Sunday, May 31, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Love For Work Is A Good Sign, Says Pope [weblink]

2. Bishops Weigh In On California Gay Marriage Ban [weblink]

3. Scandal Priest Quits Church [weblink]

4. Boys Will Be Girls? [weblink]

5. Should Homosexuality Be A 'Litmus Test' For High Court? [weblink]

6. Schwarzenegger Tells Jay Leno Prop 8 Will Be Overturned [weblink]

7. Homosexual Boy Named "Prom Queen" At Fairfax High School, L.A. [weblink]

8. Islam's Love-Hate Relationship With Homosexuality [weblink]

9. Christopher West: "A Problem For The Church" Because Of His Credibility [weblink]

10. Christopher West's Ideas On Sexuality Ignore 'Tremendous Dangers', Alice von Hildebrand Says [weblink]

Quote for the week:

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical.” - Unknown

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Center for Wholeness and Holiness, Inc.

What is CWHI?

The Center for Wholeness and Holiness, Inc. aims at physical healing, psychological growth, and spiritual transformation of human person, whose model of wholeness and holiness is our Lord Jesus Christ. It also provides programs that promote integral and holistic development of the body, emotion, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.

"We guide people to be happy, happier, and happiest."

We Offer:

• Individual, Group, and Family Counseling and Therapy
• Psychological and Diagnostic Testing
• Spiritual Direction
• Life Coaching

We Facilitate:

• Retreats and Recollections
• Modules for Grade School, High School and College Students
• Modules for School Faculty and Staff, and Other Groups


• Three Steps to Wholeness and Holiness
• Bible Study; Value Formation
• Team Building; Leadership Training
• How to Meditate
• The Healing Power of Laughter
• Stress Management
• Critical Thinking

We Guide:

• Charismatic Communities
• Corporate Groups
• Call Centers
• Review Centers

Contact Us:

Center for Wholeness and Holiness, Inc.
Christ the King Mission Seminary
1101 E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave.,
Quezon City, 1112 Philippines

Telephone No.: (632) 723 3208 • (632) 726 5002

Fax No.: (632) 723 7108

Cellphone No.: 0921 692 2622 • 0923 886 6612

Contact Persons:

Ms. Lalaine D. De Perio
Bro. Noel Salvacion

email address:

Center Priest-Psychologists:

Rev. Fr. Glenn Paul M. Gomez, SVD
PhD in Clinical Psychology
Ateneo De Manila University

Rev. Fr. Melchor B. Bernal, SVD
PhD in Clinical Psychology
Pacifica Graduate Institute, CA, USA

Attend/Watch: The Healing Eucharist TV Mass, Sundays 6 a.m. - 7 a.m. @ ABS-CBN Channel 2 & The Filipino Channel (TFC). Visit their website at

"I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete..." - John 15:11

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Casual Sex Is A Con

I am posting this article by Dawn Eden, writer and editor, in response to the recent proliferation of sex video scandals in the mass media. It is my hope that her personal testimony would give credence to the value of preserving the virtue of chastity especially among women. In her book, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On, Dawn describes her conversion from a "Sex and the City" lifestyle that made her miserable to a realization that saving sex for marriage was a liberating experience. She encourages all the unmarried women out there to think of themselves not as "single" but as "singular" - defined by their relationship to God, not a man.

The Sixties generation thought everything should be free. But only a few decades later the hippies were selling water at rock festivals for $5 a bottle. But for me the price of “free love” was even higher. I sacrificed what should have been the best years of my life for the black lie of free love. All the sex I ever had — and I had more than my fair share — far from bringing me the lasting relationship I sought, only made marriage a more distant prospect.

And I am not alone. Count me among the dissatisfied daughters of the sexual revolution, a new counterculture of women who are realising that casual sex is a con and are choosing to remain chaste instead.

I am 37, and like millions of other girls, was born into a world which encouraged young women to explore their sexuality. It was almost presented to us as a feminist act. In the 1960s the future Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown famously asked: Can a woman have sex like a man? Yes, she answered because “like a man, [a woman] is a sexual creature”. ...

As a historian of pop music and daughter of the sexual revolution I embraced Greer’s call to (men’s) arms. My job was to write the sleeve notes to 1960s pop CDs and I gained a reputation for having an encyclopedic knowledge base, interviewing the original artists and recording personnel. It was all a joy for me, as I was obsessed with the sounds of the era. ...

The touring rock musician was my ideal sexual partner. By bedding them I could enjoy a temporary sort of fairy-tale bond; knowing it was bound to be fleeting as we would both move on meant that I never had to confront my own vulnerability about properly making a connection with someone. I could establish a transient intimacy and never have to deal with the real thing — and the real rejection that might entail. ...

Of course the rejection would come as the latest lover moved on to the next town and the next woman — but somehow, being able to see it coming made me feel more in control. I was choosing, I thought, the lesser pain. ...

But in all that casual sex, there was one moment I learnt to dread more than any other. I dreaded it not out of fear that the sex would be bad, but out of fear that it would be good. If the sex was good, then, even if I knew in my heart that the relationship wouldn’t work, I would still feel as though the act had bonded me with my sex partner in a deeper way than we had been bonded before. It’s in the nature of sex to awaken deep emotions within us, emotions that are unwelcome when one is trying to keep it light.

On such nights the worst moment was when it was all over. Suddenly I was jarred back to earth. Then I’d lie back and feel bereft. He would still be there, and if I was really lucky, he’d lie down next to me. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling like the spell had been broken. ... — it had just been a game. ... The circus had left town.

I’ve tried their philosophy ... and it doesn’t work. We’re not built like that. Women are built for bonding. We are vessels and we seek to be filled. For that reason, however much we try and convince ourselves that it isn’t so, sex will always leave us feeling empty unless we are certain that we are loved, that the act is part of a bigger picture that we are loved for our whole selves not just our bodies.

It took me a long time to realise this. My earliest attitudes about sex were shaped from what I saw in the lives of my older sister and my mother — especially my mother, a free spirit who was desperately trying to make up missing out on the hippie era.

This was the 1970s and early 1980s, the age of the Sensitive New Age Guy or aptly named “snag”. My mother attracted them because she was new age herself, doing kundalini yoga and attending lectures by various gurus.

The snags treated her with what passed for respect in that world but they never gave much of themselves and didn’t appreciate Mom in the way I did — I wondered if there were any men capable of valuing inner beauty. In both her search for a husband and her quest for a fulfilling spirituality, Mom was, in my eyes, fuelled by a longing to fill the empty space.

As a teenager with no moral foundation for my resolution to save my virginity for Mr Right — other than a fear of being hurt by Mr Wrong ... But in a wider sense, losing my virginity, far from being the demarcation between past and future, was just a blip on the continuum of my sexual degradation. The decline had begun when I first sought sexual pleasure for its own sake.

Our culture — both in the media via programmes such as Sex and the City and in everyday interactions — relentlessly puts forth the idea that lust is a way station on the road to love. It isn’t. It left me with a brittle facade incapable of real intimacy. Occasionally a man would tell me I appeared hard, which surprised me as I thought I was so vulnerable. In truth, underneath my attempts to appear bubbly, I was hard — it was the only way I could cope with what I was doing to my self and my body.

The misguided, hedonistic philosophy which urges young women into this kind of behavior harms both men and women; but it is particularly damaging to women, as it pressures them to subvert their deepest emotional desires. The champions of the sexual revolution are cynical. They know in their tin hearts that casual sex doesn’t make women happy. That’s why they feel the need continually to promote it.

These days I live a very different kind of life. I still touch base with old musician pals now and again, but I’m more likely to hang out with members of church choirs. I am chaste. My decision to resist casual sex was, once again, influenced by my mother — though not in the way she initially hoped.

Although she was Jewish, she gave up her new age beliefs for Christianity when I was a teenager. ... As far as I could see, Christians were a dull, faceless mass who ruled the world. My mission in life, as I saw it, was to be different; creative, liberal, rebellious.

Then one day in December 1995, I was doing a phone interview with Ben Eshbach, leader of a Los Angeles rock band called the Sugarplastic, and asked him what he was reading. His answer was The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton. I picked it up out of curiosity and was captivated. Soon I was picking up everything by Chesterton that I could get my hands on, starting with his book Orthodoxy, his attempt to explain why he believed in the Christian faith.

That was the first time it struck me that there was something exciting about Christianity. I kept reading Chesterton even as I continued my dissipated lifestyle, and then one night in October 1999 I had a hypnagogic experience — the sort in which you’re not sure if you are asleep or awake. I heard a woman’s voice saying: “Some things are not meant to be known. Some things are meant to be understood.” I got on my knees and prayed — and eventually entered the Catholic church.

My chances are better now than they’ve ever been, because before I was chaste, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s only now that I’m truly ready for marriage and have a clear vision of the kind of man I want.

I may be 37, ... “but in husband-seeking years, I’m only 22.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. POPE2YOU.NET To Appeal To Youth [weblink]

2. Pope Calls For Internet Evangelists [weblink]

3. Friends And Friendship, Virtually [weblink]

4. Prop. 8 Proponents 'Confident' California Supreme Court Will Uphold Marriage [weblink]

5. Truth From A Beauty Is All You Need To Know [weblink]

6. British Churches To Be Forced To Hire Active Homosexual Youth Workers Under Equality Bill [weblink]

7. Spain's "Disastrous" Contraceptive Polices Have Resulted In The Oldest European Population [weblink]

8. Will NH Governor Stand Firm On Marriage Bill? [weblink]

9. Catholics, Abortion And Torture [weblink]

10. 10 Signs Of Hope [weblink]

11. Fasting To Fight Porn [weblink]

Quote for the week:

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." - Mary Anne Radmacher

Thursday, May 21, 2009

And After This Our Exile (Part 2)

Three traits of her life are particularly relevant for the times we live in (and, it may be, for those that are fast approaching). These traits can transform us into the type of Christian capable of being loyal to Our Lady and of giving testimony of her power to show us her Son when our exile is over.

The first trait is her silence. Anna Ajmatova, one of those whose voices clandestinely continue to give testimony of all vigorous awakening of the faith in Soviet Russia, knew how to make this trait of Our Lady’s life stand out by way of conspicuous contrast. During the Crucifixion, Our Lady stands next to the tearful Magdalene, who is beside herself with grief. There, also, stands the faithful disciple, who is paralyzed by the appalling death of the Holy of Holies, stricken as if he has been turned into stone. The silent and serene suffering of the Virgin Mary stands out in contrast with the attitude of the other onlookers: “No one dared to look towards the place where the Mother stood in silence.” Those words seem to evoke those other verses of the liturgy of the Church that remind us of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin:

Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Iesum in tormentis
Et flagellis subditum.

Vidit sum dulcem natum
Moriendo desolatum
Dum emisit spiritum

A suffering as profound as this, inspires silence and reflection, does not render the mind powerless but rather sharpens it, makes it more intensely aware. And this silence, in which the suffering is endured, is in stark contrast with the uproar of strident voices that reaches us through all the channels of the mass media – oral, written, and visual. A deafening clamor stuns the soul with a confusion indistinguishable from chaos itself. It is her silence that the Virgin Mary recommends to us as a weapon to prevent what is essential, the only truly important matter that we should keep in our hearts above all things and at whatever cost, from being buried under the avalanche of detritus pushed ahead of it by the wind and passing away like the shadows of darkness before the coming light. Without silence, prayer is impossible. And without prayer, without man’s concentrated and attentive dealing with God, what chance do we have of ever remaining faithful? Edith Stein, who was a Jew and the assistant of Husserl, was converted to Catholicism through reading the works of St. Teresa of Avila, a Discalced Carmelite. She was deported to Auschwitz and was most probably killed in the gas chambers of that prison camp. She once wrote: “The Virgin who kept each one of the words of God in her heart is the archetype of those attentive souls in whom the sacerdotal prayer of Jesus is reborn.”

“Attentive souls”: not distracted, not dissipating their attention on “other things” but concentrating their energies on the one thing necessary: obedience to and the fulfillment of God’s will at each moment of their life, in the performance of each task, in each interior and external activity. And this too, taken together with her pondering “each one of the words of God” in her heart, is the second lesson we can learn from Our Lady’s life: that obedience to God is not servile. It does not subjugate our conscience. It moves us in the depths of our being to discover “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (J. Escriva, Friends of God, no. 27). In these times of ours, no one seems willing to be burdened with commitments of any kind. To verify this it is enough only to take note of the diabolical persistence of the attempts being organized to destroy the bonds of marriage, the very root of society. And such attempts are now being deliberately made practically all over the world. Governments are compelled, as a result, to construct all sorts of rules and regulation, and are forced to install complex bureaucratic systems that will ensure the necessary minimum of legislative control: obedience to God and to legitimate civil authority out of love for God in all that it lawfully commands remains a bare possibility. It is only through obedience that the ordering of freedom can be achieved. Only then can we be truly free in a humane and orderly way in every circumstance of our life.

Finally, the third outstanding characteristic of Our Lady’s life is her love for and fidelity to the Cross of Christ. The Virgin Mary has rightfully been called co-redeemer because of her intimate and profound participation in the Passion of her Son. The evil of sin is not going to be neutralized by speeches, countered by discussions or legislated out of existence by organizational committees. And sin is the root of all the evils found in the world. “What will come to our help,” said Edith Stein, “is not human perfection, but the Passion of Christ. My desire is to participate in it.” It is not a matter of being dramatically ostentatious, of big talk, or of aspiration to some fantastic heroism. Once again it is more a matter of our being clearly aware that our love for the Cross must be directed, like that of the Virgin Mary, towards what our Lord wants of us, where he wants us to be, and how he wants us to live. We must do all he wants us to do in the way he wants us to do it. Ordinarily, we are required to participate in the Passion of Christ in a humble manner through our efforts to eliminate with all the consequent discomforts, the obstacles that keep us from fulfilling his will and through all the contradictions that arise in our struggle to remain firmly in the Truth of Christ. After this our exile, the Blessed Virgin can show us Jesus. Just as Rebecca made Jacob similar to Esau, you will remember, our Mother Mary can also make us to resemble Jesus, the Son of God, the First Born of all creatures, that the Father may give us his blessing. The Church has no doubt that she can do this for us and so sings to her:

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In Amando Christum Deum
Ut sibi complaceam.

Quando corpus morietur
Fac ut animae donetur
Paradisi gloria.

Yes, indeed; the Virgin Mary must be endowed with something very special, something very delicate and pure, something unique among the many gifts that God has given his creatures, to be able to inspire not only pious and simple poets like Gonzalo de Berceo, but also wild and turbulent natures, often cynical and reckless, like Francois Villon who wrote satirical and sometimes scabrous poems. Yet Our Lady inspired him to write with humility that gentle petition which he called the Ballade pour prier Notre Dame. In this Ballade he calls Mary, (in the envoi, the Princess), “Dame du ciel,” “Regente terriene,” to whom the sinful soul makes a request that she intercede for him before her Son: “Tell him that I am his, that my sins may be absolved by him. Tell him to forgive me as he forgave the Egyptian, or as he did with the cleric Theophilus, who was forgiven by you and absolved of his sins in spite of the promise he had made to the devil…” Mary is the Lady and the Teacher “to whom all sinners must have recourse.” She is the one who carried in her womb “the Almighty, who, assuming our weakness, came down from heaven to save us, and offered up his youth to death.”

In these times of widespread defection, compromise, and disloyalty, it is very moving to find a man who led such an unruly life as Villon doggedly proclaiming the truth he had received from the Church. In the subsequent stanzas of his Ballade, he draws to a conclusion with an explicit desire that is both humble and unshakable: “En cette foi je veuil vivre et mourir.” May it be God’s will that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary obtain for us a life and death of fidelity to the Catholic faith, which is fidelity to Jesus Christ. So doing, Mary will truly show Jesus to us after this our exile, because she can do it and she wants to.

" unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus."

- Hail Holy Queen

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And After This Our Exile (Part 1)

My dear blog visitors, permit me to post this 'intensely spiritual' article about Mary. If you are not Catholic, you may not agree with everything that is written here and it's okay, but I do hope it will somehow challenge your thinking and preconceived notions or better yet inspire you to do some readings on Mary. If you are a 'practicing Catholic', this should serve to deepen your devotion to Her, for whom the Church dedicates this Mary month of May.

Have you ever asked yourself why do we often invoke the Holy Virgin in the prayer Hail Mary to "pray for us now and at the hour of our death"? Is it possible that Her intercession at that grave hour could mean the difference between our salvation or damnation? Can we afford to neglect devotion to Her and just go about living our faith as if She doesn't exist? In the 13th chapter of his book The Afterlife [Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell] (sounds scary?), Federico Suarez delves on Mary's role in our personal salvation from an eschatological point of view as he attempts to answer these very important questions in our faith. Indeed, there is something about Mary that we should come to realize after we read this two-part series entitled And After This Our Exile.

There is an ancient prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary that was probably written towards the end of the tenth century or the beginning of the eleventh. It is known as the “Salve Regina” because it begins with the words: “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy…” The prayer nowadays ends with a concluding invocation added by St. Bernard in the twelfth century: “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.” Before St. Bernard’s addition it had ended with the petition which, when it is closely looked at, may strike one as extraordinary. It says: “And after this our exile, show unto us the fruit of thy womb, Jesus!”

Now what power could the Blessed Virgin actually possess that would enable her to show Jesus to us when we die, “after this our exile?” The petition is staggering, because in effect we are asking her to take us to heaven. And we ask her this favor with such simplicity and with so much confidence that we are presuming, obviously, that she has the power to grant us our request. It would seem, too, that what we are requesting from her is something that happens so frequently that there is not the slightest need to give any further explanation. We are not dealing simply with a case of perhaps understandable hyperbole that would not claim to be absolutely in conformity with orthodox theology, and whose original author, whoever he may have been, felt constrained to use because of his overwhelming love for Our Lady. And yet we have a theologian who is also a saint, (which is even more important) like St. Bonaventure, who happens to be a doctor of the Church as well, (which is no less important) openly daring to include in his “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary” such sweeping statement as “Qui digne coluerit eam, salvabitur, qui autem neglexerit eam, morietur in peccatis” (Anyone who honors her properly shall be saved, while anyone who slights her with neglect shall die in his sins).

The Church has never prohibited such affirmations concerning Our Lady. Nor has the Church ever taken scandal at the immense number of beautiful praises directed to the Mother of God throughout the ages by the piety of Christian peoples. In fact, she herself has signified her approval of such praises and has not discouraged them. It is but proper that we have such devotion because, considering her role in the economy of salvation, nothing said to honor and praise Our Lady can really ever be considered excessive: she is always greater than all the praises rendered to her.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is fully involved in the tremendous event of salvation and its unfolding. This has been eternally arranged by God. She has a very specific role to play as far as sinners are concerned: it is that of interceding for them and of helping them along the road that leads to her Son, who redeemed them. Someone once said, I remember, that Mary is like a gentle and tempered light that lends its help to man’s feeble eye, empowering it to contemplate the full splendor of the sun, which normally it is not capable of doing. And it is without doubt her motherly role, together with all those gifts and graces that God endowed her with to enable her to carry out her task as Mother of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ of which we are members – that draws her near to us. And such proximity to Our Lady leads us to see in her the one who can effectively show Jesus to us sinners post hoc exsilium. Many who have experienced it themselves can confirm the truth of that point to be found in St. Escriva’s The Way: “all the sins of your life seem to be rising up against you. Don’t give up hope! On the contrary, call on your Holy Mother Mary, with the faith and abandonment of a child. She will bring peace to your soul.” (no. 498)

Obviously, she never experienced personal sin, not even the slightest and most insignificant fault. Neither did original sin cast the faintest shadow on her soul, since she was conceived immaculate. But it is true that she did personally experience the suffering that sin brings with it. And in this way she became personally aware of the radical evil of sin as an offense against the Creator outraged by his own creatures. In fact, she remained at the foot of the cross, actually participating in the agony of her Son. She contemplated the humiliation of Jesus and heard with her own ears the insults of the Jews. She, more than just beholding it, even lived the infamous death of her innocent Son, a death transformed into a degrading public spectacle, like some vulgar celebration of brutal ignorant men. Yes, she was only too well acquainted, better than anyone else, with the terrible consequences of sin and with the utterly wretched condition of the sinner, of both the man who sins because of weakness or frailty and the one who sins because of pride, of hatred, or of defiant contempt for God.

Since all this actually happened, isn’t it truly unthinkable that she be expected to plead on behalf of sinners, to be their advocate, and that we who crucified her Son dare ask her to show him to us “after this our exile?” And yet I think it is precisely because of this that she has so much compassion for us. It does not cease to be significant (and also marvelous!) that Jesus, while undergoing the agony of the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, precisely to us men who are sinners. And perhaps if we never knew that she had suffered, precisely because of our sins, we would never have presumed to lift our eyes towards her. No, we would not have dared to raise them to her face if she had been a stranger not only to sin, but also to the suffering and the harm it causes, to its depravity, because then we would have feared that she would be incapable of understanding the anguish of the sinner who longs to be rescued from his desolation yet does not dare present himself before him whom he has crucified.

The Virgin Mary was not given the power either to judge or to punish. She was given only the power to intercede, to plead on our behalf. God made her our Mother. In any family, it is the mother who should distribute among her children, according to each one’s needs, what the father gains through his work. Similarly, in this great family that is the Church, the role of the Virgin Mary is the maternal one. She is the Mediatrix of all graces. It could be said that this is a logical consequence of her maternity. Through Mary, we receive the treasures of grace gained for us by her Son in the Redemption. Her Son redeemed us not only through his sufferings, his passion and death, but also through the whole of his life on earth, since each one of his actions, like each one of his words, had redemptive power.

Our Lady was chosen from all eternity to be the natural vessel that would contain the Word of God and provide him with a human body capable of suffering. But there is even more to it than that: Christ’s mission was supernatural. And the Virgin Mary’s mission, in direct relation to and in direct dependence on that of Christ, could not be reduced to a task involving a purely biological activity. Someone once observed that constructing a granary to store wheat is a useful activity, and that it may even be a necessary activity if people are in dire need. And yet it is still not a fruitful activity. Giving food to the hungry is much more fruitful than building a granary. To construct a hospital is a meritorious task, yet to give blood to one who is wounded is still a more direct and vital service. The Virgin Mary was not only the temple that sheltered the Word of God made man during his gestation; she did not simply help and protect the Child Jesus while he was growing up and was not yet able to take care of himself. She did more than these things. Much more. She gave the Bread of Life to the world, to all of us, so that we would not dwindle away to death for lack of nourishment. And the blood that Jesus shed on the Cross to give us life and to save us from eternal death belongs to Mary.

Hers, then, are titles of power. So no one should be aghast, or be scandalized if we ask her to show us Jesus after our sojourn here on earth: he happens to be her son. And neither should anyone legitimately doubt that she has been enabled to do this. Because of these titles she deserves not only our limitless trust and confidence, but also our respect and our sincere and filial love. This idea was expressed with great propriety by Sigrid Undset, who was converted to Catholicism two or three years before receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. In a short narrative concerning her conversion she wrote: “If we believe that God has saved us by assuming a body and blood like ours, then towards the Vessel from which he took his human body we must have feelings that should not be similar to any feelings we could possibly have towards our fellowman: respect and tenderness towards her we must have; a heart filled with compassion for the unspeakable sufferings of her earthly life, and a great rejoicing for the incomparable place she occupies in the kingdom of God. If it is true that the son of Mary is at the same time true God and true man, then the son is the Son and the mother is the Mother for all eternity, since he is the Creator and she is his creature.”

Yet this is not all. When we are borne down by the weight of our sins and do not know where to turn, we still have other motives that lead us to consider the Virgin Mary not only as our hope (spes nostra; this is how the Church presents her to us) but also as our support for the entire duration of our journey through this world, day by day and year after year, until the moment in which our dying breath marks our journey’s end – a journey that will have been far from peaceful, since we, all of us, are constantly threatened in the course of it by dangers from within and dangers from without. The Blessed Virgin helps us not only by means of the graces she distributes, but also by her example. Her support is something that no one who is not totally consumed by self-sufficient vanity can ever despise or put aside. Isn’t it one of the most important and noble tasks of a mother to educate her children, to teach them what they should do and what they should avoid doing, to help them distinguish between good and evil? And isn’t example what the children see and isn’t it this that leaves the most profound impression on their young minds? The Blessed Virgin did not say many things: she taught us above all through her example.

to be continued...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Papal Pilgrimage Ends With a Bang [weblink]

2. Pope Gives Kids a Task: Teach Parents About Love [weblink]

3. Vietnamese Government Continues Targeting Catholics [weblink]

4. New York Assembly Casts 'Terribly Misguided' Vote to Recognize Same-Sex 'Marriage' [weblink]

5. 'Hate Crimes' Bill Targets Ex-Gay Community [weblink]

6. American Psychological Association Backtracks on 'Gay Gene' Claim [weblink]

7. Brazilian Government Seeks to Remove "Homophobic" Christian Programming from Daytime TV [weblink]

8. Donald Trump, Let Carrie Prejean Keep her Crown [weblink]

9. Encouragement for Vocations [weblink]

10. Rhode Island's Marriage Sanity [weblink]

11. EU, UNFPA Pressuring Philippines to Pass Bill That is First Step to Legal Abortions [weblink]

Quote for the week:

"Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character."

- Margaret Chase Smith

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mount Apo Experience (Part 3)

At last we arrived at the summit! I was exhilarated that we finally made it! But Tulanoy wasn't resting now. We went up with a couple of climbers whom we have met along the trail to the first peak. There we saw the marker indicating that this was the revered place of the locals where their ancestors would offer up sacrifices for their "Apo" the mountain-god. I got the tarpauline of Courage from Tulanoy and spread it amidst the strong winds of that peak. I asked the other climbers to hold the tarpauline as Tulanoy shot a picture of us waving it through the winds. I have accomplished my mission of climbing the highest peak of the country for the Courage Apostolate! I sat on the stone marker and said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for allowing me to survive the climb and offered prayers for the strength of the apostolate not only in Manila but all over the country. I was ecstatic!

Reflection: It is true that you meet God on mountains. The majestic heights and the force of nature experienced at the peak of the mountain creates awe in the depths of your soul as it understands the power of the Almighty displayed through its creation. God will meet us at the end of our mission.

We came down from the first peak on a plateau where some tents have already been pitched for the night. We took our lunch (technically I was the only one who ate, Tulanoy refused his share in my lunch). Afterwards we ventured to conquer the remaining two peaks of Mount Apo. We came to look down on the Dead Lake - it was called as such since during summer (such as this time) the "lake" is like a big football field with no water, but on rainy season it is filled with rainwater. We came to the second peak where we were supposed to see the crater but the fog was too thick for us to see anything below. We took some foggy pictures, made some acquaintances (including a European) and proceeded to the third peak. This peak is quite exciting because of its boulder-like features. I climbed this peak and Tulanoy took some neat pics of me. One thing fascinating with climbing each of the peaks is that when you are on one peak, the other peaks look shorter than the peak that you are currently standing. It's sort of a visual illusion but it's cool. Well, you'll literally feel cool in each of these peaks, actually more than cool - sometimes numbingly cold. When I came down to the plateau where we met the rest of the climbers who have just reached the summit and pitched their tents for the night. They congratulated me for having climbed not only one peak but the three peaks of this high mountain.

Reflection: God will most certainly bring us from glory to glory. And so we must be excited that He will bring us to a point that we are satisfied, but to several points in our lives that we will feel undeservingly blessed. We are still works in progress, the Lord will bring more greater good in our hearts - for He knows the capacity of our hearts more than we do.

I had to start going down to reach Lake Vinado before the sun goes down, and so Kuya Benjie gathered the other climbers and porters around and we spread the tarpaulines of Living Waters and Courage. Ron, one of the rescuers, shot our memorabilia pics where, as Kuya Benjie puts it "the unity of Evangelicals and Catholics doing the ministry of healing is visibly seen". It was truly a happy occasion for me.

Reflection: I truly believe that unity among Christians will be happening soon. It was in Church that division was spread throughout Christendom, and it will be in Church that oneness and harmony will happen. Jesus said "...that they may be one, as you and I Father are one".

Tulanoy went ahead of me in going down. I trust him that he will not leave me. After about 20 minutes of trekking downhill, I saw him assisting a middle-aged woman who seemed to have trouble walking. She was with her husband, and though he was telling Tulanoy that she was just resting since they had made the climb straight from the foot to the peak, Tulanoy told me afterwards that he saw in the woman's eyes that she had no spirit left to continue on with the trek. So we accompanied her in going down, with her hand fixed on the shoulder of Tulanoy. To be honest I felt a little bit irritated that we were moving slower than usual, and we were trying to reach camp before the setting of the sun (I felt ashamed later on about these feelings since I was also a cause of delay for my companions during the trek). We finally reached camp just in time before the last ray of the sun touched the earth. In gratitude for what Tulanoy did, the couple gave him a hat. But for Tulanoy, his heart goes for people who seem to have lost the spirit to move on, and he is just glad to have been of help to them. Hope I could have a heart like him.

Reflection: There is such a thing as holy interruptions. Sometimes we are so used to a fast paced life with activities and schedules up here and there that we forget to stop and be sensitive to those around us, especially those in need. Sometimes we are so engrossed with our own life and its deadlines that we ignore the people close to us, especially our family. We reject anything or anyone that will slow us down, not knowing that it is through these holy interruptions that we will be rewarded with God's presence.

Back at camp, Kuya Panot and his son were waiting for us and he was already cooking dinner. I asked him how I could be of help and he told me just to relax in the tent and wait till he calls me for dinner. I'm not used to just relaxing while other people are doing stuff so I inquired further and he asked me if there were remaining spices (garlic, onion, tomatoes) which he could use for cooking sinigang. I went to the tent and scrambled among the food stuff using only my headlight to look for what he was asking for, and saw only tomatoes. I gave him the tomatoes and he asked me to just stay in the tent till he calls me. I obliged and ran through my own stuff. I first got myself warm, then started packing my stuff to get ready to move out the next day (Sonny gave us an estimated time of 9 a.m. when they will be down from the summit and we should all be starting to move down the mountain). I know this is the only time for me to pack my stuff since tomorrow I have to cook both breakfast and lunch for everyone (I was tasked by Rod to do this since I'm the one left at the lake with the food stuff). After a while I was called by Tulanoy that dinner is served, so I went out of the tent welcomed by yet another freezingly cold night. After dinner, I thought of cooking rice already for tomorrow to save time, but Kuya Panot told me not to worry for they will help me cook in the morning. I thanked them, especially since they were already the ones cleaning the pots and pans used for dinner, and after a short chat with Tulanoy (where I disclosed myself being involved in the ministry for SSA persons) I reluctantly went back to the tent to continue packing my stuff and get some rest. It was cold even inside the tent, with the wind blowing wildly outside. I was glad the bags of my other companions which was placed around the tent was keeping me a little bit warmer as I slept.

Reflection: People with acute performance orientation syndrome (the innate ability to do multi-tasking and stretching one's capacity as a person in order to seek affirmation or validation from the other person) such as myself really have a hard time keeping still and letting other persons do the job for us. When people volunteer to assist me or to do a task for me, I should be grateful to them, sensitive that it may be the good Lord telling me "Son, let me do that for you. You have done enough". Thank you Lord! Help me to be still and listen to your voice.

Morning came, and I heard Tulanoy calling me out asking me about the food stuff that needs to be cooked. I grabbed the bag containing all the food stuff for breakfast and lunch and went out of the tent. Rice was already cooking. I then prepared the scrambled eggs and dried squid for frying, while Tulanoy and the rest of the guys helped me in preparing the salted eggs and tomatoes. When we finished frying breakfast, I turned to the remaining marinated fish and began deep frying them, while I asked the others to help themselves for breakfast. One of the rescuers finished his breakfast and most kindly volunteered to substitute me in frying the rest of the dried bangus. After breakfast I went inside the tent to fold my sleeping bag and earth pad, just in time for the other climbers from the summit to reach the campsite. I went out of the tent to greet them and I was taken aback when I saw that it was raining and a very thick fog was covering the whole area! The climbers took turns eating breakfast, packing their things up and securing their fish lunch. I grabbed a cooked fish, placed it inside a plastic bag and inserted it inside my shirt. Sonny saw me shivering (I was wearing only a thin shirt and shorts with the arm and leg bands) and kindly lent me his sauna jacket to keep me warmer. At around 9:30 a.m., Rod signaled us to depart from the campsite, and I was in awe (short of a mixture of excitement and fear) that we were about to walk through a very thick fog with almost zero visibility - we could not see the path ahead save for the other people who were walking ahead of us. The rain was also pouring hard which blurred our path all the more. One of us commented "Parang kamamatay lang natin" (as if we had just died). I followed close to the people ahead of us, afraid that I might be lost in this thick fog.

Reflection: Sometimes in our lives we feel we are also covered with a thick fog. We couldn't see the path ahead, and we become afraid to move on. These are the times when we need to trust the Lord and grow in our prayer time. These are the times when we need to look beyond our present struggles and be inspired with stories of past members who have gone ahead of us and have been victorious over our sin condition.

When we reached the forest area, the fog cleared up and the rain turned into a drizzle. We were lined-up in some steep part of the trail, and that's where I realized we were to go down in the same path that we have taken going up - including the 87 degrees cliff. The pace was painstakingly slow for all of us. Fortunately there was this guy with an mp3 player playing some happy tune that somehow dissipates the boredom of waiting in line. When it was almost my turn I saw Kuya Panot with his son tied with a harness on his waist and he was slowly lowering himself down the cliff. I smiled when I saw the face of his child confidently looking at his father while they were coming down the 87 degrees. My turn came and though I was anxious at first looking down the almost perpendicular cliff, I grabbed the rope and slowly lowered myself, with one hand holding firmly on the knots of the rope and the other gently gliding across a bamboo. It took me a while before I finally made it down the cliff, all the time my heart pumping in anticipation of whether I could make it. It was a relief being able to pass the 87 degrees, yet I was thinking aloud - why does it seem easier to go down that cliff than when we were climbing it up the other day? It was easier to drop your body down than to pull your body up.

Reflection: Two points... First, the attitude of Kuya Panot's son reminded me of how we are supposed to trust God as our Father. We are to cling tightly into His embrace, trusting that He will carry us through the rough times of our lives. Second, as it was easier for us to drop our bodies from a cliff than to pull our bodies up the cliff, so it is easier for us to drop the struggle and let our sexual desires rule than to take up that cross and overcome our sexual desires. When Jesus tells us to "take up your cross and follow Me", it's not going to be easy. That's why it is called struggle.

We've been walking for hours now till we reach another campsite where we ate our lunch. I took out my cooked fish and offered half of it to Fidel, one of the rescuers who volunteered to personally guide me down the mountain slopes (I think Sonny has assigned one rescuer to each of the "weakest links" hehe). He invited me to eat with the other rescuers and porters who were having a feast over a pot of rice and some cooked meat by Kuya Panot. It reminded me of Jesus' multiplication miracle - I gave half of my cooked fish and I was shared with rice and meat! After eating we filled our water bottles from the stream flowing beside the camp with the sign "drinking station". I was thankful that even after drinking water from these untreated streams my amoebaiasis did not recur. Within a few minutes we started to walk again, this time determined to make as little stops as possible in order to reach the foot of the mountain by sundown. It was getting warmer so I took off the sauna jacket and gave it back to Sonny. While we were walking I started to converse with Fidel and asked him about things in his life. I was happy to know that he had dreams - of finishing his marine course while continuing to volunteer as a rescuer, of entering the airforce by enrolling in flight school in Manila, of settling down and having a family of his own in Manila but eventually going back to Mindanao to make a simple living. I encouraged him to continue pursuing his dreams and reminded him that everything that he is now will contribute to what he will become in the future, and that his present experiences will enable him fulfill his dreams. To be fair, I also shared a bit (well more than a bit) of myself to him, particularly the nature of my struggle and my present concern of learning how to court a woman. Things turned to be more spiritual and I learned that he was a Mormon and that he was the only Mormon in the family. I told him I was familiar about Mormonism since most of my father's relatives are Mormon. The whole walk was interesting since we exchanged ideas and stories about ourselves.

Reflection: That's true intimacy. As a counselor I have a natural talent to make other people comfortable sharing their stories with me, as I also become true to them by sharing my own story as well. Before, I didn't feel comfortable sharing my deepest, darkest secrets. But now that the Lord has been doing a lot of healing on my soul, my story didn't contain only dark secrets of my past sins but how the Lord has called me into life by His unfailing love. The small victories in my story were brought about by Christ's victory over my longing soul.

I was able to catch up with Kuya Benjie, and as we were nearing the rushing waters of the nearby river I just felt like singing. So I sang 'Our Father' by Mallotte, a traditional classic sung usually in weddings and other ceremonies. He heard me singing and asked me to repeat the song. I obliged, then he asked me to sing 'Lead Me Lord' and a couple of other songs. My heart was leaping as I was singing, and I knew I have entered into worship. I suddenly felt an inner sense of energy within me and found my feet, though already tired from hours of walking, hopping from rock to rock and gleefully striding along the river trail. I suddenly appreciate the whole of creation around me - the flowers, plants, rocks, river water, the wind and the sun on my face. If I only knew that singing worship songs would make my walking lighter, I should have sung earlier in the climb.

Reflection: Man was made to worship - so he either worships God or some other. There is power in worship, for it unleashes the inner desire of our souls to be united with its Creator. I pray that I continue to worship the one true God in my heart.

As we were nearing the foot of the mountain, a tinge of sadness came to me. I felt like the apostles coming down Mount Tabor after witnessing the Transfiguration of the Lord. Everything good and wonderful has to come to an end. My mind wandered on the memories of the climb - the different types of terrain that we have gone through, the campsites, the lake, the summit, the people who have been part of this wonderful journey - this will now end. And in a few days, I would have to go back to work again in a job that does not bring me fulfillment and to toil again in the ministry that God has given me. Everything comes to pass. But like Mama Mary, I shall treasure these things in my heart. Nonetheless, when we came to the foot of the mountain, we realize we're going to spend the night in hot springs! We rushed going down the resort where our companions were waiting for us. We took off our clothes and jumped into the hot springs. What a relief! Our aching bodies literally sighed in the nice warm (more of hot though but we didn't mind) feeling of the springs. Our adventure has come to an end! This warm springs of living water was a great reward for that grueling but glorious climb to the highest peak in the country!

Thank you Sonny for inviting us over to your place there in Mindanao to have this unique experience! Thank you Rod for leading us through the climb! Thank you to all my Living Waters companions - it was great knowing that I have shared this momentous experience with people that I trust! Thank you to all our kind porters and rescuers who have literally shared our burdens and have also shared their lives with us! Thank you God for your wonderful creation that not only exemplifies your majesty and greatness but also is instrumental in teaching us lessons about life!

Reflection: Mountains tell us a lot about God - this awesome magnificent God. But mountains also tell us a lot about life and about life's struggles. I told Sonny that was the last time I'm going to climb Mount Apo. But after writing this article and making these reflections and realizations about the climb, I may think about climbing it again. *wink wink*

“The experienced mountain climber is not intimidated by a mountain -- he is inspired by it. The persistent winner is not discouraged by a problem -- he is challenged by it. Mountains are created to be conquered; adversities are designed to be defeated; problems are sent to be solved. It is better to master one mountain than a thousand foothills.” - William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mount Apo Experience (Part 2)

It's almost 2 p.m., and we have reached a campsite. I thought we were to break camp already and I prepared to pay the guide who carried my backpack for me. However, as I inquired I was stunned to know that after long hours of walking and crawling we have just reached half of the mountain. We rested a little while digging through our bags for lunch. I did not have anything to dig, since I was not able to pack my lunch. Rain started to pour, at first just a drizzle, until it developed into full big drops making us scamper for shelter through the little made-up stores in the site. I began to question the length of our trek, and when asking how far yet we are from our destination (the wide plateau of Lake Vinado where climbers converge for the night before climbing the peak the next day), the words "malapit na" begin to irritate me rather than to comfort me, having heard the phrase from our guides for hours already. How long will we still walk and climb and crawl? Sonny invited me to share his lunch with him.

Reflection: One of the sad realities of the struggle for chastity is that it is a process - and as such you would not know how long will you be struggling or if there is ever an end to this struggle. But we must forget the progress that we made, how little or insignificant it may be. We must continue to move, even though emotional and spiritual fatigue sets in. We will never reach our destination if we remain where we are now.

We are now standing in front of the 87 degrees upward slope. There is a wooden ladder leaned on the slope, and I said this would be easy. But when I looked up, I saw that the ladder ends halfway of the slope, and for the rest of the climb one should hold onto a rope where some knots were made. I slowly went up the ladder, and when I reached the end of it I more slowly grabbed onto the rope while pulling myself up with my arms and attaching my feet on whatever steady rock I could step onto. When I reached the final knot my feet slipped and for seconds I was hanging onto the knot at the end of the rope tied to a tree while frantically asking "Ano na gagawin ko susunod?" Sonny, who was busy filming us climbing the slope, told me "Hawak ka sa susunod na tali". I saw another rope tied to the same tree, pulled myself up using one arm and grabbing that rope to fully pull myself onto a ledge where that other rope is leading to. Finally I survived that 87 degrees slope!

Reflection: In our life's journey, we sometimes encounter 87 degrees slopes - situations that seem impossible for us to go through, including our pursuit for chastity amidst our addictions and compulsions. We sometimes feel we are already at the end of our ropes. We cry out in despair, and "Somebody up there" tells us the next move we should make. And we survive.

By this time I was really dead tired, and every time we stop to rest a while I'm taking more time just mentally preparing myself for another walk. There were times I'm mumbling to myself "I don't like this anymore" or "I will not do this again". Sonny, who was walking in front of me, had enough of my statements and said to me "Tigilan mo na yang mga ganyang negative statements. It will not help you. Para ka ring gumagawa ng mga inner vows. Dapat positive ka sa ginagawa mo." Though I still could not help but say these statements, Sonny's comments made me think. My negative statements actually contribute to my fatigue, as it wears down not only my physical body but my spirit as well.

Reflection: The primary motivator of a person is oneself. If you don't believe in yourself, no one will believe you.

At around 4:30 p.m. we arrived at the plateau, and we were greeted by the majesty of the summit of Mount Apo! What our guides have told us is true - when you reach this point of the climb it will be so awesome you will forget about the difficult experiences you had gone through. We took turns taking pictures of ourselves with the mountaintop, before heading to the campsite at Lake Vinado. The cold wind was strong, penetrating the skin - and though I was wearing stretchable bands for my arms and legs, it wasn't enough to keep me warm. Someone called out that the temperature was 8 degrees Celsius - no wonder I was freezing! When we were done registering with the military positioned in the camp, we looked for our companions who have gone ahead of us, knowing they have already pitched our tents. We eventually saw them amidst the sea of tents pitched on the vast grounds of the lake shore. I looked for my guide, paid him for carrying my backpack, and immediately looked for my thick jacket. I also looked for my body warming oil to keep warm my hands and feet. The butane stove is already opened where Rod is cooking rice. As I was warming myself, I began looking for the other food stuff that is lined up for cooking. When the rice was cooked, Letty and I took turns cooking dinner and preparing the sauce for lunch tomorrow. It was comforting to be near the fire while we were cooking.

Reflection: Life changing situations demand major adjustments. As we progress in our struggle towards chastity - learning how to avoid playgrounds, playmates and playthings, learning how to pray from the heart and growing in relationships with other men and women - we suddenly find ourselves different from the way we used to be. And when the going gets tough, it's a common temptation for us to go back to the familiar, more comfortable ways where we could numb our pains. But change is a birthing process - it demands pain.

After cooking and eating dinner, the fire was turned off and all I wanted to do was snuggle inside the tent which I shared with Kuya Benjie and Ramil. The air was colder than before. I changed my wet socks to dry ones and readied my sleeping bag. But the guys had other plans. The others were invited inside the tent for some feedback/reflection about the first day of the climb and planning for the next day climb to the summit. The guys wanted to climb the summit and spend the night there. Rod explained the downside of spending the night at the summit since it's colder at the peak and there is little drinking water available. I was trying my best to rest lying down awkwardly folding my body to whatever space left in the tent, but my mind was imagining the movie 300 with the young Leonidas spending the night in a cold cave. I can't stand the cold here at Lake Vinado, how am I to survive the summit? So I opened the idea of some people going up the peak but going down to spend the night at the lake instead. All of them were resolved to spend the night at the peak, and they were convincing me also to join them. A cold breeze entered the opened tent and that sealed my decision: I'm climbing the peak but will go down that same day. Then came the time for sharing. I am not to share what others have shared, but I will just share one of the major realizations I had in the climb - that I was using the climb to validate myself as a man. I still have many insecurities about my manhood - that I'm not that handsome, I'm not muscular enough to protect women, I'm clumsy and physically incompetent - and these things have been ringing in my thoughts and in my heart while I was climbing, especially in the difficult trails. I cried in front of my companions realizing this, especially when I thought about the woman whom I am developing romantic feelings and saw myself as an incompetent man for her. My co-climbers comforted me and assured me in various ways how I have grown in my masculinity. I thank God for that night of affirmation.

Reflection: We need people in our lives. We need them to know that we are not alone in the struggle. We need them as mentors on how to live a good Christian life. We need them to remind us of who we truly are because most of the time we think of ourselves higher or lower than we should. True Christian friends are used by God to affirm us about our true selves and to help us reject our false selves.

Morning has broken, and I could hear people bustling around outside the tent. I stayed for a while trying to compose myself for the cold wind. When I went out, it was still cold, but the sun rising above us somehow penetrates through the cold air to give us a little warmth. The guys were near the lake chatting among themselves, so I came to them just in time for a group picture shot. We were listening to Dok Richie, a Red Cross volunteer, as he talks about the different movements in Mindanao and how the relationships of these movements contribute to the conflicts being experienced in the region. I was trying to listen but my mind is distracted by my body longing to release the past day's wastes. I looked around and saw this boy carrying two pails of water from the lake and asked him if there is a toilet in the camp site. He asked me to follow him and so I followed him in an area away from the campsite where tall grasses were growing. He had another companion who was busy clearing a small area and amazingly using the cut tall grass as four corners where they tied a thick cloth around to form a square area. They told me it's now ok to use the toilet, and I was really surprised that inside the square area was a toilet bowl! I did my stuff and paid the boy 5 pesos for bringing the water. I disinfected my hands with alcohol and started to help Rio, one of our porters, cook breakfast. I also cooked the fish for lunch and gave instructions regarding the mixing of the fried fish and the sauce I prepared last night. I then received instructions from Rod on what to cook for breakfast and lunch the following day, which has to be prepared already before they arrive back from the summit.

Reflection: As we grow in our pursuit for wholeness and holiness, we start to forget old habits and to form new habits and the things that were once strange become familiar.

I now prepared for my climb to the summit. I was accompanied by Sonny's friend Tulanoy who is also a volunteer rescuer. It was about 9am when I began my ascent to the summit, and I was quite excited about it. I brought only a small backpack with provisions for the day and a trekking pole. The trail was a mixture of forest foliage and open grass. The forest was muddy but the surrounding trees and plants provided me with shade, moisture and abundant oxygen that I could breathe in making my walk quite comfortable. But in the open grass the sun was up and beating my face but I wasn't aware of the sun burning me because of the cold breeze that accompanied the heat of the sun. The cold wind dries up my skin making it easier for the sun to burn it (I haven't notice my sun-burnt face until we came back in Manila when it started to generously peel off).

Reflection: The love of God is like a forest that protects us from the burning rays of sin, providing us with life-giving nourishment that makes our journey through life bearable. Being in the state of sin is like walking on open grass where the wind of worldly values (hedonism, relativism and individualism promoted by mass media) makes our consciences indifferent and callous to the effects of sin, unaware that is slowly burning us, wearing down our bodies and spirits.

Tulanoy and I took turns taking photos of ourselves on top of big rocks scattered around. Almost 4 hours of walking uphill is taking its toll on my legs. It was great having him around, knowing that there is someone watching over your steps. At times he would just let me climb by myself when the trail is manageable, but when he notices that I'm having difficulty over some rocks he would climb ahead of me and stretch out his hand and help me pull myself up. I have to confess I was becoming anxious every time I would not see me behind me or in front of me, that my security in climbing this mountain safely was based on his presence.

Reflection: The presence of God doesn't mean you would always feel Him around you, but knowing that in times of trouble He would always be at your side. Awareness of God's presence is like a child confident that his father is just there for him no matter what, whether he sees him or not.

to be continued...

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Mother Wound

Here's a perfect post Mother's Day story and article for us all, especially those who are dealing with the pains of mother abandonment. No matter what mother wounds we are carrying around, let us be consoled by the fact that we have our Heavenly Mother who is constantly watching and praying for us Her pilgrim children on earth.

by Susan Darst Williams

I've been watching old home movies with my mom. We're transferring them from old Super 8's onto DVD's. We've laughed; we've cried; we've negotiated whether she gets to cut the scene of her smoking a giant stogie if I get to cut the scene where I'm acting dorky and my sister lets me have it with a sharp elbow.

There's a reason I'm zeroing in on my mother in these old tapes. There's a reason I got teary-eyed when she kissed me, in my little baby bonnet. The toys under all those Christmas trees . . . the birthday parties . . . the vacations . . . all show the work, love and sacrifice my mother devoted to rearing us four kids.

Not everybody gets that birthright, good mothering, that wonderful foretaste of heaven. When you don't, the consequences can be grave.

Someone special, a friend in another city, killed herself last week. I think it had to do with what they call "the mother wound." She put a deer rifle into her mouth, and blew herself away. How could she? I think she had a big hole in her soul because she never got what many of us take for granted: mother love.

Cheryl's dad apparently was harsh, and hit her mother. A bloody handprint on a wall was one of Cheryl's few childhood memories. When she was about 4, her parents split. Her mother and sister moved away -- not just across town, but to another country.

She saw her mother again, once or twice, but that was about it.

Abandonment has to be worse than growing up with an alcoholic mother, or a mean one, or one who hits. Those leave wounds that, while terrible, can be healed. Absence, on the other hand, creates a wound so large it becomes a void.

I think Cheryl grew up wanting to fill that void. A teacher for 20 years, she was a favorite for many students, probably because she gave what she didn't get: love.

When her first marriage failed, she concentrated on rearing her two children, now young teenagers. She was a good mother. Cautiously, she accepted attention from a suitor, and after many years, she married him.

She fiercely wanted a baby to unite the blended family. But a series of difficult events, culminating in a miscarriage, plunged her into depression. She started obsessing about that baby, whom she named Emily. She said a few times she wanted to be with her. Several months ago, a suicide attempt using pills was thwarted.

Medication and counseling seemed to be helping. But recently, after two co-workers announced their pregnancies, she toppled off the balance beam of rationality. A frightening episode of erratic behavior ended with the terrible gunshot.

Ironically, she now has abandoned her daughter and son, tragically convinced they'd be better off without her.

And everybody's tortured. Why did she do it? She was a good Christian. Why didn't she trust God to make things better?

I think it's because she didn't have the crucial "tapes" playing in her heart, that she had a mother who loved her and would stay with her, no matter what.

That security is a bridge to God's love. But even though He sent many others to show her His love, she couldn't cross over. Instead, she blew up the bridge.

You know those home movies, with my mother's radiant smile enfolding all of us kids? I hope and pray that Cheryl is experiencing that perfect, boundless love for real in heaven with Jesus, at last.

I hope and pray, too, that each of us will build up mothers whenever we can, so they can give their children what's priceless and eternal: self-worth, and an unshakable belief that God will make everything all right, even if our own loved ones can't. Especially then.

Everybody needs those tapes of unfailing love to play in our darkest moments . . . illuminated by the Light of the World. †

Healing the Mother Wound Abandonment

by Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D.

1. Remind yourself of these things:

a. It was not your fault.

b. You were not a bad child.

c. Your mother may not have realized how deeply this affected you.

d. You deserve love.

2. Create joy and beauty in your life now.

a. Gather supportive friends and loved ones around you.

b. Feed yourself good food, and treat your body well.

c. Give yourself birthday parties and moments of celebration.

d. Create your own family, whether it is your own children or friends whom you adopt as your new family.

e. Appreciate each day as it unfolds.

3. Find the help you need to heal your wounds.

a. Find a therapist who believes that the past affects the present and can help you work through it.

b. Write your story-from your point of view all the way through.

c. Illustrate your story with family photos.

d. After you write your story, write the story of your mother's life. Research her life as best you can. Illustrate it with photos.

4. Use visualization, meditation, and prayer to get in touch with the life you want to live, and the blessings of your life.

a. Meditate in quiet surroundings each day for at least 10 minutes.

b. Read books that inspire you to love and accept yourself.

c. Share with others your healing story.

"Maternity is on the face of it an unsociable experience. The selfishness that a woman has learned to stifle or to dissemble where she alone is concerned, blooms freely and unashamed on behalf of her offspring." - Emily James Putnam

Sunday, May 10, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Pontiff Defends Role of Disabled in Society [weblink]

2. Pope Traveling to Holy Land to Promote Peace and Hope, Says Nuncio [weblink]

3. Catholic League: Vatican's Position on 'Angels and Demons' [weblink]

4. Obama Urged to Appoint First 'Gay' to Supreme Court [weblink]

5. Child Porn Websites on the Decline - But Remain Vigilant [weblink]

6. Commentary: If You Hate Motherhood, Donate to Planned Parenthood This Mother's Day, but if Not...[weblink]

7. Lesbian Couple Seeks to Bring "Gay Marriage" to Russia [weblink]

8. Openly Homosexual Phoenix Priest Who Endorsed "Naked Boys Singing" Movie Excommunicated [weblink]

9. Florida Priest Disciplined [weblink]

10. Why Marriage Will Win [weblink]

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mount Apo Experience (Part 1)

In this three-part series, Bro. Rollie narrates his wonderful experience in climbing the Philippine's highest peak - Mt. Apo in Davao City - interspersed with his personal reflections along the way. He dedicates this climb to the men and women of Courage Apostolate.

The last time I ever climbed a mountain was in the year 2001, and it was just the happy trail of Taal Volcano - normal trekking over a trail that just keeps going up until the magnificent crater of the volcano. And so when my companion in Living Waters invited me to climb Mount Apo, I was hesitant at first. I initially had an excuse because there was a scheduled retreat that I am to attend during the Holy Week, since the climb was also scheduled on the same week. But when the retreat was postponed to a later date, I was surprisingly thrilled that I could now opt to join the climb. The invitation was from my trusted group of friends in Living Waters, a safe place where significant healing of my personal issues took place like year, and the invitation was to climb the highest peak of the Philippines (a feat that most Filipinos would not dare take - side comment: I just learned later from a fellow climber that only 1 out of 500 Filipinos have climbed the mountain). And so with unprecedented excitement, I called up my friend Sonny and asked to be included in the climb.

His response was totally and gratefully impressive! He told me a litany of things to prepare and how to keep in shape for the climb, he sent me several email messages with attachments on things to bring, the proposed itinerary schedule of the climb and the composition of the team of climbers, and he has been able to book me a return flight in ZestAir to and from Davao! All of these happened within the day, and I had to pull myself up from mixed emotions arising in my heart. Then a thought came to my mind: I shall be offering this feat for the men and women in Courage. As I prayerfully submit this promise to the Lord, a renewed determination settled in my spirit.

As the day of the climb draw near, I felt I'm not preparing that well physically for the climb. Yes, I have been going to the gym, but most of the exercises I have been doing was for my chest and arms, none whatsoever for my legs. And so I asked the Lord for an opportunity to exercise my legs. The following day, our boss announced that a fire drill was to be made in the entire building. We were in the 11th floor, and so when the fire alarm rang, we had to rush down through the flight of stairs going to the parking area - which was done nonchalantly by the employees (which explains why we have faired poor in terms of the time it took for all of us to evacuate the building). When the fire drill was over, the main lobby was filled up with people who are waiting for elevators to pick them up. I seized this as an opportunity, and after challenging a co-employee lining up for the elevator who gets to the 11th floor first, I raced up through the flight of stairs almost without a rest. It took me around five (5) minutes to get to the 11th floor, yet not without having perspired profusely, requiring my body to calm down in my desk for some time before I resumed my work.

Just five (5) days before our departure to Davao, I felt very sick. I didn't go to work, instead I tried to figure out my illness and fought dehydration by drinking lots of Gatorade. Late afternoon of that day came and my condition didn't improve, so I decided to come to the hospital to be checked up. They ran some tests in my blood, urine and stool and found out that I was having amoebiasis. I bought the medicines, some more Gatorade, and spent the night resting. Though still sick, I managed to come to an ordination, gave a talk, attended meetings and went to work the next days prior to our trip to Davao.

The night before the early morning flight, I was frantically packing my stuff, trying my best to make it as light as possible since I already had a big mountaineering bag, two sleeping bags, and a tent to contend with. My stuff was still heavy, considering I just packed one shirt per day of our stay and two shorts, because of the canned goods and 3 liters of water/Gatorade that I bought - good thing it still passed the 15 kilos capacity for each passenger for the flight. We were 3 R's (Rollie, Rod, Rodel) in the flight to Davao.

When we arrived, we met up with the others who were already in Davao two days ahead of us. We ate our lunch, had our last minute marketing, repacked our stuff - segregating our common stuff like tents, sleeping bags, and food that will be carried by our porters - and travelled to Kidapawan City for our pre-climb orientation. The officer-in-charge of the Tourism Office , Ate Ging, told us about some of the regulations for those who wish to climb Mount Apo - including getting down on the same trail where you went up. She was kind to give us three (3) young men (Fidel, Ron and Lemuel) as rescuers for free in addition to the three (3) porters (Boy, Rio and Massiah).

We then went to the hot spring resort at the foot of the mountain that will be our jump-off point to climb Apo. We came there by batches so as we were waiting for the others to arrive, Rod cooked dinner and segregated while I prepared the rest of the food that will be cooked in our camp during the climb - which includes marinating fish and chopping the spice ingredients. When they arrived the room was packed with people. We then had another lecture from an experienced rescuer Kuya Panot, who gave us some tips in packing our stuff and what to expect in the diverse terrain going up the mountain. He then told us the tale of a man who died at the slopes of the mountain and he was not registered at the tourism office. This tale recalled in my mind a late night show "I Survived" where it featured Mount Halcon and the worst scenario for a climb - a storm hit the mountain area at the several climbers they were isolated from one another in the middle of the trail. One of the climbers died of hypothermia because of the extreme cold. I thought to myself that Mount Apo is no different. They told us that we had to protect ourselves from the cold weather near and at the summit - and all I had was a thick jacket and a bonnet. I was in deep thoughts when a cold wind entered the room and brought chills to my body despite of wearing the bonnet and the thick jacket (I was in shorts as I had brought no pants). I thought to myself - if this is how cold it is at night at the foot of this mountain, how can I ever survive the cold when I am way up?

Reflection: When we hear stories of other people struggling with homosexuality, encountering pain and even death along the way, we start to shudder at the thought of suffering ourselves. With stories of failure we resign ourselves to status quo, fearing that we would also fail ourselves (without even trying). We tend to shy away from the struggle, and decide to remain where we are - in the familiar places and people - and not even trying to step into that decision to struggle.

The day of the climb came. I had mixed emotions - excited, anxious, perplexed. My get-up for the climb is a marathon singlet, shorts, bonnet and trekking shoes. Sonny saw me and said "Yan lang susuot mo? Hindi ka tatagal sa taas!" hehe what encouraging words! Thankfully he gave me some stretchable bands for arms and legs to keep my skin from direct cold. I thought when you climb mountains you wear the same comfortable clothes - shirt, shorts, sandals or rubber shoes. But when climbing a high peak like Apo, you must protect yourself more from the cold wind (and rains) than from the scorching heat of the sun. After two hours of finalizing stuff, we were ready for the climb. We came at the foot of the mountain, had our pre-climb pictures taken, and went to register ourselves with the Philippine National Red Cross who made sure we had a satisfactory blood pressure before allowing us to climb. And the climb began. I was thrilled! My heart was hopping for joy for finally climbing another mountain after a long time. But after a while the joy was now mixed with fear - for difficult terrain now becomes evident (there were steep slopes and areas with slabs of rocks and edges of cliffs), and there was a time I was walking alone with no one in front of me nor at my back. I began to doubt if I was still on the right track. When you start climbing the mountain, don't expect to have a good start, and easy round. The first trek I came across was a steep slope, not so easy to dash yourself downwards. And it has been a mixture of rough and light trails along the way. I heard voices behind my back so at least someone was following me. But what if I was going in the wrong direction? I was disturbed that people were following me, but I myself don't know if we are in the right path. Having other people behind you increases the fear of being lost, because you feel you have lead others to be lost as well. Until I heard voices upfront, and a stream can be heard at the foreground. Others have gone the way of the trail I am following. I smiled - we're safe.

Reflection: First, what clothes/armor do we wear as we start our struggle for chastity? Do we heed the call of St. Paul to use "the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit etc."? Do we constantly shield ourselves with prayer especially in moments of temptations? Second, when we start struggling for chastity, sometimes we expect it to be easy at first - but actually the rough edges comes in first! Frequency and degrees of temptations heightens. It will never be easy in the struggle to be holy. Third, we sometimes feel alone in the struggle and begin to question if we are still following a good path. Others may start to follow our example and we fear of not only the possibility of being lost, but of leading others to be lost as well. We will only be at peace, knowing that there are other people who have gone ahead of us, who have trudged the same road less traveled, the road of obedience to God's will through cultivating the virtue of chastity.

It has been four (4) hours' climb, and my legs are starting to get weak. I felt that sole fire drill exercise I made a week prior to the climb was not enough for me to strengthen my leg muscles. On upward slopes I would not anymore walk on them, but crawl on them! I was literally crawling my way up with my heavy backpack across these slopes. Letty, our sole woman companion, was convincing me to give up my backpack to the guides. Notwithstanding the jeers that my companions were giving me, my clothes dirtied by the mud, and my knees scratched by the rocks I'm crawling onto, I just kept pushing my way up that slope. Though my flesh is weak, my spirit is willing to go on further. Sonny pitied my crawling state and asked me to drop my backpack and let a guide carry it for me. At first I was unwilling to do it (I had Courage in mind thinking to do this sacrifice for the group), but after several attempts I complied. I was given a trekking pole that would help me walk through difficult terrain.

Reflection: In our struggle we should know our limitations. Sometimes, our performance orientation gets in the way for us to really be able to climb certain hurdles in relation to our struggle. We refuse to ask for help, until the burden is too heavy for us to carry. We journey through life not as individuals, but as a team. We must realize our inability to manage our own lives with lust and homosexuality as our cross. It is too heavy to bear it alone.

to be continued...