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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

Puso

How do you pray?

Bro. Alvin Barcelona, The Feast Bay Area District Builder shared during the ‘Deeper’ Holy Week Retreat 2018 the importance of praying from the heart.

To have a relationship with God, we have to keep in constant communication with Him through prayer.

Remember, when you pray, let your prayers spring from the heart. There is no need to scour for words. Words flow naturally when you pray from the heart.

Puso Pray from the Heart

The best way to begin anything is with honesty, so you might want to say something such as, “OK. Here I am, God. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I’m scared. Teach me. Guide me and protect me, and lead me to You.” Remembering that Christ told us to pray constantly (Luke 18:1), so that the lovely garden of the Spirit He planted in you at baptism receives careful cultivation and does not go to weeds, do not be afraid to repeat your improvised prayers constantly. Moreover, maintain a constant awareness of God’s presence by talking to God about everything you do, telling Him of your difficulties and frustrations, asking for His guidance, and doing everything for love of Him.

When feelings of loving devotion arise from the heart, it will nourish your soul.

Fr. David J. Dohogne shared that as Catholics, we are well aware of the importance and necessity of daily prayer in order to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with the Lord.

The Church reminds us that there are different types of prayer which we offer to God.

These are namely prayer of praise (thanking and glorifying God), prayer of petition (seeking something from God), prayer of contrition (seeking forgiveness from God), and prayer of intercession (seeking God’s blessings on behalf of another person).

A healthy “balanced” prayer life would include each of these types of prayer.

Be excited about your daily times of prayer! Following the example of Jesus and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, may the words of our prayers be real, sincere, and truly come from the heart and not just from our lips!

Bro. Alvin shared during the retreat that all thoughts and feelings are valid material for prayer.

Simply put: When you go to pray, lift up what’s inside of you at that moment. If you are bored, lift up that boredom; if you are angry, lift up your anger; if you are tired, lift up that tiredness; if you feel selfish, don’t be afraid to let God see that.

Jesus said that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. One of the qualities in children to which this refers is precisely their honesty in showing their feelings.

Children don’t hide their sulks, pouts, and tantrums. A good mother handles these rather easily, often with a smile. God is up to the task.

If we do that, it makes it easier for us to “pray always”, as scripture asks. What does this mean?

Obviously it doesn’t mean that we should always be at formal prayer, that we should strive to be full-time contemplatives, or even that we should seize every possible occasion we can to pray formally.

To “pray always” invites us rather to live our lives against a certain horizon. It doesn’t necessarily mean to stop work and go to formal prayer, important though that is at times.

The point is rather that we need to do everything within the context of a certain awareness, like a married man who goes on a business trip and who, in the midst of a demanding schedule of meetings and social engagements, is somehow always anchored in a certain consciousness that he has a spouse and children at home.

Despite distance and various preoccupations, he knows that he is “married always”. That awareness, more than the occasional explicit phone call home, is what keeps him anchored in his most important relationship.

Our relationship with God is the same. We need to “pray always” by doing everything out of that kind of awareness.

Let us offer everthing to Him and pray from the heart.

Cross

Today, for Christians, is a special day set aside to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s also a day that we can set aside, no matter what religion or spirituality we affiliate ourselves with, and challenge the mystery of the cross. We can be authentic disciples by embracing our hearts and confronting the cross that we personally carry.

On this Good Friday, let us find our cross.

Cross

The Cross becomes a symbol, not of death and degradation, but of self-sacrifice, love, and our ultimate triumph over death. It is the very core of our Christian faith and it is a day we should treasure.

A cross can be embraced, and it can also be forced upon us – against our will. My question to you is: What cross do you carry?

The first cross that some of us bear is the Goat Cross. Some of us are undergoing some painful experiences inflicted upon us by others, as if we were a scapegoat, forced to bear the scars of other people’s sinful actions. As a result of the Goat Cross, we blame our parents, teachers, culture, the church or even our government. If this cross is carried, it frequently ends up in the courtroom.

Another cross is the Crybaby’s Cross. These are those who always say, have pity on me; I need special treatment; make an exception for me for I am a wounded disciple. We find comfort in asking: Do you see the heavy cross I am forced to carry in my life?

We have the Cranky Cross. Because we carry the cross of not finding a job; of being overworked and/or underpaid or the cross of sickness or of family problems, we become angry, bad-tempered, irritable, grumpy and crabby. Those of us who carry Cranky Crosses are crosses to others.

The Cross of Our Humanity is the cross of human nature. We can be stingy, eager to serve and also self-serving, kind and also mean. Such is the nature of the human condition, and often it’s hard to bear!

We further carry the Cross of Others. It’s heavy with sin and mistakes of our family and country. This is a difficult cross to embrace since it is a sharing in government’s guilt and sin. It’s hard enough to embrace our own sins, but to carry the sins of all with whom we are associated including religion, government and society is truly to walk in a saving figure’s footsteps.

There are many other crosses that we bear, but the heart of this reflection is a promise of a new era of justice and peace for all. You and I need to embrace and carry our crosses, to deny our very selves as we surrender to God’s will.

On this Good Friday, embrace your cross with great affection and love. When you do so, you can release from it the power to fertilize and pollinate humanity. Great is the power in each of our crosses to create a new breed of humans, true son and daughters of God.

My prayer for you is the grace to understand and embrace fully your cross on this Good Friday and every other day that you are called to do so.

Source: Good Friday Reflection: Finding and embracing your cross by Elton Letang

Obey

The Awesome Kids team was inspired today to always obey and respect their parents. They enjoyed a day of prayer, worship, watching inspiring videos and more colors.

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On the other hand, the activity reminded me of my teenage years and if I will share a life lesson to a younger version of myself, this I have to say.

Obeying your parents is one of the most difficult things to do as a teenager. This is a time that you want to spread your wings and do things on your own. You want your independence, and you want to prove you can be a responsible adult. Yet there is still a level of needing your parents to guide you through this time, and there is still so much you can learn from them while you’re still a teen.

Obeying Your Parents Leads to Wisdom
There are times when obeying your parents can be really tough.

We all think we know enough to make our own decisions. But do we really? God reminds us that it is a foolish man that does not seek to become more disciplined and wise (Proverbs 1:7-9). The most important people in our lives are our parents.

They can be the greatest guides we have in this life, and they can lead us in the path God has for us…if we let them. For most of us, our parents offer advice and discipline out of love, and we would do well to listen and learn from what they have to say.

Obedience Brings You Closer to God
God is the father of us all. There is a reason why we use a term like father to describe our relationship with Him because just as we are to obey our parents, we are to obey God. If we cannot obey our earthly parents, how are we to obey our Heavenly one? Faithfulness comes out of obedience to God. As we learn to obey, we learn to be wise in making our decisions in life.

As we learn to obey, we learn to open up our eyes and ears to God’s plan for us. Obedience is the first step in living a Christian life. It helps give us strength in our faith and the ability to overcome temptations that can lead us astray.

Obeying is Hard
Yet no one says obeying our parents is easy.
Sometimes it feels like our parents are from a whole other world. Sure, they come from a different generation, and we may not always understand their reasoning. However, we don’t alway understand God, either, but we know that what God does is for our own good. In the case of our parents, it’s that way, too. We need to realize, though, that there will be pitfalls in obeying our parents, and there will be times that obedience becomes so difficult. Yet obedience takes work.

Here are some of my tips for you my younger self that is also applicable to you now;

Listen. One of the easiest ways to learn from your parents is to listen to what they have to say. It’s hard to obey your parents when you don’t actually hear what they’re telling you. You’d be amazed at what you’ll hear when you take the time to absorb what your parents are telling you.

Show respect. There is nothing as frustrating when a parent is talking to their teen as an eye roll. You may not agree with your parents’ decisions, but obeying your parents begins with showing them respect. It’s okay to ask questions or ask for clarification on a rule or something you disagree with, but it’s important to do so in a respectful manner. If you just push and yell and scream, it is unlikely that your parents will actually hear your objections. Disrespect will put a wall between you and your parents immediately.

Have patience. It’s easy to immediately jump on your parents when you disagree with them. It’s also easy to hold a grudge when they’re wrong. However, your parents are human just like you. Obeying your parents means accepting that all they do isn’t perfect. They make mistakes, too, just like you. So, have some patience for the times that they don’t quite do things right, and know that you can learn just as much from their mistakes as your own.

Communicate. Going to be late for curfew? Try calling ahead. Not sure you can get your chores done when they ask? Explain why. Communication is key to having a good relationship with our parents. When you communicate with them about what’s going on in your life, you will find that they will accept that you are becoming a responsible adult. Ask them for advice, talk to them about school … it’s every teen’s desire to be private, and some privacy is understandable, but know that when you don’t communicate it breeds suspicion. A great way to obey your parents is to talk to them about things. It’s amazing how much communication will be a key to you getting along with them, too.

Humility

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Why is it significant in our relationship with God?

Humility

Seating beside God’s messenger of faith, hope and love. Taken inside the PLM Chapel last year.

Father Bill Carmody shared that before Saint Paul’s conversion he thought he was a very good man. He thought he did everything very, very well. He was full of zeal, convinced of the direction he was taking in life, and was very successful within the scope of the people who mattered to him.

He had no idea that he was very misguided. Then the Lord entered his life, shook him up, blinded him, threw him to the ground and left him confused and unnerved for three days.

Having encountered the Risen Lord he was transformed. He re-evaluated everything in his life and became the most impacting force in the Church other than Jesus Himself. Paul translated the experience of Jesus not only from Aramaic into Greek, but from an Asian mentality to a European mentality. He became the greatest missionary the Church as seen, establishing churches that survive even to this day, and he wrote two thirds of the New Testament.

Paul’s conversion not only changed him; it changed the world.

This brings us to this feast’s application to us. God is calling some people here present to undergo a major change in the way they are living their lives.

All of us, in fact, are being invited by the Lord to undergo some kind of transformation, some form of conversion, some new way of believing and thinking. Wouldn’t you agree that all of us have some kind of obstacle to our following Christ more closely? And wouldn’t we all agree that the mother of all vices is pride? So as we celebrate Paul’s conversion let us take as look at the virtue that conquers pride: humility.

There are 3 different degrees of humility.

The 1st degree of humility is necessary for salvation. It’s having enough humility to stop justifying mortal sin in our lives. It’s the humility needed to recognize that I have this major obstacle in my life, some major sin, that keeps me at a distance from God. And it’s having enough humility to recognize that so far I have been unwilling to do what I need to do to remove this obstacle from my life. Without this 1st degree of humility I make the decision to live with my sin, even to justify it. The 1st degree of humility leads us to say to the Lord, “Not for all the riches in the world would I ever commit a mortal sin.”

The second degree of humility is a move towards holiness. In this state of relationship with the Lord, He, the Lord, has become so important to me that I don’t want to do the least little thing against the Lord. This is not scrupulosity but rather a desire to be one with Christ, to see Him in all things, to encounter him in all the people and events in our lives, a desire to rise above my mediocrity, and not settle for a half-hearted response to the call of Christ. And now we don’t want even venial sins to stand in our way, preventing a clear sight of the Lord who loves us so. This is the state of no longer wanting to disagree with, for instance, the teaching of the Church on the sanctity of life and settle for some compromise between good and evil. This second degree of humility leads us to say, “Not for all the money in the world would I ever want to commit even a venial sin.”

The third degree of humility is a move into true sanctity. In this degree of humility I see myself as part and parcel of all of sinful humanity and I see my call to be among those who are despised, rejected, ostracized, spat upon, and facing extreme oppression, because thus was treated my Lord and Savior. This is the degree of humility that hears the teaching of our Church as the voice of Jesus and embraces it, especially on such tough subjects as there being a need for a redistribution of wealth so there is a greater bond between the rich and the poor. A person who abides in this 3rd degree of humility not only understands, but lives, the Church teaching that says, “No one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lack the bare necessities of life.” (Populorum Progressio, 23)

Oh, how far away from this degree of humility we all are! But now we can see what is the trajectory of holiness the Lord is calling us to. Let us on this feast of Paul’s conversion let us ask the Lord to help us grow in holiness.