Celebrating St. Valentine’s day by going to a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna, Quezon City

Today, Feb 14,  is the Feast of St. Valentine, and I celebrated it by going to a Traditional Latin Mass in Our Parish of Our Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna, Q.C.  A year ago, on Feb 16,  my friend and I also went here for a Sunday mass. I can still remember her veil.  Time flies fast.  She is now with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Cebu for her Aspirancy.  Fr. Dan McNamara, S.J., my friend’s confessor and my thesis adviser, chided me that it is already my time to join him for a 10-day retreat this March in Baguio, just as my friend had done.  I’ll see if my schedule allows.

My  Baronius missal is actually my friend’s missal which she bought in Our Lady of Victories (SSPX) church in Cubao.  Of all the things that she has given me, the missal is my dearest treasure.  The prayers before and after the mass helps me focus more on the Eucharist, and helps me to be more thankful for the divine condescension.  I could not yet regularly pray the morning and evening prayers, but I try my best to make them since the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus and that of our Lady increases ones love to our Lord and Lady.  I always use my missal even in Novus Ordo masses.  After about four and a half months of using this missal, I can now read and understand the mass and the devotions in Latin.  I read the Epistle and the Gospel in Latin and I am surprised that my reading comprehension has increased.  Maybe it is because I am familiar with Scriptures so I can easily guess the meanings of the Latin words.  I also studied some Latin before by reading a textbook meant for Grade 1 Latin.  I only finished one-fourth of it, then I gave up.  I wonder what St. Ignatius must have felt when he studied Latin with little boys.  Humility is the foundation of knowledge.

After the mass, I saw Carlos Palad on the choir loft.  I went up to him.  And there I met Jesson who introduced me to Junar, a member of the ALMS Yahoo group,  and Dennis Maturan, the founding chairman of Ecclesia Dei Society of St. Joseph.  He is also an associate member of the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.  Dennis is the acolyte who chants the Epistle.  He chants well.  I also met Shirley Monreal, whose name I only read in the apologia-ph Yahoo group.

We went down and waited for Fr. Jojo to finish blessing some statues and other sacred objects.

Carlos Palad was holding two cds.  He told me he downloaded the Orthodox Rite for the Liturgy.  He loves this liturgy with  eight sacristans doing the censers.  He was able to download this before but his house was flooded during Typhoon Ondoy and his cds were destroyed.

We went to the back of the church.  I met there Nathalie and others whose name I cannot anymore recall.  I also met there Rommel Mendoza (?) who graduated Physics-CE in Ateneo de Manila University, batch ’89.  I am B.S. Physics batch 97.  We were not able to talk much since Fr. Jojo Zerrudo already came out of the sacristy.  And it is him whom I wanted to talk to about some matters.

Fr. Jojo and I talked in one of the rooms facing the sacristy, across a basketball court.  We shared experiences on the formation of the Latin Mass Society.  He told me that for eight years in Masambong, he only had Dennis Maturan.  Now, he has Gerard Cenir as his Liturgical Master of Ceremonies and he has a full sacristan group.  Fr. Jojo told me that I can ask Gerard to help train the ALMS sacristans.  Fr. Jojo’s choir is from U.P and many of them are members of the U.P. School of Music. The Traditional Latin mass in Sikatuna is indeed blessed.

Fr. Jojo advised me not to make much noise in Ateneo, to start the Traditional Latin Mass not with a bang but with a whimper.  I told him I still have to write to the Director of the Manila Observatory, who shall forward my letter to the Father Provincial, because there is no more Jesuit Community at the Manila Observatory.  I am still taking my time, crafting my thoughts, and praying for the right words to write to the Director.  Fr. Jojo told me that he prefers that ALMS start at the Observatory; the Oratory of St. Ignatius is too close to the Jesuits of the Loyola House of Studies.  The ALMS may crack under pressure.

I thanked Fr. Jojo for his advice and we parted.

Conversations with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J.: Traditional Latin Mass, Religious Life, and Sodality of Our Lady

I.  Traditional Latin Mass

Yesterday, we had a supper with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. ; he left for Davao City today.  With me are Genie and Dr. Celine Vicente from the Observatory.  There are three others more from the Companions on a Journey, a group who organizes retreats at the Ateneo.  Beside me is Fr. Dan.

“Father”, I said.  “Fr. Tim Ofrasio is having a check up this week for his allergies.  He asked me to contact him again next week, so that we can schedule a general assembly for the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.  We already have 24 members.”

“There are also other Jesuits getting sick.”  He mentioned two names.  They are not familiar to me.

“A general assembly?” Gwen asked.  “Why don’t you meet as a core group first?”

“A general assembly,” I said and nodded my head.  Many already sent me their schedules; I just need to find a common time when I get Fr. Tim’s schedule.

“You may find it hard to find a chapel that is suited for the Latin Mass,” Fr. Dan said.

I told him that MO chapel is fine, because the altar is movable to the wall.  There is an large old altar at the back of the chapel.  We can use that.

He agreed.

II.  Religious Life

Fr. Dan and Anna’s order came.  Fr. Dan has his favorite plate-size pancake and green mango shake.  They started to eat.

“So how is your friend in Cebu,” Fr. Dan asked me.

“Her mom texted me that she was able to call her at the convent.  She said Roxanne was happy and well there.”

“I am surprised he mom was permitted to call.”  Fr. Dan said.  “Normally they don’t allow communications for two years.”

“I am also more surprised that her mom sounds supportive of her.  Her mom was not really happy even the night before Roxanne entered.”

“That is really what mothers do when they see that their children are firm in their decision to enter.”

Our orders arrived.  Mine is pork tocino, rice, and egg fried sunny-side up.  I sliced the liquid yolk and mixed it with my rice.  This is the only thing I ordered whenever we come to this same restaurant for dinner with Fr. Dan.

“The Jesuits will now change the vocation promotions directors in schools  from Jesuit brothers to priests,”  Fr. Dan said.  “It is realized that a priest is a better judge of vocations.  He can also hear students’ confessions, which a Jesuit brother cannot do.”

“We also need priests in organizations, Father,” Gwen said.  “The ACIL (Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League) is still looking for a Jesuit priest moderator.  They were given a Korean and an Indian.  But they have language difficulties.”

III.  Sodality of Our Lady

Ma’m Celine’s and Gwen’s orders arrived.  I already finished my food.  And so is Fr. Dan and Anna.  Geniee is still eating her pancakes poured with honey.

Raqs arrived.  She is a member of the Companions.

Genie (or was it Gwen still) said: “The students in Ateneo do not anymore join the socially oriented orgs.  (Religious orgs are classified as socially oriented orgs in Ateneo).  They prefer to go to parties.  That is why many go to business and management orgs.”

I turned to Fr. Dan.  “Father,” I said.  “Maybe it is time to revive the Sodality of Our Lady.”

I saw a quizzical look on their faces.  So I said to them: “The Sodality used to be the largest organization in Ateneo.  You can never be a President of the Student Council if you are not a member of the Sodality of Our Lady.”

“That’s the Christian Life Community,” Raqs said.

But I told her that the Sodality and the CLC have different spiritualities: the CLC is more socially oriented; the Sodality has a stronger Marian character.

“Yes, that’s true,” Fr. Dan said.

Raqs said that she joined the CLC.  She is now an observer.  There are three levels: observer, then two more.  She was glad that I mentioned the Sodality.  She will ask about it.

When I finally get the Ateneo Latin Mass Society going smoothly, I shall work for the revival of the Sodality of Our Lady in Ateneo de Manila University.  As Fr. Z always say: “Brick by brick.”

My friend enters the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches, Quezon City

Yesterday, after more than a year long of waiting, my friend finally enters the convent and joins the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate as an aspirant. Her home is in Novaliches, Quezon city; the convent is just a few minutes ride from their home. I hope her parents accompanied her. Only her mother does not approve of her joining the sisters; her father does not say anything. But my friend feels she is now ready. She has to enter to see if it is to the convent she is really called.  She planned to enter on October 7, the Feast of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  But she entered days before it to make it for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which is today.

I. Conversion Experience

My friend studied at the La Consolacion College under the Augustinian Sisters and finished as Salutatorian in high school.   She collected rosaries when she was still a child; she fiddled with them, but she can’t finish a rosary. As a middle child in her family, she tends to be alone. Her elder sister and her younger brother are playmates; she felt left out. Even in her elementary and high school years, she can’t relate well with her classmates. After a couple of unhappy relationships, she lost her sense of direction. She saw demons haunt her several times; they only vanish when she cry out to Mama Mary and to St. Michael the Archangel.

In her fourth year in college at the Ateneo de Manila University, she studied under Fr. Joseph Roche, S.J. in one of her theology classes; she is a Management Information Systems major, but theology, like Philosophy, is one of the core courses in Ateneo. It was 15 units in my time; I think it was down to 12 units in her time. Oh how she loved Fr. Roche. Fr. Roche would talk about the Catholic Church, the Saints, the Pope, Mary, and Jesus with so much love. But at times he can be temperamental: he would hammer his fist on the table as he repeats again and again and again the dogma of Faith he wants his students to remember. My friend always saw him at 7:30 a.m. in the morning to photocopy some biblical reflections in a newspaper for discussion in class; but many students did not appreciate his efforts. Before the semester ended, she went to confession to Fr. Roche. Her many sins were pardoned, and she resolved to go and sin no more.

After her graduation, she went to an 8-day retreat. The retreat master was Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J., who was my research supervisor for nearly half of my life. A bond was formed between them. A father she became to her. Just like the many men and women whose lives Fr. Dan touched.

II. The Manila Observatory

Two summers ago Fr. Dan found work for her at the Manila Observatory. And two summers ago Fr. Dan sent me to the Observatory’s Ionosphere Building to write my physics dissertation; no one stays at the building anymore because Fr. Victor Badillo is confined at the Jesuit Infirmary. On that summer we met. According to her it was on the Observatory’s lobby. I was talking with Fr. Dan for a few minutes and she was there sitting looking at us, smiling. Fr. Dan told her later that I was staying the Ionosphere building alone. And she wondered who is this man who lives alone.

We only met a few times after that. Sometimes, it was while walking after mass or walking to the LRT station at Katipunan. I find her aloof, always fiddling her ten-bead rosary while walking. Sometimes it was during birthday parties. During the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the birthday of my friend at the Observatory, we were seated at the table with Fr. Dan. We talked about the saints and the mass. And we connected. But we never yet became friends.

Last November, I started writing my Monk’s Hobbit blog. One of my entries was on how Our Lady of Guadalupe converted me from the New Age Movement, how She taught me to read the Bible, and how She became my Mother after my mother died. My friend was able to read it. And she thought:

Here is a man who also loves Our Lady. What if he becomes my friend? I shall enter the convent soon, and I would be very sad if I enter without me knowing him.

She gave me a book on the Marian Shrines of France by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the same religious order who wrote my favorite Handbook on Guadalupe. I blogged about the book she gave me. And in just a Saturday and a Sunday, I received about 3500 visitors; my average number of visitors then was only about ten per day. My post became the top 83 post in WordPress worldwide. That was February 8.  Like Peter seeing the miraculous catch of fish, I said to God:

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. I do not wish to open my heart to another woman again. I already lost my long-time best friend since high school, and I already died when we parted. I do not wish to die again. But not my will, O Lord, but yours be done.

III. My Twin Sister

Last 10 Feb 2009, she emailed me some of her thoughts. I wrote her that she sounded like St. Therese of Lisieux who do not wish to be outdone in loving Jesus and Mary. So she proposed the following pact of holy friendship:

We shall outdo each other in loving Jesus and Mary. The first one to go to heaven wins.

I agreed, save for one small note: the pact officially begins on the next day, 11 February, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

We went to 5:15 p.m. mass at the college chapel of the Immaculate Concepcion. The one who gave the homily was my college classmate in physics, Oliver “Ody” Dy, who was a deacon then; he is now a Jesuit priest. He told the story of St. Scholastica and her twin brother, St. Benedict:

St. Scholastica visited St. Benedict in his monastery. In a little hut outside the monastery, they talked. They talked about spiritual things for several hours until night came. Then St. Benedict told her sister that he must leave, because the visiting time is over and he is wanted at the monastery. Scholastica pleaded, but Benedict won’t listen to her. Then lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The rains fell. Benedict can’t leave. “O sister, what have you done?” he asked. And Scholastica said, “You won’t listen to me. So I prayed to God. He listened.”

I don’t know if you find this story cute. But I find it cute.

We smiled.  And since that time, my friend refers to me as her dearest twin brother, and I refer to her as my dearest twin sister.

IV. My Companion in Prayer

Last 15 February 2009, we went to Parish Church of Our Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna, Quezon City. It was our first Traditional Latin Mass together. It was the first time I saw her veiled.

We went to mass together everyday, usually at the college chapel. For special events, we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at Gilmore and renew our friendship before the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel holding the Infant Jesus. For me it was the most beautiful and lifelike statue of Our Lady that I have ever seen. Beautiful. She is really beautiful.

We also went to other churches. We went to a Benediction a few times at the Monasterio de Sta. Clara in Katipunan, Quezon City. During Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m., we usually go to the Carmel of St. Therese at Gilmore, except last Thursday, October 1, on the Feast of St. Therese de Lisieux. If we can’t make it to the college chapel, we go either to the della Strada Church in Katipunan or to the Shrine of St. Joseph in Aurora Boulevard.

We usually pray the rosary together, usually in Latin.  Whenever one of us feels troubled or tempted, I or she prays the first half of Ave Maria; the other prays the second half.   That is our signal. And we talk.

We sometimes talk over the phone, when we can’t see each other, usually during Sunday’s when she is in Novaliches. Our conversations last a quarter to half an hour and we end with an Ave Maria and three Gloria Patri.

Everyday we text each other, usually around 10:30 p.m.to reflect on the day and say sorry for the wrongs we had done. She would begin with “How are you, Pope?”  And we end with a “Goodnight.”  I recorded some of our text messages in my private blog  to note down certain recurring thoughts and actions.  In this way I can help her discern her vocation.

(Pope is my nickname at the Ateneo. Paul is my nickname in my neighborhood. Quir is my nickname in elementary and high school. My real name is Quirino, but my baptismal nickname–if there is ever such a thing–is Pope Paul, because I was born in the Holy Year of 1975 in the reign of Pope Paul VI. I have a special devotion to Pope Paul VI and his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”, is one of the Monk’s Hobbit blog’s battle cry.)

V. First Farewell

Last 24 February 2009, after a 6:00 p.m. mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Gilmore, my friend told me that she is entering the convent soon. The day after, 25 February, was my dissertation defense. On my way to school, I was crying. I emailed Fr. Dan. I was still crying.  I felt keenly my loss of my new found friend. And Fr. Dan wrote, “Hang in there, Pope.” I finished my slides ten minutes before my scheduled defense. I passed.

Last March 10-18, she went again to a retreat with the graduating students of Ateneo. Fr. Dan helped her review her life, by noting the highest and lowest points. He also helped her discern her vocation. Fr. Dan wants to know whether her vocation is only the result of her strong will and her romanticism, for “these are a deadly combination,” he said. Fr. Dan is suspicious of stories about demons or St. Francis telling her, “What is it that you want, my daughter?” These can be just the result of watching movies or strong imagination. At the end of the retreat, Fr. Dan said that he must talk with the sisters on April 5.

At the day of the end of her retreat, I went to the Observatory at 4:30 a.m. to meet my friend from Baguio. I waited at the lobby. She waited in front of my building. We never met until 5:30 a.m.

Last April 5, my friend told her story to the sisters while Fr. Dan listened. It was agreed that my friend will not enter the convent without Fr. Dan’s permission. Fr. Dan told her to wait until October.  I felt relieved.

VI. Second Farewell

October has arrived. Fr. Dan gave her his recommendation. Last Thursday night, my friends at the Observatory gave her a simple farewell party with two pizzas and watched a movie. She never enjoyed the movie of John Lloyd and Bea Alonzo. She hates anything romantic. Halfway she left and went to the chapel. I went to her after some time and we left.

I accompanied her to Novaliches and arrived at 12:30 a.m. She asked her parents if I can sleep at their home, so that I can join her for the 6:30 a.m. mass with the sisters at the convent; they agreed. She said  that Sr. Magdalene wants to show to me the details of their altar and the candlesticks so that I have some idea on how to make the proposal for the renovation of the Manila Observatory’s chapel. (I shall tell about this meeting in another post.)

I slept in her room; she slept in their sala. In her room is a large crucifix, about two feet high. There are also some little statues of our Lady and of St. Michael the Archangel. Her room was cleansed after a few inches of flood crept into their home last Saturday, during Typhoon Ondoy.  Some carton boxes are piled up high.  The carpet was rolled to the side.

Two Saturdays ago she was not at their home; we were caught by Typhoon Ondoy at EDSA. I was coming from Defensores Fidei talk at Greenhills; she was coming from their other home near University of Sto. Tomas. She tried to make it to the talk, but the flood was already a foot-deep there when she left. We met at Guadalupe train station.  We passed by Market Market and she bought a shirt and skirt; she was wet. We braved the storm  for a few blocks and found a taxi. Her umbrella broke before she entered.  But the taxi can only go as far as the American Cemetery. There is a long traffic of cars towards Gate 3. Nothing moves.  Only my umbrella sheltered us from the battering rain.  It was a long walk.

My sister-in-law told her that she can sleep at the room of my niece who was stranded at the University of Asia Pacific in Magallanes; the flood already submerged the second floor there, so they stayed at the third. During the night, my friend helped me paint Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have finished the sketch and painted the face. She colored the mantle and the rays. Our styles differ: she uses pastel like crayons–dark and strong; I undid some of her colors using cotton dipped in baby oil, because I prefer colors light and subdued.  Our painting is still unfinished.  I don’t know how our opposite styles can blend in harmony.  I have to study her style and use it where it fits.  I have to modify my style and invent new techniques.  This can take months of work.  Or years.  If God permits that we see each other someday, I don’t want to meet her empty handed.  I must show her the final piece.

VII. Third Farewell

After our mass with the sisters, we went to their house for lunch and went back to the Manila Observatory. She gave some ten-bead rosaries to our friends. We left again at 5:30 p.m. The rain poured. Typhoon Peping is coming. The waters in Katipunan was rising to a few inches. We got a taxi and rode to Novaliches.  It was three hours of grueling ride. I placed my envelope bag on my lap, placed a clean bond paper on top of it, and there she rested her weary head. My mission is to help her find her vocation and I have to make sure she enters the convent safely.

We arrived at their home. Her parents offered me some brownies and Zesto juice. Her mother asked if my phone number is still the same. I said yes. She was the one who gave me the phone when I lost my phone in their car on the way to Novaliches before. My friend ‘s phone is dead; she intentionally left her charger at their other home, so that she won’t be disturbed by text messages. She borrowed my phone and texted Fr. Dan. Fr. Dan gave her his blessings. When I was about to leave, her father told me that it was raining heavily outside. I said I have to go. I promised my brother and sister-in-law that I shall be home. I bade goodbye.

The road home was fast. I arrived at 10:00 p.m. My brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece were there watching TV. I said, “Good evening.” My niece took my right hand and touched it on her forehead. At 10:30 p.m. I called my friend in Novaliches. That was just in time, since she was also thinking of calling me. We talked for an hour.

“Pope, I am dying,” she said. She was crying.

I told her to be strong. I told her that the Aspirancy is for her to know whether the convent is really for her or not. I told her to be obedient to her superiors and open her heart to her new novice mistress; her spiritual director, Sr. Magdalene, is leaving for Italy this October. She cannot expect to make other people change, but she can change her way of seeing other people, just as St. Therese did. I told her to tell the novice mistress whenever she feels pain.

And we talked some more and renewed our pact of friendship. My sister must die to herself and purge her soul of inordinate attachments before she can be a bride of Christ.  For two years I won’t hear from her.  Yet despite this, I cried not.  I promised her before that I won’t cry anymore during our parting.  I kept my promise.  There are only two things in the world that cannot be bought but only spent, as an Aztec once said, and that is Love and Time.  I spent them well and I never regretted.  So even if mountains and seas and silence shall separate us in this life, she shall always remain with me in my heart, and we shall never be part.

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone is thinking of me and loving me tonight
Somewhere out there someone is saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another
Somewhere out there our dreams come true.

VIII.  Notes on Her Sickness

My sister is sick.  She has bronchitis. The doctor at Medical City told her to come back after two weeks, to make sure that she is really well before entering the convent. She took the medicines but she never went back to the doctor, for the sisters have their own doctor. She has ulcer and hyperacidity. She cannot fast.   If she delays her meal even for thirty minutes, she feels acute pain in her stomach. She also feels pain in her left rib. When she laughs long, she feels pain in her left chest.  She also feels pain in her shoulders, maybe from playing the violin for hours.  She usually practices in my office at 6:00 p.m. while I do my research.  Her knees are weak.  A doctor in Cardinal Santos told her that the x-ray of her knees revealed that her knee-caps are not properly placed–an inborn defect.  She feels pain whenever she tries to bend her legs upward from sitting position.  The doctor advised her not to walk too long or climb stairs.  Kneeling is ok, because only the tendons touch.  But when she kneels to pray a rosary on a bare floor, her knees hurt.  Before it was only her right knee; now it is both.

I pray that she will persevere in the convent.  Nothing makes her happy than to see Jesus at the Adoration Chapel and to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Nothing makes her sad that to see Jesus placed inside the Tabernacle after Benediction and to see him received with profane hands.  If she can’t persevere, I may have to take care of her.

Queena Lee Chua’s anecdotes on Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. as scientist and priest

Here are some excerpts from Dr. Queena Lee Chua’s article on Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. entitled, “Learning the physics of life from Father Dan” (Inquirer.net 30 Aug 2009):

LAST March, when I found out that my father had only a little time to live, I called Father Daniel McNamara, S.J.

Father Dan, my confessor for two decades, now based at Ateneo de Davao University, immediately instructed, “Write a letter to your father, telling him everything you want to say, while he is still alive.”

I know my father treasured the note because, after his death, I found it stored in his personal drawer.

In April, Father Dan visited my father in the hospital, prayed over him in Latin (“a strong tradition that has been existing for two thousand years”). In and out of consciousness, my father briefly recognized Father Dan. Although my father could not talk, I knew Father Dan’s presence was a comfort.

Many times, when my faith was low (usually when dealing with death in one way or another), I turned to Father Dan. I love Catholicism and I consider myself a full-fledged Catholic, but there are many aspects of this religion that I wrestle with to this day.

During the priest abuse crisis in the US, I asked Fr. Dan, “How can American Catholics listen to priests every Sunday if many of them are pedophiles?” He replied, “Believe in the Church. Priests are human, but the Church is established by Christ.”

Here are other excerpts on Fr. Dan as a scientist:

Father Dan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Fordham University in New York, a Master of Science degree in physics from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and a doctorate degree in astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado. Above all, he is a committed Jesuit, finding God in the stars, in the earth and in people.

After all, Father Dan is a person with many hats. He has been chairman of the AdMU physics department (now he is chair in Ateneo de Davao), director of the Manila Observatory, college chaplain and graduation marshal. In the 1960s, he taught science and trained high school students in track and field.

As a scientist, he studied lasers, atmospheric pollution and ocean thermal energies. As a priest, he delved into ethics and is the perennial guide of seniors during their final retreat in the Jesuit villa at Mirador Hill in Baguio. As an educator, he reflected on the relationship of science to society, and lectured on these.

Is Iglesia ni Cristo the Church of Christ?

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J., during one of our walks years ago, told us: “The Iglesia ni Cristo is neither a church nor of Christ.” It is worthwhile to ponder on his words as Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) celebrates its 95th Anniversary last July 27, 2009–95 years after Felix Y. Manalo made the INC into a corporation with him as the executive minister last July 27, 1914.

A true church of Christ has four marks: one, holy, Catholic, apostolic (c.f. Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 811 ).   If one of this does not hold, then the Iglesia ni Cristo is a false church of Christ.

1.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo one?  The INC is is united in doctrine and even in voting. No wonder many politicians who wished to be reelected this coming 2010 elections are all congratulating INC in its 95th anniversary. The INC passed the first test.

2.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo holy?  The Catholic Church has produced numerous saints: beggars and kings, scholars and soldiers, old and young.  Can the INC name at least one–only one–person in all its history whom they consider as a saint, a man or woman worthy of emulation, whose life reflected the radical message of the gospel–a Mother Teresa, an Ignatius of Loyola, a Francis of Assisi?  The INC can give none.

3.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo catholic?  Catholicity simply means universal.  The INC is universal in space: the INC is now found in many countries and its mission is to convert the whole world.  But the INC is not universal in time:  where was INC in the first centuries of Christianity, when the truths of the Faith were debated and clarified?  The INC was not there.  It is true that INC proclaims an affinity with the teachings of Bishop Arius (AD 250-336), the founder of Arianism, a heresy which denies the divinity of Christ.  But between Arius and Manalo is 1,600  years of absence.

Catholic also means “according to totality” or “in keeping with the whole” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Art. 830):

The Catholic Church is catholic because Christ is present in her.  “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”  In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation” which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry of apostolic succession.  The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of Parousia.

The INC also claims this catholicity, for they also adopt the following catholic doctrine:

Ouside the church there is no salvation.

I remembered one of INC’s television show called Tamang Daan, the Right Way in contrast to Eli Soriano’s Datin Daan or the Old Way.  In their show, one of INC’s argument to support their doctrine is a quotation from a catholic author: “Outside the Church of Christ there is no salvation.”  The two INC ministers–always two since two is the sign of Socratic dialogue for knowing the truth–will tell the readers that the text they are quoting has the imprimatur of the Catholic Church.  Then they make a twist of Faith: translate this sentence in Filipino and you will see that “Outside Iglesia ni Cristo there is no salvation.” Oh, what a proof.

4.  Is the Iglesia ni Cristo apostolic? To be apostolic, the INC must be founded by an apostle, in the same way as the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Apostles Peter and Paul. But the fact that INC only celebrated its 95th founding anniversary means that INC could never be founded by an apostle.  An apostle was a person sent by Christ with the authority to preach the Kingdom of God (c.f. Mt 10).  The apostles in turn ordained bishops and gave them authority to govern the church, as Timothy was ordained by Paul through the laying of the hands:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. (1 Tim 4:14)

And these bishops in turn ordain new bishops to take their place.  The Roman Catholic Church, for example, is apostolic because it traces its apostolic lineage from St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, to the present pope, Pope Benedict XVI.  But who ordained Manalo?  Who laid hands on him?  No one.  He ordained himself.  Oh, I made a mistake.  Protestant pastors ordained him (full story by Emily Jordan).  But INC never recognizes the Protestant faith.  Mainline Protestants at least believes on the Divinity of Christ, which the INC reject. This itself poses a question on the validity of the Manalo’s ordination.  (The validity of the Protestant minister’s apostolic succession is a separate issue.)  So effectively, no one ordained Manalo.  He ordained himself.

5.  Thus, the Iglesia ni Cristo posesses only one mark of the true Church of Christ: it is one, but it is not holy, nor catholic, nor apostolic.  Let us not be deceived.  Not all those who are named Manny Pacquiao can box like the real Manny Pacquiao.  Not all those who calls themselves the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo is the true Church of Christ.  Only the Catholic Church is.  The Church of Iglesia ni Cristo is a false church, an Anti-Church.  The Christ of Iglesia ni Cristo is an Arian idol, an Anti-Christ.  Let us not be deceived.

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J.: 70 years of reaching for the stars

Fr. Daniel McNamara, SJ, celebrated his 70th birthday with fellow faculty, administrators and close friends, over some of his favorite dishes.  The party was not just meant to celebrate the life and achievements of Fr. Dan, as he is called by his many friends, but also to re-launch the Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, SJ Endowment, a scholarship fund established to support physics students from the provinces.

The celebration began at 12 noon with a mass at the Sacred Heart Chapel of the College. Fr. Dan shared a brief summary of his life, recalling that even as a boy growing up in Long Island, New York, he would be watching the stars.  His interest in astronomy came along with an interest in the Jesuit vocation and, eventually, he would be able to accomplish both.  He was assigned to the Philippines, where he would be initially be tasked to teach in the high school and work at the Manila Observatory.  After further studies, he would teach Physics at the Loyola Schools, where he would eventually become the Chairman of the Physics department.  Currently assigned to the Ateneo de Davao University, Fr. Dan noted that God has pointed the way in his life, and that ‘God does call and we are given the grace to answer.’

Source: Boy Tristan Agustin, Fr. Dan McNamara: 70 years of reaching for the stars (2009-06-30)

Conversation with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara S.J. on the Tridentine Mass

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara is going today to Mirador Jesuit Villa in Baguio City to give an eight-day retreat to some of the graduating undergraduate students of the  Ateneo de Manila University.  He is now assigned as the Physics Department chair at the Ateneo de Davao University, but is considered as a Professor-on-Leave at the Ateneo de Manila University.  He only comes here in Manila once a month for a day or two for meetings.  It is difficult to catch him.  It is said that if you want him to be the officiating priest in your wedding, you have to schedule it one year before.

Yesterday, we had a privilege of having a supper with Fr. Dan at Pancake House in Katipunan, Quezon City. We were a group from either the Manila Observatory or the Companions in the Journey or both—nine of us in all.

We talked about many things: possible detection earthquakes from ionospheric data, establishment of an environmental physics course in Ateneo de Davao University, the dynamic relationship between research and teaching, Fr. Dan’s flight schedules, the Ateneo Center for Educational Development, poverty and disaster risk mapping, and the government-MILF war in Mindanao—to name a few.

Soon our conversation turned to the Traditional Latin Mass.  The first one to open the topic was Dr. Gemma Narisma, a climate change modeller in Manila Observatory.

“Father, in University of Wisconsin, we have this priest who says the 5:00 p.m. mass in Latin,” Gemma said. “Even with a missal, I can hardly follow the mass. That is why I avoid that mass and go to the 12:00 noon schedule instead.  Is the Latin Mass allowed, Father?”

“The Latin mass is allowed,” Fr. Dan said.  “For two thousand years, the mass was done in Latin.  There was a sentiment that the change from Latin to the vernacular was too fast.  What Pope Benedict XVI did was to accomodate those who want the Traditional Latin Mass.

“There are many kinds of masses.  Some are short; some are long.  I once went to a Russian Orthodox mass.  It was three hours long.  The consecration, for example, was done behind these large icons.  You can’t see anything happening.  Then you see a smoke rising.  And that’s it.”

“Do you know how to say the Latin mass, Father?”  somebody asked.

“Yes,” he said.  “I know how to say it.  That is the mass I grew up with.  The mass for Lent, for example, was very solemn.”

“There is a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna, Quezon City,” I said.  “It is a sung mass, with Gregorian chants.  There is also a similar mass in Roxanne’s convent, with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches.  We went there last Sunday.”

“Roxanne is blushing,” Raquel said.  And everybody laughed.

Roxanne is thinking of joining the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate before March ends, possibly after her special eight-day retreat with Fr. Dan (though she is not anymore a student).  She is a Management Information Systems graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University and works as a programmer and map-maker at the Manila Observatory.