Thursday, April 12, 2018

Recommended Reading Lists for Children and Adults

Image result for different ages reading books

Everyone wants to be a better person, to do the right things. And parents want their children to be better persons, that they choose correctly. 

Given that we only choose what we know, a key way to personal growth is reading the right books. 

Here are some reading lists that can be used by parents who are looking for leisure reading for their children. Just click on the links!

For Junior High to adults:
For adults (young and old), these are recommended reading lists: 
  • A Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan by Fr. John McCloskey (for publications before 2004).  Categories included are: literary classics, history and culture, holy men and women, Catholicism explained, spiritual classics, and spiritual reading. 
  • Life-long Reading List by John Senior, author of The Restoration of Christian Culture. See biography here
  • 101 Books Gen Y Must Read Before They Die, by Michael Cook, editor of MercatorNet. The list is categorized into: allegory, character, comedy and satire, crime, history, imaginative worlds, lives, moral explorations, philosophy and religion, questioning the system, romance, the classical world, war. 
  • Some Books Useful for Spiritual Reading by Fr. Fernando Jadraque and Fr. Javier Lopez
If you have other sources of excellent reading lists, kindly email me at or leave a comment here. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

First Years of Marriage: Advice by Pope Francis

 make me laugh
Advice by Pope Francis to recently married couples in Amoris Laetitia

Marriage only for those who freely choose to love. It is important that marriage be seen as a matter of love, that only those who freely choose and love one another may marry. When love is merely physical attraction or a vague affection, spouses become particularly vulnerable once this affection wanes or physical attraction diminishes. 

Given the frequency with which this happens, it is all the more essential that couples be helped during the first years of their married life to enrich and deepen their conscious and free decision to have, hold and love one another for life.

Often the engagement period is not long enough, the decision is precipitated for various reasons and, what is even more problematic, the couple themselves are insufficiently mature. As a result, the newly married couple need to complete a process that should have taken place during their engagement.

Marriage does not happen once for all: active role in life-long project.  Another great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all. Their union is real and irrevocable, confirmed and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony. Yet in joining their lives, the spouses assume an active and creative role in a lifelong project. 

Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God's grace, they are daily called to build. For this very reason, neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress.

A persistently critical attitude towards one's partner is a sign that marriage was not entered into as a project to be worked on together, with patience, understanding, tolerance and generosity. Slowly but surely, love will then give way to constant questioning and criticism, dwelling on each other's good and bad points, issuing ultimatums and engaging in competition and self-justification. The couple then prove incapable of helping one another to build a mature union.

This fact needs to be realistically presented to newly married couples from the outset, so that they can grasp that the wedding is "just the beginning". By saying "I do", they embark on a journey that requires them to overcome all obstacles standing in the way of their reaching the goal. The nuptial blessing that they receive is a grace and an incentive for this journey. They can only benefit from sitting down and talking to one another about how, concretely, they plan to achieve their goal.

Hope that others can change. Love does not despair of the future: the hope of one who knows that others can change, mature and radiate unexpected beauty and untold potential. This does not mean that everything will change in this life. It does involve realizing that, though things may not always turn out as we wish, God may well make crooked lines straight and draw some good from the evil we endure in this world.

Hope enables looking beyond problems. I recall an old saying: still water becomes stagnant and good for nothing. If, in the first years of marriage, a couple's experience of love grows stagnant, it loses the very excitement that should be its propelling force. Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope.

Hope is the leaven that, in those first years of engagement and marriage, makes it possible to look beyond arguments, conflicts and problems and to see things in a broader perspective. It harnesses our uncertainties and concerns so that growth can take place. Hope also bids us live fully in the present, giving our all to the life of the family, for the best way to prepare a solid future is to live well in the present.

Put other’s happiness ahead of my own. This process occurs in various stages that call for generosity and sacrifice. The first powerful feelings of attraction give way to the realization that the other is now a part of my life. The pleasure of belonging to one another leads to seeing life as a common project, putting the other's happiness ahead of my own, and realizing with joy that this marriage enriches society.

Negotiate out of mutual love. As love matures, it also learns to "negotiate". Far from anything selfish or calculating, such negotiation is an exercise of mutual love, an interplay of give and take, for the good of the family. At each new stage of married life, there is a need to sit down and renegotiate agreements, so that there will be no winners and losers, but rather two winners. In the home, decisions cannot be made unilaterally, since each spouse shares responsibility for the family; yet each home is unique and each marriage will find an arrangement that works best.

Avoid unduly high expectations. Among the causes of broken marriages are unduly high expectations about conjugal life. Once it becomes apparent that the reality is more limited and challenging than one imagined, the solution is not to think quickly and irresponsibly about separation, but to come to the sober realization that married life is a process of growth, in which each spouse is God's means of helping the other to mature.

Change, improvement, the flowering of the good qualities present in each person — all these are possible. Each marriage is a kind of "salvation history", which from fragile beginnings — thanks to God's gift and a creative and generous response on our part — grows over time into something precious and enduring. Might we say that the greatest mission of two people in love is to help one another become, respectively, more a man and more a woman?

Help the other shape own identity. Fostering growth meanshelping a person to shape his or her own identity. Love is thus a kind of craftsmanship. When we read in the Bible about the creation of man and woman, we see God first forming Adam (cf. Gen 2:7); he realizes that something essential is lacking and so he forms Eve and then hears the man exclaim in amazement, "Yes, this one is just right for me!"

We can almost hear the amazing dialogue that must have taken place when the man and the woman first encountered one another. In the life of married couples, even at difficult moments, one person can always surprise the other, and new doors can open for their relationship, as if they were meeting for the first time. At every new stage, they can keep "forming" one another.

Love makes each wait for the other with the patience of a craftsman, a patience which comes from God.

Be generous in giving life: children as gifts. Encourage newly married couples to be generous in bestowing life. "In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner.
Counter a mentality that is often hostile to life... 

Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is 'the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart' (Gaudium et Spes, 16). The more the couple tries to listen in conscience to God and his commandments (cf. Rom 2:15), and is accompanied spiritually, the more their decision will be profoundly free of subjective caprice and accommodation to prevailing social mores".

"[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life.

Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God". Moreover, "the use of methods based on the 'laws of nature and the incidence of fertility' (Humanae Vitae, 11) are to be promoted, since 'these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favor the education of an authentic freedom' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370).

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents and the Church. Through them, the Lord renews the world".

Some practical suggestions: planning free time together, moments of recreation with the children, different ways of celebrating important events, shared opportunities for spiritual growth.

Develop a routine that bonds. Encourage young married couples to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores. 

Yet it also helps to break the routine with a party, and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events. We need these moments of cherishing God's gifts and renewing our zest for life. As long as we can celebrate, we are able to rekindle our love, to free it from monotony and to color our daily routine with hope.

Grow in faith. Encourage families to grow in faith. This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats. It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since "the family that prays together stays together".

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pope Francis' new document on sanctity // A saint can be very weak but he is always full of joy

We have all felt the quandary: I know how weak and sinful I am, but how can God want me to be holy, (1 Thes 4:3), and even tell me holiness is for everyone, and there is no opting out? of the latest news from the Vatican is that Pope Francis is about to release a new document, an Apostolic Exhortation, on the very topic of sanctity this April 2018.

In the past, Pope Francis has already explained that "Sanctity is not something we can procure for is a gift granted to us by the Lord."

This is a key teaching of the most recent popes. Pope Benedict, before his election, even clearly taught: "A saint can be very weak and with many mistakes." He told us that there is a common misconception that the saints are extraordinary gymnasts, heroically perfect, but instead they are only normal people who were transparent to God, who allowed him to enter and do the work.

His article which I have re-titled "A Saint Can be Very Weak and with Many Mistakes" is a must-read for everyone who wants to understand how to become a saint with all our defects and weaknesses. 

Another important article that can help us be aligned with Pope Francis' thrust on holiness  is Spiritual Consultant: on spiritual direction  by Fr. John McCloskey. If the key way to holiness as Pope Francis stressed is receiving the gift of sanctity, and the two basic ways to do so, as St. Thomas specified, are prayer and the sacraments, then a third indispensable element, according to St. Josemaria, the pioneer of sanctification in ordinary life, is spiritual direction.

As in any quest, you need a guide, an objective coach, who will help you know what God is specifically asking of you, and pray for you. Because again, it is God and his grace that sanctifies us.

In the end, as the Church has taught: "Free will is so weakened, that no one can do good unless by the grace of the divine mercy." (Council of Orange, 529 A.D.)

Pope Francis has consistently been teaching about sanctity that is within our reach. Two tweets illustrate this:

  • To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone. (21 Nov 2013)
  • The Saints are not supermen, nor were they born perfect. When they recognized God’s love, they followed it and served others. (5 Jun 2016) 
What is clear from his two main documents, Joy of the Gospel and Joy of Love, true Christian life, a life of holiness, is all about joy:

"When the Lord invites us to become saints, he doesn’t call us to something heavy, sad... quite the contrary! It’s an invitation to share in his joy, to live and to offer with joy every moment of our life, by making it become at the same time a gift of love for the people around us".

You can get the one-page leaflet for distribution to your contacts, A Saint Can be Very Weak and with Many Mistakes, here. And Spiritual Consultant: on spiritual direction, here

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Emails of the present Philippine Senators

As responsible citizens in a democracy (rule of the people), we are duty-bound to work for the common good of society for the sake of our families and children. We have to make our stand loud and clear to our senators, giving them effective arguments, since they should represent our interests in the legislature. We should tell them to stand for what is right and good for our people, not what is convenient for their personal interests.

EMAIL ADDRESS OF SENATORS:,,,, ,,,,,,,,,,, ,, , ,,

Monday, March 26, 2018

President Duterte’s Views on Divorce

By Dr. Bernardo Villegas

Part I
Image result for duterte and children
  Children in the future generations will be very grateful to President Duterte if he is able to prevent a divorce law from being passed under his watch. His recent announcement that he is not in favour of a divorce law because its worst victims are children who will be deprived of a two-parent home which is indispensable for integral human development.  He hit the nail on the head when he considered children, the most vulnerable of human beings, as the beneficiaries of a society that does not legalise divorce.  This instinct of his is fully supported by the strongest evidences of social scientists from all over the world, especially from the United States—where divorce has reached epidemic proportions—about the harm done to children by broken families that are facilitated by a law that allows the breaking of the permanent bond of marriage.
     As I have already discussed in previous columns in this same publication,  the largest assembly known of social scientists from the most diverse disciplines met in December 2014 in Princeton, New Jersey (not the University) under the auspices of a think tank called The Witherspoon Institute ( and brought empirical results from their respective fields of studies to relate the stability of marriage and the family  with the common good.  The conference brought together 70 scholars from History, Economics, Psychiatry, Law, Sociology and Philosophy to share with each other the findings of their research on why marriage, understood as the permanent union of husband and wife, is in the public interest.
     Without using religious arguments (which President Duterte does not), one can explain to the uninformed masses—whatever their religious affiliations—that a divorce law can lead to a host of social and economic problems as can be gleaned from the experiences of other countries that have had a divorce law for decades.  Although the 70 experts whose consensus is summarised here also cite data from other countries, most of the information used was from the United States which can be considered as the mecca of divorce.  Over a forty-year period (1960 to 2000), the divorce rate more than doubled  in the United States, from about 20 percent to about 45 percent of all first marriages.  The data suggests that approximately two-thirds of all divorces involving children break up low-conflict marriages where domestic violence  or emotional abuse is not a factor in the breakup of the marriage.  Unfortunately, as President Duterte points out, the children seem to bear the heaviest burden from the divorce of their parents.  Children from broken homes are significantly more likely to divorce as adults, to experience marital problems, to suffer from mental illness and delinquency, to drop out of high school, to have poor relationships with one or both parents, and to have difficulty committing themselves to a relationship.  Furthermore, in most respects, remarriage is no help to children of divorced families.  Children who grow up in stepfamilies experience about the same levels of educational failure, teenage pregnancy and criminal activity as children who remain in a single-parent family after a divorce.
     The adverse impact on boys is especially worrisome.  As an anecdotical evidence, I have observed that practically all the perpetrators of mass killings in the United States are by teenage or adult men who come from dysfunctional families.  The Princeton group came out with the strong evidences that boys benefit in unique ways from being reared within stable, married families.  Research consistently finds that boys raised by their own fathers and mothers in an intact, married family are less likely to get in trouble than boys raised in  other family situations.  Boys raised outside of an intact family are more likely to have problems with aggression, attention deficit disorder, delinquency, and school suspensions, compared to boys raised in intact, married families.  Some studies suggest that the negative behavioural consequences of marital breakdown are even more significant for boys than for girls.  One study found that boys reared in single-parent and step-families were more than twice as likely to end up in prison, compared to boys reared in an intact family.  It is pretty clear that stable marriage and paternal role models are crucial for keeping boys from self-destructive and socially destructive behavior.
     The seventy scientists who met in Princeton came out with abundant empirical evidences that included control for socioeconomic, demographic, and even genetic factors that might otherwise distort the relationship between family structure and child well-being.  They followed the strictest statistical rules for correlation analyses. For example, the link between family breakdown and crime is not an artifact of poverty among single parents.  Moreover, the newest work on divorce follows adult twins and their children to separate out the unique effects of divorce itself from the potential role that genetic (and socioeconomic) factors might play in influencing children’s outcomes.  This research indicates that divorce has negative consequences for children’s psychological and social welfare even after controlling for the genetic vulnerabilities of the parents who divorce.
     The findings of the Princeton group are independent of religious beliefs.  That is why I find it irrelevant if the majority of Catholics in the Philippines, including unfortunately a few misguided priests, are in favour of the divorce law.  The evils of divorce go beyond doctrinal differences among religions.  They are rooted in the nature of human beings and of families.  Looking at all the studies cited by the Princeton group, scientific evidences link stable, permanent marriage to an impressive array of positive outcomes for children, the main concern of President Duterte.  Both social and biological mechanisms seem to account for the value of an intact marriage in children’s lives.  From a sociological perspective, stable marriages allow families to benefit from shared labor within the household, income streams from two parents, and the economic resources of two sets of kin.  A married mom and dad typically invest more time, affection, and oversight into parenting than does a single parent; as importantly, they tend to monitor and improve the parenting of one another, augmenting one another’s strengths, balancing one another’s weaknesses, and reducing the risk that a child will be abused or neglected by an exhausted or angry parent.  The trust and commitment  associated with stable marriages also give a man and a woman a sense that they have a future together, as well as a future with their children.  This horizon of commitment, in turn, motivates them to invest practically, emotionally, and financially at higher levels in their children than cohabiting or single parents.                                                                                                                                       
Part 2

     Considering the realities of human behaviour, empirically demonstrated in countries that have long legalised divorce, a law allowing the dissolution of a valid marriage leads to a slippery slope that inevitably leads to an epidemic of divorce where close to half of all first marriages end up being dissolved.  His Excellency Romulo Valles, Archbishop of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) was not citing Catholic doctrine but merely making an empirical observation, backed by data in other countries, that a divorce law inevitably results  in an easy recourse to the dissolution of a marriage when couples begin to face challenges of marital love and commitment.  In a pastoral letter that he issued last March 13, 2018, Archbishop Valles correctly points out that  “in a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriage and families are bound to break up more easily.  More children will grow up disoriented and deprived of the care of the parents.”  If a society makes it difficult for married couples to break the permanent bond that they contracted in marriage, many so-called “failed marriages” could have been saved by the intervention of family, friends, pastors and counselors.  If the Philippines, considering all these hard scientific evidences of the evils of divorce—especially to children—will persist in being the only country in the world where there is no law permitting divorce, we will have the reputation of being the most children-friendly nation and can retain our very high ranking in the happiness index since many surveys have affirmed that the greatest joy of Filipinos comes from an intact and happy family.
     So far, we have brought up evidence that saying no to the divorce law can have significant benefits to individual persons, especially children.  We can refer to this as the micro environment of marriage and the family.  There are, however, equally strong and ample evidences that the macro benefits of intact and stable families can be significant.  The Princeton group gathered enough evidences that marital breakdown through divorce reduces the collective welfare of children, strains the justice system, weakens civil society and increases the size and scope of government power.
     As I have already pointed out in an article that appeared in this same publication more than one year ago, in the  U.S. there are more than one million children who see their parents divorced and 1.5 million children are born to unmarried mothers.  The collective consequences of this family breakdown have been catastrophic, as demonstrated by myriad indicators of social well-being.  For example, recent Brookings survey indicates that the increase in child poverty in the U.S. since the 1970s is due almost entirely to declines in the percentage of children reared in stable and intact families, primarily because children in single-parent homes are much less likely to receive much material support from their fathers.  The harm is also done to adolescents.  Paul Amato, a Penn State sociologist, estimated how adolescents would fare if our society had the same percentage of two-parent families as it did in 1960.  HIs research indicates that this nations’s adolescents would have 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, 1 million fewer acts of delinquency or violence, 746,587 fewer repeated grades and 71,413 fewer suicides. And may I add, fewer victims of mass killings, especially in U.S. public schools.  Similar estimates could be done for the collective effect of family breakdown on teen pregnancy, depression, and high school dropout rates.  It is quite obvious that children have paid a heavy price for adult failures to keep their marriages intact.  President Duterte is not just theorising.  His views on divorce are based on hard facts.
     Empirical research also shows that family breakdowns can lead to increased spending by Government on crime-fighting, imprisonment and criminal justice.  George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate in economics, has shown empirically that the crime increase in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States was linked to declines in the marriage rate among young working-class and poor men.  Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson concludes from his  research on urban crime that murder and robbery rates are closely linked to family structure.  In his words:  “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.”  Public spending on social services has also risen dramatically since the 1960s, in large part because of increases in divorce.  A study found that local, state, and federal governments spend $33 billion per year on  the direct and indirect costs of divorce—from family court costs to child support enforcement.  Increases in divorce also mean that family judges and child support enforcement agencies play a deeply intrusive role in the lives of adults and children affected by divorce, settling terms of custody, child visitation, and child support for more than a million adults and children every year. 
     The introduction of a law that allows divorce will clearly further increase the fiscal burden on the Government that will be forced  to spend more on social services.  Research in Scandinavian countries, for example, by sociologists David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe suggests that increases in state spending are associated with declines in the strength of marriage and the family.  The breakdown of marriage goes hand in hand with more expensive and more intrusive government; the increase in divorce goes hand in hand with growing hardship in disadvantaged communities, making the  call for still greater government intervention even more irresistible.  It is a pathological spiral which only a restoration of family stability can hope to reverse.  I hope our legislators will heed the wise advice of President Duterte:  Say No to Divorce.  
Part 3
     As we have seen in the first two parts of this article, it has been demonstrated in studies after studies in the Western world that divorce is associated with poverty, depression, substance abuse, and poor health among adults.  More broadly, widespread divorce—which inevitably results from a law facilitating the breaking of the permanent bond of marriage—poisons the larger culture of marriage, insofar as it sows distrust, insecurity, and a low-commitment mentality among married and unmarried adults.  Couples who take a permissive view of divorce are significantly less likely to invest themselves in their marriages and less likely to be happily married themselves.  For all these reasons, divorce threatens marriage, hurts children, and has had dire consequences for the nation as a whole.
     Another reason why a divorce law will be catastrophic is the very negative impact it will have on the already disadvantaged children of the married individuals among the more than 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).  When couples are separated because of the need for one of them to earn a living abroad, there are more than enough stresses on their marriages and on the children left behind.  In fact, this is a serious concern of the Government, civil society and the various churches that was the topic of a recent conference held at the University of Asia and the Pacific on how to keep the families of OFWs intact.  With a divorce law, the easy way out for the separated couples, who face myriad challenges to their marriage, would be to  seek the dissolution of the marriage bond.  The slightest temptation to infidelity of  either spouse will hardly be resisted if the lonely spouse knows that he or she can easily break the marriage bond through divorce.  As Archbishop Valles wrote in the pastoral letter with great human wisdom, “Even couples in seemingly successful marriages would often look back and recall the countless challenges that had almost brought their relationships to a breaking point if they had not learned to transcend personal hurt though understanding and forgiveness, or through the intervention of a dialogue facilitator such as a marriage counsellor.  In a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriage and families are bound to break up more easily.”  The toxic combination of the phenomenon of OFWs with a divorce law can easily result in an epidemic of marriage breakdowns,  especially among the poorer households, further prejudicing millions of children who are already handicapped by economic deprivation. 
     Instead of legalising divorce, there should be efforts on all fronts (Government, civil society, and the various religious denominations) to educate and counsel married couples on how to constantly strengthen their marital relationships and to overcome the numerous challenges to their mutual love brought about by financial difficulties, clashes of personalities and opinions, challenges in the upbringing of their children, etc.   The Department of Social Welfare, the Department of Education and the various agencies devoted to the welfare of OFWs should partner with the numerous family-oriented NGOs like the Couples for Christ, Marriage Encounter, the CEFAM of the Ateneo University, Ligaya ng Panginoon, Bukas Loob, Educational Programs for the Upbringing of Children (EDUCHILD), Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) and many others so that there can be timely intervention and counselling made available to married couples, and even before they get married in pre-nuptial seminars and conferences.  An ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure.
     In fact, many of these private initiatives are targeting the poor in helping them overcome the usual difficulties they encounter in their married lives.  And for those poor couples who have legitimate reasons to seek for the declaration of annulment of their marriage, some of these NGOs give legal assistance so that they can overcome the financial difficulties of  doing so.  I can cite, for example, the case of the Asian Institute for Marriage and the Family (AIMF) founded by Noel Gamboa and Fr. Jaime Achacoso, an expert on marriage laws.  AIMF  has a mission of accompanying dysfunctional or problematic marital situations at all social levels by helping regularise irregular family situations by examining the possibility of seeking the declaration of nullity of a previous canonical marriage, or  to proceed to the celebration of a valid canonical marriage for the existing and functioning union.  Especially for poor couples, they carry out  this initiative through a pool of 200 trained prejudicial law counsellors and a legal aide centre for marriage law.  For more info,  email  A more constructive thing that the lawyers among the members of the House of Representatives who voted for the divorce law can do is use their legal expertise to establish NGOs like  AIMF to extend assistance to the poor who are seeking the declaration of nullity of their marriages.  At the same time, I know for a fact that the Catholic Church authorities are doing everything within their ability to simplify the process of getting an annulment.  These are the more sensible measures that should replace the passing of a divorce law, which can only inflict serous harm on children and on Philippine society as a whole.
     In the final analysis, the example to keep a marriage intact should come from individual married couples whose faith tells them that the marriage bond is indissoluble, that they have committed themselves to be united till death do they part.  In this regard, I would like to cite the edifying example given by the lead character in the recent musical blockbuster, “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman.  Without meaning to be a spoiler, the movie had a happy ending for the family of P.T. Barnum, his wife Charity and their two daughters Caroline and Helen  because the father of the family was able to resist all the temptations of honour, human glory and passion (attraction to the beautiful Swedish singer Jenny Lind) strongly motivated by his great love for his two precious daughters Caroline and Helen.  Here, P.T. Barnum should represent all of us who are supporting the view of President Duterte:  that saying No to Divorce will redound to the benefit of numerous children who will be spared the agony of seeing their parents separated.  So, together with Jenny Lind let us sing “Never Enough” of stable, intact and lasting marriages in the Philippines.  With her, too, we can raise our voices crying out: “Never, Never, Never” to Divorce in unison with the honourable Senators who will vote No to the Divorce Law.  ***
If you wish to write to the Senators, click here for their email addresses.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Did God die?

Caravaggio - La Deposizione di Cristo.jpgThis is a question on Jesus I always ask my Theology class every semester, and I am invariably met with stunned silence. After some thought, many say God didn’t die.

The question is Christological, an analysis of Jesus, God made man, and obviously does not refer to Nietzche’s death of God, a nineteenth century fake news whose opposite happened given the empirical vitality of religion. 

Nor is this about extinguishing divinity. An oxymoron. For if God exists, he gives existence to everything. And he who is Existence cannot vanish.  

When Jesus died, did God die? This is a more precise rendering of this crucial question, which for a Christian there can’t be room for doubt. For it is at the heart of what Pope Benedict XVI calls the essential message of the great teaching of our time, the Second Vatican Council: The center of the Christian life and of the Christian year is the Paschal Mystery, Jesus’ death and rising.

To answer the question, another one helps: Is Mary the mother of God? Catholics, routinely or with piety, pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!” Bible Christians know that the Bible refers to her as “the mother my Lord”, and Lord (Adonai) means God.  

But can a creature be the mother of God, her Creator? The theologian, Frank Sheed, explained it commonsensically: Mary was not simply the mother of Jesus’ human nature, but of himself--as my mother is not the mother of my nature but of me.
Here we see a first glimpse of the mystery. There is a distinction between himself and Jesus’ nature. Mary is the mother of “himself” not just of his “nature”.  

If we think deeply enough, we realize that our soul, our spirit, could not have come from our mother, for the biological powers of human sex can’t create a superior: an immortal spirit. But yes, it is true that the lady who gave birth to us, even if only our body comes from her, is our mother. Even if our soul was created directly by God, we –our persons—started out in her womb.

The answer to the question then comes from understanding the distinction of two key metaphysical truths: nature and person, “what” I am versus “who” I am. When asked “what” I am, I reply, “I am a man—not an angel, not God, not an animal.” Man, angel, God, and animal are different “whats”, natures or modes of being. But the word “I” refers to a person: my self.

This hard fact called “person” is something people nowadays hardly appreciate. Because of positivism, a nineteenth fad that self-amputates the mind, the world only sees the legal person: the entity given rights by society. And if society today does not want to give the person rights, even if he is an immortal spirit, he is a non-entity. He can be killed in his mother’s womb.

Phones, cars and stars follow the law of entropy and will fall away. But not persons.  A human, an angel and God are persons. Each one of these beings --with different natures-- is not something but someone: a self, a conscious ego, an indestructible “I”.

And Jesus, the man-God, is also a person. An “I” who can act in two natures. His death as man, the same one we will experience, is by definition a separation of body and soul. And so, on the cross, did only a man die?  

The Bible clearly states that for sinners, “Christ died”. And so the Creed traces the story of “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, for whom all things were made.” Then straightaway declares: “For us men and for our salvation, he (the same God)...became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he (God) suffered death...”

Surely, it was not Jesus’ divine nature that perished, for it is eternal.  But yes, “he”, the divine person, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the unique “I” of God the Son, endured bloody, agonizing torture and gave up his human life.  He who is God said: “I” lay down my life for my sheep.

What do we take from this? The grandeur of God who lavishes himself for sinners, but also the grandeur of each human, of our persons, for whom God died.

Note: For the sake of superclarity, the answer to the question is in the last two words of the essay: "God died". Yes, God died, because the Creed says "he (God who created us) suffered death".

This article was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 29, 2018, Holy Thursday. 

Dr. Raul Nidoy is Director of Personal Formation at Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) which is publishing "Jesus-Centered: Best Prayers for Christians and their Families"

Sunday, March 4, 2018

If we want school shootings, break up the family

Image result for school shootingWe’ve seen them on TV and videos. We have seen the anguish, anger, and unbearable fear of young people who survived.  One survivor who was being interviewed, just faltered: “I can’t do it, I’m sorry, I can’t,” and he choked and walked away.

Entering the feelings of the children who were inside one of those classrooms should help us think seriously, and make the decision that we do not want any of those elements that have led to this hellish state in the most influential nation in the world.

And so it should lead us to research with our most non-prejudiced minds on why this happens, so we will prevent the contagion from reaching our shores.  A father of a daughter who is threatened by a deadly disease will not sit back nonchalant, but will be driven to stop the problem. And he will not just be driven, he will find out the most reliable expert advice on the matter.

The truth is: the most eminent experts who have devoted their lives to study crime have already spoken. But the jaundiced Western media and politicians have long been held captive by their ideologies they can’t look straight at the elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room in crime has been declared by eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi who have written “A General Theory of Crime” published by Stanford University Press, a testable theory that has been confirmed by several empirical studies. The elephant was clearly spotted by Robert J. Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, who was Chair of its Department of Sociology, and President of the American Society of Criminology. 

All of them declared that family dysfunction is among the most powerful predictors of crime.  Gottfredson and Hirschi concluded that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”

Harvard’s Sampson even stressed: “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” (bold font added)

Study after study have only strengthened the parent factor and self-control theory of Gottfriedson and Hirschi.  One is that of Carter Hay, Parenting, Self-Control and Deviancy and the other that of Vaszonyi and Belliston, which is a cross-cultural and cross-national test of self-control theory, particularly the family dysfunction factor.

And the data is not just for crime in general, but for school shooting specifically. In a website dedicated to school shooting, Dr. Peter Langman debunks a myth (probably perpetrated by anti-family advocates) that school shooters come from stable homes. He showed that in one sample covering both the US and non-US countries, 82% of the shooters were from broken families, while 18% from intact families.

MercatorNet which has been following the background of killers in mass shootings has seen that "almost all school shooters come from families where the parents are either divorced or alienated."

Surely, all this research bears out common sense. We know what havoc family break ups create. What trauma is created in the vulnerable psyche of young children. What overturning of values happens when your own parents, the ones who are supposed to teach you self-mastery, self-sacrificing commitment, forgiveness, forbearance and fidelity teach you the opposite with their actions.

And some of our nation’s legislators who want divorce in this country are so taken by the wealth of the West that they are oblivious of the anguish their children face every day in the schools that are supposed to be havens of serenity and joy.

Our legislators should listen to the wisdom of Michael Cook of MercatorNet when he advises the Western nations: "perhaps they wouldn’t need more gun control if they had better divorce control.”

And if our lawmakers truly want to serve the country and become the greatest of statesmen, they should pass laws to strengthen the family, such as a serious marriage preparation program that will enable couples to discern their decision, learn to effectively communicate and understand each other's gender idiosyncracies, and develop the mega-skills of emotional intelligence such as patience and forgiveness. 

The positive step of strengthening rather than weakening the Filipino family which is known worldwide as one of our greatest strengths, follows the wise management principle of Peter Drucker, an unparalleled management guru: build on strength. 

Read also: In-depth study: After divorce, 44% of women fell into poverty

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Prayers for the Family

Unless we bring back prayer and love into the family we will never have peace. -- St. Mother Teresa

Liturgical Prayer on the Feast of the Holy Family
O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Prayer to the Holy Family by Pope Francis
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love;
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.

Prayer for the Family of St. Pope John Paul II
Lord God, from you every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  Father, you are love and life.  Through your Son, Jesus Christ, born of woman, and through the Holy Spirit, fountain of divine charity, grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love.  Grant that your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and of all the families in the world.  Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love.  Grant that love, strengthened by the Sacrament of marriage, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass.  Through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that the Church may fruitfully carry out her worldwide mission in and through the family.  Through Christ our Lord, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life for ever and ever.  Amen.  

Open the heart of every family to the faith by St. Pope John Paul II
O Holy Family of Nazareth, community of love of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, model and ideal of every Christian family, to you we entrust our families.
Open the heart of every family to the faith, to welcoming the word of God, to Christian witness, so that it becomes a source of new and holy vocations.
Touch the hearts of parents, so that with prompt charity, wise care, and loving devotion they are sure guides for their sons and daughters towards spiritual and eternal values.
Stir up in the hearts of young people a right conscience and a free will, so that growing in "wisdom, age and grace", they might welcome generously the gift of a divine vocation.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that all of us, contemplating and imitating the assiduous prayer, generous obedience, dignified poverty and virginal purity lived out in your midst, might set about fulfilling the will of God and accompanying with far-sighted sensitivity those among us who are called to follow more closely the Lord Jesus, who "has given himself for us" (cf. Gal 2:20). Amen!

Prayer for the Family of St. Mother Teresa
Heavenly Father,
you have given us the model of life
in the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Help us, O Loving Father,
to make our family another Nazareth
where love, peace and joy reign.
May it be deeply contemplative,
intensely eucharistic,
revived with joy.
Help us to stay together in joy
and sorrow in family prayer.
Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our families,
especially in their distressing disguise.
May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus
make our hearts humble like his
and help us to carry out our family duties
in a holy way.
May we love one another
as God loves each one of us,
more and more each day,
and forgive each others faults
as you forgive our sins.
Help us, O Loving Father,
to take whatever you give
and give whatever you take with a big smile.

Immaculate Heart of Mary,
cause of our joy, pray for us.

St. Joseph, pray for us.
Holy Guardian Angels,
be always with us,
guide and protect us.

Consecration of the Family
O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, Who having come to enlighten the world, with Your teaching and example, willed to pass the greater part of Your life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to You this day. Defend us, guard us and establish among us Your holy fear, true peace and concord in Christian love: in order that by conforming ourselves to the divine pattern of Your Family we may be able, all of us without exception, to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by your kind intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by your prayers in all our spiritual and temporal necessities; that we may be able to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and you, for all eternity. 

Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria three times. (Catholic Family Handbook)

A Family Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of our family. Enlighten our hearts and minds that we may live more fully this vocation of love. In our daily life and work, may we reflect the self-giving love which you, O Father, eternally show with your Son and the Holy Spirit. Let your love be evident in the peace that reigns in our home and in the faith we profess and live. May our family always be a place of generosity, understanding, forgiveness and joy. Kindly give us the wisdom and courage to be witnesses to your eternal design for the family; and grant that the Holy Family of Nazareth may always guide our path to holiness as a family. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen (Archbishop William Lori)

Prayer for a Married Couple
O God, unite our hearts in the never-ending bond of pure love. May our sacrament bring you happiness and may your generous love for us be returned to you, many times over. May the peace of Christ live always in our hearts and in our home. May we continue to have true friends who stand by us both in joy and in sorrow. May we be ready and willing to help and comfort all who come to us in need, and may the blessings promised to the compassionate someday be ours. May we find happiness and satisfaction in our occupations. May daily problems never cause us undue anxiety, nor the desire for earthly comforts dominate our lives. May you bless us with many more happy years together and may you one day welcome us together into your eternal kingdom. Amen.

Prayer for our Parents

O Almighty God, you gave us the commandment to honor our father and mother. In your loving kindness hear my prayer for my parents. Give them long lives and keep them well in body and spirit. Bless their labors; keep them always in your care. Bless them generously for their loving care for me. Grant that, through your grace, I may always be their support and comfort, and that, after our life together on earth, we may experience the joy together praising you forever.

Liturgical Prayer on a Marriage Anniversary
God, Creator of all things, who in the beginning made man and woman they might form the marriage bond, bless and strengthen the union of your servants N. and N., that they may show forth an ever more perfect image of the union of Christ with his Church.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Prayers of Spouses for Each Other
Lord Jesus, grant that I and my spouse may have a true and understanding love for each other. Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust. Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony. May we always bear with one another's weaknesses and grow from each other's strengths. Help us to forgive one another’s failing and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and the spirit of placing the wellbeing of one another ahead of self.
May the love that brought us together grow and mature with each passing year. Bring us both ever closer to you through our love for each other. Let our love grow to perfection. Amen.

Lord, bless this dear person whom you have chosen to be my spouse. Make his life long and blessed. May I become a great blessing to him (or her), a sharer in all his sufferings and sorrows, and a suitable helper in his changes and difficulties in this life. Make me lovable forever in his (or her) eyes and forever dear to him (or her). Keep me from all unreasonableness of passion and whims. Make me humble and giving, strong, dedicated, appreciative, prudent and understanding. May we ever take delight in each other, according to your blessed Word, both sharing in your Divine love. Amen

Wife’s Prayer
O merciful Lord God, who in the beginning didst take Eve out of the side of Adam and didst give her to him as a helpmate: grant me grace to live worthy of the honorable estate of matrimony to which Thou hast called me, that I may love my husband with a pure and chaste love, acknowledging him as my head, and truly reverencing and obeying him in all good things; that thereby I may please him, and live with him in all Christian serenity. Keep me from all worldliness and vanity. Help me, O Lord, that I may, under him, prudently and discreetly guide and govern his household. Let no fault of mine aggravate any sins by which he may be especially tempted; enable me to soothe him in perplexity, to cheer him in difficulty, to refresh him in weariness, and, as far as may be, to advise him in doubt. Give me understanding so to fulfill my part in the education of our children, that they may be our joy in this world and our glory in the next. Grant that our perfect union here may be the beginning of the still more perfect and blissful union hereafter in Thy kingdom; and this I pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots, for the Strengthening of Marriages
Blessed Mother, take into your hands
the knots that affect married couples,
and with your long fingers of love and grace
undo these knots for the glory of God.
Visit married couples with your grace;
renew their sacramental covenant,
increase God's love in them,
and strengthen their bond of peace
so that, with their children,
they may always rejoice in the gift of your blessing.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us

Prayers for Peace in the Family
Lord Jesus, be with my family. Grant us your peace and harmony, an end to conflict, and division. Give us the compassion to better understand one another, wisdom and love to assist one another, and trust and patience to live peacefully together. Grant that through the intercession of your Mother, Mary, and St. Joseph, our family may become a holy family accepting one another, working together in unity, selflessly dedicated to one another and to you. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for a Family
O Dear Jesus, I humbly implore you to grant your special graces to our family. May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith. I beg you, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and present, living and dead. O Mary, loving Mother of Jesus, and our Mother, pray to Jesus for our family, for all the families of the world, to guard the cradle of the newborn, the schools of the young and their vocations. Blessed Saint Joseph, holy guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by your prayers in all the necessities of life. Ask of Jesus that special grace which He granted to you, to watch over our home at the pillow of the sick and the dying, so that with Mary and with you, heaven may find our family unbroken in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Amen.

Liturgical Prayer for Relatives and Friends
O God, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit have filled the hearts of your faithful with gifts of charity, grant health of mind and body to your servants for whom we beseech your mercy, that they may love you with all their strength, and with all their love do what is pleasing to you.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.