Thursday, October 29, 2009

Visiting a Fellow Redemptorist with Cancer

I am here in Cebu visiting Fr. Abdon who has been diagnosed with stage 4 "undifferentiated" cancer of the lungs. I arrived yesterday and brought him an mp3 player with some meditative music and guided meditation which he can listen to. I also brought him a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel entitled "Love, Medicine and Miracles."
Fr. Abdon is a professor of moral theology in our theologate in Davao. We belong to the same Redemptorist community. Over two months ago, he complained of difficulty in breathing and he went to Cebu for a check-up. He wasn't able to return to Davao anymore since he was confined in the Perpetual Succour Hospital after the doctors discovered the lung cancer. He has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He desperately wants to live but it seems that the cancer has spread rapidly. The chance of surviving is minimal if not nil. Of course, this has been a very devastating experience for him. At first, he could not accept that he has this sickness. He has not been able to sleep well. He became temperamental, often cursing the doctors and nurses especially when he is in pain.
This morning at 10 am, I celebrated mass with him in his hospital room. After the mass, I spent an hour conversing with him, listening to him share his feelings and thoughts. He was in tears most of the time. I told him that he was facing two real possibilities: a) he could get well and live another 10 years or more, or b) he could die soon. I asked him how he felt about the possibility of death. He told me that he is ready to die and face God. He has finally felt at peace within and no longer afraid of dying. Later, the nursing attendant told me that last night Fr. Abdon did not curse anymore but was feeling at peace and calling God's name even if he was in great pain.
The standard approach to cancer treatment is inadequate. It is still based on dichotomy of body and mind, matter and spirit. Doctors focus on the body, using chemicals and modern technology. The regard it as a war against the cancerous cells, using chemical warfare. They neglect the psycho-spiritual dimension of healing. Death is regarded as defeat. No wonder, this approach is ineffective and costly. Cancer is not purely and biological/medical problem. It is also a psycho-somatic phenomenon.

What is needed is a holistic approach - not just the medical, but also the psycho-spiritual. Inner healing is important. It is not a war against the cancer cells but achieving peace and harmony within oneself. This could lead to the reactivation of the body's immune system (if it is not too late). Even if the patient dies, he goes in peace, ready to meet the God.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AsIPA - A General Assembly of Asian BEC practitioners

Since last week, October 20 until today, some 225 delegates from 18 countries in Asia met here in Davao for the AsIPA general assembly. AsIPA stands for Asian Integral Pastoral Approach in building Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) or Small Christian Communities (SCCs) as promoted by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC).
This gathering shows that BECs are spreading all over Asia - not just in the Philippines. There were delegates from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Hongkong, Myanmar, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, etc.
Archbishop Adams, the papal nuncio to the Philippines, presided at the opening mass at the San Pedro Cathedral on the first day. The first day was devoted to the delegates' sharing on the experiences of BECs in their respective countries. On the third day, Bishop Chito Tagle was the main speaker on the theme on the BECs as Eucharistic Communities. Two bishops from Africa who started the Lumko Institute spoke about the methods of Gospel sharing. On Friday evening, I gave talk on the history of the BECs in the Philippines. This served as a background before the delegates went on a weekend exposure in the BECs in the archdiocese of Davao and in the diocese of Tagum. On Monday, there was a sharing and processing of their experiences. I was part of the committee that drafted the statement which was discussed on Monday afternoon and finally approved on Tuesday afternoon. The closing mass was celebrated at 5 pm Tuesday afternoon and followed by dinner at the Mergrande Seaside resort. Today, the delegates went on sight-seeing.
This is the statement of the Assembly:
Held at Regional Major Seminary, Davao, Philippines
From October 20th - 28th 2009.

“Do this in Memory of me (Lk.22:19):
Bread Broken and Word Shared in SCCs/BECs”

1. Preamble

1.1 The 5th AsIPA General Assembly gathered 225 participants from 17 countries at the Regional Major Seminary, Davao city, Philippines from October 20th to 28th 2009. As we are gathered here we remember that this is the land where some 40 years ago the seeds of BECs were first sown. We also respectfully remember the BEC leaders who were martyred during the Martial Law for their prophetic commitment.

1.2 Linking with the previous assembly in Trivandrum which discussed the sacraments in BECs and continuing the reflections of the 9th FABC Plenary Assembly on, “Living the Eucharist in Asia” and the Synod on the Word of God in Rome, this assembly took the theme of “Do this in Memory of me (Lk.22:19): Bread Broken and Word Shared in SCCs/BECs”. We shared how the Word and the Eucharist were lived in the BECs and we were challenged as to how BECs can become catalysts of integral evangelization.

2. Asian Realities
2.1 One of the tangible results of BECs is the interest in the Word of God and many members own a Bible and make efforts to know the Bible better.
2.2 One of most visible fruits of BECs sharing and living the Word is the growing sense of belongingness in the community.
2.3 Being guided by the Word of God, BECs in participating countries are growing in their commitment to reach out to those in need in the neighbourhood and are enabled to read the signs of the times and respond in the light of the Gospel.
2.4 These BECs have become centres for formation and evangelization which has led to greater participation in the life and mission of the Church.
2.5 Although the participation in the Eucharistic celebrations have increased because of the active involvement of BECs; in many areas the communities are not able to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist regularly due to the lack of ordained ministers.
2.6 In some countries especially in the cities, due to the heavy schedule of work and travel, many BECs have a low attendance for Gospel Sharing or the Eucharist.
2.7 For AsIPA practitioners the different Gospel Sharing methods were as central as the Eucharist in leading them to a Christ experience. The participants also acknowledged the various methods and approaches used in different Asian countries to break the Word of God in the BECs.
2.8 The experience of the various Gospel Sharing methods and the Eucharistic celebrations during this Assembly made us aware of the social and political realities in the region and how the BECs are a sign of hope.

3. Theological Insights
After listening to each others' the sharing of our experiences and from the talks these are the insights that we gained:

3.1 “Do this in memory of me”
Both the Word and the Bread as sources of eternal life are integral parts of the memory of Jesus that BECs celebrate in the Eucharist and keep alive in their communities. (cf.FABC 9, 2009,Final statement)

3.2 “Word Shared”
The BECs gathers for the regular sharing of the Word of God, for “human beings do not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God”(Mt.4:4). The faith of the community is born out of and strengthened by listening to and sharing the Word of God which nourishes their faith and deepens the bond of communion, building up the community. (Eph 4:15-16)

3.3 “Bread broken”
“The Eucharistic community is constitutive of the invisible communion with God in Jesus and the Spirit and the visible communion of all people” (Ecclesia de Eucaristia. 35). The one bread and one cup of wine made from many grains of wheat and grapes crushed, is symbolic of the many members of the body of Christ unified in the Eucharist and of the gathering of all the people in the Kingdom. The breaking of the bread celebrates, deepens and fosters communion manifested in the spirit of unity, participation and sharing in the BECs. The Eucharist makes present the total self-giving and sacrificial love of Jesus (Jn.10:17) so that we may have life in abundance (Jn.10:10).

3.4 “Mission”
At the recently concluded 9th plenary assembly, the Asian bishops stated “we are convinced that meaningful, contemplative, experiential and prayerful celebration of the Eucharist has the potential to render the Christian communities of Asia powerful witnesses of Jesus, witnesses who are bearers of his presence, his love, and his healing power”.(cf. Final Statement). The Breaking of the Word and the Bread challenges the BECs to share all the diverse charisms and gifts given by the Spirit and use them to build up the body of Christ (Eph.4:11-12) and carry out their mission.

4. Challenges
4.1 The presence of the large number of passive and un-churched members in our parishes is a huge challenge to the BECs.
4.2 Impelled by the Word of God, the BECs are called to get involved in the social transformation
4.3 The Church is challenged to face the reality of finding ways and means of making the Eucharist an integral part of the life of the community.
4.4 The coordination of the efforts for forming, strengthening and sustaining BECs in the countries is a demanding task.
4.5 The spirit of the new way of being Church challenges BEC and other Church leaders to exercise a non dominating and facilitative style of leadership.
4.6 The BECs are called to integrate faith and daily life in the Eucharistic celebration so that our lives become sources of healing, unity and reconciliation.
4.7 The BECs nourished by the Eucharist should become ‘Open Doors’ for faith seekers.


5.1 The Assembly gained a deeper understanding of the significant role BECs can play both in celebrating Eucharist meaningfully and living it out in their daily lives.

5.2 We are deeply grateful to Archbishop Fernando Capalla and his local team of organizers for their generous hospitality and hard work to make the Assembly a success.

5.3 Finally we raise our hearts in gratitude and pray to the Almighty Father through Jesus his Son and the Spirit that we may be continually led to grow as communities sharing the Word and breaking the bread. May we be given the grace to die as a grain of wheat to give new life in and through BECs. ‘THY KINGDOM COME HERE IN OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Silsilah Intensive Seminar on Christian-Muslim Dialogue

I got these photographs from Nor yesterday through e-mail.
Immediately after the National Clergy Discernment last week, I rushed back to Davao to give a talk on "Muslim-Christian Dialogue: Christian Perspectives." This intensive seminar was organized by Silsilah and was participated by Christians and Muslims, mostly young people.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Running for Over Six Hours: The Agony & Ecstasy of the Long-Distance Runner

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)

At 10 am, a few hours after celebrating the morning mass in the parish church, I started my long-distance run. I wore a long-sleeve quick-dry cycling jersey instead of my running singlet to protect me from the sun. I carried my hydration pack - with a bladder filled with 2 liters of water, 2 bananas, 5 extra-joss packets, 1 small bottle of peanut butter. After 15 minutes of walking I started running slowly, taking 1 minute walking break every 3-4 minutes. After running for an hour along the busy city streets, I began to ascend the Sto. Nino shrine hill. After 2 hours I was running up the mountain of Langub and Magtuod where there was no more traffic. At around noon-time the temperature must have reached 35C - running became agonizing. I stopped for few minutes to eat banana and peanut butter and drink extra-joss. I reached the juncture of Magtuod after running for 3 hours and rested for 15 minutes. At 2 pm, the sky became cloudy as I started my descent. I could see the winding Davao river below, the Davao gulf and the far-away houses and buildings. Instead of following the shorter route back, I followed the route that brought me to Waan, running along the bank of the river and then to Tigatto and headed back to the city. I noticed that after 4 hours of running I felt very fresh and strong. I didn't hit the dreaded "runner's wall" that marathoners experience after running 3 hrs. I was experiencing the second wind and the "runner's high." I noticed that I was running faster and more relaxed. There were tears in my eyes as I savored the pleasant, beautiful feeling - being aware of the trail, the trees, the mountain and the act of running. I reached the monastery at around 5 pm after running for over six hours. I didn't feel exhausted, I didn't feel any pain or ache in any part of my body. I felt I could still run another 2 hours. I don't know how far I ran but it was probably longer than the marathon distance. This was going to be my last long-distance run before the Philippine International Marathon three weeks from now. It gave me the confidence that I can finish the marathon, although I am not sure if I can do it in less than 5 hours. I don't care about the time, I will just run to finish it and enjoy the whole experience.

What helped me run this long was the easy pace and the walking breaks every 3-4 minutes (the Galloway method). I also used the chi-running method, focusing on my running form (slight lean forward, landing on the mid-foot, awareness of my core, body scanning).

This has been the longest run (in terms of time) that I have ever done in my life. My last long run one week ago was 3 hours 50 minutes. My longest training run 22 years ago was 50 km in 5 hours. My most enjoyable run was 26 years ago which I recorded in my diary:

Wednesday. November 16, 1983
Early this morning I went out for a long-distance run with Fr. Manny. This was one of our occasional "running-meeting" -- mixing meeting and exercise -- a good preparation for the difficult times ahead when we will always be on the run. After 13 kilometers, Manny headed back to Hinatuan while I continued running to Tagongon before turning back. It was a beautiful run across the rough and mountainous terrain and passing through a cliff overlooking the winding Hinatuan river. I could smell the sweet aroma of the pines from the nearby forest. The soft breeze behind me was so refreshing. I felt one with nature and with creation. I became aware of God's presence. I felt I could run forever. The words of Isaiah crossed my mind: "But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall soar with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary." I was able to run 40 kilometers in 3 hours and 40 minutes. I think I'm ready for the Third Manila International Marathon.
For me the religious and missionary life is like a marathon. What is important in not the speed but the endurance and perseverance. To sprint or to run hard all the time can easily burn out the runner and he may not reach the finish line. The runner needs to know himself -- his capacity, potentials and limitations. The pace in which one runs the marathon must be based on these factors. The more relaxed the runner, the faster he can run and the longer he will endure. In the marathon, the runner does not run against others. He runs with others. In the process, he discovers his full potential and ultimate limits. In the end, what is most important is to run the full distance and reach the finish line (despite the discouragement, the cramps, and the exhaustion). St. Paul, who must have been a runner in his youth, wrote:

"But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances; endure suffering, do the work of the preacher of the Good News, and perform your whole duty as a servant of God. As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:5-7)

I hope this text will be etched on my tomb as my epitaph when I am gone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National Discernment of Priests on their Prophetic Role

I am here in Manila participating in the National Discernment of Priests on their Prophetic Role which started yesterday. Some 250 priests representing the dioceses and religious congregations from different parts of the country and 14 bishops are attending this gathering. I am one of the convenors of this gathering and one of the resource persons in one of the workshops. The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - Archbishop Angel Lagdameo - presided in yesterday's opening mass. The papal nuncio - Archbsishop Adams - presided this morning mass and gave a really prophetic homily.
This is the text of the talk I gave this morning in one of the workhop groups:

Discerning Today’s Priority Issues or Social Concerns in the Light of our Prophetic Role
Rev. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, STD

As we, the clergy, try to exercise our prophetic role, we are confronted with so many issues and concerns. But we cannot attend or respond to all these issues due to our own limitations (in terms of time, resources & capability).There is therefore a need to discern the priority issues or social concerns that need to be acted on.T he question: what are these priority issues and social concerns and how do we go about discerning these?
At the outset, I would like to make it clear that what we consider as priority concerns may depend on where we are – not just the national, but also the regional and local context.Of course, we may also discover that we consider as primarily local or regional issues are actually national and even global in nature. After all, everything and everyone is interconnected.
What I would like to do is to share with you my own experience of discerning priority issues and concerns as I tried to exercise my prophetic ministry over the years.
Then I would like to share some insights on how discernment may be done.

Experiences of Discerning Priority Issues & Concerns

Personal Experience 1: Anti-logging Campaign, San Fernando Bukidnon

In 1987, I was part of the Redemptorist Mission Team that was sent to San Fernando, Bukidnon to assist the Scarboro Fathers in strengthening the BECs in the parish.
Upon arrival we immediately noticed that the people were complaining about the long droughts and the flash floods caused by the denudation of the forest. During the bible-reflection sessions and liturgies, we reflected together with the people the roots of the problem which was the ecological imbalance brought about by logging.We preached about this and made people aware of their responsibility to protect the environment. We also conducted ecology seminar.
Thus, we organized and mobilized the BECs, together with the POs to stop the destruction of the forest. We emphasized the use of peaceful, extralegal means – like conducting human barricades along the roads and highways.We were able to get the support of the whole diocese led by Bishop Gaudencio Rosales and also civil society groups and the local government. The CBCP also came up with a pastoral letter on the environment and expressed support for the people of San Fernando.After 2 years, a total log ban was declared by the national government for the whole province of Bukidnon. Some BECs became involved in the reforestation project. The local clergy were deputized by the DENR to arrest illegal loggers within their parishes.

Personal Experience 2: Campaign against Extra-judicial Killings

In the late 1990s, a few years after I was assigned in Davao as professor of theology, I was confronted by the phenomenon of extra-judicial killings carried out by the DDS (Davao Death Squads).
Most of the victims of these killings were suspected petty criminals – drug addicts, drug pushers, thieves, gang members.Everyone believed that these killings were sponsored by the Mayor, with the involvement of some police officers in line with the campaign against criminality.In his public pronouncements, the mayor would often declare that the victims deserved to be killed because they were criminals. This was necessary to make the city safe from drug addicts, pushers, thieves and gangs.
Surprisingly, many people accepted these justifications and supported these killings.
I decided respond to this issue by writing an article entitled: “Summary Killings: a Moral Perspective.” This was published in the local papers.I also joined the Coalition Against Summary Execution and later became one of its spokesperson.
I was able to convince our religious community to make a stand against the killings. Through our preaching , symposium and prayer rallies we encouraged the local Church, the parishes and lay people to exercise their prophetic role.
The archbishop wrote a pastoral letter and an Oratio Imperata was read in all the churches. I also worked with other diocesan priests who were concerned about this problem.
We collaborated with the CHR in the investigation and encouraged former members of DDS to surface and give testimony.
So far, the killings have subsided as the CHR continues its investigation.

Personal Experience 3: Biking for Life and Peace

Since 2000, I have been concerned about a number of social issues. Foremost among these are: the ongoing armed conflict (NPA & MILF vs GRP), the destruction of the environment, summary killings, abortion, corruption.
After reading John Paul II’s ‘Evangelium Vitae’ I became more aware that all these are connected and are manifestations of the culture of death. There was a need to proclaim the Gospel of Life and Peace. I asked myself what I could do.
So I decided to bike across the Philippines, around Mindanao and around the Philippines. I preached the Gospel of Life & Peace in many churches all over the Philippines.
I started by biking alone but along the way some local bikers joined me – even some priests & bishops.
I also organized the annual bike for peace during the Mindanao Week of Peace , with over 500 bikers participating.
Lately, I and several others, including 3 priests, biked for the environment and joined the protest against coal –fired power plant in Maasim, Saranggani which was spearheaded by the diocese of Marbel with the participation of BECs, POs and NGOs and people from other denominations and religions.

The Process of Discerning Priority Issues & Concerns

In discerning priority issues & concerns, I have often used the process popularized by Cardinal Cardijn – the founder of the JOC or YCW. There are three stages: see, judge, act. It is a similar to Lonergan’s method: experience, understanding, judgment, decision.
Let us briefly discuss these three stages.


This means becoming aware of the reality around us (environmental, social, political, economic, cultural, etc.) - the lights and the shadows.
We have to look at the local, national, global realities.
This includes awareness of the problems that beset the people to whom we minister to – in the BECs, the parish, the diocese.
(reading the newspapers is not enough,
we have to be close to the people and be immersed in their situation,
we need to listen to them - to their cry and lamentation).
The priority issues are those that directly affect their lives – a matter of life and death. These could be:
The destruction of the environment (logging, mining, coal-fired power plant, aerial spray)
injustices and exploitation
economic policies & systems that are anti-poor and favor the elite and foreign investors
violation of human rights
The ongoing armed conflict
Extrajudicial killings
Patronage politics, corruption
Draconian & anti-life population control policies
Most of these issues are interconnected
We need to gather data and to make an analysis.


This means making moral judgments on the priority issues and concerns in the light of our faith
A critical perspective is necessary. We cannot assume that everything is alright.
We have to see the evil and sin in the situation, structures and systems.
We need to see the victims and the victimizers
The Sacred Scriptures and the Social Teachings of the Church should be used as basis for making moral judgment.


We need to discern and choose the appropriate and creative means and course of action.
Prophetic action often involves denouncing & announcing:
Denouncing – the evil in the situation/system
Announcing the Good News (sacredness of life, liberation, peace, justice, integrity of creation, etc).
Preaching in the pulpit is what we can easily do. It is the ordinary locus for prophetic activity.
But that may not be enough. We have to use other means to reach out to the people –
- Seminars and symposia
- protest marches and prayer rallies in the streets and plazas, in front of government buildings.
- Symbolic action that can draw attention to our advocacies, fasting, die-in, biking, running, caravans, etc.
We need to maximize the use of mass media and other means of communication – TV, print, radio, internet
We need to use peaceful, nonviolent means and reject any form of terror and violence.
In exercising our prophetic ministry, we must be open to work with other groups – POs, NGOs, movements – on specific issues & concerns.
But we have to be independent from them and resist any attempt of control or cooptation.
To be prophetic is not just being critical of acts perpetrated by those in government and military
It also means being critical of means used and acts perpetrated by social movements and political parties that violate the rights of people and that lead to more harm than good.

Forming prophetic communities that participate in the discernment process

The prophetic mission is not the monopoly of the clergy. The Christian community – at the diocesan, parish and BEC level – is called to a prophetic community and must therefore be involved in the process of discernment and praxis. Echoing Vatican II, PCP II reminds us that the Church is prophetic people and the priest presides over a prophetic community.
Thus, it is not enough that a priest becomes prophetic, he must animate the community – at the parish and the BEC level – to be truly prophetic.There may be times when a priest has to exercise the prophetic ministry alone, especially when most of the clergy and lay people, are not yet convinced of the need to exercise their prophetic role.
However, he must eventually influence or convince others to make a prophetic stance.
Finally, we must remember the consequence of being prophetic – to be rejected, to be persecuted. We must be ready to suffer and give up our life. This means martyrdom if necessary.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Registering for the Philippine International Marathon

Yesterday, I went to the Mall of Asia and filled up the registration form for the Philippine International Marathon (Run for Pasig River). For a while, I was debating within myself whether I should register for the full marathon or just run the 10 km race. This was after I read about the 5 hour cut-off time for the marathon. My training had been hampered by a calf strain and I was able to resume doing long slow distance run last week (3 hrs 20 min). I know that I can run the full distance next month but I am not sure if I can do it in less than 5 hours. Besides, I haven't reached my target weight which could allow me to run a 4 hour marathon. After much thinking, I decided to register for a full marathon and told myself that I will just run to finish it even if I don't make the cut-off time. I will just carry a hydration pack in case the water stations are gone. I won't mind if the finish line is closed and the race officials have gone home by the time I reach Quirino grandstand - what is important is finishing the race no matter how long it takes. It's been 14 years since I ran the marathon and finishing it is already an achievement.

Early this morning, I did a long run along the Diosdado Macapagal avenue, around the Mall of Asia, up to Luneta and back to Baclaran via Roxas boulevard. I finished at around 10 o'clock after running for 3 hrs 50 min. I felt sluggish, which confirmed my suspicion that it will take me more than 5 hours to run the marathon. And to think that in the 1980s, I could run this in 3 hrs 33 minutes. Is old age catching up with me? We'll see. I intend to run more marathons after this and I still hope that someday, I will break my personal record and run a sub-3:30 marathon. I also dream of run/walking from Davao to Iligan sometime soon.

Three more weeks to go and I am already excited. I will finally make my marathon come back. After that I intend to run at least one marathon a year until I reach my 85th birthday - then I will join the wheel-chair division.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

55 years: Age is Just a number

Yesterday was my 55th birthday. I ran for two hours in the morning. During breakfast, Judge Renato Fuentes was looking for me (he thought I was going to say mass in the morning) but I was still out so he just left my birthday gift.
After lunch, I went to the LTO office to renew my driver's licence, it took 3 hours to get the whole thing done. I then rushed to the Archbishop's residence to attend the final meeting in preparation for the AsiPA (BEC) international gathering. I didn't stay very long because I had to go home to hear confession and celebrate the 5:30 pm mass. Then in the evening, the "centennial group" composed of community friends came bringing food for the potluck birthday party.
How does it feel to be 55 years old? Well, I don't feel that old. I can still run for more than two hours. Thirty-three years ago, I was a chubby, chain-smoking seminarian who could not even run for 30 minutes. I stopped smoking, started running and losing weight 30 years ago and I continue to do so now. There are many things I can do at my age which I wasn't capable of doing when I was half my age: biking ultra-long distance around the country, scuba diving, run marathons, lift heavy weights in the gym and eat once day only. I intend to do these things even when I reach 65 or even beyond 70 - God willing. It is inactivity, over-eating and lack of exercisethat can weaken the body.
Even if the body eventually grows old, the mind and heart does not grow old. Yes, we gain wisdom but retain the youthful feeling.