday at The Feast. Bro. Bo Sanchez said despite the thousands of “likes” and “followers” and smiling emojis we’re getting in our Facebook’s News Feed, he can sense a growing loneliness among people.

He also said, we’re in the middle of a Digital Tsunami. According to Global Digital Report, the average Filipino spends 3 hours and 57 minutes a day on social media alone.

More presence online and less connections offline.

We need to connect more with each other.

Dive

We often hide our inner thoughts and feelings because we’re concerned if they’ll be accepted by other people. But we also shut out other people from knowing and accepting us by not being open. By not being open with others, we’re really saying we don’t fully accept ourselves. We’re denying ourselves that chance to speak out, to declare our inner thoughts and feelings.

At the Awesome Kids’ service we highlighted to the children the importance of being a good friend to each other.

Cartoons with their BFFs and besties were the focus during the activity.

During our Light Group (LG), we discussed the importance of a gadget-free encounters with people that matters to you.

To put away mobiles phones during bonding moments with friends and cherish more the presence of each other.

If you notice that a friend is carrying a burden, there’s only one thing to do. Say these 4 magical words: “I’m here for you.”

Listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t give advice. Don’t preach. Don’t pontificate. Shut your mouth and listen.

Being open is a kind of invitation to others. What you share about yourself should encourage others to come in, so to speak, and make contact with you. To involve themselves with you.

Being open is difficult. It makes us feel vulnerable, psychologically naked and usually anxious. But it also is important in terms of really letting others get to understand how we think, how we feel and what we believe.

Here are 5 ways for you to be more open.

1. Make your outside behavior the same or congruent with your inside feelings and thoughts.

2. Focus on feelings. It’s usually easier to share opinions or thoughts about something. Everybody has an opinion. It’s harder to share feelings. Be in touch with how you feel. Share openly the feelings as much as you can. Some feelings cover or come from other feelings. Anger may come from hurt. We might find it easier to show the anger. However, if we work really hard and try to understand the hurt, if we share the hurt and are open about the hurt, we are actually being more open at a deeper level.

3. Try to change your questions into statements. Sometimes, we have an attitude or feeling about something and we’re afraid to share it, we’re afraid to be open. Instead, we ask a question. For instance, we might say “do you love me?”, when instead we want to say I love you. Change your questions into statements you can make about yourself.

4. Communicate in the first person. Begin sentences with “I” instead of “you”. You might say, ” I feel happy that you’re here,” instead of asking, “Are you glad that you’re here?”

5. Try not to say, “I don’t know.” This generally means I don’t want to think about it anymore. You’re probably getting to a level of being open that makes you anxious. Decide what it is and whether you can really trust it with the other person or persons.

God is Love

This is so powerful that I need to share this to all young Filipinos especially to my students. We choose to love but be firm in the faith.

God is love

Photo credits to the owner.

Fatherly Message to the Youth and Children of the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan

My dear children of God in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan:

Through social media, you have been sadly exposed to the cursing, threats and shaming by the President of our country. Choose to love him nevertheless, but stay in the truth of our faith. Be firm in faith.

He must have received so much rejection and hurts in the past that he blurts out so much hatred and angst now. If he had been loved much, he would be giving so much of that love too. He could be a victim of his scarred past and his wounded background. Pray for him with compassion. We pray for his healing and for God’s forgiveness on him but we must rebuke his errors about our Christian faith. He is a person in authority and some of you might get confused when you hear him. To pray for him is not enough. We must serve you the truth as we pray for him.

I am writing this to defend you from the gross errors that you have been hearing. If I keep quiet you might be misled. God gave you to us, your priests in Lingayen Dagupan, as our children. It is our duty to teach you. Some of you might ignore me or even rebuke me; but that will not stop me from teaching those among you who sincerely ask for guidance. I cannot stop serving you the truth.

You have heard the President attack our Christian beliefs. The story of creation is being taunted repeatedly. You have been hearing him curse God. God has been called insulting names–words we always told you not to say or even write. You are even being challenged to leave this Church of your birth, the Church of your grandparents.

Here are some questions and the right answers from the YouCat (Young Catechism of the Catholic Church) and I encourage you to read it.

Why did God create us?

God created us out of love. God is love. God is mercy. Never forget or doubt that.

What is religion?

Religion is man’s natural longing for God. God has placed in our hearts a certain kind of restlessness that can only be cured if we rest in God.

What do we mean when we say “God created the world”?

It does not mean that God himself by His direct action created the world all at once, completed in six days, as if the Book of Genesis were an eye witness account. This error is called “creationism”. (YouCat 41)

Creationism naively interprets biblical data literally. This a wrong interpretation of the teaching “God created the world”.

The creation account is not a scientific model to explain how the world began. When we say God created the world, we mean God willed the world. It means the world is not a product of chance.

Each of us is a result of a thought of God, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. (Pope Benedict XVI).

Does God want us to suffer and die?

God does not want us to suffer and die. Listen to what the saints say.

We have lost paradise but have received heaven; the gain is greater than the loss (Saint John Chrysostom).

Human weakness cannot upset the plans of God. A divine master builder can work even with falling stones (Cardinal Michael Von Faulhaber).

O God, to turn away from you is to fall. To turn to you is to stand up. To remain in you is to have sure support (Saint Augustine)

Is that not beautiful and wise of God to do? Only a beautiful and wise God can turn sin into a great blessing. The devil is opposed to this kind of love. The devil cannot understand or refuses to accept what is so clear. The devil is blinded by pride so he cannot love like God.

What is original sin?

Although sin implies guilt for which one is responsible, original sin is not like that.

Pope Benedict XVI explained it this way. Human beings were born with a drop of poisonous thinking of “not trusting God”. Human beings look at God as a “rival” who curtails our freedom. Human beings harbor a “suspicion against God”. Human beings think that we can be fully human if God is cast aside. Human beings trust deceit rather than truth. Because of this tendency, human beings sink to emptiness and death. That is what original sin is. Jesus came to lift us out of that emptiness and death.

What does “Church” mean?

The Church is all of us called forth by God. The Church is not just bishops and priests, deacons and nuns. The Church is people, the people called by God together. God wants to redeem us, not individually, but together. The Church continues what Jesus started.

Is the Church a sinful institution?

Viewed from outside, the Church is only a historical institution perhaps with historical achievements but also faults. In its history, the Church had made mistakes and even crimes—a Church of sinners indeed.

But that view is quite shallow and incomplete.

Christ is so involved with us sinners that he never abandons his Church even if the Church betrays him every day.

The Church is an embroidery of sin and grace. In the Church, sinful humanity and holy godliness are one. The holiness of God never leaves the Church.

Is it time to stop believing in God?

Said Pope Benedict XVI, “When God disappears, men and women do not become greater. They lose their dignity and splendor and eventually end up abused and used”.

This is what our present national situation is showing us. When we cast God aside and curse his name, killing becomes easier. Stealing is normalized. Vulgarity becomes funny. Adultery is applauded. All because we want God to disappear in our lives.

What is the second Commandment?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

What does the second Commandment require?

It is a terrible offense to blaspheme God, to curse using God’s name. Places, things, names and people who have been touched by God are “holy”. Sensitivity to what is holy is called “reverence”.

“Reverence is the pole on which the world turns,” said Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe. We lose reverence for the sacred and we ruin the world.

What duties do citizens have toward the State?

A Christian must love his homeland. We must defend our nation in time of need, serve the institutions, pay taxes, vote and even run for office if needed. Every Christian has a right to offer constructive criticism of the State and its organs. The State is there for the people, not the individual for the State (YouCat 376)

When must we refuse to obey the State?

If a State should establish laws and procedures that are racist, sexist or destructive of human life, a Christian is obliged in conscience to refuse to obey, to refrain from participation and offer resistance. (YouCat 377).

Admonition

My dear children in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan, please pray the rosary, go to confession and receive Holy Communion frequently. We are in a spiritual warfare against error and sin. Shield yourselves from error and guide your fellow youth in godliness. Read more about the faith. Study the true teaching of the Church.

Harbor no grudge but be critical and discerning. Be respectful of your parents and those in authority and choose good manners all the time even if you hear and see the opposite. Do not bash back at those who bash you in social media. Fill social media with kindness and truth. Take courage but be loving all the time. Be firm in the faith. Bawal ang duwag pero huwag makipag-away. Conquer evil with good (Romans 12:21)

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 25, 2018 Memorial of Santo Domingo Henares, a missionary who served in Pangasinan and died a martyr in Vietnam.

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

John

The Catholic Church celebrates today the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. His life was fueled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of God’s kingdom.

During the Awesome Kids’ Ministry service at The Feast, the little children was reminded to always put God first in their lives.

Like St. John the Baptist, every kid was destined by God for an important mission.

Putting God first is realizing it’s all about Him. Everything in your life is to be directed to Him. Your every breath is to go back to Him. Your every thought is to be for Him. Everything is about Him.

Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah. John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God.

John broke the prophetic silence of the previous centuries when he began to speak the word of God to the people of Israel. His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. Among a people unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to recognize and receive Christ when he came.

God’s gracious gift to us
What is the significance of John the Baptist and his message for our lives? When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. Each and every day the Lord is ready to renew us in faith, hope, and love. Like John the Baptist, the Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. God wants to fill us with his glory all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favor towards you.

“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and salvation to a world lost in sin, despair, and suffering. Let your grace refresh and restore your people today in the hope and joy of your great victory over sin and death.”

Father

We always start our class with a prayer.

Today was special.

My student reminded me about the importance of praying the “Our Father”, which was the main highlight of the Gospel today.

It is called “The Lord’s Prayer” in that Jesus Himself gave it to us as a way of teaching us to pray. In this prayer, we find seven petitions to God. Within those seven petitions we will find every human longing and every expression of faith found within the Scriptures. Everything we need to know about life and prayer is contained in the wonderful prayer.

Father

We all have an innate desire to know our fathers and be loved by them. While earthly dads will fall short at times, we have a perfect heavenly Father who wants us to know Him and loves us immensely. He has gone to great lengths to be with us, and longs to spend quality time with His children.

Jesus Himself gave us this prayer as the model of all prayer. It is good that we repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer regularly in vocal prayer. This is also done in the various sacraments and liturgical worship. However, saying this prayer is not enough. The goal is to internalize each and every aspect of this prayer so that it becomes a model of our personal petition to God and an entrustment of our entire life to Him.

The Foundation of Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer begins not with a petition; rather, it begins with us acknowledging our identity as children of the Father. This is a key foundation for the Lord’s Prayer to be prayed properly. It also reveals the foundational approach we must take in all prayer and in the entire Christian life. The opening statement preceding the seven petitions is as follows: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Let’s take a look at what is contained in this opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer.

Filial Boldness: At Mass, the priest invites the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching we dare to say…” This “daring” on our part comes from the foundational understanding that God is our Father. Each Christian is to see the Father as my Father. We must see ourselves as God’s children and approach Him with the confidence of a child. A child with a loving parent is not afraid of that parent. Rather, children have the greatest trust that their parents love them no matter what. Even when they sin, children know they are still loved. This must be our fundamental starting point for all prayer. We must start with an understanding that God loves us no matter what. With this understanding of God we will have all the confidence we need to call on Him.

Abba: Calling God “Father” or, more specifically, “Abba” means we cry out to God in the most personal and intimate of ways. “Abba” is a term of endearment for the Father. This shows that God is not just the Almighty or the All-Powerful. God is so much more. God is my loving Father and I am the Father’s beloved son or daughter.

“Our” Father: To call God “our” Father expresses an entirely new relationship as a result of the New Covenant that was established in the blood of Christ Jesus. This new relationship is one in which we are now God’s people and He is our God. It’s an exchange of persons and, therefore, deeply personal. This new relationship is nothing other than a gift from God to which we have no right. We have no right to be able to call God our Father. It’s a grace and a gift.

This grace also reveals our profound unity to Jesus as the Son of God. We can only call God “Father” in so far as we are one with Jesus. His humanity unites us to Him and we now share in a deep bond with Him.

Calling God “our” Father also reveals the union we share with one another. All who call God their Father in this intimate way are brothers and sisters in Christ. We, therefore, are not only deeply connected together; we also are enabled to worship God together. In this case, individualism is left behind in exchange for fraternal unity. We are members of this one divine family as a glorious gift of God.

Fr. Nilo

I had a chance to meet the servants of the Defensores Fidei Foundation when Steve Ray came to the Philippines few years back and I stand with them in solidarity together with the Catholic Faith Defenders and the Diocese of Cabanatuan in condemning the cold-blooded murder of the apologist-priest Fr. Richmond Nilo. We pray that his blood will nourish seeds of faith and that the Lord will raise more priests who are avid defenders of Catholic truth.

We also pray for justice. And let us also implore Almighty God for an end to this culture of violence and hatred in our country.

May you rest in peace Fr. Richmond.

Rev. Fr. Richmond Villaflor Nilo, a priest from the Diocese of Cabanatuan, a Karlista priest (alumnus of San Carlos Seminary) was gunned down by unidentified men in San Pablo Chapel Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija.

Let us pray for the soul of Fr. Richmond.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

PREX

The Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) is actually not an organization but a spiritual formation that is considered as a new way of life in seeing Christ in others.

It’s a revival of one’s commitment as he strengthens his sense of belongingness to his parish and his Catholic faith.

I attended the PREX back in the late 90s at Parish of the Holy Cross in Makati.

This weekend, Ate Rea Rosales invited me to attend the PREX in St. Martha Parish, which is one of the young parishes in the Diocese of Imus.

Prex

The PREX is a three-day seminar consisting of talks on life experiences that will aid the participants to improve their relationships with their family, neighbours, peers, and to embrace God’s graces and love. It also aims to boost the attendees to share their 3Ts (Treasure, Time and Talent) in serving God and ultimately to evangelize their dearly brothers and sisters who are poor in spirit and bring them back to the Lord.

Fr. Mel Sandoval, our parish priest led the talk about renewal and being an active part of the Catholic church.

PREX is a rediscovery and a strong recall into belonging to our church. This is one way of learning that the parish is not a “We and They” relationship, but a family living and loving one another.

It started in 1970s and spread like wildfire allover the globe.

PREX enabled the lay servants to have a better understanding of the Word of God and allowed them to be of service to Him and His people.

I am looking forward this weekend for a PREX refresher experience.

We pray that all the participants will have a deeper encounter with the Lord this weekend.

Jaro

I attended the 5am, Hiligaynon Mass at Jaro Cathedral (the beautiful venue of the Beup couple’s wedding) last Sunday, June 2 for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

I would like to thank my Visayan lineage for helping me understand the local dialect.

The priest gave a powerful message about the importance of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in worshipping and receiving God’s grace.

Jaro Cathedral

The Jaro Cathedral is the first and only cathedral in Panay built in 1864. Patriot and orator, Graciano Lopez Jaena was here in December 20, 1856. A high point in the history of the cathedral was the visit of Blessed Pope John Paul II, who conducted a mass on February 21, 1981. He set a crown upon the Lady of the Candles, and declared it the Patroness of the Western Visayas.

As a sacrament, it is that Jesus himself acting through the Eucharist, and supplies all the graces we derive from it.

It is a celebration of this sacrifice. It is the active participation of all that come together in the place of worship. We do not come to Mass simply to receive something passively or to watch a show; we come as participants embracing the grace Christ pours out for us shed by his own blood on the cross.

The Holy Mass is about God’s love for us.

He is the God who loved the world so much he became one of us—and then loved us so much that he stays with us in this small white host during communion, this slender shadow of who he really is.

He is not here for the rich and the powerful, the mighty and the famous.

He is here for the small and defenseless, the overlooked and forgotten. He is here for all who are broken, all who feel defeated, all who need healing and hope.

He appears so small.

But in that smallness is greatness beyond measure.

Because only a great God like ours could become bread to feed our souls and nourish our hearts and give us the grace to go on.

Mark Segador from Panay Island blog shared that one of Iloilo City’s cherished icons was the the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral, which was also the center of faith in the region for centuries. Now restored and preserved, this architectural beauty defined the landscape of Metro Iloilo with its unique triangular facade, and its campanile located across the street. The church’s Romanesque revival-inspired design is seen in its intricate design and the red-roofed dome.

A distinct feature of the church is the all-male santos on its columns – an answer to Molo Church’s feminist theme. Though the church is the home of the Our Lady of Candles, it is dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

Because of its importance to Iloilo’s religious and cultural heritage, the Jaro Cathedral was proclaimed by the National Historical Institute as a historical landmark in 1976. The cathedral was named as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Señora De La Candelaria) for being the center of Marian devotion in the Visayas.

The present cathedral was inaugurated on 1874 during the annual celebration of the Feast of the Candelaria. It is the first cathedral in the island of Panay.

Housed inside the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral complex is the stone image of Our Lady of Candles. The origin of the image itself had been said to be miraculous. Folk stories say that the image found in the shores of Iloilo River by a fisherman was about only a foot tall. It was so heavy that nobody can carry it; only when the people decided to bring the image to Jaro Church was one person able to successfully lift it.

Strange happenings surround the image and many believe that the Señora is miraculous.
In the olden days, people say that she has a habit of disappearing early in the morning and was spotted as a beautiful lady with long flowing hair bathing her son in a well found in the middle of the plaza. At the same time, a mist would cover her niche in the cathedral.

Another well known story is that before the Pacific War, the Señora’s place in the cathedral was engulfed in total darkness for days. When it dissipated, the image had miraculously grown larger.

Today, the image is already about 5 feet tall (almost larger than its previous niche) and many believe that it’s still growing. If faith can move mountains, can it make statues grow?

On February 1981, Pope John Paul II personally canonically crowned the image of Nuestra Señora de La Candelaria – the only Marian image in the country bestowed with such honor by the Holy Father.

Held every 2nd day of February, the Fiesta de la Candelaria (Feast of Our Lady of Candles) is one of Iloilo’s most important religious events.

It is celebrated with blessings of candles, Masses, processions, and other less holy events such as feasts, grand balls in which a festival queen, usually a beauty from a prominent Jaroleño family is crowned, and grand cockfights attended by aficionados from all over the country.