Looking Back . . . Looking Forward

As another year ends . . . and a new one begins Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends the Examen as an essential part of one's daily spiritual activities. The Ignatian Examen is usually done at the end of the day before one retires for the night. The exercise is for one to look back at the events of the day to see how God manifested His presence to him and how he reacted, to meditate on them, to be grateful for them, and to plan for the following day. Financial and other organizations make a yearly review of their operations, looking at the strengths and weaknesses, and to develop strategies for more success or improvement the following year. The year 2018 saw milestones, events, happenings,

The Proto Martyrs

I had thought that Saint Stephen, one of the first seven deacons, was the first martyr who was killed for witnessing to Christ. His feast day is the day after Christmas. On my way to Mass this morning December 28, I realized that it was the hundreds of babies put to death by Herod who were the very first martyrs killed in place of and on account of the Baby Jesus. The Church's Book of Martyrology lists a lot more Christians from the early centuries who willingly offered their lives for their faith in the Lord Jesus. Many more are being added as saints are declared so through canonization, like the Philippines' own Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod. The thousands of Christians who were put to

"Happy Holidays"? ...

or "Putting Christ Back in Christmas" I was at a neighborhood Filipino grocery store making a last-minute pick-up of some ingredients for a traditional native dish for Christmas Eve dinner. There were more shoppers than usual and the cashier was very happy ringing the purchases in her cash register. She was all smiles to each customer as she gave their receipt saying "Happy Holidays" in a cheerful voice. When my turn came to pay for my purchases, I wondered if she would say "Happy Holidays" to me, too. She did. And then I found myself answering: "Merry Christmas!" "I would have preferred that. We are still Filipinos," I added. The next customer behind me immediately commented in support:

Why the Word Became Flesh *

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us –“ (John 1:14) Today, Christmas Day, is the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today we again celebrate His coming about 2018 years ago, in a small town in Israel called Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread,” where He was placed, not in an expensive crib in a royal palace, but in a manger, or a feeding trough for animals, in a lonely stable. This is the story of the first Christmas, which we all know by heart. This event when God entered human history in time as a human baby is the highest expression of God’s infinite love for us: God, the Creator of the Universe becoming man to dwell with us in a visible form on this ear

"Pie Iesu" (Merciful Jesus)

There is something in songs and hymns in Latin that often catches the interest even of people who do not have much familiarity (or none at all) with the revered official language of the Catholic Church for centuries. Recently a close relative of mine who has left the Church suddenly started singing the first couple of lines of "Pie Iesu" and ended with "sempiternam." I was pleasantly surprised. I figured he felt the beauty of the music but without necessarily going into the lyrics' translation, history and meaning. "Pie Iesu" definitely is beautiful music. It was composed in fairly recent years by Andrew Webber, someone who is obviously steeped in the traditional language of the Church in i

"You were there . . . You are there . . ."

There are times when some come across a song whose words and music simply touch them and find out they are what they have been thinking of and praying about all the while. Such is the song "You Were There" by Libera and sung by the Libera Boys Choir and found on YouTube. It has touched me immensely. The composer of the song must have been one whose life inspired him to write the lyrics and put it into such beautiful plaintive music. I like the beginning: "You were there," the middle: "You are there, and more so its ending: "Stay with me through the dark, and bring me home." The time frame covers the beginning and the earthly end of man's existence . . . and then ends with home, the home tha

Libera's Sounds of Music

Music, it is said, is the universal language. It is the language of the heart, of the soul. When one discovers a special kind of music that appeals to him, it's like finding a hidden treasure, or a precious pearl. My discovery of the music of "Libera," a boys choir from England, on YouTube is something that I feel I must share. It is amazing how beautiful music can touch your heart, lift up your spirits, and put you in a prayerful, meditative mood, especially when you are alone preparing to retire for the night. Such is the music of the "Libera" young singers. Not only the lyrics, not only the music of the songs, but also the beautiful angelic voices of the boys, singing apparently effortle

"What has happened to our country, General?"

Right before the imposition of the infamous martial law in the Philippines in 1972, after the bombing of a political meeting, the vice president of the country, who was among those injured, asked a general who had rushed to his side and asked him:"What has happened to our country, General? This made headlines in the national press. Nowadays, with the internet with its worldwide and instantaneous reach, we see and hear reports of events and happenings in our world, both good and bad. The preponderance of bad news is very evident, such that our present culture is often called the culture of death, where so-called "political correctness" is imposed even to those unwilling and consider it wrong

San Diego, San Isidro, and the Woman

At the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day Mass at St. Mary's basilica, the celebrant-homilist recounted the story of the simple Aztec Indian convert Juan Diego who made a daily trek over a mountain, Tepeyac Hill, to attend Mass. To him our Lady appeared and gave an important mission with a miraculous sign of winter roses and her image mysteriously imprinted on his burlap tilma. I remembered San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of my old hometown parish. San Isidro was a farmer whose first activity of the day was to attend early morning Mass before he went to the field to work. San Isidro's story does not include a specific appearance to him by our Lady but all churches have an image of hers and

The Ignatian Daily Examen and the Stoic Art of Journaling

One who is familiar with the Daily Examen, also called the "Ignatian Examen," or simply "The Examen," won't fail to see significant similarities with some tenets of Stoic philosophy, specifically the Art of Journaling. One fundamental difference, however, is that the Ignatian Examen is rooted in the individual's relationship with God, while the Stoics were pagan philosophers and the Art of Journaling focuses on the self but including the relationship with others. The website "Ignatian Spirituality" defines it: "The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice

"We Are Pregnant!"

Some years ago a family friend, standing beside his young bride at a party, called everyone's attention and announced excitedly: "We are pregnant!" In the divine scheme of things, new human life is created with a father and a mother. However, only women are given the singular privilege of carrying this new life, a baby, within her body for some time until she brings forth this new human being into the world. For all that is involved in her pregnancy -- the caring, the protecting, the nurturing of this baby, the pain involved in its delivery, and the joyful anticipation of her child's coming, mothers deserve all the love, appreciation and honor they can get. Mothers indeed are precious! Whe

Offering Peace

(A Reflection at the Start of Advent) The peace greeting (Sign of Peace or "Peace be with you") is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful words we say and gestures we make to one another, though very briefly (less than 30 seconds), at Mass. The greeting is full of meaning and is addressed, not only to those within the range of our arms, if we are offering a handshake or a hug, or within the range of our sight in front, at our back and at both sides of us, if we are signifying it with a nod or a smile. The peace greeting is meant for all, including those who are not present. In many cases, especially to those with whom we are not at peace wherever they may be. The peace that we are offering i