5 Years in Consecrated Life

I almost forgot an important event in my life. It was May 15, 2012 when I, along with 10 companions, had our habit-taking and consecration to Mary. I don’t have a copy of my prayer when I consecrated myself to Mary. All I ask our Good Mother is to journey with me by “holding my hand”. I have to search my archived photos just to see what happened that day. I was offline for more than a year that year except the final Sunday of the month where we were given a chance to use the computer and internet for an hour. If you look at my blog post archives, I think I wrote about that too. Anyway, when I had the chance to log in to my Facebook, I changed my profile picture with me wearing my new soutane only to be received with shocked or/and amused friends with me wearing eyeglasses and smiling broadly. Yeah, that was the year when I started wearing spectacles.

2012 was such a memorable year to me and I think I need to write more about that time when I spent two years in the novitiate.

I am thinking of buying a basic phone to spend less time with my smartphone with battery problems. Besides, my Notebook PC is a basic laptop. This is for me to write more, read more, and spend more time in silence.

I am just happy I made it this far in my religious life. I almost quit that year. I’ve been thinking lately about that decision when I hesitated to start religious life.

Maybe people had prayed for me and my vocation. I am thankful for them.

And maybe Mama Mary is still holding my hand. And I still pray for her to hold my hand and let her lead me to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

How to read Catholic books in three months?

I bought all these books (no, most of them) in a span of 10 months and I haven’t even finished one of them.

You’ll notice that all of them (except the two text books on the bottom) are Catholic books.

None of them are novels; some are collection of essays, reference materials, or devotional books. I cannot just read them on one or two sittings. I want to finish reading them all before the end of March. 

I don’t know if I can achieve my goal. But I’ll update and see if I can even write reviews of each of them. So please pray for me and I implore too the intercession of our Doctor Saints, especially St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Let’s do this!

The Best Catholic Podcasts of 2016

I posted a very dense movie review/self-reflection last night. I numbered and arranged them into 40 paragraphs. I’m inspired of writing another review on another topic. As I am typing this, I am listening to History of the Bible podcast via iTunes wherein the host, Garry Stevens, invited a guest from History of Papacy, Steve Guerra. They were talking about the Book of Revelation.  I have to admit I disagree with most of what they are saying like the anonymity of the gospel writers or the use of the term “Son of Man”. Though that’s the case, I have to admire their interest on the Bible. I don’t really know who they are but by listening to them, I can tell that they know a lot. Probably they are biblical scholars or just plain blokes who happen to read books and studies on biblical criticism.

I am mostly spending now my nights listening to podcasts as an alternate to the radio and music in Spotify. I started this habit last April when I was assigned in Bukidnon for the summer. I had not access to television and computers so armed with an Android phone and a stable internet connection, I downloaded Podcast Addict on Google Play. I haven’t tried Stitcher yet but I heard it’s a good app for non-Apple users like me.

I would like to share some my favorite podcasts last 2016.

  1. Bishop Robert Barron’s Sermons: I knew about Bishop Barron from the documentary Catholicism by Word On Fire, a media ministry initially based in Chicago now in Los Angeles when he became the auxiliary bishop. Here he shares sermons on the Sunday Readings. Delivered passionately, he engages the listener to reflect on the Readings and connects them to the daily lives of the faithful. He’s a doctor in its literal sense: a teacher.
  2. Busted Halo Show: Though I haven’t seen Fr. Dave Dwyer yet, upon listening to this podcast for some time, he sure is a jolly priest. He lives up to the tagline, “Faith Shared Joyfully”. He even invites the listeners to ask him questions during the show and there you constantly hear him laugh out loud.
  3. Catholic Inspiration: This is part of the ministry of Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior, Wisconsin. A soft spoken priest, I remember listening to him deliver a homily with kids talking with him on the background. That episode was so cool.
  4. Divine Intimacy: This show is the first ever podcast I subscribed to. With Dan Burke of EWTN and co-host Melissa Elson, we hear then talk about Catholic teachings, interior life, contemplation, meditation, spiritual direction, prayer, and path to holiness. If those terms are too technical or just new to you, don’t worry ’cause they explain them in their past episodes.
  5. Pints With Aquinas: Done by Matt Fradd of Restored Integrity, he invites us to sit and drink some pints of beer with the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, and talk about medieval philosophy and Summa Theologia. Thank you Matt for introducing me to your sister Emma’s music and her band, Heaps Good Friends.
  6. The Word On Fire Show: With the host and content director Brandon Vogt, we again encounter Bishop Barron talk more on a conversational tone about faith and culture. You may even submit your questions to him through a audio recording via AskBishopBarron.com.

If you’re curious to try them out, feel free to click the links I embedded on them. Some of them directs to the podcast and others to their websites. Don’t worry, they are virus-free.

And if you happen to know other Catholic evangelizers hosting podcast, feel free to comment them.

Renewal of vows

I shouldn’t be posting here. After celebrating the 200 years of the Marist Brothers foundation as a congregation yesterday, I am now in an Oblates of Notre Dame retreat house for a recollection, writing my self-evaluation and my letter of application for the renewal of vows. 

Please do pray for me as I spend time for reflection and prayer with my fellow temporarily professed young Marist Brothers in active ministry, teaching or doing mission work.

A Theology of Taylor Swift commentary

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Do I like Taylor Swift? That was the question posed by Father James Martin when he shared an article on Facebook from America Magazine last Friday. Actually, it’s the thumbnail showing Swift that caught my attention. I must admit that she’s such an eye candy. Sorry, this is not a post about how much I admire her. The first song I can recall of her is Teardrops In My Guitar which I heard from a radio last 2007. My first impression of her at that time was that she’s already in her thirties. But when I saw her in the music video Love Story, I realized she’s only seventeen when she released her debut album. Her latest album name gives away how old I am now.

Anyway, the article written by Stephen Bullivant started with a Summa Theologiae quote which I admit is not familiar to me (I am not so good in theology, you know?). It says that no topic is out of bounds for a theologian. While reading, I am already anticipating a part where she (over)use her love life as a material for song writing especially heartbreaks. But no. It’s an article which tackled the theological content of some of her songs. Of course, she’s not overtly doing theology nor vocal about her religiosity. And I was not reading the title and intro properly. Talk about click baiting. A female theology student even said how relatable Swift’s songs are. And the student has a point. Taylor, like Adele, write songs (not just about heartaches) regarding their current life stage. Some songs mentioned like Innocent, inspired by the Kanye incident last 2009, was not familiar to me. So there. I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift. Ask me about Lighthouse Family instead.

Though the article only notes that Swift has a lesson for us working in the church, I was challenged because I realized how big the responsibility that I’ll be facing this coming school year. How can I not be challenged when the author said to “take note youth ministers!”? Especially now that our school is in a “crisis” during this first year of senior high implementation of the K+12 program of the Department of Education. I know that the year is going to be rough when I learned I am going to be a Christian Values Education teacher for Grade 8 students, a homeroom adviser, a table tennis coach, a senior high school instructor, and a Campus Ministry staff. Using basketball as an analogy, I feel like a playing coach, who can plays all the five positions in the court, plus the water boy duty.

The article inspired me how to be effective in my teaching ministry; to take note what Taylor Swift is doing when it comes to expressing the “young adults’ everyday ‘joys and hopes, fears and anxieties’ (Gaudium Et Spes, 1)”. I am reminded of the book The Wounded Healer where Henri Nouwen wrote about a minister who is able to see in through the eyes of young men and women today, their joys, sorrows, hopes and dreams. And by just reading the article, I was challenged also to look into the eyes of my students just like the gaze of Jesus with the rich young man.

I am now challenged to be there with the teens no matter how hard would that be; to show that my presence is evangelizing (i.e. a good news); and to “brother” them.

And brother, for me, is a verb too.

How Augustine’s doctrine of original sin made more sense to me

Just need to write this down before I forget this. Yesterday morning before I attended my first subject, I picked up a book Fire on the Earth by Kevin J Barr MSC. It is about religious life and its prophetic role in the 21st century. This is timely since it is the Year of Consecrated Life. Later, during our Moral Theology class, we talked about the Church History in relation to moral thinking. Whenever I encounter St. Augustine, his doctrine on original sin is always bloody. Our professor mentioned something about human sinfulness and the reason why priests wear white soutanes. One perspective is that priests wear white soutanes to cover the darkness of human flesh. Because deep inside is a sinful nature. And how do we explain those black, brown habits?

That moment, the original sin doctrine made sense to me. Why did St. Augustine come up with that doctrine?  Aside from his own life experience as his inspiration, he was fighting heresies particularly the Pelagian heresy which says that Jesus was a very good model for living that people can imitate to live a good life and attain salvation for oneself. There’s a lot of problem with that. This heresy is saying that even without grace, one can work for his/her own salvation. And Augustine said no you cannot do that. The Pelagians are again thinking of turning themselves as “gods” like what Adam and Eve did. It is through the grace of God that we attain salvation. A modern understand of original sin is this: we are born with original grace; however, we again commit what Adam and Eve did whenever we turn away from God, refusing God’s grace. And this makes more sense to me.

P.S.: I’m still thinking whether to attend review classes tomorrow or not. Tomorrow is my brother’s wedding and I don’t want to be late. I don’t even know yet what to wear. Of course one thing’s for sure: I’ll be there.

How to read a spiritual conversion story?

Father, I want to become a Catholic”, said Thomas Merton to a priest.

It’s taking me a long time to finish the book The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. It’s an autobiographical account of a Trappist Monk on how he, from being a self-confessed “atheist”, became a Catholic and a monk. I just borrowed the book from our teacher since he mentioned it class and I asked for a copy. It is 500-plus pages long and I don’t mind taking a leisurely pace in reading this book. You might accuse me of being lazy since I really am. The book has been with me since June and I have been able to finish a number of books ahead of Merton’s book. Whenever I feel like reading the book, I pick it up and just read it until I get hooked then just stop and reflect. When I read a spiritual book, I change my reading habit. In this book, though I read slowly, my interest doesn’t wane easily and I reread some parts and just ponder. It’s unlike any other books where I read them like I’m just listening to a song. With The Seven Storey Mountain, it’s like I’m reading poetry. Merton mentioned a lot of poets but I would like to focus on Gerard Manley Hopkins, a convert to Catholicism who later on joined the Jesuits as a priest. I think Merton, a self-confessed “atheist”, was inspired by the poems and the life of Hopkins that it pushed him to finally become a Catholic. I have yet to read what happens next since I’m only halfway of the book. I’ll be writing again once I got “struck” again.