Philippines bishop at Chrism Mass warns against ‘homily abuse’

Facebook photo from Chrism Mass in Dagupan City, Kenneth Baldueza mobile uploads

Facebook photo from Chrism Mass in Dagupan City, Kenneth Baldueza mobile uploads

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan called on his priests to prepare better to “preach Jesus Christ” to avoid “abuse” of the faithful with their homilies.

“Long, winding, repetitious, irrelevant, unprepared homilies are signs of a sick spiritual life of the priest,” Archbishop Villegas said in his homily for the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass with his priests, other religious and faithful who came to Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan City, north of Manila, this morning.

He said long, winding, unorganized homilies are rampant and widespread, and people have jokingly called them their Sunday “scourges.” These sermons “abuse the kindness of the people who are forced to listen,” the bishop added.  

Archbishop Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, advised priests to prepare spiritually for homilies.

Following is the full text of his homily sent to Catholic in Asia:

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. – NJ Viehland Photos

HOMILY ABUSE!

CHRISM MASS MEDITATION 2015

My brother priests:

Today we make a spiritual journey again to the Upper Room to remember our priesthood.  We come once again to thank the Lord for calling us to be priests.  The Lord took a risk. He entrusted to us His Church. The longer we stay in this vocation the more clearly we see that it takes more than will power to remain a good priest. It needs grace. We need God. We need God to stay focused. We need God to stay on track. We need God to protect us and preserve us.

We have seen many abuses among the clergy—alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, gambling abuse, money abuse, traveling abuse, vacation abuse. Today, I invite you to turn your hearts to another very rampant and widespread abuse among priests—homily abuse. Yes abuse of the kindness of the people who are forced to listen to long, winding, repetitious, boring, unorganized, unprepared, mumbled homilies. In jest but certainly with some truth, the people say our homilies are one of the obligatory scourges that they must go through every Sunday.

If you listen more carefully to what our people say about our homilies, they are not complaining about depth of message or scholarly exegesis. They are asked to endure Sunday after Sunday our homilies that cannot be understood because we take so long with the introduction, we do not know how to go direct to the point and we do not know how to end. Be prepared. Be clear. Be seated.

We were all abused by the homilies of our elder priests when we were seminarians. When our turn came to deliver homilies, the abused became the abuser.

If a seminarian lacks chastity, we cannot recommend him for ordination. If a seminarian is stubborn and hard headed, we cannot endorse his ordination. If a seminarian cannot speak in public with clarity and effectiveness, we should not ordain him. He will be a dangerous homily abuser. Homily abuse can harm souls.

Long, winding, repetitious, irrelevant, unprepared homilies are signs of a sick spiritual life of the priest. Saint Joseph Cupertino said “A preacher is like a trumpet which produces no tone unless one blows into it. Before preaching, pray this way: Lord you are the spirit, I am your trumpet. Without your breath I can give no sound.”

It is not enough to prepare our homilies; the good priest must prepare himself. Preaching is a ministry of the soul and the heart not just of the vocal chords and brain cells.  Our spiritual life is the true foundation of our homilies. The question is not what we will preach but rather who will we preach?  We preach only Jesus Christ; always Jesus Christ.

How shall we rise from the prevalent culture of homily abuse? What is our remedy?

The first call of the times is priestly sincerity. You can preach to empty stomachs if the stomach of the parish priest is as empty as his parishioners.  Our homilies will improve if we diminish our love for talking and increase our love for listening. When our homily is simply a talk, we only repeat what we know, get tired and feel empty. When you listen and pray before you talk, you learn something new and your homily will be crisp and fresh. We will be better homilists if we dare to smell again like the sheep.

The second challenge of our times is simplicity—simplicity of message and even more, greater simplicity of life. Simplicity of life will also help us to stop talking about money and fund raising in the homily; money talk has never been edifying. Simplicity means resisting to use the pulpit as a means to get back at those who oppose us–patama sa sermon. Simplicity also demands that we keep divisive election politics away from the lectern. Simplicity in homilies means not desiring to make people laugh or cry—that is for telenovelas and noontime shows. Simplicity in homilies makes people bow their heads and strike their breasts wanting to change, seeking the mercy of God. To be simple is to be great in God’s eyes. The simple lifestyle of priests is the homily easiest to understand.

The third and last challenge is a call to study. Reading and study must not stop after the seminary. If we stop reading and study, we endanger the souls of our parishioners. If we stop studying, then we start forcing our people to read the so-called open book of our lives– the comic book of our lives, hardly inspiring, downright ridiculous and awfully scandalous. The homily becomes our story and not the story of Jesus. Reading a bank book too much is not a good way to prepare our homilies.

Be careful with your life. The people watch us more than they listen to us. Be sincere and true. A double life, a secret dark life is stressful.

Be careful with every homily. God will judge you for every word you utter. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practise what you teach.’

Be careful with every homily. They want to hear Jesus not you; only Jesus, always Jesus.

Be careful with your homily. Pity the people of God. Stop the homily abuse. Let your homily inspire and set hearts on fire.

Amen.

Interview : Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, RGS, Part 2

NJ Viehland Photos

Counseling room at Ruhama Womens Center renovated for free by UP Diliman Interior Design department graduates for a “healing atmosphere” / NJ Viehland Photos

Q & A Sr. Borbon continued from Part 1

Part 2 – Program set up, sustainability,

    “We believe that if God wants our program, he will be the one to help us” – Sr. Maria Añanita Borbon, RGS

How have referring groups helped with resources ?

Parenting Foundation is an NGO that referred to us a girl. She had her own psychotherapist. We asked them please continue it because we have no capacity for psychotherapy. That’s why I’m networking with CICM hoping they can give it to us for free because residents cannot do without psychotherapy. A lot of issues come out. Every now and then the group gives food, money. We assume the expenses for the girl’s living. There are also lay friends and our people from own network who come and give voluntary services, like value formation, health care, help from mothers.  

What’s your strategy for funding support?

My ambition is to get donations given by major benefactors. If I can just get one more regular substantial benefactor and then get psychotherapy for 15 people, that would be very sustainable. Our own Good Shepherd lay affiliates give food or host a Christmas party. Those help too. Eventually I would need to exert more effort to ensure sustainability of our program.

Do you rescue women and children from nightclubs, cybersex dens or abusive homes?

We do not go ourselves because we do not have personnel for this so we work with agencies that do this and provide the shelter and services for the victims they rescue. We also do not go into bars and nightclubs because of lack of personnel and because we do not have room for any more clients. If we did, we would probably go out and do this. 

Who comprise Ruhama’s staff ?

We have a live-in social worker, live-in house parent/cook and I’m acting as program coordinator. I have a consultant social worker also, and volunteers on a daily basis.

The only male volunteers I accepted are seminarians of Congregation of Jesus and Mary because it was founded by Jean Eudes -the same founder as ours, so they know our charism, they know our apostolate for the sexually abused.

It’s hard to accept just any volunteer especially the males. We have to watch against physical contact. I screen strictly who can be there as volunteers if they are male. I talk to their formators to make it clear that the girls are sexually abused and are sometimes longing for sex. I ask them if a girl embraces you, what would you do?

Contributed by Ed Gerlock

Woman keeps eyes on the street for possible customers outside her motel room in Manila – Contributed by Ed Gerlock contact: edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

How do you select your clients?

We have an intake procedure. When the girls and young women come, they are asked to fill out forms and our social worker interviews them. If she is referred and not a walk-in client, we ask the referring institution or person to give us a case study report. 

Where do the walk-in clients come from?

Priests, government agencies, and other people know us. One of our girls came to our center after a priest saw her wandering around outside their school. He was concerned that she could be trafficked so he called us. We couldn’t expect the priest to give us a case study so our own social worker interviewed her and researched her background, where she came from. We have many of such “at-risk” cases. We have 3 sisters in the group. Two of them were abused by the father. If we take the two sisters, the one left behind could be abused too.

Are relatives of clients allowed to visit?

Yes, but we make sure first that the contact with family members promotes the residents’ healing. If they will not help in the healing we don’t allow it. For example if the father is the perpetrator of abuse, of course we don’t allow him to visit. If the mother does not believe the girl’s report that the father is the perpetrator, we also do not allow the mother to visit.

We don’t immediately allow communication with family among clients who are referred to us. We research and validate information first and try to know as much as we can about their history, especially of their case. Our social worker goes to find out and puts in her recommendation.

What about spiritual formation programs?

We also have spiritual formation programs or catechism. Non-Catholics are not obliged to join, but in our experience, other Christian clients want to join. We welcome them into the classes and sessions. They’re not allowed to receive Communion, but if they say they want to be baptized, we assist in their preparation.

Do you accept donations from other faith groups?

Yes. We don’t accept from those who are giving funds from mining, gambling, of course we don’t want to accept from PDAF (pork barrel funds) because we have to be consistent in our stand. We have to be very clear about upholding our values and not sacrifice them just to carry out the program. We believe that if God wants our program, he will be the one to help us and we have proven that. We came up with that guideline on unacceptable funds only about three years ago. 

What more needs to be done in terms of managing the Province’s ministries?

We just finished our planning for the next six years and one of our thrusts is to consolidate the Province’s efforts in terms of trafficking, migration, and related ministries so that our response will be a corporate response based on stronger networking. 

We could also streamline all these existing projects and programs, maybe prioritize them in terms of our resources, especially human resources. We are strengthening our lay partners as we have fewer active nuns today.

Part 3 Religious Life

 

Interview: Franciscan Sister Crecensia Lucero, human rights defender

[updated June 21, 4:21 a.m.]

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (left) marched to campaign for protection of human rights to avoid repetition of abuses during and around the martial law period 1972-1981. Photo Courtesy of Philippine Center for Human Rights/Task Force Detainees https://www.facebook.com/TaskForceDetaineesofthePhilippines

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception Sister Crecensia Lucero reflected on her ministry with victims of human rights violations spanning more than 40 years. The journey she traced is marked by work she and young sisters and lay partners did to serve needs of political prisoners and their families during years when the country was placed under military rule (1972-1981) and years of “restored democracy” that followed. The road has brought her to an expanded ministry thriving in  partnerships with farmers struggling to transform exploitative systems, indigenous peoples and members of other sectors collaborating to end people’s suffering due to various forms of “injustice ” around Asia.

In an interview with Global Sisters Report (GSR), Sister Lucero explained challenges, successes and “heartaches” in the history of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFD). As co-chair, she describes how evolving challenges are impacting perspectives and strategies of her social justice ministry and the charism and mission of her congregation. Beyond words and ideas, however, she demonstrated these concepts and strategies in various dialogues and training seminars GSR covered earlier in the year.

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

A fact-finding mission representing Christian groups visited the site of an attack on the convent of Father Jose Francisco Talaban of Infanta Prelature in June 2010 presented to the Commission on Human Rights and human rights advocates, including Sr. Cresencia Lucero initial information they gained from probing groups and individuals in Casiguran town, Aurora province where some indigenous people and other groups are opposing the development of an economic zone. NJ Viehland Photos

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents' opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Sister Crecensia Lucero SFIC (right, in habit) witnessed the presentation last year of report of an ecumenical fact finding mission on residents’ opposition to the planned APECO export processing zone development project in Casiguran, Quezon to the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. By NJ Viehland

Read full interview published by GSR. GSR is a project of National Catholic Reporter that reports how consecrated women participate in the mission of the Church.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) established TFD in 1974 to assist political prisoners when the “dictatorship” of the late President Ferdinand Marcos banned organizations. TFD provided moral spiritual, legal and material support to prisoners and their families. Franciscan Sister Mariani Dimaranan, an ex-political detainee, directed the organization until 1989, when Lucero took over as director. Sister  Dimaranan continued as chair until her death in 2005 at the age of 81 years.

In 2012, Sister Lucero was again nominated co-chair of the Task Force’s Board of Trustees with Order of Carmelites Philippines Father Christian “Toots” Buenafe up to this year.

 

The spiritualities of Bergamo and Wadowice brought sainthood to the papacy (Commentary by Hector Welgampola)

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Heavenly bliss is the ultimate goal of all humans. That leads us to the Christian concept of a Communion of Saints. Some religions honor holy persons as saints even in their lifetime. So did the early Christians. In today’s Church, however, sainthood is a posthumous title reserved for holy men and women whose fragrance of sanctity continues to sustain earthly sojourners of the Communion. 

Last weekend, the Church added two popes to the official list of saints for veneration by Catholics worldwide. Way ahead of the dual canonization in the Vatican, the new saints received unprecedented media coverage. Much of it focused on their papal role as John XXIII and John Paul II. Happily, corrective action was promptly taken by Pope Francis. He graciously thanked Catholics of Bergamo, Italy, and Wadowice, Poland, for gifting the two saints to the worldwide Church.

Saint John XXIII was pope for about 5 years of his 84-year-long life. Saint John Paul II was pope for just 27 of his 82-year-long life. Much of the two saints’ contribution, even as popes, was the fruit of their Christian life and service each in his own habitat or mission. When considering their fuller life-witness, one wonders whether they should have been canonized as Saint Angelo Roncalli and Saint Karol Wojtyla. After all, their sainthood owes much to the holiness of life and witness that equipped each of them to grace the papacy as head of the worldwide Church.

For example, the ever-jolly Friar Tuck-style depiction of saint John XXIII often fails to reflect the rustic Roncalli serenity based on deep personal prayer. The “Journal of a Soul,” which puts together diaries and notes Angelo Roncalli wrote from age 14 until his last days, reveals the simple peasant spirituality that laid the foundation for his eventful papacy. “My great book is the crucifix,” he wrote as a simple priest, adding, “the solution of all difficulties is Christ.” He was fond of the private devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus practised by his great-uncle Zaverio Roncalli. “In fact, he was the first person to train me to that practice of religion from which my priestly vocation was to spring,” he wrote later as Pope John.

Even after being named papal representative in Bulgaria, he was ever conscious of the sense of Divine Presence nurtured by his peasant background. He once recalled, “God sees me: our humble grandmothers used to work this motto into their samplers of rustic embroidery; it still hangs on the old walls of our houses and it contains a stern reminder which serves to give a character of decency to all our behaviour.”

Archbishop Roncalli’s diplomatic sojourn in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France exposed him to a wide spectrum of world realities. It served as a providential pastoral preparation for his future task as pope. His political and ecumenical encounters in those countries helped set the agenda for his epochal pontificate. Such moves also set priorities for the charismatic Saint John Paul II’s long pontificate. Those who try to brand the two pontificates using human categories as progressive versus conservative fail to discern the hand of God as evidenced by the bridging roles of the later Pauline and Franciscan pontificates.

Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla was ordained just one month before Pope John XXIII was elected in October 1958. Enthused by the new pope’s call for an Ecumenical Council, the new Polish bishop was one the first to respond to the pre-conciliar questionnaire sent to the world’s 2,594 bishops. After the death of Pope John, Cardinal Wojtyla supported Pope Paul VI further pursue the policy of Ostopolitik to reach out to Communist countries including the offer of diplomatic relations to Warsaw.

The Johnine-Pauline policy of detante paved the way for the role attributed to Pope John Paul II for the collapse of communism. As much as the socio-political struggle in Poland catalysed his later social teaching, it also tended to restrict his world view. Some Church watchers say that his Polish background made him politically progressive while being doctrinally conservative. Although his Christian humanism as a young poet and playwright had been forward looking, his Polish spirituality had difficulty in coping with post-Christian secularism and resisting curial moves to contain ecumenism and inculturation. In 1995, papal biographer Tad Szulc wrote that Pope John Paul II was “the unchanged spiritual child of wartime Krakow.”

When considered in the context of such ecclesial realities, the sainting of two recent popes has a catechetical value. Whatever critics may have to say about fast-tracking the canonizations, the proximity of their lives in recent history, encourages us to learn to honor the holiness of saints despite their human limitations. Even saints have been human, just like the rest of the pilgrim Church. After all, the flawed experiences of the past would help saints better understand us, just as the Church is expected to.
END

Hector Welgampola has served more than 50 years in Catholic media as editor of the two Colombo-based Catholic weeklies in Sri Lanka, the English-language Messenger and Sinhalese-language Gnanartha Pradeepaya (lamp of wisdom).
He then served as executive editor of UCA News from 1987 until his retirement in 2001. He also compiled the recently published Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

 

 

Temptation of Sr. Cristina

Sr Cristina Scuccia Facebook photo of the 25 year-old Ursuline nun from Italy whose world changed radically after she sang in The Voice of Italy March 19.

Sr Cristina Scuccia Facebook photo of the 25 year-old Ursuline nun from Italy whose world changed radically after she sang in The Voice of Italy March 19.

 

By now you must know Sister Cristina Scuccia, a 25-year-old Sicilian who appeared in her habit, veil and chunky shoes on the Italian version of The Voice reality tv show.

She has become an instant star, with her audition racking up more than 3m views on YouTube, The Guardian reported

Some people cheer Sr. Cristina, a few wrote “hate, hate, hate…” and how they were “appalled” by the nun’s behavior.

I confess to being amused to watch Sr. Cristina’s video. Unlike many online commentators, however, I wasn’t stunned. For one thing, it is common for me to watch nuns singing into a microphone. Okay – not onstage in competition singing Alicia Keys in rockstar style, literally, that is. What’s the connection between spirituality and celebrity?

Professor Thomas Sebastian, an academic based in Birmingham, UK reflects on this question in India Matters’ March 28 issue