Why do we fast?
March 9, 2017
CHRIST was once asked this
question. The disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees
wondered why they had to fast much while those of Christ did not. (cfr
The answer came immediately.
“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and
then they will fast.”
I suppose Christ was
referring to himself as the bridegroom. In fact, in his Letter to the
Ephesians, St. Paul referred Christ as the groom of the Church, that
is, us. (cfr 5,22-32)
Christ can be regarded as
the bridegroom who actually is with us always, but also not yet fully
with us, given our human and temporal condition as of yet. We are
still on our pilgrim way on earth toward our eternal destiny in heaven
where Christ will be fully with us.
That is why Christ can be
considered somehow as not yet with us, and that’s the reason why we
have to fast. It is to train ourselves to seek him. It is to make us
realize we need him, and that we actually will find our true and
lasting joy with him. At the moment, we are still kind of mourning, as
Christ said, because we are not yet fully with him.
We have to be clear about
the reason why we fast. We should not just fast because we have been
commanded to do so. We have to fast because, especially at these times
when we are easily carried away by earthly pleasures, we need to
sharpen our longing for Christ.
Fasting has a dual effect.
One is the passive or the negative effect, which is that of
disciplining ourselves – especially our senses and our other bodily
faculties. This is the self-denial part. And the other is the active
or the positive one, which is that of honing our hunger for Christ.
This is the following part, as illustrated in the very words of
Christ: “If any man wants to follow me, he must deny himself, carry
the cross, and follow me.”
This two should go together,
mutually affecting each other. One without the other would distort the
true character and purpose of fasting.
And nowadays, we have to
understand that fasting should not be limited to matters of food and
drinks. It has to be extended now most especially in the use of the
many conveniences that we now enjoy, like our new technologies, that
have an effective way of enslaving us and blunting our love for God
and for others.
We need to concretize our
resolutions with regard to this need for fasting. This may mean that
we have to set aside our cellphones from time to time, that we use the
gadgets with clear rectitude of intention, that we refrain from
complaining when these same gadgets give us problems as they often do
We have to understand that
everyday, the element of fasting as a sacrifice is actually a
necessity to all of us.
PMCJ’s statement on
President Duterte’s signing of the Paris Agreement
March 6, 2017
The Philippine Movement for
Climate Justice (PMCJ) welcomes President Duterte’s signing of the
Paris Agreement as a step towards the Philippines commitment to the
1.5 degree aspirational goal laid out in the Paris Agreement.
However, signing the Paris
Accord still will not ensure a world beyond the climate crisis and the
Philippines climate-proofed from extreme weather events. However, the
Philippine Government will once again lead the various countries in
demanding the historical responsibilities of rich countries and the
higher commitments in polluter countries in mitigation action. As of
now, the NDCs submitted by all countries which ratified the Paris
Agreement falls short of preventing catastrophic climate change.
With this, PMCJ stands firm
that the Paris Agreement is not enough to enact effective and genuine
climate actions. The group calls for stronger and concrete policy
actions that can directly address and develop programs towards
Philippine economy achieving growth not tied with increased
consumption of coal.
We demand the president’s
full support in implementing policies to reduce the dependence of our
country to the use of dirty fossil fuels and spearhead the transition
towards 100% renewable energy. Moreover, we call on the President to
use its mandate to ensure that government agencies will be working
hand-in-hand and will serve and protect the interest of the people who
are being directly hit by the impacts of the exacerbating global
So far, the Philippines
energy consumption exhibits an increasing CO2 emission due to
undesirably increasing number of existing coal-fired power plants (CFPPs)
in the country – counting 26 operational and 36 more CFPPs in the
pipeline. In fact, President Duterte himself has inaugurated 3 CFPPs
in his term.
The Philippines still
remains as one of the most vulnerable countries. According to the 2016
Global Climate Risk Index our country ranked 4th globally after being
visited by strong typhoons like Typhoon Yolanda for the past decade
and the succeeding typhoons. As a result it exacerbated further
poverty, massive inequality due to the extent of damage and
dislocation. The continued burning of coal and other fossil fuels
globally will be detrimental to most climate vulnerable countries like
the Philippines where economic growth are being eaten up by
destruction and devastation.
Typhoon Yolanda’s effects
and impacts include high percentage of destruction of framed homes,
total roof failure and wall collapse, isolation of residential areas
due to fallen trees and power poles and power outages (NOAA, 2013c),
and left the country with 6,201 dead, 1,785 missing and 28,626
injured. All of these resulted to P296 million total damages in
agriculture and infrastructure which caused a 1% total decrease in
gross domestic product (GDP).
Lent, seeing the light in
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
March 5, 2017
WE are now again the in
season of Lent. It’s important that we know how to see the good,
bright and happy side of this season that otherwise is usually
considered as dark, and also associated almost exclusively with pain,
suffering and sacrifice.
We need to confront the dark
reality of our sinfulness as well as the reassuring reality of God’s
mercy. These two realities should go together, and the Lenten period
is the good time to strengthen our conviction about the helpful
relationship these two should have with each other.
Whenever we feel the sting
of our weaknesses and sinfulness, together with their antecedents and
consequences, their causes and effects, let’s never forget to consider
also God’s mercy that is always given to us, and, in fact, given to us
We have to avoid getting
stuck with one while ignoring the other. Our sinfulness should be
viewed in the context of divine mercy. And vice-versa: God’s mercy
should be regarded in the context of our unavoidable sinfulness.
And from there, let us
develop the unshakable conviction that no matter what sins we commit,
no matter how ugly they are, there is always hope. God’s mercy is
May it be that while our
sinfulness would have the understandable effect of making us feel bad
and sad, we should not allow it to scandalize ourselves to the point
of running away from Christ rather than going back to him contrite.
Let’s strengthen our
conviction that Christ has a special attraction to sinners, that he is
ever willing to forgive us as long as we show some signs of repentance
that he himself, through his grace, will stir in us.
Let’s play the part of Peter who, after denying Christ three times,
realized his mistake and wept bitterly in repentance. Christ looked
kindly on him and forgave him and even made him the prince of the
But we have to learn how to handle our weaknesses and temptations. And
the secret is always to be with God. The more we are stirred and
bombarded by them, the more we should be with God. That’s the secret.
To distance ourselves from him can only mean disaster.
Truth is, we always need God in our battle against temptations. We
should disabuse ourselves from the thought that with our good
intentions and our best efforts alone, we can manage to tame the urges
We cannot! That’s the naked truth about it. We only can if we are with
God. And we have to be with him in a strong, determined way, not in a
passive or lukewarm way. Do flies flock on a hot soup? No. But they do
on a cold or lukewarm soup.
We need to do everything to be with God. Our mind and heart should be
fully and constantly engaged with him. We always have reason to do so
– at least, we can thank him for what we are having at the moment:
health, food, air, work, etc. Let’s never leave him!
God yes but
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 22, 2017
WE have to be clear about
this. We cannot have God without religion. They go together as far as
we are concerned. Religion is precisely our relationship with God.
It’s an unavoidable thing, whether we like it or not. It has its laws
and requirements that flow from God himself and that ought to be
followed. Without religion, what would God be to us?
There are some people who
profess that they believe in God but not in religion. Perhaps what
they mean is that they indeed believe in God but do not want to be
hampered by certain “requirements” that religion demands from them. Or
they do not want what they call as “organized religion” with its
doctrine and practices.
It’s like saying that they
want a God that is according to their own liking, their own designs,
their own terms. They do not want to be told what to do in their own
so-called relation with God.
Of course, they are quick to
say that these “requirements” are simply man-made, or are mere
legalisms that really have nothing to do with the essence of our
relation with God. They seem to be the only ones capable of knowing
how their relation with God should be. No one should intervene.
Worse, they are quick to
point out the many inconsistencies that people who occupy positions in
the Church and those who call themselves as pious, holy and religious
make, to justify their rejection of their own idea of religion. They
are deflecting the issue, as if the mistakes and sins of these men and
women detract from the objective need for religion.
This is unfortunate because
such understanding of God and religion is fatally flawed. While
religion is personal in the sense that it is unique to each
individual, it is also personal in the sense that it is by definition
relational and subject to the laws of God and the laws that the
divinely founded Church stipulates.
To be personal is not only
to be a unique individual but also to be related to God and to
everybody else. A person is always a religious and social being. That
is how a person is wired, and in these relations, there are universal
God-given laws that need to be followed.
Of course, these laws are
articulated in human terms and therefore cannot fully capture the
mysterious laws of God. That is why they need to be updated, improved,
polished, enriched, etc. as time goes on. But they have to be followed
just the same, unless it’s clear that a particular law does not apply
to a concrete situation of the person.
Some people say that they
believe in God but they do not want to do anything with the Church.
But God without the Church is not God. He would be a man-made god. The
bishop-martyr St. Cyprian expresses this truth well: “You cannot have
God as your Father if you do not have the Church as your mother.”
Souls of prayer
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 11, 2017
We really need to be souls
of prayer. This is what is proper to us. It’s a fundamental need
because when we pray we connect ourselves with our ultimate life
source who is God. Our need for prayer is infinitely more than our
need for air and food. Before anything else, it is what truly makes us
a human person and a child of God.
That is why Christ preached
abundantly about it, and encouraged us always to pray. He himself, who
is both God and man, prayed all the time. He prayed before he started
his public life, when he began his day of work as well as at the end
of the day, when he performed miracles, when he had to make big
In the end, he clearly told
us to pray always and not to lose heart when he talked about the
parable of the persistent widow (cfr Lk 18,1ff). He also told us about
the basic characteristics of our prayer – that it should be sincere,
confident, humble and constant.
We have to be wary of our
great tendency to be dominated by worldly and temporal concerns such
that we fail to pray. That would be a disaster since that would be
like being deluded that we are doing well in life when in fact we are
failing big time.
We have to start to pick up
the rudiments of prayer and begin the process of becoming authentic
souls of prayer, such that wherever we are, whatever situation we may
be in, somehow we are always praying, we are always in touch with God.
This should not be difficult
because we know that God is always around. He is everywhere. Besides,
he is always solicitous of us. He cannot fail to love us. We may fail
him and earn his anger, but that anger would only be for a while,
since his mercy is forever. We can always manage to pray any time any
place if we just would have the proper disposition.
Definitely, we need to
exercise our faith and be willing to exert effort and make sacrifices.
That is how we can aspire to make our prayer alive always. We should
put ourselves in God’s presence always so we avoid anonymity in our
intimate conversations with him.
What can also help is to
train and use our imagination in our prayer. In fact, we have to use
all our human powers and faculties – our intelligence and will, our
feelings and memory, etc. – in our prayer.
And we should be ready to
handle the unavoidable difficulties in our prayer. There will be times
when we would feel dry and uninspired or when we would be tempted to
think that our prayer is going nowhere.
Those difficulties are
actually opportunities to improve our prayer and to grow in our
spiritual life. If we persevere in praying, using all the means that
are always available, we will see how this improvement and growth are
taking place, and be filled with joy and satisfaction.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 7, 2017
APPARENTLY an American actor
expressed the view recently that if he does not read the newspapers,
he obviously would be uninformed of developments around. But if he
reads them, he most likely would also get misinformed, considering the
way the papers are now, he said. He found himself in a dilemma.
This is the challenge we all
face at present. The truth is that we have to get informed, but
informed properly. We simply have to find ways of how to get out of
the state of being uninformed and misinformed.
This will require some
skills, of course. But the basic and relevant virtue to live here is
that of prudence. That’s what would enable us to judge whether we
should read the papers or not, now or later, or to “smell” whether a
piece of information is good or not, useful or useless, relevant or
irrelevant, true or false.
Nowadays, the need to be
most discerning is getting urgent precisely because of the
proliferation of useless information, not to mention, misleading and
deceptive ones and fake news that are laced with all sorts of biases
and prejudices of those who make them. It’s not only political
partisanship that occasions this phenomenon. It’s deeper than that.
It’s now ideological partisanship.
This virtue of prudence, of
course, presumes some criteria to guide our judgments. In this regard,
it has to be made clear that we have to start with God’s moral law. We
just cannot set aside this indispensable requirement and plunge
immediately to merely earthly and temporal values like practicality,
profitability, popularity, etc., to guide us. That would be like
sailing a boat without the North Star, or the GPS.
Prudence, of course,
presumes a certain hierarchy of values that we should respect, uphold
and defend. It should be vitally connected with wisdom that in the end
connects us with God and all others, as well as all things in the
world, through love and truth.
We have to make sure that
our prudence is not only motivated by secondary criteria, like
efficiency, effectiveness, practicality, profitability, convenience,
etc. If these criteria do not lead us to a closer relation with God,
with others and the rest of the world, but would rather reinforce our
self-absorption, then it would not be true prudence.
We might enjoy some perks
that these secondary standards may give us, but it would not be true
prudence when it fails to lead us to our proper relationship with God,
others and the rest of the world.
Of course, true prudence
springs first of all from our intimate personal relation with God, the
source of all good things, of all truth, of all love. Without that
foundation, our prudence would be limited to mere appearances of
prudence that would be nothing other than the prudence of the world
and the prudence of the flesh, if not the prudence of the devil.
Again, we cannot
overemphasize the need to be vitally united with God for us to be
truly prudent and able to discern all types of information that are
being fed to us these days.
In the name of
Fr. Roy Cimagala,
January 12, 2017
WE should form the habit of
frequently invoking the name of Jesus. If there’s any name that we
should call most often, it should be that of Jesus. It is the most
important and necessary name we can call, as attested by St. Paul
himself who said:
“God greatly exalted him,
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the
name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2,10-11)
Calling his name, for sure,
is never just an empty form of pietism, or some kind of superstition.
Calling his name corresponds to a basic necessity of ours who always
need to be helped, enlightened, strengthened and ultimately redeemed.
We are assured that Jesus
always listens to us and promptly attends to our needs, although in
ways that may be different from our own expectations. It’s not in
Jesus to be indifferent to our needs, no matter how unworthy and
undeserving we are. His great love for us will always lead him to
intervene always in our life.
The name of Jesus means “God
saves.” Invoking that name will always remind us of our need for
salvation, that is, our ultimate salvation from sin, from death, from
all pain and suffering. It’s not simply liberation from some
transitory hunger or worldly need. It’s liberation to eternal life.
If invoked with faith and
love, if done with great piety, calling the name Jesus can only give
us a lot of good. It can even give us an immediate relieving and
I remember that one time, I
had some muscle pain in my legs and in my back. A ‘manghihilot’ was
recommended to me, and he told me to have strong faith and to follow
him in calling the name of Jesus as he did his therapy. I must say
that it worked.
But more importantly, we
need to call Jesus’ name when we are faced with big challenges and
difficult, if not irresistible, temptations. Somehow doing so
generates a certain kind of spiritual strength that would enable us to
handle these situations effectively.
When we feel our weaknesses
stirred up, or when, for some mysterious reasons, we seem to be
strongly drawn or lured to do something sinful, calling the name of
Jesus would really help. More than just recovering our senses, we can
feel a strong mysterious spiritual force that will enable us to do
what we ought to do.
And if, in spite of
everything, we still manage to fall, then calling Jesus’ name
facilitates our repentance and reconciliation with God and with
others. We do not actually need to go far or do extraordinary things
for us to be helped, guided, enlightened, strengthened and redeemed.
We just need to call Jesus’ name, and the process of healing starts.
Some people question whether
it is practicable to be truly holy in the middle of the world that is
full of sin and temptations. The answer to that is a resounding,
‘yes.’ Christ would not command us to be holy if that is not doable.
And the practicability of holiness can start simply by calling the
name of Jesus – with faith, love and piety.
The lives of saints can
attest to this. And even our own personal experiences can prove it.
Calling Jesus’ name can immediately soften our mind and heart that can
tend to harden due to the pressures of life, not to mention, the
temptations and sin around.
Calling Jesus’ name will
always remind us to be good to others, to be charitable, understanding
and compassionate with them. It will prod us to think well of the
others, to be quick to serve and help them. It will push us to do a
lot of good, never saying enough.
Calling Jesus’ name will
help us to be quick to ask for forgiveness if we commit a mistake as
well as to forgive others. It will lead us along the way of humility
Calling Jesus’ name will
strengthen us so we can tackle the many and endless challenges and
problems of life. It will help us to handle situations when we are
insulted, mocked and offended. It will encourage us to identify with
him on the cross when we suffer all kinds of injustice.
Calling Jesus’ name will
also show us what else to do to follow him all the way to the end.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
January 8, 2017
LEST you get scandalized, it
was Christ himself who said so. Let us cite the exact quotation:
‘“Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they
answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors
and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’”
Of course, the context was
the precious lesson Christ wanted to highlight as to what would
comprise fulfilling God’s will. He mentioned about two brothers. The
first was asked to work in the vineyard, and said no, but later on,
changed his mind and went to work. The second said yes, but actually
did not go.
The precious lesson Christ
wanted to impart is that what really matters is doing and not simply
saying to do God’s will, even if at the beginning one declines to do
God’s will. An important part of this lesson is the need for
repentance and conversion in our life.
So the prostitutes referred
to in this particular episode are those who repented and who actually
did what Christ wanted them to do. They did not enter as prostitutes,
but as sinners who have repented.
A significant lesson we can
also gather from this particular story, and one that should serve as a
constant warning to all of us, is that we have to be most careful when
we think we are already good enough because of certain good things we
have or have done, but still have failed to be very faithful to God’s
This is the lesson embedded
in that saying that “the good is the enemy of the best,” that is the
very germ of that most insidious spiritual illness called spiritual
complacency and lukewarmness. That’s when we think we are good enough.
There’s no need to be better.
We have to understand that
conversion is a continuing need for all of us. We can never say that
we are good enough and that we do not need further conversions. We
should not forget that we are all sinners even in the best condition
of our earthly life.
For this to happen, we need
to be humble, which can be the result of the keen awareness of our
sinfulness. It’s when we think we are sinless or with little and
negligible sin that we fail to realize the need for conversion.
We should never allow
whatever good we have done to lull us to think that we are good enough
and that we don’t need another conversion.
I refer more to people who
have been doing good all these years, but somehow are stuck at a
certain point in their spiritual life. Doing good for them has become
a kind of set routine that is turning to be more mechanical than
spiritual, leaving an impressive shell but slowly being deprived of
substance, desensitizing them from the urge for another conversion.
The mark of true saints is
precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion.
Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud.
They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made,
and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes,
faults, infidelities, etc.
It’s not that they led a
miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative
attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy
sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father,
but aware of their total dependence on God.
It’s their driving love for
God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and
conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this
hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see
more things that they need to do. It’s this love for God and souls
that would make them feel that they have to go further than what so
far they have accomplished.
This love has no limits. It
does not have the word ‘enough’ in its vocabulary. It always urges
them to do more to be more and better.
That is why it is often
given as a spiritual advice that one forgets himself completely and
just thinks of God and the others. Not only that, but also that one’s
true growth and development toward human maturity and Christian
perfection is measured to the extent that one thinks of God and the
others and does things for them.
It might be good to
replicate in oneself a true act of contrition that is involved in a
conversion of a prostitute.
Good news and the
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
December 13, 2016
There's a new scourge in the
media today. It's called the fake news. It had its most devastating
display during the last US presidential election where one candidate
was touted practically by all the major news sources to be the winner,
The outcome was, of course,
different. The upset was shocking. And the world woke up to the
realization that it has been fed, maliciously or not, systematically
or not, with fake news.
That this phenomenon
happened certainly deserves a more in-depth study. How could such
powerful news agencies, pollsters, etc., fail to read the mind of the
people in general? What an epic, big-time fail it was!
There can be many, endless
reasons behind it. But offhand, what I can say is that there certainly
was a very devious virus of bias and prejudice involved among the
media people that now include millions of netizens with their blogs
and social media accounts.
It was a virus that found
its host in the passion-filled arena of the political warfare, where
the light that was shed blinded more than made people see things
properly. It generated what may be termed as agenda-dictated
journalism, where self-serving slanting of data and the objective
assessment and the fair treatment of the issues were set aside.
Words were inflated or
deflated to serve the biases and prejudices of those in media. More
than words, ideologies corrupted the minds of people to the extent
that the people could not judge things properly anymore and resorted
instead to a simplistic black-and-white tack on the issues.
These ideologies tried to be
the core basis for the people's faith and reasoning. But we know that
for all their valid points, no ideology has exclusive right to be the
sole holder and owner of what is true, right and fair in our human
affairs. It's amazing that many people now turn to ideologies as the
bedrock of their beliefs.
God, his word, his will and
ways – in short, the Good News – are all but dismissed completely.
They are considered irrelevant, a drag and an unnecessary baggage in
resolving issues political or otherwise.
Many people have not come
any closer to the realization that in fact God has to be in the middle
of all our earthly affairs, be it business or politics, etc. No
ideology, no personal convictions can replace him.
In short, we have to listen
to the Good News God has given us through Christ and now in the Holy
Spirit that animates the Church and its many instrumentalities. We
have to understand that this Good News is the foundation of whatever
opinion, view, philosophy, ideology that we may use to pursue our
In other words, God’s word
is the first and last word. Any word we coin and use in the fields of
our sciences, arts, technologies, politics, business, culture, etc.,
should begin and end with God’s word. Otherwise it will have no proper
foundation and orientation.
St. Paul has amply warned us
about arrogating our words to be simply our own. “Let no man deceive
himself,” he said. “If any man among you seems to be wise in this
world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of
this world is foolishness with God…Let no man therefore glory in men.”
(1 Cor 3,19-21)
That's simply because God's
word or the Good News, as described in the Letter to the Hebrews, is
“living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and
marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Its primary purpose is to
bring us back to God through our temporal affaris. And so more than
just giving us some helpful earthly knowledge, it gives us the
ultimate spiritual knowledge we need to return to God, even through
the very contentious field of politics.
Christ himself said: “Heaven
and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mk 13,31)
We need to echo that response of St. Peter who, when asked if the
apostles would also go away from Christ when he talked about himself
as the bread of life, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words
of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)
We certainly have to sit
down and see how we can be more aware of grounding and orienting our
words with God’s word, the Good News. Otherwise, we will be wallowing
in fake news.
Heroes and saints
ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2016
HEROES need not be saints,
but saints are always heroes in the sense that whatever their vocation
and mission, they always live them with heroicity even if their heroic
lives may not be publicly known in some political, social, historical
or cultural terms.
Saints can even live their
heroicity hidden from the public eye, and often they live it by going
against the current obtaining in a certain society. They can be
unpopular, in fact, as St. Paul once said: “We have become the scum of
the earth, the garbage of the world...” (1 Cor 4,13)
Heroes obviously can be
saints too, as long as they live their vocation and mission in strict
and heroic obedience to God's will and ways. They definitely have done
some acts that we consider as heroic. They serve a certain purpose in
But what we usually consider
heroes are defined more in political, social, historical and cultural
terms, and need not accord with the spiritual and supernatural
criteria of sainthood.
In fact, there are many
heroes now who can hardly qualify as saints, precisely because their
heroism may go against spiritual and supernatural standards. Heroes
work for some worldly values like nationalism, save-and-rescue
operations, efficiency and effectiveness, etc. Saints work only for
the fidelity to God's will.
While heroes are always
involved in some extraordinary events, saints need not get involved in
those kind of events. Most of them become saints simply doing very
ordinary things but doing them extraordinarily well, that is, with
great love of God and of others, with extreme fidelity to their
vocation and mission.
Most saints live their
heroic lives in secret. They don't show off their goodness, imitating
Christ who said: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door
and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in
secret will reward you...And when you fast, do not look dismal, like
the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may
be seen by men...” (Mt 6,6&16)
Saints live their heroic
lives consistently, in season and out of season, when times are
favorable and when they are not. They hardly are influenced by the
opinions of people. They can go against the general trends, if need
be. Theirs is in strict obedience and fidelity to God's will.
The distinction between
heroes and saints is crucial because we need to realize that we have
to aim more at becoming saints than at becoming heroes. If we happen
to end up both saints and heroes, then that's good. It's quite a
privilege. But if given a choice, we have to opt for sainthood rather
than for being a hero.
What is truly important is
that we are with God rather than with our own selves. We have to aim
at heaven rather than some earthly advantage. “What does it profit a
man,” Christ says, “to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” (Mk
This does not mean that we
have to belittle the value of the world. Not at all. The world and the
things in it, our temporal affairs, are important and even
indispensable in the pursuit of sanctity. But the world and things in
it are simply means. They are never the end.
Thus, the call to holiness
and sanctity is universal. It's meant for everyone, while the call to
be heroes is quite selective. Not everyone can be heroes, but everyone
is expected to be a saint. The occasions to become saints are always
available, while those to become heroes are few and far between.
That is why even with his
apostles, Christ would just choose practically anyone at random,
including the one who would betray him later. And the reason is simply
because all of us come from God and belong to him.
To become a saint is not so
much a matter of the kind of skill, talent, position, etc. that one
has. It's simply a matter of a total self-giving to God and to others,
irrespective of the conditions and circumstances one may be in.
In this regard, we have to
develop the appropriate passion. That's simply because to become a
saint just cannot happen without fully involving all our faculties,
including our passions. Let's remember what Christ told us about the
greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22,37)
To become a saint is to
achieve the fullness of our humanity. Our fullness is not to become a
Stop the killings!
End impunity! Human rights for all!
A Statement from Network
Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) forwarded by the
Asian Human Rights Commission
November 23, 2016
There has been an epidemic
of summary killings and extrajudicial executions across the
Philippines for decades now. From 1998 to December 2015, a total of
1,424 were documented to have been killed by the so-called Davao Death
Squad in Davao City. More such killings, often perpetrated by
so-called “riding in tandem” killers and death squads, had taken place
and continue to take place in other cities such as Tagum, Digos,
General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Cebu and in other cities in
the Visayas and Luzon.
In the first five months of
the Duterte administration, however, the killings have only gotten
worse, with nearly 5,000 people killed in its brutal war on drugs in
that short period. More than 2,000 died in police operations while the
rest were killed by unidentified assailants, or what the police calls
“deaths under investigations” that appear to be death squad killings.
A number of children were among those killed.
President Duterte campaigned
on a platform of reducing crime and illegal drugs. But instead of
fixing the country’s long-standing rule-of-law problems, he and his
top officials incite and encourage law enforcers to commit even more
killings and even more abuses. While some of these killings are being
investigated both by the police and the Commission on Human Rights, no
one has been charged, signaling what appears to be complete impunity.
The Duterte administration
has likewise taken steps to erode human rights and civil liberties.
The president’s allies have filed bills in Congress to reinstate the
death penalty and to lower the age of criminal liability to nine years
old. He has floated the idea of suspending the privilege of the writ
of habeas corpus and imposing martial law. He has likewise approved
the burial of the dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani
despite opposition from those who suffered under the dictatorship.
President Duterte has been
trying to discredit institutions that can check official abuse of
power, such as the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and
non-government groups critical of the killings. He has attacked the
United Nations and the Human Rights Council as well as western
countries whose representatives have expressed concern about the human
rights situation in the Philippines. He also wants the Philippines to
get out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after other
countries with despotic regimes have done so.
administrations that have denied complicity in past extrajudicial
killings, the Duterte government encourages these abuses and even
promises protection to the perpetrators, taking an already egregious
human rights situation to a whole new and more dangerous level. It is
time for these killings to stop and for the killers to be brought to
We organized ourselves into
the Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines)
because civil society needs to take a firmer, stronger and principled
stand against extrajudicial killings and the continued erosion of
universal human rights in the Philippines. Like the human rights
advocates that have campaigned against death squad killings since
1999, we are outraged by these violations and are committed to do what
we can to stop the killings, demand accountability from government,
assert human rights for all, and protect human rights defenders.
NAKPhilippines is an
independent, non-partisan and broad alliance of various individuals,
NGOs and civil society organizations concerned about human rights,
civil liberties and rule of law in the Philippines.
Today, on the 7th
anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, we hold a National Day of Prayer
and Solidarity for Victims of Extrajudicial Killings and Their
Families at the Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help, Redemptorist
Church, Baclaran, in Manila. This is our way of acknowledging the pain
and anguish of the families of thousands of victims of Duterte’s war
on drugs and to press for our continuing demand for accountability and
Beware of privileges and
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
November 17, 2016
AS school chaplain, I get to
talk with students who are transitioning from one level to another –
be it from high school to college or from college to professional
life, etc. A common problem or difficulty these students meet in this
stage of their life is that of adjustment.
Most of the time, these
students realize that they have new responsibilities to assume, new
challenges and expectations to meet. Though many of them manage to
cope with the new things, some find it hard and fall into crisis,
sometimes grave, almost fatal or suicidal crisis.
These problematic cases
often manifest a common feature – that of somehow being spoiled by
privileges, entitlements, comfort and carefree lifestyle that they
enjoyed and received from their parents and peers.
This time though, as they
enter a new phase in their life, they notice that these perks are
ebbing away for a number of reasons, and they find it hard to go on
without them. While this phenomenon is quite normal and should be
expected, some of these young ones do not know how to handle it. They
are unprepared for these changes, or they simply refuse to make the
They continue to expect the
same things, when circumstances have in fact changed, sometimes
drastically. And so they get disappointed and frustrated, and from
there more serious problems can be triggered.
They fail to realize that
gospel indication of Christ: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Mt 23,12) They fail to
match their growth in their status with the corresponding growth in
their sense of responsibility, in the tenor of what Christ himself
said: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt 23,11)
This is where they have to
be reminded – with patience and reassurance but with clear and strong
admonition – that they have to know how to wean themselves from their
previous lifestyle and start to get real with the objective changes of
circumstances in their lives.
Part of this reminder should
be the explanation that all the attention and affection lavished on
them by their parents and others while they were growing up was meant
for them to grow toward maturity and not for them to get spoiled.
Getting spoiled by all the
attention, privileges and entitlements given to them can happen when
they fail to realize this crucial truth about their life. They fail to
act on what Christ himself said: “From everyone who has been given
much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him
they will ask all the more.” (Lk 12,48)
So this is where they have
to be taught how to grow in responsibility, teaching them to be ever
mindful and thoughtful of the others, and to realize that our life,
like Christ’s life, is meant to serve and not to be served.
In fact, all of us have to
do everything to acquire, develop and enrich this attitude in
ourselves and among ourselves, inspiring and inculcating it in others
as much as we can, for it is what is truly proper of us all.
With God’s grace, we have to
exert effort to overcome the understandable awkwardness and tension
involved in blending the natural and the supernatural aspects of this
affair, as well as the expected resistance we can give, due to the
effects of our sins.
We can make use of our daily
events to cultivate this attitude. For example, as soon as we wake up
from sleep in the morning, perhaps the first thing we have to do is
address ourselves to God and say “Serviam” (I will serve). It’s the
most logical thing to do, given who God is and who we are in relation
And “Serviam” is a beautiful
aspiration that can immediately put us in the proper frame of mind for
the day. It nullifies Satan’s “Non serviam” and our tendency to do our
own will instead of God’s, which is what sin, in essence, is all
And as we go through our
day, let’s see to it that everything we do is done as a service to God
and to others. Let’s not do them merely out of self-interest or
self-satisfaction. That kind of attitude is highly poisonous to us,
ruinous to our duty to love. Sooner or later, we will find ourselves
completely engulfed by self-centeredness.
For us to be able to do
things as service of love to God and to others, we have to continually
rectify our intentions. We should be quick to react when we notice
that our intentions and motivations are already invaded by
How long should
ABRAHAM V. LLERA
November 16, 2016
“Eight minutes, with 15
minutes as maximum,” according to Abp. Malcom Ranjith who used to be
the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) of the
Vatican. “Eight minutes, the average time a listener can remain
listening,” agrees Abp. Nikola Eterovik, former Secretary General for
the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Curia.
“Eight minutes,” agrees Fr.
Andre Headon, vice rector of the Venerable English College in Rome
which prepares men to become priests. “There’s a saying among clergy,”
adds Fr Headon, “’If you haven’t struck oil in seven minutes, stop
“It should be brief,”
cautions #138 of Evangelii Gaudium, and should not be “a form of
entertainment,” [emphasis mine] as many priests, it seems, take it to
be. If the homily goes too long, e.g., 45 minutes, it disturbs two
characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and
rhythm,” reminds Evangelii Gaudium. This means that “the words of the
preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister,
will be the center of attention.”
Unfortunately, some priests
seem to think otherwise. Look at them sing. Or crack jokes. Or talk
about last night’s episode of a teleserye. Did they really intend the
singing to help the faithful understand the need for sorrow for sin in
these days leading to Advent? Or is it simply to call attention to
their singing prowess?
Was the joke intended to
make a wealthy business owner listener impatient to get home so that
he can give the instructions that will give SSS and Philhealth
coverage to his employees, long denied of this basic employees right?
Or did Father oblige with a joke because that is what most Catholics,
sad to say, come to church for: to be entertained?
And the teleserye. Did
Father mention that in order to stir the congregation into such a
fervor they would henceforth look at their wealth not as theirs, but
as a good common to all, ready to be given to everyone in need? Or did
Father do that for the “Okay si Father” comments that invariably come
Homilies must be
scrupulously prepared for one week in advance, and, as Pope Francis
has said, must be limited to the Scripture readings of the day,
avoiding sociologism, politics, or vainglory, the last one apparent
the moment the priest starts talking about himself.
Especially to be avoided is
useless chatter. To include in the homily the diocesan priests’
retreat in Betania, Tagaytay, and how they would be going there on
different flights to make sure there’ll be priests left in case of a
mishap is dangerously approaching “useless chatter,” especially on a
Sunday when St. Luke talks about persecution, and about the need to
even speak all the more about Christ.
Homilies are difficult to
prepare, because it takes a lot of effort to keep homilies short. But
it doesn’t require a 45-minute homily to whip the congregation to
fervor and to specific and firm resolutions where they can apply the
message of the day’s readings in their lives.
In fact, precisely the
opposite is bound to happen. Often along the way, the homily hits
paydirt, and a firm resolution forms up in the heart of the listener.
But instead of wrapping up, Father rambles on for another 10 minutes,
so you listen, and finds out that Father is talking about Bato de la
Rosa now and Pacquiao’s all-expenses-paid-US-trip gift to him. Then
Father suddenly ends his homily which leaves you wondering what it was
Father was driving at. Worse, in the process, you have forgotten your
Finally, it'd help if the
preacher checks his facts first. It wasn't Nero who destroyed the
Temple of Jerusalem, and watched it burn from a distance. The
Babylonians did the first time, and Titus (not the bishop of Crete)
under orders from his emperor father Vespasian did the second time,
but it was not Nero.
Something bereft of love
cannot be pleasing to God. Long homilies, to the extent that they’re
often but not always the product of ill preparation, simply have no
place in such a celebration as the Holy Mass.
Long homilies must end.
Pakistan: Will the
judiciary bring back to life the two brothers who were declared
innocent, following their execution?
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission
November 4, 2016
Sadly, in an atrocious
system where innocents spend decades behind bars awaiting justice to
be served on them, instead death penalties are handed down as state
The lack of justice sector
reforms coupled with near-collapsed institutions of criminal justice
has yet again caused a grotesque miscarriage of justice. In a shocking
revelation on year after two siblings have been hanged the Supreme
Court declared them innocent of all charges. The Court finding several
anomalies in several witness accounts acquitted and exonerated both
brothers of all charges – to find, that they have already been hanged
despite their appeal pending in the Supreme Court.
Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam
Qadir, were accused of murdering a woman in the year 2002, and the
trial court handed down its verdict in 2005, finding them guilty of
all charges following which the Lahore High Court upholding the said
decision of the Trail Court, handed down the brothers’ death sentences
in 2010; they were executed on October 13, 2015.
On October 6, 2016, after
one year of their hanging, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court
accepted their appeal, set aside the Lahore High Court verdict and
ordered their release. No sooner the convictions were set aside, it
transpired that the president of Pakistan had already rejected their
mercy petitions and they were hanged in the Bahawalpur jail.
Sadly, in an atrocious
system where innocents spend decades behind bars awaiting justice to
be served on them, instead death penalties are handed down as state
sanctioned murder. The legal axiom “justice delayed is justice denied”
is sadly the norm in Pakistan where it takes an average of around 10
years for a litigation to be heard and many before the courts do not
receive justice during their lifetimes. In many other cases innocent
persons are hanged as they are unable to afford capable defence
lawyers. The judiciary too is lax in sieving through the evidence of
the cases which are concocted by the police against such poor accused,
and often with the view to extorting bribes.
The Criminal justice system
fails to meet even the basic standard of due process and fair trial.
The judicial system in Pakistan has been mired by delays and indolence
of judicial officers, including the police, the state lawyers as well
as the judiciary. The entire system of administration of justice has
virtually collapsed to the point that rule of law has become
non-existent and the state has virtually no presence in remote parts
of the country.
Calls for comprehensive
reforms to this overall system of justice has been called for, time
and again by the civil society activists, the intelligentsia and
interested parties however, despite such repeated calls – except for a
few half-hearted pledges by the government for reforms, no concrete
measures have been taken so far.
A blatant miscarriage of
justice of this magnitude – where two innocent lives have been taken
away by the state machinery - is unprecedented in the history of
Pakistan and amply demonstrates to the world the level of negligence
on the part of entire system of the judiciary and the state to provide
justice to its people. The two innocent victims cannot ever be
compensated for their lives and for the 11 years behind bars.
Following the verdict, in
2016, the lawyers of the deceased brothers filed an application,
stating that the Sessions judge, Home Secretary and the Interior
Secretary had failed to discharge their duty mandated under Article
190 of the constitution, adding that despite having the knowledge of
the pendency of the appeal, it is highly unprecedented and deplorable
that both the brothers were so executed.
The Interior Secretary, Home
Secretary, Additional District and Session’s Judge, Hon. Sadiqabad and
Superintendents of Rahim Yar Khan and the Bahawalpur Jail
administration were also named in the application for having failed in
their duty. The case exposes another dangerous aspect of the underling
absence of coordination between the jail authorities and judiciary.
Each and every stage of the
archaic and colonial criminal justice system including - the police,
prosecution, and judiciary - is infested with loopholes that are used
and abused by the officials, and the state itself for their own
Ironically, the said
colonial system has been dispensed with ages ago in its country of
origin, yet it persists in its atrocious form in all Commonwealth
countries including Pakistan. The Ghulam brothers’ case should act as
a reminder to the authorities to reinstate the moratorium on the death
penalty given the macabre cases of miscarriages of justice. When
criminal the justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and due
process – the enforcement of death penalties should be absolutely done
This case is a textbook
example of everything going wrong with Pakistan’s archaic and
inefficient criminal justice system that instead of meting out justice
– punishes the poor and vulnerable while allowing the rich to get away
with murder. The system is extremely stringent for the improvised
while providing enough loopholes for those with deep pockets to go
scot free. The selective application of the system has bought about
utter disregard to rule of law making might becoming the right a
social mantra for the politically well placed.
The lifting of the
moratorium on the execution of death sentences since 2014 while its
criminal justice system is mired in corruption and injustice is a
complete travesty of justice and travesty of human decency. Exercising
the death penalty in an already intolerant society is clearly a
populist move rather than a deterrent to crime and terror. Blind to
justice and international norms, these Courts have been awarding death
sentences to minors and even the mentally and physically challenged as
is the cases with Imdad Ali.
So far more than 425 people,
within a span of 18 months, have been hanged to comply with the
National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate terrorism. However, the
glaring facts are a glaring reminder enough to the state that these
hardly have the deterring effect on crime and terrorism – all of which
continue unabated if not, are on the increase.
Despite the constitutional
guarantee under Article 9 of the Constitution the courts of the state
dole out death penalties without following any due process nor fair
trial. Right to life is a supreme and inalienable right, and any
exception to it must be narrow and well -founded. The death penalty
legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the State and will
inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains
fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
The Asian Human Right
Commission (AHRC) deplores the alarming state of affairs in Pakistan’s
handling of the criminal justice system and calls for immediate
measures, and policies to be put forth towards reforms to the entire
system of justice in Pakistan ensuring the rights of all its citizens.
The AHRC calls upon all stakeholders including the Government and
international community to intervene in reinstating the moratorium on
the death penalty given the fact that the system is extremely prone to
gross miscarriages of justice.
Thinking with God
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2016
“We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can
look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to
power to assume a universal appeal and influence…”
PASSING by a school one day,
I had second thoughts when I saw its billboard ad that was supposed to
express the school's mission-vision. It said something to the effect
that the school would make the kids independent thinkers.
I, of course, understood what the slogan wanted to say. The kids would
be taught how to think without undue influence by unwelcome elements,
like biases, prejudices and social trends, fads and other
I imagine that the kids would be taught how to think analytically and
critically in a constructive mode. They would be guided to arrive at
convictions on their own and must be responsible for them. There can
be many other positive corollaries that can be derived from such
But the second thoughts that came to my mind were: how far should the
students' independence in their thinking go? We need to be clear about
what the kids should be independent from in their thinking.
We cannot take this issue for granted, for many people nowadays think
that to be independent in their thinking, they have to be independent
from God, from teachings of our faith, from certain authorities, and
that's where we can have big problems.
We are now familiar with those people who brand themselves as
freethinkers. These are those who claim that they think freely and
independently, without any influence from any opinion and especially
from any religious beliefs. Many of these so-called freethinkers are
actually atheists and agnostics.
This is the problem that we have these days. That's because if there
is no belief in God who is supposed to be the creator and the very
foundation of reality, then what would be our reference of what is
true and false, what is good and evil in our life here on earth? If
it's not God, then it can only be our own selves or certain things in
the world. In the end, we can just be subjective about things.
Sad to say, this is what we are seeing in many places these days. We
have people who are trapped in their subjective mode of thinking,
practically incapable of transcending their purely human estimation of
things. They fall for that Cartesian principle – the 'cogito ergo
sum,' or I think therefore I am – such that their subjective thinking
is prior to the objective reality of things.
In other words, things are the way we consider them to me, rather than
the way they are. Said another way, things depend on how we think of
them. It's the things that have depend on our thinking, rather than
our thinking to conform to how things are as they are.
This is the danger that can come when we have an unclear understanding
of what it is to be an independent thinker or a freethinker. We have
to be wary of this danger because nowadays there are powerful groups
that are promoting ideologies and isms that while having certain valid
points are in the end essentially subjective, not objective.
We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can
look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to
power to assume a universal appeal and influence. It can have a global
network to spread itself and dominate the world.
Some of these ideologies and isms, which are all human constructs
almost devoid of any reference to God, to faith, to piety, etc., have
already been proven wrong in recent history, like communism, some
aspects of socialism, etc.
Others, like capitalism and democracy that are mainly detached from
the Christian spirit, are more tricky and deceptive. They look good
and acceptable, but they have elements that are dangerous too. They
can be sweet poisons.
We need to reinforce our belief that only in our Christian faith, in
Christ can we find everything that we need to know and to be as we
ought. In the gospel of St. John, there is a passage that bears this
claim out: “He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man,
for he himself knew what was in man.” (2,25)
That, after all, goes without saying, since Christ as the Son of God
is the perfect image of God, and since we have been made in God's
image and likeness, then we are patterned after the Son of God. And
since the Son of God became man to save us, we have to be with Christ
to be saved, since he is “the way, the truth and the life” for us.
Statement of support of the World Association for Christian Communication - Asia Region to the ongoing peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is
good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to
those who hear.” - Ephesians 4:29
We in the World Association
for Christian Communication (WACC) - Asia Region express our support
and solidarity with the Filipino people as they walk the path to a
just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
We are happy to know about
the progress in the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and we are strongly supportive of it.
Establishing the lines for
communication for the sole purpose of achieving just peace is both
inspiring and meaningful. It lays down the foundation to converse and
find solutions together to problems and hindrances.
Communicating peace is the
same as creating space for communication rights for we can only attain
genuine peace when the rights, lives and dignity of people are
ensured, protected and upheld. When people can communicate their
thoughts without fear of discrimination or retribution, we are steps
forward in building a society with genuine freedom, dignity and just
The people of the
Philippines have borne witness to many decades of and suffered greatly
from poverty, austerity and conflict. Many marginalized peoples have
been silenced yet many groups continue to express solidarity with
them, building communication lines, creating space for them to speak
freely. The ongoing peace talks will help in facilitating and
improving these lines and spaces.
We in the WACC - Asia Region
look forward to the positive progress of the peace talks between the
GRP and NDFP in the Philippines. May the Filipino people truly benefit
from the fruits of these negotiations.
For just peace in the
Philippines, we remain in solidarity!
Overcoming the 'tambay'
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
October 17, 2016
IT'S all understandable, of
course. Young people like to enjoy life. I was also like them when I
was at their age. Even if they carry some heavy personal or family
problems, they like to have fun every time they have the chance.
Outside of my chaplain's
office, I see young students, all boys, sitting on the floor,
invariably engaged in what I consider as mindless chatter, pulling
each other's leg, laughing or simply idling away time, with looks that
can only show purposelessness. I call this the 'tambay' lifestyle,
very common in many places.
I presume it's their break
time, and you just have to let them be. Like little children, they
should not be over-supervised. Their classes would take care of that,
since discipline and meeting the academic requirements would always be
the order of the day there.
And yet, at the back of my
mind, I worry that if they are not properly attended to, this 'tambay'
lifestyle would harden and become the permanent feature of their
character. When I was at their age, I already worried about how to
fill up my time more fruitfully and meaningfully. I exerted some
effort, though I must confess that the motivation was not quite right.
Self-interest fueled most of that effort.
It was only later in life
that I discovered the proper motivation for working or studying or
simply filling time. Only God, the love for him and for neighbor, can
be the appropriate motive. But how can you transmit this truth to
these young ones?
I remember that in my case,
I had a regular chat with a priest who taught me many things. I first
went to see him because I had a problem with my philosophy classes in
school. He was very helpful in clarifying my doubts and answering my
But besides those, he taught
me how to pray, to study the doctrine of the faith more deeply, to
appreciate the value of sacrifice, the sacraments, the virtues, etc.
What I learned was that I can only study and work properly if the
motivation is precisely the love of God and neighbor.
That was when I could always
find something to do, and I pressured myself to fight against my
laziness, excessive love for comfort and pleasures, etc. I learned the
importance of time – that it is the occasion for us to attain the
ultimate purpose of our life. I realized it was a crime to waste time.
It was not easy. And even
until now, I sometimes have to exert some extraordinary effort to do
things properly and to fill up my time. All of us have to contend with
our weaknesses and the many temptations around. One has to wage a
constant struggle to be able to use time properly.
But how can I transmit these
precious lessons to the young ones? Yes, as chaplain, I say Mass for
them everyday. There I can say something in this regard during the
homilies. But that would not be enough. I also give some talks and
classes, conduct retreats and recollections, but then the effects and
results are long in coming. These need a more personalized and abiding
It's good that many of the
students come for a personal chat with me. There I get to know them
more closely and have the chance to encourage them. They need a lot of
clarification and motivation.
Trying to explain what
loving God and others is, what it involves and how it impacts on our
use of time is not easy, especially when it has to touch on an
essential part of it, which is suffering and the need for the cross.
Christian charity has endless facets and practical implications.
We have instituted a
mentoring system so that each student is followed up closely. And
obviously, the task of monitoring the developments of this system can
be demanding. I am more and more convinced that more than anything
else, what are needed to keep things going are the spiritual and
Without these means and when
we rely only our human resources and natural powers, we can only
achieve so much. Worse, we can be deluded into thinking that we are
doing right, when in fact we would be doing wrong.
I hope and pray that while
the general character of the young – their attitude to take things
easy and to have fun – should be respected, the seed of a more
responsible use of their time, talents and other resources would be
sown, take root and start to grow.
We need to
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 14, 2016
IS it possible to experience
God, to feel his presence, to know his will and to participate in his
own life? To all these questions, the answer is a loud yes.
Not only is it possible, but
also, first of all, it is God’s will. Besides, he has endowed us with
the power that would enable us to achieve these feats.
God as our Creator and
Father always intervenes in our life. He is never away from us even if
we fall into the state of sin. We only lose him definitively in hell.
But in our whole earthly sojourn, he is in us, right deep in the core
of our existence.
That’s because he is the
giver and maintainer of our existence. For as long as we exist, God is
in us. Our existence does not depend on our biological constitution
alone, nor on food and air and health only. Even before these things
become indispensable to us, it is God who gives and keeps our
And since we have been made
in his image and likeness, he links with us through our intelligence
and will, through our thinking and loving, and thus he comes to us as
objects of our innate desire for truth, goodness and beauty.
That’s why we have to be
most careful in the exercise of our spiritual faculties – how we are
thinking, judging, reasoning, loving, etc. These human operations have
to be firmly grounded on God, and not just made to be mainly dominated
by the twists and turns of our bodily and natural conditions.
Our thinking and willing,
our knowing and loving should be properly engaged and not allowed to
just drift anywhere, and especially when they are given only at the
instance of our instincts, emotions and passions. They have to be
properly inspired and directed.
The need to experience God
has become an urgent necessity these days because the spiritual and
moral health of our life, taken individually and collectively, depends
on this fact and on no other.
Pope Emeritus Benedict
emphasized this point sometime ago. In an address to some lay
faithful, he said the following:
“How do we reawaken the
question of God so that it becomes the fundamental question?...The
question of God is reawakened in meeting those who have a living
relationship with the Lord. God is known through men and women who
know him. The way to him passes, in a concrete way, through those who
have met him.”
This is just but natural.
God is not just an idea, a theory, a philosophical or theological
term. Christ is not just a historical figure nor an object of
curiosity. God is alive. In fact, he is the very foundation of reality
and of life itself. It’s not in his character to stay away from us or
to hide from us or to play hard to get.
Thus, the Pope Emeritus said
that God should be the central point of reference in our thinking and
acting. He warned that ignoring God will harm our humanity. “A
mentality that rejects every reference to the transcendent has shown
itself to be incapable of preserving the human,” he said.
“The spread of this
mentality has generated the crisis that we are experiencing today,
which is a crisis of meaning and of values before it is an economic
and social crisis,” he added. How true!
God actually engages us
every moment of our life. This is what providence is all about. We
have to learn how to correspond to that continual divine governance,
by learning how to pray, how to know and follow his will, how to offer
whatever we are doing to him, how to live in his presence all the
time, how what we are doing at the moment fits in his plan, etc.
For this we need to study
well the doctrine of our faith, to have recourse to the sacraments, to
develop the virtues, and to commit ourselves to a certain plan of
continuing piety so that whatever may be the circumstances of our
life, we can manage to be with him always.
To live with God is not an
impossibility. Nor is it meant only to some gifted if not strange
people. It is for all, though we need to help one another, since to
achieve that condition involves a lifelong process with endless
stages, aspects and possibilities.
To experience God should be
second nature to us. With the proper attitude and skills, with the
relevant plans and virtues, this is always possible. Nowadays, the
world needs people who have direct experience of God!
Be like an eagle,
not a hen
Fr. Roy Cimagala,
October 10, 2016
YES, let’s be like an eagle,
soaring quietly high up in the sky, having a good, extensive view of
the things on the ground, and not like cackling barnyard hen whose
flight is low and is mainly done to escape something or to boast to
the whole world that it has just laid an egg. The hen, of course, has
a very limited view of things.
The other thing about the
eagle is that in spite of the tremendous altitude that it can climb,
it has a sharp vision that can see even a running rodent on the ground
and has the agility to swoop down quickly to catch its prey. That’s
really quite a combination. This can never be said of the hen.
I know that it is unfair to
compare a hen with an eagle. Each one has its own nature and purpose
for being. But for our sake, we can compare ourselves to them because
as human beings, we have the choice to assume the qualities of an
eagle or those of a hen.
To be like an eagle can mean
to think big instead of being contented with small, petty things. It
can mean to take on more and more responsibilities, instead of being
contented with what we are having at the moment.
We can always do more. With
our spiritual nature, the possibilities for growth and improvement are
infinite. This simply corresponds to the fact that the demands of our
own sanctification and the needs of other people about whom we should
always be concerned are also infinite.
To be like an eagle can mean
expanding our generosity instead of simply being self-satisfied with
our current state of charity. It can mean pushing ourselves up to the
next level in every aspect of our life. We should never be contented
with the status quo, no matter how good it already is. Let’s remember
the saying that “the good is the enemy of the best.”
It can mean to be always
zealous in any endeavor we do, instead of simply being complacent and
lukewarm. It can mean to be a maximalist rather than a minimalist,
contented with a passing mark.
That’s what happens when one
is in love. He is not contented with doing things just to get by. He
does things to the best of his abilities, always seeking new frontiers
of creativity, effectiveness and efficiency. That’s simply because
love is giving not only things but his own self without measure.
That’s love most intrinsic law. It’s given without measure.
We need to learn to adopt
this kind of lifestyle. It’s not going to be easy, of course. Many
things have to be resolved and mastered. We have to contend with our
tendencies to be self-centered, to be attached to things, to be
materialistic, complacent, cold or lukewarm, etc. But with God’s
grace, our full trust in God’s ways matched with our efforts, we can
enter and flow in this amazing dynamics of true love.
Truth is for this love to
develop and grow, we do not need some special moments and
opportunities to trigger it. Any occasion, any event, no matter how
small and, humanly speaking, insignificant can be a golden privilege
to live heroism that is inseparable from loving.
Another reason why we have
to be like an eagle in our spiritual and moral life rather than just
be like a chicken is that when we have an outlook and lifestyle that
can be characterized as big-hearted, eager to do big things without
neglecting the fine details, and magnanimous, we can more easily
handle the many weaknesses and temptations that will always hound us.
A person stuck in petty
things is an easy target of his own weaknesses and the temptations
around. He tends to be lazy and narrow-minded, unable to develop the
resistance to bear things and the strength to move forward.
A phenomenon that is getting
common nowadays is that of many smart people with impressive
accomplishments but who are unable to escape the bad allurements of
the world and the subtle tricks of the devil.
And that’s simply because
they have stopped growing and moving forward. They get self-satisfied
with what they have already accomplished, showing in effect that all
that effort was not really for God and for others, but simply for
themselves, a clear contradiction to what loving is supposed to be.
We need to alert everyone
about this danger. That’s why it’s good to keep in mind this
comparison between the eagle and the hen.
Let us journey
together in support of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations
A press statement by the Philippine
Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)
September 22, 2016
We, the 135 leaders of the
clergy, religious and laity from the five federations that comprise
the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)* have successfully
convened the 5th Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace from
September 20-22, 2016 under the theme “Celebrating God’s Work for
Peace: Journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for
Peace”. We converged in Davao City from all corners of the country to
draw strength from each other as we celebrated the first successful
round of talks between the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines
(NDFP) after years of impasse. The positive atmosphere that resulted
from the recent resumption of the formal peace talks was carried into
the positive mood of our summit and our joy for the growing ecumenical
participation in supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Process.
In our gathering, Fr. Joel
Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University, reminded us
in his keynote address of the Biblical imperatives and our Christian
duty to work towards the common good and accompany the poor in seeking
Our optimism was
strengthened by the sharing of Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Office of the
Executive Secretary, on the government’s renewed commitment to peace
and to the GRP-NDFP negotiations and the negotiations with the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
We were also encouraged by
the input of Attorneys Angela Librado and Antonio Arellano of the GRP
Peace Panel regarding the serious commitment of the Panel to engage in
principled dialogue with the NDFP. The clear commitment to peace has
also been observed in the willingness of government to honor previous
agreements and through the concerted effort invested in achieving the
release of detained NDFP consultants.
Mr. Luis Jalandoni, NDFP
Peace Panel Chair, reminded summit participants of the indomitable
spirit of the Filipino people through the centuries to persevere in
the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country. The presence
of the NDFP Consultants, Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, and the recently
released Mr. Ariel Arbitrario, Mr. Lando Genelsa, Mr. Alfredo Mapano,
and Mr. Porferio Tuna, Jr. brought depth to the discussions and
strengthened the determination of participants to further support the
We admire the resolve of
both the GRP and NDFP to transcend differences, willingly explore
substantive issues and implement working methods that will accelerate
the talks. We also appreciate the decision of both parties to declare
indefinite unilateral ceasefires towards a possible bilateral
The Royal Norwegian
Government and Caritas Norway through solidarity messages from the
Special Envoy to the Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum and Program
Coordinator for Asia, Aron Halfen, reassured the Summit of their
common resolve to persevere in the journey with the PEPP and with the
GRP-NDFP Peace Process. They highlighted that a political settlement
of the armed conflict through principled dialogue is both possible and
attainable, even though difficulties and obstacles are to be expected
along the way.
We were inspired and
challenged by the presence of our Lumad sisters and brothers who kept
us attentive to the reality on the ground. Their contributions have
shown that peace must be tangible and manifest not only through the
silence of arms but even more through food on the table, clothing,
shelter, education and access to the means to meet other basic needs
and for them to live in their communities without fear or threat. They
also underscored the reality that the road to peace is long and
arduous, fraught with dangers, but for the sake of the people,
especially the most vulnerable, it must be pursued with all our heart
The Summit concluded with a
workshop to consolidate the commitments and concerns of the PEPP, and
plans for how these can be presented to both the GRP and the NDFP, and
to the Filipino people:
• We support and affirm the
intention of both the GRP and the NDFP to meet in Norway on October
6-10 for the Second Round of Formal Talks focusing on Comprehensive
Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, while also defining the
terms for a common Ceasefire Agreement and General Amnesty for
• We invite support and
goodwill from the Filipino people for the Peace Talks between the GRP
and NDFP which we consider are sincere and thorough and that as a
Nation we should stand vigilant against those whose intentions are to
spoil the Peace Process to protect their personal or vested interests
against the interests of the Filipino people.
• We call and demand both
the GRP and NDFP to respect their existing agreement on Respect for
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, putting a stop to the
practice of manufacturing false charges against clergy, lay people,
indigenous people and other human rights defenders who are serving the
poor and marginalized.
• We call for the removal of
all armed groups and the dismantling of existing para-military groups
that divide and terrorize the communities of our Indigenous Peoples.
• We call on all our
Christian communities – at the local, regional and national levels –
to expand our peace constituency and to continue pushing for the
completion of the peace talks and the implementation of any peace
• We offer and render our
services and resources to both panels to help in attaining a just and
lasting peace in the country.
“And with our feet fitted
with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians
6:15), we will journey together till peace based on justice reigns in
Davao City, Philippines,
22nd day of September 2016.
Morality and the
ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
September 15, 2016
IN the heat and passion of
our political exchanges, as in the many other fields like in sports,
entertainment, social issues, etc., we should try our best to be sober
enough to keep a firm grip on what would constitute as moral and
immoral views and to resist the strong temptation to fall into all
kinds of rationalizations to justify certain positions that we hold,
either individually or as a group.
Nowadays, especially in the
political field, a lot of rationalizations are made. Many people are
of the view that because of a certain problem that is widely
considered as raging and harmful to a large sector of the populace,
certain drastic measures can be made.
In theory, of course, these
measures can and even ought to be done. Serious problems that affect
the lives of many have to be met with forceful, vigorous and hopefully
But for all this theoretical
practicality of this radical and even extreme approach to such
problems, morality should never be sacrificed. We don't do evil so
that a certain good may be achieved.
That the end never justifies
the means is a classic moral principle that will never go obsolete.
Violating this principle can only trigger a vicious cycle of hatred
and revenge that would divide people into unfair and inhuman
categories and would perpetuate the law of Talion, a tit-for-tat kind
of culture where mercy has no place in the pursuit for justice.
Violating this principle violates the very nature and the law of our
Nowadays, many people,
including our leaders, appear to be unclear about what is moral and
what would make a human act, personal or collective, immoral. In the
case of the extrajudicial killings, for example, many would justify it
because the intention is supposed to be good, or it has lowered down
the rate of criminality, or it is supposed to be an expression of a
strong and relevant political will, or that there were more EJKs in
the past, etc.
Others mouth a new moral
doctrine about a certain justifiable collateral damage when there is
some kind of undeclared war.
These are pure
rationalizations. Forgotten is the objective evaluation of the
morality of the act itself. It seems that even our leaders do not know
anymore where the sources of morality have to be taken. That one has
to consider the object of the act, the intention and the circumstances
is not anymore done.
Things now seem to depend
only on a certain idea of political effectiveness based on some
statistics, popularity and acceptance of at least a simple majority of
the people, or profitability. It seems morality is now measured by
Aside from EJK, other
immoral acts are now being justified. Detraction is one, as shaming by
exposing the hidden faults of some public figures is made. The
Catechism says that especially in the media, “the information must be
communicated honestly and properly with scrupulous respect for moral
laws and the legitimate rights and dignity of the person.” (Compendium
Vengeance is another. And
all forms of insults and personal derision are hurled. Fallacies are
now the new logic. There are now all sorts of misinformation and
disinformation glutting the media.
Among the collateral victims
of this new culture are the very principle of human rights, the
standing of God, Church and religion itself in society, basic decency
and courtesy to all including offenders.
A certain build-up of
fanaticism, a culture of simplistic black-and-white categorization of
people, can be observed, with its corresponding wave of hatred against
those who choose to be different from the majority.
We need to go back to the
basics of morality. We have to assess human acts, especially those
with public character, according to their objective morality before
considering them in their political, social or economic contexts, etc.
As said earlier, the sources
of morality are three: the moral object, the intention of the subject
who acts, and the circumstances which include the consequences. As the
Catechism would put it:
“An act is morally good when
it assumes simultaneously the goodness of the object, of the
intention, and of the circumstances...It is not licit to do evil so
that good may result from it...On the other hand, a good end does not
make an act good if the object of that act is evil...Circumstances can
increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but
they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves.”
This is the new challenge we have.
Human life is
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
August 28, 2016
Nowadays, when the value of human life has been greatly reduced, we
need to recover its true worth by revisiting the pertinent Christian
doctrine about it.
It cannot be denied that in many parts of the world, an open anti-life
culture is taking place and it’s slowly coming also into our country.
Abortion is legal in many countries. Euthanasia is fast gaining
ground. Summary and extra-judicial killings are getting rampant. Of
course, there is now a creeping wave of terrorism in many places.
We need to reaffirm the truth that human life, no matter how deformed
and depraved in its earthly condition, is always sacred, because it’s
a life that has a special and very intimate relation with God, its
No one can just put it away on his own volition or that of another or
even of the state. It’s a life whose death can only come properly by
God’s will. This usually takes place through natural causes –
sickness, old age, etc.
Though God can allow death to occur due to human volition, such event
is clearly against his will and would constitute a grave sin. Our
Christian faith also teaches that if some evil is allowed to happen,
it’s because a greater good can also be derived from it.
We should be quick to discern God’s designs when some evil takes
place, so we avoid falling into a vicious cycle that sin usually
generates. In this, we should try not to be scandalized by evil, not
by affirming that evil is not evil but rather by acknowledging evil in
the context of God’s merciful and wise providence.
From there, we can start to perceive the good God has in mind for it.
This effort may be aided by our legal and juridical system, some
conventional wisdom that we have accumulated through the ages, etc.
But we should also be aware that these elements are never perfect.
At best, they can lead us to divine wisdom but can never replace it.
In fact, the way things are now, we may have to do a lot of purging,
since many distortions if not errors insofar as the moral law is
concerned may already have contaminated these systems.
Human life is sacred because it is always a life intimately linked
with the very life of God. And that’s because we have been made the
image and likeness of God, children of his, endowed with faculties
that would enable us, together with his grace, to enter into the very
life of God.
Thus, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches
that “from its beginning human life involves the creative action of
God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator,
who is its sole end.” (466)
In another point of the Catechism, we are told that “of all visible
creatures only man is able to know and love his creator.
He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own
sake.” (CCC 356) In other words, our life somehow reflects the life of
That is how each one of us is designed by God. The full realization of
that original design may be thwarted by the many manifestations of our
sinfulness. Just the same, in spite of such condition, we also know
that God became man to save us and has given us all the means so we
can be what we ought to be, according to God’s providence.
This brings us to the conclusion that human life is always sacred no
matter how sinful it is. God is so in love with man that he cannot
abandon him. He will do everything to bring him back to him while
respecting man’s freedom. That’s why in Christ, God is made to die,
which is the greatest proof of one’s love for another.
We need to counter the attack on human life by spreading this
fundamental truth about us. That may sound quixotic, but with faith in
God’s powers and with our persistent effort, we know that the good and
the truth will always prevail.
In this regard, St. Paul gave us a relevant piece of advice: “Purge
out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are
unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5,7)
This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and suffering. But we
need to convince ourselves that this is all worthwhile. We should
pray, offer a lot of sacrifices, and do whatever we can, individually
or with others, to do a battle of love to uphold that human life is
Statement on the
President’s campaign versus illegal drugs, criminality and corruption
Ecumenical Bishops Forum
August 22, 2016
We laud President Rodrigo
Roa Duterte on his serious campaign versus illegal drugs, criminality
and corruption, his election campaign promise which he will do in
three to six month-time of his term. The promise is getting fulfilled.
Even before President Rody
formally assumed office, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has
started rounding up known illegal drug users and pushers in Metro
Manila. Today, more than one month after the President’s inauguration
on June 30, hundreds had been killed, hundreds more were arrested and
jailed, and thousands voluntarily surrendered. All of them are said to
be small time users and pushers, and, as human rights advocates say,
are poor people.
However, on July 5, the
President unexpectedly named five former and incumbent police generals
who are illegal drug protectors. This was followed by an announcement
on August 7 of 159 local government officials (mayors, former mayors,
and former vice mayors) incumbent and former police and military
officers, and incumbent and former judges who are linked to illegal
drugs trade. He claims more names will follow.
The big time drug lords, the
President says, are in other countries like China and Mexico from
where they direct their operations, and it is difficult if not
impossible to run after them.
The PNP chief, Police
General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, claims that crime have gone down,
indicating that most crime are drug related. Thus the war on drugs is
also a war against criminality.
This may be true as far
petty crime such as bag-snatching, child molestation, rape, rape with
homicide and murder, “akyat bahay” theft, hold-ups and the likes are
concerned. Big crimes such as bank robberies, pyramiding scam, illegal
recruitment, cyber-crimes, break-in in malls and the likes continue
Steps in curbing corruption
in government have been started. Among the measures are the signing of
the Executive Order on Freedom of Information which covers the
executive department and the order to shorten the processing of
applications in government offices. More serious and lasting measures
still have to be done.
Given the number of days in
office of the new administration, its campaign against illegal drugs,
criminality and corruption may be considered a success thus far. We
congratulate the President for this, and pledge our support for his
sincere efforts to address the present situation.
While we believe and support
President Duterte’s war on drugs, there is a need for deeper analysis
why the drug problem is thriving and who benefit from this. There is
also need for the present administration to examine the correctness of
its approach in eliminating this menace. The extra-judicial killings
that are happening, we believe, won’t solve that problem but
exacerbate it as most of those killed are small time and poor people.
The suspected five police generals and government officials seem to be
getting a special privilege; they remain very much alive.
We wish to caution the
President, then, to respect the human rights of the people. Life which
came from the Creator is precious; it has to be preserved as much as
possible. The campaign can continue without violating people’s rights
and keeping all actions within the parameters of the law.
We bid the President success
in his drug campaign in particular, and in his administration in
general. His success is the Filipino people’s success.
Issued and signed this 22nd
day of August, 2016:
Very truly yours in Christ,
BISHOP ELMER M. BOLOCON,
MOST REV. DEOGRACIAS S.
IÑIGUEZ, JR., D.D.
BISHOP FELIXBERTO L. CALANG,