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.