Kargador at Dawn

Kargador at Dawn
Work in the Vineyard

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blessed John Paul II

Blessed John Paul II
by Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI

On May 1st, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Pope Benedict XVI presides at the Beatification of his predecessor, Karol Józef Wojtyła, also known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy.

I was a young priest in the year 1978 when over the radio I heard the election of the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Pope Adrian VI who died in 1523. I thought that it was a miracle to have a Pope from the area in Eastern Europe that was previously known as behind the ‘Iron Curtain’.

I had my studies in Rome and I had quite a number of Polish schoolmates and friends. My close associations with Poles made me look at the ‘miracle’ with a guarded welcome. The Polish students at the Gregorian University were noted for being ultra conservatives and anti anything that was of ‘red’ or even slightly red color. To make me really fearful, the man was a graduate of the next-door university, the Angelicum – the ‘bastion’ of Thomism in Rome.

Yet, Pope John Paul II also attracted me immensely to the chagrin of my many confreres. Personally, I found the man’s powerful attraction irresistible! He was like a magnet that drew people to him notwithstanding your disagreement with the man and his views.

I was in Rome for three periods of my life and the two periods belonged to the Pontificate of John Paul II. I was drawn to the services he publicly celebrated, particularly Christmas and Holy Week celebrations including the Station of the Cross at the Coliseum. The celebrations were like ‘magic’ and people remained glued to the magnet to the end of the ceremonies. This alone was a miracle, at least, for me that looked at long rituals in Rome with Federico Fellini’s eyes for the ‘hilarious’ the ‘irony’ and the ‘comedy’.

I was on my way home from classes riding in an overcrowded autobus no. 64 towards the Vatican when the news that Pope John Paul II was shot at St. Peter’s Square on the 13th May 1981 (the feast of Our lady of Fatima). The crowd was all over the streets and the sirens were howling no end as the pope was rushed to the hospital.

The people were stunned and speechless and the traffic stopped! I got out and walked towards St. Peter's Square where a good crowd was praying for the safety of the Pope. Then the crowd moved to the Gemelli Hospital where they stood in prayers and vigil while the doctors operated on the Pope. This was his second miracle. I had witnessed it and I believed!

There were many things that I had disagreed passionately with Pope John Paul II. But there were also many things that endeared him to me in a very special way.

The first was his contagious passion for inter-religious dialogue putting emphasis on prayers. In 1986, he invited all religious leaders to come to Assisi and pray for peace and harmony among the followers and leaders of world’s religions. I thought then that this initiative was either ‘Quixotic’ or ‘earthshaking’ since the call to dialogue and prayer was given in the context of growing fissures between and among religions and their followers.

Pope John Paul with no embarrassment and fear visited and prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. His many visits to synagogues and mosques as well as Cathedrals and churches of Orthodox Christianity and other Christian communities not aligned with Rome showed the passion of the man for dialogue, peace and harmony.

Towards the end of his life, he visited Syria in 2001 where he went to the great Ummayyad Mosque and said: "For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness." His dream was to see leaders of religions lead all believers, especially the youth, towards partnership in building a new humanity and a new world for all. For believers, he said: “peace is NOT an option but a duty”.

Pope John Paul II was also known for his moving social encyclicals (the ‘Catholic Church’s best kept secrets’).

His experiential knowledge of Marxism made him capture the contemporary understanding of human work. The encyclical, ‘Laborem Exercens’ (on Human Work) was issued as early as 1981 on the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (the 1st social encyclical that dealt on the relations of labor and capital and the rights of workers).

Then in 1987, he issued yet another social encyclical, Solicitudo Rei Socialis (on Social Concerns celebrating the 20th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio expounding on the social concerns of the Church through SOLIDARITY among peoples and nations in forging new social order).

Then on Labor Day (May 1st) 1991, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II issued his 3rd social encyclical entitled Centesimus Annus (the hundredth year of celebrating labor, the rights of workers and their dignity as sons and daughters of God).

Many times, I was asked in Rome, why I was attracted to Pope John Paul II. I usually gave three answers: first was JP II’s passion for dialogue and peace among leaders of religions and all believers; 2nd, JP II’s appreciation and love for the poor and labor; and 3rd, for JP’s passion for the youth – the FUTURE of humankind.

Pope John Paul II began the World Youth Day in 1984. Though world youth day is celebrated annually, the ‘big bang’ happens every four years. This passion brought him to the Philippines for the second time.

In 1995, the Manila World Youth Day gathered a crowd of over five million people – by far the largest gathering of Christians in the World. The Pope danced, prayed and sang with millions in a festival of faith and love.

To many Filipinos, this singular event is, forever, etched in their minds and memory. In a very special way, for the millions of Filipino devotees, Pope JP II was ‘beatified’ on that day at the Luneta.

The 3rd period of my stay in Rome was when Pope John Paul II was aged and sick (2003-2006). The man was frail, sickly and slow in his speech. It was difficult to follow the man as he continued to keep his schedule. Yet, Pope JP II remained a magnet to the very end. His drawing power and the force of his will were undiminished notwithstanding the many ‘fumblings’ of the body and the tongue. He was, to the end, a towering witness of belief and trust in God.

The long vigils at St. Peter’s Square as the lamp burned in his private apartment while he waited for the final call was a moving testimony (not seen before) of people who believed in the man for who he was and for what he did. And when he breathed his last, the people also breathed with relief as the man of God returned to his maker.

May 1st, 2011, barely six years after his death, the Catholic Church, in a special ceremony at St. Peter’s, publicly acclaims Pope John Paul II BLESSED! MABUHAY!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Sunday (B)

Dhikr for Easter Sunday (B)

"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!

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…

Jesus is, truly, RISEN! Alleluia!

In Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, our God is 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 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… God’s fidelity endues for thousands of generations.

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

Happy Easter to one and all!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Crucified Lord

God in Jesus became the crucified so we would stop crucifying. He became the crucified, who refused to crucify back, and thus stopped the universal pattern of death.

As Sebastian Moore said many years ago, “the crucified Jesus is no stranger,” he is no stranger to anyone who has lived and loved, no stranger to the universal experience of suffering, despair, and loneliness. In that, he saves us.

(Adated fromHope Against Darkness, p. 37)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Passion of Christ

The suffering of Jesus shows us that God is not distanced from humanity’s trials. Our Creator does not heal our suffering from afar but participates with us in it. In fact, the great revelation signified in Jesus is not only that God participates in our suffering, but also that our suffering has life-giving elements for the good of humanity (Ephesians 4:23-24).

The primary story line of history has been one of “redemptive violence”; the killing of others would supposedly save and protect us. Jesus introduced and lived a new story line of “redemptive suffering”; our suffering for others and for the world makes a difference in the greater scheme. No love is lost in the universe, but it is building up and helping to re-create the world.

(Adapted from Richard Rohr's On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men,
p. 351, day 340)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Passion Sunday (A)

Dhikr for Palm Sunday (A): The Passion according to Matthew

Text: Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26: 14-16)

Meditation: The drama of the Passion raises several questions for our reflection… One is the betrayal of Jesus by his friend, Judas Iscariot. We, too, have betrayed the Lord… and often for less than 30 pieces of silver…!


1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step: Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spirituality of Subtraction

The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart (c.1260 -1327), the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet I think most believers today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition.

We add more things to our life as we grow older... A good rule to follow is to divest yourself of anything (like clothing, boxes and even jewelry and other decorations) that is NOT in use for at least two years.

Give them away and share them with people who can still use them!

Next time you open your closet, stock rooms and office tables, remember that the simple mathematics in Spirituality is SUBTRACTION!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wisdom as we grow in years....

As we grow in years, we should become more nuanced and subtle. We learn how to recognize our own demons. We don’t let them fool us anymore about what’s going on. We also learn to trust our own angels, and allow them to lead, and heal, and guide.

Inner experience and inner authority begin to balance out an exclusive reliance upon what the Spirit tells us. God does not want robots, but free and conscious lovers.

(Adapted from On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men, p. 299, day 290)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

5th Sunday of Lent (A)

Dhikr for the 5th Sunday of Lent (A): The Raising of Lazarus

Text: And when Jesus had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" (John 11: 43)

Meditation: The drama of raising Lazarus from the dead confronts us anew of the same question asked of Marta and Mary… "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"


1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step: Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Falling Upward


The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up….

In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

Yet it is still a secret, probably because we do not want to see it. We do not want to embark on a further journey [the second half of life] if it feels like going down, especially after having put so much sound and fury into going up [the first half of life]. This is surely the first and primary reason why many people never get to the fullness of their own lives.

(From Richard Rohr, OFM's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life pp. xviii-xix)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

God's Presence

When we go into the Presence, we find someone not against us, but someone who is definitely for us! The saints report, “Someone else is holding me.” “Someone is believing in me.” That’s what people who pray always say. “Someone is for me more than I am for myself.” “Someone is with me more than I am with myself.” Meister Eckhart, the medieval Dominican mystic (c. 1260-1327) says, “God is closer to me than I am to myself.” The great ones are in agreement: the mystical Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus—at that level the language is the same. God is a lover.

Prayer is being loved at a deep, sweet level. I hope you have felt such intimacy alone with God. I promise it is available to you. Maybe a lot of us just need to be told that it is what we should expect and seek. We’re afraid to ask for it; we’re afraid to seek. It feels presumptuous. We can’t trust that such a love exists. But it does!

(From Everything Belongs, pp. 134-135)

4th Sunday in Lent (A)

Dhikr for the 4th Sunday of Lent (A): The Blind Man of Siloam

Text: Then Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind." (John 9: 39)

Meditation: Jesus Christ becomes the lens for seeing and not seeing… Through him we do see/not see the poor, the needy, and the injustice and the wrong against neighbors. Lent is a season for seeing…


1st step: Write the text or Dhikr (the Arabic word for REMEMBRANCE) in your heart.
2nd step: Let the text remain always in on your lips and mind - RECITING the text silently as often as possible...
3rd step: Be attentive to the disclosure of the meaning/s of the text in your life.