Archive for May 2012
Question: Is there an angel for good luck?
Christians don’t believe in luck as the Chinese and Hindus believe in luck. Christians believe in a God who is a loving Father who made us His adopted sons and daughters through Baptism. At the instant of our conception, God gave each one of us our own guardian angels whose primary job is to help us go to heaven. Demons are angels who disobeyed God by their own free will at the beginning of time, and because of their great intelligence which surpasses human intelligence, their choice is irrevocable–once and for all. Misery seeks company: demons wants us to disobey God, too, and suffer with them in Hell for eternity. If God would abandon us to the power of demons, they can easily make a mincemeat of us as what happened to Job: his possessions were taken away, his children were killed in a natural calamity, and even his skin became filled with sores. The demons can also control our imagination and tempt us to despair. This would be a lopsided battle. That is why God gave each one of us our own guardian angel. If we pray to him often and ask his help, he will always be ready to help us and protect us, if it is for the good of our souls. You thought you were lucky that the car missed you by an inch or you were late for the plane that crashed or you were not able to read a magazine that would lead you to sin. But this is not luck; this is the work of our guardian angels. Thus, in times of danger, such as when you cross the street or make life-changing decisions, it is always recommended to pray to our guardian angels:
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side to light, to guard to rule and guide. Amen.
Lady Gaga’s concert in the Philippines has sparked a new controversy on whether Catholic teaching on the four last things–death, heaven, hell, and purgatory–still makes sense on the modern world. It appears, however, that modern Atheistic Western Civilization cannot make its own values; it only proposes an idea opposite to what the Catholic Church teaches, as we can deduce from the ideas espoused by the Filipino Freethinkers. The Church proclaims the light of the world who is Christ. The Filipino Freethinkers proclaim the shadow of that Light. So the Filipino Freethinkers can do nothing but object to the Ten Commandments, and in doing so they form their own Ten Commandments:
- There is no God. Science has explained everything. I define what is right and wrong for me, and I don’t care what is right and wrong for you. As long as we don’t hurt each other, everything is fine.
- You can use the name of God in vain and make fun of him. He does not exist anyway. (Insert blasphemy here). The right to freedom of expression is protected by the Constitution.
- Sunday is just one of the days in the week. Sunday is not the time for going to mass but for shopping or playing sports or watching concerts.
- We honor our hominid ancestors via evolution and we thank Darwin for breaking our bonds with Adam and Eve. Mother and father are discriminatory labels. That should be parent 1 or parent 2, since both parents may be of the same sex. Actually, the proper term should be couples, because couples does not imply a child. Marriage is only for sexual union, and a child is an unnecessary burden which can be avoided through contraception and abortion.
- The aim of each human being is to live life to the fullest. Those who live an unsatisfactory life do not have the reason to live, so they must be killed. Thus, abortion, suicide, and euthanasia are ok, especially for the unborn, the infirm, disabled, the disfigured, and other useless members of the society.
- Marriage is not a sacrament but a contract between two parties, which can be revoked anytime. Adultery, concubinage, and fornication are natural relationships like marriage. Homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia should not be discriminated by bigots.
- There is no such thing as private property and fruits of personal labor. The government owns everything and I am the government.
- It is ok to lie in order to protect one’s self-interest.
- I want your wife. I want your husband.
- I want whatever you have.
A name stands for the person: what he is and what he will be. That is why the Catholic Church encourage parents to adopt Christian names, usually a saint’s name, so that will be like that saint someday. If you name your son as Stephen, you hope that he will be like St. Stephen, the first martyr who effected the conversion of Saul into Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles. If you name your son John, he will be like the beloved Apostle closest to the Heart of Christ. Name changes are significant because it is a change of mission: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Simon to Peter. When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope, he changed his name to Benedict XVI because of his new mission.
So what does this leave us with Lady Gaga? Mary is always known as “Our Lady” with a accompanying identifier, such as Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc. ”Gaga” means you are completely crazy with something. For the case of Lady Gaga, her being is an antithesis to our Lady. Our Lady is clothed. Lady Gaga is nude. Our Lady is humble. Lady Gaga seeks fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. Our Lady magnifies the Lord. Lady Gaga magnifies the Devil and blasphemes God.
Lady Gaga’s original name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on her soul, even though she made a mockery of His Sacred Heart. May the nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart pray for her conversion, even though she made a mockery of their veil. May St. Stephen pray for her soul, whom I believed she already sold to the Devil, as evidenced by her ritual blood sacrifice of herself in one of her concerts. May that blood of Christ cut her chains to Satan, so that she may offer her life in martyrdom for God. May St. John pray for her soul that she may hear in the silence of her heart, amidst the screams and shouts, the soft whispering sound of the Sacred Heart beating, awaiting for her love. May her guardian angel pray for her together with all the angelic hosts–Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Louie graduated in 1953 from the Ateneo with a LittB degree, major in Economics. A classmate remembers him as an admirable person, very sharpand witty, humble and honest. Then he worked to earn an MBA. He was among the promising graduates that Philippine Manufacturing Co. (now Proctor and Gamble) hired as interns to train on the job. PMC was a leading American firm with an excellent track record in training young graduates.
After a stint and on the job training with PMC he was hired to head as Country Manager of the S. C. Johnson company in Manila. After holding this job for many years, he opted to work in the head office of S. C. Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin. One of his jobs was to interview MBA applicants.
When he retired about mid 2000 he and his family moved to Florida. He wanted to serve those whom society had forgotten. Forgotten even by their
relatives. He discerned “who could these be”. He realized that they were those in prison. He had some experience in this when he was in California.
He had no formal training in this work. So he started by visiting them and talking to them to find out what they needed. They would be his
teachers. He provided them with what he could. They asked for food, stationary, medicine, and other simple things that we take for granted. These
were their felt needs. He gave what they needed most, someone who loved them and joyously gave his time for them. They experienced the love of
Jesus. He was the visibility of Jesus. He felt consolation in doing this and he wanted others to experience that too. Jesus gave him on earth a
foretaste of the reward for those who visited him when he was in prison. “I was in prison and you visited me.” His calling card read “Serving Christ
So he recruited others, offered them some formation, trying to imbue them with the spirit of charity. He was successful. After a while, the bishop
of the diocese of Venice, Florida, where he lived, learned about his work and asked him to organize a diocesan prison ministry. His background
prepared him for this. Now with people with a variety of gifts, he could serve the many needs of prisoners. He has served in this capacity for
several years. At the same time he has his pulse on the progress of the prison ministry in the Philippines.*
For a birthday gift, two of his daughters contributed to the Philippine Jesuit Prison Ministry by donating to the Philippine Jesuit Foundation in the New York. He is trying to include the PJPM in his estate planning. His children do not begrudge him that. They know this combines the three things closest to his heart: the Philippines, the Jesuits, and Prisoners. No
greater inheritance could they get than exemplary parents.
“Gather the fragments.” Jesus told the Twelve after he had fed the multitudes. Rudy Fernandez in his homily in the Jesuit Residence chapel said that the Japanese have a saying, “Fortune is in the fragments.” This means “waste not, want not”. This can also be understood in a spiritual sense. The years after retirement may appear to be just the fragments after the full meal, but they can be the better part. Louie has found this out. No wonder his zeal to have others experience the same. At the wedding feast
in Cana, after Jesus had made the water into wine, the steward told the groom, “You have saved the best for the last.”*
How we gather the fragments differs for each one of us. It may mean being totally helpless but we put ourselves totally in his control.
Sir, may nalala lang ako sa Angels and Demons and na curious ako sir. Do physicist like you sir try to diprove that God exist? I mean, that by constantly striving to explain everything that happens and happened in the universe, doesn’t that dispels the idea that God created the universe?
As a physicist, I know my limitations. The equations in physics only describe the physical world. But our equations break down when we try to describe beauty, truth, justice, love–surely these things exist, and no sane man will deny their existence. God created the universe to be well-ordered and well-defined by laws, because God is Logos. All the order and beauty that we see in the universe is only a reflection of who God is. But God can intervene in his Creation. That is why the Incarnation happened–God became man so that man can share in God’s divine life. That is why miracles happen–beyond the laws of physics a water is changed to wine or a leper is instantly cured or a dead man is raised to new life.
But God does not want us to be automatons where all our actions are determined from our previous actions–the foundation of Automata theory in Computer Science. Because of His love, God gave us free will to choose or reject his love. The force of gravity pulls everything downward. But a man on the edge of the cliff has the free will to let go and die or hold on and live. You cannot predict a man’s decision with an equation. That is why conversion is such a big deal for God: He did not force you to convert, yet by your own free will you converted. In a similar way, your girlfriend did not force you to love her, yet by your own free will you loved her anyway. As Christ said regarding the parable of the lost sheep: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk 15:7)
I hope I have answered your question. If you have other questions, just ask.
- Fr. Asandas Balchand, SJ
Homily for the Funeral Mass of Fr. Jorge P. Hofilena, S.J.
Oratory of St Ignatius, Loyola House of Studies, 6 January 2012
Fr. Jorge P. Hofilena, SJ was the tenth of 15 children born to Roque Hofilena and Angeles Puentevella. Fr. Jorge was 82 years old when he died last January 2 and would have been 83 next month, on February 22. He always insisted that George Washington was named after him. I knew him fairly well for less than 10 years of his 82—six years in Cagayan de Oro Clty, from 2001 to 2007, and the last two and a half years at the Jesuit Residence Infirmary. He was always called George until he came to the Infirmary when he wanted to be called Jorge. I will refer to him as George.
Two months ago when I looked at the biodata of Fr. Guido Arguelles who died last Oct 30, I noticed that he had been assigned to a good number of places doing pastoral work. In the case of Fr. George Hofilena, after completing the customary Jesuit formation and studies and aside from 4 years at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School and 3 years doing special studies in the U.S., he spent most of his time—35 years—at Xavier University, until he was brought to the Infirmary at JR four years ago. When I recall his life in Cagayan, I see three images in my mind. First, I see George on an old, weak motorbike dashing out of the campus. The motorbike could hold only half of his large body, with a fourth of it sticking out on each side. He was called “Fr. Tambok” and when asked “How are you?” he would answer, “I am fat.” He would ride this motorbike on the way to one of his apostolates or assignments—to the Xavier University Grade School, or to one of the many public schools he had to visit to observe, train, and guide the College of Education interns who were doing practice teaching. He told me how exhausting it was to go to over twenty schools and observe over 100 classrooms, some of them in distant places.
Fr. George’s major work in Cagayan de Oro, aside from teaching in the College of Education, was being Principal in the Grade School for about 18 years. Mrs. Flery Nery, who would later also be Principal, says that he was also “the CLE coordinator, the English coordinator, the School Chaplain, the school driver, the yearbook editor, and so on. Masaya… hands on talaga.”
Armed with am MA in Education from Loyola University in Los Angeles, Fr. George started a new style of education in the Grade School—“open education.” He wanted the students to enjoy their studies, with greater flexibility in the structures. He wanted the students to be freer, to do what they wanted, to learn to love learning. He felt that each student was unique and should be allowed to develop his abilities at his own pace and according to his interest. Fr. Terry Barcelon, S.J. says that the students loved this approach, didn’t want holidays, and wanted to be in school, enjoying themselves. A beneficiary of this system emailed me yesterday and was here last night. He said: “whether it be patintero, marbles, tops and spider fights, he gave us the freedom to be what we were: boys. You could see in his face the joy in letting us do what boys do. Letting boys just be boys.” A number of the teachers were happy with this arrangement but some strong parents and Jesuits were not.
And so Fr. George had to move out and satisfy himself with teaching in the College and Graduate School.
A second picture I have in the back of my mind is that of Fr. George in the dining room. When you entered the Jesuit dining room for dinner, Fr. George would be seated at the first table with his friends. He was the life of the community. If he wasn’t telling stories, the others would be asking him questions or ribbing him or sharing news with him. He was fun to be with. He loved ice cream and cassava cake from the College Canteen. He would eat quickly, and then he would suddenly stand up and leave. He would rush up to the TV room on the second floor, get hold of the TV remote control, open to his favorite channel and watch basketball games. There was a first come-first served practice in the community, and Fr. George would hold on to the remote control until it was time to leave. Once an older Jesuit asked to watch the Pope’s Mass. Fr. George reluctantly switched the channel, but after a few minutes complained that the program was boring. He could watch basketball the whole evening and enjoy it.
Basketball was his great passion. He spent many hours training the young players from the Grade School for the SBP—the Small Basketeers of the Philippines, and he bragged that his team was the undefeated champion in northern Mindanao for 13 consecutive years. When his team beat the Ateneo de Davao squad in Cebu at the Jesuit Athletic Meet, he was overjoyed fo a month. He took total care of the boys, knowing them and their families, supervising their studies and their moral formation. In February 2006, on his 77th birthday, the parents of the kids organized games and celebrations for two days. Little did they know that it would be his last birthday in Cagayan de Oro.
Fr. George came to Manila because the doctor in Cagayan noticed increasing signs of dementia and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Tests in Manila confirmed this and the decision was made to have him stay at the Jesuit Residence infirmary so that he would have enough time to get adjusted to new surroundings. This must have been painful for him, as it was for some in the Jesuit community in Cagayan de Oro who wanted him back.
At the JR Infirmary I saw Fr. George in three situations. I saw him sitting by the nurses station or in the Infirmary dining room, eating or playing scrabble and later domino. He always wanted to win. I am told that at times he would cheat a little to win and the caregivers would let him. If he lost, he would be unhappy and ask for a rematch. Seated at the nurses station, he would often ask for bananas. Saging, saging, saging. In his early stay in the infirmary, he wanted mangoes. Later this was changed to bananas, because he was diabetic. He would grab the bananas and eat them as fast as he could and ask for more.
A second image I have is that of Fr. George walking outside the Jesuit Residence and then asking people if they had a car. He wanted to go on rides, and at times the infirmary driver would give him a spin around the campus. As his Alzheimer’s disease became worse, he walked more slowly with small, unsteady steps, guided by the caregiver. When I saw him walking this way exactly a week ago, I told myself that he would not be able to walk for long.
The third image I have is that of Fr. George lying in bed completely covered with his blanket or sheet. In his room, he preferred darkness, even when the lights were out. He would cover his whole body with a sheet and show his face only when spoken to. Many times he was tired and did not want to talk, or he would utter sounds that could not be understood. The only things he remembered were his name, his age, and where he came from, Silay.
One thing I found remarkable about him was that he wanted to go to Mass and communion. He would repeatedly ask the time of the Mass and how much longer he would wait. In the chapel he would follow the parts of the Mass and at communion, he would immediately stand up and go to the altar to receive communion. At time he had to be held back to wait for his turn.
Ms. Flery Nery says that he had a great devotion to Jesus and to Mary, “Sobra– to the max. He has great faith in prayers to our Lady.”
Every now and then I see posters on campus of Jesuits outstanding for their abilities and achievements. Fr George has no posters for him here at Loyola Heights. But, knowing Cagayan, I can assure you that there are many posters with high tributes in the hearts of many in Cagayan de Oro. This is just a part of an email from a former XU Grade School teacher: “Fr.Jorge was an inspiration to my career. He touched not only my life but of my family, too. He was a darling to us.” And from a top administrator in the Grade School: “Working with Fr. Jorge for the last 18 years was a treasure. He was a father to me, too.” From Carl Chavez in California:
“I want you to know that his life has touched many people’s lives as it has mine. Please know that he was and is very much loved, supported, and remembered as living larger than life.” There are many more tributes on Facebook and many more will come.
Today, we thank the Lord for the many lives and hearts Fr. George touched in his 82 years on earth, especially during his 35 years in Cagayan de Oro. May his life and example inspire many to follow him in generous service to the Lord.
Shepherding Even While Bedridden
by Florge Sy, S.J.*
Fr. Monte was born on May 5, 1933. He died about a week before his 79th birthday. At the age of 21, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1954), was ordained when he was 35 years old in 1968, and took his final vows in 1977.
Looking at the curriculum vitae of Fr. Monte, we can say that he lived a very active life before he joined our community in the infirmary. He had been to various apostolates and ministries in the provinces.
He was in Davao for 11 years as assistant director of the Mindanao Development Center. He was in Cagayan de Oro for 6 years and served as a parish priest in Lumbia and director of regents and pastoral activities in St. John Maria Vianney Seminary.
He spent 9 years of ministry in Zamboanga del Sur, where he was a pastor in the parishes of Kabasalan, Margosatubig, Naga, Bayog, and Buug.
He then spent a year as a parish priest in Kalilangan, Bukidnon, another year in Sacred Heart Parish-Cebu, and another year in the Philippine General Hospital as acting chaplain.
Those were active years indeed, but then he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer and was brought to the infirmary in 2001. His stay in the infirmary was one of the longest periods of his Jesuit life in the same community. He was in the Lucas infirmary for 11 years.
In order to give us a glimpse of how Fr. Ben was during his stay in the infirmary, I have asked some of the present and former members of the infirmary staff about what they remember about Fr. Monte. Here are some of their recollections…
A former member of the infirmary staff has this to say:
“Sometime in February 2003, on my first day of duty, I asked Fr. Montecastro’s permission if I could call him Tito Ben. The other members of the staff asked me why. I said he reminded me of an uncle. Fr. Montecastro has been my Tito Ben since then. A caregiver’s life isn’t easy. But Tito Ben’s smile after every task made it a lot less difficult. Even during bad times, there would always be a trace, a hint of a smile. That
is what I would miss most about Tito Ben.”
Another one who is still with the infirmary recalls:
“Maybe two or three months ago, as I accompanied Dr. de la Vega in her rounds, she said, “How strong he is!” I replied, “Maybe even in his condition, he still has a mission.” She agreed, “But what is his mission?”
I answered her, “Training ground for our caregivers and nurses. They learn patience while taking care of him, while feeding him through his PEG, while cleaning his tracheal tube, and in being careful in turning him when he had bedsores.” It was quite an achievement for our staff when we saw Fr. Monte’s bedsores healing. Thanks to him we were able to train and
produce good and dedicated caregivers and nurses.”
A head-nurse in the infirmary also shared his recollection:
“Fr. Montecastro was already bedridden when I came. The earlier staff remember when he could still speak and could be transferred to the wheelchair. He was bedridden for a long time but the caretakers did not cease taking care of him. They gave him a bed bath twice a day, fed him using the PEG, kept monitoring him in case he needed to be have the phlegm suctioned so that
he could not have difficulty breathing and kept turning him so bedsores would not develop.”
“When I had finished my other duties, I would go to his room to read to him a book on reflections for every day, and on Sundays we turned on the radio or TV so he could hear the mass. I am so grateful I took care of him for I learned how to be patient, how to value life and strengthen my faith.”
And a more recent caregiver has this to share:
“Above all, , Advanced Happy Birthday, Tatay Ben. My sadness is mixed with joy for you. I knew you when you were very sickly and I know you hear what I am saying. You hear when we call you Baby Ben for that is what you are to us. – a baby who needs constant care.. Thanks, Tatay Ben for being a listener when I needed to talk. Though you did not answer, I know that you are praying for me. Thanks for giving me the experience that I may be skilled in my profession. Tatay Ben, thanks for showing me that I can carry on in spite of the problems that may come. Like you, however many the problems, there will be no giving up.”
On a personal note, it amazes me how someone who was bound to his bed, who could no longer walk and talk, and who was seemingly unaware of his surroundings could still continue to be an inspiration for people around him. Perhaps, what we are, our being, is still much more important than our “doing” or what we can do.
Last Monday, at Mass in the infirmary, in the middle of Fr. Balchand’s homily on our Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd who knows his flock, who calls his flock, who leads his flock, and who lays down his life for his flock, someone whispered to me to immediately go to the room of Fr. Monte. Sensing that something was not right, I left the chapel and proceeded to the room of Fr. Monte without delay.
I was too late. I was no longer able to catch his last breath. It was 6:20 in the evening when he joined the Lord.
I have very little idea about how Fr. Monte was as a shepherd before he joined us in the infirmary. But these accounts from the caregivers and nurses who had the opportunity to be of service to him tell me he must have been a great shepherd when he was still on his feet. He was a good shepherd to them, you see, even when he was totally limited to his bed.
I do not totally understand the why of the long years of waiting, of being in bed for 11 years, before Fr. Monte finally heard the voice of the Good Shepherd calling him to join him in heaven. But there is one thing I am sure about: The Good Shepherd of us all, who also refers to himself in the Gospel as the Light of the world so that everyone who believes in him might not remain in darkness, is now leading Fr. Monte to the kingdom of his Father.
While I was writing this homily, I was reminded of a song based on Psalm
Shepherd me O God,
Beyond my wants beyond fears from death unto life.
God is my shepherd so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.
Gently you raise and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
My spirit shall sing the music of your name.
Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for you are at my side,
Your rod and your staff, my comfort and my hope.
You have set me a banquet of love in the face of hatred,
Crowning me with love beyond my power to hold.
Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life.
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forevermore.
Thank you, Fr. Ben. May you enjoy the bounty of eternal life in heaven
where the Good Shepherd is leading you.