June 24, 2015

  • The scapular and the Sabbatine privilege


    A brother shared on Facebook what appears to be a teaching on the Brown Scapular associated with the Carmelite Order. The congregation where I belong. This is a very old teaching which I believe, one time in the congregation's history was being taught to the faithful. But history would also tell us that the Church discouraged such teaching because of its lack of historical and factual basis.

    So what's it about?

    Basically its about the Sabbatine Privilege allegedly granted by Pope John XXII, claiming that the Blessed Mary appeared to him with the promise to the wearer of the scapular that after their death, she will free them from the sufferings of purgatory and lead them to heaven, provided they meet the following conditions while they were still alive:
    1. Faithful wearing of the scapular throughout their life;
    2. Observance of chastity, depending on their state of life;
    3. Daily recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or observance of the Church's fasts including abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays or say five decades of Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary or substitute such actions with some other good work.

    And, depending on one's viewpoint, to add to the problem, it is said that Pope Benedict XV granted an indulgence of 500 days to those who kiss the scapular devoutly.

    So, I live a sinful life for 500 days and on the 500th day I kiss the scapular so all of those sins I committed will be absolved? Is that how all these indulgence thing works? Or lets say, we sin because anyway we would already have 500 less days in purgatory when we die. So we just kiss and kiss the scapular until we die. Let's say, 100 kisses = 50,000 days less in purgatory, right? So let's assume we are so sinful and dying, then why don't we just cover our lips with the scapular and get the chance of never going to purgatory.

    Wearing the scapular would not assure one of going to heaven if such an external act is not complemented with the purification of ones self through intimacy with God, and of course with charity and living a life in accordance to the teachings of Christ, otherwise, I would just wear the scapular, recite the Office or even the whole Psalmody, and be chaste while at the same time enrich myself by exploiting other people and still be assured of heaven because of the Sabbatine privilege or whatever indulgence I get from wearing the vestment.

    For me, wearing the scapular is not a privilege but an obligation. When we wear it we vow to follow Mary, as the perfect disciple of Christ. When we wear it we vow to follow Jesus, that man from Nazareth whose viewpoint and standpoint is grounded on the anawim - the oppressed, the marginalized, the poor, the little ones.

    We should not be dependent on whatever promise it bears, rather we should take it upon ourselves to strive for holiness, to follow Mary, our sister, mother, and protector, in her effort to become Christ's perfect follower, and of course, to live Christ's teachings and tattoo them in our hearts.

    The scapular is not an amulet or a lucky charm. It is not some magical stuff that would instantly lead one to the glory of eternal life.

    What it is, though, is a promise, a reminder that we have an obligation, a responsibility to be Christ's followers, and with that to be living testaments of God's grace, love, and mercy. This is a reminder that we are servants, that we live for others and not for ourselves. This is a reminder that we promised to live a life of purity, obedience to Christ, and poverty.

    The scapular is a reminder of Mary's love for us, because, after all, she did cloth us with her garment, with a garment which she herself must have woven tirelessly. So how should we compensate this love? We should compensate this love, of course, and we do this not just by outwardly wearing the scapular, but by making it our inner habit, our constant reminder, our very life.

    A high ranking official of the Philippine National Police once quipped to a brother who was not wearing a habit during the Pope's visit in the Philippines that the brother must be a good example to the rest of the faithful by constantly wearing his habit. And a Facebook user once commented on a picture of Carmelite friars wearing ordinary clothes on an important meeting that nothing makes a Carmelite than his brown habit.

    But really, the habit is just that, a piece of clothing that we wear identifying us to the congregation where we belong. And, as much as we should wear it with reverence, what's more important is if we wear it within ourselves. Are we constantly living the Order's charisma? Are our very lives a reflection of what the Order stands for?

    For me that's what is important, the rest are mere reminders of our identity, of our devotion, of our promise.

June 23, 2015

  • Raking the boat of social calamities


    Last June 21, Saturday, we watched Rak of Aegis courtesy of a very generous art patron and it is one of the best plays I've seen.

    Here's part of the press release for the play, retrieved from PETA's website:

    MANILA, Philippines – It’s been a fruitful 47th theater season for the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA); and while the theater is ablaze with the ongoing Summer Program, the company shows no signs of stopping for a breather.

    PETA’s 48th season sees the comeback of crowd favorite and hit comedy musical Rak of Aegis. Fans and first-timers are expected to flood the theater for this record-breaking hit that is set to open this June, due to insistent public demand.

    Breakout Kapuso star Aicelle Santos, and 2009 WCOPA Champion Kim Molina come back as Aileen; the promodizer with big dreams to raise her family from the knee-deep floods that have plagued their town for months. This all-Filipino, all-original musical features songs from the iconic band Aegis, with a star-studded ensemble on an award winning, must-see set.

    This comedy musical has hit a record-breaking 135 shows in the first year of its showing alone, a milestone for the theater company and indeed, for Philippine theater. In 2014 alone it has garnered over 16 citations for performance and technical categories including Outstanding Original Musical, Outstanding Ensemble Performance for a Musical, Stage Direction for a Musical (Maribel Legarda), Original Libretto (Liza Magtoto), Musical Direction (Myke Salomon), Choreography (Gio Gahol), Costume Design (Carlo Pagunaling), Sound Design (Salomon and Happy Constantino), Set Design (Mio Infante), Female Lead Performance in a Musical (Aicelle Santos and Joan Bugcat), Female Featured Performance in a Musical (Kalila Aguilos) and Male Featured Performance in a Musical (Myke Salomon, Pepe Herrera, Jerald Napoles and Juliene Mendoza).

    So what did I like most of the play? Aside from the beautiful socially-relevant and moving story, the beautiful lines and the excellent interpretation by the singer/actors of classic Aegis songs, or even those original lines which were played in the tune of familiar Aegis tunes, the great cast, the stage and the lighting, the wonderful acoustics, well, aside from all these wonderful stuff, there is the feel of being part of the play with the way the stage was designed and the lay-out of the audience, and of course, in the way the actors related to the audience. It was just amazing.

    (Click here to listen to Aegis songs.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tE9y0nP_2Y.)

    Even the rain or the giant bubbles or the sunflowers that suddenly popped up out of nowhere were beautifully executed. It was just amazing. And with the flood in the middle of the set laden with trash, wow, how real could it be. I was reminded of Payatas.

    So last night I was talking to Roi Calilong, one of the casts and my former housemate during college (they were freshmen at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas then, I was reviewing for the Physical Therapy Licensure Exam), and he shared with me:

    "Sobrang masaya lang sa PETA, kuya. Tapos ganun pa yung mga plays namin. Kaya kahit wala halos kita, ok pa rin.(Its a lot of fun in PETA, kuya. Then our plays are like that. That's why even if we don't earn much, it ok.)."

    PETA's approach to theater is not just performing for theater patrons (who are mostly the elite) but actually raising the level of consciousness of their audience especially on the plight of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the anawim of Christ.

    This, somehow, would give a much better sense of fulfillment and mission to all its members. Such a blessing indeed.
    And this is how theater can be used for many to realize their vocation as sharers in Jesus's prophetic ministry. This could be the reason why a few years ago they were recognized as one of the awardees of the prestigious biennial Titus Brandsma Awards given by the Philippine Carmelite Province of Bld. Titus Brandsma.

    Perhaps some of the casts of PETA were not even aware of these issues before joining PETA, having been shielded from the true state of the nation with all their concerns on honing their crafts and trying to make a living at the same time, considering the scarcity of job opportunities for thespians. But then, that exactly is what theater is about, without knowing the social conditions of the time, one's theatrical stint would be shallow, devoid of purpose.

    What I would like to see in their future plays, though, given the accessibility of multimedia and its beautiful use in theater, as proven by this very play, is for them to also include and show clips of stories of real people actually experiencing the situation on which their story is trying to make a commentary of. In fairness to them, they did show brief clippings of floods in the country to help situate the setting of the play.

    So, where do I see myself in the play?

    We have to admit that there are times when we feel that to recognize and see the gold behind our misfortune and to capitalize on it is the way to go. We always try to search for the silver lining behind the gray thick clouds, but sometimes, the solution to our challenges is actually right under our noses.

    It's not about doing something great or getting something significant from the unfortunate events of our lives, it's more about our behavior towards the event and often what we usually overlook is surprisingly what the challenge is about, why it came to us in the first place.

    Rak of Aegis tackles the behavior of the people of Barangay Venizia towards the flood that they've been experiencing for the last three months. At first they complained of their condition blaming the posh subdivision built probably a little elevated from their place, blocking their drainage system and eventually filling their village up with drainage from the place plus water from the rain. They're basically a catch basin. And then since the developers went through the backdoor in getting their government permits, the residents also blamed government for its selfish motives and for not acting on their problem since apparently they had other priorities, which, by the way, is a reality in the Philippines.

    There was really no end to people and institutions to blame for their misfortune, but what should they do? And then came Aileen's YouTube video which got so many hits, actually giving them the attention that they needed. It was a blessing in two-fold – first they planned to capitalize on it so that they would be able to raise money for a new health center, and second, people would come to know of their misery, and perhaps help them in some way. Some instant relief, perhaps?

    There is nothing wrong with that, but come to think of it, sometimes we are just comfortable with our complaints, doing nothing about it. We try to survive with what we have, and just complain of our difficulties, blaming people for it, and then we are content. Life goes on. Is anything resolved? Nothing really.

    As much as we should be thinking of our selves, Christ taught us to think of our neighbors just as much. That means not being greedy and looking at the consequence of our actions in terms of our neighbors. As Rotary's Four Way Test would put it: Is it beneficial to all concerned?

    Why can we not use the Four Way Test (Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?) as our yardstick in evaluating our actions or the decisions that we make? Or better yet, why not use Christ's teaching of love as the tool to evaluate our actions and decisions?

    Watching Rak of Aegis was, for me, not just a nostalgic experience listening to familiar tunes and trying not to sing along to familiar songs (the consequence of which was to sing in the lobby the vocal-cords straining songs of Aegis two octaves higher!), but it's really a reflective experience on my very response to such calamities, to the storms in my life.

    Have I been selfish to think only of myself, forgetting that others will always be affected by my actions or decisions, regardless of how small it is?

    Mind you, even the decision not to be involved has great impact, as the quote attributed to the great Albert Einstein would put it, "The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it."

    Am I making this world even more dangerous than it already is?

    Kudos to PETA for this wonderful play. For more information and ticket inquiries, check out their website.

June 18, 2015

  • A journey of love


    My journey to the heights of Carmel was, is, and will always be a journey of love.

    It is driven by love. It is fueled by love.

    My love for God triggers an insatiable thirst to experience his presence, to be with him, and to serve him by serving his people unconditionally.

    For many years, I looked for him, everywhere and in everything. There was this emptiness in me that I wanted and longed to be filled. I knew then that only God could fill it.

    And so I tasted every form of devotion, I tried different forms of spirituality. I wanted a tangible experience of his love, one that would excite my senses. But all that I got were just tastes of it. It was like God teasing me, not fully revealing himself to me.

    When I started to experience the embrace, the kiss, the ecstatic pleasure of the physical consumation of human love (i.e. sex), I also desired his divine love to be the same – limited to that which the senses could experience – and my emptiness expanded. My longings grew deeper.

    I knew then, and I know now, that God's love will never be like the love we get from embodied beings. His love is beyond our senses. How to accept and own this realization, however, has been a constant struggle.

    A young man who wanted to become a priest once asked me if it's alright for him to enter into relationships and experience physical love before deciding if priesthood is really his call. I blatantly answered him, no. Not because premarital sex is against the teachings of the church but more because at the time I felt that I finally understood the adage, "innocence is bliss."

    Yes, innocence is truly bliss for an innocent person will never seek as a rabid dog the pleasure of an experience he never had, content with that of his very own experiences. That which gave him pleasure.

    It's like narcotics – once tasted, always wanted. Sadly, the satisfaction experienced will never be enough and will never be lasting.

    And so, the ladder of love has become an abstract concept for me, devoid of the sensual pleasures that for long I have equated with love.

    So, in concept, I know that true love is never sensual but a deep longing to just be with the beloved. The mere presence of the beloved triggers a sense of satisfaction and completeness that is beyond the senses.

    That is true love. The love that I am seeking.

    In this love, the union becomes complete and I become lost in his presence – where time no longer matters, where the world just fades into the background.

    O, the bliss of such an experience.

    At this point in my life, taking the ladder to ascend the heights of Carmel can be an arduous task. I have yet to undress myself of all these heavy clothes which I have accumulated and covered myself with as I searched for my perfect love. I have to let go of all these baggage, all the trinkets that somehow gave me fleeting happiness. I have to strip the bandages that's been limiting my movement even if it helped ease the pains.

    Yes, I found him. I know where he is, I know how to reach him, but I have to climb naked, in nothingness. I have to let go of all these sensual concepts of love which has been continuously pulling me down.

    I need to fly and for that I need to unfurl my wings of prayer and contemplation on the one hand, and altruistic service and reflective spiritual studies (with application) on the other.

    Constant remembrance of God through contemplation excites the soul and this will bring me to the first step of the ladder. For now, the first step will be enough. I trust that he will take a thousand more steps for me.

    This will be the fuel that will keep me in this journey – the faith that he is there to help me complete the journey.

    11 November 2014, 1125
    Spring of Carmel Novitiate House

    Written as a reflection on St. John of the Cross' "Ladder of Love" during the mid-year novitiate retreat facilitated by Fr. Cyreneao "Toto" Jaranilla, OCarm.

June 16, 2015

  • The sweet fragrance of garbage


    “We live in a world full of injustice and disquiet. It is our duty to contribute to the search for an understanding of the causes of these evils; to be in solidarity with the sufferings of those who are marginalized and to fight for their total liberation, helping them to fulfill their desire for a decent life.”
    - Art 111, Chap IX, Carmelite Constitution (1995)

    “I am happy that there are wasteful people, at least because of them we are able to let our children taste food from Jollibee,” said Ate Arlene as she happily prepared her freshly bought pagpag (left-over food from the garbage dump), which was to be our lunch that day.

    A mother of three, Ate Arlene and her family welcomed me into their home for our 10-day immersion in Payatas, Quezon City, as part of the inter-congregational novitiate program, EXODUS, late October 2014.

    Looking at the garbage-laden and muddy surroundings of the community where I was to stay for 10 days, I thought to myself, “Why are we so cruel as to push people to live in such an undignified manner?”

    And then I remembered what Fr. Bernard Roosendaal, O.Carm, told us in one of our classes on Carmelite Spirituality where he said that no one becomes rich without causing injustice to another.

    And that is why, Fr. Bernard said, Christ taught his early followers the economic system of sharing, of building a community where everyone takes care of each other, especially the widows and orphans.

    One form of exploitation or the other will always happen if we wish to pursue a selfish individualistic ambition, like becoming rich. It might be innocent for a child to say that he wants to have plenty of cars and a big house when he grows up, but do we ever tell them that in order to reach his goal he has to take advantage of people, consciously or unconsciously, and of varying degrees, even sending some to the garbage dump or leave them homeless and landless.

    This economic system is so alive in anawim communities like Payatas, unfortunately what they have to share is not enough for all of them to rise from such an inhumane condition.

    But despite the lack, the stench of rotting garbage, human and animal wastes, and stagnant garbage-filled canals in this fly-infested community, has turned into the sweet fragrance of hopes, dreams, and passion of a people long deprived and forgotten both by the church and an economic system supposedly sworn to serve them.

    And the pagpag, that piece of treasure from fly-ridden mounds of rotting garbage, a delicacy with the most delicious taste of a people’s dream for the good life.

    “We have been neglected and pushed to fetch for ourselves, to look for a decent source of livelihood because government refuses to see us,” said Ate Arlene, “and now, even that they want to take away from us including our homes.”
    “Our work may be dirty, but it’s honest,” she lamented.

    This month they face demolition. (Note: Last December 2014, the judge ruled in their favor, still they are waiting for their case to be escalated to the Supreme Court or other cases to be filed against them).

    Where do we stand as Christians?

    What would be the standpoint and the viewpoint of the man from Nazareth, whom we claim to follow?

    These people do not need pity, they do not need charity, nor do they need to be patronized.

    What they need is recognition. What they need is inclusion. What they need is the sincerity of the people tasked to give them a decent and humane way of life.

    What they need are true Christians – people who live as Christ lived – who are not just willing to take up their own cross but also that of others, just so everyone could truly experience the true kingdom of heaven.

    They do not need a beautiful parish or a shrine in an exclusive subdivision where they could not even visit without getting scrutinized and discriminated by arrogant guards. Where is Christ there?

    What they need are true Christians.

    This experience has strengthened my resolve to continue my journey to the heights of Mt. Carmel. I know that I can make a difference, if not for the whole community, at least for one soul, to inspire him to be a true follower of Christ, by becoming a true Christian myself.

    My prayer is for the Father to help me, to keep me grounded, and for him to constantly remind me that this is the reason why I am here – others.

June 15, 2015

  • Dark night


    dark-night-of-the-soulA love story of a lover and his beloved. Separated by force, yet their love for each other will always bring them together.

    "On a dark night,
    Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
    I went forth without being observed,
    My house being now at rest."

    The beloved calls the lover to Him, to partake of a love so full, so beautiful that the lover could not resist. But then only under the stealth of the dark of night could the lover escape his captors for Him to be reunited with the beloved.

    "In darkness and secure,
    By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
    In darkness and in concealment,
    My house being now at rest."

    For most of us, the night can be threatening. In this darkness are our fears - the unknown, the uncertain, the dark secrets that we hope to hide in the dark, the pains, the past unresolved.

    But it is also only in the dark that we would be able to see the light that beckons us, as a lighthouse to a ship. It is only in the dark that we are able to see the beauty of the light, as stars that adorn the heavens.

    "Oh, night that guided me,
    Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
    Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
    Lover transformed in the Beloved!"

    If we wish to experience God, the beloved, we must embrace the dark, face it, trusting that even in the darkest night God's light will shine as bright as a thousand suns.

    We just need the courage to embrace the dark.

    "I remained, lost in oblivion;
    My face I reclined on the Beloved.
    All ceased and I abandoned myself,
    Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies."

    Tribo © 2014
    On St. John of the Cross's The Dark Night of the Soul
    10 November 2014, 2300
    Spring of Carmel Novitiate Community, Philippines

    Photo grabbed from Thejustinbowers.com
    Poem in quote are from John of the Cross's the Dark Night of the Soul

June 14, 2015

  • In this darkest of night


    an uncertain journey, am I bent
    to take, ignoring warnings chided

    To dive
    the deep
    abyss of uncertainty. Alive,
    unsure I am after this big leap.

    The pomp
    of a world I once embraced, I dump
    for a new reality. Efforts.

    But lo!
    The pain
    an accusing finger could cause – slow,
    deep. All my dreams, hopes, life, stripped, robbed, slain.

    My past
    is passed.
    Why the stern eye on me she cast
    when my sins to her I confessed?

    My life
    The goblin, her laughter full of strife
    on my pains, fears, with gusto she gorged.

    In this darkest hour
    I blindly seek your hand
    and in your embrace I cower
    hiding from the shame I shunned.

    In this darkest of night
    I only have but you
    to turn to, as a bright light
    that livens a path so blue.

    Murmurs of trust, so calm
    silent whispers of love
    for a wounded soul, a balm;
    for a pained pierced heart, a salve.

    In this darkest of night
    I only have but you
    on you will I never leave sight
    my life will I offer to you.

    Tribo © 2014

June 11, 2015

  • What is a prophet?


    Photo courtesy of Friends of RMP

    Just what does it mean to be a prophet? As a Carmelite and as a Christian, how can I live the Order's prophetic tradition?

    For the Carmelites, the Prophet Elijah plays a major role in its prophetic and contemplative tradition.

    In 1 Kings 21, the prophet was confronted with the issue of land-grabbing, when Israel's King Ahab took Naboth's vineyard by murdering him.

    For decades now, hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers have been killed for their land. Many of these victims are lumads, or natives, indigenous people who have been taking care of the land for generations. A very famous martyr is Macli'ing Dulag, an Igorot tribal leader who was killed for opposing the building of the Chico Dam by the Marcos regime. The dam would have submerged several communities in the area, and would affect some 100,000 hectares of ancestral land and some 250,000 locals.

    Macli'ing said:

    "You ask if we own the land. You mock us. Where is your title? Where are the documents to prove that you own the land? Title. Documents. Proof. How can you own that which will outlive you? Only the race own the land because only the race lives forever. To claim a piece of land is a birthright of every man. The lowly animals claim their place; how much more man? Man is born to live. Apu Kabunian, lord of us all, gave us life and placed us in the world to live human lives. And where shall we obtain life? From the land. To work (the land) is an obligation, not merely a right. In tilling the land, you possess it. And so land is a grace that must be nurtured. To enrich it and make it fructify is the eternal exhortation of Apu Kabunian to all his children. Land is sacred. Land is beloved. From its womb springs life."

    What's the difference between Naboth and Macli-ing Dulag? Both of them were killed for their land.

    What's the difference between Naboth and the countless of Filipinos who's land and very life were stolen from them by rich tyrants and with government leaders pretending not to see and hear, and so would not speak about it?

    What's the difference between Macli-ing and Elijah? Both of them were prophets, denouncing the cruelty and the evil deeds of the leaders. Both of them spoke of a God, who looks after His children and both of them tried to be God's surrogate in this world by defending the voiceless and the victims of unjust systems.

    Last June 8 to 10, several farmers from Central Luzon and the Southern Tagalog Region converged at the Batasang Pambansa Complex to oppose the plan of the House of Representatives to enliven the failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program through House Bill 429 or the Notice of Coverage Extension Bill. (News story, here). At the same time opposing the proposed Charter Change with Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 1, seeking for the loosening of the restrictions against ownership of certain properties and businesses in the country. RBH No. 1 did not pass, although Speaker of the House Rep. Feliciano Belmonte promised to keep on pushing for the Constitutional Amendments. (News story, here).

    If Elijah wasn't there to speak for what was right, would justice be given to Naboth? Would King Ahab realize his wrong deeds and humble himself before God?

    If there were no Christians to defend the rights of the marginalized and the oppressed, will justice be given to them? Even with the many modern prophets denouncing the evils of government leaders, nothing seems to happen, how much more if the streets and the holy walls of Congress were silent?

    It is said that as Christians we share in Christ's three-fold mission by virtue of baptism - prophet, priest, and king.

    But how can we share in His prophetic mission when most of the time we willingly tolerate the evils of society, even criticizing those who speak against the ills of government with such petty and selfish remarks as, "these people have nothing good to say of our government," or worse, "they are the number one cause of traffic in the metro."

    One Aeta grandmother asked me, "Why is it that the price of grain in our place is very expensive when they buy our produce at a very low price?"

    I could only be silent. Our idolatry with money and comfort can at times blind us of our unjust actions and the suffering that it causes other people. Why could we be so cruel?

    Taking from Prophet Elijah, contemplation led him to become a prophet, denouncing the evil ways of the world, fearlessly criticizing the wrong doings of the leaders of Israel, and himself becoming the embodiment of God's word by doing His will as outlined in the sacred scriptures of his people.

    Seriously. Do we even consider that we, as Christians, are called to be prophets, to denounce the wrong doings of our leaders and be a source of comfort to the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed?

    How can we live with the challenge of becoming prophets of our time? Or do we prefer to live comfortably in apathy and ambivalence, preferring to choose that which are comfortable for us, even if it means giving up on our basic spiritual, moral, and ethical principles as professed followers of Christ? Or do we simply reason out, "Let Ceasar's be Ceasar's and God's, God's?" and marginalize the church when it comes to physical concerns relegating it to spiritual matters?

    A friend once asked me regarding activists, "Do these people not care about their own families that they would prefer to spend all their time protesting to the point that they are no longer able to provide the basic needs of their family? What happens if they get killed, their families would suffer even more, as if their families are already not suffering because of their utter lack of sense of responsibility by not meeting their family's needs."

    But then, come to think of it, they do care for their family that they are even willing to sacrifice their own lives, their own comfort just so they'd be able to build heaven on earth, for the future generations not just for this generation.

    To be honest, these people can choose to live a comfortable life if they wanted to. Its a constant temptation for them. They are intelligent, they have guts, and they have the skills to survive in our capitalistic dog-eat-dog world. But constantly they renew their vows to choose the less comfortable life of serving the people, answering God's call to be modern time prophets.

    How about you?

June 8, 2015

  • Professed my vows



    After two years in initial formation (first as a Postulant then as a novice), I finally made my public profession of vows to the God, the Church, and the Order of Carmelites (OCarm).

    The journey was not easy, but it was not difficult either, thanks to the God's grace.

    In fact, it was very colorful and in the coming days, allow me to share with you my journey as I share my reflections for various significant chapters of this journey.

    To all the people who made this journey extra special, my gratitude.

    Here is the vow I made before my Prior Provincial, my brothers in the Philippine Province of Blessed Titus Brandsma, and family and friends present on that very auspicious day:

    Statement of Committment

    Loosely translated:

    I heard and felt the cry and sighs of my brethrens who are struggling because of exploitation and the unjust system in our society.

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    The living God who works in the history of the people have called me and inspired me to serve. I was molded by history on the true worth of life. And the rich tradition of the Brotherhood of the Carmelites has shaped and strengthened my whole being.

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    As I offer myself to the life of faith and service, I believe that to live together with the people is true freedom in the living out of the vows rooted in Christ.

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    The vow of Obedience - to feel and hear the cry of the poor and to be faithful to the principles of the Order of Carmel; Poverty - to struggle against unjust and inhumane systems and to genuinely live the life of majority of our people; Chastity - the freedom to offer my life and to be open for a more effective way of serving the people.

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    I, Ritche T. Salgado, make my vow to Prior General Fr. Fernando Millan y Romeral, OCarm, and to those who would succeed him that I would be faithful to the values and principles of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel for a period of one (1) year. I will faithfully live the vows of Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty.

    11312855_10153294982970138_5763087540946308702_o 11130329_10153295051390138_684511515421984475_o 1425263_10153295061555138_2106019476448839757_o
    So help me God.

    The following is a link to the Order's website, formally registering our names into its records. (Link, here).

June 7, 2015

  • My mission is to love



    What is my mission?

    This was the question thrown to us by Fr. Percy Bacani, MJ to end his three-day module on Mission, Ecology, and Enculturation with Batch 27 of EXODUS.

    EXODUS stands for Exchange of Dreams in a Unified Struggle for a Relevant Formation. It is an inter-congregational Catholic novitiate program started in 1987 by six religious congregations – Order of Carmelites (OCarm), Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC), Agustinian Sisters of Our Lady of the Consolation (OSA), Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (CSsR), Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SFIC), and the Dominican Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies (OP Remedies). The aim was to bring the novices from different congregations close to the realities of life and not away from life, in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

    For centuries, mission has been viewed as the conversion of non-Christians, echoing the belief that outside the Christian church there is no salvation.

    This belief has for centuries killed billions of innocent people, all in the name of Christ. One could not help but recall when Jesus told his disciples that the time would come "when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God." (John 16:2, NRSVCE).

    Even today, this thinking is still evident in many conflicts all around the world. Some of these conflicts have evolved from a purely religious one to that of struggles for self-determination, sovereignty, and recognition. Sadly, most of the time, the instigators of these conflicts are those who profess to be servants of God.

    This belief fostered a self-righteous discriminatory culture, proud and exclusive, and at the same time it promoted a culture of self-depredation, self-degradation, unworthiness, and false humility. In other words, otherness. If you are not one of us, you are a mistake and you will not be saved.

    Just recently, famous Harry Potter creator and author, J.K. Rowling, had an argument in social media with the Westboro Baptist Church over the latter's anti-gay comment on Rowling's stand on Ireland's same-sex marriage policy. WBC has been tagged as a hate group and is known for its campaign against LGBTQs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer). Not a good label for a group whose supposed to be bringing Christ's good news of love.

    The Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the miracle of the 20th century, slowly and painstakingly began and is still in the process of changing this thought system with the belief that outside of the world there is no salvation, and outside of inclusivity there is no salvation.

    Nostra Aetate, the Church's declaration on its relation to non-Christian religions, states, "The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve, and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men."

    In our Biblico-Historical classes with Fr. Bernard Roosendaal, OCarm, he clarified to us the real meaning of salvation for the people of Israel, as told in the Bible, contrasting it with how salvation is now being peddled by religions, us Catholics not exempt.

    For the people of Israel, including Jesus, salvation is tangible and real. It means freedom from oppression, from poverty, from injustice and discrimination, and from all forms of unjust systems – economic, political, religious, cultural, environmental, and what have you.

    The beliefs of the Israelites were grounded in their history, specifically in the five great events as God's chosen people, namely: Abraham's migration from Ur to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-5); Jacob and his sons' sojourn in Egypt (Genesis 47:12, Exodus 1:1-7); the escape from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14, 3:1-10, 12:31-42); the people's religious confederation near Sinai where God promised them, "I am your God and you are my people" (Exodus 20:1-7); and the occupation of the promise land (Joshua 11:15-23).

    Salvation was that of the whole human being – body and soul. There was no distinction. Even the prophets proclaim this and so did the apocalyptic writers, though they used the language of symbols.

    How about today?

    Well, aside from Pope Francis who is now showing and encouraging us to seek salvation for the whole person by promoting just systems, many traditionalists and conservatives would still say, "Let the body suffer for it is sinful." But how could God's creation, which he made in His own image, be evil and sinful?

    Somehow, salvation has come to mean solely as liberation of the soul from sin with the goal of going to heaven when one dies. How about the here and now?

    Sr. Agnes of the Little Company of Mary eats with her host family in the garbage dump communityIsn't the message of Jesus, the Good News that he proclaimed, that of a kingdom in the here and now, that is if we will it to be here and now?

    Isn't Jesus saying that we can achieve salvation now and build heaven if we only follow him and do what he does and believe in what he believes in, that is simply to be a genuine Christian, for us to achieve salvation and make our Earth into a piece of Heaven?

    Difficult for the rich who lives comfortably in abundance but in constant fear of loss. Or one whose life is governed by greed, dependent on the exploitation of others.

    So, outside of the world there is no salvation, by being in the world, being one with the struggling people, salvation can be experienced. Salvation as a collective and communal experience of justice, peace, contentment and the absence of pain, suffering, oppression, hunger, war, discrimination, and all forms of injustice as promoted by our present profit-oriented, greed-fueled economic system.

    Salvation means unity, acceptance, inclusion. The willingness to recognize the worth of every individual regardless of belief, ideology, color, creed, orientation, or whatever limiting factor that our present society has defined in order to create division.

    As Apostle Paul told the church of Corinth, each member of the church is essential for when united they form one body (1 Cor 12:12-31). No part can be the same – one part may play a minor role another a seemingly major role; one may be at the fore, the other hidden – but each is essential and without the other or with the defiance of the other the body could not function well.

    Puloy, a leprosy patientHonestly, for me, there is no minor role for even the appendix, which was thought to be simply an appendage good only for causing pain, has been found to play an essential role in our immunity.

    Salvation recognizes the importance of each part. But how can salvation be achieved? Simple. Jesus has given us two rules, which basically is a summary of all the rules laid down by Israel's forefathers:

    1. Love God with all our heart;
    2. Love our neighbor as ourselves.

    The doctrine of salvation is love. The key to salvation is love. The way to salvation is love.

    Loving God means following and accepting His will in my life. It means wanting to please Him always by doing that which pleases Him.

    Would suffering please God? Would pain please Him? Could a father bear to see his child in pain?

    Yes, He gave his only son to suffer in our stead, but such a sacrifice is needed, and only shows how much He loves us, for we are His creation. He is our God and we are His people. No, he does not want to see us to suffer and so the book of Proverbs declare, "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).

    The prophet Samuel, rebuking Saul for his disobedience, said, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22, NIV).

    And now I return to my first question. What is my mission?

    Cleaning garbage in the river of garbageMy mission is love. To show love, just as Jesus showed us how to love others, even to the point of giving ourselves to others. To be love, just as Jesus was the very embodiment of God's love for the whole of humanity.

    And as St. Paul would put it, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in all but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV).

    How about you, what is your mission?

    1 Carswell, Simon (1 June 2015). Dumbledore and Gandalf to marry in front of gay-hating church. Irishtimes.com. Retrieved from http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/us/dumbledore-and-gandalf-to-marry-in-front-of-gay-hating-church-1.2233853.
    2 Vatican Council II, "Nostra Aetate," 2 par. 3.

March 21, 2015

  • I close my eyes



    I close my eyes
    the enchanting waves
    of the Pacific
    adorning your most empathic eyes
    awaken a longing,
    an orgasmic desire
    to dive deep into the waters.

    I close my eyes
    and the luscious lips
    of the Sierra Madre
    enlivens a desperate journey
    in need of adventure.
    Your sincere vibrant smile
    melts the gloom; sadness, fear dispelled.

    I close my eyes
    and the scent of the
    Cadena de Amor
    emanating from your whole being
    captures my soul; wrapped, chained,
    not wanting to escape.
    Lost in the sweet fragrance of love.

    I close my eyes.
    The thunderous beat
    of a heart angered, pained,
    weeping for a people abandoned.
    I long to comfort you,
    to wrap you in my arms.
    Your pain to share, your hand to hold.

    I close my eyes
    and I see you,
    and I long for you.
    To stare at your longing eyes,
    to kiss your warm lips,
    to bathe in your scent,
    to lie on your naked breast
    listening to the beat of a desire
    so pure,
    so true.

    I close my eyes
    but crushed, my soul.
    Light-deadened, silenced.
    Whisper-blown to nothingness.
    Space, darkness engulfed.
    Endless emptiness.
    Not a trace of existence.
    Surrender to complete nothingness.

    I close my eyes
    if only to see you.

    Forever will I close my eyes,
    if only to have you.

    Tribo. January 24, 2014. Quezon City, Philippines.