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Posts Tagged ‘Closer to God’


I just have to share this. Another lovely blog post from my favorite author Richard Paul Evans and since he is an online friend at Facebook, I have the privilege of being updated with all his writings. It is a true story about his Christmas Box Foundation which helps abused and neglected children. The Christmas Box is the first novel that he wrote, rejected several times but when he self-published it, that was the start of his being noticed by readers. It is his personal story. He wrote it as a private expression of love for his two young daughters. It was not the first book I read though because I only found a copy years later. I guess that when you have something to say, say it and never mind if nobody listens or nobody reads it.

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Sometimes,I ask myself the same questions and oftentimes too, there is no answer and the easiest way is to give up. There will always be another option than the latter though, that of trying again and never losing faith that eventually, each will fall into place.  I believe that nothing is impossible with God, one kneels down in prayer and if we listen enough, He has the answer. He puts life back into proper perspective and we should not be blind to His call.

More than four years ago, I wrote about how it seems that when we move forward, there would always be something that hinders us but we have to go on making another step. Here’s the full texts of my earlier post:

TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Life is a dance. Sometimes, it is a harmonious fluid movement. We are in sync with the music, utterly attuned to the dance steps, well synchronized with the motion – two steps forward, one step back. Others may lead and others may follow. It is a mad dash to a world of perfect twists and turns, but the journey is not one long road to success and happiness. One wrong move, one wrong turn, one missed step would spell disaster.

We are constantly seeking perfection and excellence in everything we do but there is really nothing perfect in this world that we live in. Life is a meaningless pursuit without challenge. They say that the journeys walked in solitude are always the most remembered. There is something we always learn along the uneven pathways and the most profound events in our lives do not end with the six o-clock news and the setting sun.

Sometimes, I am amused by other people’s reaction upon learning that I have colon cancer and their usual question is “Are you really undergoing chemotherapy? You are looking good“. “Thank you“, I say. My big question is, how should one act and how should one look if you are diagnosed with this kind of ailment? True, it is a life-changing situation but I never think of it as a major setback. I believe that God won’t give us problems that we can’t bear. The agonizing moments that I have endured during the last few months have drawn me closer to God. God has been profoundly real to me, opening my eyes to the realization that not everyone  is privileged to endure even just a tiny prick from what He suffered on the cross. Martin Luther King aptly put it this way, “beneath and above the shifting sands of time, the uncertainties that darken our days, and the vicissitudes that cloud our nights is a wise and loving God“.

Life is a dance, and when we falter in our steps, God is there to do the rest.

(Just clink the link if you want to read RPE’s blog post).

 

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The Catholic church celebrates Ash Wednesday today, 18 February and it is the official start of Lent, the beginning of our Lenten journey. I attended the 6am mass at St. Jude Parish,  a beautiful celebration of reminding us what the season of Lent means, what the  ashes symbolize.We are encouraged to attend mass in order to begin the Lenten season with proper reflection, conversion and repentance. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means restricting the food we eat and the number of meals and the size of it while Abstinence is abstaining from eating meat.The imposition of ashes is a reminder of our sinfulness and unworthiness, it is a renewal of our commitment to follow Jesus and acknowledging the sacrifice He had made for our salvation.  I think next to the Christmas blogs that I write every year, my Lent posts come close. I would like to share a post that I wrote four years ago because I think the message is never too old to appreciate and remember. I particularly like the beautiful Lenten reflection I found on EWTN entitled What To Give Up.

Give up complaining – focus on gratitude

Give up pessimism – become an optimist

Give up harsh judgments – think kindly thoughts

Give up worry – trust Divine Providence

Give up discouragement – be full of hope

Give up bitterness – turn to forgiveness

Give up hatred  – return good for evil

Give up negativism – be positive

Give up anger – be more patient

Give up pettiness – become mature

Give up jealousy – pray for trust

Give up gossiping – control your tongue

Give up sin – turn to virtue

Give up giving up – hang in there.

Beautiful, isn’t it? And you might say, it is easier said than done, after all we are just human, capable of making repetitious mistakes, capable of abandoning good deeds  and choosing the easy way out, more focused on material things that make life easier, or so we think. But everyday of our lives we are given the chance to do something good for others if not for our selves.  I remember the time when I was in the hospital almost six years ago, it was my first time to undergo chemotherapy. I was expecting that just like the rest of the patients at the Ambulatory Care Unit at the hospital, I would lose my hair but the chemotherapy nurse assured me that I won’t . I was apprehensive at first, who wouldn’t be, but  I gave up the thought of going bald and I was elated and grateful that chemo drugs for colon cancer treatments do not result to that grim scenario. That’s a small miracle  for me. God must be thinking , I don’t trust Him enough.

We are sometimes too quick to judge other people. The thing is, we must look at our own inadequacies first. Unless we know what makes them the way they are, we are not in any position to pass  harsh judgment.  Think kindly thoughts and think positively.  Trust in Divine Providence, give up worry. How often do we feel anxious  about everything in our lives?   We are endlessly worrying because we want everything to be perfect but this is not a perfect world. If it is, we won’t need friends or our neighbors or our families even,  to make us smile.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. keep in the sunlight.”

Give up discouragement, be full of hope. I’d like to think that’s something I got lots of. Giving up hope is like giving up life.  When you  are  confronted by  a life changing situation, hope is a precious commodity that you cling to.  No matter how painful your situation might be, you can and you will survive it as long as you don’t lose that thin thread of hope. Sometimes, trials are really just blessings in disguise. They are God’s way of telling us to trust Him, always.

It is not easy to forgive when you are full of  hatred and bitterness. Let  us not plant hatred in our hearts because in the first place, we are the ones greatly affected. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

What better life this would be if only we can follow these simple steps. Happiness is the simple thought of trying not to give up, just hang in there.

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Maraming, maraming salamat LORD

sa lahat ng umaapaw na biyayang ibinigay Mo sa amin

na kasama si Pope Francis.

For all the inspiring and uplifting words,

for the messages of hope and love,

for making us feel so blessed,

Thank You.

We will continue praying for our beloved Pope Francis.

Please heal our hearts, heal our people, heal our land.

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There is no public event that the Pope has to go to  late this afternoon so I guess it is  time to update this blog  :)  I was glued to the TV since day one and that was when Pope Francis arrived here. It is now day three and I’ve played  couch potato to the hilt, drinking endless cups of tea and coffee in between, finding something to munch on and… reflect.

Kidding aside, I’ve never been busy updating my timeline on FB than the last three days.  I let my tears just flow and experience that wonderful feeling of being inspired, blessed and uplifted. Lots of thoughts are playing in my head but for now, they just remain beautiful moments that would make some beautiful memories to recall  when the Pope has gone back to Rome.  They are mixed emotions actually. It’s not everyday that the Pontiff visits a third world country like ours because he empathize  with the Filipino people and sympathizes with the survivors of typhoon Yolanda.  The latter is actually the main reason why he decided to visit the country – the highlight of his five-day visit.

Yesterday was the official start of the events that millions of Filipinos watched and enjoyed. Pope Francis made a courtesy call to Malacanang early in the morning and then later presided over a mass for the religious, priests and seminarians at the Manila Cathedral.  Everywhere the Pope goes, there are thousands and thousands of people lining up the roads, hoping to take a glimpse of him in an open pope mobile. It was a very solemn mass except that the priests can’t stop themselves to take pictures of the Pope via their tablets, cameras and cellphones. It was so touching to see the sea of humanity outside the Cathedral.

Here's what Pope Francis wrote on the Palace's guest book: "On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God's abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16.1.2015. Francis."

Here’s what Pope Francis wrote on the Palace’s guest book: “On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God’s abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16.1.2015. Francis.”

Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith.  Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.  This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential.  It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122).  In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.

Christ died for all so that, having died in him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:15).  Dear brother bishops, priests and religious: I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world.

This was part of his homily during the mass at the Cathedral. The beauty of our faith is shining through. He said, “do you love me?” as an intro to his homily quoting the gospel and everybody shouted, “we love you” then he answered “thank you very much”. I had a good laugh at that, he has a sense of humor.  Actually there are those moments that made me laugh and I clapped my hands seeing his lighter side. At the MOA arena, as he was  blessing the deaf-mute family who were privileged to share their journey, Pope Francis kept gesturing with his hands how to say I love you in sign language. Yesterday, while spending just a few minutes with the religious  at the Palo Cathedral, he asked them  to: first pray for him and second, to keep quiet as he smiled at them. That elicited a roar from the crowd. He blessed each religious and priests who came in wheelchairs. Unknown to the social media, he made an unscheduled visit to Manila  street children. During his trip to another event at the Mall of Asia arena, he stopped the pope mobile and kissed a child. He blessed each one of those in wheelchairs at the arena including a teenager with a cerebral palsy who gifted him  with a cross-stitch artwork with the image of Mama Mary.

It was signal number 2 in Tacloban when the plane bearing Pope Francis and his entourage touched down this morning and they had to cut his trip  short to Palo, Leyte and go back to Manila at 1pm due to the inclement weather.

A virtual sea of yellow, everyone wearing raincoats because of the typhoon.

A virtual sea of yellow, everyone wearing raincoats because of the typhoon.

This is my second chance to attend mass  (on tv) presided by Pope Francis. It was the best homily ever. Maybe it is even first in history for a Pope to celebrate   mass wearing a yellow raincoat and braving the winds and rains to give hope to the people of Tacloban and all the people of the Visayas region who are survivors of typhoon Yolanda. (I learned later that yes, it was his first experience to celebrate mass in a typhoon-stricken place).

It seemed like he also experience what the survivors did during typhoon Yolanda.

It seemed like he also experienced what the survivors did during typhoon Yolanda.

This is my simple realization while my tears gently flows as I watch the mass in Tacloban: I felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the person of Pope Francis. Even my  son unabashedly wiped his eyes when the mass ended saying “what a lovely homily”. 

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father – you might say to me – I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.” – Pope Francis (part of his homily in Tacloban)

He stopped briefly  on his way to Palo Cathedral to talk to a family along the road, blessed them and gave them encouragement. What is more touching as told by Cardinal Tagle was when he met 30 survivors for lunch, some lost as much as seven members of their family, some lost their limbs, some lost everything. Pope Francis was speechless and told Cardinal Tagle later that he is learning a lot. The resilience of Filipinos are truly admirable.

When you walk through life with pain and suffering, God is there walking with you, holding your hand lest you stumble and fall.

When you reach your destination, He is there rejoicing with you.  The beauty of it all – the beauty of faith working in your life, the priceless moments alone with God in prayer. They make life meaningful.

 

(photo credits: rappler.com, Official Gazette of the Republic of the Phils.)

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It was the warmest reception ever. The moment the Sri-Lanka plane touched down at Villamor Air Base, I got goosebumps – the shouts of joy, the  simultaneous pealing of the bells in all Catholic churches throughout the land, the anticipation of seeing the Pope finally landing on our shores. What a blessing! And when he showed his face at the window of the plane, everything seemed so surreal.

Pope at the plane

And he seemed excited too to disembark from the plane and greet the people waiting there. That warm smile, the genuine look of joy on his face, so priceless.

Pope6 - skullcap

He tried to hold on to his skullcap as he disembark but the wind was just too strong, it was blown away from his head. His cape blew over his head as soon as he stepped down from the plane.

Such overwhelming, overflowing and indescribable joy seeing him finally even just in front of the TV. He waved his hand to bless the crowd and everyone cheered. I just kept shouting, “Thank You Lord, you brought Pope Francis to us”. The motorcade from Villamor Air Base to the Apostolic Nunciature took about 37 minutes, it was so touching to see large crowds lining up the roads. God’s presence is  fully alive in our hearts as we see His shepherd in our midst. I pray that somehow his visit would inspire us more, enliven our faith,  see God in the faces of those who are in need and who have less in life. I hope his visit would teach us  the full meaning of mercy and compassion.  Mainly, he is here to give hope to those survivors of Yolanda who lost their loved ones, lost their properties and need encouraging words that life has to go on.  Hope is not lost to those who believe.  Hope is not lost to those whose faith remains unshakeable despite all the vicissitudes in life. Hope is not lost to those who believe that God is present in their lives.

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Pope5

He boarded  an open-air pope mobile with two religious leaders. That’s Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on the lower right.  Can’t wait to see him make a courtesy call to Malacanang Palace this morning, have a mass with bishops and cardinals at the Manila Cathedral at noon and meet with religious families at the Mall of Asia arena later in the evening.

Viva Il Papa!

(Photo credits: various sites culled from the net – EPA, AFP,Reuters etc).

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The Pope’s Arrival

This is it! Today is the day  we have been waiting for, the arrival of Pope Francis to the Philippines. The past days, I’ve been glued to the TV screen on  news on what the government and social media has done in preparation for the Pope’s 5-day visit which starts today at 6pm. Just like the rest of the Filipino Catholic community I am excited to see him. I could imagine the warm welcome from a predominantly Catholic nation.

The route for the arrival motorcade

Thursday, Friday and Monday are special non-working holidays here in Metro Manila since most roads are closed to give way to the motorcade and masses that would be held at the Manila Cathedral and in Luneta. The most important event would be his visit to Tacloban  and Palo, Leyte and meet the survivors of typhoon Yolanda, saying mass there and  having lunch with choiced families from different barangays in the province.

UST Papal Visit

The Pope would visit University of Santo Tomas to meet the youth on Sunday at 10am  and the campus is open to the public. There will be a motorcade inside the campus. They have allotted separate gates for the Thomasian community at the Espana side, the football field where the grandstand is would be exclusively for the youth participants though. The youth delegates will come  from the Archdiocesan Commissions on the Youth, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on the Youth, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), member-schools of the Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines, and the 2nd Philippine Conference on New Evangelization. The public are allowed to enter the back gates of the campus.  Gosh, even old/expired Thomasian alumni IDs will be allowed. I have mine but it expired three years ago and haven’t renewed it yet. Spiritual renewal is the core of Pope’s Francis visit to UST this coming Sunday, January 18.

A lot of people are asking “why UST, why always UST?” “How lucky can UST get?” When Pope Paul VI visited the Philippines, he went to UST. When Pope John Paul II came, he also visited  UST.  Pope Francis  will also visit  UST. Here’s the answer  provided by the Central Media Committee for the Papal Visit.

The University of Santo Tomas is a pontifical university, directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff—the successor of Peter, the first pope. Aside from its function as a regular university, a pontifical university has a special mission of spreading the Gospel and promoting the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Rector of a pontifical university is appointed by the Vatican, and whenever the pope travels to a country where there is a pontifical university, it is his duty and pleasure to visit this university not only to see how it’s doing but also to inspire and encourage its students, faculty, and staff in their evangelization efforts.

Photo credit: Paul Quiambao  (UST)

Photo credit: Paul Quiambao (UST)

UST Papal Visit 1970. I was here and I remember those moments, we wereeven made to wear our gala uniforms. I was in high school then.

UST Papal Visit 1970. I was here and I remember those moments, we were even made to wear our gala uniforms. I was in high school then. (Photo credit: UST FB page)

UST Papal Visit 1981. It was the first time Pope John Paul II visited UST. (Photo credit: UST FB page)

UST Papal Visit 1981. It was the first time Pope John Paul II visited UST. (Photo credit: UST FB page)

UST Papal Visit 1995 during the  the celebration of World Youth Day held in the Philippines.

UST Papal Visit 1995 during the celebration of World Youth Day held in the Philippines.

Mercy and Compassion

Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old.- Psalm 25:6

Mercy and compassionI love this logo. According to the official website of the Papal Visit to the Philippines,  this symbolizes the following:

COLORS.

The colors of the logo (blue, red, and yellow) are the colors of the Philippine flag. The colors therefore represent the country and its people. It is in solidarity with the victims of recent calamities that the Pope is coming to the Philippines.

CIRCLES.

The innermost circle resembles a pearl, and again it symbolizes the Philippines, which is known as the pearl of the orient seas. The white Cross symbolizes the Christian faith, and our fervent prayer that the center of our country be our Lord Jesus Christ. It serves as a reminder as well that more than a State Visit, the primary objective of the Papal visit is a religious one. He comes to show and share the Lord’s mercy and compassion with the Filipino people.

The red circle symbolizes Mercy, one of the themes of the Papal visit. Red is the color of blood and recalls the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross for our salvation, a holy sacrifice that manifests and exemplifies Divine Mercy for sinful humanity.

The blue circle means Compassion, the other theme of the Papal visit. Blue is the color of divine presence – it is the color of the sky and the sea that surround our life, much like God’s presence, that is, God’s compassionate love that permeates and sustains human existence.

The sequence of the colors follows the order of the colors of the Philippine flag: Yellow at the center, blue on top, and red at the bottom.

The red and blue circles appear like arms embracing the yellow circle. These are the merciful and compassionate arms of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, embracing the Philippines, the pearl of the orient seas. The current Pope is well known for expressing his love and care for people by spontaneously hugging and kissing them. The red and blue circles or arms therefore symbolize the Pope’s Merciful and Compassionate Embrace, and by extension, Christ’s loving embrace. The Pope now comes to the Philippines to embrace us with his arms of love.

Finally the blue and red circles appear like ripples, or waves emanating from the inner circle, from the Cross. We pray that the Papal visit will indeed create ripples of compassion and mercy throughout the Filipino nation and beyond January 2015.

THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS. Praying for your safety and looking forward to your visit here in our country. We are indeed blessed.

Welcome to the Philippines!

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I love these moments, the precious hours when everything is hushed  and what you hear are the silent sounds of a world just waking up from slumber.  The nights are long and cold, that kind where you just savour the quiet moments before you start the day and greet the sun’s welcome warmth, the moments of thanksgiving for another lovely morning.

It reminds me of those times that I enjoyed feeling the cold breeze, the lovely morning walks where your feet just know where to go,  thinking about life and all it brings, thinking about Caleruega, one of my favorite places. A nostalgic trip down memory lane. Sometimes, one’s memory of a place tides you over the long days  of being alone in your thoughts and it brings back the smiles. And you are lucky and blessed that there are such places where peace and quiet reign. We need sometimes to embrace our solitude and be attuned with what nature brings. We need sometimes to think of graceful thoughts and imagine being transported back to places that brought so much happiness in our lives. Moments like this – something to treasure, something to cherish.

Have you ever felt teary-eyed but joyful welcoming an early morning? The Divine is shining through all the time.

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