Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Least We Could Do

About October last year, I received an invitation from San Jose Seminary for a meeting that will raise funds in order to fund the renovation of the seminary. The immediate question was "Why?" We all know that the seminary has a foundation. We all know that it has burses from donors. We all know that it was stable in funds. Well, that is not anymore the situation, according to Fr. Rector. While it is true that the foundation and the burses are able to help in the operation of the seminary, the capital expenditures do not come from those but from the Society of Jesus. But an instruction came from the society early this year that nothing will be given for the capital build up due to the worldwide international meltdown. It came at a time when the seminary needed it most.

The seminary buildings are in dire need of repairs. It needed attention on pipings, wirings, structures, etc. With nothing coming from the Society, Fr. Rector has to summon the alumni. Because my experience in raising funds and construction, I was selected to be part of the committee.

Instantly, my heart was moved. This project is much much important than building a church. The seminary is a house of formation for future priests. It is an essential structure and institution for the Church. If the ministry of the priesthood will be sustained, seminaries must remain in existence. Support for it needs no justification. In fact, supporting it is a big opportunity to show our love for the Church and her mission to participate in God's work of salvation. I was inspired and motivated to actively help in see to it that this project becomes a success. I was just too glad to help and honored to have been chosen. That is the least I could do for the institution that had been primarily responsible for my becoming a priest.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bye, Good Uncle Juan!

He lived a life of anonymity, simplicity, humility, tranquility, and some moments of difficulties, for seventy-five years. 
He was cremated and we held a mass for him at the St. Alphonsus Chapel. All his love ones were there to honor and pray for his merciful judgment.
Nanay Pin, his sister, accepted his death not without much difficulty. She saw the last moments of suffering of her brother. She loved her by taking good care of him. Uncle Juan did not marry.

I remember Uncle Juan as an employee of the National Center for Mental Health (then National Mental Hospital). The hospital is just a walking distance from our place. But uncle Juan has a bike which he uses go to work. I would always see him going home after office hours while we were playing in the streets. But that was as much as we had related. He lived in the house of his and Nanay Pin's half-sister which is located right beside our house. 

When I entered the seminary up to the time I was ordained and assigned, I only see him whenever I visit home. I came to know that he had retired from work and was spending his time selling cigarettes and candies in "crossing" (intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard). I believe it was the reason why he got sick with tuberculosis. His body was not able to endure the sickness that he lost so much weight. But he was able to recover. He stopped vending and was contented spending time this time in our house. Nanay Pin decided to take care of him because their half-sister and her husband had already died. It would have been a routine life for Uncle Juan but Tatay Ben could go along well with his presence in the house. At times he would just be at the firing end of his anger because he could not move with alacrity and always show weakness. All of us, specially Nanay Pin, were praying and hoping that Tatay Ben would accept and come to terms with Uncle Juan. Unfortunately, until the day he died, Tatay Ben still had some things against him. Later, we came to know that most of them were during Tatay and Nanay's early married years. Nevertheless, it would have been best had reconciliation occurred. It was not meant to be.

I was happy Nanay Pin was not so devastated by it. I would have understood if she was. But she was a strong woman (imagine, giving birth to eight children and rearing them well!) and already had accepted the fate of her brother even when he was still sick. I just saw that she wished she could do more for her brother. But Uncle Juan's life was meant to meet its end. 

By our standards, Uncle Juan may have not lived a full life. By our standards, he may have not been that happy. By our standards, he could have had more in life. By our standards, he may be considered a failure. But it is good that our standards are not what would really mean for our lives. God's standards are what would. Because he was a good man, God will be good to him. 

Bye bye, good Uncle Juan!

Thanks For Fr. Kim

Ordained Rev. Kim wearing his priestly garments. It reflects the dignity of ministry.
 Bp. Soc Villegas, the ordaining bishop, lay his hands on Rev. Kim's head, as the external sign of his acceptance to the priestly ministry. 
           Rev. Kim delivering his homily during one of the special occasions in the parish. Giving homilies is one of the responsibilities of a deacon.

           The deacon posing with the Pastor, (me of course!) after one of the feast day masses. The deacon is also tasked to assist the pastor in all liturgical celebrations.

He came as Reverend Kim. He was from war torn Vietnam and was sent by his bishop here in the Philippines to study theology in San Carlos Major Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati City, as part of his intellectual formation in the priesthood. His Rector, Fr. Edwin Mercado (now assigned as our Assistant Parish Priest), called me and asked if Rev. Kim could spend his diaconate training in our parish. It was not really the first time Fr. Edwin requested for our parish to accommodate one of their Vietnamese deacons. But at that time, we were still constructing our church and I thought that it will be hard for us and for the deacon to be accommodated.

Fr. Kim turned out to be a very responsible and industrious deacon. His willingness to learn made it easy for him to gather much experience in giving homilies, assisting in masses, celebrating Baptisms, and giving talks to the ministries and organizations in the parish. He was a fast learner and serious about becoming an effective pastor. The people liked him in return. After six months of being with us, he was ordained in San Carlos Seminary. Most of his visitors came from the parish. We were very proud to have been a part of his formation. We saw that he was also very proud to have had his diaconate exposure in our parish. His ordination was also a sort of celebration for all of us. The next day, Sunday, he celebrated his first mass in the parish after which we again celebrated by partaking of a good dinner! We finally met his family. Even though we had a language barrier. Our actions and gestures were more than enough to communicate our happiness for being together in the realization of the priesthood of Fr. Kim.

(Rev. Kim came to our parish on March, 2008 and was ordained in September of the same year. He went back to his home country, Vietnam, immediately after his ordination and will go to his assignment early 2009 in the Diocese of Naha in Okinawa, Japan.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh Barrack!

Three days after his being officially put into office, US President Barrack Obama overturned an eight-year ban on US government funding for family planning organizations which carry out or facilitate abortion overseas, according to a White House official.

This is very saddening and a very big setback to us working for the abolition of abortion. I felt as if he stabbed me right through my heart! Liberals will of course support and take advantage of this re-emergence of their cause. But anti-abortion groups will again have their hands full in trying to turn back this move by the undoubtedly popular new US president. I am particularly confused because he had said a lot of times that he is against abortion.

I am sure, because of his popularity and charism, he would "get away with it". I was not able to watch his inauguration but seeing it on papers and television accounts and hearing about it on air, I believe that he is one who can do things, no matter how unpopular they maybe. His speech on "hope" was full of hope. Though they were lacking much with concrete actions to make that hope a reality. Nevertheless, America and the world are proud of President BO. Change, as he had promised, began right with him. Changes would really happen the way he makes decisions with alacrity. Unfortunately, not all changes are acceptable and good. This one on abortion is certainly hard to swallow.
I give President BO the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, where he grew up exposed him to the good benefits abortion can give to many. Maybe he saw the difficulties experienced by those who were deprived of this "solution". Maybe he sees it as an effective response to promiscuity which the present generation had find hard to control. Maybe he is beset by what are happening to other countries (including the Philippines) because of lack of funds for abortion. Maybe he had heard of the miseries of people from people who may have not given him the true and complete picture. Maybe this is temporary and later he would be open to other arguments and experiences which would show that abortion is not a solution but a crime. Maybe those responsible around him would be courageous enough to tell him the truth. We continue to hope. President BO gave us a lot of hope. Personally, I saw in him a very credible, influential, authoritative, and powerful individual. With the presidency his, these characteristics had found an effective instrument. But not without same dangers. The presidency can also be an instrument for evil. Let us hope he is discerning enough to see it!
Image Preview
Let us pray for President BO!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Justice or Just-tiis?

Stock Photo of  judges gavel

Let me again make a reflection on another issue about the implementation of laws and the efficiency of our justice system. A lot had already been said about our justice system as favoring those who are rich and being anti-poor. Being rich means you can afford a "better" lawyer. Having a better lawyer means that you will have the better justice!? This insinuates that "justice" is dependent on having a better lawyer? And I thought, justice is about seeking and bringing out the truth and punishing the guilty and freeing the innocent? If guilty, the task of the lawyer is not to make his client not guilty but to make sure that the penalty to be given is according to law! If not guilty, he makes sure that he will do everything according to the dictates of the law to prove the innocence of his client!

But it seems that our laws and lawyers had other things in mind(?). I am coming from a layman's point of view as far as the succeeding reflections are concerned. Now, I see the practice of law as not only protecting the rights of the guilty from being given undue punishment and doing everything for the innocent to be free, but also to free the guilty from conviction. Worse, to make guilty those without crime! Most of these are courtesy of the presence of lawyers that are "de campanilla" (which are available to moneyed clients) and at times in cooperation with some corrupt or poor law enforcers and biased judges. The whole justice system involves law enforcement. Because of the many legal technicalities provided so as to protect the undue conviction of the guilt-less, in the process, the guilty also benefit by having the opportunity to throw everything provided by law. (Some?) Lawyers defend these seeming "flaw" by the dictum, " It is better to free (ten) guilty persons than punish an innocent one!" Or something similar to this.
Blind Justice by Mateo Rodriguez.

The rationale for such a dictum seems clear. Justice means taking all precautions not to punish a guilt-less person even at the expense of freeing a guilty one. They call it, "reasonable doubt". It means that if there is the presence of even an iota of doubt in the guilt of a person either with facts, testimonies or legal procedures (technicalities), the person can not be convicted regardless of the other facts or testimonies. We already have heard of a certain person seen by eyewitnesses to have done a crime but was set free just because the law enforcers violated some rights of the accused or had mishandled the evidences. As it happens, it takes great and diligent effort to convict but it is easy to dismiss the case! It is much much harder to prove the crime than to render the case irrelevant and immaterial.

But the questions still begs. If the guilty is set free, then, he can still repeat his crime. (Di ba nga eh, guilty?). If they are ten guilty persons who were set free, then we have ten more of the same in our midst capable of committing the same crimes?! Certainly, they are dangerous to all of us. Certainly, they are threats to us! Then, how can it be called justice when one who is guilty, in truth, would be set free because of legal violations or technicalities? Would that person who was really guilty but was freed because of technicalities be reformed? What are the protections of society from their aggression? And worse, if someone who is innocent is found guilty and dies because of it! (Kawawa naman! And this had happened already!)

But these are not the only choices available to the lawyers or to our justice system. Free the innocent and convict and punish the guilty. We should not rely on the dictum above. bear it in mind, but strive not settle for it. "Reasonable doubt" should not just be any or an iota of it, but as it says, "reasonable". It should be substantial and that the possibility of rendering a true judgment based on evidences and testimonies by witnesses is not at all possible. But mere technicalities against an eyewitness and proven crime should not prevail or set free a guilt person. No wonder, many of those who are supposed to be in jailed and punished are scot free and still merrily and wantonly practicing their usual evil ways. The law had become their defender and shield. The protection of the guiltless-accused had benefited more the guilty. No wonder, many would not want to have anything to do with a legal procedure because it is not only expensive and a bother, but justice is not assured. It is really hard to be in a society where the law renders it hardest to convict even in a crime with many witnesses just because that society is afraid to punish the guilt-less.

Hopefully, all those involved in the justice system would work as one for the sake of everyone. If an efficient and effective justice system is present, citizens are more at peace and criminals are more in distress. The reverse makes the citizens in distress while the criminals are more confident. Sadly, the latter seems to be the most accurate description of our present justice system. Just tiis na lang!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Implement Our Laws, Please!

The on-going hearing today regarding the controversy of the "Alabang Boys (Adults)", again prompted the believers of the death penalty to be re-imposed. The hate against those who inflict evil in society again recurs because it seems that these plague (salot) of society have no fear of being caught and punished at all. The truth is that the problem of drug dealing and using had not stopped but has aggravated in spite of the efforts of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Justice. As long as there are "users" of these drugs, pushers, dealers, and manufacturers, and their protectors would continue to exist and make a killing out of this billions of pesos "business!"

Vigilante by The Blackbird.

What about the death penalty? Time and again, this solution against heinous crimes like the use and manufacture of illegal drugs had been coming in and out of our laws. It becomes a law depending on the elected president and existing congress at the time. Basically, our faith is against any threat to life except in the name of faith. But it can be allowed in extreme and specific cases; 

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is only the possible way of effectively depending human lives against the unjust aggressor. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC, #2267)

Note here that the Catholic faith allows it if there are no other ways society can be protected from the unjust aggressor. If being jailed would protect society, death is not considered an alternative. This is because the Catholic faith believes in forgiveness and reform. While "imprisonment" is considered a punishment and a way to restrict the actions of an unjust aggressor, reform is also part of its purpose. Unfortunately, this aspect of the prison life of the convict had not been given due importance. The best way to address evil in society is not to deter or eradicate it by killing it, but by reforming the person and make him one with us in fighting the very evil where he belongs before. In this sense, religion is like politics; they are both additions.

The Catechism (CCC #2267) continues;

"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person."

The CCC stresses our belief that no matter how evil a person is, change and reform is always possible. Forgiveness and respect for the human dignity ranks high in the hierarchy of values in the Catholic faith. Yes, even with the most unjust, dangerous, and hardened criminals! We believe that there is no sin that can not be forgiven and no person, no matter how evil, can not be reformed.

In the end, the Catechism observed, with good basis, that the even if there is a law imposing death on unjust aggressors, it can only be rarely rendered or not at all.

"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

Therefore, while we believe that the death penalty is an alternative, and that it is not absolutely and essentially evil, imposing it requires stringent measures and certainty of reason and purpose.

But, in our country, the issue is implementation of our existing laws. But if we could not even implement our laws properly and justly, how can we even prosecute and arrived at imposing penalties? And with the way our justice system works,  even if we are able to prosecute, how sure are we that it was true and just? Corruption and "padrino" system had become constitutive of our justice system. Their presence create doubt and render defective most, if not all, of our court decisions. This is sad. While the innocent must be fully protected, the guilty should not be loosely set free. They have a saying in law, "It is best to free ten guilty criminals than to punish one innocent man!" REALLY? Will deal with this in the next post.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Yeah...It's Me!

Quite a number of people had not seen me with my long hair. Even those who had seen me with it had not seen me in pictures. Here is one of those pictures. It was taken by professionals, Ryan Vergara and Pia Garovillo, the night before the Solemn Dedication of the new church (August 1, 20) I got this pair of long sleeves shirt to match the "ruggedness" of my look. This was taken at the entrance of the parish memorial chapel (he he he). 

I was instructed to have a serious look away from the camera. What was I thinking about here? Many! But most of them were about the difficulties we experienced in raising the funds and building the church which finally will be blessed the next day! This was taken not for any particular purpose in relation to the dedication but for posterity sake. Nico Garcia, Margaux Salcedo, and Goldie Salcedo were also there to give moral support!

There were other photos taken in one of the side doors of the new church. Many times I had asked a copy from Pia but she always forgets! (Talaga ba? Baka lang gusto mong gamitin later pag may higher value na! Ha ha ha ha.). But I am still hoping....hoping....hoping!

Anyway, I was glad the picture was taken. At least I have a picture to remember that time when I decided not to cut my hair until the church is built. I started it July 2006 until July 2007. I really did not realize it will create a lot of impact to the people. Somehow, the "gimmick" was very helpful in rallying the people to immediately raise the money needed to build the new church.

And by the way, there was no camera trick here. The hair was what it was. My face was my face. I hope my tummy was not mine, but it was!

Monday, January 5, 2009

God Revealed Himself To Us!

Feast of the Epiphany

Part of the Christmas celebration is the Feast of the Epiphany. It is the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ. The selected reading is that part involving the shepherds and the magi. Through the star and the angels, the birth of the Lord Jesus was communicated to all peoples, as symbolized by the magi.

Epiphany reminds us of what God had done. God humbled Himself by becoming one with us. Salvation was His purpose. Man needs to know, love and serve God. But man had difficulty knowing God. Worse, man committed the mistake of creating his own idea of God. It was the source of frustration for man. Having created his idea of God, he was limited to that idea. But God can never be contained in any idea of man no matter how grand and intelligent it maybe. This is for the simple reason that God is greater than man. The Creator can not be limited by the created. 

So, God, in His love for man and His generosity, decided to take the initiative. He revealed Himself to man! He made an Epiphany for the benefit of man. God made the first move. God oozed with humility by approaching man first so that He can be known by him. In doing so, God used mediators. Jesus was His main mediator. Jesus is also light. In the Gospel, the magi saw the light. They were en-lightened by the star. Their trust in the light led them to the source of light, Jesus, the Lord!
Detail of The Three Magi by oar_square.
It was good of God to have made the initiative. With that move, he left it to us to make the move to know Him, to recognize Him so that we can love and serve Him. Like in the case of the magi (star) and the shepherds (angels), He also gives us symbols or media that will lead us to Him. The question is, do we recognize these media? Do we open our hearts, minds, and person to these revelations? Remember, Jesus lived during His time. Many people saw Him, His deeds (miracles) and have heard His words. But not everybody believed Him. And those who believed Him even wavered in their belief. His apostles deserted Him at one time and His most trusted denied Him not once but thrice! Therefore, much depend now on us after God had done His part!

Priests, for example, had been called by God in different ways. I have one classmate who discovered God because of the aroma of the grass. From that fascination on the aroma of the grass, he realized the goodness of God. It led him to a decision to serve God in the priesthood. Another classmate, who plays the organ, was so enamored with music that it led him to the revelation of God of Himself to him and thus accepted God's invitation to be one of His priests. To another classmate, God used a balloon. As for me, he used my knowledge of the systems in the human body. Once I reflected on the presence of the different systems that operate on the human body; circulatory system, nervous, digestive, respiratory, excretory, etc. These systems were placed perfectly in the human body so that they compliment each other. Their united functions make the human body live. We can ask the best doctor or scientist to replicate the human body, but he can not make it live. All he can achieve is to imitate the its physical attributes. Then, I realized that there is Somebody or Something that made us the way we are. He is God! Then it led me more to seek Him and the journey led to my consideration and decision to serve Him in the ministry of the priesthood. God manifested Himself to me through the human body. The point here is; many had smelled the grass, played and heard music, saw a balloon, and knew the different systems in the human body. But only me and my classmates entered the priesthood! God reveals Himself to each one in a special way. Everyday, God reveals Himself. Do we recognize Him? For all we know, He had already tried so many times, in so many places, and in so many ways for us to recognize Him. And most probably, we snubbed Him (?).
Holy Eucharist by jardek.
Every mass, God reveals Himself in the community, in the priest, in the Word, and as Himself (mismo) in the Eucharist! Do we recognize Him in these manifestations? He may be more present to some in those tourist religious places like Fatima, Lourdes, or Medjugorje, but not more present than in the Eucharist.

So, next time, try to be more attentive to God's invitations. Try to be more aware of His presence. Then you will know Him better. When you know Him, you will love Him and serve Him. Then, you will find yourself recognizing, loving and serving your neighbor too!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another Year, Another Chapter, Another Journey!

2009 New Year Wallpaper Set by elena_london_s.

We left 2008 with a lot of successes and failures, laughter and tears, excitements and boredom, hopes and fears, and other extreme experiences. We thank God for everything

I personally hope that those which we had left hanging be resolved. Amidst all of those things, we can not just "move on", as many said, and reach our destiny proud and dignified. We will always be haunted by what had really happened and be remorseful of what we could have done or could have avoided. Ending a year does not mean that everything also expired. Entering This is just to usher the New Year 2009!

New Year means pursuing further what had been left unfinished from the previous year. Of course, all of these must be done not for any vested interests but for the sake of truth and justice.

Thus, we welcome 2009 with new hopes. We can not avoid issues and problems, but we pray that they will be necessary ones. It is always hard to accept that the efforts, time, and resources that should be used for important and relevant activities would be spent to unnecessary ones. I always find it a great waste and unfair to dwell much more address things that should not have been present in the first place. Things like those stagnate if not regress the journey towards fulfillment.

Therefore, we just have to sift through all those issues and challenges presented to us. I just hope, I have an excellent gift of discernment and a great patience to do it. That is my prayer for everyone too. As for those who cause all of these unnecessary issues that causes delays and wastes in our progress, may they have the enlightenment to see that life can be more happy and satisfying by doing things that would hasten progress. in fact, much much more than what they will get doing those unnecessary ones.

Fasten your seat belts, sit tight, eyes focused, hands alert, and dive with confidence and faith!