This thoughtful reflection by Vic Lorenzo is very nice and reinforces what we are about in community. Bro. Vic who is a classmate of mine in AIM used to be with the Brotherhood, later on with Ligaya. I have asked his permission to post it on our website. – Bobby Atendido, BCBP Alabang

Author’s Note: This article was inspired by the various writings of Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan. Cardinal Van Thuan is a Vietnamese who was imprisoned for about 13 years, 9 years of which were in isolation. His friends smuggled out his daily reflections which were written on scraps of paper. To the extent possible, I denote quotes of his notes, others I paraphrase, etc. Any errors are mine. I thank the Vietnamese people for their courage in getting the notes out of prison, copying them, distributing them to the diocese, and preserving these notes intact. Pope JP II assigned him to Rome after he was released. I also thank Fr. Dion, our parish priest who introduced Cardinal Van Thuan’s writings in one of his inspired homilies. –Vic Lorenzo


We often go to many places, many directions to find success, peace, happiness and joy. Or even meaning in life. We occupy our life with many activities. Climbing Mt. Everest, doing social or pastoral work, visiting the sick. All of these are good. But Cardinal Francis looks at things differently, simply yet deeply.

He says that: “Renewal is a return to the sources. It is a return to Christ.” St. Paul states clearly what renewal means: “Put off your old self, your former way
of life which is corrupted by deceitful desires! Be renewed in your mind and spirit and clothe yourself with the new self created in accordance with God’s design in true righteousness. Eph 4:22-24

Love. Cardinal Francis says: “The revolution of love reformed the whole Graeco-Roman empire, transformed its very foundations, and stripped away the old humanity to replace it with a new model and a new society. Human love is limited to one group of people. Spiritual love embraces everyone. Human love is touching. Spiritual love is transforming. When human beings change, society will change, laws will change, communication between people will change. This is total renewal.”

Total Renewal

What is total renewal? “In order to renew ourselves, we must return to the ultimate source, that is, God. But to what extent or degree do we renew yourself?”

“I want you to renew yourself to the degree of the perfection of Christ, according to the spirit of Paul– that is, you must reach a standard which cannot be improved, a standard in which your possessions cannot be reduced because you no longer have anything, a standard in which your sole wealth is Jesus Christ.”

Those are the strong and very challenging words that hit my mind and heart during the Advent Season. The Cardinal is asking us to be totally free- material, self, desire to be admired by others, our motivation for personal gain and to look good in the eyes of others. In the silence of our hearts, our predominant question is: what will the others say? will I look good in their eyes? Rather than asking the question: how will I look in Jesus’ eyes, or what would Jesus do? God wants us to be holy in His eyes. “Begin today with your expressions, your gestures, your silence, your heart, your soul, all your actions, your manner of living and of dying, to shed the light of God’s presence within you on the places you go and the people you meet….. You must have only one ideal: God.”

A Life of Indifference

“The most impenetrable barrier is not a fortress or an electric fence, it is indifference. Renewal demands courage and determination. In the presence of so much suffering, do not be indifferent and pretend that you do not see this suffering. Be a dedicated apostle of the work of renewal, and with patient self-sacrifice, a lover of the Church.”

We see this every day. The privileged class move about in their chauffeur-driven limousines, windows fully closed to serve as a boundary between them and the working class, and the beggars on the street. They move up in their building in their private elevators or they go to their office via their helicopter and down down to their penthouse-office. Their office is screened by an Executive Secretary and a bodyguard. They live in a fully-fenced, fully-guarded enclave. They mix with the ‘influential” and “powerful” crowd. In a crowd full of businessmen, they ask ‘who is that person’? All functional. But with a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Their families follow the same path. The wife moves from parlor, to lunch at a hotel restaurant to show off her latest acquisitions- Hermes bags, shoes, and what have you, and lead in the latest gossip with this famous intro ‘did you know that so and so…”. The children are all followed by their individual helpers. Worse, a stroller is cared for by another helper. Once I peeked at a stroller, I was shocked to see a poodle with her queenly look, and manicured nails. Ha ha!

Now I know why the Philippine Catholic Church is finding it difficult to get widespread support for its anti-RH bill stance. Indifference. As one couple who fits the above description of the rich and famous said: “Why should I be concerned about the RH Bill. It is more for the poor. It doesn’t concern me.” Indifference..

“Even if you sell all your belongings, leave your home and go to a distance place, perhaps a thousand miles away and live like a hermit, but if you continue to bring along your bad habits,” says Cardinal Francis, “and the “old self” of sin, what difference does it make?”

The Cardinal continues: “If your life is merely a continuous chain of events with time of sleeping, rising, eating, watching television or reading the newspapers, there is no
unifying element to your life. It is meaningless. The element is the love of God. With it your life will change and all your actions will testify to God’s presence.”

Our daily prayer can be along these lines: Lord, I give up my whole life for you. I give whatever I have to you. I offer all my loved ones to you. And I choose your will. The last sentence about choosing God’s will is so important and I got this from Cardinal Francis. Charismatics always pray ‘may your will be done’. Pero pag nandiyan na: “Ay, ayoko. Mahirap yata pinagagawa mo (we refuse to follow if we find God’s will difficult to do)”. I choose, I make your will my own.

If it is any consolation, John says in Rev 21:4 ” He will wipe every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more— no more grief or crying or pain, for what came before has passed away.”

The good Cardinal says: “Be generous and single-hearted toward God so that you give yourself in whatever he desires. And do not forget the other aspect of accepting completely whatever God sends you.”

It seems there is no other way but the Cold Turkey approach. We cannot do a snailpaced approach hoping we reach our goal. As you know from experience and even in business, we need milestone goals. Stretch goals. Then we know what our true reference is. Total and complete renewal is a return to our source: God.

The Holy Spirit Renews the Church

“The driving force and author of all renewal in the Church is the Holy Spirit “who renews the face of the earth” (cf Ps104:30). Renewal is a new Pentecost and there can be no new Pentecost without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there can be no renewal.”

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to renew us. Let us be at ease with no pressure to live a life according to others. Let us be free like little children and be at home with our

I would like to end with an image that Cardinal Van Thuan clearly wrote. “When a child is temporarily in another’s care and hears his parents returning, he drops everything without hesitation and runs to them. Likewise, we, in our temporary earthly abode, should detach ourselves from everything without regret and run to the arms of our eternal Father.” Drop everything. Only then can we say that we are at home.

May God bless our desire to be totally with Jesus and Mary. May the Holy Spirit empower us to live the life of saints. Live a life of freedom. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

Sincerely, Vic Lorenzo
January 4, 2012, Manila

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