Sunday, May 28, 2017

My favorite chocolate ambassador featured in a superb story that has nothing to do with chocolate

Engaging. Well-researched. Candid. Written in the first person sans the all-about-me tendency. 

That's what I think of GQ Magazine's cover story on Swiss tennis player Roger Federer for its annual Style Bible issue for 2017, written by Rosecrans Baldwin. Reading it truly awakened in me the desire to write again. That, and reinforced my admiration for the often-referred-to-as-The-Greatest-Tennis-Player-of-All-Time and chocolate ambassador of sorts. 

Photo by Craig McDean

Dipping my fingers in dirt

Well, hello! This is the longest I've been away from blogging and actually typing something to be published in a while is giving me some sense of accomplishment already. That's not to say that I've been idle and watching the grass grow all this time -- though the latter sounds like somewhere in the vicinity of my latest preoccupation. More than watching grass grow, I have been finding joy in taking care of succulents. Container gardening is something I have come to appreciate, with cacti and other succulents being my focus.

I thought I'd share two videos from gardening enthusiasts who know their business. One is from Laura of Garden Answer which shows her making a fairy garden, while the other provides some wonderful ideas for mini-cactus gardens courtesy of Christine Kobzeff. I stumbled onto Garden Answer about a year ago in one of my link-hopping sessions on YouTube and simply loved Laura's way of explaining how to go about creating floral arrangements, some of which include succulents. The videos -- particularly the "speedy" versions -- are fun to watch! As for Christine Kobzeff, I think I came across her cactus how-to's when I was trying to learn more about succulent care, and her simple and minimalist dish gardens made me want to try them myself (I haven't yet).

So here they are:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Marry, marry, quite contrary: Must we change the law to welcome bride-bride / groom-groom nuptials?

Just let them marry whomever they wish.

This line -- and other statements expressing a similar sentiment -- makes its way into conversations more often these days, whether such conversations are face-to-face or virtual. You'd think it's a plea or a piece of advice directed at a concerned parent hesitant to let go of offspring who are of proper age to make up their own minds about life decisions. Dad believes grownup daughter isn't ready for wedded life and is jumping into it with the wrong guy (imagined scenario). But no, the statement in this case is being directed -- on one level -- at citizens who recognize marriage as something meant to be entered into by one man and one woman. On a higher level, Just let them marry whomever they want  is being directed at the State, to persuade decision-makers to legally recognize marriage between members of the same sex.

It's simply a civil union, some say, and everyone has the right to be in a partnership that is recognized by society.

It seems quite simple, and adjusting the law to accommodate the request of some individuals insisting on their preference may be regarded as a step toward justice for all. Is it simple? And would it be just to make such adjustments on the law? Most importantly, would it be the right thing to do?

Give them what they want, seems the easiest route to take. But think about what my friend Mark pointed out here, about whether believers that marriage should be between one man and one woman, should seek to stop the legislation of same-sex "marriage". I quote his written remarks:

It has been said that state-sanctioned marriage is civil, not religious in nature. Christians will not be forced to solemnize same-sex "marriages". We will not be forced to attend those. In short, we will not be affected. Hence, we have no reason to oppose same-sex "marriage". Worse, they say, the only reason we oppose [it] is our homophobia, our fear and hatred of same-sex couples.
But is this the case? No.

The motivation for us to take a stand in the political and legal arena is that we recognize the Law as one of the highest expressions of our collective beliefs. Modern liberals believe that the Law is simply the rules of the game. We do not believe so. We believe that the Law embodies what our people believe in. It forms the collective teaching we impart to the generation after us.

If we legislate same-sex "marriage", we in effect as a people say that same-sex relations, in the context of marriage which is inherently a sexual relationship, are OK. But that is precisely what we do not want to say. We do not think such relationships are OK. We do not think people will find complete fulfillment in those relationships. Hence, we are committed by our conscience to fight such a legislation. And we have a right and a duty to do so as citizens of this nation, to participate in the debate as we chart our nation's direction.
This is not yet an argument against same-sex "marriage". Rather, this is an argument against those who seek the passage of a law allowing same-sex "marriage" on the mere basis that we believers in "traditional marriage" will not be affected anyway. The basic answer to those people is that that is not true. We will be affected, as our children and children's children will be affected.

Apparently, it takes a broader perspective to see the entire picture, and a more other-centered mindset to learn to consider the repercussions of one's actions on the rest of society.

Monday, February 08, 2016

To starve for Eternal Sustenance

Every week, on the Lord's day, a Eucharistic minister pays my family a visit to enable my mother to receive Holy Communion despite her temporary inability to go out and attend Holy Mass in church. My mother had been hospitalized in 2015 for a heart ailment, and though declared well enough to be discharged after a couple of weeks, her doctor was emphatic about limiting physical exertion and avoiding all sources of stress. This warranted significant adjustments on her lifestyle, including doing away with trips to the nearby church – on Sundays and any day for that matter. As any Catholic faithful knows, being deprived of the Eucharist all of a sudden is akin to going on a hunger strike when one has been accustomed to taking three squares a day. One simply becomes weaker in the spiritual sense when the soul isn’t nourished by the Lord in the Eucharist. Hence, my mother’s reception of Holy Communion was soon worked out after making arrangements with the parish in our community.

The weekly visits by the Eucharistic minister have been going on for four months now, and while one may fall into momentarily taking them for granted, the implication of those few minutes that Brother Gil – the Eucharistic minister -- spends with us is not lost to me. They may be brief – not more than 10 or 15 minutes each time – but who is timing when one realizes Who really enters the gate, is carried up the few steps toward the front door and waits patiently to be received into a soul ready for such an important Guest?

One Sunday, as Brother Gil walked into the living room and cheerfully greeted my mother, I felt somewhat overwhelmed. “I should’ve done some dusting… straightened the throw pillows, smoothened the upholstery…” I quietly lamented, chiding myself for forgetting the details of preparing for the arrival of a Special Guest.  In that moment, I had been mulling over the fact that instead of my mother and I making the effort to approach Jesus in His house, it was God coming to us and entering our home. Those moments were immensely humbling, and at the same time also very reassuring – reassuring of God’s love for us to the point of being willing to approach us in those times we are unable to go to Him. Who would not want to cultivate and continually nourish a relationship with such a Person, when He obviously knows how to love? And who wouldn’t want to be friends with Someone like that? At this thought I am reminded of a point that I always find encouraging; it’s from the book Jesus as Friend: Meditations by Salvatore Canals:

“You and I know by experience how much good a good friendship can do someone: it helps him behave better, it brings him closer to God, it keeps him away from evil. And if a good friendship links us not just to a good man but to a saint, the good effects of that kind of life are multiplied: contact and conversation with a holy person will leave us with something of his holiness: cum sanctis, sanctus eris! if you mix with saints, you will be a saint yourself.

Well then: think what can happen if you become close friends of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist: think of the deep impression that can make on your soul. You will have Jesus as a Friend, Jesus will be your Friend. He – perfect God and perfect Man – who was born and worked and wept; who has stayed in the Eucharist; who suffered and died for us!”

Last week my mother and I attended Sunday Mass in church again for the first time in many months. Her health has improved significantly; she has ditched the wheelchair for some time now and is comfortable walking slowly – and over short distances – with the aid of her cane. This Sunday instead of the Lord “making the trip” to our home, we will be going to His house, taking part in the Liturgy, worshipping with the community, and approaching the altar to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist. For a long time it was He approaching us, and from time to time we, sadly, took this act of love for granted. Fortunately, such instances are temporary; apparently, hunger for the Lord eventually overpowers everything else. Perhaps one merely needs to experience being deprived of that which truly feeds the soul and quenches our thirst, to keep on seeking it. As the Most Rev. Robert Barron, DD, said during the recent International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City, “We have to remember what is like to starve for the Bread of Life.”

Memories of starvation of this sort are things I would gladly hold on to. For remembering the hunger seems to be what drives us to keep seeking the Lord in the Eucharist with fervor.

With the din of battle only a half mile away, these Korean War soldiers pause to receive communion during mass. (Source: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)

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