Saint Teresa of Calcutta

On September 4, 2016, Mother Teresa was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. This comes a day before the 19th anniversary of her death. The canonization mass which was led by Pope Francis was held at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

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Image Source

The Early Years

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on 26 August 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, to Albanian heritage. Her family is devoutly Catholic. She clarified the common confusion about her nationality and faith as follows:

“By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

She left home in September 1928 to be admitted as a postulant at the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnam (Dublin), Ireland. She was given the name Teresa after her patroness, St, Therese of Lisieux.  She was sent to Calcutta, India on January 6, 1929 where she joined the  Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling. She became known as Mother Teresa when she made her final profession as a Loreto nun on May 24, 1937.

Mother Teresa’s Charity Works

Mother Teresa was said to have received a “call within a call”. Aside from answering the call to become a nun, she shared that she received another call from Jesus Christ. This second call resulted to the formation of the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, and Co-Workers. It eventually became a congregation known as the Missionaries of Charity. Its aim and mission in her own words sums up its reason for being which is  “to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls by labouring at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.”

The works of the congregation were expanded throughout the globe.  Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 in recognition of her work. She continued traveling all over the world to bring her works of charity in spite of failing health.

Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta in July 1997 very weak. She died on September 5, 1997 at the Motherhouse. She was accorded a state funeral on September 13, which was attended by world leaders or their special envoys.

The Road to Sainthood

The first recognized miracle attributed to Mother Teresa involved an Indian woman named Monica Besra, who said she was cured of an abdominal tumor through Mother Teresa’s intercession on the one year anniversary of her death in 1998. This was in the year 2002. Her beatification ceremony as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was led by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 2003.  The publication of her private correspondence which showed among others a letter displaying a sense of despair in relation to her faith made Mother Teresa a figure which ordinary people can relate to.

Pope Francis issued a decree in December 17, 2015 recognizing the second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa. It involved the healing of Marcilio Andrino, a Brazilian man who was diagnosed with a viral brain infection and lapsed into a coma. His wife  and family who prayed to Mother Teresa, said that he woke up after an emergency surgery without pain and cured of his symptoms.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta will always be remembered as one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century because of her unwavering commitment in aiding those who are most in need.

Source: http://www.catholic.org/clife/teresa/

 

Pink Sisters Convent Tagaytay

 

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Praying is something that we can do anywhere we are. But for those times that I feel the need to be in a place of calm and inner rest, I think about the church or a convent. The Convent of Divine Mercy, more popularly known as the Pink Sisters Convent in Tagaytay, is one such place of contemplative prayer.

Origin

The convent is a part of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters which is a Roman Catholic congregation of cloistered nuns. The congregation was established by Saint Arnold Janssen on December 8, 1896 at Steyl, Holland with the assistance of Mary Mother Michael.  Fr. Janssen saw the need for a third congregation that would support the missionary work of two earlier established congregations tasked with missionary work.

This congregation’s support will come through prayers and sacrifice.  It has about 22 houses in 12 countries including the Philippines. The first house was established in Pennsylvania, USA.

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Pink Sisters

The convent became popularly known as such because of the nuns dressed in pink. These nuns can be seen kneeling or sitting before the altar whether there is a mass ongoing or not. They read and pray 24/7 for the various petitions of churchgoers dropped in the designated box.  The sisters can only be seen behind grills and talking with them is prohibited.

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Petitions

Churchgoers write their petitions on a piece of paper and place it inside an envelope provided at the counter.  Many faithful attest to the intercessory power of the praying nuns as they share stories of granted wishes, some impossible to be granted by mere human effort. These testimonials and the sincere desire to feel peace in this often confusing world we live in have worked to attract people from different parts of the country.

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The Pink Sisters Convent Tagaytay can be reached by riding a jeepney or tricycle from the Olivarez Center in Tagaytay City.

 

The Seven Last Words

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During Good Friday, The Christian community reflects on the last words of Jesus Christ on the cross. These words or statements known as the Seven Last Words is integral in the contemplation of his Passion and Death.  Finding out the meaning behind these words ultimately leads us to the challenge of forgiveness.

The pains that Jesus Christ went through have been recounted over and over again. Our own pains, though very real, may never get close to what he endured. The Seven Last Words show Jesus Christ’s humanity and divinity as he suffered through the pain and yet managed to accept God’s will in fulfilling His mission in saving mankind and in forgiving.

1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23: 34]

Even while going through the severe pain inflicted on him, He asked for the forgiveness of His tormentors from His Father. This shows his unlimited compassion for mankind even to the soldiers who directly mocked and tortured Him, and eventually nailing Him to the cross. This act is a very good example of his teaching for us to forgive our enemies and to reach out even to the sinful.

2. “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” [Luke 23: 43]

Christ uttered these words to the man being crucified next to him. It is also about forgiving specifically those who repent for their sins. He assures that the doors of heaven is always open even to the sinful who seeks His mercy and forgiveness.

3. “Woman, behold thy son … Behold thy mother.” [John 19: 26, 27]

Ever compassionate for the people around Him, Jesus Christ asked His disciple John to look after His mother Mary who was believed to be already a widow at the time. In turn, He gave His mother to John. This encourages the faithful to bring Mary to our own homes and hearts.

4. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27: 46]

These words expressed a feeling of abandonment and showed Jesus Christ’s human side. He had the whole weight of the task of saving mankind who had abandoned Him. It is through this experience that He understands man’s cry of despair while reminding us that He will never abandon us.

5. “I thirst.” [John 19: 28]

These words are seen as the only reference to the physical suffering He was going through. But more than the actual physical thirst, it was thirst for souls to be brought nearer to God. Jesus Christ refused to take the anesthetic drink provided to those who are to be crucified but asked for His final drink for relief of His thirst upon the moment that He knew that everything was accomplished.

6.  “It is finished.” [John 19: 30]

This was Jesus Christ’s acknowledgment that His mission on earth was accomplished. With His surrender to the will of the Father, He has saved mankind from sin. It is up to us now not to waste this sacrifice by shunning sin.

7. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” [Luke 23:46]

With these words, Jesus Christ showed His perfect surrender to His Father’s will. He committed Himself to the loving care of His Father on His dying hour, just like what we must do. Death holds the promise of eternal life in His love.

Saint John Bosco

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Beginnings

Saint John Bosco , more popularly known as Don Bosco, was born on  16 August 1815 at
Castelnuovo d’Asti, Piedmont, Kingdom of Sardinia. He was the youngest son of Francesco Bosco and  Margherita Occhiena,  farmhands of the Moglian Family. He had two brothers named  Antonio and Giuseppe. His family lived during a time of great shortage and thus were no strangers to poverty.

Obstacle

Poverty was the main deterrent to his schooling plans especially since he had to work in a farm like all the members of his family. Priesthood was a long shot then as it was considered apt for the privileged class. He eventually got his chance when he met Joseph Cafasso, a young priest who sponsored his schooling. After several years, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest after 6 years of study.

Dream

The direction he took was partly influenced by a series of dreams he had when he was young where he saw a multitude of poor boys playing and blaspheming and a nobly attired man saying to him “You will have to win these friends of yours not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness. So begin right now to show them that sin is ugly and virtue beautiful.” During his early priesthood, he visited prisons and was deeply disturbed when he saw young boys aged 12-18 there. He was determined to find a way to prevent this from happening.

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Congregation

Don Bosco eventually established the Oratorio where he tried to help young boys in need find shelter, employment, and spiritual guidance. This led to continuous work towards providing assistance to abandoned boys which led in turn to the formation of what would become the seed of the Salesian Congregation. He formed the Society of St. Frances de Sales as the nucleus group and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians together with Mary Mazzarello so religious sisters can do the same for young girls.

Education

Saint John Bosco has been credited for the Preventive System of Education which promotes the importance of reason, religion, and kindness in bringing up a child. He died on January 31, 1888, but not without leaving a legacy as the father and Teacher of Youth. His words: “Run, jump, shout, but do not sin” is a constant reminder that one can enjoy life and still avoid sinning.

The Holy Family

 

Holy Family

The Holy Family is made up of the Child Jesus, Mother Mary, and Saint Joseph. Not much is known about the family except for some choice accounts. These include the momentous acceptance respectively of Mary and Joseph as appointed parents of Jesus on earth, the search for a place to stay when Mary was about to give birth to Jesus, and the family’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem where the then 12 year-old Jesus was lost and eventually found at the temple.

The Catholic Church points to the Holy Family as the model family for Christian families not because they are perfect but because they espouse obedience to God, love and respect for each other, and determination to stay away from sin.

There is a liturgical celebration dedicated to honoring the family referred to as The Feast of the Holy Family. It is celebrated on the Sunday between Christmas Day (December 25th) and The Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (January 1st). Should these two important days happen to fall on a Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on December 30.

Saint Francois de Laval, the first bishop of New France started the Veneration of the Holy Family during the 17th century. Many practicing Catholics write “J.M.J.” in their personal notes for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In the local parlance, “Susmaryosep” is a common expression when caught by surprise or when feeling great dismay, believed to be an invocation for the help of “Hesus, Maria at Hosep”.

Guiding Our Children in Faith

Original Photo by: JasonGillman
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During one of the most trying moments in our family’s life, I heard my young son say that God may not be hearing our prayers right. That if He did, He will not allow bad things to happen to us. I was momentarily struck by the contradiction: his question of whether God hears our prayers and his certainty that God will not allow bad things to happen.

I allowed him to say what he wanted and listened attentively. He was obviously confused and hurting. He was expressing doubts but at the same time believing. How can we parents guide our children in faith during the most difficult times like this?

We Lay the Foundation

Parents should start early in creating a strong foundation for religious and spiritual formation. We all trace our personal strengths and weaknesses from our roots. Children who have strong spiritual foundation grow up to be adults who are not easily demolished by life’s challenges and trials.

We Guide Accordingly

The degree of guidance parents give to children should never really change. It is only in the manner of giving it that should be adjusted according to age and the situation. Children who are confident that they are loved and respected could easily relate spirituality with real life and not simply with that which is taught and memorized like standard prayers.

We Listen Without Judging

Parents should try their best to refrain from making judgments and voicing them out based on sporadic outbursts that question faith. These are the times when our children need us to be their parents more than anything else. Parents accept their children no matter what but will do everything to lead them to the straight path.

Going back to my son’s story, I basically let him pour out his feelings, only interjecting my thoughts and advice  where I felt it was needed. After some time, he probably came to some self-realization and said sorry for his outburst. Maybe, he just wanted some assurance which I also needed, and so we prayed together and found peace.

Guiding our children in faith is not easy given the human limitations that parents are likewise subjected to but that is part of our task as caretakers. Parents need to be adults who live lives that reflect what they teach. Actions are more easily remembered than words.

 

Simple Lenten Practices to Observe

Lent is definitely a solemn religious observance. With the propensity of most people nowadays  to treat the no-work and no-classes days related to the season as vacation time, it can be very challenging to strictly follow the traditional ways. However, we can still observe simple Lenten practices so as not to forget the real reason for the season of Lent.

Lent

Seek Silence

The world we are living in now is really very noisy not only with actual sounds that we hear around us but also with our own inner noises of discontent and negativity. Most people associate being noisy with being happy when nothing can be farther from the truth. During the season of Lent, we are given the opportunity to choose silence over noise and use the time for prayer, contemplation, and coming to terms with our own issues towards the end of making us closer to God.

Reignite Zeal

We may be one of those people who totally forgot or choose to forget about the Lenten traditions we have grown up with. Reignite the zeal by participating once again in age-old traditions of going to mass, reconciling through confession, and being an active part of Lenten activities. There is nothing better than going back to our roots when we seek inner healing.

Go Positive

Instead of merely concentrating on what we should not be doing during Lent, we can go positive by thinking of what we can do to be true to the real meaning of the season. It asks us to make sacrifices  but these need not be limited to not eating or doing this and that. If you choose for example to abstain from doing your favorite fun activity during Lent, wouldn’t the time be more productively used if you choose to do volunteer work instead of griping over social media how much “sacrifice” you are doing?

A Reminder

As practicing Catholics, we are enjoined to observe Lent by remembering and commemorating the death and sacrifices of Jesus Christ in preparation for Easter which celebrates His resurrection. There is no need to do extreme physical sacrifices such as self-flagellation  or even appearing sad when we fast. Observing simple Lenten practices is enough. God knows our sacrifices.

Papal Visit to the Philippines 2015

The Catholic faithful in the Philippines are looking forward to the coming visit of Pope Francis from January 15 to 19, 2015. He is the third pope to visit the country. The first was Pope Paul VI in 1970 while the second was Pope John Paul II who visited the country twice in 1981 and 1995. To guide everyone interested in knowing the activities lined up for the Papal visit to the Philippines, here is an infographic of his itinerary.

Source: varsitarian.net
Source: varsitarian.net

Not everybody will be able to physically follow Pope Francis in all his stops throughout the country. It is a good thing that there is another option to do this and that is to watch this part of history unfold before our eyes in the comfort of our homes. SKYcable will provide full coverage of the papal visit to the Philippines via a live, uninterrupted and in high definition free view. On January 13 and 14, a collection of His Holiness’special documentaries will be shown as a fitting introduction to his arrival.

Source: MySKYCable Facebook
Source: MySKYCable Facebook

Popes who visited the Philippines

The Philippines and the Filipino people are very fortunate to have been visited by three popes with the coming of Pope Francis. He will bring his message of mercy and compassion to us who have been the recipients of great mercy and compassion from other countries  in the face of the recent tragedies that struck our country.  Let us prepare ourselves both physically and spiritually as we welcome another unforgettable chapter in our nation’s history – the Papal Visit to the Philippines 2015.

About the Guest Blogger

Ramon Martinez writes for Dateline Movies and Ambos Mundos Family Food Blog. He considers himself very fortunate for having lived through the visits of three popes . He says he certainly wouldn’t mind living through three more papal visits .

Using Faith to Attain a Better Self

What do we use our faith for?

For me, I learned to use it as an anchor to steady my doubts and quiet my fears when faced with certain situations. Primarily though, I use it as a guide as I go about my day-to-day living, sorting through its lessons in making decisions, whether big or small. One very positive use of my religion for me is my resolution to be a better person. I may not always succeed but it gives me the encouragement not to stop trying and rejoice at my smallest accomplishments towards this goal.

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Image Source

What Has My Faith Taught Me to Become a Better Person?

I have learned that I should not judge others especially when I am using outward signs of religiosity as standard. Make no mistake about it, performing religious acts like going to church and receiving the sacraments is very important but it does not necessarily make us better persons than who don’t. At best, this is an opportunity to remind those who may have forgotten to gently lead the way back.

I have learned the wisdom of forgiving and letting go of negative emotions. Now I understand the futility of holding on to pain, gripes, and thoughts of revenge because it is only me and my loved ones who suffer the most. I trust that justice will be done in its proper time.

Most importantly, I learned to appreciate what I have and be thankful for them. Through time, I found it a lot easier to be happy for the success of others instead of feeling bad that I didn’t get the same good fortune, knowing that what is due me is sure to come. I am thankful that I find peace in my faith as I face my everyday struggles to hopefully attain a better self.

Pope Francis to Visit the Philippines

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has confirmed the coming visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Pope Francis is expected to be in the country from January  15 to 19, 2015. This apostolic visit will come right after his visit to Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15, 2015.

Image Source: Abode of Chaos
Image Source: Abode of Chaos

Purpose of the Visit

Pope Francis has long expressed his desire to visit the victims of the super typhoon that hit Eastern Visayas last year as well as the victims of the earthquake that resulted to the destruction of many homes and heritage churches in the country. He will have the chance to do so during this visit. This is in keeping with his desire to show solidarity and compassion to people who have been affected by deadly calamities.

The other purpose of the visit is to be present in the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the celebration of the World Youth Day. We would remember that that this event was presided over by then Pope John Paul II, now a saint, when he came for his second visit in Manila. Pope John Paul first visited the Philippines in 1981 while another pope, Pope Paul VI, also did so in 1970. Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the country.

Theme of the Visit

The Pope has expressed his desire to have a simple and pastoral visit. In connection with this, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has come up the visit’s central theme. It will be focused on mercy and compassion.

The people are encouraged to spiritually prepare for the coming visit by doing acts of mercy everyday. Acts of mercy would include all acts that seek to help other people in whatever way such as visiting the prisoners, giving food to the poor, or even just supporting a person going through an especially difficult time. The faithful are also encouraged to go to confession while the priests are likewise encouraged to make themselves more available to people who would want to.