Counting the Costs

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father- the Spirit of truth who goes out from the  Father- he will testify about me.” John 15:26

44 is the number of PNP SAF troopers who perished in Mamasapano in Maguinadanao, Philippines. 21 is the number of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded in Libya.  11 killed in the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in France.  I can mention a number, and probably there is a match to a group of human beings who died in some way that could have changed the way we think or live.

It is shocking to know how collectively a group of people could be wiped off from the face of the earth, and sad that what a majority could only remember is their number.

These people have names.  They have families.  Loved ones.  They had dreams. They had lives. Until somebody else decided otherwise.  And now their souls cry out with their own stories to tell.  We did not know them when they were alive, but now we know them because they are dead.

Some died because of freedom of expression, others for love of country. And lately, for love of God.

The thought of them left me to wonder. How long can I stand up for what I believe in?  How much can I sacrifice for those I love?  How far can I go amidst the raging waves of my own personal struggles?

We have only 1 God.  3 is the number of Persons in the Holy Trinity. 3 is the number of words that a martyr last uttered before he was beheaded- “Jesus help me”.  That sums up the answer to my questions.  We can withstand any suffering, endure all pain and weather any storm.  Because our Father loves us, Jesus saves us and the Holy Spirit helps us.

May we, who  are left to ponder on the countless lives lost for whatever reason, learn that the manifestation of our selflessness is the true essence of our humanity.

Please offer prayers for the souls of our brothers and sisters who died because war, violence and terrorism. May their souls rest in peace.

Close Encounter with Pope Francis

It was a typical day.The sun was just up rising above the mountain range that stand guard to our little barrio, Balian where there was a time during my childhood when everyone knows everybody.

All of a sudden, a man in a white robe and skull cap breezed into the sala from nowhere. Of course we knew he was coming. But to literally enter our home was a heavenly experience. Time stood still for a moment as we stood there staring at him in awe, as we share the same space and breathe the same air. We were Pope-strucked!

As I came back slowly to my senses, which seemed like ages, I inched toward him, bowed down, took his hand and kissed it in the traditional way that we, Filipinos, do the “Mano po” to pay our respect.

His hand seemed huge. And I said to myself, this is the big hand of a generous man who has likewise a big heart.

It was quick. The next moment, I saw him sneaking out through our back door. Then everything was vague after that. But every moment with him was vivid.

Then I woke up. It was the day before his arrival in Manila. And I was 7,367 km away here in Bahrain. And I was dreaming!

The following days, much has already been said and done of the papal visit. as I watched the entire Filipino nation welcome Pope Francis wherever he went; as TV cameras focused on each and every face that radiated the joy Pope Francis shared; as I saw my fellowmen wiping their tears at the mere sight of him as I tried so hard to hold back my own- I couldn’t help but remember the dream that I had and how the Pope made me feel. So I empathized. And I understood. I was overwhelmed. I have to write and share.

For five very special days, for Filipinos everywhere in the world, it felt like heaven was within reach.

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Pope Francis rekindled our faith in God, in Jesus who he represents on earth, in the Spirit dwelling amongst us. Pope Francis awakened the innate generosity of our humanity as Filipinos that has long been put to sleep because of social injustice brought about by corruption and greed disguised as government. Pope Francis reaffirmed the sacredness of family and its importance in spreading the Word of God. He reminded us that in order to follow Christ, we should follow His example.

Be a beggar. Be a child. Think well. Feel well. Do well. Be quiet. Cry. Dream. Love. These were notable reminders from the Pope that we will cherish in our hearts and minds long after his departure.

But the real essence of our encounter with the Pope is Jesus. In our generation of materialism when our daily goal had become to make more money, he reminds us that there is something more important in life. That despite how the world has gotten ahead of itself in terms of technology, humankind in fact is getting poorer in terms of the quality of lives of the majority of its population.

It is therefore imperative for us to look back into that five days (six days for me) when Filipinos were elevated to holiness because we came face to face with who we really are and what we should always be. And we are a merciful and compassionate people filled with God’s love. Let not the absence of Pope Francis in our midst once again diminish us to self-centered, self-righteous and self-sufficient people that we are not. God created us in His image and likeness. Let us live up to it.

Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis with grateful hearts. Let us pray for each other as we live not for ourselves alone. We need one another. So let us tell the world of His love. Like Pope Francis joyfully does.

Bloom Where You Are Re-planted

“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them…” 1 Corinthians 7:17

I just celebrated my 48th birthday a few weeks back. As part of my annual sentimental “look-back” at what have been, I realized that there is one constant that dominates the story of my life- and that is MOVING.

Before I finished my studies, I lived at 5 different houses and went to 8 different schools. from the time i got married until now, I lived at 9 houses and worked in a commercial establishment, a government agency, a bank, 2 schools and a hospital. That does not include where I live and work now.

Sometimes I wonder what my life could have been if there wasn’t too much action. How stress-free it could have been if i work at the same office table until i retire. And how comforting to live in just one house until my last breath. But who really knows?

So S also wondered how it could have been if I was stuck in only one corner of the same office and worked consistently on the same assignment everyday. by now I would have probably mastered the grooves and accomplish all without batting my short lashes, but how bored to death I would be now.

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I also wondered how many places I would not have the privilege to visit if it was my destiny to normally age within the four corners of the same house i was born to. How I would have missed the rapid beating of my heart whenever i experience the rising of the sun and its setting from different perspectives, the changing of the seasons under a different view of the sky, the genuine tastes and sounds of various societies.

And yes, I wondered how many people I would not have met… and known… and loved, if I was just bounded by the walls of my immediate family. I would not have known people from other nations who are as diverse in our culture and tradition, yet so similar in our humanity.

Moving is actually a joyful adventure for me rather than a futile exercise; like a flowering plant that is constantly being pulled from where it has grown its roots and re-planted to a new and strange spot. It may be a new pot or a beautiful garden. It doesn’t matter where, only its purpose is to bloom.

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I believe I am God’s little flower. And I am repeatedly being uprooted and re-planted to serve my purpose. I am in the here and now because God planned this from the beginning.

When it is time for that little flower in me to move again, I will no longer wonder. because all I need to do is bloom.

even “Tigers” make mistakes

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31-32

this season of Lent, we are reminded of Christ’s passion and death on the Cross for the salvation of the world. though He is God, He assumed human form for this purpose.  He had felt every emotion such as joy and sadness, anger and mercy.  He felt hunger, pain, cold and heat.  Jesus even felt extreme agony to sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane.  He was also subject to temptation just like us.  but Jesus found favor with our Father because He followed His will to fulfill the Word.  thus He overcame all weaknesses attached to our human nature.

fame, fortune and power allow us humans to see ourselves as gods.  at the top, everything  to satisfy physical desires and cravings are just at our fingertips.  our nature looks beyond limited possibilities to what we  thought we are capable to do.  we are blinded by a false sense of security and a twisted view of happiness.  only when we fall, do we open our eyes and find the true form of our humanity.  and most of the times, we need to fall really, really hard to realize that we are not gods.  we are human beings. 

it is during these moments that we suddenly discover the folly of our ways.  we realize that if we only focused at the top as the only end to our journey,  we would see that the top is really a sad place to be.  it is where everyone else looks up to with intense want to be in that place.  but it is a place for just a few where discipline, perseverance, endurance and restraint are necessary to stay.  otherwise, one false move and way down deep is the only direction to go.  and as it is always said, the higher we have reached, the harder our fall .

Tiger Woods is no different.  he is one of the richest, most famous and greatest athletes of our time.  his accomplishments as a golfer raised him to even more spectacular heights.  last year however, on Thanksgiving night, the spectacle ended because “of irresponsible and selfish behavior”.  Tiger, afterall, is only human. 

if Tiger, whose life seemed too perfect, can make mistakes,  so can we.  but the good news is, God is always ready to forgive.  although sometimes we don’t understand why we do the things we would rather not, God knows why.  He can read our minds and see what is in our hearts.  and though He never condones bad behavior, He makes a way to turn our life around even if that means letting us fall.  because when we are down on our knees, that is when we get closest to Him.

For God the Father so loved us, He sacrificed His only begotten Son.  He has the compassion and mercy enough to forgive our sins when we are deeply sorry.  let us not then be judges to others.  for the measure in which we judge others, will be the same measure that will be used to judge us.

no limits

  “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed”.  Exodus 23:12  

last saturday, my intense resolve to go to work was not able to overcome the weakness that i began to experience the night before.  i felt dizzy and whoozy.  and just too lame to even stand up for long, much more walk around.  you see, last thursday and friday, being weekend, i was up and about doing this and that at home. and friday night, i spent more than two hours ironing a week’s set of clothing for three.  no big deal really.  well maybe, when i was younger.  but since i turned forty almost three years ago, there were changes that most of the time, catch me by surprise.

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busy bees

like last weekend.  one moment, i was okey.  the next, totally incapacitated.  o darn! i know these are signs of ageing. but combine it with hypertension, obesity and pre-menopausal symptoms (ha-ha!), how worst can it possibly get?  whereas before i read about beauty and fashion, lifestyle and entertainment, now tops on my must-read list are about health and well-being, alternative medicines, exercise and diet.

there are times that i feel bothered not to be able to do things that i need to, simply because of my physical limitations.  especially those that i was used to.  like moving cabinets and furniture around the house, lifting heavy boxes way beyond my own weight, not to mention iron clothes for more than two hours.  sometimes, i get frustrated that these are now past tense.  and the sooner i learn to accept it, the better for me to live in the present tense.  and better yet to move on towards future tense (ha-ha again!)

but come to think of it, even superheroes have their own weaknesses and limitations.  remember superman and kryptonite.  spiderman and his dark side.  achilles and his heel.  how about darna minus her bato (stone)?

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so consider this.  i’m no superhero.  nor even a hero at all.  i’m just plain old me going through the motions of time, watching  my fountain of youth dry up by the minute.  the sooner i learn to accept that, the better i can see the wonders of old age.  besides, it is probably God’s way of telling me to stop, look and listen.

stop… to rest, recharge, rejuvenate, refresh.

look…to see the beauty of the world around me and be thankful for all i that i have, and maybe perhaps even those that i don’t.

listen… to that  voice from within;  God’s gentle voice which speaks to us moment to moment.  the same voice which soothes us… heals us… strengthens us…

but we are oftentimes deaf by choice.   we refuse to listen.  not even to our bodies which already beg us to stop, because it can no longer go on one more step further.  too busy with the dictates of our worldly clock that we burn out before we even know it. 

 i am now at my prime and i won’t let the hands of time keep me from doing what i still can.  because whenever i need to stop, i will.  and i will look and listen to what really matters.  and i know it does not always necessitate physical strength and stamina which is bounded by our humanity.  what we really need is love to share and time to do it.  how we do it is up to our imagination.  and that, my friend, knows no limits.

Save the Embryonic Humans

By Deacon Keith Fournier 3/7/2009                                                                                                                                             Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Deacon Keith Fournier asks that you join with us and help in this vital mission by sending this article to your family, friends, and neighbors and adding our link (www.catholic.org) to your own website, blog or social network.  Let us broadcast,  we are PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC!

With the stroke of a Presidential pen human embryos will become property, capable of being “manufactured” like a commodity and available to be used as spare parts. We must speak for human embryonic Life as we speak for all human life. We must expose and oppose this new form of genetic slavery wherein an entire class of human persons is being labeled as property to be used by those who are more powerful. CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – Two years before he would give his “Yes” to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to become the successor of Peter, Karol Cardinal Wotyla, spoke to the U.S. Bishops. His ominous observation was republished in the Wall Street Journal on November 9, 1978: “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” And take it up we must. The task is huge and the implications beyond what we can begin to expect. The challenges we face in undertaking this task include the insults, accusations and calumny of even our fellow citizens. We will, for example, be accused of being against progress and even “anti-science”, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are simply Pro-life and believe that science exists to serve the person, the family and the common good. Science, after all, can become a force for evil and our common history has shown how that can occur when the human heart and capacity for making the right choice has been so clearly corrupted. On Monday, March 9, 2009, President Barrack Obama, whose election offered the promise of “hope and change”, will hold a signing ceremony where he will sign one more Executive Order against life. This one is expected to remove all restraints from the use of the always deadly process of extracting stem cells from human embryonic life for experimentation. It will also open up the funding of such lethal efforts with Federal tax dollars. This is so even though research has clearly demonstrated that other types of stem cell research, for example the use of adult stem cells which can be extracted with the consent of the donor and which do not kill, have produced even greater promise and results. In addition, cells derived from fetal chord blood have shown significant promise but have received little or no attention or research support. Recent reports have heralded the discovery of what may be an alternative to the deadly process of extracting embryonic stem cells and killing the embryonic human person in the process. They have led to hopes of using what are being called “induced pluripotent stem cells”, or iPS cells. These can now be produced by activating genes in adult cells which “reprogram” them and do not require the use of dangerous viruses or involve the taking of a human life. However, the signing of this Executive Order is expected to open the door not to the promotion of these life friendly alternatives but rather to the unlimited production of human embryonic life which could then be killed and used. With the stroke of a Presidential pen human embryos will become property, capable of being “manufactured” like a commodity and available to be used as spare parts in experimentation which has produced no discernible scientific results. Make no mistake, every so called “extraction” of embryonic stem cells kills a living human embryo. In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See issued its important teaching entitled “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation”. Among the many questions it answered with absolute clarity was: “What Respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity?” The answer given by the Magisterium: “The human being must be respected – as a person – from the very first instant of his (her) existence.” Unfortunately, the prevailing view of human rights entrenched in American judicial precedent and legislation denies the equal protection of the law to the human embryonic person. American law refuses to recognize that human embryos have a right to life and a right to a future. There are a number of differing philosophical arguments offered to promote the lie that these fundamental rights are conferred by positive civil law rather than by the Natural Law. Most of these arguments reserve the use of the concept of “person” to those humans who are deemed to somehow be “independent” and/or “autonomous”. They are also promoted by people who now call themselves “medical ethicists”. These folks have substantial academic degrees and professional pedigree and sit on Advisory Councils. Some of these new “ethicists” try to make a distinction between “potential” and “actual” human persons and relegate the child in the womb to the category of being only a “potential” human person. Others view interdependency as a negative and insist on independence and “autonomy” as a criterion for any human rights to ever attach. Some equate the human embryo’s dependency on the mother as a form of “non-personhood”. Still others propose a progressive notion of consciousness as indicative of a growing presence of “personhood”. A few concede that human embryos are human beings but deny they are persons. We find all of these ideas in the field sadly referred to these days as “Bio-Ethics” even though such positions are anything but ethical. We find them in textbooks being used to teach the subject to future medical practitioners. (See, e.g., Singer and Kuhse, “Bioethics”)

One of these “ethicists”, Michael Tooley denies the child in the womb should have any rights at all. His rationale evolved over time. In each version, as scientific research cast serious doubt on his claims, he conveniently shifted his ground to reach the same conclusion. Yet, human embryology and developmental biology affirm that a human embryo is not distinct in kind from a human being, but a human being at an early stage of development. Even prior to implantation, a human embryo is a unique living human being with the genetic constitution and epigenetic primordial that continues to develop throughout his or her life. However, the right not to be killed in the womb, the right to be born and the right to participate in human relationships are rejected for these little persons. Human embryonic lives are reduced to what one astute Catholic philosopher and lawyer, Robert George, called a “pre-personal way of being human”.

The idea that people can be less than persons is now being applied to other stages of human development outside of the womb. The disabled (physically and mentally), the aged and the infirmed are increasingly denied the protection of the law. There is an emphasis on individual rights over relation and autonomy over solidarity. The late Servant of God John Paul wrote in “The Gospel of Life” concerning what he called this “remarkable contradiction”. He further elaborated: “…the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them.”(Par. 19) This counterfeit notion of freedom also views comatose human beings as no longer worthy of being called “persons”. Their caregivers are encouraged to stop giving them food and water. Seriously ill children are viewed as interlopers who should not continue to use medical and social resources. Whether the criteria for being recognized as a human person is a satisfactory level of brain function, an agreed upon notion of self awareness, non-dependency, individual autonomy, or some similar “acceptable” level of physical or mental capacity, this reduces the human being to a human doing, valuable not simply because they are members of our human family and gifts to be received but based upon their functionality and subject to deadly treatment once they are no longer of economic value.

There can be do debate that we were all once human embryos. We all lived in the first home of the whole human race, our mothers womb. For the Christian, we further profess that the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was a human being, who, in the embryonic stage, lived in his mother’s womb. At every age and stage of our “human-being- ness”, be it in the womb, as an infant, as a child, an adolescent, an adult, in our times of illness, in our old age, we have always been dependent on others and vulnerable. This is what it means to be a human being. The emphasis of the proponents of the culture of death on independence and autonomy informs a worldview that Pope John Paul II taught threatens the “…entire structure of human rights.” (Gospel of Life, Par. 19)

So, we must rise and suffer the indignities of being verbally pilloried, accused of being anti-science” or “impeding progress”. We must speak for human embryonic Life as we speak for all human life. We must expose and oppose this new form of genetic slavery wherein an entire class of human persons is being labeled as property to be used by those who are more powerful. In conclusion, I speak specifically to my fellow Catholics; we will be at the front line. Why? Because our Church has been absolutely clear in her unbroken teaching on the dignity of every human person, including what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently called “embryonic persons”. Be ready to be called, as happened recently in response to our opposition to the appointment of dissident Catholic Kathleen Sebelius to the HHS, “Catholic Extremists”. The late beloved Servant of God John Paul II called it and he was indeed prophetic: “We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.”