Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fatal Attractions

“So how do you assess your situation?” the elderly priest asked the teenager.

“What do you mean, Father,” she said, quite puzzled at the unexpected question of the priest.

“I mean,” the priest cleared his throat and started explaining, “after everything you’ve said about yourself and your struggles, shouldn’t you make personal assessment regarding how you are as God’s daughter, as a daughter of your parents and as a friend of your classmates.”

“Well, I guess…,” she rolled her eyes finding it hard to find the right words. “Well…, ah…, I guess all these tell me that I’m gay,” she shrugged her shoulders and sighed with relief for letting out something weighing her down.

“Why do you say so?” the priest gave her an understanding look.

“…I suppose it’s because I’m attracted to girls?” she responded.

“Are you affirming that or are you asking me to answer that for you?”

“I’m sorry, Father,” she giggled. The priest was happy to see that she was more relaxed and trusting now. “No, I mean, I’m gay because I’m attracted to the same sex.”

“And how is something so humanly natural as being attracted supposed to be defining of one’s sexual orientation or shall we say, confusion since the ‘gay option’ isn’t a choice that resolves one’s psychological-emotional turmoil?”

“But… I thought…,” her face revealed a rather new expression of interest, of hope.

“Yes, it means that it’s pretty unfair and unfortunate to let our natural attractions be some sort of definitive identification stamp for many of our richest human experiences. It’s like entering a hall of mirrors in a carnival where one sees his image transformed in various ways and comes out with the distorted image remaining in him.”

“Do you mean attraction isn’t bad, Father?”

“Of course not! Everyone, especially during his or her adolescence may feel certain indeterminate affections that make one feel attracted to the same sex.”

“Indeterminate?” she asked.

“That means an unsure or unclear emotional experience. It’s only natural for us to be attracted. Man’s attraction is always inclined towards what is good. The problem stems in confusing or defining such attractions towards persons in a sexual way. This happens when one’s attraction becomes an obsession which may then lead to sexual desires.”

“I think I’m beginning to understand…,” she said listening more intently.

“This experience, which shouldn’t really be problematic, can become one when it results with fear in the person. In this confusion, he may conclude that it is something abnormal or even sinful. He becomes reluctant to ask his parents for advice, afraid to be misunderstood in something hard to express. Moreover, the condition is compounded when his ‘tendency’ is confirmed by a host of available sources found in peers, readings and social networks over the Internet. All these invite the confused person into the bandwagon of homosexuality.
“You mean, false homosexuality, Father?”

“Precisely! It is false because one is led to misread his attraction towards noble human qualities in another person, such as talents in sports, arts, academics and even in virtues like loyalty and diligence.”

“I now understand you perfectly, Father,” the girl said quite enlightened. “But what should I do now to gradually reshape and form my attraction and emotions in order to avoid their deforming me?”

“Before anything else, they don’t distort us. Rather, it is applying our wrong interpretation of them to ourselves that mold us in a distorted fashion. In order to properly address these tendencies, one has to pray about these God-given feelings and ask the Lord for purity of heart and intention. This way, one is more aware of them, to channel them properly and turn them into something positive.”


“Yup. For example, instead of simply getting lost in such fatal attractions, one can thank God for having given good things to others. We can also be thankful about our own talents and share them with others, etc.”

“I think that’s a pretty good advice that I will try to practice,” she said.

“Then, couple this with frequent confession and spiritual guidance. Thus, one is helped to deepen his convictions in purity, magnanimity and generosity of the heart.”

“I’ll take note of them in our next chat, Father,” she smiled.

“Of course, it is also good to enrich and increase your social dealings. Widen the base of your friends, with boys and girls. Discern what is positive in each one and what good you can share in your friendship with them.”

“…but, like you said, Father, it would mean my being a good friend of Jesus first,” she concluded.
“Well, I guess so. Everything definitely boils down to that. Amen.” the priest said.

*Helpful sources on this topic.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on the Human Person, regarding certain questions in sexual ethics, and Letter regarding the pastoral attention of homosexuals, 1-X-1986.

Gerard van den Aardweg, Battle for Normality: A Guide for Self-Therapy for Homosexuality, IGNATIUS PRESS SAN FRANCISCO, PHILIPPINE COPYRIGHT, 1998 by Ignatius Press, First Year of Publication, 1993, Reprinted in the Philippines by National Book Store, Inc. by Special Agreement with Ignatius Press" in collaboration with Theological Centrum (Manila)
Jutta Burggraf Letter to David, Understanding and Helpingthe Male Homosexual, Originally published as Cartas a David Acerca de la Homosexualidad, © Ediciones Palabra, S.A.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


“Father, is scandal a sin?” Philip, a third-grade student, asked.

“Why do you ask?” I inquired further to know how to properly respond to his unexpected question.

“Oh, just wonderin’ ‘coz mum said I shouldn’t ask her scandalous questions,” he shrugged his shoulders.

“Questions? Like what, Philip?”

“Like, I asked what ‘virgin’ means ‘coz my other classmates mentioned it,” he looked at me confidently hoping I could give him some answers.

“Really? What did mum say?”

“She said sumthin’ ‘bout the Virgin Mary and...,”

“But what do you and your friends understand by virgin, Philip?” I interrupted him.

“Father,” he gave me a wide cute smile that revealed his two missing front teeth, “does it mean never been kissed before?”

Philip is amusingly just beginning to acquaint himself with some of life’s moral realities. It is, however, so timely to once again remind ourselves about the important moral principles regarding scandal. This is especially true in our days when the illness of moral relativism leads many to disregard the causes and grave consequences of a scandal. Moreover, this subjective outlook is making something distastefully sinful into something disgustingly fashionable.

The Greeks called skandalon an object (e.g. a rock or log) intentionally placed in someone else’s path in order to trip him or block his way. Latin takes from the Greek and defines scandalum in the moral sense of a “trap” or “temptation” laid for someone. Present times have somewhat watered down these ideas by focusing more on the public outrage or disapproval towards a misconduct of person.

God created man in His image and likeness. This is the source of every person’s dignity. This is why Jesus strongly denounced scandal as a grave sin. In Mathew’s Gospel, He taught that whoever causes a scandal –especially when it corrupts the young and innocent– should have “a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes scandal under the offenses against the Fifth Commandment. It is “an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbour’s tempter... Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.” (Catechism no. 2264)

The malice of a scandal isn’t something confined only to the moment of damaging a person’s spiritual integrity. By committing a scandal, one can “kill or harm” his neighbour’s soul by leading him to either die or be wounded by sin. It also can deform the person’s conscience and weaken his capacity to reject future temptations.

These principles uphold the right every person has to treasure his or her personal integrity and dignity. This also includes people who may be responsible for or involved in the scandal itself when their humiliating acts are unjustly and viciously revealed or published without their prior consent.

Today, however, the confusion brought about by moral relativism has made such lamentable events rather trendy: this could be called iScandals. This are personalized and intentionally marketed scandals for the public to rabidly consume. Hosts of iScandals “earn”, so to speak, their daily bread through their sensual movie scenes, coloured green talk shows, and vulgar radio interviews and gossips.

I personally find the outrage of those involved in iScandals bizarre –at least only at the beginning– because I wonder what difference there is between what they scandalously project in their public performances (i.e. their immodest films, indecent dances, poor songs and green jokes) and their hidden scandalous acts. Obviously, it would be that they too have a right to be respected in their privacy and intimacy.

Later on, as though nothing ever happened, they continue to scandalize the public. Their prior sentiments of anger and shame –definitely genuine feelings for being unjustly betrayed and used– fade and are converted into tolerance. Anyway, it seems their past exposé has helped them to gain more media mileage.

The reaction of public authorities was likewise inconsistent. They had to wait for something big before they “seriously” try to implement –at least on paper– laws and regulations penalizing the reproduction and sale of such “sex scandals”. But they seem to continue to overlook the constant flow scandals in the form of adult films shown in many family centers, the indecent billboards that litter our streets and buildings, the many T.V. and radio ads. These are totally demeaning of family and social values.

We, as citizens are also partly indifferent, because our sympathy for the “victims” only reaches the level of the sentiments. We are never too determined to make our respective communities more decent and modest society. This occurs when we continue to support, tolerate and not complain against the vicious intrusions of promoters of “daily” iScandals who abuse the intimacy of our family and social circles by portraying a bastardized image of human love, the marriage and friendships in their movies, advertisements, radio shows and interviews.

Let us bring these present “scandalous” events to prayer and personal examination. The smallest resolutions can already bring about the biggest conversions in our families and society. For example, our resolve not to watch certain noontime programs and shows. This also means not supporting the advertisers and sponsors of such shows. We can also complain in a short letter to editors and publishers about the inconvenient things they publish. We can refrain from buying the products and merchandise of fashion lines and beverages who have no other “method” than to sell their products at the expense of personal decency and integrity.

Through these and many similar examples we become, iPerson or one who upholds and lives according to the dignity of being children of God.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Smoking No, Sex Yes!”

Last July 1, 2008 marked a victorious milestone for anti-smoking advocates. On that day, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9211 banned cigarette ads on television, radio and print in our country.

This significant legislation seeks to radically arrest the health risks that smoking brings to many especially the youth. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 80,000 to 100,000 young people, half of which are from Asia, who pick up the habit every day. And many are strongly influence by cigarette advertisements.

Cigarette manufacturers will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to advertise and sell cigarettes. They have come a long way since the Second World War, –through carefully studied and manipulated marketing–, in converting smoking into something socially acceptable and a status symbol for successful men and women. Now all their efforts are going up in smoke!

Many parents will be more than overjoyed to say goodbye to the scenic and breathtaking ads of Marlboro Country and the enticing sportive worlds of Winston Cigarettes and Philip Morris.
Elders can now sit back and relax as another harmful influence is removed from their children’s path towards physical and psychological growth. Indeed, it would be a consolation to think of a new generation of children who will be fortunate enough to be born and raised in a smoke and nicotine-free world.

Still something seems amiss! As the smoke is cleared and the tar is brushed away, society seems to be unaware –or even indifferent in some public sectors– of the vicious and shameless invasion of indecency and immorality seething through both subtle and glaring modes through many billboards, advertisements, newspapers and magazines.

Imagine overhearing parents –coming out of a movie or after seeing an ad on T.V. and magazines– saying: “That was a great show! No one was smoking!” On the other hand how strange it would be for them to say, “The kissing and necking were really so romantic!” or “The bed scene was so realistic!” and worse, “Kids, don’t you think the young lady acted quite naturally wearing nothing?” If you think these reactions are only imaginary, you can think again.
It won’t be long before they become a reality in the form of increasing subtle attacks against the family’s intimacy and values.

For example, are we going to keep on guessing what GUESS conveys with its children’s fashion frequently displayed back-to-back with an adult counterpart? Are they saying they want to ‘start ‘em young’? Do you think that MOSSIMO, FOLDED & HUNG or BENCH are simply going to warm the benches by copying GUESS? Nope, they’re not. It’s all about competition, even to the point of playing ‘hard-ball’ with their soft-erotic billboards. Were you hoping that some Filipino teen idol or heartthrob could be our children’s model or heroine? Think again! Heroes never really get paid for being movie heroes until they start to publicly display the skin underneath the costume.

All these audio-visual moral garbage are polluting every inch of intimacy in our personal, social and religious spheres. Perhaps, advertisers and producers hope that the faint but intense bombardment of such type of ads and trends will gradually paralyze and eventually ruin the person’s moral defenses and remove from his vocabulary words like modesty and decency. These well crafted sensual ads and messages are among the many causes of today’s moral and social cancers degrading the dignity of the family and the youth.

In order turn around the red tide of indecency invading our society, parents, educators and children must first overcome the great obstacle of indifference. We cannot simply remain silent and wait for “what the Church has to say” or “what the authorities will do”.

We must strive to be the moral catalysts within our respective social spheres where we may exercise a certain amount of authority or influence (i.e. clubs, organizations, committees, etc.). This can positively begin at home, where we sow the proper ingredients of decency, modesty, sincerity and diligence. Our approach must be productive, for example, fostering the good use of time, having a sense of service, and helping kids to be sincere and loyal.

Afterwards, we have to study possibilities on how to extend our influence from the family towards broader social circles (i.e. school, office, malls and recreational centers). This can be done by writing letters to the board of directors, marketing heads, and even complaining to the local authorities so that the dignity of the person and the family are respected and promoted in every social level.

Finally, our concern must be constant and optimistic. Our efforts aren’t really meant to totally remove immoral pollutants from our world –since the devil, the world and the flesh will always attempt to lure man away from God– but it would already be a great victory for our children to develop the strength to say “no” to temptation and sin, and “yes” to loving God and neighbor more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spiritual Hyperlinks

One day God went to check Heaven’s pearly gates. He heard them squeaking badly and wanted to see if St. Peter had already oiled them. When He reached the gates He was not only surprised to see Peter –as usual– sleeping on the job, but also the gates left ajar. Every now and then they gave out a gentle harmonious squeak when a stray celestial breeze blew by.

“Peter, wake up!” God said trying to control Himself. “Didn’t I ask you to watch over the gates and oil them?”

“Uh? [HO-HUM] Ah…ehhr…,” St. Peter tried his best to hide a wide yawn escaping from his mouth. “Yeshh…, I mean, yes, Lord. I’m sorry. I know you’ll be saying something about the ‘flesh and the spirit’ or sumthin’ like that.”

“Never mind, Peter! But why haven’t you oiled them yet?

“[YAAHWN!] I’m sorry, Lord! I was up all night.”

“All night? Doing what?”

“Surfin’ the net…,” he rubbed both eyes trying to focus on the conversation.

“The net? But didn’t I tell you that it only wastes a lot of your heavenly time?”

“I know, Lord. But you should really check out this craze of social networks down there!” Peter said excitedly.

“You mean social not-working?”

“Oh, come on, Lord, just give it a try,” Peter insisted.

“Okay, okay, okay,” God said and took a seat. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

“It’s so easy, all you have to do is click on the links, Lord,” Peter felt proud to be teaching God a thing or two.

God took the mouse and started surfing. “Let’s see, I’m interested in checking out this priest who’s been writing silly articles,” God’s face lighted up with interest. “What did you say his name was again, Peter?”

“Oh, you mean Father so-and-so?” Peter scratched his head.

“Yeah, that one!” God’s concentrated intensely on the page as it started to load.

“Yup, that’s him alright,” Peter said rather blandly.

“You don’t look so excited,” the Lord noticed Peter’s expression.

“Oh, no, no…, except that… Oh, it’s nothing, go ahead, check him right out!”

God clicked on the profile. The browser took a while processing the request, and then suddenly the screen goes blank and the following error popped out: ERROR 404: Unresolved link. Please contact your internet provider.

“Now what’s that supposed to mean,” God was puzzled.

“Oh, nothing really, it’s just that most of the links in his page are broken,” Peter said.

“I thought you said you were working on him the other day,” God frowned at Peter.

“Yes, Lord, but you just have to give me…,”

“Wait, let’s see check out this link that says prayer life…,” God surfed back to the page and clicked on the link. The screen went blank and there was a longer delay this time. “This is taking an eternity,” God remarked. Then the same error popped out.

“He must have something at least,” the Lord said a little concerned.

“Why don’t you try that one that says Related links,” Peter suggested.

“What’s that supposed to be?” the Lord said.

“I don’t know,” Peter shrugged his shoulders.

The Lord clicked on the link and the screen goes blank and the message appears: PROHIBITED PAGE - MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR COMPUTER; TROJAN APPLICATIONS; MATURE CONTENT; ILLEGAL SOFTWARE, etc.

“I’m done with this priest, why don’t you erase his account!” the Lord said.

“Lord, be patient. Give me some time and I’ll figure a way to get his links connected,” Peter begged.

* * *

May the Lord who clicks on the links of our life not find them broken or unfortunately revealing that our hearts and minds are far from Him. The page of our life is the only one we will have. It is something our Lord always reads and it is up to each one to enrich and update that daily page so that we may be able to offer God a new love each time.

God clicks on some aspects of our life not because He’s out to investigate what’s wrong with us. Rather, He does this in order to see how He can help open us to new and fruitful horizons in our piety, sacrifice, good deeds, and above all, how you and I can abide more with His will.

Let us foster a firm resolve to review and improve our spiritual hyperlinks so that they truly link us back to God’s heart. These links are: our prayer, sacrifice, the sacraments, virtues and our sincere love for the souls around us whom we can link back to God’s love.

*Note to reader: HTTP Error 404 is an error message which means that the web page you are looking for cannot be found. The 404 error is also known as "File not found", "Not Found" and "Gone".

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

‘The Sign of Crossing’

JIGSY listened attentively to sister Philomena. Sister was preparing them for their first communion and teaching them what to do upon entering the chapel.
“Now, listen children,” sister waved her hands in the air to get their attention. “What is the first thing you do before entering the chapel?”
“Dip you finger in the Holy Water font and make the Sign of the Cross!” the children answered in chorus.
“Good!” sister Philomena was pleased to see that they remembered what she taught. “Now, remember, don’t make the Sign of the Cross hurriedly, okay?”
“Yes, sister Philomena,” they all replied.
“Sister?” Edmund raised his hand.
“Yes, Edmund?”
“What about Jigsy?”
“What about him, Edmund?”
“Who’s going to cross him?”
“Would you like to do the honors of crossing him?” sister Philomena smiled at Edmund.
“Of course!” was Edmund’s delighted reply. He turned around and winked at Jigsy who was his best friend.
“Any more questions, class?” sister asked.
“Yes,” Kathy asked with a concerned face. “I’m wondering how Jigsy does the Sign of the Cross when no one crosses it for him?”
“Jigsy?” sister looked at the boy who was born without both arms. “Why don’t you tell what Father Elliot taught you the other day?”
“Yes, sister Philomena,” Jigsy said as he stood up. All eyes were turned towards him.
He walked confidently in front of the class. Once in front, he calmly faced his classmates. Then, he took a long deep breath and began explaining.
“Father, Elliot taught me to make the Sign of the Cross this way: ‘God the Father is in Heaven, and so when I say IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, I raise my head and look up to Heaven. Then when I say AND OF THE SON, I look at the ground, because Jesus was born on earth, and OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, I then take a deep breath because the Spirit is like the air that gives us life.”
The entire class became quiet for a few seconds, and Edmund stood up and started applauding his friend. Then everyone, including sister Philomena applauded Jigsy’s unique Sign of the Cross.

* * *

How many lessons we can learn from Jigsy’s childlike faith? The sign of the Cross is not simply a gesture to mark ourselves with hastily as we begin our meals, take an exam or enter the playing field. It is much more than this. It is a sign that reminds us of what we ought to be as our Lord taught: “If anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, daily.” Through it, we brand every fiber of our existence with the presence of Christ: with His life, passion, death and resurrection.
Benedict XVI says that the “most basic Christian gesture in prayer is and always will be the sign of the Cross. (…) The sign of the Cross is a confession of faith: I believe in him who suffered for me and rose again; in him who has transformed the sign of shame into a sign of hope and of the love of God that is present with us. (…) By signing ourselves with the Cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the Cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on. We accept it as a signpost that we follow: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8:34). The Cross shows us the road of life—the imitation of Christ.” (In The Spirit of the Liturgy, April 2006, Ignatius Press)
In our present world heavily dependent on signs and symbols, it is unfortunate that we Christians sometimes lose sight of the significance of this simple yet marvelous sign of our belonging to God. May we treasure it, and realize that this gesture is already both a prayer said and a sacrifice offered to God, and our readiness –as God’s soldiers– to love and serve our neighbor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Flunking to love God

“CONGRATULATIONS, James!” I shook the hand of the brilliant new high school graduate.

“You’re welcome, Father,” he said. He took out a handful of shiny gold medals from his pocket and asked, “Oh, Father. I was wondering if you can bless my medals.”

“Sure!” I was also happy that besides being their school’s valedictorian he also received numerous leadership awards. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…,” I blessed his medals.

“Thanks, Father,” he smiled while pocketing the medals.

“Strange,” I said, “shouldn’t you be wearing them instead of hiding them in your pocket?”

“You’re right, Father,” the medals jingled as he slowly pulled them out again. “But you see, Father, I didn’t get our school’s highest award.”

“What would it be then?” I asked.

“It’s called the Most Distinguished Student Award,” he said while staring blankly at the medals.
“So how’s that supposed to be more special than being valedictorian?” I said shrugging my shoulders.

“It’s supposed to be for the student who has never flunked any subject during his entire high school. So even if you average highest, but had some failing marks then you can no longer deserve such a much coveted award.”

I was trying to figure out in my mind what subject it could have been that James could have failed. The boy was a born winner, except that –it dawned upon me– he wasn’t much into sports. So I asked, “Was it P.E.?”

“That was back in first year when there was no other sport ‘cept basketball,” he gave me a smile expressing that it was something obvious.

“That’s alright dude. Guess you’re dad would have said that…,”

“You can’t have everything,” he completed exactly what I was about to say.

“You got me there, James,” I chuckled.

“Mom and dad understand and are very proud with what I’ve already achieved. Dad just told me to learn from my failures or limitations.”

“You know James?” I said.

“Yeah?” he noticed I was speaking in a more serious tone.

“There’s nothing wrong with flunking in the many good things of life, but we have to know how to flunk out of the bad ones.”

“I don’t get you there, Father,” he frowned at me.

“Let’s say, you expected to get a good grade for a project you really invested a lot of time for. But then in the end you get a low grade because you may have overlooked something. You shouldn’t really worry about this, especially when you’ve done the best you could.”

“Okay, so what?”

“Where you and I should learn and be ready to flunk would be in the things that separate us from God. Since we’re all ‘experts in sinning,’ we ought to aim for getting ‘Fs’ in pride, vanity, anger, greed and lust.”

“Isn’t this approach a bit negative, Father?”

“It may seem like that at first, but flunking out of these vices actually means struggling to get A’s in the virtue oppose to them. It would be wrong to over focus on what one does wrong or what one ought to avoid. It would be more positive and fruitful to consider what good one can concretize each day out of love for God and fellowmen.”

“How about the occasions when our weaknesses do come up once in a while, Father?”

“Well, even though they may seem like failures, they are actually only apparent failures. This is true if the person resolves to immediately go back to God with the humility like that of the Prodigal Son. And he manages to even learn from his mistakes and his conversion becomes more firm and sincere.”

“You mean to say, Father… that…,” he smiled as he came upon a realization.

“Yes, James! That one can really never fail in the spiritual life as long as he struggles with the sincere resolve to begin again, use the supernatural means and to find –like St. Paul– strength and joy in his own weaknesses. In this way, he no longer struggles alone, but always in and with the grace and love of God.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

'Risus Paschalis’

THE expression Easter Laughter (risus paschalis) caught my eyes as I read Benedict XVI’s reflections on the symbolisms of Easter. (Found in his book Behold the Pierced One: an Approach to a Spiritual Christology, which is a collection of Christological meditations and reflections, Ignatius Press. Quoted parts are italicized.) It amused me to learn that in the Baroque period, the Easter homily had to include something to deliberately make the faithful laugh. This was done to invite them to literally express and share the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection.

The history of this unique and interesting tradition is found in the Jewish reflection on the figure of Isaac. The name Isaac contains various meanings which contains the root “laughter”. It refers to the unbelieving laughter of Abraham and Sarah who doubted they could still have a son in their old age, and also their happiness when Isaac was born to them as God promised.

Later on this joyful response was applied to Isaac himself. Isaac did not know that God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son. When he asked his father what they would sacrifice, all he was told was, “God will provide.” Once on the sacrificial pyre Isaac was filled with sorrow. His sad plight, however, was turned to ‘laughter’ when he escaped death after Abraham caught sight of the ram entangled in the thistles and offered the animal instead.

The Church Fathers deepened the implications of these Jewish reflections by applying it to the person of Christ. Jesus was the Lamb caught in the brambles, and who was sacrificed for our sins. He was also like Isaac when He suffered the agony before and during His Passion, and experienced joy (laughter) in His Resurrection when He conquered death, sin and the devil.

Benedict XVI further observes how this idea of being saved by the image of the Lamb is reiterated in the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation. "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain....” Our life, the Pope reflects, would be meaningless and sad if we climb the “mountain of time” [his limited life] “bearing with us the instruments of our own death” [his sinfulness] without any sight to God. At first, man isn’t aware of the dangers that lurk within and without, but as he journeys he then experiences his solitariness and begins to doubt in God and exclude Him from his existence. “(…) talk of ‘God’ is no longer believable, humor dies. In such a case man has nothing to laugh about anymore; all that is left is a cruel sarcasm or that rage against God and the world with which we are all acquainted.”

On the other hand, he says that “the person who has seen the Lamb—Christ on the Cross—knows that God has provided. (…) But this sight of the Lamb—the crucified Christ—is in fact our glimpse of heaven, of what God has eternally provided for us. In this Lamb we actually do glimpse heaven, and we see God's gentleness, which is neither indifference nor weakness but power of the highest order. It is in this way, and only thus, that we see the mysteries of creation and catch a little of the song of the angels—indeed, we can try to join with them, somewhat, in singing the Alleluia of Easter Day. Since we see the Lamb, we can laugh and give thanks.”

We also have to learn how to laugh with God while we live. A man who laughs alone is a sad or a foolish man. Only in God, by possessing Him and trusting in His designs—sometimes beyond our comprehension—will we be able to capture a glimpse and enjoy the divine comedy of our life. It is when we will experience a joyful conversion in life.

Every person’s conversion is a spiritual resurrection in preparation for the final one. This happens each time he turns his gaze at the Lamb—at Christ Resurrected—as he experiences the joys, trials and falls in life. Rising from one’s falls and miseries without seeking for and looking at Christ would be simply a change rooted in personal perfection and pride. It would be an empty and sad conversion.

Thus, Pope Benedict XVI says: “If we comprehend the message of the Resurrection, we recognize that heaven is not completely sealed off above the earth. Then—gently and yet with immense power—something of the light of God penetrates our life. Then we shall feel the surge of joy for which, otherwise, we wait in vain. Everyone who is penetrated by something of this joy can be, in his own way, a window through which heaven can look upon earth and visit it.”

By constantly having Jesus Christ as our point of reference our daily beginnings to be “glimpses of heaven” which will fill our souls with a “joy that the world cannot give”. This will be our source of strength and purification. We shall become “windows of heaven” here on earth through which others can encounter the love, peace and laughter of Christ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

‘Behind the sins’

“FATHER, I don’t understand what this is supposed to mean,” Alfie asked as he entered the room wearing his usual rugged attire and shouldering a faded Jansen knapsack.
“What don’t you understand?” I asked as I offered him a seat.

“This point in the preparation for confession that says, ‘Did I have a disordered desire for independence?’”

“Oh, that one,” I smiled. “It’s a bit vague, isn’t it?”

“Yeah! ‘Sides, when can one say that his independence is disordered?”

“Actually it’s a general way of expressing that we shun the authority of our elders, or that we refuse their kind and caring advice or that we tend to impose our opinions and judgments upon others.”

“Oh, that kind of independence…,” he said scratching his head.

“Of course, there are many other forms of wanting it our way.”

“Then if I do any of these, I would be sinning, right?”

“Well,… I guess so…,” I replied.

“Why don’t you sound so convinced, Father?”

“It’s not that. I’m more concerned that many people would take it easy being satisfied only in knowing whether something is a sin or not.”

“What’s bad about that?”

“It isn’t enough to know what’s a sin or not, but learning to see the face of sin after acknowledging the fact of sin.”

“I don’t quite get you, Father. How’s sin supposed to have a face?”

“The face of sin is the sinner’s face. That means you and I are sinners. The fact would be the objective disordered act. One way of the other, we all have experience sin through our lives. And if it were not for God’s grace, we could commit grave sins.”

“I still don’t get your point, Father,” Alfie frowned.

“It means that we have to take a step beyond the fact that we have simply lied, stolen, gotten angry and judgmental. After the fact of sinning, we must move behind the sins to know and ask ourselves who we have become and what we are going to do when we realize that we have rejected God’s love.”

“Oh, I’ve finally gotten it! You mean, examining ourselves about our sins!”
“Right! We can’t settle for just knowing our sins and what we have become because of them, but we must immediately ask ourselves what we should do in order to change our ‘sinful face.’”
“Do?” he asked.

“Yes, do. This is shown in our determination to show God—even before we may go to confession—our sorrow and desire to make up for our sins. For example, saying a Rosary for having disrespected our parents. Another would be studying harder or offering ourselves to do extra chores for having wasted our time in school or at home. And if you wish, even grounding yourself when you may have fallen into something more serious!”

“Whoa! Grounding myself is quite a load to do,” he exclaimed.

“Yup, but it’s little compared to what our sins do to God who never deserves them.”
“Now, it’s really crystal clear, Father! I’m ready to get behind the sins!”

Monday, March 16, 2009

‘Test Driving Pinoys’

Imagine: A young man enters a shop with huge display windows. Behind the glass panes are not ads or wares for sale. Instead, we see a file of Filipinos clad in different working outfits: a man with overalls, a pretty woman wearing kitchen garb, a young lady sporting household helper apparel.

Be surprised: The young man inquires, “I’m looking for a housewife and a maid. Can I try out the ones you have on display?”

Be shocked: The shopkeeper replies. Of course, sir! The ones out in the display are our best in stock. You may try out the housewife longer to find out if she’s worth the bargain we’re offering. I’m sure you will not be disappointed. As for the maid…”

This scene isn’t as imaginary as you think. In fact, it is repeated in many other forms of human abuse through slavery, prostitution and even imperialism in the case that the store is being run by a foreign company.

Now, are you ready for something real?

This one’s for REAL: [Over the radio] “Apply to be a DUREX CONDOM TESTER! You can get a chance to win 50,000 pesos from the International Condom maker, DUREX! (…) Time and slots are running out if you still want to be one of the 500 testers go to (…) [deadline February 25, 2009]”

As radio blared this ad, I could not help but feel nauseated with this foreign company’s cheap offer. It was not how cheap condoms cost, but how they can be so degrading of the values that we Filipinos cherish: the sacredness of marriage, conjugal love and the dignity of every Filipino and Filipina.

Marriage and Sex are Sacred: Imagine they’re offering 50,000 pesos as a prize! The company fosters the idea that married couples should consider love-making as something profitable and that is, only if you’re lucky enough. When did married love ever become a contest or when did it ever have a price? Asking 500 couples to copulate for money converts the couple’s love into something like paid sex. That’s how dirt-cheap they can get!

Go Guinea Pigs!: Added to this injury is the insulting fact of reducing marriage into an experiment. What’s better for this company’s business than to have “willing test subjects” to try out the sturdiness of their products?

In this survey they want to find out how many condoms get torn or leak in the process. They clinically convert the intimacy of the conjugal act into a casual laboratory procedure by asking afterwards: How many times did you have sex? How many times did you have problems with our products?

And since every experiment has some scope and limitations, they will of course try to prevent the “undesirable effects” of having an “unwanted child” in case their product fails. Will they offer options like a lifetime education scholarship for the child? Or would it be easier, –actually to make matters worse–, to require one condition in order to join the contest, the woman must take abortifacient pills. This way, the “unwanted biological consequences” are dealt with adequately as not to interfere with the experiment. And if all fails, will they recommend aborting the child?
Filipinos Just Want it Easy: This company must think that Filipinos are a nation of pushovers! Just wave a couple of dollar bills in front of their faces and they are easily bought! After all, isn’t our country experiencing hard times? This is just the ripe moment to exploit us into dumping our moral values in exchange for easy money.

No sir! We may be experiencing hard times, but we are not going to accept such a cheap offer in exchange for the sacredness of married life and love, the irreplaceable role of the parents in the education and formation of their children, and the fact that the real Filipino can when it comes to being diligent, generous and honest!

* * *

Unforgettable incident: During the World Youth Day in Sydney of 2008, I was moved by the throngs of youth in their personal pilgrimage to accompany the Holy Father, Benedict XVI.
In that same event, I cannot forget the unfortunate attempts of some individuals and groups –perhaps, in their ignorance of what a World Youth Day is– to encourage the young boys and girls to take the “precaution” of using a condom in case they wanted to get more intimate.
On one such occasion, I overheard someone offering condoms to some visiting pilgrims. I was surprised when an elderly woman in the group totally knocked the condom promoter off his feet with gentleness and concern when she replied, “Young man, you should be thankful that your mom and pop didn’t decide to use that on you!”

* * *

May we not succumb to such an outrageous and insulting call for “false responsibility” and the exploitation of our moral and cultural values! Our country does not need more condoms and pills –these are easy but dehumanizing solutions– that only spawn irresponsibility and promiscuity. It needs an education in virtues –difficult, but more virtuous and human– that will ensure the unity, purity and wholesome development of our families and country.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


“HEY, Dylan!” I called out to the student crossing from the other side of the street.
“Hi, Father!” he waved back and started coming towards me.

“Your exams have finally ended! With a long weekend ahead of you, dude, what are you planning to do?” I asked.

“Whatever, Father,” he shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes to show he was totally uncertain about how to spend his weekend.

“Whatever, what?” I asked even though I understood he was still quite dazed from lack of sleep preparing for his comprehensive exams.

“I really dunno, Father. Whatever, whatever…,” he gave me a zombie-like stare.
“Hey, dude! I know you’re tired, but I believe you can say something better than ‘whatever’.”
“Like what, Father?”

“What about completing the sentence by saying, Whatever God wants?”
He smirked and said, “In that case, Father, I’ll go play Frisbee with my barkada.”

* * *
AMONG the many things that intrigue me—and perhaps, continue to make me feel young—is my exposure to the idealism of the youth. As they mature out of the delicate shell of adolescence, they are motivated to improve the negative elements within the social and cultural fabric they grew from. This ideal is common among those who have been fortunate to experience virtue and good example in their family and other social engagements.

Today, however, more young people are born into families that no longer nurture the values they need in order to mature in virtues. Moreover, the world’s technical and socio-economic wave is drowning them to think within very limited and virtual confines. This is perhaps one reason that it’s hard for them to make choices even in their spiritual life and commitments. But this is not the end of their spiritual itinerary!

St. Josemaría Escrivá, who was a priest who always maintained a youthful outlook taught: “It is not true that everyone today—in general—is closed or indifferent to what our Christian faith teaches about man's being and destiny. It is not true that men in our time are turned only toward the things of this earth and have forgotten to look up to heaven.” (Christ is Passing By, 132) We, therefore, must not be discouraged when it seems that our children are lost in some whatever limbo.

The young, in their daily experience of a topsy-turvy world, are not actually looking for a perfect world with perfect people. Rather, they are searching for an encouraging support in people whose lives are truly anchored in God. If we want them to commit themselves to ‘whatever God wants,’ it will only be the consequence of their witnessing how we strive to consistently and perseveringly do what God wants in and for our lives.

Our rejuvenation is carried out through daily genuine self-sacrifice. This is the unselfish effort of not thinking about our comfort, our time, our money, and our plans. In other words: when our children gratefully experience our availability for them and our readiness to share with them what only we can give from our very hearts and sacrifices. This is not an impossible task, especially when we make the effort to think less of ourselves and more of our children. St. Escrivá says, “All the circumstances of life—those of every individual person's existence as well as, in some way, those of the great cross-roads of history—as so many calls that God makes to men, to bring them face to face with truth, and as occasions that are offered to us Christians, so that we may announce, with our deeds and with our words strengthened by grace, the Spirit to whom we belong.” (Ibid, 132)

This attitude opens our children’s minds and hearts to the grandeur of the things that the material world cannot give: the beauty and consolation of prayer and the sacraments, the strength and fruitfulness of sacrifice, and the fulfilling and lasting mission of making Christ known to many others. This is what really attracts the young to embrace a spiritual ideal: when they experience daily spiritual rejuvenation as we shed our attachment to sin in the crisp and youthfully ‘yes’ of accepting and carrying out whatever God wants.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Unreality Shows

As the reality show Pinoy Big Brother hits yet another season, we are witnessing something that is more than a media flick that manages to successfully distract Filipinos from their country’s socio-economic and political woes. It is morel likely to be an indicator of the low level of personal esteem and integrity in the general audience and consequently greater appreciation for distasteful forms of behavior.

Avid followers of reality shows, as well as hopeful candidates of these programs, may disagree. They may claim, and they are correct to some extent, that such shows actually give people the opportunity to be discovered and become successful. Granted that this is true—at least for the lone winner who takes home all the cash—we may ask ourselves if success or fame is justified when these are attained at the expense of the person’s dignity?

The origins of the Big Brother reality show dates back to 1999 when the Dutch media had the idea of hosting a program to pay tribute to George Orwell’s novel “1984”. The T.V. program recreated Orwell’s concept of the “Big Brother” where the participants’ every move are scrupulously watched and controlled. Since then the concept of reality shows was born and immediately copied by other producers worldwide and fashioned to the idiosyncrasies of their culture.

This was a most ideal show whose unlimited variations assured that the viewing public will never get bored. The setting, the topics, and the people involved did not really matter much as long as –aside from making money roll– the public had their fair share of entertainment. But what form of entertainment?

The idea was to amuse the public by broadcasting real life situations taken from every possible setting such as houses, buses, elevators and even hospitals. But aside from these, reality shows also projected real life situations revealing the most intimate things about the participants. These ranged from talent search for budding artists, match-making situations, real-time coverage of heart attacks, surgeries, interviews with people about their most weird experiences from sex to assassination attempts, etc. All these were meant to give the audience a real dose of life. But again, what kind of life?

A closer scrutiny, however, of reality shows reveals otherwise. In the first place, its producers are not only interested in broadcasting just any particular life setting or individual, but impose a series of rigorous selection processes to come out with the desired “reality”. And it has to effectively catch the audience attention. More often than not this key ingredient is found in the revelation of what is most intimate to the person.

Thus, aside from being disposed to doing or saying anything, the candidates are also chosen from backgrounds that would make them stand out from the usual John Doe or Juan de la Cruz. In other words, if one has traits of deviancy in his or her life, say coming from a dysfunctional family, or being a single parent, a college drop-out or a reformed drug addict, etc. These crucial ingredients of almost every reality show can innocently pass as another unique way of entertainment. But these shows are actually hiding from the audience a bleaker and more disturbing reality: man who is interiorly empty of personal intimacy.

Now, among many of man’s unique traits given by God is his capacity for interior awareness. Only man has the ability to look into himself, and become conscious of a treasure called self-possession. This gift allows him to possess, what we often call an “idea of himself” from which arises his personal identity and dignity. This possession of self also becomes the core of personal intimacy, to which only the person has a right to.

The mass following for reality shows reveals that man is hungry for intimacy, but not what could be found within himself and develop his personal integrity. Instead, he fills his inner void within with the intimate but deviant behavior exposed by some candidates of reality shows. In the process, man becomes emptier than ever because he does nothing more than absord the emptiness of other persons. Moreover, it isn’t just other people’s shallow intimacy, but a distorted intimacy that paves the way for the deconstruction of individual character and identity.

In no time a great multitude of young people who are seeking a piece of something meaningful for their inner selves, are only led to swallow the subtle but deforming examples communicated through reality shows. Thus, premarital relations, indecent speech and behavior, violent gestures and reactions, and the “congratulation of first experiences” of vices such as gambling, masturbation and even drugs, etc. are held to be acceptable forms of indulgence for the youth.

It’s about time for Pinoy Big Brother, as well as any other reality show, to get real by fostering the values and dignity of our Filipino culture! Otherwise viewers are immersed and drowned by the unrealistic portrayal of man’s original dignity and intimacy that God created him to enjoy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

“Spiritual Dictation”

“Father, what is spiritual direction?” the young college engineering student asked.
I rummaged through my mental archives looking for a quick wiki definition. “Well, I guess you could compare it to some sort of spiritual curriculum.”

“A spiritual curriculum…,” he ruminated on the phrase as though trying to digest it as he mumbled to himself.

“Yup, a spiritual curriculum towards a specific identity or make-up that will help you to personally claim ownership over your baptismal vocation.”

“Wow, you mean towards graduating towards my heavenly degree?”

“Well, I couldn’t put it better than that,” I was happy to see that he was catching with the analogy I put forward. “But it shouldn’t straightjacket the Christian into some sort of a dry or dull spiritual life. On the contrary, it serves as a guide which one can personally enrich when he gets familiar with the basic ingredients necessary for his spiritual life.”

“Basic ingredients?” he seemed a little lost. Then without taking his eyes off mine, he pulls out his cell phone from his pocket.

He may have set his device on vibrating mode. I paused in order to give him some space to check his cell. I was, however, impressed that he only glanced at his cell, clicked a key, and looked to me again as his fingers dexterously texted a message.

Having regained his attention I continued. “It can also be compared to wanting to learn how to paint.”

“Paint…,” he muttered. He glanced at his phone again, then immediately looked back at me as if not to say that he was all ears again.

“Yes, paint…,” I said. At this point I was feeling a little uneasy with his cell. But I felt it was more important to get my message across than to allow myself to be irritated with his texting someone. “Let’s say if you wanted me to teach you how to paint, then you wouldn’t expect me to provide you with the canvas, the brush and the paint. I suppose, being the student, you should provide them yourself.”

“Right…,” he said as his fingers stopped texting.

I was quite relieved to see that he can now pay more attention to what I was about to say. “The canvas can be compared to your life, the brush and paint are the means to draw out your spiritual life. The priest has the role of teaching the person the basics: the right symmetry, proportion, combining shades and hues, etc. combining the paint of prayer, sacrifice and the sacraments. All with the end of painting the portrait of Christ in one’s entire existence.
“Super!” he exclaimed. His fingers were once again zapping out a text to someone.

Interiorly, I couldn’t help feeling annoyed, especially when he always seemed to start texting someone after I had just made an important point. But I held my cool and continued, “That isn’t all! Once someone has learned the basics, he can now work on acquiring his own style and form in painting out the fruits of faith, hope and love in his life.”

“That’s really ubertastic, Father! I really never saw spiritual direction in this way.” He again looked at his cell, and started out to text another message.

“That’s it!” I said to myself, “If he does it one more time I’m going to teach him to have more manners when having a conversation.” But I guess I didn’t have to say that when I saw him slowly pocketing his cell phone. [WHEW!]

“This, however, doesn’t mean that one can just forego one’s director or spiritual guide even if one has gotten quite a good hand in living his spiritual life. Since the end towards which our spiritual life is headed for is Someone, and not something; Someone infinitely powerful, knowing, merciful and loving, it means that we will never reach a point of being satisfied with our progress. We will constantly need clearer points of reference and guidance, so as to come out with a more refined way of loving and serving God and our neighbor.”

As I ended he took out his cell again. That was the signal I was waiting for, but not wanting to extinguish his interest to spiritually grow, I tried my best not to sound irritated, “Jed, who have you been texting all this time, while we were talking?”

“Oh, no one, Father! I forgot to bring my notebook, and was simply jotting down everything you were telling me so I wouldn’t forget it,” he said with a wide smile.

[SIGH] “Lord, What will the youth think of next?” I said in silent prayer.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Anatomy of Boredom

Gil stared melancholically into some invisible void before him. The third grader was totally oblivious to the dust cloud stirred by the numerous children playing all over the school’s quadrangle.

“Hello, Gil?” I waved a hand in front of his face. “Don’t you want to play with your classmates?”
“No, thanks, Father,” he said without showing any sign of escaping from the imaginary black-hole he was being sucked into.
“Why not? There’s so much you can do and enjoy at recess time, like tag, shatong, pantintero, etc.”

“I’ve played all of them and I’m…rather…dunno, just bored.” He listlessly replied, resigned to his solitary state.

* * *

The casual expression that one is bored is commonly understood as being tired or being too weak to carry out one’s usual routine. It is also synonymous to a person’s reluctance to indulge in some activity that he may have done many times in the past. Thus, this expression is quite natural in adults who have already absorbed a great deal of the noble realities of life. But it is quite another thing, –and rather disturbing– to hear similar reaction from our youth who are yet taking their first steps in life.

It is difficult to understand how the slightest strains of boredom can even creep into their minds. Life more than ever, especially in our century, constantly invites them to partake of its goods. In the past 20 years alone, so many things have changed and improved. For example, women have progressed up the social ladder and excelled where only men once reigned. Globalization has broadened knowledge, and wider access to information, transportation and communication has toppled geographical and language barriers. But in spite of these and many more developments, why are men –and especially the youth– bored?

Although there are many causes of this stagnant emotional state, we can ponder on a few factors that could help us to better understand the anatomy of boredom and learn how to overcome this psycho-emotional ailment.

•The heightened materialism of our times –quite surprisingly– is one major factor that foments boredom. It may be argued that the opposite is more likely to be true: material things should precisely free us from being bored since they offer alternatives to indulge ourselves in. But this position only considers man’s bodily needs and fails to address the reality of his soul.

Material things can only go as far as give the body temporal comfort and leisure, but they will always fall short in satiating the soul’s longings which are eternal. When the soul’s inner yearnings are not addressed, i.e. peace, serenity, forgiveness, and affection, etc., then the person succumbs to seeking material substitutes in the hope of drowning the inner emptiness –that is, boredom– in his soul.

This traps man within a cycle of material indulgence that gives way to boredom. The person who is bored tries to remove his interior vacuum by filling it with material things. But since the soul can only be fully satisfied with spiritual realities, i.e. in virtues like faith, hope and love, the person will always be unhappy. Since material things cannot cure a spiritual malady as boredom, then the person’s sadness grows in proportion to his attempts to resolve his ever growing discontentment. Finally, he finds all efforts useless and meaningless. At this point he has reached the summit of spiritual boredom which transforms life into a horizontal plateau confined to a material world.

The youth can also be trapped within this materialistic cycle. This is especially true when they experience not only the mass production of materials things, but also “enjoy” the ease with which things are obtained. Moreover, parents, –with the notion of making their children happy– cede to almost every request of their kids without first discerning their needs from their wants. This breeds an “everything-is-given-to-me” attitude in children who then end up easily having too much of everything with no meaning.

This materialistic attitude then causes the disintegration of a very important ingredient in youth: idealism or that of the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. Idealism requires some points of reference to compare with, build upon and further improve: these are our traditions and customs of our society.

Now a materialistic vision of life dries up any idealism in youth because everything is already given to them. Thus, there is a prevailing tendency in the young to be less appreciative of the values of the past and a great reluctance to take upon the responsibilities of the future. To live and enjoy the present seems to be the only thing that matters for them, and the phrase, “Youth the hope of tomorrow” no longer has any significance for them.

Youth’s material activism and lost idealism then matures into the mature fruit of the self-centered me. This void of selfishness becomes the seedbed of many other interior vices that begin to well up in the form of disordered attachment to materials things and disrespectful language, disobedience, and many more. This is the sad portrait of today’s youth snared in the subtle but sticky web of boredom.

How are we going to solve this crisis in our youth today? That is what we will attempt to carry out in the second part of this article.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“The Importance of Being Guy”

(Part 2)

We can be further enlightened by a recent study entitled Homosexuality and Hope by the Catholic Medical Association. In one point, the study says that “persons should not be identified with their emotional or developmental conflicts as though this were the essence of their identity.” As much as this stresses that people with emotional difficulties cannot simply resign themselves to giving in to their identity crisis; it also helps to understand why they cannot be simply labeled based on such identity conflicts. Thus, the same study partly concludes that “it is probably wise to avoid wherever possible using the words homosexual and heterosexual as nouns since such usage implies a fixed state and an equivalence between the natural state of man and woman as created by God and persons experiencing same sex attractions or behaviors.”

Secondly, this corporeal truth about man is further appreciated and reinforced by the profound truth of his origins: that is, his creational reality. It is something that points to the truth –without which man and woman’s purpose in life will not be complete or fulfilled– that God created us. This is, and has to be the very basis of the identity of man and woman. John Paul II, in his Letter to Families, says: “Man is created from the very beginning as male and female: the life of all humanity –whether of small communities or of society as a whole– marked by this primordial duality. From it there derive the ‘masculinity’ and the ‘femininity’ of individuals, just as from it every community draws its own unique richness in the mutual fulfillment of persons. (no. 6)” Thus, the identity of a man or a woman is not an arbitrary thing in the mind of God, but is in fact laden with a divine design for man and society’s perfection.

Disregarding the corporeal and creational dimensions of man’s identity will always lead towards the auto-rationalized abyss of one’s emotional and psychological states that dictate a false identity. This chosen artificial identity will eventually result to confusion, tension and depression because the person’s authentic corporeal and creational identities, which contain such human and spiritual wealth, will never allow themselves to be traded for by any easy emotional substitutes worn like badge. These original (i.e. originating from) dimensions in every man or woman will continue to bear witness from within, and in the process the person will never find respite unless he or she sincerely confronts and struggles to overcome his erratic psycho-emotional-sensible states. It is precisely through a personal human and spiritual struggle in placing these dimensions within their proper context that the person can find the meaning of life, retrace his steps back to God.

Given this wonderful truth, the person in the midst of emotional, sexual or psychological glitches ought to consider that God, who is his Father, has a reason for allowing such experiences. In fact, when such personal problems are realistically confronted they become an original expression of one’s personal struggle –with the help of God’s grace and a director– to gradually conform oneself with our creational identity. For this, one has to strive to find and establish one’s perfection –human and spiritual– according to the true identity given him by God.

Monday, January 26, 2009

“The Importance of Being Guy”

(Part I)

Overwhelmed by fatigue, Arthur took one deep breath and lunged at the beast with all his might, piercing and penetrating the only vulnerable part of its impermeable hide. The cold metal sang as it began to feel and drink the warmth of the monster’s blood, finding its now terrified heart and cleaving it in two and killing the fire breather in an instance.

King Arthur’s hands were trembling--for a moment sword and man were one--as he slowly eased their grasp from Excaliber that vibrated with victorious triumph over the remains of a once undefeatable worm of fire.

Letting go of his sword, the King ran towards the sacrificial pole to free his beloved princess. He hastily cut the gnarled ropes and gently lowered her to the ground. “Oh, my dearest Arthur!” the princess replied, “The swiftness of thy sword is beyond knowing! Behold to thee, my entire being I bequeath!” Arthur embraced princess Lancelot and raised him upon his steed and they galloped into the setting horizon and they lived happily ever after!

Princess Lancelot? Surely this isn’t some sort of joke or a part of some story from a collection of politically correct versions of children’s legends and adventures? Not exactly, but it is something that we are witnessing before our very eyes. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Lawrence et al. v. Texas case, claimed that homosexuals are now “allowed to enter a relationship in the confines of their homes and still retain their dignity as free persons.” In these past few weeks alone we have been seeing same-sex marriages in the U.S. and Europe grabbing the daily headlines.

This is the result of the efforts by persons in so-called sexual-minority groups who have been waging a revolution –in the hope of somehow finding an identity it can claim as its own– that has been gradually digging its claws deeper into every strand of the social fiber. The effort of carving out their distinctiveness in society, however, fails in basing man’s identity upon emotional or psychological factors. Rather than confront these personal trials, gay-rights advocates are making every possible effort to justify that their condition deserves a specific social identity. But unfortunately, this only leads to a process of auto-labeling and forms the fragile self-made psycho-emotional prison that gradually fortifies itself by rationalizing acts that are essentially contrary to man’s true identity.

It is understandable that due to personal weakness, ignorance or family upbringing, it is all too easy for one to fall into any crisis of identity and most especially when media generally projects distorted and confusing role-models for today’s youth. Instead of addressing these sources of personal disorientation, there are those who attempt to resolve the problem by giving it a more socially acceptable label –we call this euphemism; or worse by simply converting the crisis itself into an entirely new identity or social role –we call this not being sincere with oneself. These solutions, obviously, do not resolve the crisis of identity; in fact they simply hide the problem which then becomes an empty shell and a vacuum to other spiritual and moral setbacks. The real and sincere solution lies in understanding man’s true identity.

In the first place, his identity isn’t just a mask that he puts on or off at whim because it isn’t something simply sentimental but also intrinsically linked to his corporeality, that is, his body. It is a material reality that identifies the person either as a man or a woman. Man’s body isn’t something that we can change at will unlike our desire, imagination or feelings, and therefore a defining reality of man’s role in society. On the other hand, our emotions or psychological states are poor determinants of identity because by themselves they cannot define the totality of the human person.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


With summer vacation families have once again found time to bond together. Likewise, these “bonding moments” may have offered new challenges as some of their children enter the stage of adolescence.

Adolescence has commonly been branded as the unavoidable onset of psychological and emotional imbalances in youth. It initiates the young person into a state of “new confusion” as he struggles to grapple with his personal identity and security. Thus, it has become the common scapegoat for teenagers’ misbehavior, bad grades and vices, etc.

This inevitable phase in youth is often hard to adjust to and live with. It is a stage sometimes described as co-inhabiting with someone “who has a slight mental illness”. Others would dismiss it as something that they can’t do much about and just have to let it “pass by”. In short, the adolescent phase often has a negative connotation for both parents and educators.

But who of us have not passed through adolescence? Who of us have not endured its difficulties, misunderstandings, loneliness and rebellion? It’s only right that for those of us who have already gone through this confusing and obscure moment of growing up, to understand those who are at this moment going through it.

Adolescence is quite a complex phase in our children’s lives, and it would be beyond our scope to outline all its manifestations. I am now more interested with our dispositions towards it, that is, how we learn to grow up with it by extracting its positive points to better help our children. However, when these points are not properly embraced, that is, when parents immediately take their children’s reactions personally against their authority or views, then the channels of communication can become quite fuzzy.

We can identify three principal adolescent traits: their sense of self-affirmation, sexual identity and a sense of justice. It is important to already take these to heart and inject in our children the proper ideas and examples that would later on help them to harmoniously exercise these important traits of personal and character development. Now parents must engage these teenage qualities in two stages: before and during adolescence.

BEFORE. If parents are ever surprised or shocked at the sudden appearance of negative teenage reactions, they have no one to blame but themselves. This is probably one of the main reasons why parents are mainly unable to cope with it: they were caught unprepared. While they may be fully aware of this phase, parents may take for granted that it is something they should have been intellectually, emotionally and creatively anticipating.

Most of what adolescence is now greatly depends on how we have prepared our children beforehand. At this stage they can already be prepared to cope with the future trials that sexual identity may bring with it. This can be addressed by giving them a lot of self-confidence, boosting their self-esteem, applying moderate doses of praise and reasoned out corrections help them to mature profoundly and guide them to negotiate the sharp curves of teenage years.

This is not very easy today, especially when there is more emphasis on external or material concerns like academic excellence, material well-being, and future security. They must add to this moderated material concern the ingredient of helping their children to already discover their more important identity and role within the family and society.

An important aspect of “identity discovery” would be to show the importance of their role in the family. This isn’t only done by giving them chores or similar responsibilities, but for them to realize and value that they are gifts being prepared for something wonderful: for God and neighbor. At this stage, they understand that their parents’ role is to package them so that they may continue being capable of freely giving something truly valuable and lasting. Thus, the authority of parents, house rules, the need to academically excel, etc. are properly contextualized in the service of God and the family.

DURING. The anticipation and preparation for our children’s adolescence doesn’t mean eradicating all its problematic traits. And life as such, isn’t complete with its own share of rough moments. This is a chance for us to learn how to live with it, but not by taking a defensive or confrontational stance.

By this time youth would be seeking to affirm themselves and appeal for justice, it is indispensable for parents to know how to listen. Listening becomes a fruitful space that we offer them. And as we listen, we can also pray for whatever their concerns are even though how crazy they may sound.

But if we are only too quick to point out for example: their being often out of the house, the undone chores, the late arrivals, their forgetfulness, the loud music, etc. Then let us not be surprised that our children react with either indifference or rebellion.

If, however, they realize that we listen, then they will “feel important” because they are being “heard”, “respected”, “trusted” and “understood”. Our reply to their “claims” ought to be, “I’ll give that some thought,” or “you know, you have a point there,” or “I believe there’s something important in what you’ve said, could we talk this over with some beer?”

When we recognize that the changes in our children are part of their experience of self-dominion, we will discontinue being stiff molds and become flexible guides. We begin to trust by giving them the space to develop the proper skills to responsibly exercise their freedom, to discover their personal identity and role in family and society. It’s learning to let go by offering a guiding hand and a firm shoulder to lean on.