Category Archives: Champ Wise

Divine Beauty in Mary!

On the first day of the calendar year we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Among Mother Mary’s many titles, this is the most important, the most compelling, the most awesome. The others, while not really ordinary, are just not as important as this one.

A few days ago while visiting Washington D.C., I had the blessing and opportunity of visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a majestic church that is not only renowned for its beautiful sacred art, but also for its unique architecture and richness in Catholic and American culture. (Prior to the idea of building this Shrine, it was in 1847, that, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary as the patroness of the United States, under her title of the Immaculate Conception.) The edifice is a huge and an awesome work of art and took (from idea conception to almost completion) almost half a century to build, being interrupted by World War II. Today it is the Patronal Church of the United States Catholics and America’s preeminent Marian Shrine, boasting of more than 70 chapels and oratories.

Just across the city, a new exhibit of masterpieces at the U.S. National Museum of Women in the Arts is ongoing. Too bad we didn’t have the time to visit, but the feedback was that the collection of Baroque and Renaissance masterpieces depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary are “stunningly beautiful!” It is “not only captivating and spiritually uplifting”, it is also a serious look at how artists’ conceptions of our Lady evolved over a period of almost five centuries.

Think about it: while different artists at various periods have portrayed Mary in different ways, one thing is certain; they have pictured the Blessed Mother as a “loving young mother aware of the tragic fate awaiting her son.” Msgr. Timothy Verdon, an American priest serving in Italy who curated the exhibit commented that, “artists of the past showed Mary as a woman of faith, deeply thoughtful, deeply sensitive, capable of great courage and willing to risk.” Mary, while loving, was also conscious of the risks of her son’s life, and remained with her Son, even in His darkest hours.

Despite the variety of ways by which art has depicted Mary, the message is still the same: Mary is the mother of Jesus, the mother of God, and she is our mother!

It goes without saying that all generations have always admired the Blessed Mother for her deep humility. Mary is the model of what our faith should be; she is the ultimate example of what we mean by faith, true profound faith. Mary was “God’s first human teacher. And when God, who defines Himself as love — became man, He learned love from a woman.” This is really beyond human understanding and it brings us into the depth of God’s wisdom. Mary’s true beauty is in the way she submitted to God’s will in her life. This obedience resulted into an innate reflection of the awesome beauty of God.

This early 2015, it is certain that most of us have our New Year’s resolutions. There are problems with the usual way we make these so-called “resolutions”, in that after a while we tend to forget it. “Till next New Year, we just sigh. To be real and authentic, these resolutions should be based on love. Like Mary, we should be men and women of faith, deeply sensitive, capable of great courage, and willing to risk. More than New Year’s resolutions, we should answer the call after the end of each Mass we celebrate, to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

Light the World

All of us love Christmas; in fact, year in and year out, we look forward to this event. We take great effort in prepping up our homes as early as November to prepare for the Lord’s coming birth. Immediately after, the Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; a liturgical celebration in the Catholic Church in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his foster father, Saint Joseph, as a family. The primary purpose of this feast is to present the Holy Family as a model for Christian families.

 

Today’s Christian family is a challenged family. Poverty, work employment, decent living and health, are some of the current issues affecting every Christian family. We see the same challenges that the Holy Family had during their time. In the Gospel account, we read that Joseph and Mary brought the Child Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord observing what is written in the Law of the Lord: “Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is prescribed, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”.

 

The Holy Family lived in poverty, despite their being “highly privileged” in the eyes of God. According to the Law, the prescribed offerings are usually lamb or goats, however; two young pigeons were accepted as sin offerings from the “poorer people”, and as purification offerings. Why can God allow the Holy Family to be poor? Many of us find it hard to imagine the Holy Family living in abject poverty. Yet in God’s infinite wisdom, He shows us that the Holy Family is a “human family”.

 

Being poor, they were a “challenged” family, a very much human family. They handled all sorts of difficulties and challenges that life has to offer, to share our human experience that we may share in His divine life. Despite being challenged, the Holy Family was a very pious family. Joseph and Mary were apparently observant Jews, making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families. They showed us that even in poverty, one can handle life’s daily challenges. That despite these issues, it is possible for one to be holy and obedient to God.

 

We celebrate Christmas because we are reminded as the Church proclaims, “Your Son shares our weakness: may we share His glory.” We celebrate the Season lest we forget that God loves us so much, that He sent His only Son to save us from sin. And this feast of the Holy Family we are reminded we can always strive to be holy, in our own humanly way. Let us be like the Holy Family to the world!

 

To be like the Holy Family, we must find time to read the Word. We must pray regularly to God. Doing so will make us better families, holy families. Only then can we become light of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to the world!

 

Have a blessed Season!

Reflecting on Our Own Conversion and Transformation

The Christmas season is one of the most, if not the most anticipated of the Philippines’ annual events. It is not only the longest; it is also the most colorful. We cherish it with child-like glee and we enjoy its colors and themes. Hopefully, the meaning isn’t lost in the attractions and celebrations. While we like its once-a-year celebration, how about a year-long celebration of its meaning and essence?

While we are focusing our reflections on the coming of the Lord this Christmas, wouldn’t it also be better if we look at the Gospel as a continuing work, as an “endless” coming of the Lord, not just during the Christmas season, but even on an ordinary day in any season and time?

The real measure of the Gospel’s impact on our lives is its transformative nature, its contribution to the on-going process of our conversion. Creating time to reflect on the daily Scripture readings will give us the chance to listen to God’s messages and learn from His examples. It will make us know Him better, and thus build and deepen intimacy. While we are excited to welcome the Divine Child during the Christmas season, we should also welcome the Living Word every single day of the year for Christmas to be really meaningful and relevant.

This Sunday’s Gospel talks about Mary’s acceptance to God’s call. It wasn’t easy for the young virgin to accept this invitation. She was greatly troubled; she must be so anxious. Yet, despite the confusion, she placed her trust in God and said “Yes”. Mary walked this pilgrimage in a deep, obedient and intimate relationship with God. He was with her long before she even responded to His invitation. God chose Mary from among the many women in history, but most importantly, even before Mary chose God. This order is very important if we want to grasp the deeper meaning of living the spiritual life. Sometimes we think that it is us who brought God into our lives. We are misled into thinking that we do the initiating and somehow control the relationship. Yet, Jesus clarified this order of invitation when He told His apostles, “You did not choose me, I chose you”(Jn. 15:16).

Mary — just like the many saints and martyrs throughout the ages — has understood that it is the Lord who reaches out to us in His love. This should be enough assurance that our God is so overflowing with love, who calls us to obedience and a life of faith. He has provided us with all the insights that can help us decide clearly. The Scriptures are there for us to meditate on the infinite bounds of God’s love and mercy. It’s up to us to respond with a clear “Yes”, just like what Mary said to the Angel. This shouldn’t be so hard for us to do, with the gift of rational thinking He has provided us.

Clearly then, it is the Lord who offers His grace. We are the recipients of that grace, and it fills us according to the capacity that He has built within us. That grace moves us to respond to the Lord, to say YES, in word and deed.

This Christmas and in any other ordinary season, may our life’s song be like Mary’s,

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior

Omnibus Gratias Agite

During moments of reflection, the question of why certain things happen often comes to mind. When we hear bad things happen to good people, we often wonder, “Why is it like that?” This question comes with the corollary, “Why, is it that bad people seem to be having their way?” People become frustrated when these questions aren’t answered satisfactorily. They become hopeless and resigned to fate. Out of frustration, they sometimes even say the extreme, “That it would be better to be bad rather than to be good”.

 

Joy. Life in the Lord shouldn’t be like that. While some seemingly bad things occur, there are reasons why those events happened. Maybe there are some issues that need to be settled, some lessons that need to be learned. Despite the difficulties, the champion tries to make sense of what’s happening, knowing that the Master Conductor is in control. The music remains a symphony waiting to be heard and appreciated. Will till you hear the finale!

 

In this Sunday’s reading, the Apostle Paul tells us to,

 

Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5: 16-18).

 

The champ remains joyful, because he believes that life is meant to be a happy experience. Being joyful doesn’t mean the absence of pain. He knows that to stay the course, he chooses to remain faithful. He knows that despite the incompleteness, “life blooms over and over again”.

 

Prayer. One of the most important lessons that my beloved Mommy Charing has given us is the importance of prayer. She has always stressed the importance of attending Mass, especially on Sundays and other Holy Days. She and my late Dad made it a point to hear daily Masses, even travelling to other places to attend special feast days of the Church. We were strictly not allowed to be absent from family Sunday Mass, since the time we started going to Church with them. It was a rule which we cannot change, and which we also try to bring into our respective families. Our home visits-cum-vacation would always end the day with the recitation of the Holy Rosary and these always conjures memories of constant communication with our God. Prayer ensures that our connectedness to God is maintained and nurtured, despite the threats of the enemy’s efforts to cut off this vital source of power.

 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord…” (Is. 61: 1-2).

 

Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart to the Laetare Sunday (during Lent) and provides a similar break about midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming.

 

The spirit of the Liturgy all throughout Advent is one of expectation and preparation for the feast of Christmas as well as for the second coming of Christ, and the penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus suspended, as were, for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the promised Redemption. Symbolically, rose-colored vestments may be worn instead of violet, which is otherwise prescribed for every day in the season of Advent. Despite the otherwise somber readings of the season of Advent, which has as a secondary theme theneed for penitence, the readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.

 

Gratitude. In this eager anticipation we have talked in the previous reflections, we are again reminded to be always grateful. To be thankful in all circumstances, even in sorrow and even in pain. The champion knows that this is part of creative development, of eternal preparation. He expects no less than cleansing and forming, trusting the Lord knows best for him.

 

As I write these thoughts, the Church prepares for the first of the nine-day Novena Masses heralding the final preparation of the Christ Child’s coming. It always sends shivers up the spine as it also floods childhood memories of Christmas carols and loved ones, of home-made lanterns and the baby crib, of gifts and cool mornings, of chocolate and suman excellently prepared by my beloved Lola Andang. Yes, we continue to make memories and in so doing, we ensure we bring in the right messages to the young and the learning, that in all things be thankful to the Lord.

 

Gaudete! Rejoice in the Lord always!

Waiting in Eager Anticipation

While “waiting” for super typhoon Ruby, some of our kababayans said over social networks that they feel a sort of “eerie silence”, “something weird”. Indeed I can imagine that. Living in a country in which storms and natural disasters are frequent occurrences, the anxieties associated with these types of uncertainties are bound to be limitless, if not, sometimes bounding on insanity. When the waiting is for something awfully bad, the waiting is not one of eager anticipation, but one of anxiety and worry.

Waiting for the Lord’s coming is something different though. This weekend we’re on the Second Sunday of Advent, when the second candle — called the candle of Bethlehem — is lit. The theme is one of hope, preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus while commemorating His forthcoming birth. Hope, according to the Holy Book, has two meanings: the first, “tiqvah”, is eager anticipation or waiting; the second, “elpis”, is confident expectation based on certainty. Biblical hope is anchored on God’s faithfulness to His promises. God is never short on His promises, in fact He always overdelivers.

During this season, Holy Mother Church exhorts us to prepare ourselves worthily for the Coming of Jesus. We have to cleanse ourselves spiritually, in order to make our hearts fit and ready to receive our Savior. We can achieve this by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receiving Our Lord through Holy Communion, being in a state of grace, and doing charitable acts to the least of our brothers and sisters. This is providential, as by this time, the effects of the typhoon will have been felt already. Yahweh God speaks timely through the Prophet Isaiah “Comfort, give comfort to my people!” (Is. 40: 1). The order is being given for us to give and share what we have to the poor and the needy.

For us, Advent is a reminder of the real reason for Christ’s coming: Emmanuel, God is with us! Meaning He came to be with us, to hear our sorrows, to console, to guide and strengthen us in our trials and challenges. Jesus said in the Gospel, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give” (Mt. 10: 8). Thus, as Christ’s disciples, we are tasked to share, give and offer what we can to others. Aside from sharing, St. John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This event was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah,

A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Is. 40: 3).

Advent calls us to reflect on the Lord’s birth. Let us consider the gift of God’s love more priceless than products: giving of one’s self, the practice of being present to our God, to our families and to whom the Lord will allow us to meet. God loves us like there’s no one else left in this world to love. Such great love! Surely the best way to prepare for Jesus birth is to share ourselves with others, that we may be able to reflect Jesus love for them through us! As authentic and true Christians, let us then not take Christ out of Christmas!

Each of us is a part of a human community empowered to take care for and heal the earth. That is not a career job that you choose; it is a fact. Period. (Fr. A)

Engaging and Watching with Intensity

My siblings and I studied away from our hometown and so every time Christmas comes, my Dad and Mom would always tell us then that they’re already preparing our home and our rooms for our coming. They’d ensure that every nook and corner of the house is cleaned, the grass in the lawn is trimmed, and all sorts of food prepared. It’s always exciting to come home during the holidays, and being with our own families now, homecoming is still always being looked forward to.

 

Waiting could be a mix of emotions; it can be interesting but it could be also be a restless experience watching,

 

  • for the coming of the newborn baby
  • for the arrival of family members coming to visit us
  • for the release of examination results
  • for the departure and arrival of the plane
  • for the recovery of sickness
  • for the coming home of a lover

 

Henry van Dyke captured it saying, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

 

Like our families who wait when we go home, thus we should be in constant state of preparation for the coming of the Lord. This wait should be characterized by an intense desire for the coming of the Savior, even though we’re aware of our brokenness. It shouldn’t be a lazy wait, or something that makes us decay and eventually die. This waiting should be active and creative, even transformative. Being active means continuing engagement with the Spirit, for us to be continuously discerning His will. We should be involved in our Church activities, because as Champions, we should be waiting with an expectant faith. A faith that translates our love and obedience to the Father by sharing our time, talent and treasure. Something that transforms us into radiating His soon-to-be-revealed Glory. One SMS I received today aptly captured this thought,

 

“…when God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living. Raise your standard of giving.

 

Reminding us of the coming of Jesus, this Sunday the Church celebrated the First Sunday of Advent. While we await His coming, our Lord has advised us:

 

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise” (Lk. 21:34).

 

Within these, God has given us this wonderful world that feeds us throughout the year, the Bible to instruct us, the Sacraments to nourish and heal us, the Holy Spirit to guide us, Mama Mary to love and pray for us, and a constant river of Grace to refresh us (Rv. 22: 1-2). Yes, the Lord equips us to fight the enemy. In His generosity and compassion for the sinner, the Lord has given the community enough resources, both material and psychological, that it may fulfill its destiny, which resources we put at the disposal of the leader. (The Code of Champions)

 

May we always respond with love and gratitude in all our ways as we wait for Christ our King to return and take us to our Heavenly Home to live with Him, the angels and the saints, forever and until eternity.

Champions commit to do their best. There is no other way.

Heaven’s Reward

One of the movies I’d like to see is “Heaven is For Real”, the astounding story of the little boy who went to Heaven and came back, which stars Greg Kinnear among others. Not because I need it to convince myself of Heaven’s authenticity, but because like a race car driver, I’d like “to gas up”. Or, just like in basketball, I need to re-energize in order to continue what we call as the “full court press”, moving onwards towards our goal, which is Heaven. In previous reflections, we’ve mentioned that life is an adventure.

 

As in any story, it is important that as the main characters, we are equipped and always prepared to handle the challenges and obstacles that confronts us day after day. However, getting this defensive strategy must be something that is planned, deliberate and not just a consequence of luck or chance. We’ve got to be hopeful,

 

For in hope, we were saved. But hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Rom. 8: 24-27).

 

The weak of heart can fail, but the one with deep-rooted faith can persevere. One of the most touching insights that His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said during a recollection I attended, was when he mentioned that we should be compassionate towards the weak, because when we do commit sin, just like them, we did so because we have become “stupid” and “foolish”. Despite trying hard not to, we still fail occasionally even when God is so generous, kind, loving and caring. Yes, we are sinners, always weak by nature of original sin. Yet, if we submit ourselves humbly to Christ, in our weakness, we will be made strong.

 

The Gospels during the past week talk about the end times, and remind us of our real purpose. We’re reminded that we’re on temporary sojourn, and that we should fix our eyes on Jesus, the real prize ahead.

 

This past Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. This grand feast encapsulates everything that we have been taught: obedience and love for Jesus as the King of our lives! Jesus is one unique King, in that He truly serves His people: His ultimate service was to die on the Cross for our sins. Our challenge, while engaging in continuously trying to live good and holy lives, is how to continue His work, taking care of the lost, the last and the least:

 

feeding the hungry,

giving drink to the thirsty,

welcoming the stranger,

clothing the naked,

caring for the sick,

visiting the prisoners (Mt. 25: 35-39).

 

This doesn’t end here as His spiritual work requires us to admonish sinners, instruct those ignorant of the Faith, counsel the doubtful, comfort those who are sad, bear wrongs patiently, forgive injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.

 

What awe would it be if at the end of this earthly pilgrimage, our Lord and Savior would tell us,

 

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world!” (Mt. 25: 34)

Thankful and Grateful

“Where are the other nine?” (Lk 17: 11 – 19)

Jesus asked this question when after cleansing ten lepers, only one came back to give thanks. It’s sad indeed that only one was grateful. The rest didn’t feel the need to say ‘thank you’. Maybe they’re eager to tell their friends that they’re already well? Or do they have short memories? Does the Miracle Healer not deserving a short ‘thank you’? Why is being thankful important?

We should always be grateful for anything as it is for our own good. We should realize that God’s love is unending and forever flowing. When we are grateful, we pass on the blessings and the mercies that God has given and will give to us. Thus, if we don’t, we disconnect ourselves from being in communion with God’s family.

A person with a grateful attitude will always be a happy person. Whenever tragedy strikes, people usually panic and turn to put blame on others without taking responsibility. The grateful person though will always use his deep and abiding faith as a source of strength and power. He knows that these trials will only make him sharper and stronger.

This Sunday’s Gospel, the Parable of the Talents, teaches us a lot of insights, one of which is the graciousness of God. This parable tells us about God actually taking the risks on each one of us. God takes the risks, with the hope that we will respond and use the gifts and talents He gave us to help our fellowmen and make this world a better place to live in. Imagine entrusting to us our talents, without a hint of guarantee that we would eventually use these for His greater honor and glory? A gamble, a big risk, because He loves us so dearly!

Despite experiencing pain, a grateful person always looks at life with bright-colored glasses. He knows that pain is a part of life, and his experiences will make him better like gold in fire. On the whole, while he believes that life is good, life doesn’t happen according to plan as he knows The Superior Being is the one in control. He also knows that life isn’t fair, yet he also takes each blow as a gift into making him become better and better. He is at peace, he is joyful. Eventually, he understands that everything has a beginning and an end.

Grateful people are happy people. Because they know they are loved.

Dedication

On special occasions wherein we have parties at home, we invite great friends to celebrate with us to share our joy and happiness. We choose the food, clean and decorate the house, buy flowers and ensure we have drinks to share with them. However, when we get regrets and no’s to our invitation, we feel low and down. We are particularly sensitive because we expect them to share these happy moments with us.

Similarly, we can imagine how God must be feeling when people turn down His invitation to a life obedient to His will. It’s something to be grasped considering He is our Creator!

On the other hand, how delighted would He be if we overcome excuses for not coming? How often do we respond to God’s invitation to celebrate the triumph of His Son at the Holy Mass? A close friend-priest said, “If the Lord is happy to see us on compulsory Sunday, imagine how ecstatic would He be if we do it for love on a Monday or any ordinary day?” And even more if we overcome excuses for ignoring His invitation!

There are three elements in this week’s reflections of Fr. Armand’s homilies: Invitation, Gift, Dedication.

One of the interesting parables that Jesus told is the Parable of the Great Feast, where a man invited many guests. However, a lot of the invitees began to make excuses not to be able to attend. The owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant to bring the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Even with all the invited, there is still space for others in the banquet hall. The master told the servants to go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, “… so that my home may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.” (Lk. 14: 15 – 24)

Notice how sad this revelation is. If you refused His invitation, you will not be able to “taste His dinner”. The master’s invitation became an invitation to anyone, without payment in return. This invitation, like salvation, became an offering, a gift from the Lord. We should realize the value of God’s invitation. It is a rare, precious gift, one thatis given without anything in return. Just pure love from Him who created us.

Let’s accept this gift, as it brings us to eternal life. Acceptance of this gift makes us His children, heirs to Heaven. It’ll involve reciprocating His love by dedication and commitment to following Him and sharing it with others who need to feel His love.

People go through life driven with purpose. The champion weaves a tapestry of meaning every single day. Champions weave their dreams, but the dream is about others, and for others.

Equipped To Fight

I was at the airport last weekend and saw the huge mass of people moving out from Manila into their respective home provinces. Looking at their faces one can say, that despite the tough situation everyone’s going through — EDSA traffic, crowds, flight delays — including the personal problems that each one is possibly battling on at that moment — we can still see people happy and grateful. This happen despite the troubles and anxieties that people are undergoing. We still find the time to visit the graveyards and still persist in doing these rituals because this is a norm, a practice that we have been doing ever since. Even if sometimes we go beyond our comfort zones and far from the confines of home. Given this, it shows that the spirit of the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls are felt deeply and strongly. The connection with our departed loved ones remains strong.

It must take perseverance to do this thing of travelling to visit our departed loved ones year in and year out. I say this after enduring three hours of flight delay on my flight to Dumaguete, and then having my return flight to Manila cancelled for no clear reason. To ensure I get back to Manila on the same day of the cancellation, I agreed to be booked in another flight in another island, took the ro-ro vessel in a van provided by the airline, endured travel for five hours (after getting caught in traffic for two hours added to the normal three hours travel) to catch an alternative flight via Mactan, Cebu. Yet, for all the difficulties, others will say that this is a just a simple time delay, unlike other incidents that others have to endure. Still this speaks of perseverance and patience, especially when you do routines every year, in spite of the unpredictable situations that you have to go through each time.

In comforting our families and loved ones we remember the fact that this is the perfect time to talk about the end of our lives. These are times that we discuss about the end. We talk about our departed loved ones in reverence and honor. The day before, Fr. Armand talked about being steadfast, that attribute which speaks about unwavering commitment, firmness, courage in adversity, or truth in charity.

Steadfastness is the ability to stay the course. This is also called fortitude, the courage in pain, or adversity. In our spiritual journey, trials and difficulties are part of the package. However, to strengthen us, it is also proper that we pray for the Holy Spirit to endow us with the Gift of Fortitude. Among the great examples of God’s chosen children endowed with this gift is St. Agnes of Rome.

According to the Catholic Online: “St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sin even more than death! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse.”

Procop, the Governor’s son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!” In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wealth if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. “I would offend my Spouse,” she said, “if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!” Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.”

She is one of seven women, who along with the Blessed Virgin, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

To be able to stay the course, we must make a conscious decision to follow Him. Our ability to withstand pains and challenges tells of our level of spiritual maturity and commitment to Him.

In this year’s commemoration of the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, we are reminded of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. It exists in Purgatory, and is called the Church suffering. The Church triumphant is the Church in Heaven, where the Saints are in the majestic presence of God. The Church on this earth is called the Church militant, because its members (we, the living) struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.The unity and cooperation of the members of the Church on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven is also called the Communion of Saints. To be successful in this pilgrimage, or to succinctly say, to avoid hell, we must therefore equip ourselves with the weapons to fight the forces of evil. We need the courage to staythe course.We need the Gift of Fortitude to succeed in persevering our faith journey. We need not worry about this, as God is gracious and merciful. For as long, as we pray, and for as long as we deserve it, He’ll equip us with the armor we need to be successful. After all, the good fight, is always worth the fight.