Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

Holy Week Recollection

April 11, 2009

Easter Light
by The Rev. Dr. Paul S. Nancarrow

Out of the darkness, light shines.

Out of the chaos waste and void,
when storm raged over the yet uncreated earth,
and the darkness lay on the face of the deep—
God acted,
and the light of creation burst forth,
and the world began to be.

Out of the dark night at the shores of the Red Sea,
as the children of Israel fled from the armies of Pharaoh,
as they saw the joy of their liberation from bondage and slavery
turn into terror at the approaching revenge of a bitter tyrant,
as they cried out to Moses to save them from the enemy—
God acted,
and the light kindled into a pillar of fire
which stood before the Israelites to protect them,
and a strong east wind blew back the waters of the sea,
so that God’s people could cross on dry land,
and there they were saved.

Out of the dark of the garden tomb,
the new tomb were no one had yet been laid,
where Joseph of Arimathea
and Nicodemus the Pharisee
had put Jesus’ body
when Pilate gave them permission to have it taken down from the cross,

Out of the darkness sealed in stone and heavy with the nothingness of death—
God acted,
and light flared forth in an unimaginable glory,
and the tomb was empty,
empty,
the graveclothes folded where the body had been laid
and was laid no longer;
the stone rolled back and open to the gentle dawn air,
letting in the first light of the sunrise
of the day when the whole Creation
was made new.

Out of the dark of a shadowed church,
where the faithful are gathered to remember God’s mighty acts,
where the long fast of Lent is coming to its end,
where the story of God’s love is being rehearsed
and remembered
and reconnected to people’s lives
in their here
and in their now—
God acts,
and a new fire is kindled,
and the Paschal Candle is lighted,
and the people chant
“The Light of Christ! Thanks be to God!”
and Easter has begun.

Out of the darkness of sin and grief,

out of the shadows of pain
and suffering
and ill will
that so often shroud our human lives—
God acts,
and the light of Christ comes to us,
blazing forth in new glory
that is redemption
and re-creation
and resurrection
and eternal life.
This is Easter,
this our Feast of Feasts.

Out of the darkness, light shines.

(Photo Credit: Dr. Ashra Fekry)

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Bishop Rojas named as head of new diocese in Camarines Sur

March 28, 2009

The prelature of Libmanan, Camarines Sur which was canonically created by the late Pope John Paul II in March 19, 1990 had been designated a new diocese by Pope Benedict XVI and appointed Jose Rojas, Jr. as its bishop. This was announced by the pontiff’s envoy to the Philippines, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams. —CBCP News (03/25/09, Lagarde, R)

Together with 51 priests, Bishop Rojas, 52, who is from Naga City serves the new diocese with about 500,000 Catholics in 27 parishes.

For this significant milestone, UP Ibalon Bicol and its members joyously congratulate Bishop Rojas and the entire Libmanan Diocese. (Photo Credit: Libmanantowards20decade)=0=

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Divine Mercy Pilgrimage at Stockbridge, Massachusetts

March 13, 2009

A pilgrimage to the Divine Mercy National Shrine at Stockbridge, Massachussetts is being sponsored by Our Lady of Penafrancia Devotees Association (OLPDA.) Those who are interested to join the group on April 19, 2009 (Divine Mercy Sunday) may contact the following:

Lily Lacap (201-985-2350); Sylvia Tablizo-Kurt (201-653-6654); Boy & Dina Cabaero (201-794-0999); Thelma Silerio (908-629-1426)

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Survey says a rising number of Americans have “no religion”

March 11, 2009

The poll made by Program of Public Virtues of Trinity College in Hartford, CT between February and November last year reported that only 76.7% of Americans identified themselves as Christians, a 9.5% decline from the 86.2% in the 1990’s. Most of the attrition comes from non-Catholic denominations. The percentage of Catholics has significantly increased in the Southwest, greater than in the Northeast, shifting attention to the needs of Hispanics in the Roman Catholic Church.

Additional findings of the American Religious Identification Survey include:
1. Americans claiming “no religion” is up from 8.8% in 1990 to 14.2% in 2001 and 15% in 2008
2. Between 2001 and 2008, 4.7 million Americans claimed to have “no religion”
3. Northern New England is ahead of the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34% with “no religion” leading all other states by 9 points.
4. 90% of the decline among Christians comes from the non-Catholic segment of the Christian population, mostly from mainline denominations, including Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians/Anglicans, and the United Church of Christ. Source: http://usnews.com/ (03/09/0, Gilgoff. D)

This may represent a changing culture—- the rising secularization of United States where having “no religion” has turned to be more socially acceptable than a decade ago. The demographic shift among believers and non-believers may affect the way Americans think, vote, and live on issues like abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and education among others as liberals, leftists, and secular progressives veer away from the Judeo-Christian tradition which is the cornerstone of the moral and cultural values of America since it was established. (Photo Credit emardaalvinbabista) =0=

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Medicine & Religion: Is confession a potent balm against major diseases in RP?

February 16, 2009

Dr. Francisco Duque III, the secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) reportedly said a staggering 80% of Filipinos are suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) “due to unhealthy lifestyle.” The doctor goes on to say that to combat cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, and diabetes, people have to go to church and make regular “confession.” I find his religious recommendation oddly misleading. It needs clarification.

“Among those considered as NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. Duque said the three are now among the major health problems in the country. Duque said one way to address this problem is for the people to go on regular confession.” I suggest that they go to church to pray and confess their sins because its one way of managing”—-GMANewTV.net (02/16/09)

It isn’t unusual to blame stress as a cause of sickness. Though stress goes with almost all diseases, its role is often indirect, sometimes obscure, in many organic diseases. As far as science is concerned, most illnesses have underlying pathogenetic bases whose roles are generally far-reaching than the effects of stress.

Heart diseases are related to high fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Diabetes mellitus may have an autoimmune basis but can come with risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, and genetics. Certain cancers are triggered by stepwise mutations (alterations in the DNA) that generate clones of abnormal cells that invade, metastasize, and eventually kill the body. In all these, stress plays a role, albeit less strongly than what is suggested by Dr. Duque.

The act of confession (reconciliation) taught by certain religions is not shared by all believers. Confessing sins to a priest by the Catholics has markedly dwindled in recent years. Dr. Duque may encounter criticism and opposition in recommending the holy sacrament to prevent non-communicable diseases. There are non-faith based treatments in medicine which are more predictable and efficacious.

Stress is part of the normal challenges of daily living. Not all people who go through significant emotionally disruptive situations get ill in the process. Sick and healthy individuals, suffer from harrowing conditions in varying degrees. As such the roles of stress in every illness are hard to quantify; their effects on the body aren’t uniformly the same.

I believe emotion plus the working of the mind, and the entire body equilibrium are influenced by stress more than it affects specific organs of the body. It is probably the reason why religion, spirituality, a belief in the supernatural, exercise, meditation, and relaxation regimens have some roles to play in disease management. The mechanisms behind their healing properties aren’t fully understood.

Yet, medical science offers credible explanations in disease causation and treatment. Illnesses can be attributed to causes like direct physical injuries, infections, cancers, immunologic conditions, hormonal swings, metabolic derangements, nutritional deficiencies, hereditary disorders, chemical, drug and radiation exposures, poisonings, among others.

Stress is only one among the long list. Therefore, “confession” as Dr. Duque suggested may help in being healthy, preventing sickness, and going through an illness and subsequent recuperation. But surely, we need to account for greater ways to fight diseases more than what have been recommended by the standard and complementary approaches of medicine. This is important in the holistic way of maintaining the health of the nation.(Photo Credits: denislpaul; sacerdotal) =0=

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Wowowee, Penafrancia fiesta, & the 229 people injured in the Black Nazarene procession of Quiapo

January 9, 2009

The 13-hour religious parade snaked its way in the city drawing thousands of religious believers to walk in supplication until the revered black icon of Jesus was returned in the Quiapo Church on Friday, January 9, 2009 in Manila. I read there were 229 people who were injured during the procession. I couldn’t help recall the days when such spoiler incidents almost never happened.

As a kid who grew up in Naga City, the Traslacion, a similar feast honoring the Virgin of Penafrancia, was memorably peaceful. Lately however, like the Quiapo spectacle, the traslacion and fluvial procession in Bicol had been getting flak. People had not been as reverential and behaved as before. In September 2008, a rumble, a stone-throwing incident, and hostage-taking emergency in a bus dampened the fiesta in Naga.

Rarely were there scuffles and tramplings that put our limbs at risk in the crowd. That was in the past. Had a melee occured, our parents would have disallowed us into coming close to religious gatherings. We would have stayed at home to pay our private homage to God, in lieu of taking part in a dangerous holiday celebration.

But times have changed. The annual feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo has grown so big—almost unmanageable. The faith-based observance have lost part of its sanctity as people of plural intentions join. In spite of the Catholic clergy’s attempt to make the plebeian celebration a simple pious expression of faith, unintended incidents do happen. The open folk tradition of worship and contrition which borders to idolatry (as critics warned) has been marred by melee in a huge crowd with poor control.

People suffering from hypertensive spells and fainting due to excessive heat are getting more common. Difficulty of breathing from asthma has been reported in a number of weary processionistas. Contusions and abrasions caused by pushing and bare-foot walking have brought people rushing to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) reports of at least 23 people suspected to have suffered a heart attack. Surely, these are distractions which can be avoided. We need to act smart to prevent a full-blown mayhem.

Before the next Black Nazarene procession turns into a wholesale failure of crowd control— as hideous as the Wowowee stampede in February 2006, those who organize these events must devise a better plan. The Catholic clergy needs to modify the observance of the tradition. Nearly a thousand police officers and 300 PNRC volunteers are not enough to cope with the needs of the tight crowd.

In Wowowee, at least 74 innocent lives were lost in a recklessly planned TV extravaganza, most of them, trampled, brushed aside, and forgotten without the benefit of justice. (Photo Credits: Nesty Ocampo; Bobmani34; Nesty Ocampo) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Wowowee & the Temple Stampede in Northern India” Posted by mesiamd at 8/04/2008

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Religion tailored to one’s liking—an alternative to Catholicism?

November 26, 2008

Those who can’t take the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) may have a lesson from the members the Universal Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church (MCC,) the 40-year old American church of gays and lesbians who has established a chapter in Manila. The founding of the gay church has practical applications to those who campaign against other religions for the sake of changing their teachings.

It’s often suggested by some leaders of RCC that those who cannot abide with its teachings has the option to make their own congregation just like any protestant denomination. That’s exactly what the MCC has done for the gay community. Providing support for the homosexuals, the MCC enjoys peace in the Christian ministry instead of wrangling with the RCC to change its age-old doctrines.

TJ Agbayani, the local pastor of MCC said that since the founding of his church in September 2006, twelve (12) gay and lesbian members entered in the “holy matrimony.” The main tenet of his church is that every member of the community can serve God through ”holy service.” Diverging from RCC’s teaching, Agbayani and his church members believe anyone can interpret the Bible so long as he follows “guidelines.” So far, no one seems intent to bother them on this belief.

Divisions among religions have been spawned by age-old conflicts. In more modern times, the cultures of secularism and relativism have something to do with the bitter quarrels over religious convictions and traditions. That’s why more and more churches are established, creating splits even among the believers of Jesus Christ. A gay life-style is considered aberrant and sinful by the RCC, a belief carried through its 200 centuries of existence.

Spreading peace and avoiding antipathy towards other faiths seem to be the immediate windfall of being part of a sect like MCC which is tailored to one’s belief. The separate congregation is an alternative for those who doubt and cannot find a common ground with the church they belong.

Can there be a time when believers of abortion, contraception, euthanasia, stem-cell research, thievery, murder or corruption will have their own churches too? Maybe.(Photo CRedit: GoldenCalf; CaloricoHermoso;Blazeip1) =0=

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The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

November 2, 2008

The Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, New York where I am a parishioner shares the United States bishop’s reflection “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” It serves as a primer on how a Catholic must vote in the US election. What is below is an abridged version of the document. The complete text can be read in http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org

The US bishops make clear that they don’t tell Catholics how to vote. They said the responsibility to make political choices rest on the voter. The bishops’ advice is ever more valuable as America charts its future.

Why Does the Church Teach About Issues Affecting Public Policy?

The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith, a part of the mission given to by Jesus Christ. As people of both faith and reason, Catholics are called to bring truth to political life and to practice Christ’s commandment to “love one another.”

Who in the Church Should Participate in Political Life?

Catholics need to act on the Church’s moral principles and become more involved: running for office, working within political parties, and communicating concerns to elected officials. Even those who cannot vote should raise their voices on matters that affect their lives and the common good.

How Does the Church Help Catholics to Address Political and Social Questions?

A Well-Formed Conscience: We Catholics have a lifelong obligation to form our consciences in accord with human reason, enlightened by the teaching of Christ as it comes to us through the Church.

The Virtue of Prudence: Prudence enables us to” discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.” As Catholics seek to advance the common good, we must carefully discern which public polices are morally sound. A good end does not justify an immoral means.

Doing Good and Avoiding Evil: There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example is the intentional taking of human life through abortion. It is always morally wrong to destroy innocent human beings. A legal system that allows the right to life to be violated on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

Similarly, direct threats to the dignity of human life such as euthanasia, human cloning, and destructive research on human embryos are also intrinsically evil and must be opposed. Other assaults on human life and dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, may the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.

The use of death penalty, hunger, lack of health care or housing, human trafficking, the human and moral costs of war, and the unjust immigration polices are some of the serious moral issues that challenge our consciences. And require us to act.

Making Moral Choices: Difficult political decisions require a well-formed conscience aided by prudence. The exercise of conscience begins with always opposing polices that violate human life or weaken its protection. “Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good (USCCB, Catholics in Political Life).

What does the Church Say about Catholic teaching in the Public Square?
The consistent ethic of life is committed to defend human life and other human rights, from conception until natural death. Catholic voters should use Catholic teaching to examine candidates’ positions on issues and should consider candidates’ integrity, philosophy, and performance. It is important for all citizens “to see beyond party politics.”

The Right to Life and the Dignity of the Human Person

Human life is sacred. Within our society, life is under direct attack from abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, and destruction of human embryos for research. These intrinsic evils must always be opposed.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

The family, based on marriage between man and woman, is the fundamental unit of society. This sanctuary for the creation and nurturing of children must not be redefined, undermined, or neglected.

Rights and Responsibility

Every human being has a right to life, the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities—to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

A moral test for society is how we treat the weakest among us—the unborn, those dealing with disabilities or terminal illness, the poor and marginalized.

Dignity of Work and the Right of Workers

Economic justice calls for decent work at fair, living wages, opportunities for legal status for immigrant workers, and the opportunity for all people to work together for the common good through their work, ownership, enterprise, investment, participation in unions, and other forms of economic activity.

Solidarity

We are one human family, whatever our national, social, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences.

Caring for God’s Creation

Care for the earth is a duty of our Catholic faith. We are called to be stewards of the environment for now and the future.

Conclusion

In the light of Catholic teaching, as bishops, we repeat our call for renewed politics that focuses on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak, and the pursuit of the common good. This kind of political participation reflects the social teaching of our Church and the best tradition of our nation. Source & Photo Credit: http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org =0=

Science and the Mind of God

November 1, 2008

There is equanimity between Pope Benedict XVI and British cosmologist Stephen Hawkings when they briefly met on Friday, October 31, 2008 in a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. In the meeting whose theme was “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life,” the 81 year-old supreme leader of the Catholic Church and the reknown astro-physics professor of Cambridge seem to agree on God.

Wheel-chair bound and stricken by a severe debilitating neuro-muscular disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS,) Hawkings, author of the book “A Brief History of Time” said:

“”I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science….The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”

For his part Pope Benedict XVI said, “”There is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences.” Reuters-Yahoo.com (10/31/08 Stewarts, P; Bosley E)

The continuing dialogue of religion and science continues as humanity tries to understand its origin and the purpose of the cosmos. The Catholic Church accepts the theory of evolution as part of God’s plan for the universe and maintains there is no contradiction between faith and empirical science.

By itself, science is profound and has done astounding progress to advance mankind through the ages, yet the concept of God can even be greater. For all the wonders of human discovery, the mind of God may be way beyond what science can possibly comprehend. (Photo Credits: by http://www.joysf; Vatican; Ossevatore Romano; Reuters)=0=

Celebrating All Saint’s Day

October 31, 2008

Death – the last sleep?
No, it is the final awakening.

~ Walter Scott

The lines calmed my senses when my mother died a few years ago. I thought death as a final awakening could be an epiphany which brings a lot of hope.

Each time I remember a departed soul and I read the words, I feel peace and consolation. I come to think of dying not in ghastly terms, but something glorious, as resplendant as the second coming.

On Saturday November 1, 2008, is All Saints Day. It is the right time to read the lines again. We remember those who passed away—the departed members of the family, our friends and neighbors who mean a lot to us.

In gratitude, we pray for them and celebrate their lives. We recall how much they share— the fleeting joy and the lustful bliss of the earth.

We relish the muffled laughter, the rustle of the gossamer curtain, and the glowing moments of light under which we had fun together. They are all framed in memory which makes the departed truly present within us: comfy warm, intimate, and alive.

In loving remembrance of ten (10) UP Ibalon members who passed away, here is what each of them must be telling us:

Call me by my old familiar name…I am but waiting for you.

Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away in the next room. I am I and you are you: whatever we were to each other; that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name; speak to me in an easy way which you always used.

Put no difference into your tone: wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile. Think of me; pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life means that it ever meant.

It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a gateway? I am but waiting for you— for an interval somewhere very near around the corner. “ —Anonymous.

IN MEMORIAM

1. Rebecca (Bebeth) Espeso of Tulay na Lupa, Labo, Camarines Norte; by vehicular accident in Baao, Camarines Sur in April 1976; on her way to Legazpi City with UP Ibalon members to join Kami Minagalang, a humanitarian project of the organization for the Don Susano Memorial Mental Hospital in Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur.

2. Floro E. Balce of Daet, Camarines Norte; succumbed to a fatal single excruciating gunshot belly wound from an automatic carbine; in an encounter with the military in Tigaon, Camarines Sur; on July 30, 1978. As Ka Manding, he served selflessly to the cause of helping the poor and the disadvantaged.

3. Manny Raposa of Naga City; a victim of random stabbing in 1978 after stepping out of Max’s in Baclaran with his sweetheart; in Pasay City. A promising Philippine Science High School graduate (PSHS,) his death remained unsolved, one of many in the roster of clueless crimes in the police blotter.

4. Thor (Og) Aldea, from Ligao City, Albay; died of ruptured brain aneurysm in 1983; his 25th death anniversary was recently commemorated by friends at the CSWCD in the UP campus.

5. Siegfredo (Fred) Salva, from Naga City; was run over by a car in a 1989 traffic accident in Makati, Manila. His memory is honored by his Ateneo de Naga High School (AdeN) batchmates thru a scholarship named after him.

6. Juliet (Jake) Repomanta-Siron, from Guinobatan, Albay and Manila; a feminist-activist and a committed women’s rights advocate; worked with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST )where she served as its employees association president; suffered a fatal heart attack while undergoing kidney dialysis about 10 years ago.

7. Karen Canon, died in a vehicular accident while working in line of duty for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) nearly 10 years ago. UP Ibalon Grace Princesa-Escalante, her boss, took charge of the funeral services only to know of Karen’s membership with Ibalon later.

8. Joni Cadiz of Naga City; a loving father; bravely fought colonic cancer till his untimely demise; brother of UP Ibalonians Joel Anselmo and Jose Fabian.

9. George Evangelio, of Daraga Albay, an engineer-contractor and devoted family man; among those killed in a bus smash-up in Pamplona, Camarines Sur in July 29, 2008 on his way from Manila with his wife who had treatment for cancer.

10. Lourdes (Bajing) Roco, from Naga City, contracted severe unrelenting autoimmune disease (systemic lupus erythematosus,) proximate to finishing school in UP; suffered adverse effects chronic disease and medications; succumbed to a relapse; the admirable youngest sister of Sen. Raul Roco. Sources: A. Baylon & Totie Mesia)

NOTE: The ten UP Ibalon members who passed away will be remembered in a holy sacrifice of the mass on November 2, 2008 at the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Ditmars Street, Astoria, New York 11105.

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Photo (Credits: headlesspider; noricum; svf1972; yadnus; pathenson;__)