Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Reflection

Mother and Son with Aunt
Badjaos begging infront of the Church
in Balayan, Batangas

The following is a Christmas reflection written in December 2001 by the late Fr. Anthony R. Ceresko, OSFS for a handout of Simbang Gabi homilies.

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the
manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:16-18).
Some years back I had the opportunity to attend an audience with Pope John Paul II. I was not able to come near to the Pope because of the crowd. But I remember how the Pope entered the place of the audience on foot, walking down the aisle taking the hands to the pilgrims and blessing each one, especially the children.

But the Pope's favorites were the small children and infants. When he saw an infant being held out to him by the mother, the Pope loved to take the child into his own arms and embrace the child affectionately as he gave it his blessing.

There is something in all of us that is drawn to the simplicity and vulnerability of infants. We instinctively feel an attraction and desire to protect. Thus the centerpiece of our Christmas season is the infant Jesus lying in the borrowed bed in a borrowed shelter, watched over the protected by his young and perhaps bewildered and anxious parents.

In the midst of our Christmas celebrations, perhaps it is good to fix our attention on that vulnerable babe lying in the dark and damp stable lighted only by one or two lanterns and reflect on the children of our world today.

It may be good to remind ourselves that so many, too many, children who are born this very day face similar precarious and anxious circumstances as this child born more than two thousand years ago in Bethlehem.

Traditional Belen (Nativity Creche) inside Hesus Nazareno Church
an SVD parish in Dasmarinas, Bagong Bayan, Cavite

A speaker at an international conference on the plight of millions of underprivileged children made a moving call. She said,

We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things that we need can wait. The child cannot wait. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To the young child we cannot answer, "Tomorrow". His name is "Today" (repeat): His name is "Today".
The children born into poverty, the children born into anxious and trying circumstances call out to us in the person of that child of poverty born at Bethlehem. "Today" is the name of the poor, and we are called upon to respond to them as a community of the disciples of Jesus, who preached about the coming of God’s kingdom to the "poor". How do we respond to their cries? How do we hold out some hope to them?

I would suggest that, one way would be in examining the priorities in our decision making during the coming year – our decisions as individuals, our priorities as a society, our decisions and priorities as a people. Our former President is on trial at this moment, charged with violating the public trust. What are the criteria by which we make decisions regarding the guilt or innocence of an individual? What are our criteria and priorities in choosing public officials and leaders?

As a nation we face difficulties in the future in the economic sphere, and the challenges and pressures with regard to globalization. How do we establish criteria and decide on the priorities for our economic arrangements?

For ourselves as individuals or as families, what are our criteria and priorities in our decision-making? Certainly the example of the patience, the simplicity, the mutual love of the manger scene at Bethlehem offers us one example: no throne or sumptuous palace for this new born messiah-king. But for so many millions of children born into our world today, a single night’s shelter is not enough. The child of today, needs food and clothing and shelter, clean and safe water, health care, education: "TODAY" is the name of the poor. When we talk about priorities and criteria for decision-making, we can see here the logic and wisdom of the Church’s “option for the poor” – the poor, especially the children, cannot wait until tomorrow.

This is the criterion that the Church offers for our decision-making, our priorities our policies – in the government, in society for our national leaders, for our economy, and in our personal lives. This is the criterion that Jesus proposed: I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; naked and you clothed me, a stranger and you took me in, like the innkeeper in Bethlehem who offered that poor family shelter from the cold night almost two thousand years ago this very day.

When we gaze with wonder on this manger scene and the young couple with their newborn child, poor and helpless, we also see ourselves, our own poverty, our won helplessness in the face of so many challenges that confront us as individuals and families, as a society and as a people. But the message that this poor child brings is that we are not alone. God has not abandoned us despite our blindness, our selfishness, and our failures. Emmanuel, "God is with us," is the name that the angel proposed when his birth was first foretold.

Today’s reading from the letter to Titus sums it up beautifully:
But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because
of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through
the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on
us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life (3:4-7).

Simbang Gabi in Balayan

A simbang gabi mass with
the community of Barangay Baclaran,
Balayan, Batangas
During Christmas season, parish priests in and outside Tagaytay request help from the seminary professors to celebrate the Simbang Gabi masses (traditional nine day novena masses before Christmas). For more than ten years now, some SVD priests go down to Balayan in Batangas, 60 kilometers east of Tagaytay, a first class municipality (population ca. 70,000) with 48 barangays. Each priest is assigned to celebrate at least four masses a day usually in the barangay chapels, sometimes in basketball courts.
Chapel of Barangay Baclaran,
Balayan, Batangas
For this year's Simbang Gabi, SVDs who are helping out there are Martin Mandin (Moral Theology professor), Mike Layugan (Dean of Studies), Ariel Tampos (preparing to go to Botswana in Africa) and this blogger.
The Church of Immaculate Conception
Balayan, Batangas, Philippines

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Simbang Gabi

After a Misa de Gallo in Hinalong
a chapel on the mountain of Aguinaldo, Ifugao
December 2004

Today is the first day of Misa de Gallo ("Mass of the Rooster") known as "Simbang Gabi" ("Dawn Mass"). Many churches though have already begun Simbang Gabi last night. For those preparing homilies and who would want to reflect further on the liturgical readings, here are some sites:

Simbang Gabi


-Tagalog Simbang Gabi homilies written by students of Divine Word School of Theology (Tagaytay City) in December 2004 and uploaded in this site by RCF.


-the official website of Recoletos Philippines where in the section “Homilies” you can read the Simbang Gabi sermons in English by OARs delivered last year (2005). It also includes other homilies for certain occasions.


-personal website of Fr. Lito Jopson, diocesan priest of the Diocese of Pasig; contains an archive of his Sunday and Simbang Gabi homilies (English).

Sunday Readings


-website maintained by Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University (Missouri) where the Sunday Readings are explained by six authors using different approaches arranged in a kind of hexapla (“sixfold”). One of writers, Dr. John Pilch, once visited the Philippines as the guest speaker of CBAP.


-personal website of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan Capuchin and Preacher to the Papal Household. The site contains his homilies and talks. A Sunday homily is usually uploaded on Saturday afternoon (Manila Time)

THIS BLOG WILL COME OUT WITH A VERY IMPORTANT NEWS IN A FEW DAYS (besides the upcoming Prayer Rally organized by the CBCP). "Watch and Pray"!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Arnoldus Company in concert

rnoldus Company, a singing group composed of SVD scholastics, had just staged their first live concert up in the heart of Northern Luzon, in Laoag City, 10 December 2006. Hosted by Divine Word College of Laoag , the concert was successful and highly appreciated by the audience composed mostly of students and staff of the DWCL.

Fr. Raul Caga, SVD, the singing SVD priest, is the director of the group and responsible for reviving Arnoldus Company which was founded in the late 70's. Former SVD novice Nez Marcelo is the present musical director and composer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ming Ramos and the Seminary Garden

First Lady Ming Ramos

One the day before the feast of Immaculate Conception, the seminary opened its garden to the public. Former First Lady Ming Ramos who owns the famous Ming's Garden near Tagaytay cut the ribbon while Fr. Fred Saniel, SVD rector prayed the blessing witnessed by the scholastics and staff and some friends of the seminary.
Seminary staff Cha, Cory and Demy pose
beside the Buddha Bamboo
in the Garden of Providence

The garden, the work of Fr. Mike Layugan, SVD Dean of Studies, is located adjacent to the Dining Hall of the Fathers and the Brothers and named "Garden of Providence" because, as the rector said, "the garden came to be through the generosity of benefactors."

Watch a videoclip of the blessing of the Garden of Providence. Click on the image below.

The two "bahay kubo" (nipa hut) were donated by OFWs in Rome, care of Miss Divine Santos and family. The plants which are all for sale came from the gardens of Mrs. Meyer and Mrs. Ramos.
Lady in red is Mrs. Meyer who was celebrating
her birthday on the same day.

The proceeds of the sale of the plants will go for the maintenance of the seminary.

Some of the plants in the Garden of Providence:
Pelican plant (Aristolochia gigantea)
from the garden of Mrs. Meyer;
its unopened bud resembles a sleeping pelican,
high climbing with leaves up to 10 in
(origin: Costa Rica)

Bishop Tagle on Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia

Bishop Tagle talks on "Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia"

Bishop Chito Tagle of the Diocese of Imus, who teaches Theology of the Priesthood and Synthesis of Dogma, spoke last Tuesday (Dec 5) to the academic community and to the religious of Tagaytay. The talk was on the paper he delivered at the Asian Mission Congress last October 18-22 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The theme of the Congress speaks of how Christians do mission today in this great continent, "Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia". Click on this to read the official statement of the Congress.
Participants gather for the Eucharist
at the closing ceremony
of the Asian Mission Congress in Thailand
(photo credit:

Bishop Tagle underlined in his talk the power of a story to communicate a message. As life is in quest of a narrative, narrative transforms life. A story poses a better world in which one can inhabit.
Members of Tagaytay Religious Community stands
to pray at the end of Bishop Tagle's Talk

One day, a certain Korean nurse, the bishop narrates, gets curious of fellow nurses who gather every lunch break and are always happy. She asks what they are doing and fellow nurses tell her about their gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist, narrate to her about the story of Jesus. The Korean lady buys her own bible to read about Jesus and later on joins the group, becomes a Christian and ends up studying theology in the Philippines. Now she is a theological adviser to her Bishop in Korea.

Click on the image below to watch the initial part of Bishop Tagle's talk. Write to if you want a complete copy of his talk in DVD format.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christ the King

Holy Mass in honor of Christ the King
at the Shrine of the Divine Word
Quezon City

The following is this blogger's homily during the Christ the King Feast Celebration last November 26, 2006 at Christ the King Seminary Quezon City, Philippines. The Gospel Reading is from John 18:33-37.

By tradition, we conclude our Celebration of the Feast of Christ the King not inside the Church but outside the Church, in this so-called gymnasium. In Ancient Greece, a gymnasium was a place both physical and intellectual education of the youth, but was never a religious place. It was the symbol of the secular world.

By tradition, the homily is preached not in the Church, not during the Liturgy of the Word, but toward the end of the Mass, outside, in this gymnasium.

It is, thus, fitting that the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe is concluded in this place that symbolizes the world.

Here we are reminded of Paul in Acts 17:22-31 debating with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the Areopagus of Athens, the center of both education and sports in the Ancient World.

By tradition, for sometime, the chosen priest presider and preacher was an SVD who has recently obtained a doctorate, a newly elected superior, a newly ordained bishop, or at least any SVD who has accomplished something significant or has just received an important task in the Society—that was perhaps to add solemnity to already a solemn celebration.

Tonight, by allowing me to preside and preach in this occasion, I wonder whether a tradition has been broken. I am no bishop nor will ever be; I’m struggling to finish my doctorate.

Thus it reminds of that 1964 Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

The show begins with a lone fiddler standing on a roof playing a tune, as Tevye, the main character of the play tells the audience about the customs of his people and about how they have lived all their lives in the small Russian town called Anatevka. He equates the hard life in Anatevka with being a "fiddler on a roof": trying to scratch out a simple, pleasant tune without breaking his neck.

"How do we keep our balance?" Tevye asks. "That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!"

Tradition, tradition, Tradition!—goes the opening line of that musical play.

The Feast of Christ the King is a celebration of tradition. Even the idea that Jesus is king is a product of Christian tradition, and as many New Testament scholars assert, this affirmation goes back even to the time of Jesus' Passion in the middle of the first century A.D . Pilate’s interrogation in the trial Jesus: "Are you the King of the Jews?" contains a "historical kernel" as the late Catholic expert on the Gospel of John, Fr. Raymond Brown writes (Death of the Messiah, vol. 1, p. 725).

In other words, our tradition and belief of Jesus as King has got a strong biblical foundation.

This homily hopes to deepen this tradition and belief by sharing what would the title "King of the Jews" imply during that time, in the first century A.D.?

The same Fr. Raymond Brown tells us that the title "King of Jews" was a never applied to Jesus in his ministry in Galilee (except Matt 2:2 but the historicity of this text is questioned, see Death of the Messiah, vol 1, p. 725).

The title "King of the Jews" was applied, however, to none other than Herod the Great!

The Jews never liked Herod the Great. He was not a real Jew. He is remembered as a notorious leader, and according to the Gospel of Matthew, he ordered the massacre of innocent children. The brutal deeds of Herod the Great, the "king of the Jews" are recorded in history which includes putting to death his wife, his mother-in-law, and his son. Because of this , Emperor Augustus has allegedly remarked: "It is better to be Herod's pig [hus] than his son [huios]" (R. Brown, Birth of the Messiah, p. 226). We wonder why this person is called “Great”.

So the title “King of the Jews” was actually a title of insult, of mockery. It was not an honorable title. The Jews themselves never used that title. It was the Roman Senate that gave that title to Herod the Great. The real "King of the Jews" must not be someone like the evil Herod.

For the Jewish people, as reflected in the Old Testament, the ideal king was not an absolute monarch (see 2 Sam 24:24; 1 Kings 16:24; 21:4). He is the one who establishes justice, protect the rights of widows and orphan, rules with wisdom, and one who sustains and protects life.

One of the oldest images or symbols of a king as old as two thousand years before Christianity was born is that of a shepherd. The king was shepherd. No wonder that when Jesus was born whom Herod the Great named as "the child who has been born king of the Jews" (Mat 2:2), the first hearers of that good news, the first visitors of Christmas were shepherds.

The ideal king was a good shepherd. And Jesus once said: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."(John 10:11).

The story of the death of Bishop Wilhelm Finnemann, SVD would exemplify this ideal. He was the first SVD auxiliary bishop of Manila and probably the first German to become a naturalized Filipino citizen. The latest one is Fr. Ulrich Schlecht, SVD who was featured recently in the Philippine Star.

In 1936, Bishop Finnemann was appointed the first bishop of Mindoro. It was World War II. The war took its toll in Mindoro especially on women and children. Some Catholic schools and convents were being transformed into brothels for children. Women especially young girls were being abused raped and turned into “comfort women".

Bishop Finnemann strongly stood against these abuses and a number of times interceded and denounced the soldiers to free young girls who were forced to become sex slaves. The bishop was thus imprisoned and on October 26, 1942, he was thrown alive into the sea between Calapan and Batangas. One account describes that he died, "Along the way in the waters between Verde Island and Batangas, the soldiers bound his hands and feet, tied his body on a huge rock and dropped him overboard into the depths of the sea" (cited in

Years ago, bishops were used to be called "princes of the church", and the places where they lived were used be called “bishops’ palaces”. Today that term is softened to "bishops' houses" or "bishops’ convents".

I would think that royal title that the bishops had as "prince", was less a title of honor than a title of service. Bishops are our shepherds, in that sense, they are "princes", "kings" in the best sense of the term, one who is ready to lay down his life for others to live. This was embodied by the SVD bishop, William Finnemann.

The king must be ready to give his life like a shepherd to his sheep.

That is why when Pilate asked Jesus: "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus’ response was ambivalent-- it could be "yes" or it could also be "no".

Yes, he is a king in the sense of being shepherd, one who would lay down his life.

No, he is not a king in the sense that Herod the Great was "king of the Jews".

So Jesus’ reply is: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36, NIV).

This answer of Jesus has often been misunderstood as: Jesus' kingdom is not in this world, something out of this world, that it has nothing to do with the world. In Tagalog Biblia it says: "Ang Kaharian ko’y hindi sa sanlibutang ito" [which if translated means, "My kingdom is not in this world".

But this is not what it means when Jesus says that his kingdom is not OF this world. The Greek preposition "ek" can mean "of" but also "from". The expression may mean that Jesus' kingdom "is not from this world" (NRSV). The origin of Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, it did not come from this world. Its origin is from the Father of Jesus (Luke 22:29) (see also F. Moloney, The Gospel of John, p. 498).

Although Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, it is very much IN this world.

So Jesus said to Pilate, "For this I have come to world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:37).

Earlier, in John 12:47, Jesus explains this truth when he says "I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world'. The truth is the revelation of God and his plan to save the world (see I. de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean).

The best Filipino image that Jesus’ kingdom is in the world is the image of Sto. Nino who, still a child, holds with ease the world in this hand, as if the burden of world is very light. Its contrast: the Greek god Atlas, portrayed as a muscular man, carrying the world, but as if the world is a burden to him.

Once Jesus said, in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heaven burdens, I will give you rest. Take my yoke…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Jesus cannot be taken away from the world, nor the world taken away from Jesus.

The Feast of Christ King then is an invitation, perhaps even a challenge to look at the world where Jesus is King. What kind of world is this?

The question before was: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

Today, the question can be: "Are you the King of the world?"

This feast is a celebration where are we are asked not to look our own personal needs, not at our own private concerns, not our families' or seminary's concerns, but at the concerns of the world. Not at what I need now, not at what my family needs now, not at my seminary needs now—but at "what the world needs now," as an old song goes.

This is an invitation as well as a challenge of Jesus as he had invited and challenged Pilate to join Jesus' company when he said: "Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my voice" (John 18:37). Listening to the voice is the proper response of the sheep to the Good Shepherd (John 10:3-4,8).

But Pilate said: "What is the Truth" (John 18:38)? This is not some kind of searching and cogitation in philosophy as what Socrates or Aristotle did in their quest for the Truth.

Pilate’s question is simply apathetic rejection of Jesus' invitation (F. Moloney, The Gospel of John, p. 498).

This invitation and challenge is also placed before us today: Everyone who belongs to the truth is ready to listen to Jesus’ voice.

Last Friday, the Diocese of Imus in Cavite where Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay belongs had celebrated the Feast of Christ the King with an overnight vigil led by our Bishop, Chito Tagle.

In this vigil, more than 5,000 participants came over to the Girls' Town Complex in Silang to identify together the concerns of the world of Cavite and to bring these concerns to the feet of Jesus our king.

The concerns were overwhelming. It's a matter of just looking beyond those walls and malls.

That’s why it is still meaningful to consecrate the world to Christ the King as what we are about to do today. For it is not we, not our own effort, not even our good intentions will heal and save this world. It is Christ the King.

I would like to end this with one of the ancient prayers for a king found in the bible in Psalms 72. It was probably a prayer at the enthronement of a king inspired by Solomon’s accession to the throne. It is a prayer that would still be applicable today in our world. In the Early Church, the king in this Psalm was often identified to be Jesus:

1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son.

2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. 6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9 May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him. May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.

16 May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.

17 May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.

18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

20 The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.

[Translation from NRSV]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fr. Raul Caga, SVD

Raul Caga (center) at the CMMA Awards
flanked by Fred Saniel (left), rector of DWST
and SVD seminarian Ketchie Barrantes

Fr. Raul Caga's album "Called by Love" (Arnoldus Communications Center 2005) was a nominee in the Best Religious Song Category of the recently concluded Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA, Nov. 11, 2005). Fr. Raul is a professor of Moral Theology at the Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City.

The nomination was a formal recognition of the quality of the album and Fr. Caga's talent. It is also an acknowledgment of the capabilities of our own audio recording center, called Arnoldus Communications Center where at the moment some religious albums have already been produced with quality and with a minimum charge.

Budding singers and producers usually stay for a week for such kind of production and while "working" enjoy the clean and green environment of the Divine Word Seminary and even have even a chance to participate in the touching and solemn liturgical celebrations with the SVD missionaries and seminarians.

Some months ago, I posted my review of the first song in the Called by Love album, "One Heart, Many Faces". Here's it:

The song creates a genre that could forshadow cosmic unity between the sacred and the profane, faith and reason, heart and mind. Its melody sways from a typical soulful pinoy-hum inflected by a forlorn voice to a more emphatic, confidence-filled hymn, marked by heightened voices and polyphony of instruments. A theme song called paradoxically, "One heart, many faces" strides along this route: from a lonely sound of a singular, undefined flute as if in a far-away mission land a la Morricone's The Mission, to the African sounding drums, ba dam ba's of Arnoldus Co. and to the syllabaric o-a-o of the reverend sisters of the Holy Spirit.. With the thought alone that the Pink Sisters append their voices to the praise part of the song could make one feel "co-canonized." The songs' spirit moves from lament to praise; from "wounded" to "graced".

You can download the song here "one heart many faces" [ required: account].

The album is availabe at Logos Publications, contact: 0063-2-711-13-23; email: or at the Divine Word Seminary, 0063-46-4131253

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Menguito and Ferrer at 25

Emmanuel "Meng" Menguito and Felix "Lex" Ferrer celebrated their 25th anniversary as priests. They were ordained in October 1981 by the first Bishop of Bangued (Abra), Odilo Etspueller, SVD.
Meng is currently the prefect of the SVD scholastics and teaches Pastoral Counselling.

Lex is professor of Ecclesiology and had served as Dean of Studies for a number years. He is also DIWA's editor-in- chief.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Herman Mueller, SVD

In Memoriam
Fr. Herman Mueller, SVD
1920-2000 (Nov 1)
The Feast of All Saints Day is a public holiday in the Philippines and traditionally considered as the the day to visit the departed in the cemeteries pray for the souls of their souls. This makes
the whole of November as the month of praying for the eternal repose of the departed.

It is also the 6th death anniversary of Fr. Herman Mueller, SVD who had taught Scripture courses and biblical languages at the Divine Word Seminary from 1978 until his death in Nov 1, 2000. Fr. Mueller was from West Germany (Trier diocese) and held a doctorate (SSD) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. At one time, he was the only one in the country holding such a prestigious doctorate.

I remember vividly how he died. The day before, that was lunch time, he was complaining of chest pains. Although we we were only three at table because it was semestral brea, the scholastic who happens to be a nurse was around. He took Fr. Herman's blood pressure and advised him to rest. After arranging how we were going to celebrate the privileged three masses for the dead on All Souls Day (Nov 2), he went up to his room. That was the last time we saw him alive.

In the morning of Nov 1 (2000), after coming back from All Saints Day mass in one of the convents of sisters, I was surprised to see the driver still waiting for Fr. Mueller to celebrate a mass at 6:00 am in the convent assigned to him. I suddenly felt something was not right. Fr. Mueller, typical of a German, was never late in any of his appointment. In fact, he was always 30 minutes early, praying inside the chapel while waiting for the driver to pick him up for his mass.

I went around to look for him, first in the chapel and finally in his room. The room was locked. After knocking at this door a couple of times, I called up his neighbor, Fr. Titus Mananzan, to accompany me to force open the door to his room.

There, in a kneeling position, with a prayer book in his hand, Fr. Herman Mueller was "gathered to his ancestors".

Later, our physician who lived near the seminary explained that Fr. Mueller had a cardiac arrest and succumbed around midnight.

Fr. Mueller was a devoted teacher. It was a "miracle" for us students when he would be absent in class. He had taught almost all the Scripture subjects offered in the seminary. He was proud to point out that among his students was this or that bishop.

He left an important legacy, a three volume commentary on Sunday Readings (years ABC) including Simbang Gabi. Although published between 1983-1985, the books' analysis and insights are still valid and relevant. Thus these books are now classic tools for preachers.

Here's an excerpt from what Fr. Mueller said of the Feast of All Saints' Day.

The Feast of All the Saints is our feast. We are celebrating all the “small” saints whose name we do not know. Originally, the Church was paying tribute to all the martyrs whose names were unknown and because of this were not canonized. More and more saints who did not make big headlines but are believed to be in heaven are invoked. They serve to encourage the faithful. As St. Augustine says, “Potuerunt hi, potuerunt hae, cur non et ego” [freely translated, “If all these smaller saints in heaven could make it, why not I”].

In Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelation [First Reading], the number of those sealed by God from Israel (144,000) and from all nations (countless) may mean that God saves an infinite number of people (see also 1 Tim 2:4 and 1 Thes 5:9). This Feast then attests to the universality of salvation.

I, too, can become a saint!

God does not only want us to become a saint. He has also given us what it takes to become a saint: He has made us his sons and daughters (1 Jn 3:2). In a concrete way, the Gospel points us the way to sainthood—the Sermon on the Mount, in particular, the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:1-12).

H. Mueller, Speak, Lord! Scriptural Notes and Thoughts for Homilies Year A (Manila: Divine Word Publications, 1983), pp. 426-428, slightly edited by RCF.

Speak, Lord! (3 vols) is available at Logos Publications, Catholic Trade Manila.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

SVDs on Retreat

Retreatants with Mike Somers
at the Divine Word Seminary Chapel
after the final Eucharistic Celebration

This is an opportune time to resume blogging, just after our SVD annual retreat.

Close to 60 SVDs (58 to be exact) from the three provinces (North, Central, and South) participated in the fourth batch of the SVD 2006 Retreat directed by Mike Somers, and Irish SVD who had worked in Ecuador and now the director of the Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center in Steyl (Holland). He also directed the other three retreats held in Baguio, Cebu, and here in Tagaytay.

This retreat began began last Oct 23 (Monday) and ended on the 27th (Friday).

What was striking in this retreat was when Mike Somers, who lives and works in the very first house of the SVD where Arnold Janssen had founded this missionary congregation, defined who is an SVD today (and perhaps by extension, who is an XVD also today).

"One who promotes and gives witness to
universal inclusiveness and
openness to diversity
living prophetic dialogue
marked by the characterisitic dimensions."

"Living Prophetic Dialogue" was the overarching theme of the last SVD General Chapter.

At the mass concluding the retreat, Mike Somers presided a rite to honor Mother Earth. Adapted from the ritual of the Mayas, the indigenous people of South America, the participants sanctified the earth's four directions, beginning with the East. It is in the East that the Sun rises, thus symbolizing "new life".

Retreatants pray over the East

The rite parallels the ancient Israelites' crossing of the sea (Exodus 14). Pressed in the sea by the pursuing Egyptian army, the Israelites marched through the sea, "the waters forming a wall for them on their right [South] and on their left [North]" (v. 22). With the West at their back, they leave behing Egypt, the place of their slavery and walk Eastward to freedom.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ate Linda retires

Perina, Patring, and Esther try a goodbye song
for their coworker Ate Linda (seated)

Mrs. Merlinda Macalintal Luz, known here as "Ate Linda" was honored with a special lunch yesterday as she is retiring today 31 August 2006. She came to work in the seminary in 1981 and served in the kitchen of the seminary for twenty five years. Last year, she lost her priest-brother, Fr. Bitoy Macalintal, a former SVD, who died of lingering heart ailment. The late Fr. Bitoy had started a home for the aged in Carmona, Cavite. Please click on this: Tahanan ni Maria.

Smart Broke

Apologies to blogreaders. I couldnt upload new posts in the past days. Our internet connection for almost a week now was intermittent and/or no connection at all.

We are being served by a Smart cell cite hooked to a satellite. It is called Smart Bro, now baptized as Smart Broke.

Here's an excerpt of an article on this problem published by Philippine Daily Inquirer sometime last May 2006.

CONSUMER group TXTPower is urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to stop Smart Communications from accepting new customers to its fixed wireless Internet service until it resolves pending complaints from existing subscribers.

TXTPower said it was speaking in behalf of complainants, but NTC Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento told that the regulator would act only after the group files a formal complaint.

“We will act on this until we see a complaint. If they do that, we can call Smart and their group to explain,” Sarmiento added.

TXTPower convenor Anthony Cruz said TXTPower was urging the NTC to take action in behalf of existing subscribers who had filed complaints with the agency. The consumer group noted that some [?] subscribers [now including DWST] have expressed dissatisfaction over the service, dubbed Smart Bro.

Smart Bro, formerly known as Smart Wifi [a marketing strategy because Smart Wifi was stormed with complaints] is a fixed wireless broadband Internet service.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., the mother company of Smart, reported recently that there were at least 40,000 subscribers to Smart Bro nationwide.

Since its launch September 2005, Smart said that Smart Bro now covers 300 towns spanning from Batanes in the North to Tawi-Tawi in the South. About 65 percent of these subscribers are located outside Metro Manila, the operator added.

"Smart should be stopped from accepting new Smart Bro subscription applications until they are able to solve the connection problems, customer service and other concerns of its existing subscribers. The service has been described in many Internet forums as below-par, unreliable and slower than promised," Cruz said.

TXTPower suggested that the moratorium on new Smart Bro subscriptions be implemented immediately, with an accompanying NTC investigation on how Smart is operating the service, the customer service mechanisms offered to subscribers, and how problems are being solved.

"Indeed, the NTC should not turn a blind eye on Smart's multimillion-peso Smart Bro media campaigns while existing subscribers suffer from poor service," added Cruz.

The consumer group suggested that the NTC ask Smart to refund aggrieved subscribers.

"If Smart cannot solve the problems, the company should be ordered to waive the one-year subscription contracts so that subscribers could apply for broadband services of other more reliable providers," the group said.

Cruz said Congress has recently tackled House Resolution 1197 authored by Representative Manuel Zamora, which seeks an investigation on the widespread allegations of poor services of “Smart Wifi” and other broadband Internet services in the country.

Smart Bro is a fixed wireless solution that rides on the nationwide cellular network of Smart to deliver wireless broadband Internet service to subscribers. Subscribers will need an aerial antennae to establish a wireless connection to the nearest base station located at a Smart cellular site close to the subscriber's home. Cables connect the antenna to the subscriber's PC.

This wireless technology requires that the subscribers’ antennae have a clear "line-of-sight" alignment and be within a 1.5-kilometer radius from the nearest Smart cellular site.

Smart Bro subscribers pay a monthly subscription cost of at least 999 pesos a month.

TXTPower said that some subscribers have complained about the "low quality" of Smart customer service assigned for Smart Bro concerns.

"Oftentimes, subscribers are put on hold for half an hour before calls are actually answered. When calls get through, the customer service representative could only offer standard replies to problems and gives no help to helpless subscribers," the group said.

©2006 all rights reserved

Consumer group to NTC: Stop Smart Bro wireless Internet
First posted 10:05pm (Mla time) May 25, 2006
By Erwin Lemuel Oliva

DWST problems: no connection (last weekend: Friday to Sunday and since yesterday till 5:53 this morning, 31 August); intermittent connection (since last week till this morning); slower connection than what we experienced in the first week after installation, it could not even open Yahoo for sometime. [posted by rcf 31 August 2006].

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fr. Regino Cortes, OP

Another biblical scholar is "gathered to his ancestors" today.

Fr. Regino Cortes, OP, professor of the University of Sto Tomas in Manila died this morning of multiple organ failure due to diabetes. He was 64 years old.

He was the only Filipino member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

He gained his licentiate in Sacred Scripture (SSL) from École Biblique et Archéologique Française (Jerusalem). He was a member of the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) and last July, at the CBAP annual convention, he presented a paper on the Davidic dynasty.

His last published book was a rebuttal of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code entitled The Da Vinci Code: An Exegetical Review (UST, 2006).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Whitewashed wall

This is the scene that greets you as you enter Tagaytay
via the Sta. Rosa Road

This is what's inside

"Woe to you...! For you are like whitewashed tombs,
which on the outside look beautiful,
but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.
(Matthew 23:27).
But the words of Paul is even harsher:
At this Paul said... "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!"
(Acts 23: 3).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Students' days kick off

Fourth year theologians' cheering team

The three-day break of the students' association, called Divine Word School of Theology Students' Association (abbreviated, DWSTSA) begin today. Instead of going to the classrooms, they go to the gym for the different games. "Mens sana in corpore sano", as the Latin dictum says.

The event kicked off with a mass celebrated by the bishop of Imus, Chito Tagle, who is also a professor here.

Then the cheering competition began.

You'd wonder how seminarians can perform acrobatics,

and eat fire too!

16th SVD General Chapter re-echoed

Chapter Delegates of the Philippine Central Province

Our official delegates to 16th General Chapter held in Rome came up to Tagaytay yesterday (22 Aug 2006) "to inform the community personally and motivate confreres put into practice what the chapter decided" (from "Statutes for Chapters", Handbook for Superiors SVD).

Jerome Marquez, part-time lecturer of Canon Law and the present director of St. Jude Catholic School near Malacanang, reported on the purpose and nature of a chapter and the section on Leadership; Pablito Tagura, rector of Christ the King Seminary, dealt with Spirituality and Formation and Paul Jaucian, the provincial superior, on Community and Finance.

Divine Word Seminary Community

In a 20-page summary of the chapter deliberations which they handed out to the audience and in their oral presentations, three points seemed to have been given emphasis:

(1) a modest assessment of the gains of the SVD (called "lights) and an honest acceptance of its failures (called "shadows").
Example, as SVD is the only male religious congregation that that has a steady increase of vocations, 14% since 1961, it continues to go to the "frontiers" (e.g. Chad, HIV/AIDS victims, Refugees, and Migrants). On the other hand, a significant number of young missionaries quickly abandoned their mission assignments.

(2) Internationality (SVDs from different nationalities living together) and Multiculturality (from different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural origins) continue to be a unique character of the SVD.

(3) Prophetic Dialogue is becoming a convincing and appropriate paradigm of the theory and praxis of SVD mission permeating in the way the members live the SVD spirituality. For a definition of Prophetic Dialogue, please click on this: PROPHETIC DIALOGUE.

For a chronicle of the 16th SVD General Chapter, please click on this: SVD CHAPTER.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ninoy reminds Tagaytay

Tagaytay students sing the National Anthem
at the Tagaytay Rotonda to commemorate
the 23rd death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino

Today is a public holiday in honor of the 23rd death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino murdered as he set forth in the country, at the tarmac of the then Manila International Airport. It ignited series of protests against the Marcos regime which culminated in the People Power revolution.

In Tagaytay, Ninoy is well remembered. His statue greets every visitor of the city as it hovers over the historical Tagaytay Rotonda (roundabout) also known as Silang Junction.

During the Philippine Revolution in 1896, the revolutionaries passed through this place to go from one town to another. Thus the word "mananagaytay" (literally, "to traverse ridges") from which the name "Tagaytay" came, was coined.

Indeed, the Rotonda is a strategic and a central spot. Here the four roads criscross. The road to the north leads to Manila passing through the Aguinaldo Highway; to the south is a steep road down to Taal Lake; to the west the road leads to the heart of Laguna (and Manila) via the Sta. Rosa Road; and to the east, toward Batangas Bay.

In 3 February 1945, the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division of the US Army made their first combat jump on this spot. The 511th moved on to capture Manila from the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. To commemorate this event, a marker was installed in 1951.

At the height of the presidential campaign in January 1986, a large crowd, perhaps the largest in history of Tagaytay, gathered in this place to support Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel against Marcos. the rally attended by many supporters from the provinces of Cavite, Batangas, and Laguna and spearheaded by the Tagaytay Religious Association, became a turning point in that controversial snap election. Ninoy's statue here is a reminder of that important event.

The Rotonda is not only strategic and historical, it is, or rather, it had been till 1986 the best place to view the enchanting and mysterious couple, Taal Lake and Taal Volcano. Visitors are greeted with a breath-taking view of the Lake once reaching Rotonda. The view became even more refreshing along the road that followed the Tagaytay ridge. Drivers used to opened the windows of their cars to behold this God-given sight and to breathe in the once fresh Tagaytay air.

This is what you see today.

To have good view of the Lake, you have to enter Vista Lodge, now owned by the owner of ShoeMart, and have to pay an exorbitant price P100.00 to see what God has given to everyone; or if you've got no money, you can risk your life by stopping at the few open sites left which are the most dangerous parts of the ridge.

I hope these people realize that Taal Lake is not their private property and the public has the right to this natural view God has freely given.

If it were elsewhere, say at Lake Nemi (Rome), these structures would have been immediately condemned and raze to the ground.

While waiting this morning for the flag raising program in honor of Ninoy Aquino, I got a chance to talk to the first councilor of the City, Honorable Celso P. de Castro who explained the plan of city government to do something about these selfish structures and even promised that in spite of the relentless effort of the owner of SM, they would not allow him to build a mammoth mall in this small city.

The Book of Genesis (chapter 11) tells a similar scene: "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves...' But the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. So it was called 'Babel'."