The faith chronicles

Monday, April 28, 2014


"Amazing Grace"

Sunday, April 27, 2014


True definition of hope

This joy-from-knowing is the true definition of "hope". Hope isn't wishful thinking. Hope means celebrating what is certainly going to happen before it happens.

- Terry Mojica

Friday, April 25, 2014


"When It Seems Like God Did You Wrong"


"God’s purposes in the lives of his children are always gracious. Always. If they don’t look like it, don’t trust your perceptions. Trust God’s promises. He’s always fulfilling his promises."


Nouwen on questioning

The Answer to Our Questions

We spend a lot of time and energy raising questions.  Is it worth it?  It is always good to ask ourselves why we raise a question.  Do we want to get useful information?  Do we want to show that someone else is wrong?  Do we want to conquer knowledge?  Do we want to grow in wisdom?  Do we want to find a way to sanctity?

When we ponder these questions before asking our questions, we may discover that we need less time and energy for our questions.  Perhaps we already have the information.   Perhaps we don't need to show that someone is wrong.  For many questions we may learn that we already have the answers, at least if we listen carefully to our own hearts.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Tagle on Easter

Tagle said: “The resurrection is pure divine grace and it reverses the evil done by human beings. That’s why the resurrection is also a warning to the unjust, to those who trample on the rights of the innocent, those who lie, those who sell and betray friends. You think you’ve succeeded but God will reverse what you have done.”

To the faithful, he said: “The Lord has risen. Have no fear. You might be weeping now. You might be suffering now. But God will raise you up. God will vindicate you. God will reverse your suffering into joy.”

“Dead to sin. Alive to God,” Tagle said. “In baptism, we have died with Christ. In Christ, we have died to sin. The resurrection is life in God. We now live to God and for God.”

“We were all dead because of our own doing. But how come we can think good thoughts. We can cry with the suffering. We can rejoice with those we do not know. We can dream not only for ourselves but also for others. God is alive and if he raised Jesus from the dead, He continues to raise us. This is pure grace,” Tagle said.

“Encountering the Risen Lord makes us bearers of good news. Nobody keeps good news to himself. If you have seen the Lord, tell the world he has risen,” he said.
“Let us start again. There is hope,” Tagle said.

Read more:

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Nouwen on contradictions

Healing Contradictions

The many contradictions in our lives - such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts -  can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us.  They make us feel that we are never fully present.  Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.

But there is another response.  These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy.  Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Awaiting the "bath of rebirth"

At a time when nothing and no one can console me, all I am left with is...choice.

I choose to believe. I choose to trust. I will abide.

God will provide. “God will make a way where there seems to be no other way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to his side. With love and strength for each new day, he will make way…”

"Be strong and take courage. Do not fear or be dismayed. For the Lord will go before you. And light will show the way."

Come, new dawn. Come, sunshine; come, morning; and come, new moon.
Shine, stars. Away with darkness, pain and grief -- I’m done with you.
Quench thirst, water. Fall, you refreshing shower. Form a bright arc again, rainbow.
Vanish, destruction, and let the rebuilding begins.
Turn back, turn away, you destructive waves, and bring calm instead. Cease, war. Be over, grief. 
Settle, dust. Begone, cobwebs. Ebb, flood, subside.
Bloom, flowers. Sprout, all you seeds. Unfurl new leaf; grow bigger, you shoots; grow a branch anew, all trees of the forest.
Grow, each creature. Emerge, all you that hibernate. Awake!
Sing, canary. Strut, deer. Low, calves. Moo, cow. Buzz, bees. Squawk, parrots. Roar, lions; growl, tigers. Fly, eagle.
Be filled with good things, ye barn, ye fields. Overflow, milk and honey.
Be freed, prisoner. Heal, wound. Be banished, pain. Break into a smile, you face. Dry up, you tears, but tear up in joy, you eyes. Clap, hands. Dance, feet. Sing songs of praise and worship, you choir.
Turn, new page; begin, new chapter of my life.

I used double quotes in the title because the lovely phrase came from an article in Word Among Us magazine.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Black Saturday thoughts

(This is a continuation from yesterday's post.)

In my particular situation at this point in my life, I found that there are only a few things that can console me.

- Healing masses by Fr. Fernando Suarez and other ‘healing priests’
- Friends, namely the very few friends who really dare ask how I am, and particularly the ones who offer intercessory prayer (I believe in intercession, so this is much appreciated) and even ask how they can help; the three friends who actually show up at my door, sometimes bearing gifts, and a few others who signified willingness to do so but I won’t allow them due to extreme embarrassment; male friends who exhort me to take courage – it’s different when it’s the men who do it, and when it’s someone who I know have been through or is going through a terrible trial just like me, who have surrendered themselves to God and are actively serving God and yet... (Praise and worship in the middle of comfort and consolation is simply is not convincing for me, for I’ve been there and I saw how easy it is.)
- Concrete help (mostly from my pastoral leader and from my younger brother)
- The little miracles: seeing Pope John Paul II on TV, which leaves me crying for no reason; old clients suddenly asking my help for a fee, ambulant merchants carrying the goods my way (I’m still afraid to walk far from home); friends and strangers telling their own tales that resemble mine; TEDx Talks about hardship that inspire; waking up to love songs I never cared about in waking life; encountering Biblical passages or any text that jump out of the print and make me feel strengthened, stimulated to live again

All of these I regard as little gestures of God that tell me God is walking through my darkest moments. 


Good Friday thoughts

I don’t know what to feel about all these Lenten shows on TV aimed at conversion and evangelization. Through no fault of their own, they all sound to me like preaching to the choir, which leaves me feeling left out. That’s because I already surrendered myself to the Lord, have long been in the service striving to do good works, doing my share of the burden of evangelization – and yet this still happened to me.

I still lost my bread-and-butter job, I still developed hypertension, I was not spared from anxiety and panic attacks, on top of being besieged by other problems in the family that make me question what I believe in, enough to empathize with atheists.  

If I was able to relate at all at one drama show, the only part of the script I can relate to is this most bitter of paradoxes: "Lord, bat mo ko pinabayaan? Tapos parurusahan mo ko." (Lord, why did you abandon me? And only to punish me.) It rivals the worst lines in Biblical jeremiads, the most anguished verses in Lamentations and Psalms. I felt betrayed by God, no less.

One could argue, as one old friend did, that I am being called to further conversion, to a new level of relationship with God. Wow, I don't know if I like that, but thanks anyway.

The scarier thought, however, remains, nagging at my conscience: maybe I displeased God in some way and I am reaping the whirlwinds of past misdeeds?
Whatever it is, my dominant prayer is more of deliverance – “Deliver me from evil” – than “Give me strength, for I don’t think I can bear any more." I acknowledge my pain threshold is quite short.

It’s Good Friday. I anticipate that it will soon break into the Dawn of Black Saturday, because this pain can be too painful even for a masochist.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


"Meeting Jesus in dirty feet"

Reflection #37

We meet Jesus in the dirty feet that we lower ourselves to clean.

To wash the feet of others is to love them even when they don't deserve your love.

To wash the feet of others is to do good to them even if they don't return the favor.

To wash the feet of others is to consider their needs as important as your own.

To wash the feet of others is to forgive them even if they don't say, "I'm sorry."

To wash the feet of others is to serve them even when the task is unpleasant.

To wash the feet of others is to let them know you care when they feel downtrodden or burdened.

To wash the feet of others is to be generous with what you have.

To wash the feet of others is to turn the cheek instead of retaliating when you're treated unfairly.

To wash the feet of others is to make adjustments in your plans so you can serve their needs.

To wash the feet of others is to serve them with humility and not with any hope of reward.

- Terry Mojica

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Religious neuroses

The Filipinos’ devotion to the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church, Manila, is quite a phenomenon even for a practicing Catholic in the Philippines (which is to say invariably zealous and devout). In fact, not a few Catholic Filipinos view it as extreme, to the point of idolatrous, superstitious, and even scandalous (due to the ensuing violence sometimes). It especially embarrasses those with a charismatic bent, whose newfound spirituality emphasizes the resurrected Christ and has quite absorbed a little of that Protestant (Pentecostal strain) abhorrence for religious iconography, i.e., mistaking veneration (latria, dulia, and hyperdulia) for devilish worship (or worship of Baal). Is the devotion to the Black Nazarene indeed a zealous devotion to Jesus Christ in his hour of passion, or just a religious neurosis in another guise?

Religion, to frame the tired Marxist accusation in more psychological terms, can easily be used by people afflicted with a form of neurosis to prop up a needy ego, one wrongly perceived by the egotistical as damaged or entirely missing or nonexistent. Psychologists call this mild sickness of the mind “religious neurosis.”

It’s quite easy to spot religious neurosis for the trained eye, but not for the layman. The secret clues (psychologists would kill me for this) are almost always a degree of irrationality, strange excessiveness, or sometimes an inappropriate lack or deficiency, coupled with angry defensiveness when confronted as well as a noticeable amount of impulsiveness or compulsion. To the observant, these are quite a common combination of traits manifesting in various ways and degrees in people from all walks of life, as neuroses do not discriminate, unlike humans.

Good boy/good girl complex/Spiritual pride

Sometimes, a person may exhibit an attachment to religion as a coping mechanism, as a projection of a false identity of perfection and holiness (the good boy syndrome), which inevitably is accompanied by the reverse (acts of debauchery) outside the rituals of devotion. This results in a deep and disturbing conflict inside the person, who is naturally bothered by shame, guilt and anger at the ensuing disconnect -- in other words, 'hypocrisy.' This 'complex' is often accompanied by a facade of perfectionism in adulthood as well as spiritual pride, i.e., looking down on the less devout as spiritually inferior.

Self-flagellation and masochism

Another person may abuse the Catholic rituals of penance to atone for one’s horrific sins, as though one were himself the Christ walking with brown feet, as in the case of Holy Week penitents: flagellants and crucifixion volunteers during Lent in Pampanga, Bataan and elsewhere. These people are often suspected (wrongly or rightly) as being murderers or thieves the rest of the year. Self-flagellation, of course, is roundly and routinely condemned by the institutional Church because of bad theology: it reduces Christianity as police bribery, contradicting the unconditionality of divine love. The penitents allegedly misunderstand the purpose of penance: to show one’s resolve to change, one’s readiness for metanoia, not to be the new messiah or the new sacrifice lamb, returning what is owed to God measure for measure. The latter is thought to insult Jesus’ one-time act (and continuing?) of sacrifice to save mankind, an action deemed more than enough for the whole world, the whole point of the popular “3 O’Clock Habit” that originated from the diary of the Polish nun and mystic Sr. Faustina Kowalska. (I personally have a reservation here, however, because true conversion and pure intentions are possible in this case.)

Projection and sublimation

Because anything can be abused to hysterical lengths, someone pointed out how certain ‘cofradias’ of fashion designers can use Catholic icons as dolls as a projection (or sublimation?) of the wish to dress up as such but can't, a possibly unconscious gesture mixed up with the purer intents of the devotion. Imagine the image of the Sto. Niño or Virgin Mary dressed up like dolls in modeling ramp fashion or -- heaven forbid -- a cosplay character and other questionable characters (Sto. Niño as a gambler?)!

Speaking of projection, Feuerbach's old accusation against Christians comes to mind, which is not invalid in cases of religious neuroses like the ones discussed above. Worshipful paroxysms of "power! honor! praise! glory!" may, in fact, signify an un-Christian desire for all these, again, an unconscious gesture revelatory of self-centeredness. The more profane prefer to call this 'dickiness.'

Fervid, angry defense of one's faith also often means the reverse: a projection of secret doubt, instead of real zeal. It may also mean an unconscious act of compensating for a failure to defend one's faith in the past, etc.

Hyperspirituality/Spiritual addiction

Charismatics who pursue spiritual high due to depression, or who get addicted to the spiritual high only to be frustrated or get angry with God when ‘let down’ in prayer or when the going gets tough, are also potential candidates for possible irrational compensatory behavior.

I remember how Filipino theologian Jake Yap, a product of Catholic charismatic spirituality, reportedly balked at worship songs dominated by "I" and "I want," as in "I want to worship you..." The dominant or domineering "I," he allegedly lectured, was very telling, drawing the focus away from the bigger "I" or "Thou" (God). The zeal is enviable, but misplaced.

I still cringe whenever I recall this woman guest (incidentally a born-again Christian) at the local TV talk show Mel & Jay who stunned me, an unsuspecting audience, with a statement like this: "I told God, 'Take him (her erring husband) away, Lord!'," as though the Deity was her paid maidservant.

Religious fanaticism

Marian devotions that result in deifing Mary, for example, by devotees religiously attending Baclaran Church Wednesday masses but neglecting Sunday obligations, are a similarly questionable matter and require some psychological probing.

Excessive zeal or devotion to repair a past hurt, as in the case of having a rebellious, atheist, or apostate father figure and resolving to being his total opposite, is also worth examining in this sense.

In its extreme form, religious fanaticism leads to the wanton, if ridiculous, violation of the basic precepts of the faith in the name of the same faith. To the religious fanatic, fighting for his faith to death is a matter of fighting for the missing self, not God.

Hypertraditionalism/Spiritual rigidity/Overscrupulousness/Pharisaicism

Other people inhabit the other extreme, characterized by a wall of non-spontaneity or adamantine reservation and extreme rigidity, as though to say, “Stay where you are, as I stay inside the dividing line I have drawn between us on the ground – not just because I am holier than thou but because I don’t want to get hurt again.” Excessive attachment to tradition, for example, one that says "The slightest deviation from the norms and rubrics is from Belzeebul," may be a candidate for religious neurotic behavior. This complex also results in spiritual haughtiness.


Using the priesthood, monastery, convent, etc. as a place to hide or isolate oneself from a 'hurtful' world may be worth probing deeper. The negative family dynamics the person witnessed growing up may have given rise to the need for an imagined sanctuary, an imagined ivory tower. Unfortunately, or fortunately, religious houses are also places where one's character is constantly probed and purified, as though in a crucible. This hopefully weeds out the ones with questionable motivations.

Messianic Complex and Atlas Complex

Bearing the weight of the sins or burdens of the world on one's shoulders is an unhealthy assumption of one's identity. Presumption of superhuman strength and power is implied in this kind of neurosis. Playing God or Jesus is not among God's commandments. (I personally wonder whether the Lenten flagellants and crucifixion volunteers belong to this category as well.)

The all-consuming desire to save the world may also imply hidden terror at facing one's own inner turmoil. This results in the need to project one's need to solve problems and 'caretake' on a grand scale. The compensation/tradeoff derived from it is in the form of less hurt due to the indirectness or the lack of faceoff/confrontation with one's own demon. The fact, however, is that the tradeoff is even more harmful, because escapist, in the long run. The repressed material is bound to build up in time until it manifests in physically, as in disorders.


The variety of religious neuroses is endless, as various as man is capable of the most bizarre coping behavior or defense mechanism. Learning their lesson, seminaries and other religious houses have become stricter nowadays, so as to screen out potential neuroticism among candidates, and this inevitably has hurt those who perceive themselves to have been rejected, people who are ironically most prone to such a predisposition. Instead of seeing the good motive behind (protection of an institution and the faithful), a focus is made on the bad (the mistaken belief of rejection of one’s person). (I have a little bit of objection here, however, knowing how certain saints struggled with their various neuroses while wearing the cassock or the habit; I believe God's call, not man’s (sometimes faulty) psychological assessment, is paramount in this case. God has this well-known habit of calling those who are unqualified in the eyes of the world; and people who appear perfect can sometimes be the ones in greater trouble.)

Folk historian's take

Going back: Is the devotion to Señor Nazareno a religious neurosis? Off the batt, I’d say it depends on the devotee. Jose Alain Austria, a La Salle Filipino folk history professor and artist (a trained iconographer), says the devotion evolved from a woman's undertaking to a mainly male devotion down to being a male initiation rite, much like the reverse of the Legionnaires of Mary, which devolved into purely a manangs' (old wives') club from its militaristic background (care of Ignatius and Xavier, if I'm not mistaken). The devotion to the mysterious ebony-black Señor, it turns out, is not just a spiritual one but also a matter of gender affirmation, the affirmation of the warrior side of men or the need for male aggression, an apparent requirement in this frightful barefooted, maroon-clad procession snaking down the streets of Manila. See this account, for example: by Austria.

If the devotion is a panata or vow, it is a good sign -- it means a promise of life-long devotion out of gratitude to God for an answered prayer or a miracle; and how can anyone argue with gratitude and miracle? The devotion could also mean a preventative, to avert future disasters. I won't find a cause for quarrel there, as I won't object to a devotion that requests for divine favor, even if it is seen by some religious as childish (I believe in God as a Father who loves to bestow unmerited favors to His children).

I’d wager that the devotee knows the answer (to the question) in his heart, even if he might not be aware of the complexity of the mechanics of neurosis, particularly the need to compensate for something (rightly or wrongly interpreted as) missing in one’s ego or something traumatically hurtful in the past, resulting in the seemingly mysterious and pressing ‘need’ to make up for the lack.

Since only God has an X-ray or 20/20 vision when it comes to reading the hearts of men, it is best to withhold judgment when confronted with gray areas. In the case of this devotion, it is not appropriate for me to judge when I’ve never been in the devotee’s shoes. Regrettably, I’ve twice rebuffed invites to write on this subject by joining it, for cowardly fear of fainting in the heat and the possibility of being squished in a stampede. Surely, I’ve visited the Quiapo Church to have a glimpse of the Mexico-sourced statuary and its devotees a  dozen of times, but only in the safety and normalcy of the day-to-day, never in the heat of the moment: the frightful Fridays of devotion which I studiously avoid due to the ensuing human-vehicular traffic.

It is much easier to view the devotion as a function of poverty, for poor people need God more, obviously. But the most integrated view, in my opinion, is the perspective from a much broader form of poverty, spiritual poverty and human suffering in general, in union with Christ's own passion or paschal mystery, as reflected upon in Austria's article. From this perspective, the devotion takes on a more mystical turn, as the devotee sees his earthly suffering as being one with the suffering divinity, an aspect of the Christian belief that is very difficult to explain to the nonbeliever.

Tell-tale signs

But one can have a clue to the answer to the title question because one can, with effort, distinguish between the autosuggestive and the Spirit-led. The first is selfish, egotistical; the second is other-directed. The other dichotomous clues are:

- rash, rushed, compulsive, impulsive vs patient, high-EQ (emotional quotient)
- excessive, irrational, emotional vs calm and collected
- driven from within vs driven by outside forces
- manipulative, controlling, guarded vs non-manipulative, free, transparent
- defensive, angry, hypersensitive to criticism/onion-skinned vs laughingly dismissive of (often insufferably stupid) criticism
- abrasive in character, if not overly nice vs balanced

The first set of attributes, needless to say, is a vice, a folly; the second, a virtue, a calling. In the first, the religious high may be manufactured; in the second, the religious high is spontaneous, sudden/unplanned, as though conferred from on high.

Furthermore, there’s this other thing to consider: Sometimes, there’s a thin line between zealotry and zeal, between fanaticism and Christian fervor/passion, as in the case of the recovering/struggling/reforming neurotic, who understandably needs to fortify the 'broken self' in his quest for wholeness. This is a long-winding process that is replete with confusion and incompletion in terms of self-awareness.

Ascertaining whether a Nazareno devotee is a fanatic or not is, therefore, not an easy task, if the observer is not equipped with the right knowledge of human behavior. Making fun of what one does not understand is a lot easier.


Repost: Signs and symptoms of the dark night

Have you ever wondered whether you could be suffering from the "dark night" (John of the Cross)? It could be that you're not being possessed, it could be that you're being tested or purified for a certain reason.

If anything, you're in good company. So many towering figures of faith down the ages have been through it, sometimes for years, often without knowing: John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St Anthony the Great, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Henry Nouwen... I assume the dark night is not visited upon just 'holy' persons, because quite a number of people -- ironically those active in the spiritual renewal -- can be 'afflicted' with this phenomenon too, and they are often unfortunately misconstrued. Here are the usual 'signs and symptoms,' according to a nun-spiritual directress (via Malou):

1. You know God is there, but you can't feel him.
2. A feeling of heaviness remains even though you know God is there.
3. You remain beset with problems even though you believe there is hope.
4. You keep on praying yet nothing happens.
5. You feel you're in the heart of darkness: deep sadness, heaviness, confusion, seemingly endless pain and hardship.
6. No matter how you make an effort at keeping spiritually close to God (prayer, sacraments, etc.), He remains ever distant. There is a feeling of desolation.

(I know -- these diagnostics are all rough synonyms of each other.)

What to do? It is suggested that you consult with a spiritually mature guide who know you well, or is willing to get to know you deep down. Avoid sharing your experience with immature and surly characters or you risk being misjudged rashly, your private pain dismissed as self-centered, egotistic, and obsessed or fanatic, or a punishment for a grave sin you committed.

Now how do you know it's not clinical depression? A consultation with a competent professional will hopefully help clear the air. The critical difference (as per my consultant, M.) is that the depressed will turn his back altogether to anything spiritual; the one under the dark night is consistent in his routine because he or she remains to have hope. The only existing hope of rescue from the dark night is the grace of God, which you will patiently wait for in prayer, not psychotherapy.


Here's how Henri Nouwen describes spiritual dryness:

"Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual life. We feel no desire to pray, don't experience God's presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.

"Then it is important to realise that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God's presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don't, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God."

- from Henri J.M. Nouwen's Bread for the Journey


Stray thoughts

(34th reflection?)

Been busy lately with part-time work. I am thankful but made incoherent by tiredness. Here are just some of the stray thoughts I've been having that I hope are expandable into brief essays.


Am I doing God's will, here and now, responding to his call? That's all that matters for now. If God is happy with me, then I have no reason to fret. Never mind the world's expectations.


I realize that even God can be reduced into an idol, or a false divinity. God can be fashioned into a god if we are not careful. In my own circle, the charismatic Catholics, neurotic types are especially susceptible, for charismatism can easily be used as an escape hatch or a handy cover when life throws a curved ball. When life seems unfair, when bad things happen to good people, when we find ourselves down in the dumps despite all our efforts at following God, God can easily be used into another drug for that narcotic high.

What if God tells us: You need to suffer. You need to go through pain. You need spiritual surgery. You need to grieve over your loss for a considerable period. Who are we to say no?

But if we think about it, we may often do so, saying no, if we use our religion as a tool for denial.


Thankfully, God is not a user like us, as a friend aptly puts it. He is a non-neurotic personality, non-manipulative, and certainly no codependent. God is not a drug addict. God is not a drug pusher. What else God is not? We can only look at our own weaknesses.


So maybe I could be forgiven if I think along these lines, if I agonize sometimes: I am so lonely. So upset. I never imagined life would turn out this way. So all alone and worse having nothing. Maybe I am punished. Or maybe this is God's odd way of telling me I am loved. Whatever it is, I am afraid. Afraid of what I don't know, of uncertainty.

What if God indeed is punishing me for some past sin -- what now? What does that make of God? What do I make of God? Do I revert to the old tired cliches that have long been disproven, i.e., God is a policeman, ever-watchful of my faults, God is a punisher, yada-yada...

So what if He punishes so long as He punishes only those whom he loves? I just hope I can take the lashes.

(I didn't write that to elicit pity.)

Now that I let that out in the open, am I all the better for it? (Is that correct English?)


The trick -- I have learned in my years of melancholia -- is to be sad without going down Despair Road, for it surely means clinical depression. I have learned to abide by the wisdom of going sad while having faith, which essentially means not losing hope.

(Look, this is not about trying to be positive -- it won't work in this case.)


This post should make up for my backlog. This constitutes Reflection #35 as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Counting blessings while carrying the cross

(33rd reflection)

There are a lot of things happening to me these days -- internally, I mean.  The trouble is I can’t talk about them in public – how sad. I miss the cloak of anonymity. Maybe I should start a new blog.

Now to limit things to mentionables.

I am thankful to be able to grieve the loss of my grandmother. The tears I was hoping to fall finally fell. It felt good, for I know that tears, or grieving, is a sign of the beginning of acceptance.

I am also thankful whenever sin or issues I am unaware of are brought out to light, brought to my attention through the gentle mental proddings, the quiet revelation, of the Holy Spirit. It’s good to repent on this plane and not when it is too late.

Other blessings: A niece won a full scholarship in her third year college. Isn’t that great? More: a nephew just graduated from grade school, and another piece was second honor in her class and was rewarded with a grand birthday celebration, like it's her debut.

Now, as to the overbearing concerns… they are quiet weighty and I don’t know what words to use right now. Suffice it to say that these are quite a heavy cross to carry. Fortunately, I’ve learned to let go at the first sign of spiritual toxicity. In all things, surrendering to God’s will is the best resort, to avoid stress.

Apart from counting ones blessings, that is. 

Friday, April 11, 2014


Estampita marathon

(32nd reflection)

As you might have probably guessed, I have a lot of estampitas or prayer cards. In fact I have two stashes of them, mostly given by friends, a few I actively sought out, chiefly from Salesiana Bookstore. Because of Lent and because of insomnia, I happened upon one stash and rediscovered, among other things, that I have a Way of the Cross or Via Crucis booklet. What a wonderful rediscovery!

I lost no time praying the prayer around the house and in my room.

Estampitas and prayer booklets, I discovered, provide great opportunity to reflect on the Gospel and on my life. So I lost no time praying all of the possible prayers now laying literally on my hands.

This reminded me that I still have another stash, a bigger one, that I have misplaced through my years of sorting and resorting, packing and unpacking.

Days of anguished followed. I can't possibly have lost such a treasure, I upbraided myself. How careless of me. Goes to show where my priorities lie, etc.

Like the poor old lady in the Gospel who called out to her neighbors in joy upon discovering a long-lost gold coin, I hereby call out upon you, my (imaginary) neighbors on the Internet, to come rejoice with me, for I have found it after just a few days, gathering dust in some neglected corner of my abode.

I have an even bigger set of prayers to pray later. Wow!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


"Law of the Conserva­tion of Charity"

Wow St. Faustina also talked about this in far more plain language! (And this is my 31st post for Lent.)

Karl Stern, the Catholic psychoanalyst, credited St. Thérèse of Lisieux with discovering what he called the Law of the Conserva­tion of Charity.
This law, he explained in his great essay on the saint, states that “nothing which is directed either toward or away from God can ever be lost.” Further, he said, “in the economy of the universe,” there is an “inestimable preciousness . . . [in] every hidden movement of every soul.”
In laymen’s terms: God has so made the world that everything we do or don’t do has cosmic significance. With each new moment, we are presented with a fundamental option — to direct our acts and intentions either toward God or away from him. To love or not to love. And our little decisions in these matters have spiritual consequences we can scarcely imagine. When we are mean, we increase the sum total of meanness in the world. When we are indifferent, the world’s indifference to love spreads. But when we love, even in the littlest things, we fill the world that much more with the radiant fragrance of God.
What a particularly beautiful thought:

"We wanted her to talk about herself. But she was just trying to be a reflection. That’s why whenever we asked about her, she pointed us to Jesus. She knew that she wasn’t the one we were looking for."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


At last a drop of consolation

In the wake of the undeniable win of the 'RH' forces -- though admittedly a much-limited win, I woke up 'hearing' lines of a familiar song:

"Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed...."

That's a much-welcome consolation in these times when I am parched, longing for some reprieve.

Finally I 'heard' and 'felt' the Lord through this season. And I guess that's all that matters now. As long as the will of the Lord prevails, I need not ask for anything more. My own will does not matter.

Thursday, April 03, 2014


"Recognizing Jesus on the road"

This copy-pasted post serves as my Reflection #30. Got it from the Good News Ministries:


There are many ways in which Jesus presents himself to us. Most of them are unexpected, sometimes so much so that we don't even recognize it's him! The people in today's Gospel story failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah because of the expectations they had.

Expectations can sure be misleading! Yes, we can expect God to love us and do good for us, but when we have expectations about how and through whom he should love us and do good for us, we usually end up disappointed. Maybe we even feel abandoned.

The Lenten journey is a daily walk with Jesus on the road to Calvary for the sake of an eventual resurrection. Our sufferings have eternal value if we unite them to the Passion of Christ.

Jesus is present when we suffer, but if we expect him to remove our pain quickly to prove that he cares about us, we fail to recognize a more loving plan. We want short-cuts to healing and short-cuts to happiness, but God knows the harm in this. Despite what our expectations insist should happen, God implements the long-term plan, and someday we'll be very grateful.

Sometimes Jesus wants to unite himself to us in the people we don't like, but since we don't expect him to show up there, we reject him. It takes effort to find Jesus in these people, but he is there – teaching us to love the unlovable.

Jesus becomes present to us in many illogical ways. We expect that everything God does and asks us to do will make sense. But it didn't make any sense to Mary that she could become the mother of the Messiah while still a virgin. It didn't make sense to Joseph, either. And it's not logical that God would use a sinner like me to bring you these Good News Reflections. And neither is it logical that you are the right person to do the tasks that God has set before you. But if we say "no" to God's plan, we are saying "no" to an awesome union with Christ.

Jesus is presenting himself to you in unexpected ways today. Can you find him?

Here's how: In the box below, list all those areas of your life where it seems like God has left the room and closed the door and forgotten about you. Wherever he seems to be failing you, abandoning you, or dismissing your needs, this is where Jesus is presenting himself to you in unexpected ways.

He is not standing where you're looking. Turn around and look in a different direction. You might need to turn toward a direction that you don't like. Where you expect disaster and more misery, unexpectedly, he is there, turning the bad into good, for your sake and for the benefit of everyone else who's involved.

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica 
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(This will be my Reflection #29.)

Today, I’d like to discuss my own experience of sehnsucht. These thoughts are triggered by Stef’s question about the concept of “spiritual suffering.” I said, in my opinion, spiritual suffering is suffering is not caused by our own sin. Also, it may include sehnsucht.

It’s wonderful how the Germans have a term for it – it’s an indication that the early Germans have an experience of it. I was privileged (?) to experience this in an ironic way: right in the middle of euphoria in the days immediately following graduation from the Christian Life Program. I just surrendered myself to the Lord and I felt so joyful, so high, that I didn’t mind dying any minute during those days. I even felt like I could face a thousand demons without my heart throbbing. My fellow graduates felt the same way, to be sure, but I never discuss that other accompanying feeling with anyone lest I be misunderstood.

The feeling is a paradox: a feeling of inexplicable low right in the middle of high – inexplicable because I didn’t understand it at the time. After the adequate passage of time, I understood why I was profoundly lonely. I was profoundly lonely because I no longer wanted to go back to the world and its worldly ways. I desired to be purely with God the rest of my life, but the call of the world was pulling me back to the ground. It made me anguish over the fact that after wonderful worship and a life of intimate prayer, I still needed to attend to my biological needs, my work, my career path, taking care of my parents and siblings, and such concerns. I still had to wash my clothes, struggle with complex human interactions and politics in the workplace, take part in the issues that concern the larger society, and so on.

Why is that so sad, you might ask? Those are not exactly the things that made me sad, but the accompanying thought that going back to the world would surely expose me again to the strong possibility of sin and offending my God again and again. It’s not a pretty picture to be in.

The feeling, or spiritual dilemma, must be akin to what the apostles felt at Mt. Tabor. “It’s great to be here. Can we stay here permanently?” Their euphoria, as we all know, was doused with cold water when Jesus told them after the transfiguration that they have to descend from the mountain and go back to the ‘real world,’ the fallen world of day-to-day temptation and sin.

I think I have gotten over that feeling, but I hope it has remained here in my heart because it’s good to have sehnsucht. It increases my awareness that, no matter the highs and lows of his life, this is not yet the life. Everything is temporary, bound to pass away, to give way, to make a way for what’s permanent: the permanent joy of eternity, the predestined (?) fate of heaven as our home. Until then, this little nagging sadness will be a constant companion. It is meant to be that way anyway, that is why the angels in heaven are said to pity us. They know the highly imperfect state we're in, no matter the heights of earthly perfection we achieve, whether material or spiritual.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


St. John Neumann's "Prayer in Discouragement"

Cheat day! In lieu of Reflection #28, I am posting this because it is helpful to me.


"How to treat persecutors"

In lieu of Reflection #27, I am posting here nice thoughts about evangelization and behavior during times of persecution.- R.O.



How strong is your Christian testimony? Does your life testify to the truth of God – not just your words, but the way you live your life? Does your life reflect the light of Christ so much that it brightens the darkness in others?

Today's Gospel reading explains that Jesus was persecuted because he spoke the truth uncompromisingly, and because his whole life was a testimony to that truth. A barometer of how well our lives reflect his is whether or not we're being persecuted. When we are truly shining as light in the darkness, those who prefer the darkness react against us. Their eyes need time to adjust.

Think of how you react when you're sleeping in a dark room and someone turns on the lights. Do you smile and say, "Thank you"? Not most of us. Startled, we react with hatred for the light, even if we know it's time to wake up.

When your life testifies to the truth of God, the light of Christ in you startles people out of their sleep. They will bury themselves deeper under the covers of their darkness, because it feels like a security blanket. But your continual light will seep through even the thickest blanket fibers. Then, if they really want to remain in darkness, they will try to find a way to shut off your light. Stand strong but take your bright light elsewhere. Give them time to adjust their vision. Keep praying for them. Keep loving them. Eventually, the darkness will cause them to stumble and their sufferings will make them want to change.

In the meanwhile, what should we do with the sufferings we endure from persecutions? Do we want to join our persecutors in the darkness by fighting back unlovingly. Do we protect ourselves through compromise, forsaking the truth? Do we try to cope by complaining?

We will find peace and healing only by taking our complaints to God (and him alone) and by focusing on how the persecutions are uniting us to Christ.

Like Jesus, we can offer our sufferings as a sacrifice for those who live in darkness. Jesus did not overcome his persecutors by defending himself. Rather, he trusted that his sufferings would eventually conquer the darkness. We can do this, too. The love we have for our persecutors and the union we have with Jesus will make a difference. Our patient endurance will help the eyes of those in darkness to adjust to the light so that their hearts will finally accept the truth.

If you're not being persecuted for your faith, your light's not shining very brightly. But if your light is that bright, appreciate how good this is and rejoice in it! The truth is worth being persecuted for. It's a sign that your life is filled with Christ.

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica 
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