S e n t i r e C u m E c c l e s i a

"To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls..." - Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius [365]

Monday, January 30, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

Deus Caritas Est (in English: God is Love) is the first encyclical written by Pope Benedict XVI. It was promulgated at 11:00 UTC on 25 January 2006 in Latin and in translations into seven other languages (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish).


In this encyclical, Benedict reflects on the concepts of eros, agape, and logos, and their relationship with the teachings of Jesus. Agape is descending, ablative love in which one gives of oneself to another. Eros is ascending, possessive love which seeks to receive from another. The document explains that eros and agape are both inherently good, but that eros risks being downgraded to mere sex if it is not balanced by an element of spiritual Christianity. The opinion that eros is inherently good contrasts with the view expressed by Anders Nygren, a Lutheran bishop, in his mid-20th century book Eros and Agape, that agape is the only truly Christian kind of love, and that eros is an expression of the individual's desires and turns us away from God.[10] The continuity of these two forms of love follows the traditional Catholic understanding, which is influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Augustine, Bonaventure and ancient Jewish tradition. The encyclical is closer to the Caritas tradition in catholic theology as opposed to the Nygren position which emphasizes the differences between eros and agape. The Nygren position was favoured by the Reformed theologian Karl Barth while the Caritas position was supported by the liberal protestant theologian Paul Tillich. The two perspectives have been an ongoing debate in both Catholic and Protestant theology.

The first half of the encyclical is more philosophical, tracing the meaning of the Greek words for word "love". In considering eros, Benedict refers to a line from Virgil's Eclogues, Book X, line 69, "Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori" ("Love conquers all, let us also yield to love"), and the opinion of Friedrich Nietzsche that Christianity has poisoned eros, turning it into a vice. He refers to the conjugal love exhibited in the Song of Songs, and analyses passages from the First Letter of St. John which inspired the title. The encyclical argues that eros and agape are not distinct kinds of love, but are separate halves of complete love, unified as both a giving and receiving.

The second half, based on a report prepared by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is less abstract, considering the charitable activities of the Church as an expression of love, and referring to the Church's three-fold responsibility: proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). The encyclical says that social justice is the primary responsibility of politics and the laity; the church itself should inform the debate on social justice with reason guided by faith, but its main social activity should be directed towards charity. Charity workers should have a deep prayer life, and be uninfluenced by party and ideology. Benedict rejects Marxist arguments that the poor "do not need charity but justice", and encourages cooperation between the church, the state, and other Christian charitable organizations.

Paragraph 39 appears to be inspired by Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, reflecting in particular the last canto of "Paradise", which ends before "the everlasting Light that is God himself, before that Light which at the same time is the love which moves the sun and the other stars".[11] The three concluding paragraphs consider the example of the saints, ending with a prayer to the Virgin Mary. The text mentions the name of Mother Teresa four times, the last as a "saint" (despite the fact that she has not yet been canonised) in such company as Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo, John Bosco, and Luigi Orione.

Deus Caritas Est, like the encyclicals of many previous popes, uses the Royal we in the Latin text ("cupimus loqui de amore"). The versions in the other 7 languages use the singular ("I wish to speak of love").

source: from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Word that brings Light

I still remember what our Catechist told us during our class when we were kids: "God's Word a day keeps the devil away." This is the line that comes to my mind as I reflect upon the theme of the National Bible Sunday: "God's Word: Power for National Renewal." I believe that it is only when we seriously pray over Sacred Scriptures can we effect change and renewal in our nation and in our lives.

But what does "praying the scriptures" really mean? For me, it only means one thing: To contemplate the Person of Christ. The Christ who is the fulfillment of the Old Testament; the Christ who is the New Covenant. And once we contemplate on his person, we are transformed and transfigured to his very person, that we become like him! His ways of thinking will become our very own. Our ways of doing will be configured to His as well. And in the final analysis, His way of loving will become our way of loving. And when we truly become "Other Christs" in the world, renewal and transformation will be just around the corner. When we become like Christ, we shun before us all ways of evil and sin.

So, let us pray that God's Word, made incarnate in Christ Jesus, may affect and permeate every aspect of our lives -- personal, familial, social, and spiritual -- so that God's Kingdom may truly be established in our midst through holy and blameless lives.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Intellectual & Spiritual in one!

I was struck with what I have read from the Office of Readings (Breviary) this morning. The second reading was from a conference on the creed (Credo Deum) by St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. the Saint whose memory the Church celebrates today. In that conference, St. Thomas said that there is a certain meaning and logic for God's Son to suffer. He gave two reasons: the first is for the remedy for sin and the second is to give us an example for action. Quite weird I must admit, but later on I began to realize why.

By suffering on the cross Jesus Christ redeemed humanity and has paid the price for man's salvation. Thus, by his sufferings and pains we were saved. By his wounds we were healed and made whole. The first reason. The second is perhaps a more profound one -- to give us an example for action. Christian life is never easy. Christ assured us only one thing on this earth when we sincerely follow him, that we will suffer as he did. But does this mean that our God is a sadistic God? Not at all. Jesus showed us the way to salvation -- to suffer. Simply to suffer and by suffering I mean that we are able to denounce ourselves and our carnal pleasures in order to embrace truly the life that Jesus embraced. To shun before us the desires and pleasures of the flesh for the things of heaven. This, in itself, is suffering indeed!

And I believe that this is the wisdom and the gift of St. Thomas Aquinas to the Church. To allow us to see what is beyond, to make us realize the essentials of the Christian life. That the cross does lead to the empty tomb; that suffering will be conquered by glory.

To end this simple and short reflection, I invite us to pray with St. Thomas this wonderful prayer which he himself composed. That with God's grace, we may surmount every suffering and pain, and through our afflictions in this life, we may sanctify the world.

Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. AMEN.

St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. was born in Italy to rich parents in the year 1226. He became a Dominican Friar and became a student of St. Albert the Great. St. Thomas has been considered the Father of Scholastic Philosophy. His greatest work is the Summa Theologica. He died in the year 1274. He was canonized in 1323 by Pope John XXII and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1567 by Pope Pius V. He is considered the Patron of Philosophers. Let us pray for all the Dominican Bishops, Priests, Friars, and Sisters as we remember St. Thomas Aquinas.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

People do change!

As I was praying this morning, this insight suddenly dawned on me: "People do change." Yes, all of us have that sacred capacity to change for the better. I remember having met a student in one of the State Colleges in Cebu. I was in that College as an intern in the Guidance Center, doing counseling and guidance work among the students. This student came to me and began to share his story. He narratedd that his father was a drunkard and a gambler. The day never ends without his father losing a considerable amount in the gambling station and never comes home sober. And when his father is drunk, he hurts his mother and siblings. But the student's sharing ended with a happy note. He said that since his father attended a Christian Life Program in their parish, he was totally transformed; his drinking spree diminished and eventually was gone and he now saves money for the family.

Yes, people do change. This was supported by Carl Rogers' theory when he stated that Man can change if he recognizes the "basic goodness" inherent in him and when he begins to actualize that goodness.

Today we celebrate this wonderful grace of change which we may call conversion. Man is not doomed to die in his evil ways. He has the choice to change. He holds the decision to be converted.

Our capacity for change should be a reason for us humans to celebrate. The father of our student changed -- from being a worse drunkard and gambler to a loving and caring father. St. Paul of Tarsus also changed -- from being an insecure persecutor of the early Church to an apostle and personal witness of Christ and of His Church. It is precisely this change that we celebrate and honor today, the Catholic Church's Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. So with the Church we pray:
God our Father,
you taught the Gospel to all the world
through the preaching of Paul your apostle.
May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith
follow him in bearing witness to your truth.
We ask this trough Christ our Lord. AMEN.

This is a painting depicting the account of St. Paul's conversion while on his way to Damascus with the intention of persecuting the early Christians. The Lord apparently appeared to him in the form of a great light thus making him an apostle and witness of His. (For the complete account, see Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Memorial of St. Agnes of Rome, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve.

There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord int he midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.

In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.

You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl's peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and religion; Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyr's crown.

from an essay On Virgins by Saint Ambrose of Milan

At age 12 or 13 Agnes was ordered to sacrifice to pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), and when led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross. She was threatened, then tortured when she refused to turn against God. Several young men presented themselves, offering to marry her, whether from lust or pity is not known. She said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse, that she would keep her consecrated virginity intact, accept death, and see Christ. Martyr Foster-sister of Saint Emerentiana. Mentioned in first eucharistic prayer. On her feast day two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, and then their wool is woven into the palliums (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on archbishops as symbol of their jurisdiction.

So on this Memorial of St. Agnes, let us pray for all our brothers and sisters in the faith who presently reside in areas wherein the Chruch is being suppressed or persecuted. That like St. Agnes of Rome, they may remain fervent in their faith and steadfast in their love for Christ. With the Universal Church, we pray:

All-powerful and ever-living God,
You choose teh weak in this world
to confound the powerful.
When we celebrate the memory of Saint Agnes,
may we like her remain constant in our faith. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Feast of the Santo Niño, Protector of the Philippine Islands (a titular feast of the Philippines)

We celebrate today the Feast of the Santo Niño. Every third Sunday of January, the Philippine Church holds this solemn feast to honor the Christ-child. It is said that this feast is being celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in the archipelago more than four hundred years ago through the Spanish friars and missionaries. It is important then to thank the Lord for the gift of the Catholic faith as we celebrate the Fiesta Señor.

But on a deeper level, this feast has relevance other than historical. The Gospel passage captures it clearly: “unless you become like little children, you shall never enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus reminds us of the importance of becoming “childlike” in our disposition towards life, and in the final analysis, towards God.

We might wonder what it is in the child that Jesus admires so much. I think that there are basically three admirable qualities. The first is trust. The child can do nothing but trust. No matter what the circumstance is, the child continues to trust. This is the kind of trust (basic trust) that the psychologist Erik Erikson talks about in his psychosocial theory of development. The second quality is innocence. The child remains innocent in all aspects of his childhood. He never harbors grudges; he never breeds hatred; he never wishes misfortunes for his neighbors. And lastly, the child always loves. No matter how hurt the child may be, the child continues to love. The child never gives up on loving.

These qualities are seemingly impossible to practice in this present time. It is difficult to trust, most especially if we have been betrayed. It is hard to be innocent since we have been trained to be wise and cunning. It is never easy to love, most especially if we have been hurt. But Jesus gives us the example – his very self manifested in the Santo Niño.

So as we celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño, let us beg the Lord for the grace to become childlike in all our ways: to be constantly trusting, innocent, and loving. and in union with the Church we pray:

Almighty God,
Your only Son, begotten from all ages,
Humbled himself as a child in Nazareth
And became subject to Mary and Joseph.
Grant that we may learn from his example
To embrace your will in all things and,
Holding fast to the dignity of all,
Serve our lowly brothers and sisters
With open hands and gentle heart.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.

The image above is the one given by Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana in the 1500s as a gift during her baptism. With the acceptance of Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana of the Catholic faith, the whole of Sugbu (presently Cebu) was Christianized. This image is enshrined in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City and has been a place of pilgrimage since then. The Basilica is in the care of the Augustinian Fathers and Friars.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Solemnity of the Lord's Baptism

We hear in today’s gospel the account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. As we all know, the event of Jesus’ baptism marks the end of His hidden life at Nazareth and the beginning of His public life of ministry. In one sense, the baptism of Jesus was to Him, a milestone of His life.

But allow me to focus on the last line of today’s Gospel passage from St. Mark: THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM MY FAVOR RESTS. This line expresses to us the kind of manifestation of Jesus’ person by no less than the Father Himself. The line expresses the kind of relationship that Jesus has with His Heavenly Father – a relationship built upon in love and confidence.

This line expresses very well our very own identity – that indeed, we are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We are made as such in the person of Jesus. What Jesus is by nature – He being the Son of God, we all are by grace – sons and daughters of God, by virtue of our own baptism.

Perhaps it might be good to ask ourselves what could be my “baptism” experience. What is it that the Lord is asking from me, a leap of faith to the unknown probably, or a challenge to go beyond myself and my comfort zones.

Let us beg the Lord then to grant us the grace to be truly aware and grateful for the relationship we all have in Jesus. May we hear daily the words of the Father to us: This is my beloved son or daughter in whom my favor rests, through the praise of our lips and the holiness of our lives.

Let us pray that our relationship with the Lord Jesus might change our very lives and the lives of those we constantly touch. And through this change, may the Kingdom of God be truly established in our midst this very day in and through us.

This is a short reflection that I prepared for our Sub-community Mass here at Loyola House of Studies.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany

Very early in its history, the Western Church assigned to January 6 the manifestation of God associated with the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child in Bethlehem (which in the Eastern Church is associated with the Nativity) This is now known as the Solemnity of the Lord’s Epiphany which the Roman Church celebrates on the Sunday after January 1. The Magi or Three Kings from the East are described in Scripture as three regal or noble persons who were attracted to Bethlehem by a star which stood over the place announcing the birth of the Savior of the World. Bearing precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they paid homage to the King of Kings and were received by Him in His manifestation to the Gentiles. The Roman liturgy honors on January 6 the visit of the Magi exclusively, but retains in the Antiphon at the Magnificat an echo from the distant past in the following words:

We keep this day holy in honor of three miracles:
this day a star led the Wise Men to the manger;
this day water was turned into wine at the
marriage feast; this day Christ chose to be baptized
by John in the Jordan, for our salvation, allelulia.

Source: from the website of the Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church of the Byzantine Catholic Diocese of Passaic, New Jersey, USA.

Traditionally, the Three Wise Men (Three Kings), also called as the Magi, are remembered today. The were the ones who offered the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to the Christ-Child. They were guided and ushered to the place where the Christ-Child was by the Star