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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

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.”

Old

When was the last time you had a chance to talk to your elderly parents? When was the last time you said “I love you” to them?

When I saw this pic, it triggered me to remember the kindness of my grandparents?

Old

Photo credits to the owner.

I never had a chance to know them more, to share my achievements and to let them feel that I love them so much.

Hopefully you are one of the many who experienced a great relationship with your grandparents and probably have hundreds of stories about them.

Perhaps you have wonderful memories of sleepovers at their house—maybe they even watched cartoons with you the next morning.

Maybe they taught you something like how to tie your shoes, make a breakfast treat or catch a fish. Or maybe you remember the time they slipped you Php100 just because you were their grandchild.

In most cases, grandparents love you unconditionally. They’ve been proud of you since the day you were born. You’re truly blessed to have them in your life.

So, with Grandparents Day approaching on Sunday, what can you do to honor them?

  • Visit them on your days off: Stop by and say hello as often as possible. If you have children, let them spend time around Grandma and Grandpa, just to hear their stories.
  • Take them groceries when you can: If you’re shopping, buy them two or three items you know they’ll use. You may never know if they always have money for special things they enjoy, but by taking them a surprise occasionally, you’ll know they’ll have an additional treat during your visit.
  • Call them often: A simple hello is a blessing and shows you care.
  • Ask if they need a ride anywhere: Grandparents usually have many places they’d like to go; and enjoy the pleasure of your company.
  • Hug and kiss them every chance you get: This is the most important thing you can do to show them your affection. Never pass a chance to say: “I love you.”

Grandparents are a gift to be cherished. Learn from them and let them know you love them every chance you get.

Read

One of the main thrusts for this academic year is to intensify the reading habits of our students.

I know it will never be easy but it takes a lot of encouragement and more push.

I was inspired by this article of Joby Provido on how spiritual reading leads to a balanced life.

Reading

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” – John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Every day we are bombarded with news that can be violent or depressing. Sometimes immersing ourselves in those kinds of stories can drive us to despair when thinking of hope for humanity. Those studying internet behavior say we tend to compare our life with others on Social Media. This can be very stressful if we consider we have to keep up with other people’s happiness. It can make our lives seem empty at some point.

The spate of celebrity suicides does not help either. While taking one’s life (or any life for that matter) is contrary to Christian culture, we cannot judge those who have fallen victim to mental illness for we don’t know what they were going through. Since Christ is all-knowing and all-loving, we leave it up to him because he is the best and only authorized judge by the Father. One thing we can say that may make sense is that there must have been a feeling of helplessness that drove them to do it.

While we cannot remove these stressful matters from our secular life, we can balance it. How many times do we watch heart-warming videos of animals being saved, or fathers who are supposed to be away and make a surprise appearance, or mothers who prepare something her birthday girl enjoys? Don’t we press on the heart button and share them? Some even write a post: “faith in humanity restored.” In those moments, aren’t our spirits lifted?

Life is a constant battle and we need weapons to help us endure. Spiritual reading is one of these. It is the habit of reading something spiritual with the purpose of growing in holiness. By reading spiritual material, our soul gets buoyed so we can keep our head above the flood of depressing media, take a breath, and continue the struggle. It is like watching those heart-warming videos that bring back faith in humanity.

Spiritual reading is different from meditation. Meditation is a quest to find out what God wants us to do, feel, and be. Spiritual reading, on the other hand, is to reinforce our lives with enriching things.

One can start with ten minutes a day, then move on to fifteen minutes or longer. It would be nice to set a time to do this so it can be done regularly. It would also be best to do this in a place that has little or no distractions. Maybe a quiet room in the house will do.

What can a beginner read? The gospels are a good start. A slow prayerful reading always helps. The lives of the saints are extraordinarily good material. Get books on or by Teresa of Avila (The Interior Castle), St. Francis of Assisi, Therese of Lisieux (The Story of a Soul), Thomas Merton (The Seven Story Mountain), John Paul II. While Fulton Sheen is not yet a saint, his life is a wonderful thing to read. Books on Our Lady are particularly enriching too. Find books on the apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes, and Mexico (Our Lady of Guadalupe.) Other good titles are: “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” by Louis de Montfort, “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis, “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton, “Mary of Nazareth” by Federico Suarez.

One does not have to “read” to do spiritual reading. Watching an enriching video or listening to a podcast is spiritual “reading” too. Find something that lifts your soul or educates you about the faith.

Make it part of a daily habit. Think of spiritual reading as the spiritual vitamins that keep us healthy.

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.

New

A new journey began. It will be a different world. More challenging but rewarding. As I look into the new horizon, hope breams eternal.

I know this is Your will Lord, not mine. But, I surrender to Your Holy plan.

New

“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…” – Ps 23

In one of the Jesuit’s reflection that inspires me, they shared that discerning God’s will for me does not depend on the skills I have learnt, much less on the level of my knowledge, but above all on the quality of my heart’s listening.

A listening heart knows how to be sensitive to God’s presence. It is built on a basic trust in God’s faithfulness and to his willingness to communicate himself: it is indeed possible to seek and find what is God’s project for me.

As I listen to God, I discover that I need to listen more to myself, even though I might have started with the idea that I need to listen less to myself. It is God who created me and sowed the seeds of desire in my heart, so I do have to learn how to listen to and understand my deepest desires, my dreams, my strong points, as well as my mistakes and disappointments.

Just as I cannot love others unless I love myself, so also I cannot really trust God without trusting myself and what God is doing in me: God’s will is myself!

I do this not in narcissistic self-admiration, where everything is centred on my needs, but in a spirit of deep freedom, the freedom to serve and to love others even when it means carrying the cross and turning the other cheek.

Like all successful communication, this requires time and patient effort, perhaps with the guidance of someone more experienced with whom I share my quest. This can only happen in the context of a stable prayer life, that includes the daily examen of conscience.

As life becomes more complex, and as we become more allergic to rules, discernment will assume a much bigger role in our lives and in that of our communities, including that of the big community, the Church. We are blessed that many who preceded us, including Ignatius of Loyola, have left us many helpful indications on how to discern our decisions.

As I continue my journey, I will continuously yield to His plans for me.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Mt 7: 7-12

Up

There was no way but up.

It was a tough ride for the past years.

Time to bounce back, to regain strength, to love and to serve more.

I know it was diffucult to start again from the bottom of the pit but I was humbled by the experience.

Up

The heart of the Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers (PPST) are the students or learners. A new door opened for me. A lot of discoveries and many meangful memories!

I learned a lot and I met new people.

I’ve just started.

A bigger purpose was slowly unravelling right before my eyes.

Thank you God for surprising me everyday.

I cling on Your unfailing love.

Let Your will be done.

I can’t do this alone. You are my rock and my shield.

Protect me everyday and use me according to Your holy plan.

I surrender everything to You.

Be my guide.

Let Your heart be seen in me.

May I bring more people closer to You.

In Jesus name, amen.