Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Travels with Faith: Re-fitting into the Mold

     Today, we usher in the season of Lent. It is 40 days to journey into ourselves as we journey with the Lord.

     The season begins with the priest's imposition of ashes on our foreheads to remind us all that as mere creatures, we should in all humility, acknowledge the fact that our lives as creatures on this earth is not forever.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,

     Far from being saintly, I pray for the grace to rediscover the "me" created as I was intended to be by God.  It is like I know I have pushed myself out of the mold, and as I try to squeeze back in, I find that I cannot fit into that mould intended only for me. I have gone away from my true self and need God now in my life to reshape me back into the soul that is pleasing to Him.

     This means coming to terms and facing the excesses I have come to love in this life that I have attached to myself but which are, in fact, not really a good fit for me. I find that I need to recognize those things that are not a good fit for my soul. (Yikes!)  

     As I hope to pray a bit more than what I have let my schedule permit, I know that as I should practice fasting and abstinence on meals, the harder part of fasting and abstaining on this journey would be to let go of the things I have let myself become attached to. The scary thing is that some of the things may have become so deeply ingrained in my system that I may not be able to recognize them or worse, I may make excuses for them. I pray to God that He may let the Holy Spirit guide me in recognizing the things I should let go of, maybe not all at once but at least, slowly, I may be able to give up something of significance this Lent.

Photo from:

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
(Excerpt, Responsorial Psalm of the Mass, Ps. 51:12~14 & 17) 

     It looks like a very tall order to accomplish in just 40 days, but at the same time, I take comfort and place my hope in the reassuring invitation that the Lord has for me today...

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
(Excerpt. Second Reading of the Mass, 2 Cor 6:2)

Father of Mercy, unworthily I come before You hoping that your mercy and kindness will merit  Your love to see me renewed and recreated in the person you have intended me to be, instead of the person I have created for myself.

Help me to trust in Your love fully that I may give myself to You so that you may mold me once again into something more beautiful and worthy of You.

Mother Mary, I ask for your love and prayers to present to God my petition through the merits of the Most Holy Wounds of your Son, Jesus Christ.


©CherWriter 2011.03.09

Monday, March 7, 2011

Travels with Faith: Have Faith... Will Travel

      There are a lot of cultural traits that make the Filipino distinct from other races in the world.

     Filipinos are family-oriented; hospitable; naturally creative and resourceful; we are known the world over for world-class individuals who have lit up the world stage in theater (Miss Saigon: Lea Salonga, Leo Valdez, Junix Inocian), music (Rock band Journey: Arnel Pineda;  Oprah's prodigy: Charice; Black Eyed Peas: Apl de Ap), sports (Billiards: Efren Reyes; Boxing: Manny Pacquiao).

     An undeniable love for the family has resulted in families being separated by time and distance as well-educated mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers go out of the country to work in almost all parts of the globe as construction workers, house help, nurses, teachers, consultants in multi-national firms and practically, any job conceivable just so they can send money back home for their children's education and make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Most Filipinos who work abroad bring with them not only their industriousness, but this self-sacrificing love. You could say that all they have in their backpacks when they leave, apart from a few clothes and pictures of their loved ones are the three theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. In this country where 85% of the population is Roman Catholic, faith of course, is something most Filipinos never live or leave home without.

What do you pack when you travel?

     My faith is also a source of security for me. It is a big part of my identity. Where I am living, there are so many reminders of my faith that it's easy to overlook the fact that I needn't exert any effort to practice it.  Even in places of work like the country's premier business districts, it is easy to practice my faith. There are churches or chapels nearby. If not, a priest says Mass during lunch break in certain offices; if not everyday, then during days when there are popular devotions like Wednesdays for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or first Fridays for devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here, I am never far from a spiritual lifeline.

      About three weeks ago, I was chatting online with a cousin who has since migrated to Canada. In the course of our conversation, I happened to mention that it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and had just attended Mass. Well, he thanked me for the reminder of the feast day and told me that he would be hearing Mass too later that day. Now with Ash Wednesday only two days away, I am still struck with that conversation I had with my cousin.

     I imagine that he and other Filipinos now living abroad have to exert the extra effort to keep and practice the faith that they were born with. Masses in churches abroad may only be one or two in a day on Sundays, unlike here that Masses are said every hour starting at 5:00am or 6:00am, with some churches having the last Sunday Masses from 8:00~9:00pm. In some countries, you really have to be careful about talking about or practicing your religious beliefs lest you want to be accused of violating someone else's religious freedom. And what about children's faith? How do you cultivate it in a society where talking about religion is almost taboo? For Roman Catholic parents abroad, how do you teach and preserve the beautiful and wonderful aspects of our faith to the new generation when there are very little reminders of the faith around them?

     Nowadays where a typical day is run by clocks, blackberries, meetings, meet-ups with friends, and deadlines, it's getting harder to MAKE THE TIME to slow down and pray. It is easy to forget days which, if they were in the country, would see them attending Mass or paying a visit to a church or chapel which may have been part of their routine once.  Thankfully, new technology has websites like EWTN and others on social networking sites where Catholic Filipinos abroad can reconnect with the faith, and more importantly, participate in the Sunday Mass when there are no churches near where they live or work.

     Admittedly, I still have a long way to go in growing in the faith. There is more to discover and re-discover on this journey in faith. After all, the three pillars of Lent are Prayer, Fasting (and Abstinence), and Alms giving :-) For Lent 2011, I hope to spend a little more time in prayer and share with you little reflections of faith here and on :-D . I hope you can accompany me on the journey. 

     Here's to wonderful life discoveries on a journey in the season of Lent!

©CherWriter 2011.03.07

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Friend, the Fry

Forever on your hips? Good!
That way, you'll always be happy! Hehehe!

     Some days you just can't have it all.

     Recently, I listed down some of my guilty pleasures. What an ideal and idyllic world this would be if on days where you find your pep drained by the demands of work, relief from these guilty pleasures would come instantaneously. *sigh!*

     One particular day this week just had me drained and in an unhappy mood at work.The day started with a challenge. Knowing that I had a deadline, I shut out all other requests and concerns to be able to get the work done. The moment that I was able to meet the set deadline, my mood at work became optimistic that this would be a good and relatively easy day from that time on.

     Just before lunch though, things got irritating to the point that I decided to get out of the office during lunch break to walk off the bad mood by the afternoon. Have you noticed that the trouble with walks like this one is that you walk "blind" while your sour mood persists? You do not really notice anything. Nothing is interesting. You walk aimlessly hoping your bad mood gets stomped into the pavement for good. 

     Sage advise: Do not take your wallet with you on these stomp out trips. In the past, I just bought things at random to soothe my bad mood, and ended up regretting my spending spree when reason came back after my bad mood left. 

     Thankfully on this trip, I remembered that I had to get a few things I needed for the office so I only spent good money on essentials. Since I hadn't really planned to be  out of the office during lunch, I did not know what to eat. I ditched my lunch in the office and was suddenly looking disinterestedly at crowds crammed into restaurants and fast food joints. At the time, I felt the last thing I needed was to be crammed into a booth with noisy, happy office workers on their lunch breaks. I walked away from the concentration of traffic and found myself in front of food carts with the attendants busily texting away.  There was a shawarma cart, a fish ball cart and a french fry cart. I just went up to the nearest food cart and ordered, not really caring that I ordered flavored french fries just so I could have lunch and go over the day's events in peace.

     I do not know if it is just me, but don't you think indulging in fried foods really do hit the spot and are a great aid to reverse an otherwise bad mood? (Psst... do not tell my cardiologist about this entry! ;)) So there I was, munching on deep fried carbo-loaded matchstick potatoes and as I prolonged the life of the small pack of fries, my concerns earlier in the day slowly left me. It has been a while since I had fries and somehow, even as I became more aware of the taste and feel of the oil in my mouth (not really off-putting, just slightly disturbing after trying really hard to keep away from fast food quick fixes), my world made a little more sense and I was a little more forgiving of what had transpired that morning.

     Is there some sort of chemical reaction that goes on between a vat of hot oil and a bunch of matchstick sized potatoes, or anything fried for that matter that humans simply cannot get? How can something touted as bad for your health relieve stress? Way cheaper than a massage or spa treatment (although I would not say no to a pampering session anytime!); and you know exactly what you are going to get, unlike a box of chocolates; lighter than a book; certainly flavorful like good comedy, how can you go wrong with french fries for company?

     For any of my loved ones who may be reading this, do not worry. I am not about to go back to being the fast food junkie that I once was. Goodness knows it's really tough to burn through all these calories that love me so much and just would not leave to show off a skinnier me. Hehehe.   :-)

     Some days you really can't have it all. But sometimes, you can too! Hey, lunch was affordable that day; I got things off my chest that would have probably gotten my BP reading into the high range; I got an hour's worth of peace and quiet, and I got back to my office with a smile on my face with people from the office totally clueless why.  Now I know why they ask you at the drive thru window: "Do you want fries with that?" All thanks to my friend, the fry.

©CherWriter 2011.03.02


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