Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Our Journey to God's Abode... Posted by Picasa

Dhikr for the 3rd Sunday of Easter (B)

“And Jesus said to them, thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24: 45-48)

We are, indeed, witnesses of the life, teachings and deeds of the Risen Lord.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Call to Prayer & Fasting for Peace in Sri Lanka

Greetings of Peace from Rome!

The OMI General Service of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation reiterates Fr. General’s Appeal for Peace in Sri Lanka made in February 2006.

“Through baptism and through our vows we are a priestly people and prayer is a most powerful way to mediate peace. Anytime during the next four weeks would be most opportune for our prayerful intervention. Collective prayer sessions with the use of symbols, novenas, meditating in silence…or any other suitable form of prayer would be in order. We need to remind ourselves that prayer is an integral component of evangelization.”

“We also invite our friends, partners and co-workers, both lay and religious, to join us in this spiritual endeavour for PEACE in Sri Lanka.”

This time as Sri Lanka is again on the brink of war, we invite everyone to participate in the call for PRAYER and FASTING for Peace called by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka.

Reports from the ground tell us that the political situation in Sri Lanka has worsened these past weeks. Violence and killing continue to escalate with the recent suicide bombing inside the Military Camp in the capital and the aerial bombings in the North-East of the country. Once again the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tiger Tamil Ealam (LTTE) is observed more in violation that people fear an immanent declaration of an all-out war and the closure of the main highway (A 9 Highway) that connects the South and the North.

In the midst of these wanton killings coupled by anxieties and uncertainties, prayers and fasting for peace has become, seemingly, our only remaining recourse. We invite all people of goodwill, especially OMI Institutions, Houses, Centers and Parishes to include a special intention for Sri Lanka in their daily prayers and to devote four (4) Fridays beginning on the 27th of April in Fasting for Peace in Sri Lanka.

Pace e Bene!

Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI
General Service of Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation

Oswald Firth, OMI
1st Assistant General
Portfolio on Mission and JPIC

26 April 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Feast of St. Mark - the Father of the Coptic Church

(Editor's Note: During my stay in Cairo and Alexandria in the 80's, I have made contact with the Coptic Church and I have seen, touched and witnessed the three important ccontributions of the Coptic Church - first, the understanding of the mystery of our Christian Faith, second, the life of Monasticism in the desert, and third,the cross that is at the core in the life of the Coptic Church.)

The Coptic Church is based on the teachings of Saint Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century, a dozen of years after the Lord's ascension.

The Copts have survived as a strong religious entity that prides themselves on their contribution to the Christian world. The Coptic Church regards itself as a strong defendant of Christian faith. The Nicene Creed, which is recited in all churches throughout the world, has been authored by one of its favorite sons, Saint Athanasius, the Pope of Alexandria for 46 years, from 327 A.D. to 373 A.D.

The contributions of the Coptic Church to Christendom are many. From the beginning, it played a central role in Christian theology---and especially to protect it from the Gnostics heresies. The Coptic Church produced thousands of texts, biblical and theological studies which are important resources for archeology.

1. The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest Catechetical School in the world. Soon after its inception around 190 A.D. by the Christian scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became the most important institution of religious learning in Christendom. Many prominent bishops from many areas of the world were instructed in that school under scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement, Didymus, and the great Origen, who was considered the father of theology and who was also active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies.

2. Monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Church's character of submission and humbleness, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts. Monasticism started in the last years of the third century and flourished in the fourth century. Saint Anthony, the world's first Christian monk was a Copt from Upper Egypt. Saint Pachom, who established the rules of monasticism, was a Copt. And, Saint Paul, the world's first anchorite is also a Copt. Other famous Coptic desert fathers include Saint Makarios, Saint Moses the Black, and Saint Mina the wonderous. The more contemporary desert fathers include the late Pope Cyril VI and his disciple Bishop Mina Abba Mina.

3. The greatest glory of the Coptic Church is its Cross. Copts take pride in the persecution they have sustained as early as May 8, 68 A.D., when their Patron Saint Mark was slain on Easter Monday after being dragged from his feet by Roman soldiers all over Alexandria's streets and alleys. The Copts have been persecuted by almost every ruler of Egypt. Their Clergymen have been tortured and exiled even by their Christian brothers after the schism of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. and until the Arab's conquest of Egypt in 641 A.D. To emphasize their pride in their cross, Copts adopted a calendar, called the Calendar of the Martyrs, which begins its era on August 29, 284 A.D., in commemoration of those who died for their faith during the rule of Diocletian the Roman Emperor. This calendar is still in use all over Egypt by farmers to keep track of the various agricultural seasons and in the Coptic Church Lectionary.

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Coptic Church was unfairly accused of following the teachings of Eutyches, who believed in monophysitism. This doctrine maintains that the Lord Jesus Christ has only one nature, the divine, not two natures, the human as well as the divine.

The Coptic Church has never believed in monophysitism the way it was portrayed in the Council of Chalcedon! In that Council, monophysitism meant believing in one nature. Copts believe that the Lord is perfect in His divinity, and He is perfect in His humanity, but His divinity and His humanity were united in one nature called "the nature of the incarnate word", which was reiterated by Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Copts, thus, believe in two natures "human" and "divine" that are united in one "without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration" (from the declaration of faith at the end of the Coptic divine liturgy). (Based on the Encyclopedia of Coptic Church)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dhikr for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (B) - WhitSunday

“Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." (John 20:29)

Believing is not a question of seeing and touching… It is a question of TRUST!

Dhikr is an Arabic word for remembrance. In the “tariqa” (the way) movement, dhikr developed into a form of prayer… It is a prayer of the heart… following three simple steps:

1. Write in one’s heart a certain passage of the Holy Writ…
2. Make the same passage ever present in one’s lips.
3. Then wait for God’s disclosure on the meaning of the passage…that interprets one’s life NOW…!

It takes a week of remembering (dhikr)…or even more days to relish the beauty of this method…

SAHARA - JABARA*: It’s worth the effort

(Editor's note: I am re-publishing this OMI experience in the Sahara Mission, because of the interest that the Sahara generated by the Badaliyya Blogspot.)

*Jabara: News sent out for centuries among the desert people, without the help of press, radio, and TV.

One of the many inquisitive journalists that passed through here, notebook and ballpoint poised to take notes for his “best-seller,” when he was told the statistics of Christians of every race, language, country, and color that we know about…only know about…in these 280,000 square kilometers of what was once the “Spanish West Sahara,” and is now the “beloved Southern provinces” of Morocco, and specifically, the statistics of the Catholics that are in Laayoune and Dakhla, was unable to hide his surprise in the question he posed: “Is it worth the effort that you are here?”

Since I doubted that he could understand or that I would even know how to explain it, I simply answered him by asking a question: is it worth the effort for the lonely tree to grow on top of a mountain, or the one on the high plain or in the desert; and what about the little spring that bubbles up, hidden in some corner of the planet, especially in the Sahara? The ones to answer should be the birds, or the mountain dwellers, or the exhausted travelers, or the workers in Castile and Andalusia, or the desert nomads.

Nor is it a surprising question, because some Oblates in the province ask us the same question. “What are you doing there? Why don’t you just come home?”

But if the example of the tree or the spring does not convince them or seems childish, the only thing we can say is that “it all depends…”

It all depends on one’s notion of Church and of the Mystical Body, the “Great Mystery” of which Pius XII spoke. We repeat the answer which, according to what they told us 50 years ago, a little boy in communist Korea gave to the authorities who told him that there was no Church and that all the Christians had gone away: “I am the Church!”

His answer and idea have special meaning in the Muslim world, where, as some of them tell us, we are no more than a drop of water in the ocean, trying to absorb their greatness, connecting with them, and trying to share their joys and hopes, their dreams and their disappointments – as the Council says – and more so now, in the circumstances and ordeals they are experiencing. We are not unlike the grain of salt in the fable, who understood the sea only when he jumped into it.

We neither measure nor take into account whether they are the poorest or if they suffer the most. That would make no sense, because pain and suffering cannot be measured. In the Gospel, one does not read: “Blessed are the poorest…or those who weep the most…or come to me, you who are most burdened…or the most persecuted.” Nor did Christ raise up those who were the “deadest.” It only says “the poor…the burdened…the persecuted.” Those are pages from the Gospel that resonate in a special way in the Sahara ever since the latest events of last May, well known because of the coverage they had in all the media, and which continue to this day.

This is the situation in which they have lived for the past 30 years: the diaspora, and deportation to the camps of Tinduf. There is the separation of families – almost every family has someone there. There is poverty and marginalization. It’s an almost total obstacle for youth who have no future or feel that they are in a little boat where “up ahead, there are light and dreams; behind, there are hunger and suffering. To the left and to the right, there are distant boats with lights on them…and below, there is death.” That’s what one of them told us who, coming home by sea, lost his way in a storm. Just when he thought he had finally reached the beaches of Fuerteventura, he discovered that he was once again in Tarfaya, his point of departure.

Added to all that are the internal fights for political and economic reasons and the awareness that their resources (fish and phosphates) are being exploited – for that is the toll the government is exacting for the massive development of the housing and logistical infrastructure.

There is disenchantment, disappointment, and lack of trust for MINURSO – the UN Mission for the Referendum – which has yet to happen after 15 years of presence in the Sahara, even though one must recognize that they have been working. These are some of the reasons for their feeling that they have been abandoned by governments and international organizations: such unhappiness…and such patience.

The detention, imprisonment, and mistreatment received by one of their most distinguished leaders and a defender of human rights was the spark that set fire to and provoked their determination and unleashed the demonstrations, including hunger strikes.

The people, especially youth, women and even children, went to the streets late at night in numerous demonstrations, claiming independence and demanding their rights. The demonstrations were put down with violence and without giving it a second thought by the security forces, the terrifying GUS (Urban Security Groups), reinforced by the army, in an impressive show of force throughout the whole city, but especially in the most crowded neighborhoods where the great majority of Saharan families live. These had to endure damage and even destruction of their homes for having left their doors open so that those who were fleeing in panic from the security forces could hide. The forces followed them all the way in and physically abused them, even throwing some out the window, according to the stories one hears. One woman even gave birth in the street (to put it delicately). There were deaths and many serious injuries that were not treated in the hospitals, some because they could not go, and others, because they did not want to go for fear of being detained and taken to jail, the terrifying “Black Jail,” or the jails up North. Therefore, some of them had to be taken care of secretly, in private homes or in the desert, so as not to be found and arrested.

All of that unleashed an impressive unity and solidarity movement among the Saharans who have gone out of their way to help the sick and injured and needy families.

To all those problems, we should add that of the sub-Saharan emigrants, or those from other continents, hidden in the peripheral or remote neighborhoods, among the dunes and the ponds, or among the cliffs and the hidden beaches, waiting for the moment to be able to jump in their little boat that will take them to that “world of light” which they think is in front of them, “leaving behind hunger and suffering,” even though down there in the sea, with boats and lights to the left and right, death is also waiting for them, as that young man told us. They are detained in police stations in hazardous conditions, at the mercy of the charity and the aid of this good people, until they are “sent away,” one would say.

In this atmosphere, one notices a spirit of unity and solidarity and a warm understanding, even unspoken. This spirit is overshadowed only by the empty stare, the cold shoulder, and the rudeness of the informants and the spies that are there, unfortunately, sowing fear and mistrust even within families, even though people generally know who they are.

But over all, there is the sure hope that they will achieve victory. For that, they fight and it keeps them going.

They are in no hurry. They are counting on the time factor. They know how to wait. They have it in their blood and who knows? Perhaps it is genetic, because that is what they have done for centuries as nomads, with no other clock than waiting. They know that the clouds that guide their steps, their movements, will finally release the long awaited water, the gift of God, which is a remedy for its own deficiency, and which gives new birth to that remarkable life which during years of drought pulsates and blooms in the desert.

That is the world where we find ourselves, seemingly standing alone. Just as the lonely tree or the hidden spring are there in case someone needs shade or a bit of water, there is someone trying quietly to bear a grain of sand in this dune of hardships, poverty and punishment, even though unfortunately, it is not as much as would be needed or as much as we would want.

Therefore, we continue being totally convinced that, as in the title, at the beginning of these few thoughts: IT IS WORTH THE EFFORT! (NOSOTROS OMI, Newsletter of the Province of Spain, January 2006)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Listen to God or Listen to the "Powerful"...

The Easter experience of Jesus' disciples must have been very compelling and transforming...

Peter and John had found courage to confront the powers of this world. The question they raised is still valid for us today.., "it is right in God's sight to listen to men of power rather than to God."

The experience of the Risen Lord is, truly, compelling that no power can keep the disciples from speaking what they have heard, seen and touched...!

The challenge, today, is for believers to experience anew both as individuals and as a community that "compelling and transforming presence of the Risen Lord who continues dwell in our midst...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Charles de Foucauld in his hermitage... Posted by Picasa

The "Hidden" Life of Jesus in Nazareth…

(Editor’s Note: As I write this piece, I remember our confreres in the Western Sahara, in Turkmenistan, and in the many island of the Sulu Archipelago who spent their entire lives in “mission” understood only in terms of “Nazareth”.)

"Nazareth" for Charles de Foucauld means sharing the life of men and women, like the Son of God, that lead an ordinary, everyday human life.
People who patiently live and work in many Muslim areas are beginning to understand the meaning of the “hidden life” of Jesus in Nazareth. By contemplating on Jesus in Nazareth, they begin to touch the mystery of Jesus’ ordinary and unknown life in Nazareth.

Charles de Foucauld in his almost solitary life in the Sahara concluded that the “fuga mundi” was not the destiny. Like the other great founders of Religious movement (Francis of Assisi, IƱigo Loyola, Francis de Sales, etc.) he understood that this world where the Son of God lived is good, and that it is good for us to live in it too, profoundly, to the point of dying in it so as to transfigure it like "the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies".

“Nazareth” is understood not as a “hidden” life that is the opposite of what is visible. It is, rather, an insistence on the need to be in the world and to undertake fully the work of a witness in the world. Charles de Foucauld makes it clear that Francis of Assisi wished to imitate Jesus' public life, while he himself wants to imitate his hidden life. But this imitation of the hidden life is in no way a non-response to the world or a withdrawal from mission.

It is a different type of witness and proclamation. For Charles de Foucauld, it is a question of bringing Christ to "those who do not know him" "preaching not with words, but by example". For him, "the hidden life has not been imitated": it is actually the life he wants to lead in the Church, and his disciples with him. In no way is it hiding as an end in itself, but a striving for fruitfulness: the grain of wheat must die if "it is to bear much fruit".

Charles de Foucauld wanted to transform the death of Jesus as a death to self and a death "to all that is not Jesus". It is witness and proclamation that involve two important points. The first is that of time and of patient waiting. And the second is a sense of goodness.

He spoke of his task in the Sahara as a work a time "of preparation, of the first tilling". Then he spoke of a “sense of patient waiting” with Jesus who, in speaking of his daily duties, said: "All this is to arrive at Jesus Christ, God knows when, perhaps after a few centuries".

If one axis consists in that sense of waiting and great patience which is the opposite of a craving for immediate and spectacular conversion, the other axis can be defined by the sense of goodness. It is a simple goodness, without undue concern for conversion, a "goodness without ideologies", very close to that expressed by Levinas, which is always addressed to a specific human being in his daily life, a friendship in return for friendship, which gives rise to trust.

The acceptance of long delays and a long-term mission, and the desire to strictly respect the culture and convictions of others, could be expressed in what de Foucauld told a layman from Lyons: "Banish the militant spirit from our midst". This term, stressed by de Foucauld, is used by him in its etymological sense: the old soldier does not want to "take up arms" but to engage only, he says, in the "apostolate of goodness". And at the secular level, de Foucauld asked his friends, as he wrote on 21 February 1915 to Massignon, to co-operate in "progress" and "in increasing the material well-being" of the peoples among whom they lived: "There is in this an impulse to give, a collective activity to be organized and private initiatives to be determined, helped and encouraged".

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Basetti-Sani's Testimony...

(Editor's Note: Fr. Basetti-Sani, OFM used to visit the Philippines and shared his life and studies on Islam. His special passion was to "connect" the mystical experiences of St. Francis with the important events in the early contacts between the Christians of Najran and the prophet of Islam. This same stories as "lived" by St. Francis inspired the famous painter Giotto in his works at the upper Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.)

Basetti-Sani writes,” Louis Massignon had alerted me against an unjust condemnation of (Islam) that precluded any sincere and productive dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Islam is a mystery linked with the blessing obtained by Abraham from God for his son Ishmael and Ishmael's progeny. This line of thought, taken from the Bible, is the one to take in order to grasp the significance of Islam.

Before we parted Massignon gave me two thoughts meant as guidelines in my reorientation. One was from Augustine, ' Love sees with new eyes', and the other was from John of the Coss,'Where there is no love put love, and you will find Love'.

It was true: my eyes had seen badly...Later, when my eyes were to see clearly, I would discover in Islam and the Muslims the reflections of the infinite goodness of God”. (Basetti-Sani. 1977. “The Koran in the Light of Christ” Franciscan Herald Press IL pp..17-18)

Fr. Emmanuel - Pastoral Coordinator of Yei Diocese, South Sudan Posted by Picasa

Easter Greetings from South Sudan...

Christ is risen!
Christ is truly risen,

It is not so easy to understand that the life of Jesus did not end on the cross, but that his Father led him from death to eternal life.

Like the women who stood before the empty tomb on the morning of Easter, we will only discover the mystery of the resurrection through faith.

Even when we stand before the tomb of our hopes, not everything is lost. The experience with the Risen Redeemer requires from us that we remain always open for new encounters with Him. Jesus can and will encounter us every day again.

With this in mind, I wish you a Happy Easter and the Blessing of the Risen Redeemer.

May your eyes, your ears, and your hearts always be open for new encounters with Him and with others!

Fr. Emmanuel Lodongo Sebit
Diocese of Yei
Southern Sudan

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Recognizing the Risen Lord in the Breaking of the Bread...

(Wednesday within the Octave of Easter - Luke 24: 13-35)
Bapa Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI

The journey through life is akin to the disciples' walk to Emmaus... It is a journey full of uncertainties and fears, yet hopeful that there is something going on beyond their comprehension.

• First, there is the obstacle that prevents them to recognize the presence of the Risen Lord in their midst.
• Second, there is the fact that the Risen Lord is “completely transformed”. He is beyond look or appearances, beyond taste and touch, and beyond smell and hearing that ordinarily would make our five senses know and recognize a presence.
• Third, there is the remembrance of the Lord’s teaching of “sharing shelter with strangers”, “food to the hungry” and “rest to the weary”. The disciples invited the “Stranger”: “stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over”.
• Fourth, at the shared table, the disciple’s eyes were opened at the BREAKING OF THE BREAD… and they RECOGNIZED THE RISEN LORD!

The key to the mystery of life as we journey through life with all its uncertainties, fears and “untold” expectations… is the capacity to share our lives with others, especially with people in need. That key will open our eyes to recognize the presence of the Risen Lord at the breaking of the Bread. But first, we need to share our table with the poor and the strangers…

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Cut to the heart..."

When the people heard the proclamation that Jesus is RISEN from the dead, "THEY WERE CUT TO THE HEART..." (Acts 2:37)

Like Peter and companions are we able to proclaim, anew, the GOOD NEWS and be witnesses of the Risen Lord that CUT THE HEARTS OF MEN AND WOMEN of our times..?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pasquetta Reflection... Confession and Belief

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10: 8-10)

The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Dhikr

"Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him." (Mark 16: 6)

Jesus is, truly, Risen! Alleluia! With Jesus' resurrection we have the guarantee that, in the end, good shall prevail over evil; life over death; and grace over sin!

Easter Blessings to one and all!

Love and Prayers,
Bapa Eliseo "Jun" Mercado, OMI
Rome, Italy
Easter 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

Raphael: The Deposition: Our Badal/Ransom Posted by Picasa

Jesus Christ: Our Ransom that we may have life to the full!

Jesus Christ is our Ransom...
Bapa Eliseo "Jun" Mercado, OMI

The celebration of the Lord's Passion is the narrative of the PRICE Jesus paid that we may have life...
• He experienced the betrayal by one of his own …
• He found himself all alone before the powers of the world…
• The Custodians of the Law and the Covenant condemned him to die…
• The power of this world washed its hands and gave him away to be flogged and crucified…
• He was abandoned in his utter powerlessness and weakness…
• He died on the Cross as our Ransom!

Jesus was steadfast in his obedience to the will of his Father… He embraced, albeit with fear and trembling, the consequences of his decision to pay the PRICE that we may live and live to the full.

In Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, our God is, truly, revealed…

• Our God is NOT the all powerful one, but the God who loves and who is willing to pay the price that we may have life.
• Our God is NOT the all victorious one, but the God who is courageous to rise up in every fall and always ready to pick up the pieces and to begin anew.
• Our God is the bread broken and shared and the blood shed to free us from the tyranny of sin and the evil in our heart
• Our God brings to fulfillment the covenant established with us by the blood of Jesus, our Lord! God’s fidelity endures for thousands of generations.

“It is finished!”

Go and tell the whole world, the Good News that Jesus who died for us on the CROSS is RISEN!

Happy Easter to one and all!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mourning a dear friend: Sr. Hope, RGS...

Sr. Esperanza “Parang” Quirino, RGS
(A partner, co-workers, mentor and a very dear FRIEND)

On Saturday, 8 April 2006, I received an email that a beloved friend, Sr. Parang also known as Sr. Hope passed away at 7:30 am on the same day.

The succinct announcement of her passing away said it all who this person was…

“Yes, our dear Parang has gone home to our Shepherd God at 7:30 this morning. Last night at past 10:00 pm. Parang collapsed on her way home from Church after “kumpisalan ng Bayan” (Communal Penitential Rite). She was conscious up to the end. The people were around her in the hospital. She even asked them to sing. The parish priest came who joined them for singing. Then he administered the anointing of the sick and after this she just passed quietly. She kept on telling them earlier that she could see her mother fetching her. Parang is an example of one who died with her "slippers” on.”

That same day and the days that followed, I mourned for her and reminisced the years we were together in Kabacan, North Cotabato. It was a reminiscence of a shared ministry with all the joys, hardships, frustrations and success characterized by deep bond of friendship not only between Parang and I but more so a remembrance of God’s love and care for the people of Kabacan and for the workers of the Gospel.

Kabacan was known, then, as a real “tough” place! Few people dared to cross the great Aringay River known to many as “Ilocoskovakia”.

The Ilocanos, of all the migrant peoples of the Cotabato valley, are known for hard work and thrift. They expect no less from their ministers!

By God’s providence, I was a “superman” Pastor of the place from 1976-80, and Sr. Parang was a “superwoman” Parish Sister.

Looking back, it must be “terrible”, awesome and fascinating, as well,sight to see a team of a “superman” and a “superwoman” trying to evangelize and conscientize the heart of “Ilocandia” in Cotabato valley during the Martial Law years of the great Ilocano Dictator, Apo Ferdinand Marcos, then President of the Republic of the Philippines.

Parang was a GREAT ILOCANA! There was in her an immediate recognition of “something made in Ilocos” by the people, especially the older generations who came from the Ilocos region. She was one of them and they saw in her, yet, another GREAT ILOCANO –her uncle, Elpidio Quirino, the second President of the Republic.

Parang was a great and patient mentor, particularly in everything Ilocano, including the language. She would translate into Ilocano my homilies and interventions in assemblies until I developed the courage to speak it and made it my own. With Parang and some lay leaders, we developed an Ilocano Cursillo and through the cursillo developed the basic Christian Community in the barrios of Kabacan.

Parang was an example of a Missionary Religious with “FIRE” - a Passion for Christ and Compassion for humanity”. She was tireless in her ministry, especially to the poor and the most marginalized. True to her RGS slogan: she made the poor and the most abandoned feel most important and valuable persons in the eyes of God.

Even before death, distance, space and times were never obstacles to her dedicated service. Her speed and travels were phenomenal – by bus, by boat or by TDK (truck de karga)! She was devotee of the God of the impossible!

But what stood out was not her wonderful works or speed, but her testimony to a deep prayer life and a simple life-style. Many times, she would say that she had to pray hard and lead a simple and frugal life because she talked too much and she was an Ilocana!

From her I learned that prayer is the important ingredient to a happy missionary life. We all have our share of frustrations, failures and successes. But what truly spells the difference is our faith and trust in God as we stand before him in prayer.

As I mourned Parang’s passage into a new life, I am assured, more than ever, of the mystery of the resurrection.

The 2006 celebration of Holy Week, particularly of the Triduum, has become special to me… as I mourn my friend's passing away.

As my unlce Johnny wirtes in his Sunday column, the passing away of friend is the mystery of encountering anew the crucified Jesus in a new way.

Like the disciples at Emmaus, it is an experience of "our eyes were opened," the evangelists add, "and they recognized Him in the breaking of bread".

They met Jesus after Calvary and arrived at certitude: this Jesus who died on the cross had entered into a radically transformed life. They "brought Peter the Rock out of Simon the betrayer, or the executed Paul out of the executing Saul, or the church of martyrs out of the scattered and fearful disciples."

The disciples’ experience has been refracted to us over the centuries. Even those who live out the implications of Easter—Mother Teresa or John Paul II or the Christians in South Sudan - stammer to articulate its meaning.

"Not everything has a name," Aleksandhr Solzhenitsyn writes. "Some things lead us into the realm beyond words…For an instant, you glimpse the Inaccessible. And the soul cries out for it." (Bapa Eliseo Mercado, OMI)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

He died as the Badal (Ransom) for us while we were still sinners! Posted by Picasa

Good Friday People


( Looking for a book that will carry you beyond Palm Sunday? Written by Dr. Shiela Cassidy, “Good Friday People” looks at broken men and women – and the grace that shines through them. She was jailed and tortured by the Chilean military, for treating rebels. Dr Cassidy is a UK hospice medical director -- Juan L. Mercado )

"Good Friday people is a phrase I coined, for those who find themselves called to powerlessness and suffering,” she writes. “(These) are men and women, broken in body and assaulted in mind --- deprived not merely of things we take for granted.

"God calls them to walk the same road His Son trod.... I have no clever answer to the eternal 'Why' of suffering . But whatever it's cause and outcome, it is never without meaning."

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel captures this “sense of the absence of God”, Cassidy notes. Then 14-years old, Weisel was forced, along with other Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz , to watch the Gestapo execute a child.

"Where is God? Where is He now?’ someone behind me asked, Weisel recalls in his book: Night "And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He?. Here He is ---He is here hanging on this gallows..

“Never shall I forget these moments which murdered my God and turned my dreams into dust, " Weisel added. "Never shall I forget even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

Weisel had the look of a “Lazarus, risen from the dead yet still a prisoner…stumbling among shameful corpses,” recalled Catholic philosopher Francois Mauriac. In his foreword to Night, Mauriac wrote :

"And I, who believed that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which appeared on the face of the hanged child?

"Did I speak to him of that other Israeli, his brother --- the Crucified, whose cross conquered the world?... Did I affirm that conformity to the Cross and suffering was, in my eyes, the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished..?

"We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child," Mauriac adds. "But I could only embrace him weeping."

In her book, Cassidy accompanies "Good Friday people" -- from El Salvador’s Oscar Romero, the timid priest who emerged into a fearless defender of the descamisados, sick people, Maryknoll nun Eta Ford to Marxist folk singer Victor Jara.

Their suffering "make us want to screen our faces, to turn away," Cassidy writes. "Yet, is through them that the grace of God flows to our arid souls... There is a terrible agony in watching someone hollowed out with a knife…even if the end result is an instrument on which is played the music of the universe”.

There is Beth and her third bout with cancer. "Unable to wait for her to die, her man had gone off with another woman. She “spent a life of drawing short straws'." Or the dying Katie. "Day after day, she waited. But the visitor never came: not her mother, nor her lovers, not even her children."

Catherine’s tumor had spread to her brain. She had few symptoms but soon she’d be in deep trouble. Radio therapy could only buy time. “I just want whatever is best for my daughter,” she said as tears fell.

“There is rare beauty in selflessness of this kind,” Cassidy writes. “Some go to their deaths grasping everything. These are people who will call you away from another patient’s deathbed to adjust their television.”

Jesuit priest Rutilo Grande insisted his El Salvador seminarians live among slum dwellers and landless peasants. “However much one may know about poverty and oppression at an intellectual level, meeting the poor themselves is something quite other.”

Like that of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Father Grande’s efforts, helped the poor "rediscover the Old Testament concept of God as liberator of his oppressed people." It was the poor who showed Grande and Romero “what they required of their church,” Cassidy notes. “Not just the catechism and the sacraments but something much harder : to speak out against injustice”.

The military junta goons killed both of them, of course.

But Grande’s system of exposure to “Good Friday people” anchors seminary training today, including the Philippines. And Romero’s address, on receiving the Nobel Peace prize in 1980, still resounds:

“There are those who sell a just man for money and a poor man for a pair of sandals…It is the poor who force us to understand what is really taking place…The poor are the body of Christ. Through them, He lives on in history.” .

Ironically, it is often non-believers who seem closest to following Christ. Chilean singer Victor Jara abandoned studies for the priesthood “and put his ‘honest guitar’ to work on behalf of the marginalized. He too was killed.

“Should I be speaking of a Marxist folk-singer in the same breath as Jesus?,” Cassidy asks. “The answer is surely yes. For did he not embark on his road to Calvary in response to a call to serve the poor.”

"( Yet ), we are all potentially Good Friday people. We are all frail earthen vessels who, should the potter choose, be fashioned in His image and for his own mysterious purposes….And we tremble because we too may be called to powerlessness... “ (Juan Mercado is my uncle and the doyen of Philippine journalism)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Allowing God to be God...

On Idolatry…
Bapa Eliseo Mercado, OMI

God is both ….
• the seen and the unseen…
• the known and the unknown…
• the evident and the hidden…
• the near and the far…

Our refusal to let God BE God leads to the creation of idols unto our own image and likeness! Often our ways, thoughts and deeds are NOT God’s. We begin to fashion our idols by…
• our refusal to be nobody compared to God the greatest of all...
• by substituting the God who cares to our surety in our “finger tips”...
• by taking him for granted, especially when we have not need of God...
• by our failure to follow the way of justice & righteousness...
• by holding on to the inconsistencies between my knowing and reality…
• by believing our WRONG FOCUS - the idol- of god...


The week before Holy Week, the three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in Daniel 3: 13-20 show us with GREAT COURAGE and FAITH what it means to believe in Yahweh. Before kings and potentates of this world, we have no need to present a defence in whom and on what we believe. They invite us to confess, by our lives, words and deeds, that we shall not serve any other gods and we shall not worship gold, power and establishment that have long been our idols all these years…

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

John Paul II - The Lamp of Interreligious Dialogue Posted by Picasa

John Paul II - the LAMP

"Death is not the extinguishing of life," the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote. "It is putting out the lamp because dawn has come."

In his final illness, John Paul II taught us how to put out the lamp when the final letting go is asked, as it will be for all of us.

Our celebration of his first death anniversary reminds us of the URGENT NEED to light NEW LAMPS in our very vulnerable and fragile world...