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 A FEW (MORE) MINUTES WITH FATHER
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A Few More Minutes with Father:

  Meditations on Our Life as Catholic Christians

By Father Allan Fenix

MESSAGE OF THANKS...

To our late father, + Jose ( Lee Tian Si ); mother, Zenaida; siblings, Lee Cai Fong, Micaela, Nieves, Mercedez, Lea, Galo, Vilma, Henry, Conrad; nephew and nieces, Ethan, Selena, Erika, Alyssa and Gabrielle.

A grateful thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Phil and Jean Ropp of radionewjerusalem.net, without whom this book would not have been possible.

To our dear Archbishop, + Most Rev. Msgr. Rolando Tria Tirona, O.C.D., D.D. , our late Archbishop + Most Rev. Msgr. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P., D.D., who inspired me greatly to keep on writing and, of course, to all of the brother-clergy of the Archdiocese of Caceres, City of Naga.


FORWARD

We all believe that the Word of God, written and preserved in Sacred Scriptures, is alive. In the past it has spoken and today continues speak to the depths our hearts in our day to day human experience. This is amazing, indeed. After all these words have been spoken and written thousands of years ago, and yet remain fresh and crisp, like the aroma of brewing coffee in the morning. It continues to touch our lives, not so much in dramatic, earthshaking ways but even in the soft whisper of the breeze, as the prophet Elijah realized.

Father Allan's present work, a continuation of what he started decades ago, is a valuable collection of moments, which through the ordinary events of life, become touchstones for a venture to the depths of the wisdom of God's Word that never ceases to work wonders, even in this distorted and perverted world today. May this serve to open our hearts to welcome God speaking to us, he the almighty who uttered the Word to become like us to make us worthy children of a loving and merciful Father.

Msgr Rodel M. Cajot
Vicar General
Archdiocese of Caceres
Naga City, Philippines


PREFACE

Whenever I go to the city for our monthly general assembly and other important occasions, it is my habit to stay at the Basilica of Our Lady of Penafrancia where are found the retired and sick priests of our Archdiocese who call themselves GOG- Growing Old Gracefully. They are mostly made up of our former seminary formators and priests who were active when we were still seminarians. 

Looking at them, I also see myself in just a few more year.  I will also be joining their ranks.  With that, I decided to dedicate my next book towards the completion of their dreams and plans for a retirement home.

Every time you buy and promote this book is a step and another block in the wall towards the realization of the dreams and plans of a group who happily call themselves GOG- Growing Old Gracefully. They were the people who dedicated themselves to forming the future priests of our Archdiocese, and also the priests who celebrated the sacraments in our parishes for us.


Father Allan S. Fenix


Table of Contents
DEATH AND LIFE
Final Destination
Homage
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Heirlooms
Improvisation
Love Apps
Wakes

Maquiladoras
Spirits and Booze
Zach and the Crowd
Viva Voce
CRIES OF THE POOR
On Edge
Kyrie Elieson
The Estambay Phenomenon
Primordial
Portalib
Blessed Woes
Abundant. Progressive. Rich
Status Quo
Butterscotch
Bed and Breakfast
Chimneys
Ad Hominem
The Lazarus Health Benefit
CHURCH AND PARISH LIFE
On Fire
What is the Deal?
Divine Coffee
Stop. Look. Listen
To Feed. To Tend.
Mayo
Banana Hearts
First Table
Renaissance
Calloused Knees
Drivers. Sweet Lovers
Inkless
FAITH AND FAMILY
Preppers
Free Radicals
Unplugged
Vows
Synderesis
Heavenly Inferno
Containers
The Jesus Expresso
Touch Pads
Provisions
High-End
Life Summary
Porta Sanctus
OUR HEAVENLY FAMILY
Mis En Plas
Cousins
Mary
Maritha
Delegation
God Speculators, Incorporated
Availability
Bewitched
Trio
Hungry Eyes
The Holy Spirit Works
The Crucifix and Icon Squad of Saints
Method
How-To's



DEATH AND LIFE

FINAL DESTINATION

Destination. Whenever I take an international flight, I feel both a mixture of dread and joy, as it always reminds me of my own death. This is due not only to the risk involved, but because the pilot usually makes a very loud announcement whenever the plane makes a stopover landing. At every airport I hear the neutral but loaded words, “Final Destination.” Of course, on the other hand, there is the joy for getting nearer to reaching my own intended temporal destination. It was a temporal destination falsely perceived as my ultimate one, which is...

Eternity. Once, having bought a cheaper ticket and with it a layover of several hours, I decided to explore the place and immediately got enchanted by what I heard and saw...

There was discipline all around. The place was shouting cleanliness, neatness and orderliness. The people looked slim, fit and polite. The immigration officer stamped a 90-day stay on my passport. I told myself that I could really live here for awhile and savor it. However, I decided not to. I knew it was not for me when I saw the amount shown on the bus ticket just to ride around and look at the place. It burned a big hole in my pocket. The place is so beautiful but it is just too exorbitantly expensive.

This place is not really for me as I have to go to the....

Almighty. All throughout the day, I oftentimes hear his name being called as a surprise exclamation or response from the mouths of many people: OMG. “Oh my God!!!”  Do we really know him to be our God? It baffles our very limited human minds to try to expound more on someone whom we merely call using a single syllabic, three-letter word: GOD. As much as we can grasp it, he created everything we see all around us, vertically and horizontally, including everything we learn in our natural sciences, and everything in the abyss of desolation, which is the boundless universe.

What more do we know about him?

Let us go...  Life is going...  Towards...

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala CAME to the tomb early in the morning... So she RAN and WENT to Simon Peter... So Peter and the other disciple WENT OUT and CAME to the tomb. They both RAN, but the other disciple RAN FASTER than Peter and ARRIVED at the tomb first... When Simon Peter ARRIVED, he WENT into the tomb,... The other disciple also WENT IN, and he SAW and BELIEVED... John 20: 1 and forward.

Life is looking forward not backwards. It is a constant conversion. Turning from darkness to light. From worst to the better to the best. Like a fine wine, it just gets sweeter and tastier by the day. In life, there is no turning back, my friend.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 62).

Life looks toward and forward to...

Holiness. This is our universal mission. Everyday, we are invited to shoot for the moon and the stars. To sail much much farther away from the relative safety of the shore. We are called to be SAINTS in the midst of our flaws and imperfections.

This is the DEATH that awaits us all. By the corners, by the roadsides, at the end of our roads. Death is our FINAL DESTINATION.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HOMAGE

Whenever we look up at the sky on a very clear, crisp night; when twinkling stars can be visibly witnessed with our own naked eyes; has it ever occurred to you to ask the question, “Do each one of those billions or, perhaps even, an infinite numbers of stars, somewhere far, far out there in the universe, represent each one of us individually, distinctly and uniquely?”

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, " Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled... Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea... “ Matthew 2: 1-5

Like King Herod, we are also often troubled, and it takes other people coming from the outside like the Magi, to inform us that, indeed, the Messiah is already present inside of us. He is within our own, personal area. This happens because we are not at home. We are always somewhere but not at home inside ourselves.

In our lives, we lack the necessary initiative to look for the Messiah in our lives. Like King Herod who subcontracted his own search for the Messiah: He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” Matthew 2:8

Like King Herod who subcontracted his own search for the Messiah, we, too, in our lives lack the necessary initiative to look for him. Like the billions of twinkling stars out there in the far universe, we possess the necessary raw materials, but for us it is to find the Messiah in our lives – to make things happen.

We have to be at home with our own nature as the gold, frankincense and myrrh of our lives. We are the 100 carat gold worth more than anything: the gold that represents the pure capacity and strength in us to respond to God's initiative everyday of our lives.  King Herod pawned his gold for a very low amount when he let the Magi search for the Messiah and just inform him if they found him. No wonder in the end, the Magi departed for their country by another way.

In the Sacrament of Baptism, we share in the priesthood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And so we have the frankincense to remind us of our shared responsibility of blessing and divining everything that is around us. To see in us the image and likeness of God – in us and also in the lives of other people. We have to respect our own dignity as well as that of others.

We have the myrrh to remind us that eventually we have a divine destiny. We learned in science that whenever a star collapses it becomes a black hole sucking everything in its path to oblivion – to death. In our case, when we die we have a home somewhere to go. To heaven. Jesus Christ himself said, “My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2

We have the 100 carat gold: the pure capacity and strength to respond to God's invitation everyday of our lives.

We have the Frankincense to bless and divine everything that we encounter and touch.

We have the Myrrh to take us home to the Father in heaven.

We are home now.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL

One day, I overheard two very pregnant women arguing. While listening, I came to know that both of them were impregnated out of wedlock. The spectacle became an entertainment, and I started laughing when I heard one of them say that she was better off, as the father of the baby in her womb was, at least, employed while the other one's father was unemployed.

With the spate of deaths, both coming from the young and old, that has passed through our parish in the run up to the feasts of the All Saints' and Souls' Days on November 1 and 2, we in the parish were once again reminded that our lives are under the constant shadow of.... DEATH.

These events come into our lives is a call and an invitation to go up to the temple area to pray, as in Luke 18:10, while still able and alive.

Being in church is a happy occasion. What a very bitter experience to be in it only to send off someone, or to be inside the confines of a box.

In philosophy, I learned that life is a project and death is the completion- the final submission.

If it is our attitude that it is a project, a life in the process of completion, our stance will be similar to the tax collector “...who stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner'” Luke 18: 14, 11. “I am like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous.” Our lives will surely be full of Faith, Hope and Charity.

On the other hand, if we are convinced of our own righteousness and despised by everyone else, then we are not like the rest of humanity, as we faithfully fulfill all of our obligations - we fast twice a week and pay tithes on our whole income. We are like the Pharisee who had already earned the grade we so wish for. We have reached the wall. The dead end. We have earned our death. What more is there for us to do?

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (death), and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (life). Luke 18:14

What are you, a tax collector or a Pharisee?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HEIRLOOMS

When I came back from the United States, and while I was awaiting my next assignment, I stayed at the Our Lady of Penafrancia Basilica Minore with our vicar general and a number of the retired priests of our archdiocese.

While I was with them, some of the priests offered to let me do their scheduled masses and I excitedly accepted.  At least, I thought, I am doing something constructive while waiting here.

Once, after celebrating the mass, and while I was changing in the sacristy, the sacristan mayor (sacristan in charge of the main church) told me that a mass-goer would like to talk with me.

The mass-goer was a passing pilgrim who, by chance, attended the mass in which I was the celebrant. The pilgrim had decided to give me a box containing heirlooms of their family. The pilgrim also told me to take good care of these things, as they were very valuable and handed on for many generations within their family circle.

In appreciation, I happily accepted the small box from the pilgrim and promised to wear what it contained in gratitude.  By wearing these things I am also including all of their dead loved ones in my intentions every time I celebrate the mass.

When I tried to ask for contact information for the pilgrim, I learned he did not leave any and did not wish to be contacted in the future. So, I did not persist and the pilgrim was gone.

When I opened the box in my room, I found that it contained a thick gold-chained bracelet, a gold necklace with a crucifix, and an intricately-designed pocket watch.

I am a very simple priest and whenever parishioners would take notice of the thick, gold-chained bracelet on my wrist, as well as the gold necklace, I would always respond that it was a gift from God through our INA (Mother), Our Lady of Penafrancia, for being continually his priest.

Thanks be to God for the family heirlooms that a pilgrim entrusted to me!  More than that, we Catholics are also the recipients of generations upon generations worth of heirlooms, which is the substance of our faith.  Faith is a gift from God to us and, in appreciation and gratitude, we should always respond to it in whatever state of life we are in, as a layperson or as ordained.  Faith is also worth more than all the gold in the world, as it was bought by the blood of our martyrs and saints.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


IMPROVISATION

One Sunday, after celebrating the mass in our parish church, I traveled by motorboat for more than an hour to one of our coastal villages to celebrate another mass.

While there, I learned that there was a wake, and that the family was requesting to have their departed loved one blessed before being interred in the cemetery. I went through my mass kit and discovered that I did not have with me the Book of Blessings and the Holy Water. However, I did have the Mass Book.

What I did, after the mass, was to invite the mass goers to make a procession from the chapel to the place of the wake. The parishioners present were so cooperative that almost everyone joined in. With the thurible in front, we walked through the small streets of the village, where even some curious villagers along the way joined in. We walked until we came to a shack surrounded by drunk all-night revelers – a common sight at countryside wakes.

When we arrived inside, I read a passage from the Preface of the Dead followed by the recitation of the rosary. Then I ended it with another reading of a passage from the Preface of the Resurrection, a message of condolence to the family and a final blessing for the dead.

I approached and placed my own rosary and a copy of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy on top of the coffin. Our communal prayers and presence will be enough for him to zoom out of this life and zoom into the everlasting life.

 Fr. Allan S. Fenix


LOVE APPS

When Jesus was still with his disciples, they went through a period of formation where in an analog manner, he taught them about the “Love Application” made up of five programs: the love of enemies, doing good, and being a source of blessing, prayer and mercy.

In turn, each program is explained in detail.

To love our enemies and do good consists in offering the other cheek when someone strikes you, and not withholding one's tunic when someone needs it.

To be a source of blessing and prayer involves giving to everyone who asks, and not demanding back what was taken from you.

To be merciful is to be kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

In a nutshell, the Love Application is the Golden Rule – Doing to others what you would have them do to you. “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. So, stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6: 37-38

Thousands of centuries have passed by, and our cemeteries are already filled up. However, the Love Application, taught by Jesus to his disciples, is still very relevant to us nowadays.

Maybe, our initial reaction will be like that in John 6:60-61: On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this teaching, Jesus asked them, “Does this teaching offend you?”

Usually, we hate the hard way. No one wants to undergo it. We are a brainwashed generation. Human nature often chooses the easy way, where there is the least resistance.

Like the ancient disciples and us ultra modern humans, it is natural for us to resist any change from the things we were brought up with and are well accustomed to: like loving those who love us, doing good to those who do good to us, lending money to those who can't repay us with high interest.

At home, in schools, and in our churches, we are in continual formation. With time, perhaps, it has seemed to grow vague due to the various external influences, adornments and garnishes allowed in it.  In the end, again, the Love Application is the Golden Rule – doing to others what you would have them do to you.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


WAKES

Why spend money on what cannot nourish and your wages on what fails to satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live. Isaiah 55: 2-3

In the countryside, whenever there is a wake (which is usually done in the family residence) and, for fear of just a few vigilantes, there is often a big feast: drinking, smoking, gambling, videoke singing... and, of course, lots of eating. Who, then, is praying for the dead?

When a Grade 12 Senior High Student died in our parish, I took this rare opportunity to wean the people away from their usual practice. I wished to teach them a new culture in keeping a wake for their departed loved ones. My method might be a very lonely one. Laughable for some. But, I believe, it is time to do it due to the lingering illnesses ordinarily afflicting many of our parishioners.

When some classmates organized to visit their departed classmate, and seeing that the prepared boat was big and sturdy enough, I volunteered to go with them.

While still on the boat waiting for the others to arrive, I assigned each one of them a decade of the rosary to lead, read the invitatory psalms, the 3 psalm passages, as well as the psalmody prayers and antiphons and the 2 lengthy readings from the Liturgy of the Dead found at the back part of our Divine Office. I also assigned some of them the following Morning Prayer: to read the hymn, the psalm passages, as well as the psalmody prayers and antiphons, the reading and the intercessions.

As soon as we landed and reached the place, everyone already knew their own individual role to the great surprise of the bereaved family.

At the conclusion of our paraliturgy, each of them wrote a prayer dedication to their departed classmate at the back of a estampita (prayer card) which I handed to them earlier and, one by one, laid it on top of their departed classmate's coffin. Then, I prayed the concluding prayer and did the sprinkling of the holy water.

On the day of the requiem mass, while waiting for the funeral entourage to arrive, I assigned the remaining class members who were not able to join the paraliturgy, the series of novenas we have in church, while encouraging all of them to come and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I also assigned the others to be the lectors and servers at mass. One lead the singing. All of these offered for the eternal repose of their departed classmate.

Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith. 1Peter 5: 8-9

In my homily, I explained to the bereaved family that what we were doing, with the cooperation of that entire Grade 12 class, was to teach a new method of holding wakes in our countryside parishes.

Wakes should be spent not in drinking and smoking heavily, gluttonous eating, gambling, and entertainment but, rather, in prayer for the soul of the departed.

The members of the family could take turns praying the rosary. As our parish was already clustered and provided with the Holy Bible written in the local dialect, we could read it passage by passage, chapter by chapter, page by page, book by book and sing known mass hymns.

If visiting vigilantes are true enough, they will stay put and join in praying the rosary, listening to the Word of God and singing familiar mass hymns.

As wakes last several days, by then I am sure the bereaved family would have gone through the entire Old and New Testament of the Holy Bible, and would have prayed as many rosaries as they had in their entire prior lives. The Holy Bible, and the rosary, was really done in that way so that it can accompany us in that long journey called life.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MAQUILADORAS *

A proverb: "You can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink."

One afternoon, I met a parishioner on the street and he told me his family was looking for a prayer warrior to pray at the wake of a loved one for a fee.

I reassured the parishioner that, since he had yet to find one, our cluster would go there later with the icon of our patroness saint and pray the rosary. He responded, "Thank you, Father."

I remember the day when the first well-lit jukebox came to our town. Everyone was falling in line and amazed that at the drop of .25 cents it automatically played the musical record that one chose.

The service industry, in the digital age, has grown a lot. It now has apps available for almost anything intended to make our daily lives more convenient. But, of course, this is in exchange for a fee. It's like paying someone to do our laundry, cleaning around the house, buy and prepare our food, and drive us to where we wish to go shopping or be entertainment.

In cultures, traditions and even in our church, I also see this happening. In my mission work, I see how they pay a group of professional mourners, complete with all the microphones and loudspeakers, do the ear-splitting crying for the family and loved ones of the deeceased.

When our great grandmother died, a group of prayer warriors paid by our family would come to the house every night for almost the duration of a month just to pray the holy rosary and other novenas especially intended for the dead, while we also gathered by their side praying with them.

One day, while I was staying in a pilgrimage church and walking by the patio, perhaps mistaking me for a pilgrim, a group of these prayer warriors approached and made a proposition that, for a fee, they will complete the 9-day novena prayer to our regional patroness saint on my behalf. With the thousands of pilgrims coming to that place, how many of them did they lead to believe they would do this in this “pay-to-pray” scheme?

Even during the Lenten and Holy Week celebrations, it is already our practice to subcontract to a group of professional prayer warriors to pray in song and chant the Passion of Christ (Pasyon) for us, while most of us entertain and enjoy ourselves on the side.

I questioned this kind of practice. Can money buy our salvation? A person with a lot of money, maybe a million dollars, can call all of these professional prayer warriors to pray for his soul and even, perhaps, receive the sacraments on his behalf?

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? Luke 18:7

The practice of our faith, of both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, our devotions, the reception of the sacraments... cannot be subcontracted to any professionals or apps. They cannot fight our battles for us. We have to do it on our own. We cannot be a maquiladoras in our personal relationship with God.

As St. Augustine said, “He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.”

Finally, Philippians 2:12 ,14 says: “So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it must be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling..”

...let your behavior be free of murmuring and complaining...”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

* Maquiladora- or maquila is a company that allows factories to be largely duty-free and tariff-free. These factories take raw materials and assemble, manufacture, or process them and export the finished product.


SPIRITS and BOOZE

When the wine ran short the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2: 3-5

I read some survey results as to why many livelihood training programs were often geared towards women, particularly to mothers of family households. They found out that, when they earned something out of the activity, they would usually invest it in the welfare of their families. The money would be spent on household necessities such as food for the table, clothes for the children, utility bill payments, needed medicines, and shelter improvements.

On the other hand, according to their findings, their male counterparts would usually spend it on vices like gambling, drinking, or worse, drugs.

My father, when he was still alive, used to run a convenience store selling cheap liquors and tobacco. However, when he passed away and one of our siblings took over the business, she decided to do away with the cigarettes and liquor inventories. Instead, she focused on selling school supplies and family household necessities. For her, selling smokes and booze had become a moral issue, as we were seeing too many fathers of families buying these things to indulge their vices. Some were even pawning valuables to buy them to share with their drinking buddies. However, they bought nothing to give their children. They did not buy even a kilo or two of rice, school supplies, cough medicines, or pay long overdue electric bills. And then later on they were getting sick.

At first we were fearful, as frequent patrons would warn us that they wouldn't come back to our store if they couldn't buy the said sin products that they came for. They told us our business might lose a lot of money and close down, as this kind of merchandise really means a lot profit-wise.  After a certain period of time, we observed that the business was able to adjust, gain the correct customers, and later even thrived without those high profit products.

Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drink freely, an inferior one, but you have kept the good wine until now. John 2:10

We are called to contribute something to the community. What do we contribute? A cheap inferior wine? That's like promoting and supporting vice-inducing lifestyle products. In doing this, we endorse the death industry. Death to families. Death to good relationships. Death to friendships. Death to worthwhile ambitions and plans. Death to what is good and proper.

If we put out the good wine first, we help promote and support life and health – the real happiness. We have, then, a strong and spirit-filled community to be of service to the family, the church, the society, the nation and the world. We will be like a mother, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, giving us life – Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ZACH and the CROWD

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14: 23

In life, we were taught to mind our own business. Good or bad, all of us have something that is going on in our lives. That is why we have to stay focused on our own intended activities and bring them all to their successful completions.

So, at our age and status, what things are we still seeking in our lives?  More wealth, positions, or power? Like Zaccheus, a wealthy Jerichan chief tax collector, is there a sense of diligence in us to also seek the most essential matter in life – Jesus, who is Life?

How diligent was he? He was full of life. There was an adrenaline rush in him. He was mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically in tip top shape to be able to run ahead and climb a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. He came down quickly and received Jesus with joy. He stood there and said to the Lord, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over.” (Luke 19:4, 6, 8).

The crowd. A mob. Are our lives ones in which anything goes without any sense of structure, like a mob to the extent that we bar others from seeing Jesus? Or do we just keep on grumbling that Jesus has gone to stay at the house of a sinner? (Luke 19: 3, 7).

What kind of hearts, lives, and houses do we have? Are we prepared to receive Jesus so that like Zaccheus, we will hear from him the words, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19: 9-10).

Sir or Ma'am, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house. (Luke 19: 5).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


VIVA VOCE*

One morning when I was about to ride my skateboard down the hill, I overheard a group of parishioners talking about someone who, due to some domestic problems, attempted suicide using a knife. Good thing, it did not hit the main artery...

The meaning of the saying, "What goes around comes around," dawned on me when, after a period of almost twenty years of just hearing about it, I was able to really go and celebrate mass in the non-recognized private cemetery located in a largely forested area of our coastal parish.

Due to its distance from the officially recognized Catholic cemetery in the town proper, parishioners from our coastal villages deemed it better to bury their dead loved ones in a lot at that site donated by a generous family coming from the same place. Many of those interred there did not even receive any sacramental rites, oracion ( prayer for the dead), nor a requiem mass offered for them. It was not officially recognized by the Church, and, as there was no deed of donation, no regular mass was celebrated in the place, especially on the feast of All Souls' Day. The place can only be accessed by going through deep mangroves, with the birds chirping and flying by on the sides, and using a small, motorized outrigger boat.

This experience called to mind a similar trip that our batch mates have made in the Mekong River Delta in Viet Nam in the past. Except for the whitewashed, concrete tombs jutting out from the ground which, in time, have mushroomed almost on all sides, the cemetery has no structures to provide shade, or even a table on which to celebrate the mass. There is no electrical supply to plug in an amplifier.

Calling the faithful to come closer to where I was standing, and with the leaves of the trees around providing cover, I celebrated the mass out in the open air viva voce. I had to project my voice on all sides, to all ears. In my homily, I shared that in the past, I used to hear about this place, but had never physically been to it. Until that day, I had not even thought of reaching as a reality.

What goes around comes around. Just like death. All of our lives, we have been hearing of the death of someone distant, a colleague, a neighbor, a loved one and, in time, in just a matter of time, one day our own death will become a reality to us. It will surely come and claim us. We will be inside the whitewashed tombs we are sitting or standing on as we are offering the mass now for our faithful departed. We are just taking turns. It's their turn today. Tomorrow, it's ours.

Thank God for the time that still affords us to live our lives out in the open air. Let us live out our faith and not wait for the time when we are already confined in the four corners of our bed of sickness, hospital rooms, and much worse: the four corners of our coffins, our tombs.

In as much as we would prefer otherwise, no one would like to die. All of us would like to live forever. We don't want to leave this life despite everything we have found discouraging and frustrating in it. But, if we live our faith in God...

They can no longer die, for they are like angels: and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise...he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive. Luke 20: 36, 38.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix.

* VIVA VOCE - word of mouth.


CRIES OF THE POOR

ON EDGE

After a very strong typhoon passed by, seen posted on many area store fronts were signs that said: “YOUR CREDIT IS GOOD. BUT, WE NEED CASH.” Right now!!!”

God works in various mysterious ways.

As omniscient as he is, we could not really fathom his wisdom when, in fact, he could do something for others whereby the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them (Matthew 11: 5).  But he would not even lift a finger and do something concrete like organize an advocacy lobby group, raise bail, or seek the help of someone influential and powerful enough to get his close, intimate cousin, John the Baptist, freed from the coldness of the prison bars. When John the Baptist heard in prison of the work of Christ, he sent his disciples to him with this question, "Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2). This, in and of itself, was already an indirect indication that he needed HELP big-time, which, as we know, never came. And eventually, his story ended in his sorrowful beheading.

Is God being contradictory in this matter? Wishy washy? Saying one thing and doing otherwise?

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?" (Matthew 11:7). As the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ was so talkative. Verbose. He just went on talking about John the Baptist.

So, in the case of John the Baptist, he doesn't need more credits from anyone but the hard cash to realize his ever waning hope for freedom. It is the same way with us. Amidst the discouraging situations that we find ourselves in, like being victims of crimes and addictions, sickness, homelessness and joblessness, we don't need more credits for whatever good we might have done in our lifetime, but the hard cash necessary to gain justice, regain our sight and hearing, the ability to walk, be cleansed of our illnesses -- a total holistic healing.

We cannot liken God to a life or security guard, or a door person who is on call 24/7 to come to our rescue whenever we direly need him. I can still clearly recall what I learned in our catechism classes: that salvation has already been accomplished for us by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (the objective). Yet life is still 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration.

We cannot just do a waiting for Godot thing by sitting by forever playing video games or watching our favorite T.V. Programs. We have to really have the will to work hard for it (the subjective).

Our credit might actually be good. But, we need more. Let's give it all we got!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


KYRIE ELIESON

In the nursing home kitchen where I worked before, I often saw the delivery of boxes with the big word “PERISHABLE” printed on top of them. Our supervisor informed us that these items were very time sensitive. They were delicate and expensive. So, we would immediately mark and store them in the large walk-in freezer and refrigerator located in the basement. We always maintained a certain low temperature level to keep these items fresh and good.

The items contained in those boxes were full of preservatives. Nevertheless, we were able to prepare something of nice quality and good nutritional value for the residents to help keep them healthier and stronger for a much longer time.

There was one occasion when we were all so busy in the kitchen that we did not notice the presence of such perishable items that were just stacked up outside the doors of the two walk-ins by the delivery person. By the time we were able to get our hands on them, some were already getting stale or watery. With the condition of our residents, to avoid any form of food poisoning, many of the said items had to be discarded.

KYRIE ELIESON! What a great waste! I was the one tasked to do it, and it really broke my heart to be the one tossing all this food into the garbage compactor. I knew it was our combined fault that it happened. Everyone of us was so preoccupied in the kitchen that we were caught unaware of what was happening down there in the basement.

Repentance is what keeps our faith, our church, and our community fresh and new. We have to be inside the Church to do it.

In the very beginning of the mass, the first part is the KYRIE ELIESON (Lord have mercy upon us) by which we invoke of God's mercy and forgiveness for all of our sins to ourselves, to others and to Him. We do this that we might be fully disposed of our sins in accepting him in Holy Communion in the later part of the mass.

This part of the mass plays a very important role in our liturgy, as without it Christianity would be a philosophy, a history, a code but not a religion that saves. Without it, our liturgical rites and everything that we do inside the Church would turn stale and watery and only fit to be thrown in the garbage. It would be of no benefit and no good for anything but to be discarded and forgotten.

Keep yourselves and your faith inside the Church. For as Jesus said, "..... If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Luke 13: 3

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE ESTAMBAY PHENOMENON

An estambay (stand-by) is the local version of a bum who spends his life wandering from place to place and begging for food.

In the sacred scriptures, they were mentioned, particularly in Matthew 20: 3 and 6, in the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard: “The landowner going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place... Then, at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more standing around, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?”

There are no official statistics for them. It is an unregulated lifestyle. However, by the looks of it, there is an abundance of them conspicuously situated in every part of our society.

Usually, estambay are found just sitting by the corner store or in any open space as if on an extended and indefinite wait. They are either playing some board games or cards, chain smoking, or quenching their thirst with cheap liquors. Whatever happened to our law on vagrancy?

It is no wonder that I overheard an expatriate saying that, from what he had heard, the country is going through an economic hardship. Look how these people are just sitting around the whole morning, and are drunk and singing late in the afternoon. Then, the next day, they are there again, repeating the same performance.

For me, how I wish I could post an ad urgently hiring anyone willing to browse and read book upon book of our unread and unused Holy Bible. In our parish, we have boxes full of the sleeping Good News. It is just there sitting and waiting for anyone interested and willing enough to ingest it and act on it.

Being an estambay is not inborn. No one was born one. Rather, it is a choice by one who, out of frustration, has just simply given up on hope, on life. They have thrown in the towel.

We again have to respect the law of gravity - get down. If possible, go down on all fours and start all over again. Get that towel back once again!  It is not too late.  There is truth to the saying that where there is life there is hope.  We will have plenty of time to lie down in our graves later on.

And, for sure, it is forever.

Father Allan S. Fenix


PRIMORDIAL

It was First Holy Communion time in our parish and, along with the crisp certificates that were issued for the occasion, there was supposed to be a brown scapular and rosary beads for each communicant. Someone had donated theses items for this purpose, but the donated items were very limited in number, and the entire supply was exhausted in the villages prior to the service. There were none available to be given to the first communicants from the parish.

The situation in our parish is that a parent cannot even afford to give a child, coming home hungry from school P5.00 (10 US cents) to buy three tiny pieces of bread. Instead, this money goes to the so-called STL (Small Town Lottery), as these individuals hope against hope to win a few thousand pesos. And this place is also located several hours from the nearest store selling the tickets.

So the night before, we were already resigned to the fact that our first communicants wouldn't be receiving anything except the crisp certificate. They would go home, put it on their altars and just stare at it. However, wonder of wonders, as we were about to close down for the night, something forced us to feverishly go through our drawers and bureaus, and we found a plastic bag full of specially-designed, handmade wooden crosses. I heard from certain parishioners that they were donated a long, long time ago but were forgotten in the fast flow of time.

We immediately thanked our patron saint for not abandoning our first communicants. On the day of their first communion, not only did they received a nicely printed certificate, but also a blessed, specially-designed, handmade wooden cross. Even the parents and visitors got one. There were more than enough for everyone.

As each cross came with no cord or chain, I posed the challenge to each recipient that, depending on their own resourcefulness and creativity, I would like to see how they were going to string it up and wear it. I also reminded them not to take it for granted or else something not good might befall them.

Those specially-designed handmade wooden crosses saved the day. Our celebration was so meaningful for the children. I am sure they won't forget the day they first received the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


PORTALIB

Back in the days when there was still no electricity in our area, each household used to have battery-operated portable radios as our sole source of information and entertainment. In the evenings after dinner, we would usually gather around eagerly and excitedly awaiting to listen to our long-running and never-ending soap operas.

With the advent and explosion of varied outdoor activities, a new kind of business boomed: portable toilets. This was shortened to portalets. It is a vast relief to those out in the field and especially for those with incontinence problems.

In our parishes and many of our schools today, satellite dishes are already ubiquitous in even virtual shacks and lean-tos. And, added to that, are the computer game shops mushrooming everywhere; a hive for many of our bored children, especially during the long summer vacations. So, who still gets to read nowadays?

Within a several kilometers radius, we don't have functional libraries to borrow and read books from. So, in talking about portables, in my own small way, what I did was to introduce the Bible as a portable library -- a portalib. With the total of 73 varied books from the Old and New Testaments, it practically is one. This is our new life hack.

Usually on weekends, our grade school-level altar servers would come and clean the parish church. After they were finished, I would invite them to our makeshift pastoral center and let them read from the numerous donated copies of the bible. As they read orally, I discovered that many of them were not reading at their grade levels. Many of them were falling far behind.

So, after their oral readings, I let them use my dictionary to look for the words they encountered that they didn't understand. They would copy the meanings on paper, and I would let them make simple sentences out of them. I would then have them read it again orally and repeatedly until they had a grasp or mastery of the word. And, voila!, we have here a lesson plan on literary education, devotion and the Word of God. It is killing three birds with one stone.

This practice works the same way in our distant coastal villages. Right before the celebration of the Eucharist, while we are still waiting for stragglers, I ask volunteers from the children and young people to read from the Bible and the novena orally in front of the microphone. I wish them to build their self confidence, reading skills, devotion and knowledge of the Word of God. With the constant repetition and much patience, I am sure we are on the right track. We are, again, killing three birds with just one stone.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BLESSED WOES 

Among the Beatitudes, the following three of them speak loudly to me as I, myself, have had first-hand experience on how true they are to me in my life...

Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied... During peak travel seasons like Christmas and New Year, bus terminals are overflowing with passengers with their bursting luggage, waiting for available buses that can bring them home.  Every empty bus approaching is a sight to behold, as bored and eager passengers storm it to full capacity, as it then immediately leaves the terminal for its various destinations. Be blessed and God-speed.

Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry... Once or twice, I attended a traditional Chinese banquet where eight courses of the menu were being served and not all at the same time, as I am accustomed to. Rather, they were served one at a time and after long intervals of time.  Already feeling famished and getting impatient, what I did was unleash my ravenous appetite on the first course servings. So I was just staring disinterestedly by the time the fourth, fifth, and sixth courses were being placed on the table. I was already feeling full and satisfied earlier on.

Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation... Lottery games are very popular everywhere, as the adrenaline rush that they arouse satisfies the cravings of the so-called “reward system” deep inside the brain  People pool and bet their hard-earned money and excitedly await the drawing dates, and then do this again and again for another and another. There is no end to the consolations they receive, and it is gradually becoming so addictive.

How about you? Which of the Beatitudes speak to you? Then, share them!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ABUNDANT. PROGRESSIVE. RICH.

...and they were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:53

In almost all of my encounters with our parishioners, there is always one thing that I emphasize – DEVOTION, DEVOTION, DEVOTION!

Our parish has already gone through the process of designing and constructing a well-lighted massive church building, a rectory and a pastoral center. However, after all of the hustle and bustle of activities in our church, it is often empty like the tomb of Christ on that first day of the week when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.

Our village masses and devotional processions are attended mainly by playful and often rowdy children, and the aged who can barely read their novenas. There are those who give the seemingly valid excuse of being busy or away at work. I tell them about a video I saw that perhaps many of you have also seen. It is about a rat inside a cage, running around in a wheel. Whatever it does, whether it runs slowly or fast, it can go nowhere, as it just keeps on turning the wheel like a merry-go-round. We might be very busy and we might feel tired and exhausted, but where are we getting ourselves to?

I have been to another place where I heard people tell stories about the long past when they were dirt poor and would find themselves on the steps of their nearby church, begging for food, receiving donated clothes, and watching television programs. However, when God heard and answered their cries and prayers with the economic miracle that occurred in that place, the young and strong found no more good reasons to still be in church that often. People got so busy. Food is readily available and on the table. They have new clothes on their back. Their television sets multiplied.

If the coldness of our faith and devotion at present is proportionate to the high temperatures of this place at present and, having seen two sides of an almost similar situation, I would sometimes pray to God to just maintain the present state of complacency we find ourselves in. If at present we behave this way, how much more if God makes us abundant, progressive and rich? Will we, like in the situation I just mentioned, also find no more reason to be in church?

Lord, God forbid that this reality should occur in this place! As it is said in Psalm 137: 5-6: “... If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. O Let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I remember you not, if I prize not Jerusalem above all my joys!”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


STATUS QUO

..... And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10: 29

Someone gave me a patch with the embroidered image of a person carrying someone on his shoulder and with the words: “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”

I once watched a For Adults Only movie. It was classified as such not because it contained porn, but rather due to its violent, bloody theme. The story opens with people joyously welcoming a once enemy force who, in the succeeding scenes, are shown killing one-by-one those people they deemed not with them politically. After the film ended, I was drenched in a cold sweat.

I cannot work there... They cannot help me... I am not with them...” An election period has just ended at our place. New sets of officials were sworn in. Just as there were a lot of casual employees sorrowful for abruptly losing their jobs, there were also the same number rejoicing for getting their positions – for being of the right political color. Many are hurting and left abandoned on the sidelines. In our country, it is a pathetic situation to learn that, in order to work or receive help, one needs to be with the right group. This has been happening since when and will it be always be this way?

I am no one. By myself, I cannot do anything to right this age-old system in our country. I surrender. I accept defeat. With white knuckles, I agree that the situation is really heart-wrenching, and it is nerve-wracking to say the least. If I only had something to offer to calm the prevailing atmosphere, which is very unsettled and this has no value whatsoever. MERCY, anyone?

Before I go on much further, mercy is a virtue caused by the free movement of the will regulated by reason, aroused by the suffering of another person and leading to something positive done about the suffering.

To continue, like me, you might say: "I am no one. By myself, I believe I cannot do anything."  However, according to The Quran verse 5:32, “Saving one life is as if saving the whole of humanity.” Following that line of thinking, if we have shown mercy to just one person, it's as if we have shown mercy to the entire human family.  One, and another, and another more... There will be many in the end to show mercy to the world.

Again: MERCY, anyone ?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BUTTERSCOTCH

Late every afternoon in our parish, it is customary for us to bring the icon of our patroness saint to two households and pray the rosary.

On one occasion, while we were processing to a household, I saw a familiar 7-year old, grade one child in tears, crying. After our rosary, I went back and asked the mother what the problem had been with her child.

The mother, who manually washes other people's laundry for her livelihood, and is married to a subsistence fisherman, who catches fish according to the conditions on the sea, said that her child was earlier on asking for the amount of P 1.00 (a penny) to buy a favorite candy, and she had none to give.

The child was somewhat familiar to me. One time, I had seen him eyeing the pan de sal (local bun) snacks prepared for parishioners who were fixing something inside the church. Seeing the child, I approached, picked up two pieces of the bread and gave it to the kid, who jumped in happiness and ran back to his house. I wished I could have given the child more.

After that, I forgot about the child. However, as I was going through my key chain, I saw a small, metallic medallion which I picked up from a church lobby while I was still in the United States. Embossed on the front was the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and on the back the emblem Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I attached it to my key chain to remind me of God, the Father, and his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Later, I planned to share it to give hope to anyone in need of it.

While I was looking at the medallion, the image of the child I saw earlier in the church was sparked in my mind, and I also remembered what Maimonedes, a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, said: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

I detached the medallion from the key chain, put it in a white envelop and, later on, I would give it to the child.

As it was rainy that afternoon when I passed by the child's house, with both of my hands holding a large tarpaulin over my head as rain gear, I called out and told the child to pick out something inside my pant's side pocket.

The child beamed upon seeing the white envelop. I asked what he thought it might be, to which I heard the response, "Money!" I said to look inside the envelop as it contained more than money.

While I was having this exchange, the mother appeared and told me that earlier, before I arrived, her child was asking her for P 5.00 (.10 U.S. cents) which again she had none to give.

I said that it might not be the P 1.00 nor the P 5.00 the child was asking for, but was something that would fill up and strengthen him so he might not get bogged down by the environment he was in; something to help him strive for much more good in life than his favorite butterscotch candy – something to feed the person for a lifetime of FAITH, HOPE and CHARITY.

As 1 Timothy 1:14 said it, "Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant , along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BED and BREAKFAST

As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!" Luke 17: 12-13

It is my habit to row a few meters from the shore to unwind on my kiddie rubber toy boat after praying the rosary with two households, One afternoon, I felt a kid tugging on my shirt, pleading that he wanted to ride with me on the boat.

In his great excitement, when I agreed to his request, he fell in the water as he was scampering to get in the boat.  Once in it, I noticed he was a kid born with his feet slanted inward so that it was not his soles touching the ground but the sides of his feet. He runs and walks with great struggle.

When I saw this I remembered the little grade school girl I met, while doing my morning ascent walk in my state of the art trekking shoes that someone had given me, who was selling some homemade food stuffs perched on her head. She was in ill-fitting clothes and barefoot – barefoot without even slippers or anything to protect her delicate feet. Out of pity, I immediately bought and brought to her a hundred peso (US $ 2.00) pair of slippers from the nearest store.

As soon as she put on the new slippers, she ran away fast towards home, with the food stuffs she was selling still on her head.

Seeing these events transpire before me, I remembered the lyrics of a song inscribed, faded and with paint peeling, on the wall of our seminary refectory before which had seen good times. It said; "Some have food but cannot eat. Some can eat but have no food. We have food and we can eat. Glory be to God, Amen."

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him... Luke 17: 15-16

There are some households in our parish that don't have proper tables. On several occasions, when we have gone to their houses, there are parishioners who are in a dilemma as where to station the icon of our patroness saint. Some would like to put her on the floor to which I protested, “No, no! At least, put her on a chair or raised platform.”

After we prayed the rosary, I asked how they ate their meals, to which they responded that come meal times, they serve themselves from their dirty kitchen, then look for a corner or a chair, and there eat in different positions. Some of them eat rice mixed with coffee, instant noodles or salty junk food chips...

Some have food but cannot eat. Some can eat but have no food. We have food and we can eat. Glory be to God, Amen.

And when he saw them, he said, "Go show yourselves to the priest." As they were going they were cleansed! Luke 17: 14

"I'm going to bed now?!"

There are some households in our parish that don't have proper and decent beds in which to rest at night, as they live in shacks and lean to's. I prayed my prayer of gratitude, seeing how some of them are sleeping with just a thin carton board separating them from the cold floor, or they just lay about anywhere to rest their tired bodies at the end of the day.

I remember (but not exactly) the words of our late archbishop who practically rebuilt our seminary facilities, "I am giving you good rooms and beds hoping that in the coming days, as priests, you can serve the people of God well and good.”

Some have food but cannot eat. Some can eat but have no food. We have food and we can eat. Glory be to God, Amen.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CHIMNEYS

Our “pre-gas and electric stove” house, where our large family grew up, was built with a chimney connected to our dirty kitchen stove by an elongated metal pipe. Using either firewood or charcoal to cook, it produced a lot of soot.

Being an old structure, it was one of the few houses in the neighborhood equipped with a chimney. Whenever it spewed out smoke, people standing nearby the house could quickly guess what our help was preparing for our next meal.

I have a very wild imagination. So, whenever I saw our chimney spewing smoke up into the sky, I often imagined our house moving at a high speed and on the go, like those coal and steam powered trains and passenger ships I often saw in western movies.  It also reminded me of a painting I saw about a series of factory smokestacks aggressively belching out the heavy, polluting smoke that is gradually killing the environment. Among our peers, we often compare someone who incessantly chainsmokes to a chimney.

In the human anatomy, the mouth is the chimney of the body. It is where the contents of the mind and heart cooked up in the brain goes out. According to Mark 7:15, 21-23; " Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile... From within people, from their hearts come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness , envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.

I often remind people to be very careful of the tone, words and terms they use in dealing with others, as they could either bring damage for life or spiritual death. A whip is better, as the scar it causes can easily be healed and forgotten. But, not words. They can leave a lifetime of unforgettable and unfading lingering scars.

What is in your conscience and in your heart? We invest a lot in our dental hygiene. We take good care of our precious remaining teeth. We are aware of when the last time was we went to the dentist. And so it is with our mouth. We must never neglect to always patronize the Sacrament of the Reconciliation, where in that small, screened room our mouth – our chimney – spews out all the soot, all the pollutants, all the poisons we have in our minds and hearts.

May we go out and go home a renewed person. For, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil, for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


AD HOMINEM

They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” John 8: 4-5

I read that one can learn a lot about someone within just three minutes of meeting them.

My party, right or wrong! During every election period, there are some candidates who wanting to distract voters and will dig for dirt deep in the closets of their opponents. They search for rotting bones for the very purpose of producing blackmail propaganda and smear campaigns.

In this day and age of fake news and alternative media, consumers are in a dilemma try to determine news organization to still trust and believe in, as each of them has their own version on the issues based upon their own political and moral slants.

In the study of philosophy, particularly logic, Argumentum Ad Hominem is a falsity, as it is something directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining. It is an attack on the person which is completely irrelevant to the argument that someone is making. This is usually done by one party getting desperate when it cannot anymore find a decent counter argument: when they find themselves pushed and shoved to the wall.

Sometimes this comes from our family members, colleagues or coworkers. It happens almost everywhere, and in every kind of situation in which people find themselves cornered or put in a very uncomfortable situation. They will, as much as possible, fight their way out of it by attacking the person. As we say, “...it is getting personal.” Which is, of course, very painful.

Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir!” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8: 10-11

Focus on the facts and not on the person. On the sin and not the sinner. By this, one will know how civil and mature a person has become.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE LAZARUS HEALTH BUDGET

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. Luke 16: 19

Sometimes, as a priest, I see myself as the rich man mentioned in the gospel story.

One time, right after a full meal, I felt my tongue craving for something more, something different. Something sweet. My mind went back to the rich chocolate ice cream cake that was donated by someone to the retired priests of our archdiocese. However, due to various health reasons, they cannot partake of it anymore. So, when I was with them for a few days, they were inviting me to consume all of it, plus the other sweet stuff found just sitting in their fridge. They were asking me to be a janitor fish.

God is so good to his priests. While I was still reminiscing about the cake offered to me by our retired priests, suddenly we overheard the hurried arrival of a motorcycle outside. When we got up and checked it was a parishioner who earlier in the day gone to the city on some business. On the way back home, he cared enough to buy some calorie-rich sweet chocolate cake for us at the rectory.

Immediately, upon being laid on the table, I reached out and ate a big portion of it and felt an overall sense of satisfaction while being tormented thinking that many of our parishioners downstairs had nothing to eat for the night. I knew some of them ate rice mixed with coffee, or MSG-laden instant noodles.

And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Luke 16: 20-21

.....and from the netherworld, where he was in torment... I am suffering torment in these flames... whereas you are tormented... place of torment... Luke 16: 23, 24, 25, 28.

Recently, our high school and college class had the rare opportunity to meet up in a downtown restaurant. During our gathering, one by one, as I was reviewing their faces in my mind, we heard about what had happened to some of our classmates who passed away in different horrendous ways.

Some of them were terribly ill. Some shared about the overwhelming stress of balancing careers and family life. While they were at it, I kept on reciting a gratitude prayer thanking God that, as His celibate, I only have my own stomach to fill up and, at least, a bed to crash on for the night.

The table in the middle laden with all the rich, greasy and meaty foods was practically left untouched, as most of us were carrying our own various creeping health problems.

Going back to our seminary formation, on the very first day of our orientation, we were given a road map. We were reminded that our formation has four aspects- Human, Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral.

From that day on and henceforth until our death, to achieve balance, our lives must rotate around those corners. Day in and day out, to meaningfully and productively fill up my day, my hours keep on shuffling back and forth through them. Some times good. Some times not so. But, at least, I am armed with a road map for life.

Even among priests, many of our brothers have long since stopped doing vigorous physical activities. I never did stop. This is my life hack. I still do a thousand of repetitions on my 25-pound free weights while listening to the very early morning news on the radio.

After praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Morning Prayer and celebrating the Eucharist, as our place is hilly, I do an ascent walk and descent aboard my nephew's skateboard.

In the afternoon, after praying the rosary at two households, I run to the sea with my 120-pound capacity, 200 Pacesetter inflatable rubber boat that my sibling sent me from the United States. I row a few meters from the shore and unwind by enjoying the view, watching birds fly back home and listen to the waves. Soon, after hearing about my activities, a good friend promised to give me a used fishing rod to complete the picture.

Then I beg you, father , send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment. Luke 16: 27

Seeing a middle age person on a skateboard or on a rubber boat is a bit of a curiosity for many schoolchildren in our parish. I am like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, as many of them follow me looking and touching these devices that are rarely seen in this part of the world.

And, this is how I live the four aspects of our seminary formation to achieve a balanced and healthy lifestyle. All on a P 0.00 budget- the Lazarus Health Budget.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CHURCH AND PARISH LIFE

ON FIRE

And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3: 22

One day, I went to visit a coastal village where potable water was scarce. So, I wondered to myself, “How do inhabitants survive such a condition?” While I was there looking around, I saw several large, plastic containers installed on raised platforms in the area. Whenever it rained, water was caught and stored in those containers to be consumed, little by little, in the following months of dryness and aridity.

Once, I saw a wide swathe of land full of lush vegetation in the middle of a desert. It was constantly being irrigated.

God is well pleased with us. He does not abandon us. What a thing to behold!

From these two incidents that I have just shared, I came to admire how people living in that coastal village, and those living in the middle of the desert, were able to harness the gifts of nature, enabling them to live for another year with dignity and pride.

These incidents are the concrete living out made possible by all the gifts of God. Like Jesus received the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh from the Magi, we also receive the gifts that we need from God.

The gold is the 100 carat gold worth more than anything. It represents the pure capacity and strength to respond to God's invitation in the everyday living of our lives.

The frankincense reminds us of the shared responsibility of blessing and discerning everything that is around us. To see in ourselves the image and likeness of God, and see this also in the lives of other people. We have to respect our own dignity and that of others. All of this is the result of the Sacrament of Baptism whereby, we share in the priesthood of our Lord, Jesus.

Finally, we have the myrrh to remind us that eventually we have a divine destiny. No one among us will leave this earth alive. However, we have somewhere to go. From the womb to the tomb, God is well pleased with us. All of our gifts are given legitimacy through the Sacrament of Baptism.

Let us not limit ourselves like the people who were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 3: 15-16

We have more than John the Baptist baptizing in water. We have the Messiah baptizing us with the Holy Spirit and fire. If those people living in the coastal village and also those in the middle of the desert just surrendered to their situations, what would eventually happen to them?

Be on fire. Burn through the limitations we find ourselves in. We can live through all of it.

Fr. Allan Fenix.


WHAT IS THE DEAL?

For many, the title of my homily sounds similar to a very popular and exciting T.V. game show that some among us avidly love to watch. However, for me, ever since I have been studying the scriptures, there is one great question that keeps on bugging me. It's like the incessant sound of a mosquito in our ears while we are trying to get a good night's sleep – is God the Father the original blue print for a great salesperson?

Many who love to go shopping for a bargain are very discriminating concerning which product offers the best deal. Consequently, the business world uses this to their advantage by coming up with all kinds of gimmicks to conveniently facilitate the transfer of money from our wallets to their accounts and to their profit margins. That's why it is not surprising that we have in the marketplace all kinds of one, two, three in one promos – various items together in one very beautiful and enticing package.

At the very start of another new year in our lives, God the Father, the best ever salesperson, is offering us a lot of free giveaway items ready for the taking, and available to anyone who decides to accept his offer wholeheartedly.

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Today, we are celebrating Mothers' Day five months in advance. The first item being offered on the line is a mother – Our Blessed Virgin Mary.

The celebration of the Motherhood of Mary on the first day of the year reveals to us the soft-hearted nature of our God the Father. At the same time, this also shows us the essential role of women, not only in our families, but also in the Church and other institutions. A mother oozes with life, like him. God the Father would like to remind us of the tremendous role that women play in giving life.

The mother is the heart of the house, beating and giving life. Notice how sad a household is in the absence of a mother. From my own experience, whenever I am amidst difficulties and trials, I would usually just sit by staring intently on the calm and peaceful face of Our Blessed Virgin Mary. After some time doing it, everything starts to fall into its rightful place. It is from her we draw our pure strength and the will to go on; to take one more step and then another towards the completion and fulfillment of our goals.

Indeed, God is wise in making Mary the Mother of God or Theotokos, the God-bearer. He is making the best deal at the start of the year for anyone accepting the opportunity to gain for themselves a two for one – the Mother and the Son.

The more the better. They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, however at this time, the more the better, as we are getting the two best helping pair of hands ever in the form of our Blessed Virgin Mary and her Son, Jesus Christ. More power. More energy. More life....

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


DIVINE COFFEE

Every weekday morning, to prepare the church for the coming Sunday, parishioners would come and clean for free. In turn, the parish prepares some snacks for them.

It was on such an occasion as this, while I was looking for some coffee in our pantry, that a parishioner approached to ask for some. She suddenly said that the coffee is, "for the humans."

At first, I was at a loss for the proper words. I was surprised by the term she had used. Then I came to myself and said, “I pray that people will not see me as inhuman (the worst), a cyborg (good), a superman (better), but holy (the best).

As a priest, I am an Alter Christus (Another Christ) who is God and Divine.  May I drink more to it.  More Divine Coffee please!

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.

One of my favorite bible stories is when the Lord appears to Samuel:

...the Lord called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, Sir!” and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.” But Eli answered, “I didn't call you go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed. The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.” But Eli answered, “My Son, I didn't call you; go back to bed.” The Lord called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.” Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, 'Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.'” So Samuel went back to bed. The Lord came and stood there and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening” 1 Samuel 3: 4-10.

I love the silence and freshness of every early morning, for it is the highlight of my day. I always look forward to it, as it is a time to be one with my Liturgy of the Hours. As I go through the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer to open up the day, I really listen to what God would like to say to me before celebrating the mass, and before the different noises of the world distract me.

In every moment of our everyday waking lives, from the time we open our eyes, and up until we close them to end our day, there are many different kinds of noise vying for our precious attention. There is the noise of one who is so aggressive in selling us something- a product or service. And, especially during the election period, there is also the noise of the ones soliciting our votes: “Please do choose me!” And there is the noise of the news outfits trying to make us believe in the brand of news and the ideologies they are propagating.

Where can we go to free ourselves from all of these noises? We have to unplug ourselves from our gadgets and devices and, like Samuel, seek time for prayer and say, “Speak, your servant here is listening.”

I live in a very simple parish and always close the day by bringing our patroness saint around to the nearby households. We pray the rosary and, as a community, really listen to what God is telling us.

We say, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Father Allan S. Fenix


TO FEED. TO TEND.

Back in the days of analog technology, whenever we had to set up an external antenna, we looked for a good spot where we could catch a good signal – get good reception, good frequency modulation, and pick up a lot of nearby and distant stations.

One day, while I was walking by the port area, I happened by the steering room of a large fishing boat. One of the men there explained to me the use of the sonar tracking equipment I found hanging on a panel. They used it to determine the exact spot where the most schools of fish congregate. In the analog days, he said, they just wild guessed for a good place, and just kept throwing their nets anywhere and everywhere until they hit the right spot.

In our church, there are two kinds of priest. The first is the one who can write and frame well their thoughts and ideas on paper. However, he cannot verbally communicate it very effectively. The second can speak, enunciate, entertain and hold the attention span of his parishioners for hours. However, he doesn't have the time to put everything in print and writing. Soon his thoughts and ideas just vanish and are gone. Future students will not find anything of his to research and pass on to the coming generations.

In the third time that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after being raised from the dead, he gave us priests two tasks – to FEED and to TEND his sheep. By inviting the disciples to have breakfast after the miraculous catch of one hundred fifty three large fish, and by coming over and taking the bread and giving it to them and in like manner the fish, he set the proper example for us. Reference John 21.

We priests would sometimes come as actors; as messiahs; as experts. We would involve ourselves in so many activities and projects in which we hold no expertise. These tended to pull us far away from our primary concern as shepherds – to FEED and to TEND the people with the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. This is what the people really need.  Armed with this in their faith, the people themselves become experts in their own right. We do not just impose it upon them. By themselves they can navigate in and out of any situations they find themselves in.

BUSY! NO TIME! Humbug! How many priests put so much time into their other activities and projects that there is no time to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at least once a day, or to even open the pages of their Liturgy of the Hours? It's like they subcontract it. There were a lot of activities and programs in our church which were launched but went nowhere after the priest left. They just crashed and burned on the ground. It was like a rocket that blasted off, was launched high into the sky, and got lost in outer space.

As priests, when we FEED and TEND our sheep that is where we will find the good spot, with the good signal reception on all the frequencies, and the full school of fish – a catch of people for the Kingdom.

We priests must not be technocrats on stilts. We must heed the invitation of Jesus Christ to FEED and to TEND his sheep and follow him to his crucifixion.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MAYO

Méi yǒu is the Chinese pin yin which means “none” in English. It also rhymes with our own Bicolano dialect word “Mayo,” which also means “none.” We use the Spanish word “Mayo” for the month of May.

When I was still a student, the coming of the month of May brought with it a mixture of excitement and anxiety, as it indicated that only a month of summer vacation remained before seriously hitting the books again – back to school. And, of course, there was the excitement of the Agua de Mayo, the “Water of May” that is a break from the long and monotonous dry, hot days of April.

In our country, during the month of May, we have the traditional Flores de Mayo the “Flowers of May,” where we, the children, would troop to church on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons to offer our newly bloomed flowers at the feet of Our Blessed Virgin Mary. In my case, I learned about this tradition due to the snacks and refreshments being distributed after the activity. I would usually stand nearby it hoping to get another serving once everybody else got theirs.

Recently, our country was undergoing the so-called El Nino Phenomenon, a weather pattern characterized by high temperatures and aridity due to the long absence of rain. With this forecast in hand, I psychologically prepared myself to stick out those sticky days with less water around. However, God really doesn't forget his promises. He never defaults on them. One very early morning just after the midnight hours, the water just poured down. There were loud and roaring thunder and lightnings. Heavy rains came pounding onto my room's windows. Our parishioners were so happy that the wells swelled with water over the next few days. And afterward we were back to the long stretch of hot days again.

With all of these events transpiring, right in the middle of the month of May, I asked myself where is the Flores de Mayo activity in our parish church? Didn't anyone muster the necessary initiative to gather the children and let them offer freshly bloomed flowers at the feet of Our Blessed Virgin Mary? Maybe everyone is so busy and distracted eking out a living that they forgot. I immediately got scissors and cut the red roses and sampaguita flowers growing and wilting away fast by the side of the parish church, and by myself offered them all to our regional patroness, Our Lady of Penafrancia, our patroness saint, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, and also our secondary patron saint, San Roque.

If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17

I did not learn the practice of the Flores de Mayo from our philosophy and theology classes. I got it in days long past, from those who took the right initiative, and gathered us children together and told us to harvest freshly bloomed flowers, fall in line and, one by one, approach and offer it all on the feet of Our Blessed Virgin Mary. It stuck with me. And I knew on that day I was equally blessed along with our parishioners.

For as long as we do the good things we have learned, yes indeed, there are blessings from God in whatever time and situation that we might find ourselves in.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BANANA HEARTS

Nature is a great teacher. To start with, let us take as an example the banana fruit. Aside from being so nutritious, the humble banana has a very essential lesson to impart to us all.

A banana is a fruit that is very familiar to almost everyone. It is affordable, easy to eat, and a highly recommended dietary companion. On any given day, it is what is conspicuously displayed on fruit stands along the road, in the market or on a restaurant buffet. The dictionary defines it as a long, curved fruit with a thick skin that is yellow when ripe.

At the back of our parish church, I saw a number of banana plants which had not yet reached the fruit-bearing stage. Every morning before the mass, I would observe them one by one, and a secret scheme formed in my mind. I wanted to perform an experiment using the water from the bowl I used in washing my hands in the mass to nourish one of these plants to see if it would bear fruit more abundantly than the others that were not included in my study.

So, morning by morning and mass after mass, I did what I had in mind and one day, after several weeks and months, when I looked up I was surprised to see reddish banana hearts (puso ng saging) protruding and hanging out from all of theses plants.

As we love to eat vegetables, I excitedly told an early bird parishioner that we could harvest one of those banana hearts after the mass and have it for lunch. The parishioner replied that it is from those hearts which come out first that eventually banana fruits will come. Without those hearts, there will be no fruits. I reflected deeply on this statement and concluded that it is not only a law of nature but also true in the scriptures; "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45

What comes out of our mouths is from our hearts. It is the same way in our lives. We should show first our hearts before anything in our lives reaches fruition. The heart before the fruit. Let us all learn from this simple law of nature and what the humble banana plant is teaching us.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FIRST TABLE

The First Table was the First Stable...

There was a priest who officiated at the Sacrament of Matrimony for a couple from a village near his parish. After the ceremony, with all the picture-taking and everything that was still going on, the priest and a companion were invited to the reception hall ahead of rest of the wedding party to partake of the best prepared, and most sumptuous viands, at the first table.

As the priest and his invited companion were enjoying their meal in the still empty place, a kitchen staffer suddenly appeared and, not knowing the entire situation, and not recognizing them, scolded them for going ahead and eating food meant only for the newly wedded couple, their parents, family members and important guests and visitors.

As a seminarian, I also have had the experience of being seated at the first table, together with the priest who celebrated the Holy Eucharist for a village feast. Same as above, it contained the selected viands for the priest-celebrant, his companions and other invited-only persons who were the only ones seated there.

There was even a priest who shared that he got his priestly vocation when, as a Knight of the Altar, he was seated with a priest at the first table: “Priests eat good food at the first table. Better be a priest myself!”

In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, while movie theaters and other entertainment arenas have their comfortably cushioned seats numbered and priced, we faithfuls, seated on wooden, hard pews, have court and ringside seats at the First Table, as we witness the greatest miracle occurring on earth, wherein the bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

In the mass, we are not privy to the hocus-pocus tricks of a priest, learned from his years in the seminary, but, in truth and in fact, through his anointed hands in the consecration, God once again comes down from heaven and transforms himself into the appearance of the bread and wine on the First Table.

Lest we desecrate the First Table, there was a liturgist who warned us priests to not even attempt, in a joking manner, to hover our hands over the bread and wine while reciting the consecration words, “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body + and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ...”

How are we approaching the First Table? I have been to a western country and saw how in an orderly manner, pew by pew, they form a respectful queue to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ from the First Table. While here in our country, it is a frequent occurrence for parishioners to rush in from all corners and directions as if akin to, and reminiscent of, when relief goods are being distributed after a calamity. Cheek by jowl, they crowd in to receive holy communion from the First Table.

We have an archdiocesan policy wherein, except if it is a parent of a priest, the Holy Eucharist is not allowed to be celebrated in wakes in private residences. One of the reasons given was the absence of a decent table on which to celebrate the mass. Sometimes the table was a card table on which games were played, drinks or snacks were served, and it was to be used when these things were done.

The First Table happened in the First Stable, the manger, during the First Christmas.

Christmas is once again coming. It is aptly said in a very popular song etched in every Filipino's heart - Ang Pasko ay sumapit. Tayo ay mangagsi-awit. Ng magagandang himig. Dahil sa ang Diyos ay pag-ibig. Nang si Kristo'y isilang May tatlong haring nagsidalaw. At ang bawa't isa ay nagsipaghandog Ng tanging alay. Bagong taon ay magbagong-buhay. Nang lumigaya ang ating bayan. Tayo'y magsikap upang makamtan Natin ang kasaganahan. Tayo'y mangagsi-awit. Habang ang mundo'y tahimik. Ang araw ay sumapit Ng sanggol na dulot ng langit. Tayo ay magmahalan. Ating sundin ang gintong aral. At magbuhat ngayon KAHIT HINDI PASKO AY MAGBIGAYAN!

(Christmas has arrived. Let us all sing Beautiful melodies For in God is love. When Christ was born Three kings came to visit. And each of them presented Unique gifts. Start a new life at the new year To bring joy to our people. Let's strive in order to achieve prosperity for us all. Let us all sing While the Earth is quiet. The day has arrived of the infant given by heaven. Let us all love love one another. Let's follow the golden rule. And from now on EVEN WHEN IT'S NOT CHRISTMAS, LET'S SHARE!)

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


RENAISSANCE*

Someone asked him, Lord, will only a few people be saved? Luke 13:22

At one of the monthly general assemblies we had with our late Archbishop, a Dominican, I can vividly remember him asking all of us, his priests, present at that time: “If you could relive a certain period in our church history, which one would you wish it to be? To which he shared that personally, for him, he would wish to relive the Renaissance period, in which time kings and queens would knock hard on the wooden doors of the churches asking to have their confessions heard.

In our parish, we decided to give each village and sitio (zone) clearly printed and laminated novenary copies of their patron or patroness saints to enable them, through constant repetitions, to imprint it in their hearts and minds.

One time when I visited one of the villages, I suggested that, while waiting for the other parishioners to arrive, perhaps we could pray the novena to their patron saint. They replied that, due to fear of theft and loss, the said copies of the novenary were not available, as they were entrusted to a parishioner who had already left the village and had not been around for some time.

I countered that the next time we made copies of the novenas available, just leave them in the chapel so parishioners dropping by could have easy access to them to use and pray with. If, in case someone should take one home, so much the better, as a word, a sentence and even a paragraph might be able to make a difference and change the life of a person.

We can always reproduce copies of it, but the impact that it can bring to the hearts and minds of someone is simply immeasurable. There were some parishioners who even said that, in their long existence, it was only recently that they became more familiar with their patron saint.

When I was in the mission field, I had an experience where I lost a copy of my sacramentary. However, I also gained a convert.

It was an unfamiliar language. I was just starting to learn it. So, it was a habit to lug along with me my own copy of the sacramentary containing my own rubrics; cues to tell me which part of the liturgy I was in and would follow; reminders on the ways and means to properly pronounce a character.

During that time, after I would finish celebrating the Holy Eucharist in a nearby church, I would usually go, sit in a nearby public park, breath in the fresh air and just relax.

One day, maybe because I had already become so accustomed to the place, I was too trusting and careless; so much so that I left my backpack containing the copy of my sacramentary on a bench and went to the restroom. When I came back it was gone. Walking back through the memory, I can recall observing a young person just hanging out a short distance away from me.

To make a long story short, after a few months, now with a new sacramentary of my own again, our porter called me up to say that someone was looking for me. When I went down to our visiting area, a person handed me a plastic bag full of tattered pages. This person apparently found it somewhere and started going through it and confessed that, in a way, it changed his life. My name and contact address was visibly printed on the pages. So, it was not difficult to connect it back to me.

The paperback sacramentary that was lost was nothing to me, but what it did to another person's life matters a lot and the most.

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. Luke 13:24

Just like our late Archbishop, how many of us are also daydreaming about life during the Renaissance period of the Church, when people from all walks of life would go out and come to church in droves to receive the sacraments?  Even, perhaps, witness how John the Baptist, in the movie scenes of Jesus of Nazareth, was baptizing great numbers of people in the Jordan river.  By a long shot, that time is past.  It is all wishful thinking by now.

And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God. Luke 13: 29

We might not be able to convert and baptize a thousand souls into the faith. However, our simple little acts like leaving a copy of a Catholic magazine, like what I do with my old Life Today magazines, stampitas, rosary guides, novenas... leaving them in places where people might see and find them.  Perhaps, a word, a sentence or a paragraph might change a life.

That, in itself, is indeed like living back in the Renaisance period of our church.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

*The period in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries during which there was a renewed interest in art and literature, inspired by a fresh study of ancient Greek art, ideas... It started as a cultural movement in Italy in the Medieval period and later spread to the rest of Europe.


CALLOUSED KNEES

There was a priest who decided to get laicized. One day, a brother-priest visited and let him listen on a tape cassette recorder to the happy and loud pealing of bells on the very day of his ordination. After that, he changed his mind and went back to his ministry with gusto.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Luke 12: 34

Growing up, I would oftentimes hear people say that religious nuns were married to Jesus Christ- “Ikinasal kay Kristo”.  That is why they can no longer get married to another human person – they are celibate for life.

In my case, as far as I can remember, eons ago, on the night before our diaconate ordination, the ordinandi, in a kneeling down position, and witnessed by the entire seminary community in our chapel, made a solemn pledge of celibacy, signed and handed, one by one, to our unsmiling rector, which he turned over to our archbishop.

The next scene that I can remember was we, the ordinandi, all prostrated down on the cold sanctuary floor of our basilica minore, and now witnessed by our individual family and loved ones. Personally, I felt as though I was on Cloud Nine of the high heavens, as the litany of the saints was being slowly sung by a bass cantor, right before our archbishop eventually laid his hands on our heads. “Good bye world!”

From that time on, our genuine treasure is God alone. He is now our spouse to whom we should be truly and entirely available. This is the business enterprise that we have entered into with the whole of our lives.

And all of this can only be made possible, as we were also formed for years inside the seminary, through prayers on our knees. Prayer is the only way by which we can strengthen that bond to a spouse whom we cannot physically sense, but know only in the deepest recesses of our hearts. That is why, if one would like to know who a seminarian is, just look at his knees – they should be calloused from long hours of prayer all throughout the day.

Right after ordination, what? There were many who observed that many priests in their first few years in the ministry gain a lot of weight. Some resorted to unhealthy diversions like drinking too much and too many to chain-smoking, overnight gambling, and the lending business. Eventually, many got sick and some died too young. Our spouse might be the Almighty, but we are not immune or invulnerable.

It is because that right after our seminary formation, many forgot all about self care – about exercise, proper diet and rest. So, in the same way, right after ordination, prayer, all of a sudden, just became bland, uninteresting and unattractive. It was abandoned in favor of more “sensible” pursuits. Celebrating the Holy Eucharist became the last of priorities.

Let us go back home to our womb, my dear brother celibates, and reminisce about how we were truly formed in the seminary. Right before the Blessed Sacrament, on our knees, praying the rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours and meditating on the great love we received from our spouse, our Lord and our God, as we were all prostrate down on that cold sanctuary floor, as the litany of the saints was being slowly sung by a bass cantor.

From our youthfulness, to senescence, to obsolescence, all of our focus, strength and our everything – the et als should only be to him, our spouse, our Lord, our God. With our calloused knees and all, he is indeed our treasure and who our hearts should be with, be in, and be around.

Postscript: The day after my ordination I ceased to receive my weekly one hundred peso ($ 2.00) allowance and a carton of milk from my mother, as she knew that I was already then with my spouse, my Lord, my God.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


DRIVERS. SWEET LOVERS.

“...Lord teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11: 1 

We priests, and other ordained ministers of the church, are obliged to pray faithfully the four volume Liturgy of the Hours, familiarly referred to as the breviary. If one would really assiduously follow every detail of it, it would take a considerable time to accomplish it throughout the day. 

In time, using the acceptable excuse that we are too busy (or lazy) to pray, there came out a very short version -- "The Shorter Christian Prayer."

How many among us still really pray?  I ordinarily notice these four volumes I earlier mentioned just relegated to gathering dust beside the Holy Bible on many of our bookshelves. Nowadays, many have opted for its online edition. 

When I was still a transitional deacon, a parish priest whom I was with at that time, honestly told me to not pray regularly the Hours, as he himself had already completely stopped doing so. "I am out of it," he told me. 

Let us learn from our mass transport drivers. Be it a trimobile, a public utility vehicle or jeepney, a bus... almost all of us, at one point in our lives, have experienced riding one of these conveyances plying our thoroughfares.

As a student, I witnessed and admired how our public transport drivers, whom we fondly call "sweet lovers" in our culture (as popularized by a sticker posted on their windshields), pray the briefest and shortest prayers. What a devotion! Very early in the morning, newly bathed and with their hair properly combed, immediately upon sitting in front of the steering wheel, they press the rosary, the crucifix, the miraculous medal, the brown scapular and the stampita found dangling from their rear view mirrors, and make a quick sign of the cross. There was even a particular driver whom I observed making the sign of the cross every time his jeepney passed by a church or a cemetery along his route.

What do you think they were praying for? To have a good day and make fares enough to meet their daily requirement, put food on the table, pay their bills, buy much needed medicines, milk, diapers, etc... Give us each day our daily bread. Luke 11:3

At the end of the day, I haven't seen them as they park their vehicles in the car barns.  I wonder if they do a similar closing gesture to that with which they started their day?

Do we still care to pray? Again, let us look at what our drivers, the sweet lovers of the road, do it at the start of each day.  Whatever we do, as priests, seminarians, nuns, teachers or students, we can be edified by our humble drivers, the sweet lovers. 

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

INKLESS

I am very much an early bird kind of person. I am usually up at four in the morning, listening to the news of the day, sans the never-ending commercials coming up later on.

As I have been listening to the news, one thing that I noticed lately is the uptick of suicide cases occurring among our younger generations. The particular news item would often end saying that no immediate cause was determined.

One time, as I had been continually hearing this kind of news, a question suddenly formed inside my mind. Is there a strong connection between what is in the news and what I have seen transpiring in our canonical books?

From time to time, whenever I would go through the pages of our canonical books – usually when parishioners would request a copy of their baptismal certificate – I would first admire how parish secretaries, using fine point ink pens, would decorate those pages with their entries. Secondly, I would also observe many empty entries under the “Father of the Child” section. Usually, it would just be marked as P.N.C. (Padre No Conocido – Father Unknown). Sometimes it would just be left blank – inkless.

In our society nowadays, solo parenting, in which most of the time the female is singly raising her own children, is a stark reality. Many mothers are made widows, and children, in turn, orphans, by the death of their so-called “breed and leave” type of fathers. And, with so many seeking the overseas work necessary to help support the ever-increasing needs of their families, many of these children are left under the care of grandparents, or other relatives, willing to do this care giving for them. In turn, these children are left to fend, and find for themselves, the emotional support that only real parents provide. Many of those still in their formative years are already included in the statistics for high incidence of teen pregnancies, addiction of various types, drop outs... depression... suicides...

It's no wonder that in our masses the ones mostly present are the very old – the grandparents – and the still too young – the children they care for. I admire so much the statement I overheard from the wife of an overseas worker, expressing the hope that her husband would eventually come back home, as no amount of money or possessions could equal his presence in the lives of their children. Whenever he came home he was treated as a stranger, or just another visitor.

We need those absentee fathers to fill out not only the blank entries of in their children's baptismal records, but we also need their physical presence to bridge the gap that their absence has created in the lives of their children.

It might sound utopic. However, let us pray that these absentee fathers will at least try to go back to their families once again so as to rid and vanish from our midst theses incidences of teen pregnancies, addictions of various types, drop outs... depression...suicides...

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FAITH AND FAMILY

PREPPERS

There was a person who avidly listened to the news both on T.V. and the radio. One day, the banner news was about the incoming super typhoon.

As news is constantly being repeated over and over again throughout the day, he got scared. The matter got magnified in his mind.  A sorry scene formed in his imagination about the events that might happen to him, his family and his possessions.  In a frenzied mode, he got a hammer and a ladder and started to nail down around his property. While doing this activity, an accident occurred. The ladder he was stepping on fell down and he broke some bones in his body. He was rushed to the hospital and was bedridden in a cast for sometime.  Meanwhile, the aforementioned super typhoon considerably weakened as it hit land and just went away.

When I encounter the following scriptural passages: "They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24: 39, 42). I remember a video I saw about preppers.

What and who is a prepper? He/she is a doomsday-minded person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur such as a worldwide economic collapse or war. A prepper makes preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition and other supplies.

They are a disorganized lot, as there is no agreement among them about what particular disaster is most imminent. They just keep on gathering materials and make plans in preparation for surviving the imminent major disaster or cataclysm that has formed in their minds.

Their survivalist activities almost border on hoarding, which sometimes endangers their own lives and those of others, as these supplies gathered in a substantial amount around their property eventually become fire hazards.

Good for the preppers who, most of the times, have the proper resources to gather and prepare what they might need to survive for the long haul. But, what about us ordinary mortals just dependent on our own bare limbs?

A popular song said: "Don't worry. Be happy." Michel de Montaigne, a French Renaissance philosopher, also aptly said it: "My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened. And this is backed by a long term study which found that 85% of what we worry about never happens.

We only have our faith in God and each other. Let us hold hands and calmly face whatever is coming to us in the future. As Romans 13:14 says: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh."

"What are you, a prepper or a faither?”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FREE RADICALS*


"Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."  Luke 12:15 

What was your favorite subject while still in school? In my secondary grades, I couldn’t abstractly imagine how invisible elements could exist and move about; I just couldn’t grasp what our chemistry teacher was babbling about, and I did not pass the course. I failed terribly and it became one of my lifetime frustrations. 

Now, in the course of going around our parish bringing Our Lady to every house, I encountered a parishioner who is a degree holder and teaches the said subject in our nearby school. I requested to be tutored whenever time allowed it. 

In the exercises I was given, what I discovered and took away from the process was that it applied well and good to our daily faith lives.  Eight is the ideal and stable number.  The more electrons a particular element possesses, the harder for it to share and, vice versa, the lesser the easier. It works like this with almost all of us, doesn’t it? 

In my work with the migrants before, it was not uncommon to encounter newly minted ones, receiving their first full paycheck and splurging everything on themselves: buying here, there and everywhere, and only learning to budget their money for their families' needs when everything had already run out. 

The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.  Coming to his senses he thought, "How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers. " Luke 15: 13-19

It is really true. There were many loan defaulters who made similar confessions once they were in dire need of money for something very important in their lives. For the first, second, third times, out of deep gratitude for the lending outfits that lent them the amount,they would faithfully pay them back. However, after some time, when greed and avarice started to overload the hard drives of their hearts and minds, they started to make excuses, evade and runaway until they totally defaulted on their obligations – “It’s my money, after all,” each would say. “Why should I give it to them?”

I have served in a rich parish where our daily provisions were almost portioned out in rations. Food items were locked tight in pantries or kept shut in store rooms for the insects and the elements.

On the other hand, I have served in a very poor one where we had almost no income at all.  However, we had food in abundance and ate to excess there.  It made a generous contribution to my girth. 

There is a book entitled, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Perhaps, we can also add that we can still learn a very essential lesson about how to live life in the secondary grades through the subject of chemistry. Eight is the ideal and stable number. The more electrons a particular element possesses the harder for it to share and, on the other hand, the fewer the easier.

Avoid any forms of envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth or anger... the excesses. These are the free radicals in our lives. Just enough will take good care of us and will go a long way – lasting until the second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Fr. Allan S. Fenix 

*Unstable atoms that can damage cells; causing illness and aging.

UNPLUGGED

Living in a very distracted age, where almost everyone is preoccupied with something, where do people have to go to really pray and listen to God – to get better divine reception in their hearts?

In the analog past, most especially in the countryside, to watch our favorite television programs we used to rely on outdoor element antennas attached to long, metal pipes installed atop our roofs. Program reception, according to weather conditions, varied from day to day. There was no guarantee of clear and crisp entertainment to end a long day.

Now in the digital age, cell towers dot mountain tops where, for sure,t here is the least interference coming from any direction. That is where, one day, Jesus took Peter, John and James to pray. While there, the signal strength and sensitivity were so good and strong that, “While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And, behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” With this kind of full bar reception, it is not surprising that even Peter proposed that “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke 9: 29-31,33

All through the 1990s, there was an MTV (Music Television) program called “Unplugged,” wherein music originally played employing electrical instruments was performed acoustically and in much quieter and smaller venues.

For me, that is my prayer style. It is going back to the basics by getting far away from the interference coming from nearby outlets. It is like unplugging myself from all attachments and connections so I can once again climb up a mountain and experience, in analog mode, the glory of God, unfiltered and with full, raw power. With this kind of quality reception, like Peter, I could spend hours and hours just savoring it to the point of setting up my own tent so as to just let time pass by without noticing it.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix 


VOWS

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14: 26-27

In our country, it is not customary for us clerics to wear the roman collar to distinguish us as priests. When I was in another country living at the bishop's house, it was my habit, after eating dinner, to go to the nearby cultural center to watch a live orchestral performance.

It