Archive for April 2011
Easter Meditation for 2011
Love is stronger than death! The greatest is love! The greatest one is the one who loves the most!
We have been meditating on his passion since the start of Holy Week but what use is meditation if it does not increase our love? We have devoutly gone through the Via Crucis but what good is prayer if we remain uncaring? We have fasted and sacrificed but what use is sacrifice if it does make us more merciful? We have kept vigil and stayed awake to await the Easter message but what use is Easter joy if we do not share it and give it away? We can only win over death if we love. Easter is the true feast of love. Only through love can we rise from death and overcome the darkness.
Love is a verb. Love calls for action. Easter must move us to action. Easter is surely a feast to celebrate but it is equally a mission to accomplish. The risen Lord sends us forth back to Galilee where he preached and healed and proclaimed the kingdom of the Father—there we must prove that he has indeed risen from the dead not by wise argumentations but showing that our lives have been changed by Jesus Christ. The world outside our parish churches will not believe that Christ has risen if our lives do not show any signs of new life at all.
Many filled up our churches during Holy Week and many more fill up our churches today Easter Sunday. But among those who valiantly fasted and offered mortifications during these pious days, how many really poured love into our suffering world and made our world a little better than when we began our Lenten exercises? Is our world better than forty days ago? The victory of Easter is the victory of the Greatest Lover of all who died that we may have fullness of life. We who are an Easter people must pour love into our bleeding world, bind the wounds of our society and bring it back to life—through love.
If indeed we are people ready to love, we must make our Easter Sunday an occasion to bring an end to cold indifference—walang pakialam! Love cares. Love gets involved. Love reaches out. The risen Lord pricks us to get involved in politics and make it a liberating not a corrupting kind of politics. The risen Lord urges us to bring Christian ethics to economics and put charity not profit as its overriding principle. The risen Lord sends us on a mission back to Galilee to restore all things to him. Easter people: spread the values of Christ!
If love has indeed fully possessed us, then we must break out of our protective shells of our insensitivity and heartlessness—walang pakiramdam. Love takes responsibility. Love is rich in mercy. Love is kind. We cannot continue with Easter and continue to ignore the poor. It is not hard to meet the poor if we are not playing blind to their presence. We cannot claim to be an Easter people and yet not do anything about the silent moans of aborted babies. We cannot sing Alleluia and remain insensitive to rising criminality, the commercialization of sex and the unabated availability of shabu in the neighborhood. Easter people: act now!
If we are truly an Easter people and love is our rule of life, we must destroy callousness and audacity—walang hiya. Contraception is corruption of love and life. It is not a solution. It will only open more problems for the soul of our nation. Sin is abnormal. Obedience to the Ten Commandments is normal. Let us not extol impurity and ridicule virtue. Polluting the minds of children by teaching them sex without God cries to heaven for divine justice. Easter people: stand up for life!
Love is a verb not a noun. Easter is a mission not just an event. We can only share in the glory of this greatest of all days by making love reign supreme.
Goodbye indifference and apathy.
Goodbye insensitivity and heartlessness.
Goodbye callousness and audacity.
Let us live in love, for love and with love. Let us love. Easter is a feast of love and only those who love will see the glory of the Risen Christ!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 23, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Meditation on Holy Thursday Chrism Mass 2011
Today like all other days, we gather to pray and to give thanks. What makes this day different from other days is that today we remember the roots of our priesthood. We make a pilgrimage to the Upper Room. We bring back the memory of the first Holy Thursday. We remember how he washed the feet of his friends. We remember that he said “Do this in memory of me”.
But think of it again. Did our priesthood really start only on Holy Thursday? Did our priesthood start only at our ordination? Did the journey start only when we entered the seminary?
Before the Upper Room, there was only the Garden of Eden. Before we heard the voice of God to follow him, we had only our parents. In the natural order of things, before we knew the church, we first knew our family. Before we saw the father of the parish, we first knew the father of the home. Indeed the first priest we knew was our father at home—he provided for us, he disciplined us, he cared for us, we kissed his hands and he blessed us. Before we heard that the Church is our holy mother, we first experienced the caress of our mother at home. Before we tasted the Bread of Life, we first tasted the sweet milk from our mother’s breast. In the beginning, there were no priests; there were only parents.
Before God called priests, God first created Adam and Eve. Before God called us to follow him, he first called our parents to love each another until death. Before Jesus called us to carry our crosses daily, we first saw how our parents were mindless about getting sick or how ready they were to die for love of us.
Indeed as we celebrate today the memory of our priesthood, we push farther than the Upper Room on Holy Thursday and remember our roots—the Garden of Eden, the garden of the home; the paradise of the family. We push farther than our ordination day and remember the mother who gave us birth and the father who provided for us. The first church is the family. The first priest is the father at home. The church’s motherhood comes only after our mother’s selfless love.
With the long training and rigid formation that we went through before ordination, how can we refuse the temptation to look down on our less educated parents? How can we prevent our parents from looking up to us to convince us that we have surpassed them in success? It is a temptation. It is an illusion. The greatest in the kingdom of God is not the most educated or the most popular or the most influential but the one who stoops down to serve. The greatest is the servant.
With our capacity to engage in hair splitting arguments in philosophy and theology, can our parents compete with us? Their mouths open in awe as their sons parrot out words too hard to understand. When they get confused listening to us, they call us learned! We must not forget that our mother’s novenas– that we now ridicule as self proclaimed intellectuals– were the prayers that sustained us and continue to nourish us in the ministry. Our fathers can only become lay ministers assisting us but the priest can only be greater than the laity if the priest loves the most. The best seminary is neither in Binmaley nor in Bonuan. The best seminary is the home. The best rector is the father at home.
Our parents teach us until now– and how tenderly they teach us– to be humble. Before gratitude, there is first humility. We cannot thank the Lord for the gift of our priesthood without learning from our simple parents the virtue of humility and purity of heart.
The priest may be a big shot in the Christian community but before his parents, the priest will always be only a son as he is always only a child in the presence of God. Today we remember our roots and we thank God for the gift of our parents. If God promised everlasting reward to the giver of a glass of water to a wearied traveler, can you imagine the reward in heaven for a mother who gives God the fruit of her womb?
As I behold the bishop’s ring on my finger, I cannot but recall the wedding rings of my parents—much simpler and much cheaper, less attractive than mine—and yet in the eyes of the Lord, much more important and holier than the ring I carry. The greatest indeed is love.
As I look at the vestments I wear to celebrate the Mass, I cannot but gaze at the old ordinary dress of my mother and remember that my best vestment is still my baptismal garment. That simple inexpensive white dress my mother gave me as a baby surpasses in value our expensive signature shoes and shirts that we have been accustomed to wear now. Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit.
We feel good and proud that we are able to fill up the pews of the chapels and churches when we offer the Mass and preach. Although our parents cannot fill up church pews as we do, they have filled up our priestly hearts with the love and blessings of God. Your heart is more important than the pews. Our parents know where the real treasure lies.
The church is my home. I fly back to the church my nest to repair my broken wings and heal my wounded soul. But there is no place to heal better than the chest of the mother who nursed us as infants. There is no hand more secure than the hands of the father at home who taught us how to stand each time we fell when we were just learning how to walk. How we miss that loving chest and those guiding hands of our parents. Priest of God blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that nursed you!
At the fourth station of the Via Crucis, we reflect on the meeting between Jesus and his afflicted mother. When our people hurt us, when the church ignores us, when those we serve attempt to destroy us, when it feels like walking in the valley of darkness, we only long secretly to meet our mother again to cry on her shoulders, to allow her to wipe our bloodied faces and receive new strength to move on to our crucifixion. Stabat Mater dolorosa.
My brother priests, before you became a father in the church, you were first a son for your mother and you will always be her son on earth and in heaven. Before you became a father for the people of God, you first had a father at home and no one can replace him in your life on earth and in heaven. Between now until the Mass this evening, please visit your parents at home or resting in their graves. Thank them. Bless them. Be blessed by their memory. You can only be the good priest that you are now because of your holy parents. Let their memory set your heart again to love your priesthood. Preserve your father’s good name. Do not allow anything or anyone to tarnish that name. By that name, God has called you. By that name you will return to God. May Mary, the mother of the Eternal Priest keep all our parents of priests in her loving embrace.
Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, Tell me what to say!
Did you lift Him up, sometimes, Gently on your knee? Did you sing to Him the way Mother does to me?
Did you hold His hand at night? Did you ever try Telling stories of the world? O! And did He cry?
Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, And you know the way.
April 1, 2011
Re: Archdiocesan Youth Day
My brothers in the priesthood:
We have an opportunity before us to put into practice the spirituality of stewardship that we have been preaching about since the start of the Lenten season.
The Parish of Saint Rose of Lima in Domalandan, Lingayen, the host of the 2011 Archdiocesan Youth Day, is in need of financial aid in order to cover the expenses of this church event. Those among us who have been host parish priests know the great demands that this undertaking entails.
In response to the appeal for help from a member of our spiritual family, we shall hold a second collection for the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry in all the Masses on April 17, 2011, Palm Sunday. Incidentally, this special collection for the youth coincides with the turn over of the World Youth Day Cross by Pope Benedict XVI to the host country of the next World Youth Day. You can animate the parish youth leaders to spearhead this collection.
Secondly, I am inviting all the parishes to make a stewardship contribution for the 2011 Archdiocesan Youth to be remitted to the Chancery by April 15. In the spirit of stewardship, we will not impose a quota on parishes but instead appeal to your sense of fraternal solidarity and communion. Let us start to live our Lenten homilies and set an example for the Catholic faithful.
Even now, please receive my pastoral blessings and fraternal confidence in your priestly stewardship. Thank you.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, DD
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
‘And the fire on the altar shall always burn, and the priest shall feed it, putting wood on it every day in the morning…This is the perpetual fire which shall never go out on the altar. (Lev 6:12-13)
When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him … They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us …?” (Luke 24, 30-32)
Every now and then, a younger brother priest would come up to me with these words, “How can we keep the fire of our priesthood alive? After only a few months after ordination, I already feel bored. I feel dry. I am not excited anymore. I might not last.” A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul. O priests, you bright candles enlightening human souls, let your brightness never be dimmed. (Divine Mercy in my Soul, Diary of St. Faustina, 75).
Every priest knows that feeling of the well drying up and the fire dying. The ordination honeymoon seems to end so quickly and monotony soon sets in. Burning out, running on empty —the feeling is all too familiar
The onslaught of all these feelings boils down to prayer, or more specifically, the lack or neglect of it. Indeed, pastoral action is attractive and so emotionally rewarding, and priests tend to be consumed by it. But when we sacrifice personal prayer for the sake of pastoral action, burn out, boredom and monotony will set in fast.
Unfortunately, the first victim in this boredom and burn out phenomenon is the Mass. We offer the Mass haphazardly without noticing it because we no longer examine our consciences anymore. We rush the prayers and omit the songs forgetting that the face of God is more important than the face of our wristwatch. We rehash old homilies ad nauseam. We put on the Mass vestments like we put on our ordinary shirts and pants and after we unvest, we just throw them on the table of the sacristy, in a rush to go to another appointment. The source and summit of our Christian life has become just a duty to do and a source of revenue. Sad! Why? How can we reverse the path?
In our desire to invigorate our seemingly humdrum life we begin to indulge in “other pursuits”. We explore hobbies and sports – photography, golf, tennis … We pursue further studies. We join more socials. Buy more gadgets. Take longer and farther vacations.
But the happiness continues to evade us. “In our age, as in every age, people are longing for happiness, not realizing that what they are looking for is holiness”. (Jerry Walls). The fire cannot be ignited again. We become mediocre and lukewarm and get accustomed to bland, tasteless water. We just submit to the reality that the wine of the Lord is no more.
Find Him where You Lost Him
It need not be so. You will find God where you lost Him. You lost Him at Mass? You will find Him again there. “… The whole Church draws life from the Eucharist, all the more then must the life of a priest be “shaped” by the Eucharist. So for us, the words of institution must be more than a formula of consecration: they must be a “formula of life“. (Letter of John Paul II to priests on Holy Thursday 2005, n.1).
Where in the Mass can we recover the Lord? As a brother to a brother, I encourage you to look at the silent prayers at Mass that we tend to gloss over or even totally ignore or forget because of haste or lack of concentration. “Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.”(GIRM, 45)
The priest’s silent prayers in various parts of the Mass are personal prayers that will help us to see ourselves not just as ministers for the validity of the sacraments but as fellow worshipers of the priestly people. The silent prayers prescribed for the priests during the Mass are not for the people but for us. These silent prayers remind us that we are not only there to bless; we also need to be blessed. We are not just at the ambo to teach; we are there to be taught also. We are not just there by the altar to minister; we also need to be ministered to. We are not just functionaries. We are not just tools. The Lord has calls us His friends.
The silent prayers of the priest at Mass, if properly prayed, will open for us that sense of awe and amazement as we perform our holy duty. “This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 5).
March 29, 2011
TO: THE CLERGY AND LAY FAITHFUL of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
RE: “SANTA MARIA MADRE DELA EUCARISTIA”
May the Lord give us His Peace!
It has been brought to my attention that certain religious images had been or are being brought around the parishes of the Archdiocese and devotions to them are being promoted among the faithful without my knowledge and approval.
Care should be taken that the persons bringing around and promoting the devotion to religious images are doing so with purity of beliefs and intentions.
Among the above mentioned images is that of “Santa Maria Madre dela Eucaristia”. After examining the tenets of those involved in the promotion of the devotion to the image, I have arrived at the conclusion that many of these are not in conformity with orthodox Catholic doctrine and therefore are harmful to the spiritual lives of the faithful.
In the future, I enjoin the parish priests to require persons bringing around and promoting devotions to religious images to first secure the permission of the Archbishop. In this way, the faithful may know that their activity is done in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
Trusting that the foregoing will serve for your guidance and reference, I remain
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, DD
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan