Friday, March 22, 2013


The New Roman Missal has, for the Friday of the 5th Week of Lent, an alternative collect which commemorates Our Lady of Sorrows. At last, the Missal recognizes the pious devotion rendered to the Virgin of Sorrows on this day. In the past, this day was known as Viernes de Dolores on account of the old Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin.

Deus, qui Ecclesiae tuae in hoc tempore tribuis benigne,
beatam Mariam in passione Christi contemplanda
devote imitari,
da nobis, quaesumus, euisdem Virginis intercessione,
Unigenito Filio tuo firmius in dies adhaerere
et ad plenitudinem gratiae eius demum pervenire.

Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sanctus, Deus,
per omnia in saecula saeculorum.

O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.

Who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Joseph the Protector

Here is the English translation of the Homily of the Holy Father Francis on the occasion of his inauguration into the Petrine Ministry (March 19 2013)

Thanks to

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that "Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife" (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: "Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model" (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a "protector" because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a "protector", however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are "Herods" who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be "protectors" of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be "protectors", we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, "hoping against hope, believed" (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Should we resist the precious and the sublime?

Father Z's comment on the red shoes and mozetta reflects the true humility which is demanded of the priest who should see the honorific gestures not as accorded to his person but rather to Christ in whose person he comes.

The seeming simplification of vestments and anything about the rites which Pope Francis prefers is really sending the wrong signal that the Church of the poor must have poor liturgy! I now hear people saying that the Church must veer away from its high church liturgies and perform low church rites in order to be more relevant, and even more "people-friendly". I find it disturbing that the liturgy is once again being regarded as a theater performance wherein we should look poor in order to appeal to the masses. In the present political season in the Philippines, I notice that political candidates no longer have themselves photographed in the formal barong tagalog wear but in t shirts and blue jeans. A politician (born again fundamentalist) used to put the title "bishop" before his name. Now he reverts to being called "brother". Are these for real???

Unfortunately, everybody wants to ride the "simplicity" band wagon on account of the new Pope. However, everybody seems to forget that sacred ministers are not actors who pretend to be poor in order to be relevant. Sacred ministers are, in reality, "sacramental signs" of Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. We come in the name of Christ. We come in the person of Christ. In the Sacred Liturgy, the priest is Christ and Christ is the priest. The priest must have enough humility to be able to accept the fact that he is no longer his own.

I find Fr. Z's reflection very relevant to the present issue:

"The Catholic priest is simultaneously the victim offered on the altar.  All the older, traditional ceremonies of the Roman Rite underscore this foundational dimension of the Mass. If we don’t see that relationship of priest, altar, and victim in every Holy Mass, then the way Mass has been celebrated has failed.  If we don’t look for that relationship, then we are not really Catholic.  Mass is Calvary.
The use of beautiful marble in the church building, precious fabrics and metals for vestments and vessels, music that requires true art and skill to perform, ritual gestures which to worldly eyes seem to be the stuff of bygone eras of royals and the like, all underscore the fact that step by step during Holy Mass the priest is being readied for the sacrifice, which – mysteriously – he himself performs.
Back when I resisted the liturgical kissing of my hand when being handed a chain, spoon or chalice, I had made the mistake of imagining myself to be more humble by that resistance.  That was a mistake.  Ironically, my resistance to those gestures turned the gestures into being about me.  Submission to the gestures, on the other hand, erases the priest’s own person and helps him to be what he needs to be in that moment: priest, victim, alter Christus.   The trappings, the rubrics, the gestures erase the priest’s poor person.  Resisting these things runs the risk of making them all about the priest again.
In a sense, I had made the objection of Judas about the precious nard which the woman brought to the Lord.  Jesus responded that the precious stuff should be kept for His Body, which was to be sacrificed.  People who object that we should have only poor liturgy are falling into the argument of Judas.  We must submit to the precious and sublime in recognition of the truth of what is going on.   To pit the sublime and complex and precious and beautiful against the low, simple and humble is schizophrenic and not Catholic."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All Have Sinned.

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

The scribes and Pharisees wanted to make the adulterous woman stand before Jesus as an example of sinners who ought to be condemned for transgressing the law of the Lord. She was indeed guilty, for she was caught in the act of adultery, and so she deserved to die. However, when pressed for an answer about what is to be done to her, the Lord Jesus replied: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” But who is without sin? “All men are sinners and are deprived of the glory of God.” By his words, the Lord made them realize that they (and all of us) are also sinners and they (and we) should see ourselves in the adulterous woman. After all, is it not true that all sin is adultery?

The relationship (or covenant) between God and his people is one of marriage. “I will be your God and you will be my people” is similar to that of marriage between a man and a woman: “I will be yours and you will be mine.” Israel was the spouse of God as the Church is the bride of Christ. Thus, belonging to God’s people, we should love the Lord our God with all our soul, all our mind, all our heart, and all our strength. We should love the Lord as a bride loves her husband. And so, when we sin, we do not love the Lord with all our being. We do not love the Lord as he deserves to be loved by us. Instead, we divide our love and give a portion of it to something or someone else. Thus, sin is a spiritual adultery. Our fidelity and love for God becomes a divided love.

And so by saying “The one who has no sin should cast the first stone,” the Lord made everybody realize of our common sinful condition. He did this not to shame the Pharisees and the scribes. Rather, he did this in order to invite them to come to him and stay with him for he does not come to condemn but to give life: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” But realizing their guilt before God, “in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.” They did not do as the woman did. She remained before the Lord while the others went away one by one. And this is unfortunate for had they remained, they would have heard the Lord say to them what he told the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on, do not sin anymore.” Remember the fig tree that was given another chance to bear fruit? The Lord was willing to give that same chance to the adulterous woman. He was also willing to give that same chance to all of us if only we do not turn our backs to him and go away. He wills to give us that second chance and so we should remain with him: “Remember not the things of the past, the things of long ago consider not…for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!  

Monday, March 11, 2013

St. Joseph Novena for the Church

As the Conclave opens soon, let us pray to St. Joseph, Patron of the Catholic Church, for the Church and the Cardinal - electors. St. Joseph's Feast will be on March 19. March is the month of St. Joseph!

O glorious St. Joseph, chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the chaste spouse of Mary ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family and then appointed by the Vicar of Christ to be the heavenly patron and defender of the Church founded by Jesus, most confidently do I implore at this moment your powerful aid for all the Church militant on earth. Shield with your truly paternal love especially the (future) Supreme Pontiff and all the bishops and priests who are in union with the Holy See of Peter. Be the defender of all who labor for souls amidst the trials and tribulations of this life, and cause all the peoples of the earth to submit themselves in a docile spirit to that Church which is the ark of salvation for all men.

Be pleased also, dear St. Joseph, to accept this dedication of myself which I now make to you. I dedicate myself wholly to you, that you may ever be my father, my patron, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent devotion to the interior life. Grant that following your example, I may direct all my actions to the greater glory of God , in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in union with you. Finally, pray for me that I may be a partaker in the peace and joy which were yours in the hour of your holy death. Amen.

BEHOLD a faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord has set over His household.

V. Glory and riches shall be in his house.
R. And his justice shall endure forever and ever.

Let us pray:
O God, who by Your unspeakable Providence did vouchsafe to choose Blessed Joseph to be the Spouse of Your most holy Mother: mercifully grant that as we venerate him for our Protector on earth, we may be found worthy to be aided by his intercession in heaven. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Where Lies True Joy

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

When the younger son sought his share of the inheritance, he must have wanted to gain independence from his father as soon as possible. Isn’t this the dream of every young person – to go as far as possible from his parents in order to be on his own? Like most young men, this son must have thought that if he leaves his father, he will be happier as he thought that he would be beyond his father’s control and thus, enjoy the freedom to be himself and do as he pleases. He must have enjoyed his “freedom” while it lasted – meaning, while he had money to spend and friends to keep him company. But eventually, when he had spent everything, he had nothing. Then reality shook him to his senses. He realized a truth which he did not appreciate before: “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough to eat…” Thinking that he would be better off and even happier if he were free from his father, the son realized that those who stayed with his father, even the servants, were happy because they had more than enough of what they needed to live.

And so he decided to return to his father, not to return as a son (for he rightly thought that he did not deserve his filial right), but as a servant, a hired worker. This indignity he was willing to swallow, just so that he could have food for his hungry belly. And yet, when he returned, the unexpected came about. His father ran toward him and would have nothing of his prepared speech. Instead he ordered his servants to bring out 3 things: a robe, a pair of sandals, and a ring. The robe means the restoration of human dignity. The saying “the clothes make up the man” has a grain of truth in it. Contrary to what our modern world says, nakedness is the deprivation of human dignity. That is why when Adam and Eve sinned, they realized that they were naked. Wanting to be freed from God, they found themselves dehumanized.  The Lord Jesus was stripped naked when he was crucified. It was the depth of his humiliation to be exposed naked before the curious crowd. Thus, the Lord bid us to clothe the naked as an act of mercy.

The pair of sandals signified the status of a free man. Slave walk unshod. Freemen were shoes. Thus, the father restored to his son not only his dignity but also his freedom – authentic freedom which is enjoyed by the sons and daughters of God.

The ring is the sign of both love and authority. It was the sign that the son belongs to his father. The father loved his son and gave him authority in his household. The father was more than willing to accept his son back – and not as a slave but as a son: “Let us celebrate and rejoice because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and has been found.”

St. Augustine remarked: “We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.” (CCC, 1718) Unfortunately, many of us are deceived into thinking that we can pursue our own happiness by ourselves – apart from God. We seek satisfaction from the world and even from our own sources and we find out that none of these is able to answer our deepest longing. And so St. Augustine says, “How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life. Let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul, and my soul draws life from you.” (Ibid.) Do you seek satisfaction? St. Thomas Aquinas answers, “God alone satisfies.”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Grace, Time, and Fruits

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Last Sunday, we heard about how the Lord Jesus revealed to Peter, James, and John his glory as God’s only begotten Son, a glory “full of grace and truth”. Contrast that vision to the one received by Moses in today’s 1st reading. On Mt. Horeb, Moses saw what he called “an incredible sight”: a bush that burned and yet remained unconsumed. On Mt. Tabor, the 3 disciples saw Jesus transfigured before them, his face and clothing resplendent in light. On Mt. Horeb, Moses was told by the Lord: “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet for you are standing on holy ground.” On Mt. Tabor, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him. On Mt. Horeb, Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God. But on Mt. Tabor, Peter was even able to say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” Both were revelations of the same Divine glory, manifestations of the immeasurable holiness of God. And yet, as we can plainly see, Peter, James, and John were not told to stand at a distance, nor did they hide their faces in fear as Moses had done. The disciples were invited to draw near this unapproachable light of Divine glory. You may say that Christ our Lord gave us the means to approach the unapproachable – to behold with unveiled faces the glory of the living God.

This makes us feel so privileged. How grateful should we be that we have been called in Christ. However, St. Paul in the 2nd reading shows us the gravity of the obligations that accompany this privilege. First, he spoke of our ancestors who were all under the cloud of the Divine Presence and who ate spiritual food and drink in the desert. “Yet, God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.” Then, St. Paul said: “These things happened as an example to us, so that we may not desire evil things as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us.”

Thus, we should not take our Christian faith for granted. If they who have simply entered the cloud were later on found wanting and have fallen, how much better will we fare? By becoming Christians, we have received more than what they have received. And as Spiderman would say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Lord Jesus warns us: “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” We are like fig trees planted in the orchard of the Lord. He searches fruit from us, and gives us sufficient grace and time to repent in the hope that we would bear fruits of holiness in the future. But if we do not bear fruit, considering the fact that we have been given both capacity (grace) and opportunity (time) to repent, we shall be cut down. We will all perish as they did.

And so let us not procrastinate our conversion. Let us not tire God’s patience nor abuse his mercy. Let us take our Christianity seriously for the standards of Christianity are very high. They do not admit shallow spirituality nor mediocre morality, said Bl. John Paul II. Considering what we have received, the standard to be met ought to be very high: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Therefore, let us not be overconfident and let us get to work on our salvation. “Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall!”

Jesus, I trust in you! O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!