My Heavenly Talisman

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sto. ninoHave you ever had someone or something that gives you a positive feeling and effect? It’s more psychological; a state of mind. And as long as you think positive, you also bring out positive energy. For me, my talisman came about out of faith. It is a small image of the Holy Child Jesus – Sto. Nino, which I bought during my first visit to the Philippines some twenty years ago. The Sto. Nino is the patron of Cebu City whose feast is celebrated in January. The original statue is permanently housed in an altar at the Minor Basilica of St. Nino. In my first visit to the Philippines, I bought a small replica of the image and placed it on top of the dashboard of my car. That was twenty years ago and five cars later, it still stands on top of the dashboard guiding my way on my every trip. After so many years of having been under the heat of the sun and the cold of winter, the image is now far from its original appearance: the lush velvet robe is now a pale pinkish color; the once golden inscription can now hardly be read; the scepter and the globe are gone; the crown is somewhat loose and out of shape and the once brown face has become greenish. But it still has its friendly, kind face and fetching smile.

Everytime I drive I always see His smiling face and I have that feeling that my Lord Jesus is there with me. I have had scary incidents with my cars. My first car was a second hand old model Suzuki when I had my first driver’s license. It was so old that it always got stuck and had to be towed away. Once my car got stuck in the middle of a busy highway on a severe winter evening. It was dark and snowing. I had to carefully find my way out of the car to search for one of those emergency roadside telephones. It was a miracle that my car remained safe while standing there in the middle of the highway. My second car was a second hand Kia. It was with this car that I met a severe car accident. A truck hit the side of my car where my two young kids were sitting. The car was a total wreck; my kids and I were in shock. But thank God, we escaped injuries. The positive of it was I got a brand new car of the same model from the insurance. Fourth car, a Fiat, suffered vandalism together with other cars who were also parked in the same garage where I parked my car. All the windows were smashed but nothing was stolen from my car. Now my Sto. Nino is perched on top of the dashboard of my new car, a new model silver grey Kia Picanto.

I thank the Lord for watching me through all these years. I shall always cherish this image of the Holy Child Jesus – the Sto. Nino.

Celebrating Gabriel’s Baptism

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gabrielIt was a special celebration last weekend – the welcoming of the newest family member to the Christian life. Gabriel was baptized amidst the presence of his loving parents, his godparents, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins, and friends. We, who were not there in person during the ceremony, welcomed him with our prayers.

After the baptism of my two kids years ago, it’s a welcoming event to look forward to.  It’s really a privilege to be part of this initiation rite to Christianity. Jesus has set an example to all of us when He himself was baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. And He has given this mission to His apostles :

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20).

So was it then; so it is now.

I have witnessed recent baptisms in the Church. It’s usually during a special Holy Day like Easter Sunday or Christmas Day that a group baptism is held. Last Christmas, I had the privilege of witnessing four babies baptized before the start of the holy mass. There was this big basin of water in the centre of the altar and a large Easter candle on the side. One by one the babies were called with their parents and godparents. It was so funny when the babies were immersed naked in the basin of baptismal water. The other baptism I witnessed was during Mother’s Day sunday mass. This time it was a baptism of two ten-year old twin boys. They were too big to be immersed in the basin of water, so the godparents just held them up high enough with the head towards the basin so that the priest could pour water on the head. Two years ago a dear friend of mine received his baptism as an adult when he embraced Christianity for the first time. After that he and his fiancee got married in Church.

Oftentimes we take the ceremony as a matter of fact without even pondering on the symbol of the materials used in the ceremony:

  1. Baptismal water – the consecrated water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. From the Holy Spirit flows all the blessings of Jesus who was crucified. It symbolizes death to sin and rising up to a new life through Jesus. The baptized is now part of the body of Christ.
  2. Anointing of sacred oil – the Sacred oil of Chrism is a perfumed oil that is consecrated by the Bishop. With the oil, the priest asks God to bless the believer with all the necessary graces to achieve a Christian life. The word “Christian” comes from the word “Christ”which means the Annointed One.
  3. The putting of the white garment symbolizes the putting on Christ. This is the outward sign of the person’s Christian dignity.
  4. Candle – the lighting of candle through the Easter candle symbolizes receiving the light of Christ. The flame of faith will be kept alive at all times. The parents and godparents are entrusted to guide the baptized through the Light of Christ – keeping the flame of faith alive.

We welcome Gabriel to the Christian life. Someday when he’s older he will confirm his faith through the Sacrament of Confirmation; just like his cousin Josef who recently confirmed his faith – the latest family member to do so.

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

kerkThe holy mass today was special – it was to celebrate the Feast of the patron saints of our parish church – Saints Peter and Paul. The chuch was crowded more than usual – there were three choirs – men, women and children. The sermon was also longer than usual and the songs were varied than usual. But what struck me most was the significance of this feast. This is a reminder of our Lord Jesus’ foundation of his Church on earth. He told us to have faith because He will always be with us in spirit until His second coming. I needed this reminder; we all need this reminder in these times of liberalism and secularism.

When you read news relating to Pope Francis and the Catholic Church you will always be confronted with hateful comments and slanders against the Church. How can people condemn the Catholic church as the evil one, as the false church when this is the oldest, the first church that Christ has built through the saints Peter and Paul?

One time I ran into an article making fun of the Catholic church and the sacrament of the Eucharist. The author twisted everything about the truth to make the Church like a circus, an invention of a fool. I commented on his article to rectify some of his allegations but he denied my comment. So, I wrote my own article as rebuttal but the moderators denied it too and only published it after I made several changes. I am a Catholic, and I will always defend my faith.

God bless us all.

What is a Mother?

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May is the month when mothers are put on pedestals and showered with best wishes, gifts and tributes of appreciation and thanks. And this should be the time to reflect on the importance of motherhood for what is more difficult and honourable than bringing forth a human being into the world, raising it and helping it develop into a full-fledged unique person? I don’t think that people see the role of a mother as God has meant it to be. You see in these modern times of liberalism and feminism, pregnant women gracing the news and social pages usually half-naked contesting one another as to who has the sexiest “baby bump”; new mothers who pose with their newborns in their arms like they are the latest fashion accessories and then dumping them in the arms of hired nannies to pursue their own carreer and jetset lifestyle the moment they are out of public eyes; tv programs dishing out shows like “Teen Mom”, “Young and Engaged” and whatnots as if motherhood is just a by-product of your sex life; and kids being spoiled by their money and fame hungry parents with material comforts to compensate for their lack of attention and time; rich parents who juggle their kids from one broken marriage to another, or worse, unwed mothers dumping their unwanted babies and poor mothers selling their babies like commodities -the true role of motherhood has been neglected and thrown away as trash.

It’s now time to see motherhood in the right perspective. And the best way is to turn to God, the creator of all mankind; the Almighty God who created man and woman and united them as one family for the purpose of procreation, just as it is written in the Bible:

27So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:27-1:28). 

And when God decided to send His very own Son to earth He chose a meek, humble and lowly virgin to take the ultimate role of Mother of God. He did not choose a famous or rich woman for the role. God gave us a perfect example of a mother – in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Here are important points to ponder on Mary, the perfect role of motherhood:

1. Humility and purity of heart – when Mary received the good news, she did not complain, nor did she become haughty and proud. She was at first shocked and bewildered but immediately accepted by saying: (Luke 1:38) “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

2. Charity – during Mary’s pregnancy, she did not confine herself in her own precarious situation. Instead, she went, stayed with her pregnant  cousin, Elizabeth, and assisted her during her labour.

3. Patience – when Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was not in their company on their way home from church, they went back and searched for three days with faith and patience until they finally found Him in the temple.

4. Kindness – in the wedding banquet at Cana, once Mary learned that the hosts ran out of wine, she did not hesitate to inform Jesus. And instead of nagging Jesus when he said “Why do you involve me? My time has not yet come”, she kindly told the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:3-5).  Jesus said His time has not yet come, but He loved and respected His mother and did what she expected Him to do. He performed His first public miracle by turning water into wine.

5. Faith and endurance – when Joseph and Mary went to the temple for the presentation of their infant, Jesus, a devout man, Simeon, prophesied about His destiny and told her about her heartaches. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too. “((Luke 2:22-40). And true enough, Mary saw her beloved Son being persecuted and put into death. She suffered these trials in silence. She followed her Son throughout His journey to death and was greatly rewarded with joy when He came back from death, stayed with her and His disciples until He ascended into heaven.

Mary shows us the true essence of motherhood – to be the silent force of the family, giving undivided support to the husband and child, giving the child full attention and love, instilling the moral and spiritual values through deeds and example. We should follow the example of Mary and Joseph. Let’s lead our children to the path of Christianity through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.

Winning my son back to Catholic faith

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altar

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My relationship with my son has not always been smooth sailing. There was a time when he literally hated me. I could not blame him; I blamed myself. I wasn’t strong enough to fight my own battles and keep my kids from the misery I was in. When my son was still a baby, he was so attached to me. He would rather sleep on my chest than in his own bed. He and his sister would fight for my attention. However, when my marriage broke down, I was lost and I neglected my kids. I then left the house with my daughter leaving my son to his father. And I think he felt I abandoned him and he could never forgive me for that even though I made it a point to have him with me regularly. Three years ago, my ex-husband decided to settle in another country and left the house to me and my two kids. What followed was an emotional battle with my son which also affected my daughter. At first I would not let him see how upset and sad it made me feel everytime he expressly taunt me or dare me with his provocations.  This conflict had also affected his religious faith. During my troubled marriage, my kids would hear their father mocking my faith and calling me a hypocrite. My son would soon associate his bitterness towards me with my religious faith. He stopped going to church; my daughter followed his example. I did not push them to do otherwise; I felt I had to be a good example of a true Christian first. The first step was to put the house in order. I took away all the graven images of foreign gods that my ex has collected from his various travels. I then set up my own Catholic altar right in the living room- with the image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at the center of the altar. I cleaned up my son’s CD/DVD compilation and got rid of his collection of Satanic music (I was shocked to see the name and image of Satan on the covers). I then resumed our family prayers before meals. At first I would go to church alone. Gradually, my kids would accompany me to church on special holy days like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. Easter and Christmas after mass, we would watch on tv the Pope’s Orbi et Urbi. Once in a while, I would tell my kids: “I have this problem and need your help. Could you please help me pray for guidance?” They would just look at me and say nothing. After a time of silent reaction to his temperamental outbursts – his way of venting out his frustrations, I soon learned that it is better to be honest with one another and let out each other’s feelings. And it happened. My son finally realized how devastated I was with our never-ending emotional fights. We ended up crying and hugging one other – my kids and I. It is not yet still waters around us. We still need time to heal our psychological and spiritual wounds. I shall continue praying for my kids, for myself and my whole family that we will all soon be guided back to the right path to the Lord Jesus.

Do we need to go to church?

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As Catholics, my family never failed to attend Sunday masses and novenas during the week. I remember my father, mother, my 6 brothers, 4 sisters and I all dressed up in our fine Sunday clothes and polished shoes showing up in Church on time. It was always crowded in all the churches even during the late evening masses. Years later I got married and moved to Europe. I then noticed the huge difference when it comes to religion. There were not so many churches in the vicinity and at most only one mass on Sundays and Saturdays.  The parish church where I lived happened to be just at a walking distance so going to church was no problem even with two babies (born within two years in a row) in tow. Although it was performed in a foreign language which I still had to learn in the first year of my stay in Europe, I could still follow the service since the mass is the same everywhere and what is important is the Holy Eucharist. Someone told me she doesn’t have to go to church since the Bible said: “where two or three persons gather together, Jesus is in the middle.” Yes, I said, so is going to mass where there are two or more people praising and worshiping the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. What’s more, you can always have your bible study or prayers at home or somewhere else but Holy Mass in the Church especially built for our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, is much more than a gathering of two or three people. Why can’t we take aside one day, Sunday or Saturday, to worship our Lord in His house? I’m sure one or two hours of Jesus worship would not be a hindrance to our busy day? When Jesus was here on earth, He showed us an example of attending a Church service. He would take the long distance to attend the services with His parents while he was growing up. He even stayed there for three days causing His parents worries. And He also showed just how much He loved the Church when He drove vendors away from the Church premises, saying: “My house will be called a house of prayers, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21)

I feel sad to see people getting too lazy to attend a Holy Mass. If only they realize just how much a privilege it is to worship and receive our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist –  complete with hymns, Gospel readings and sermons, greeting each other peace in Christ and with the highlight the Holy Communion – the sacrament instituted by our Lord Jesus during His Last Supper with His disciples. “He took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat, this is My Body’, then He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to His disciples saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28). “Do this in remembrance of me.”(Luke 22)

Let’s put our Lord Jesus back in the center of our lives and have His glory shine upon each and every one of us.

Being a Catholic in the Modern Times

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Being a Catholic in this liberal minded time is not easy. I come from a Catholic family, raised and educated as Catholic. Growing up, I never thought seriously about what it is to be a Catholic. It just came naturally as eating or breathing. Now after so many changes and detours in my life, I finally took a hard look at my beliefs. My sister has cut her ties with the Church and is now a fervent follower of a new Christian ministry. Two friends have also stopped their ties and now call themselves a “freelancer”.  Another friend has married a man who has set up a Christian ministry himself and she has tried to entice me into joining their ministry. I, myself, am guilty of having been laxed with my religion. So many changes and events in my life led me astray from the Catholic path. But wonder of wonders, I still managed to raise and educate my two kids as Catholics. And I thank God for that. I think I would never forgive myself if I have failed to instill the Church teachings and values on my children. After so many soul searching, I have come to my senses on time and is now ready to take up my religion once again.  And I know and I am assured that now that my kids have a life of their own, they will be thankful for the Catholic upbringing. And I will continue praying that when each of them will have a family of their own, that they will in turn raise their kids as Catholics.