Weapon against deceit

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 19


On one of his broadcasted sermons, a famous tele-evangelist in the Philippines warned his congregation of the wiliness of the enemy. He said that the devil would even use God’s words – the Bible – for the purpose of misleading the faithful.

How does he, the devil, do this?

The preacher said, by making insignificant and un-noticeable twists especially on the interpretation of the scriptures. He continued, “But you don’t need to worry because now, God himself has personally appointed me to show you the right path.”

Case closed.

The devil indeed is very foxy. And despite the obviousness of the erroneous use of the scripture, thousands still continue to flock. Why?

Out of our need and our vulnerability, we tend to be easily convinced by people with great charisma, people who have authority when they talk, people who seems to know what to say and what we need to hear.

And if we are not familiar with God’s Word, if we do not make it a habit to read and contemplate on his Word, we make ourselves vulnerable to such trickeries of the devil.

Reading the Bible is not a taboo in the church, rather, the faithful are encouraged to read and study it, to discuss it with other believers and to make every Word of God alive in their hearts, minds, and actions.

One such practice is the Lectio Divina, or the prayerful reading of the Holy Scripture.

During the World Synod of Bishops in 2008, Auxiliary Bishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales of Valparaiso, Chile, pointed out in his explanatory exposition on the Lectio Divina that in reading the Holy Scripture, “we must understand the Word to discover what God teaches us through the inspired author.”

He added, “We must practice the Word to call upon life, learn its meaning, better our mission and reinforce hope.” 

How do you use God’s word?

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a heart that delights in your Word. One that is full of excitement to know of your love for me. So excited that I could not stop it from overflowing to every people I meet. Amen.

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Time for God

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

– Rule of St. Albert, No. 19


Do you always think of God? How often do you remember him?

Most of the time, we only remember God when we are down and troubled, often, we even remember him last, instead calling first on every possible saint that would come to mind. We overlook the fact that these holy people reached their state of holiness because of their profound love for God and for Christ as evidenced by the way they lived their lives.

A very obscure Discalced Carmelite (OCD) brother in the 17th century, unable to contain the fragrance he emitted, caught the attention of many prominent people of his time, and even centuries after.

Bro. Lawrence of the Resurrection lived a simple life as cook for his community, yet even the vicar general of the Archbishop recognized his holiness, prompting the latter to record, as much as he can, the secrets of Bro. Lawrence. But then he has just one secret – constant remembrance of God.

He said, “It is only necessary to realize that God is intimately present within us, to turn at every moment to him and ask for his help, recognize his will in all things doubtful, and to do well all that which we clearly see he requires of us, offering what we do to him before we do it, and giving thanks for having done it afterwards.”

This constant interaction with God has blurred the line between prayer and work for everything he does becomes a form of prayer.

How much time do we give to God?

Ecclesiastes 11:9 – 12:8
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Remove vexation from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a heart constantly longing for your presence. Never allow me to forget you, Lord, not even in times when I am loaded with things to do. Amen.

Authentic faith

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

– Rule of St. Albert, No. 19


A friend once expressed his frustration to me. Being a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, the authenticity of his faith was questioned by some of his formators.

“How could they say that my faith is not aunthentic? What’s the basis of their conclusion?” he asked.

This made me think. Can other people determine the authenticity of one’s faith?

When Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Stop doubting and believe… blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:27,29 NIV).

In our need for assurance of God’s presence, we chase after the externals. We flock to apparitions and spend considerable amounts of resources to visit such famous apparition sites or buy relics and other sacred objects, even to the point of using them as charms and amulets. We say very long prayers and do a lot of penance, thinking that these would save us. Are these manifestations of our deep faith in God or our lack of faith in Him?

St. John of the Cross once rebuked his brothers for chasing after and desiring mystical experiences like apparitions, visions, and such, saying that one’s need for such simply shows one’s lack of faith in Christ, for how could one say that his faith is mature when he needs evidence of God’s presence. (Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Ch XVIII).

Another great though obscure Carmelite, Bro. Lawrence of the Resurrection, OCD, in one of his conversations with Abbe Joseph de Beaufort, said, “It was a pitiable condition that we had so little faith. Instead of taking it for our rule of living, people gratified themselves with petty acts of devotion which varied from day to day.” (Practice of the Presence of God, Conversation One).

We have different ways of expressing our faith, whether we do it by reciting long prayers or by helping the least of our brothers, it’s really up to us and no one can say whether our practice is an expression of the authenticity of our faith or not, except ourselves.

The important thing is that our choice of living out our faith should bring us closer to Him.

How do we live our faith?

John 20:24-31
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a faithful heart that never doubts your presence in my life. Let me live my faith in you by being a good brother to all I meet. Amen.

Piousness = holiness?

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

– Rule of St. Albert, No. 19


What makes a man holy?

Does wearing an expensive perfume smelling of old pious ladies make one holy? How about large, beautiful, and elaborate pectoral crosses? Or a replica of what the Pope wears? Or how about keeping silent as if it’s Holy Friday everyday, or acting so prim and proper as if constantly serving on the altar during mass?

There is nothing wrong with being prim and proper, but if one starts to believe that he’s better than the rest because of his behavior, or that he’s a good Christian because of it, well, he’s wrong.

Such thinking is called arrogance and many times Jesus criticized the Pharisees and those serving in the temple for acting in such a hypocritical way.

Yes, they were faithful to the Laws of Moses on the outside, but inside, their attitude was arrogance. They were concerned with the externals that they forgot that what is more important is what’s inside.

A mango may look beautiful in the outside, it may smell sweet, but until you slice it you will never be sure if it’s rotten.

Pope Francis once urged the religious and priests to avoid clericalism; for them not to be too concerned with what should be while setting themselves apart from the people, the true church of God, rather he wants them to get their hands dirty and to go to the margins where Christ is needed the most.

Have you checked your heart lately?

Matthew 23:1-8
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a heart that’s holy and pure, one that is able to discern whether my intentions, motivations, and desires are still aligned with yours. Purify my heart, O Lord, that I may be able to share it even to the most unlovable person I meet.

Faithfulness and chastity

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this – your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.

– Rule of Albert, No. 19


In his article for Religious Life Asia (Celibacy for the Kingdom: Celibates for an Effective Universal Love, 2014), Fr. José Arumí Rovira, CMF defined virginity, chastity, celibacy, and continence, pointing out the difference of each.

“Chaste is he/she who lives his/her sexuality in the right way according to the gospel and to his/her state of life and vocation,” he said, adding that we must all “strive to be ‘perfectly chaste.'”

To be chaste doesn’t mean that we should automatically be continent or celibate, it depends on one’s way of life. If one chose marriage then to be chaste means to be faithful in his/her marriage life and not to engage in extramarital affairs or live as if he/she is single.

And if one chooses to wholly devote himself to God’s service, the he should be faithful to his call and not go around gallivanting when no one is looking, for as Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, “But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” (1 Corinthian 7:9).

How do you keep yourself pure before God?

1 Corinthians 7:1-7
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman.” But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a pure heart worthy to be offered at your altar. Help me in times of temptation and with your grace allow this humble servant to overcome them and so proving my burning love for you alone. Amen.