About the Magazine
“IT aLL started when I experience GOD IN MY LIFE” - the Author My Life, My Story
EXperience one’s life, touch one’e life, bless one’s life theology corner
Learn and be blessed on what you will read and you will know
I offer my warmest congratulations to all who are involved with the formation of this first edition of BIG MAG.
The BEGINNING - Ayan Abela
May the work flourish and help lead all whom it reaches to the love of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Living the word
discerning your vocation - Fr. Frank Bird
A Priest’s Sermon
Every blessing, + Patrick Dunn Bishop of Auckland
Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing - Fr. John Era
Why did Jesus Christ have to be male? - Fr. Thomas J. Loya
INFALLIBILITY BUILT UPON THE ROCK - Brendan Roberts
10 12 14 18 20
Contributors Voices and views from the people who love spreading the message of God...
St Padre Pio - Kieran Udy UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
A LIFE APART GOD FEATURES
My Prayer - AYAN ABELA
Fr. Thomas Loyaas
Fr. Frank Bird S.M.as
Fr. John Era C.M.
Fr. Thomas is the host of Light of the East Radio. He is currently the pastor of Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois.
Fr. Frank is a Marist priest working in a rural parish area in the Far North of New Zealand. He has a joy in sharing the scriptures with young adults. His Living the Word website seeks to help people hear and live the Sunday readings.
A Vincentian Priest from Manila, Fr. John is blessed with the most heavenly voice and a gift of music. A priest who follows Christ and an evangelizer of the poor. Currently Fr. John is pursuing further studies at De Paul Unversity in USA.
- Sheila Marie Bermas
The confessions of a “walk” addict - Mariel Baja
21 22 24
DEAR GOD, CAN YOU HEAR ME? - JOEY S.
shining from within - elcel christine nerida FOOD FOR THOUGht
COURAGE CAN PUSH YOU MILES AWAY
A literature major and passionate teacher, Elcel is serving the church through active membership in Couples for Christ Choir, Auckland Central. She is currently pursuing her law degree in the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Brendan is a writer, author, poet, podcaster and theologian from New Zealand. He has written three books concerning his experience of Being In God and teaching on natural and divine revelation (science and religion).
She’s a choir member of the Santuario de San Vicente de Paul Chorale in Tandang Sora since 1990. Presently, she is a public attorney at the Public Attorney’s Office.
A Reader’s Reflection
My Journey with Eat, Pray, love - Christina Fernandez
Showcase of talents
Sheila Marie Bermasas Presently advocating and fighting for the welfare of women and wellness, educating health matters particularly cervical cancer and other reproductive system diseases. CFC-Singles for Christ member, patiently waiting for God’s greatest gift!
Teng is a graphic artist and photo buff but dreams of working in the kitchen one day. At present, she’s doing a course in Digital Design at Manukau School of Visual Arts and an active member of CFC-Singles For Christ.
Kieran is an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North working in youth ministry in Wanganui. Kieran has a keen interest in the lives of the saints, spirituality, monasticism and current theological thought. He also has a passion for basketball and referees in the top domestic leagues of New Zealand.
Editor’s Message The Beginning And God said, “Let there be light”, so there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Genesis 1:3-5 I find these Words of God very helpful and encouraging which is why I’d like to share it with you. I read these words with my heart and I feel that I’m saved from the my deepest darkness of despair. Amid life’s pressures that most of the time lead to sadness, isolation, grief and problems that take a long time to resolve, I feel I can break away and I’m separated from all of this. Without light our eyes can not see much as we see right now. But today even where there is light, we sometimes feel we live in the darkness. We find ourselves in a surrounding full of frustrations- everyday we get depressing news about crimes, war, political conflicts and attack on religions. We feel we are in the dark when we lose a loved one, when we experience pain because of failures, and when we make extreme selfsacrifices that gets us to nowhere. Sometimes we even lose ourselves to darkness. We have become selfish that we no longer care for others. We forgot our purpose of inspiring and encouraging people in a way that will draw them closer to God. We forgot our understanding of the simple teachings of God and we hold on to the darkness because we are overwhelmed by the wordly comforts it offers us. We no longer see the light of truth. Should this be because we have let darkness destroy our hearts. When there are things we think we cannot bear any longer, we lose hope, we give up easily, we lose our determination to continue running and we stop looking forward. In this dark place, hope seems hard to get and hard to find. We look at ourselves in the mirror or wonder at our reflection in the water, working out feelings that are deep within our souls. We start to question God, why? But still God’s light continue to shine down upon us, to lead us and guide us to the right path. He will call us out of the darkness and will bring light to help us start all over again and so make new beginnings. I can still remember the time when I first began to think of ways that I can share the things that I’ve learned over the years from God. I’ve had strange things happen to me. While many are afraid and losing their faith, I was bolstered by a stronger, renewed faith. I open my mouth and words flowed out I can’t explain as if someone else were saying them. It seemed an easy task at the beginning, but I found it so hard to put my thoughts into action. I felt that my mind and heart were not ready. I wasn’t confident enough within myself despite feeling God’s energy in my life everyday and pushing me to accomplish great things. Everyday I
had to overcome this struggle within myself. With hands clasped and eyes closed I prayed, “God let me be your servant, use me as your instrument to help others. Where do I begin? Lead me on and take control.” I continued to deepen my relationship with God until one day I felt the motivation to write something about Him and to write for Him. I’ve found myself putting together a small blog entry to give thanks and glory to Him. I’ve jotted down my thoughts and wrote more blogs hoping to share testimonies of my faith in God and touch many hearts. God has given me a gift and he has lead me here. Inevitably I started to think about transforming my blog posts into something bigger, more challenging and more far-reaching. By involving more people who can share their encounters with God in an online religious magazine, we can inspire and encourage those experiencing spiritual dryness, those who do not believe in God or those who cease to have a relationship with Him. I guess it’s God’s light shining upon me, blazing my path to a new way of serving Him and His children. My contribution is just one small part, but I hope at the end of this road, this small start will have turned into something BIG. BIG (Being In GoD) is an an online Catholic magazine with a vision to encourage people to interact with GoD through other people by sharing life experiences, stories of our trials and struggles and how we triumphed over those and sharing our God-centered talent and creativity. This magazine serves as a unifying force within us that directs our efforts collectively towards the same end - to spread God’s word to as many people as possible and to evangelize more through media. On behalf of all the contributors, we hope you will enjoy reading the magazine and that this will provide light in the cloud of darkness you may be in. We hope you will be challenged to learn more about your faith as we walk your spiritual journey along with you. The journey begins with this small step. Thank you all for your support. Remember, always think BIG! May Godbless you! n
A multimedia artist by profession, Ayan started BIG magazine in his desire to find expression of his love for God and share it with the world. An extension of his ingenuity, he edits the overall content and contributes a column here in BIG. Additionally, Ayan is active in CFC-Singles for Christ community as well as works in different parishes as choir member. A photo enthusiast and a true blogger for God.
discerning your vocation
by Father Frank Bird, SM
FINDING YOUR VOCATION Discernment comes from the latin word ‘to cut’. Finding your vocation can often be a process of learning to know your desire and passion, your gifts and strengths, and a process of listening to God in the midst of this journey. Here are some practical ideas to begin....
and locate a ministry in the Church to commit to. Having to lead, teach, take responsibility, serve, reveals me, locates my passion, engages me in serving Christ and the Church.
Seek to make a solid commitment to a group. Identify your gifting and ministry talent and offer it to your group or parish.
• Interpret - God is neither passive nor silent
about listening to the one who ‘calls’. Developing the ability to turn off from some of the ‘noise’ around you and draw closer to the one who calls you is important.
about your vocation / calling. At times we need some help to interpret what is happening in the silence, confusion, struggle. We need some help to interpret and understand our spiritual journey seeking to draw closer to God.
• Prayer - develop a deeper prayer life. Vocation is
Seek to develop a prayer routine that works (for example, 30 mins 3 times each week).
• Read a Book - If you are feeling a bit stuck about
Marriage or Religious Life or Priesthood, reading a book about each of the states of life can help stimulate your thoughts. This can be a wonderful way to a conversation with God - and God can use this process.
Find someone to talk about your reaction and what attracted you in the readings.
• Desire - “God writes his hopes and plans for you
into your desires” (says St Ignatius). Persistent thoughts, attractions, ideas that don’t go away are symbolic of the nudges of the Holy Spirit and God’s desire at work in us. •
• Connect - Connect with some Catholic groups
Ask yourself the question, and spend sometime writing down your response: What is my deepest desire? What do I really really want? What do I imagine myself doing? What am I really passionate about?
Find a Spiritual Director / Guide and meet every 3-4 weeks for a chat.
• What Sticks? - Is there something that has been spoken to me, or a person’s example or word of advice that ‘just sticks with me’ and isn’t going away?
Try to find and speak with the person or ‘revisit’ the moment in your imagination and prayer and begin a conversation with God.
• Choices - sometimes we need to be clear about the choices before us and make the best choice that we can.
Get a journal and write about your choices / options. Notice which option attracts and draws you more. Ask for some advice, make a decision and test the decision to see if you feel ‘peace’ (a true sign of the Holy Spirit)
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR Fear - When you locate your desire, your dream, your hope, the first
thing that begins to limit you and place an obstacle within you are your ‘fears’. It is helpful to name personal fears and talk about them so as to earn and accept oneself more deeply and grow in freedom. •
Write about your fears and find someone trustworthy to talk with about them.
I’m not good enough - This phrase easily becomes part
of our ‘self-image’ or ‘self-talk’. It can reflect a big focus on ourselves rather than on God. We can be afraid of our weaknesses and frailty, we can easily be frightened of ourselves. •
Practice giving yourself completely to God in a special unique prayer that you make up just between you and God. Keep your focus more on God than yourself!
I’m Stuck! - Sometimes you can feel you are not making much progress. Sometimes you need to wait. Sometimes you need to keep making ‘little steps’. •
Be obedient - be completely honest in owning up to your best guess as to the next little step you can take with your relationship with God and others.
I don’t Know
- Sometimes this phrase goes around in our head because we have a hint at what is required but don’t like it. It feels too hard. •
Find a Spiritual Director / Guide who you can trust and share honestly with. Another set of ears to listen to your heart and the spirit is helpful.
A Priest’s Sermon
“ Father, Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Are Doing! “ By Father John Vinuya Era, CM.
Indeed, Jesus is human. He felt the pain of the cross as nails pierced through his hands and feet. It must have been more painful to know that the people he has loved and served are now mocking and insulting him while he was helplessly crucified on the cross. The jeers and insults hurled against him were more than enough to make his physical pain more excruciating. Nobody dared to fight for him. His friends and family were powerless to save him as they silently witnessed in deep sorrow how their beloved Jesus endured the invective words and torture inflicted upon him by the angry crowd and the Roman soldiers. When was the last time you felt so hurt? When was the last time you felt so abandoned by those people you consider friends? When was the last time you felt so misunderstood and accused of wrongdoing you never committed? When was the last time somebody inflicted physical or emotional harm on you? For sure, the feeling was so unpleasant and unbearable. It could have drained your energy, causing you sadness and depression. During those moments, perhaps you felt so alone and weak, not knowing where to go to. Perhaps you were devastated and felt so betrayed. Maybe you wanted to fight back. Maybe you wanted to have vengeance for being unjustly offended. Maybe you wanted to get even or willed harm and misfortunes to befall your offender. Jesus could have done the same. He was unjustly persecuted for doing no wrong. In fact, he did many good things to them – healing the sick, raising the dead, making the blind see and the deaf hear, making the lame walk, feeding a hungry multitude, casting out demons, and making tax collectors return what they have stolen. All his deeds were noble and praiseworthy but still, many turned their backs against him. He could have fought back and cursed his offenders. He could have sworn revenge against those who betrayed him. He could have held grudges against those who mistreated him. But he opted not to. Instead, even in his dying moment, he found the strength to forgive his accusers – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing!”
Why did Jesus do that – asking God to forgive his offenders? How did he do it? Jesus looked at the situation of his accusers. He was aware that his persecutors did not know what they were doing because they were blinded by their imperfection. Jesus knew somehow that those who were clamoring for his crucifixion never fully understood what they wanted. They were acting out of compulsion, out of anger and rage for someone who was trying to change the law – they could not understand why Jesus challenged their laws. They could not understand why Jesus blasphemed, as such, he considered himself God. It was an abomination for the Jews who believed that God can never be human like Jesus. But with a compassionate heart, Jesus understood their shortcomings. After all, they were trapped in their limited human knowledge and they thought what they were doing was right. Yes, you may have been hurt by someone once. However, Jesus is inviting you to follow his example. The invitation for all of us is to be
BIGMAG01 empathic like Jesus and empathy means understanding what the other person is experiencing and undergoing. Others may have hurt you thinking what they did to you was right. In such instances, they may believe that their own interests are far more important for them to survive. They could have learned different values contrary to yours, accepting them as the only truth. They could have had painful childhood experiences that made them who they are now. They could have grown up in a very hostile environment, not receiving adequate love and care, making them hostile as well, to you and to others. They hurt you because that is the only thing they know how to do. It is what they have learned growing up with and they do not know the meaning of love, simply because they have never experienced genuine love. The suffering on the cross of Jesus is an invitation for us to look with a compassionate heart those who hurt us. Once you look at them with compassion, they begin to receive genuine love. You will never know, maybe it is their first experience of being understood. As they feel your empathy, they begin to redeem themselves from their own hostility; consequently, they will feel loved
in spite of their inadequacies. Like Jesus on the cross, he made his accusers feel loved by giving up his life and forgiving them. He never complained and willingly accepted his fate. He LOVED them even when they HATED him. Up to now we continue on crucifying Jesus every time we sin, and every time we sin, Jesus would say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing!” He looks to us with compassion because he wants us to feel loved. In the end, when we feel loved, we experience redemption. We learn from the cross how magnificent God’s love and mercy is. This learning compels us then TO LOVE IN RETURN our neighbors, including those who have harmed us. n
Why did Jesus Christ have to be male? Posted March 15th, 2010 by Fr. Thomas Loya
The answer to this question requires, as always, to see things mystically, sacramentally, and to try to first observe God’s order of things. In other words ,we have to first ask ourselves about the “what” and “why” of sex, and in this case, the male sex. We must also ask ourselves the “what” and “why” of Jesus Christ! In recent history, so called “scholarship” has adopted the trend to put everything into our own pre-existing framework, or intellectual and socialogical trends, rather than to start with the observation of what exists and come to the “why” and “what” behind it. Unlike “scholarship” today, Jesus Christ did not bind Himself to the customs of his day. At times, he observed and complied with these customs (circumcision, presentation in the temple, baptism, Passover, etc) but for the most part, He went beyond these customs, which is precisely why He was finally put on the Cross. Time and again and in various parables and events, Jesus repeats the message that “man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man.” He continually shows and teaches that in fact He and WE are not bound to customs and mores of a culture. St. Paul dedicates his letters to the Galatians and to the Romans to this very subject. There is something greater than the Law and it is the created order as God intended it from the beginning, as well as our correct interaction with that created order, which
includes human beings, nature, and the Creator of the created order Himself. So now we look at this created order: Jesus was male, and in fact He HAD to be male. This was in accord with the very foundation, the very DNA of not only of the entire created order, but of the fundamental mystery of existence as Venerable John Paul the Great explained—the Spousal Mystery. God created a “bride” and then, in the action that is echoed in the very theology and language of the male body-person, “pursued” His Bride, entered into her in a type of “phallic” action, a “loving intrusion.” He moved out from Himself (phallic) toward His beloved. He “penetrated” her and “inseminated” Her and she bore life – the Church. The very reason that God created us gendered was precisely to echo, image, and indeed actually participate in this Spousal action, this fundamental element of the entire create order. The fact that Jesus was male was not in compliance to a man made custom, prejudice, etc. but rather in compliance to His own created order. We must be reminded that the Palestinian heritage had plenty of female prophets and figures: Deborah, Ruth, Judith, etc. Secondly, Jesus was the High Priest who does was priests do—He offers creation back to God in praise and thanksgiving, and in the process, a priest offers himself. In other words, sacrifice and offering is the defining element of priesthood. There was a High Priesthood in the Old Testament tradition. The High priesthood is now preserved necessarily by the Church precisely because Christ was a Priest and once again we are called to participate in His priesthood by means of the ordained priesthood of the Church and also the priesthood that all baptized Christians share in. Priesthood and maleness are actually synonymous, and here is where we really have to see sacramentally and see in terms of sign, sacrament, and symbol, not in terms of function or “doing.”
A good example is in the action of the one flesh union between husband and wife: The husband (male) moves toward his beloved (phallic) to penetrate into her lovingly and intimately. In the process, the male ends up taking on the posture that is almost like a “petite morte,” a little death. We interpret this as the man “falling asleep after sex.” But actually this is more than a sleep. It is a type of exhaustion brought about by having “spent” himself totally on behalf of his bride as he “plants the seed” into her. In other words, the husband takes on the same posture as the Bridegroom Christ on the Cross as He mystically consummates the marriage with His Bride (“consumatuum est”) and spends Himself entirely on the Cross and eventually assumes the posture of death, but a life-giving death! Maleness is designed by God for ‘taking the hits’ and offering, spending oneself on behalf of the other, the bride, and this is stamped in the very language of the male body. This is why Christ had to be male because the entire action and deep meaning of the entire Christ event is characterized by very things that also make up the very essence of maleness: self-sacrifice, defending, protecting, spending oneself on behalf of another, inseminating, headship in the service of the body, etc., etc. To be honest, Catholics, and for that matter, honest scholars, on this or any topic, our starting point is not some man-made system of values that we fit God into or through which we conform and interpret God’s intentions to comply with ours. This is actually a supreme arrogance that has passed for “scholarship” and “Catholicism” in recent decades. Rather, the starting point is always God first. It is us observing God as He is revealed through the very created order that He himself created, entered into and even transcended. From this we get the “why” behind questions like “Did Christ have to be male?” n This article was reprinted with permission by Fr. Thomas Loya and catholic exchange. http://tob.catholicexchange.com/2010/03/15/1603/.
INFALLIBILITY BUILT UPON THE ROCK By Brendan Roberts
What are the origins of Christianity? When was it brought into being? You may have pondered these questions or been grilled with them by visitors on your doorstep trying to convert you. Christianity and thus the Catholic Church came from our founder Jesus Christ and His twelve apostles. The apostles appointed successors to carry on the work of proclaiming the Gospel, the source of all saving truth and moral teaching and to impart sacred gifts. There are several instances in the New Testament in which the Church can be said to have been founded. These include Christ’s breathing of the Spirit on His disciples, the great commission given to His disciples, the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the giving up of Christ’s Spirit on the cross; the blood and water flowing from His side (symbolizing the sacraments, especially Baptism and Eucharist), and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles at Pentecost. Jesus gave his disciples a special authority. This is evident when Jesus says “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) But Jesus had a unique plan for St. Peter. He changed Peter’s name from Simon to Peter. Whenever God changes someone’s name in scripture it signifies a momentous change. It is a change of identity and a sign post that a significant mission is ahead for that person. Often it also points to a specific vocation. If you recall, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham when he promised his descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the sea shore.
Jesus said to Simon, “Upon this rock I will build by church.” (Matthew 16:18) Peter indeed is the rock in which the Catholic Church has been built. But Jesus also promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is very significant! Throughout the history of the Church, whether it was during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution, the French Revolution, the Reformation or under Communism the Church has prevailed when people thought it would not survive. Is there any other scripture to support Peter’s pre-eminence? After Simon confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus says to him, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:20) To understand the significance of this we need to look to the Old Testament to see where keys, which represent authority, were last mentioned. The Book of Isaiah has the prophet declaring from Yahweh, “I shall place the key of David’s palace on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will close, when he closes, no one will open.” (Isaiah 22:22) Thus it is clear that the keys represent a special authority. Moreover the keys of the kingdom of Heaven are even greater than the key of David. These scriptures also relate to Revelation 3:3 in which it says, “Here is the message of the holy and true one who has the key of David, so that when he opens, no one will close, and when he closes, no one will open.” The First Vatican Council regarding this special authority of the successor of St. Peter declared that if the Pope was speaking as pastor and teacher of all Christians, using his “supreme authority” and defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the faithful (all Catholics) then he possesses the infallibility in that instance. This bearer of infallibility is every lawful Pope as successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. But the Pope alone is infallible regarding matters of faith or morals. The bishops are infallible only when pronouncing, in union with the Pope, a teaching regarding faith or morals. This can be done when all the bishops of the Church are assembled in a general council or scattered over the earth. There are two conditions for a declaration to be infallible, that is, ex cathedra, meaning “from the chair”: The Pope must have the intention of declaring something unchangeably true; and he must speak as shepherd and teacher of all the faithful with the full weight of
his apostolic authority, and not merely as a private theologian or even merely for the people of Rome or some particular segment of the Church of God. So the Pope must make known that he is defining an official position of the universal Church that is to be binding upon all members of the universal Church. This is generally done (though he doesn’t have to) after consultation with the world’s bishops. Jesus promised a special protection for the Church. He 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 16:13) Therefore, in relation to faith or morals, the Church can not teach contrary to Jesus. She is guided by the truth. The Spirit of truth guides the Church to all truth. This doesn’t mean individuals can’t teach absolute heresy. It means the Magisterium of the Catholic Church cannot teach heresy. Yes, it is a big word, but Magisterium simply means the teaching authority Jesus has given to the successors of the Apostles (bishops) in union with the successor Saint Peter, the first Pope. There are two expressions of the Magisterium – Extraordinary and Ordinary. The former means those situations where the teaching of the Church is exercised as a formal declaration of the Pope or of ecumenical councils of bishops approved by the Pope, for example, Vatican II. The latter means the teaching office or hierarchy [sacred ruler] under the Pope, exercised normally. This includes all the usual channels of communication, whether written, spoken, or practical. For both Extraordinary and Ordinary expressions of the Magisterium, when the statements or teachings are made binding on the consciences of all the faithful in matters of faith or morals, they are infallible. Saint Irenaeus, in about 180 A.D, stated that Peter and Paul after having founded and built up the Church of Rome handed over the office of the episcopate (office of bishop) to Linus. Anencletus succeeded him, followed by Clement who had seen and was “acquainted with the blessed Apostles, and had their traditions before his eyes.” Saint Irenaeus continues to relate Saint Peter’s successors as Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus (martyred), Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, Soter and Eleutherus.
In the year 449 A.D., Saint Peter Chrysologus wrote, “We exhort you in every respect, honourable brother, to heed obediently what has been written by the Most Blessed Pope of the City of Rome; for Blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the truth of faith to those who seek it. For, we by reason of our pursuit of peace and faith, cannot try cases on the faith without the consent of the Bishop of the City of Rome.” Vatican I did not pronounce a new belief. Even as early as the time of St. Peter Chrysologus it is clear that Peter had a special authority. Scripture tells us that the man who builds his house on rock will last severe storms. The Catholic Church, founded by Christ, strengthened and guided by the Holy Spirit, has lasted almost 2000 years. Christ promised His Holy Spirit to be with the Church until the end of time. He established the primacy of Peter, with the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and the Bishops pass on a sacred power, apostolic succession, as their priests share in the Bishop’s fullness of priesthood. Christ thus founded a Church that will survive no matter what Satan or any human throws at it. Therefore rejoice that we have a Church, which scripture says the Church of the living God is the pillar and support of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). This pillar contains the fullness of truth and Christ protects that Church by the keys of the kingdom of heaven which safeguards the Church from teaching error when it comes to faith and morals. n This article was taken from Brendan’s book, “Born to be Free”. Brendan is a writer, author and podcaster on the Catholic faith. His website is www. godfact.com.
St. Padre Pio By Kieran Udy
There is no saint that has had a greater influence on belief in the twentieth century than St Padre Pio. The amazing gifts that he was given by the Holy Spirit make him so unique among all the saints of that century. From humble peasant beginnings on a farm in rural Italy to the famous stigmata priest who could read souls, bi-locate and had so many other wonderful gifts. Often referred to as the second St Francis, Padre Pio was known well for his simplicity of life and his remarkable holiness. The story of St Padre Pio like all saints does not begin with the miracles and the public holiness but rather in the small things and in humble beginnings. Francesco Forgione named after St Francis of Assisi was born in Pietrelcina on the 25th of May, 1887. Young Francesco’s parents were very devout and visited the parish church every day to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. The village was well known for its religious fervour and great devotion to Mary and the Saints. This no doubt had a major influence on the young Francesco who was known for his personal holiness and early on had a desire to serve the Lord as a friar. At age 12 he received the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. His faith continued to grow and in 1903 at the age of 16 he entered the Capuchin Friars receiving the holy habit of St Francis and the name of Bro Pio. On the 27th of January 1907 Bro Pio made his perpetual vows as a member of the Capuchin Friars. He had chosen to spend the rest of his life following the Rule of St Francis. On the 10th of August 1910 Bro Pio was ordained to the Holy Priesthood.
Padre Pio as he was now known had suffered with health ailments and learnt early on in his life what it meant to suffer. During his studies he fell very ill and was diagnosed as having tuberculosis of the lungs. This meant that the young friar would have to return home and could not live with the other friars. However it was discovered that the diagnosis was incorrect and he simply had chronic bronchitis. Pio continued his studies although they were often interrupted by his poor health and he was sent home to recover. Physicians believed that the ascetic life of the friars was what was making Pio sick. Pio soon learnt to offer up his own suffering for the good of souls and to unite his sufferings with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Thus began what would be a lifetime love affair with Our Lord and the Cross of love that bought our salvation. After ordination due to health reasons Padre Pio was allowed to stay in his home village until September 1916 when he was sent to the small friary of San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio was to spend the rest of his life in San Giovanni Rotondo. Throughout his whole life, like many of the great mystics and saints, Pio was attacked and persecuted by the devil. Before even being ordained his superiors believed that the devil was trying to harm the young friar. Fr Benedetto who was the Capuchin provincial especially believed that Pio was being attacked by the devil due to his personal holiness, “the closer God draws to a soul, the more the enemy troubles him.”1 Pio continued to struggle with attacks from the devil for the rest of his life. There were several occasions were Pio believed that he was under demonic attack and that the devil was trying to break him. On September 20th 1918 while kneeling in a chapel praying Padre Pio received the visible wounds of Jesus Christ. He thus became the first stigmata priest in the entire history of the Catholic Church and further united himself with St Francis the founder of his order and the saint that his parents named Pio after. The wounds of Padre Pio were found to have no natural cause by the doctor who examined them when they first appeared. Pio predicted that the wounds would disappear upon his death, and that was the case. For fifty years Padre Pio was united in a unique and special way to the sufferings of Christ which he bore with minimal complaint although the pain would have been excruciating and he lost
much blood each day. The wounds even had an odour that is described as an odour of sanctity. It was similar in smell to perfume or rather fragrant flowers, a rather pleasant smell many said.
From then on Padre Pio’s life was one of prayer and suffering. His sufferings included numerous inquiries from the Church, having faculties to hear confessions and celebrate mass publicly removed, and also being shut away from the people of God. Despite all of this Padre Pio continued to pray for the conversion of sinners and to labour in the vineyard of the Lord with such great love and joy. In the face of all persecution and suffering Pio would always unite his suffering and persecutions with those of our Lord. One of the biggest critics of Padre Pio was Archbishop Pasquale Gagliardi who was the Archbishop of Manfredonia at the time. This archbishop was very influential and powerful and decided that the wounds that Pio bore were self inflicted and that Pio was a fake. The archbishop believed that Pio was possessed by demonic forces and required exorcism. There were also others denouncing Pio by claiming his wounds were self inflicted, or even worse that he was somehow in collaboration with the devil and that the wounds were evil. Even after his death some still discredited Padre Pio and made all sorts of accusations not only about the wounds but also about Pio himself. Although having the wounds of Christ was amazing and a true gift from God, Padre Pio also possessed many other great gifts that few others have had. He was known to be able to read souls, bi-locate, and to be of extremely wise counsel. There are numerous accounts of people who went to see Padre Pio for confession with the intention of hiding a particular sin that they did not want to confess or they had simply forgotten. Padre Pio would reveal what or they had held back or forgotten to confess. He could also tell them the details of the sin that they had committed and the state of their souls. He could also read souls outside the Sacrament of Penance. Pio was known to have met people who were in danger of losing their souls and he would call them to conversion and to go to the Sacrament of Penance. Pio loved the Sacrament of Penance in a particular way that few priests do. He would hear confessions for up to sixteen hours on a normal day and would hear more than 5000 confessions a month. He even heard the confession of a young Fr Karol Wojtyla in 1947 and it was to be this same man later as Pope John Paul II who would canonize Padre Pio. Fr Joseph Martin an American Capuchin who lived at San Giovanni Rotondo during the last years of Padre
Pio’s life had the job of assisting to care for Padre Pio. He had this to say of one occasion when he had to take Padre Pio to the chapel to celebrate mass. For somebody my size, carrying such a frail man wasn’t difficult. But it made an impression on me because I really felt no weight at all. That’s when I looked at the floor. Padre Pio’s feet were six inches off ground. He was just gliding to the altar. He was levitating on his way to say Mass.2 But it was not simply the miracles that Padre Pio performed which converted people, but also the way he celebrated mass. Pio was known to celebrate mass in such a way that people were truly drawn into the mysteries of the altar. His preaching touched the souls of all those who were lucky enough to attend a mass celebrated by Pio. It is clear to see that in all that has been reported about St Padre Pio he was a man of great personal holiness as well as a man specially marked out by God. He was chosen to be a unique witness to the suffering of Christ and our redemption that has been won by Jesus Christ. In death as in life, St Padre Pio is a man who God chose as his own and set aside as a real Christian witness in this troubled world. n __________________________________________________ 1 Bernard Ruffin, Padre Pio: the true story. (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division: Huntington,1991) 73. 2 Kathleen Stauffer, Padre Pio: An intimate portrait of a saint through the eyes of his friends. (Twenty-third Publications: New London, 2007) 5.
A Life Apart
[ Up-close & Personal with Cyrene Tionko ]
Cyrene reflects on being a youth leader, “You must always be open-minded. Listening skills are very important. They will come to you with questions and personal problems. Build and gain the trust of the youth. Always be prayerful.” BIG aims to profile individuals who have devoted themselves to the service of God’s people, so that their lives may motivate and inspire readers to follow in their footsteps. In this first issue, BIG catches up with CFC – Youth for Christ Leader Cyrene Tionko.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Cyrene. I’m 28 years old. I’m currently a leader with CFC Singles For Christ which is a family ministry of Couples For Christ. The community began in the Philippines in 1981 and is now present in over 100 countries. My experience with the community began with the 2nd Youth Camp conducted by Sydney CFC Youth For Christ. I was just 16 years old when I attended the three-day camp in April 1999.
When and how did you become a youth Leader?
I became a leader around two months after I joined CFC-YFC Youth Camp in 1999. I was asked by Vincent King, my leader at that time, while driving home after one of our youth activities. The proposal was pretty informal, but that’s where it all started.
What are the circumstances or people that influenced you to make this decision? YFC (New Zealand) was still very young and had less than
50 members during that time. There weren’t many leaders that looked after the YFC members. When Vincent King asked me if I could be a leader, to be truthful I didn’t think much of it and responded in the affirmative. I accepted and took on the challenge right there. Over all these years of being a leader, I’ve been very fortunate to have spent time with many great youth leaders and coordinators. It is their teachings and examples, and their great love for God that have motivated me to keep learning and growing. I prayed and aspired to someday become the kind of leader that I want to be, exactly like how they were.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a youth leader?
Probably the most challenging part of being a leader is “walking the talk”. YFC have moral teachings that instil character in the youth in accordance with the Catholic Faith. As a leader I have to live up to those morals and values and be an example to the members. There is this story going around in YFC, “when you become a member, the devil sends 100 demons to attack by tempting you. When you become a leader however, he sends 100,000”. With this in mind, I have made more effort to live a lifestyle according to YFC teachings and I’m constantly looking for ways to visibly walk my talk. It is a constant spiritual battle, and can be scary as hell.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a youth Leader?
The most rewarding experience is witnessing God work in the youth. Witnessing the youth making a change within themselves in ways I could never imagine and seeing them grow closer to God. The best part is seeing the stoniest of hearts among the youth turn into a heart of flesh.
What do you do to continue in the formation of your faith?
I continue to serve God and try to know and seek God in everything I do. I’ve been so blessed to be able to form a strong relationship with God through my leadership in YFC. The ministry’s teachings have formed my character, prepared and equipped me for the “real world”, and most importantly have taught me to truly listen to what God is trying to say to me, and be able to have faith in Him in everything I do. I continue to attend mass and listen to the word of God, attend camps and retreats. I continually study and research on topics that I want to teach my members, those topics they would find interesting, like the history of the rosary for example. I also find myself praying constantly and having a constant conversation with God. It gives me a sense of peace and assurance that He is only a “hi”and “hello” away. I trust in my God and believe that He is constantly working amidst us. I give Him honour and praise regardless of any situation I experience, when I’m good or bad, happy or sad.
What are the pastoral care issues that are the most critical for adolescents today? I think one of the most important issues that are critical in our youth today is finding and developing their identity in the real world. It is at this critical stage of their lives where they begin to experience, discover and develop values that will build their character as adults.
As a youth leader, I feel I am in a very sensitive role because I become not only their youth leader but I’m also treated as their older brother. My group members confide in me topics and issues that they wouldn’t tell their parents. It is sensitive because you become involved in developing ideas,
establishing beliefs and instilling values and morals in the youth.
How has becoming a youth coordinator changed your life?
WOW! I don’t know where to begin. All those great experience working with the youth, I’ve loved them like my own family. It is in working with the youth that have made my relationship with God even stronger. I feel closer to Him, I talk to Him and listen to Him, and I can hear Him loud and clear in my prayers. I am more aware of what He is saying and wanting of me. I would strengthen my faith in God even more with each prayer I make.
What advice would you give to aspiring youth leaders?
A youth leader must always be prayerful. He or she should find ways to seek and know God each day. Live and breathe the first and second commandments for it is in loving where we get to build and gain the trust of the youth. Once you have won their trust, they will come to you with questions and personal problems and it will become easier to guide and teach them. A youth leader must always be open-minded. Listening skills are important. A good youth pastor knows if something is wrong or what is needed by the youth. If you really care they will be able to see it.
What is one important message you want to give to young people of today? Know God and make God known. n
My Prayer Posted By Ayan Abela
I almost forgot that I didn’t pray today. But I did this morning, wondering if that’s all right. Someone asked me today if I could hear the voice of God while in prayer. Quite a few people I know have doubts if their prayers are ever answered. Some are confused if they are praying the right way. Some seldom pray, some never pray at all..
“God, why do I have to forgive others who hurt me?? I am in pain, heal me o Lord, my God, my Reedemer, my Saviour ”
Continue to Page 14 “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I will cry to you for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety.”
“Lord, you have loved me with an infinite love, and I have abused that love to sin more against You. Please forgive me, have mercy on me .”
“Walk with me, show me the path you want me to take, guide me until i find my purpose.”
“Forgive me Oh Lord, for I have sin, and for neglecting you. Im not worth your forgiveness. But I know you love me. For this I’ll do my best to be pleasing to you again, and be a bearer of your love.”
“ We praise and thank you Lord, for all your blessings to us, your graces, your forgiveness, your presence in every one of us. For this we continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming the glory of your name, with ‘Jesus’ help. Amen ”
“Lord, teach me to be faithful, help me to build the trust of my wife , help her to accept me again. ”
“Lord, heal my auntie rosy, physically and emotionally. Remove her sickness, let your light shine upon her so she can live more. ”
“Send your angels in times of our needs, and fill us up with your blessings Oh Lord.”
“Please God help me in my daily life, guide me in my decisions.”
“I pray for my family and loved ones, protect them from evil, guide them in their daily life, give them strength and courage to face every trials and obstacles. Fill them with your blessings Oh Lord.”
“Please God help me to pass my exam, and guide me on my studies.”
BIGMAG01 “Thank you for the graces and giving me a wonderful family. Thank you for healing my sister, and for giving me the voice to say “I Love you” to my loved ones.” “I love you Jesus, let my heart be full of your love, and nourish it with your words.”
“Lord cleanse me, purify my heart, so I can be pleasing to others and specially to you .” “Make me your instrument of kindness so I may share your love with them.”
“Dear God, teach me to deal with my regrets in life, so that I could forgive myself and forgive others too, and shower me with the joy of your salvation.”
“Be my deliverer, be my protector, be my saviour oh God.”
“Let your Holy Spirit come to us, so that we may receive power to testify your love for us oh Lord, my God.”
“For where there are two or more gathered together in my Name, there am I among them.” Mathew 18:20
“I miss my family Lord, please protect them. I pray for their health. Even if I’m not around please “Guide me provide help in times of their more oh Lord, so needs” that I may know you more, “Thank can speak of you more, and I can you Lord show the truth about you, about for the wonderful your plan, your passion, your “Lord blessing you’ve given works, your love for us.” help our to me. I’ll nourish it and dance crew in our protect it.”
first gig. I hope it turns out well and hope no one will be hurt during the dance. Thank you Lord.”
“Lord, “Lord see my anguish! God I praise & thank you for My heart is broken and my soul you are an AWESOME GOD ! Felt really despairs, for I have rebelled against you. blessed to be part of discovery weekend I know In the streets the sword skills, and at you planned it all ... Now I know my life’s purpose, I home there is only death.” identified my passion, said goodbye to all the pain and will start to let go to enjoy my pleasure and to use my power to serve & love you more Amen .... ”
Continuation from Page 12 My own personal brand of prayer. I do rosary sometimes and go to church to pray but prefer if there’s only a few or no one else around. Most of my routine prayer is at midnight before going to bed (although I tend to sleep while am doing my prayer). I do say a prayer for other people whenever I’m asked to. I pray when I’m walking to work, when I’m in a car, bus, taxi, jeep for a safe journey to my destination. I do a relaxed prayer; while sitting on a comfortable chair with my feet up on the table. Sometimes I find myself singing and praising and realize that I’m doing my prayer already. Sometimes I pray but no words come out of my mouth… a “silent prayer”. I pray on bended knees when things just get too hard to bear. My prayers are small, big, exaggerated, impossible, serious, worrisome, sad, funny, undescribable, and senseless at times… but that’s how my daily prayer goes. The truth is, the more you pray, the more intimate you become with God. I remember my brother asking me to pray for him once. “Why don’t you pray for yourself, I know God will listen to you”, I asked. “But you’re much more prayerful than I am so please pray for me”, was his reason. But he’s missing an important point, that the power of a prayer comes from the heart of the one who needs it. Other people can help, but we’ll be just an additional step. If you want something earnestly you have to take the direct leap ! Prayer is an act of humble worship in which we seek God with all our heart. It should start from our heart first. We should have an intimate relationship with Him, so that we can ask Him freely, and He will guide you and me and lead us in the right directions.
You will then appreciate the importance of having your own personal prayer with God, you’ll become more sensitive to others, you will pray for them even if they don’t ask you to. You’ll find it in your heart to say a prayer for their safety, more blessings, good health, and a lot more. “ Confess your sin to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful result.” James 5:16 “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.” 1 Peter 3:12 So try to be righteous in all ways. Remember that it is through prayers that you become closer to God. The closer you are to Him, the better person you will be. In Luke 18: 1, Jesus told his disciples a story to illustrate the need for constant prayers and to remind them that they must never give up on prayers, and prayer must be consistent and persistent. And according to 1 John 5:14, we can be confident of God’s response to our prayer when we first submit to His will. If you feel your prayer is not answered, do not lose hope. It may be that God has answered your prayers already by giving you not what you asked for but something far better. Seven years ago, our family had the most trying times of our lives. My father had to undergo an urgent and critical bypass operation in order to live longer. But it was only myself and my mother who were working during that time, and our money was just not enough. I felt so helpless. All I could do was pray we would overcome this trial. I even lost hope and gone to the point that I already accepted my father’s fate. But looking at my mother’s face, I knew I had to keep the hope in my heart alive. I said to myself “ I just can’t let my father die.” My mother tried to hide her weakness, her struggles, and her pain to us. Her smile told us not to worry, that everything will be okay. But when the doctor gave us a week to decide, that’s time
when I heard my mother crying alone in her room. She had no idea where to get that huge amount of money for the operation. The next day she found herself inside the adoration chapel near the public school were she was working, praying for God to give her guidance, to lead her to where she could find help. After a few minutes, a nun who was then in charge of the chapel approached my mother to ask what was wrong. My mother, who couldn’t help herself anymore, started to cry and poured out all her sufferings. The nun said they would include my father’s name in their prayer requests, to help our family pray for my father’s successful operation. My mum and our family were deeply touched by how God suddenly provided for our desperate needs. By the deadline we had so many ‘angels’ who blessed us financially that we could proceed with the life-saving operation.. When my father had learnt the story about my mother’s prayer and the nun in the adoration, he volunteered to serve as a member of the lay cooperator member of that congregation. That was the first time I saw my father had the interest to serve in a religious community. And he’s the one who led me to become part of that beautiful community too. It’s a simple fact of life, that the more our schedule is crammed full of activities, the more problems we have. The more there is to pray about! Remember to always turn to God in prayer, especially when you’re feeling down and lonely. He will always be there waiting, to give you the strength, comfort and encouragement you need. My thoughts and prayer right now is for my parents who I miss so much. I hope they’re doing alright and always find a way to get rid of sickness. Thank you both for standing by me constantly through all my walks of life. And may God bless you while reading my story. n
CRAZY FISHERMAN- what else in the world can I do? By Sheila Marie Bermas
Discerning to go on a mission doesn’t promise an easy taskit’s a difficult spiritual process, but God faithfully promises a fulfilling life thereafter.
of discernment was the thought that this was real and I was leaving my family behind. I’m the eldest among five broods (children) and we are very close; we always make it a point to be together. We were raised in a military setting where a rule is a rule and we have to obey first before complaining.
Three years ago, I didn’t even imagine - not in my wildest dreams, that I will ever encounter the word mission, though I have always been involved in evangelization and going on trips. I didn’t even dare to define the word missionary. I just realized that I was already on a mission. I was just enjoying the trips since travel is my passion where you can be up close with God and nature. But God was even more adventurous to show me the life He planned for me and that He was drawing lines already.
My family supported my decision although it was an everyday struggle specifically with my father, who from day one until I entered the airport, still didn’t agree with my decision. When I always attempted to mention anything about Africa or the mission, it’s like I’m walking on fire and we will end up with a heated or intense discussion. But still, God pursued and persevered.
In 1998, I entered the Singles For Christ community which is a family ministry of Couples for Christ. Two years later, I already thought of going on a mission with the purpose of travelling. God directly said “No, not yet sweety.” (He is my faithful sweetheart) When I intentionally submitted all the requirements needed and the elder who received it, I guess, God was behind him to say not a word or two. Not until four years ago, when least I expected to receive an email invitation that there will be an interview to those who are interested and feel that they have been called to go on a mission.
A line from the song “We’ll be faithful” is “ forgetting what lies behind setting our hearts on the prize, always keeping our eyes on our Lord Jesus” kept me up and running and able. I have undergone series of counseling which opened myself to all possible encounter, brought the darkness to light by frequent Holy Communion and Confession, pastorally guided by elders and family to conquer my fear, the world and the unknown.
I responded accordingly. Before I knew it and said yes to God’s call. He was already working with the universe and ordered to move towards me. He was filling the emptiness within when after three months of training; I received an invitation letter that I will be serving Africa, though Latin America and another country were other options. But then again, God knew what was inside my heart and He was correcting my purpose.
It didn’t even cross my mind the thought of leaving everything behind to “come, follow me” as Jesus once asked Simon Peter when he was fishing. My sister, Jinky, sent a text message the day I set foot in Ghana, West Africa, advising me to go on with my journey courageously and to walk confidently because my father already gave me the blessing to go on a mission. I went ahead and didn’t look back. I just faithfully believed that God is behind all this plan and trusted His promise that He will take care of my family and everything that concerns me.
I was in the peak of my call center career then. I was already evaluated and assessed to be promoted to a supervisory level which meant personal growth and enough to support my luxuries (brand new cell phones, top of the line laptop, state of the art camera, high tech gadgets, travel. Plus in a year or two I would be able to manage to pay for my brand new car, improve our house and even fulfill my dreams). The greatest struggle and trials I ever encountered in the process
There were three encounters in my almost twoyear mission in Ghana that made me realize how awesome our God is. On my first month,
BIGMAG01 I experienced being physically and verbally harassed by a Ghanaian priest. I courageously confronted him with the pastoral guidance of the CFC couple coordinator and forgave him. My three-month stipend which would will support my food and transportation allowance, including funds for my youth (Kids/Youth/Singles for Christ) programs was robbed inside the cabinet of my room, on my first year. The worst was a burglary in our mission house on my second year, where I thanked God that I wasn’t around when the incident happened, and not even a hair was touched by the evil forces. There were only three minor incidents that I consider as my anchor to what lies ahead. First, I was left alone to handle all the CFC concerning youth programs of Ghana and manage to take care of our missionary volunteers and the mission house. Second, I wasn’t recognized by the diocese I was supposed to work as a missionary, so I had to work purposely underground until I was presented to the archbishop (though I was purposely asked to help other dioceses where I was recognized). Third, I thought, “I am going to see God” when my head, near the left ear, was accidentally hit by a screen door which was removed from the burglary. I felt dizzy and disappointed not seeing the stars which is always portrayed in cartoons. I walked inside the house, looked at the mirror and saw that I was sweating with blood oozing towards my face. There were only three words I cling to remember and three times I mentioned: “Oh my God!” Lo and behold, God made me calm and let my eyes be fixed on Him. I recalled the movie, “The Passion of Christ”, when He shed not one drop but more blood when He was crowned with thorns! I rushed myself to the nearest hospital, almost three hours exposed. I asked God to allow me see tomorrow when He placed
me in a deep sleep after I prayed the rosary. I even celebrated my 33rd birthday on my first year! He is and was really faithful! I am not sure what’s behind that number three in my life. I will patiently wait because I am yet to discover. I didn’t even know what it’s like to be a “crazy fisherman”. It is not enough that you should have a wish to travel, see new things, meet new friends, live more, etc. Everybody has those desires also. I was peaceful and bold to be still for I believe that my Father is able to keep me from falling and made me faithful to finish all the way to the end of my mission. God’s plan is always better and the best! I left the country 777 boarding EK787 & arrived in Ghana 787. He gave me a wonderful gift – to a loving person named Isaac, who constantly reminds me how He loves me and how I am being loved. God made my missionary experience a very significant one that I will always remember and treasure. He is indeed faithful when He asks us to “come, follow me.” I am back to the reality of the world. My relationship with my God’s greatest gift (3G) is what keeps my desire burning amidst the long distance gap - to continue to pursue Christ as we goal to our union, make a difference and be more faithful. God took care, preserved and improved the relationship of my family. Above all He is allowing me to experience more of Him and teaching me to patiently wait for His next call. As Shawn Doyle says, “Pursue the things you are passionate about- that’s the difference between good and great.” n Medawase to the Apostolic Nuncio of Ghana – Archbishop Leon Kalenga Badikebele, who blessed and recognized me as Ghana’s youth missionary from the Philippines (just before I left) and Bishop Matthew Gyamfi of Sunyani, who embraced my service with an open arm in spite of technical difficulties. Nyame nhyira wo!
THE CONFESSIONS OF A “WALK” ADDICT By Mariel Baja
If there is such a thing as addiction to walking…well, I have it. Even if it is a deadly disease, I will not search for its cure, for trekking the trail to the place where very few souls dare to traverse keeps me ALIVE. Call it crazy spending my hard-earned money over an expensive The North Face bag and board shorts. Another purchase is a pair of Merrel hiking sandals, sturdy ones as promised, which however, made my savings frail. Included in my list are my sunglasses, walking shorts and shirt, all branded Columbia. Oh, did I mention my new sleeping bag? Another must-haves (all lined up for the next pay day) are a tent (a dome, at least), thermal jacket and a pair of hiking shoes. Yes, all for the love of walking, or should I say, obsession. Doing those ludicrous investments is an essential part of the game plan. Ridiculous expenditures some may say. But indulging into the actual walk is what turns the madness into gladness. What appears to be without meaning, now makes perfect sense. Different hikers have varying reasons for walking the so-called less travelled road. For some, it’s just another adventure, while for others, it’s a bragging right. Some patrons consider it as a form of relaxation and for others, it’s all for the heck of fun. The obese and the lazy may regard it as plain silly, but for me, trekking is a pilgrimage, a holy quest, the path to betterment. Packing my belongings and necessities, the night before the weekend camping, is the start of the quest. Waking up at an unholy hour of 3 o’clock in the morning, after roughly three hours of sleep seems to be a piece of cake. After all, a 5-hour bus ride with my anxious friends is my energy-booster, not to mention my instant caffeine fix. At the jump-off area, before boarding the banka
(passenger boat) heading towards the next island, everybody’s starting to get jittery and excited. But once our banka plunges into the waves, everybody takes time for peace and prayer, strong enough to brave through the wrath of the sea. As we enter the portal of the secluded island, I cannot wait to rest my feet on the dry land. Passing by the welcoming hill, it is such an exhilaration to touch the dirt of the soil, to feel the warmth of the summer breeze and to smell the scent of the dancing leaves. Every step I make through the rough and rocky road is a sacrifice. Every slip of my ankle into the slimy river is a soothing pain. And every drop of sweat flowing on my face is a taste of success… Truly, being closer to Mother Nature is becoming one with God’s beautiful creature. Touching every fiber of it is a reminder of God’s unceasing love. Reaching the top of the mountain is a manifestation of God’s saving hands. At the end of the trail, the pilgrimage likewise comes to an end. But for me, it is just the beginning of a new adventure, for going back to the city, where chaos is a normal happening, is another test of faith. But as I return to my usual routine, I bring along with me the “pasalubong” (gift) I got from my walking trip for free. I give back the triumph for witnessing the natural beauty of God’s wonders to the place where everything and everyone appears fake in comparison. I impart the courage I gained from surviving the forces of nature to the place where most people are afraid. I share the experience of feeling God’s love through His creatures to the place where so many people appear to hate. Indeed, as I walk through the mountains, hills, rivers and streams of life, God is just in me. If there is such a thing as addiction to walking…crazy as it may seem…to the path of betterment…I hope you have it, too. n
Dear God... Can you hear me? It’s monday morning, 7 am. Woke up with tears in my eyes. I say my morning prayer, take a shower, get dressed and rush out to avoid the traffic and head to work. Typical monday for me. With the radio turned on to the highest volume, with my favorite music it makes me smile thinking of the few times I was happy. I really don’t know what happiness is. As I guess, half or most of my life for the last three years since coming here to New Zealand was in tears. Up to now I’m still thinking if this is the place where I should be. For the time when i arrived and set foot on this ground I call home, I was crying and never stopped until now. Everyday, every nite I cry until I get tired and fall asleep. It’s like a routine for me. I try really hard to keep myself busy working from morning till night so that loneliness, depression and heartbreak will not get into me. But still at the end of the long day, I still find myself crying. “Damn! I’ve been good all my life!” That’s what I keep telling myself. “I really don’t deserve all these.” I have never hurt anyone ‘cause I believe you should treat someone as you would like to be treated.
I am still full of hope and I always wish that one day, these tears will stop falling. I guess I’m just getting tired again. Tired of crying and being unhappy. Tired of all the pains. Tired of loving. Tired of this so-called life. I don’t know where my life is headed right now. I just follow my daily routine everyday. Wake up, go to work, go home and sleep. I do feel like a robot sometimes with the kind of life that I have right now. I’m just afraid that one day, I would just feel tired again and never see the sun. As I wake up each morning, I still pray, because I know one day, my prayers will be answered and I would be able to sleep without any tears flowing in my eyes. I want to be happy. I want to smile. I want to love again. I want to have peace in my heart. I want to see the beauty of life. Please...Please... Dear God... Can you hear me? - Joey S. A creative soul with a passion for writing. Joey has been a member of the CFC- Singles for Christ since 2007.
I don’t want to go through that phase in my life again, the time that I almost gave up. I was not eating. I felt really weak and can’t move. I also i felt just numb. I just wanted to rest. I thought I wouldn’t wake up again. I don’t know if i should be thankful that i’m still breathing. Waking up each morning just to see the beauty of life, which in my own little world I can’t really feel. I’m in this stage in my life right now, where I am hurting again. Hurt and betrayed by the one person who i gave my heart and my life. I’m asking myself again, what have i done now to deserve these? I can’t really think of anything, guess i must have loved too much. Yes, I loved too much that i feel like an empty bottle; so empty with no spirit. I thought, “I was on my way to recovery from my past emotional difficulties as the wounds in my heart were slowing healing.” I’m here, hurting again. Is this de javu? Why can’t I get over this cycle of pains? I guess happiness is a long road for me. Just too narrow a long road that would take me forever to pass.
SHINING FROM WITHIN By Elcel Christine Nerida
What would you like to be when you grow up? This is one of the most frequent questions a child is being asked. Imagine for a moment that you are a little girl whose ultimate dream is to become a beauty queen. Every single day of your life, you’d fancy yourself joining a beauty pageant. You’d wear your favorite dress; borrow your mom’s high heel shoes, and practice walking to and fro inside your living room with poise, confidence, and a killer smile just like what your idols do. Years passed by. Your passion in making this childhood dream a reality only grew stronger. You maintained a perfect body figure through strict diet and regular exercise; you took care of your skin; you enrolled in dance and singing lessons; you went to school everyday; and you endeavored to build a pleasing personality. All in preparation for the most anticipated beauty competition. The day arrives and the search is on for the Binibining Pilipinas 2010 (Miss Philippines 2010). You’ve secured all the required documents; you’ve prepared for the prescreening process; and you are all set to show the judges that you could be the next Gloria Diaz, Ruffa Gutierez, or Melanie Marquez. You’ve done everything that you can from childhood to present to follow your dream and crown your efforts with success. Lo and behold, in the Office of the Bb. Pilipinas Secretariat, you got shocked and devastated − your application was declined. In an instant, all efforts were wasted. This is the greatest tragedy of your life. All hope is gone. It is the end of the line. The culprit is your height. The minimum height requirement to qualify for the pageant is 5’6”. You are only 5’5”. If we would try to step back and reflect deeper, the pageant world can be both an irony and a paradox. The Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant was founded to “bring the message of peace and love across the nation and throughout the world”. The organization claims to be a key partner in nation-building by providing training, workshops, mission work, and other services for the marginalized sectors of the community. To advance this aim, a rigid screening and selection process is held to
choose the “perfect representative of the Filipina”. However, I don’t understand why the opportunity should only be limited to contestants who are 17 to 25 years old. I am turning 28 this year. I don’t understand why there should be a swimsuit competition and why make a lot of fuss about body statistics. I’d love to serve my country and represent my fellow Filipino women, but I don’t need to wear a bikini in front of millions of people. And what’s with the height requirement of 5’6”? Statistics show that the average height for a Filipino woman is only 4’11” to 5 feet. I don’t understand why many eligible women like the little girl at the beginning of this article can’t be given the right and the privilege to represent their fellow countrymen. The technical criteria set by the country’s most prestigious beauty competition seem to be incoherent with its true visions and goals. The modern idea of a perfect representative of the Filipina is getting more and more absurd. When we hear about the reigning Miss Philippines or Miss Universe, the first thing that comes to our mind is that she must be beautiful. But how do we define beauty and how important beauty really is? Our generation today appears to have distorted the definition of beauty. We are becoming less attached to our inner self and more drawn to outward appearances. It is manifested in our most common jokes and expressions. A perfect heartthrob is described as someone who is tall, dark, and handsome. The world’s most beautiful woman is Aishwarya Rai: a model, movie actress, and former Miss World. We laugh at a joke: TANONG: “Paano mo sasabihin na mataba ang isang babae nang hindi sya mababastos?” (How will you let a woman know that she’s fat without being disrespectful?) SAGOT: “Excuse me Miss… Mang Tomas ba ang lotion mo?” (Do you use roast pork sauce as your body lotion?)
There are real problems in associating beauty with physical attributes. Firstly, when our looks do not conform to the society’s standards of beauty, we lose our confidence and get frustrated. Many people are victims of eating problems because they don’t want to be labeled “fat”. A great deal of us curse our parents’ genes for being “short”. Secondly, physical beauty is fleeting; it deteriorates as we age. Fashion quickly goes out of style as well. It is ridiculous, illogical, and exhausting to chase what designers dictate as latest and trendy. Thirdly, when we measure beauty from an external perspective, we can fall into the trap of
BIGMAG01 comparing our appearances with others. And when this happens, we end up insecure and dissatisfied because there will always be someone better than us.
that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (Peter 3: 4-5)
The fourth category is what I call the approval trap. We feel good when we receive positive photo comments on Facebook, and we get hurt when our friends criticize us or make fun of how we look. If a woman, for example, turns 30 this year and no one has yet ever pursued her, she may be tempted to believe that she is undesirable or ugly. If, on the other hand, she frequently hears from other people that she looks good and has a great body, she concludes that she is beautiful. Many young women today develop their confidence by the number of men they attract. If they have lots of goodlooking and intelligent suitors, they think that they are beautiful. This is quite dangerous because they develop their self-image and self-esteem on what others think about them. They are giving away the power to control their own life. They’d be in stressful pursuits of endlessly pleasing others instead of being happy, confident, and at peace with themselves.
Let us all be reminded of what a Christian view of beauty is. It is way beyond wasting our time and energy in pursuing types of glamour that are mediocre, superficial, and temporary. Let us free ourselves from self-centeredness, from focusing on our physical appearance, our weight, our skin, our hair, our clothing. Instead, let us pray for a gentle and quiet spirit that does not seek to please imperfect human beings, but to please God.
That is why it was suggested that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. It used to be one of my favorite quotes when I was in college. It proposes that there should be no single or fixed standards for a beautiful person. One’s unique perception dictates what beautiful is, which does not necessarily have to conform to what the majority thinks. While most of us would stay away from the sun and spend money on bleaching soaps or whitening lotion, the Caucasians would die for darker skin. For others, chubby is sexy. I don’t agree. I am oppposed to the idea of resting the criteria on how others individually perceive us. I have realized that the measure must be something objective. We should be beautiful no matter what the “beholder” or others think and say. The whole concept of depending beauty on man’s perception is severely flawed. Human standards undermine the true value and richness of the Divine creation. I don’t believe that a desirable woman is one with both “beauty and brains” as the society dictates. Being beautiful and brainy won’t make her a good mother, a faithful wife, a righteous leader, or a fulfilled person. Instead, the best way to describe something that is beautiful is to ask the One who created it. The Scripture says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be
Indeed, no matter how much we try to improve our external appearance, it can never be good enough. This is because we have the wrong starting point. And we know that if the starting point is incorrect, everything else falters. True beauty begins inside. And this inner beauty will permanently shine out. Both internal and external features of our body work together. It is very easy to spot women who are only externally beautiful. These types of girls may appear to be enjoying more attention, but attention does not necessarily amount to respect and admiration. On the other hand, “a gracious woman – gentle, compassionate, polite – gets honor”. (Proverbs 11:16) Ask your dad, your married brother, or your male friends. They have surely been won not just by a pretty face but by a woman’s kind and loving heart. And there is no greater liberating experience than knowing that there is someone who totally accepts us regardless of our appearance - someone who sees our beauty beyond. “You are precious in my sight… and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4) In God’s sight, we are His most beautiful creations. There are neither greater nor lesser persons than us. We are all uniquely gorgeous before His eyes. Our beauty will always stand out. All of us are called not only to represent our country or the world. We are beauty queens created in His own image and likeness, with a great honor and privilege to serve and represent Him. n
Food for thought
Courage can push you miles away… By Ayan Abela
Is there something that you’d really like to do, something that will make other people’s lives better, yet you don’t seem to have the courage to pursue them? You feel unsatisfied with your abilities and lack confidence. There is always something making you feel unworthy of achieving it. There’s no feeling of purpose; you see no reason for doing it. If I could personally ask the apostles, saints and other servants who have gone before us how do they react when faced with these kinds of challenges and are in a situation of high emotional excitement? Do they quickly act on the challenge and do anything they have to achieve it, or do they step back and think a hundred times before rushing into anything? Many of us are presented with the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives but only a few respond to this call. Many ignore their chances because of a number of reasons. They don’t have the time and resources and other work take higher priorities. Fear is also a common reason for many. We are constantly worried about what other people may think, afraid of making changes. We fear of being thought a failure. Others simply feel they are inadequate, combined with lack of inspiration. Inside a child’s mind are a lot of questions. We started asking them as soon as our little mind began to appreciate the things surrounding us. We seek adults who will tell us things even if we don’t fully understand what they are talking about. We started to question about the care and protection of our parents, who loves us, about something you heard and about places you’ve
seen or imagined. Then comes the stage when it’s not just about learning by being told anymore. We try to find answers to our questions. We explore and it’s driven from the inside. Every little thing catches our curiosity. Where did I come from? Why is my hair color black? Why do I have three brothers and no sister? Why can’t I have every toy I want? What causes the winds and why do trees grow big? As we grow up, we’re continually asking ourselves probing questions. Our questions are now tougher than it used to be and get us to discover for ourselves what is true for us and what we want. Sometimes we take it lightly and the answers make themselves known easily. But usually it takes time and a lot of searching and frustrations along the road. Maybe because some things just take time and a lot of maturity earned from life experiences before you can find answers that make sense of all this. Because of painful past experiences and our questioning in life that remain unresolved we’ve learned to hold ourselves back. We become more careful especially when dealing with other people. We become too conscious of putting ourselves in a position of being used and our kindness abused and don’t want the feeling when people fail to live up to our expectations about them. We develop fear in our hearts. Fear that our actions and wrong doings may prevent the love of God from reaching us. A fear that is holding us back from reaching out to help others and touching people’s lives, to spend time with them and encourage them. The emotion of fear becomes the core of our identity and constricts our capacity to live fully. But you know what? Since childhood we have already developed the quality of courage within us. If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been living the life we have today. We were born
BIGMAG01 with an inquiring heart and courage to will and persevere regardless of what’s happening in our lives. We have this great sense of intellectual power since the time we began to ask and seek for answers. It takes a lot of courage to listen deeply and discover our hearts, and that’s what we’ve done. We have the courage within us to live the life of our dreams. We’ve got what it takes! So what are you so worried about? Start building your plan. Whatever you can do, begin it. Give something that comes fully from your heart. Help in your own little way. It’s the small things than can go a long way. Small changes can produce big results in the end. If you’re in a position to make things happen, don’t let fear prevent you from doing something big. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to achieve. And don’t forget think BIG n
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Touch Points • Be strong and courageous... the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
• Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24
• We say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
• The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25
A Reader’s Reflection
My Journey with Eat, Pray, Love by Christina Fernandez
“Imagine that the universe is a great spinning engine. You want to stay near the core of the thing - right in the hub of the wheel - not out at the edges where all the wild whirling takes place, where you can get frayed and crazy. The hub of calmness - that’s your heart. That’s where God lives within you. So stop looking for answers in the world. Just keep coming back to that center and you’ll always find peace.” - Elizabeth Gilbert
This is one of the many beautiful quotes from the book “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have been wanting to read this book for so long but have’nt had the time. So when I got the chance to get a copy of this book, I nevertheless took the time and read every chapter before I go to sleep at night. The book which is a travelogue about her spiritual seeking has been published in 20 languages and sold two million copies worldwide. There is an upcoming movie for this memoir to be released in August which stars Julia Roberts. At 32, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern Western woman is supposed to dream of having - a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she found herself lost, confused and searching for what she really wanted in life. She was depressed with her marriage, often spending the night crying on her bathroom floor. She divorced her husband and entered into a relationship with another man, but this relationship did not work out either. She decided that she needed a change. To overcome this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world—all alone. Her trip was financed by an advance on the book she already planned to write, and “Eat, Pray, Love” is the mixed result. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey
BIGMAG01 around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery, she decided at 34 to spend a year traveling. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the power of prayer and devotion in India, and then finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali. Gilbert’s first stop is Italy, where she stays for four months learning the romantic language and Italian culture. She has Gelati in the morning, discovers the best pizza in Italy, and shares Sardinian wine with friends. Though Italy is famous for romance and art, this is not what the author studied there. She learned to find pleasure in what pleases her, not what pleases everyone else. At the end of her sojourn, she sets off for India with a newfound sense of pride in herself as she realizes that she is beginning to become her own person, stepping out of the shadow in which she spent so many years. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration and meditation. Her meditations start off in frustration, as her mind whirls with seemingly endless, cluttering thoughts. However, through hours of practice of silence at the Ashram, she has “seen” God in her meditations, and has learned that God is found within herself, and to find peace one must return-to-self. This is the most important account of her travels. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love with Felipe the best way—unexpectedly. This book is a good read. An inspiring story that will touch your heart and nourish your soul. It is a heartwarming journey of one’s search for inner peace, happiness and self-discovery. It is a book on love in its many forms—love of food, language, humanity, God, and most meaningful for Gilbert, love of self. In terms of spirituality, it is not at all preachy but spirituality is a very large focus of this book. It allows you to take a step back and quietly examine your own beliefs and ways with connecting with God. If there’s one word to sum up this book, I’d say it’s all about faith. It’s about believing in oneself and believing in God. My own personal experience with Eat, Pray, Love was about love and relationships and learning to trust in yourself again. It is also finding ways to connect and communicate with God through prayer and meditation. For it is only in prayer that we can have inner peace. God hears our earnest desires even in the silence of our hearts. The most powerful prayer is silence, it is in the quietude and stillness where we experience a deep personal relationship with God. I feel I am reading Liz’s life from my own life, constantly searching for real happiness. And I’ve learned that the only way to find inner peace and joy is to rediscover oneself and live a balanced life with God being in the center. As Ketut , the medicine man told Liz, “To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.” n
To All Single Men & Women Inviting you to come and join with us... Share your faith with other like-minded young men and women, use your gifts to help others, and grow as a disciple of God. Our vibrant community is one of the largest International Catholic & Christian fellowship groups. If you’re between 21 to 40 years old, we’d love for you to come! For more information, just visit us @
www.sfcglobal.org and look for
nearest CFC-Singles For Christ Community. POSTED BY: CFC- Singles For Christ [NEW ZEALAND]
If you’d like to share your stories, experiences and article about God, here is your chance. Give us your comments on the articles in this issue and send us your stories. We’d love to hear from you. Please help us by sending any ideas for the improvement of this magazine to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to print this in hardcopy form please contact BIGMAG. We would love to see this printed worldwide and would parishes to do so for free. If you would like to support this ministry please contact us. We really look forward to bringing you more great articles. Please forward the link of BIGMAG and help us touch many hearts for our awesome and loving God!
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Acknowledgements BIGMAG wishes to thank the following wonderful people and organization who have given their invaluable support in making the first issue of this online magazine. Bishop Pat Dunn, Fr. Thomas Loya, Fr. Frank Bird, Fr. John Era, Brendan Roberts, Kieran Udy, Cyrene Tionko, Chris Fernandez, Sheila Marie Bermas, Mariel Baja, Elcel Christine Nerida, Joey S., Jen Lino, Melanie Regino, catholicexchange.com & CFC-Singles For Christ.
A REFLECTION OF GOD’S LOVE
WHERE IS GOD?
By Brendan Roberts
By Brendan Roberts
Oh the pain is tormenting The anguish too much to bare I feel so alone Robbed, cheated
Many people contemplate in awe The life of the frail old nun The nun who trusted fully in Jesus Who never stopped loving for Him
Why was someone so dear to me Take away? I needed them so There was much I wanted to say
This nun even had pity on Princess Di Rich in the world’s eyes But in truth lonely, sad, rejected This nun accepted who Di was Loved her, didn’t put her in a box Or stamp a label on her
Now there is only an empty chasm Pain raking my heart Who really understands me? Who really cares?
This living saint was a witness A witness to the mighty and the lowly She strove to love God and her neighbour She loved the dying Giving them dignity Never failing to proclaim Jesus This nun was Mother Theresa A reflection of God’s love
So where is God? This God of love? My child, stop and listen I care, I am within you.
Please Email us if you have any poetry you would like to be considered for upcoming issues of BIGMAG.
“ ANGEL’S TALK “ Hey mate! I have a question for you?
by Ayan Abela
Drawing No 01
What do you call an Angel who knows how to swim?
Okay! it’s my turn... It’s a hard one..
This is a Roman Catholic devotion commemorating the incarnation of Jesus and including Hail Mary, said at morning,noon,and sunset? Oops! I dont know?
G! g! N A B len