Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Living Waters Program

Last year I was able to attend a three-day Living Waters retreat in Tagaytay City (Angels' Hills Retreat Center near the Pink Sisters Convent) along with other Courage brothers and sisters. It was a very memorable (and fun-filled) experience for me as local and international speakers gave talks and personal testimonies about their struggles and healing journeys. If you feel broken inside (as most of us are), this Christ-centered healing program is for you.

What is Living Waters?

Living Waters is a 22-week lesson on healing our broken relationships and sexuality taught in a closed group format. The trained leaders enforce a confidentiality policy to ensure a safe place for all participants.

Is Living Waters for me?

If the following statements describe your heart for hope and healing, then Living Waters can be for you:

* A desire to deepen your relationship with Christ
* A longing to see your family relate more closely in love
* A yearning for understanding of issues that shape the choices we and our loved ones make
* A willingness to break free from sinful patterns that have put you in bondage
* A desire to be a godly parent, spouse, child, friend, leader - all rooted in one's identity as a child of God
* A commitment to grow as a unique man or woman of God, allowing Him to reveal the good of your sexuality
* A courage to face the sinfulness of your present state and the painful realities that led you there

How is Living Waters presented?

Each three-hour weekly meeting includes:

THE WORSHIP OF JESUS - We focus our devotion and praise on God, not on our pain and problems.

THE WORD OF JESUS - Living Waters teachings combine biblical truths with psycho-spiritual insights for a better understanding of our deep need for God.

THE WORKS OF JESUS - To complement the church's Bible study groups and doctrinal teachings, Living Waters seeks to present truth with grace in the hurting areas of our lives. Through healing prayer in large and small group settings, we invite the Holy Spirit to heal our various wounds.

Foundational to Living Waters is the reality that God created us in His image as male and female. Thus great healing comes as men and women minister and receive alongside one another, thereby reflecting God's intention and character.

What will I discover?

Living Waters uses a detailed guidebook and supplemental readings designed to find God's presence in our brokenness. Some topics include:

* Acknowledging our need for God
* Receiving the Father's Love
* Who we are as men and women
* The Cross and confession
* Renouncing our idols
* Reconciliation between men and women
* Roots of gender brokenness
* Restoring the true self through the Cross
* Overcoming sexual addiction
* Embracing the Church as our healing community
* Building healthy relationships
* Walking as mature Christians
* Understanding and overcoming temptations
* Healing from sexual abuse
* How "The Fall" affects our sexuality and relationships

Why should I go to the Living Waters?

Because Living Waters addresses the reality that we are all broken in our ability to love. Its goal is to see our relationships, imagination and even sexual conduct find their center in Christ.

Through the worship, teaching, prayer, and small groups of Living Waters we learn about:

* God's powerful love for us and how Jesus is central to our hope for wholeness
* The depth of our brokenness and our profound need for Him
* The power of the Cross to restore our souls, sexuality, and relationships
* The process of walking out our healing
* Our place in the church and loving others honorably

For whom is Living Waters?

Living Waters applies to everyone, especially those struggling with shame, sexual addiction, pornography, emotional dependency, low self-esteem and self-hatred, unforgiveness, promiscuity, adultery, effects of sexual abuse and homosexuality.

Thankfully, Christ's capacity to touch and restore us at deep levels of shame and brokenness extends to all of us, regardless of the specifics of our issue.

Jesus said to His disciples: "Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." (Jn 13:14). Living Waters is that part of the church where we can extend the lowliest parts of ourselves and there discover His compassion. Mercy and truth meet us. As we reveal our brokenness to others, Living Waters cleanses us and transforms us into the men and women of God's design. Dip into the Waters!

-------------------------------------------oOo -------------------------------------------------

Living Waters will be run by Living Waters Philippines, Inc., a healing ministry seeking to bring the transforming compassion of Jesus Christ to the hurting, the broken and the outcast.

Venue: Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Ruby cor. Garnet Roads Ortigas Center, Pasig City (behind Robinsons Galleria)

Date: May 26 - Oct 27, 2009
Tuesdays 6:30 - 9:30 pm

For fees & other details, please call or text 0919-5123526 or 0915-4958049


Deadline of submission for application is on May 17, 2009. We will be observing a strict NO INTERVIEW NO ACCEPTANCE policy. Thus, walk-ins will not be accepted on May 26 thereafter.

[Note: For our international blog visitors, Living Waters is also present in the US, Canada, and some parts of Asia. Do an online search to find a local LW ministry in your country. Thanks.]

"Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him." - John 7:38

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Professional Boxing - Immoral Sport?

I am posting this article in time for Pacquiao-Hatton superfight scheduled early next month. Personally, I never came to like boxing. It's just too physical for me. I prefer self-defense sports like karate or taekwondo. This article discusses the moral issues behind contact sports, boxing in particular, which has become a national affair of most Filipinos whenever their favorite pugilist Manny Pacquiao goes for mega-buck superfights against the world's best boxers. This is not good news for the likes of Pacquiao, etc.; nevertheless, the arguments against this sport are valid, logical, and reasonable. Even a leading Vatican journal (Civilta Cattolica) condemns the sport as "intrinsically immoral." Read on.

An early 1950s boxer Laverne Roach died from injuries sustained in a professional match. This was pugilism's first televised homicide—but not its last. Twelve years later, 15 million television fans had a double treat: they watched challenger Emile Griffith scramble the brains of welterweight champion Benny Paret beyond repair, and then saw a rerun of the climactic moments of this state-supervised slaughter in slow motion.

Thus boxing history repeated itself on March 24, just as it will do in the future until informed and out­raged public opinion demands the abolition of civilized man's most atavistic sport—the manly art of mutual mayhem. For mayhem lies at the heart of the prize­fighting game, as opposed to amateur and collegiate boxing where, whatever the incidence of injury, mishap comes about by accident or human malice, and not by the nature of the art.

Ringside requiems involve a predictable reaction ­ritual. The pugilistic massacre prompts an official in­vestigation that finally leads nowhere. Humanitarians clamor for protective devices or rules that will reduce the likelihood of ring tragedies. A few sports columnists call for the abolition of prizefighting. And increasingly, of late years, moralists and preachers seize on every ring slaughter as a chance to compose a homily on the immorality of the professional boxing game.

This last development is a hopeful one. For if all teachers of morality could convince themselves and their public of the immorality of professional boxing, the days of this brutal pastime would definitely be numbered.

A dozen years ago, in this country, Catholic moral­ists seldom directed their attention to the evils of a professional boxing career. Even if they did so, they were loath to condemn it because it seemed to have wide popular approval and to encourage the ideals of clean, disciplined living and hardy virility.

Today things are very different. Perhaps most of our moralists now think that of its essence professional boxing is irreconcilable with the gospel and natural law, and they do not hesitate to make their opinion known. In this they agree with the Vatican City radio and newspaper, both of which forthrightly condemned professional boxing after the Paret tragedy, not just because it is a hazardous career whose rewards are in­commensurate with its risks, but because it is wrong in its nature, aim and methods.

The basic reason why professional boxing is wrong is easy to grasp. It lies in the uniqueness of this activity: of all contemporaneous forms of sport in which man is pitted against man, professional boxing alone has as its primary and direct object the physical injury of the contestants.

This fact alone sets prizefighting apart from other sports, no matter how risky they are in themselves or how open to human malice. In amateur and collegiate boxing, presumably, the emphasis is on skill and dex­terity, and elaborate precautions are taken to make the danger of real harm remote. But injury in a profes­sional match is no accident. The very nature of the sport is that two career men, under contract, attempt to mutilate each other for gain. The opponents system­atically attack each other's physical features and organs in a mounting crescendo of mayhem that ideally termi­nates in a violent assault on man's most delicate organ, the brain. A successful assault ends in a moment of waking helplessness called a technical knockout, or, better still, a clean KO whose symbol is the supine gladiator with a mild concussion. Any less decisive climax gets short shrift from the gallery and contributes little to a fighter's career.

Thus professional boxing stands condemned even before the statistics are compiled on occasional ring deaths and the all-too-common. The gospel law of love does not permit brethren to exchange wanton violence for mere renown or profit. There is no charity in a licensed assault that unleashes the beast in the boxer and the sadist in the spectator. As for natural justice, we who have no right to mutilate ourselves for external gain certainly cannot endow others with the right to attempt mayhem upon us by virtue of a contract.

We will welcome the day when the American people finally reject professional boxing for good, and inter it by the side of cockfighting, bearbaiting and the pub­lic execution 'of criminals.

(Source: America - The National Catholic Weekly)

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Beauty and the blogger

This video shows Ms. USA runner-up Carrie Prejean defending the sanctity of marriage as that of being between a man and a woman that cost her the Ms. USA crown over the weekend. In that pageant, one of the judges, a radical gay rights activitist by the name of Perez Hilton, asked Ms. California about her stand on same-sex marriage. Her answer ignited a firestorm that obviously made Perez furious. Watch Ms. California's gracious and composed discussion of the controversy on MSNBC.

Ironically, Ms. California has received more postpageant media exposure and TV appearances than Ms. North Carolina, the crowned Ms. USA 2009. Just a question to Perez Hilton (by the way, are you related to Paris Hilton?): Since when was opposing gay marriage politically in-correct? Here is my favorite part of this interview:

News Anchor: "He said you gave the worst answer in beauty pageant history."

Carrie Prejean: "Oh, I don't think I gave the worst answer in beauty pageant history, but I didn't give the answer that he would have wanted me to give."

Well, I'll give you a perfect 10 score for that answer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Think Positive - HIV/AIDS Documentary

Here is the GMA-7 News & Public Affairs special documentary on HIV/AIDS in the Philippines hosted by Ms. Vicky Morales. Wanggo Gallaga (HIV+), son of multi-awarded film director Peque Gallaga, was interviewed here.

Philippine HIV Testing Facilities:

1. San Lazaro Hospital
2. Philippine General Hospital
3. Research Institute for Tropical Medicine
4. Vicente Sotto Medical Center (Cebu)
5. Davao Medical Center
6. Ilocos Regional Training and Medical Center (San Fernando, La Union)
7. Baguio General Hospital
8. Zamboanga Medical Center
9. Corazon Locsin Montelibano (Bacolod)
10. West Visayas Medical Center (Iloilo)
11. Bicol Regional Training Hospital

Or the Social Hygiene Clinic of your city.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Confessions of an HIV+ Pinoy

It is my privilege to introduce my newfound friend, Dr. Elroi (not his real name). In this post, he is going to share with us intimate details of his life, his SSA struggle, his HIV story and how this event completely turned his life around for good. Dr. Elroi is a facilitator/lecturer of Channels of Hope, a World Vision program which trains and educates pastors and leaders of faith-based organizations about HIV/AIDS. He is currently traveling all over the Philippines for this noble mission.

This will be my testimony to our church when they are prepared and ready to hear this. The first time I told my story in front of people was during the workshop of "Channels of Hope" by World Vision last April. This is the longer and complete version.

A couple of years ago I have contemplated suicide several times but it never happened. I stand here before you today by God’s grace because He has a purpose for my life that I almost failed to see. Perhaps some of you noticed that, every time you ask me questions I can not give a direct answer. The reason is I am a bit scared of your possible reactions should I reply with an honest answer. I don't know how church people would react to someone in my situation. Now that I have experienced God’s redemption, I want to be free in this congregation by sharing with you my story.

January of 1999, 3 months after passing the licensure board examination for electrical engineers I was blessed to be offered a job and got employed by one of the multinational manufacturing firm as a production line engineer. I earned good money that I was able to help my parents financially and sent my younger brother to college.

June of 2001, my younger brother took his own life with a gunshot leaving us with no reason why he did such thing.

July of 2002, I have decided to leave the company I am working for and accepted the early retirement pay. I enrolled myself in a modeling institution for two years and did modeling projects for less than 4 years though this career did not really took off.

Early 2003, I started to put up my own business with my friend. It’s a food retail business that lasted only for less than a year leaving me with a couple of hundred thousand peso losses. In the same year, I lost more than half a million pesos in a pyramiding scam together with my friends who persuaded me to invest. This was the first time when I thought of committing suicide.

September of 2005, I have decided to apply for an immigrant visa to Australia to start a new life with the hope of recovering everything I have lost.

Early 2006, I got myself employed in a call center while waiting for the result of my application.

March of the same year, the immigration services informed me that my visa was ready to be released but I need to do my medical examination first. I had my medical exam done and then a week after, I received the most unexpected and worst news I could ever receive. The result of my HIV screening test was positive! The doctor called me on the phone and asked me to come back for another blood sample to repeat the test for confirmation. It did not surprise me that much but it was the last thing I have expected! I knew I had a few unprotected sexual encounters before, the reason why it was really possible. My initial reaction was to cry and suddenly I was so furious at God and asked why me? I have not stepped on anyone just to get what I wanted. I showed respect and kindness to people especially to my family and friends, I have stolen nothing, and I never killed anyone.

I prayed every night to give thanks to God, and asked for His forgiveness for the wrongs I have done. Why do I deserve this? There are many people out there who I think have done far worst things than I did but why me? For a couple of minutes I was so furious at God that I even swore at Him! I was trying to emerge from a great misfortune and migrating seemed to be my last hope for a better life. But now I can no longer migrate and work in another country for greener pasture as they say. My life seems to be a series of unfortunate events. My dream of giving my family particularly my parents a well-off kind of life has been shattered and I felt like I was broken into million pieces. That's why I was so furious and I felt like God was punishing me for all the sexual immoralities I have done. Then I realized that I was wrong and I immediately asked for His forgiveness, and asked Him to take care of me. I then cried for hours until I fell asleep hoping that when I wake up it was just a nightmare. The next day after work, I went to the hospital for confirmatory test and the doctor told me to wait for a month for the result. It was the longest one month of my life. October 2006, it was confirmed that I am positive with HIV!

At first, I had no idea what to do with my life and how would I tell this to my parents. I disclosed to a few trusted friends about my condition and I am blessed that they accepted me and did not judge me. I have decided to continue with my life as if nothing happened; but I felt like I was a dead-man walking for the next couple of months. I felt hopeless. Life has no value. I saw no way out; death became very appealing as I contemplated suicide for more than a dozen times. The problem was I just can't do it coz I know it would really hurt. But the biggest reason why I can't do it was; I have seen how my parents suffered emotionally when my younger brother took his life. If I did the same thing, I don't know how my parents will handle it this time. So, I told myself I can’t go on like this, I need to do something!

December of 2006, I decided to seek medical help. I was referred by a friend to an NGO that supports People Living with HIV. The doctor I talked to told me that there's an organization consists of people living with HIV or PLWH who can relate to me and give me the moral and emotional support that I need. From there I was linked on how to access free medical check-up at San Lazaro hospital where I met Dr.P. After the lab test determined how strong or weak my immune system was, the result indicated that I needed to start taking medication or ARV. Thus, a series of pre-trial counseling sessions with Dr. P ensued. She discussed how the medication works and its side effects and the details about HIV. Because the drugs have fatal side effects, Doc. P insisted that I tell my parents about my condition.

At first, I was so firm with my decision to handle everything all by myself and not to tell my family about it. I was eventually convinced, realizing that they have the right to know for the simple reason that they are my family no matter what. So 8 months after my diagnosis, I told my sister first about my condition of which she cried, and requested her to give my letter to our parents. I can't bear to see them hurting because of what happened to me that's why I opted to mention the details through a letter, in that way I won’t miss anything. I came home a week after. We didn’t talk about it but I was surprised to receive their letter of reply; understandably because, we don’t vocalize our thoughts and feelings to one another. Suffice that we know that we loved each other. The content of my parent's letter was enough for me to face this dilemma dauntlessly. The line where my father told me that he's willing to take my place if that disease can only be transferred brought so much tears to me coz for the first time, I felt that my father really loves me and my mother reassured me of her love. I was so thankful to God and felt so blessed with a very understanding and loving family!

August of 2007, I have started to bum around; Dr.P asked me to quit from my call center job coz it will gradually kill me. I left Manila and just stayed at home with my parents. It was during this idle season of my life when I began to contemplate about everything I have been through. I came to realize that all my actions and decisions have been motivated by my ambition to become wealthy and to be recognized. I wanted to give my parents a luxurious life after all the sacrifices they had done for us, to travel and visit parts of the world and the country with them, to have my own condo unit and a car, and probably my own business too. There's nothing wrong with that I guess, but I was so consumed by all of these desires that somehow I forgot about God! Yes I have thanked Him and asked forgiveness every time I prayed to Him every night, but it was obviously not enough.

Late 2007, my visit to Dr.P became frequent and every time she asked me how I am doing, I always tell her that I want to make something good out of my condition. I told her that I believed God has a reason and has a different plan for me why He did not allow my plans to succeed and let this tragic thing happen to me. I have started to look at the brighter side because that's the best thing that I can do so far about my situation. I began to ask not only myself but her as well as to what is the purpose of my life, why am I here and still alive if God will only hurt me by not giving me all that I have wanted even though He witnessed that I worked so hard for all of it. I thought my parents’ support was enough for me to move on but as the days passed, death became very appealing to me again. Out of desperation, I talked to Dr.P and then she took that opportunity to share me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She told me that the Lord wanted me to completely surrender my life to Him and leave the kind of life I used to have and dreamed about. She prayed over me and instructed me to ask forgiveness with all my heart, and to accept Jesus Christ to be my personal Lord and Savior. I was very emotional that time that I cried for like half an hour coz I have felt I have nowhere left to go but only to Him. I am sick, out of job, homeless and totally destitute; it looks like God allowed all these things to happen to leave me no choice but Him since He knows that I am scared to commit suicide. And last December, I came to this church.

Being HIV positive became the turning point of my life. Through it I became a Christian. Now, I want this unexpected consequence of my sinful actions into something beautiful that will affect change not only to me but to others as well. I prayed that God will use me and give me ministry that will help stop the increasing number of people infected by HIV, and He answered.

April of this year (2008), I was so happy and blessed to be invited to participate in the workshop for Channels of Hope by World Vision. It was a facilitators training that aims to educate faith leaders on HIV and AIDS and eventually have them lead the de-stigmatization of the community and this country about this pandemic. This is a big task because we are tasked to educate faith leaders and the community as a whole about HIV and AIDS and the Christian response to this pandemic. Christian living is the answer to this problem, which is now my ultimate goal as a Christian with HIV. There are lots of patients out there who still continue to walk in darkness for reasons like they believe that they are sinners and God hates them. They want to approach church people but they are afraid that they will be mistreated and condemned; or perhaps they don't know how to approach God and children of God while the others simply choose to live their life on their own apart from God. I hope that our church will be one of the congregations that will embrace PLWH and help me or us to carry out this ministry as it entails a lot of work, planning and funding.

If you are going through a time of terrifying darkness and despair, or are plagued by doubts that are slowly eroding your hope that things can get better, I urge you to surrender it all to God; give Him full control of your life. It is the only way to live. Thank you.

Thank you, Dr. Elroi, for that powerful and inspiring testimony. We are supporting your worthy cause of educating people about HIV/AIDS. In response to this, I am posting on Thursday a special documentary on HIV/AIDS in the Philippines aired on GMA-7 a couple of weeks ago along with a list of testing centers in the country. Please watch out for this video clip.

Also, please do visit Dr. Elroi's blog to learn more facts about HIV/AIDS.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Dreamed A Dream

It's time-out from my usual posts. I almost missed this true-to-life fairy tale. When I stumbled upon her story, I understood why she is fast becoming a YouTube superstar garnering more than 12 million hits! The woman's name is Susan Boyle, the middle-aged, never been married, never been kissed, Elaine Paige wannabe church worker who stunned the judges and audience of Britain's Got Talent when she sang the song I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.

Here's how The Herald reported the story:

The moment the reality show’s audience and judging panel saw the small, shy, middle-aged woman, they started to smirk. When she said she wanted a professional singing career to equal that of Elaine Paige, the camera showed audience members rolling their eyes in disbelief. They scoffed when she told Simon Cowell, one of the judges, how she’d reached her forties without managing to develop a singing career because she hadn’t had the opportunity. Another judge, Piers Morgan, later wrote on his blog that, just before she launched into I Dreamed a Dream, the 3000-strong audience in Glasgow was laughing and the three judges were suppressing chuckles.

It was rude and cruel and arrogant. Susan Boyle from Blackburn, West Lothian, was presumed to be a buffoon.
Click here for the entire article

But what happened next knocked everyone off their feet. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Ms Susan Boyle!

I Dreamed A Dream

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high,
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid
When dreams were made and used,
And wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung,
No wine untasted.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
As they turn your dreams to shame.

And still I dream he'll come to me
And we will live our lives together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms
We cannot weather...

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seems
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Way Out

Note: I just finished reading This Way Out by Frank Worthen, a book on homosexuality that a very good friend of mine gave me as a gift. The book is a must-have for everyone struggling with SSA and especially those who are confused and reluctant to give up the gay lifestyle. The book has 17 chapters, which I will list down below, and in each chapter Frank Worthen will guide you every step of the way and help you understand better the complex issues behind your struggle from a Christian perspective.

Drawing from his own past struggle with homosexuality and his more than twenty-five years of counseling homosexuals, Frank Worthen helps you understand the roots of homosexuality and points the way out to freedom. This Way Out presents three important points:

1. Knowledge about the issue of homosexuality.
2. The vital necessity of an intimate relationship with God.
3. The part the homosexual plays in his healing.

To read Frank Worthen's testimony, click here.


1. A Brief Look at Homosexuality
2. Did God Say?
3. The First Step: "A Crucial Decision"
4. The Way of Sorrow
5. The Need for a Savior
6. Doing the Ordinary
7. Spiritual Warfare
8. Correcting our Image of God
9. Correcting our Image of Others
10. Correcting our Image of Self
11. The Belief Principle
12. Submission
13. Displacement
14. Walking in the Light
15. Summary of Steps Out of Homosexuality
16. Speaking to the Non-Christian Gay
17. The Last Chapter


"This book is one of the first sources of light that God used to lead me to the path of transformation and freedom." - Louie

"This book gave language to the pain and wounds I faced." - Benjie

"This Way Out gave me the hope that change is really possible." - Jun

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hello, Father!

This is a guest post for Courage by Fr. Bernardo Collera, a Filipino SVD Religious Missionary Priest who used to be assigned in Christ the King Mission Seminary, Quezon City, Philippines. He is a Ph.D. candidate in Counseling Psychology at De La Salle University, Manila. Fr. Collera used to do counseling and psychological work in the seminary and Sarnelli Center for Street Children at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran. He also used to teach Psychology subjects in the seminary and accept counseling and psychological assessment for most clientele. He received his license as a professional guidance counselor on September 28, 2008. [Note: The highlighted portions of the letter are made by Fr. Collera for emphasis.]

Hi _____,

Thanks for introducing yourself, at least your name. I knew about Courage through my classmate _____ (forgot his name na, but he looks bulky and speaks with a soft voice) who was the one who mentioned your group in our classes in DLSU. Since then I have referred people who'd come to confession to look into your group for some support system in their journey towards conversion, meaning abstention from SSA-oriented activities because these have been piercing their well-being. So far, none has come back to me to share their experiences. Well, in confession, people who admit their SSA activities usually stay inside their closets. I just hope they did go to Courage and learned whatever for their own peace of mind and well-being.

As regards your request for me to state my "opinion on what (I) think is the best approach in dealing with people with SSA", I keep the following principles:

1. People with SSA are persons, loved as much as anyone else by God. In Christ Jesus we have been granted back our dignity as beloved. God loves us as we are. Hence, I keep utmost respect for each individual with SSA and treat them the way I treat most people.

2. This is the background of information or bias that I have about gay people if you wish: I noticed, have read (forgot my sources though), and even heard in conferences during my formation years (before priestly or sacerdotal ordination) as well as in academic classes that people with SSA and who actually do SSA-oriented activities do these things because at one point they made a choice to do so and BE SO. They were teased and cajoled to be one because of their effeminate ways. Becoming gay and doing SSA-oriented activities were ways to finally satisfy or fulfill the wishes of people around them. Other motivations for developing such SSA or gay identity included developing "a sense of conquest" over the powerful male who happens to be his object of obsession or desire." I remember the cases mentioned including gay people who pursue sports guys (meaning those who actively play basketball or baseball, those with muscular bodies) as doing so with a view of conquering or becoming more powerful than they who have the body. Especially if these were the guys who bullied him (meaning the SSA or let me just say it - bakla).

In one of the lecture sessions I had with fellow formators, the lecturer mentioned that there are SSA's who have an unconscious desire of developing their own bodies but may be confronting their own sense of helplessness, maybe due to years of being looked down, laughed at, and being socialized the lady-way, as well as the fact that one's body may be really thin and weak. Since the sexal encounter is the only way of getting closer to a person who has the goal of becoming as muscular as possible, this sense of conquest becomes the entry point in the direction of one's bodily development. Sad to say though that homosexual encounters become a stigma that further debilitate the pursuit of the unconscious goal. Homosexual encounters thus became an obstacle rather than steps in the right direction. There is a pleasure component in every sexual activity that usually leads to repeated similar encounters, until the gay and the lover tire off, in pursuit of a deeper angle of the relationship. Hence, I think people with SSA need to look deep into what they get by going into same sex or homosexual encounters (Ano ang nakukuha mo sa pakikipagtalik sa isang katulad mong may kargada?) This is known as the teleological meaning of acts, meaning "every behavior we do always tends towards achieving a sense of homeostasis or sense of balance." (Ang bawat kilos, isip, gawi o kahit na pakiramdam ng bawat isa sa atin ay laging nakaumang (directed towards) sa isang nais maabot), the goal or purpose or reason for behavior which provides a sense of power or well-being in one's self. When answered, there can thereby develop the alternative-seeking process through the critical question: Is this the only way to achieve that goal? Meaning: Is the homosexual encounter the only way of achieving that goal? This is the way out of this neurosis-bent behavior. I mean by neurosis as the state or habit of doing the same thing in view of the same end. Getting out of this neurotic cycle requires self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Having a supportive group to listen and not judge one's sharing can be therapeutic because everyone is in the journey of learning more about ourselves and finding better ways of being and achieving our well-being. The presence and awareness of a loving God can already be the first boost. We all know that we have been given freedom to choose our ways of being. I believe that God's will is that we learn to choose only those ways of being that strengthen us and not disempower us from being someone beloved. Kung ang gawang bading or to be plain about it: If homosexual encounters keep us from realizing our full value of being loved, other ways are available for the one who so wants to make a change for the better. This becomes particularly heroic when the choice out of homosexual encounters is due to one's love for Christ and the desire to really live one's Christian or Catholic faith. It's a long and arduous process, but the reward is just great: Discovering who we are as beloved, discovering more about what we can yet do as strengthened by our faith and the Christian Spirit. This can be a very humbling experience. But I always keep this line Jesus said in the Gospel of St. John: The truth will set you free.

May God bless you in your pursuit of holiness and integrity. Take care.

Thank you, Fr. Collera, for your clear and deep insights about SSA. This can be a great help to all of us who continuously seek ways to address our issues in light of Christ's teachings. God bless you in your ministry.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jesus Proves on the Cross His Love for His Enemies (Lenten Meditations Part 2)

Second Point

In view of the circumstances in which He loved His enemies, Jesus’ love was something astonishing. Up to now the circumstances we have considered have been the hate, the rabidness and the unheard of savagery that His enemies displayed against Jesus. Now, my soul, ponder the circumstances of that love Jesus showed them at the very time of their rage. I do not doubt that a consideration of these two points will supply the weightiest motives for admiring a love so immense.

The first circumstance was the time in which He prayed for those who were crucifying Him – Jesus needed to say a number of things from the Cross: to His Eternal Father, to commend His Spirit to Him; to His beloved Mother, to entrust Her to His Disciple John; to John, to charge him with the care of His afflicted Mother; to bystanders, to ask relief in His extreme thirst. But for whom did He give first attention when He spoke? Ah! His sorrowful Mother would wait, the faithful disciple would hold off; Jesus’ personal affairs would be forgotten; and the first words would be directed to His Eternal Father in favor of His enemies, begging pardon for them: “Father, forgive them.” (Lk. 23:34). What love! What wonderful love!

The second circumstance was His enemies’ malice – This was growing more and more on each occasion, the more ardent Jesus’ love appeared to be – One might think that, before setting about to obtain the pardon of His enemies, Jesus would wait until they first recognized the enormous misdeed they had committed and with humility and regret begged for pity and mercy. But His Charity was of another quality, which did not allow Him to wait until they recognized their great fault; but He at once became their Mediator with the Eternal Father to obtain their forgiveness. I love them, Jesus said; and because I love, I intercede. I love and I intercede at the very moment in which I hear their ridicule and blasphemy, and I see their hate and experience all the effects of their rage and fury. I love them and I intercede for them and I offer all My Blood for them…

What do you say, my soul, at the sight of a love of this fine quality?

The third circumstance as the reason which Jesus presented in His prayer – It is undeniable that the Jews had committed against Jesus an injustice of the most horrible, abominable kind, choosing for Him the most cruel kind of death. The miracles that He had worked and which they had seen with their own eyes, the blamelessness of His life, known even to the Gentile prefect (Pontius Pilate), the very accusations which they had invented and had produced at the trial – all in an evident way proved their bad will. In spite of this, Jesus prayed for them, and to excuse them He pointed to their ignorance, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34). It was as if He wanted to say, “Father, I do not say that they have not sinned. I only say that their impiety can be pardoned, that ignorance plays a great part in it. Otherwise they would never have treated Me this way. Therefore, I beg Thee, My Father, to forgive them as I forgive them, and that Thou love them as I love them…”

Oh, the wonderful love of Jesus for His enemies, which moved Him to love them with such love! My soul, you, too, learn to love the person that has offended you, and, if you please, look at your enemies with those eyes with which Jesus looked at His enemies from the Cross and it will become very easy for you. What did Jesus find in His enemies that could incline His Heart to love them? Ah! He saw in them the weakness of fallen nature that is prone to evil from birth. He saw in them precious souls fashioned to His Own Image and Likeness and called to share His Glory. He saw in them the most profound designs of His Heavenly Father, Who, by the very hands of His enemies, offered Jesus the chalice which He, the Father, had prepared. Finally, He saw that very great number of sins for which He had freely obliged Himself to make due payment to Divine Justice and which that Justice was punishing in Him by means of His enemies. These reasons were the strongest ones that persuaded Him to earnestly plead and intercede with His Eternal Father, to win for them the forgiveness of the great crimes that they had committed.

Affective Acts

Ah, my Jesus! Now I understand the true cause of the difficulty I have always experienced in loving people by whom I have been offended. The cause is that I have never looked at them with those eyes with which Thou looked at Thy enemies; and this is also the true cause of my bad state. If only I had always regarded people who offended me as persons by whose hands my Heavenly Father was offering me the chalice He had prepared for me; if only I had always regarded them as persons whom Divine Justice was using to punish my sins – ah! – how many perfect acts of love might I not have made up to now, and how closely my heart would come to resemble Thy loving Heart! But now – what is the state of my heart? What kind of charity do I have? Ah, my beloved Redeemer, let me be silent and hide myself from Thy eyes, because the great shame I feel restrains me from talking to Thee and looking at Thee. But what would be the benefit of being silent and hiding from Thee? It is better that I sincerely confess my folly and humbly beg the forgiveness of Thy Mercy. Ah, my Jesus! I have certainly reflected on the outstanding ways in which Thou hast been an example of love. I have admired this and have praised it. But when have I taken up the task of imitating it?

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:43-45

Friday, April 10, 2009

Jesus Proves on the Cross His Love for His Enemies (Lenten Meditations Part 1)

Composition of Place – Envision Jesus nailed to the Cross and enduring His greatest pains. You hear Him pray to His Father on behalf of those who crucify Him.

Prayer of Petition – O my Jesus and my Master! I beg of Thee the grace not only to forgive my enemies, but to love them and do good to them.

First Point

Jesus showed an astonishingly great love for His enemies. Go back in your thoughts, my soul, to Calvary, and ponder with attention Jesus’ Love for His enemies. See Him suspended from three nails on an infamous gibbet. He is wounded all over, dripping with blood, plunged in a sea of pain, and is close to breathing His last. See, also, the throng of people of every age, condition, and state – young and old, lords and ladies and common people, Hebrews and Gentiles, scribes and Pharisees, elders of the people and high priests – and these people, instead of having pity (which only a few show at the sight of pain), are all burning with an implacable mortal hatred for Him. As we ponder the more noteworthy circumstances of this hatred, consider whether it should have been hard and difficult for Him to love a people so savage and inhuman.

The first circumstance was the triumphant glee of His enemies – Here, my soul, you should not consider Jesus as a mere man, but as both God and Man (as indeed He was), to Whose gaze everyone’s heart lay bare, as He saw even their most secret thoughts. As He hung suffering on the Cross, what evil did He not find in the hearts of those cruel people? He perceived some who rejoiced at the sight of Him nailed to the Cross, who were congratulating themselves on the arrival, at last, of the hour they had hoped for – the hour of seeing the One they accused of being a seducer, an impostor, a deceiver, hanging from a Cross. He perceived that others were approving the sentence passed against Him, and were judging that it was quite just (because they thought He was a scoundrel and blasphemer) to be assigned no other execution than one on a cross. He saw that these men took great delight and danced, as it were, with glee at seeing Him suffer, at seeing Him refused the smallest relief for His thirst, at seeing men rather increase His thirst and add to His torments by giving Him gall and vinegar to drink. He perceived others impatiently awaiting His death and wanting His Name blotted out from everyone’s memory. All of this Jesus saw, and saw it in the hearts of the very ones for whom He came down from Heaven to earth, leaving an immensely happy condition and submitting to human miseries. Yes, He saw these things in the hearts of those on whose behalf He had worked so many miracles and for whom He was dying. At the sight of all this, what must have been the quality of His love for such people?

The second circumstance was the jeers and insults of His enemies – When someone is in his death agony, having been turned over to an executioner to be put to death, it is an act of compassion to show him sympathy…something that is not refused even the most wayward criminal. When a criminal is presented on the gallows, no matter how deserving of death he may be, a great silence is observed by everyone, and even the hardest hearts show him some indications of pity and compassion; and the more painful the execution to which the man is condemned, the more apparent is this sympathy. But Jesus was not counted worthy of this much. The more cruel His pains were and the more savage the execution procedures, so much the more bitter were the jeers, so much the more cutting was the mockery with which He was insulted by His enemies.

“Bah!” some were saying, “If You boasted that You would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, show Your Power now and rescue Yourself from the Cross!” Others argued, “If You made such a boast of being the Son of God and of always trusting in Him, why does He not come now to deliver You?”

The third circumstance was His enemies’ stubbornness – It would not have been difficult for Jesus to love His enemies if in the end they had recognized and detested their sin; but the obstinacy of these wicked people was too great. The elements, even though they were lifeless, bore witness to Jesus’ innocence. The sky shrouded itself with mourning. The sun grew dark. Boulders cracked in pieces. The veil of the temple ripped into two parts. The earth trembled and quaked. The people were eyewitnesses of these astounding events; but in spite of them, they did not stop abusing Him. Rather, becoming even more furious against the Lord, they kept mocking Him, cursing Him and blaspheming Him. They did not cease tormenting Him until they saw that He was dead. And yet Jesus bore it all with a heroic patience. And even forgetting His Pains and the many abuses they were vomiting forth against Him into His very Face in His agonizing condition, turning to His Eternal Father He pleaded with Him and took up their defense, so that He might obtain pardon for their wicked behavior…

Could a love be found that resembles this? It would not have been hard for Jesus to love His enemies if He had foreseen that they would stop hating Him, at least after His death. But He could not even have this consolation. He foresaw that most of them would make a joke of all those miracles which would be worked on His behalf after His Resurrection. He foresaw that they would continue in their obstinacy until death and that they would blaspheme forever in hell even more than the demons do. It surely must have been a very hard thing for Jesus to love a people so unjust and evil. But in spite of all this, instead of giving Himself over to anger and seeking vengeance for His extremely painful, degrading death, He ceased not from loving even the most sinful ones, nor from wishing that His Divine Blood might give life to those who had shed it so brutally.

My soul, enter within yourself here, and see who those persons are whom you find it difficult to love. Are they, by any chance, false witnesses who have falsely accused you in court? Are they cruel characters who have sometimes made you drink the gall and vinegar of pain, hardship, privation, and injustice? Are they assassins who are thirsty for your blood and want to nail you, like Jesus, to a cross? Ah! There may be someone perhaps who gives you an unpleasant look. There may be someone who lets a thoughtless word escape from his mouth. And will you have difficulty loving these persons, after seeing Jesus love even His unmerciful persecutors? Compare well your enemies with those of Jesus.

Affective Acts

In this light, I am a man truly lacking love! Oh, what a sad, distressing thought! – That I am a man who is poor and needy as regards love! And yet, who am I? I am a soul chosen from among thousands and thousands to follow Jesus. I am a Christian soul who spends so much time daily meditating on the example of Jesus Christ, Who even loved those who crucified Him. In spite of all this, I am a creature poor and needy with regard to love! This is so, after so many years of my life as a Christian have passed, after so many insights, graces, and interior inspirations, after so many aids and opportunities! Ah! What reason I have to detest my sluggishness!

(to be continued...)

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" - Matthew 5:46-47

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 3)

Third Point

Consider, my soul, the means that you must take to suitably practice this virtue of charity or love for your neighbor.

(1) Do not of set purpose dwell on his faults and defects – On the contrary, consider the good with which God has favored him. If you do not see something in him that can move you to highly respect him, consider that he is an image of God, redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ and made for Heaven.

Consider perhaps in Heaven he will have more glory than you, and that even if today he may be evil, perhaps he will become converted, will do penance, will become fervent, and will gain more merit than you will – as happened with St. Paul, with St. Mary Magdalene, with the Samaritan woman, and others.

(2) One must distinguish the sin from the sinner – Sin should be abhorred, but the sinner should be loved. When you see someone who has committed a crime, reflect that if you had been placed in the temptation he was in, you might have committed the same sin as he, and that if he were in your position, assisted by the grace with which God assists you, he might be better than you are.
Therefore do not murmur about your neighbor. Fear God. Reflect that the weakness one person has, another can have, and that you will fall into the sin into which your neighbor has fallen if God does not help you in a special way. Moreover, not seldom does it happen that God permits us or our immediate kinsmen to fall into the same fault which we censure in others. Thus we should treat other as we would want to be treated if we had fallen into those faults.

(3) To preserve charity we must also fulfill the obligations called for by our state in life, our office, and our power to do good – It is not seldom that displeasure, quarrels, and abusive remarks come about from failure to meet obligations. In this way we trouble our parents and superiors, our equals complain, and people under us murmur and grumble when we do not fulfill the duties that pertain to us.

(4) We must also respect the interest of other people – One must not take nor desire what belongs to another. A man is more sensitive about the way he is treated as to his pocketbook, than about his blood. It not seldom happens that ties of close kinship are ruptured by a little property dispute. The same thing should be said about ties of friendship. Oh, how many friendships have been broken by petty property and money matters! How many associations began in the name of God, and due to a sordid concern over temporalities, ended in the name of the devil, who engineered a thousand lawsuits wherein charity was abandoned, peace was forfeited, and even the wealth of the persons concerned was lost.

Therefore Jesus Christ tells us in His holy Gospel not to put up resistance to the injury. If someone wants to sue us and take our tunic, we are to let him take our cloak as well. If someone strikes us on our right cheek, we are to turn to him the other. Let all be lost rather than charity…Let us leave everything in God’s hands, Who is well able to give us more than we give up and is just in seeing that our honor is restored. Let us not desire revenge. On the contrary, all who do us harm we should commend to God in imitation of Jesus.

(5) To preserve charity, not only must we respect other people’s temporal interests and their persons, but also their honor – treating everyone with politeness and thoughtfulness, not offending anyone by rudeness, inappropriate speech, nicknames, and ridicule; for such behavior is not only against charity, but discloses a spirit that is cheap, ill-bred, and unworthy of human society.

Affective Acts

I will never be angry with my neighbors. If I might sometimes feel anger, I will be silent until the trouble passes. I will never speak ill of anyone. I will not listen to those who speak ill of their neighbor. I will do what good I can to all, with the help of our Lord and the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 2)

Second Point

The virtue of charity or love that we must have for our neighbor is something very noble and holy – so much so that it deserves to be practiced for what it is in itself. But there are some other very powerful motives for it which neither pride nor self-love can resist. How deeply people would be moved if they would reflect upon them!

The trouble is that people do not reflect on them, and therefore we see the world in wretched condition, without charity or love for neighbor, since there is no one who ponders the powerful motives for practicing this virtue. We will proceed, then, to meditate on them. There are the following:

(1) Charity is commanded by God – and this is itself an adequate motive – You ought to know, my soul, that after loving God above all things we must love our neighbors as ourselves, even if he be our enemy. Maybe self-love or pride will object, but the ready answer is: God commands it; and if an enemy does not deserve to be loved, God does deserve to be obeyed, and for love of God and out of the obedience we owe Him, we must love our enemies.

(2) The second motive is human nature itself – There is a principle which says: Every living thing loves its own kind. To live is to desire and strive for someone’s good. Hence we must strive for the good of one another. We all form one moral and social body, since man by nature is social. Thus, as members of the same body we ought to strive for the good of one another, just as we see is done by members of a physical body.

(3) Being Christians, we are taught by religion that we are all brothers – that we all have a common Father, Who is God, and a common Mother, Who is Blessed Mary, and that the greatest pleasure we can give Them is to love one another like good brothers. We have a common Redeemer and Advocate, Who is Jesus Christ. We are all created for the same end, which is Heaven. We all have the same commandments to keep and the same Sacraments to receive and the same truths that we must believe. We must put our hopes in the same promises and fear the same punishments.

(4) We are disciples of Jesus Christ – Who, by word and example, taught us this very important truth, and has done so with such earnestness and insistence that He went so far as to say that we know whether we are His disciples by whether we love one another as He has loved us; and He adds that whatever we do to our neighbor, He takes it as something done to Himself.

To emphasize the importance of charity, He reveals to us a wonderful truth. He told us that when He shall come to judge us at the end of the world, He will glorify and reward those who have loved and served their neighbor as if they had done this to Him. But as for those who have not loved and helped their neighbor, He will disgrace them and publicly take them to task as though they had refused this love and help to Himself, and finally He will condemn them to eternal fire.

(5) The motive of good order – Even if this love had not been commanded by the Lord, one ought to love one’s neighbor because of a need for it. Take a good look, my soul, at what happens in a home or town where there is no love of neighbor or fraternal charity, or where people do not love one another as brothers.

Oh, dear God! What disorder! What confusion! It seems more like a hell than a home or community…God withdraws His graces and blessings from it and leaves the people to themselves, and they become playthings of their passions; they do nothing good and are apt to do much evil – turning to rash judgments, suspicions, hatred, grumbling, fights, scandals, and many other great evils.

That is why St. John says that one who does not love his neighbor as he ought, is dead. God is so fond of this love or charity that He is named Charity, and where charity is, God is, and there is peace and happiness. But where there is no charity, there is no peace nor tranquility, laws are not kept, Commandments are not observed, obligations are not fulfilled, virtue is not practiced, temporal goods are wasted, diseases afflict people, death is hastened, and the soul goes to hell after having suffered greatly in this world.

Affective Acts

I know that charity is such a necessary virtue that without it there can be no society. I am quite convinced that I have the strongest reasons to practice this virtue. Therefore, with God’s help, I will practice it as much as I can.

(to be continued...)

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other." - Marvin J. Ashton, The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Love of Neighbor (Lenten Meditations Part 1)

Meditations by St. Anthony Mary Claret

Composition of Place – Imagine you see Jesus Christ in the company of His Apostles and disciples and saying to them: “Love one another as I have loved you…By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:34-35). “As long as you did it to one of these brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt. 25:40).

Prayer of Petition – Grant me, Lord, that spirit of charity whereby I would love my neighbor as myself – more than myself – that I may love him as Thou loved him, even to the extent of Thou giving Thy life for him.

First Point
You should know, my soul, that God is Love itself; God is Charity. This virtue is the greatest of virtues. It is greater than faith and hope. It is like the sun among the stars, like gold among the metals. It gives life to all the virtues. Without it no act has value for reaching Heaven – no, not even the most heroic works.

This Love, or Charity, is like the center from which rays emerge. It is like a vertex from which two lines originate, one of which leads to God and the other to one’s neighbor. These two lines and these two Commandments contain whatever the Prophets and the Law have said.

If one truly loves God, that is proof that there is love for neighbor, and the love one has for his neighbor discloses the love one has for God. He who says he loves God and does not love his neighbor, does not tell the truth, because it is impossible to love one whom we do not see, who is God, if we do not love one whom we see, namely, our brother.

Concerning this love, or charity, for your neighbors, my soul, you need to consider unhurriedly three things:

(1) What this charity is – Charity is an all-extensive virtue which embraces everyone; fellow countrymen and foreigners, friends, and enemies. It extends to everyone, embraces all, and does good to all. Therefore people who limit their love to those of their own area or those of their own nation, to those of their own sentiments, or to their friends or relatives, and are not careful to love the rest of men – such people do not have true charity.

(2) What the quality of this virtue is – The Apostle explains charity thus: “Charity is patient, is kind.” (1 Cor 13:4). It rejoices in another’s good fortune as though it were one’s own. It is resentful toward no one and speaks ill of no one. It does good to all and has sympathy for everyone. As much as is possible, it remedies the needs of all. It achieves and promotes what is good, and with all its power it hinders evil. In a word, charity encourages and cheerfully practices all the works of mercy – corporal and spiritual.

(3) By what spirit are you animated when you love your neighbor? – This is something you ought to examine, inquiring whether it is the love for God that moves you, or whether it is rather self-love. Perhaps you will find that you do not really love your neighbor. Maybe you will discover envy instead of charity, spite in place of love. See whether you grieve at your neighbor’s good fortune and are gladdened when he suffers ruin and trouble. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” says Jesus Christ.

Thus if your heart is full of love and charity for your neighbor, you will speak well of him; but if it has been emptied of charity and harbors some evil feeling of envy, spite or ill-will, you will be quick to speak ill of him; and sometimes you will grumble against him, another time criticize, another time ridicule, or exaggerate his faults, or your will downgrade his merits when you do not entirely deny them, or you might attribute them to a bad intention.

The person who is envious or uncharitable is like a spider which draws poison from the same flowers from which bees draw honey. Envious persons who are destitute of charity are like those large flying insects that are ever hunting for someone’s sores, and when they come across one, they linger on it with pleasure to suck out the pus.

Thus envious, uncharitable people are recognized by the way they pry about their neighbor’s faults and murmur about his failings. Such unhappy persons take pleasure and delight in going over such sordid affairs. You see, my soul, that you must have charity, and thus you will imitate the bee. Fashion a rich honeycomb which will be a great profit to you, an edification to your neighbor, and will serve God’s greater glory.

Affective Acts

My God, I give Thee my word that I will do all the good I can for my neighbor by offering alms, good counsel, prayers, and good example. And besides, I will meekly and humbly put up with his frailties, his peculiar traits and everything that can annoy me, and never will I grumble about offenses he may do to me. I will forgive him and pray for him, in imitation of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and My Sovereign Master, Whom I want to follow and imitate.

(to be continued...)

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" - John 15:12-13

Monday, April 6, 2009

Love of God (Lenten Meditations Part 2)

Second Point

God deserves to be loved because of what He stands ready to do for you in the future out of infinite goodness and love. What is it that God is ready to do for you, my soul? Ah! He would give Himself entirely to you. If you do not understand the greatness of this gift, of this marvel of love, then put to use all your intellectual powers and put what effort you can to the task of looking into the depths of a mystery which is the most comforting of the mysteries of our holy religion.

(1) To possess God is to gain the fulfillment of all our desires – At the moment when the soul separates from the body (at death), a supernatural light, a sudden clear perception, makes the soul recognize that God is the Supreme and Only Good and is its supreme and only real source of happiness and well-being.

Following immediately upon this light, there is such a strong desire to enjoy this Only and Supreme Good, this Only and Supreme Happiness, that being without It causes the greatest pain that damned souls suffer in hell…

In fact, to satisfy this powerful desire, God joins the worthy soul closely to Himself, and as He makes it enjoy all the vastness of His Divinity, He causes it to feel in an instant a boundless satisfaction and to remain plunged deep in an ocean of delight.

(2) To possess God is to contemplate God and love Him – There will not be a moment in all eternity in which this soul does not see God and does not discover as it sees Him, the infinite treasures of His Almighty Power, of His Goodness, His Beauty, and His other perfections which charm it with a boundless delight. Throughout all eternity there will not be an instant in which it does not feel continually on fire with new flames of love which raise it to Divine heights of infinite joy.

(3) To possess God is to possess an infinite happiness – The happiness with which you will be blessed in Heaven, my soul, will be the very happiness with which God Himself is blessed. Understand this fact well. You will enjoy the very pleasures, the very sweetness, the very contentment that God enjoys. But to what extent will this be so?

Listen, my soul, to something amazing, which is yet an undeniable truth. Just a faint ray from that eternal happiness would be enough to fully delight all the condemned souls with a joy greater beyond comparison, than all the painful punishments which they now suffer. Just a tiny sample of that boundless bliss would be enough to fill all those who are chosen for salvation, with gladness to an overflowing degree.

Just a little drop from that measureless ocean of joys would be capable of giving an eternal blessedness to all creatures together, even if a greater number were newly created than there are grains of sand on all seashores. In short, these joys are of such a nature and so great that they are enough to satisfy God Himself, Who is capable of experiencing infinite happiness.

(4) To possess God is to be loved by God with an infinite loving kindness – God never looks upon the good soul except as His tenderly beloved child, whom He wants to enrich with all the treasures of His goodness, like a bride in whom He finds all His delight and satisfaction.

There is no tenderness, no loving kindness on earth that can be compared with the tenderness of God’s loving kindness. For, as God is an Infinite Power which infinitely surpasses all human powers, it is equally true that He is an Infinite Love which goes infinitely beyond all degrees of human tenderness and kindness. Yes, it is He alone Who can receive a soul into His Heart and give it a drink from the stream of those sweet delights which no creature can give and which the human mind hopes in vain to comprehend.

(5) To possess God means to live as long as God lives and to be happy as long as God is happy – God’s Happiness is a happiness that has no end and undergoes no interruption nor does it ever grow less. O my soul, your happiness will possess these same properties.

(a) Your happiness will be without end. As many years will pass as there are grains of sand on all seashores, atoms in the air, drops in all waters of springs, rivers, and oceans. But in all that long time not even half, not even the smallest fraction of this happiness will have passed away, for it will be eternal and without end.

(b) It will be a happiness without interruption; for in each moment you will always find in God new perfections. As God is Infinite Beauty, there will remain in Him an endless expanse to see which you will not yet have seen. As He is Infinite Goodness, always some other benefit will remain which you are yet to gain, and in each instant you will feel yourself burning with new flames of love for Him. As He is Infinite Delightfulness, always some other endless expanse will remain which you will not yet have enjoyed, and every moment you will meet new streams of joy and pleasure.

(c) It will be a bliss that never grows less. You will truly have very ardent desires to taste more of God, and it will be apparent to you that you are not overfed with Him; but you will always have the satisfaction of tasting Him fully and will always enjoy Him with total possession.

Affective Acts
(1) Love – O my Supreme and Only Good, how blind I have been until now! I have not known Thee nor Thy love. Now I know Thee and I know Thy love. What can I do but try to duly respond to a love so wonderful and immense, and return another love which is small indeed, but more sincere than up to now? My God, look at me kneeling to pay Divine Honor to Thee, to offer the sacrifice of my whole heart. It is a sacrifice I owe to Thy boundless Goodness and Love. I love Thee, and I love Thee with all my affections, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength.

I hate and detest all those affections and inclinations which are not directed to Thee…I love Thee alone, my Sovereign Good. Only Thee do I want to love as long as I live; and I will prefer Thy Honor, Thy Will, Thy Good Pleasure, to all creatures, even those that I hold as dearest in the world.

(2) Desire to love God perfectly – But no matter how much I love Thee, no matter how much I do as I have resolved to do, what is such a love of mine in comparison with the love with which Thou hast loved me? It is really nothing. Ah! I wish I could squeeze into my heart all the love which all the saints have for Thee. I would wish, yes, I would wish singly to make the acts of love of all Angelic Spirits, so as to love Thee with their acts of love, O my Sovereign Good and Loyal Lover.

But of what use will these desires of mine be unless Thou, Who art the Supreme Good and thus deserve infinite love, enkindle in my heart a truly perfect flame of love? O God of Love, have pity on me and make me experience Thy Almighty Power today in my favor; for I crave nothing else and desire no more than to love Thee with all my being.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Love of God (Lenten Meditations Part 1)

Meditations by St. Anthony Mary Claret

Composition of Place – Imagine that you are in God’s Presence and that all angels and saints are interceding for you.

Prayer of Petition – My God and Lord, grant me a clear knowledge of the Divine benefits, so that, knowing them and being grateful for them, I may love and serve Thy Divine Majesty in all things.

First Point

God deserves to be loved for the infinite goodness and affection with which He has loved and favored us until now. In order to understand the depths of this goodness and affection, consider their circumstances. Collect your thoughts, my soul, and pay attention as much as you can in order to consider well three things:

(1) God’s kindness and affection toward you is eternal – Just as God never had a beginning, but always existed, likewise His kindness and love for you, my soul, had no beginning and is as ancient as God Himself; that is, it is eternal. In Holy Scripture God tells us: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, have I drawn thee.” Jer 31:3

Bring to your mind another age of two thousand years ago and tell me, What were you then? You were simply nothing. And what was God doing then? Ah, He was loving you, and with the very love that moved Him then to shed all His Blood for you.

Go back with your mind to a time just before the creation of the world and again tell me, my soul: What was there then? There was absolutely nothing, neither Heaven nor earth nor angels nor men – nothing. And God at that time, what was He doing? He was engaged in loving you. He loved you so much that for love of you He created Heaven and earth – earth, to serve as your dwelling place in this short life; Heaven, so that you might rule in a kingdom there for all eternity in the next life.

Go back further with your thoughts, my soul, and plunge into that beginningless period as far back as you can, and tell me: What was there then? There was nothing but God alone, infinitely glorious and infinitely happy in Himself and all by Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). And what was He doing during all that immense eternity?

He was – if you do not know – He was occupied in loving you, and there was never a moment in which He was not thinking about you, and in which He was not settled in His choice to die for your sake and in His wish to have you share all His goods, all His riches, all His happiness for ever and ever. Is this not a wonderful, amazing instance of kindness and love?

(2) God’s kindness and affection for you is generous – In order to convince you of this truth it is not necessary to list one by one the favors God has granted you. Just the mystery of the Incarnation, which you might bring to mind, would be enough to make this well understood.

Suppose that an official in the service of a prince has by trickery robbed him and taken a large sum of gold which had been entrusted to him. Suppose that the man has been convicted for this and has been condemned to prison, to continue his life in tears and grief until he has paid back all of the theft.

Imagine that a rich, highly respected man, in order to put this unfortunate one at liberty, sells all of his own property and makes full payment to the prince, and then, finding himself extremely poor, he is forced into the unpleasant lot of going to work in a shop in order to earn by the sweat of his brow what is necessary so that he will not die of hunger.

Would this not be a wonderful, amazing example of love? Now do you know, my soul, to whom this illustration refers? Who was the unfortunate prisoner? Who was his merciful rescuer? Think about it, my soul, and consider it attentively…Mankind is the prisoner, and the Word, the Son of God, is the rescuer.

(3) God’s kindness toward you is patient and constant – Turn your gaze, my soul, into the prison of hell and see a sight that you have never seen! What do you see? You see a numberless throng of condemned souls who burn in the flames of a devouring fire. Then, behold, Jesus comes down from Heaven, and out of the many souls that are suffering He picks just one, and drawing it out of hell He joins it again to its body and gives it a period of time for repentance.

What do you say, my soul, at seeing this? Do you not admit that Jesus’ love for that soul is incomprehensible? Perhaps you will remark, “That soul deserved hell just as much as the others. It deserved it even more than a thousand others who were less sinful.” Yet all the others remained imprisoned down in hell for all eternity. Only this one was drawn out; or, what is even greater, just this one has been kept from falling into hell. To this soul alone is the favor done; to this one alone is a period given for repentance. Oh, how great, how special, must be the affection with which Jesus loves this soul!

Now will you, perhaps, have a fear of deceiving yourself, my soul, if you recognize yourself in that chosen soul? And what fear should there be? Is it not certain that thousands of souls who have sinned less than you, are in hell, who have not made bad use of as many aids as you have, who have not treated lightly as many graces as you have treated lightly and have disregarded, who have not grown as hard in lukewarm dispositions as you have, and who have yet been condemned for all eternity, whereas you are still alive, plentifully supplied with all kinds of grace and with Divine favors?

You have been indeed favored, but not with the favoritism some might presume; for Christ admonished us: “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.” (Lk. 12:48) Should not one say of you what the Jews said when they watched Jesus weep over Lazarus - “See, see how much He loved him?”

Affective Acts

How ungrateful I have been toward God when I should have loved Him with all my heart! I recognize it. I admit it. O my loyal Lover and my God, my ingratitude is very great and I supremely detest it. I have loved those who have shown me a so-called generosity. I have not loved God, to Whom I am in debt for all that I am and all that I possess.

I have loved those who have done nothing for me, and I have not loved God, Who has gone so far as to die on the Cross for me. Yes, I recognize my ingratitude. I detest it and repent of it. I now have other sentiments and other desires.

Thou has conquered, O Divine Lover, Thou has conquered! My heart will no longer be mine. I give it irrevocably to Thee for always and for eternity. I will love Thee from this moment on. I will love Thee alone. And as I have been neglectful in loving Theen in the past, I will love Thee with all the more zeal and devotion in the future.

(to be continued...)
News & Commentaries

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lenten Meditations

This coming Holy Week, I'm gonna be posting a series of Lenten meditations everyday that I picked from the book The Golden Key to Heaven. These reflections are the writings of Saint Anthony Mary Claret based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius de Loyola.

St. Anthony Mary Claret has been considered the greatest writer in the Spanish language of the 19th century and was also considered the most influential man in Spain for, among other reasons, being confessor to the Queen of Spain. He preached an estimated 25,000 sermons, wrote 144 books, founded three religious orders, and while Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, confirmed over 300,000 souls and validated more than 9000 marriages. In his lifetime, he worked numerous miracles. He had the gift of prophecy and the discernment of hearts.

I chose the following topics for this Lenten season:

1. Love of God (Palm Sunday, Holy Monday)
2. Love of Neighbor (Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday)
3. Jesus Proves on the Cross His Love for His Enemies (Good Friday, Black Saturday)

It is obvious that the main theme is about love or charity. In these meditations, St. Anthony Mary Claret tells us how and why we should observe the two greatest commandments in the Scripture - namely that of love of God and love of neighbor. He attempts to explain in great detail the reasons why we are bound to practice charity not just towards our friends, but also towards our enemies as exemplified by Christ dying on the Cross.

Have a blessed and meaningful observance of Lent.

See you at Easter!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Overcoming Homosexual Pornography (Part 2)

Going beyond Addiction

Men go beyond addiction when they make a conscientious choice to move from the addictive cycle that repeats itself to deliberate choices to develop their masculinity. Take confidence for example. When we grow in personal confidence, our draw to men will be reduced and the need for pornography will be reduced.

But how do we grow in confidence? One can often go back into the past of men and ask “what were the experiences of life that deflated my confidence?” One man told me that whenever he attempted to help his father mow the lawn, his father criticize him if he did not complete the work perfectly. After several occurrences the son lost his confidence in his ability to please his father. At that point he gave up on pleasing men because it seemed to be impossible. He generalized his experience with his father and concluded that all men would be impatient with him, and he would be unable to please them. For this man, he needed to speak with his father about how hurtful this situation was and forgive his father. He needed to forgive himself for not being able to perform to the standards of his father, which were unrealistic to begin with.

Another means by which a man can grow in confidence is to place himself in the company of men who will show him acceptance for who he is. The church is the intended environment God has established for this support. Unfortunately, the success of men in the Church (in caring for one another) is sparse at best. We need not throw the baby out with the bath water and give up, but rather choose men who are mature enough to be patient with the struggler and will focus on who he is rather than how well he performs. This can occur in less obvious contexts as well.

I had one client who had been trained as a culinary chef in New York. His culinary team of men was very inclusive and accepting of him, always encouraging him as part of the team. The team produced good work in a very stressful environment. This man concluded (at the end of his experience) that these men really cared for him, and he began to grow in his confidence as a man. This is real healing, and a great emotional memory to continually return to.

Healing takes on a new level of responsibility for the individual. Growing up and maturing means that we take responsibility to work toward resolving the damage done to us by others in our life. No one is going to come to us and make this happen, especially our fathers. While dad may be responsible for our pain, we are responsible to engage the process of being free from it. The struggler is the only one who can take control of change for himself. At this point we are then co-laboring with Christ to seek healing.

Choosing to be set free

Understanding the source and meaning of attraction alone will not free us from pornography. To be free from pornography we must come to the conclusion that it is not good for us. Do you truly believe that the pornography in your life leads to an emotional, relational and spiritual death? Apart from all other people and their expectations of you, do you choose to be free from pornography for no one but yourself? In other words, if there were no one around you who cared whether you participated in pornography, would you choose to refrain from it because it is blocking a fulfilling life for you? Most men of whom I asked this question honestly answered by saying, “no.”

This is a test of the human will to determine if we are really willing to give up pornography for a more healthy means of meeting our emotional needs. If you answered “no,” it is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning of an opportunity. The opportunity is to choose ‘yes.’ You do have a choice to take control of your life. You are in control of your choice to seek out pornography. No person has ever been free from pornography who did not choose it for himself. Conversely, many men who have returned to pornography are attempting to change for the purpose of finally becoming accepted by someone, or to get someone off their back.

If you answered “no,” then I encourage you to seek the Lord and ask him to change your willingness to pursue meeting your needs in a healthy way and resisting pornography. One man made this choice and his action included discontinuing his Internet service in his home. Another man chose to only use his computer in a public space of the home so that he was never in secret. A man who truly wants to be free from pornography is a resolved man, to do whatever is necessary to distance himself from exposure to pornography.

A man who has not chosen to divorce himself from pornography says the use of such determined actions are too extreme. He rationalizes his need for his computer use without restraint and believes that he can control himself. He can control himself, until his urge becomes strong, and then he lapses into an addictive trance and needs emotional comfort. He argues that he can be free from pornography and yet continue to use his computer to access pornography.

The human will is like an emotional gate within us. If we consciously choose to avoid pornography at all costs then the emotional gate is closed tightly. That doesn’t mean that we will never have setbacks. If we keep pornography as a secret and do not take deliberate steps to block ourselves from it then the emotional door is still open and we will continue to access pornography. Most men who continually complete the cycle of the pornography and masturbation experience regret this phase of the addiction cycle in which vow to never use pornography again. This is different than an act of the human will.

The act of the human will to avoid pornography takes place during the moments when we reflect and think about our life and what we truly choose: a life of liberation, or of captivity. The man who willfully chooses to avoid pornography realizes in his spirit that the only way to a fulfilling life is to rid himself of pornography. He is willing to submit to being accountable by using Covenant Eyes and other tools that inhibit his path to pornography. He releases control of access to pornography because he admits he cannot control himself when he is most vulnerable.

The journey to recovery from same sex pornography requires uprooting the source of temptation. The source is the pain, disappointment, rejection and father-wound that has been covered up for years. When we go beyond the surface behavior and uncover the roots of pain, we can overturn the years of coping with negative emotions for which pornography was used to sooth. We begin by turning our will to choose change. We look beyond our circumstances and begin to believe that even though we think our condition is incurable, there is a cure, there is a way. As long as there is a savior Jesus Christ, there is a way to be healed from pornography.

Never give up!