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     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: 2019

  Meditations on Our Life as Catholic Christians

By Father Allan Fenix

MIS EN PLAS

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1: 18).

God jumped the line!

During a late evening rush hour, in a very long queue at a supermarket cashier, at a movie ticket window, a gasoline station, an ATM, a canteen and down to an airport check in counter, we hate to see people jumping the line to avoid the patient process of waiting for one's turn.

I once studied culinary arts. During our class sessions and, even later, during our on-the job training in institutions and restaurants, what I took away from it was that cooking itself is just a breeze once a sufficient time is invested in gathering and preparing all of the ingredients and materials needed. The process is aptly called MIS EN PLAS.

"So, Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." (Matthew 1:19).

Initially, for one who is used to following normal step by step processes in completing a certain project, the birth of Jesus comes as somewhat disorganized. It is no wonder that it brought a certain confusion on the groom to-be, Joseph. A carpenter by trade. Thus, used to going through a certain systematic blueprint in his building activities.

Try watching a cooking or carpentry show and observe how they do everything, one thing at a time, in a very professional manner. I have had the experience of working with a chef who was not into this manner.  So, we, the assistants, gained a lot of physical exercise in running back and forth between the kitchen and the basement stockroom to retrieve a needed cooking ingredient or two.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home." (Matthew 1: 20, 24).

We have a local saying that a carpenter's own house is not built. During the daytime, a carpenter spends his building skills constructing something for others. However, at the end of the day, he goes home to one not properly built. How many among us have or know married family members, relatives, or friends who have nowhere to take their own growing families but to their parents' houses? Or they just rent out a place, or take them just about anywhere. What a pity!

Joseph, a carpenter, is a very organized person. He has somewhere decent and, even perhaps, presentable to bring his nascent family. "She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1: 21).

And furthermore, Joseph, not only as a carpenter but as a person, was predisposed to listen and receive instructions.

From here, all systems go. Now, we have Mary with a child through the Holy Spirit and Joseph, her husband, who has the salvation schema crystal clear in his heart: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel which means, 'God is with us'" (Matthew 1: 23).

Now, that all of our salvation ingredients are MIS EN PLAS, our salvation recipe will also be a breeze.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


COUSINS

Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11: 11).

A very strong typhoon just visited our region. Though it brought lots of destruction to life and property in other places, it was also, and at the same time, a great blessing in disguise for us, as our drying wells all rimmed over with much needed water.

Talking about water, I always associate it with John the Baptist. 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 acknowledged their sins (Matthew 3: 5-6).

John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were blood-related on the mother side by reason of Elizabeth, the mother of the former, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of the latter, being cousins. “And I tell you this too: Your cousin Elizabeth also, in her old age, has conceived a son...” (Luke 1: 36).

Then Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John... “And when Jesus had been baptized he at once came up from the water...” (Matthew 3: 13,16).

As cousins, as some of us were, both of them were closely intimate. Thus, it is no wonder, that after his own baptism in the Jordan River, there were TWELVE instances in Jesus' public ministry which were water-related:

FIRST, the call of the first disciples. As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4: 18-19).

SECOND, “He could see that they were hard pressed in their rowing for the wind was against them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea...” (Mark 6: 48).

THIRD, in the healing of the deaf and blind men. He took him aside to be by themselves, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man's ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, 'Ephphatha', that is, beopened (Mark 8:33-34). “He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then, putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, 'Can you see anything?'” (Mark 8: 23).

FOURTH, in the preparations for the passover supper. “So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him.'” (Mark 14: 13).

FIFTH, the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana. “There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water; and they filled them to the brim...'” (John 2: 6-7).

SIXTH, in his conversation with Nicodemus. “Jesus replied: 'In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born through water and the spirit...'” (John 3:5).

SEVENTH, Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Jesus replied: 'Whoever drinks this water will be thirsty again but no one who drinks the water that I shall give will ever be thirsty again; the water that I shall give will become a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life'” (John 4: 13-14).

EIGHTH, the promise of living water. “On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. Let anyone who believes in me come and drink.'” As scripture says, “From his heart shall flow streams of living water.” (John 7: 37-38)

NINTH, the cure of the man born blind. Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, 'Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.' So he went off and washed and came back able to see (John 9: 6-7).

TENTH, the washing of feet, “...and he got up from table, removed his outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.” (John13: 4-5).

ELEVENTH, At the very point of death, Jesus remembered and asked for his cousin, John the Baptist: “'I am thirsty.' A jar full of sour wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said,'It is fulfilled;' and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.” (John 19: 28, 36).

TWELFTH, in death, John the Baptist came out of the side of Jesus. “...one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water” (John 19: 34). “...and saying, 'Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!'” (Matthew 3:2).

Jesus just could not be apart from his good cousin, John the Baptist. Could these TWELVE instances in his public ministry that were all water-related be one of the reasons why he also chose TWELVE apostles?

To end, even the english equivalent, JOHN BAPTIZER has 12 letters...

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ON EDGE

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

God works in various mysterious ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


PREPPERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


VIVA VOCE*

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

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

Due to the distance from the officially recognized Catholic cemetery in the town proper, parishioners from our coastal villages deemed it better to bury their dead loved ones in that lot site, donated by a generous family coming from the same place.

Many of those interred there had not even received any sacramental rites, oracion (prayer for the dead), nor was a requiem mass offered for them. As it was not officially recognized by the church, there was no deed of donation, and no regular mass was scheduled in the place, even on the feast of the All Souls' Day.

The place can only be accessed after going through deep mangroves, with the birds chirping and flying by on all sides, in a small motorized outrigger boat, and finally by wading through waist deep muddy seawater. This experience recalled to mind a similar trip that our batch mates have had in the Mekong River Delta in Viet Nam in the past.

Except for the white washed concrete tombs jutting out from the ground, which in time, has mushroomed almost on all sides, the cemetery has no reliable infrastructure, no shade or even a table to celebrate the mass. And no electrical supply to plug in an amplifier.

Called to come closer to where I was standing, and with the leaves of the trees around providing cover, I celebrated the mass out in the open air viva voce -- I had to project my voice on all sides, to all ears.

In my homily, I shared that in the past, I just used to hear about this place but had never physically reached it. What goes around comes around. Just like death, all of our lives we had been hearing of the death of someone distant, a colleague, a neighbor, a loved one and, in time, in just a matter of time, one day our own death will become a reality to us. It will surely come and claim us.

We will be inside the white washed tombs we are sitting or standing on as we are offering the mass now for our faithful departed. We are just taking turns. It's their turn today. Tomorrow, it's ours.

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

Inasmuch as we would prefer it, no one would like to die. All of us would like to live forever. We don't want to leave this life despite of everything we found discouraging and frustrating in it. But, if we live our faith in God... “They can no longer die, for they are like angels: and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise... he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Luke 20: 36,38

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

* VIVA VOCE-  by word of mouth


ZACH and the CROWD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you, a tax collector or a Pharisee?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


WAKES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MAQUILADORAS *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

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


BED and BREAKFAST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm going to bed now?!"

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE LAZARUS HEALTH BUDGET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MARY

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. Luke 1: 26-27

Recently, I was at the cathedral where our regional patroness was being venerated prior to her upcoming feast day. I met a nun who was solely in-charge of changing the Blessed Virgin Mary's cape twice a day due to the thousands of devotees and visitors coming through the line to touch and kiss her icon.

I do not know if you have the same confusion I do. In the past, I deeply questioned the fact that our Blessed Virgin Mary is called by so many titles like Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mediatrix, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Salvation, Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of the Annunciation, Our Lady of the Presentation, Our Lady of the Pillar, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, and our very own regionally venerated Mother of Penafrancia, whom we endearingly address as INA (Mother). So, how many Blessed Virgin Marys do we have? One? Two? Three?...

Those were the questions that kept lingering in my mind. To do away with all of those question marks crowding my already scattered brain, I started to look at myself as an ontological person.

I approached the matter at the human level. I have 5 senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch – whose objective is to experience that which is agreeable. My eyes tend to look at things bright, beautiful and wonderful. My ears love to listen to soothing auditory sounds. My nose and tongue towards pleasant smells and flavors. And, of course, my flesh has got billions of receptors wanting to feel smooth and soft surfaces.

To those who are parents with children, correct me if I am wrong. It is much cheaper to raise a male than a female child. Why? As little tots, it is not yet noticeable. However, when they start to learn how to put on make up and lipstick, they also wish a complete wardrobe. They do not want to be seen wearing the same clothes too often. They always want something new and different. In fact, a former first lady put our country on the map by having a roomful of shoes.

Even in our church's various fund raising activities, it is all too often a search for a Miss or Mrs so and so, and not a Mister so and so. It is a bit boring to watch a parade of individuals all in Barong Tagalogs (our national costume), or in tuxedos for that matter.

During big festivities, people are not awaiting the snappy marching cadets with their uniform, all in a line rifles, but rather the all-smiling, all made up beautifully, majorettes, with their graceful movements, hypnotizing us with their twirling batons.

While on the other end of the spectrum, the male species is contented having just 2, 3, 4 sets of clothes and that is it. They're good.

Living in a very humid country, it is common to see men half naked with their beer bellies totally exposed out in public, playing ball or board games, loitering or drinking on the street corners, or just lazing around the whole day through. But who among us can stand to ogle them?

Going back to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was given to us by the Church, with all its accompanying golden and diamond-studded adornments and garnishments, to attract us to her son, Jesus Christ – bloodied, dirtied, suffering and dying up on the cross, and dressed very skimpily.

The law of nature abhors excess as it eventually turns bad. Our love and devotion to her, however, should not stop or, even more so, go beyond her, or else it will result in what is happening now all over the world – women getting exploited and abused, trafficked, and prostituted.

We love women. Thus, it is truly easy for us to translate to them our love of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, in turn, points us to her son, who we avoid and who does not warrant our stare and prayers, as he is up there bleeding, suffering and dying on the cross for our sins. Who wants to look at a scene like that?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


SYNDERESIS

When I first heard the word “parable” I started to imagine a special kind of ball children used to play with. Then I asked myself how is it similar to words I often encountered reading comic books such as parachute, paratrooper, paramilitary, paralegal, and in our religion classes words such as paradise and paraclete?

A parable is defined as a type of analogy using human characters to illustrate one or more instructive simple truths, moral lessons or religious principle.

One early morning, while I was reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son, the headline news on the radio was about the surrender of a very trusted municipal payroll worker, who had absconded with millions. This vast amount of money came from withdrawals from a neighboring city bank that he hid in a faraway region, while contemplating what to do with this pile of money.

"...and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation." Luke 15: 12-13

Upon hearing the said news item, and seeing in it a certain parallelism with the parable I was reflecting on, my interest was whetted and I started to follow up more on it by going to other news sites to gain more in-depth knowledge.

Its not worth it!” he confessed. It turned out that on the very day he took the money he started to lose sleep- a basic need. All he had on mind was the money in front of him. He didn't want to lose sight of it. Afraid of losing it, he always took this fear with him wherever he went. Appetite abandoned him and sleep became a stranger, up until it totally went away from his life. In time, he lost his vitality- everything. He became a walking zombie. What for?!

" ...and he found himself in dire need... And he longed to eat his fill of the pod on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ' How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I dying from hunger ...

"I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.' So he got up and went back to his father..." Luke 15:14, 16-20

This person was at the end of his rope. There was no sense in having these millions with no peace of mind – always on the run here and there. He became nostalgic of things so familiar to him – his former simple life, his family, his old home, his friends...

He started going through what we called in moral philosophy “the process of synderesis” which is defined as the innate principle in the moral consciousness of every person which directs the agent to good and restrains him from evil.

In the end, paraphrasing St. Augustine who said that "Our heart is restless until it rests in you," our heart really has nowhere to go but to its true north, and that is with our creator, God the Father.

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ' Father , I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son. But his father ordered his servants, ' Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found. ' Luke 15:20-24

In our lives, we have been everywhere, in all places but, in the end, God our Father is always our final destination and home. He is on an eternal vigil of waiting for us in our churches in the Blessed Sacrament, and then in our hearts once we make the ultimate decision to change our lives and go back to him.

He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. Luke 15:28

To top off my reflection, I asked myself what would be the reactions of those people who were scammed out of their money? For sure, there is much anger in their hearts. The desire for total revenge. They cannot wait to tear the person to pieces. Emotions are running high and so too the need to heed the call for compassion and forgiveness.

Again, LET GOD TAKE OVER! LET GOD TAKE OVER! And, again, LET GOD TAKE OVER! To all of us victimized by similar persons and situations, God, the Father is here.

Let us hear from Him. "My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found." Luke 15:31-32

This is the so-called the Prodigal Father's Challenge. Can you take the challenge?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BUTTERSCOTCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


VOWS

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

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

It was on such as this occasion that, while seated alone enjoying the show, a woman with her entire family seated just a few rows from me turned her head towards me and asked; "Why are you all alone?"

Our country, located at the farthest end of the Pacific islands, and surrounded by Asian countries, is very family-centered. Multi-generational families living together under one roof is the usual scene.

That is why it was not surprising to overhear someone saying straight out that it is very difficult for him to accept the Catholic faith, as it teaches totally cutting off relationships with one's family.

There was a certain time when I immersed myself in a particular community to live and study their way of life; how they think, how they speak... It was a ministry of presence. Everyday, I was just there together with them. I never divulged my true identity as a priest. I didn't preach, and no one saw me wearing the collar or celebrating the sacraments.

After a time, they started to be curious about me being still unmarried at my age, while most of them were in different marital situations - multiple times divorced, separated, or single parenting. There was one who asked me, "What is wrong with you?" And another, " Are you sick? " To which I replied by just smiling at all of them.

In my present assignment, every late afternoon, after bringing the icon of our patroness saint to two households and reciting the rosary with them, to unwind I run to the seashore and ride on my inflatable rubber boat. I row it out a distance and just enjoy the waves, the fresh air, and the nature all around. Children in the area, who haven't yet seen this kind of basic flotation device before in their lives, are all wide-eyed upon first seeing it. Many of them keep on following me and touching the sides of the boat. I am already out a distance at sea and yet I can still hear them shouting, "Father! Father! Father!" as they also want to play and ride on that rubber boat. However, most of them cannot swim yet.

So, I decided to ask my brother in law, who operates a fleet of jeepneys, to donate a used inner tube for these children living by the sea. Such a simple toy will make their day by the sea more enjoyable.

I am a father without a child and yet many call me by the title "Father." From my youth to senescence to obsolescence down to the humus, with the help of our Almighty God, despite all the temptations that beset a celibate's life, I am sure to live out this life I entered into when I knelt down in front of our ordinary, bound my hands in his, and heard him say:

"RECEIVE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST WHOSE HERALD YOU ARE. BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ; TEACH WHAT YOU BELIEVE, PRACTICE WHAT YOU TEACH!

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19: 29

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FIRST TABLE

The First Table was the First Stable...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


RENAISSANCE*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

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


HEAVENLY INFERNO

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing." Luke 12: 49

One Ash Wednesday, as our lay Eucharistic ministers and I were going about to the outlying villages administering blessed ashes on the foreheads of our faithful, I took note of some different reactions.

There were those who, out of the novelty of having something on their foreheads, excitedly fell in line to receive it. However, there were those who pulled back; their reluctance inflamed due to a statement they verbally overheard from some bystanders, that receiving it would entail some obligations which, if ever they failed to fulfill them, might bring more misfortune than graces into their lives.

I am the child of a Chinese merchant, and when I first learned some English words, I started practicing them by standing on the corner reading, and rereading, the labels imprinted on the boxes being hauled, one by one, by the hired day laborers from the delivery truck to our father's dark, cavernous store room: FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE.

And also, as my mother would go through checking in some goods before displaying them on the shelves, I can remember reading the label on the cigarette lighter fluid: WARNING: FLAMMABLE

I enjoy bringing Our Lady around to the houses of our parishioners, for in doing so, I am able to encounter more of them deeply. In our short talks, after the recitation of the rosary, they will usually update me, not only on the sacramental needs of their family members, but on their academic performances, medical statuses, and other things as well.

There are those who are very supportive of the Church, yet do not come to regular Sunday Eucharistic celebrations, as they are using contraceptives not prescribed by the Church. It is all or nothing for them. “Sorry Father, we are still enjoying the sin...”

There are those who have some past issues with people of our church, and are being exploited by other sects that proselytize them.

And, there are those who are really nice and good, but going to church was never a part of their vocabulary or lifestyle. They just go about their lives, seemingly as normal as possible.

On those people's foreheads, perhaps, I could imprint the words FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE. Faith is such a very fragile matter. A mere misunderstood word or action coming from the Church will completely obliterate everything. On the other hand, faith in God comes with it a stern warning: FLAMMABLE.

Our faith in Him burns through our throats, our lungs, our hearts, our spleen, our kidneys, our intestines... It is a conflagration which incinerates every ounce of evil, and the impurities and temptations that run all through our system.

As Jesus himself said, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Luke 12:15. Faith is not a plaything, nor a show time. It is a heavenly inferno. It toughens. It sears through. It burns the fat away from the muscles. It separates the genuine gold from that which is not. Virtues from vices...

Faith is not for the faint and weak-hearted. If one has it, one possess the spark necessary to burn through the pain, sufferings, hardships, difficulties, trials and challenges that this life brings us.

Faith. It is labeled both FRAGILE: HANDLE WITH CARE and FLAMMABLE.

And either you have it or you don't.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


CALLOUSED KNEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FREE RADICALS*


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix 

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

TOUCH PADS

I am assigned in a parish which is so far away from the city center that whenever we have our monthly general assembly, I have to travel early and have to be there the day before the scheduled meeting. 

Once I spent the night in an institution. While we were having supper, I was  fascinated when I was introduced to their latest and most newly acquired technology whereby, at the mere sound of one’s voice, the gadget, in a female-sounding voice, would give out whatever news, information, music, weather or facts and figures requested of it.  With a few rounds of beer and chips, we all gathered around and it kept us company and entertained us all throughout the night. Getting to know this kind of gadget, made me remember my bulky but ever-faithful “Made in Japan” Sanyo tape cassette recorder manufactured, perhaps, in the 80s.  I salvaged it while I was studying in another country. 

One day, I went to help fetch a group of priest-retirees of the diocese whose retirement home was declared condemned and was about to be demolished.  When we had loaded the last person into the van, and when I was about to leave the building, I came upon it just lying there abandoned in a corner. The person in charge of the demolition team told me that if I wanted it I could take it with me, or else it would go down with the demolition of the structure. 

At the time I found it, with all the latest cheap gizmos ever-becoming more minute in size and coming out on the market, I am pretty sure no one was using that kind of model anymore. Do you?

It had all the bells and whistles, but I just used it for its radio feature.  It kept me company, providing sound while I went through my lessons and slept in the silence of my room. I got to listen to news, information and music on both the A.M. and F.M. bands, and special feature programs and the mysterious numbers stations on the S.W. (shortwave) band.  As a celibate person, like many others, I am not a pet person, as I don't have the patience to take good care of one. Aside from the daily prayers, masses and novenas, it is a challenge for me to fill up my hours and days with something constructive to distract me from falling into loneliness, temptations and sin.

From the bells and whistles of yesterday's technology, to the type and touch pads of the recent times down to voice recognition command, where is it taking us?

We acknowledged the fact that technology has made a very big and wide difference in all of our lives. It brings us closer to persons with whom we have lost contact for a long time. However, sometimes, it makes us a stranger, and even alienate us, from the very person who is our next-door neighbor. 

Many are so engrossed in their screens, they are oblivious to what is happening around them.  At the extreme, technology is taking us to a virtual reality world. It is putting us in a make-believe world. It is removing us away from truth and inserting us into the biting reality of an existence of fiction and fantasy. 

“.... And so who is my neighbor?” Yes, it keeps us in great company and provide us with great entertainment. However, it can’t be a substitute for, or take the place of, a warm, living breathing person.

Leave the very expensive gizmos at home in your room. Go out and greet the next person you see on the street and you will be truly happy, in good company and richly entertained. 

And remember, “It is the one who treated him with mercy.” Luke 10:29 & 37

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

DRIVERS. SWEET LOVERS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix

MARITHA

...There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord... So it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12

After the Holy Bible, the next all-time bestsellers the world over are how-to books. Almost everyone would like to learn something... anything!  However, as there is no definitive method of good parenting so, in the same way, there is no one single best method of teaching catechism.

A clear example of this is our teaching on the utmost priority of the sacraments, “before the table” (misa bago lamesa). In our celebration of the sacraments, most especially in the countryside, be it baptism, confirmation, matrimony or a requiem mass, we only see a handful present in church, while at the reception afterward the whole town shows up.

This creates the impression that getting married in the countryside is really expensive and a terrible ordeal, because the celebrants have to prepare food and wine for the whole town days before and after the occasion. This kind of scenario earns for us the tag of being "sacramentalized" but not evangelized.

In my reflection, I don't see any conflict with Martha who, anxious and worried about many things, burdened herself with much serving on that one day when Jesus came for a visit. Her sister, Mary, just sat beside the Lord, at his feet, listening to him speak (Luke 10: 39-40). The sisters Martha and Mary rather complement each other, I think. Later on, when Jesus left, they must have sat down and compared notes with each other on what they had taken away from the visitation experience.

Back in college, before the dawn of textbooks, prepared notes and recording machines, we merely relied on each other to fully understand difficult philosophical lectures given by fast-talking professors. Usually, one would be the dedicated listener while the others would do the note taking word for word. Later on, we would gather together, compare notes and do study group sessions, with each of us sharing a piece and a morsel of what we had brought with us to the table. Through this crude method, we were able to comprehend the course and pass it. For us, this is both a Martha and Mary experience. A Maritha one.  Isn't it said that two heads are better than one?

There is really nothing wrong with either one of them. As it is said: Be patient with me, I am still a work in progress. This is neither an alibi nor an excuse, as change cannot be abrupt. It takes centuries and generations to change an already ingrained culture and tradition. There is no one single best method by which to learn and to live...

It really all depends on one's imagination and creativity. As my spiritual director often tells me: “Each of us have our own story to tell.”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


STATUS QUO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again: MERCY, anyone ?

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


DELEGATION

Years before the word “multitasking” became a part of my vocabulary, there was someone in our town who earned the avid fascination of many. For a time, he became a center of attraction, as he was able to teach himself to sing, as well as simultaneously play the guitar, the drums, the harmonica and other handmade musical instruments that he made out of the scrap materials he scrounged up. He earned the title “one-man band.”

I once dreamed of becoming a member of the military. One time, while going through a magazine, I happened upon a military ad inviting anyone to fill out and send in the attached form and, in return, receive a free T-shirt and VHS tape titled, “An Army of One.”

When the VHS tape arrived in the mail and I got to watch it while wearing the accompanying giveaway T-shirt, I learned about individual soldiers being completely trained, and materially equipped from head to foot, with all the necessary warfare gear and technology necessary to win a battle with that just one, single robot-like soldier.

In reading the scriptures, one thing that I personally discovered was that even though God is infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing and ever present, nevertheless, in Jesus, who became human like us except in sin, he showed the attribute of human limitation. Not only in choosing the12 apostles but even in going as far as “...appointing 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit...” And even with the request that as “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10: 1-2).

I read that a good leader is not someone who can successfully accomplish a certain task all alone, but someone who knows how to delegate: someone who is not insecure about himself but able to share his obligations and responsibilities with others.

We are familiar with the following: If you DRINK, don't DRIVE. If you DRIVE, don't DRINK... Don't TEXT and DRIVE... According to a study, multitasking, which is the great rage right now among many busy people, is not effective. One way or the other, we can only focus on one single task and neglect all the rest.

We are humans. Limited. We are neither God nor a robot that never gets tired or sick. We breakdown at some point. Somewhere. Sometime. We need our community. We need others. All alone by ourselves, we can only accomplish so much. However, when we learn how to reach out, ask and delegate some of our powers, we are able to accomplish and realize much more than we can imagine and measure.

To continue, the scriptures said it thus: “Behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10: 19-20)

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


INKLESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BANANA HEARTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


PROVISIONS

He said to them, "Give them some food yourselves.... " Luke 9: 13

One day, I dropped by our old house and while I was going about tinkering in its nooks and crannies, I saw a big, porcelain china bowl silently sitting by the glass cabinet where we keep most of our precious cutlery. Seeing it brought a flood of good memories.

I was born and grew up in a family where our amah (paternal grandmother) would regularly send us cooked viands, still steaming in the covered porcelain china dish, and conveyed by their household help. In turn, our mother would put something back in the bowl as a goodwill gesture before we returned it. And whenever our mother would cook something special, she would do the same and send it in our china bowl. Somehow in this series of exchanges the dishes of the two households ended up in each other's pantries, and it was here I saw again the porcelain china bowl of our long departed amah.

When our father was still with us and running his business, there was a fisherman who borrowed some money from him to help fund his fledgling trade. Our father did not charge him any interest. So, in turn, the fisherman would usually send a plateful of his fresh catch through his overly excited children, as they knew in their hearts that when our mother would hand back the plate it would contain some foodstuff like biscuits and sweets -- something rare for them in their neighborhood.

I lived for sometime in another country and saw how still clean and good batches of food from a large institution, to avoid any liabilities of any kind, would put it in black industrial plastic trash bags and discarded in a huge mechanized compactor. This was done instead of giving it out to the many hungry street people just prowling the nearby areas.

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: 16-17

In the mass, during the offertory, parishioners bring before the altar their agricultural products, and some put in their monetary offerings. In return, when communion time comes, Jesus Christ himself gives us of his body and blood. We all eat and drink and are satisfied.

One day, we prepared too much of the vegetable viand, and when we finished eating our supper we still had a lot of it leftover. It is not healthy to keep it and consume it the next day, so I brought it down to a big family I knew. I was just in time, as the youngest child's share, while he was playing everywhere and nowhere while the rest of the family was eating supper, had already been consumed by another hungry stomach.

Liabilities. Black industrial plastic trash bags. Compactors. These are all cold and unfeeling objects. The will to send, to share and to give back: this is the warmth and compassion of life, and it will fill innumerable empty and hungry stomachs.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


GOD SPECULATORS, INCORPORATED

The last world war occurred many decades ago in our country. However, from time to time, we still hear on the news about so-called vintage bombs being unearthed here and there. Sometimes we hear they are even responsible for maiming and killing innocent individuals.

Once upon a time, there was a certain group of gold speculators who came to a certain place in quest of a hidden trove of golden buried treasures. They boasted of having an age-old map that was handed on for generations. However, after spending a lot of time, and exhausting a sizable amount of funds and energy in digging a lot of holes in the nearby mountains, they ended up digging into the same holes that they themselves had dug previously while finding nothing. In time accidents happened and a few lives were lost. Some members of the group went crazy and, to put it briefly, just abandoned the doomed project which was going nowhere anyway.

Using our very limited imagination, let us travel in time:

According to scientists, the world is 4.543 billion years old. Our church teaches us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, died for us on the cross over 2,000 years ago. However, in that long span of time and, up until this very moment, in our quest for knowing and understanding God in depth, we are just barely scratching the surface.  Many are deep into the study of God but have not yet even reached a respectable depth. We are still feverishly digging and speculating.

Many went to war dedicating and losing their own precious lives. Overly gifted intellectuals have used all the words that they know. And individual enthusiasts go and reach everywhere and sing, as the song sang it: “I never stop my wandering...” One nagging question that keeps on rearing its head, and which leaves us all famished for an answer, is: just Who is God in His three Divine persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?

Brothers and sisters, inasmuch as I miss so much all of my departed loved ones. As I look up at the dark starry skies at night, the quest to know and understand God is a relentless and endless pursuit. It will still be so in thousands, even billions, of generations to come. But, in our own little way, in our own lifetimes, what we can do is continually seek him in the silence of our own hearts, and ask him to please reveal himself to us.

As Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming” (John 16:12-13).

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


AVAILABILITY

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. John 14: 26”

The school year has already started for most students. However, when I saw some still hanging around and just being care free during school hours, I asked them why they were not in class. They answered that they were taking their time and relaxing as many of their teachers were not yet in.

When we were in the seminary, I remember that we were not to be seen in some designated areas, but only in our classrooms or the library studying, reading or researching, whenever our professors were not available.

According to an ancient quotation; “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” In life, the moment we open our eyes in the morning, up until we close it at the end of the day to rest, the Holy Spirit is ever present 24/7 waiting for our dedicated response.

We have to drag ourselves out of our beds and do something. Get the brooms and dust pans, rosaries and prayer books, mops and buckets, books and notes, running shoes and athletic outfits, and feel the burn sweating it out.

The Holy Spirit is beside us, accompanying us in the ups and downs of the whole day. We must talk to him, and ask for his help and support, in reminding us to choose the correct, proper and right choices, as we confront our relationships, works, exams and recitations.

To be care free and gallivant around; to procrastinate and not lift a finger to do anything when the sun is bright and high up there in the sky is a great insult and a transgression against the Holy Spirit.

Get up, up, up, there!  The Holy Spirit is wide eyed and beaming waiting for anyone willing enough to respond to his invitation.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


ABUNDANT. PROGRESSIVE. RICH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


MAYO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


BEWITCHED

... and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6

In our parish, we used to have the practice of bringing our patroness saint, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, from house to house in the late afternoons to pray the Holy Rosary with parishioners. Praying the Rosary had been a dormant practice for awhile. While we were gathered around the image of our patroness saint brainstorming our upcoming activities, we agreed that we really had to revive this practice. A small child passed by and saw the darkened face of our patroness saint and exclaimed, “Oh, a witch!” She ran away fast from that place.

How many Catholics still go to mass on a weekend? Based upon my own observations in our parish church and at village masses, it is just a minuscule number in proportion to the entire population.

In our lives as Catholics, we develop devotions to a lot of rituals and practices. This is well and good as it distract us from all worldly allurements. However, once we become just nominal, seasonal believers, and go slack and dormant with our various devotions, the world will slowly bewitch and waylay us from the proper and right way.

Perhaps, like the child I mentioned above, upon seeing our religious icons and symbols, we will also exclaim, “Oh, a witch!”

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HEIRLOOMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


TRIO

I love to listen to how people talk and often, when I would overhear their conversations, I would find that many of them were fond of using such letters and words as “O.M.G.” (Oh My Gosh! Oh My God! Oh My Goodness!) or “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” as an exclamation, a habitual expression or just a conversation filler. I guess this is for want of more right words to say.  However, I also noticed that I seldom heard the Holy Spirit mentioned. Why is this?  Is it because we cannot sense it, as it is a spirit?

When the Holy Trinity was first taught to us in the past, I would often associate it with a musical trio; a band composed of siblings possessing a close harmony with each other. I thought of them as the greatest hit of the '70s and '80s, dishing out their lively disco music.

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. John 4:26

Although we were taught in our catechism that the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are one and the same, in their individual roles there seems to be some sort of gradation – a hierarchy. So, it is not surprising that among the three, the Holy Spirit seems to be the least popular. He seems to just stay in the background. Even in the rosary, he was only actively mentioned once, in the third glorious mystery, the descent of the Holy Spirit among the apostles.

As an advocate, the Holy Spirit supports the Father and the Son by teaching and reminding. Unseen and unheard, it is the Holy Spirit that brings us peace, which is what the world truly needs and wants.

Not out in front. Not on the vocals. Not the lead. The peace that the Holy Spirit brings covers the whole wide world. It should be included among our most basic necessities. We might have the right food, clothing, shelter, medicine and education.  However, without peace we will not be able to fully and truly enjoy all of it, as our hearts will be full of fear and trouble.

Peace is free and it only comes to us from the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HIGH-END

Once, I was talking with a woman and asked if she had any children, to which she just kept on repeating to me, L.O.V., L.O.V., L.O.V.. So, I surmised that, perhaps, she only wanted the LOVE but not the consequences – children.

But no! She said that what she meant was that she was on her way to the bank to take out a loan and buy herself an L.O.V. Later on, I came to know that L.O.V. is an acronym for a very high-end line of women's leather hand bags.

Once, my sister visited me and we went window shopping. We found ourselves in a high-end store selling all these high-end hand bags, and she was interested in buying one. Seeing the several digits price tag, I tried to discourage her from doing so. She waited until we got home and, when I was out of sight, went back on her own to that store and bought herself the most coveted kind of hand bag. I found it out later on when she left me a giveaway item that I traced back to that store we visited earlier.

What is in a hand bag?” As someone who only owns a few set of clothes, I keep on asking this question of women. Why are there those who will sacrifice having children over a hand bag?!  Some answered that they would just like to flaunt what they have. Though it merely would contain a few trivial items, the bigger the size the better to parade it around showing to others that they have “made it.” “I am very successful,” it says.

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 35

As Christians, LOVE should be our sole and authentic high-end trademark. We have to sacrifice everything to achieve it, possess it, own it and live it. Its price tag is steep: To live it is to die in it.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, showed his LOVE for us by going up “HIGH” on the cross and “END”ing his life up there for all of us. Now, that is LOVE, LIVE and on an all time HIGH, and not merely an L.O.V., a product, that, in time, will get old and moldy, go out of fashion, and, when tried of it, consigned to a second-hand store or discarded.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Allan S. Fenix


TO FEED. TO TEND.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


HUNGRY EYES

Are you an educated believer or merely a religion junkie?

We Catholics are fond of crowding our home altars, and even personal living spaces, with religious icons. And with the various moving ups and graduations occurring all around us, academic titles, achievement citations of every kind, plaques, diplomas, degrees – all have been distributed, framed and hung on the walls for everyone who cares to see. Does this stuff really make us an educated believer or merely a religion junkie?

It has been many years since I earned my own degree and left the academy. It was a wonder – a big “Ah-ha!” moment on my part – to have lately discovered the presence of the documentary stories, narratives and programs, and enrichment and supplemental information of the seminary on the internet. It updated everything I had previously brought with me from behind the seminary walls. It is a sort of an ongoing formation for me.

There are several movies, hobbies, activities, etc., that I saw way back when I was in grade school that I didn't understand then and understand only now through the internet. Through its analysis and reviews I am just now gaining the whole comprehension of these matters. With my hungry eyes, ever-questioning mind, and wildly wandering heart, I binge watched on the internet, trying to absorb everything that, up to that point, I had spent hours dipping deeply into and not fully understanding. Even if granted those degrees, diplomas, citations, and titles – how many of them would I earn with flying colors? Or is it all just a distraction and an escape on my part? Am I really becoming a more educated believer, or just merely a religion junkie?

I've met not a few people who, for various reasons, did not undergo the usual educational process that most of us did. However, with a firm character, they presented themselves so knowledgeable about many topics, trends and issues, and they learned everything online. They have nothing to show on their walls in terms of diplomas, degrees and the like. But, they are very credible individuals. They always lug with them a notebook and pen and scribble on it anything of value they encounter both online and offline. Any new words, any new observations, and just about anything new is outlined in their notes. They sometimes borrow my personal dictionary to look for the proper meaning of a word. I advised them to make simple sentences and then we discussed it further. They have educated themselves.

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

Just as a truly educated person need not display walls full of academic achievements and titles, so too truly believing in God need not also mean displaying a hundred to a thousand religious icons, cluttered in and around our living spaces. Rather, it is seen in how we present ourselves and in the strength of our character.

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


FINAL DESTINATION

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

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

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

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

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

What more do we know about him?

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

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

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

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

Life looks toward and forward to...

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

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

Fr. Allan S. Fenix


THE JESUS EXPRESSO

I am a very early morning person. I love the somber atmosphere, and listening to the various chirpings of the birds outside by my window, while sipping my so-called “Jesus Expresso” to fully wake me up to face another exciting day of life. Lord, deliver this day to me...

I was once a postal worker, and every morning, while our mail carriers were securing the parcels we had earlier scanned and sorted for their route deliveries, I would often hear them exclaiming to one another that some of their customers were ordering something online almost weekly or on a regular basis. “What were they doing with it?” I just told them, “Keep it cool, man! This is where we get our bread and butter! Without these parcels, where would our much-awaited paychecks come from?”

We are never satisfied. There is never an end, a period nor a stop to all of our caprices, desires, and debaucheries. We always want more of that, more of this, more of theirs...