A Father’s heart visits us…

The Relic of Padre Annibale Maria Di Francia

The Relic of Padre Annibale Maria Di Francia

On 07 October 1990, Padre Annibale was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy.  This anniversary brings to mind the time when Padre Annibale’s heart relic visited the Philippines in December to January 2001.

That visit was, indeed, a great blessing for each one in the community and to all the people of Laoag. It was a jubilant celebration and we still reminisce about that time. My heart is still full of gratitude for the opportunity of meeting the Padre, a holy man and a friend of God whose life was consumed for the love of God and his neighbour. God gave us a unique gift during that Christmas and I consider it great. My advent journey experience was a joyful expectation of the Padre’s coming and it became so real and full of excitement, like the Israelites who were waiting for the Messiah to rescue them from the bondage of slavery.

The presence of the Padre brought me back to the memories when he was still alive. History was repeating itself but now in the Philippine context. The dream of Padre Annibale to go to the mission land of Asia had become a reality and we, his spiritual sons and daughters, had gone ahead of him to prepare the day of his coming. He became alive in our hearts, to the people from different walks of life. I felt the presence of his love, his zeal for the Rogate, his burning love for the poor and his passion towards the abandoned harvest. His presence brought joy, love and hope as he touched others’ lives by reaching out to them. His visit was beyond my expectations and I consider it as God’s surprise for me.

The man who never said “no” to those who were in need of help came to answer the cry of the poor. Many graces were received through his intercession and the great grace I experienced was his presence. His sanctity inspired me in my journey as a consecrated person. I was also inspired on hearing the sharing of others, of their “love at first sight” with the Padre. As he has space for everyone, laypeople were also attracted to his example of life and reserved a place for him in their hearts.

This experience challenged me as his spiritual daughter, and I pray that the zeal for the Heart of Jesus’ interests continues to burn in my heart, like that of our Padre.

Were you there when his heart came to the Philippines?  What was your experience?

Our Angel’s Day

The Angels are pure in spirit so they can overpass anything but, due to God’s gift of free will to us, they cannot enter and forcibly change our human minds.  They are powerful, intelligent and are of great beauty.

Melchior Paul von Deschwanden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Melchior Paul von Deschwanden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On 29 September we celebrated the Feast Day of the three Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.  They are well-known angels.

Today, 02 October, falls the Feast of the Guardian Angels to whom the Scripture says in Exodus 23:

Yahweh says this “Look, I am sending an Angel to precede you, to guard you as you go and bring you to the place that I have prepared…”

This is what we believe, our faith that each one of us has his/her own Guardian Angel who protects, directs and guides us to the right path that leads us to God.

Let us spend time in prayer to thank God for our Guardian Angel and to thank our Guardian Angel who is with us.  We revive our devotion to our Angel.

It is good that you give a name to your Angel, choose a significant name, according to whatever is your experience or belief.  A name that gives meaning to you.  From then on, you will not forget to call on your Guardian Angel.

Let us pray:

Angel of God,
my Guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this day,
be at my side
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.


God’s divine gift of love

Our life is a gift from God. We are born because of love, our parents love us and, above all, God loves us. We are born and called to a certain purpose in life.

I love you, Lord

I love you, Lord

Vocation is a call and every call is a call to life. It is an infinite and definite divine gift of love from God. If we recognize the giver as God, we must be happy and take care of the gift because it is the Divine who calls us. Responding to His call is leading us to holiness as it comes from Him.

Along the way of journeying through this challenging life, God has assured us of His infinite presence.  He never fails His promises to  help us in times of difficulties and in the tests of our faith, hope and love. God speaks deeply in our hearts. Only the one who is called by Him to a particular vocation can know how to answer this call. He has given us the freedom to respond to His call but we need to be humble our self and pray always for a right decision because this decision is for life.

Enjoy God’s gift with awe and wonder. Each day be ready for this journey of faith. Expect something new and something to learn about so many things in life because all of these things are part of life’s spiritual growth. It is He, a God who is not boring, a God who is fond of many surprises!

I am Yours, Lord

What was the most precious gift that you have ever received? How did you feel upon receiving it?

Worshipping God

There are not many people in the world who have not received a gift in some way or other. Each one has received one, whether it has been a small gift or a big gift – and it does not have to be a physical gift that is placed in one’s hands.

A vocation is a divine gift that comes from God. Each one of us has a particular calling that destines us to an everlasting commitment. We can feel this call as a strong invitation from God to love Him. We may notice signs along our life’s journey, where our heart draws so close to Him and to a particular destiny in life – and it may happen as an intense feeling deep inside that impels us to answer it. God leads us to what is right or fit for us to love and live.

Every vocation is a divine gift whether it is in married life, single blessedness, lay consecrated or religious life. These particular vocations in life uniquely respond to where God wants us to be joyful for the rest of our life. Prayer is important to make the right choice and to respond with gratitude, peace, serenity and sincerity to the One who has called us to that gift of vocation. Once you have responded to His call, you are responsible for living that journey with faith, hope and love.

We are happy and challenged throughout our life.  When we make our decisions in life, God will always assist us – even when we sometimes feel lonely and fearful of the things ahead of us.  We are assured that He will never leave us alone and that He will always be part of our journey if we will it.

We continue to pray and pray without ceasing for our daily perseverance, commitment, good service and fidelity until the end of everything, so that at the end we can say:

I am Yours, Lord, forever and ever. Amen.

The call: the unfolding mystery upon mystery

We are born because of love – our parents love us but, above all, God is the One who loves us first. There is always a purpose as to why we are here. Each day is an unfolding mystery where the Author of life leads, assists, and destines us to a particular vocation that God has been calling us and forming within us, from the very beginning.  And this is what has happened, and is still happening, to me.

Step by step towards God

Step by step towards God

Who am I?

I am called Cielo. I am the eldest among the 4 siblings in the family. Bernard is next to me, Gladys and Charito. My parents Ben and Socorro were both teachers.

I grew up on one of the islets in the southern part of Cebu, Philippines. It is called Camotes Island. It is a beautiful island: clean, quiet and peaceful. It is free from any pollution, busy streets, and crowded people.  Only on Sundays and fiesta would you see people gathered together for celebrations.

Every Sunday in our town was busy because people attended Mass and afterwards they went to the market. Motorcycles were common in our place as a way of transportation around the island. But since the island has become more developed, we see other kinds of vehicles – when I was younger people used to walk from place to place. People’s way of living were farming and fishing. They farmed in the morning and went out fishing very early in the morning or later in the evening. It was indeed a simple lifestyle.


My childhood memories

I grew up in an extended family – extended in the sense that my parents helped their relatives by sending them to high school for studies – and my parents became one of their teachers. We lived inside the school compound, in cottages that were provided by the government to the teachers who were not from the island and my family received that privilege because both of my parents were not from this place.  They were also the first pioneer teachers in that school – Magsaysay School of Fisheries – which was was named after one of the late Presidents of the Philippines. As a child I had a lot of happy memories and I learned to work: doing household chores, gardening, fishing (we were very near to the sea), caring for and raising domestic farm animals to help support and supplement the income of our family. I also played many times together with our neighbours’ sons and daughters.

Usually on Sundays after the Mass, we went for a picnic, to catch fish, and to gather different kinds of seashells.  It was an enjoyable way of our family bonding. Often, we spent time with our neighbours, and fetched drinkable water from a place which was a 2-kilometre walk away from our house. When Summer time came we had more fun – my brother and sisters got together with the other children attending Catechesis in the nearby chapel.  This was an initiative of the assigned church leaders.

Sometimes after dinner, when the moon was bright, we stayed outside, lying under the stars and my mother started to tell us stories including some of the famous stories from the Bible. We would also pray the rosary and other devotional prayers like novenas of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Souls in Purgatory, Stations of the Cross (during Lenten Season), and Mary’s Feast Days. That was how I came to informally know about God. Though her stories were repeated, we always loved to hear them again and again. My mother had such a big role in how I came to know about God – she taught us through stories. She was zealous in leading us to God in prayers, and attending Mass every Sunday was part of the family routine.

My father supported us too because he was there every time we had our common prayers. My parents had different personalities and they tried mould us in the Christian way. My mother taught us with stories and vocal prayers while my father taught us the value of work. Since then I have a sense of God and I simply know Him – he is very important in everyone’s life.  He was, and is, a big part of our family.

This was my initial spiritual formation. It was in an informal way of leading our lives to know Him. As a family we too were tested in our faith experience during hardships and difficult moments.  With the ups and downs we went through, thanks to His help and grace, we were able to conquer them. I recall that I saw fighting, disagreement of ideas, sometimes giving up, and misunderstandings.  We were tested with the trials of economic stability, family relationships and love. The more we experienced difficulties, the more we were one, united in prayer – and my mother was the one who led us. All of these experiences were part of our growth as a family and as individuals.


Growing up memories

My life continues to unfold as a mystery upon mystery or as a mystery within the mystery. I am a timid person with few words to say. By profession I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and then I took a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education.  I love to do art like making designs, painting, drawing.  I have a wide range of imagination within me. I love dancing too, where I know how to, and it seems effortless for me to create dance steps. These talents help me a lot to overcome my shyness and, when I later became a teacher, it helped me to teach my pupils or students. Doing arts gives me an idea to express myself and it was very useful for my visual aids, classroom decorations – for any program purposes.

Before I entered the convent I was a Physical Education teacher in our place for a year and a half. But it was during this time that I felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction, restlessness and unhappiness.  I was not content. What was going wrong?  Something was missing in my life. I questioned myself: in what way was my life worthy of living? I should have felt settled: I had a job, and I was happy that I was able to help my sister with her college tuition fees and to help my family. Yet, I felt, deep inside, a big empty space where my heart and indeed my whole self had a longing for something. I was searching for the unknown that my own heart knew, but that I was afraid of.

I knew a neighbour who had entered the convent. I was inspired and happy when I knew that she was undergoing her initial formation of sisterhood in the congregation of the Daughters of Divine Zeal (DDZ). With my eagerness and curiosity I wrote her a letter for advice. She responded and she gave my name to one of the Sisters of the DDZ. The Sister, the vocation en-charge, invited me to a vocation orientation. About three months afterwards, two DDZ sisters visited me at our house and they met my family. I felt such joy and inspiration when seeing these Sisters.  However, from that moment onwards, I also felt even more restless! It was such a memorable visit that I considered the visit of the Sisters like when the angel announced the good news in the life of Mary at her Annunciation – it happened then too, my Annunciation. It seemed all very romantic. I led the Sisters walking along the seashore where we spent a short time sharing our spiritual experiences. I found this time to be so biblical because the Sisters related to me the call of Peter. It was a moment of awe and wonder because they had come from a far away place to visit me.  It was a great moment too because it was the first time in my life that I had encountered Sisters.  For me, it was so real how I met God in them, as if He was courting me again and again, since from the beginning.

Even after the Sisters had gone, that surprising visit kept disturbing me a lot – this was my call from the unknown, mysterious God.  I was thinking and praying to make a good and wise decision. I shared these happenings with a few of my closest friends and especially with my mother. I stayed in touch with the Sisters through letters and then I decided to answer their invitation to join in the vocation orientation. I asked permission from my family to attend the vocation orientation. They were hesitant, especially my mother as she was sad because I would be away from home. After the vocation orientation, I was among a few of the group who remained to join and we began the first stage of formation which is called the Aspirancy Period. A few months later, I felt settled and ready to embrace this kind of life so I wrote to my family and the principal of the school where I was teaching, telling them that I had decided to join the Daughters of Divine Zeal formation program. A year later, I had the opportunity to make a home visit  and settled my unfinished “business” in the family. I had the courage to gather my family – everybody was there. Firstly, we prayed the rosary so that we were in a prayerful atmosphere, then afterwards I was able to speak my intention, to settle things, ask for forgiveness and to say goodbye to them. We had a great sharing of experiences; there was peace and reconciliation: I forgave and I was forgiven.  While my family’s acceptance of my decision was not really total, we felt contented and relieved of the heavy aches and pains in everyone’s heart. It was one of the hardest moments to have the courage to dialogue with them but I was satisfied with the positive results.  It was good. We let go of the past and we were ready to welcome in the present moment. It was a good start for me to continue my journey into the next phase of my formation, the Postulancy Period.


I was taken… by the Lord

I considered that first encounter with the two Sisters as my meeting with God.  It was so intense that I felt I was drawn by Him, to Him. My heart was taken by Him – He was and is the deepest longing of my heart. My vocation is a mysterious unfolding of the everyday experiences.  That initial “Yes ” to follow Him in this particular calling, in this particular institute of the DDZ  is certain and affirmed through the signs and the experiences that are leading me.  They keep me loving and trusting Him, and desiring Him will be my final and eternal “FIAT” . I own this is my call, my destiny. I have been praying for a lasting and forever life with Him “in sickness and in health…”.

My “Yes” to Him is followed by many yeses in my life, like at my first profession, and at my perpetual profession.  To this day I continue to unfold the mysteries of my calling, answering His call day by day. I am praying for perseverance, and for the faithfulness to His call and love.

I am a Daughter of Divine Zeal now.  This is where I am espousing the Lord of the harvest heart’s interest with zeal and praying for more holy vocations in the Church.  Everyday He is leading me to journey with Him and I am happy because, in so many ways He manifests His presence and love.  What a joy in my heart to be always with the beloved.  He is the source of my joy. I too have experienced difficulties, crisis in relationships, crisis in faith but these are overcome with His love, mercy, care and compassion. He is more and more greater, deeper, bigger and wider. To feel how God has become so real to me may be a corny thing to say or to be heard by another person.  Yet, I say that He is enough – He is here, so near and so close to me. I am praying too that my life is forever with God.  I am thankful to Him for the gift of my vocation. He is the reason. His grace upon graces and mercy upon mercies is the cause of why I am still here. I am thankful for all who have challenged me in my life, those who are so near and dear to me that their presence is God’s presence and their love is God’s love. It is a challenge to face the consequences of my “Yes” to choose Him above any other precious things in life. What a gift of vocation He has bestowed upon me, who is rest assured of His everlasting  presence. I pray for those who are called by God, particularly to the Religious life, to take courage and be generous in answering His call so that they will continue their journey of faith on this road that is less travelled.


Image sources: turnbacktogod.com (stairway) | pixabay.com

A day with Mary… and with the other Marys.

Mary Bambinella - Happy Birthday to Mary

Mary Bambinella – Happy Birthday to Mary

September 8 marks the birth of Mary and as a community, we had a prayer vigil on the eve of her birthday where we prepared three important symbolic offerings before the altar in our chapel. These symbols are significant to us:

  • Incense: This symbolises the expression of our thanksgiving to God for enriching our institute with new vocations.  We ask for God’s blessing and particularly for a grace for those who are living the call and trying to live their vocation in fidelity and humility.
  • Honey: We ask Mary Bambinella to keep us, just like the queen bee in her beehive, away from all the dangers of the world and the devil.  We pray that great is the pleasure of  being with Jesus, our spouse – again like the bees in the beehive which make the delicious honey of holiness.
  • Heart: We present our selves to Mary Bambinella, the desire of the sanctification of our souls and of all humanity.  We sing songs to Mary as an expression of our thanksgiving, honour, and pray in our hearts for her guidance and protection in our spiritual journey.
The three symbolic offerings

The three symbolic offerings

On that day of her birthday, only two days ago, we prayed the Holy Rosary, contemplating the joyful mysteries and we concluded with a Eucharistic Celebration with Father Toto, an Indonesian Jesuit priest. Our joy was complete because some of the girls from our hostel, Madre Nazarena Student’s House,  joined the said celebration.

In his homily Fr Toto asked us, one by one, “what is the favorite title of Mary in your own country?” One shared “Mary is Immaculate”, another said, “she is famous in her name Maria”, the other, “Mama”,  and many shared that she is called “Mother”. It was interesting because calling Mary in a particular way is an intimate expression, close to the heart of each person. We remember to pray and thank the other many Marys in our life who have a great part in our journey of faith.

After the Mass, Sr Floriana shared with the girls a little information about of Fr Annibale’s devotion to “Mary Bambinella” or “Mary Bambina” – Mary, the little child.

You can view photos of the day in our Facebook Photo Album.

Mary: Star of the New Evangelization

Maria Bambinella (baby mary)
08 September is the Feast of the Maria Bambinella (Child Mary) also known as the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, or Birth of the Virgin Mary.

St Annibale had a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Bambinella or the Child Mary. One of the testimonies given for the cause of his canonization affirmed that the Child Mary was the poetry of his heart. The Founder himself deemed it necessary to his sons and daughters – the Rogationists and the Daughters of Divine Zeal to have a solemn celebration of the feast by preparing a triduum, procession, sermons and vigil on the eve. It was a one of St Annibale’s dearest forms of piety as he was madly in love with the Bambinella. So much so that at the end of this saint’s earthly life, the Child Mary assured him of her love and protection.*

Mary’s life teaches us many things. She is our guide, a star that shines on our path of our faith journey. Her life at the very start to the end is always meant for God. She lives and follows God’s will. Every moment of her journey forms her whole being as she is accompanied by God, day by day. Because she always prays to Him, she is always in communion with Him, everything she does is for God and that keeps her relationship so close to Him.  Her faith is nourished and it grows. She has been shaken and tested with different challenges in life – pains, difficulties and contradictions – but she never falls down or becomes discouraged, rather God gives her more strength to face these with such dignity. Assured of God’s love is her consolation that God will never abandon her and she has hope and trusts Him in everything.

The moment that Jesus comes to her life is her great joy, it never compares to any other thing. Her joy with Jesus is not the end but is the start of her journey of life towards hope, sacrifice, and love in following His Son. She is always beside Jesus, accompanying Him in His passion, His death and to complete the experience of His Son’s glorious resurrection. Her life evangelizes us on how she deals with life with such love in her heart. She is part of that Good News that leads us to the fullness of life which awaits us at the end.

Mary you will always be the star shining in our lives. You guide us in our daily journey as we follow your Son, Jesus. Continue to protect and guide us onto the right path that we are travelling now. I pray for all women that we may, like you, imitate those virtues that help us to reach your heavenly home. Teach us to live this life with Christ, to love as we serve Him in our brothers and sisters who feel the least in our world and who are in most need.

*Source: St Hannibal’s Devotion to the Mary Bambinella | Image By Ramon F Velasquez (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons




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