Category Archives: Catholic Faith

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.

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.

The Proper Church Attire

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Image Source : Kevin Dooley

What is the proper church attire? When we are told to wear our Sunday Best, it can refer to our best clothes, most formal clothes, or the clothes most suitable for going to church. In this context, Sunday Best should be taken to mean as clothes that are the most presentable in relation to the occasion and the place. Determining what the proper church attire is has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do about according due respect to the Church which we consider the House of God.

Basic Standards of Church Attire

The Church is a place of worship and prayer. It is necessary therefore to preserve the solemn atmosphere of the place. When determining if a dress is proper to use in church, churchgoers are asked to do so in consideration of other churchgoers as well and the purpose why most people go to church. It should be an attire that denotes self-respect and respect for the sense of decency of others.

Unsuitable clothing tends to draw attention and distract people from the service being performed in the altar. Choosing to dress modestly is the safest way to go when unsure. When in doubt, it is always best to bring along some form of cover-up like a shawl or jacket which can worn during mass.

Clothes that are Not Recommended to be Worn in Church

Churchgoers are advised not to wear the following when hearing mass

1. tight-fitting clothes, flashy clothes

2. clothes that show too much skin like tank tops, spaghetti strap tops, skimpy shorts, beachwear, plunging necklines, dresses with long cuts or slits, very short dresses, and see-through clothing

3. caps, sports jerseys

4. slippers

Dress Code – Not an Obstacle

The dress code required by the Church should not serve as an obstacle to going to church. Churchgoers are in no way being required to come in expensive clothes, only that they come in their best in relation to their circumstances. Wearing jeans was traditionally frowned upon during early times since they were considered work clothes then. In today’s time, if a particular clothing is a person’s only modest and presentable attire, then there is nothing that should prevent him or her from entering the Church wearing it.

Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in May

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Traditionally, the month of May has been dedicated by the Catholic Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary. May events usually pertain to the crowning of Mary as the “Queen of May” as her image is crowned with flowers. This special honor is related to Mary’s special role as the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God.

This devotion is said to have originated from the Jesuits as a means of counteracting immorality and infidelity among the students of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus. This was sometime towards the end of the 18th century. The practice eventually spread to other Jesuit Colleges as well as Catholic churches. Various forms of Marian devotions were soon practiced including pilgrimages, daily recitation of rosary, and the May Altar.

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The May Altar can be placed in churches or homes. The altar is typically a table with a Marian picture or image, decorated with different flowers abloom in May. Families pray the rosary preferably the whole month, hopefully to instill the practice all throughout.                                              .

Churches on the other hand, may hold processions prior to the start of every mass. Children typically dressed in white carry letters to spell out “AVE MARIA”. The practice of honoring Mary with flowers was traced to Medieval Europe’s monasteries and convents. People of the Middle Ages usually associate Mary with their gardens and this might be attributed to the floral imagery liberally used in the writings of Church Fathers.

In the Philippines, daily offering of flowers in churches is quite common in observance of Flores de Mayo, and culminating in a major event called the Santacruzan. This parade includes biblical characters and historical figures in relation to St. Helena’s search for the true cross of Jesus Christ. The mobile arches used by each participant are decked with flowers plus other decorations denoting bounty.

How Many Times a Day Can We Receive Holy Communion?

Image Source: Johnragai
Image Source: flickr/Johnragai

I’ve never really thought much about this as I have found myself many times before attending mass and receiving Holy Communion more than once a day. I am daily mass goer of the 7 am mass in our church specifically after bringing my children to school located beside it. That pretty much accounts for the first mass and the first receipt of Holy Communion. There are days however that there will be scheduled activities that will include the celebration of the mass in our community, my children’s school, or special occasions like weddings and the like. Here then enters the possibility of another mass and another chance to receive holy communion within the same day.

I have just recently come into the fact that the Catholic Church actually imposes a limitation on the number of times a person can receive the Holy Communion in a day although there is no prohibition in the number of masses that can be heard for the same day. This is to ensure that the faithful lives a balanced spiritual life that does not border on the extremes. In other words, this is to prevent people from using the act of receiving the host as a temporary “fix” apart from the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Their essence cannot be separated.

As per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a person who has already received the Holy Communion for the day can receive it again (iterum) on the same day provided it is within the Eucharistic celebration in which he or she participates. The recipient of the sacrament twice over for the same day must have attended the mass from start to finish and not simply appear in time for communion and then leave. The Church makes it clear that the provision is for allowing a person to receive communion again and not “again and again” for the same day.

Also, there is a reminder of the ample preparation before receiving communion including the need to go to confession if necessary as well as the usual fasting from food and water at least an hour before. There are exceptions to these guiding laws. A person in danger of death can be given communion even outside the context of a Holy Mass. Fasting period is also reduced to a quarter of an hour for sick people.

It is worth noting that the Catholic Church requires a faithful to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. This is known as the Easter Duty Law. Catholics are required to avail of the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion any day during the Easter Season. This period usually extends up to Pentecost Sunday or about 50 days after Easter.

How Do Catholics Celebrate Christmas?

Image Source: flickr.com/photos/jcapaldi
Image Source: flickr.com/photos/jcapaldi

For Catholics all over the world, Christmas is first and foremost a religious celebration and commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the reason why the Nativity scene is commonly seen in churches and homes of Catholics. The Catholic observance of Christmas starts with Advent. Advent is the period of preparation that begins four Sundays before Christmas Day.

Advent is sometimes compared to Lent since it is a period where the faithful are expected to fast, increase prayers, and do more good works. The actual Christmas celebration starts on Christmas Day itself and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany. Many Catholics prefer not to put up their Christmas trees before Christmas Day itself since the actual reason for the feast has not yet arrived.The period of Advent therefore is intended to prepare Catholics spiritually for Christmas, where the idea of “fasting before feasting” has been derived.

There are certain variations in the practices of Catholics in different countries. This has more to do with cultural influences rather than any serious deviation from the instituted doctrines of the Church in relation to the  Christmas celebration. Some of the more popular are:

1. Midnight Masses for the Nine-Day Novena before Christmas

Catholics are encouraged to attend anticipated masses in the evening or the usual dawn masses as a means of emphasizing the spiritual side of Christmas.

2. Advent Wreath Ceremony

Every week during the Advent season, one candle is lit until all the four (3 purple and 1 pink) are lighted. Lighting of a white candle at the middle of the wreath on Christmas Day itself is practiced in some places.

3. The Empty Manger

Families are encouraged to put their own empty manger depicting the Nativity scene at home. The idea is to fill it with straw before placing the image of the infant Jesus on Christmas Day. Any member of the family can “earn” straws by doing good deeds with the idea that Jesus is more comfortable with more straw and thus more good deeds.

4. The Tree of Jesse

This is a depiction of Christ’s genealogy or ancestry.

5. St. Nicholas Day

Catholics in some countries observe St. Nicholas Day on December 6 who many believe is the “model” of Santa Claus.

Catholics celebrate Christmas with joy and jubilation and are often reminded to retain its spiritual meaning amidst the highly commercialized Christmas shopping and practices.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

There appears to be some confusion with regards to the observance dates of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Aside from one coming after the other, the timing of the western Halloween  at the last day of October gave rise to the common presumption that what comes the day after is the feast for the remembrance of the dead. In Catholic countries, All Saints’ Day which is a day that commemorates saints or those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven is observed every Novembers 1st while All Souls’ Day which commemorates all the faithful departed whose souls need to be cleansed from sins is observed every November 2nd.

Image Source: wikipedia.org
Image Source: wikipedia.org

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is also known as All Hallows or the Solemnity of All Saints. The saints said to have attained beatific vision in heaven refers to humans who were able to achieve perfect salvation and direct communication with God to their individual self. It is compared to the souls seeing God without any form of impediment.

The Catholic observance of this feast is traced back to the time Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs, sometime in May 13, 609. The observance of the feast as we know it today however is said to have started when Pope Gregory III founded the oratory in St. Peter’s Basilica which contains the relics of the holy apostles, saints, martyrs, and confessors. It was about this time that the observance was transferred from May 13 to November 1. This date which coincided with the Celtic holiday Samhain probably led to the confusion as it is a pagan event that is believed to have started the Halloween tradition.

Image Source: wikipedia.org
Image Source: wikipedia.org

All Souls’ Day

The Catholic Church observes All Souls’ Day or The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed the day after All Saints’ Day. Also known as the Feast of all Souls or more simply the Day of the Dead, it is being observed based on the Roman Catholic doctrine that the souls of the dead who have not been cleansed of sin at the time of death have to be helped by prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass. People from places that observe this tradition would flock to cemeteries to bring candles and flowers to departed loved ones.

Souls who are believed to be in purgatory are the ones expected to benefit from this practice.

Encouraging Catholics to Practice the Faith

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Many people commit the mistake of thinking that they can convince Catholics or people from other religion for that matter to actively practice the faith through threats, scare tactics, or bribing with the promise of a specific benefit. Since everyone is being enjoined to be part of active evangelization to help bring back people to active practice beyond rituals and ceremonies, there is a need to discover the effective means that could help accomplish the goal. It is believed that the way lies in witnessing for Christ and in leading a life that is worthy of emulation by others.

Everyone who speaks in the name of Christ ultimately finds himself or herself being under the scrutiny of people he or she is reaching out to. The power of convincing will not depend on eloquence but rather on the manifestation of the presence of Christ in the lives of those who speak. This is the very reason why it can be difficult to witness for Christ. People will pass on judgment based on what they see.

If they see someone who deals with others with respect, empathy, and justice, the connection of such attitude with the service to Christ is easily appreciated. If they see someone who is able to accept difficulties while lifting them up to God, they will see the difference. If they see someone who is able to forgive those who wronged him or her, then they will see how the true grace of God works.

Passive Catholics are called upon to wake up and rise to the occasion of practicing the faith and then evangelizing. We can no longer afford not to be involved especially because of the many challenges being faced by the Church today. It is part of our responsibility to spread the good news of salvation, mercy, and love. Through example, we hope to help in encouraging Catholics to choose to practice the faith with more conviction and humility.