Tag Archives: stephanie villa

24 March, Saturday – Understanding Comes Later

24 March

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Ezekiel 37:21-28

The Lord says this: ‘I am going to take the sons of Israel from the nations where they have gone. I shall gather them together from everywhere and bring them home to their own soil. I shall make them into one nation in my own land and on the mountains of Israel, and one king is to be king of them all; they will no longer form two nations, nor be two separate kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and their filthy practices and all their sins. I shall rescue them from all the betrayals they have been guilty of; I shall cleanse them; they shall be my people and I will be their God. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all; they will follow my observances, respect my laws and practise them. They will live in the land that I gave my servant Jacob, the land in which your ancestors lived. They will live in it, they, their children, their children’s children, for ever. David my servant is to be their prince for ever. I shall make a covenant of peace with them, an eternal covenant with them. I shall resettle them and increase them; I shall settle my sanctuary among them for ever. I shall make my home above them; I will be their God, they shall be my people. And the nations will learn that I am the Lord, the sanctifier of Israel, when my sanctuary is with them for ever.’

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John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him, but some of them went to tell the Pharisees what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting. ‘Here is this man working all these signs’ they said ‘and what action are we taking? If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.’ One of them, Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’ He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God. From that day they were determined to kill him. So Jesus no longer went about openly among the Jews, but left the district for a town called Ephraim, in the country bordering on the desert, and stayed there with his disciples.

  The Jewish Passover drew near, and many of the country people who had gone up to Jerusalem to purify themselves looked out for Jesus, saying to one another as they stood about in the Temple, ‘What do you think? Will he come to the festival or not?’

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He did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy.

I recently read a book by Jacques Philippe entitled ‘In the School of the Holy Spirit’. It was an excellent book and it shared how the movements of the Holy Spirit happens. It shared how sometimes, we feel a tugging in our hearts to do something and even if we don’t know it, we do it out of obedience. Sometimes, we will not know if it made a difference, but sometimes, God will give us consolation and let us know that our obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit bore fruit.

I remember when I used to feel suspicious whenever a friend said with conviction that he felt in his heart that the Holy Spirit instructed him to do something. I thought that he might just be overspiritualizing things. After all, I’m not one for doing something when I don’t understand things. I liked to experiment, but I didn’t want to experiment with my life. Also, I would rationalize that I need to be certain that it was indeed the Holy Spirit who was moving me. I would agonize if I was really being moved by the Holy Spirit or if it was just my own will that was moving me.

There are also instances where events happen in our lives and we cannot make sense of why they have to happen. There was this school I was aiming for when I was in the Philippines. It was the top high school and it provided a scholarship with a living allowance; the other high schools did not provide living allowances. I didn’t get it and, two and a half years later, I understood that it was for the best. You see, two and a half years later, I had the opportunity to get a scholarship to Singapore. Had I been enrolled in that top high school, I would have been bonded and I would have had to pay huge sum just to be able to come here.

What I’m trying to say is that even if we don’t fully understand what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, or the things that are happening in our present lives, we should still move forward if we really feel called to. The understanding will come later. I bet Caiaphas thought he understood what he was saying, but he really didn’t.

If we still have doubts, we should consult with a spiritual director. He will help us see things from a different perspective.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, how difficult it is to move forward when I don’t understand what you want me to do, or when I can’t make out what is happening in my life right now. Please give me the grace to move forward and to trust that everything happens for a reason.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for putting all these reminders and inspirations in my heart. Even if I can’t understand them, they direct me towards your purpose in my life.

23 March, Friday – Sharing Jesus

23 Mar – Memorial for St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, bishop

St. Turibius (1538-1606) was born a noble and became a lawyer, and then a professor of law at Salamanca. He was ordained in 1578, and was a judge of the Court of the Inquisition at Granada. He was later appointed Archbishop of Lima, Peru on May 15, 1579. He founded the first seminary in the Western hemisphere, and fought for the rights of the natives against the Spanish masters. He also organized councils and synods in the New World.

Prayer to St. Turibius

Lord, through the apostolic work of St. Turibius and his unwavering love of truth, you helped your Church to grow. May your chosen people continue to grow in faith and holiness. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

  • Patron Saint Index

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Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:

I hear so many disparaging me,
‘“Terror from every side!”
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’
All those who used to be my friends
watched for my downfall,
‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error.
Then we will master him
and take our revenge!’
But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero;
my opponents will stumble, mastered,
confounded by their failure;
everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.

But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice,
who scrutinise the loins and heart,
let me see the vengeance you will take on them,
for I have committed my cause to you.
Sing to the Lord,
praise the Lord,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy
from the hands of evil men.

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John 10:31-42

The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered:

‘Is it not written in your Law:
I said, you are gods?
So the Law uses the word gods
of those to whom the word of God was addressed,
and scripture cannot be rejected.
Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
“You are blaspheming,”
because he says, “I am the son of God.”
If I am not doing my Father’s work,
there is no need to believe me;
but if I am doing it,
then even if you refuse to believe in me,
at least believe in the work I do;
then you will know for sure
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.

He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.

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John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently, and he told me that he would only convert to Catholicism if he could see a great sign. I thought that I’m just me, a mere mortal, and miracles are out of my capability. I asked myself if it was really the dead-end, if there was no chance of me being able to invite him to see what the Catholic Church had to offer.

Just the other day, another friend was telling me that she knew of a family who converted to Catholicism after a miraculous healing of their child. I knew it was a good story and I also knew that while every conversion is a miracle, not every conversion is made up of a spectacular miracle.

In today’s Gospel, John gave no signs. Instead, he did something very well – that is sharing about the Truth of Jesus so much so that when the people who heard him talk about Jesus saw Jesus, they knew he was the one John was talking about. So while I cannot perform a miracle, I know that my sharing of who Jesus really is will help people in their conversion.

Pope Francis wrote about the Joy of the Gospel. Some of us, at some points in our lives, live like the Gospel is a chain that binds us and makes Catholics unhappy. The reality is, the Gospel can really be demanding and we are not always happy to obey. This paints a very different reality because instead of a chain, the Gospel is a bitter pill that helps us live well. Our lack of joy in our lives does not make us good witnesses to the Gospel. It does not really tell the Truth of who Jesus is. I know that if I want to tell the Truth about Jesus, I should do it with a smile.

Let me end this reflection by sharing something another friend told me. She shared that one of her office colleagues wanted to join the RCIA. She was surprised because it seemed to come out of the blue. When she asked her colleague why she decided to do so, the colleague replied that she noticed that all the Catholics in their office seemed to be exuding joy and peace. They didn’t even do any preaching. They just smiled and stayed happy despite the office stress.

What does your life say about Jesus? What does it say about our Catholic Faith? When people around us finally find Jesus, will they say that we said what is true about him?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I do not always know how to introduce you to other people except through how I live my life. Someone said that my life might be the only bible other people will read. Help me live my life in a way that introduces you to them well.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, for the many things in my life that make me smile. I know that while this joy is also for me, it is also to witness the love you have for everyone.

22 March, Thursday – Am I A Liar?

22 March

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Genesis 17:3-9

Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’

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John 8:51-59

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’

The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:

‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’

The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
I Am.’

At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

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…and if I were to say: I do not know him, I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.

I have been fortunate to have known people who inspire me to live up to the Catholic values. I have a friend who refuses to watch any pirated movie or pirate any songs even though it’s the usual practice. I have another friend who told me that he chose to run the full 2.4 km instead of following the lead of his classmates of just adding one more round to their runs. They knew what was the right thing to do, and did it, even in these ‘simple’ circumstances. They didn’t compromise.

Sometimes, some of us lie about knowing what we should be doing. We feign ignorance, or we justify that since everyone is doing the same thing, that must be right. For example, we know that we should show up on time, but since everyone else is late, we let that dictate what is right. We know that saying something bad about a person and passing it off as a joke is not respectful, but we close our eyes if it gives us a good laugh. We know the right thing to do more times than we would admit but we have come up with reasons why another ‘truth’ is acceptable.

Jesus did not compromise. No matter what people told him, he told them about God and His will for us. He did not waiver just because other people are not ready to hear what they ought to hear. Jesus is Truth, and we are called to witness to the truth.

I am confident to say that most of us would like to live in the truth, although it is not easy to always live in the truth. I’ve had people at work who seem ok with doing something we would consider unethical, just because it is the industry practice. It’s either do what they do or risk losing your job. So what do we do? I found consolation talking to a spiritual director. It was difficult for me to share how I am on the verge of doing what I knew was not right, and he was able to advise me what to do.

How can we live our lives in truth? How can we not be liars in our Faith? It’s not an easy answer. Let us seek God’s help, the guidance of spiritual directors, and always pray for God to give us the strength.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know you understand how difficult it is to live in the Truth that you have asked us to. I also know that you have given us help and ensured that we receive the graces that we need. Forgive us every time we ‘lie’ about our Faith, and help us not be discouraged to live in the Truth.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, sending Jesus to show us the Truth, and to show us that the Truth can be lived out no matter how difficult it is. For Jesus died for the Truth.

19 January, Thursday – What Would You Write In a Blank Cheque?

19 January

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1 Samuel 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand men chosen from the whole of Israel and went in search of David and his men east of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds along the route where there was a cave, and went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the recesses of the cave; David’s men said to him, Today is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.”’ David stood up and, unobserved, cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’ David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.

Saul then left the cave and went on his way. After this, David too left the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord king!’ Saul looked behind him and David bowed to the ground and did homage. Then David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”? Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you. “I will not raise my hand against my lord,” I said “for he is the anointed of the Lord.” O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand. Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind. I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life. May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you. (As the old proverb says: Wickedness goes out from the wicked, and my hand will not be laid on you.) On whose trail has the king of Israel set out? On whose trail are you in hot pursuit? On the trail of a dead dog! On the trail of a single flea! May the Lord be the judge and decide between me and you; may he take up my cause and defend it and give judgement for me, freeing me from your power.’

When David had finished saying these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ And Saul wept aloud. ‘You are a more upright man than I,’ he said to David ‘for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil. Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested? May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today. Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.’

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Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted. So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. And so he appointed the Twelve: Simon to whom he gave the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges or ‘Sons of Thunder’; then Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray him.

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I will deliver your enemy into your power, do what you like with him.

Whenever the topic of discernment pops up, the most common question I would hear is ‘How would you know what God wants you to do?’ For me, this is the agonizing part of discernment – to find out exactly what God wanted me to do. It used to make me feel very uneasy and agitated, so I read many books on discernment and attended many talks on discernment.

What I learned is that discernment is needed when you are presented with a choice involving morally good options. If something is morally bad, it’s clear that we are not supposed to do it. If it’s a choice between a morally neutral or a morally good option, then we should ask God to give us the courage to choose the morally good option.

Well, what if it’s a choice between two morally neutral options, or two morally good options? What do we do? That’s why we need discernment. We need to pray for wisdom to choose the best. Remember Solomon? God basically gave him a blank cheque so he could write what he would like to wish for. Obviously, he should not have chosen bad options but you see, riches are not bad if they are used for the welfare of his kingdom. Good health for the king is not bad because he could rule longer and provide security for his country. Solomon made a wise choice and chose wisdom. The Bible made it look like an easy choice but I would like to think that he prayed over his choice for some time.

In today’s reading, I think David was given a similar situation. I would like to think that killing Saul would not have been an act of murder but an act of self-defense. And to defend ourselves is not wrong. So in a way, it sounded to me like God had given David a blank cheque.

I know that God will give us many blank cheques in our lives. I understand how this could sometimes drive faithful Catholics crazy — we would rather have a to-do list than a blank cheque. Whenever God puts a blank cheque in front of me, I would have, after praying for wisdom and courage and as part of my discernment, tell him a disclaimer — I would do what my heart feels is right, trusting that he will tell me if there is a better option. And if God wanted me to make a u-turn, I would gladly do it because it is better to make a u-turn so I could do the better option than to stay in the second-best road. And with that, I proceed to write my choice in the blank cheque.

Did God just give you a blank cheque? I hope you don’t agonize over it. Just pray over it faithfully and trust God with your choice. He will definitely tell you when you have to make a u-turn.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, why do you make choices so ‘complicated’? It would have been easier if you just told me how to do things, step-by-step. I trust that in your wisdom and love, you know that it’s not the best for me, so I’ll trust you more and take a step. I know you’ll lead me — either forward or back.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live my life to the fullest by giving me options. And I thank you greatly for the wisdom and guidance you give me, and for my Guardian Angel who always guides me as well.

18 January, Thursday – Are You In The Crowd?

18 January

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1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7

On their way back, as David was returning after killing the Philistine, the women came out to meet King Saul from all the towns of Israel, singing and dancing to the sound of tambourine and lyre and cries of joy; and as they danced the women sang:

‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’

Saul was very angry; the incident was not to his liking. ‘They have given David the tens of thousands,’ he said ‘but me only the thousands; he has all but the kingship now.’ And Saul turned a jealous eye on David from that day forward.

Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants of his intention to kill David. Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, held David in great affection; and so Jonathan warned David; ‘My father Saul is looking for a way to kill you,’ he said ‘so be on your guard tomorrow morning; hide away in some secret place. Then I will go out and keep my father company in the fields where you are hiding, and will talk to my father about you; I will find out what the situation is and let you know.’

So Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father; he said, ‘Let not the king sin against his servant David, for he has not sinned against you, and what he has done has been greatly to your advantage. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel. You saw it yourself and rejoiced; why then sin against innocent blood in killing David without cause?’ Saul was impressed by Jonathan’s words and took an oath, ‘As the Lord lives, I will not kill him.’ Jonathan called David and told him all these things. Then Jonathan brought him to Saul, and David attended on him as before.

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Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lakeside, and great crowds from Galilee followed him. From Judaea, Jerusalem, Idumaea, Transjordania and the region of Tyre and Sidon, great numbers who had heard of all he was doing came to him. And he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, to keep him from being crushed. For he had cured so many that all who were afflicted in any way were crowding forward to touch him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he warned them strongly not to make him known.

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Great crowds from Galilee followed him.

One of the things I lookout for when ‘people watching’ during lunch is when they make the Sign of the Cross. I get so excited whenever I see someone signing himself in prayer before and after the meal. It’s an affirmation for me that I’m not the sole Catholic in the lunchtime crowd.

While I was finishing my lunch one time, a gentleman asked if the space opposite me was free. Before he began his meal, made the Sign of the Cross. That quickly became a conversation starter and we asked each other which Church we attended and a few other things about our Catholic Faith. For me, it wasn’t just finding another Catholic in the crowd; it was about finding someone who is in the crowd of Jesus’ followers. It was finding someone who was comfortable doing Catholic things that would let the world know that he was a Catholic.

The world can be a cruel place when it comes to Christians. We hear of Christians being persecuted in other parts of the world for their faith but what are usually highlighted are persecutions that lead to martyrdom, or to the refugee centers. We also occasionally hear of people being sued for not selling a cake to celebrate same-sex unions. These situations sometimes make us forget that there are little persecutions that happen, too, and they are in our lives. One of those things that used to make me feel persecuted were the stares of people whenever I made the Sign of the Cross. I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm, but it made me feel like I was doing something different, and different is not always seen as good, even if it is tolerated. So sometimes, these persecutions prevent us from doing things that will show we aren’t in the usual crowd, but that we are in the crowd that follows Jesus.

To find another person in Jesus’ crowd in the middle of the crowd gives me strength and encouragement. It is a clear message to me that I am not alone. My daily activities can be so stressful sometimes that finding another Catholic in the crowd reminds me of God’s presence. It’s reassuring.

Let us not think that our practicing of small gestures of faith is inconsequential to others. Our reverent bows when we enter the Church, our genuflecting that is not rushed, our obvious Sign of the Cross, or the short time we take to pray before we start our work are all being noticed. These loving actions, while small, can be strong tesminonies and witnessing to God which He can use to inspire others and move their hearts.

Some of us feel that we do not know how to witness to God. We forget that God is hugely present in the small things that we do, and these things tell people which crowd we belong to. Let us be mindful how our small actions can be great testimonies.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us show our faithfulness and love for you in our little ways. Help us fill the little things we do with great love and reverence so that others may know that they are not alone.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, that you made it easy for me to become a witness to you. Thank you for the people who I see gladly do these little things as they remind me of your presence.

17 January, Wednesday – The Lord In Control

Dear Readers,

Today, we welcome back Stephanie Villa, who took a sabbatical from Oxygen for a year. 

17 Jan – Memorial for St. Anthony, abbot

Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, St. Anthony (251-356) ensured that his sister completed her education; then sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At 35, he moved alone to the desert, living 20 years in an abandoned fort.

Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers broke in. He miraculously healed people and agreed to be the spiritual counsellor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Bile — one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.

Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of Maximinus’ persecution. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.

Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. He was a friend late in life to St. Paul the Hermit, and buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend, St. Athanasius.

His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineheards is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the artwork, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron.

Patron Saint Index

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1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, ‘Let no-one lose heart on his account; your servant will go and fight the Philistine.’ But Saul answered David, ‘You cannot go and fight the Philistine; you are only a boy and he has been a warrior from his youth.’

‘The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear’ David said ‘will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.’ Then Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’

He took his staff in his hand, picked five smooth stones from the river bed, put them in his shepherd’s bag, in his pouch, and with his sling in his hand he went to meet the Philistine. The Philistine, his shield-bearer in front of him, came nearer and nearer to David; and the Philistine looked at David, and what he saw filled him with scorn, because David was only a youth, a boy of fresh complexion and pleasant bearing. The Philistine said to him, ‘Am I a dog for you to come against me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come over here and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.’ But David answered the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have dared to insult. Today the Lord will deliver you into my hand and I shall kill you; I will cut off your head, and this very day I will give your dead body and the bodies of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord gives the victory, for the Lord is lord of the battle and he will deliver you into our power.’

No sooner had the Philistine started forward to confront David than David left the line of battle and ran to meet the Philistine. Putting his hand in his bag, he took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; the stone penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone and struck the Philistine down and killed him. David had no sword in his hand. Then David ran and, standing over the Philistine, seized his sword and drew it from the scabbard, and with this he killed him, cutting off his head. The Philistines saw that their champion was dead, and took to flight.

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Mark 3:1-6

Jesus went again into a synagogue, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they were watching him to see if he would cure him on the sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up out in the middle!’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Then, grieved to find them so obstinate, he looked angrily round at them, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was better. The Pharisees went out and at once began to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.

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The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.

There are moments in our lives where God puts us in a position to face our Goliaths. Our natural tendency is to focus on the Goliath God has placed before us, on how big he is, on how scary he is, on how small we are compared to him and we tremble in fear. Sometimes, we forget to remember all the times our Lord has delivered us from ‘lion and bear’.

I have been freelancing for two years and I know how scary the experience is. Unlike working full-time, I could never expect a regular paycheck. I never knew when I will get a new project and if I could earn enough for a month to have a positive cashflow. One of the greatest fears I had was if I would have to dip into my savings to support myself. It was not exactly the most comfortable time but it was the time I learned how to really trust God and His providence. You see, my Goliath was being able to trust God and to rely on His providence. I wanted many layers of protection.

God has been really faithful and I can say that he really took care of me. I would say He knew my limits so he made sure that at the end of the year, my cashflow was 0. Yes, it was 0. I didn’t add to my savings but I didn’t have to dip into my savings. It may sound ironic to some but I think that’s my current tolerance level, and God knew it. He didn’t give me a Goliath I couldn’t conquer.

So what sustained me during my freelancing years? Well, I remembered the ‘lion and bear’ in my life. One of them was getting a job even though I submitted a resumé with a typo error. For me, it was so obvious that God took control of that situation because it could have ended worse. Also, I thought God has arranged for me to receive a separation package just when I was thinking of a career change.

I think God allows us to face a ‘lion and bear’ before we face our Goliaths so we can confidently say, as David said, ‘The Lord who rescued me from the claws of lion and bear will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.’ We only need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us find the ‘lion and bear’ in our lives.

Because once we’ve conquered our Goliath, they become the ‘lion and bear’ for our future Goliaths.

If you are being asked to face a Goliath now, I ask that you find a quiet place, perhaps in the Adoration Room, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in remembering the ‘lion and bear’ in your life. I’m confident you will find one, and that will give you the courage to go to the battle zone.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, facing my Goliath can be a really scary thing. And you’re sending me there with just a slingshot! Lord, help me trust that you will protect and deliver me from this. Help me find the ‘lion and the bear’ you have protected me from, and help me find assurance in it.

Thanksgiving: Lord, it’s amazing how my previous Goliaths have turned into a ‘lion and bear’ now. I thank you for making me face another of my Goliaths, and I thank you that you chose the best time – now – to have me face him. Even if I am just heading into the battle field, I thank you now for protecting me.

17 December, Saturday – Family Heritage

17 December 2016

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Genesis 49:2,8-10

Jacob called his sons and said:

‘Gather round, sons of Jacob, and listen;
listen to Israel your father.
Judah, your brothers shall praise you:
you grip your enemies by the neck,
your father’s sons shall do you homage,
Judah is a lion cub,
you climb back, my son, from your kill;
like a lion he crouches and lies down,
or a lioness: who dare rouse him?
The sceptre shall not pass from Judah,
nor the mace from between his feet,
until he come to whom it belongs,
to whom the peoples shall render obedience.’

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Matthew 1:1-17

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

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The sum of genearations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.

During my recent visit to my grandmother, I cheekily asked her about her love story with my grandfather who, sad to say, I never met. I was hoping to hear a romantic courtship story, because the dating that we know now was not the norm then. Before, the courtshp included serenades from outside the maiden’s house and longing to be alone together since unmarried couples had to have a chaperone when they went out. She shared a story that I had not imagined but was much better. She shared that it was her brothers who arranged for them to get married but she was blessed with a good husband who was a doting father. He was also very patient as he was able to put up with a strong-willed and strong-minded woman like my grandmother. Though they did not go through a long courtship stage, my grandmother was showered with affection.

I know today’s Gospel must be one of those we tend to skip to the last line but having that conversation with my grandmother made me look through all these names. I know we learned a lot from Jesus, but I’m pretty sure there is something to learn from all those names in Jesus’s genealogy. Even though some of them have done horrible actions, they still mattered in Jesus’s family tree. They still had a part to play. I may not have met my grandfather but he was instrumental to forming my mother’s, uncle’s and aunt’s characters. Also, I had a clear and personal example how love may not be present at first sight, but it can flourish. So even though I have not met him, he has already given me a lesson.

All of us have family members we can’t stand, but they still matter. Perhaps God is calling us for a deeper appreciation of our family members today, be they alive or not. Maybe we can ask our parents about our grandparents, we can learn a thing or two. Or maybe we are just asked to stay still for a moment and be aware of how connected we are to many people. We are not alone. Our family heritage speaks of our community. We belong to God’s community.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes I may forget and under-appreciate the gift of family. Help me become an instrument of your love to my family.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for my family heritage, for every single one before me. Without any of them, I’m not sure what I would be.

16 December, Friday – The Testimony of our Habits

16 December 2016

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Isaiah 56:1-3,6-8

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.
Blessed is the man who does this and the son of man who clings to it: observing the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeping his hand from every evil deed.

Let no foreigner who has attached himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ Let no eunuch say, ‘And I, I am a dried-up tree.’

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It is the Lord who speaks, who gathers the outcasts of Israel: there are others will gather besides those already gathered.

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John 5:33-36

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.’

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These same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. 

Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes. It is from Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World)

“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

I always keep this phrase in mind when I prepare and deliver my Catechism classes since I know that my witnessing will carry more weight. Jesus did not limit his testimony to words, it was accompanied with prayer and with works. It is through our actions that we give truth to our words. I know that when we are intentional about our actions, we can easily witness to the truth. When we are in Church, we tend to act more patient and with more decorum. When we are in front of children, we regulate the words we use. When we are mindful of where we are, we can choose what we can witness for.

However, let’s think of those times when we are not mindful, when we act on instinct, or when we act on habit. These habits of ours also carry testimonies, sometimes, these little habits carry a greater testimony than others that we do. Think for example, of a time when you heard someone swear. Now I know it’s common nowadays, some treat it just as an expression. I’m not sure about others but whenever I hear someone swear, I feel a tinge of uneasiness. If I can describe it, it’s like a pea that was put under many layers of mattresses and it makes me feel that something is not that right (Check out the story ‘The Princess and the Pea’ if you want to know what I’m refering to). It’s a small action, but it is witnessing to something.

For today, I’m not going to ask that we reflect on our ‘big’ actions but for us to reflect on our habits. Is there a habit that doesn’t communicate or witness to the love of God? Maybe we leave our shoes haphazardly for others to clear, and we communicate a lack of consideration. Maybe we use too many disposables and this action communicates a lack of care for our environment, which God has created.

What do your habits witness to? It takes a long time to break out of a habit so let’s start now.

 (Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, I have been so used to doing many things in a certain way I may not even know what kind of message I give others when I act in that manner. So I pray that you reveal to me a habit you want me to change, so I can be a better witness to you.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for all those people who were mindful of even how the small things they do could affect others.

15 December, Thursday – Do we hang our Christmas Socks?

15 December 2016

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Isaiah 54:1-10

Shout for joy, you barren women who bore no children!
Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!
For the sons of the forsaken one are more in number
than the sons of the wedded wife, says the Lord.

Widen the space of your tent,
stretch out your hangings freely,
lengthen your ropes, make your pegs firm;
for you will burst out to right and to left.
Your race will take possession of the nations,
and people the abandoned cities.

Do not be afraid, you will not be put to shame,
do not be dismayed, you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth
and no longer remember the curse of your widowhood.
For now your creator will be your husband,
his name, the Lord of Hosts;
your redeemer will be the Holy One of Israel,
he is called the God of the whole earth.

Yes, like a forsaken wife, distressed in spirit,
the Lord calls you back.
Does a man cast off the wife of his youth?
says your God.

I did forsake you for a brief moment,
but with great love will I take you back.
In excess of anger, for a moment
I hid my face from you.
But with everlasting love I have taken pity on you,
says the Lord, your redeemer.

I am now as I was in the days of Noah
when I swore that Noah’s waters
should never flood the world again.
So now I swear concerning my anger with you
and the threats I made against you;

for the mountains may depart,
the hills be shaken,
but my love for you will never leave you
and my covenant of peace with you will never be shaken,
says the Lord who takes pity on you.

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Luke 7:24-30

When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to talk to the people about John, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Oh no, those who go in for fine clothes and live luxuriously are to be found at court! Then what did you go out to see? A prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:

See, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare the way before you.

‘I tell you, of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is. All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God’s plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.’

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Break into cries of joy and gladness, you who were never in labour!

When I was young, I would hang up socks on the eve of Christmas Day, hoping for Santa Claus to fill them up. The following morning, I would wake up to find local currency bills in my socks. I’m sure I was curious why a North Pole dweller had local currencies but I swept the thought aside as I thought of what to buy with my gift. The first two lines of the first reading struck me because the ladies were preparing themselves to receive blessings by breaking into ‘cries of joy and gladness’ even before the gift was received. They already prepared their praises! Their faith reminded me of how I would prepare to receive Santa’s gifts by hanging my socks even if I was not sure what gift I would receive, but I know that the gift will be good. If I did not hang my socks, where would Santa put my gifts?

I have always heard about the need to prepare because God will come like ‘a thief in the night.’ However, the reading reminded me that I should not just prepare myself for judgement; I should also prepare myself to receive God’s blessings. This thought really made me happy. I’m not looking at it from a prosperity gospel point of view but sometimes but we forget that God desires to give us gifts of joy and peace. So it’s not a thief sneaking in but Santa Claus. Sadly, sometimes we are not ready to receive them, because we have not hung our socks. How does this look in our life? Perhaps, we have not really forgiven a friend who has hurt us, and God can’t give us peace. Or maybe we were so scared to try something new, to learn a new skill, and God could not really send us to the vocation he had in mind for us. Sometimes, God’s dreams are different from our own that we overlook the preparations God is sending along our way.

We may not know why certain things are happening now, or why we have to do certain things to unbearable repetitions, but if we could look at it as a preparation time for something, then we should do it with our best effort. Let’s think of it as putting our socks out, ready to be filled with God’s blessings.

If you knew when the thief was coming, you would have stayed up. If you knew when Santa was coming, I bet you would also stay up. So let’s be prepared.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me have that child-like faith to hang my socks everyday so I can receive your love.

Thanksgiving: I thank you Lord, for the witnesses of hope of children who are always confident that they will be showered with blessings, even in what I think are simple thingshope

8 October, Saturday – Prepared by the Law

8 October

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Galatians 3:22-29

Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.

Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

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Luke 11:27-28

As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

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The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came.

Whenever an athlete prepares for a competition, the athlete has to follow an exercise regimen faithfully. He has to eat according to his needs, train according to his training plan, and rest according to schedule. This training period restricts an athlete’s activities in preparation for the big day. These restrictions are necessary for an athlete’s preparation.

The Law that was given by God was to prepare us to accept what Christ had planned to teach us. When we were young, our parents stopped us from harming ourselves by saying ‘no.’ ‘No, you can’t eat mud.’ ‘No, you can’t put your fingers in the electric socket.’ ‘No, you can’t jump from that height.’ These are just pure laws, without explanations. When we were younger, even if our parents explained the rationale behind these laws, we probably would not have understood.

Jesus came to explain that Law, which was intended for our good. The Law trained us to do charitable acts, and Jesus Christ taught us that beyond doing charitable acts, we have to be charitable. Being charitable does not only mean doing charitable acts, it’s doing these acts with charity – with love. It might have been difficult for us to understand Christ’s teachings on what charity really is if we ourselves have not been performing acts of charity.

The Law was our guardian, because it helped us do what was right even when we didn’t want to, even when we didn’t feel like it. Be kind to those who hurt you. This is something I am struggling with right now; and I must admit that I am merely following the law when I don’t go out there and be nasty to the people who have hurt me. Right now, I am only doing it because it is the right thing to do. But I’m hoping that once I am able to let Christ into this part of my heart, I will be kind not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the loving thing to do.

I still can’t live without the Law in many parts of my life. And until I can welcome Christ in my heart, I will keep on training, like an athlete, in this ‘rigorous’ law. Because without the Law, I will never be prepared to have Christ enter in that aspect of my life.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

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Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live my life in Christ, to learn to appreciate the laws, and to submit myself in humility to the laws You have made while I grow in my understanding of my faith.

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a guide in our lives. And even if we sometimes resent it, we know that it is for our good.