Monday, February 23, 2015

Prayer: A Dialogue of Love



Forwarded invitation.

Congress on Prayer in Celebration of the 5th Birth Centenary of St. Teresa of Avila


OVERVIEW

2015. 50 years of Vatican Council II. 500 years of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila, Daughter and Doctor of the Church. The congruence of St. Teresa’s vision of a renewed Carmel for the sake of the Church and the Council’s vision of a renewed Church is no mere coincidence. It is co-mutual.The paths to holiness which is the foundation where all pastoral initiatives must be set are personal and call for a genuine ‘training in holiness’ adapted to people’s needs. This training, calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer.

WHAT INITIATIVE CAN CARMEL OFFER IN RESPONSE?

We can show what depths a friendly relationship with Jesus can lead. We can share how prayer can progress as a genuine “What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the Beloved, to point him out, to make him known? Celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary by way of a Congress on Prayer on March 15, 2015 is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. It is programmed to facilitate encounter with Christ through liturgical and contemplative prayer by way of the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life; capped by the Eucharistic celebration. The prayerful nature of the Congress encourages all attendees to be generous by way of their active and passive participation.


PROGRAM AGENDA

CONGRESS ON PRAYER

8:00 – 8:05
National Anthem

8:05 – 8:10
Welcome Remarks
Very Reverend Reynaldo Sotelo, OCD
Commissar, Order of Discalced Carmelites
Philippines-Vietnam Circumscription

8:10 – 8:30
Procession / Enthronement

8:30 – 9:00
Liturgy of the Hours

9:00 – 9:10
Orientation

9:15 –10:00
1st Presentation
PRAYER OF JESUS, PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Presenter:
His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD

10:00 –10:30
BREAK

10:30 –11:30
2nd Presentation
SPIRITUAL LIFE: THE POINT OF ATTRACTION
Presenter:
Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS
President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines

11:30 –11:35
SILENT PRAYER

11:35 –11:45
Production Number

11:45 –11:50
ANGELUS

11:50 – 1:00
LUNCH BREAK

1:00 – 1:10
Production Number

1:15 – 2:15
3rd Presentation
SPIRITUAL LIFE: WHEN THE WORD OF MY FRIEND PREVAILS
Presenter:
Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD
Prior, Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality

2:15 – 2:20
SILENT PRAYER

2:20 – 2:40
4th Presentation
On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way
Presenter:
Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD
President, Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

2:40 – 2:45
SILENT PRAYER

2:45 – 3:15
BREAK

3:15 – 3:30
SILENT PRAYER

3:30 – 5:00
HOLY MASS
Presider: His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle

Closing Remarks
Fr. Danilo D. Lim, OCD
Chairman, National Commission

CLOSING
Singing of GOD ALONE IS ENOUGH

-oOo-

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is this Congress on Prayer all about, and when and where will it take place?
A:It is called “Prayer, A Dialogue of Love,” to be held from 8AM to 5PM, on March 15, 2015, that’s a Sunday, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.  It is being held to celebrate the 500th birth anniversary of St. Teresa of Avila, which is on March 28, 2015.

Q2. Briefly, who is St. Teresa of Avila?
A:St. Teresa of Avila, also known by her religious name, Teresa of Jesus, is a Spanish Saint and mystic who was hailed as a Teacher of Prayer and the first woman Doctor of the Church (in 1970 when all of the 30 Doctors of the Church were male).

Q3. St. Teresa of Avila doesn’t seem to be that known in the Philippines.  Is she the one who carries roses and a crucifix?
A. No, that pretty saint with the roses is St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is widely popular in the Philippines. If St. Teresa of Avila were a mother, St. Therese of Lisieux who is 358 years younger would be her great greatgreatgreatgreat granddaughter.  You do the math.  Therese entered the Order of Discalced Carmelites 306 years after its founder St. Teresa died. Now that the Church is celebrating St. Teresa’s 500th  birth anniversary, it’s the perfect time to make her spirituality better known to the Filipinos.

Q4. How relevant would St. Teresa of Avila’s spirituality be, after all—you know—she’s five centuries old?
A.It’s easy to see how the contribution of this Doctor of the Church fits into our world.  She asks of us to see that the relativism prevalent in the West is now increasingly becoming a global reality.  Our world now is pretty much like in St. Teresa’s time, and as Pope Francis’ EvangeliiGaudium says: “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ … THE CHURCH URGENTLY NEEDS THE DEEP BREATH OF PRAYER.”

Q5. I see you quoted from a Church document.  How does St. Teresa’s teaching sync with that?
A.To help us re-evaluate human dignity, which is threatened by today’s culture, we have St. Teresa’s vision of the human person as the dwelling place of God, open to communion with Him as a friend, able to welcome Him at the center of his soul.  Continuing with EvangeliiGaudium, Pope Francis says: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”  Marvelous, isn’t it?  “Evangeliigaudium” is Latin for “joy of the Gospel.”  Now, it’s time for St. Teresa’s children in Carmel to go and deliver this invitation to joy!

Q6. What is the objective then of your Congress on Prayer?
A.  The central objective is TO HERALD PRAYER AS AN EXPERIENCE OF FRIENDSHIP AND A DEEPENING ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST.  That’s why we’ve called it “Prayer: A Dialogue of Love”—focusing on a relationship which is that personal.

Q7. So it’s a whole day affair.  Who may participate in it?  Is it open to everybody?
A.   Much as we wish to, we can’t make it a “General Patronage” thing like in the movies where everyone aged 1-100 is welcome.  This Congress on Prayer would be appreciated by—and therefore welcomes—those aged sixteen (16) and above, AND (this is important) IS INTERESTED TO BEGIN AND MATURE in a life of prayer. 

Q8. Hmmm, sounds like it’s only for nuns and priests…?
A.  Certainly not, in fact, laypersons might benefit most from it.  Although it is an initiative of the Order of Discalced Carmelite friars, nuns and seculars, priests, nuns and seminarians of various Religious Orders welcome it as a response to a great need in the Church.  The Congress on Prayer is open to laypeople like professionals and college students, lay associations, parish mandated organizations, parish pastoral council members and commissioned ministers, and transparochial communities.

Q9. Wow, that’s a lot!  And what would it cost someone to attend the Congress?
A.   The good news is, admission is free, but with MoA Arena issued tickets.  For the welfare of the participants, MoA imposes a No-Ticket-No-Entry policy, so do take note, don’t come empty-handed!

Q10. And how does one get tickets?
A.  Attendees have to fill out Registration Forms, whether they belong to big groups or small groups or wish to attend as individuals.

The registration form is downloadable from our website, www.teresa500philippines.com  You may also register through Facebook, teresaofjesus500@gmail.com

Registration Forms for Ticket Reservations may also be obtained from the Congress on Prayer Secretariat with contact details: Telephone numbers: (02) 722-4667; (02) 721-4252; (02) 710-2641; 0939-9207365; 0906-5732305. You may also email us for additional information: teresa500philippines@gmail.com

Q11. Since it’s going to be a whole-day event, may we bring along food?
A.  So sorry but that’s another policy that MoA management strictly imposes on attendees: “No bringing in of food.”  Snacks, however, will be available at Php 80.00 and lunch at Php 100.00 through the Arena concessionaires.  Persons with health conditions that require them to nibble at crackers or candy at prescribed hours may be allowed to bring in a packet or two, but please don’t try to smuggle in a whole carton for the whole barangay!

Q12. Could you give us an idea of what the program will contain more or less?
A.  Well, celebrating Saint Teresa of Avila’s 5th birth centenary through a Congress on Prayer is a providential opportunity for the entire Carmelite Family to share with everyone the way of prayer from the school of the first woman Doctor of the Church. The prayerful nature of the Congress should facilitate encounter with Christ through a program that includes liturgical and contemplative prayer through the Liturgy of the Hours; chants; silent prayer; presentations on the prayer of Christ and the Church, Teresian prayer from the point of attraction to intimate friendship, and, tracking St. Teresa’s way of life.  The day will be capped by the Eucharistic celebration with His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as Presider.

Q13. That sounds promising, but can ordinary people like us digest that?  May we know who the speakers are?

A.  We assure you of very substantial but highly digestible inputs.  We have as first speaker His Excellency Bishop Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, presenting “PRAYER OF JESUS, PRAYER OF THE CHURCH.”  Then we have Ms. Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS, President, Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in the Philippines, with her piece, “SPIRITUAL LIFE: THE POINT OF ATTRACTION.”  This is followed by Fr. Mariano Agruda III, OCD, Prior of Our Lady’s Hill Center for Spirituality presenting “SPIRITUAL LIFE: WHEN THE WORD OF MY FRIEND PREVAILS.”  Finally we have “On the Tracks of St. Teresa: Her Way, Our Way” by Sr. May Catherine Salvatierra, OCD, President of the Association of Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Philippines

Q14. If the Congress on Prayer is to be summed up in 50 words or less, what would its essence be?

A.  The Congress’ name, “A Dialogue of Love” should give you a clue.  St. Teresa defines prayer as “Nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”  That quote contains only 23 words—but that should give you an idea what to expect on March 15, Mall of Asia Arena.  See you there! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#AshTagged


As we enter the season of Lent once again, let us redouble our efforts in living out the Christian practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving by incorporating the activities suggested above in our daily routine. May we all have a fruitful and meaningful celebration of Lent.

*Note:  Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons


This was a letter issued by then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It is good to be reminded of this my dear brothers and sisters, clergy and laity alike, because of the growing misunderstanding and confusion on how to deal with the issue of homosexuality from a Christian perspective. On this feast of the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas I hope you will find time to peruse this very timely and relevant scholarly work of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.


1. The issue of homosexuality and the moral evaluation of homosexual acts have increasingly become a matter of public debate, even in Catholic circles. Since this debate often advances arguments and makes assertions inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, it is quite rightly a cause for concern to all engaged in the pastoral ministry, and this Congregation has judged it to be of sufficiently grave and widespread importance to address to the Bishops of the Catholic Church this Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.

2. Naturally, an exhaustive treatment of this complex issue cannot be attempted here, but we will focus our reflection within the distinctive context of the Catholic moral perspective. It is a perspective which finds support in the more secure findings of the natural sciences, which have their own legitimate and proper methodology and field of inquiry.

However, the Catholic moral viewpoint is founded on human reason illumined by faith and is consciously motivated by the desire to do the will of God our Father. The Church is thus in a position to learn from scientific discovery but also to transcend the horizons of science and to be confident that her more global vision does greater justice to the rich reality of the human person in his spiritual and physical dimensions, created by God and heir, by grace, to eternal life.

It is within this context, then, that it can be clearly seen that the phenomenon of homosexuality, complex as it is, and with its many consequences for society and ecclesial life, is a proper focus for the Church's pastoral care. It thus requires of her ministers attentive study, active concern and honest, theologically well-balanced counsel.

3. Explicit treatment of the problem was given in this Congregation's "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics" of December 29, 1975. That document stressed the duty of trying to understand the homosexual condition and noted that culpability for homosexual acts should only be judged with prudence. At the same time the Congregation took note of the distinction commonly drawn between the homosexual condition or tendency and individual homosexual actions. These were described as deprived of their essential and indispensable finality, as being "intrinsically disordered", and able in no case to be approved of (cf. n. 8, $4).

In the discussion which followed the publication of the Declaration, however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.

4. An essential dimension of authentic pastoral care is the identification of causes of confusion regarding the Church's teaching. One is a new exegesis of Sacred Scripture which claims variously that Scripture has nothing to say on the subject of homosexuality, or that it somehow tacitly approves of it, or that all of its moral injunctions are so culture-bound that they are no longer applicable to contemporary life. These views are gravely erroneous and call for particular attention here.

5. It is quite true that the Biblical literature owes to the different epochs in which it was written a good deal of its varied patterns of thought and expression (Dei Verbum 12). The Church today addresses the Gospel to a world which differs in many ways from ancient days. But the world in which the New Testament was written was already quite diverse from the situation in which the Sacred Scriptures of the Hebrew People had been written or compiled, for example.

What should be noticed is that, in the presence of such remarkable diversity, there is nevertheless a clear consistency within the Scriptures themselves on the moral issue of homosexual behaviour. The Church's doctrine regarding this issue is thus based, not on isolated phrases for facile theological argument, but on the solid foundation of a constant Biblical testimony. The community of faith today, in unbroken continuity with the Jewish and Christian communities within which the ancient Scriptures were written, continues to be nourished by those same Scriptures and by the Spirit of Truth whose Word they are. It is likewise essential to recognize that the Scriptures are not properly understood when they are interpreted in a way which contradicts the Church's living Tradition. To be correct, the interpretation of Scripture must be in substantial accord with that Tradition.

The Vatican Council II in Dei Verbum 10, put it this way: "It is clear, therefore, that in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls". In that spirit we wish to outline briefly the Biblical teaching here.

6. Providing a basic plan for understanding this entire discussion of homosexuality is the theology of creation we find in Genesis. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, brings into existence all of reality as a reflection of his goodness. He fashions mankind, male and female, in his own image and likeness. Human beings, therefore, are nothing less than the work of God himself; and in the complementarity of the sexes, they are called to reflect the inner unity of the Creator. They do this in a striking way in their cooperation with him in the transmission of life by a mutual donation of the self to the other.

In Genesis 3, we find that this truth about persons being an image of God has been obscured by original sin. There inevitably follows a loss of awareness of the covenantal character of the union these persons had with God and with each other. The human body retains its "spousal significance" but this is now clouded by sin. Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations. In Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, in the course of describing the conditions necessary for belonging to the Chosen People, the author excludes from the People of God those who behave in a homosexual fashion.

Against the background of this exposition of theocratic law, an eschatological perspective is developed by St. Paul when, in I Cor 6:9, he proposes the same doctrine and lists those who behave in a homosexual fashion among those who shall not enter the Kingdom of God.

In Romans 1:18-32, still building on the moral traditions of his forebears, but in the new context of the confrontation between Christianity and the pagan society of his day, Paul uses homosexual behaviour as an example of the blindness which has overcome humankind. Instead of the original harmony between Creator and creatures, the acute distortion of idolatry has led to all kinds of moral excess. Paul is at a loss to find a clearer example of this disharmony than homosexual relations. Finally, 1 Tim. 1, in full continuity with the Biblical position, singles out those who spread wrong doctrine and in v. 10 explicitly names as sinners those who engage in homosexual acts.

7. The Church, obedient to the Lord who founded her and gave to her the sacramental life, celebrates the divine plan of the loving and live-giving union of men and women in the sacrament of marriage. It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally.

To chose someone of the same sex for one's sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator's sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.

As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one's own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.

8. Thus, the Church's teaching today is in organic continuity with the Scriptural perspective and with her own constant Tradition. Though today's world is in many ways quite new, the Christian community senses the profound and lasting bonds which join us to those generations who have gone before us, "marked with the sign of faith".

Nevertheless, increasing numbers of people today, even within the Church, are bringing enormous pressure to bear on the Church to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity. Those within the Church who argue in this fashion often have close ties with those with similar views outside it. These latter groups are guided by a vision opposed to the truth about the human person, which is fully disclosed in the mystery of Christ. They reflect, even if not entirely consciously, a materialistic ideology which denies the transcendent nature of the human person as well as the supernatural vocation of every individual.

The Church's ministers must ensure that homosexual persons in their care will not be misled by this point of view, so profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church. But the risk is great and there are many who seek to create confusion regarding the Church's position, and then to use that confusion to their own advantage.

9. The movement within the Church, which takes the form of pressure groups of various names and sizes, attempts to give the impression that it represents all homosexual persons who are Catholics. As a matter of fact, its membership is by and large restricted to those who either ignore the teaching of the Church or seek somehow to undermine it. It brings together under the aegis of Catholicism homosexual persons who have no intention of abandoning their homosexual behaviour. One tactic used is to protest that any and all criticism of or reservations about homosexual people, their activity and lifestyle, are simply diverse forms of unjust discrimination.

There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the Church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil-statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups' concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved.

The Church can never be so callous. It is true that her clear position cannot be revised by pressure from civil legislation or the trend of the moment. But she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the pro-homosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. She is also aware that the view that homosexual activity is equivalent to, or as acceptable as, the sexual expression of conjugal love has a direct impact on society's understanding of the nature and rights of the family and puts them in jeopardy.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

11. It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church's wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God's liberating grace.

12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption. While any call to carry the cross or to understand a Christian's suffering in this way will predictably be met with bitter ridicule by some, it should be remembered that this is the way to eternal life for all who follow Christ.

It is, in effect, none other than the teaching of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians when he says that the Spirit produces in the lives of the faithful "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (5:22) and further (v. 24), "You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires."

It is easily misunderstood, however, if it is merely seen as a pointless effort at self-denial. The Cross is a denial of self, but in service to the will of God himself who makes life come from death and empowers those who trust in him to practise virtue in place of vice.

To celebrate the Paschal Mystery, it is necessary to let that Mystery become imprinted in the fabric of daily life. To refuse to sacrifice one's own will in obedience to the will of the Lord is effectively to prevent salvation. Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.

Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.

13. We recognize, of course, that in great measure the clear and successful communication of the Church's teaching to all the faithful, and to society at large, depends on the correct instruction and fidelity of her pastoral ministers. The Bishops have the particularly grave responsibility to see to it that their assistants in the ministry, above all the priests, are rightly informed and personally disposed to bring the teaching of the Church in its integrity to everyone.

The characteristic concern and good will exhibited by many clergy and religious in their pastoral care for homosexual persons is admirable, and, we hope, will not diminish. Such devoted ministers should have the confidence that they are faithfully following the will of the Lord by encouraging the homosexual person to lead a chaste life and by affirming that person's God-given dignity and worth.

14. With this in mind, this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programmes which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one's conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word "Catholic" to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church. This contradictory action should not have the support of the Bishops in any way.

15. We encourage the Bishops, then, to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses. No authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.

We would heartily encourage programmes where these dangers are avoided. But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.

An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.

16. From this multi-faceted approach there are numerous advantages to be gained, not the least of which is the realization that a homosexual person, as every human being, deeply needs to be nourished at many different levels simultaneously.

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

17. In bringing this entire matter to the Bishops' attention, this Congregation wishes to support their efforts to assure that the teaching of the Lord and his Church on this important question be communicated fully to all the faithful.

In light of the points made above, they should decide for their own dioceses the extent to which an intervention on their part is indicated. In addition, should they consider it helpful, further coordinated action at the level of their National Bishops' Conference may be envisioned.

In a particular way, we would ask the Bishops to support, with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons. These would include the assistance of the psychological, sociological and medical sciences, in full accord with the teaching of the Church.

They are encouraged to call on the assistance of all Catholic theologians who, by teaching what the Church teaches, and by deepening their reflections on the true meaning of human sexuality and Christian marriage with the virtues it engenders, will make an important contribution in this particular area of pastoral care.

The Bishops are asked to exercise special care in the selection of pastoral ministers so that by their own high degree of spiritual and personal maturity and by their fidelity to the Magisterium, they may be of real service to homosexual persons, promoting their health and well-being in the fullest sense. Such ministers will reject theological opinions which dissent from the teaching of the Church and which, therefore, cannot be used as guidelines for pastoral care.

We encourage the Bishops to promote appropriate catechetical programmes based on the truth about human sexuality in its relationship to the family as taught by the Church. Such programmes should provide a good context within which to deal with the question of homosexuality.

This catechesis would also assist those families of homosexual persons to deal with this problem which affects them so deeply.

All support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious services and to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous.

In assessing proposed legislation, the Bishops should keep as their uppermost concern the responsibility to defend and promote family life.

18. The Lord Jesus promised, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (Jn. 8:32). Scripture bids us speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15). The God who is at once truth and love calls the Church to minister to every man, woman and child with the pastoral solicitude of our compassionate Lord. It is in this spirit that we have addressed this Letter to the Bishops of the Church, with the hope that it will be of some help as they care for those whose suffering can only be intensified by error and lightened by truth.

(During an audience granted to the undersigned Prefect, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, approved this Letter, adopted in an ordinary session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered it to be published.)


Given at Rome, 1 October 1986.

JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER

ALBERTO BOVONE
Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia
Secretary


Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Catholic 'Man Crisis'



We have a Catholic 'man crisis' today. We have men who were raised in the faith but are not practicing it. We have men who are awfully ignorant of what the Scriptures and the Catechism teach on moral issues affecting our society today. We have men who have left the Church and have failed to commit themselves fully to Jesus Christ. It is no wonder we are confronted with so many evils and crises today. On this excerpt from an interview with Cardinal Burke by The New Emangelization, he gives us a picture of the current state of men in the Church today. For the complete transcript, please visit this link. We do not need 'nice men'; we need 'real men'.


I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so. It’s due to a number of factors, but the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized.

Unfortunately, the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church, leading the Church to constantly address women’s issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society.

The goodness and importance of men became very obscured, and for all practical purposes, were not emphasized at all. This is despite the fact that it was a long tradition in the Church, especially through the devotion of St. Joseph, to stress the manly character of the man who sacrifices his life for the sake of the home, who prepares with chivalry to defend his wife and his children and who works to provide the livelihood for the family. So much of this tradition of heralding the heroic nature of manhood has been lost in the Church today.

All of those virtuous characteristics of the male sex are very important for a child to observe as they grow up and mature. The healthy relationship with the father helps the child to prepare to move from the intimate love of the mother, building a discipline so that the child can avoid excessive self‑love. This ensures that the child is able to identify himself or herself properly as a person in relationship with others; this is critical for both boys and girls.

A child’s relationship with their father is key to a child’s self‑identification, which takes places when we are growing up. We need that very close and affirming relationship with the mother, but at the same time, it is the relationship with the father, which is of its nature more distant but not less loving, which disciplines our lives. It teaches a child to lead a selfless life, ready to embrace whatever sacrifices are necessary to be true to God and to one another.

I recall in the mid-1970’s, young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalizing and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time. These young men were concerned that entering a marriage would simply not work because of a constant and insistent demanding of rights for women. These divisions between women and men have gotten worse since then.

Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.

The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Making things worse, there was a very fluffy, superficial kind of catechetical approach to the question of human sexuality and the nature of the marital relationship.

At the same time, in society, there came an explosion of pornography, which is particularly corrosive for men because it terribly distorts the whole reality of human sexuality. It leads men and women to view their human sexuality apart from a relationship between a man and woman in marriage.

In truth, the gift of sexual attraction is directed toward marriage, and any kind of sexual union belongs properly only within marriage. But the whole world of pornography corrupts young people into believing that their sexual capacity is for their own entertainment and pleasure, and becomes a consuming lust, which is one of the seven capital sins.

The gift of human sexuality is turned into a means of self‑gratification often at the expense of another person, whether in heterosexual relations or in homosexual relations. A man who has not been formed with a proper identity as a man and as a father figure will ultimately become very unhappy. These poorly formed men become addicted to pornography, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, drugs, and the whole gamut of addictions.


How Does One Become a Committed Catholic Man?
(Taken from Aleteia and The New Emangelization websites)


1. Each Catholic man must to be able to give a rousing argument for why Jesus Christ is the greatest Man and why Jesus is his King -- If a man is not convinced about Christ’s greatness to the point of being able to articulate the case, his growth in faith will be stunted and he will be unable to draw others to Christ. Committed Catholic Men can make the case for Christ.

2. Commit to be a Saint of Christ the King -- There are no nice people or good people in Heaven, only Saints. Most men have not made a commitment to strive for Sainthood. Men are stuck in mediocrity and need to raise the bar higher; there is no higher bar than Sainthood. 

Christ’s first words of public ministry were to “Repent!” and every man must repent or die.

By making a commitment to Sainthood, a man starts with repentance and aspires to greatness; in this he realizes his own spiritual poverty. In the recognition of spiritual poverty, a man comes to both humbly recognize his need for God’s mercy and to cry out for it. Aspiring to Sainthood changes everything.

3. Go to Reconciliation at least once a month -- While the Church teaches each man must go to Reconciliation at least once a year, any man who is truthful with himself and Christ knows he needs the Sacrament of Reconciliation much more frequently.

Keep a guide to Reconciliation with you, recalling regularly the 10 Commandments. Make the commitment to go to Reconciliation on a pre-determined schedule each month and go to Reconciliation immediately when you fall into grave sin (e.g. when you view pornography). Regular and frequent Reconciliation changes men, for supernatural Grace flows to men during Absolution.

4. Pray for 15 minutes every day -- Only about a third of Catholic men pray daily; some smaller number, a much smaller number, pray for 15 minutes. How can a man know Jesus if he never talks to Him? He can’t.



Commit to get to know Christ the King on a personal basis by approaching His Throne and talking with Him every day for 15 minutes.It is in this personal conversation that Christ will make His will known to each man.

5. Discover the majestic manliness of the Mass -- The Mass is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, and yet, the majority of men claim to “be bored by the Mass” and to “not get anything out of the Mass”. This is because they don’t know what is occurring in the Mass: they have little understanding of the manly symbolism of the Mass, a Sacrament that has been devoutly passed down for 2000 years. 

They don’t realize that during the Mass they are witnesses to the actual Bloody Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

If a man doesn’t actively participate in the Mass because of ignorance and boredom, he can’t receive the Graces that flow from the Eucharist. Learn the Mass to such a degree that you can explain it to others with the reverence and devotion that Christ’s Sacrifice deserves.

6. Participate in Sunday Mass + 1 -- It is the minimum obligation of each Catholic man to attend Mass every Sunday; but only about a quarter of men do so on any given week. This is both a catechetical failure and an outrageous insult to Our King.

In addition to attending Mass every Sunday, each man should go an additional step to encounter the Eucharist at least one more time during the week either by participating in daily Mass or by kneeling in Adoration for 30 minutes.

Most men have much to make up for and precious little time; drawing closer to Christ more regularly will help men make up for lost time.

A warning: Never approach the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin.

7. Pray the Rosary regularly and carry the Rosary with you --  Only about 40% of Catholic men ever pray the Rosary, and only 1 in 10 carry their Rosary with them.

Praying the Rosary draws a man closer to our Holy Mother and to her Son, Jesus Christ; it is the manliest of rituals, prayed by the greatest Saints over centuries, in quiet places and in the din of the battlefield. It is a manly act of loyalty and fidelity.

Commit to carry the Rosary as a sign of your loyalty and faith and as a weapon against the daily onslaught of Satan; Satan hates the Rosary and fears it. Have the Rosary handy at all times to pray a decade in times of gratitude and stress, relying on the Holy Mother to bring your prayers to Jesus Christ.

The Rosary is part of the uniform of the Committed Catholic Man.

8. Get to know your Patron Saint and Guardian Angel -- We believe in a Communion of Saints. Many men don’t have a personal relationship with a Saint or their Guardian Angel. Many men don’t feel connected to the Church, in part because they are not connected to the Saints or to the Guardian Angel that Jesus Christ has appointed for each man.

Saints and Angels intercede on men’s behalf and stand by to protect and defend men from daily assault of Satan and his demons. Don’t go into daily battle without a Saint and your Guardian Angel guarding your back.

9. Read Holy Scripture for 15 minutes each day -- All of Holy Scripture is about Jesus Christ. When a man reads Holy Scripture, Jesus Christ is with him, not figuratively or conceptually, but in a real and actual way. Jesus Himself came to earth to speak the words of Scripture for all men, across all time, to read and contemplate, drawing strength and wisdom and Grace from His words.

Reading Holy Scripture can be done by working through books of the Bible and by reading/praying the Divine Office.

A man can’t know Jesus Christ without contemplating His Word.

10. Be a priest, prophet and king in your home -- In the face of a secular culture that attacks valid patrimony, Catholic men need to reassert their rightful roles as priest, prophet and king of their family.

We are not talking about being a chauvinistic tyrant, but a true Saint of Christ, with each man serving his wife and children with humble sacrifice, holy example and courageous commitment to lead his family to Heaven.

Be a priest by leading your family in prayer. Be a prophet by teaching the truth of Christ and His Church. Be a king by defending your family from the perversions of the culture, correcting them when they fall into error and by leading them the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

11. Build a brotherhood with other Catholic men in your parish -- In Acts 2:43, the Apostles from the earliest days of the Church give the “formula” for Catholic brotherhood: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. For a man to grow in faith he must build brotherhood with faithful Catholic men who can challenge and help him grow in holiness.

There is an epidemic of loneliness in modern men, even in regular mass-attending men. Make the commitment to build brotherhood with other Catholic men, particularly younger men, men who are at grave risk as they enter adolescence and move into adulthood.

Gather the men of your parish in large groups and small, to pray, to learn, to teach and to serve the poor.

Be a catalyst, be a leader, working with your priest. Christ will hold all men accountable for their personal response to His command to “Go and make disciples.”

12. Commit to tithing and begin to work toward it -- The willingness of a man to give his hard-earned money to the Church is a direct indicator of the strength of his devotion and loyalty to the King Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many Catholic men give little to the Church, both in absolute terms and relative to other Christian’s gifts to their churches.

Tithing is the giving of 10% of a man’s income to the Church including a parish and other Catholic charities.

While you may not be able to give a full 10% due to economic constraints, commit to tithing and begin to work toward it, making progress each year, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Being a Committed Catholic Man is the greatest challenge to which a man can aspire to accept and the commitment can seem daunting. Don’t be deterred; be a Catholic Man! Make the resolution, right here, right now to be a Committed Catholic Man. Print this list off and post it where you will see it every day.

As in all things, start with prayer. Pray that Jesus Christ will send the Holy Spirit to help give you the strength needed to become a Committed Catholic Man. Pray with your whole heart to Christ and do your best. Our King has promised to answer those who persist in prayer.

Jesus Christ will never let a man down who is committed to Him.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Courage Philippines' Open Letter to Pope Francis



Pope Francis is perceived by many as 'radical and unpredictable'. The LGBT community praises him for being more 'open and unconventional' unlike his predecessors. Somehow they are caught in a wishful thinking that someday they will witness the Church approve of same-sex marriage in the name of 'mercy and compassion'. Admittedly, Pope Francis has made statements in the past that have created much confusion including his famous tagline "Who am I to judge?". We hope and pray that the Holy Father will clarify his stand on gay issues in an unambiguous manner and uphold the Church's teachings on human sexuality.


27 December 2014

His Holiness, Pope Francis PP.
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano


Your Holiness:

We are members of the local chapter of the Courage Apostolate here in the Philippines. We are a spiritual support group of persons with same sex attractions that desires to live a chaste life in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

We eagerly anticipate your visit here in our country just a few days from now. It is sad to note that being the prominent Catholic nation in Asia, we have fallen victims to the dictate of developed countries and a culture that is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian. Our government was coerced by Obama to pass the contraceptive bill (a.k.a. Reproductive Health) into a law, and still pushing other anti-life and anti-family bills such as the divorce and anti-discrimination bills. Our popular mass media floods our film, television, print and digital means of communication with pornographic images that glamorize marital infidelity, teenage sex, and homosexual lifestyles – raising celebrities that set bad examples to our young people. There are communists, feminists, and gay advocates in all walks of society promoting promiscuity and gay rights, coupled with many gay churches led by the Metropolitan Community Church that conduct same-sex marriages and ordains gay pastors (Order of St. Aeldred) garbed in Catholic vestments sowing confusion among the faithful.

As if outside forces aren’t enough, even within the ranks of the Catholic Church are growing dissenters of the faith especially on the teachings on family and life – such as Catholics for RH, and some renowned Jesuits (whose moral theologian is openly for condom usage and same sex marriage and adoption) and La Salle brothers and some religious orders handling schools and holding seminars, gay pride marches and supporting student organizations that promote the LGBT agenda. These groups deride, label and oppose our apostolate, even quoting you as saying “Who am I to judge?” without including your qualifier as “following God’s will”.

We earnestly beg you, dear Holy Father, to speak clearly to our people about the sanctity of life and of the sacrament of marriage between one man and one woman. Please give us words of encouragement to us who are struggling to remain chaste and follow God’s will for us as men and women designed after the Imago Dei. There are moments that we fall into despair, when these voices ring louder than God’s voice, and we think that our struggles to be holy are in vain when even members of the Catholic Church are pushing us to give up the fight and just embrace the gay identity. Please let us know we are doing the right thing – to realign our desires, to rediscover our design and rebuild our destiny – despite of every secular call to just let it go and let it “out”.

Thank you so much and hoping for your kind response. See you soon! We are praying for you!

Respectfully your son in Christ,


Rolando C. delos Reyes II
Adviser
Courage Philippines
www.couragephilippines.blogspot.com
www.couragerc.org

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Same Sex 'Marriage' Is A Grave Sin



More than a couple of days ago, news broke out of a popular 'lesbian' singer/former child star's 'marriage' to a stage actress in the US. This is a sad reflection on how our society is becoming corrupted by evil and nobody seems to be speaking out against it because nowadays we are supposed to be 'welcoming and tolerant' of such things. Well, not if you ask our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord has deep compassion for sinners but he will never ever condone sin.

In a private revelation to a visionary (Maria), he speaks openly about the issue of same-sex marriage. Please note that this is a private revelation and everyone should practice caution and due diligence. Personally, after reading this and finding it not to be contradictory in anyway to the Scriptures or the Church's teaching on homosexuality, I deemed it worthy to be shared to everyone who is searching for truth. In posting this we are not in any way passing judgment on anyone as only the Lord has the right to judge a human person, but instead we are just upholding the Church's teaching on this topic. This message was given on March 16, 2012.


My dearly beloved daughter, the pain and suffering of My poor followers, who have to watch, helplessly, as new laws, contrary to My Teachings, are reaching unprecedented levels in the world.

Not only do you have to witness sin, children, you then have to watch as sin is presented to you, where you are forced to accept it as being humane.

I refer to one sin in particular, same sex marriage, which is presented as a natural right.

You are then expected to accept this abomination, as it is set before My Father’s Throne in a church.

It is not enough for these people to condone same sex marriage in the eyes of the law, they then want to force God the Father to give them His blessing. He could never do this, because it is a grave sin in His Eyes.

How dare these people think it is acceptable to parade this abominable act in My Father’s churches?

Children, I love every soul.

I love sinners.

I detest their sin, but love the sinner.

Same sex sexual acts are not acceptable in My Father’s Eyes.

Pray for these souls because I love them, but cannot give them the Graces they desire.

They must know, that no matter how much they try to condone same sex marriages, they are not entitled to participate in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage.

A Sacrament must come from God. The Rules for receiving Sacraments must stem from My Father’s Teachings.

You cannot force My Father, God the Most High, to give His blessing, or access to, His Holy Sacraments, unless they are respected in the way they are meant to be.

Sin is now presented in the world as a good thing.

As I have said before the world is back to front.

Good is presented as evil and those people who try to live by the Laws of God the Father, are sneered at.

Evil, no matter how you dress it up, cannot be turned into an act of goodness, in the Eyes of My Father.

My Father will punish those who continue to flaunt their sins before Him.

Heed this warning, for your sins, which are carried out when you refuse to obey God, will not and cannot be forgiven.

This is because you refuse to accept sin for what it is.


Your Saviour


Jesus Christ

   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Year of the Poor




As the Year of the Laity draws to a close, we welcome the Year of the Poor at the beginning of a new liturgical year, a time in which we also celebrate the Advent Season. While the theme is obviously focused on the materially poor and the marginalized in our society, let us also not neglect to give attention to the 'spiritually poor'. This should not be confused with being poor in spirit, which is one of the eight Beatitudes. We can say that someone is spiritually poor when he does not have God in his life and is deprived/unconcerned about the things of God. The corporal works of mercy must be practiced alongside the spiritual works of mercy because man has both material and spiritual needs.


Year of the Poor Logo Explained

CRUCIFIX:  The Crucified Lord, the center of all our engagement with, in, for and to the poor, gazing into us. On His Cross, Jesus is always with us… stripped of His clothes, His dignity, His possessions, His power, His strength. By the poverty, Jesus saved us. He is fully with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable and the outcast. Jesus is calling us to SEE everyone as His beloveds… to look at each other the way He gazes into us.

The Man Colored in Red:   Red symbolizes “Blood” – sacrifice of Christ to give Life… of Redemption. We are reminded that our strength and passion must always be towards “Life Giving… sharing of Love”

The Man colored in Red is lower than the Man colored in Blue, signifies the last, least and the lost – the poor. Though in poverty, the poor has same dignity with the Man coloured in Blue and also has the capacity to share Life and Love… (“No one is so poor that he cannot give…”)

The Man Colored in Blue:  Blue symbolizes “Royalty”, of riches and Service to God and godly living. It also signifies “Light” – Hope. We are reminded that God in His Royalty gives us the perfect model of Service. And all of us are called to Serve God through our neighbours. We must be the Light to others.

The Man Coloured in Blue is higher (elevated) than of the Man colored in Red, represents those who are well-off, the powerful. Yet in their abundance the rich are reminded that all what they have are coming from God and they are commanded to share and to be generous… an act of gratefulness to the giver of graces - God. The “rich” are being challenged to share their gifts especially to the “poor”. (“the more you have, the more is expected from you.”)

Man colored in Red and Blue “LOOKING UP TO JESUS” that forms a heart symbolizes people’s compassion to follow Jesus and the commitment to be in solidarity with all to DO JUSTICE AND LOVE KINDNESS (Micah 6:8). Justice as the “right relationships… restoration of what is due to all, not only of the majority… It challenges us to be in correct relationship with God and our neighbour. “Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God.

-oOo-

CBCP Pastoral Message on the Year of the Poor


And the Lord turned and looked at Peter… (Lk 22:61)

THE GAZE OF THE CRUCIFIED LORD

Love and Compassion, Forgiveness and Challenge

CBCP Message

Opening of the Year of the Poor 2015


When you gaze into the eyes of the Crucified Lord, and he gazes into yours, you encounter the love of the Resurrected Lord. Many prefer not to look. Many recoil at looking into the eyes of a man in deadly pain. Many balk at having to respond to love. But these are not the eyes of a defeated man, condemned for criminal insurrection. They are the eyes of an unlikely King, who in dealing death its death blow, still looks into our eyes with challenge. In his love is his call to the Kingdom of his Father, his Kingdom of justice, compassion, peace and life to the full.

In the sign of this crucified Lord, now resurrected, we your Pastors, invite you to the celebration of the Year of the Poor. Behold Jesus, poor. No image of Jesus, poor, surpasses this one. Jesus hangs from his Cross stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength. He is fully one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcast. In the Year of the Poor, look into the eyes of the crucified Lord. There is no experience richer.


You who are poor…

In those eyes, you who are poor, feel his suffering-with-you. From his Cross, he walks with you through crowded alleys, stumbles on mud, recoils at the stench of unmoved sewerage. He bows to enter your makeshift home hobbled together from salvaged materials; it is for your family, but you share it perforce with rats and cockroaches, an oven in the hot season, a waterfall when rainy.

On his Cross, he is with you - God with you. He has taken on your nakedness, your vulnerability, your hunger, your illness, your shame. You once thought you could escape the hardship of your rural beginnings. But your suffering only increased. Here, you cannot find the camote to chase the hunger from your belly; you cannot find the herbs to stop your baby's vomiting and diarrhea; you cannot find money even to keep your single bulb burning. Here, though amidst thousands, neighbors are distant.

You were once grateful for the backbreaking work you finally found; your work continues to break your back, and bend you. But your debts just continue to grow. The clothes and shoes you bought last year to send your children to school are already worn out. In your home you have an altar. Mary is there. The Nazareno is there. So is the Sto. Niño. You pray. But you tremble when you hear the shouts of the demolition crews approaching. You cry out for mercy. You look into the eyes of your crucified King.

Looking into his eyes, you feel his gaze into your soul. You do not understand. Why the love for you, but a poor man? Why the energy from the Cross to convince you: you are loved? Why the persisting message like a mantra in the sign of the Cross: "I have come to bring life, and bring life to the full," and, "Blessed are you who are poor.... Blessed are you who hunger now... Blessed are you when men hate you..."

Why his silent acceptance of abuse, hatred, rejection, oppression and death in rejection of yours? Why his abiding identification with you, as he calls on his disciples to act in your aid? "Whatever you do for this poor person, that you do for me. ... Whatever you do not do for this poor person, that you do not do for me?" Why, on your behalf, to any who follow him, his mandate to works of mercy? "Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Ransom the captive. Bury the dead." For the answers to these questions… look into his eyes, and search within.


You who are weary…

In the Year of the Poor, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, we your Pastors invite you, as Jesus himself did: come to Jesus. "Come to me," Jesus said, "and I will give you rest.” Life has not reduced you to penury, but life has not lifted you to wealth. To you also Jesus has said, "I have come to give life, and to give it to the full."

Thinking of your families, your spouses, your children, the relatives who run to you for help in their unending need, you work long hours, you work overtime, you even take on second and third jobs, just to make ends meet. Often ends don't meet; demands exhaust you; your taskmasters overstress you; worries distress you.

But you labor on in love. Thinking of the smiles on your children's faces and the promises you have made your spouse to provide adequately, you work on, hoping your sacrifice will bring the full life that Jesus brings. Whenever you can, whenever you remember, you pray. You ask him to help. You ask his mother for help. He does help. She does come to your aid. You know that. Now, coming to Jesus hanging from his Cross, look into his eyes as he looks into yours with love.


You who are rich…

“I have come to bring life,” he said, “life to the full.” Some of you, sadly, are unmoved by this. You do not believe this. You do not believe Jesus brings anything. You say you do, but you don't.

For you, the fullness of life is the good life: your doing. It is not gifted, but taken. It is not brought to you as a blessing from above, but seized as a result of pushing and shoving from below. It is not selfless, but selfish. It is fueled by pride, scheming ambition, the exhilaration of power, the taste of blood. For this you work harder than hard, you push yourselves to the limit, you even push beyond the limit. To achieve “the sweet life,” to outdo your ambitions, to over satiate your sycophants, to make them applaud without end, you abuse your bodies, you break the law, you violate your conscience; you ravage Creation. Your social life is your needy ego. You manipulate people, exploit their skills; take advantage of their weaknesses; pay them poorly. What is rightly theirs, you steal; what rightly belongs to society, you conceal. What is there for all, you horde for yourself. For you, there is no common good, only your good!

You build your first house, then your second houses; you provide for your family, then for your second families. You fill your lives with deceit, hypocrisy, and misery, and so glory in your "good life.” You take great satisfaction in that you are not like the rest of the rabble. You have no need for prayer; you have no need for God.

In this Year of the Poor, we your Pastors invite you, step back from the rat race, the pressure, the din. Step back, and look into the eyes of the King.

His gaze penetrates through your eyes to your heart. It is the same gaze of compassion as his gaze into the eyes of the poor. But it is a gaze altered by your own arrogance and cynicism. It is a gaze marked by concern. You may not wish to hear his message, but he says it again for you: "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe when society speaks well of you, for your fathers did the same to false prophets."

He doesn't thunder this from loudspeakers, nor embarrass you with this in the media, for you are well-respected and honorable persons. He says it simply in his gaze, knowing fully you can reject it, as you have rejected it before.

But in the Year of the Poor, where so many poor are poor because of your decisions, he also reminds you that over concern with your humungous investments, your corporate takeovers, your capture of political power and your fine reputations to the detriment or negligence of the poor may have serious consequences. "Whatever you have done or not done to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done or not done to me." For not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, succoring the sick, sheltering the stranger, visiting the imprisoned, the Lord, the Just Judge, may say to you, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire..." for I was poor, and you did not care.

If you have trouble believing this, look into his eyes gazing at you from the Cross.


Behold Jesus poor…

If that gaze, filled will love, brings you to confusion, shame and repentance in this Year of the Poor, then consider its urgent challenge for you:

With God's grace, turn away from your haughtiness, your pride, your selfishness, your idolatry of money, your all-consuming fascination with power. In love, work to build the Kingdom of God on earth!

In the Philippines, this means, urgently: stop the corruption.

Stop the misuse of the People's funds. Stop the wanton destruction of the environment. Fight the poverty of the poor. Build vibrant companies that use our resources to create wealth for our people, but distribute that wealth equitably. Build an economy that responds to the unconscionable poverty of the fishermen, the tillers of the soil, the urban laborers. Build an economy that is open to the world, but whose benefits do not exclude the poor. Provide jobs.

Provide education that respects all our people as human beings and children of God, not just cogs in a global production machine. But provide education relevant to the fight against dehumanizing poverty: basic education to all, and higher education to all who desire it. Build a society of dialogue in our diversity, and especially for our poor, build a society of peace. No more war, for the greatest victims of war are the poor!


Behold Jesus, hope of the poor…

If that gaze, filled with love, brings you in poverty to consolation, encouragement and peace, take heart in Jesus' love. He strengthens you, encourages you, and calls the Christian community to help you progress from destitution to the fullness of life.

But help the community in helping yourselves. Should you have no work, look for work. Should you have work, work well. Cultivate a personal sense of industry, self-respect and social responsibility. As the economy allows, continue to provide well for your family in love: nutritious food, adequate clothing, medical care, good education, wholesome recreation. Strive for conditions of work that are humane and just. Continue to contribute to the welfare of your neighbors, your barangay, your municipality, your city, your nation. Always be helpful. Vote as the common good demands. Together with your spouse, lead your children to the love and respect the Lord through our Catholic communion. Be active in your parish and in your basic ecclesiastical community. Love, as you are loved by God. Share courageously of your faith in love! You are not just receivers of the Gospel. You are its bearers!


Shepherds looking into the eyes of the Good Shepherd…

Finally, in the year of the poor, we your pastors, and with us, all priests and religious, look with you into the eyes of the crucified Lord. How often it is that we have look into those tortured eyes and failed to notice their twinkle! We have seen only embarrassing defeat, jaded suffering and obvious dying, but failed to notice the light that pierces the gloom in our hearts.

In the void that loneliness and isolation brought by our distance from Crucified, we can be misled to fill the gaping abyss with new phones and ipads. We can cover the gaping vacuum with another luxury car or designer jeans or more fashionable shoes more than our shoe racks can contain; with a vacation out of the country or another gadget for the bedroom. We can hold on to the whisky bottle and hope that the bottled spirit will exorcise the spirit of boredom in us. It can also be filled up by working like a horse to impress the people, to create a fans’ club and move you up higher to a better assignment. It can also increase our interest in bank savings, the stock market and the accumulation of more properties. Church funds and personal funds are deliberately mixed up. The parish crawls in financial difficulties while we sprint and jump with financial security. Our easy and comfortable lifestyles can make us numb to the peril of worldliness. It can make us at ease with ecclesiastical vanities.

How often have we reduced his living eyes to painted plastic on a wall, and deprived ourselves of feeling what those eyes twinkling in passion convey: that we are noticed, appreciated, valued, and sent forth. In so doing, we have cheated ourselves of the only treasure in our calling: the felt certainty from the Cross that we are each individually and totally loved.

We have exchanged this prize, this pearl of great price , for the compulsive conservation of conceptual castles, for the anxious pettiness of rules and regulations, for the obsessive preservation of a pecking order, for the selfish defense of private space, for the eccentric collection of quaint things, as well as for the lifelong preparation for our retirement.

Or, we have exchanged this self-emptied Messiah for self-established messiahs on distinguished thrones, ourselves rejecting the folly of the Cross, preferring the authority of feared prelates or the renown of pious celebrity or the fashionable cynicism of the insecure. For these recognized spiritual professionals, there is really no need for prayer, no need for prophets, and certainly no need for the unlettered and unwashed, for all ultimately is about themselves.


Look at Jesus…

In this year of the poor, we too are being asked in silence to peer into the eyes of the crucified Lord, not plastic, nor wooden, nor closed, but open for me, confusing me, disturbing me, returning me to an original inspiration, healing me, raising me up, making me whole and surprising me anew with unaccustomed joy. In those twinkling eyes, we consider the quiet invitation to be actually poor, one with him, stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength, one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcaste. Of course, we can say no. We can repeat the valid, reasonable excuses. But we can also say yes.

In this Year of the Poor, may our neediness be turned to sanctity, and may our arrogance be turned to service. In all, may the love of the Crucified Lord triumph as he gazes into our hearts and we dare to look into his.

Amen. Amen.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 30, 2014, First Sunday of Advent




(SGD)+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Saturday, November 22, 2014

'I'm Attracted to Men, But I Love God More'


This is a brief personal testimony of Jovi Atanacio, a member of the support group After Call. Like Courage, their group also shares with our goal to live chaste lives in union with Christ in the midst of our SSA struggle, but unlike us they are not anonymous. Once again, this testimonial proves that it is possible for people struggling with same-sex attraction to live a life not dictated by one's sexual desires and urges.


Jovi Atanacio testifies that it is possible to be a faithful son of the Church and to be a person with same-sex attraction (SSA), sharing how ultimately, the faith shows homosexuals how to truly love.

“This is my cross …I may be attracted to males … but I love God more,” he said, noting how God through the Church invites all to true love.

While admitting to SSA, having been a former moderator for an After Call community of people with SSA, Atanacio has decided to remain celibate, and agrees with the Catholic position on people with same sex attraction that invites all to love, including homosexuals.

“I am free … I made the decision myself to follow and conform to God’s will and what the Church teaches … I forego of the worldly lifestyle,” he declared, confessing how years back, he was sexually promiscuous with various “casual hook ups”.


Homosexuals called to love

Atanacio bemoaned pro-LGBT rights camps often gloss over the fact that the Church has consistently enjoined everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, to love.

“As surprising as it may sound, the Church today does not forbid people who experience same-sex attractions to love one another,” shared Atanacio.

He attests that the Church seems to be the only institution that stresses love for members of the LGBT community.

“We are made to love and be loved … And our lives mean nothing if we don’t experience it,” he added.

Atanacio, one of the many actively engaged in the promotion of the devotion to Lipa’s Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace, thinks the LGBT sector is asking too much when it expects the Church to change its stance on homosexuality.

“The LGBT wants the Church to just let them be … or allow them and not call the [homosexual] acts sinful …which will never be acceptable,” he noted.

“They keep on trumpeting pride in being gays … But they’re quick to blame others when HIV cases run high, supposedly because they’re too embarrassed to buy condoms,” he added.


True love

According to him, while many members of the same sex desire union with their romantic partners because of love, Atanacio believes true love desires more than just physical and emotional union.

“It wishes the good of the other. It wishes the good of the other person, encouraging him or her to embrace the virtue of chastity,” he explained.

He clarified, however, that chastity does not mean turning one’s back on love, pointing out it is but a profound and courageous expression of that same love.

Single and chaste, Atanacio, who also maintains the Facebook group “Wanted: Filipino Saints”, underscored the need to grow in the understanding of what love really means.

“If two members of the same sex profess love for each other, they will strive to do what is best for one other. They will encourage one another to identify themselves as beloved children of God who happen to experience same-sex attractions, rather than people who are defined by their sexual urges and happen to believe in God,” he explained, citing a Chastity Project article.


[Source: CBCP News. Published with permission from Mr. Jovi Atanacio.]

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cardinal Burke on Homosexuality



At the height of the controversial Relatio on last month's Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Cardinal Raymond Burke was one of the few who stood out in defense of the Church's teachings on homosexuality when others sought to undermine the issue. It's unfortunate that some of those who ought to speak up in defense of the truth chose to play it safe and remained silent. I'm posting here an excerpt of an interview conducted by BuzzFeed News pertaining to that topic. What a shame that he was demoted from his position as head of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, and given a non-curial and largely ceremonial assignment as patron of the sovereign military order of Malta. In support of Cardinal Burke, an article was published a couple of weeks ago by a former gay activist detailing how the good cardinal, who he once despised for his 'traditional' views on homosexuality, has become instrumental in his conversion to the Catholic faith.


BuzzFeedNews: I did a story a while back reporting on a conversation that sources relayed to me between an LGBT activist and Cardinal Müller. In that conversation, the activist apparently asked Müller about the possibility of the Church possibly accepting some forms of civil unions, based on some of the comments that the pope had made and some of the positions he was understood to have taken while he was the president of the bishops conference of Argentina. Müller reportedly responded that [that decision] wasn’t up to the Pope, it was up to “us,” referring to the curia. In that thinking about how these kinds of church teachings are made, can you explain to an outsider what the relationship is between this kind of conversation and the pope’s personal thinking?

Cardinal Burke: Well I suppose the simplest way to put it is that all of us who serve the church are at the service of the truth: the truth that Christ teaches us in the church. And the Pope more than anyone else, as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth. And so the cardinal is quite correct that the pope is not free to change the Church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other truth of the faith. On the contrary, his work is to teach these truths and to insist on the discipline which reflects the truths in practice.

BFN: It sounds like there’s a tension, what we’re seeing play out in this [Synod]. It sounds like you’re saying there are some people who deliberately want to change teaching. Like the people who are supportive of some of the positions that were articulated in the Relatio are saying that they’re trying to balance the pastoral need [for actual behavior and PRACTICE] to find space for people who are living outside [contrary to] what the Church [doctrine] teaches is the appropriate lifestyle, to find a way pastorally [in ACTUAL PRACTICE] to incorporate them into the [Catholic] Community and to bring them more in line.

You’ve used very strong words about homosexuality; in a recent interview you say again that homosexual acts are always wrong and evil. Is there any middle ground [compromises or loosening up], any way to make space for LGBT people inside the Church while also adhering to church teaching?

CB: Well the Church doesn’t exclude anyone who’s of good will, even if the person is suffering from same-sex attraction or even acting on that attraction. But at the same time out of her love for the person who’s involved in sinful acts, she calls the person to conversion, in a loving way, but obviously, like a father or mother in a family, in a firm way for the person’s own good.

There never can be in the Catholic Church a difference between doctrine and practice. In other words, you can’t have a doctrine that teaches one thing and a practice which does something differently. If people don’t accept the church’s teaching on these matters than they’re not thinking with the Church and they need to examine themselves on that and correct their thinking or leave the Church if they absolutely can’t accept what the Church teaches. They’re certainly not free to change the teaching of the Church to suit their own ideas.

BFN: But as I read the Relatio — and again I’m reading this as a layperson — it seems like what they’re saying is [trying to establish] a welcoming tone. While not changing the teaching, they’re also trying to not make the primary point of contact be a fight over these lifestyle choices. While holding up that the ideal remains matrimony, they’re not going to be pushed out and harassed by virtue of not being in that arrangement.

CB: The point is that for the Church, moral teaching is never a matter of ideals. They’re understood to be real commands that we’re meant to put into practice. All of us are sinners and we have to undergo a daily conversion to live according to the moral truth, but it remains for us always compelling. It’s not just an ideal that we hold out there, that, “It would be nice if it were this way, but I can’t do it.” No, we’re called to conform ourselves to those truths.

That’s the difficulty with the Relatio, which is [a] not well expressed, and [b] does not have a good foundation neither in the sacred scriptures nor in the Church’s perennial teachings, and [c] also uses language which can be very confusing.

One of the confusions is that it confuses the person with the sinful acts. In other words, it tries to say that if the Church teaches that these acts are sinful that somehow they are turning on the people and driving them away from the Church. Well, if the individuals involved are sincere and want to live the truth of moral law, the Church is always ready to help. Even if someone sins repeatedly, the Church always stands ready to help them begin again. But the truth of the moral law remains and it is compelling. It’s for now, it’s for me, it’s not something out there, some ideal out there that would be nice to realize but it doesn’t compel me.


[Source:  Buzz Feed. For the full transcript of the interview, click here.]

[*Note:  I did some underscoring for emphasis.]