CLP Talk 10 — a mountain to conquer, a training ground, a baptism of fire for a CLP team head?
When I was the Team head of the Christian Life Program (a pre-requisite program for all Couples for Christ member), the “Growing in the Spirit” was automatically given to me. And it was so, for all succeeding CLP’s.
Was it due to the seeming simplicity of the topic that it became the first talk that a CFC member gives?
In my early childhood when we had our regular Sunday school we were taught about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received in baptism. Even when I myself became a catechist, they were the same gifts that I imparted to the kids. In a recent post by a sister, an article by Scott P. Richert: “The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit“, there was this phrase that caught my attention:
(Saint Paul writes of “manifestations of the Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, and some Protestants use that list to come up with nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, but these are not the same as the ones recognized by the Catholic Church.)
This is a common understanding as the Protestants were the first to open the Bible to their congregation, and they started the charismatic renewal groups (ca 1960). But after the Second Vatican Council, when the Bible was made available to the laity (with local translations from the original Hebrew/Greek texts), came also the birth of the Catholic charismatic movements and renewal groups, sometime in 1967. Couples for Christ (CFC) is one such group but formed quite later as an outreach ministry for couples of Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon.
Before CFC, I’ve always known about the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, coupled with its 7 resulting virtues (3 theological virtues – faith, hope, and love; & 4 cardinal virtues – prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance). These were further strengthened by the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which we have received during our Confirmation.
However in CFC while preparing us for the pray-over session, the topic of the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit was introduced and we were even encouraged to ask for these 9 spiritual or charismatic gifts (from the word charism or charismata) – the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power in us. It was a confusing topic for me as I literally grew up being taught about the 7 gifts and considering I also teach this as a catechist. But with the urging of my facilitator, I left it up to the Holy Spirit and just prayed that I will receive the gifts that my heart desired. It was only during my later years in CFC when I started giving talks that I made a deeper study on this topic.
Which is right then, 7 or 9? In my opinion, both are — from the 7 gifts as Isaiah had proclaimed in the Old Testament (when the Holy Spirit had not yet manifested) to the 9 Spiritual/Charismatic gifts as instructed by Paul, who became Jesus’ witness after his encounter with our Lord on his way to persecuting the early Christians.
What then differentiates these 2 theological positions? An article in Wikipedia states this:
Spiritual gifts are distinguished from other graces of the Holy Spirit, such as the fruit of the Spirit and the Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, in that the charismata are to be used for the benefit of others while the fruit of the Spirit and other gifts result in personal sanctification.
It all depends on where you are in your relationship with God, in the realm of the Holy Spirit. If you reflect more closely of these gifts, complemented with the virtues that go with each gift, and the fruits of the Spirit, you will see the correlation between these 2 positions: after receiving the personal gifts from the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism, they help us to be sanctified and with the help of the charismatic gifts, we become a channel of blessings for others that they as well will be sanctified.
“These gifts are [not merited but] given by the Holy Spirit to individuals, but their purpose is to build up the entire Church.“ It’s not for our personal use only but for others as well. And to continue on as a pastoral reminder of St. Paul in 1 Cor 13: 1-3 (NABRE) it has to be done in LOVE.
1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues[b] but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
To emphasize further the importance of love, in 1 Cor 13: 13 (NABRE), he wrote:
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
As Christians and witnesses to Christ Jesus, we are identified as His disciples because of our love for others. Let us continue to be a blessing for others. Whatever spiritual gifts we have received, we make use for our sanctification and for the sanctification of others.
May the love of Jesus continue to inspire us to love others. God bless!
Music is not new to me. In my younger years, I was a member of the youth choir.
When I entered the seminary to respond to the call, music had been part of our daily lives. There was no audition per se as every soul within the seminary walls were part of the choir – as one community we sang the mass. The music practice was a regular weekly activity. Of course for the neophytes, we had to be “voice-classified” using the piano keys. But even those of us who were “tone-deaf”, they were part of the choir even if their voice did not hit any of the piano keys. It is the beauty of this gift though – even our “tone-deaf” brothers were able to finally hit the notes of the “Our Father” after being exposed to a daily dose of music for 4 years.
Although, there was a specific group for the really talented and musically-inclined – the “Himig Rekoleto” and I’m PROUD to say that I was once a part of that group.
One other item worth mentioning with seminary music was we had to learn another “voice” aside from our specific “voices”. The reason for this was we can be picked randomly by a priest to accompany him on his outside mass. It would be unlucky if all that were picked were “tenors” or “basses”. Hence, anytime we could sing “melody”, “tenor” or “bass”. It is one reason why I also try to learn and sing “bass” even if it is beyond my vocal range. I even remembered a summer time when only three of us were left in the seminary, and we formed the choir. One was our instrumentalist, I served as the altar server, and another served as lector/commentator. But when it’s time to sing, we sang with three voices. Although in some instances during that summer, we were complemented with the “cantoras” – the young ladies from the neighborhood, our seminary angels.
With all these exposures to music, I’ve always appreciated quality in the choir’s voice, those that were specifically and specially selected because of voice quality and talent, i.e., until one summer vacation when I’ve experienced another kind of music. Let me digress here for one moment.
My mother was not gifted with a good voice like my Aunts, in particular auntie Munda and auntie Lita (may they all rest in peace and join the angels in heaven in joyful song of praise).
Oh, I love to listen to their beautiful a cappella rendition of “Devoted to You” or “The Sound of Silence.” Autie Lita’s alto blended beautifully with Auntie Munda’s soprano. No, my mother was plain-voiced even bordering at times to not necessarily “out-of-tune” but more so to “starting-a-song-with-a-different-pitch”.
She was one of the charismatic pioneers in our place together with another aunt. In one prayer meeting they had at our home, they were singing worship and praises and I never heard a song so moving, not even in the seminary that I felt I was with angels singing praises to the Lord. They were just singing melody, no voicing or any technical musical style. They were just singing their hearts out. It was then that I was taught my very important lesson in one of our rare conversations — that singing for people is very different when you are singing for the Lord. People listen and appreciate beautiful voices, the Lord looks at the purity of heart and the HUMILITY of spirit. As a music coordinator, it became my guiding principle in selecting and accepting brethren in our Music Ministry – COMMITMENT foremost, and love for music only second. Many have the talent but have no commitment. To those who commit and sing with utmost HUMILITY, the Lord provides the talent.
Last Saturday, 24 June 2017, on the 36th anniversary of Couples for Christ, we were honored to be part of the 1000-choir to lead the singing of the Holy Mass. We were not selected because of our beautiful voices because definitely there were many who had better voices than we have; nor were we selected due to our talent for music — read “notes-reading”. In our group, I think I am the only one with some background at reading musical scores and not even good at it. Most of the time, we do it “Oido”. No, we were invited to join the 1000-choir because of our commitment to serve the Lord through music.
Since the choir members were from different parts of the country, practices were done per group. Although there was a first choir practice scheduled two weeks before the event for those in Metro Manila and outlying areas at the Quezon City hall lobby, we were not able to join the group’s first gathering. And for most, the gathering at Quirino grandstand on the 24th was our first time to really gather as a choir. With so vast a choir, without a general practice, I salute our conductor, Bro Tito Cayamanda for really bringing the best in us.
Early in our singing, I noticed bro Tito pointing at his breast – telling the choir to sing from the heart. I was reminded of my mother when they sang their worship songs to the Lord with their hearts and souls. It is also what I always tell my brethren in our Music Ministry, to always sing from the heart whether in Sunday Mass when we are the choir or as we lead our brethren in the CFC community in our monthly prayer assemblies.
When we have a choir with good voices, complete with voicing and the right modulation, we tend to get the glory and not the Lord from whom all talents flow. In the Holy Mass, the congregation stop to marvel in awe instead of participating in the singing as they should have. Singing in pop concerts is entirely different from leading in worship. The attention and glory should all be directed to God and not the choir or the Music Ministers. In our prayers before singing, we always ask the Lord that “in our unworthiness, may He send His angels to sing with us that those who hear may have a deeper communion with Him.”
In my old t-shirt (one of my first CFC t-shirt), the CFC Music Ministry by-line spells it out:
“when the Spirit leads, the music moves.”
And so, for the 36 years that He has blessed Couples for Christ, we proclaim our praise and thanksgiving. To God be all the glory!
In this fast-paced world of technology and the seemingly emerging importance of social media in our lives, we see many people who click without even reading just because it showed in their news feed, or they like the person posting it.
Many a time, we see in an FB post a test as to who reads to the end with an instruction to share instead of just clicking [LIKE], because with so many to view and so little a time, it is really easier to just [LIKE] than to read what is being posted.
When I started my blog, I also had the same dilemma as maryjholden if I’m ready to put my thoughts to words for all netizens to read. But as I have written in “Insight to my soul“, writing here is my way of reaching out to my brethren in the Couples for Christ community and to the rest of the world, so I proceeded with making the blog 3 years ago — in fact, it was the clincher.
It’s only after a year that I picked it up again with my third post and then another lull. But by this time, it no longer mattered if others outside of my group will read it. What was important to me then what sharing them my thoughts — through the internet for those who have access to it, and printing the article and sharing it with them in our weekly household meetings, when they don’t. After that, it was easy — I just post every time I felt inspired to write or I have something to convey on.
Another thing that comes easy for me is reading. I love to read. My favorite hang out is the Book Sale. Every time I visit a mall and I have the resources, it is one of the first that I check out. But now with other responsibilities, I’m more discriminating in the things I read and buy.
But for most, reading is a herculean task. If you don’t have a heart for it, it really is. It takes passion and finding the right article to read — something that will whet your appetite to continue on to the next page — to the end of the chapter.
“Clicking without reading” is like signing a blank check; it’s like signing a contract without knowing what you are signing for. If you are in this category and you heed this warning and you want to start the habit of reading; or you are already starting to read; here are some benefits that may encourage you to continue taking on the challenge. One is “traveling the world without leaving your home“.
Even with movie adaptation of a novel with all the special effects that technology now made possible, personally I still pine for the written words. There’s is no alternate to the minute description that can totally absorb you. That, unfortunately can never be adapted to the screen. For our brethren in the community, it is even encouraged to have our daily dose of scriptural and spiritual readings — they are our source for guidance and strength.
For more benefits of reading I found this blog by Ms. Fabrega’s, 13 ways reading will improve your life. It may encourage you to continue reading.
Now, if you’re already affected by the reading bug, and you missed my previous posts and reflections, you may want to check them here. I have updated them since my last posting. Start with Insight to my soul, so you will have a perspective to the author’s heart and mind (that’s me :D), then just delve on to a topic you like. You can also check out the beauty of creation as I see them Behind my lens or just be inspired with Words that move.
And finally, the internet is a very expansive library where you can continue on searching for your favorite subjects. Just be warned that not all you read in the internet is factual and true. You just have to be discerning in what you read — and what you believe as facts.
I have one request though. If you read my thoughts, please leave me yours — comment on. They will not just boost my ego, but will be of help to me in improving my craft. They will be greatly appreciated. God bless!
The rationale for this article is not to feature the grandeur of the churches we visited but sharing our experiences and the emotions we felt as we communed with the Lord in places we seldom visited or visited for the first time.
I drafted this last March in time for the Lenten season. I got back to it from time to time but with so many commitments and so little a time, I haven’t found the time to complete it or posting – TILL NOW.
Read on and may you find joy in reading as I had in writing this. Your comments are very much appreciated.
March – a season of Lent, a seemingly season of pilgrimages. March 5 marked the completion of our two-day pilgrimage to Tarlac and Bataan, together with my brethren in Couples for Christ, mostly from the music ministry. It was the fourth Lenten pilgrimage but not necessarily our fourth trip. We started out in 2012 with a trip to “Kamay ni Hesus” [the hand of Jesus] in Lucban, Quezon. It was the only pilgrim site we had visited but it sparked the desire to continue with what we had started.
Merriam-Webster simply defines pilgrimage as “a journey to a [holy] special or unusual place.” A pilgrimage especially done during the Lenten season should have a deeper meaning than just going to this special place.
So why do we go to pilgrimages? The ideal answer would be to have a deeper communion with the Lord especially during the Lenten season. Today however, it’s becoming a trend. Almost every parish organizes one, and even small groups such as ours also go out on such trips. During our pilgrimages we met lots of “pilgrims” going to the same churches we went; in fact busloads of pilgrims came and went. But looking at some of them made me think: “are they pilgrims or tourists?” I’m not being judgmental but when you see people in short shorts with matching spaghetti straps coming in to these churches, will you be thinking of pilgrims or tourists?
Personally though, I feel that the essence of the pilgrimage is visiting these churches to pray and meditate on the passion, death and victorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But with the advancement of technology and the influence of social media, it seems more time is spent in picture-taking than in praying and meditating, taking that “perfect selfie” to post as the most recent DP (display pict as my daughter informed me). Of course, we are not exempted from doing so as we also take our “remembrance shots” before leaving the pilgrimage site. Nonetheless, this made me reflect – if we have truly achieved our reason for going to the pilgrimage; or we just do this in order to gawk in awe of these churches’ beauty, and through social media boost our morale with our friends [LIKE].
With these questions in mind, I’m going back on our trips. Come, join me as I retrace our steps …
THE FIRST TRIP
(Kamay ni Hesus - Lucban, Quezon » 31 March – 1 April 2012)
The first trip was on March 31, 2012 to “Kamay ni Hesus” in Lucban, Quezon – a Lenten pilgrimage site. It gave our sister-wives the opportunity to receive God’s healing grace through the hands of Fr. Joey Faller. The healing session was done after we have partaken of the Holy Eucharist in the morning mass. As our sister-wives had shared during our monthly Chapter prayer assembly a week after – they seemingly felt like “molten candle” – all feelings had gone from their thighs down to their toes and just felt that they were falling to the waiting hands of Fr Joey’s “healing assistants”. For some, they did not even know that they have fallen down.
After the healing session, we followed “Jesus’ steps” in meditation and prayers as we trod the way to the first station till we reached the “Kamay ni Hesus” statue on top of the hill.
Anybody who had gone to the place surely had also paused to catch their breath past midway as we did.
Reaching the top, we can’t help but have the moment be captured behind the lens after we had finished offering the Holy Rosary.
Having offered our prayers, we went down to have our faces “pixelized” as foreground for the various statues that tell of the great story – from creation to the Great Flood.
Leaving the place, we felt the serenity of being in the presence of our great God and mighty Savior.
As we were already in Quezon and one of the sisters was from that province, we took the opportunity to go to their hometown, expecting that it was just an hour drive from Lucban. At least that was how our brother described it. It was too late that we realized the mountain folk’s story that “when a mountain folk points you to a direction using his lips, it is a place beyond the next mountain or more”, which our brother jokingly said – “dalawang liko lang, kanan at kaliwa” [just two turns, left and right]. Lisa, a Filipina blogger had a more informative say on Filipino’s lip-pointing.
So after four towns in between two to three mountains and “two turns — left and right”, we reached the town of Catanauan. It was a tiring four hours but we still felt thankful as we celebrated the “Lord’s Day”, which was adapted from the Jew’s celebration of the “Berakah”. As one family, we feasted on an array of various grilled seafood, and consumed what was left of the “dusty 4 years in the store shelf” Novellino Strawberry Passion, that we used in the Lord’s Day celebration. But more than the sumptuous food and the wine, we were given an opportunity to visit our brother’s home and bond with their family.
Palm Sunday, we came home to Cavite bone-weary but spirit-filled as we prepare for the week-long activities of the Holy week.
(Kamay ni Hesus from behind my lens)
(Lenten Pilgrimage: Pangasinan-La Union-Baguio » 12-13 Apr 2014)
Browsing through the various photos I have, I don’t know for what reason but we seem to have skipped 2013; the succeeding photo folder contains the trip in April 12-13, 2014.
On board two Nissan Urvans we travelled to the north this time with our 7 churches itinerary set: “Our Lady of Manaoag” in Pangasinan; the “Basilica Minore of our Lady of Charity” in Agoo, La Union; and then Baguio via Marcos Hi-way. By this time, the “Marcos bust” was already diminished to rubble. In Baguio, our itinerary included Casiaco Recoletos Seminary, our Lady of Lourdes grotto, Baguio Cathedral, St. Joseph the Worker in Pacdal, where Filipino celebrity couple Aga Mulach and Charlene Gonzales were wed; and finally the Pink sisters.
As with our previous pilgrimage, many of our brethren were “touched”, myself included – this time in Casiaco. Being a “formandus” within its walls for four years, it was like a coming-home to me. My brethren who were so used with the “noisy” mass in our parish were in awe of the very solemn celebration of the mass coupled with the angelic voices of the philosophers.
After the Palm Sunday mass, tears started falling while we were having our Intercessory Prayers at the seminary’s chapel. Truly, the singing of praise and worship was so powerful that we felt the Lord’s angels were singing with us as we gave glory to God. We were only on the third church of our itinerary and the Lord had already granted us solace.
Before leaving, of course we wanted to remember the day so we had our faces captured together with Father Rector – Fr. Joefel Trayvilla, OAR (4th from the left), and a classmate of mine Fr Gie – Ronel Gealon, OAR. (1st from the left).
(My family and extended families: the OAR and Couples for Christ community in CaReS)
Seemingly, our feeling of euphoria was not yet complete for as we went up the steps of the grotto and having offered our prayers, the administrator-priest who was involved in the construction of the chapel by the grotto, blessed us and gave us a pouch of blessed petals for us to bring home. Having learned that we are members of Couples for Christ from Cavite, he blessed us, our families and our mission of evangelization.
By mid-afternoon, we had finished our 7 churches. To close the day, we brought the weary but happy “pilgrims” to The Mansion, Mine’s view park, the Good Shepherd for the brittles and jams. Of course, the “palengke pasalubongs” and vegetables came after.
Due to a previous engagement, the other van went home ahead via the scenic Kennon Road, while we proceeded to the strawberry and lettuce fields of La Trinidad.
(some picts to remember the place)
Then with sunset, we left Baguio via the same route but with a big difference – “we came up with our troubles, we went home with the Lord’s peace.”
THE THIRD TRIP
(Post Mother’s Day trip: Calaruega, Batangas » 1 June 2014)
The sisters (our wives) attended the “Marian Echo conference” of the Handmaids of the Lord – a family ministry of the CFC. It was after the conference that the idea of the trip sprouted. It was foresight perhaps that some of our brethren were emigrating or perhaps they just longed for more “bonding time”. It was a “spur-of-the-moment” plan but the desire to go out-of-town was so intense that the idea sprouted into a full-bloom plan. So in honor of our wives another trip was scheduled, this time to Batangas, the destination — Calaruega in Batulao, Nasugbu.
(the lovely ladies – the 3 moms, 3 daughters, and the tita (in spirit) with the Calaruega church in the background)
The mass was almost finished when we arrived, but we were treated with the angelic voices of the Calaruega Children choir as they practiced their choreographed songs after the mass.
We just enjoyed the majestic ambiance of the compound, the beauty of nature, the “Kois” and the colorful flowers. It was just a day of relaxation and bonding of families.
But when we visited the chapel by the hill, something spectacular happened – at least for us it was something spectacular. For ears used to city noise, the silence of the place was deafening. Not even the mooing of the cow pastured on the other hill can be heard, though not entirely.
As 3 o’clock struck, the silence was intruded with the various cellphone alarms (it’s not only me whose cell’s alarm is set to 3 PM for the 3 o’clock habit).
As one family we knelt down and prayed the 3 o’ clock prayer, then continued on with praying the Holy Rosary. On the fifth decade, as our brother offered his petition of going to Canada and as we said our “Amens”, the clear and loud mooing of a cow was heard, as if the cow was also lifting our prayers to the Creator. After the prayers, we looked for the cow and were surprised to see that it was so far away on another hill and yet we heard the cow’s moo as if it was just behind us. Coincidental? Perhaps, but personally I believed that the Lord was telling us something and lo, three months after, our brother Yam flew to Canada with his family following a month after. Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways, He used our brother for our global evangelization.
As of this writing, Yam and Joyce are now serving as assistant Team Leaders in their CLP — Christian Life Program at Prince Albert. They will be heading the CLP in Saskatoon this coming November. Our prayers are with you.
The young ones and the young once.
(some shots of Calaruega)
While it was not a Lenten pilgrimage, we still felt that it was a trip offered to the Lord, and which He, in His graciousness had granted our wishes for peace and serenity of heart as we went home to face once again the chaos and noise of everyday city life.
THE FOURTH TRIP
(Third Lenten Pilgrimage: Batangas » 28 March 2015)
For our third Lenten Pilgrimage, we left Cavite for Batangas. First in our itinerary was the pilgrim site of St. Padre Pio Shrine in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.
Truly, the saint who is honored in the shrine touches people who visit the place. The mass was delayed because of the supposedly big contingent from Laguna, which never came. Nonetheless, it was a spirit-filled experience.
It was in Padre Pio shrine that my interest on the “orans” posture during the Our Father was piqued. The priest told the congregation that he “can easily distinguish the locals from the pilgrims – the locals’ hands are in their chests, while the pilgrims are holding hands.” So I decided to check the proper posture of the congregation according to the Canon law.
We opened our “Way to the Cross” by offering our prayers for the First and Second stations in front of the crucified Christ.
From Sto Tomas, we proceeded to the Marian Orchard in Balete passing through the back roads.
While it was not actually a church, but rather a family chapel, upon seeing the place, we felt it was the best place to have our Intercessory prayers, then our prayers for the Third and Fourth stations.
(photos taken at the Marian Orchard)
Having fed our spirits, we fed our bodies with what the brethren brought and shared.
Then we proceeded to San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City for the Fifth and Sixth stations. Unfortunately though the photographer we commissioned – my daughter was fast asleep in the van, hence no picture of the Cathedral was brought home.
For the Seventh and Eight stations we continued on to the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church also in Lipa City. We were blessed to witness the solemn profession of 3 nuns – “their marriage to Christ.”
The fifth was the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph in San Jose, with its beautiful Prayer Garden beside the church.
From San Jose, we proceeded to the Basilica Minore of the Infant Jesus and the Immaculate Conception in Batangas City for the Eleventh and Twelfth stations. Then we joined the praying of the 6PM Angelus. It was already dark when we left for the last church.
On our way to the seventh church, Shrine of our Lady of Caysasay in Taal, we were caught up in heavy traffic that we decided to cut short and decided to finish our pilgrimage at our chapel in honor of St. Augustine in Mabuhay City, Paliparan 3, Dasmariñas, Cavite.
As with all of our trips, the St. Augustine chapel was our starting point. It was only during this trip that we ended our pilgrimage in the same house of worship we started out.
THE FIFTH TRIP
(Fourth Lenten Pilgrimage: Tarlac and Bataan » 5-6 March 2016)
For our fourth Lenten pilgrimage, we decided a two-day trip to Central Luzon – Tarlac with a side trip to Bataan. While I googled “Monasterio de Tarlac”, MSBOLIN’s “a visita iglesia at pnoy’s hometown” leaped up to me. So for the church’s reference, I have MSBolin to thank for. But unlike their group who started out in Bamban, we planned of going first to the Monasterio going down to Bamban before proceeding to Bataan.
We opened our pilgrimage with a short worship at Mabuhay City’s St. Augustine’s chapel at 3:30AM. While it was still dark and the traffic was light, on board our brother’s reliable Nissan Urvan and with another brother’s Sentra, we convoyed to our first stop, Monasterio De Tarlac of the Servants of the Risen Christ with the intention of reaching the place for the 10:30AM mass.
Thanks to a “good Samaritan” who guided us part of the way, we reached the Monasterio with an hour to spare. Taking into consideration the Eucharistic fast, we shared our late breakfast at the monastery’s parking grounds.
The 10:30 mass started an hour late. I was a bit disappointed with the proceedings, perhaps because I had a preconception of the solemn atmosphere of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist being in a monastery. But seemingly, in deference probably to the many pilgrims who flocked to the monastery, the atmosphere of solitude was not maintained. Even the mass was not any different from the city masses we normally attended – the clapping of hands, the redundant greeting of “good morning” after the presidential greeting of “the Lord be with you”. I can’t help but compare it to our experience of solemnity in the celebration of the Holy Mass in Casiciaco (2014 Pilgrimage).
Towards the end, however, before the final blessing was given, there was period of healing – of offering the pilgrims’ pains, worries and unforgiving hearts to the Savior, I noticed my wife and some of the sisters sobbing. So while I was not personally moved, some in our group were – again on the first church that we went to. Indeed, we were to a good start. Our reason for going into the pilgrimage – that of having a deeper relationship with the Lord was granted.
As the queue for the veneration of the cross of Christ was still quite long, we decided to do our First station prayers by the first cross intended for the Stations of the Cross devotion with the intent of doing the Second station by the Risen Christ image. Considering the constraint in our schedule, we proceeded to the Risen Christ image. However, as it was yet under construction and there were people working at the site, we decided to do the Second Station at the second church in our itinerary instead.
(shots from the monastery)
With our photos taken for mementos and posterity (and for my blog too), we went down to Tarlac City – to San Sebastian cathedral.
In San Sebastian cathedral, there was a wedding entourage by the entrance waiting for the bride to arrive. So while the ceremony had not yet started we continued on with the stations, supposedly ending on the Fourth station as it was the second church of our pilgrimage. However, as we were closing the Third station, the organist played the wedding march, which made it difficult to hear even the person beside you. So we ended at the Third station and decided to go to the next church.
But my daughter who was our photographer was so captivated by the bride that she decided to take a snap shot of her from the sideline.
On my part, I offered my prayers in silence for the groom and bride that as they enter into marriage in front of the Lord, they may continue to be faithful to each other and to the vows that they will be entering into.
As it was already 3 o’ clock, we decided to skip the next church – the San Josemaria Escriva parish church in Gerona, Tarlac. A decision I regretted after seeing the church featured in KrisTV on March 7. Perhaps on the way to our next pilgrimage next year to Ilocos, we can make it our first stop.
Before proceeding to the next church, the group prayed the 3 o’ clock prayer. Due to lack of time we have not taken any photos aside from that of the bride. So you may want to check out Google’s images of San Sebastian cathedral for reference.
Then we went down to the Sanctuario dela Immaculada Concepcion in Concepcion, Tarlac. While sacrifice is part of the pilgrimage, and “even if our spirit is willing, our flesh is not” so we decided to take our packed food out for a very late lunch. But the Lord planned something for us – He was telling us to “feed the hungry” for we were given the opportunity to do a corporal act of mercy. We shared our food with the street children who watched us partaking of our “baons”.
I was not sure but I thought we passed through the “Jubilee doors of Mercy”, that would be indeed another blessing as that would have given us additional plenary indulgences as Pope Francis intended them to be. We did three stations to compensate for the one station we missed at the monastery.
Following the setting sun, we drove on to San Nicolas de Tolentino in Capas, Tarlac. That was another disappointment for me, since the “house” was not worthy of the Master. We were met with litters at the church’s portico; the font by the entrance became the “swimming pool” for the “kitikiti” and the smell of pigsty invaded the air – reminding me of the Lord Jesus’ anger when the Jews made the temple into a marketplace.
As we offered our prayers, I also asked the Lord for forgiveness for my ill thoughts. We were just travelers passing through and in the short time we spent at the place, I had already passed judgment on our brethren.
Finally darkness caught up with us as we traveled to the last church for the day’s itinerary. We arrived to a dark church in Bamban – the Sto Nino parish church. Going down our vehicles we found some youths in a meeting by the side entrance, perhaps the youth choir. We asked them if it’s okay if we made our prayers inside. Their coordinator opened some lights but as the rest of the church was in darkness, we just prayed the Ninth and Tenth stations facing the altar. Our photographer already succumbed to tiredness after the day-long trip.
After thanking them, we drove on to Dinalupihan, Bataan via the SCTEX to give honor to our sister’s mom on her 80th birthday.
All throughout our travel, even equipped with the map of Central Luzon, we still sought the wisdom of the locals in pointing us to the right direction.
We arrived at Bataan to the tune of “Delilah” and “Green, Green Grass of Home” coming out of the videoke. Hearing our sister’s relatives sang with gusto decided for us to do the honoring the following day. Clearly, we can not expect to have a restful night for in our neighborhood, the videoke singing usually continues on to the wee hours of night. It was a logistical failure – we have not planned for our night’s accommodations.
Some in our group, out of necessity was able to secure a place for the night at C.T. Tops but for a price – which was not considered in our budget. We still have a long day ahead of us so we had to take it even if it left a bad feeling in my gut that the inconvenience will bring down the spiritual morale of the group. This minor inconvenience I offered to the Lord as I lay down to sleep and prayed for the well-being of the whole group.
We started the day with a Holy sacrifice of the Mass in St. Joseph parish church in Dinalupihan, Bataan. Then, we proceeded with the 11th and 12th Stations of the Cross.
Having been fed spiritually, we went to our sister’s home a block away from the church to share breakfast with them.
As one of the reasons for going to Bataan was to give honor to our sister’s mom, we asked her mother “Nanay Pina” to join us in our morning worship, and also to pray for her – our way of honoring our sister’s mom, and by spiritual extension all our mothers as well.
We also offered prayers for the whole clan of Nanay Pina.
Nanay (Filipina) Pina’s clan
and the CFC Cavite-2C2 Music Ministry
Having said our “GOODBYEs” and “THANK YOUs” to the family, we took to the road again for our last station in Balanga, Bataan and some historical tour of Mt. Samat.
With the original itinerary, by this time we would have already finished with the 7 churches. But due to the time we spent at the monastery we still need to visit one more church. We decided to visit any church along the way on our way home. But on our way to Mt. Samat via the Roman expressway we noted the directional sign to the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Balayan City, which would be a good place to culminate our pilgrimage to Central Luzon after our trip to the “Dambana ng Kagitingan”.
(a jump for senior citizens is just raising the heels of the feet)
Before finally going down to Balanga, we decided to check out the “Dunsulan falls” at the foot of Mt. Samat.
It was a disappointment. It may had been a place to sit, pause and enjoy solitude for a moment or even to dip in its cool water. But during our short visit, food wrappers littered the place and the water’s not ideal for swimming if what you’re expecting is like Majayjay falls in Laguna.
[additional note in link References #44].
Going down to Balanga center, we had to stop by “Mang Inasal” for a very late lunch. After the long climb to Mt. Samat, our photographer developed an appetite.
Fortunately, it was a Sunday and we had already done our fasting and abstinence a day before our trip.
Nourished, we proceeded to the cathedral of St. Joseph in front of the plaza. But mass was about to start. Looking around the side, I noticed the Adoration Room. So in silence we finished the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Stations. It was in the Adoration Room that I felt the Spirit moving us and I felt in my heart that our pilgrimage had been a victory amid the mishaps and inconveniences – we received what we came for, a deeper communion with God.
Outside the Adoration Room, we once again gathered for the seventh church prayer and our closing prayers before going to our vehicles for our final way home to Cavite.
In retrospect, it has affirmed our reason for going to these pilgrimages. Every time we go back to our homes, though tired and weary, we are on fire and full of spiritual energy. Most of all amid life’s troubles and oppression, we found solace and the serenity of mind and heart.
One thing we’ve overlooked though. Visiting these churches, we have been touched. But aside from the first church, where we have offered at mass, for the rest of the churches we’ve visited, we haven’t done anything to touch God’s people as we’ve been touched in visiting them. We haven’t even bothered to pay respects to the parish priest and more so to leave a donation for the churches we’ve visited. Had we done so, we may have sought the parish priest’s blessings as well before we leave for our next destination. That would have made our pilgrimage more meaningful.
Well, we have a year to plan ahead for our next pilgrimage to consider all of the logistical details — perhaps in Ilocos region, we hope. But before that, we still have one more pilgrimage scheduled for the year – before the extraordinary jubilee year of mercy closes in November 20.
So for our past pilgrimages and for pilgrimage yet to come, we offer them all for the glory of God.
Looking back at my old photo albums from our quasi-days at Casiciaco, (our “day-off” from the regular seminary activities) I was only contented to have my face plastered on the walls by our brother-photographer Joey. It was a time of films and negatives, where every click mattered. It has to be a perfect shot always or the expensive film will just be wasted. So, ordering prints for our personal copies was enough for us.
During my badmiton days, another person showed me his passion in capturing people’s emotions – the joy of victory, the disappointment of a loss or even that expression of making the perfect smash.
When I started clicking on my own, Digi-cams were available for the newbie photographer like me. At least “trial and error” can be tolerated since “wrong shots” can just be easily deleted.
I was already contented with my old Kodak C653 EasyShare until my daughter’s DSLR arrived – not because of whim, but by necessity as it is a required equipment for all Broad Journ students.
After trying the Canon EOS 100D, the “old” Kodak seemed lacking, consequently shelving it for a time – but not for long. It was shipped to the north of Luzon where it can be put to good use by my wife’s nieces to capture their elementary school events.
My first attempts (on my own) with the DSLR, most of my shots were blurred as I did not actually had enough time to study the various features and didn’t notice the AF/MF switch at the front. Even now, it’s still learning stage and experimentation for me.
I don’t have a specific subject matter yet — whether I would capture God’s beautiful creation in nature and scapes; or portraits, perhaps people’s emotions like my friend Jeeves from my Smash Philippines badminton days. I’m sure it will be refined with time. For now, I’m just happy to be behind the lens.
So again, here’s the first installment of my views from behind the lens. Check it out and tell me your thoughts. I know whatever that is, it will just help me to become better each time. God bless!