ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS I remember my younger days, when my family ad I left our beautiful City of Cebu to migrate to New Zealand. I can still remember my Mom’s very delicious gulaman (gelatin) desserts in bright pink, green, and yellow colors, her lovely chicken macaroni salad, her very sumptuous turkey, and awesome roasted beef. My kids love my roasted beef, too, and what they don’t know is that I copied it from my mom. I can recall shopping for presents, not just for our family, but also for our relatives and friends from faraway places, who always visit us on Christmas day. They, too, made it a point to bring something special for us. It might sound funny to some, but those presents came straight from their hearts. Coming from the provinces, they brought things that they looked after for many months in preparation coming to visit us on Christmas Day. Their presents ranged from live chicken, goat, piglets, and crops from their own backyard garden. Things that they treasured and we appreciated so much. Christmas is always a beautiful time to catch up with family, relatives, and friends. Having been brought up in the Catholic faith, I have always learned from my parents and from my school teachers that Christmas, or specifically Advent (which is the preparation for Christmas), is a time for healing and reconciliation of relationships. And I say Amen to that, because God gave us His only Son to bring healing of our relationship to the Father and to one another. And I believe this is what we should be observing in each and every Christmas. Talking about preparation for Christmas, I always look forward to the Misa de Gallo (Spanish word for “mass of the rooster”, because it is usually celebrated very early morning at 4AM), a series of nine dawn masses from Dec 16 to Dec 24. A close family friend by the name of Dr. Protacio Solon (now deceased) always rang us up at 3AM and gave us a lift to go to Redemptorist Church in Cebu, Philippines, my birthplace. After the Mass on the way home, we always stopped by a small eatery that sells suman (a native delicacy made of glutinous rice cooked in coconut cream and wrapped in banana leaves) and beautiful mangoes, served with hot chocolate. We did that for so many years until we left for New Zealand. I miss those days and the company of people who are so caring. I guess that is what Christmas means to me – to celebrate the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ with my loving and caring parents, family, and friends. It is my wish that my family and the young people today will have an opportunity to experience these wonderful traditions. Miriam Batucan Chairman NZ-Filipino Santo Nino Devotees Trust
ST. ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, PATRON SAINT OF TEENAGERS The people who mass-produce statues and holy cards have done St. Aloysius Gonzaga no favors. The standard image of the saint as a frail, doe-eyed novice has given us the wrong impression. It may even be responsible for the decline in devotion to St. Aloysius. Yet Aloysius deserves a revival, especially as the patron saint of teenagers. The time and place where he grew up — 16th-century Italy — is not very different from 21st century America. It was a lax, morally careless, self-indulgent age. Aloysius saw the decadence around him and vowed not to be part of it. He did not, however, become a kill-joy. Like any teenage boy, he wanted to have a good time, and as a member of an aristocratic family he had plenty of opportunities for amusement. He enjoyed horse races, banquets and the elaborate parties held in palace gardens. But if Aloysius found himself at a social function that took a turn to the lascivious, he left. Aloysius did not just want to be good, he wanted to be holy; and on this point he could be tough and uncompromising. He came by these qualities naturally: among the great families of Renaissance Italy, the Medici were famous as patrons of the arts, and the Borgias as schemers, but the Gonzagas were a warrior clan. While most Gonzaga men aspired to conquer others, Aloysius was determined to conquer himself. Aloysius wanted to be a priest. When he was 12 or 13, he invented for himself a program he thought would prepare him for the religious life. He climbed out of bed in the middle of the night to put in extra hours kneeling on the cold stone floor of his room. Occasionally, he even beat himself with a leather dog leash. Aloysius was trying to become a saint by sheer willpower. It was not until he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rome that he had a spiritual director — St. Robert Bellarmine — to guide him. Bellarmine put a stop to Aloysius’ boot camp approach to sanctity, commanding him to follow the Jesuit rule of regular hours of prayer and simple acts of self-control and self-denial. Aloysius thought the Jesuits were too lenient, but he obeyed. Such over-the-top zeal may have exasperated Bellarmine, but he believed that Aloysius’ fervor was genuine and that with proper guidance the boy might be a saint. To his credit, Aloysius recognized that his bullheadedness was a problem. From the novitiate he wrote to his brother, "I am a piece of twisted iron. I entered the religious life to get twisted straight."Then, in January 1591, the plague struck Rome. With the city’s hospitals overflowing with the sick and the dying, the Jesuits sent every priest and novice to work in the wards. This was a difficult assignment for the squeamish Aloysius. Once he started working with the sick, however, fear and disgust gave way to compassion. He went into the streets of Rome and carried the ill and the dying to the hospital on his back. There he washed them, found them a bed, or at least a pallet, and fed them. Such close contact with the sick was risky. Within a few weeks, Aloysius contracted the plague himself and died. He was 23 years old. In the sick, the helpless, the dying, St. Aloysius saw the crucified Christ. The man of the iron will who thought he could take Heaven by sheer determination surrendered at last to divine grace. ~ Excerpted from Saints for Every Occasion, Thomas J. Craughwell. Patron AIDS care-givers; AIDS patients; Catholic youth; Jesuit students; relief from pestilence; sore eyes; teenage children; teenagers; young people; youth.
USEFUL PRAYERS FOR STUDENTS To Start the Day Lord, may this day be Yours. May my actions glorify You. May my words flow from You. May my spirit find rest within You. In Christ’s Name, Amen. Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
Before a Class As I go into class today, help me to understand, to absorb to obtain knowledge, to guide my thoughts and help me to use this for the good of all mankind so I can return to You with praises and thanksgiving. Amen Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
For in Between Classes Lord, my God, Thank You for this beautiful day. Help my work today to be fruitful. Help me to walk by Your side each moment so I may be able to do Your will. Bless all those I encounter today, That they may receive You into their hearts. Thank You for allowing me to know You and to reflect Your love in my life. Bless this day, Lord. Amen Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
For a Late Night of Studying Lord, Please help me to clear my mind of any distractions. Help me absorb everything I study and help me know that You are with me and that I am not alone even if it seems as if the whole world is asleep. Give me Your strength in the morning. Renew me, and refresh my mind so that I remember everything I studied. Thank you for the gift of knowledge and the opportunity to learn. Amen Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
Unprepared for a Test God, You know I don’t know what I am doing, and for whatever reason I did not prepare myself for this test. I’m not asking for a miracle, but I am asking You to calm my nerves and help me remember this isn’t the end of the world. At the end of the day any damage that is done will be reparable, even if that seems unlikely at the moment. I also pray that in the future I will do a better job of preparing. Amen. Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
Studied for a Test God, I ask that You calm my nerves, and help me remember the information I have studied. Don’t let anxiety keep me from showing what I really know. I pray that my test will reflect the hard work and effort I have put into this class. Even if my grade disappoints me, I pray that at least I will have the peace of mind knowing that I did my best, and that’s all anyone can ask of me. I lift this up to You. Amen Now and Forever: The Catholic University of America Student Prayer Book. (2007)
BE LITTLE CHILDREN By Cherry Thelmo-Fernandez
T’is the season of Advent and in remembering that the birth date of Jesus draws near, how can we not bear in mind Our Lady, who carried him in her womb and held him in her arms?
"The immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin leads us to realize and adore the omnipotence of God because grace totally vanquished nature in her . . . . The knowledge that God gives us of the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin should cause us to glorify him eternally for this masterpiece of his omnipotence in a nature that is purely human." --Saint Louise de Marillac Pope Pius IX declared in 1854 that the Immaculate Conception tells us that God the Father had kept the Blessed Virgin Mary free from the stain of original sin. Due to the fall of Adam and Eve, everyone since that time has been born with original sin. That is, save for the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Conception reveals a particular privilege granted her, whom God has chosen in accordance with his Divine Plan to be the mother of Our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we could say that the salvation bestowed upon Mary is one of "anticipation," and, therefore, most appropriately commemorated within the Advent season.
"The season of Advent is like springtime in nature, when everything is renewed and so is fresh and healthy. Advent is also meant to do this to us -- to refresh us and make us healthy, to be able to receive Christ in whatever form he may come to us." --Blessed Teresa of Calcutta In waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ, we cleanse our selves so that we can be pure, like the Blessed Virgin, in receiving him. It is for that reason that we try to emulate her. By loving and being close to Our Lady, we follow her example and in so doing, love more and become closer to God. How can we love Our Lady?
“I’ll tell you a secret. By becoming little!” -- St. Josemaria Escriva Look at the example of little children, how they run and embrace their mothers, go and seek their fathers. Talk and confide in Our Lady, St. Josemaria advises, as our children do to us. And just like that, we will love her more, by becoming little children. To be little, we have to believe as children believe; love as children love; abandon ourselves as children abandon themselves; and pray as children pray.
OF CHILDHOOD AND CHRISTMASES I grew up living with my grandparents. My grandmother did not allow me to play beyond our little fenced backyard, so I grew up borrowing a childhood from books that I read more than 5 times in our porch steps facing the Guava tree. I have never been a fast reader, but when I read a book, I get lost in it. I allow myself to stare at the words and imagine. I repeat and go back chapters. When I am finally done with a book, I have been fully soaked. By: Chi-chi Abadingo
One of the books that I love re-reading remains to be Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol". Ebenezer Scrooge was the Christmas-hater who gets transformed into a Christmas Time-lover when he realises that he will die lonely, un-noticed, and un-loved unless he resolves to change his ways and fill his empty life with goodness. So what made Mr. Scrooge a "scrooge"? You start with an unhappy motherless childhood, a cruel father, a strict boarding school far away from home, no friends, and no celebration of Christmases. He had a sorry life squeezed into a person who finds 'money' as his security blanket. Why did Ebenezer Scrooge Change? I think (although not what Dicken's intended), he found true happiness by undeserved kindness. He was transformed and healed by the grace of his spirit friend Jacob Marley who died 7 years earlier and who comes back to convert him. But more so, I think the catalyst of his change was seeing the suffering of the crippled child Tiny Tim (Timothy Cratchit) and embracing it to be his own. And all of this happens on Christmas --- when magic and hope springs. Ebenezer was reclaimed by someone, who gave love from some other person, who previously was looking for love. He received kindness and he learned to bounce back the generosity to others. Christmas, just like any pure-hearted festivity, is always contagious. Dickens is right to believe that a softened heart is a childâ€™s heart -- trusting, free, spontaneous, forgiving, enthusiastic -- it has all the makings of true happiness. I have always believed that Christmas does magic to one's soul. We don't need a visit from spirits to transform our ice-cold and stony heart to warmth and tenderness. When I look back at my childhood Christmases, it was the unexpected gifts that out-shined those that were trimmed with a bow. I remember hugs, kisses, laughter, and the joy shared with family, as we sit by the dinner table wrapped up with our stories. And, oh the Christmas carols that we sang together, too. Christmas, put in another way, is all about changing. It is the time when the dark, dirty city streets turn into a glittery tinsel town with sparkling and breathtaking lights. The radio plays jolly tunes and everyone digs deeper into their pockets for charity and goodwill (and yes, good luck, too). We turn into mush just by being extra nice and the chorus of laughter everywhere seems to transform everything around us into a happy scene. Love, gratefulness, hope, contentment, and togetherness, make even the leanest of Christmases richer when approached with a childlike heart. May this Christmas transform us to live a life that is authentic -- with faith and hope (just like a child) for the rest of our lifetime. Let us always be thankful for undeserved kindness wherever we find it or give it. Perhaps through Ebenezerâ€™s story, through the pen of Charles Dickens, aye?
OUR GUESTS and SPEAKERS
Stu is a master storyteller and artist and is consistently rated as one of New Zealand's best live story performers. Stu has taught
thousands of kids and adults the secrets of cartooning. His popular Cartoon Workshop
are available in a series of books that will unlock your inner cartoonist. He the author of 6 great childrenâ€™s novels and also offers creative writing workshops.
ST. JOHN EMERGENCY SERVICE
St John is run and staffed by people who are passionate about serving their communities and caring for fellow New Zealanders. It is a charity & has a volunteer ethos, with paid & volunteer members working side by side. First aid is at the heart of St John. In addition to ambulance services, the organisation provides training courses, kits and supplies, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and smartphone applications.
We are recruiting members to build the Sto. Nino Drum Line. This is open to boys and girls ages 10 and above. Training and Drums will be provided. To in list contact: Oscar Batucan 09.570.11.39 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org