Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

insight 80


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Two sets of jewels

Reforms started by Robredo crucial for nation-building

Frequently Asked Questions on Executive Order 79 (Mining Reform)

Why is the Filipino special?

Chief Justice’s credibility crossroad

Good Friday people

Removing Lady Justice’s blindfold

Our sexual identity

Impeachment: What to Expect?




Effectiveness of divine healing

December 4, 2012

There’s no doubt that a lot of people urgently need some healing, if not in the area of physical health, then in their emotional, mental and spiritual health. Many have gone through traumatic experiences and are left scarred, if not irreversibly damaged.

We need to see this situation that is getting widespread, getting more open than hidden, from the point of view of our faith. We cannot and should not just see it by our lonesome, relying only on our feelings and estimations. We need to see it from the point of view of God.

That is where we can always find some healing that can come to us in many and mysterious forms. But it always comes, because God is a father, an omnipotent father full of love and compassion, who can never be indifferent to our predicaments.

In fact, he reads our mind and heart better than we do, knows exactly what we need before we can even articulate it, and takes the initiative to come to our help and rescue even before we can ask.

Thus, in the gospel we always see how Christ, just by seeing the needs, big or small, and the problems and miseries of the people, always came to the rescue. His heart cannot remain unmoved by this sight.

This is the case for example of the widow whose only son died, the crowd who was with Christ for three days to listen to him. Even the Samaritan woman who happened to coincide with him in the well received a gentle treatment that converted her.

But all this also depends on whether we have faith, a living and functional faith. Thus, in the gospel we see how our Lord commended those who were asking for cures and miracles for their faith in him.

A very moving story was that of the father of a possessed boy who in his great distress approached our Lord for a cure. When asked if he believed our Lord could cure his son, he immediately said, yes, “I believe,” and added, “but help my unbelief.”

Even when our faith is still weak, our Lord comes to supplement. Just show it, no matter how weak, and God will do the rest.

This is a point worth noting, because many of our problems today, and the continuing and harrowing drama they create, are due to our lack of faith. Typical of this mentality is the common thought, often unspoken but from time to time verbalized, that miracles don’t happen anymore these days.

So instead of faith, there is scepticism, as if God’s power is limited to the days of the gospel. It’s the same scepticism that was expressed by the townspeople of Christ himself who could not believe that their fellow townmate could speak so well and could do miracles. As a result, Christ left the place and refused to perform miracles there.

We have to be more keenly aware of this predicament because this is where we get blind and insensitive to the ever-ready and abundant compassion of Christ for us. It is this predicament that takes us down into a spiral of anguish and, sooner or later, despair, since we would not play God’s game but prefer to play our own.

We need humility and simplicity for this faith to grow in us and remove us from our self-inflicted predicament. It’s this humility and simplicity that will also make us persevere in our faith in God’s most compassionate omnipotence even when we don’t seem to get what we are asking for.

Let’s remember that God always sees the whole picture and that we often miss out many things in our perception of things, even with our best efforts. We have to always remain believing in God’s compassion.

In this regard, together with humility and simplicity, for our faith to prosper we also would need fortitude or toughness, as expressed in patience or in disregarding certain things that definitely are not working for our own good.

This can mean our feelings and passions and memory and the other expressions of our flesh that are still untouched by faith. Most of our problems stem from this – many people are unable to handle these wayward powers of ours and are in fact enslaved by them.

We have to learn how to toughen it up, not minding the negative impulses of these powers of ours. In fact, we should rather purify them, filling them with the assurance of our faith. We have to repeat many times, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief.”





When fright strikes

By Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
December 3, 2012

If your child wakes up crying in the middle of the night and has trouble getting back to sleep, chances are he's had a nightmare. These scary episodes of dreaming bugs in the bed and monsters in the closet hide meanings that parents should look into.

A nightmare is a bad dream that usually involves imagined danger or threat to people having it. It may involve disturbing images or figures of monsters, ghosts, animals, or bad people running after them.

Night terrors are extremely common in children, especially during preschool years. As part of children’s normal development, they begin to imagine and understand things that exist that might hurt them. The level of their fantasy becomes higher and sometimes uncontrollable.

Children don’t need to suffer nightmares alone. As parents, it is important to break the spell of nightmares to give immediate comfort. To help a child restore the capacity to sleep again, parents ought to know what to do to tame scary nightmares.

Nightmares may be caused by a lot of reasons, from simple to disturbing ones. Most of the time, nightmares are results of a frightening experience, such as being scared by a large barking dog to scary scenes on TV to traumatic incidents.

A child's nightmares may also stem from listening to horror stories, watching a disturbing show, or feeling stressed due to schoolwork. Problems in the family such as separation of parents and financial challenges could add up to the emotional burden.

When parents show unacceptable behaviors towards his child or to others, this sometimes translates into “monster” dreams. A nagger teacher or a bully playmate can be a human monster in his dreams. These translations reflect the emotional stress developed.

Nightmares are a normal response of a child to stressful events. When you hear your child shouting in the middle of a deep sleep, it is highly important to find out what the nightmare is.

Physical reassurance is important. Hug the child or rub his back until he calms down. Give him ample time to tell you about the nightmare but don’t press him if he doesn’t want to. You can talk with him when he is ready or when daylight comes.

Reassuring words, like “It was only a dream”, can make him feel at ease. If he’s still upset, be patient. We all know what nightmares look like in our dreams, they seem so real. His favorite stuffed toy can also be used as a security object for him to feel relaxed.

Children’s imagination is quite active when the light is off. This is the time when they see imaginary enemies in the corner of his room. A low nightlight on your child’s bedroom can also lessen the growing fantasy of your child on hidden monsters.

Often, nightmares can result to bedtime struggles and refusal to go back to sleep. At this time, don’t leave the child while he’s still recovering from a bad dream. If he falls asleep, from time to time, visit his room. There is no better remedy for nightmares than constant comfort of a parent.

Teach your child coping skills to respond to these night terrors. Let your child imagine happy thoughts, such as the time the family was in the beach or the time he won his first medal. Through this, terrifying thoughts are diverted to more positive memories.

Make a peaceful bedtime routine, a warm bath, an inspiring story, a song, or a hot glass of milk. These ways can help ward off nightmares by calming his senses. Limit the time you allow your child to use the TV, computer, and other gadgets. Technologies can bother a child when he is overexposed to them.

If you suspect anxiety or stress is behind the bad dreams, try talking to your child about what might be bothering him during the daylight hours. If nightmares persist and leads to other serious problems like insomnia, bring it up to his doctor. Recurring bad dreams could be a sign of an emotional issue that needs immediate response.

Every nightmare, distressing or terrifying, holds vital information about the emotional challenges a child is going through. Parents, as the closest people to the child, need to stand by and even rescue him from a terrifying memory of a pack a wolves running after him during a bad dream.






Mindanao peoples’ rage for justice reaches the nation’s capital through ManiLakbayan

A Press statement by the Manilakbayan of Mindanao
December 3, 2012

We, the 74 delegates of Manilakbayan and from the different tribes and regions in Mindanao, come in solidarity with everyone here in the nation’s capital in our arrival for our 10-day Manilakbayan to defend our rights, our land and our environment.

This is a historic moment for us Lumad (Mindanao indigenous peoples), Moro people, environment advocates and human rights defenders, coming together with you Metro Manila and Luzon people, as we journey towards justice and genuine peace.

We are now here because Manila needs to listen to the marginalized peoples of Mindanao. It is ironic that Mindanao is considered the food basket, the wellspring of many natural, mineral and aquatic resources; but it is also the most neglected in terms of services, as these resources are plundered by foreign multinational corporations in cahoots with the government.

Mindanao is also one of the most bloodied places since the Aquino administration began in mid-2010. Thirty five (35) of our fellow community leaders have been killed for defending our land and our environment, more than 1,000 families displaced; more leaders have been harassed, survived assassination and faced false charges in courts in order to silence us.

This is not to count yet the situation of the Moro people who, until now, suffer from the brutal attacks of government army forces and the long-ingrained discrimination against them.

With us now are the relatives of Blaan woman leader Juvy Capion of Tampakan in South Cotabato who, with her two children, were massacred by elements of the 27th IB who are known protectors of Xstrata, the 4th biggest copper mining company in the world; the family of Datu Jimmy Liguyon of Bukidnon who was murdered for refusing to sign a consent form for the entry of a mining company, and other families and relatives who are demanding justice for their martyred kin.

Anti large-scale mining advocates from the Zamboanga peninsula are also here to press for the stop of the big Canadian mining firm Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) who have wreaked havoc on the lives of the Subanen people.

We are now here, at the heart of the national government, to bring this message: We are not deterred, we manifest our fight!

We bring with us this urgent call as our communities continue to face the threats of large-scale mining and militarization. We come with our rage for justice, for our leaders who have been slain, and for our communities that face these threats.

We will also bring our plight to the institutions in Manila – the schools, churches, Congress and hopefully Malacañang, the perpetrator of this mining liberalization which has been given a big push by Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan.

We enjoin all people to support these calls: Stop the killings! Stop large-scale mining plunder! Scrap EO 79 and the Mining Act of 1995! Disband paramilitary groups and stop militarization in communities!





Carols and plagiarists

November 22, 2012

“It’s par for the course in a country where an ‘elite of thieves’ govern.”

“Please tell me what this word means Lolo,” asked our grand-daughter Kristin, 9. She pointed to a headline in the papers and spelt out the word :“P- l -a-g-i-a-r-i-z-e.”

Senator Tito Sotto’s filching of Senator Robert Kenndy speech wouldn’t ring bells for her and grand-daughter Katarina, 6. Would the 1933 Cebuano carol: “Kasadya Ning Takna-a” do?

“Someone took Kasadya Ning Takna-a, titled it Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit but in Tagalog. They didn’t tell anybody. What is that?”, we asked the two kids. “Stealing?”, Kristin asked. “There. To plagiarize is to steal.”

A week from now is first Sunday of Advent. Manila Bulletin columnist Jullie Yap Daza will hammer a plagiarism she exposed since 1978. "This country boasts of the longest celebration of Christmas", she wrote. "It remains supreme irony that not the slightest effort has been made to attribute the beloved carol ‘Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit’ to it’s author: Vicente D. Rubi” of Cebu.

Panorama Magazine recalls that, in 1933, Cebu Christmas festival officials asked Composer Rubi to sign up for a carol or dayegon competition: Rubi did and asked the equally-young then Mariano Vestil to scribble the lyrics for his music. Their carol – Kasadya Ning Takna-a. (“How Joyous Is this Season.”) – won hands down. “Today, wherever Cebuano is spoken – Bohol, Negros Oriental, Southern Leyte, Northern Mindanao, Cebu and elsewhere – carolers still belt out the same infectious beat that Rubi and Vestil blended so brilliantly (79) years ago,” Philippine Daily Inquirer noted.

A Manila record company hijacked Rubi and Vestil’s carol for P150. Nong Inting, who died in 1980, “was denied what was due him in royalties,” Daza wrote. The platter firm conned Rubi and Vestil with legal dodges until their deaths.

It’s par for the course in a country where an “elite of thieves” govern. And those who crassly exploited Rubi and Vestil have kindred spirits here in the onerous levy of coconut farmers, loggers who trigger today’s flash floods – to plagiarists.

Nong Inting became an impoverished widower. Until his death in 1980, he’d shuffle to his gates and teach startled carolers how to sing his dayegon. And in 2004, lyricist Vestil went to his grave, bereft of benefits other than an inside-page-below-the-fold newspaper obituary.

In Charles Dickens 1843 classic “A Christmas Carol”, the miser Ebneezer Scrooge dismissed as "humbug" what Vestil and Rubi celebrated as Christmas is not about tinsel, red-nosed reindeers, even shattered diets.

“We must be quiet and not fear the night, (or) else we will hear nothing”, the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner wrote. “For the ultimate message is uttered only in the night's stillness ever since, through the gracious arrival of the Word into the night of our life, Christmas' silent night, holy night came down among us. The meaning of Christmas is that the emptiness of death is filled with the 'nameless incomprehensibility of God'.

Advent 2012 finds star lanterns, Nativity belens and Christmas trees lit up. The “tambourine brigade” is out in full force. Scrawny school dropouts bang flattened bottle caps, tacked to sticks, to accompany off-key carols. A few are Badjaos from Mindanao, who scrape for a living from city streets.

They sing – well, sort of – at doorways. Some do on rickety jeepneys they scamper into. Their repertoire is limited. Some belt a few bars from “Silent Night”, or “Kasadya" a.k.a. "Ang Pasko.” Their unvarying finale is: “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. They stretch open palms for handouts. If you drop an extra coin, they’ll chime: “Thank you / Thank You / Ang babait ninyo."

These grimy “street troubadours” never heard of a former president who’ll listen to carols in a Veterans Memorial Hospital suite-as-prison-cell. Tell them about a former First Lady and son, in hot water with US courts, for looting. All you get is a blank stare.

These mean nothing to often food-short kids who should be in school. Here, 22 percent of people are undernourished. (Compare that to Malaysia's two percent.) Poor nutrition stunts almost a half (47 percent) of kids in Negros Occidental and Northern Samar. They're dwarfed by better fed kids in Beijing, Seoul or Hong Kong. Many of them are frailer, and lag academically behind Korean or Singaporean counterparts.

“The Bethlehem story, in Luke’s Gospel, gives us an ‘array of luminous images’, the theologian Catalino Arevalo SJ writes in: “They Shall Call Him Emmanuel”. (We see) “the night sky alight with bright angels, simple shepherds startled from sleep, magi…It is a happening, above all, for the deepest heart.

"Christmas is not, first of all, a revelation for the intelligence. It is looking at a Son who was born for us, who would die for us, because we mattered to him, because we are infinitely cherished, infinitely loved. At the crib, the first task is to look, and looking to adore. ‘Venite adoremus’. Come let us adore him.”

“The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight,” the 1861 (?) carol says of the little town of Bethlehem. The unique grace of Christmas is that both carol writer and carol thief can say, together with kings and shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has made known to us.”





Priests “better not be” pols: a Reflection on the Filipino Pastors's Sacrifice

November 21, 2012

Another Catholic priest was suspended from his priestly duties after choosing politics over priesthood. This time, Fr. Leo Casas, 37, chose to run for governorship of Masbate in the 2013 elections than retain his divine ministry.

In the Philippines, a close-to-100-million populated nation, almost 90 percent Catholics, the debate is endless when the topic is about the role of the Pastors in society. In 1986 and in 2001, our young democracy peacefully toppled the head of the government through massive and united protest both in the same famous avenue (EDSA), both well-orchestrated, and both successful. And both with key interventions of the Hierarchy.

In 2007, the Inquirer Filipino of the year prize was given to a priest, Ed Panlilio, who left the ministry to engage in politics. He successfully won the gubernatorial elections. In fairness perhaps the merit cannot be taken away from the former Governor, as Inquirer later on justified, because of his “embodiment of hope where despair is deepest – politics.” “…he threw his social worker’s hat (and his parish priest’s soutane), looking for alternatives without finding one, and offering himself, suspending his priestly faculties, an almost impossible sacrifice.” But then again, were the kudos meant to be generalized, encouraging “Catholic priests and bishops to follow in the footsteps”?

Is the “sacrifice” worth it? Is it justified to take that leave? In the end, on a personal basis, it is really God’s judgment. But God left marks so that we could objectively respond to the question. In a country where the line that divides Church and State is blurry, extreme prudence is necessary. Some clergymen readily generalize accusing the laity of being unprepared to take up the burden of leadership in political life. I find this a slap in the face to the Filipino Christians, majority of which are lay, and non-Christians alike.

Certainly the bottom-line is the lack of awareness of the role of priests in the Church, in society, in the world. The media, and perhaps the majority, may not completely understand, but that does not make it far from the truth. Indeed, what is at stake is communion inside the Church. There are strong arguments for priests to remain where they are, for the good of society, for the greater good of souls in their parish and the entire human race. For one, in world history, the sad case of liberation theology in Latin America that induced more poverty is enlightening. Secondly, a man with the minimum of Faith may consider, for example, that the Fatherly confessional advice that only they themselves have the grace to administer is certainly a medicine both spiritual and divine. Or better yet, the transcendence of that Sacrifice (the Mass) that only they could offer the Almighty is of incomparable importance.

The respect for these “men of God” cannot be separated from their ministry. They have become “famous” perhaps because of their holiness, or their charisma speaking from the pulpit, and not political experience. That is why once they go overboard; it always is a scandal on a grand scale. If they use this “respect” to win votes… no matter how good the purpose is, it almost always ends badly (for everyone).

The Congregation of the Clergy, a department of the Roman Curia, emphasizes that “like Jesus, the priest ought to refrain from actively engaging himself in politics, as it often happens, in order to be a central point of spiritual fraternity. All the faithful, therefore, must always be able to approach the priest without feeling inhibited for any reason. The priest will remember that it does not fall on the shoulders of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in political activities and in social organisations. This task, in fact, forms part of the lay faithful vocation, in which they work by their own initiative together with their fellow citizens. Nevertheless, he will not be absent in the effort to form in them an upright conscience.” That succinctly translates to an indirect but nevertheless active role in the fight for justice through the formation of conscience. And if you think this is insignificant, think again.

Filipinos need holy and faithful priests (faithful to God, faithful to the Vicar of Christ – the Pope, faithful to their Bishop, faithful to their vocation), and the country needs the active involvement in public life of well-formed Christian lay people. Priests better not be pols, because they were not meant for it. Priests better not be pols because they serve for the salvation of souls, working on another plane--the supernatural. Priests better not be pols to be able to attend to the needs of everyone, of whatever color, age, race or political background.

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[The author is soon to defend his doctorate thesis in Canon Law in the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. He also holds a Bachelor of Sacred Theology Degree in the University of Navarre, and a Master of Science in Industrial Economics, Bachelor of Arts in Humanities-Liberal Arts from the University of Asia & the Pacific, Philippines. He has been a Marist student, a bank's management trainee, a university's professor and secretary, and a free-lance journalist. He currently resides in Spain.]





Business is a test of love

November 21, 2012

Doing business can be a test of love. It actually is. Remember that parable about a nobleman who went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then return? (cfr Lk 19,11-28)

He first called his 10 servants and gave them a gold coin each, instructing them to trade with it until he returns. The first earned 10 more with the coin given to him. Another earned 5 more. But a third one simply returned the coin without any earning.

The nobleman was very happy with the first two servants and rewarded them very generously. But he was mad at the third one. “Why did you not put my money in a bank,” he asked. “Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.”

The parable can have many interpretations and applications, but one lesson we can derive from it is that we have to make use of everything God has given us: our life, our intelligence and freedom, our rights and duties, our capacity to work, our talents, charisms and other natural endowments.

And we have to make use of them as fully as possible, exhausting their potentials to the furthest extent possible, but doing this always in accordance to God’s will and designs, and not just ours.

And so, away with idleness, laziness, wasting time, or pursuing business purely on our own terms, with profit and other forms of self-interest as the driving force and God’s plans largely if not completely ignored.

The third servant also had reason why he just kept the coin without trading with it. “I was afraid of you,” he told his master, “because you are a demanding man. You take up what you did not lay down, and you harvest what you did not plant.”

Like this third servant, we too will always have some excuses not to do what God wants of us, and instead just do our own will. This has to be avoided at all costs.

Of special interest to us now is the role of business in our life. For many, business is just a human affair, pursued for completely human purposes that actually also have their good side.

We have to make sure that this human activity, so important and common, is done with the proper intentions and means.

Business is indispensable in any society. It generates money, employment, services, progress and development. It fosters creativity and productivity as it incites entrepreneurial spirit among people. It gives able support to our other concerns – even in our intellectual and spiritual concerns.

It definitely deserves to be promoted and defended. But it has to be done as an expression of love of God and others. It just cannot be reduced to a purely economic or technocratic activity. Rather its technical requirements and goals should be met and pursued as a function of love of God and others.

Because it is done out of love of God and others, we have to learn to view business as a form of prayer and offering to God. We have to learn to do business such that it becomes a living instrument of God’s abiding providence over us. We need to infuse theology into our business, our faith and charity inspiring our numbers and calculations.

It is this love of God and others that purifies the profit motive of business and enlarges it to serve the common good and not just a private interest. It is what considers the welfare of everyone, and pursues to build a culture of social justice.

It is this love of God and others that leads the players and agents to think of initiative, strategies and put up entities that fulfill the real needs of the people, seeing to it that these enjoy a certain stability and consistency so they can serve the people for as long as needed.

It is this love of God and others that encourages an increasingly participative character of business so as to effect greater solidarity in the pursuit of the common good. It discourages elitist or exclusivistic attitudes, as well as monopolies and other unfair and subtle forms of exploitation.

It is this love of God and others that shows a certain special sensitivity for the weak and disadvantaged. It puts life into the much vaunted Church slogan of preferential option for the poor. It also does business that is respectful of the ecology.

We need to examine ourselves regularly, from the personal level up to the global, to see if our business would pass the test of love.





Beware of the inertia

November 6, 2012

It’s a term in physics. Inertia refers to “the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force.”

While etymologically it derives from the Latin word “iners,” meaning idleness, it can also refer to motion that refuses to stop or change course against good reason.

It’s a term that can be applied also to an anomalous spiritual situation when we get stuck either into laziness or mindless, automatic activism or workaholism that goes nowhere, and we seem to resist any change in course.

Sad to say, this anomaly appears to be quite widespread these days, with many people either just being idle or quite busy but more in the mechanical sense. We don’t have to look far to validate this observation.

“Tambay” is precisely our local argot to refer to the large mass of people, even young people, who are simply standing by, doing nothing and just waiting for things to happen. We still have a lot of them around.

At the other extreme, we can have our version of yuppies and other busy bodies who seem to be abuzz with action, but not knowing exactly where they are going. We also have a good number of them around.

We need to be more aware of this predicament if only to know how to solve it. It’s a problem that is first personal but is now fast becoming social. But its worst impact is nothing less than on our eternal destiny. And so, we just have to tackle it more seriously.

Obviously, we need moments of rest and action. But we just have to remind ourselves that since we are not purely material beings subject to physical laws, we ought to know when to rest and to move, what reasons and goals we ought to achieve through them. In short, there’s a heavy moral dimension to this aspect of our life.

We just cannot rest or move without any plan or purpose, other than what we may immediately feel like doing. We simply cannot determine these moments by merely physical or emotional condition. It’s not even enough to depend mainly if not solely on social or cultural expectations, though they obviously have to be factored in.

What would obviously help here is the habit of making daily, weekly, monthly and so on plans that give us a general picture of how those time frames would be spent. I wonder how many people of us make this a serious habit.

I still see a lot of people without daily plans. There are even some who are averse and hostile to the idea of making plans. It’s so very Stone Age kind of thinking to consider plans as necessarily restricting one’s freedom. They need to live in the 21st century.

But having plans is not enough. Plans give us generic indications. They need to be refined, modified, enhanced, etc., as we grapple with the concrete circumstances we meet along the way. This is where we have to contend with our tendency to either the inertia of rest or the inertia of motion.

To succeed, we need to develop a certain sensitivity that would effectively and intimately connect us not only to our best ideas, but most importantly to God, since in the end it is to him that we are supposed to offer everything that we are and that we do. It is with him that we are supposed to live always.

In short, we need to know how to go in sync with God’s abiding providence with us. And that’s the reason why we need to learn how to pray, how to contemplate, how to read signs of the times, both the remote and the immediate, etc.

We also need to learn how to be flexible, which would require that we free ourselves from certain attachments that would desensitize us to the promptings from God.

To be sure, God has a grand plan for each one of us, a plan full of value even if the elements involved may be considered as small and insignificant in human and worldly terms.

But it’s a plan that can only be driven by love, that all-consuming passion that constitutes the essence of God and ours too, since we made in God’s image and likeness.

The challenge we have is how to discover that plan and live it, going beyond the inertia of a merely human, worldly and usually wounded life.





St. Pedro Calungsod

October 19, 2012

Everyone is called to holiness. Everyone can and should be a saint. This is perhaps the main message, the good news that the canonization of the Cebuano Pedro Calungsod is telling us today.

No matter how ordinary and obscure we are, like the new saint who found himself in faraway Marianas Island working as a catechist and helper to an equally holy priest, we can and should be a saint.

God is no respecter of persons. He shows no partiality to anyone or class of persons. He calls everyone to holiness, whether rich or poor, intelligent or not so, etc. All we need do is to make use of what we have or are working at the moment, our ordinary daily duties and chores, to be the vehicle of our sanctification.

In fact, God somehow favors the small and the lowly, the underprivileged and suffering over the big ones and the mighty who often are proud and vain in this game of life called sanctification. Remember the beatitudes?

St. Paul reiterates the idea when he says: “The foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise. And the weak things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the strong.” (1 Cor 1,27)

And even no matter how sinful we may be, no matter how burdened we may be with sins, mistakes, weaknesses, etc., as long as we do our part seeking always the forgiveness of God whose mercy is forever, we can and should be saints.

Just look at the saints. Many of them were great sinners, starting with the apostle Peter who denied Christ. Then you have saints like St. Augustine who even sired a child, St. Magdalene, a woman of ill-repute, etc. But they repented and were forgiven and became great saints.

There is always hope and likelihood for that, since in the first place this is the will of God. Christ clearly says it: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48) And St. Paul seconds: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thes 4,3)

We have to make this truth a common and constant guiding principle for us. We should not think to be a saint is such a big deal as to be reserved only to a few people who happen to have the appropriate temperament and circumstances. No. To be a saint is our ultimate common goal, achievable in various ways, ordinary ones more than the extraordinary.

We have to remember that more than us shaping our destiny, it is God who does it with his omnipotent providence. All we need do is to cooperate or to correspond to his promptings which is what our human freedom is all about.

But alas, that is usually our problem. We tend to think our freedom is absolutely ours alone. We can think it is self-generated by us, driving God out, when our common sense can easily give the lie to it.

Our freedom simply comes from God. It can only be exercised following God’s will. It can only be lived properly in God. Contributing to this mess is the view that there is no God (atheism) or that God takes no interest in our affairs (agnosticism). He leaves us completely alone.

We need to be clear about this fundamental truth and start to conform ourselves to it. Thus, we need to take our faith and religion more seriously. We need to be consistent to them at every moment. The skills of prayer, meditation, contemplation, offering sacrifices, etc. should be cultivated.

There may be difficulties, but these are understandable and in fact should be expected. Christ himself warned us about them. “In the world you will have affliction. But take courage, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33)

We should just trust God’s providence and correspond to it as much as possible. Doing so will surely lead us to a divine adventure that will always have its highs even if it will also have some low moments. But definitely, it will be a drama with a happy ending. Evil will never have the last word.

It’s good to meditate Christ’s words to boost our hope amid trials: “There is no man who has left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother...for my sake and for the gospel, who shall not receive a hundred times as much, now in this time: houses, and brethren, and sisters...with persecutions, and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Mk 29-30)

St. Pedro Calungsod lived these words.



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