Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Season of Grace

(Forwarded e-mail)

This is a Christmas message from Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga. As we prepare to celebrate the new year, let us look back in 2009 and reflect. What lessons have we learned so far that we can carry on as we face 2010? May this message inspire us to give more of ourselves to others.


A Christmas Message from Tony Meloto

How do we keep bad things that are happening from robbing us of the joy of the season?

I must admit it gets harder with the years, especially when election is around the corner. As one approaching 60 and eager for peaceful change, I am upset like many with our politics of conflict where millions of Filipinos declare war on one another every three years, breaking up families, turning friends into adversaries, and making the weak suffer when the strong fight for power. Politics is brewing again as our nation is still recovering from the triple tragedies that hit us this year.

How do we turn the mood around?

Difficult as it is, I will start with myself this Christmas by seeing grace beyond every bad situation, by connecting with the good side of people and seeking the good of every person. I will consider myself out of grace if I indulge a mean gossip, bash my country or consider any Filipino an enemy. I will purge my system of disparaging un-Filipino sentiments and un-Christian behavior, seeing them as unbecoming and ungrateful.

A gift of solidarity with the poor is for me the most appropriate this season.. Spreading goodwill in their communities, dining with them in their homes, opening our gates to their children will affirm our kinship with them and gain favor from the Savior who treated the neglected as family and lavished them affection. As a predominantly Christian nation, we have to see the poor through the eyes of Jesus - not as beggar or slave -but as family.

If we have to give material gifts, let's do so with a proud-to-be- Filipino spirit by giving practical and well crafted items made in the Philippines that help poor communities and protect the environment.

The season also calls for more of us to be torchbearers who will shine brightly like the star that lit the dark skies to proclaim the coming of the One who could calm storms and lighten the load of a suffering people.

How does one who dreams of a better life in this country stay on course when battered by strong winds, when kindred spirits die and friends fall on the wayside? We do not lack patriots but many movements in our country have a historical pattern of blowing hot and cold, of ending in frustration despite grand plans, big resources, great enthusiasm and the best intentions when they began.

Can passion for the nation burn brighter even when others give up? How can we keep our spirit from burning out when many find it saner and safer to succumb to apathy?

From what has been preached to us somehow we know that there is no burnout or giving up if our passion comes from the Source of eternal, unconditional and giving love, not from our raging desire to pursue our agenda that makes enemies out of those who oppose us or sacrifice the poor who cannot defend themselves; if we believe in a divine plan that works for those who can love the worst of people and see a silver lining in the worst of times.

Again, human as we are it is not easy but we must try and allow grace to work when we are failing or falling. Like what happened in our recent tragedies. In our grief and fear, there was a flow of grace.

First, Tita Cory died on August 1 and grieved a nation with the passing of a leader who loved serving our country more than the power to rule it. I drenched my grief in the heavy downpour during her funeral, regretting the loss of our icon of integrity. It was her message "Gawad Kalinga is People Power, People Power is Gawad Kalinga" that comforted an ordinary citizen like me longing for better times.

The grace that came with her passing was that the young who did not know her and EDSA 1 came to discover the lasting value of integrity in leadership. This is Tita Cory's legacy to them; that power and wealth accumulated through corruption will not last and will bring only shame to those who do not walk their talk.

What we can offer to the country in her honor is the gift of personal Integrity. We need to share with others the gift of honest lives..

Second, Ondoy hit Metro Manila on September 26 with a fury greater than Hurricane Katrina, followed by Pepeng in Northern Luzon a week later.

Again grace was there beyond the vast devastation and loss of lives. Miraculously, there was no casualty or serious damage in over 400 GK communities in the typhoon's path and the residents were quick to rebound and went to the task of helping their neighbors. The bigger blessing was that Filipinos woke up to the amazing discovery that we have the power to help ourselves. Many resisted the usual 'who-is-to-blame' habit, kept their begging bowls in the cupboard and instead, dug into their pockets and braved the murky waters to help. The hero in the Filipino came out of the casket to help others in greater need, oblivious to their personal safety and comfort.

Grace is when we bridge gaps, transcend rivalries, scrap cynicism, overcome apathy and become just one people - simply and amazingly Filipinos caring for one other. A desire for unity is a great gift to share.

Third, the Maguindanao massacre on November 23 revolted us and the world to the core of our soul by its sheer ferocity. We grieved the loss of lives of the innocents, especially of our pre-school teacher Pinky Balayman and other volunteers, and the brave media that came to record history with their blood.

Out of revulsion in something so inhuman, there is now the overwhelming clamor to dismantle political fiefdoms and end the rule of warlords. The political will to do this is pure grace.

It is imperative that we give one another the gift of peace. Love that brings peace is at the heart of Jesus' message beyond a stormy and violent life, starting with the massacre of the innocents after his birth and his torture and painful death on the cross. The baby who was a squatter at birth and grew up as a carpenter's son is revered by the wise, the rich and the powerful centuries after his death. He is the disruption to old wineskins, the shame to the wise, the calm after the storm.

Likewise, despite the storms that buffeted Gawad Kalinga this year, we experienced peace and grace upon grace because many remained steadfast in loving the least loved.

We are grateful to all those who believe in us, for making Gawad Kalinga bigger, stronger, more inclusive and universal in our mission to help end poverty in the Philippines and other developing countries.

To Fr. Ben Nebres, Gerry Ablaza, Ed Chua, Bebet Gozun, Manny Pangilinan, and Tony Olaes for joining the Gawad Kalinga Board.

To corporate partners who supported GK beyond CSR, to schools that fostered service learning in our villages and to public officials who learned with us the value of service without corruption.

To those who set up GK Hope Initiative (GKHI) in Singapore as a hub to spread GK in Asia. This includes the Economic Development Board and also the schools, particularly Ngee Ann and NUS, for hosting the 2nd GK Global summit on June 25-27, 2010.

To the organizers and participants of the 1st GK Global Summit in Boston where GK2024 was successfully launched last June 12-14 and to Harvard and MIT for opening their doors to us.

To those who set up GK USA as a tax free institution and the GK1WORLD on-line campaign and all the volunteers and partners in the United States and Canada, Europe and the Middle East, Australia and new Zealand and other countries in Asia and the Pacific who are more passionate than ever in the GK vision of building a better world for the next generation.

To all patriots and lovers of the poor who joined the management and program teams of all GK provinces and Metro Manila cities, who practice faith and patriotism through volunteerism in all our GK sites, especially our thirty villages for our Muslim brothers and sisters - our special thanks for not abandoning those who are closest to the heart of Jesus.

To Luis Oquinena and all our young patriots for remaining firm and steadfast like Joshua. Luis will lead GK2024, our march to end poverty in the Philippines in 15 years.

To my brothers and sisters in Couples for Christ, the community of my deepest affection, for affirming our faith that God defends the poor and those who love them. A special thanks to our Project Directors and Caretaker teams for not deserting those who are being transformed by their love and loyalty.

To groups that treasure our Catholic faith like I do, for constantly reassuring us that Gawad Kalinga is not only one with our Church but is making Christians and Muslims one.

To UST for launching the Kalinga Tomasino campaign to build 400 GK villages as part of the 400 years celebration of their founding as the first Catholic university in Asia.

To those who helped in the Walang Iwanan Relief Operations and many others who have joined us in the efforts to relocate and rebuild the lives of typhoon victims.

Finally, to the poor for teaching us that love is the greatest gift from God.

If we love, everyday is a season of grace.. May the joy of Christmas, the love of Jesus and the hope that we can build a peaceful and prosperous world together - starting in the Philippines - remain in our heart always.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let Our Hearts Be Your Manger

A beautiful Christmas prayer taken from the book Forty Personal Prayers (Part 1) by Msgr. Ruperto C. Santos, STL

You are God and yet you chose to be one of us.
You are divine and yet you allowed yourself to be human.
You are in heaven and yet you came down to earth.

Born in a humble stable, you experience our pain and suffering.

Out of your great love you became man that we may be like God;
You became human that we may be divine;
You endured the cross and shed your blood that we may be saved
from sin and rise to new life.

O dear Jesus, now I know that Christmas is love.
You come in the flesh: God's love made visible.
I beseech you that I may have this love on Christmas day!

Love to those who have one one to wish them a merry Christmas.
Love to those who have no presents.
Love to those who have no new dress or new pair of shoes to wear.
Love to those who have nothing to eat.
Love to those who are homeless.
Love to those whose families are torn apart by the need to work in faraway places.

O dear Jesus, your birth is your gift of love to us.
We welcome you with love.
Let our hearts be your manger;
Let our life be your home;
Let our house be your kingdom.

O dear Jesus, your birth is God's precious gift to us.
If we can open ourselves to you,
If we can give up everything for you,
We will have a meaningful gift for you.
If we can share you with others it will be our best gift to them.

Truly, Christmas is not just a memory but a blessed living event.
For you are now born in our hearts and share our very life.


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Judith's Journey with Courage

This is Judith's (not her real name of course) journey with Courage. Courage does not only cater to men with SSA but to women as well. In fact, Judith is the first female member of Courage Philippines. We have at least five female members so far. We, men, greatly outnumber the ladies and so I hope to see more Judiths next year.

My first encounter with Courage Philippines was in May 2007 during the conference on SSA co-hosted by Human Life International-Asia held at the Philippine Heart Center. Shortly after, I got the courage to tell Rollie about my condition and braved the Courage reparational adoration prayer then with a throng of men in attendance and me being the lone woman. From then on, I regularly attended its sharing meetings including the Sacrament Sundays at Baclaran Church.

Reading “The Problem” for the first time during the sharing meeting made me felt understood already as indeed I had always hoped that the next person I fall for “will save me…conning myself time and again” and “The Solution” indeed offers hope—realizing that “not feeding the hunger did not kill us but killed the hunger instead.”

My hunger for love and affirmation is something no one will ever satisfy as it has left a gaping hole in my soul, which searches for anyone who is willing to fill me. I saw myself as nothing and I readily devoured whatever little love I find even when it is not really being offered. I gave everything in order to get my own “fix” or “strokes” such as praises and affirmation, affection and friendships that will make me feel “I am okay.”

Since I was fresh from the convent then and still searching for employment, I was usually treated out by my brothers for lunch , dinner, movies, even concerts at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). This makes me feel specially favored. At first, I do not feel like a princess being with them. Instead, I felt like being one of the boys. I used to joke around that I got a very good surgeon to make me look like the real thing. But the thing is, I am the real thing—feminine and woman. Yet before such realization sets in and because of the brokenness all of us carry, some relations and boundaries were broken but was also re-established more stronger now by God’s grace.

In the same year, I was blessed to be part of the Living Waters Leadership Training (LWLT) (see www.livingwatersphilippines.org) with another brother held in November at Tagaytay City. It was during this one week training that I understood better who am I as a woman that God designed me to be and how the woundings that I faced distorted that image of God in me. Above all that, I felt so secure for the first time in years because my relationship with my Heavenly Father was renewed. At that time, He affirmed me as His daughter—His princess and His beloved.

An offshoot of the said program is the 12-steps presentation I was inspired to create. Up until this moment, I could only say that that was a product of inspiration and reflection not confined to logical musings. I could not have done it without the Holy Spirit guiding me. Little did I know that all my friendships and my faith will be severely put to test the following year.

Aside from growth in self-knowledge, since I also participated in the Cross Current and LivingWaters Program (full-cycle) that year, 2008 brought in a deluge of feelings. For as wounds were opened and processed, present things and persons that remind me of the past became unnerving. On top of that, I encountered someone in my immediate environment who I then began to seek for my own security and significance in this world. I clung to her like a lifeline. Yes, it was emotional dependency at work and the very thought of letting go was painful to say the least.

The year 2009 brought me in the midst of the battlefield--with defeats and victories encountered. I experienced deep depression from March until May that I wished then to end my life almost everyday because of the pain within me--the fear and pain of rejection, of isolation, of abandonment was almost unbearable! Twas only through prayer and worship that I was able to face each day still despite all that. The second quarter of this year was a decisive time for me. It was then that I got the courage to leave, only because I knew in my heart that it was what God wanted of me, despite the many protestations of a significant few.

The succeeding months after that serious moment was a trial of sorts—mostly within me. A tug-of-war is raging for I still longed for what I said I would let go. Later on, trust is what prevailed upon me. Trust in God that He will see me through, that He will provide for me, that my future is secure in Him and that I will be free eventually--free from all the chains that keep me from loving Him with my whole heart, mind and soul. That was really the cry of my heart.

It was during the 2009 LWLT-Journey to Healing that I finally realized and experienced for myself what God has been trying to tell me... 1) faith through obedience in Him despite what seems like an illogical directive from Him, and 2) worship of Him is the best way of being happy and being made whole otherwise I will find myself bowing down to lesser created things. In the obedience and worship of Him, my love for Him increases and He takes up greater space in my heart—toppling down the idols I have erected. This is the reason why the enemy is bent on taking away my focus on Him… for anything in the hands of the Almighty is to be feared and a soul completely surrendered can bring forth His Kingdom greater than any mission, ministry or prayer brought about by human efforts alone.

God’s work in me is far from being over. I still need to discover the many ways I have acted as my own god or made others my own gods. But I could honestly say that I am in a better place now only because the One True God has found me and will not even think of losing me. In that statement alone I place ALL my hope.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the Anti-Discrimination Bill

This is a letter by Bro. Rollie addressed to everyone concerned regarding the recent developments on House Bill 956 or better known as the Anti-Discrimination Act in order that the public at large may know why we oppose this bill. You can download a copy of the proposed bill here.

After the holiday break, I will post the official position paper and counter proposals of Courage Philippines to this bill pending in the House of Representatives.

Dear Pro-Life brethren,

I have been to two meetings already about the Anti-Discrimination Bill (see link above). This bill deems to include the terms sexual orientation and gender identity as part of our legislative vocabulary, and as such, will railroad the other gay rights like same-sex marriage. However, in these meetings, Hon. Erin Tañada, Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights of the House of Representatives, seems to argue in favor of passing the bill - notwithstanding our objections and the possible consequences of the bill. To paraphrase him yesterday saying "We are just tackling discrimination. We do not tackle same-sex marriage. Let the congressmen who object to same-sex marriage argue about it when it comes. As of now, it has not yet happen".

There is another technical working group meeting happening on January 19, 2010. The Committee is not seeing a strong opposition towards the bill so it is very much inclined to pass it together with other bills on January 26, 2010. We in the opposition, encourage your groups (and please encourage other possible opposing groups as well) to please submit your position papers thru email to Hon. Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III - erin_tanada@ yahoo.com or to his secretariat fely_parcon@ yahoo.com and confirm it by calling the office of the Committee on Human Rights 931-6478 or 932-4803.

Let us voice out our concerns about this bill. In formulating your position paper, please reflect on the following questions:

1. What are the statistics of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in our country? Are we not instead growing a social norm of accepting homosexual behavior?

2. What human rights instruments are we adhering to that speaks about discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

3. Does discrimination happen because of the person per se or of the behavior manifested by that person or by a collective knowledge of homosexual behavior?

4. Do we pass a bill that will go beyond protecting homosexuals into justifying homosexual behavior by including the terms sexual orientation and gender identity in our legal terms?

5. Do we not fear the indiscriminate filing of discriminatory cases just because of suspicion or lack of judgment of people involved?

6. What is currently happening to other countries where the anti-discrimination laws have been placed? Are there abuses committed by homosexual persons because of these enacted laws?

7. Is the behavior of the person inseparable from the person himself or herself that he or she has no control of, or is behavior choices made by the person which he or she has control of? (Gays argue that you cannot separate the behavior or conduct from the person)

I personally is very much alarmed at the trend that this bill is moving. The Chairperson is biased. The author, Hon. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (who is part of the senatorial line-up of presidentiable NoyNoy Aquino III) is part of the committee and is very influential to other congresspersons.

They are determined to pass this bill. If we will not move, this bill will be passed and we will suffer the consequences since this bill primarily protects persons who embrace the homosexual lifestyle and advances the homosexual agenda of the gay community in the Philippines.

I am sad at what is happening to our country, what kind of values our congresspersons are now having. I invite you to please voice out your opposition to this bill - and invite other opposing groups as well (it can be as simple as a one-page position paper). It is not yet too late, but it will be if we do not move.

Email: erin_tanada@ yahoo.com or fely_parcon@ yahoo.com
Phone: 9316478 or 9324803

Let this be an act of standing as spiritual warriors for the truth of what our faith in Jesus Christ teaches us about homosexuality and homosexual behavior.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

+ Rollie

Sunday, December 20, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Christmas Is About Love, Says Pontiff [weblink]

2. ‘Simbang Gabi Is For Worship, Not For Courtship’, Catholic Editors Remind Youth [weblink]

3. Comelec Rejects Gay Party Ang Ladlad's Appeal [weblink]

4. It's Final: Comelec Denies Gay Group's Party List Bid [weblink]

5. Irish Priest Extols Religious, Family Values of Filipinos in Ireland [weblink]

6. Bill Keller Is Right: America Is Deeply Offended by the Bible [weblink]

7. UK Prime Minister Pledges to Force Gay Civil Union Recognition in Eastern Europe [weblink]

8. Portuguese Government Seeks to Legalize Same-Sex "Marriage" [weblink]

9. Indian Religious Leaders Call for Repeal of Ruling Decriminalizing Homosexual Acts [weblink]

10. Interview: The Vatican on Just vs. Unjust Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation [weblink]

11. Don Feder on the 'War on Christmas' in America [weblink]

12. Christmas Commercialism Combated by "Advent Conspiracy" Movement [weblink]

A Blessed Merry Christmas to All!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Popular Painter's Journey with Courage

This is Popular Painter's journey with Courage. PP is one guy you want to be around with because he is kind, cheerful, and witty (and naughty??). This guy is very talented, gregarious and leader material. Gosh, did I forget to say something? Nah, just looking forward to our next COFI sessions.

Journey with Courage: 7 months of a spectrum of colors

When the calendar year 2009 unfolded I decided to have red as a color for my wardrobe or even on some other stuff. I never thought that I would soon be exploring and using some other colors as well that made my year so colorful and remarkable.

It is February 14th of the year when I decided to enter a religious congregation as I affirmed myself this is my way of expressing my love to God and my family, but I knew for a fact that I got these tendencies, so I thought of ways on how I could prepare myself for that way of life inside the seminary. A priest from Greenbelt Chapel referred me to Courage. From here into, I met Kuya Rollie and the rest of the Courage members on a Palm Sunday.

My first meeting with the group is really memorable. After that group meeting in a nearby food court in which the orange tables remain as witness to the laughs and giggles of each member we went to a nearby videoke house, where I witnessed how passionate they are. And by that time that I described the group as “they” eventually became ‘us’. This event lead to other activities that I truly cherished including my 25th birthday celebration in which four of fellow brothers came, dined with us, and sang their hearts out. And on that instance, as Kuya Rollie prayed for and lead us into prayers, I continually look forward and hold on unto God’s promise of healing in my life.

August came, and the streets were painted with yellow. It is then that even though I am with Courage I still have instances that I fell. God talks to us in ways that are only known and unique to us and that morning of August 1 is by far no different. God reminded me on how a lady like the late president Cory Aquino stood up for her country and faced every day’s challenges of fighting for democracy and manifesting truth and courage. In the same way I am maybe called to lead a pack of believers but I am too stubborn to follow and at some point that dying is needed to bring us back to life.

In that same spirit we had our Psychogenetics Retreat in Tagaytay in which we tried for ourselves on meeting our inner adult and inner couple - ideas that in the beginning were too absurd but lead me and the rest of the group into deeper reflections and realizations. The retreat is just one of those core components of our spirituality in Courage like community prayers and sharing meeting that I found very helpful in our journey. I am still awed by such experience that until now I want to hang on to the verse from Psalm 1 that says:

Blessed is the one who does not go where the wicked gather or stand in the way of the sinners. Instead, he finds delight in the law of the Lord and meditates day and night on his commandments. He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But, reality bites. There are still these instances that I feel so alone that I feel like I wanted to give up and be back on my old ways again. I am very much thankful for those whom I bothered on those wee hours of the night in which I needed somebody to talk to or someone who could accompany me. I am thankful for my other community that gave the brotherly support that we’ve all been wanting. Here I found solace on those times that I feel blue and give hope for bigger and brighter future that is to come.

There are still those things that we found hard to accept, think or share. We still have these dark areas in our lives that we wanted to be healed though we just keep them inside our deepest and darkest closets. I, myself, do still have these things hidden on my ‘indigo’ room. We are all blessed that we have rigorous honesty as one of our core values but as what our group stipulates I am praying for courage - courage to reveal all of these, so that God can work on that dark areas of my life and light will soon reveal his magnificent work that leads to inner healing. I am asking for your prayers brothers and sisters in this specific intention.

If there is one thing that would keep me coming back to our group it is our higher sense of spirituality as we conduct our monthly Sacrament Sunday in which we receive the sacraments of penance and the solemn mass conducted by our priest director. It had been always a constant reminder to be true to what we have committed in our group and to rely on God’s message to ‘be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). And again, I am thankful for God really work on wondrous things on my life.

Who would thought that purple would spell out a new meaning in our contemporary world, but for me it spells out opportunity, surprises and completion of a colorful rainbow-painted canvass that I once thought was plain and white?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

After All The Grieving Is Done

This is a guest post on grieving by my blogger friend AJ. He has recently attended an Inner Child Retreat given by Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB.


The task of Transformation involves:

1. Grieving: Naming, Claiming, Blaming
2. Letting Go: Balancing, Choosing
3. Reframing

Review: Grieving

Grieving means saying: This painful experience happened to me. I don't deserve it. It hurts. I'm not happy about it at all.

I will exert effort to remember my pain and how it hurt me. I will never forget. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Grieving is remembering.

Grieving is accepting. I hid behind the masks of my false self till now. I will not deny the damage. I will not pretend to be not in pain.

I will brave the desert. I will face the ghost of the past. I will embark on my own inner journey.

I will claim my own freedom as birthright. My tragedy is that I buried the hurt, but also the good.

I will face my pain by looking at the tip of the iceberg: my conscious self, of which I'm in control. Then I will take a look at my subconscious, which is controllable, depending on if I want to touch it. Most importantly, I will investigate my unconscious, of which I have no control -- it controls me!

The earlier the wounding happened, the more it will control me. My wounded child will especially assert itself when I reach midlife (35 years old for women and 40 years old for men).

Letting Go

After the grieving comes the time to let go. Letting go means saying I am wounded but I have survived. I set myself free from the shackles of survival living. I expect blessings to come out of my woundedness.


I will count my blessings and remember my consolations. I will not play helpless, nor resort to punishing the injurer. I will not take revenge.

But I can't possibly find my consolations nor count my blessings if I didn't face my sorrows first. The road to the wonder child is through the wounded child. And it's a one-way road. No shortcuts.

Balancing the scales is the turnaround of the forgiving process. I won't just say Done or Move on because it means Just take it, Just grin and Bear it, I'm helpless. Nor will I punish the injurer and exclaim in triumph, See I have control. Nor will I mock-punish the injurer, which is neither healthy. What I'll do is load up on resources and say, See, I'm not helpless.

Setting Free

I will set myself free from the debilitating power of the injurer over me. I will not expect anything. I will not keep the injury in my books. But I will not allow myself to be hurt once again.


Even underserved pain has a reason to happen. I choose to be happy even when I do not fully understand why things have happened.

(Happiness is not a set of conditions. Happiness is a personal decision.)


I will adjust my beliefs about life. I will subscribe adamantly to the forgiveness principle: "There is nothing I cannot ever forgive." I will not stifle the new life and precious learning emerging from the pain and chaos.

Harm comes to everyone; moral contracts cannot prevent it. But a larger purpose (God) has a reason, however mysterious, for injuries that befall people. The test of a person's character is faith -- how well he functions even when he cannot understand God's plan for him.

Why forgive? Because that's how God deals with me!

Moving On

I will continue to believe the beauty of life and the goodness of people. I will not close my heart to my injurer. I will not be selfish with my prayer for him nor be a miser in wishing him well.

This is most probably the reason why I suffered: to learn my lesson and teach others. Why teach? Because if I can't share my experience, it will lose its value.

I know, however, that total and complete healing never happens. There are two kinds of virtues: acquired virtues, which I need to work out, and infused virtues, which I wait for as a work of grace. I know it is never easy to be good. What I want is to grow in virtue, both through my own effort and through the grace of God.

My goal is not total healing, but adequate healing. Aches and pains are the healing moments of life. Life has a way of healing us. That's what we do to diamonds to bring out its sparkle: go through sculpting and intense refining. You and I are all diamonds in the rough.

It's my life -- my own healing journey from slavery to woundedness to the freedom of genuine humility -- in my own wish to set myself free from the protective cage I have built for myself.

I will not allow the devil to continue attacking me through my weakness, like a military commander, a false lover, or a woman who gets at me slow by slow to realize her devious agenda. The demon says Keep your dark secrets, but I will not abide.

But it doesn't mean I have to tell all my secrets. The recipient may not be able to bear it. The rule of life is: Be prudent. Prudence is the governor of all virtues. I will instead open up to those who can: confessors and good psychologists. It's good to keep secrets. We need it for psychological space.

Everyone has a past. But everyone also has a choice.

My Credo

I believe no one was born to hurt another human being.
People hurt each other because they too are victims so...
I will blame you when you hurt me.
But I refuse to hurt you. That's my call.
I love myself. No one can do it for me better than I do.
When you hurt me repeatedly, I will be prudent enough to keep distance from you.
I will still pray for you.
I will continue the good I am doing to you.
That's exposing my other cheek.
It is my choice.
I refuse to sulk.
I will give my pains to Christ that He may continue healing and saving the world.
These are my personal victories.
Each one of them.

I will cherish my memories.
In my joys God celebrates life with me.
In my sorrows God creates new life in me and with me.
I believe deep in my heart that I am never done in my pains.
God shares my pains. By his wound I am healed.
I am a prophet of life.
My deserts shaped my message.
No light is placed under a bed.
I will share my story. (There are no lessons from joyful stories.)

I will love my life. It is much too precious, much too short to waste away.
I will harvest the multicolored blessings
God has strewn in abundance along my path.
I shall believe in myself even when the sun isn't shining.
I have in me all the powers to bounce back.
I am gifted with resilience.
I will be gentle. As much as I could and as far as I can remember, I will hurt no one.
Especially the children.
Only then shall I come out victim no more.
I am still alive.
Despite all the hurts I carry within me, my system is still strong enough to carry the load. I will be thankful for everyday.

My Covenant

I will take care of myself.
I will accept myself just as I am. (So I will be of use to others.)
I will appreciate myself, taking delight in being a special person. (Unity is not uniformity.) (Angels have no soul, so they are not children of God and are not saved by God.)
Jesus has a particular pain just for me.
I will approve myself. I will celebrate my successes and efforts towards positive undertakings.
I will affirm myself, valuing my uniqueness and my gifts. (I don't have to compete.)
I will show affection to myself. I deserve to be loved and cherished. I will embrace myself everyday.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Benedict XVI: God Matters [weblink]

2. Second National Congress of the Clergy Set in 2010 [weblink]

3. Pope Speaks Against Mass Media Sensationalism [weblink]

4. Congressman Bienvenido Abante Jr. Wants to Criminalize Same-Sex Union [weblink]

5. Washington Times Hits Kevin Jennings as Obama's 'Buggery Czar' [weblink]

6. Archbishop Chaput: Manhattan Declaration Will ‘Galvanize’ Christians in Difficult Times [weblink]

7. Dutch MP: Homosexual Sexual Education Should be Mandatory [weblink]

8. Controversial New Study Strongly Links Child Porn Use and Child Abuse [weblink]

9. U.K. Church Could Face Prosecution for Refusing to Ordain Women, Homosexuals: Bishops [weblink]

10. "Life is Short. Have an Affair.": Toronto Transit System Rejects Adultery-Promoting Ad [weblink]

11. New Jersey's Same-Sex Marriage Bill Paused [weblink]


"The perfection of a Christian consists in mortifying his will for the love of Christ. Where there is no great mortification, there is no great sanctity." - St. Philip Neri

Friday, December 11, 2009

On True Love

Just want to share this short forwarded message from our e-group on the meaning of true love.

The birth of Jesus reflects the truth that love is a choice and a commitment. You choose to love or you choose not to love.

Today we've bought into this myth that love is uncontrollable, that it's something that just happens to us; it's not something we control. In fact, even the language we use implies the uncontrollability of love. We say, "I fell in love," as if love is some kind of a ditch. It's like I'm walking along one day and bam! - I fell in love. I couldn't help myself.

But I have to tell you the truth - that's not love. Love doesn't just happen to you. Love is a choice and it represents a commitment.

There's no doubt about it, attraction is uncontrollable and arousal is uncontrollable. But attraction and arousal are not love. They can lead to love, but they are not love. Love is a choice.You must choose to love God; he won't force you to love him (Deuteronomy 30:20). You can thumb your nose at God and go a totally different way. You can destroy your life if you choose to do that. God still won't force you to love him. Because he knows love can't be forced.And this same principle is true about your relationships: you can choose to love others, but God won't force you to love anyone.

"That you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Deuteronomy 30:20 (NIV)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wandering Soul's Journey with Courage

This is Wandering Soul's journey with us. He works in the city far away from home and family. All this time he feels alone and lonely in his SSA struggle until he found us through this blog. You need not to wander anymore. You're home.

Ang testimonyang ito ay testimonya ng isang bagong pagsisimula sa aking paglalakbay; paglalakbay na hindi na nag-iisa, paglalakbay na may mga kasama sa landas ng Panginoon. Nakilala ko ang Courage sa mga oras na nahuhulog na ako sa mundong hindi ko alam kung saan ako dadalhin. Nag-iisa ako, natatakot, walang kasama, nahihirapang magtiwala, nagkukulong sa sariling mundo, naghahanap ng mga taong makakaunawa sa struggle na pinagdadaanan ko.

Gusto kong labanan ang nararamdaman ko pero hindi ko alam kung paano. Nahihirapan akong aminin sa sarili ko na may SSA ako pero alam kong nahuhulog na ako. Nagdadasal ako kung paano pero hindi alam kung anong sagot ang maririnig. Naging addicted ako sa pornography sa internet dahil ito lang ang naging libangan ko sa pag-iisa ko. Alam kong kahit saan ay naroon ang tukso pero kahit saan pala ay naroon din ang Panginoon. Ginamit niya ang internet para makilala ko ang Courage. Alam kong sagot ito ng Diyos sa mga dasal ko.

Sa Courage ko naramdaman ang pagtanggap na hinahanap ko. Una, ang pagtanggap ulit sa akin ng Diyos bilang kanyang anak. Naramdaman ko ulit ang pagpapatawad ng Diyos pagkatapos ng mahabang panahon na nalalayo ako sa kanya. Pangalawa, naramdaman ko ang pagtanggap ng mga kapatid ko sa Courage. Ang sarap ng pakiramdam na hindi pala ako nag-iisa at nakakilala ako ng mga taong hindi huhusga sa akin. Wala pa akong dalawang buwan sa Courage sa mga oras na ito at hindi alam kung ano pang mga pagsubok ang haharapin ko pero masaya ako na may mga kasama ako sa laban ng buhay. Hindi ko alam kung kelan ko mararamdaman ang healing from SSA. Mukhang mahirap pero kakayanin naman. Naniniwala pa rin ako na kung imposible sa tao eh posible naman sa Diyos. Tuloy pa rin ang buhay at nandiyan parati ang Diyos. I am the wandering soul and I found refuge in Courage.

“O Diyos, ako’s siyasatin, alamin ang aking isip. Subukin mo ako ngayon, kung ano ang aking nais; Kung ako’y hindi dapat, ito’y iyong nababatid, sa buhay na walang hanggan, samahan mo at ihatid.” – Salmo 139:23-24

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prayer and Fasting to Fight Pornography

A couple of days or so ago, our spiritual director's community, Anawim, formally launched the Prayer and Fasting to Fight Pornography Movement or PFFP as an initiative to counteract and fight the evil of pornography, and what a better way to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (which we are celebrating today) than to commit to this initiative for ourselves and for others struggling with porn. There is a war that the Evil One is waging against us in the privacy of our own home and the demon's name is internet pornography. Today more than ever, with internet so readily accessible to anyone anytime, there is a greater temptation to indulge in this vice.

The Porn Stats

To give you an overview of how big the porn industry is, check out these facts:

Average number of pornographic e-mails received by each user per day

Websites featuring child pornography

4.2 million
Number of pornographic sites on the internet, approximately 12 percent of all websites

68 million
Daily internet searches for pornographic terms

72 million
Individual visitors to pornographic websites each month

1.5 billion
Pornographic downloads each month from “peer to peer” file-sharing websites

2.5 billion
Pornographic e-mails sent each day

2.84 billion
Annual sale, in dollars, of online pornographic products and services in the United States

4.9 billion
Annual sale, in dollars, of online pornographic products and services

5 billion
Estimated number of work hours lost to cyberporn in America each year; 70 percent of porn-site traffic occurs between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

[Compiled by Gerald Korson from the Internet Filter Review (IFR) and other online sources.]

Isn't it staggering? Porn is a billion dollar business! That's more than enough money to address world hunger. This post is so timely. Just a few days ago, The Family Research Council has released a major study on the devastating effects of porn on individual users, marriages, and children. The study was conducted by Pat Fagan, Senior Fellow at FRC and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion and here are his findings:

Findings on Harm to Individual Users:

* Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate of this addiction.
* Users tend to become desensitized to the type of pornography they use, become bored with it, and then seek more perverse forms of pornography.
* Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity.
* Prolonged consumption of pornography by men produces stronger notions of women as commodities or as "sex objects."

Findings on Harm to Marriages:

* Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.
* Pornography use is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.
* Among couples affected by one spouse's addiction, two- thirds experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse.
* Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.

Findings on Harm to Children:

* Pornography engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births.
* Child-sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution.
* Pornography eliminates the warmth of affectionate family life, which is the natural social nutrient for the growing child.

Why Prayer and Fasting?

I will let Fr. Christopher Weldon do the explaining here on the biblical basis of using prayer and fasting in fighting evil. In one NCRegister article , Fr. Weldon explains thus:

"By giving up what is good (food) to receive what is better (grace), we fight what is bad (pornography)."

"This is the key to the message of fasting to fight pornography," Father Weldon continued. "When we realize porn is a demon, we see how much easier it is to defeat through fasting. This is not something we've come up with on our own. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how to drive out the demon. He even gives us an example through his own fasting in the desert as he faces the devil with all his temptations."

The fast consists of one full meal a day, with two small snacks that don't equal a second meal. For starters, Father Weldon recommends fasting every third Tuesday of the month.

Wryly observing that fasting without prayer is just "food deprivation," Wagner said, "I also make sure I attend Mass on Tuesdays and spend extra time in prayer for the pornography issue."

For more information on this simple program, do visit the PFFP website

Get All the Help Possible

Besides prayer and fasting as your primary weapons in this spiritual warfare, you may need other things. You may also need practical tools such as internet filters and accountability software or maybe a support group for porn addicts. You may need support and counseling from your local pastor/priest or professional therapist especially if you are in a complicated situation involving your marriage or family. There are websites and blogs on the internet where you can find helpful information and tools, or an online porn recovery program even.

Addicted To Porn

I myself am struggling with porn. My support group knows about it. My spiritual director knows it. In fact, every time I go to our monthly confession, it's always there at the top of my list. It's a vicious cycle and it seems like nothing is happening. I almost feel like giving it up.

But God is truly merciful. For the past two months I did not act out nor seek out internet pornography. I can almost hear Fr. Dan break out in hallelujah.

You might ask what's the big deal about being sober from porn for two months? Well, for me it means a lot and it is a major battle I am continuing to win day by day with the help of God's grace. You see, I'm not your occasional internet user. I work with computers and I am online basically the whole day and sometimes extending to evening - all that in the privacy of my own room. Temptation is just a mouse click away and once I give in it's hard to stop.

Recovery from sexual addiction is not an event; it is a journey. Although I am gaining some grounds in overcoming porn addiction, I know that I cannot be complacent because I am weak and in constant need of help. I must confess that I am still struggling with masturbation and sexual fantasies - mental images that are stuck in my memory from years of looking at porn. Yes, be careful little eyes what you see because those erotic images stay lodged in your brain for many years after viewing it.

Spread the Word

Link up the PFFP website to your blog, facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. and spread the message of hope to as many people as you can. Together, let us pray and fast to fight pornography.

"This kind can only be driven out by prayer and fasting." - Mark 9:29

Sunday, December 6, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Suffering Can Benefit the Church, Says Pope [weblink]

2. Cardinal: Statement on Gays Was Misrepresented [weblink]

3. Gays, Lesbians to Hold 'Pride March' in Manila [weblink]

4. Michigan Abortion Facility Advertizes Abortion as "Sacred Work" [weblink]

5. N.Y. Lawmakers Vote Against 'Same-Sex Marriage' [weblink]

6. Judge Bars Same-Sex Marriage from Taking Place in Argentina [weblink]

7. The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting [weblink]

8. New Major Study Catalogues How Porn Harms Marriages, Children, Communities and Individuals [weblink]

9. New Research Attempts to Question the Negative Effects of Pornography [weblink]

10. Priestly Advice Online [weblink]


"If you are bored with life, if you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don't have enough goals." - Lou Holtz

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happy One's Journey with Courage

This is Happy One's journey with us. I honor this guy's commitment and determination to face his issues by undergoing the Living Waters Program (now you know why I used the boat imagery and the lake above? just kidding). This guy is also one of the courageous brothers who braved the deep murky flood waters on a wooden banca to distribute relief goods to one of our brother's relatives trapped in their home at the height of Typhoon Ondoy deluge. Now, that's the real reason why I put on the boat above. - to keep that spark of courage burning and alive in your heart. Stay happy.

I thought I have only two options. My first option is to suppress my feelings and the desire to enter into an intimate relationship with the same sex and live according to what I believe is morally good – a life of misery and bitterness. My second option is to tolerate my feeling, look for a same-sex partner and live together setting aside the Christian values and beliefs I have learned – a life stricken with guilt.

I never knew that I still have the third option and that is to understand why I am having this same sex attraction and how I am suppose to deal with it in a Christian way – a life of continuous healing in restoring the true masculinity perfectly designed by God since the beginning of time.

My Courage family opened this third option to me and I felt good. It gave me new hope and a sense of direction in life that would draw me closer to God.

After joining the group, I have come to realize that I need others in my struggle with the same sex attraction. I thought before that I can treat it on my own. Perhaps it is because I have no one to talk to that could connect with me even with my closest friends who knew about my struggle. I am thankful to know that I met and gained new friends that support each other in our fight to live a Christian life amidst the gender insecurities we all have.

Indeed, my life after joining Courage started to become a healing journey. It started from defining who I really am and it happened on my first meeting with my Courage brother. I once labeled myself as bisexual, a better term (for me) than being labeled as gay. Since this is how I defined myself, I embrace the lifestyle and engage myself into various sexual encounters with men, cybersex, porn and masturbation. I was hooked to it and none of my friends then knew it. It was a life hidden from my family as well. However, when I joined my Courage family, the first thing that I learned is that my attraction with the same sex does not define my total being. When my Courage brother revealed this to me, I was taken aback for all along I never knew it. All the while I thought homosexuality defines me and I could not accept it. I hated myself for it and I carried this hatred all throughout my life. Realizing that I can be who I want to be regardless of my attraction with the same sex was liberating.

Then as if perfectly planned, I just found myself discovering and understanding where I am coming from that leads me into having attraction with men. Through my support group, I was able to join the Living Waters program, a program for sexually and relationally broken people. From there, I discover further the other issues in my life that I still yet to resolve in order for the healing process to take place in my life.

My healing journey continues as I began now to acknowledge the different issues where I am struggling like pornography and masturbation and my relationship with my father. I have to admit that living a chaste life as I am called for is not really easy. It even becomes more difficult because I have to confess it to the group. It is necessary to bring it to the light what I did in the dark for I know what is willfully hidden God cannot heal. My Courage brother always reminds me of this and he always encourages me to be rigorously honest with the group.

Healing could be a lifetime process but as long as I am with God and I have a community that I can trust and would support me all throughout my journey, I will remain at peace. With Courage, I know I am home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On The Christopher West Controversy

This is a letter of support from Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop Kevin Rhoades for Christopher West, founder and speaker of the Theology of the Body Institute in reference to the criticisms of conservative Catholic writers on his "unconventional" style of interpreting and preaching the writings of the late Pope John Paul II on Theology of the Body. After all that have been said against Mr. West, it is only fair to hear his side of the story. Thanks Fr. Dan for sending me these links.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, as Chairman of the Episcopal Advisory Board for the Theology of the Body Institute and as local ordinary of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia where the Institute is located, and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Christopher West's local ordinary in the Diocese of Harrisburg, have stated that they are pleased to express strong support for the important work of the Theology of the Body Institute and, in particular, that of Christopher West.

We are convinced that John Paul II's Theology of the Body is a treasure for the Church, indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time. Yet, its scholarly language needs to be "translated" into more accessible categories if the average person is to benefit from it. To do this is the specific mission of the Theology of the Body Institute, and we believe that Christopher West, the Institute's popular lecturer and spokesman, has been given a particular charism to carry out this mission. With great skill as a presenter, with keen insight as a thinker, and with profound reverence for the mystery of human sexuality, he has been able to reach thousands in our sexually wounded culture with the Gospel of salvation in Christ.

In light of recent discussions, we are happy to state our full confidence in Christopher, who continues to show great responsibility and openness in listening carefully to various observations and reflections on his work and in taking them into account. He and the Theology of the Body Institute are in communication with us, their local ordinaries. They work with our episcopal blessing. In our view their programs, courses, and materials reflect strong fidelity to the teaching of the Church and to the thought of Pope John Paul II. As such, we consider them of superb value for promoting the New Evangelization.

We sincerely hope that Christopher will continue his much needed work in the Church. He does so with our enthusiastic encouragement. It is also or hope that more and more men and women -- priests, deacons, religious and laity alike -- will avail themselves of the valuable training and resources offered by the Theology of the Body Institute.

August 10, 2009

Cardinal Justin Rigali
Archbishop of Philadelphia

Most Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades
Bishop of Harrisburg

To read more on Zenit's interview with Christopher West, please click the links below:

Sex and the Journey of Redemption (Part 1)

Sex and the Journey of Redemption (Part 2)