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This blog site is about a young Filipino Roman Catholic priest's journey in life; the stuff he needs and uses for liturgical, para-liturgical and personal endeavors; the challenges he faces; the adventures he has undergone; his opinions on certain issues; anecdotes; and some other cool stuff that might be unconventional for a priest yet beneficial for his life and ministry.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

God's Mercy is Forever

In modern parlance, the word “forever” has been continuously used in reference to people who are in love (“Mayroong forever” or “I believe in forever”). Likewise, such word is oftentimes abused when people fall out of love (“Walang forever!” or “I don’t believe in forever!”). Sometimes, young people ask, “Naniniwala ka pa ba sa forever?” (Do you still believe in forever?). “Forever” transcends romantic love. It refers rst and foremost to God who is unending Love. Since God has rst loved us though we are sinners (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us (Deus Caritas est, 1). Hence, God initiated “forever” for our sake so to speak and we respond to it. 

Our response in our earthly sojourn is to experience “forever” by sharing the love and mercy that we receive from God to others for “whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Let us make our own the psalmist's exclamation: “The Lord's mercy endures forever! (Ps 118:2). Pope Francis in his homily last 3 April 2016, Divine Mercy Sunday, says, “Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever, we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we nd impossible to grasp. Let us ask for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world: let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere.” 

At the end of our life, God sustains us with His Mercy for “those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly puri ed live forever with Christ.They are like God forever (CCC 1023), for they “see Him as He is,” face to face (1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4). Yes, we believe in “forever” because we believe in God who is Love and Mercy.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The YOUTH is the focus of the October 2018 Synod

The theme chosen by His Holiness Pope Francis for the XV General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops taking place in October 2018 will be “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Describing the theme "as an expression of the Church’s pastoral concern for the young," the statement said the chosen topic follows on from the findings of the recent Synods on the family and the conclusions contained in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It said by discussing this theme, "the Synod wishes to accompany young people along their existential journey towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life plan and achieve it joyfully, opening themselves up to an encounter with God and humanity and actively taking part in the building of the Church and society."

Providentially, the year 2019 is declared by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines as the Year of the Youth. It is often said that the youth are the future of the Church. The youth are, in fact, the present of the Church. They are its most numerous members. They inspire us by their active participation in society and in the Church. The involvement of hundreds of thousands of young people in the various activities of evangelization and social transformation is a call to greater participation in the Church. “New methods, new expressions and new fervor” of evangelization are imperative. We shall invite the youth to discern deeply their vocation in the world and in the Church, especially the Lord’s invitation to them to the priestly and religious life. How we, as Church, respond to the aspirations of the youth will shape the third millennium.

Source: Vatican Radio

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Vatican Instruction on Cremation

1. What is your sentiment on the Vatican's new document on Christian burial and cremation? 

We welcome and follow the new document on Christian burial and cremation because the remains of a deceased person must be treated properly and with utmost respect based on our faith.  

2. How will the Church deal with those who have already scattered their relatives' ashes?

When the urn of the person's ashes is placed in a columbarium or tomb, the final resting place is marked with the person's name, the same name with which the person was baptized and by which the person is called by God. An anonymous burial or scattering of ashes is not compatible with the Christian faith. The name, the person, the concrete identity of the person is important because God created each person and calls each person to Himself. His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Müller of the CDF suggests that cremated remains that were already scattered must have a memorial which includes the name of the deceased. He also said that labeling an urn or tomb in a public place is an expression of belief in the communion of saints, the unending unity in Christ of all the baptized, living and dead.

3. Will the Church issue an official decree or law on the said issue?

Here is the the link of the new Instruction Ad Resurgendum cum Christo (To rise with Christ)  issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF):

4. How will the Church in the Philippines promulgate or inform the faithful of the guidelines?

Since 2001 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has already issued a guideline (SEE which was affirmed by the new formal pronouncement of the CDF. It is based on the 1963 Vatican Instruction. Therefore, the ‘new’ instruction is a reiteration, an underscoring of the previous document, and has been promulgated since the 1960s.

5. What are the "approved sacred places" where families can store the ashes of their loved ones?
The cremated remains should be buried in a grave, mausoleum, or columbarium. Furthermore, the new document states that “burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works.”

According to the new guidelines, burial is still preferred, but cremation is an option. When a loved one has been cremated, their ashes must be kept intact, the same as one would treat a body. The ashes may not be separated or scattered. Instead, they should remain in a proper vessel that is interred in a proper place, such as a cemetery or church. Only the bishop can authorize an exception to this storage requirement in extraordinary circumstances. 

6. The Church has previously banned cremation. What prompted the Church to allow this practice?

The Vatican didn’t allow cremation until 1963, when the Church deemed it permissible as long as it didn’t suggest a denial of faith about resurrection.

The old 1917 Code of Canon Law expressly prohibited the practice of cremating cadavers due to the belief from the early days of Christianity that “cremation of cadavers was considered anti-Christian, while inhumation (or burial in the earth) was deemed as the normal Christian practice.”
The reason for this Christian tradition in favor of burial stems from the latter’s strong religious symbolism, made more evident by its concordance with Sacred Scripture and its long practice in the Christian community. The paschal meaning of Christian death—faith in the resurrection of the body: that one day all the saints will rise from the dead for eternal glory, as Jesus Christ has risen from the dead—is better expressed with the burial of the cadaver.

7. What prompted the Vatican to release the said guidelines?
The instruction Ad Resurgendum cum Christo reiterates the Church’s long-held preference that the dead be buried rather than cremated although it has “no doctrinal objection” to the latter. Cremation is only forbidden if it is undertaken for reasons contrary to the Church’s teaching.

The CDF said that there are new age ideas which have taken hold in modern times. People have come to see scattering of their ashes as allowing a "fusion" of them with nature, or that death is a form of liberation from the body. These ideas are new age ideas and are not Catholic. Ashes cannot be scattered because it gives the appearance of "pantheism, naturalism, or nihilism." 

8. How relevant is the Vatican guidelines in the Philippine context? Have you received reports on families scattering the ashes of their loved ones?

We have not received any reports yet of families scattering the cremated remains of their loved ones. The Vatican Instruction is very importatnt amid the increasing tendency of Filipinos to choose cremation over the traditional Christian practice of burying dead bodies. The Catholic Church earnestly recommends burial but also allows cremation without any reserve. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (Can. 1176, §3).

Monday, June 6, 2016

Understanding Silence…

by Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, DD

Are we still at ease with silence? Has the noise of violence and terror drowned the voice of quiet conscience? Do we always interpret silence as fear of the cowards; the destiny imposed on the unwilling mute; the refuge of the guilty?

It is not always so.

There is nobility in silence like the silence of the lambs brought to slaughter in the temple to atone for sins. There is the silence of the desert mystics that pierced the hidden secrets of the heart of God. There is the silence of the woman who treasured all those things in her heart. Silence, indeed, is the language of God and only those who speak silence will be able to grasp Him.

Mine is the silence of Jesus before the arrogance of Pilate. Mine is the silence of the tears from mourning trying to fathom the mystery of death. Mine is the silence of prayer contemplating the divine mysteries. Mine is the silence of the bud blooming quietly without calling attention to itself. Mine is the silence of a hopeful mother waiting to give birth to her infant. Mine is the language of peace that refuses the dark magic of revenge. Mine is the silence of the vigilant waiting for destiny to unfold. Mine is the silence of respect for those who consider us their enemies but whose good we truly pray for and whose happiness we want to see unfold.

There is virtue in silence. There is virtue in speech. Wisdom is knowing when it is time for silence and when is the timing for speech.

You can understand my speech if you speak the language of silence. You can understand my silence if you know how to love like Him who was born one silent night.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GET UP, LET US GO! (Matthew 26:46)

(Matthew 26:46)
CBCP Post Election Statement

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Mt. 28:18)

This is the Lord Jesus’ ultimate claim to universal kingship and dominion. These are the words of the Ascended One, gloriously sitting at the right hand of the Father.

We wrote to you before the elections. We write to you once more now that the elections are done.

Several critical, even spiteful, voices have asked us to desist from “interfering” in politics. We cannot. We do not aspire after office and we have sought none. We do not even impose upon the Catholic faithful a set of anointed candidates. But it would be a denial of Christ’s universal lordship were we to desist from reminding his disciples of what fidelity to him — in all things, including political life — demands.

The votes have been cast and are now being counted.

To those who have been voted to office, we assure them of our prayers, principally for wisdom, that they may discern God’s will for his people and courageously do as he bids. God’s hand is to be recognized in the events of history. Credit then your victory, neither to fame nor popularity, but to God who calls you to service and to care for the weakest and the most distressed in our midst. Children need care that cannot be postponed. And many women still find themselves in situations of exploitation. Indigenous peoples remain marginalized and the vaunted growth in the economy still has to mean something significant for Filipinos living outside urban areas.

To those who did not succeed, you, as persons, as sons and daughters of God, are infinitely so much more than the positions after which you aspired. Rather than becoming despondent and discouraged, you should challenge yourselves by asking how it is that the Risen Lord sends you “to make disciples of all nations”. Surely there are so many other ways to contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God. It is for you to discover your paths, in faith and in docility to God’s spirit.

The greatest promise the Church can offer any government is vigilant collaboration, and that offer, we make now. We will urge our people to work with the government for the good of all, and we shall continue to be vigilant so that ever so often we may speak out to teach and to prophesy, to admonish and to correct — for this is our vocation.

Get up now let us go…

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, May 9, 2016

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Primer on Indulgences

Primary Sources: The Handbook of Indulgences, 3rd Ed.; Manual of Indulgences (Handbook of Indulgences, 4th Ed.)

Just as the Church has the power, given by Christ, to forgive sins ["Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:23)], she also has the power to remit the penalties to due sin. This is where indulgences come in. The following are some basic questions and answers regarding indulgences.

Q. What are Indulgences?
A. An indulgence remits temporal punishment due to sin which is already forgiven.

"An indulgence is the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful gains under certain and defined conditions by the assistance of the Church which as minister of redemption dispenses and applies authoritatively the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints" (1983 Code of Canon Law, 992).

"An indulgence is the remission in the eyes of God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose culpable element has already been taken away. The Christian faithful who are rightly disposed and observe the definite, prescribed conditions gain this remission through the effective assistance of the Church, which, as the minister of redemption, authoritatively distributes and applies the treasury of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints" (Enchiridion of Indulgences).

Q. Do indulgences forgive sin?
A. No. Indulgences do not forgive sin, but remit punishment due to already forgiven sin. 

Q. Why does one need indulgences?
A. We need indulgences because we commit numerous sins each day [as Scripture says, "For the just man falls seven times" (Prov 24:16)]. Even when we confess our sins, the slight penances given in Confession are not sufficient to remit the temporal punishment due to sin and leave a "debt of justice" to God. If this debt is not paid here, it must be paid after our death (e.g. in purgatory). Indulgences, drawn from the inexhaustible "Treasury" of the Church (which contains the merits of Christ, his blessed Mother, and the saints), are a relatively easy way of discharging the debt owed to God.

Q. How does one obtain an indulgence? What are the requirements?
A. One may obtain an indulgence by having the proper intention, being properly disposed, and properly performing the prescribed works (on specified days, if so required). If one seeks a plenary indulgence, one must also receive sacramental confession, worthily receive Holy Communion, pray for the pope's intentions (e.g. reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary for his intentions), and be free from all attachment to sin (even venial). If a visit to a church or oratory is prescribed, this may require a devout visit, including recitation of the Lord's Prayer and Creed (unless the indulgence requires otherwise).

As stated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 996 §1. To be capable of gaining indulgences, a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the end of the prescribed works. §2. To gain indulgences, however, a capable subject must have at least the general intention of acquiring them and must fulfill the enjoined works in the established time and the proper method, according to the tenor of the grant." And: "Can. 997 As regards the granting and use of indulgences, the other prescripts contained in the special laws of the Church must also be observed." 

Q. What is the difference between a plenary and a partial indulgence?
A. A plenary indulgence is a complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. A partial indulgence frees a person from some of the temporal punishment due to sin. As stated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 993 An indulgence is partial or plenary insofar as it partially or totally frees from the temporal punishment due to sins."

Q. Where may I find a list of indulgences?
A. Kindly take time to read this.

Q. Are old indulgences still applicable?
A. Only currently approved indulgences are still applicable. Note that sweeping changes were made to the regulations for indulgences after the Second Vatican Council.

Q. What other changes were made since the Second Vatican Council?

A. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, various changes were made to the regulations for indulgences such as: a reduction in the number of plenary indulgences, the suppression of many traditional indulgences, the elimination of the distinction between real/personal indulgences, elimination of the measurement of days/years for partial indulgences, and the reduction of the comprehensive list of traditional & beautiful indulgenced prayers (e.g. in the Raccolta) to a small number of prayers, and an increased emphasis on good works.

Q. What does it mean when an indulgence is measured in days or years?
A. Traditionally, partial indulgences were measured in days or years. This time referred to an equivalent amount of days or years of penance that would be remitted. For example, a 300 days indulgence would cancel out the same amount of punishment that would have been remitted had one done 300 days of prescribed penance (e.g. the canonical penance in the early Church). [Note that this refers to days of penance - not days in purgatory.] This longstanding practice of measuring indulgences in days and years was - some argue, very sadly - eliminated in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

Q. Can a person in mortal sin obtain indulgences?
A. No. One must be in the state of grace to receive indulgences. As St. Thomas Aquinas states: "A dead member receives no inflow from the other members that are living. But one who is in mortal sin, is like a dead member. Therefore he receives no inflow, through indulgences, from the merits of living members." 

Q. Do indulgences eliminate the need for Confession?
A. Indulgences do not eliminate the need for or substitute for Confession, but rather presuppose that one has already received sacramental absolution in Confession (for those who were in a state of mortal sin).

Q. Do indulgences eliminate the need for restitution?
A. No. Indulgences do not eliminate the requirement of restitution, but should be obtained in addition to making restitution. For example, if someone were to steal an item from another, he should go to Confession (and receive sacramental absolution), restore the item (or otherwise make full restitution), and obtain indulgences.

Q. Can indulgences be applied to others, either living or dead?
A. One may be able to apply indulgences to the dead (if allowed), but one cannot apply indulgences to other living persons. As stated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 994 Any member of the faithful can gain partial or plenary indulgences for oneself or apply them to the dead by way of suffrage." It should be noted that it is an act of charity to gain indulgences for those in purgatory and may even be considered our Christian duty to assist the poor souls (especially one's deceased friends and relatives who may be languishing in the pains of purgatory, unable to help themselves.) 

Q. What does a "toties quoties" indulgence refer to?
A. A "toties quoties" indulgence is one that may be gained as often as one desires (and does the required works).

Q. Can one obtain an indulgence in advance of sinning?
A. No. Indulgences remit punishment only for already forgiven sin. Indulgences do not pardon future sin!

Q. Can indulgences be bought?
A. Usually, indulgences consist in a certain work. In the past, indulgences have allowed the giving of certain sums for various causes (e.g. to build churches). Although such practices may have led to abuse, the concept of giving money for an indulgence is not contrary to reason - just as a criminal might have to pay a fine rather than perform community service. It is important to remember that the sins were already forgiven and any money paid was not to forgive sins.

Q. Who in the Church is authorized to grant indulgences?
A. Generally, the pope grants indulgences. Bishops (or others, if permitted by the pope) may be allowed to authorize certain, limited indulgences. As stated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 995 §1. In addition to the supreme authority of the Church, only those to whom this power is acknowledged in the law or granted by the Roman Pontiff can bestow indulgences. §2. No authority below the Roman Pontiff can entrust the power of granting indulgences to others unless the Apostolic See has given this expressly to the person." Note that, In the Vatican, the Apostolic Penitentiary handles matters regarding indulgences.

Q. What can one do to help ensure that he/she gets all indulgences that may be available on any given day?
A. To obtain as many indulgences as possible each day, it is a good habit to include with one's morning prayers a request for all that day's indulgences. Remember that one must have at least a general intention of gaining the indulgences in order to receive them. It is also advisable to pray for the pope's intentions at that time. Of course, it will also be necessary to perform the necessary works and satisfy the other conditions to obtain the indulgences (see above).

Q. What are some other facts / requirements concerning indulgences?
A. The following are some additional facts / requirements concerning indulgences:

  • The language of prayers for indulgences is not limited to English or Latin, but the translation must be suitable and in accordance with the official guidelines for indulgences.
  • One may be limited to the gaining of a single plenary indulgence per day (except at death).
  • One may obtain multiple partial indulgences per day.
  • Acts a person is already obliged to perform may not be indulgenced.
  • Indulgences may be adjusted for those with impediments.
  • The Church may change, suspend, cancel, or transfer indulgences, limit them to certain areas or periods of time, change the requirements, etc.
  • Indulgences may be limited to the living only or may be limited to those in purgatory.
  • The term "usual conditions" may refer to: "doing the good works prescribed...receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist and...praying for the intentions of the pope" (Catholic Dictionary).
  • Generally, Confession may be made and Holy Communion may be received within a certain number of day(s) before or after the day in which the works are to completed.
  • For prayers, it may be necessary to "articulate them with the lips" (but not necessary aloud).
  • Traditionally, the intentions of the pope "are ordinarily; the common good of the Church, the spread of the faith, conversion of sinners, heretics and schismatics, and peace; it is not necessary to advert to these in detail" (Catholic Dictionary).