Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Call to Prayer: For Priests and All Catholics

It is an interesting time to be a Catholic. The Church is on the news everyday.

As in all things heartbreaking, however, I had been unable to write about the spate of sexual abuse scandals, until now. Up until recently, the allegations of pedophilia had mostly surfaced in other parts of the world. I had the luxury of not knowing the accused. To my chagrin, I saw a familiar name in the news a few days ago.

I will not elaborate on that particular news item, as the Church authorities are taking steps to address the problem already, but I have been moved to express my thoughts on the recent scandals that are rocking the Roman Catholic church.

I won't be one to point an accusing finger. I know that I'm a sinner and that I belong to a Church which is run by men, not angels, and thus sinners like me. But I will not use this as an excuse for the transgressors' behavior. Despite the pain it has caused me and millions of faithful around the world, I have to thank the media for relentlessly exposing these issues because in doing so, they have forced the Vatican to review how they accept men into the priesthood, what kind of support they give to the priests, and what changes they must institute in order to insure that the abhorrent acts committed to children will not happen again. This includes the radical moving away from the silence and secrecy policy, when such is unnecessary.

Everyone's suddenly become an armchair critic, naturally. Some Atheists even want Pope Benedict arrested. Journalists, bishops, and priests have applied pop psychology and given their own opinions as to the source of the problem, whether it be homosexuality, or celibacy, or pornography. Non-practicing Catholics and people of other faiths and religions have blogged and commented lambasting the Church, the Vatican, the Pope, and the priests. For the past several weeks, I have tried to absorb as much as I can through Google Reader.

The faithful have defended the Holy Father, saying that contrary to accusations, he had taken concrete steps to address the problem of pedophilia. Many Catholics have defended why they have chosen to remain, and I laud all these efforts at finding solutions, and accepting the criticisms.

The timing is perfect, really. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of the Priests from June 2009 - June 2010, and at our parish, we pray for the sanctification of priests. Everyday. What we lay people must do is to continue to pray for them, for we should not forget the power of prayer. It cannot be a coincidence that just when we are stepping up our intercession for the priesthood, the enemy decides to go to the next level in attacking the church. In this fight, we know Jesus is on our side and that we belong to the victor.

Let us also pray that no more children be victimized, and no more women abused, by the very shepherds that are supposed to guard their flock. For all the victims, may they find justice, peace, provision, and healing.

This is what we recite everyday at the Parish of St. Benedict

Daily Prayer for Priests

O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of Your
Son and for love of Him, who is the Eternal High Priest,
have pity on Your priests. Remember, O most compassionate
God, that they are but weak and frail human beings.
Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which
is in them by the imposition of the bishop’s hands. Keep
them close to You, lest the enemy prevail against them,
so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree
unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests;
for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests laboring
at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for
Your tempted priests; for the lonely and desolate priests;
for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the
souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all, I commend to you the
priests dearest to me, the priest who baptized me, the
priests who have absolved me from my sins, the priests
at whose Masses I have assisted and who have offered
me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion, the
priests who have taught and instructed me or helped
and encouraged me, and the priests to whom I am
indebted in any other way.

O Jesus, keep them all close to Your Heart, and bless
them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

I have asked the priests in our parish what they think about this. I know them to be faithful and prayerful priests, who struggle to remain faithful to their vocation. The priests in the news may give the priesthood a bad name, but let us not forget the thousands who minister to us and serve God sincerely and honestly. The priests I have talked to said that it is time for the Church to heal and grow, and we should weather this storm using prayer as a weapon, and we must put our trust in the Lord.

I think it is pointless to find someone to blame, for We, the people, are the Church. It is not just the Pope, or the Vatican, or the bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians. We are as much a part of the solution. I join you in prayer, my brothers and sisters - for the grace to overcome these scandals with God's truth, justice, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and love.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What I Did For Love

Sometimes, I still want to do it all over again. I still want to do God's work full time. It's still in my heart. The desire is still alive, after everything that has happened.

Regular readers of this blog know that chapter in my life when I quit being a lawyer for a while to serve full-time in Lingkod. But that only happened for a period of two years, after which I felt the need to go back to practice my profession and earn a living.
Five years after making that decision, I am now involved in various ministries, albeit not on a full-time basis. What time I used to give to my trans-parochial community, I now give to our parish. Although still able to pray in the charismatic way, I now spend time in silence before the Blessed Sacrament more often than I used to. I continue to read spiritual books. I observe the liturgical calendar more closely because of my parish involvement, and have grown to draw peace and strength from these observances.

A friend from Lingkod pointed out that I am still a missionary at heart, and what brings me joy is to do God's work. In being part of the Lectors and Commentators, attending Scripture study, going to the BEC seminars, giving talks to the youth, counting the mass collection, participating in the prayer meetings, or talking to my co-servants in the parish, I have reached a different level in my spiritual journey, and I am grateful for where I am now.

This is the year of pruning and disciplining for me: less of the world, more of the Lord. Circumstances in my life prevent me from going out too much, or living a lifestyle of a single young professional without a care in the world. With more responsibilities at home and at work, my free time is best spent doing what I love the most. And I have discovered that going to parties, hanging out in noisy bars, and wasting time on frivolous (to me) matters no longer appeal to me. At least, I cannot afford to do them.

In my prayer time, I feel God calling me more deeply into a relationship with Him. Everything I do now is in pursuit of that. As for the people and events that do not fit my present situation, I believe there is a proper time for everything. Friends, if they are true, will understand and eventually go with the changes in tastes and preferences. Opportunities, well, they will come as long as I give my best to my job. I am not at all afraid of losing out or being left behind, just because my calendar is filled with work, errands, service, or sleep.

I can still do it - one day. But for now, I live each day with God, walking with Him, waiting for Him, listening to Him, and encountering Him in the people that I deal with, whether they are aware of it or not. This is another step in trying to please my Audience of One, and no longer the whole world. I am happy to note how love grows through time, and how in knowing myself more, I can love God more.

What I did for love, I can still do now, wherever I am, with whomever I choose. I am more confident in this, after the first experience of a radical lifestyle. I'm a little subdued now, maybe, as a factor of age. But guess what? I am so much happier.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

On the Third Day, He Rose Again

Bells have been silent since midnight of Holy Thursday, only to burst in jubilant praise during the Easter Vigil when Catholics commemorate Jesus' triumph in the resurrection.

I walked with the Santo Entierro last Good Friday, together with my parents and friends from the parish. We did it prayerfully and joyfully. After hearing the Seven Last Words and attending the Celebration of the Lord's Passion, the one and a half-hour walk was invigorating, bringing into action what my heart was saying in response to the Love that God had shown. The procession was followed by the Tenebrae (the Office of Shadow and Darkness), where the priests chanted a memorial service for the Lord, and the lights in the church were turned off one by one, until all that was left was one candle symbolizing the hope that Jesus would rise again on Easter.

And indeed, He rose again on the third day. A chorus of hallelujahs burst from the earth, echoing the heavenly song as God fulfilled His promise of a Savior, who willingly died for our sins, and rose again to show victory over both death and sin.

In the coming days, I hope I could write what took place in my personal retreat during this recent Easter Triduum. I was moved to pray in a deeper way and to appreciate the depth and the breadth of God's Love for me.

Happy Feast of the Resurrection! Let us rise again because we have no more reason to stay in the darkness. Jesus' light is shining on us. It is a beautiful day. It is Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 02, 2010

By His Stripes We Are Healed

It is a Good Friday to remember what He has done for us: by His stripes we are healed.

Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
1 He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.
2 He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
3 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people,
A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.
4 (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; And he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sitting with Jesus in the Garden

It is Holy Thursday, the start of the Easter Triduum.

I bow my knee.
I still my heart.
I read God's Word.
I contemplate His Son's Love.

There is no music that captures this time for me,
Only silence.
I know He is within me,
And my concerns are in His hands.

I lift up my eyes to heaven
and remember.
The sacrifice, the love,
My salvation, from Above.

Everything else is noise,
Distraction, unwelcome.
For now I remember Jesus' passion and death
And hope in His rising again.

He is inviting me
To sit with Him for at least one hour.
Jesus went to the garden,
and I will go with Him.

(Photo from this site.)