Petition to save the historic Simbahan ng Balayan church school and convent in Lipa, Batangas

Immaculate Conception Parish Church (Simbahan ng Balayan, Lipa, Batangas

Immaculate Conception Parish Church (Simbahan ng Balayan, Lipa, Batangas

There is a petition circulated by the Lopez of Balayan of Batangas Foundation addressed to Archbishop Ramon Arguelles in

Archdiocese of Lipa: Don’t betray history. Save centuries-old Balayan Church school and convent from destruction


Read more at Monk’s Hobbit blog.

Why popes bless with three fingers according to Aramis’s Jesuit adviser in Three Musketeers

Aramis is one of the The Three Musketeers (Bantam Classic) in Alexandre Dumas’s book. Aramis is a Jesuit Novice who is writing his thesis in preparation for his ordination to the priesthood. Aramis’s adviser is a Jesuit, and his adviser suggested to him the following topic in Latin:
“Ultraque manus in benedicendo clericis inferioribus necessaria est.” In English, “Both hands are necessary for priests of the lower orders when they give benediction.” The Jesuit adviser explained to Aramis:

Read more at Monk’s Hobbit.

A Song for Mary: Ateneo de Manila University Hymn

    A Song for Mary
    We stand on a hill between the earth and sky.
    Now all is still where Loyola’s colors fly.
    Our course is run and the setting sun ends Ateneo’s day.
    Eyes are dry at the last goodbye; this is the Ateneo way.
    Mary for you! For your white and blue!
    We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
    We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!
    Down from the hill, down to the world go I;
    rememb’ring still, how the bright Blue Eagles fly.
    Through joys and tears, through the laughing years,
    we sing our battle song:
    Win or lose, it’s the school we choose;
    this is the place where we belong!
    Mary for you! For your white and blue!
    We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
    We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

Source: Ateneo de Manila University Hymn

A Hobbit’s Tale: a Testimonial to Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J.

Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. was transferred to Ateneo de Davao University last summer 2008 after spending decades at the Ateneo de Manila University and the Manila Observatory. He celebrated his 50 years as Jesuit last 23 Nov 2007. A tribute was given to him in his 69th birthday last 23 June 2008 and an endowment fund was launched in his honor to fund the studies of a physics major from the province (see p. 14 of the Loyola Schools Bulletin 2008, June-July, vol. 4, no. 1).

To commemorate his departure, I wrote last 12 June 2008 the following piece:

I.  Gandalf

I first met Fr. Dan during the summer of my senior year in physics. It was a cool afternoon but I am sweating. It was difficult to follow his footsteps because he walked in yardsteps. But I caught up with him, at last, in the corner corridor of third floor of Padre Faura Hall.

“Father,” I said, while trying to catch my breath. “I want to learn geometric algebra.”

Fr. Dan looked down at the wide-eyed hobbit awaiting his word. He took a doctor’s prescription paper from his pocket and began his lecture.

“The number i,” he said, “is both an imaginary number and a vector rotator.”  He drew a cross, a direction, and an i. He then gave me the paper and left.

The next morning he gave me a book: “Multivectors to Clifford Algebra in Electrodynamics” by Jancewicz.

“This is a good introduction,” he said.

Indeed it is. It took me an hour to understand each equation, a day to read each page, and a month to finish Chapter 0. I skimmed through the other chapters: they are too advanced for me. So I closed the book. With my little background, I then began to read other books and articles on geometric algebra, reading only what I can understand—an equation here, a paragraph there. Tolle lege. Take up and read, as the little angel advised St. Augustine. I toiled. After a year, I finished my thesis on electromagnetic energy-momentum, written in courier font by hand and inserted in a maroon slide folder—there were no binding rules then. That was in 1997.

After college, I don’t know what to do. I was thinking of going to Los Banos to do research in Dr. Muriel’s Institute on Microphysical Fluid Dynamics. When I told Fr. Dan about my plan, he told me that I may learn many things there, but in two years I may not get a degree. He accompanied me to the third floor of Faura—the research office used to be there—and gave me application forms for the Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) scholarship. I was accepted. In two years, I finished my thesis on polarized light—typewritten, double-spaced. But because I did not follow the graduate school style, my manuscript was returned. And from that time I learned how to turn on the computer. That was in 1999.

II. Cambridge Tales

In January of 2001, while I was still teaching at the University of St. La Salle in my hometown in Bacolod City, Fr. Dan emailed me that there is a geometric algebra conference in Cambridge University, England. I sent my manuscript on the Hestenes spacetime algebra for polarized light to the organizers in Cavendish Laboratory. It was accepted.

Fr. Dan sponsored my trip. It was my first international flight, my first international conference. I took a train from the London airport and passed by some square patches of green fields and yellow grain amidst rolling mounds and hills.

“Hobbiton Station,” the train announcer said.

I looked at the window, but I saw no hobbits.

“Maybe they are hiding in holes,” I thought.

I left the train at Cambridge Station and set my first foot on medieval soil. I saw distant castles enshrouded in mist. I passed by King’s College. I walked on Silver Street. I saw churches, lots of churches—strong as stone, tall as towers—glories of once Catholic England. I bumped into one of them, but the sign in the big black door reads: Anglican. I walked farther and found another one: it’s a pub. Across its large glass window stood a statue of an angel holding an empty font, while white men tasted spirits and drained draught. The last church I went to was old and weathered, yet stands still as a proud witness to the centuries past: the Church of St. Mary and the English Martyrs. (Is it the same as the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs?) I entered. It was dark and empty.

In the conference I met many creatures great and small. There was Hestenes himself, a large man with full gray beard.

“Are you the guy from the Philippines,” he asked in a deep, gruff voice.

“Yes,” I said. And I shook hands with the giant of geometric algebra.

He was glad that I came. I sent him my M.S. thesis before for his comment and he suggested that I attend this meeting.

There was Baylis of Canada, a thin old man, smaller than I.

“Are you Baylis of Pauli algebra and polarized light?,” I asked.

“O,” he gasped, and his surprised eyes sparkled. “That’s right. That’s right,” he said, and laughed like a little old elf.

And there was Sommen of Belgium, bearded and stocky—strong enough to wield an axe .

“You know,” he said, as he brandished his mug over his protruding belly, “I love to give lectures that make my students sleep.”

In the last evening of the conference, I did not join the farewell party. I felt sleepy. Cambridge summer chilled my bones and British humors cracked my lips. I went to my room and covered myself with four furry blankets. My watch said it’s 8:00 p.m. but the sun refused to sleep. I longed for home.

III.  Monk Hobbit

In Summer of 2002, I went back to Ateneo, upon Fr. Dan’s advice. A new Ph.D. in Physics program had just been opened. I entered the doctorate, thinking I will be headed for cloud studies. I worked as graduate assistant for two years, a faculty for three years, a graduate assistant again for another year, and a consultant for a summer to support myself. Under Fr. Dan’s supervision, I was able to write some conference papers, journal articles, and book chapters. But I am not still done with my dissertation. This is already my seventh year. It’s now 2008.

To help me finish fast, Fr. Dan directed me a month ago to my monastery: a bare brick building amidst a field of flowering grass, beside a forest of undying trees, under the loving gaze of heaven, in full view of the setting sun. It is the Manila Observatory’s Ionosphere building, the former office of Fr. Badillo, the little prince of Philippine physics with an asteroid named after him. I now sit on his swivel chair as I count sunrises and sunsets through a lone open window. Behind my desk are stacked some remnants of the bygone years: a large magnifying glass, an aircon turned icemaker, and a 386 computer with 5 ¼ inch floppy drive. A wooden crucifix hangs near the window, on top a dusty portrait of the Sacred Heart. When the window darkens, I know it is night. And I leave.

Fr. Dan is leaving. To where he is going I cannot follow. Hobbits have holes, birds have boughs, but the son of Ignatius has no place to call his home. Forever he is a pilgrim and a priest, in the Company of Jesus, in obedience to the Pope. His mission is universal as the Church is Universal: all peoples, all places, all times. How can the halls of Faura hold him? How can the grass of M. O. bind him? The rule of realms is not his, but worthy souls that are in peril as the world now stands, those are his care. And he shall not wholly fail in his task if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair and bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For he is a steward, too. He is Gandalf. He is Fr. Dan.

Farewell Fr. Dan. You will surely be missed.

Book Review: “Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints”

Last New Year’s Eve, I was browsing some books at home in Bacolod and I stumbled on a black book with a white cross like the mantle of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John: “Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints” by Fr. F. X. Schouppe, S.J.  The imprimatur was issued in 1893, so this must be a very old book, though the edition that I have was published by TAN in 1986.

The pocket book is divided into two parts.  Part I is the Mystery of God’s Justice.  Part II is the Mystery of God’s Mercy.  The first part have 41 chapters; the second, 65.  But do not let the number of chapters discourage you: each chapter do not exceed 5 pages.  And the prints are large like that of Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys.  So this 430-page treatise on purgatory is an easy read.

The book opens with fire: “Let him be anathema.”  In pages vi to vii, Fr. Shouppe immediately lists down the pertinent Canons of the Council of Trent (1547-1551) regarding Purgatory.  For those of us who still plan to set aside the doctrine of Purgatory, the threat of anathema (let him be handed over to Satan) is enough to make us think thrice.  (Vatican II, in contrast, was a pastoral council and no anathemas were hurled.)

But despite the anathemas, the book’s writing style is simple, because it was meant to instruct the simple–the children and the child-like.  Thus, we should not expect the rigor of proof like that of St. Thomas’s “Summa Theologiae”.  Rather, we should read it as if we are reading St. Louis de Montfort’s masterpiece: “The Secret of the Rosary.”

The first sentences of each chapter of the book are usually the main point.  The next paragraphs are doctrines, teachings, and stories illustrating such point.  The dogmatic doctrines of the church regarding Purgatory must be believed by all Catholics.  The teachings of doctors and theologians we may disagree, but it would be ” imprudent, and even rash, to reject them, and it is in the spirit of the church to follow the opinions commonly held by the doctors.”  The revelations of saints we may also disbelieve, but since they are authenticated, “we cannot freely reject them  without offending against reason; because sound reason demands that all men should give assent to truth when it is sufficiently demonstrated.”  These distinctions Fr. Schouppe explained in his Preface.

Today, we have forgotten about sin and the effects of sin on the soul, which must be paid to the last penny either in this age or in the age to come.  We have forgotten about our dead relatives who languished long in Purgatory with no one to pray for them.  We have forgotten how our little works here on earth, such as as simply abstaining from water between meals, can assuage the suffering of our departed brethren.  We have forgotten about the power of the rosary, the scapular, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We have forgotten that we too shall die.  And the cure for our forgetfulness? Fr. Schouppe’s “Purgatory.”

This book is a masterpiece.

Tale of Two Ateneos

In her Inquirer commentary entitled, “Ateneo’s Freudian slip,” Minyong Ordonez wrote about the two Ateneo de Manilas:

Many Ateneo alumni are asking questions. Whatever happened to “Ratio Studiorum,” the Jesuit-conceived curriculum concept that inspired many Ateneans in the past to pursue excellence of mind and spirit? What is happening out there in Loyola Heights? Are there two schools of thought in Ateneo today?

On one side are followers of the Church magisterium who obey the Church teachings with humility as taught by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount. On the other side are a coterie of modernists, populists and personalists whose attitude on Catholicism is a matter of feel not faith, a matter of body and not of soul, a matter of material pragmatism not spiritual idealism, a matter of worldliness not of saintliness and a matter of selfish love not self-less love.

The media savvy lawyer and priest, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., who wrote his opinion on the RH Bill does not augment Fr. Nebres’ kind of spirituality at all. He chose to skin the cat in many ways, replete with ifs and buts, hence the good father was disabled from making a truly Catholic stand on morality. Methinks Fr. Bernas is too fascinated with life in a pluralistic society. He chose to be a politically correct constitutionalist first, an ordained Catholic priest second.

A top-rating TV preacher in America, the late Bishop Fulton Sheen, had an unequivocal view on moral issues. He said, “Right is right even if only one person believes it and millions don’t. And wrong is wrong even if millions think it’s right and only one thinks it’s wrong.”

Quo vadis, Ateneo?

Accurate observation. Sad but true. And we little hobbits of the Old Ateneo can only weep and mourn (and blog) as we silently pray our Alma Mater song.