Friday, 26 October 2007

PAP Midyear Conference Invocation (On Richard Rorty)

Today, October 27, 2007, the Philosophical Association of the Philippines (of which I am member of the board of directors) is holding its midyear conference at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati City, with the theme "The Philosophical Thought of Richard Rorty". I was tasked to lead the assembly into prayer at the beginning of the meeting. Here is the text of the invocation.

Heavenly Father,

In the wonderful account of creation, you made the human being in your own image, after your likeness—and at that moment, poetry was born, the beauty of the utterance called language came into sight, together with the manifestation of man’s creativity: music, crafts, science and the creative flow of ideas both oral and written. You have indeed shared with us this beautiful power.

This endowment we see in your gift to humanity—in the person of Richard Rorty, a philosopher who has greatly contributed to the endeavor of searching for truth, of asking the questions that really matter, and of being one who loved leading people—in his words in the classroom, to the nation, to the whole world.

May we who gather here learn from this man who moved others through the ideas that flowed from the mind you have endowed him. May we as philosophers, professors and students be interested in the truth and continually learn and proclaim to others the beauty of this truth.

And as was sung in the song “Est-il de vérité plus douce que l'espérance? Is there a truth sweeter than hope? This search for truth we do in hope and that is why we call upon you today to touch our minds and hearts through this man.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Stage Fright

The whole afternoon of yesterday I was with our aspirants (seminarian from first year to third year). Having been invited last week, I was conducting a workshop which was part of their semestral break seminar on public speaking. The topic that was assigned to me was “Conquering Stage Fright.” I told them right off: I was not very comfortable in accepting the topic assigned to me since I myself have not conquered stage fright. And indeed, it was a statement made sincerely and not just to be modest.

Yes, stage fright is still very much around in my life and I feel that it will never leave me. It is manifest even in the things that I regularly do—saying mass, preaching, giving the talks in our morning assemblies, conducting meetings, giving seminars (exactly like the one that I gave yesterday). The bottom line of all this is what stage fright is all about: fear. Fear will ever be present even in the most familiar acts that we do.

But yes, we can conquer stage fright. One thing I told my young audience yesterday was that fear can actually help us in the things that we do. Fear makes us shun complacency and pushes us to do better. I gave a familiar quote: “What will push one to drive the car better is to have realized that his license has expired.” Besides, although fear makes our bodies tremble, they add sparkle to our eyes and put more color to our cheeks. In other words, it makes us look better. This will make us forget about our stage fright!

Then I gave the young men practical tips in order to handle stage fright: think that you are good, pretend that you are just chatting with close friends, remember happy moments, be prepared, anticipate hard questions, put a picture of your loved ones with your notes, and so on.

Finally I gave them that time tested advice: practice, practice, practice! It is in being familiar to what we do that we feel so much at home with it. In our first attempts at doing something, in this case public speaking, we may stumble and fall and this surely will make us fear in our next attempt. But as what Friedrich Nietzsche said, “What won’t kill you will make you stronger.” Speaking in public, reading in the liturgy, conducting meetings, teaching in front of a class—even though these actions may give us the jitters, we will still come out unscathed and the experience will make us even better persons. As our young people of today would say: stage fright rocks!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Lucan Viewpoint

Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of St. Luke, evangelist. As I was meditating on what this person has contributed to Sacred Scripture, I got my copy of the Bible (New Jerusalem Bible version) that I have been using for the past nine years, the one that I used during my theology years. Many of the pages have passages that are highlighted with fluorescent ink; the margins likewise have given way to very small notes written in either pencil or ball point pen ink. And then I turned to the pages of Luke—both the text and the introductory part.

Luke was the author not only of the third gospel but also of the Acts of the Apostles, immediately following the four gospels. It is interesting to note that the gospels, and many other books of the Bible for that matter, have different sources and receive their final form only after the authors have chosen what to include in their account. This is the explanation for the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke)—they are very similar in outline since they have common sources.

Therefore, it is important to know what makes Luke distinct. From what I have studied, I can enumerate off-hand some of the unique elements in his work: the infancy narrative, the portrait of Jesus as gentle, loving and forgiving, predilection for the poor and severity to the proud, the importance given to prayer, and the numerous passages on Mary.

Knowing this makes us think of how great a treasure this gospel is. These distinct elements are values that we uphold. More than that, what gives life to what the apostles and evangelists (and every follower of Christ) wrote and preached is the experience they had with Christ. This is a truth that resounds to this day—in the tasks that God has entrusted to us.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


It may very well be that one of the most popular classical musical pieces is Canon in D Major by the Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel. I remember being a part of the Seminary band (I played the trumpet) when we played this sometime in 1995.

Purists may not actually be happy about it but this musical gem has already been rendered in its electronic form—a step that goes even further, beyond its rendition in the pop, jazz or rock genres.

So popular it is that its ubiquity seems unmatched: we hear it almost everywhere. More often than not, it accompanies the bridal entourage at wedding marches. Once I was looking for CD’s in a shop and I saw one on Pachelbel’s work. I picked it up and read further. It was Pachelbel’s Canon with ocean sounds—an entire CD solely on this short musical work!

One thing interesting about this subject on Pachelbel and his masterpiece is that this is that even with Canon alone, this particular composer has become famous. He is even jokingly called a one-hit wonder. Yet, even so, Pachelbel has weathered the passing of the centuries and his music remains ever new, freely adapting itself to the ever changing tastes of generations of listeners. It is ever relevant because its simplicity allows everyone—even those who are not musically oriented—to carry the tune. The different parts, though very different from one another, all blend into a single moving effect, a pre-established harmony in Leibnizian parlance.

Likewise, the simplicity of our life, together with how we blend with our family, neighbors, colleagues, or charges will make us relevant throughout the years in this world that is ever in flux. Like Pachelbel’s Canon, we will remain long after we’ve gone.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Rosary

One of my most treasured possessions is the rosary given by Pope John Paul II, in an audience with him exactly four years ago, on October 4, 2003. It was on the occasion of the ad limina visit of Bishop Precioso Cantillas, SDB, Bishop of Maasin (Southern Leyte).

I have intended to refer to that unforgettable event solely for the fact that I received a rosary, but I saw the date of that meeting—and I just realized as I was writing this—that today is the anniversary: God’s grace indeed!

I still remember those kind eyes that looked into mine as Bishop Cantillas introduced me to this great man. It was the second time I was shaking the hand of this great man—the first one was on February of the previous year. Yet it brought the same effect for I found myself tongue-tied in ecstasy. He handed me the rosary that I now jealously treasure. This Pope was deeply Marian: Totus tuus! And the letter M completed his coat of arms that was bathed in blue. And it was he who dared to add another set of mysteries, the luminous mysteries, to the rosary!

Last Monday, in our department, we launched the Marian month, the month of the Holy Rosary. We are set to pray this beautiful prayer the whole of October. We have reminded our Bosconians the beautiful practice of bringing the rosary in the pocket. Let us likewise do the same.

One criticism against praying the rosary is that it is repetitious. The rosary becomes meaningful if we go beyond praying it mechanically; it becomes fruitful if we carefully meditate upon the mysteries in the life of Christ; it becomes a point of contact with the people for whom we pray. The rosary gives us the fervor in looking at life!

(photo taken on Oct. 4, 2003 at the Vatican; note my left hand holding the rosary given by the Pope)