Thursday 28th January - Bingo

Bingo has always been a casual game played between friends with 5ps used as bets, but tonight I was invited to play with the big kids AKA my mum and her friends. Every third Thursdat of the month it's free to play all day. As tempting as this was I found three hours was more than enough time for me to enjoy a game or twelve.

I was surprised to discover that when one has filled a line/two lines/achieved a full house, the customary 'Bingo!' is not cried out in excitement, but instead is replaced by a loud grunt or a football-type 'yearh' duly accompanied by an air punch.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, a win may have been misinterpreted as the beginnings of a lucky streak – God knows how much longer I would have been made to stay) I did not get the chance to participate in this cultural phenomenon. I can imagine it now: seeing the allotted numbers resolutely dabbed, the pink ink seeping through the paper-towel-like game card, I shake my football rattle, punch the air screaming ‘yeaarrh!’ only to hear the sombre words: ‘false claim.’

Tuesday 27th January - Unpublished Book

I read this book that is yet to be published, so I'm not sure whether I can write much about it. It narrates the cliched tale of missing out on what's important when it's staring you in the face. Searching for something, whether it be love, meaning to one's life or the pot of the gold at the end of a rainbow doesn't necessarily require one to endeavour too far from home (excluding the last example).

As Ferris Beuller said: Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

5,000 Filipino Priests on Retreat

I found this article on my twitter feed and thought it would be fitting seeing as I'm on retreat later this week.


Manila, Philippines—Before a life-size crucifix, the venerated relics of their patron saint, and a Marian image that helped stop tanks during the 1986 People Power revolt, the biggest ever gathering of Catholic priests in the country has gone on a five-day retreat to take stock and recharge amid the growing challenges of their vocation.

With only the very old and ailing unable to attend, more than 5,000 priests from across the nation Monday opened the Second National Congress of the Clergy (NCC II) in Pasay City.

The number surpassed the attendance in the first congress held almost six years ago, and was expected to grow with the registration at the World Trade Center (WTC) complex still ongoing at press time.

“The basic objective of the Congress is to provide priests with a deep and religious experience that will hopefully lead to a spiritual conversion and greater commitment. In other words, NCC II is the retreat of priests, for priests and by priests. The aim of the retreat is to achieve the interior renewal of the clergy,” according to Monday’s program.

In a message read on his behalf at the opening rites, Pope Benedict XVI reminded Filipino priests “to embrace more fervently the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.”

The Pope had declared June 2009 to June 2010 as the Year for Priests in observance of the 150th death anniversary of their patron saint, John Mary Vianney.

“Poverty enabled the CurĂ© of Ars (St. Vianney) to give everything over for the good of his church, the poor and the children he loved so dearly,” said the message delivered by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone.

“Chastity enabled him to ‘touch’ the Eucharist daily and contemplate it blissfully. Obedience enabled him to dedicate himself fully to the demands of his daily ministry and prevented him from fleeing his post when faced with difficulties,” Adams said.

“By following these counsels, the Holy Father is confident that those taking part in the (NCC II) in the Philippines will shine more brightly as an authentic sacramental representation of Christ, Head and Shepherd,” he added.

“Historically, this is the biggest gathering of priests,” said Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, noting that congress participants easily outnumbered those who came to Manila for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995.

“(It) will be the sight of your life,” he said.

Priests need solitude

Rosales said priests, just like members of their flock, also need moments of peace and solitude since they also ”go through difficulties” and need to “renew themselves.”

The NCC II drew priests representing all 86 dioceses and 38 religious congregations across the country.

The first congress (NCC I) was also held at the World Trade Center in July 2004 and gathered about 4,000 priests.

A Mass officiated by the papal nuncio kicked off the five-day NCC II, with all the priests in white vestments taking part.

A stage and an altar were specially built for the congress inside the WTC, with an image of a crucified Christ serving as backdrop.

The stage also featured a historic statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which church groups brought to the barricades during the 1986 People Power Revolution, the peaceful, four-day uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Flown in from France, the holy relics of St. John Mary Vianney—his stole and breviary—were also placed on the stage for the opening rites.

The St. Paul University choir sang hymns during the Mass.

Tight security

As part of security measures at the WTC, participants and staff members were required to wear IDs. Mobile phones, cameras and bags brought into the venue were also given color-coded tags.

Franciscan Capuchin priest Fr. Ranierio Cantalamessa, the only member of the clergy who had preached to the late John Paul II and Benedict XVI, will serve as the main preacher during the retreat.

The retreat will include prayer sessions and conferences presided over by Cantalamessa, group reflections and journal writing.

For the lodgings, the priests will have host families for the duration of the congress.

In his homily, Adams cited St. Paul as a model of the spiritual “conversion” needed to pursue priestly missions.

“Paul makes clear to us that a change of heart is essential not only to become disciples of Jesus, not only to believe in Christ and His Gospel but also to carry out the mission to humanity that God has entrusted to us,” he added.

Church services suspended

With most of the country’s 7,000 priests in attendance, services in many parishes—Masses, weddings and baptisms—are being suspended for a week or until after the NCC II closes on Jan. 29.

Rosales said an agreement had been reached for parishes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to have their priests say Mass first in the early morning before going to the congress later in the day.

In other provinces, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, lay ministers have been designated to attend to urgent cases, like the need to give communion or bless the dead, the cardinal added.

The priests in the NCC II are expected to be back in their respective parishes by Saturday, Jan. 30.

The congress will also be highlighted by a procession on the closing day, when all the priests would walk for 1.2 kilometers from the WTC to the Cuneta Astrodome, also in Pasay City, for a Mass.

Monday 26th January - Autumn Leaves

A quick practice before working my way back up to a suitable standard:

Sunday 25th January - 'Be fruitful and multiply'

Today I babysat for one of my mum's friends. He's only nine weeks old but is the spitting image of my brother when he was three months.

It’s been said many times that caring for a baby is stressful; all they do is cry, feed, sleep and poop. But spending my day attending to all those needs made me aware of another side that is sometimes overlooked. Like when you’re holding the small babe in your arms, his tiny hands grasping at the air; or when a toothless smile curls across that soft tender face. One cannot help but feel the warmth rise from the heart. The thought of such a beautiful gift, the result of the embrace of love, is a wonderful and blessed image.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward ~ Psalm 127:3

When asked whether it had put me off having any of my own, my reply? Not at all.

Saturday 24th January - Sherlock Holmes

I'd heard a lot about how good Sherlock Holmes was, so, after having not set foot in a cinema since the days when the sun actually graced the skies, I thought I'd check it out.

I already liked Robert Downey Jr from films such as Iron Man and The Soloist, and in this film he did not displease. His British accent wasn’t as refined as I had hoped but he made up for it with his depiction of Holmes’ minute precise thought processes.

Afterwards I stopped by Cass Art – which for two years used to be my third home (after my school and my actual home).

Buying art supplies is one of my indulgences just as walking into an Apple store is for a technology fiend. Even on a student loan, money has no limit when it comes to shopping for tubes of Winsor & Newton oil paint. Whilst paying, my friend and I struck up a conversation with a friendly and charming cashier. Not only did he have an endearing nature, but when told what I study he did not:

Ask whether I was set on becoming a nun
Crack the joke that I was fated to designing churches or painting religious icons

I think I’ll be returning to that shop more often.

Wednesday 20th January - End of Exams

Another round of exams have been and gone, the snow has finally thawed and melted and Ski Week is now upon us.

I’d like to say that I’m off to the Swiss Alps for a week on the slopes, with only the worry of what to drink as I sit by a raging fire, but, alas that is all just a dream. The reality: a few weeks in the overcrowded, incapable-of-dealing-with-snow capital, London.

Credit to Livala for photo