Handing On the Faith – The Wonders of Catechism

When I began my summer vacation last March 2012, I dedicated myself in attending seminars, conferences and festivals here in the Philippines. In my attendances, I realized one theme that would summarize my summer recreation: Catechism alive! I realized that there is an urgent need to rediscover the beauty of Catechism perhaps because of the demands and challenges of globalization today. In these gatherings, I was happy to see multitudes who may have realized the same. I found hope, seeing committed people gathered to celebrate faith and to reflect together the work we have been entrusted to.

On April 2012, I attended the 4th Pope Benedict XVI Summer Festival on Catechesis and Christian Formation. On this event, I was immersed into more than a thousand of participants. These participants were long-time catechists, lay men and women, religious brothers and sisters, priests, teachers, youth and campus ministers, and many more. During the event, I attended the concurrent session on “The Holy Spirit in Counseling the Youth”. Here I realized one basic thing: the Holy Spirit reminds us of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and live in it. By invoking the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be icons of faith, hope and love in our catechesis.

On the same month, I attended the 1st National Conference on Religious Education and Catechesis at De La Salle University-Manila. It was also the event where I delivered my first paper presentation outside of our Institution. It speaks of a methodology in teaching religious education as an encounter of the faith in a person-centered approach. During the event, I realized that catechesis in the local church also happens in the academic community. Such community is for the pursuit of truth, and yes, evangelization happens also in the academe. Our desire for truth comes with life and substance as grounded on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

On May 2012, I attended the 8th Blessed John Paul II Catechetics and Youth Ministry Conference. Majority of its participants were catechists, teachers and youth ministers. Here, I had the opportunity to share my ideas regarding youth ministry and making catechism alive in our local churches. I also had the opportunity to facilitate a group full of youth and teachers, and we talked about what we have learned during the conference. This time it was centered on the role of Mama Mary in being Mother of God’s Word. I told my companions that I learned the significance of listening as a primer for catechesis. Most of the time, we want to speak, give and give, but we missed listening to the audience we have. Mary taught me to journey with the Lord Jesus through a listening and pondering heart.

In all these things, I am thankful to the Lord that I made my summer vacation faithful to my vocation discernment. I learned a lot of things from my fellow catechists, teachers and youth ministers – their struggles and inspirations. Some of them were volunteers, and some were appointed. Either way, it is no coincidence that we met together to celebrate faith and exchange stories of hope and love through catechesis. It all culminates in the Lord Jesus, as He ascended, entrusted to us to proclaim the Good News to all, baptizing them in the Name of Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What a big challenge, unworthy as we are! But God trusts us to do this. Yes, it is the Lord’s initiative, and we have nothing to boast about it. We are His collaborators and correspondents of faith.

But then, what is our response in Jesus’ entrusting of catechism to us?

Children of Easter Morn: On Porta Fidei

Christ’s Resurrection is the triumph of our faith!

One significant to remember: Faith is because of the Risen Jesus. Hence, we are called “the children of the Easter morn”. Christ’s Resurrection recreated and renewed everything…and everyone! What took place on the third day brought life to all. His Resurrection was so powerful that all creation is renewed in meaning. Life no longer ends in death, as we are accustomed to, but in faith life brings forth life. The identity of creation no longer rests on mere generation and corruption, but unceasingly renewed in life through the Risen Christ! I think this is what the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei is spoken to us…Christ’s faithful.

The challenge now for us, as children of the Easter morn, is to remind the world of its original vocation to embrace and welcome the Kingdom of God, just as it was created in its original splendor and beauty. I recently talked to a Professor and mentor whom I acknowledged because of what she wrote in a journal regarding creation-centered spirituality. This was the point-of-departure I specified when I delivered a paper regarding religious education. I was actually touched by what she wrote because she reminded me in a nutshell what was essential and basic: that all creation belongs to the God and will return to God.

Oftentimes, we may have been too hostile to the world, much as we may have forgotten that the whole creation was redeemed and sanctified by the Lord too. Such hostility is marked by our neglect of the basic needs of our neighbor. We keep using our natural resources to the expense of our environment – and our neighbors, to the extent. We thought that progress is when we are able to spend and spend. We still have that mindset: to be is to have more. For this, many continue to suffer because of lukewarmness and ignorance of the plight of others. How I pray and wish that someday all of us will share in the same table-fellowship that the Lord Jesus invited us – that all will be filled and quenched!

As the Year of Faith draws near, we rejoice in individuals and communities unceasing in bringing Christ to all. We are  challenged to challenge the values we have, the mindset we have, and the ideologies we believe in. Bringing the triumphant Christ to all means true love made known and lived by all. Unless we stop grabbing and having what we can, true love cannot be known. Faith is not intended for multiplication of rubrics, but rubrics that transform us to become servants of God and neighbor. Faith is a gift to us so that God’s gifts be available to all. This is distinct for the children of Easter morn: ability to challenge ideologies in the name of the Risen Jesus.

The Year of Faith draws near… have we prepared ourselves enough?

Always Open: On Porta Fidei

The "door of faith" always opens to a life of faith lived in love of God and neighbor, a hope for a better world. It "ushers us into the life of communion with God, and offers entry into His Church".

What’s behind that door?

Today, we see lots of designs and concepts when it comes to a door. To our everyday concrete experiences, almost a quarter of our time in a day (for most of us) is spent on opening, sliding, pressing a button, accessing, pushing and pulling every door we meet. Hence, we come across various kinds of doors, and various ways of opening them. Some doors are simple: pushing or pulling. Some are accessed by keys. Some are accessed by either voice recognition or by entering passwords. Opening doors are already part of our lives.

But doors also offer these things: security, environment and surprises. Doors offer security for those who own them, in respect to the building or establishment – perhaps securing and protecting goods. Most of these are accessed by keys, and other complex methods, of course. Doors also offer a transition of environment from one to another, since doors may separate a section to another. It would be difficult to settle in an environment with clutters and mess around. Doors also offer surprises: just imagine a “birthday celebrant” who was actually surprised as he/she entered the house, seeing people cheerfully greeting him/her a “happy birthday!” Even though we are familiar with what’s behind every door, there is still half of what we know – and half of what we are to be surprised about!

Then, what about this “door of faith”? For most of us accustomed to daydream (perhaps), we may ask “What does is it look like?” In the opening lines of the Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei”, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, leads us to a glimpse of what the “door of faith” is about: “life of communion with God and entry into his Church”. But what is interesting is that the “door of faith” is ALWAYS open for us! It is “interesting” to see a door that is ALWAYS open, and being CLOSED as such, is unheard of.

What I reflect about this is that this “door of faith” is never a “closed-door policy”. In this sense, a faith that is committed to renewal in the spirit of the Lord is ALWAYS open. Hence, that “door of faith” opens us to wide avenues of living the opportunities of renewal of faith in the Lord. Closed doors always remain in limited perspectives. Living a “sense of faith” is never static; it aims to be renewed so that the “sense” itself is harnessed and sensitive enough to read the signs of times.

Perhaps, this Apostolic Letter may be a firm response to the ideologies of our time, such as materialism and consumerism. Such ideologies are closed-door policies. These never saw the richness of man as free to live in faith. The thought that “the more I have is the more I am” or the figure “I = having” is mistaken. This thought only promises disappointment and discouragement. It fails to teach us self-acceptance. But on the other hand, being inculcated with the “sense of faith” teaches us self-acceptance because God loves us just as we are. God’s love is never a closed-door policy. It is ALWAYS open – like that “door of faith”.

Our vocation then is to respond with a “sense of renewal”. Faith is a life-journey. It is a given that we human persons commit mistakes, miss the mark, lapse often, and trip over. But to accompany a life of faith with self-acceptance makes a lot of difference. It brings us to a better “search for identity” because it is actually a “search for direction”. It actually brings us to a proposal of a paradigm of faith, at the same time, open and adventure-packed. As Pilgrim People of God, we ought not to miss this because this is exciting. In this way, faith is best appreciated when it is integrated into our everyday living. Then, it is enriched in entering the door that “ushers us into the life of communion with God and offers us entry into His Church”.

The resolution? The “door of faith” is ALWAYS open, a journey, adventure-packed. God’s love is the love that accepts us who we are. For us, it might be challenging for us because of so many biases that we have. Admittedly, it is easier to let a door always open, than a heart that is always welcoming for others. But, once we hope for a better world for us, there is no other way but to be open and loving of others as they are. That is better perceived as the true and authentic progress. Nothing beats a heart that is embracing of others: for there is only one race that God knows: the human race. A heart that is always open is a heart that welcomes God himself.

The door of faith…always open…faith lived in love of God and neighbor, a hope for a better world!

Let us Enter: On Porta Fidei

Let’s face it. Technology rapidly develops in a short span of time. It is also coupled with a consciousness that as if technology can address man’s daily problems and challenges. Such consciousness may even challenge the necessity and authenticity of faith in man’s life. Nations keep developing and rising in various aspects because of the promises of technology. Indeed, technology promises to address various aspects in man’s life, but does it have the final say of everything? Is it really enough to say that technology solves man’s perennial problems? And, does it even have to determine everything – even in matters of faith?

In a recent Apostolic Letter (Motu Proprio Data) entitled Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI inculcated the need to harness that “sense of faith” even in the context of globalization. On my reflections, what he mentions about “sense of faith” is not a faith that is “extraneous” to man’s life, but wholly integrated in his everyday living because it speaks about his true identity. It is true that coupled with the rise of techno-cultured society is everyone’s search for identity. We got social networking sites capable of facilitating that desire to express who we are, what we do, what we want to do, what we desire, and what we think right now. Such sites are increasingly becoming compasses of the search for identity.

In this Apostolic Letter, Pope Benedict XVI calls the faithful to intensify that sense of faith even in our time. As a seminarian, it is important to live that sense of faith in every moment of the day. Of course, it is a challenge for me to live that life because there are lots of difficulties and influences made by globalization. One difficulty is the risk of confusing things according to our own standards. The evidence is found in our choices. Sometimes we choose things because we want to, and we think it is right. But to live in that “sense of faith”, we choose things because we have discerned about it, passionate about it, genuinely happy about it, as rooted in the love of Jesus.

Hence, living that “sense of faith” harnesses our Christ-like compass, that is, the compass to love. When faith is towards communion, not only membership, there is intimacy among the persons in the community. Membership is concerned about registry and obligations, but communion invites deep concern among persons. There is this sense of solidarity among them, solidarity that is moved to love. It is no surprise that when a person is upright and just, it is because of the community that brings that person to be upright and just. Being a seminarian, in my case, is not of a vacuum. I entered the seminary because of the influence of the community around me. They are my co-discerners. They had that compass to love because they knew well how important a priest is in a community.

Let us then enter this “door of faith”! May this “door of faith” lead us to discover who we really are, so that in our journey, we may find true happiness. We are, first of all, facilitators of technology because we want to be truly happy. We do not get eaten by technology, but rather as an aid for us to harness that compass of love because love is what makes us truly happy. Faith, as a way of life, is never antagonistic of technology insofar as technology serves the true good of humanity. Hence, the “door of faith” invites us to be present, making that compass of love possible for others to discover. What a wonderful world we have where each has that compass of love, united yet unique in its own way!

Let us enter that “door of faith”!