Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Search for best practices in teaching Religion

When I started teaching Theology to freshmen students at the University of Asia and the Pacific in 2011, I was intent in learning how to be effective and to do the job as St. Josemaria taught: to work like best or better than the best. More so since the job I was doing is about giving the most important knowledge of all: the faith.

My students after their oral report
The following year, in my work at the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF), we also started reviewing how to improve the teaching of Religion. So we researched on the best methods of teaching religion and to our pleasant surprise, we found a treasured document of the Catholic Church which was unknown to us: The General Directory for Catechesis. More and more documents and literature started coming in as that was also the time of the preparations for the Synod on the New Evangelization, then later came Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium.

In all these literature, the four things I found most important were: First of all, a clear statement of the problem, “Catholics are catechized but not evangelized”. Secondly, we have to focus on the one goal of all catechesis established by the Church: “intimacy and communion with Jesus Christ”. Thirdly, the key way expressed by the Synod:  The objective is “not only the intellectual adherence to Christian truth, but also the creation of a personal encounter.” Lastly, Pope Francis’s point: the kerygma is the oft-repeated central message.

Soon enough I saw how effective implementing all the guidelines was in bringing about changes in my students. I had a student, a Protestant, who was one of the rowdiest I have ever seen.  He always came to class uptight, with angst, talked loudly with people across aisle, and even when I asked him to stay in front, he would look back and talk with another person.  Inevitably, this student was failing all his subjects. Two-thirds through the semester, I organized an activity to help the students have a personal encounter with God. It is a 15-20 minute prayer in the chapel called Time Alone with Jesus. I explained how powerful it would be if they converse with him in a heart-to-heart way.

This boy decided to go to the very front of the chapel, bowed down for a full 20 minutes, and prayed intently. He was transformed. He passed my class at the end of the semester, and his other subjects too. Every time I would meet him in the university he was beaming, with deep gratitude for that class. He always looked relaxed, all the angst gone. Around two semesters after, he told me that his average was 1.9. Because of this result, and because of other things I learned through time, I have come to add the practice of holding two-minute pauses during class as an opportunity for everyone to discuss with God what they learned, and I would always stress what St. Josemaria taught: As you acquire doctrine, you can meditate, you can realize that God is looking at you, and that you are looking at him.

At the start of each semester, after clarifying the relational goals of the course, I usually do two things. First, explain the importance of truth, relativism as the greatest problem of our time, and the rational foundations of the truth of our faith. I love to say that Christianity, as Cardinal Ratzinger puts it, is the Religion of the Logos, the religion of Reason. Then I teach the students the synthesis of Christianity, the kerygma: God loves us, then a summary of the four parts of the Catechism which reveal this.

For the first, I ask the students to give an oral report on one of these topics: why God is real, why Jesus Christ is the real God and why the Catholic Church is the one Church of the real God.  To guide them, I give out a one-page leaflet titled A Most Intelligent Choice that contains the summary of the key reasons for these three points. The only criterion for grading their report is that their argumentation is convincing. I found out later that, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this is in fact a building block of any catechesis: to examine the reasons for belief. And good results came in every time.

The latest one was revealed to me two weeks ago. One of the students introduced himself at the beginning of the semester as a Born Again Christian. All the rest in the family are Catholics, but he converted because he loved the atmosphere he found in Born Again meetings. After two to three months of classes, he told me about his doubts, and we went through, in more detail, a one-page handout entitled Ten Reasons the Catholic Church is the One True Church of Jesus, and I referred him to the website Catholic Answers for his other questions. And so two weeks ago, he came to see me after class and he told me: Sir, I went to Confession and I am so happy. I feel like a new born baby! I saw him in the hallway a few minutes after that, and he told me he likes praying to God when rides the bus and is thinking of becoming a priest, and that he has been talking to a friend to come and see me so we can talk about the Catholic faith. 

Another student who turned around was probably the most brilliant student I have ever had.  Her essays were perfectly structured. Her two-minute report finished at 1 minute, 59 seconds. She said at the beginning that she was an atheist, and I would see her seated in class, face down, writing notes without joy. Two weeks after the beginning, she gave her report. She said that two things struck her on the first day of class. First, that no one threw Holy Water at her when she said that she was an atheist. And secondly, the question written in the very first power-point slide: Why is God important? Her report was a beautiful exposition on how meaningless life is without God. Through the weeks, she would, little by little, look up, becoming more interested in class, and interact with her classmates. Two-thirds through the semester, she went over to my desk right after class, with an excited smile on her face: Sir, I have decided to go to Confession today.

A third result was that of a Catholic boy who was never taught anything about the faith until my class. He was deeply in love with a girl who belonged to one of the Christian sects in the Philippines. And her father told him he could not continue the relationship unless he converts to their sect. Heartbroken and psychologically shaken, he went to see one of the Chaplains telling him that he needed help since he was convinced from class that the Catholic Church is the one true Church but he had this dilemma. He went to Confession for the first time, broke off with his girlfriend, and became a strong advocate of Confession. He would later explain in class that Confession is much better than going to a psychiatrist. It not only gives clarity of mind. It gives us back God's life and is free of charge.

The idea of ensuring that the students have a personal encounter with God pushed me to keep on looking for other ways to make this encounter happen. So I introduced the visit to the poor and sick. I announced this as a field trip, getting the students to rejoice at the thought. The most striking effect happened after I was accosted by four of my girl students one day. One of them was crying, distraught due to family issues and problems with her grades. She said she wanted to commit suicide. I tried to help her the best I could, gave her advice, and asked her three friends to support her. By sheer providence, we had our “field trip” scheduled the following week.  On the first class after our visit to the hospital, I asked for feedback. Immediately, the girl who earlier wanted to end her life raised her hand. There was a light shining on her face. She said, Sir, I was touched by grace! I thought that my problems were so big, but I realized that they were nothing compared to the sorrows the patients suffered.

After seeing such results, I shared my experiences of implementing the Church’s guidelines with other religion teachers. On the occasion of the Year of the Family in the Opus Dei and the Year of the Poor in the Philippines in 2015, we encouraged family visits to the poor in all the PAREF schools. To help push this, I wrote another one-page leaflet, Loving the Poor, containing the teachings of the Popes, St. Josemaria, and Blessed Alvaro. The reactions of the parents and the kids were beautiful. One parent of a Grade Three student said, echoing the sentiments of many parents: This is something we plan to do regularly. Another parent said: This activity was an eye-opener for both children and adults. One remarked: It makes us feel good and better persons knowing that a short time spent with the children creates happiness and an unforgettable experience.

The adventure of teaching religion in the key of the new evangelization –the only way it can be best taught—is only beginning. And what a great horizon there is ahead. As I write this, news about the one-page evangelization leaflets which can be mass produced has just arrived from Vancouver where a parish is using them for its parishioners. But this is another story for another day.

Written February 2016 

The Church guidelines mentioned in the article are summarized here: THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF EDUCATION: GUIDELINES FOR CATECHESIS. This guide, useful for family and parish catechesis and teaching Religion in school, condenses the teachings of the Vatican’s General Directory for Catechesis (GDC), the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Popes and the Synod on New Evangelization (Synod)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church - Peter Kreeft

This was the conclusion of a Calvinist thinker who turned Catholic after a wide search for one mistake that would prove the Catholic Church false. Peter Kreeft knew about G.K. Chesterton's witty reply when asked about the strongest argument against Christianity: Christians.

A Jew who visited the corrupt Vatican

So when Kreeft's Calvinist friends found out that he was reading about Catholics, they recommended that he read the books of anti-clericals. The book he read contained a story that led him to the Catholic faith. There was a Jewish businessman who was thinking of becoming Catholic, but had to go to Rome to do business with the Vatican during the time of some of the most corrupt Popes in history, the Borgias. The bishop that the Jew was talking with tried to dissuade him to go, for fear he would change his mind. But the businessman, a practical Jew, said that for him business was first, and the pleasure of converting was second.

Six months later, the Jew returns asking for baptism into the Church, even after seeing the hypocrisy of the Pope and the cardinals. "I am a practical Jewish businessman. One thing I know for sure: no earthly business that stupid and corrupt could possibly survive 14 weeks. Yours has lasted 14 centuries. It is a miracle.”

Kreeft explains: "The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church. When Popes were assassinating each other, they never added a doctrine that said now you can assassinate the Pope. When they had 13 mistresses they never said that it is okay for Popes to have mistresses. The doctrine remained absolutely pure even though the practice was never very good and sometimes was horrible. That was very impressive."  

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the same story and he quotes the Jewish businessman as saying: "It is because of all these that I have become a Catholic. For if the Church continues to exist in spite of it all, then truly there must be someone upholding her."

Napoleon wanted to destroy the Church

Ratzinger continues: "And there is another story, to the effect that Napoleon once declared that he would destroy the Church. Immediately, one of the cardinals replied, 'Not even we have managed that!'

"I believe that we see something important in these paradoxical tales. There have in fact always been plenty of human monstrosities in the Catholic Church. That she still holds together, even if she groans and creaks, that she is still in existence, that she produces great martyrs and great believers, people who put their whole lives at her service, as missionaries, as nurses, as teachers, that really does show that there is someone there upholding her."

Napoleon died in prison, while the Pope he persecuted and imprisoned, returned to Rome and took care of Napoleon's family. While Napoleon was in prison, this same Pope requested the jailers of the exiled emperor to be kind to him.  

Despite many attempts of powerful rulers and influential theological rebels to destroy it, the Catholic Church is presently acknowledged even by secular scholars as the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical care in the world. And leading secular historians have discovered that Catholic priests and laity have been at the foundation of humanly beneficial things such as modern science, university education, economics, hospitals, international law, human rights and Western art. These works reflect, in the eyes of theologians, the identity of the one true God: Reason, Truth, Love, Justice, and Beauty.

Misplacing the blame

When people say they don't believe the Church because of the hypocrisy of pedophile priests and bad Popes, they are "misplacing the blame," says Catholic Answers. "If a preacher, religious, or layman fails to live up to the standards he is preaching, the blame lies with him and not with the message he preaches. His actions say much about himself but not about the teachings of Christ. ... By way of analogy, if it were proven tomorrow that Albert Einstein was a child molester, that would not disprove the theory of relativity." In fact, the Catholic Church does not have more child abuse cases than other institution, such as the family, Boy Scouts, Protestant groups, public school teachers. And the Church has done more than any other institution to address this problem of today's society.

Despite the sins of its children, the Church is called holy because Jesus has decided to forever unite himself to it as his body, giving it his powers of sanctifying. Jesus gave his Church the power to forgive sins in Confession (Jn 20:23) and to celebrate his saving sacrifice (Mk 14; 1 Cor 5). "The Church is holy, because she herself has no other life than the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified," (CCC 827)  as shown in the lives of thousands of Catholic saints. 

It is individual Christians who back away from Christ's sanctifying power and cause scandal that make it difficult for people to see Christ in the Church. But Christ is there, because when he was on earth he loved to be with sinners, and he continues to be with us precisely because we need him.

Download the one-page leaflet version of this article here.

24 hours after posting, this article was viewed 54,274 times. After another 24 hours, it reached around 122K views.

Important for change of life and tranquility of mind: Confession: Simple Reasons, Simple Steps

Note: These free one-page leaflets have started going viral around the world. Leaflets were posted in the website of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London ("The Mother Church of England") and  in the Corpus Christi Parish in Canada, in Kenya and in Macau. To get the full collection, please see this:  One Page Leaflets for New Evangelization Starting to Go Viral! The leaflets are easily multipliable for mass distribution in schools, communities, etc. They can also be sold with or without profit.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


From the Catechism. Headings added.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/Raffael_071.jpg
1. Be subject to authority and give just criticism. Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution. . . . Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God." Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.

2. Contribute with authorities to the good of society. Fulfill role. It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one's country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.

3. Pay taxes; respect, honor and pray for leaders; obey laws. Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country: Pay respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Christians obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws.

The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."

4. Disobey immoral directives. The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." "We must obey God rather than men".

5. Do the good that is demanded. Defend rights against abuse of authority. When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.

6. Oppose violation of rights. Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution. 

The Catholic Citizen's Role in the World. From Letter to Diognetus (dated around 200 A.D.)

Christians live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but endure all the disadvantages of aliens. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. 

The Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. Christians live in the world, yet are not of the world. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, as well as its parts. Christians, in the same way, love those that hate them. Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. So lofty and noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.

Must read: KNOW YOUR MISSION AND OFFICES: Discover your mission orders and positions of responsibility to change the world -- a one-page leaflet for the New Evangelization

Friday, May 13, 2016


Download one-page leaflet of this article here

Selected quotes from Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia, Joy of the Family
·   The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.
·    Don’t you realize that the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry? These are big problems. (Interview on the document)

·   In and among families, the Gospel message should always resound; the core of that message, the kerygma [God loves us and is near us], is what is most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.
·   If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life.
·   Emphasis should be given to the importance of family spirituality, prayer and participation in the Sunday Eucharist, and couples encouraged to meet regularly to promote growth in their spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life.
·   It is essential that children actually see that, for their parents, prayer is something truly important.
·   A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God with a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families.
·   Many are touched by the power of grace experienced in sacramental Reconciliation and in the Eucharist, grace that helps them face the challenges of marriage and the family.
·   Every morning, on rising, we reaffirm before God our decision to be faithful, come what may in the course of the day.


·   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.
·   True love between husband and wife involves mu­tual self-giving, includes and integrates the sexu­al and affective dimensions.
·   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.
·   There is growing danger represented by an extreme individualism which weakens family bonds.
·   The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family's problems, it can always grow, beginning with love.
·   What really makes us important is a love that understands, shows concern, and embraces the weak.
·   The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures.
·   Love is ever ready to be of assistance.
·   Persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience.
·   Our loved ones merit our complete attention.
·   Greater emphasis on personal communication between the spouses helps to make family life more humane. 

·      The word which appears most frequently in the Old Testament after the name of God, is "child". Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.
·      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.
·      The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God's inner life.
·      Large families are a joy for the Church.


·      It is important to reiterate that the overall education of children is a "most serious duty" and at the same time a "primary right" of parents. This is not just a task or a burden, but an essential and inalienable right.

·      What is most important is the ability lovingly to help children grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves.

·      Where are your children existentially: where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams? Where is their soul?

·      It is important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern.

·      Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person.

·      It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others.

·      Distractions abound, including an addiction to television. This makes it all the more difficult for parents to hand on the faith to their children.

·      One of the most important tasks of families is to provide an education in hope. This does not mean preventing children from playing with electronic devices, but rather finding ways to help them develop their critical abilities. When children or adolescents are not helped to realize that some things have to be waited for, they can become obsessed with satisfying their immediate needs and develop the vice of “wanting it all now”. When we are taught to postpone some things until the right moment, we learn self-mastery and detachment from our impulses.

·      Sex education can only be seen within the broader framework of an education for love, for mutual self-giving.

·      It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.

·      Show a person that it is in his own interest to do what is right. Today, it is less and less effective to demand something that calls for effort and sacrifice, without clearly pointing to the benefits which it can bring.

·      Strengthening of the will and the repetition of specific actions are the building blocks of moral conduct.

·      Help children view the world with the love of Jesus and who can understand life as a call to serve God.


·      May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.

Download one-page leaflet of this article here

These one-page leaflets have started going viral around the world. Leaflets were posted in the website of the Archdiocese of Westminster in London ("The Mother Church of England"), in the Corpus Christi Parish in Canada,  in Kenya and in Macau. To get the full collection, please see this: One Page Leaflets for New Evangelization Going Viral!