Category Archives: Spiritual Life

The unexpected break

I was supposed to start my new teaching job on the first of February, but because of delays in the new school’s construction, I had an unexpected two-week break.

I urgently needed to start working, but I figured God had His reasons for allowing the delay. On hindsight, I am nothing but grateful. For one, I got to spend more time with my girls. That in itself would have made the two weeks worth it.

But God had more in store. I was able to take one day to have lunch with a bunch of single ladies at my alma mater. And then, that same afternoon, an impromptu dinner of ribs and nachos at a new resto in Kapitolyo—with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Two days later—a Saturday—my friend Marie treated me to a mani-pedi for the very simple reason that she didn’t want to be on her own when she had her nails done. How delightful! To top off all these simple joys, I was able to attend a three-day retreat. And that helped me view many things in their proper perspective. The retreat likewise gave me a short breather from my two girls. (Ever since I became a mom, I always tagged along my nursing child. This time around, it was just me…and I was so happy!)

The unexpected break brought many surprise blessings. A delay in my plans, yes, but not according to Him…

This post was written by Meg Murrf Trinidad.

Making Christmas memorable for our children…and for us, parents!

How can we parents remember the true meaning of Christmas and as a consequence, teach our preschoolers to do the same?

Parents, pray about it!

You don’t have to devote a long time to doing so, but it would be good to pray about what Christmas is really all about.  What does Jesus’ birth mean?  What is the Christmas story teaching us?  And most importantly, how can we impart this to our children—whose education in the faith God has entrusted to us?

Bedtime stories can have Christmas as its theme.

There are many beautiful storybooks in book sales about the different characters in the Nativity story (i.e. about the donkey, the star, the littlest angel, etc.).  Serve hot chocolate together with storytime, and this will surely be a Christmas season to remember for you and your precocious tots!

Get a belen your child can play with.

When we decorate our homes for Christmas, for whom are we doing it?  This year, you may want to consider buying a belen that you and your children can happily hold and play with.  Or, put your creative juices to work and build a belen with your preschooler.  Lots of ideas are available on the Internet or in kiddie craft books.  Afterwards, the belen you made together can form part of your nightly storytelling.  Each night, you and your child can pretend to be a different character in the story!

Play good Christmas music.

Music always makes the Christmas season so festive.  And our preschoolers enjoy singing popular Christmas songs that they hear in the malls and on the radio.  Let us be proactive and play songs that tell about the birth of the Baby Jesus!  Some examples of such songs are: Away in a Manger, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, We Three Kings, The First Noel, and Come All Ye Faithful.  And how about Silent Night for singing right before bedtime?  We can also have friends over and have a Baby Jesus-themed caroling party.

Have Santa Claus occupy his rightful place.

Of course, Christmas would not be complete without Santa Claus!  And I am not here to dash your and your children’s fun to the ground by telling you to say goodbye to Santa Claus.  The Santa Claus tradition is actually about being generous and making others happy with our gifts.  But, let not our focus be only on the giftgiving.  To prepare our children for the coming of Santa Claus, we can tell them the story of Saint Nicholas, the real man on whom the tradition is based.

Also, we can make the Santa Claus gifts but one part of our Christmas Day schedule.  You may want to consider bringing your little ones to Christmas Eve Mass, then opening their Santa Claus gifts on Christmas morning.  Or, attend Christmas Mass in the morning, then open their gifts in the afternoon.

More importantly, preparing our Santa Claus gifts for our preschoolers should not be the center of our attention!  Whatever it is we give our children will surely make them happy.

Personally, I believe the birth of the Baby Jesus is God’s way of clearly showing us that we are His children—no matter how old we may be!  Oftentimes, we parents forget this fact as we take on the many responsibilities of parenthood.  We have to be so “grownup” all the time.  Now that it is Christmas season, let us remember to be little children again before Our Lord.  We can ask the Baby Jesus, Mama Mary and Saint Joseph to guide us in our parenting—an often-demanding and exhausting job!

Also, the Nativity story is about “keeping life simple.”  We parents sometimes like to overthink the future and want everything to be picture-perfect for our children.  We want to give them the best material things, the most wonderful home, the best education.  All of these are good intentions, but we sometimes forget to count on Our Lord’s blessings that He will help us provide for the most essential needs of our little ones.

It is when we parents learn to be little children again before God, and to abandon everything in His hands that I believe we will be able to teach our own children about the true meaning of Christmas.

This post was written by Meg Murrf Trinidad.

A not-so-young Pinay at WYD 2011 in Madrid

I’m not within the prescribed age range of WYD participants, but they allow otherwise if they act as the group leader. Acting as group leader or not, I still joined my first WYD. Allow me to be illogical: It’s the best WYD that I’ve attended! What made it the best? All the pain that we experienced.

“Esta es la juventud del Papa! Esta es la juventud del Papa!”

The Jornada Mundial Juventud (JMJ) pilgrims in Madrid chant the words from the top of their lungs to the point of almost losing their voices. “This is the youth of the Pope!”  Indeed, the youth of the Pope is this: lively, enthusiastic, faithful, prayerful, and energetic long-haired rockstar-looking caucasians, slit-eyed Asians, dark-skinned Nigerians, sharp-jawed Iraqis, and ubiquitous Filipinos holding the Philippine, US, Abu Dhabi, and Canadian flags proudly. The youth loves the sweet Vicar of Christ on earth. 1.5 to 2 million youth from France, Italy, Spain and afar profess their faith along the streets and subways of Madrid — shamelessly and proudly, wearing their “cross” on their sleeve. This is reality — the reality of our faith, the reality of evangelization, the new evangelization.

My delegation, “Stella Orientis Choir”, at Zone E1 at Cuatro Vientos after the Closing Mass with the Pope.

“Benedicto! Benedicto!”

Pope Benedict XVI has always been portrayed as a strict and stern Pope. Ask the 1.5 to 2 million young pilgrims if that is true, and they will surely answer that he’s not. His facial expression when winds and rain battered the JMJ stage during the Vigil at Cuatro Vientos is priceless: ever smiling, almost looked like he’s enjoying the spontaneity that the phenomenon is bringing out in him! To the point that he was moved to say these unscripted words: “You (the youth) are stronger than the rains.”

Pope Benedict XVI bearing the winds for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament despite getting a “bad hair day.” 

Firmes en la fe.

“Strong in faith.” Faith is the greatest gift that God has given to man. Faith allows us to see God in others and exercise Charity. Faith allows us to speak about God unashamedly to others. Faith allows us to kneel down and pray to God, our creator, and father. Faith allows us to have Hope in the future. These are the reasons why our faith needs to be strong: firmly built up and planted in Jesus Christ, the source of Faith himself.

Vale la pena

Vale la pena. It’s worth the pain. The heat, the thirst, swollen feet, discomfort, and crowded metros are all worth the trouble to see and hear Benedicto speak. When he talked to us, we became almost blind-sided to his words and forgot all the miseries and discomfort that we were experiencing. We, the sincere JMJ pilgrims, only saw and heard the Pope as if we were on Mt. Tabor experiencing the transfiguration. “It is good to be here.” It was good to be in Madrid; the spiritual high was good to have and we all wish that it does not end. Thanks to the Pope for the gift of the crucifix that will help remind us of what happened in JMJ 2011 in Madrid, and that all the pain is worth it. Vale la pena.

JMJ 2011 – Not as perfect

I decided to add this last paragraph as an endnote to explain to those Filipino pilgrims who only had bad things to say about their experience in Madrid. Some of the comments are as follows:

  • “We were housed in a school almost an hour away from the JMJ venue.”
  • “Some of our things were stolen during the Vigil.”
  • “Why would they organize the WYD during the Spanish economic recession?”
  • “Communion was not distributed during the Closing Mass!”
  • “The adoration tents were destroyed!”

These comments, though factual, have a bratty connotation to them. When we participated and registered for the World Youth Day, we should have known that we were not going there for a vacation or to expect to see heaven. We will see heaven when we die; only then will we have great and perfect accommodations.

  • Theft during the vigil is expected. We cannot assure that every single “pilgrim” is 100% sinless. For all we know, like other thieves, people go to these crowded events to take advantage to precisely steal.
  • The World Youth Day is a spiritual event and income generating. If the pilgrims registered properly on the WYD website, they would have paid a fee and received food cheques amounting to almost 15 lunches and dinners at great restaurants and fast food chains, each cheque worth 6.50 Euros. Imagine all the 1.5M to 2M pilgrims spending this much in each restaurant. Food business is good! Not to mention the souvenir shops and malls that opened even on Sundays (malls are closed on Sundays in Spain) for the pilgrims.
  • Naturally, since the adoration tents were torn because of the strong winds and rains that night, the organizers were not able to keep the consecrated hosts the next day’s Mass. We were told to receive communion in any Church in Madrid — we didn’t have to wait for Mass to receive communion. We can simply knock on the Church door, and ask the priest to give us communion.
We were all pilgrims and sacrifice was key to making the WYD experience successful and fruitful. Besides, the Christian life is to be adorned with sacrifices so that when we reach the end, there is a stronger and greater appreciation of the consequence of Loving Sacrifice: heaven.
It’s not too late to change. It’s never too late to change. You can change now. Have faith in God, and in yourself. Vale la pena!
This post was written by Trish Castro.

Three Pilgrimages in May

I used to think that pilgrimages were expensive trips to some distant land—you’d have to save for it all your working life and do the getaway upon retirement. But my high school teacher surprised me one day when she organized a pilgrimage that went from Makati to Las Piñas. Not that far, eh? Some people commute that distance everyday.

Since May is the month of Mama Mary, I went on three pilgrimages with a different friend each time. I went to EDSA Shrine in Quezon City, Our Lady of Guadalupe (old shrine) in Makati, and the Mary Help of Christians National Shrine in Parañaque. Notice anything common about the three? Yep, they’re all Marian shrines. My friends and I would pray five decades of the Rosary with the previous day’s mysteries en route to the shrine, then pray the day’s Rosary in the shrine, and then travel away praying five decades with the next day’s mysteries. This type of pilgrimage would usually take me only an hour, unless the travel starts from a point that’s really far away from the shrine. Really, it’s that simple, and that cheap, especially if there’s no commuting involved.

Hope you try it too.

Inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine
A picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe that arrived in the Philippines in 1604
Inside the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians
A statue of Mary, Help of Christians outside the church