Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sense in #hugot: Young People Are Speaking Out Their Hearts, is the Church Listening?

By Sem. Maximilian B. Estayo
     It is impossible for anyone of us in these times of social media dominance to never have heard of those snappy repartees called hugot lines. Externally, these spontaneous expressions common among young people of today may appear as spur-of-the-moment deadpan reactions.
     However, on closer scrutiny, they reveal a person's inner feelings, on what is going deep inside his being. In our class of seminarians in theology, our professor after an exhausting discussion on a difficult topic would announce a furlough and say, "Let's have a break!" Instantly, one or two students would holler from behind, "Aray, ang sakit!" (Ouch that hurts!), bewildering the clueless teacher. Until some of the students, after having a good laugh, would explain the expression, with emphasis on the word "break," as imitating a response to a friend's – or perhaps, in the distant past, to a girlfriend's – declaration of a break-up from a relationship. This is hugot at work.
      Whoever coined the word hugot to describe these short and humor-inducing but thought-eliciting one-liners can be commended for his exactness. In the English language, there seems to be no direct equivalent of the word. But when we hear of it, we think of something that is being drawn out from one's innermost sentiments, like a precious metal being extracted from the deepest recesses of the earth. If this is the language of today's generation, it pays to hear what they say. It cannot be just empty articulations "for from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Lk. 6:45).
      The Catholic Church has been known to have a preferential option for the youth - much as it does for the poor. Enshrined in the Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines is the commitment that the “youth ministry should be assured of the fullest attention and highest priority in every way by all in the Church." Certainly, the measures to attain this vision were never lacking.
     In 1986, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines approved the creation of the Episcopal Commission on the Youth to address youth ministry concerns. This effort recognizes the distinctive needs and aspirations of the youth as requiring an appropriate response from the Mother Church. Hence, in this way, young people are incorporated into the functions of the Church, while they receive formation in the faith and shielded from the dangers that confront them in this modern age.
      The Church cannot deny that young people have a special role in society and within the Church structure itself. Pope Benedict XVI affirmed them with his address to the World Youth Day 2011: "...“your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church.” In the foreword to the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, he exhorted the youth: “Do not...flee from the face of God! You yourselves are the body of Christ, the Church! Bring the undiminished fire of your love into this Church whose countenance has so often been disfigured by man.”
      In the Philippines, the youth make up a quarter of the country's 97 million population according to the 2010 government census. For the Church to ignore them, therefore, would mean taking away an important pillar to build Christ's church here on earth.
      On the other hand, it is delightful to see the dioceses harness the power of the youth in their various ministries and apostolate. The Archdiocese of Manila, the nation's mother diocese, for instance, is aggressive in forming youth ministries. Youth servant-leaders are chosen and instructed on the faith, and then assigned roles at the parish, vicariate and district levels. The youth leaders are brought together to a wider umbrella group at the diocesan level where they get to share more of Christ's mission of service and evangelization.
      At the same time, the other youth organizations and movements within the parishes are encouraged and commended to work with one another to achieve their shared goals. Ministries are also present to serve those living in dormitories and those studying in schools, so they also get the chance to serve the Church in their own situatedness.
      Now, it is common to see young people leading or assisting in the Mass as lectors, commentators and sacristans. They are also heavily assimilated into the basic ecclesial societies, their "home communities" where they get trained by their immediate elders.
      In a specific example in St. John of the Cross Parish in Pembo, Makati City, a booming parish east of the central business district, one of the seven Sunday Masses is assigned to the youth. The youth take care of everything - except to say the Mass - from the singing to the serving at the altar. This is evidently a powerful illustration of the "highest priority" being given to the youth ministry for they are being made responsible for the Church's most important liturgical celebration.
      Be that as it may, still some questions linger. How far has the Church engaged the youth? Aside from the practice of servanthood in the parishes and vicariates, beside the catechism on the faith given to them on weekends, how has the Church profoundly communicated with the youth? Has she drawn them to an intimate reflection on their faith amidst the increasing secularism of today's world and amidst their own daily sufferings?
      The insights and reflections of the youth, perhaps more than their Sunday servitude, are compelling elements that could enrich the Catholic faith. Their triumphs over the material lures of the world, even their anguish from problems in the family can be shared with others.
     Pope Francis says in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that "whenever we attempt to read the signs of the times, it is helpful to listen to the young people....Young people call us to a renewed and expansive hope, for they represent new directions for humanity and open us up to the future" (EG, 108).
      The well-loved Jesuit pope was himself dumbfounded when Filipino youth and victim of poverty Glyzelle Palomar asked him during a youth encounter in Manila in January 18, 2015 why God allows children to suffer.
      The pope - and this is pastoral care at its best form - humbly admitted to not having the answer and only offered consoling words to the teary eyed Palomar and the audience that was in tears with her, "Why do children suffer? When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something." He went on to say, "let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep."
      In my own experience, a friend of mine who has suffered from the rejection of his father asked me: Why does one's greatest hurt have to come from your family, from the ones you love the most? I wanted to say that it is exactly the price of loving. You cannot love without being hurt. When you love, be prepared to get hurt. It is like saying the time of your death was already set on the day you were born. Now, it makes it moot and academic – your family will hurt you the most because it is they you love the most. But it is also true that with them you experience the highest joy. But I stopped dead on my tracks and, imitating Pope Francis, I just listened to my friend.
      Indeed, what father would give his child a snake if he asked for fish? (cf. Lk. 11:11). God, certainly more loving than any father we can find on earth, does not want his children, let alone the young ones, to experience pain. But they have to undergo some hurts to know how it is to live.
      God shows us the depth of his merciful love – at great pain to himself – when he allowed his only son to die for our sins. Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church #9 says, “Through Jesus Christ, He becomes a man like us. This shows us how far God’s love goes: He bears the whole burden. He walks every path with us. He is there in our abandonment, our sufferings, our fear of death. He is there when we can go no farther, so as to open up for us the door leading into life.”
      The youth of today can perhaps find sense in their own sufferings if they have someone to accompany them. They need to be listened to. They need someone to embrace them as they face the difficulties of their daily battles, not unscathed. For every story of a youth dressed in immaculate white serving with the priest in the altar are two stories more of a youth wasted in poverty, torn by parents working overseas, or destroyed by drug addiction or sexual abuse.
      Why do we, in the first place, need to undergo wounding? Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church #102 teaches us that our suffering becomes meaningful if it is "united with the sufferings of Christ." St. Peter tells us, "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps" (1 Peter 2:21).
      Pope John XXIII also teaches us in Mater et Magistra (p. 257): "Animated, too, by the charity of Christ, [a Christian] finds it impossible not to love his fellow man. He makes his own their needs, their sufferings and their joys."
      St. Teresa of Calcutta offers a beautiful insight on this sacrificial love: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
      But the youth need someone to understand these and appreciate the value of these experiences. They need a pastor who will journey with them and explain to them with loving patience the mystery of their experiences as Jesus did to his two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
      It is in fact a challenge posed by the 21st International Eucharistic Congress. In its basic text, particularly in its discussion on "Mission in Dialogue with the Youth," published ahead of the gathering held in Cebu in January 2016, the Congress exhorted: "Youth pastoral care mean accompanying them in their journey, which is not easy, on account of the rapid and drastic changes that are happening around them but also of the dramatic changes they are going through physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at this stage of human development." "This kind of pastoral care," it went on to say, "is directed toward preparing the ground before the sowing, softening it, making it receptive."
      The Church, with the help of its pastors, should draw them to the Eucharist. The same text said, "The Church's mission today includes directing young people toward the Eucharist for sustenance in the face of their many uncertainties and questions. From their Eucharistic encounter with Christ in word and sacrament are offered enlightenment and guidance in their quest for meaning and purpose in life."
      It is here where the youth finally finds the meaning for their sufferings – in Jesus’ vicarious suffering for the sins of humanity.
      If the Church is at a loss where to find the youth in the frenzy of everyday life, it needs only to look at the tell-tale signs of their whereabouts. And they can be found with the help of those ubiquitous hugot lines spoken in youth gatherings and in social media.
      When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, the youth was daunted and desired to back out, "Oh Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak for I am only a youth" (Jer. 1:6). God’s response certainly provided the template for the modern Church’s own preferential option for the youth: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth.’ For to all whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jer. 1:7).
      The youth of today may not be as introverted, but they need someone to unravel the hidden message of their angst, and to listen to the voice of their hearts already expressed in the popular language of the day.
      If they find a pastor who can understand them and guide them through their travails, the Church wins  persons with whom she can impart the mission of Christ. Once ministered, the youth can be developed to minister to others. Thus in this way the youth ministry achieved its fullness, as envisioned by the national conference of bishops.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

'There's a bit of Judas in all us'

Hands down, Judas is the most hated character in the whole passion episode that saw the crucifixion of Jesus.
How everyone, probably from the time of the Lord up to contemporary times, points at him as the cause of Jesus's death. And they might add to say that he deserves to be in hell, where his soul is assumed to be now.
I was on the same belief. Until this Holy Wednesday. A priest sermoned that while Judas could have fallen down the pits, he could have as well obtained the Lord's mercy and could be in His company right now.
This is to say that the most despised, most judged disciple was not an unfortunate case at all. This Good Friday, a bishop explained on a television program that Judas also loved the Lord. In the Gospel of Mark, the fallen follower instructed the guards to arrest Jesus with care. In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist wrote about Satan "entering" Judas, perhaps to make a point that the latter was not acting on his behalf. He was a "victim of circumstance."
Going back to the Holy Wednesday sermon, the priest said Judas could have obtained pardon before the rope snapped the life out of him. The Gospel of Mark seems to lend credence to the belief that although Judas betrayed the Lord, it was not for the 30 pieces of silver. The loot has nothing to do with what is thought to be the disgraced disciple's intention - to incite the Jews to rebellion by making the Romans arrest Jesus. But the Jews did not rally behind Jesus to end the Roman rule. Instead, the Lord was condemned to death in a manner and timeframe that even Judas did not expect. So distraught was he of the turn of events that he committed suicide.
Now, when we look at the cross, we only look at Judas as the cause of all these. It was not him, but all of us, because we all have sinned. Jesus accepted that death for each of us.
We point at Judas because that's what we always do - accuse others and forget that we are at fault, too. In looking at Judas, we are actually looking at our own selves.
"There's a bit of Judas in all of us," the Good Friday bishop said. If it's possible that Jesus could have forgiven Judas at such short notice - as He did more explicitly with that criminal on the cross with Him, even more so with each of us who have much more time to reform. Jesus just knew He needed to save Judas, and all the Judases after him. Proactively, He moved way, way ahead and took those painful steps all the way to a shameful death on the cross.

The Cross, my migraine

I had two straight days of migraine, mainly due to the extreme summer heat. On the first, I was able to mitigate the attack by taking a painkiller at the onset, allowing me to make the long drive from Manila to my homeprovince pangasinan for the Lenten break.
On the second, I was completely defenseless. I was there with my folks at the foothills off the western part of the province to do the station of the cross (how would have I declined if I knew it was there).
We were doing the ritual at noontime, the sun was blazing hot and the hills looked like a steppe, save for a few maturing trees that provided little shades against the heat.
Some guys, perhaps the owners of the hills, built really nice stations, depicting the way of Jesus's cross on the hills to the hilltop that provided a view of the dry landscape down the lowlands, including a stream wilted by the summer sun.
There were 10-ft. figures of Jesus in various agony. The farther up the hills we went, the worse the sun torched my head, as if I was feeling Jesus's pain myself.
Yet, looking around the otherwise magnificent mountain architecture, I could see why the Lord had to suffer: the mountains were bare and barren, a testament to man's unbridled abuse of the earth.
That speaks of the destruction man has wrought upon his soul. If he could destroy his environment this way, why can't he of his own self with sins. If he were good in the first place, he would not have made this harm to his environment.
Which was why Jesus had to pass that cross test. I was having a migraine for a day, yet Jesus's head oozed with blood to death, to pay for the sins of this world.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

20 years after the fall

Berlin has changed greatly since the wall separating the city into west and east was broken down in 1989. There's hardly any trace of the cultural and economic differences between the two sectors. Economic prosperity is equally distributed whereas prior to the historic fall, residents from the east had to beg for food across the fence from the people on the west.
Imagine the pain of not being able to hug your relatives who just live a wall away. At one time, a death zone called no-man's land was created to prevent those from the east to escape to the west side. Anyone found hanging on that section is automatically rifled to death or electrecuted.
At Checkpoint Charlie, where the East Germany-made car trabi made a dramatic entry into the west signalling the reunification of the two states, tourists mill about, scooping into their hands whatever memorabilia they can find of the memorable event.
If you're looking for souvenirs, you will almost certainly find as did the other tourists before you rough pieces or slabs of rocks that storeowners would say were chipped from the historic wall.
Be warned: there had been hundreds of those pieces sold before and yet they don't seem to run out of supply. Berliners can be as enterprising as the streethawkers in Quiapo.
It was a happy event that Berliners this year marked the 20th year of the fall as happy as it was when it was tore down in the autumn of 1989. When the wall came down, communism died with it and freedom and democracy was restored in that part of the world and elsewhere.
That's Berlin's legacy that is worth remembering about, even if when you find yourself walking on the streets of Berlin, a pall of gloom - perhaps a leftover of the carnage in the tumultuous years under the Nazi regime - seems to hang over you.

(Not really) alone in Paris

When they say Paris is a city of love, they mean it. This city has been the setting for many a romantic movie. In spring time, it is as lovely as it appears on the silver screen.
Nothing is more symbolic of this city than the 324-meter Eiffel Tower. When I hopped into an Easyjet plane for an hour and some minutes flight from Schonefeld airport (the domestic airport that is soon to be the new Berlin Brandenburg International airport) in Berlin to Paris Orly (the domestic airport at the southern edge), my mind was fixed on just one thing - to see the Tower.
From the air, it was not visible so I was constantly on guard for the chance it would appear in my view. On the bus ride from the airport to the city center (Paris Orly is quite far - about 45 minutes), my eyes were leaned to the left, expecting to catch a glimpse of the famous structure (I had dreamed of seeing Eiffel in all its grandeur while I'm transit and quite expected that would be the case in this visit - I must say it again that dreams and de javu experiences often precede my visits to famous places).
But like a shy lady, the Tower evaded me until I reached the city, until I climbed into Montmarte to a hostel where I made online reservations for a two-night stay. I promised myself I would see only Eiffel, never mind that I was staying in an artsy charming district where the famed French movie "Amelie" was filmed.
My legs quite defeated me, for I was soon slouched on a chair in the hostel balcony unable to stand up and see my queen, the Tower that is. Into slumberland I fell. But once I regained my vigor, by mid-afternoon, in haste I descended to the subway (it's RTM, narrow trains with funny-looking tires) to a destination I didn't know where except for the city map in my hands.
With excitement, I rushed out of the train station, the fifth or sixth from where I entered, and emerged to a street full of outdoor cafes. People were going in all directions yet still the Tower was nowhere in sight.
Paris is terrible for its people don't speak the Queen's language. Unable to bear the longing anymore, I called out to a Frenchman walking by and asked for the Eiffel. "Oh, it's on your right." I wanted to slap myself but never had the chance to, for before me was the love of my mind - the Eiffel Tower! It's beautiful, though it's still some distance from me.
I made a slow walk to get near - the Tower was like an enchanting forest nymph that has beckoned on me to hold her. I was whisked from my mystical state by a call from an Indian-looking man behind me who asked me to take a photo of him with the Tower in view. I scratched his back and he did mine.
Reality seeping in, I made my way to the Tower to see how it is up close. Every turn going to the Tower I saw changing vistas - one was monochromatic, another as fresh as a tropical garden, with many young people basking under the sun.
You cannot resist the charm of this edifice. I queued up to make an ascent to the second floor, for a fee. It was a tough climb but everyone was doing it - young and old, men and women, French, Spanish, Germans, Americans, Chinese, couples, lovers, friends. My short nap was helpful.
I was happy at the view at the second floor, but I climbed to the third. It was awesome - Paris in its entirety! Yet still I wanted more, so I took the elevator to the top (overall, I think I paid nine euros). It was a fast climb and at the summit I didn't want to look down anymore.
That day I had fulfilled a dream. I went to see other Parisian landmarks in the next hours to the next day - the Louvre Museum, Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge (all in Montmarte), Luxembourg Gardens past the Italian Quarter, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, Arc de Triomphe at the end of Champ Elysee.
I closed my two-day journey by going back to the Eiffel Tower grounds from late afternoon to dusk. Across the Seine River from the Trocadero Gardens, I sat on a bench and watched the view change. I hummed to my Ipod, as if I was with someone. Couples, some with kids and dogs, walked in front me, enjoying a romantic Sunday stroll. The air was chilly I had to cover my head with my jacket's hood. I stared into the distance, into the giant iron structure before me. I was having the date of my life.

Friday, April 03, 2009

In the footsteps of a saint

"Why Poland?" my fellow Filipino at a journalism training course here in Germany asked me when I told her about my plan to cross the northeast border one weekend. A training staff, an Italian born and raised in Germany, joined in the conversation and told me, "I have never gone to Poland."

I can see what they mean - there are other more interesting places to visit in Europe. A Filipino will look southwest of the continent - France, Italy, Spain, Austria or Greece, just as every central European would do.

I told them I want to see a Divine Mercy shrine. Finally, the Italian assistant said, "Oh, Catholics."

Poland is not as touristy as its southwest neighbors. But yes, it has something that makes it special in the hearts of every Catholic. It is the homeland of Pope John Paul II. And of St. Faustina, whose convent in the city called Plock not far from Warsaw was the subject of my visit.

So, that weekend I went out as planned, taking the express train from Berlin to Warsaw. Five hours later, I was in a town called Kutno, from where I took a slow train to Plock. I reached Plock by nightfall an hour later.

It is an unassuming city. It is small and quiet, devoid of the hustle and bustle I've seen in other European cities. Save for its big petrochemical factory that supplies Poland's liquid gas requirements, it doesn't figure in the map.

But it's a quite charming city, located by the Vistula River, Poland's biggest. On my way to the city center from a distance across the river, I saw a hill with a big church on it. It was a picturesque sight; it added excitement to my trip.

When I checked in to my hotel, I asked the receptionist how to go to the Divine Mercy shrine. She looked at me puzzled. She said she didn't know. That surprised me.

Plock may not be a tourist town but many people, especially Divine Mercy devotees, know its place in history. Seventy-eight years ago in February, Jesus appeared to a simple nun, who is St. Faustina today, in her room in the cellar and instructed her to paint the Divine Mercy according to the image she was seeing. Jesus also gave direction for the institution of the first Sunday after Easter as Mercy Sunday.

That's the story of the Divine Mercy, to whom the world today looks up for its salvation.

But that fact, it seems, was lost on the Polish receptionist. Or maybe it's harsh reality - no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

I found my way to the shrine anyway the next morning, with a little help from the cab driver, who brought me to the city's cathedral. That was the big church I saw the other day when I neared Plock. It is a 12th century gothic Catholic Church.

Locating the Divine Mercy shrine was another struggle. Not that it was far from the church, but nobody spoke English in this city.

The door has been opened to me, though. First was the cab driver. After him came this kindly looking nun I found inside the church who walked me up the street to the Sanctuarium when I asked for the shrine. She had to accompany me. She couldn't speak English and give me the directions.

We entered an old convent that has been well preserved. That was the Sanctuarium, the convent where St. Faustina stayed.

The nun - apparently a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy, St. Faustina's religious order - brought me to the side of the convent and there I found my purpose. In front of me was the Divine Mercy image, built on the exact spot where Jesus appeared to St. Faustina. For a moment, I stood there in unbelief.

When I was left alone, I found myself absorbing the deep silence that enveloped the area. It was a very powerful place. It's though as if the Lord has left His presence there, and you would do nothing but feel Him and breathe Him. It calmed my spirits.

Another nun, wearing the same habit as the first but more senior, appeared in my view. I took the chance to ask her for St. Faustina's room. It was down in the basement opposite the Divine Mercy shrine and she gladly opened it for me.

The saint's room has been well kept, too. I wanted to wonder why was nobody else was visiting this shrine. If it were located in the Philippines, it would be full of devotees on this Sunday. But I was glad I had the room to explore by myself.

It hit me: St. Faustina was a real person who lived like the rest of us. Here was her dwelling place: the bakery and kitchen where she faithfully performed her tasks; and her small room where an equally small bed, her robe, shoes, bag and umbrella were on display.

Small little things dot every corner of the basement. The nuns had followed every bit of change in the saint's life and documented it for the world to see.

The nun tried to explain some things to me in Polish. I was only too glad to feast my eye on the saint's memorabilia.

I had half the day to linger in the convent and feel its soothing energy. I have not been to a saint's trail and to a Divine Mercy shrine with such very high historical value. When I came out, it felt as if I had been to a holy tent, with clouds of smoke all over it.

It made me ready for the long journey back to Berlin, and to my Divine Mercy mission in the Philippines where I would go back three weeks later.

In the slow train out of Plock, I thought that perhaps if my friends back in Berlin knew what is to see and experience in Poland, they would not have been skeptic of anyone going to this less-trodden country.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Déjà vu in Prague

It is happening again – my déjà vu experience. This bridge leading to Prague Cathedral in this touristy little European town is exactly the one I saw somewhere in my subconscious – in one of my dreams I can’t exactly recall now just when. But in that dream, I felt a little cold, perhaps because it would be in a wintry environment as it turned out to be. I can’t almost believe this bridge is really how it looked in that dream – the design, the length and how it ends to the arches leading to the courtyard. Just perfect. Maybe I should dream more because it bring me there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Faith unfreeze

St. Albert Church in Nestorstrasse off Kurfurstendamm looked empty at the outside. The doors were closed so it was easy to see there was nothing going in the church. That’s why passing by, I didn’t notice I was in front of the building I was looking for. Instead, I went straight to what looked like a cathedral further up the street (back in the Philippines, every big church is almost always a Catholic church). I thought I heard a bell toll from its towers so in haste I entered it, thinking I was late for the mass. But once inside, I found out it was an evangelical church – a woman minister was in the pulpit directing the few attendees to the readings of the day, in German.
An elderly just outside the massive walls to the church was kind to accommodate my question but she, too, spoke only in German. Helpless, I went out the church into the street, searched for – and found – a Good Samaritan to point the way to the Catholic church I just missed.
St. Albert wasn’t really a big church, but more like a chapel I guess, except that it has high ceilings (Catholics comprise only 30 percent or 1.2 million of Berlin’s total population of 3.4 million – Protestants are the majority – so small churches like this will do for the flock).
I found inside the church about 70 attendees, mostly senior citizens, and I came in just before the priest was to give the Holy Communion. The mass must have started earlier at 10 a.m., not 10:30 as a staff at the International Institute of Journalism told me, and the service was in German, not English, again not as I expected.
In panic, I queued up to receive the Holy Communion – I thought to myself, perhaps I could just stay for personal prayers later on (it was impossible to look for another Mass. This is Berlin, not Manila).
The mass was over in a few minutes, so I lingered to pray, until the church was almost empty. Just when I thought I have seen the last person come out, one by one, people started coming in. They were very distinct, however. They were not Germans nor Asians like me. They were all blacks (no pun intended). I suspected there was a prayer meeting to follow and regardless of the crowd, I decided I would stay. But curiosity got the better of me, so I was soon inquiring about what would happen in the church. The African-looking young man I inquired from said an English service was to follow, at 12 p.m. or an hour and a half since I entered the church. I was like a parched soil that suddenly got excited for the prospect of rain!
More people filed into the church and it was filled in no time – the crowd numbered about 200. I saw a couple of fellow Filipinos in the hall – the rest were whom I thought African-Germans – and we simply nudged in respect for our race.
The mass was soon rolling and it was English all right. A choir at the loft gave a solemn touch to the celebration. At the Holy Communion, I just stayed at the pew because I already had it earlier.
The Mass was over in about an hour and I left the church to a final song with some foreign, yet lovely sounding lyrics (for some reason, the persons I asked about for the meaning of the words didn’t know the meaning themselves although just like me, they sang it with glee).
The church that was empty when I first passed by it was now bursting with people going out to their other errands for the day.
I thought at 1 p.m. the weather was harsh. I pulled in my jacket to pack the heat inside but the cold only grew worse so I had to rush my walk to Kurfurstendamm to the subway station in Adenaurplatz where I got off for the church.
I wasn’t hungry but I was really feeling the cold so I had to stop by a cafe for a cup of hot tea and some bread - to gather heat for the cold.
It occurred to me, I have been cowering in the cold thirteen days into my two-month stay in Berlin. But I thought to myself it wasn’t a good idea to let my faith freeze but get it warmed by the grace of the Holy Mass in the same way the hot cup of tea revived the life in my sun-deprived body.

Friday, January 02, 2009

detour delights

How true that unplanned trips are the most memorable and enjoyable.
Nearly two weeks in the province for the long holiday break and no experience was the most fun than the one I had with my brothers at san fabian beach today.
And nothing can give you thrill than doing something you have not planned.
I borrowed someone's pair of shorts, took off my polo shirt and pair of jeans and plunged into the water. Oh the feeling from an unexpected adventure!
I tried my swimming skills in the water but none gave me joy than just lying on my back and let the water bouy me up. I just realized that I didn't have to do anything - flip my feet or hands - to stay up. All I needed to do was float on my back, chin up. Unfolded before me was the clear blue sky with some cloud patches like smudge. It was like it was just me, the water around me and the sky above. It was like meeting God!
Oh maybe I should plan my trips less and look closely at the intimate surprises tucked at the corners, waiting to be discovered by the wide-eyed wanderer.


I know my vacation is ending when it's time to go to the manaoag shrine to hear mass.
This is true of this long holiday break. After nearly two weeks in the province, I'm getting ready to go back to the big city.
So, on the second day of the new year, I visited the manaoag church, a fitting finale to my much-needed break.
I don't know why I make it a point to make a doorstop at the church. It could be because each time I go home I become prayer-less. When it's time to leave, I become prayerful because I'll leave my loved ones again.
These times are really precious to me. I rarely find time to go home. When it is over, I become restless and anxious.
Today, going to manaoag, I was like that. After the visit, the feeling was different. I become more positive thinking.
Aha! I think that's what it is - this is my place of peace. This is where I get strength to face my tough life out there.
I'm going back to the city ready to make the daily grind again.