Sunday, July 29, 2012

Prayer by Catholic Congressmen

As you deliberate on the RH Bill, remember that you are Catholics! Please pray before your deliberation. 


Great and eternal God, Creator and Lord of all things, foremost Legislator and supreme Ruler, all power emanates from Thee and depends on Thee; and those whose duty is to legislate, determine in Thy name what is just or unjust, as a reflection of Thy divine wisdom. Therefore, we, the Catholic members of Congress and Catholic politicians, upon whom rests the burden of a grave responsibility that places us at the center of the whole nation, implore Thy aid for the fulfillment of our office that we intend to accept and exercise for the greater spiritual and material welfare of our people.

Grant us such a sense of duty as will cause us to omit no preparation or effort for the realization of this noble end. Grant us also that objectivity and sound realism which will guide us on every occasion to a clear perception of that which seems the best. Grant that we may never deviate from that sound impartiality which dictates that we labor without unjust preferences for the good of all. Grant also that we may never fail in loyalty to our people, nor in firm adherence to the principles which we openly profess, nor in the noble resolve to preserve ourselves above all corruption and base selfish ambitions.

Help us to be calm in our deliberations and to be immune from all passion except as is inspired by the honest quest after truth. May our resolutions be in conformity with Thy precepts even if the service of Thy will should demand sufferings and sacrifices. May we, even in our own little way, endeavor to imitate that rectitude and holiness according to which Thou in Thy providence dost direct and govern everything for Thy greater glory and for the true well-being of human society and of all Thy creatures.

Hear us, O Lord, in order that our minds may never be without Thy light, nor our wills without Thy strength, nor our hearts without the warmth of Thy love, for we ought to have a tender love for our people. Keep far from us every form of human ambition and every kind of lust for illicit gain. Inspire us with a real, lively, and profound sentiment of what constitutes a sound social order wherein full regard is had for law and justice. Finally, as a supreme reward, grant us someday to enjoy Thy blessed presence for all eternity, in union with all those who have been entrusted in our care. Amen. 

On the Multiplication of Loaves

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The lectionary for this year takes the Sunday Gospel readings from the Gospel according to St. Mark, which is the shortest of the 4 gospels. Because of its brevity, the Gospel of St. Mark cannot suffice for all the readings of the year. Thus, we shall have a short break in the Markan series to give way to 4 Sundays of reading from the Eucharistic chapter of St. John’s Gospel. This chapter begins with today’s account of the multiplication of the loaves, which, contrary to the explanation by many preachers today, is more than just an account of Jesus encouraging his listeners to share their resources but is an actual miracle that prefigures the Holy Eucharist. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: “The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks, and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigures the superabundance of this unique bread which is the Eucharist.” (CCC, 1335) This superabundance of the Eucharist is best shown by the fact that even with so little (5 loaves and 2 fish), a crowd of five thousand men ate and have had their fill and the left over filled 12 wicker baskets “that had been more than they could eat.” In this way, the prophecies of Elisha came to pass: “Thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”

Here we see the limitation of man and the superabundance of God. Man asks: “How can I set this before a hundred people?” “200 days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Our tendency is always to say: it is not enough…it is never enough: “What good are these for so many?”

But the Lord “himself knew what he was going to do.” He feeds us from what is offered to him. In the 1st reading, the people were fed from 20 barley loaves made from the first fruits. In the gospel, the men were fed from the boy’s offering of 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. And this is what he does in the Eucharist. The superabundance of God’s gift begins with the humble gifts that are offered to him: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you…the wine we offer you; fruit of the earth (fruit of the vine) and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life…it will become our spiritual drink.” In fact, you may notice that even what we offer him, we ourselves have received for the fruit of the earth and of the vine ultimately come from God. Yes, our human hands may have worked to make bread and wine but let us keep in mind that we worked only on what we have received: wheat and grapes. This is why we come to ask: What is it that we offer and have not received in the first place?

And these humble gifts brought to the altar are transformed into what cannot be made by human hands: the Body and Blood of Christ himself. “…the priest’s words of consecration change what is simply bread into all that you are, what is simply wine into all that made heaven and earth…” (ANF, Ritual of the Ordinary Vigil, p. 34.) The Church “commits the Creator’s gifts into the hands of Christ who, in his sacrifice, brings to perfection all human attempts to offer sacrifices.” (CCC, 1350) An offering that begins seemingly as something so little, humble, and insufficient is transformed into something great, awesome, and superabundant: it becomes the Lord himself – the Lord who opens his hands and satisfies the desire of every living thing. “The Eucharist is an unfathomable mystery itself. It is as inexhaustible as God himself because it is a divine mystery. It is a mystery that one never finishes understanding…‘Has the human language sufficient words to express what the Eucharist is? A truly indescribable mystery! Simple with the greatest simplicity! Rich with supreme richness!’ (John Paul II, Mass in Regio Calabria June 12, 1988)” (F. Stoeckl, John Paul II and the Mystery of the Eucharist, p. 23.)

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Prayer to Mary Help of Christians

O Mary, powerful Virgin, thou art the mighty and glorious protector of the Church; thou art the marvelous help of Christians; thou art terrible as an army in battle array; thou alone hast destroyed every heresy in the whole world. In the midst of our anguish, our struggles, and our distress, defend us from the power of the enemy and at the hour of our death, receive our souls in paradise. Amen.

(St. John Bosco) 
The Raccolta, 414

Let us pray for the defense of the Church

On August 7, 2012, the Congress will vote on the termination of the debates on the RH bill. This is meant to expedite the passing of the controversial bill into law. Is it another hurried process to please the President? Let us pray to Mary, Help of Christians!

Rise, O Mary, incline thyself to hear the prayers of the whole Catholic world, and beat flat to the ground the pride of those wretched men, who in their insolence blaspheme Almighty God and would destroy the Church, against which, according to the infallible words of Christ, the gates of hell shall never prevail. let it be seen once more that when thou dost arise to protect the Church, her victory is sure. Amen.

(The Raccolta, 412)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Help Priests be Priests

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

It was a busy day for the Lord and his apostles: “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” Even when they went off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place, people hastened on foot to that place. The sight of the vast crowd waiting for them on the shore must have exasperated the apostles, but it moved the Lord’s heart to pity “for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” What should have been taken as an opportunity for rest was spent by our Lord ministering to people: “he began to teach them many things.”

That pity which moved the heart of our Lord is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first reading: “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them…I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadows; there they will increase and multiply.”

The Lord associates men to this task of ministering to his flock: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing.” The task of caring for the Lord’s flock is truly a huge task which demands immense personal sacrifices. In speaking to priests, the Holy Father said: “You must think above all, not so much of your own personal good, but of the service to the holy people of God, who need pastors who dedicate themselves to the beautiful service of the sanctification of the faithful…” (Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph, May 10, 2012.)    

Knowing the human limitation of those whom he appointed as shepherds of his flock, the Lord tells his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” The rest which the Lord offers his disciples is none other than prayer which should be part of a priest’s daily schedule. “Remember that the priest renews his life and draws strength for his ministry from contemplation of the Divine Word and intense dialogue with the Lord. He is aware that he will be unable to take Christ to his brethren or to meet him in the poor and the sick, if he does not first discover him in fervent and constant prayer. It is necessary to nourish a personal relationship with the One whom he then proclaims, celebrates, and communicates. Herein lies the foundation of priestly spirituality, until one becomes a transparent sign and living witness of the Good Shepherd.”

If we want our priests to minister to us in the manner desired by our Lord, we must help them maintain the high standard of priestly spirituality. This we do providing them ample time to pray. The demands of pastoral life are already immense. The least we can do is not to tempt priests to spend the little time of their rest for “unpriestly” things. The little times of rest for a priest should be spent in prayer and study. It is not right to require of priests to live a secular lifestyle so that they can be like the rest of us. If we expect them to teach us well, give them time to study. If we expect them help us along the way of holiness, give them time to pray. In other words, help priests be priests. Help priests serve you well.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

The New Evangelization and Catholic Education

The homily of His Excellency Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco, DD, Bishop of Cubao, at the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the Academic Year 2012-2013, at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, on the 11th of July 2012:

As we invoke the Holy Spirit at the beginning of this academic year 2012-2013, my mind is raised towards the opening of the Year of Faith this coming October. This Year of Faith will be marked by the Synod of Bishops which will be about “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.” Our first reading today spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles who gathered in prayer. He descended in the form of tongues of fire and by His inspiration, the apostles declared the praise of God in different languages. The Spirit-inspired proclamation of the praise of God in different languages on that Pentecost Sunday tells us that Evangelization has always been an integral part of the life of the Church even from the very beginning of her existence.

If Evangelization has always been part of our life as Church, why do we speak today of a “new evangelization”? What is this “new evangelization” which seems to be an important concern for the Church today? Are we talking of an overhaul of the doctrines of the Church? Will there be a rewriting of the Gospels of Jesus? Are we embarking on some sort of modernization in the way the Church transmits the Christian message?

In order to appreciate the “new evangelization”, we have to acknowledge the changes happening in the global culture. We are now “facing social and cultural changes that are profoundly affecting a person’s perception of self and the world, and consequently, a person’s way of believing in God.” (Instrumentum Laboris, 6.) There seems to be a prevalent distrust for anything the Church received and hands down to us from Divine Revelation. There is a recognizable “de-Christianization of many ordinary people who, despite being baptized, live a life not in keeping with their Christian faith or express some kind of faith but have an imperfect knowledge of its basic tenets.” (Instrumentum Laboris, 12.) In other words, we are confronted today by widespread religious indifference, secularism, and even atheism.

There is truly a need to “mend the Christian fabric of society” and this begins by remaking the Christian fabric of the Church ((Instrumentum Laboris, 13.). Thus, when we speak of the ‘new evangelization”, we are referring to the “pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith.” (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization (3 December 2007), 12: AAS 100 (2008) 501.) “Through the new evangelization, the Church seeks to insert the very original and specific character of her teachings into today’s world and everyday discussion. She wants to be the place where God can be experienced even now, and where, under the guidance of the Spirit of the Risen Christ, we allow ourselves to be transformed by the gift of faith.” (Instrumentum Laboris, 88)

It is here where we appreciate the presence of the Church in the field of the academe. The presence of the Church, our presence, in the world of education inserts the teaching of Jesus “into today’s world and everyday discussion.” Our schools mark the presence of the Church where God can be experienced and where we allow ourselves to be transformed by the gift of faith. Let us not underestimate the importance of our Catholic Schools. Let us not underestimate the importance of our Catechists in the public schools. Through these important institutions, we are placed at a privileged position of molding young minds into the mindset of Christ and the culture of Christianity. This privileged position should make us now evaluate seriously as to whether we exert a Christian influence among our young people. Do we still keep in mind that our Catholic schools are the evangelizing arms of the Church? Do we still keep in mind that the primary objective of engaging in the work of Catholic education is the transmission of the faith? Remember that our schools are not simply to produce graduates who are competent in various professional fields. Our schools must produce good Christians…good practicing Catholics.

We cannot simply resign to the prevalent religious indifference among people. As the Holy Father himself said, “We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: ‘Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life’ (Jn6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’ (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 3.) Let us embark on this new academic year with a renewed commitment to the transmission of the Faith. Even if we have to contend with “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ,” let us continue to profess the faith. For belief in Jesus Christ is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.