Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Totus Tuus: Sacred Relics of St. John Paul II & Other Pro-Life Saints

(Forwarded invitation)

Greetings !

Recently canonized Pope John Paul II continues to hold a very special place in the hearts of the Catholic faithful. His two visits in our country in 1981 and 1995 remain alive in the nation’s memory.

The Filipino people are one with the rest of the Catholic world in celebrating the life and times of this modern-day saint every opportunity we get as we all try to live out his legacy of love for Life, zeal for Evangelization and passion for living out the Faith.

As we offer our gratitude to God for giving us the gift of St. John Paul II, we also offer our thanks to this successor of Peter for helping bring us closer to God as we also ask for his saintly intercession for healing of the many ills plaguing our country and people.

In view of this, we in Pro-Life Philippines have the honor to invite everyone to:


October 1-30, 2014
Pro-Life Philippines Office
70 Main Horseshoe Drive, Horseshoe Village, Quezon City
9am-5pm, Monday to Saturday

For inquiries and reservations, please call us at 655-6202, fax us at 571-6550, or email us at life@prolife.org.ph

St. John Paul II, pray for us.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meditations on Chastity

In our hypersexualized culture, the word 'chastity' has become a very dirty word, an 'old-fashioned' virtue that should be thrown out the window because we are already living in a 'modern' age where hooking up and engaging in premarital sex is, well, just a 'casual' thing to do. As difficult as it is to remain pure nowadays, we can draw valuable insights and inspirations from the wisdom of the Church Fathers, Popes, Theologians, and Saints why this virtue still 'matters' if we really truly desire to grow in perfect love and holiness.

"He said to me, 'They are accomplished. I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.'" (Rv. 21:6-8)

"[C]hastity is sacred to our Lord" (Sequence)

"And did not the law call chastity the great vow?" (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Love the purity of a chaste life, because Christ is the Son of a virgin." (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"Make it your object, therefore, to keep your tongue chaste as well as your eyes." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"In the banquet-hall chastity is hard to keep." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"Vigilance and prayer are the safeguards of chastity." (St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle)

"We Christians regard a stain upon our chastity as more dreadful than any punishment, or even than death itself." [Tertullian ("an excellent early Christian writer" - although he would ultimately fall into heresy), 2nd century A.D.]

"Let the manner of your life be adorned by chastity, sobriety, and moderation" (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"It is easy to achieve chastity, if we will, if we withdraw ourselves from those things that are injurious" (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"[N]o virtues are worthier or more excellent than merciful loving-kindness and unblemished chastity" (Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"The sorrow of regretful affection is a good guardian of chastity, guilt cannot find an entrance if vigilance be not wanting." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"Only a person who knows how to be chaste will know how to love in marriage or in virginity." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

"Don't say that you have a chaste mind if you have unchaste eyes, because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Chastity is self-restraint, and the mastering pleasures which fight, just as in war the trophies are most honorable when the contest is violent, not when no one raises a hand against us." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Why should I continue the praise of chastity in more words? For chastity has made even angels. He who has preserved it is an angel; he who has lost it a devil." (St. Ambrose, Doctor of the Church)

"To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is, satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer self-giving." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

"It is the saying of a very learned man, that chastity must be preserved at all costs, and that when it is lost all virtue falls to the ground. This holds the primacy of all virtues in woman." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"But so long as the will retains under its authority the other members, without which the members excited by lust to resist the will cannot accomplish what they seek, chastity is preserved, and the delight of sin foregone." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"As to those who are married, it is quite true (although the mass of men cannot perceive it) that they stand greatly in need of chastity, for in them it lies not in total abstinence from carnal pleasures, but in self-control amidst the pleasures." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

"[P]arents should also consider any attack on the virtue and chastity of their children as an offence against the life of faith itself that threatens and impoverishes their own communion of life and grace (cf. Eph. 6: 12)." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

"[I]t is that the virtue of chastity most of all makes man apt for contemplation, since venereal pleasures most of all weigh the mind down to sensible objects, as Augustine says (Soliloquia i, 10)." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"If the fashion of thy soul is avarice, put on another fashion and come in. Put off thy former fashion, cloke it not up. Put off, I pray thee, fornication and uncleanness, and put on the brightest robe of chastity. This charge I give thee, before Jesus the Bridegroom of souls come in and see their fashions" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church)

"For wickedness is so manifest, that all men are its accusers, even those who follow after it, while such is the quality of virtue, that it is admired even by those who do not emulate it. For even the fornicator will praise chastity, and the covetous will condemn injustice, and the passionate will admire patience" (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Now as moderation, so chastity, is an ordinary effect of love. If a man love his own wife as he ought to love, even though he be never so much inclined to wantonness, he will not endure to look upon another woman, on account of his affection for her. 'For love,' (Cant. viii. 5.) saith one, 'is strong as death.' So that from no other source doth wanton behavior arise than from want of love." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"For some who find themselves in situations where chastity is offended against and not valued, living in a chaste way can demand a hard or even a heroic struggle. Nonetheless, with the grace of Christ, flowing from his spousal love for the Church, everyone can live chastely even if they find themselves in unfavorable circumstances." (Pontifical Council for the Family)

"Nor is it enough to fly from sin; every Christian ought to shine with the splendor of virtue so as to be pleasing to so great and so beneficent a guest; and first of all with chastity and holiness, for chaste and holy things befit the temple. Hence the words of the Apostle: 'Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are' (1 Cor. iii., 16-17): a terrible, indeed, but a just warning." (Pope Leo XIII, "Divinum Illud Munus", 1897)

"For fine linen (byssus) springs from the earth with glittering show: and what is designated by fine linen but bodily chastity shining white in the comeliness of purity? And it is also twisted for being interwoven into the beauty of the ephod, since the habit of chastity, then attains to the perfect whiteness of purity when the flesh is worn by abstinence. And, since the merit of affliction of the flesh profits among the other virtues, fine twined linen shews white, as it were, in the diverse beauty of the ephod." (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church)

"[I]t should be noted, as indeed the Fathers and Doctors of the Church teach, that we can more easily struggle against and repress the wiles of evil and the enticements of the passions if we do not struggle directly against them, but rather flee from them as best we may. For the preserving of chastity, according to the teaching of Jerome, flight is more effective than open warfare: 'Therefore I flee, lest I be overcome.' Flight must be understood in this sense, that not only do we diligently avoid occasion of sin, but especially that in struggles of this kind we lift our minds and hearts to God" (Pope Pius XII, "Sacra Virginitas", 1954)

"It is better then to suffer in stomach than in soul, to rule the body than to serve it, to lose one's balance than to lose one's chastity. Let us not lull ourselves with the delusion that we can always fall back on penitence. For this is at best but a remedy for misery. Let us shrink from incurring a wound which must be painful to cure. For it is one thing to enter the haven of salvation with ship safe and merchandise uninjured, and another to cling naked to a plank and, as the waves toss you this way and that, to be dashed again and again on the sharp rocks." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)

"Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will he be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. 'All bread,' it is said, 'is sweet to the fornicator.' (Ecclus. xxiii. 17.) Garlands are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But if captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued?" (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"If we run on, if we look to none of those things that are set before our eyes, if we consider nothing but how we may escape from those who would hinder us, we shall be able to retain with all security what we have seized. Hast thou seized on chastity? Tarry not; flee beyond the reach of the devil. If he sees that he cannot overtake thee, he will cease to pursue; as we, when we can no longer see those who have robbed us, despair of the pursuit, and do not pursue, nor call on others to stop thief, but suffer them to escape. So do thou run vigorously at the beginning, and when thou art beyond the reach of the devil, he will not afterwards attack thee, but thou wilt be in safety, securely enjoying those unspeakable blessings, which God grant that we may all obtain through Jesus Christ our Lord. To whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, and worship, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen." (St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church)

"Concerning chastity, He uttered such sentiments as these: 'Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart before God.' And, 'If thy right eye offend thee, cut it out; for it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of heaven with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into everlasting fire.' And, 'Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced from another husband, committeth adultery.' And, 'There are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake; but all cannot receive this saying.' So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God." (St. Justin Martyr)

"But let us all by God's grace run the race of chastity, young men and maidens, old men and children; not going after wantonness, but praising the name of Christ. Let us not be ignorant of the glory of chastity: for its crown is angelic, and its excellence above man. Let us be chary of our bodies which are to shine as the sun: let us not for short pleasure defile so great, so noble a body: for short and momentary is the sin, but the shame for many years and for ever. Angels walking upon earth are they who practice chastity: the Virgins have their portion with Mary the Virgin. Let all vain ornament be banished, and every hurtful glance, and all wanton gait, and every flowing robe, and perfume enticing to pleasure. But in all for perfume let there be the prayer of sweet odour, and the practice of good works, and the sanctification of our bodies: that the Virgin-born Lord may say even of us, both men who live in chastity and women who wear the crown, I will dwell in them; and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church)

"It is also necessary to put before young people the consequences, which are always very serious, of separating sexuality from procreation when someone reaches the stage of practicing sterilization and abortion or pursuing sexual activity dissociated from married love, before and outside of marriage. Much of the moral order and marital harmony of the family, hence also the true good of society, depends on this timely education, which finds its place in God's plan, in the very structure of sexuality and the intimate nature of marriage. Parents who carry out their own right and duty to form their children for chastity can be certain that they are helping them in turn to build stable and united families, thus anticipating, insofar as this is possible, the joys of paradise: 'How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father... They are both brethren and both fellow servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh... Christ rejoices in them and he sends them his peace; where the couple is, there he is also to be found, and where he is, evil can no longer abide.'" (Pontifical Council for the Family)

"The word chastity is employed in two ways. First, properly; and thus it is a special virtue having a special matter, namely the concupiscences relating to venereal pleasures. Secondly, the word chastity is employed metaphorically: for just as a mingling of bodies conduces to venereal pleasure which is the proper matter of chastity and of lust its contrary vice, so too the spiritual union of the mind with certain things conduces to a pleasure which is the matter of a spiritual chastity metaphorically speaking, as well as of a spiritual fornication likewise metaphorically so called. For if the human mind delight in the spiritual union with that to which it behooves it to be united, namely God, and refrains from delighting in union with other things against the requirements of the order established by God, this may be called a spiritual chastity, according to 2 Corinthians 11:2, 'I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ'. If, on the other hand, the mind be united to any other things whatsoever, against the prescription of the Divine order, it will be called spiritual fornication, according to Jeremiah 3:1, 'But thou hast prostituted thyself to many lovers.' Taking chastity in this sense, it is a general virtue, because every virtue withdraws the human mind from delighting in a union with unlawful things. Nevertheless, the essence of this chastity consists principally in charity and the other theological virtues, whereby the human mind is united to God." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

[ Source: MyCatholicSource.com ]

Monday, September 8, 2014

On The Nativity of the Blessed Mother

A short reflection on the feast of the Nativity of Mary. Like Video Sancto on Facebook and receive spiritually uplifting homilies faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium.

Who is She that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array? - Catena Legionis

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Inconvenient Truth About The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I have watched with great fascination how ordinary and famous people alike took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by posting a video of them being doused with ice cold water and tagging someone to do the same. The goal of course is to raise money for the ALS Foundation to help find a cure for ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease). There is really nothing wrong with that, but if you are planning to join the ice bucket bandwagon please consider reading this blog post first. There is more to this than meets the eye.

The Ice Bucket Challenge and Lou Gehrig's Disease Research

The Ice Bucket Challenge aims to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. According to the website of the ALS Association (ALSA), here is how it works:

The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. People can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS Charity of their choice, or do both.

Posed in this manner, there is nothing morally problematic about the nature of the challenge. Accepting the challenge does not require any donations, but helps promote the primary goal of raising ALS awareness. Those declining the challenge are encouraged to “make a donation to an ALS charity of their choice,” but there is no legal or moral obligation to do so, nor is there any requirement that a donation go to ALSA. Naturally, those who accept the challenge are also free to make a donation to an ALS charity. Some, such as the schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, are choosing to accept the challenge while also making donations to other organizations that promote awareness and support for persons with ALS.

Since the challenge started trending in late July 2014, it has successfully raised awareness about the disease on a dramatic scale, accomplishing its main purpose with great creativity and fun. It has also generated more than 40 million dollars in donations to promote research into causes of ALS and the development of new treatments.

Given its size and the significant amount of research, awareness, and support work with which it is involved, ALSA has been the primary recipient of many if not most donations resulting from the challenge. ALSA has also helped to promote the challenge on its website and through social media in accordance with its good aims as a charitable organization.

The public attention and funds being directed toward ALSA as a result of the Ice Bucket Challenge raise an important, but not widely known moral concern: ALSA also advocates for human embryonic stem cell research, including through funding for specific research projects. As indicated in the Advocacy Archive section of their website, they were active in encouraging expanded funding for embryonic stem cell research as soon as President Obama took office: “Earlier this month, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, of which The ALS Association is an active member, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to quickly lift the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.” Another advocacy group for patients with ALS, called Project ALS, is similarly on record encouraging human embryonic stem cell research.

In its Instruction Dignitas Personae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks clearly to the moral problems with the use of embryonic stem cells, even for noble and therapeutically effective ends:

The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo ... invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit: “research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results, is not truly at the service of humanity. In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and to the lives of the researchers themselves. History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity” (n. 32, quoting Pope Benedict XVI).

ALSA acknowledges that there are relevant ethical concerns surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells: "The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in the lab with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough. But it has raised ethical concerns." When asked about the ALSA position on human embryonic stem cell research, Carrie Munk, a spokeswoman for the Association, noted in an e-mail to Religion News Service that the organization primarily funds adult stem cell research: “Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research,” she said. “The project is in its final phase and will come to an end very soon.” Nonetheless, the organization does not clearly rule out the prospect of funding for ESC research.

Potential donors seeking to support laudable causes, such as research for cures to serious diseases, face the challenge of exercising due diligence, so that their funds are properly utilized and not misdirected or otherwise targeted by an advocacy organization to support immoral projects.

When foundations have a generally sound list of activities but promote an intrinsically immoral activity as well (such as abortion, human embryonic stem cell research, or contraception), donors must consider the serious matter of the fungibility of donated funds. Whenever we participate in fundraising for such organizations, even if they assure us that specified funds will only be used for activities with an ethical profile, it can end up being little more than a shell game. In this sense, there is a real danger that our fundraising activities may not only engender scandal, but may even contribute to the perpetuation of grave evils like abortion and human embryonic stem cell research. The duty to affirm the dignity of human life, and associated questions of scandal resulting from a lack of clarity, can become more significant—with a corresponding need for caution about where the funding is going—when Catholic authorities or institutions such as dioceses and schools are involved.

Donors who are concerned about the misuse of funds by groups such as ALSA, Project ALS, or others should consider notifying those organizations of their reasons for choosing not to donate, encouraging them to cease advocacy and funding for ESC research, raising awareness about the immoral destruction of human life through embryonic stem cell research, and donating to alternative ALS research and advocacy groups that do not support or promote human embryonic stem cell research. Several examples of such groups can be mentioned:

The Cell Therapy Foundation specifically promotes adult stem cell research. On their website, it is possible to donate in a directed way to specific research, including ALS:


Compassionate Care ALS offers much-needed care and treatment for people living with ALS (instead of focusing on scientific research and the development of therapies): http://www.ccals.org/home.php.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life reported in a recent newsletter that the ALS Therapy Development Institute (http://www.als.net/), when asked on the phone about this issue, said they do not support research with embryonic stem cells “because they think induced pluripotent adult stem cells are the best avenue to a cure.” The newsletter also noted that “they do not have a principled objection to using embryonic stem cells but said they understand the gravity of the issue and would be very public if they change their position so donors and potential donors would be aware.”


The Ethicists of The National Catholic Bioethics Center
The Ice Bucket Challenge and Lou Gehrig's Disease Research
August 22, 2014
© 2014 by the National Catholic Bioethics Center

[P.S. Feel free to forward this info as long as you include the source I posted above. Thanks.]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Come Follow Me

We just concluded our annual Courage retreat centering on the theme 'Come Follow Me'. I arrived late in the retreat and had actually no idea what the theme was and oh what a surprise! The week prior to our retreat I saw the 'Come Follow Me' signage twice and it kind of struck me as odd. So when I found out that the theme for this year's retreat was 'Come Follow Me', I took it as a sign to really reflect on the ways that I am not heeding His call to follow Him. If there's one thing I learned from the retreat, it is that no matter what our state in life is - married, religious, or single - the universal call is the call to love.

On this blog post, I am going to feature someone who has said his big yes to the Lord's call in an extraordinary way and that's no other than our wonderful retreat master Fr. James McTavish, FMVD.

It is not difficult to look for the address of James McTavish in the quiet, middle class Varsity Hills subdivision in Quezon City (Metro Manila). When asked for directions, bystanders will immediately point to a gated compound where the 'kano' lives. But that is not entirely accurate.

McTavish is a 42-year-old Scot with the laid back demeanor of a bachelor in his 20s. The Cambridge-educated doctor greets his visitor in carefully woven Filipino before shifting to genteel-sounding English articulated with a distinct rhetoric accent.

McTavish, however, did not originally plan to become a priest.

"I studied in Cambridge in England and became a surgeon. That was the only thing in life that I wanted to be. That was my vocation. That was my calling. And even when I was younger, the only thing I wanted to be was a surgeon," he said.

"After I qualified, I wanted to do a surgery...and as part of my training I did six months of plastic surgery," McTavish added.

Things took a different turn, however, when he was invited to work in Sydney, Australia in 1998. He explained that working in Sydney gave him time for some quiet reflection.

"I had the chance to have some time out - I was far away from my family, I was far away from my friends. And in that moment, I did something which I haven't done in a few years - I went back to church."

McTavish said the experience of regaining the habit to listen to Mass gave him peace "in the middle of some uncertainties about the future." During this period, he was invited to a prayer meeting by some sisters of the Fraternidad Misionera Verbum Dei, a religious order under the ambit of the Roman Catholic Church.

"What the sisters started to teach me was how to pray with the Word of God, and then I started to find out that the Church teaches that, when we pray, we speak to God. But when we read the Word of God, God is speaking to us," he said.

He then started to feel that there were certain changes in his disposition as a doctor.

"I became more patient with my patients," he quipped.

"I noticed that I became more sensitive...to the Word of God in my life. And in the middle of these changes, I was enjoying more and more. I started to go running. I had so much energy and I wasn't wasting it in crazy nights out with my friends. And I found myself more focused with more energy for doing the right things and avoiding the things I should." he added.

At 29, he experienced his first retreat. It was during this retreat that he decided to become a missionary for Verbum Dei.

Leap of Faith

Being called to priestly life is all about trust in God, according to McTavish.

"When you say 'yes' to the Lord...to enter religious life, you're taking a little bit of a leap in the dark. And I didn't know that I'd come to beautiful Philippines. I didn't know I'll be in Quezon City. I didn't know I'd become a priest. I didn't know I'd be teaching moral theology in Ateneo de Manila University or UST [University of Santo Tomas]," the priest said.

He spent about two years for his formation course with Verbum Dei in Cebu and spent some years studying in Cagayan de Oro. Subsequently, he studied in Rome for four years leading to his ordination as a priest.

McTavish said that spending his time with the Verbum Dei community helped fortify his resolve to become a priest.

"I found that the Lord gathered people from different walks of life and of course it gave me more peace when I met others who have been called also. That's the beauty of community," he said.

Spreading the Word

Verbum Dei (Latin for Word of God) is a religious order founded by Spanish priest Fr. Jaime Bonet in Majorca, Spain in 1963. The community was granted Pontifical approval by Pope John Paul II as an Institution of Consecrated Life in 2000. Currently, Verbum Dei is present in about 33 countries spread throughout the five continents.

According to McTavish, "The mission [of Verbum Dei] is, first, to form apostles. This word really means people who are mature in their faith. The second mission is spreading the Word of God."

"Our advocacy is to make Jesus more known through prayer with the Word of God," he added.

Currently, McTavish teaches moral theology and bioethics at the Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo de Manila University and UST. He is also the author of the book Choose Life, which is a book that delves on moral, spiritual, and scientific issues about life and the dignity of human life. You can grab a copy of the book at any St. Paul's Bookstore nearest you for only P350.

[Source: Courage Retreat Manual]

"If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come follow me." - Matt 19:21

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Assumption of Mary

Today, August 15, we celebrate the glorious feast of the Assumption of Mary.

“Open the portals! The Queen is approaching. Lift up, O eternal gates!”

The endless parade of the blessed crowded about the wide-open gates of heaven. There was tense expectancy, such as one finds along a line of march as a parade approaches. A roadway of clouds billowed the pathway from an uncorrupted grave to an incorruptible throne.

At last, borne by angels, the lovely Lady arrives. It is the first Assumpton Day, the Assumption of Mary. The heavenly throng gasps with admiration. The celestial singers burst into song. The angels hurry to and fro to catch a glimpse of her and to tell their companions of her beauty.

Jesus waits at the open entrance, throws His arms about His Mother, leads her triumphantly and happily to the very throne of the heavenly Father, who leans forward and places solemnly and smilingly upon her beauteous head the crown, as the Holy Spirit, heavenly Spouse of the Virgin Mother casts warmth and light upon the welcome newcomer.

Sweet scene of Mary’s bliss! Who can measure her happiness? Who can count the throbs of joy in her heart: joy that now her lonesome life on earth without Jesus is over; joy that now she has Him, never again to lose Him; joy that now she can enjoy His company without the interruptions of earth or sense; joy that now she can help everyone on earth who is devoted to her Son; joy that all the honor and all the praise and all the glory is given to her because of her Son; joy that the very crown she is wearing as the Queen of heaven and earth, is given to her because she is the Mother of Jesus.

Our Lady assumed into Heaven! Entering body and soul into the presence of the Most Blessed and Eternal Trinity! The Assumption of Mary! Her sufferings, great beyond all measure, are nothing now as she finds her reward in the greatness of the Infinite God. What eternal joy in His possession; what peace in being eternally possessed by Him – surely the richest reward for the obedient Handmaid of the Lord.

Our reward is likewise the possession of the same Triune God – our way to Him is likewise along the same royal way as tread so humbly and submissively the feet of our obedient Queen. Her last recorded words in Sacred Scripture, her counsel to the servants at the wedding feast, applies to us with equal and unfailing force: “Do whatever He tells you!” Our obedience to Christ is our way to joy and peace.

Mary’s death was caused by love that consumed her heart; her death was not meant for punishment nor expiation, hence there was no violence nor was it painful, since she was preserved from the dominion given to death by sin. According to an opinion accepted since the Middle Ages, Mary’s death resembled Christ’s, because she accepted it voluntarily out of humble and loving obedience; so, she died of love in the strict sense of the word. Death came to her in the form of the weakening of the body caused by the supernatural might of Dying Love. Her natural vitality was exhausted by love-longing, by the strength of an ecstasy of love and her great love moved God to cease keeping her alive. Mary’s death was a holocaust of love where the sacrifice offered long before at the foot of the Cross in poignant and spiritual anguish was at last completed.

This feast, the Assumption of Mary, was instituted, according to Saint Bernard, in the very time of the apostles.

Ave Maria!

(Reposted from Pro-Life Philippines FB page.
Source: Feasts of Our Lady by Msgr. Arthur Tonne, and The Woman of Orbit)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why A Gay Porn Star Became Catholic And Staying in the Church

No matter how dark or sinful one's past is, there is always hope and redemption in Jesus Christ. This is amazing grace.

by Joseph Sciambra

Although I had been raised marginally Catholic, I never really considered myself a believer. As a child, I was rather innocent and understood nothing. By the time I was in my teens, my parents forced me to be Confirmed. I stood in front of the Bishop, got the blessing and anointing, but didn’t believe for a single second. When I went into the gay world, I thought of my residual Catholicism as something that needed to be overcome. And, like most of my compatriots, who were also former Catholics, because our matriculation in the Faith had been mediocre to downright heretical, it was not that tough to accomplish. That sloughing off of all that I had never really known or understood left me open to all sorts evil influences that seemed to temporarily fill my innate lonely sense of emptiness.

After that, although I never realized it until the end, my entire life became increasingly desperate. While I falsely thought that I was just exploring my new found freedoms and sexuality, I was actually in a perpetual state of restlessness: always exhaustingly alert and questing for the next big opportunity: from an endless parade of guys to gay porn - it never materialized. Wanting something to hold onto, I turned to the occult - and was again left cold and empty. I was deaf, yet God was calling me. Only, because I had become filled with evil and hate, I misinterpreted this beckoning as a plea to further degrade myself. In an instinctive way, I was punishing myself, because I knew that everything was out of control and because I was powerless before my seemingly uncontrollable passions.

When I suddenly realized that my endless experimentation was leading me to a premature death, I knew that I had to quickly make a decision to change or stay where I was and die. At those final minutes, the Lord Jesus Christ made things very clear to this stubborn and willful little speck of dust: He held out His hands, one restrained the demons that had been chasing me for years, the other was palm out and bursting with His precious blood. I didn’t know why, but I reached out for the wounded hand. Instantaneously, the demons were gone. For the next few days, I laid in bed: asking God over and over gain to forgive me. Every gross and disgusting thing I had ever done kept replaying in my head; the bed became like the floor of hell. I had to unburden myself, but I didn’t know where to go.

Unconsciously, I turned to The Bible. Flipping feverishly through the pages; the whole book could have been written in some space alien language; I understood not a single word. Mysteriously, leaping off the onion skin paper was the beautiful scene of St. Mary Magdalene being forgiven and released from the constant torture of seven devils. I needed Jesus; where was He? How could I find Him? Then, two incidents in The New Testament struck me: the Roman Centurion going to Christ, begging Him cure his servant; “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.” and the other Centurion, Cornelius, who told St. Peter: “Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel, and said: Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” This all brought back the most vivid memories that I had of Jesus, the VHS tapes of 1950s Biblical epics that my father bought and showed us as kids: especially my favorite, “The Robe,” about a Roman soldier who is the self-declared king of orgies, later crucifies Christ, then begs forgiveness from the man who denied Him three times. I longed to go to Peter.

Then, I could have gone anywhere. For, after a second-rate education in the Faith, and since being away formally for over a decade, my ties to Roman Catholicism were weak at best. But, I remembered the Sacrament of Confession; I probably hadn’t been since being forced to go back in the 8th grade, right before our graduation. Growing up, I had always thought of it as a thoroughly stupid practice: kneeling before some man behind a screen and telling him my sins. I didn’t believe in sin. As far as I was concerned: porn, masturbation, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and even drug use were far from wrong - they had merely been deemed wicked by angry eunuchs who wanted to keep the rest of us from having any fun. Well, all these years later, I realized: I was so wrong. Even though I was emotionally and physically sick, I wanted to crawl back to that little box and confess. I needed my AA moment: to stand up before God and say out loud what I had done and that I was sorry.

Somehow, I tracked down a priest I had met in my late teens, who struck me as particularly pious, and I dropped my sins on him like a ton of rotting garbage. I hated carrying it around and just wanted God to have it. Here, take it, take it - I thought to myself. It felt amazing. The priest was rather unphased and coolly certain - sort of like that image of Jesus I saw on my deathbed. He said, I needed to go back to Mass. Idiotically, I was somewhat surprised. Oh yeah, Mass - I forgot about that, I mused. While the seeming magic of Confession drew me back, the Mass still felt useless and mundane. I hated going to Mass as a boy: whether being marched there by our teachers, or dragged out of bed and pushed out the door on Sunday by my parents - going to church was drag. Blessedly, the same kind priest who heard my Confession invited me to the Latin Mass. Latin, that was the language the nerdy kids studied in high school, I thought. With nothing to loose, I showed up. Now, everything was different from my memories of youth. There was silence, reverence, and humility. I kneeled and could not get back up. I bowed and just stayed there. Jesus was back. He was there. His hands in front of me. His body became the Eucharist; and His blood in the chalice. I quivered and thought I was in front of His throne. When it was time to receive the Lord, I didn’t want to walk to the altar, but would have preferred groveling up the aisle on my stomach. I looked at everyone else proceeding towards the priest; I didn’t want to go. Inexplicably, I rose, and took the host on my tongue.

What had just happened? I thought for sure I would die - as the Lord could only strike someone like me down. But, He didn’t. I lived. I lived. I was alive. Jesus saved me. And, He wanted me. For the first time in my life: I believed in Him. The insolent and gullible little boy who threw it all away got a second chance. I no longer felt alone anymore.

I will never leave the Catholic Church. For, to do so, I would be returning to the same empty existence of despair and desolation that almost cost me the eternity of my soul. Because, only death persistently awaits in my old life; and I choose to live.

(Source:  www.josephsciambra.com)

About Joseph Sciambra:

Joseph Sciambra was born in 1969, in Northern California, not far from San Francisco. He grew up in a stable and loving home while attending Catholic parochial schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Early on, the dark shadow of pornography would cloud his entire childhood and teenage years. Throughout the 1990s, Joseph lived around the homosexual culture of the Castro District, offering him rare insight into the daily lives and struggles of many gay men. Later, he became an amateur porn actor and escort. In 1999, following a near death experience, Joseph returned to the Love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Since then he has written extensively concerning the real-life issues of pornography, homosexuality, and the occult. He received his BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Art History and his MA from Sonoma State University.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. - Isaiah 1:18

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Desire of the Everlasting Hills - A Courage Documentary

This hour-long Courage documentary chronicles the lives of three same-sex attracted courageous souls - Dan, Paul, and Rilene. It narrates their journey toward self-understanding, faith, and redemption. I was amazed by the depth of their personal sharings and how through grace their lives have been transformed by Christ and are now serving as inspirations out there to men and women struggling with SSA. Desire of the Everlasting Hills is a very powerful, inspirational, must-see film.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mercy and Confession: 10 Tips on How to Confess Well

In our Courage community, we are blessed to have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month followed by Mass. We call this monthly gathering our 'Sacrament Sunday'. We are all sinners and we need the mercy of God, which He abundantly pours on us through sincere repentance and confession of our sins. Remember that it is here where our miseries meet the infinite mercy of God so please go to Confession frequently.

by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

In the context of an Ignatian retreat it is always beneficial to prepare oneself to make an excellent Confession. To make a good confession demands prior preparation! The better the prior preparation, the more abundant the graces and the more overflowing the river of peace in your soul! Following are ten short helps to make the best confession in your life!

1. IMPROVEMENT/UPGRADING THE RECEPTION. As Catholics two of the most important actions we can accomplish are to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion. In these Sacraments we have a direct contact with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This being the case, we should make a concerted effort to improve our encounters with Jesus in these Sacraments. In other words we should never take these Sacraments for granted. Also be keenly aware of the concept of dispositive grace. The abundance of graces are received in direct proportion to the disposition of the recipient. On the walls in the sacristies of the Missionaries of Charity is written: “Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, last Mass and only Mass.” We can apply the same principle: “Confess as if it were your first, last and only time.”

2. PRAYERS BEFORE. All is grace! A source of abundant grace is the Communion of saints. Why not pray to the holy Confessors to help you to make a good confession. The following are a few: The Cure of Ars (Saint John Marie Vianney), St. John Bosco, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Saint Leopold Mandic, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Francis Regis, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Saint Anthony Claret, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola. “Get a little help from your friends (the saints)….”Pray to them to help you to confess well—that each confession you make is better than your prior confession!

3. PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE. Have a good examination of conscience booklet. Find a quiet and contemplative place to examine your conscience. Utilize the crucifix and Divine Mercy image to elicit sorrow and trust. Written! Write down the sins so that you will not forget them once in the confessional! Also, pray for your confessor— to his guardian angel—before you enter the confessional!

4. SELF-KNOWLEDGE. One of the classical steps to make a good confession is contrition but also firm purpose of amendment. This entails rewinding the film of your life and seeing the various falls into sin. But also to capture what were the preceding causes that led to the sin. Maybe it is a person that jeopardizes your spiritual life. Who knows maybe it is a recurring situation at work or family? Maybe it is your physical state of weariness? Still more, maybe it is some improper use of the electronics media and lack of prudence? You will notice often a pattern that is established that leads to the slippery path and collapse. For this reason the faithful observance of one’s DAILY EXAMEN can prove a valuable tool to know oneself and even supply for the necessary knowledge to avoid the near occasion of sin.

5. BIBLICAL PASSAGES TO PREPARE. The Church highly recommends the use of Sacred Scripture as a means to prepare us for a better reception of the Sacraments. Two excellent passages I would recommend: Lk. 15 and Psalm 51. Lk. 15 presents the Parables of God’s Mercy, and the greatest is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. By praying Psalm 51 you have one of the best “Act of Contritions” ever composed, by none other than King David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba and killing an innocent man. Praying with the Word of God adds extra power to one’s prayer!

6. FREQUENT CONFESSION. The saints highly recommend frequent confession as a most efficacious means of growing in sanctifying grace. Confession either restores sanctifying grace or it augments it. Of course this presupposes a thorough preparation!

7. SACRAMENTAL GRACE. Each sacrament communicates grace. However every sacrament communicates a specific grace pertinent to that specific sacrament. For example, the specific sacramental grace communicated in the Eucharist or Holy Communion is that of NOURISHMENT. It is the Bread of life for the journey on the way to eternal life. The Sacramental grace of Confession is different. It is HEALING! Jesus came to feed us with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Furthermore, He came as Divine Physician. Time and time again in the Gospels we see Jesus healing. The blind, deaf, deaf-mute, lepers, paralytics, even the dead, were healed and brought back to life by Jesus. Even now within the context of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, Jesus heals us. The Sacraments of healing are the Sacraments of Confession and the Anointing of the Sick.

8. QUALITIES OF A GOOD CONFESSION. In the Diary of Saint Faustina the most important qualities of a good confession are highlighted in # 113: 1) complete sincerity and openness; 2) humility; 3) obedience. Adhering to these qualities one cannot go wrong! Reminder! We want to strive to make better Communions and Confessions until the end of our lives!

9. AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT. Even though one might fall frequently, never give in to discouragement. Some bad habits have possibly clung to us for decades. Many have a “Micro-wave” spirituality—namely instant holiness! It does not work that way! Change is often tedious, laborious and painful. The key is to keep praying, working, fighting as a true soldier of Christ to be liberated from the shackles of sin. Of course a key message from the Diary is that the worse thing possible is to fail to trust in God’s infinite mercy! As St. Paul reminds us, “Where sin abounds God’s mercy abounds all the more.”

10. MARY AND MERCY. Never forget to invite Mary to be present in your remote preparation for Confession, your immediate preparation for Confession. Even ask Mary to enter with you into the Confessional so that you make the best confession in your life. Blessed Pope John Paul II called the Marian sanctuaries—Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe—“Spiritual clinics”. How true! Lines of penitents await to meet the merciful Jesus in the confessional in these Marian Sanctuaries. Among the many beautiful titles of Mary are the following: “Mother of Mercy, Mother of Good Counsel, Health of the sick.” Behind many powerful conversions is of course the grace of God but also the maternal intercession of Mary!

“When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you.  I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.  Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.  Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust.  If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity." 

(Our Lord Jesus to St. Faustina, Diary 1602)

About Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

Fr. Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

(Credits:  The Catholic Church FB page, Bro. E)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pagyakap sa Buhay: Breaking Free From the Spirit of Death

Forwarded invitation

"Pag-yakap sa Buhay" is a full-day healing conference on breaking free from shame, self-hatred and other manifestations of the spirit of death.

Shame and self-hatred comprise a polluted seedbed of destructive thoughts. The journey to freedom from these twin enemies begin in experiencing Jesus who promised us a full and abundant life (John 10:10).

This conference is for people who are wrestling with despair, hopelessness, hurt, anxiety, fears, grief and life-altering conditions such as sickness and disability. But most of all, it is for all of us who are seeking a meaningful and purposeful life.

Date:  August 23, 2014, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Venue:  Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall, Meralco Compound (Gate 2), Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Cost:  Php 950.00 (Metro Manila), Php 750.00 (Provincial). Lunch and Dinner included.


Keynote Speaker:  Jonathan Hunter

A sought-after speaker and prolific author, Jonathan Hunter is the Founder and Director of Embracing Life Ministries. He has spoken throughout the U.S. and around the world about the liberating and transforming power of the Cross to free humanity from the spirit of death and its effects. He has appeared in numerous features both in print and broadcast media and has been a guest lecturer in universities, seminaries and churches.

Jonathan has brought his experience of living with AIDS and his ministry to those living with life-altering conditions in compiling a healing resource for the various programs of Embracing Life Ministries.


To Register:

1. Via Bank Deposit

Account Name: "Agos ng Buhay (Living Waters Phils) Inc."
BPI Current Account: 3201-036568
BDO Savings Account: 430207239

Please scan your deposit slip and email it to info@livingwatersphilippines.org

2. Via Online Registration

Go to the website: www.livingwatersphilippines.org.
Click on the "Pag-yakap sa Buhay" Headline.
Follow the instructions to register and pay via credit card or Paypal.

For More Info:

Phone: (02) 571-3904
Mobile: 0908-811-5824 OR 0927-284-5037
Email: info@livingwatersphilippines.org