Sunday, 25 January 2009

Foundation Day Celebrations Letter to Parents

January 26, 2009

Dear Parents,

A Happy Don Bosco Day!

These coming days lead to the 31st of January, the Solemnity of St. John Bosco.

Beginning tomorrow, there will be a special schedule. For the details, please see the timetable given to you through your sons. Here are some guidelines that we would like you to be clear with:

1. January 27-30 are regular class days and thus, the students are obliged to come to school for the Foundation Day Activities.

2. During the Foundation Day Celebrations, the high school students are asked to bring their Student’s Handbook and ID Cards (both School and Foundation Day IDs).

3. These days, the School Uniform is to be worn by the high school students.

4. The students bring extra clothes to be worn for certain activities (outreach, manual work and games).

5. These days, our Bosconians may bring with them mobile phones and electronic gadgets.

6. The time for reporting to school and for going home will vary depending on the timetable for each day.

On Saturday, January 31, the students are not obliged to go to school for the NUV activity. On Sunday, February 1, those who are in-charge of exhibits are asked to come since these will be open to our Mass-goers. On February 2, Monday, there will be no classes. Regular classes resume on February 3, Tuesday.

We thank you and likewise invite you to come to our school and see our different activities. God bless!

In Don Bosco,

Fr. Joel N. Camaya, SDB

High School Principal

P.S. For more details on the Foundation Day Celebrations, please see the following website:

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Perchance to Dream

To be, or not to be: that is the question….
...To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream….

- Shakespeare, Hamlet, III,i.

My love for literature was born when I was in third year high school. It was ironic for that was the stage in my life when my self-esteem was at the cellar, when my productivity as a person seemed to be stifled by adolescence. Yet this is not the topic I wish to develop at this moment.

I wish to dwell on that love I have for literature. That year, we were reading selections in English literature. Our teacher introduced to us the epic Beowulf

, the Arthurian legends, and later, the works of Shakespeare. A reading of the Sonnets awakened the poet in me. We also sat through an interpretation (more of a rendition for television) of Hamlet.

Days before we watched the production, I read through some of the more famous lines of this Shakespearean tragedy. I had reported on Act 1, Scene 4, one of the ghost scenes. But the famous soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 caught my eye and my heart: “To be or not to be: that is the question.” Watching Hamlet made me yearn for one of my life’s dreams—to play the part of the tragic protagonist, Hamlet.

Today I turn 36 and I am resigned to the fact that I will never essay that role. (I would have to be content with reciting the lines in my private moments!) But my reflection on this day of my birth touches this Shakespearean play. Shakespeare was about my age when he wrote Hamlet. Nay more, the plays (almost all) that were written after he turned 36 were tragedies: the most elevated of all theatrical forms; theatre at its most serious tone, drama at its best. Perhaps they reflected the stage (no pun intended) that Shakespeare had reached that time, a stage that demanded more attention, when we work on the even more noble things in life.

The words from the famous soliloquy may well be the sentiments of the playwright: it is a question

to be or not to be

, a question that goes beyond what the character meant, as I take the license to wrench it away from what Shakespeare intended and make it my own. It is a question of really existing, of truly living. To sleep: perchance to dream—this particular birthday of mine, I would like to go even further. It beckons and asks me to continue dreaming, not only for myself but for the people around me—family, school, congregation.

Today, I thank God for the gift of life, for the gift of so many people dear to me. I thank him for the many gifts that he continually bestows on me. Year after year, crisis after crisis, I have persevered in his grace. 36 is actually the sum of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. What I am right now is the sum of the many graces God has given me since the beginning, my birth. In joy I look back at all these and then look forward: aye, perchance to dream!

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Everyday this week, from last Sunday to this coming Sunday, the masses we celebrate take on an ambience more festive than any other week of the year. We celebrate the Easter Octave, a whole week when at mass we sing the Gloria, reminding us that each day takes the rank of a feast. We likewise append alleluias to the dismissal and its response: “Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Despite the stress-filled yearend decisions, information and activities, the celebration of Easter this year remains pleasantly memorable to me. I hold it as a beautiful privilege to hold aloft the Paschal Candle in the night of the vigil and sing “Christ our Light!” and also to sing the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet. I have done it before—in Tuloy sa Don Bosco (2000), St. John Bosco Parish in Tondo (2001), Don Bosco Batulao (2005) and Don Bosco Canlubang (last year)—but I was still trembling this time.

Easter Sunday came and the beautiful feeling of new life continues these days. One memorable gospel passage this week was the one read on Tuesday (Jn 20:11-18). It is one of the famous resurrection scenes, that of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and our Resurrected Lord. One famous phrase that is often quoted from this passage (that even Rizal used as the title of his novel) is the Latin expression “Noli me tangere” (the original of which, of course, is in koine Greek) which we readily translate to “Touch me not.” However, that translation is misleading, for it seems to be a command that is forbidding.

Other translations yield the beauty of the situation that was there in the encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, as in the following: “Stop holding on to me” or “Stop clinging to me…” It tells us of Mary’s joy in seeing the Lord. So excited was she that she couldn’t help but hold onto Jesus.

It is this same kind of joy that we feel when we encounter Jesus after realizing the love he has for us, after a long time of suffering, or after a long dry spell of being away from him on account of our sinfulness. We cling to him and gently and smilingly would tell us, “Noli me tangere.” For how we see and touch him today is not the end, but merely a foretaste of what is to come, when we, like him, would ascend to the Father. May this season be full of God’s experience for all of us.

Happy Easter, alleluia!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Watch and Pray

The Thursday of all Thursdays has once again come with the beginning of this year’s Paschal Triduum. These following days are the most solemn time of the Liturgical Year with the celebration of the Easter Vigil as the summit of the calendar of the Church.

As a child I have always looked forward to this time of the year, not with joyful anticipation as I do at Christmas time, but with solemn excitement over the novelties of practices: the penitents (salibatbat in our Kapampangan language)—men flagellating themselves, or carrying their crosses, or crawling on the dirt; the pasyon, the Seven Last Words at the Cathedral, the tanggal followed by the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and Veneration of the Cross and the procession of the Santo Entierro around the town.

When I entered the minor seminary of Don Bosco Juniorate, I had a closer look into the liturgy as we took some time learning the songs and practicing the services for the Triduum. When I was in third year high school I was chosen as one of the apostles whose feet were washed in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. After the Mass we took turns to spend at least an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, in commemoration of Jesus’ words “Stay awake, watch, pray.” (cf. Mt 26:41)

This is something that I have seriously taken every year during the Paschal Triduum. The liturgical celebration is so rich and through all of these God speaks to us over and over again, reminding us of the words spoken by his Son at the Last Supper: “No greater love one has than to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)

Our dialogue with God continues. In the solemnity of these days, do not forget: watch and pray.

THE Thursday

This is the day of La lumière, the name of my site. The weekly newsletter of the department I am handling comes out every Thursday. As this is the most important Thursday of the year, it is worthwhile to look at the reason behind the special character of this day of the week.

Every Thursday, in praying the rosary, we meditate upon the mysteries of light, and thus, the name La lumière. These mysteries culminate in the institution of the Eucharist by our Lord: Holy Thursday. This Lord’s Supper the institution of which we celebrate today, begins the Easter Triduum which leads to our celebration of Easter, the commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. Thursday thus becomes the light that leads us into the threshold of the summit of our Christian life: celebrating Life—Jesus rising again to life.

Let the ponderings that we make these days of the Triduum and throughout the Easter Season make us even more thankful of the gift of Thursday: the gift of Christ’s love and service, the gift of his presence—so vivid in the Last Supper!

A blessed Paschal Triduum to each one of you!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

the day after ash wednesday

Ash Wednesday ushered in the Lenten Season which comes quite early this year. All of the priests in our community were occupied with a minimum of two masses. The six o’clock evening Mass in our chapel was jampacked, comparable with the masses held on Sunday. It was a day of fasting and abstinence, and so yesterday’s breakfast was really a case of breaking the fast.

So what do we do the day after Ash Wednesday? Continue the spirit of the season of Lent which has just begun—prayer, sacrifice, works of charity: done in an even greater intensity.

However, the day after Ash Wednesday means something else to me. I do not know about our present pope, Benedict XVI, but in the time of the late Pope John Paul II, he reserved the day after Ash Wednesday as the time to meet the clergy of the diocese of Rome of which he is Bishop.

I was able to join such meeting in 2002, when I was a deacon. I looked forward to that day and prepared to wear my best. Together with others I was admitted into the Vatican through the Bronze Door. We were led by Swiss guards through the marble halls until we reached the hall where the Pope would hold the audience. We seated ourselves and waited. Then the Pope was wheeled in. Several parish priests delivered their addresses as did Cardinal Ruini, the Pope’s Vicar in the diocese of Rome. The Pope then delivered a written speech and then spoke spontaneously, a discourse which we all enjoyed.

Then came the awaited moment. We all fell in line and waited to greet the Pope personally. I had wanted to greet the Pontiff with words like greetings from the Filipino people and the Salesians, but the moment I knelt before him, I was speechless in ecstasy. I looked at his eyes and he looked kindly at me. It was a moment I will always savor. This made the day after Ash Wednesday a day for me to treasure. It was a day when I blurted out: I can die now, for I have met the Pope! Much like the
Nunc dimittis of Simeon (cf. Luke 2:29-32). May this Lenten Season on the other hand draw from us the same phrase for in it we meet Christ even more closely. God bless your 40 days!

Monday, 28 January 2008

A Spoonful of Honey

Last January 24, feast of St. Francis de Sales, I wrote the following piece.

I am a Salesian. Whenever I say this to people who are not so familiar with our charism I am immediately asked other questions as follow up: "Why Salesian? Why not Bosconian priest? Your Congregation was founded by St. John Bosco, was it not?" And I would have to do some further explanations, of course in the long run naming St. Francis de Sales as as our titular patron chosen by Don Bosco himself.

When I was a student in Rome, I had the privilege to take part in a retreat traced the footprints of St. Francis de Sales. We had as base the retreat house Centre Jean XXIII (see the website of this beautiful retreat center at, at Annecy, France (Haute-Savoie province, Rhone-Alpes region). The region of St. Francis de Sales was picturesque. Annecy had a beautiful lake and a panorama of the Alps served as backdrop.

We went to places that were significant in the life and work of St. Francis. I saw the site of the castle of Sales where he was born; the font where he was baptized; La Roche which was the district where he studied; Thonon, where he preached and converted a lot of people; the woods where he climbed a tree on which he stayed all night in order to escape from the wolves. We went to Geneva, Switzerland, which became his See, despite the fact that it was a Protestant stronghold; Lyons, where he died; and of course, Annecy, where we prayed at his tomb.

Leading us in our pilgrimage was an amiable French confrere, Fr. Morand Wirth, who is an expert on the life and works of the saint. He said in jest that before becoming knowledgeable of St. Francis, he was a normal Salesian, that is, one who is not so familiar with this particular patron. He thus hit us with a sad truth: Salesians do not know much about the gentle Bishop of Geneva whose name they bear. At the end of the retreat, he laughed saying that we were less normal Salesians for now we knew more about St. Francis de Sales.

Personally, when I was a novice, I was deeply impressed by this saint. I was struck in particular with a book that he wrote: Introduction to the Devout Life. It spoke of the universal call to holiness. Sanctity is not only for priests or religious; it is for everyone. This brand of spirituality we bring even to the young people of our schools and oratories. Yes, the young can be saints.

Another thing which struck me were words of St. Francis that I have heard even earlier, as a high school student: "On attire plus les mouches avec une cuillerée de miel qu'avec cent barils de vinaigre." (“A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.”) Our saint is known for his gentleness. By nature, he was choleric, but he mastered himself so that he became known for his meekness. In him we found the sweetness of God, the divine goodness that we find comforting.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of this saint, we thank God for the gift of a great example for humanity. May we be more Salesian by knowing this gentle soul of Sales. God bless!