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A Few Minutes with Father
Father Allan Fenix
Father Allan Fenix is an American Catholic diocesan priest currently serving in his native land, the Philippines.  His work first appeared on RNJ in 2007, and we're delighted to welcome him back after a 5 year hiatus. In 2012, he published his first book, a collection of some of his best reflections appearing on RNJ and also titled, A Few Minutes with Father. Father Allan has a global following and a down to earth perspective on the challenges we all face as Catholic Christians.  He is a veteran SWL and an avid DX'er.



A Few Minutes with Father:

Meditations on Our Life as Catholic Christians

By Father Allan Fenix



"Voices"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
"I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be safe.He will go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy."  ( John 10: 9-10)
 
     One day, someone came to me and asked; "Father, why did you became a priest?" Whenever this question is asked of me, I usually freeze in my steps, go back and looked intently at where I've been.
 
    As we were studying in a Catholic private school in the city, we siblings grew up with our maternal grandmother, whose house was just literally a stone's throw away from a minor seminary. The Cathedral belfries  towered over us and the sound of its bells wafted through the house at all times, all day long.
 
    Growing up, I would like to go out and belong to a group. However, in that city before, there were a lot of fraternities that I didn't personally approve of, as they were practicing physical initiations. Then, sometimes, I saw them involved in fisticuffs in our streets and playgrounds. So, the only other viable option for me was to go out and enter the seminary.
 
    In the seminary, there were a lot of rules an regulations to follow. When I first stepped through its centuries-old main doors, the number one rule that was hammered home to us was that going out of the seminary premises without the permission from our formators was a grave offense.  It could mean an automatic expulsion.
 
    Young and growing up as we were, we always try to "game" the system. There were a lot of occasions at night when the seminary's thick brick fences were breached by some seminarians who would like to see the city outside: go to the movies, eat better food and just be out and about away from the confining atmosphere of the seminary.
 
     There was even a case wherein an escapee seminarian burned up a copy of reminders he found posted on a wall in a motel room he checked into. Many would just really like to get away from all the rules and regulations. However, we are reminded that, "Whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in some other way is a thief and a marauder. The one who enters through the gate is shepherd of the sheep; the keeper opens the gate for him."  (John 10:1-2 )
 
     In the seminary, we were taught the virtue of obedience to our formators/superiors. Insubordination is another grave offense. We were told that their voices were the voice of God telling us the right thing to do. Although, sometimes, we do not like them, as much as possible,  as  we would like to serve God as his priests, we would always treat that which they told us as if it came from God and would l be good  for us.
 
     "Vox populi vox De" is a Latin phrase which means  the voice of the people is the voice of God "     
 
     We live in a society that is governed by law. There are a lot of rules and regulations to be followed. One thousand and one of them.
 
     We have our public officials that were duly chosen by the people by way of voting in an election. We have church leaders who were given to us by the Chair of Peter. We have parents and guardians who were instruments of God in communicating his life and love to us. Imperfect as they are, we have to listen to their voices, as I do believe that their voices are the voice of God to us so that "...we might have life and have it to the full"  (John 10:10.




"Bread"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      Is bread the staple food in your family dinners?
 
     I read that only 15 out of the more than50,000 edible plants in the world provide 90 % of the world's food energy intake. Three of which, rice, corn and wheat, make up the two thirds. Of the tree, wheat flour is usually the main ingredient in the baking of a majority of bread.
 
     "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give to to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'"  (Luke 24: 30-32)
 
     We humans, have short memories. We are a very forgetful bunch. So, of the three, rice, corn and wheat, from the 15 edible plants which provide 90% of the world's food energy intake, God specially chose wheat flour to bake the bread and turn into his body, be broken and distributed to remind us of a very vital matter.
 
     The word BREAD is a contraction of two words -- BIBLE and READ. A noun and a verb. A subject and a predicate. The word BREAD reminds us to  READ the BIBLE.
 
     Just as we are physically nourished by a baked bread, we are also spiritually by the diligent reading of the holy bible.
 
     Annually, it is estimated that over 100 million bibles are sold. However, how many of them are really read and put to good use?
 
     It is very essential that we know the Sacred Scriptures. It is through this that we will come to recognize God.
 
     " It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread." (Luke 24:34-35)
 
     The word BREAD also reminds us of  the 7 Sacraments that complement the Word of God.
 
     May the Word of God push us to always renew our BAPTISMAL  promises and renounce Satan and all his works in our lives. Thus, we will always be united with God through the Sacrament of RECONCILIATION and strengthened by the EUCHARIST, as we journey in our lives.
 
     We are ANOINTED in the Sacraments of Confirmation, and also the Holy Anointing of the Sick and Dying, as we make our total self a DONATION to our chosen vocation, either in Matrimony or the Holy Orders.
 
     The next time you sink your teeth into a loaf of bread, be reminded to READ the BIBLE and be faithful to the Sacraments. 
         


"Show and Tell"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     One time, while I was going through the daily paper, I chanced upon a news item about an elementary student  who brought to school the handgun of his father for "Show and Tell".
 
     Upon reading it, I remember the time when I was also still in grade school and feeling too envious towards classmates whose parents were working abroad, and who would usually bring home with them big, colorful, expensive imported toys. They showed them to everyone and, during our recess time, only allowed a few friends to touch and play with them.
 
     Show and Tell, a common classroom activity at early elementary schools in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia of showing an audience something and telling them about it in order to teach young children the skill of public speaking, has long been done - ever since the time of Jesus Christ when he came and stood before them, "'Peace be with you,' he said. When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced."  (John 20: 19-20)
 
     For Jesus Christ, his "Show and Tell" item to his disciples, who had locked the door of the place where they were for fear of the Jews,( John 20: 19 ) was not a handgun, a toy or anything else but PEACE.
 
     Peace to teach them, from that time onwards, the skills of public speaking.  "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21)
 
     As in any class, at anytime, someone would usually be not around - absent - due to a lot of excuses and reasons. One of the twelve,Thomas, who was absent when Jesus came, should have gotten a ribbon for the most tardy.
 
     The other disciples kept telling him: "We have seen the Lord.'" His answer was, 'I'll never believe it without probing the nail-prints in his hands, without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand into his side.'"  (John 20: 25)
 
    Since Thomas is one of the chosen few, Jesus, a week later when the disciples were once more in the room (and this time Thomas was with them - present) came and stood before them (despite the locked doors) with his "Show and Tell" in his hands - PEACE.
 
     He said then, to Thomas: "'Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!'  Thomas  said in response, 'My Lord and my God !'" (John 20: 27- 28)
 
    Jesus Christ is truly the greatest teacher for he applied the best method of  Teaching , Learning, Doing.   "Jesus then said to him:'You became a believer because you saw me. Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.'"  (John 20: 29)
 
     "Jesus performed many other signs as well in the presence of his disciples." (John 20: 30)
 
     Learning.  But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through the faith you may have life in his name."  (John 20: 31)
 
     Doing. "Then he breathed on them and said: If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound."  (John 20: 22-23)
 
     Show and Tell.  The modern usage of the term began in the 1940s. However, the general concept is older. In one of Shakespeare's plays, a character uses the same words to link a thing with words explaining it.
 
     "... for if he show us his wounds, and tell us his deeds."   (Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 3)
         


"Superman"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      For me, having been raised immersed in Hollywood movies, I often thought that God was like Nietzche's superman - a real individual who is involved and changing the world everyday by overcoming evil. However, as I was going through the gospel passage regarding how Lazarus was raised by Jesus from the dead, I cannot but superimpose the event upon the framework of the four attributes of God which are:
 
     OMNISCIENCE  (Infinite Knowledge)
 
     OMNIPOTENCE (Unlimited Power)
 
     OMNIPRESENCE (Present Everywhere)
 
     OMNIBENEVOLENCE (Perfect Goodness . By the way, OMNI is a Latin prefix which means "all" or "every").
 
     Does God really possess all of these?
 
    Omniscience (Infinite Knowledge)  "There was a certain man named Lazarus who was sick... The sister sent word to Jesus TO INFORM him, 'Lord the one you love is sick.'" (John 11: 1, 3)
 
    Does God need to be informed?
 
    In Matthew 6:8, it is said; "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.'"   Even in Psalm 38:9:  "All my longings lie open before you, Lord, my sighing is not hidden from you."
 
    Omnipresence (Present Everywhere)  "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much. Yet, after hearing that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two days more. Finally, he said to his disciples,  'Let us go back to Judea.' When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days."  (John 11: 5-7)
 
    The village was not far from Jerusalem - just under two miles.  How far is two miles?
 
    Matthew 14: 22, 25: "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd."  "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, WALKING ON THE LAKE."
 
    Omnipotence (Unlimited Power) "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jewish folk who had accompanied her also weeping, he was TROUBLED in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions. 'Where have you laid him?'  He asked. 'Lord, come and see,' they said. Jesus began to WEEP... Once again troubled in spirit, Jesus approached the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across it. 'Take away the stone.' Jesus directed."  (John 11: 33-34, 38, 39)
 
    Matthew 19: 26: "But Jesus looked at them and said, " With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
 
    Jeremiah 32: 27: "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?"
 
    Omnibenevolence (Perfect Goodness)  "Upon hearing this,Jesus said: 'This sickness is not to end in death; rather it is for God's glory, that through it the Son of Man may be glorified.'"  (John 11: 4)
 
    "Jesus looked upward and said: 'Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me but I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they may believe that you sent me.'" (John 11: 41-42)
 
     How much proof do we need to believe?
 
     John 3: 11: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
 
     Romans 4: 17. "As it is written; 'I have made you the father of many nations'- in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."
 
     Yes, indeed, God is a superman. A real individual who is involved and changing the world everyday by overcoming evil.  He is a superman for he is omniscient (infinite knowledge), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (unlimited power) and omnibenevolent (perfect goodness).
 
     "Having said this, he called loudly, 'Lazarus, COME OUT!'  The dead man came out, bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. 'UNTIE HIM,' Jesus told them, 'and let him GO FREE!'"  (John 11: 43-44)
     



"Humus"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
          The soil is God's favorite form of medium in effectively  communicating his LOVE  to us, his creatures.  Proofs...
 
    "In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth..." "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being." (Genesis 1:1, 2:7)
 
     In John 9:1, 6-7, God gave back the blind man his life by restoring his sight. "As he walked along, he saw a man who had been born blind from birth...With that Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva and smeared the man's eyes with the mud. Then he told him, 'Go, wash in the pond of Siloam', so the man went off and washed , and came back able to see."
 
     With his new eyesight the blind man became an apologist* for Jesus Christ against the Pharisees and Jews. He who used to just sit around and beg, as his neighbors and the people who had been accustomed to see him begging began to ask, "Isn't this the fellow who used to sit and beg?" (John 9: 8), 
 
      Let's follow how he did it...
 
     "This prompted some of the Pharisees to assert, 'This man cannot be from God because he does not keep the Sabbath.' others objected, 'If a man is a sinner, how can he perform signs like these?' They were sharply divided over him. Then they addressed the blind man again: 'Since it was your eyes he opened, what do you have to say about him?' 'He is a prophet' , he replied.  (John 9: 16-17)
 
     Further on he said; "'I do not know whether he is a sinner or not, he answered. " I know this much. I was blind before; now I can see .'"  " 'I have told you once, but you would not listen tome,'  he answered them. 'Why do you want to hear it all over again? Do not tell me you want to become his disciples too?'"  (John 9: 25, 27)
 
     Finally, he hit the nail in the head when He came back at them; "'Well, this is news! You do not know where he comes from , yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners, but that if someone is devout and obeys his will, he listens to him.  It is unheard of that anyone ever gave sight to a person blind from birth. If this man were not from God, he could never have done such a thing.'"  (John 9: 30-33)
 
     In all of these discussions, all that we saw in the blind man was his humility.
 
     "When Jesus heard of his expulsion, he sought him out and asked him, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?'  'You have seen him', Jesus replied,  'He is speaking to you now.' 'I do believe, Lord' he said, and bowed down to worship him."   (John 9: 35-38)
 
     Humility is an act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others. In a religious context this can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity or deities, acceptance of one's defects and submission to divine grace.  The term comes from the Latin word humus (earth)  which may be translated as "grounded" , "from the earth", or "low".
 
     The way of humility was what just our Lord,Jesus Christ - a God - did . The creator became a creature to suffer and die to save us."Jesus was led away and carrying the cross by himself, went out to what is called the Place of the Skull (Golgotha )."  (John 19: 17)
 
     Golgotha is referred to in early writings as a HILL, a small heap, pile or mound resembling a skull cup located very near to a gate into Jerusalem.
 
     That hill, which is a small heap, pile or mound, became a pulpit for Jesus Christ to shower us with his love and eternal life. This was the same soil out of which he gave the blind man his new eyesight, his new life and mission.
 
     We are not blind who just sit by and beg.  Thanks be to God that we have eyes and we can see. We can see and we can work. I heard many of you said that the secret to make it in this land is to work, work and work. And that's what Jesus Christ had been telling us all along.
 
     "'We must do the deeds of him who sent me while it is day. The night comes on when no man can work.'" (John 9: 4)

*Merriam Webster defines an apologist as a person who defends or support something such as; a religion, cause or organization; that is being criticized or attack by other people.
 



"Ecce Homo"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
        I grew up in the 70's and, fortunately enough, saw the huge progress that the 21st century had brought into our lives. During those times, I had not yet fathom the great importance that as simple as plain water plays in our lives.
 
     I came from a big household with no running water. Our only source of water for use around the house was a hand-operated pitcher water pump. There was no expensive mineral water dispensers at that time.
 
     I remember that to set up this water facility,my father hired a group of workers to manually dig deep down under the ground until they reached the water table. Then, steel water pipes are vertically connected to each other to bring the water up.
 
     This activity of digging to put up a hand-operated pitcher water pump was quite a sight for us in that town. As the workers were doing their thing, people would usually gather about watching until water, at first brownish and later on, clear crystalline-like, spouted out from the protruding pipes. Then, everyone retires back to their homes for such a successful day.
 
     There was a time when our drinking water,specially after a strong typhoon, had with it some floating impurities that we had to wait for it to sink down the bottom of the glass before we got to drink it.
 
     Today, I do strongly believe that we have kept our faith in God. Although the headlines said; "these are the worst of times" - bad economy, high unemployment.... - however, we are living in, as the band Styx sang; "the best of times."
 
     Today, we are not that bothered anymore with simple things like water. Every time we put on our faucets, for sure, there will be much cold and warm water to content us. Drown us. Water in abundance. Many of us don't even bother to drink water anymore. It is bland and tasteless. We often want something sugary flavored.
 
     With all this excellent digital progress around us, our minds and bodies are already freed from the many small and simple details that used to bog us down. So, what we need next is to focus ourselves on the life giving water, Jesus. He himself said it. "...Open your eyes and see! The fields are shining for harvest! The reaper already collect his wages and gathers a yield for eternal life, that sower and reaper may rejoice together. Here we have the saying verified: 'One man sows;another reaps; I sent you to reap what you had not worked for. Others have done the labor, and you have come into their gain.'"  (John 4:35-37)   We succeed at the back of the sacrifices and successes of our ancestors. Our lives today were made much easier. A big thanks to them.
 
     He summons us to be authentic in our worship. "Yet an hour is coming, and is already here, when authentic worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshipers  the Father seeks. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and Truth."  (John 4: 23-24).
 
     With him, we have genuine food to eat. "I have food to eat of which you do not know....Doing the will of him who sent me and bringing his work to completion is my food." (John 4: 32-34)
 
     ECCE  HOMO!!! ( BEHOLD THE MAN )  I,as a priest, am just your humble messenger. As St. John the Baptist said; "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)  So that in the end, you, yourselves, will say as many of the Samaritans did;  "We no longer believe just because of what you said; no we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." (John 4: 42)
 



"Re"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
        RE- a prefix meaning "again"  or "again and again" to indicate repetition or with the meaning "back" or "backward" to indicate withdrawal or backward motion.
 
       In the last few months, whenever we were about to start with the mass and there were only a few parishioners present, I always overheard that it was due to the weather. The weather was always blame. Nobody would want to be caught up in the cold or rain.
 
       Everyday, whether it is rainy, cold or sunny, I always see to it that I am OUT on the road walking and often just all alone by myself.     Where are all the people living here? However, lately, with the onset of the spring season, I am gradually seeing people sitting OUT by their porches on their rocking chairs or on a swing. I can see people OUT on the roads again. Parents and children running, playing and biking by the sidewalks. YIPPEE!!! The place has come to life again. I am no longer alone.
 
      Spring, which refers to the blossoming of a range of plant species, the activities of animals or the special smell  of soil that has reached the temperature for it to flourish, can also allude to ideas of REbirth, REjuvenate, REnewal, REsurrection and REgrowth.
 
      There is the Arab Spring which is a term for the REvolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests; both non-violent and violent;riots and civil wars in the Arab world that began on December 18, 2010 resulting in rulers being forced from power.
 
      In America, there is the spring cleaning which refers to the yearly act of cleaning a house from top to bottom . It is also synonymous with any kind of heavy duty cleaning or organizing enterprise.
 
      There is a Chinese saying; "a second spring"- Di e'r g'e chuntian- which means to have a second peak time in one's life.
 
     "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus." (Matthew 17: 1-3)
 
      Jesus. Peter , James and John. High Mountain.Moses and Elijah.  Winter has passed. Spring is here all around. It is in the gospel and it is also in our church . It is about being all OUT - to be transformed.
 
      Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."  (Matthew 17: 4)
 
      We are living in a place that is practically spring all year through and even earning for itself the sobriquet as "the sportsman's paradise."
 
     Spring is a time when people are bringing OUT their outdoor gears, fixing their boats, putting up activities, parades, hiking, climbing,pitching their tents and just enjoy the great beauty of nature.
 
      "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'"  (Matthew 17: 5)
 
      Indeed, it is a spring time in our church. Since Ash Wednesday, I saw more unfamiliar faces coming even for our daily masses, Way of the Cross and unfamiliar voices going in for confession. I was also inspired to dispose myself well for the celebrations.
 
      "When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, 'Get up', he said. 'Don't be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus." (Matthew 17: 6-8)
 
      RE... or with the meaning " back " or "backward " to indicate withdrawal or backward motion.
 
     We have reached the mountaintop . Its such a great view out there. We knew how was it to be in the middle of winter. Cold, gloomy and sometimes depressing. Good riddance!!!
  
     Let us be the people of spring who were once terrified but are now unafraid. A people of the spring who were once face down but now see no one except Jesus.
 



"Name on a Headstone" *


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son. My favor rests on him.'" (Matthew 3:17)
 
     Nowadays, most children are born in hospitals or maternity clinics where there are very efficient system of  record keeping in place.The data of infants born here are immediately and readily registered with the Office of the Civil Registrar. Information about them are listed, accounted and available. They are officially humans.
 
     In the past, many children were just delivered and born in their homes by midwives. There are  too many cases whereby midwives are not good in record keeping and, sometimes due to the distance from the downtown areas where the Office of the Civil Registrar are, records of children born are misplaced, misspelled or altered. It doesn't tally.These can create a big problem later on when the person concerned will start to study, to work, to get married or travel.
 
     To resolve the problem, there are many instances when they have to refer back to the church. Annually, there are village feasts and priests go around to celebrate masses and baptize children who are born within that year. So, their baptismal records became the official basis for the Office of the Civil Registrar to late register them. Their baptismal records became the basis for them to be officially recognized as humans. It takes sometime for the person and their proper identities to be reunited.
 
    The first thing that children , who are about to go out of the home to play, study...,  should learn are their names. This is very necessary as our names are always at the forefront, at the front line. There are a lot of introductions. " I am... I am... I am... "
 
    I remember that several months before I begun my kindergarten I was taught how to write my own name several times, lengthwise and crosswise, on a notepad. I did it the whole day through. So, when the school started, it was the first thing that I came to recognize posted at the door when I entered our room for class. The name that was given to me when I was baptized as an infant.
 
     As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. Matthew 3:16
 
    The formula for the Sacrament of Baptism is; "... I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
 
     The name we received when we are baptized is blessed. It is sacred. Just as the sacrament confers on its recipient's soul an indelible mark, our Christian names go with us wherever, whenever, whatever, however... up to the grave.
 
     From the time when we first learn how to write our own name, it is often the first entry to all the succeeding transactions that we are going to bind ourselves with.
 
     In this age of identify theft, online hacking,cyber bullying and the likes, we all the more came to the awareness the great importance of our names and its grave consequences if it is compromise. If we are not careful in revealing our identities these days, we may, at a snap   of a finger, destroy all of the things that we have sweated on and worked hard for all through our lives since kindergarten.
 
     Jim Croce in his song titled, "I've got a Name" said; "I've got a name. I've got a name. And I carry it with me like my daddy did. But I'm living the dream that he kept hid."
 
     Our given name is the sweetest sound on earth.Let's pray over it to bring us the blessings and graces of God. This was the very purpose why we have it. Our name should give life, light and freedom to others whenever it is mention and not a curse.
 
     If we play with our name, if we do not take it seriously, if we do something illegal, we may lose and exchange it for a set of numbers.Prisoners don't carry their names with them but a number. With numbers, we are faceless. Unknown. Cold. We will feel imprisoned.
 
     Armed with our given Christian names, we go forward into the playing field which is the world. In time, because whatever we do, we might be able to earn our own aliases, nicknames, call letters, nom de guerres, nom de plumes. We might be able to exist under its anonymity.However, in the end, what will appear on our headstone when we die will be our baptismal names.
 
    Imagine now in your minds, how our names will appear as it is being chiseled out into our headstones.



"Love in the Mix"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God's presence and the Word was God."  ( John 1: 1)

    I grew up in a household with an illiterate parent. My Chinese father was a laborer and a farmer all through his life. With his two strong hands and feet, he was able to put us all to school from elementary through college and beyond. A house over our heads. Food on the table. Clothes on our back...

    Whenever I am home for vacation from school, I remember that his only greatest consolation was when he will put me in his lap and request me to tell him about all the movies I watched while I was in the city.

    As I was still in grade school, and could not yet grasp the dialogues, I made use of my bodily gestures and sounds from my mouth to tell stories from the movies I had watched. I remember that even bystanders loitering by our corner general store broke a leg just to listen to my one-boy show. I also saw in them the interest about the movies I came to watch in the city lately.

    "He was present to God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be."  (John 1: 2-3)

    Fast forward to the present internet age and now that I already have a good handle on the language, I am so thankful that these modern  platforms enable me to review, digest the messages and reached a certain closure from all the movies that I've watched before but was unable to understand, at first.

     I would love to retell it to my father and,for sure, be happy about it but he already passed away a long long time ago. My father did not come to see these modern technologies that enable us to reach a certain understanding about many problematic events occurring all around us.

    "Whatever came to be in him, found life, life for the light of men.The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it."  (John 1: 4-5)

    Thank you for all God's gifts that made our lives better. In the present days, we are enlightened. We can now do a lot of things which,in the past, has been so cumbersome to accomplish. However, together with all these are the darkness, the abuses. There are many people who,under the cover of the online anonymity, use it to bully, to destroy, to steal, to send the wrong message and thus start a great misunderstanding among humanity.

    "The real light which gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and through him the world was made, yet the world did not know who he was. To his own he came, yet his own did not accept him. Any who did accept him he empowered to become children of God."  (John 1: 9-12)

     During my last birthday and this Christmas, I received more than a hundred handmade and, as well as, store-bought greeting cards from our nearby parochial school and many from our parishioners. Although I knew quite well that their teachers obliged them to do it for me, however, I keep on going about carefully reading each message scrolled by a child's hand and also the simple but loaded ones from our dear parishioners.

      It greatly enriched my heart. I firmly hold on to each word. God is speaking to me through their affirming words and messages and it will tide me through over the new horizon that God has again gifted us with.   

    "These are they who believe in his name- who were begotten not by blood, nor by carnal desire, nor by man's willing it, but by God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory; the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love."  (John 1: 13-14)

   I've seen many people who are still in the prime of their lives but, nevertheless, waste away staring into space. I saw in their faces the question, as what the band Guns and Roses asked in their song Sweet Child of Mine;  "Where do we go? Where do we go now?  Where do we go?"  What shall we do with our lives now that we have everything but God?

    There is the moral and spiritual bullying and destruction which result in darkness and death because we did not put God's love in the mix. We made everything so exclusive, for members only, that we excluded him. God, the Word, is one who will bring light in the darkness, life amid death and a new creation amid destruction.  HAPPY NEW YEAR !!



"The X Factor" *


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     Everyday, in the early mornings and late afternoons, when the weather permits, I habitually put on my sneakers and take a long walk on the road. I feel good and it makes my day.

     I have been walking for sometime now and while I am on it, I see rows upon rows of houses with painted and numbered mailboxes in front of them silently waiting for a letter, the monthly pension, a greeting card, a postcard, the day's paper, utility bills, promotional flyers, junk mails.

     While walking, I also keep on wondering who are the people living inside those houses whom I seldom see come out and see the sunlight.There are occasions wherein the only time I see them is when they go out to walk the distance to their mailboxes to see and retrieve whatever is in it. I observed them so glad to get something out of it. There are also times when they return empty handed for there is nothing whatever inside their mailboxes.
    
    Hurry up, go and check your mailboxes, your in boxes,your social website accounts, the mail carrier has just passed by and we got a message from John the Baptist:  "REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN I SAT HAND."  (Matthew 3:2)

    Are you glad to get the message? Or, do we just go back home empty-handed with nothing because we just threw away, deleted, ignored it for we misconstrued it to be a junk mail, a spam or an invitation to a possible scam?

    Who by the way is this person named John the Baptist? He comes as a weirdo. He is not one among us. He is not into the latest fashion.Look, he wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. He does not drive the right car nor is into the latest digital technology. He eats strange things. His food was locust and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

     However, he got this  unique and particular X-FACTOR. We got to try him for that. There's something in him. A rock star X-FACTOR. "At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to  him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledge their sins. " 'Even the Pharisees and Sadducees whom he chided as a brood of vipers and harangued to produce good fruit as evidence of their repentance.... were coming to his baptism.'" (Matthew 3: 5-7)

     Yes, there is something really with this person named John the Baptist. There is something in his offer of baptismal water for repentance.

     And, just as everyday, we eagerly await the mail carrier passing by our houses, we keep on anticipating that something greater and grander is coming for us in our mailboxes, in our in boxes, in our social website accounts. He is a quantum improvement from John the Baptist.

    He is mightier for he is God who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. He is into gadgets. His winnowing fan is in his hands which will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:11-12)

    He is the God who is in us- the EMMANUELLE. He is not an alien coming down upon us in a flying saucer. He is like us. He has two strong legs. He uses a footwear- sandals.  That's why, we have to "PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE STRAIGHT HIS PATHS."

*  The unknown factor or the unexplainable thing which adds a certain value to an object, element or a person.



"Twilight"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    One day, a mother with her crying nine-year old child came to me. The mother requested me to console her child who was very afraid of death. Using all the euphemisms that I can gather, I tried to explain to the child that death is something afar off. Its not for you. Just live and enjoy what you are doing. However,as I am doing this, at the back of my mind, I would really like to tell the mother and the child bluntly; "Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." ( Matthew 24: 42,44.)

    Death!!! Who is not afraid of death?

   I love life. For want of words to describe it, it is just BEAUTIFUL and I am happy about it. I love the way my eyes can witness, in sharp technicolor, as what Cecil Frances Alexander said in her poem; "All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God made them all. "

   My ears, both near and far, can eavesdrop to the millions of sound bytes that they create. My nose can pick up their different odors and aromatic fragrances. My tongue can savor their saltiness, sourness, sweetness and bitterness. My hands, my body can scratch through the softness, the hardness, the brokenness, the integrity of what it is made up of. And, most of all, it is all safely encrypted deep down there in the recesses of my brain, the first and only ultimate central processing unit.

   But, my God, I thought, in my innocence, these are all forever. Why after all these does it have all to end in naught?

    Someone already informed me and I even saw it with my own two eyes that DEATH is inevitable. On one of these days, all of these, all of them, all of us will fall down, will disappear, will die. We will all be overrun by millions of gnats, maggots, worms. They will happily feast on our eyeballs, on our ears, on our noses, on our tongues, on our brains, on our flesh, on our innards.

    'Oh my God, I want to firmly hold on to you. Please,I don't want to die. Not now and in the near future. I don't want to see the end to all these. It might be a bit crazy but its fun. I don't want you, DEATH !!!'

     So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. "Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left." (Matthew 24: 39-41)

    OPPS!!! THAT WAS CLOSE ! Everyday, we are bombarded by news about death. It's all over and somewhat anonymous. However, when it is the death of someone familiar and close, I feel as though it has just made its swift swooping run near home.

    Lately, upon receiving words that some persons whom I knew had died in their prime, I stopped in my steps and pulled out from memory all the encounters that I have had with them. I remember "... In those days before the flood, when we were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage... We did not know why until the flood came and carried them all away." (Matthew 24: 38-39)

    Go to God. Go God. GOD means Go  Over Death. We all fear death. We become so attached to this world and all its allures because God is not in us.  However, with God near and in us, we will no longer be afraid of death. We can go over it. With him, we are on a pole vault going full speed ahead to top out the highest hurdle there is which is DEATH.We can go over the millions of gnats, maggots, worms... hungrily waiting for us.

     Death is part and parcel of God. He owns it.So, with him in our lives, we will be prepared like; ". . . the master who knows the hour of the night when the thief was coming. We are wide awake and won't let our house be broken into. " (Matthew 24:43)



"All in All"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  C.S.Lewis

    With its pages full of blood and gore, are you in favor of subjecting the sacred scriptures to censorship?

    I grew up in a small city with nine movie houses. On weekends, after doing all of my assignments and reviewing past lessons, there as nothing much else to do but head to the movies which usually showed western films.

    In those days, I noticed now, that we were not so conscious about all these censorship matter. Although some films being shown have stories which are not suited for some age groups and are therefore restricted - however, if one have the right amount of money to buy a ticket, one can readily gain entrance.

     It was on one of these instances when I was able to watch a movie which depicts exactly what Jesus said in Luke 21:10; "...Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. "

    For me, at that age, that was too much for me. From my seat, with my impressionable mind, it created a great fear in me. I carried all those scary images that I saw onscreen to home, to school... to life. Sometimes, I lie in bed long and break into cold sweats as I fall to sleep always anxious that on waking up all of it might really come true.

     "Then they asked him, 'Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?' He answered,  'See that you do not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ' I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them.When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.'"  (Luke 21: 7-9)

     I remember back when I was still in preschool.As my parents were too busy with our mom and pop convenience store to always keep an eye on me, someone, an older playmate, would usually tease me to no end telling me that both of my parents will soon die the next day.

    What kind of joke was that? At that time, I didn't know yet that it was now what they call 'bullying'. This brought me to tears crying. At the end of the day, when our parents have closed the store, I would usually ask them if it was really true that they will be gone the next day to which they reassuringly answered me not to believe it. Its all a big LIE !!!

     "While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, 'All that you see here- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.'"  (Luke 21: 5-6)

    Annually, our country is often buffeted by a number of strong to moderate typhoons. For us, students at that time, it was some what ironic that we looked forward to it. It was a welcome respite, for it means class cancellations. YIPPEE!!! YAPEE!!! YOW !!!

     I did not know how stupid a typhoon it was then. Instead of staying safely at home, we are all out to the movies enjoying and having fun oblivious to the sufferings and pain of others.

    Finally, the ferocity of nature caught up with me when, one time, our province was totally ravaged by a very strong typhoon that many houses in our area were like a house of cards and dominoes that fell down.

     The roof of our house was blown away. With a house not so integral, with walls but no roof on our heads, it was very inconvenient. It was not safe. We can't do what we normally do. Our parents cannot work well down the store. We fear our possessions might have gotten stolen. We can't study and sleep well. We can always see the stars and moonlight at night. However, I remember that, while all of these were happening, when our place was all down and out, the parish church belfry nearby was loudly ringing its big bell like a siren calling,reminding and warning all of us.

    With the total darkness and dust covering our place.No power for quite a long while. No movies. With nowhere else to go. Church doors got darkened. Pews got filled up. Attendance and worship at mass was up and heartfelt.

    That every strong typhoon which came to our doorsteps, shook, knocked out and brought us all down from our numb senses. Darkness was overwhelmed by light. Pessimism by optimism. Unbelief by faith. Despair by hope. Hate by love.  Everyday, we awake to another bright new day with God as our only hope in all these challenges and tribulations.

    One step at a time, we went on living our lives from the grace that God had given us that day. Day in and day out. Our perseverance as a believing people was able to secure our lives.

    We went on to rise from our death beds, from our gurneys, from our body bags... from our Calvary to a new life in fulness with God who is ALL in ALL.




"The Prayer"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      Be it for literature, science, cinema or for world peace, every year world award-giving institutions give recognition to persons or groups who have tangibly contributed to the well being of humanity through their field of endeavors. However, one single award was missed out in the fray, for it is over and above them all- the prayer award.

    A person who performs a specified action earns the suffix "er" like a sports player, a hunter, a banker, a teacher... And so, a person who prays is a prayer. A prayer is a very active person. He knows that there is no single best method. In fact, he is the pioneering scientist who goes over and over again with his tried and tested method of trial and error. Like a raging bull, he barrels through the limits of the imagination. He traverses innumerable light years. Thinly cuts through the dark universe. Courageously enters the center of milky was and black holes.

    "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)

    Everyday, a prayer gets up, kneels down, make the sign of the cross and pray... Everyday, he gets up, goes to church and pray ... Everyday,he has to start everything with a prayer...

   Contrary to what many negative thinkers say that prayer is insanity as it is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Rather, a prayer is vivacious whereby the more he prays the more he becomes happy, lively and attractive.

     A prayer becomes better and better in whatever he does. He is always going up to the next level. When he is in a plateau he briefly takes a break but he will soon be on the move again improving on his skills and craft. He is like a raging bull barreling through the limits of the imagination. Traversing innumerable light years. Thinly cutting through the dark universe. Courageously entering the center of the Milky Way and black holes.

    "... pray always without becoming weary." (Luke 18:1)

    The prayer has the relentless pursuit for God. This is his fiercest field of battle. Death will come. His ultimate reward is the Kingdom of God in heaven.    
    




"3 Widows and a Ham"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

     ...And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child."
(Luke 2: 2-5)

    Driving a car forward is very easy as one only needs to step on the accelerator. However, backing up or reversing is quite hard as one needs to do it slowly while trying to look at the rear view mirror or, from time to time, turning ones head to the right or left to see whatever might be behind or on our blindsides.

    While going through the Wikipedia, I happened to read about the salmon run. A time when a salmon which have spent their early life in rivers, swam out to sea where they live their adult lives and gain most of their body mass will return, with uncanny precision, to the rivers where they were born and even to the spawning ground of their birth and DIE. Thus, the salmon life cycle starts over again.  

    There is a Latin phrase which said; "EX ABUNDANCIACORDIS, OS LOQUITOR"-  'From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.'
 
    In the cleansing of the ten lepers, "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. He was a Samaritan."  (Luke 17:15-16)

     Life is about being grateful and showing our thankfulness whenever we can.  If there is something that must take shape first and foremost in our hearts, it must be that gratefulness and to which our lips will speak, whether we are really in a big mess or a big raise, it is THANKS.  Thank you for all these because I am alive. Thank you for I will die in gratefulness.

     "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 . And when he saw them, he said, 'Go show yourselves to the priests.' As they were going they were cleansed."  (Luke 17:12-14)

    At a certain time of each year, we have this custom to travel back and visit, whether by ship or plane, by car or rail, by bicycle or foot,  o our provinces, our cities, our towns,our villages to gather and celebrate the feast in thanksgiving to a particular patron or patroness saint with our families and loved ones in our parish churches.

    It is also at this time of the year wherein we held all sorts of reunions from family to school. We usually start every event with a Holy Mass and, in time, noticed that one or two family members or a classmate will  no longer be around because they already  met their own demise. THEIR END.

     "Then he said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.'" (Luke 17:19)

    For me, this act of going back home is a sort of recharging our batteries. Taking stock of where we came from. Assessing our met and still unmet goals and available resources. Coming up with plans and strategies. And for sure, when the holidays are over, we  just don't end up with a heavy hangover. We go back to our communities, to our work, to our schools, families... with a refresh mind, a refresh heart, a refresh soul and body.... and overall to refresh FAITH in God.

    "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)

    To this end, I would like to extend my gratefulness to three widows and a ham operator in our community.

    When I first came to the United States I told myself that, since I have nowhere to go here, I need not have a car of my own. However, the bishop and our pastor told me to have one. Three widows were put together by our God to make  acquiring my car a breeze. One gave me a very convenient price. Another waived her notary fee. And, still another paid for its sales tax and registration fees. And, finally, to top it all off, a ham operator gave me a complete set of radios to keep me company.  Again.... THANKS BE TO GOD and THANK YOU!!!
 


"Water and Fire"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    "Jesus said to his disciples, "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing. There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.'" (Luke 12: 49-50)

      The weather was so hot lately that there had been a lot of fire in the news destroying lives and properties. Naturally, to put it off, water was extensively used.   As a friend, water and fire can put our body and soul intact together. However, with too much of it, when  it becomes an enemy, it no only separate the body from the soul but everything that we have worked hard for all throughout our lives; our family, our properties, our careers and even our environment. Too much of it can bring about death and destruction on its path.

     In the beginning, there was only water and fire. These two, which God has given us, are the most basic natural resources that we need to power our machinery to generate the food and the clothes to strengthen and cover our body and also the industrial materials to build houses and the infrastructures to shelter and make life so convenient for all of us. With these two natural elements alone, we can , indeed, live contentedly and be at peace for the rest of our lives.

      Water and fire which is life and from God, the Almighty, is Jesus Christ. Through the water of baptism, we were given a new life . It washed away the original sin we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and which turned us into the true children of God who were created in his image and likeness. The Holy Water cleared away the mud to bring out the shining gold within each one of us.

      Jesus Christ as fire gives us the energy and the strength to burn and banish away all the temptations and sins besetting our lives. Whenever we worthily receive him in the most Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ is the conflagration searing through our bones, muscles, ligaments, veins... and overhauling it to be his loving and mercy machines here on earth.

      O Lord Jesus Christ, be the water and fire in our lives to wash and melt away all the impurities so that we might only give true love and only love to others.  Separate us away from everything that will put off that fire within us and that which pollute and darken the water from where our true life flows. Amen.
 



"High Up On Top, Up There


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
       "And when he was at the place, he said unto them, pray that you enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and knelt down, and prayed, saying, 'Father, if you be willing,remove this cup from me: Nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.' And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as if were great drops of blood falling down to the ground... falling down to the ground."   ( Luke 22: 40-44)
    
      Being deep down there. All of us, I am surely presuming and without any exception, had been there before or even now, right at this very moment. No one anymore wants to go through it once again. Its an excruciating experience. We keep it deep down inside us. We don't want to let anyone know it. We don't even want to share it with others. If possible, we would like to forget and erase it from memory.

     No one wants to be deep down there. Hell is even often associated as being down there. All of us want to be high on top up there. It is in our human DNA to want to be above on top of all the others. It is no wonder why we have these so-called rat race, dog-eat-dog society,pressure cooker lifestyle... These are all human-made.

     To be authentically up on top and above there,there is the God way - which is PRAYER. When we are down because someone put us down or received a bad news. When we lose our business or job. Going through a miscarriage or a broken marriage. When your children won't listen to you.... PRAY.

     Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane did it and there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him. Cheering and boosting up his flagging spirit to fully receive his passion.

     When we pray we ask, we seek and knock on the door of heaven and surely from up and above there we will receive from the Father the Holy Spirit and we will find and open the seven gifts. Among which are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. A person who possessed these gifts from the Holy Spirit is not confused by the conflicting message in our culture about the right way to live. Because he is high on top up there with the Father.

     "If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" (Luke 11:13)  
 




"The Approach"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
   Perhaps you have already heard the story about a patient who, when he requested the assistance of a nurse, was turned down because the latter was already finished with the shift and was hurrying out of the hospital.
    
    Confronted with a very difficult situation in life, what are our usual reactions? Are we like the apostles who, faced with a hungry and tired crowd before them and it was getting late, approached Jesus Christ and laid the following suggestions: . "Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here." (Luke 9:12)

     The apostles were doing everything by the book. The task before them was not included in their job descriptions. They were reluctant to accommodate it for it is something totally unfamiliar to them. Besides, the prospect of dealing with their dilemma is just so daunting fort hem. They fear committing any mistakes.

     In black and white, they were merely following everything that they learned. They cannot think out of the box. They felt trap facing the dead end wall of a cul de sac. The only easy way out is to dismiss and forget all about it. Anyway, they have already delivered and done what were expected of them.

     The apostles' mindset was similar to what James 2:16 said: "If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?'"

     On the other hand, having regard to the whole rather than just to parts of it, the approach of Jesus was very holistic. He was very creative. He has this abundance mindset "Give them some food yourselves."  This is opposed to the scarcity thinking of his apostles.  "Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people. "  (Luke 9: 13)

     Jesus Christ, as God, believes that he has created plenty of resources around which are capable of providing for everyone up to their hearts' content.

     Jesus Christ approached the issue at hand,first, by orderly organizing them. Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of fifty." They did so and made them all sit down.

     We have to be a community who love and share our lives with each other. In a crowd, a riot usually breaks out as they don't know each other very well that much and their presence is merely motivated by vested interest.
    
    "This is what we got!" Secondly, he dealt with them by being transparent. He was very upfront. He did not hide anything from them.He showed everything that is available to them. "Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets."  (Luke 9: 17)

     In the end, the people were all happy. They cannot ask for anything more. All of them, without any exceptions, have more than enough. They really ate to their hearts' content. It was a comedy. The story have a very happy ending. Everyone went home that day with a smile on their faces and loud laughter resounded everywhere in the farms and villages.

    Next time, confronted with a dilemma, learn to organize and be transparent.
 



"Penknife"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    "Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me."  (John 14: 24)

     In our parish, I used to bike around and pass by a number of motels and cheap lodging houses that are located in an area not usually intended for their target customers like tired motorists and long distance travelers looking for a safe and secure place to rest and spend the night before embarking on their journey the next day. But, instead, I observed that these places are usually located nearby where "red" houses operated. So, I immediately concluded that these places must be for those who would want to "keep" their newly found love away from the prying eyes of the people around them.

     We don't only have short attention span but even short memory problems. We forget fast. A few months ago and, even, in the past, a shooting incident occur in one of these places and, in fact, one person died.

     When will we ever learn our lessons well? Do we want our careers, families and marriages get destroyed by all these? These places continually operate. Their doors are widely open waiting to swallow and keep their next victim.

     When I was abroad working as a missionary priest, surrounding the parish church where I was staying are the same motels and also short-time lodging houses that are always full of "single" persons. No one would want to claim marital status there. And, if ever they are married, they would want to hide and keep it a secret. In fact, one migrant worker under the employ of one of the owners of these establishments I have just mentioned said that on Sundays when the churches are full their rooms are also fully booked.

     If we really love God, we have to avoid these occasions and  places of sin. Stay away clear from them. Added to these are the gambling places operating in our parish where some of our brothers and sisters spend their family's hard-earned money. Then, we even have the gall to say that we are in a dire economic situation.  "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him."  (John 14:23)
 
     If we are bored with our lives and don't know what to do with the spare time in our hands, there is someone to whom we can go and have a devotion with. There is Jesus Christ who said; "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and afraid." (John 14: 27)

     Then, of course, there is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate that the Father sent - "He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." ( John 14: 26)

     This One God in Three Divine Persons is our penknife. A small but lethal weapon that we can keep handy in our pockets to ward off against the occasions of sin in our lives. As he himself, once again, said it; "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (John 14:27)



"Within and Without"


By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     In the seminary, there was a time when we usually don't have classes in the afternoon. It is, according to our formators, for the purpose of integration. Integrating everything that we have learned in the classroom with our lives.

     Integration is very important. It is defined as the combination of two things in such a way that one becomes fully a part of the other.

     When we were in college studying philosophy we had a very brilliant professor whom we listened to intently and, word for word,take note whatever we hear from his lectures.

     Once, during a recitation period, he called me up and was told to discuss anything that I can remember from our previous classes. On my part, for fear of committing any mistakes and embarrassment, I merely recited everything from memory. I gave out everything that I have from my notes which he had discussed with us.

     When I sat down, he told our class not to just parrot whatever came out from the mouth of the teacher. Understand the lesson well.Integrate it in our lives and share it out loud from our hearts.

     Every person has within his body a mind, a heart and, of course, limbs. However, there are times, when there is a great distance separating the three of them. What the mind knows sometimes doesn't reach up to the heart and even down to the limbs.

    In school, in churches, in recollections, talks...many of us are familiar about the one recurring theme - to love one another. However,how many among us have the heart and, much more, the limbs to really live it? " Walk the talk, as they said it.

     "My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment:  Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." (John 13:33-34)

     The priests in our parishes, the teachers in our schools, community leaders... People in our lives come and go. We cannot hold onto them tightly. However, during their time with us, there were some among them who have impressed on us something worth imitating and remembering. Maybe, some of them have inspired and motivated us to change our lives for the better by studying, working, cutting on our vices... and being good fathers, mothers, sons and daughters to our families.

     Jesus Christ has long been gone physically from us. However, we are continually a Jesus Christ, a brother or a sister, to one another and not a stranger when we not just parrot what we have read and learn from the books or from our teachers but when what is in our heads goes up to our hearts and straight to our limbs.

     This is what it means when Jesus said that he is the TRUTH. Truth is the conformity of what is in the mind and what is outside the mind.  Jesus Christ walks the talk. He is the Truth and he does not lie.

     The Truth, Jesus Christ, is within and without us when we live out loud the truth that is within us. "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have loved for one another." ( John 13: 35)    



"The Father and I Are One"
(John 10:30)

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      "Jesus said, 'My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.' "(John 10:27)

      In the seminary, there were a lot of schedules. Too many activities waiting to be accomplished that prayer time was a time to take a rest or to be where the rest of the community was to fulfill an obligation.

     Going out for apostolate was a chance to be out and see what was happening outside...

     Then, one day, it suddenly crossed my mind whereby I told myself that, if I am going to serve this God whom I daily encounter in all corners of our seminary formation, I better listen to his voice, know and, eventually, follow him.

     To listen, I always make it a point to go to the library and rummage through the available spiritual books that I could get my hands on, read through them and admire how lives were touched and changed by this God. I also borrowed and listened to religious talks on tapecassettes and saw in them the encounter between the human and the divine, the mortal and the immortal...

     Nowadays, there are many more ways of listening to God. There are already religious radio and television stations and plus the internet websites solely dedicated to play and talk all about God.

     To know more about God, I tried hard to listen to what our seminary formators and other visiting priests were sharing in the mass during their homilies. I also regularly talk with our spiritual directors and share with each other our struggles of being always in the state of grace and being near and close to God.

     "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out  of the Father's hand." (John 10: 29)   

     At last, after the long long wait, I came to a point again whereby I have to decide to follow him by way of the Sacrament of the Holy Orders.  Inside me, there was this great amount of reluctance. I knew quite well how many of our elder brothers fared in the ministry amidst an ocean of temptations. However, I finally told myself I am confident with my divine employer. He wont go out of business. He is forever unchanging. I will be safe and secure with him. He himself said; I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. John 10:29

      With this scriptural assurance, there was no turning back for me. I have to go and dive in serving him as a priest in his vineyard. Jesus himself, furthermore, clearly said it; "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God." (Luke9:62)Honestly speaking, while I was still in the seminary, although, of course, it is really encouraged, as most of our brothers and sisters in the charismatic movements would say it, I did not have any  personal relationship with God. God, for me, was an object of study. He is like a laboratory specimen in a scientific study. God was someone outside of me. Our religious education subjects were just one of the subjects. It was all for the sake of grades and passing another academic course.

      In the seminary, there were a lot of schedules. Too many activities waiting to be accomplished that prayer time was a time to take a rest or to be where the rest of the community was to fulfill an obligation.

     Going out for apostolate was a chance to be out and see what was happening outside...

     Then, one day, it suddenly crossed my mind whereby I told myself that, if I am going to serve this God whom I daily encounter in all corners of our seminary formation, I'd better listen to his voice, know and, eventually, follow him.

     To listen, I always make it a point to go to the library and rummage through the available spiritual books that I could get my hands on, read through them and admire how lives were touched and changed by this God. I also borrowed and listened to religious talks on tape cassettes and saw in them the encounter between the human and the divine, the mortal and the immortal...

     Nowadays, there are many more ways of listening to God. There are already religious radio and television stations and plus the internet websites solely dedicated to play and talk all about God.

     To know more about God, I tried hard to listen to what our seminary formators and other visiting priests were sharing in the mass during their homilies. I also regularly talk with our spiritual directors and share with each other our struggles of being always in the state of grace and being near and close to God.

     "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand." (John 10: 29)   

     At last, after the long long wait, I came to a point again whereby I have to decide to follow him by way of the Sacrament of the Holy Orders.  Inside me, there was this great amount of reluctance. I knew quite well how many of our elder brothers fared in the ministry amidst an ocean of temptations. However, I finally told myself I am confident with my divine employer. He wont go out of business. He is forever unchanging. I will be safe and secure with him. He himself said; I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. John 10:29

      With this scriptural assurance, there was no turning back for me. I have to go and dive in serving him as a priest in his vineyard. Jesus himself, furthermore, clearly said it; "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)



Follow Me

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     
     Nowadays, God directly reveals himself to us through the sacraments, most specially that of the Holy Eucharist. Our habit of approaching the sacraments, most of the time, came by way through an invitation from our grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, community.  "Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing.' They said to him, 'We also will come with you.' So they went out and got into the boat,..." (John 21:3)

     That's why, I am glad to see whole families coming in for either the weekday or Sunday masses. Grandparents with their grandchildren,parents with their children, siblings with their younger siblings or friends. During the times of the early Christians, when there was the persecution against them, the fish was their symbol of a gathering and a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

     "So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord.' When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment,for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:7)

     We make ourselves presentable whenever we want to go to a certain place.  It is a sign of respect. We dressed up to buy something in the market, see a movie, attend a meeting, visit friends... and, of course,to church to celebrate the greatest feast- the Holy  Eucharist.

     As compared to our brothers and sisters of other faiths, we, Catholics, are not very particular with our dress code. There is no one at our church doors checking on how we are dressed up. For as long as what we have on is clean and modest, the community doesn't mind. Our church, after all, is a mother with her open arms ready to accept everyone who comes near her.

    "Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you just caught.' So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish." (John 21:10-11)

     During the celebration of the Holy Eucharist,we make an offering from the fruits of our labor. Jesus said to bring only " some " of the fish from the one hundred fifty-three large fish. However, these some should be the cream of the crop, the best of the best for " It is the Lord. "

     Remember Abel? "And Abel also brought an offering- fat portions from some of the first born of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering." (Genesis 4:4)

     "Jesus said to them, 'Come, have breakfast.'And none of the disciples dared to ask him,  'Who are you?' because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,and in like manner the fish." (John 21: 12-13)   In every celebration of the Holy Eucharist, it is Jesus Christ himself, literally and figuratively, who is the main celebrant.

     It is Jesus Christ himself who is here with us in person, in word, in the body and blood, in the community.  He is the one who will distribute to each and everyone of you his body and blood.  The one who is reading, speaking, celebrating and, later on,, distributing the body and blood is not me, the priest, but our Lord, Jesus Christ himself.This is what we believed in. In faith, we all have to accept it.

     "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him,'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.'" (John 21:15)

     The celebration of the Sacraments is continuous. Like God, it is infinite and eternal. After attending the weekday and Sunday masses, we go home or to work to feed and tend God's creation. To be good and responsible stewards of God's creation is our mission in response to the numerous graces, "... to the number of fish that they were not able to pull it in."

     We want to follow God. We accept the sacraments with joy. So that like him we might become eternal and infinite.
  




Inertia

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     
    "Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed." (John 20:8)

     A Chinese philosopher said; "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Everyday, ever since we made our first step, it is a never ending walking and running around for us until, one glorious day, we make our last step and meet our own death.

     As the sixth child in a family of nine siblings, I saw how our youngest brother was able to rise up by himself and walk. It was very early in the morning when suddenly we were all awakened in the house by a glad commotion coming from the next room where he was sleeping. When we went to his room we saw that, after a two-full year of waiting since his birth, he was already standing, laughing and pacing about all by himself...

     After the birth of their children, after looking forward to it with patience, the next happiest moment for the parents is when their children can now stand up and walk by themselves. At the right age, the child can now go and, perhaps, graduate from school, learn a trade or skill, work, have a family - to move and live independently for as long as their strength permits.

     I am pretty sure that every parent, before they die, would wish to see all their children living happily and independently with their own family or community, if possible. So, imagine yourself the parent of a grown up child who, needs a lot of help for they cannot move about by themselves. The parents will always think; "What will happen to my child?"

     Most of us were still infants being cuddled by our parents when we received the Sacrament of Baptism, and although we already received the full deposit of the faith, we still need a lot of efforts and initiative to grow up in the faith and attain holiness of life which is our ultimate mission.

     Be very grateful to God for the life he gifted us. We have the strength to move by ourselves. We can run and walk to know, to love and serve God in the church, in the community and the world.   

     Just as we can run and walk to school, work and to our other activities by ourselves, we also have to run and walk to church by ourselves, fall in line silently and receive all the other sacraments like Confirmation, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony...and when we have reached the end of our strength. When we are sick and dying and we cannot move about by ourselves any  longer. Somebody else will come to do it for us just like what our parents did when we received the Sacrament of Baptism as infants. Someone who is strong enough will carry us to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Dying. Someone will bring us back to God.
    
     In life, here is what we have to always remember. Do not stop running and walking. Do not give up. Be on the move. Keep that life inertia* going.

* Inertia- a property of matter by which it remains in a state of rest,or if, in motion, continues moving in a straight line, unless acted upon by an external force.



Knowing and Doing

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     
      "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."  (2 Corinthians 10:17)

       Truly educated persons, those who really knew their limitations, are humble. In just a few short months, here we go again falling inline for the nth time for our various school graduations. Be it in elementary, high school, college, master and even doctoral levels,with honors or none, there's one thing that we commonly have discovered: There are more things that we don't know than we know.

     Life is everywhere and it keeps on changing and moving. Try reading scientific journals and write ups. Notice that the conclusions that they often arrive at do not end with a PERIOD but, rather, a series of COMMAS. Since newer findings keep on coming out everyday, the more we try to study a particular subject matter the more will we find out that there many more things that we still don't know about it.

     As we go up higher in the educational ladder,the more that we need to practice the virtue of humility. As Socrates said it: "The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know."

     Pity those who get proud with what they know for they are those who try to strongly bank on the little knowledge that they have. They don't want to generously share it but, rather, use it for their own selfish ends. Remember, a little knowledge is dangerous and all of us are in the same boat if we are not aware of it. That's why, we should keep on studying and learning.

     "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:17)   Life is wonderful only if we use the things that we know in the service of God and others. Don't be ashamed with whatever educational level you have attained. Have faith in God and in yourself.Sincerely start first with the things that we know and later, link by link, we will realize that we are getting somewhere.

     My brothers and sisters, do what you know.Know what you do. God will surely bless you abundantly!!!


Think Global, Act Local

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    
     "While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white." (Luke 9: 29)     
    At a first glance, this Transfiguration scene seemed to be the usual stuff that we read on children's storybooks and not the likes in what we find in the many blockbuster novels and movies that we have read and seen. However, in truth, there is really more to this than what meets the eyes.

     "... Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here, let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. "But he did not know what he was saying." (Luke 9:33)

     SMALL. MEDIUM. LARGE. EXTRA. When we came to church today what size were our eyes, our ears, our noses, our mouths, our hands, our feet... looking inwardly, what about our lungs, our hearts, our livers, our kidneys, our intestines, our bladders... that we have brought to load up on the overflowing abundant grace of God?

     With God, as much as we can, we have to expand, enlarge, deepened and heightened ourselves. For, with him, any size is never enough. Although, as God, he adjusted himself to our situation by becoming a human person exactly like us, however, we have to do something about it. We have to initiate actions. So that, in the end, we might not be found wanting in his eyes.

     "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."  (Luke 9:30-31)

     Confronted with the beauty and glory of God,we cannot but be moved to take steps and do something much bigger and larger than ourselves. Our church is very rich, indeed. In law, as personified by Moses, and tradition, by Elijah. There are just a thousand and one things that we can do in church, in our community, in our family, in ourselves for God.

     Sometimes, we are overwhelmed by our myopia that we just confine God, our faith, the church within the narrow and shortsighted  boundaries of our worlds - like the proposed tents of Peter - by just paddling too close to the shore that, in the end, we did not accomplish anything, spiritually and physically. That's why, we have this so-called seasonal and lukewarm Catholics who just come to church on certain feasts and occasions like Christmas, Holy Week,weddings, funeral rites.

     "Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 'This is my chosen Son; listen to him.'" (Luke 9:35)

      As Catholics, we must always ask ourselves the question; "What more can I do?" We should not be limited by our family, community, local church. We have to think globally but act locally. The world is our whole area of concern. As Jesus Christ said; "Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."   (Matthew 28:19)


Deserts

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    
     Recently, while walking at the downtown area,I accidentally met a long time no-see elementary classmate of mine and, knowing that she works in a nearby bank, asked her how is it to be in one? To which she answered that seeing numbers upon numbers all throughout the day and counting and recounting other people's money is simply BORING. However, of course, she, her children, the family need the money for the food, education, utilities.  This is what keeps her and all of us going back spending our whole lives hunch down in our small cubicles simply because we need the pittance of money we can get after a month... life  long of work.  Is money our ultimate destiny?

     During our school days' weekends, after reviewing our lessons and doing some assignments, there is nothing much else left to do but head to the movies in the afternoons. I think,during those times, with the limitation of entertainment places in our city, movie theaters are not very conscious of age limitations. As long as a moviegoer has the money to buy a ticket, they can go in and watch the movie presentation.

     After several months of watching movies, I came to the point whereby I told myself; "ENOUGH of all these!" Except for some really very interesting and insightful ones, I no longer would want to go through another movie as the almost usual themes were all about the MONEY.  Money and more money and the hundreds of illegal ways to obtain it.  It was so BORING.

     "... You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve." (Luke 4: 8)  From that point on, I started to go over and fish from our bookshelves old copies of books and read them. This is what got me into the habit of good reading. From my previous experience, I would like now to enrich myself with knowledge, wisdom, character and virtues. These things are higher and more sublime than money, which is of humans. These things are all from up above, from God, the Almighty.

     In our society, in recent years, there has been an explosion in the way we entertain, work and live.  Almost everyone are getting hooked up online. The technology mesmerizes us.Once again, there is no age restriction.  Everything is presented at our finger tips.  In the end, have no one among us ask, "Where is this technology taking us?"

     Technology is all around us. We do not have quality time for ourselves anymore. We cannot be left all alone by ourselves.  Instead, with its ever presence around us, it is taking us far away from ourselves. Removing us from our original selves.  Real life already bores us while the virtual, the passing ones, fascinates us.

     We have to be critical.  Let us not waste our time on boring social websites or just playing video games. Let us go for knowledge, wisdom, character and virtues. These things are higher and more sublime than the rest. Let these things be our personal deserts- all alone but growing in the eyes of  God.  


Hand Back and Sit Down

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    
     According to a latest data that I got from Wikipedia (an online free encyclopedia) in the Philippines (which ranks 15th among the 63 countries in the world) there are 86,000,000 mobile phones -  91.5% of the population.

     From the poor street vendors, to the students, to the household help... almost everyone nowadays owns a mobile phone - that small, handy object which enables one to communicate and play everywhere.

    It keeps everyone distracted. During the whole day,I personally observed that it eats up our whole attention- driving, working,studying while texting or talking over the phone - and even while sleeping - it is by our side powered ON waiting for any call or text from someone somewhere.

     While with it, has anyone among us asked ourselves; "How can this portable machinery in our hands be used ... 'to bring glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives... recovery of sight to the blind... to let the oppressed go free... and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord?'"  (Luke 1:18-19)

     "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." (Luke1:18)  With whom do we unload our expensive mobile phone loads?  The world says; " If you have it, flaunt it." Lately, according to the news, there was an uptrend in the rate of theft and that most of these were brought about by mobile phone snatchings.

     Earlier on, I've said that most of us,nowadays, own a mobile phone. There are even some who have two or perhaps even three units of it. For those who can afford it, they have their laptops, ipods, itouches. However, do we have to be so exposed and ubiquitous with its use? Can we not apply common sense here? Can we not wait for the proper time, place and occasion to get it out of our pockets and fire away using it?

     I know, there are some who have it in their hands as a front, a props, perhaps, to grab the attention of others to themselves. "I have the money to buy the latest." Or, to show others as if we are doing something. "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy.They are busy bodies." (2 Thessalonians 3:11) . However, remember that in today's technology what was just new today will immediately be old and gone by tomorrow.

     The ubiquity of it in our hands everywhere breeds envy among people around us. Good, if they just come around and compare it with theirs. But, what if, they ask it from us by just grabbing and running away with it?

     "... He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written...Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down. " Luke 1:17-20

     Jesus Christ handed back and sat down and gave his time in bringing glad tidings to the poor... to proclaim liberty to captives...recovery of sight to the blind...to let the oppressed go free... to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

     Nowadays, are we really too busy with our technological lives that we don't even have time anymore to "hand back" and "sit down"?

     Whenever we "hand back" and "sit down", we try to be personally present, without any forms of front, towards others. When we "hand back" and "sit down" we say that a person is precious to me. I would like us to communicate well on a person to person level and not be blinded and deafened by the great technological divide.  When we "hand back" and "sit down" we say that "I see Jesus Christ in you and I want to accept you and be part of me as I likewise do whenever I receive him in the Holy Eucharist".

    Let's take control of our lives. Limit your technological use down to the minimum and when just necessary. Be personal and be like Jesus Christ who always "handed back" and "sat down" with us. In this way, we will really "proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." (Luke 1:18-19)


Faith Muscles

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    
     Jesus went on to say, "To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: "We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry."

     Look closely at your fist and ask yourself the question: When  fully clenched, will the amount of holy hosts which I have received in my lifetime, as a communicant, be as big as my fist?

     All seven sacraments are interrelated with each other. Right after the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, we have the obligation to make our faith work. We have to work it out. Work hard with it to bring a lot of wonders and miracles into our lives. We need to strengthen our faith muscles to make it brim over by going to faith gyms- the church.

     There are many Catholics who treat the sacraments as just one big social event which happened in their lives. That's why, sometimes, our lives go stagnant. Nothing seems to budge and move about. It is going nowhere. We become deathly bored. There are some who resort to dangerous addictive lifestyles and pursuits hoping to fill in the wide gap and hollow point that negligence has brought about in their spiritual lives. However, to no avail. It is just a big spiritual risk. Our problem cannot be solved by another problem.

     After our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, there always happen the disconnect. There were those who become seasonal Catholics.Going to church only on special occasions such as; Christmas, New Year, weddings and funerals. They do not even come to go for confession again after their first Holy Communion. Some of them just get civilly married for the convenience of all, as they said it.

     Many of us were brought up in a Catholic environment; attending Catholic schools from elementary, high school to college. However,these seem just mere stop gaps on our way to an agnostic form of lifestyles. Agnostics are those persons who are not sure whether or not God exists.

     Many of us are conscious of our external appearances. We do all ways to look attractive and beautiful to ourselves and others. We put on nice clothes, facial make ups, do many things with our hair, shower perfumes over our bodies. There are even those who go to the extremes of having their physical flaws redone artificially through various augmentations and implants. However, how many of us look deep down a tour faith muscles and come up to do something about it?

     The confessional box by the corner... the altar table in front... the pews all around... the hanging crucifix... the church... these are all the spiritual exercise equipments that, so far, are available to work out in order to develop firmer and stronger faith muscles.

     The priests, the celebrants, are our instructors encouraging, teaching, motivating us to do more sets and repetitions and to never stop looking forward to a very vibrant church community where there is love and peace in God together with the Blessed Virgin Mary , the saints and the angels. WORK OUT THOSE FAITH MUSCLES !!!



Cherry Blossoms

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      Just the other day, while slowly walking my way to the sacristy to prepare for the morning mass, I happened to pass by what appeared to be a bunch of cherry blossoms in full bloom along the pathways.

     Seeing it, I remember the times when I was still living in another country. When this kind of flower shows up along the highways the weather is already getting colder and winter is a bit nearer.

     In those years that I was away, there came a point in time when I just felt terribly homesick and just wanted to go home for good.However, due to the contract, which ends on a January, that I have with the diocese where I am staying, I cannot just abruptly pack up and leave. So, on the fifth year, the last year of my stay, I was already so excited, happy and a bit nostalgic when cherry blossoms begin flowering along the highways again. I started to count down my days. I will be home soon.  "Why were you searching for me?"  he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2: 49)

     Its the end and start of another good and gracious-filled year for all of us and we are really very thankful that we are found nowhere but home with our family and loved ones. We are here inside the church celebrating the gift of life. We are praying, singing, getting reconciled in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, listening to the Word of God and also receiving him later in the Holy Eucharist. What a way of ending and starting another year. "Why were you searching for me?"  he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2: 49)

     Also, during this time of the year, there are reunions everywhere. Family reunions. Class reunions. Every year, I try to attend our class reunions. However lately, by and by, I noticed that it is gradually becoming different. With our classmates are their growing family- the wife, the children, the in-laws... I slowly feel out of place. One needn't mention it, it is not a good experience to be out of place specially with people whom one grew up with. Amidst the food, drinks and noise of the reunion, I just want to go home. Home to God, the Father, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and with their open arms warmly welcoming me back home. With them, I will not be out of place.

     Where do you want to be found at the end and start of another new year?  Do you need more shoes... hand bags... make up kits...?

     We must be found nowhere but home with our family and loved ones. We must be found in church celebrating the gift of life- praying,singing, getting reconciled in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, listening to the Word of God and also receiving him in the Holy Eucharist. What a way of ending and starting a new year.  "Why were you searching for me?" he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2: 49)



Come, Emmanuel, Come

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
  
    "Why were you searching for me?"  he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2: 49)

     If you are not found at home, where can you usually be found? In church?... In school?... At work?...  Or, in gambling and entertainment places?...

     In our churches, we are used to having a full house on every liturgical celebration to the point that we become frustrated and sad whenever only a handful come. I even overheard some who said that if only it was announced that relief goods will be distributed, for sure,the church will be crowded and overflowing up to the roof. For me, I always tell them to just be patient. Remember what the sacred scriptures said; "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."  (Matthew 18:20)  

     Before the mall era, people were so assiduous with regards to their church attendance. However, with its gradual arrival in our lives, I noticed that we were already quite becoming haphazard with our participation.  We would like that the celebration immediately be finished off and be on our way to these places where it offer us the latest in fashion and trends, food and technology, games and gadgets...

    It is no wonder why when people in our place start going to the malls in droves, the church also went with them by having masses celebrated inside these meccas of consumerism. "Why were you searching for me?"  he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"  (Luke 2: 49)

     As a priest, it really doesn't bother me whether only a few comes to participate in the mass. Just give people the time. Soon, one day,they will realize it, arise and decide to come to church. People will come. I am all too hopeful of that. There is even a saying: " Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet."

     For some years, I have been in the mission and the mass attendance there, even on a Sunday or during special celebrations, is just really a handful.   Right here, in our parish, in particular, I've already overheard many comments saying that, with its steep staircase, its not geriatric-friendly. How can our aging parishioners scale the steps?

     I, then, answered them to be not in a hurry.The parish church was designed that way due to the very limited area. Besides, at just nine years since its foundation, the parish is still too young. Projects upon projects had been thought of and lined up waiting to be completed in the coming years. Of course, an access ramp is forthcoming. In time, we will arrive at that point. Just be patient . We can't hurry time.Time, itself, moves at its own pace. "Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet."

     With modernity, the landscapes of our lives were totally altered. Many of us were all too happy about it. There were the job opportunities for many. There is the material progress and conveniences. However, despite  all of these, there are still too many who feel lonely, isolated and cut-off from the rest. If one lives in a subdivision, all one can see are the rows upon rows of houses. Walls... walls... walls... We feel trapped. We swirl. We get dizzy from all these. There must be a way out of all these.

     For a change of atmosphere and get connected again, we go back - where else but, to church- our spiritual family. In there, we are warmly addressed as a "brother" or a "sister".  We are able to see our neighbors. Friends. Pray, talk with them or just simply hang around sharing the "one solid, one liquid" fare that is being offered right after the liturgical celebration."Why were you searching for me?"  he asked . "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2: 49)


Needles and Threads

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         

        Whenever Christmas time comes,seeing the manger with St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus Christ together with all the animals, the shepherds, the three kings..., my mind goes back to our old foot-powered sewing machine that we have back home.

     Our family before operated a corner general store which is opened all throughout the week, even on Sundays. With this, we cannot take our meals as a family, all at the same time. Our father had to go first. Then our mother. And, lastly, our helpers. On the other hand, we children can eat together with anyone of them according to our availability.

     Aside from the altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where we gather together on Friday evenings to pray the rosary, at home, we have this foot-powered sewing machine which, we later came to  know, was a wedding gift to our parents. It has a wooden casing, a pedal and four metal stands.

     On weekend mornings, our mother will take sometime to sit on it and with her needles and threads sewed together torn up curtains, bed and table sheets and whatever that needs sewing around the house. On the other hand,  we, children, all nine of us, would bring in our own torn school uniforms, pajamas, clothing..., for her to sew.

     With that, our old foot-powered sewing machine became our secondary altar wherein, while our mother is doing her sewing and patching up, we got to exchange stories. Stories which we had already heard many and several times from her. But, nevertheless, we came to love hearing from her. Then, on the other hand, we, children would talked to her about the things which happened to us in school, in our lives and even, sometimes, an opportunity to resolve sibling squabbles brewing among us.

     Nowadays, where do families spend their time together? Where do they go for bonding? Is it still in church?... in the malls?... in front of the television?... computers?... where there is no much need for an exchange of words with each other. Everything is MUTED. Silence.Silence everywhere.

     A family, like on a Christmas day while gather together opening gifts, must be LOUD, not with fire crackers and other artificial noises, but by the exchange of words among its members; the father, the mother, the children and including the family pets.

     The family is the altar, the manger wherein we can completely find St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus Christ, the animals, the shepherds, the three kings... It must be what should bind us together firmly and strongly. A family, with the individual differences of each member, like the characters found in the manger should be sewn together like patches of textiles into one whole cloth.

     Christmas is all about the family and God. It is on this very particular occasion when I would often see families being one again going to church. Then, after the mass, going by the manger- to the altar of oneness- to God who, three persons in one , wants that everyone be one in  him. "That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." (John 17: 21.)
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Christmas Cards

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      It's Christmas once again. How many Christmas cards have you sent or received so far? Do people, nowadays, still send Christmas greetings by way of cards?

     On one occasion, I asked a group of schoolchildren how many of them have already sent or received a Christmas card to which no one answered in the affirmative nor raised a hand. Some of them even answered that sending Christmas card is already obsolete.Electronically doing it, like texting or by email, is enough. However, as young as they were, I am sure that many of them still don't yet  own a mobile phone, use a computer and, most specially, the value and art of sending Christmas greetings.

     Going back to the word 'obsolete', the dictionary defined it as something that is no longer used or out of date. Reflecting much deeper on the word, many of us are going that way or, maybe, we are already one.

     I remember that, comes the month of December,when we were still in our elementary grades, our teachers would usually let us make our own paper Christmas cards, as our project.

     The experience of making a Christmas card; the cutting, the pasting, the drawing, the writing of an appropriate dedication to which we first have to consult our teachers, was so unique. It was so meaningful and worth remembering. Then, gathering the names of those to whom we would, later on, send it. Usually, they would either be our grandparents, parents, siblings, guardians or anyone who is dear to us and with whom we would want to greet on that particular occasion.

     For me, since I would like to send more cards to people whom I knew, I would go over our old colorful calendars, glossy magazines,cards... and recycle them into "new" ones.

     Yes, I am already obsolete or old fashion for I still have the habit of sending my greetings through Christmas cards. However, for me,though sending greetings electronically might be very fast and convenient, it is also impersonal-cold- to which our world is rapidly going up to or is it already one.

     We are the modern prisoners, sentenced to life due to our own making, of our equally modern forms of technology. As far as I know,only prisoners have numbers and are known by it.

      Nowadays, we need not think of the persons whom we would like to greet for their names and numbers are already found listed on our mobile phones or in our personal computers. Depending on the occasion, on a single click, there is already an array of customized ecards where one can choose from. Again, it is cold, It is one square remove from reality.

     As fast and conveniently one can receive it,it could also be easily deleted on a whim. Deleting a message and, much more, the name and number of a person from ones contact list is tantamount to rejecting and forgetting about them forever. In the words of the modern age, 'de-friending.'  Would you like that to happen to you

     No one would like to be laughed at as obsolete. All of us would like to be useful up to the very end of our lives. Be an Emmanuel (God is with us). Be personal in your dealings. Be the Christmas card that we once thought of, worked hard on, personally touched and sent to whomever we would like to. Then, in turn, may the persons we touch become also an Emmanuel to others. With this, everyday is Christmas because God is with us.

Reach Out to Life

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
  "And the crowds asked him, 'What then shall we do?'"

     Upon reaching the age of four, most of us are already in school and for the next twenty years or so, are putting something valuable in our heads to earn a good education, a trade or a livelihood by which, in the coming days, we can live independently and provide for the needs of our own family and, by extension, that of others in the community...

     "And he answered them, 'Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.'"   (Luke3:10-11)

     "Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?'"

     ... In the next thirty years or so, we creatively expressed our passion by immersing ourselves in the world of work, work and more work. This kind of world does not know the word  STOP!!!  Rather, the pressure just gets on adding up...

    "And he said to them, 'Collect no more than you are authorized to do.'" (Luke 3:12-13)

     "Soldiers also asked him, ' And we, what shall we do?'"

     ... Along the way, some got married, settled-buying their first house, first car, having their first child..., raised a family and goon to live in anonymity until, one day, decided to retire and start receiving a modest pension, the fruit of their long years of labor.Meanwhile, there are those who, through their lifestyles or types of work, got gravely ill, met some misfortunes, had  fatal accidents... And so, were not able to live to a ripe old age.

    "And he said to them, 'Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation. And be content with your wages.'"   (Luke 3:14)


     Life is short. Don't be a fool as to overburden yourself. As early as possible, know your passion. It is that which keeps you going and moving forward. Remember, work is not work if one loves doing what he does. Rather, it is play. If one really enjoys what he is doing, our most coveted thing- the money -  just comes in very handy. We will notwork just for the sake of it but we do it because we enjoy it. It bring us contentment. It gives us a high. It brings us to cloud nine.

    One day, I overheard a parishioner said; "On weekdays, I work hard for my family and, on weekends, I involve myself in our church and the community and that's it. I feel I have already done my mission."

    By our lives, may we worthily proclaim the good news.



Roads to Faith

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    What kind of road do you have in front of your house?

     Roads, be they rough, asphalted or cemented,are always full of activities. Back before the television sets, we would go to the road to watch a parade or a procession or listen to community news.

     Back then, fronting our neighborhood area, on a bright night when the moon is out, we children would go there and play our street games,bike around and stroll while some would just sit by, talk and sing while playing the guitar. In  other areas, during the daytime,some would transform the road as their improvised grain dryer and, for the athletic-minded ones, a basketball half court.  It was all foot traffic here and there. It was our road.

     As years passed by, with the age of the automobile, the road was no longer ours. Road traffic gradually thicken. The road was now taken over by a number of tri-mobiles and a variety of mass transport vehicles. And so, with the roads becoming riskier for us, by the day,we children were told by our parents to go to a safer area for our games and other activities - the church.

     Back then, also, we used to think that those who go and are in church are the old ones, the widows or those people who have simply nothing else to do with their lives... It is, as if the church is only their last resort . On the other hand, the young ones, those whose lives are still in front of them, are, of course, found in the movie houses, malls, internet cafes, restaurants. Doing something great for the world.

     And so, with our slippers on, we walked the streets leading to our parish church and found it to be ours - for everybody. The church was just like the roads of our childhood. It was a veritable place for the men and women of yesterday, today and tomorrow- the child, the youth,the adult, the senile... whether one comes from a place where the road is rough, asphalted or cemented, everyone  is welcome and let in the church with a wide open arms.

     If there is a saying that "all roads lead to Rome", we can also, in faith, say that "all roads lead to the church".  The church is the center of our lives. Through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, it is where our parents first bring us to present us to God and to the community. Through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the church is the place where, Sundays upon Sundays, we fetch God's overflowing abundance of graces. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we receive God's forgiveness for our sins and reset us on our way to a proper relationship with God and his people. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, humanity is perpetuated in the love between a man and a woman . On the other hand, through the Sacrament of the Holy Orders, we are assured that the sacraments will go on for eternity. And, finally, in the twilight of our years, it is to the church where we will be brought back to receive the last rites. The church is our pre-departure area to heaven. Armed with all the sacraments that we have received in our lifetime, for sure, we will have a worthy place in the church in heaven.

     How about you, what kind of road do you have in front of your house?


The Family Picture

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
      Fathers... Fathers... where are you?

     A mother once told me that she was very happy.When I asked her why she proudly showed me a picture of her family with the perennial very busy father present in it. How many years had it been since they last have a family picture? Most of the time her husband is away. And on a rare occasion when he was around she grabbed it by taking a picture of her, her husband and their children.

     Traditionally, we say that fathers are the head of the family. Locally, we call them as pillars of our houses. In short, although the term is somewhat unfamiliar to many except for those who had been exposed to fairy tale stories and other medieval period movies, the father is the King of his household. They are the kings wearing a gold crown and holding a mighty scepter. Nobody can enter the house without his permission. However, most of the time, where are they? We can barely find them now at home, in parents' meetings or in church... and other family activities.

    I presumed that most of us have an idea of the board game called CHESS. Of all the chessmen involve,  only the King, which is the main target of both opponents to win a checkmate, can only move by one square on all sides. On the other hand, another chessman, the Queen, which can move in an unlimited way in all directions, does all the actions.  Most of our mothers are multitasking. In the absence of many of our physical fathers, many of them assume a variety of roles.  Besides being a dutiful mother, they are the fathers of their families. The words which I often hear them say is; " I'm BUSY, BUSY, BUSY at work,with children, at home and other activities."  Where are the fathers?

     In our church, there are many female mass goers. Most of them are mothers with their children. Again, where are the fathers?

     In fairness to many of our fathers, there are also many reasons why they are absent from the family picture, at home or in church.There are many of them who work overseas or work on irregular hours like our security guards, power maintenance crew and other peace-related work requiring them to be away for days, weeks and months from  the family and home. Some of them, due to varied illnesses,accidents and other work-related incidents, experienced early deaths. Some of them are in jail serving time. And, there are those who are simply deadbeats and runaways.

     I have talked with some fathers who don't often go to church with their families and gathered some excuses from them. For some, going to church tempts them more. They sin with the way many of our female mass goers dress now. Some say that the priests are themselves sinners and their sins are graver than theirs. Some even use the scriptural passage; "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."  (Matthew 6:6)

   Once again, fathers, the Kings of our households, our families, our church, we need you back in church now and forever more. Most of our pews are filled up with happy families- mothers and children, however, there is a sede vacante (vacant seat) waiting to be filled up with fathers.

     Throw away all your lame excuses. Don't be like the chessman King, which have all the powers but can only move one square on all sides. Bethe chessman Queen in the flesh who possesses all the powers and, at the same time, can be it in the family, in the society and in church,and move in all directions.

    Reclaim your rightful place in the family, in the society and in our church. The seeds which made all of these possible came all the way from all of you. Be the father, the genuine King, that God made you to be. BE IN THAT FAMILY PICTURE!


All Systems Go

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
     "Even so when you see these things happening, you know that  it is near at the door." (Mark 13:29)

     Just the other day, while I was at home, I went through my old bounded comic books and photo albums, the greatest possessions that I have right after my faith in God and vocation to the priesthood. I tried to reminisce the past and noticed deep within me, in all my systems, that maybe it was not only due to the massive amount of endorphins flowing through my whole body as a result of my daily sweaty workout, but the feeling was just really unexplainable that I am having the greatest time in my life here on earth, are you?

     As the song explicitly said it right, I also happily blurted it out to myself; "God, please don't let these moments end."
 
     I love the color green. It often reminds me of the vast expanse of verdant rice fields surrounding our parish church. These greeneries are the ones giving us life and strength to go and carry out, big or small, our daily concerns.

     As a liturgical color, it had been with us for some months now since mid of June and going through with us in our ordinary time.However, lest we forget, next Sunday, our liturgical color will immediately shift from white, the Solemnity of Christ the King, to violet ushering in the seasons of Advent, Christmas.

      Green is a wonderful color. We enjoyed its company. However, we have to bade farewell to it to give way to another season in our lives and in our church. To the color green, have a wonderful respite until we see each other again by the month of January.

     It was really a very awesome year for all of us. Everyday, since the start of the year, as I start my God-given day, I have always been by our puerta major (church front door) looking far out as I catch the first glimmer of light for that day and, much later in the day, watch as it go slowly down at a far out horizon at our backyard while seesawing by on my hammock.   For me, every time I do this, my days are full of miracles and gratefulness to God, to our community and to myself.

     Whatever is it that they had been repeatedly been saying  in the news, we still have our happiness which consists of being alive, a God to worship, a family to love and each other to forgive. Nobody can take it away from us.

      Every person in the community is not just a face in a crowd to me but an inspiration to  move on, change for the best and serve more my vocation, the church, the bride of Jesus Christ.

     We have a very good liturgical conclusion and,at the same time at the other end, a beginning. This is the greatest time in our lives. We have God, our country, our family and ourselves. Together with all of them we can do more. Achieve more. How about you, are you having the greatest time in your life, yet?
  

Give and Live

By Father Allan S.Fenix   
         
     "As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'Truly I tell you; he said, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"  (Luke 21: 1-4)

     Many of us grew up spoiled. We were brought up by parents, relatives and other extended family members in a culture of just receiving and taking.

     At home, we were showered with an abundance of love, acceptance, food, toys... to the point that many of us were stunted. We did not grow up anymore. We remain dependent on our families, communities and even organizations. It is no wonder why, confronted with a life situation which calls on us to give, it is then so difficult and hard for us to spontaneously respond. All because we do not have the sufficient foundation on this particular matter of giving.

     What is giving? It is the generous act of extending and reaching out to our neighbors - to our world, which is the workshop for true giving. We are in the world to give of ourselves. We are incomplete beings waiting to be completed by  each other. And this is done by the giving of each other.

    God, in his infinite wisdom, shared with us his love by creating.  However, deliberately, not as perfect as he is. He does not want to spoil us like what we do towards each other. He made us this way to give us a window to develop ourselves. To test our sense of initiative.And, most of all,  "You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."  (Matthew 5:48)

      God should be our ultimate standard in holiness and generosity. Generosity is the first fruit of holiness. Otherwise, what are we going to do with the generous time of 5,10,20,30,40,50,60,70... years, that God had given us. We have to give to live.

     For example: physically, if our hair, nails, skin, body is already perfect, what will happen to billions and billions of our barbers,beauticians, dermatologists... and even down to our soap, shampoo and textile manufacturers.

    Intellectually,if our brain is already perfect, what will happen to all our school and university teachers, textbook publishers and other related learning industries?  For sure, they will all run out of business.

      Spiritually, if we are already holy,whats the use of still having faith in God? We might even forget him because of our perfection. By then, we might have already abandoned the sacraments, churches, religions. What's very dangerous is that we might even be like our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were overwhelmed by their pride and, thus, disobeyed God.

     God created us not all perfect so that we still have to need everything that he created besides us like the sun, the water, the plants and animals, t he land.  Otherwise, our lives on earth will really be very boring. Who wants to be a bore and bored? Of course, no one. Come on.  Let's start giving and start living.
  

Planet Love

By Father Allan S. Fenix   
         
    "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  (John 3:16)
 
     Once upon a time, there was a planet called LOVE. The atmosphere on Love made it possible for human beings, like you and me, to exist and they are all officially registered as having the same name Love. In the same way, they gave the name Love to all flora and fauna around them.
 
     From the biggest to the smallest, the richest to the poorest... down to the most powerful and the least, there was no need of an armed forces for there was peace among the nations and everywhere.
 
     Love was the president and leader of every recognized territory. Love was the only enacted law. All mission and job orders are about Love. The Department of Love takes up the lion's share of all national budgets. All infrastructure and livelihood projects are dedicated in the name of Love.
 
     It was the perfect society that anyone can think of. It was truly heaven on Planet Love. All highways, roads, streets, avenues and the establishments like banks, hotels, supermarkets, schools, libraries... are named Love. People breathe, live and eventually die because of Love alone.
 
     Love is in the airwaves. The printed and broadcast media talk only about Love. When one clicks on the television the Love program is running 24/7. Picking up the newspaper, a magazine or a book, one can only read about Love. Putting on the radio, it all talks and plays about Love. Only Love can be downloaded online.  Love is the only game in town. The Love brick game is the children's all-time favorite video game.
 
     People just keep on working and loving. When people get married and raised a family it was because of Love. They work for Love. They don't get tired because the love what they are doing. They believe that work is not work when one loves doing it.
 
     In the Planet Love, there is only one recognized church and religion which is LOVE. All people living in the planet profess and practice the Love religion which teaches that there is only One God in Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It also have a Mother whom they fondly call the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has a very rich tradition founded on Love. In this church, all is about Love,Love, Love..... and Love. That is the only thing in their agenda.
 
     It