Christmas: The Battle Begins

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“I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013

sponsored by the Catholic Bloggers Network.

Be sure to visit as many links as possible,

listed at the bottom of this post.

We are at war. That’s right a war. Not what you were expecting?  But it’s true! Jesus came down from heaven to lead us in this epic battle; the battle between good and evil, the battle for our souls.

When at war, a common tactic is to deceive your enemy. Strategize, convince you enemy that the battle lies elsewhere. Or better yet, that no battle exists at all. Subtly, unconsciously intercepting their minds and hearts, until they forget they are at war. Unaware of the war, they lose the will to fight, to resist the attacks of the enemy.

This is what Christmas has become for many. Crowded malls full of people shopping for presents. Concerts and parties, television specials and festivities; these are the distractions which the enemy has used to foil us into believing that there is no more war. That the battle is won, and do not need to do anything more. Just enjoy yourselves, have fun! After all, it’s Christmas!

But that is only half true. Indeed we should enjoy ourselves during this Christmas season. We should celebrate Christ’s birth. But even as we do, we should not forget the reason for His birth.

In Fr. Barron’s “Catholicism,” he lays out God’s battle plan for that faithful, Christmas day. A legion of angels appeared to the shepherds, proclaiming the Jesus the Messiah was born.  A legion of angels! This was no mere choir! This was an army! An army ready for war! And the shepherds were called to report to the Chief Commanding Officer for instruction. Where was the Chief Commanding Officer? Why, He had to go undercover of course! And so he silently slipped behind enemy lines, a babe in a manger in the lowly town of Bethlehem. Bu that wasn’t all. In a war you need all the allies you can get. As the King of kings He wanted all His subjects to be saved. So He sent up a beacon of light, a coded signal, which Wise Men from the East followed, bearing gifts for their Lord and Master.

The Christmas story is not only a peaceful, gentle tale of the Holy Infant’s birth. Although it is that too! But we must never forget why He came in the first place. He came to save our souls. On the day of our Confirmation, we were enlisted into His army. We were called upon, to battle against the forces of evil; the devil, the world and the flesh.  We are the Church Militant. We were called to strive for holiness, for Sainthood. Our weapons? Mass, prayer, confession, penance and charity and service for our loved ones and our neighbors. And Advent is the best time to sharpen our weapons. To prepare for the King’s coming, we must strive to grow in our spiritual lives. Both in our life of prayer and labour. Doing all things for the greater glory of God. This is our battle cry! Gloria In Excelsis Deo!

http://www.catholicbloggersnetwork.com/2013/12/keep-christ-in-christmas-blog-link-up.html

Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas

Simply Homeschool  Living Advent Series 12/1 – 12/25

Fifth of Five     Keeping Christ in Christmas – Blog Link-up 2013

Coffee Moments with Sam     The Light of Hope

Hand-Maid With Love: CHRISTmas Presence: Keep Christ in Christmas 2013 Edition

Open Window Making hay while the Advent wreath shines

Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas

Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual

On the Way Home:  Keep Christ in Christmas

Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others

Mommy Bares All       Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH

Canadian Catholic Mom         Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up

Mountain of Grace Homeschooling   Keep Christ in Christmas

Em’s Estuary: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Happy Little Homemaker: December Devotion: Immaculate Conception 

Adoro Ergo Sum:  How We Keep Christ in Christmas

JoyAlive.net: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Home to 4 Kiddos        Keep Christ in Christmas

Embedded Faith          Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas

City Girl, Country Home         Emmanuel Is With Us. Are we WITH HIM?

Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

Joy of Nine9    Waiting in Joyful Expectation Like a Child

Splendor in the Home Ideas For Keeping Advent and Christmas Holy

Training Happy Hearts            10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year

A Catholic Life Advent: The Beginning of the Liturgical Year & Source of Rich Meditations

Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus

Catholic Inspired: Faith-Centered Family Christmas

A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas

Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent

Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins

Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas

Day By Day in Our World: 40 Days Seeking Him and Keeping Christ in Christmas

Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas

Rosary Mom   Keep Christ In Christmas With A Teenager

Tercets:           Keeping Christ in Christmas: Join Church Ministries

Campfires and Cleats How We Keep Christ in Christmas

Life Unabridged: Celebrating the Fullness of the Advent and Christmas Season

Homeschooling With Joy        Keeping Christ in Christmas

Mrs Domestic Bliss     Gingerbread Nativity

The Chic Traveller      Keeping Christ in Christmas

California to Korea     Keeping Christ in Christmas

Dominique’s Desk       Keeping Christ in Christmas

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Marshmallow Test

A few months ago, I went to the adoration chapel. I told Jesus how I wished I could just stay there at His feet all day. Sitting there before, I feel a Love, Peace and Joy I cannot describe and no other earthly experience can match! It there that I truly know that I am loved and there that I know where I truly belong. In His loving arms. In my heavenly home. So that day I longed to stay a while longer. I did not want to go back to my law books. Jesus replied to me in two words. “Marshmallow Test.”

I had to laugh at that!

Pope John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration

In case you haven’t heard of the Marshmallow Test, let me explain. Its a psychology experiment of several children. A child was brought into a room. The child was given one marshmallow. Their parents told them that they could eat the one marshmallow now. But if they waited until their parents came back, their parents would give them two marshmallows. Some kids ate the marshmallow. Others waited until their parents returned and got two marshmallows. The results later showed that children who were willing to wait for the second marshmallow fared better in life than the children who could not wait and ate the first marshmallow.

I guess in a sense we are all on a “Marshmallow Test.” We can spend all our time enjoying good things now. But that will be it. No more marshmallows. Or we can strive to overcome our self-will and be rewarded with so much more in the future. Waaaaaay better than an infinite supply of marshmallows!

The Mangyan Mission

THE MANGYAN MISSION: PART 1

Since I first saw the film in high school, “The Mission” has been my all-time favorite film. The faith of the Jesuits, humility and kindness of the Guarini tribe and the bravery in the face of death captivated my romantic heart. But I won’t spoil it for you! Watch it for yourself!

The Mission

I mentioned “The Mission” because last October, I had an opportunity to imitate these inspirational missionaries. But it was not as a missionary. In fact, they (Mangyan – Indigenous People) were the missionaries to me! The Mangyans! And it was so very humbling.

I spent almost a week with the Mangyans in Mindoro, Visayas, (the middle island group of the Philippines). My partner, Marie and I lived with them in the mountains. The generous family of Kuya Aimang warmly opened their home to us. We lived in an old farmhouse. (For those who may not be familiar, most Filipino farmhouses are built on stilts above the ground. The post on each corner of the house raises it above the ground providing a space between the ground and the actual dwelling. This space is where chickens, ducks, goats, dogs and all sorts of farm animals live.) They generously shared what little they had and we were never hungry in the course of our stay. But I am getting ahead of myself.

On the Way

The first day of our immersion we took a long winding tricycle ride from the main highway and up mountainous dirt roads. We arrived early in the afternoon. Arrangements had been made by the Holy Spirit Sisters and they were expecting us. They had prepared a Mangyan hut for us to live in, but when they found out that we were both girls, Kuya Aimang generously offered the old farmhouse where they stayed as caretakers for Konsehal (Councilor).

Rural Mindoro

We had to trek across a river up a muddy mountain path to get to their house. There were steep climbs and small gorges we had to leap across to reach the house. Not an easy feat for city slickers whose ideas of commuting home consisted of metro rail transits, taxis, buses, jeepneys, tricycles and paved sidewalks. And every few yards we had to play hop-scotch with poisonous fire-ants! Heavy backpack in tow, I struggled up the trail. Yet we could see Junior, their 4-year old son, dash up the slopes ahead of us.

Acclimbatizing to Mangyan Life

Although it was merely a 4-room house, they gave us the bedroom of their eldest daughter, Divina. They also lent us a blanket and mat to sleep on. Upon arrival, they gave an afternoon snack of saba bananas. This was just the start of their gracious hospitality. That night, we had dinner of vegetables in clear soup and rice. It was warm and homey, eating dinner by glow of small kerosene lamps. The kerosene lamps were improvised out of old glass jars and some cloth. It was a lovely sight to see Junior nestled asleep in his father’s arms. It reminded me of how God cradles us in His tender embrace.

It was a cold night, and we soon learned to wear jackets under our blankets. But sockless, our feet turned into toe-cicles.

We woke up to the rooster crowing below the wooden slats beneath our mats as the sun’s first rays penetrated the horizon. Each morning, they gave hot mugs of coffee–much appreciated after a shivering night! Our daily breakfast was simple–tuyo (small dried fish) and rice. But their rice was probably the most fragrant I have ever tasted!

The Mangyans grow their own rice and vegetables higher up the mountains. They harvest palay (rice grains). And then they mill them into bigas (raw rice) with a huge mortar and pestle. They remove the rice husks by tossing them in a bilao (a very shallow wide woven basket).

Bigas

Milling Rice

While eating breakfast, Marie and I saw schoolchildren walking down the mountain. There was a public school a kilometer or so from their home. We also saw carabaos (water buffalos) carrying carts of bananas down the slopes for sale in the public market.

After our first breakfast, Kuya Aimang, Divina and Junior guided us up to the heart of the Mangyan village.  Fortunately, it had not rained recently and so the normally mucky road was fairly dry and passable. But we still needed their help because of muddy patches that could suck your feet into the sludge. They were so very patient with us. They surely could have gone up to the village four times less the time it took us! Yet, holding out their hands they showed us the safest paths to take. Walking in someone’s footsteps is a common expression. But it was only as we sallied forth that I truly understood what this meant. We did not know the route to the village. Neither could we recognize a sludgy patch from a drier one. It was only by obeying their directions or walking in their footsteps, stepping almost exactly where they stepped that we could safely make the ascent.

Mangyan House

When we arrived at the top, we saw two rows of Mangyan nipa huts. Bigas (harvested  raw rice) was spread over sheets and old sacks to dry in heat of the sun. We entered a hut where a mother was nursing her baby in a makeshift hammock. It was a one-room hut with a thick straw roof, wooden planked floor and rattan woven walls.  The room was a few square meters in length. It was little bigger than my bedroom. Yet a hut like that housed an average family of seven or more. The hut we entered was the home of Divina’s cousin. She had just given birth and was a mother to three other children.

Mangyan Home

My time with the Mangyans was truly blessed. There were so many more wonderful things that happened there. But I will leave the rest of that for next time.  🙂

Our Suffering Society

I’ve been interested in social action and human rights work since my college days, as a member of Gawad Kalinga and now as an intern for Ateneo Human Rights Center and Saligan. Having been a member of three non-government organizations (NGOs) has given me a glimpse into the oppression, injustice and sheer poverty enslaving our people. I’d like to think my time there has contributed to improving their lives. But I know that it has not even been a drop in the sea of social, economic and political issues which contribute to their struggles and difficulties.

I’ve also struggled finding my place in all this. What can I do to help? How can I serve? How can I make even just one life better? It seems so overwhelming. Maybe the problem lies not in my desire to serve but in my desire to solve every single problem, creating the perfect world once and for all! But that is not how things work, is it? For as long as we live on this earth and in this world we will always suffer and there will always be suffering people we strive to console.  Countless attempts at utopian societies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have proven this. There is no “perfect”’ world in this lifetime.

This is my first argument. Completely eradicating suffering simply isn’t possible. Yet, so many laws and systems in our country and the world seek to this. Yes, we must strive to do our best to decrease the suffering of our brothers and sisters as much as possible. That is what the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are for. But we must always do so with the mindset that suffering has its place. It can be the disease, but it can also be the sign of new growth.  We must not delude ourselves into thinking it is inherently evil. To do so would deprive us the salvation or even joy that suffering can lead to.

I know this sounds crazy. I hate suffering as much as anyone but not all suffering is bad. Sometimes they are just growing pains and we have to be brave enough to see that. Brave enough to face that. And brave enough to do what is necessary. What do I mean by this?

I read an explanation once, that God permitting suffering can be likened to a Father whose daughter is gravely ill and needs an operation. The terrified little girl begs her father not to push through with the procedure. The Father does not want his daughter to suffer either. But he knows that her health will only deteriorate without it. And so, consoling her and assuring her of his love, he allows the doctors to operate on her. After the operation, she may still spend a few weeks recuperating. But it is all worth it because in the end, her life is saved.

And this is how suffering can be salvific. Sometimes we need to suffer in order to prevent a greater evil and bring about a greater good. We shouldn’t be afraid of suffering.

Why do I say this? Because seeing the oppression and destitution in our country, having heard about and listened to victims of unjust labor practices, violence against women and children, hacienderos driving farmers out of their land…I wonder how much of this suffering is the sickness and how much is the operation? Most of it is the sickness, undoubtedly! But hopefully some of them are just growing pains.

This brings me to my second point. My question now is, are we operating on our patients or simply giving them analgesics?

One thing I admire about the workers in Gawad Kalinga and the alternative lawyers of NGOs under Alternative Law Groups (ALGs) is that they strive to operate on the disease. They work on the ground, having barangay-level interaction with the stakeholders. Gawad Kalinga does not only build houses but focuses on holistic community development. They set up daycare centers; provide livelihood programs and faith-centered formation through the Couples for Christ. Likewise, alternative lawyers have paralegal training programs teaching the farmers about Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARPER), indigenous people about Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA), women and children about Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC). They also strive to change the laws which can be the very source of oppression; by lobbying in Congress and filing position papers. By no means are these a quick fix! They can take decades! But they are solid foundations for a more just society.

I’m grateful for the time I’ve had with them. They’ve taught me the value of patient perseverance in fighting for what is right. I certainly have a lot to learn! However, there are a few issues where I believe we are giving people pain-killers more than effective medicine. We need to address the disease, not merely the symptoms if we are going to solve anything.

Weaving Dreams and Watching Clouds

After a year of hedging back and forth. I’ve finally decided to start my own blog. I don’t know if anyone will read it. But reading so many Catholic blogs online, the need for the New Evangelization and the danger of the RH law, and potential divorce laws – I can’t sit here and do nothing! And Facebook just seems like too small a platform for topics this important.

I hope to help somehow. Not that I think this blog would get much traffic. No one even knows this exists yet. But God gave me a talent for writing, – one which is admittedly under-developed… But hey I’m getting there! That’s why I’m writing here right?

So yes, socio-political issues, literature, philosophizing, evangelization and the spiritual life, these are topics I hope to discuss on this blog. As a law student, hopefully I can post at least twice a month. Hopefully!

After all that, I leave you with this. The last poem I’ve written in a decade or so. Or should I say the Maestro has deigned to write, through His tiny, little flute.  🙂

The Maestros Flute