Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I AM ONE WITH EVM (Ever Virgin Mary)

Ang buong Iglesia ni Cristo ay kaisa ni EVM (Ever Virgin Mary)! Tayong lahat ay dapat na makiisa sa pagpaparangal sa kanya sapagkat siya ay INA ng ating Panginoong Jesu-Cristo na siyang manunubos - tunay na Diyos at tunay na Tao!

Alam Niyo Ba na si Apostol San Pablo ay Isang Katoliko?

Ni Dr. James Taylor, Isang Nagbalik-loob sa tunay na Iglesia ni Cristo - ang Iglesia Katolika!

Many protestants make the mistake of claiming St. Paul as the first protestant, instead of Martin Luther? Why? Well Paul was not one of the original 12 apostles, and seemed to go around the country planting churches. Some claim that each of these churches was autonomous, with no central authority like Peter, and that is certainly the model of many modern protestant churches. But that is not the correct assumption to make about St. Paul, who is VERY Catholic in his writing. Let's take a look at some his writings to see.

First, St. Paul did get his commission directly from Jesus Christ, on the way to Damascus. St. Paul didn't just stand up on his own one day and decide to become a preacher. Like Peter and the other 11 apostles, Paul was sent forth by Jesus Christ Himself. St. Paul even says in Romans 10:15 that no one can preach unless he is SENT. Sent by whom? Well, either by Jesus Himself, or one with the authority of Jesus Himself, which would be Peter. We know this from John 20:21, where Jesus says to Peter and the other apostles (the Church on earth), "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you." Jesus also gave Peter the Keys to His Kingdom, in a sign of authority, in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus says that whatever Peter and His Church bind on earth, or loose on earth, will be bound and loosed in heaven. In recognition of this, after Paul had spent 3 years in Arabia following his conversion, he went and submitted himself to the chair of Peter, in Galatians 1:18.

But being sent by Christ to preach to the Gentiles and being submissive to Peter were not the only Catholic things that Paul did. Paul was very keen on oral tradition, something that Catholics today say is just as important as sacred scripture. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul says to "hold fast to the traditions we taught you, either written or by WORD OF MOUTH. Most protestants today disagree with Paul, saying that all tradition in the Catholic Church is somehow evil.

Paul was also very outspoken on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-21, St. Paul says that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ (not "symbolic"), and the breaking of the bread is a participation in the body of Christ (not "symbolic"). He then goes on to compare the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ with the Jewish sacrifice on the altar, as well as with the pagan sacrifices on the altar. Now either Paul doesn't know how to write properly and is using false comparisons with other altar sacrifices, OR the Eucharist is indeed a true sacrifice on an altar. Why else would Paul compare the Eucharist to other altar sacrifices? Most protestants don't even have an altar in their church (but they do have altar calls!). As if to emphasize his belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Paul continues talking about it in the very next chapter, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, where he says that whoever eats and drinks the Eucharist in an unworthy manner is guilty of profaning THE BODY AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS (if it's just a symbol, then this would be impossible.) This is why Catholics who practice artificial contraception or who commit other mortal sins such as looking at porn HAVE TO GO TO CONFESSION FIRST before receiving the Eucharist. Otherwise, they are guilty of yet another mortal sin. Paul goes on to say that anyone who does not discern the Body of Christ in the Eucharist (therefore, NOT A SYMBOL) eats and drinks judgment on himself, and you could get sick and die. This is why non-Catholics are not invited to the Catholic Eucharist, because they do not believe it to be Jesus Himself. Just like in marriage, where the husband and wife become one flesh, in the Eucharist, Jesus becomes one flesh with us. And just like in marriage, there is a preparation before. In marriage, there is the Pre-Cana preparation; with the Eucharist, there is the RCIA preparation.

So what about the sacrament of confession? Did Paul ever say anything about this? Well, yes he did, in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21. Paul says that the ministry of reconciliation (forgiveness of our sins) was given to him by Christ. On behalf of Christ, Paul urges us all to be reconciled with God. Many protestants believe that they can confess their sins directly to God, and not go through a minister, but this philosophy is only to be found in the Old Testament, not the New Testament. For instance, we have St. John the Baptist hearing the people's sins prior to baptism in Mark 1:5, and in John 20:21-23, Jesus gives his priests the power to forgive sins. In James 5:16, he says to confess your sins to one another. And in Acts 19:18, many people came forward confessing their sins and evil practices. Confessing one's sins to a minister of reconciliation is very New Testament. Confessing your sins to God directly is the Old Testament way, and is no longer in force.

Paul also believed in personal mortification, like Catholics do during Lent. In Colossians 1:24, Paul says that he rejoices in his personal sufferings, and completes WHAT IS LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, for the sake of the Church. Now this doesn't mean that Paul thinks that Jesus should have hung on the cross for 4 hours instead of 3 hours. What it means is that we, the Church Militant, in the true imitation of Christ, have to suffer with him, albeit not near as much. Why, because it helps build up the church. It is only through suffering that many people meet Christ. After all, when we are well off and well fed and healthy and living the good life, most people put their confidence in the things of this world, not Christ. By suffering, we come to know Christ as He came to know us - in bodily suffering. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he mortifies his flesh, so that after preaching to us, he himself will not be disqualified. This not only reinforces the self-mortification aspect of Paul's teaching, it also refutes the heretical "once saved, always saved' teaching of protestants.

And speaking of the false "once saved, always saved" theory, Paul directly refutes it in Hebrews 10: 26-29, when he says that if you deliberately sin after being sanctified by grace, then you can expect nothing less than an ordeal of fire, because you have profaned the blood of the covenant (the Holy Eucharist) by which you were sanctified, and outraged the Holy Spirit. That certainly doesn't sound like once saved, always saved, and in fact, backs up St. Peter in 2 Peter 2:20-22.

St. Paul also believes in praying for the dead. He prayed for the dead Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16-18, asking not only blessings for his household, but for Onesiphorus to receive mercy at the final judgment.

Purgatory? St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12 -15, that a man's work will be tested with fire on his judgment day. If the man has good works, then he will receive an immediate reward. if it is burned up, then he will eventually be saved, but only through fire. Since people who go to hell are never saved, then this can only be referring to the cleansing fire of purgatory.

St. Paul also didn't preach that the bible alone is his philosophy. Rather, in 1 Timothy 3:15, St. Paul says that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth, rather than sacred scripture, which many protestants hold up to be the pillar and bulwark of truth. Catholics agree completely with St. Paul here.

And St. Paul was not only celibate, he recommended celibacy. Many protestants mistakenly believe that celibacy leads to child abuse, which is crazy, because Jesus, St. John the Baptist, and St. Paul were all celibate. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:8-22, that marriage is ok, but IT IS BETTER TO REMAIN UNMARRIED, because then you are trying to please the Lord, not your wife.

St. Paul didn't believe that good works were useless, filthy rags either, like some protestants preach. Rather, he believed that they were the fruit of our faith, like he says in Colossians 1:10 - "We should live a life pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work." Paul does condemn the useless works of the law like circumcision, in Romans 3:28. Luther mistranslated this "works of the law" into "good works," which does not agree with other scriptures like James 2:24, where God says that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone. It's sad how so many people today still believe Luther and not James. As if to emphasize his belief that salvation is not a one time decision, but a continuous journey until death, Paul says in Phillipians 2:12 to "WORK (there is that word again) out your salvation with FEAR AND TREMBLING." (This is not the cocky self assuredness that most protestants preach today!).

And finally, what about the Rapture? The rapture is a mistaken protestant belief that Jesus will come in secret, and snatch believers up to heaven, leaving everything else behind, including their clothes. Then there will be a 7 year tribulation, where the rest of us will get a second chance to be saved. This is NOWHERE to be found in scripture. St. Paul mentions the second coming of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17. But Paul says that the dead will rise first, and that there will be a huge trumpet blast. So this event doesn't appear to be some secret snatching away of believers. Seeing the dead rise first with a huge trumpet blast is nowhere to be found in any of the "Left Behind" series of novels. And since the dead will rise first, we know that this will be the last day of human history. This is confirmed by St. John in John 6:40.

So don't let anyone try to hold St. Paul us as some kind of Protestant. St. Peter says in 2 Peter 3:16 that many of his writings are hard to understand, and many do so to their own destruction. This was true in the first century, in the 16th century when Luther and Calvin got it wrong, and it is still true today with all of the TV preachers preaching health and wealth as the Christian message..

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Matapos ang debate, ang kasinungalingan ng mga kaanib ng INC™-1914, inilantad at sinagot ni Dr. James White

A Quick Refutation of an Internet Lie

I was sent the attached graphic earlier today as I was going to preach on Philippians 2:5-11 at a local Southern Baptist Church here in Rapid City before returning home tomorrow to Phoenix. Here is the English translation that was provided to me:

"The proof that INC won the debate:

After the heated debate between Dr. James White and Joe Ventilacion of INC, Dr James White has made up his mind to study more on teachings and faith of the Iglesia ni Cristo. This is due to the fact that he has by himself witnessed that all the teachings of INC is plainly stated in the Bible.

No wonder that even if the debate was already over, James White, out of his curiosity, continues to ask questions to Joe Ventilacion, because it was his first time to hear these teachings from INC. Most importantly, Dr. White has concluded that there is no Trinity in the Bible and that there is only one God, the Father, which has to be known and worshipped by men."

The picture was taken by an INC member we had chatted with while waiting for Mr. Ventilacion to arrive for the 5pm Q&A session (which was very lightly attended). As I had other things to get to I went straight to JV and asked my question. If we need to, I can provide a full transcript and recording of the conversation. Here is what we discussed:

When I do debates, I attempt to accurately represent the other side by studying their primary source documents. Hence, when I debate Mormons, I have a very large LDS library from which to quote. Same with Jehovah's Witnesses. When I debate Islam, I quote from their primary source documents as well. And when someone wants to represent me fairly, they surely can do so, as my books are available for anyone to read, and the confessions of faith used by my church are public and readily available.

During our debate, JV said I was misrepresenting INC. But he also invited me to do a second debate (we discussed doing this in San Diego next year during this conversation). So I raised one main issue to him. There is a book I would like to obtain. It is titled _Fundamental Beliefs of the Iglesia Ni Christo_ by Eranio G. Manalo. It is their primary ministerial text. And it is secret. They do not allow public distribution of it. And so I was asking for a copy, as that would be the only way to accurately represent INC's positions in a debate. I was told it was only for ministers, and that I would be provided with articles from magazines, but not with the official publication that defines their beliefs. I pointed out that this secretive stance is not only problematic for people who claim to be Christians, but it makes it next to impossible to fairly debate INC. But I was not given the book.

JV and I exchanged numbers and email addresses so we can have contact regarding the possibility of a debate in San Diego (where he is moving). I wrote to JV earlier today to ask him to comment on this falsehood being spread through the Internet, but I have not received a response from him.

Now, the fact is, whoever posted this lie is engaging in CLASSIC cultic behavior. Such a person shows not the slightest concern for truth and is willing to fabricate falsehoods for the service of a false religious system. This is the very essence of the cultic mind.

Once again, everything in the article is an utter fabrication, a lie, *and we possess full documentation of every word spoken in the exchange by which we can prove this.* Only a person who feels a very strong need to do damage control would produce such a dishonest post. And that says a great deal.

By the way, anyone with any information on how we might obtain a copy of the above mentioned book, please contact Alpha and Omega Ministries with that information. We are surely willing to pay for any copy of this work. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Mula sa Questions & Answer - Christian Apologetics


"Araw-araw, sila'y nagkakatipon sa Templo at nagpipira-piraso ng tinapay sa kanilang mga tahanan, na masaya at may malinis na kalooban."(Acts 2:46, MBB)


1. Ang nakasulat sa Acts 2:46 ay ARAW-ARAW SILANG NAGKAKATIPON SA TEMPLO. Araw-araw silang nananalangin. Ang INC ay 4 Times a week lamang sumamba at nagkakatipon sa kanilang kapilya. IBIG SABIHIN, HINDI ARAW-ARAW. Ang Catholic Church ay may araw-araw na Misa.

2. Ang nakasulat sa Acts 2:46 ay ARAW-ARAW SILANG NAGPIPIRA-PIRASO NG TINAPAY. Ang Iglesia ni Cristo ay may tinatawag na Santa Cena at ginagawa nila ito Once a Year. Ang tanong meron bang araw-araw na once a year? Sa araw-araw na Misa ay tumatanggap ang mga sumasamba ng katawan ni Cristo.

3. Ang nakasulat sa Acts 2:46, sila ay "MAY MALINIS NA KALOOBAN", halos araw-araw na sinisiraan ng INC ang Catholic Church sa kanilang pagtitipon at pangangaral, paano magkakaroon ng "malinis na kalooban" ang mga taong may galit sa kanilang mga puso?

Sabi nga ni Cristo," Sapagkat sa loob, sa puso ng tao, nagmumula ang masasamang isipang nag-uudyok sa kanya upang makiapid, magnakaw, pumatay, mangalunya, mag-imbot, gumawa ng kasamaan tulad ng pandaraya, kahalayan, pagkainggit, paninirang-puri, pagmamayabang, at kahangalan."(Marcos 7:21-22).

4. Ayon mismo sa Book of Acts ang mga unang kristiyano ay nananalangin ng 3 O'CLOCK PRAYER (Acts 3:1), ang tanong ito ba ay ginagawa ng INC? Ang mga Katoliko ba ay nananalangin ng 3 O'CLOCK? Of course, alam na alam natin iyan na ginagawa ito ng mga Katoliko!

5. Ayon din mismo sa Book of Acts ang mga unang kristiyano ay LUMULUHOD kung sila ay nananalangin, si Apostol Pedro (Acts 9:40) at si Apostol Pablo (Acts 20:36). Ang tanong ang mga member ba ng INC ay lumuluhod sa tuwing nananalangin sila?


Sunday, April 9, 2017

A prayer for the new martyrs of the Palm Sunday massacre in Egypt

Source: Aleteia

O New Martyrs, slain at worship as we enter into our holiest days, you now number among the ancient holy ones. Before the throne of the Almighty, we beg you to keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again we are focused on the mysterious geography where humanity first came into being, and then into contact with the Reality of the One God — the lands where all will someday finally be revealed.

Today, we ponder why it is that our attention is continually turned to this region in gasping sorrow, all due to a malevolent force as old as Eden. We know that Christ Jesus is the Victor over death, and the Victor over evil, but we acknowledge that the victories come only by way of His Cross. O New Martyrs, you and the people of your region share in that Cross and we, in spirit, share it with you. In the presence of the Perfect Wisdom — the Holy, Mighty One who imparts all that is True, teach us to pray the words that will bring peace, if peace is possible, or to pray the words of pure worship, contrition and trust, if it is not.

Pray that we may learn how to become the peace we seek.

Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.

Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
Saint Charbel Makhlouf, pray for us,
Saints Mariam Baouardy and Marie-Alphonsine of Palestine, pray for us,
Blessed Charles de Foucauld, pray for us,

All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
Amen, Amen.

Friday, March 10, 2017


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” – old Chinese proverb

This line of wisdom is a universal truth, yet if used by an expelled member of the church or even a non-member, the Church of EVM fanatics will always be quick to reply (without even thinking) that it should not be accepted simply because it came from the “tiwalag” (expelled/non-members). Thus began the era of EVM (Eduardo V. Manalo) wherein anything he says is considered infallible or gospel truth and anything that goes against his every word (more like whim) is considered as a blatant lie, because according to the EVM fanatics, how can EVM lie since he has been placed by God to be the Shepherd of the flock?

Do we disagree that EVM is a shepherd of the flock? No. The Bible describes him perfectly:

“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people–the shepherds of my sheep–for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for,” says the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 23:1 NLT

So what did the leaders of the Church of Christ do in order to hide their inadequacies and incompetence? They try to cover them up with a facade of false and shallow victories… they ushered in the era of superficial activities:.. continue reading...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Metropolitan Cathedral, Naga City

Photo credited to Rev. Art Pangan, OP

Allen Hunt: A Methodist Mega-Church Pastor Turned Catholic

Published by Win One for God at March 7, 2017

Allen is a former Methodist mega-church pastor and currently hosts a daily talk radio show (the Allen Hunt Show) which is heard on 150 mainstream stations around the country each week with a half million listeners. Allen is also a husband and father of two daughters.

I never saw it coming.

For fifteen years, my ministry as a Methodist pastor blossomed from one ministry to another, culminating in my dream job. I became the senior pastor of a mega-church, the most well-attended Methodist congregation in the South, and one of the largest in the country. Somewhere between four and five thousand people worshiped there each Sunday. Eight thousand gathered there for Christmas and Easter services. The church sponsored one of just two K-12 Methodist schools in the nation, had a full pregnancy resource center, a counseling center, a child care ministry, and maintained partnerships with vital missions on every continent around the globe.

How did my transition occur? Not in a single moment of great revelation, but slowly, through a series of experiences. More like a mosaic of God-encounters. Or better yet, like a journey on a boat that begins in the Atlantic Ocean, without a real plan or destination. One day you wake up, look around and realize that you’re somewhere in the Pacific. You’re not sure when you crossed from one ocean to the other, but you know you’re there, and there’s no going back.

Often, I was leading that wonderful mega-church, and deep inside I began to feel a longing to be a part of what I was convinced was God’s One Church. Over time that longing grew until I could deny it no more.

My journey culminated on Sunday, January 6, 2008, the feast of the Epiphany. On that day, I, the former pastor of a mega-church just twenty miles away, stood before the congregation at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta’s oldest Catholic church.

I was no longer the very public and well-respected Methodist minister. I would not welcome the congregation, deliver the homily, or stand outside and greet members as they left, but instead would be just like any other lay person there.

But then, finally, the moment came.

I walked to the front, and the priest gently placed the Body of Christ in the palm of my hand for the very first time.

And I began to weep.

Tears slowly streamed down my face as the years of journey climaxed in the enveloping presence of the Holy Spirit.

God’s Instrument

God used my friendship with a priest whom I met in graduate school to introduce me to the treasures of the Catholic Church. Through Father Steven, a Dominican friar, I came to see the six hidden treasures of the Catholic Church, treasures so powerful that they changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. I call them hidden treasures because they are so often over-looked or misunderstood or taken for granted.

At times, God uses friendships in remarkable ways. We listen to real friends. To strangers, we often turn a deaf ear or a cold shoulder. But to real friends, we will listen, even when listening stretches us in new ways. I do not think Fr. Steven intended to lead me home. Rather, he loved me and my family with abundance in a time when we desperately needed it. That friendship and love led to conversations about things of faith. Those conversations percolated and bounced around in my soul for years. I am constantly amazed at how God uses genuine friendships to shape our lives.

Meeting the Nuns

In our second year together, Fr. Steven arranged for the two of us to give Lenten lectures to a group of cloistered Dominican nuns in North Guilford, Connecticut. Of course, first, he had to explain what a cloistered monastery was. Talk about naive! I had no idea such places even existed.

A gathering of 50 nuns, located in a monastery whose grounds they vowed never to leave. A place of regular prayer, Mass, and simple, humble service. A group of nuns who supported their mutual life of prayer by making fudge (and it was great fudge!) and operating a book store. It was in their monastery that God planted the first seeds for my conversion, seeds which took sixteen years to come to fruition, and seeds which I did not even realize were being planted at the time.

Fr. Steven and I spent four wonderful afternoons giving talks to the nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace. I discovered later that I had been the first male who was not an ordained Catholic priest ever to instruct the sisters within their walls. It was a rare privilege and blessing, which I could not have fully appreciated at the moment. God had opened a door of grace into which I had stumbled.

Best of all, the experience proved eye-opening for me in more ways than one. This invitation into a cloistered monastery rocked my world.

A Graced Encounter

The holiness of these sisters stunned me. Keep in mind that these women would be the first to disagree at any suggestion that they are holy. They would be wrong.

Never before had I encountered persons so completely given over to God. Their faces shone with a grace and a light that unnerved me. The love of God revealed itself physically in their eyes, cheeks, and smiles. These were women whose entire lives were dedicated to the glory of God.

Remember this was totally new to me. I had no context or background to understand this place or these women. No such group exists in any Protestant tradition. Very simply, I was bumfuddled. It is not often that we have an experience that is so out of the ordinary and so out of place that we have no real way to process it at first.

This was all new territory to me. In some ways, it was scary because I was accustomed to teaching, speaking and being in charge of my setting. That control and leadership clearly did not apply here.

Fr. Steven and I shared lectures focused on the great Dominican doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, and on John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. We discussed sanctification and holiness, and the places where our beliefs intersected far more than we had anticipated. The common ground between us surprised the nuns, Fr. Steven, and me. We enjoyed great interaction and conversation together. After our last lecture, we reserved time for questions and answers. For many of the sisters, I was the first Methodist they had ever met.

A Probing Question

One sister, whom I call “Sr. Rose,” raised her hand and, as I bremember, said, “Allen, thank you for having come these past few weeks. We’ve enjoyed your teaching.” She paused and continued, “You sound so Catholic. After hearing you, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Why aren’t you a part of the Church?’”

The nuns giggled. The question startled me. “A part of the Church?” What did she mean?

As a Protestant I was taken aback by that. I thought to myself, “Well, I am a part of the Church. Don’t you understand that? I’m a Methodist pastor.” Then all of a sudden it dawned on me: she meant the Catholic Church is the one and only Church.

I laughed and gave a quick answer. I said something like, “Why am I Methodist as opposed to being Catholic? Well, you are some of the first Catholics I have ever met. The main reason revolves around communion. It seems very obvious to me that Jesus is using a metaphor when He talks about the cup and the loaf. The wine doesn’t literally become His blood; that seems kind of obvious to me as a Methodist. It’s still wine, or in the Methodist tradition, it’s grape juice. The loaf, He is saying, ‘It’s my body,’ just as He also says He is the door, He is the light, and He is the shepherd. It’s just bread and juice. I really do not understand why you all take it so literally. It’s a symbol.”

Believe it or not, I had never had that conversation in my brain before. As a Methodist and in my training in seminary, it was just something we assumed. I took it for granted.

Sr. Rose then came right back at me. Very kindly but very directly, she said, “Well, you are a New Testament scholar, right? So why does Jesus say…”

With that introduction, she then began to walk me through chapter 6 of the Gospel of John and Jesus’ teaching there on the Bread of Life. I thought I knew this passage, but Sr. Rose carefully paused on eight separate occasions to make the point: Jesus is serious about His body and His blood.

A Lifelong Journey

My transition into the Church stunned my family. I come from a long line of Methodist pastors, 8 generations I think my mother and in-laws are still processing my decision. My wife and children have been very supportive. One of my daughters (21 years old) has also entered the Church now. My decision cost me a number of friendships, primarily with some former colleagues. Of course, it put an end to all I had worked for in my career as a pastor. But it was impossible to avoid. It has been a wonderful journey, a hard journey, and a life-giving journey

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ang Pagiging Ministro sa Iglesia ni Cristo ay Hindi Lamang Dahil sa May Tinatamasang Kasaganaan sa Sanlibutan

Nakatutuwang basahin ang artikulong ito tungkol sa isang alagad ng Santa Iglesia na naging PARI sa kabila ng kanyang kaalaman sa siyensa. (Mula sa Washington Post).

Why a Yale neuroscientist decided to change careers — and is now becoming a priest

Jaime Maldonado-Aviles, a former neuroscientist at Yale, decided to become a priest at Catholic University’s Theological College in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
Even as he sought the truth day in and day out, peering into mice brains in the lab to figure out the mysteries of addiction and depression, Jaime Maldonado-Aviles was filled with uncertainty.

Was this what he should be doing with his life? As he excelled in school, earned a post-doctoral position at Yale, and won prestigious fellowships, Maldonado-Aviles wondered: Is this what God wants from me?

Eventually, the calling he felt from God became too powerful to ignore. The promising neuroscientist left the Ivy League research laboratory — and entered seminary at Catholic University of America in Northeast D.C. to become a priest.

“This constant intuition — I almost want to say nagging — that maybe I was called to serve in a different way… it was always frequent,” he said. “At different times the question would come back: If I see myself 90 years old, close to death, would I say to myself, ‘I should have entered seminary’?”

He entered. And now, within the church, he hopes to help Catholics understand scientists, and scientists understand Catholics.

[A scientist’s new theory: Religion was key to humans’ social evolution]

Scientists are a secular lot, on the whole. While 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God or some other higher power, just 51 percent of scientists do, according to a 2009 Pew study. But many of them quietly believe. And a small but significant number are turning from research to the priesthood, bringing a science-based perspective to the Catholic church that many church leaders say is greatly needed.

When Maldonado-Aviles arrived at Theological College, the Catholic University seminary, many of his classmates were young men just out of college. But he also found among his peers a seminarian with a PhD in chemistry, another who studied nanoscience, another who first went to medical school.

The number of seminarians in Washington who studied the sciences, at least as undergraduates, is high enough that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the head of the archdiocese, has noticed it. “Here they are, saying, ‘There’s more,'” he said about those seminarians who seek God after finding science first.

[Cardinal Wuerl voices Catholic support for immigrants, but urges caution about sanctuary churches]

Ken Watts works as a recruiter for Pope St. John XXIII Seminary, a unique school in Massachusetts open specifically to men over 30 — sometimes many decades over 30 — who decide they want to become priests. By far the most common first career for these men is education, he said, followed by healthcare, military service, social work and other religious work — all fields that logically might lead to the priesthood. But he’s guided scientists to seminary quite a few times.

“They seem to fit in pretty well, is all I can say. There doesn’t seem to be a terrible struggle for them to bring their scientific backgrounds through the front door here. Nobody asks them to abandon it,” Watts said. “When the moral issues are those that revolve around medical, scientific areas, it’s certainly helpful to have people who really understand that world to help refine and clarify the church’s thinking on this.”

Suzanne Tanzi, a spokeswoman for Theological College who noted the several scientists who have enrolled there, said scientist-priests are particularly helpful given one of the primary focuses of the current pope, who in fact was once a chemist himself: the environment. Francis’s first major writing as pope was a highly technical treatise on the environment, and the church has been an increasingly vocal advocate worldwide for policies to reduce climate change.

[10 key excerpts from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment]

As Watts put it: “They’re very, very valuable.”

Maldonado-Aviles’s thoughts about the priesthood started early, as a youth growing up in Puerto Rico. He participated in mission trips as a high schooler, and started wondering what it would be like to grow up to be a missionary.

Instead, he studied biology at the University of Puerto Rico, where he earned a fellowship for honors students through the National Institutes of Health. After he earned his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh, he went into a post-graduate program at Yale, where he spent six years. He became particularly interested in researching the molecular basis of eating disorders.

Almost three years ago, he got a job offer that seemed perfect: a tenure-track position doing research at the pharmacy school at the University of Puerto Rico. The job would bring him home to be closer to his family, which he had been wanting. It would mean longterm stability, a good salary and the chance to do interesting, meaningful research.

And after much debate, Maldonado-Aviles turned down the offer.

“I have to seriously explore these questions,” he decided. And his process of priestly formation began.

That requires two years of philosophy, which some candidates complete while they are undergraduates, followed by four years of theology. For Maldonado-Aviles, who never studied either subject, that means six years of schooling. Now, at age 37, he’s in his third year.

[Seriously, I am giving up President Trump for Lent. Here’s how.]

If he continues on pace, he’ll be over 40 when he becomes a priest. That makes him older than more than 80 percent of newly-ordained priests in recent years, according to statistics from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but far from the oldest. So-called “second vocation” priests have always been a presence in seminaries. American seminaries in 2016 ordained six men in their 50s and three in their 60s.

Moving back into a dorm, Maldonado-Aviles has given up some things: He doesn’t earn a salary, instead living with his fellow seminarians where the church takes care of his needs. He can’t visit his family in Puerto Rico as often.

And he used to date, and assumed he would someday marry. Now, he anticipates a life of celibacy if he becomes a priest.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m making more sacrifices” than someone in a marriage, which requires sacrifices of its own, he said. “If I believe God is calling me to be a priest, I also believe he will give me charisms — gifts — that will help me.”

Maldonado-Aviles is careful to say that he does not know yet that he will certainly become a priest. The time he spends in seminary is all part of his process of discernment: Reading the clues that God has left for him that point to the path he’s meant to take. He saw some of those signs long before he entered seminary — times he heard a particular Biblical passage in Mass and felt it was calling personally to him to radically devote his life to Jesus, for instance.

He seeks these clues with a diligence and precision that hearkens back to his first career.

[On Ash Wednesday, ashes to go — with a little extra sparkle for LGBT Christians]

He said he used to feel like the only one in the lab who believed in God — until he started seeing Yale professors filling the same pews he sat in at Mass. His work studying neurons led him to marvel all the more at God’s handiwork: “The complexity and yet the order in which things work in our body and in our brain, it makes you think there’s more than just randomness.”

But reconciling his faith and his work wasn’t always so easy. He remembers going to a talk about the development of the human neocortex, and realizing that the research being presented had been conducted on aborted human embryos in Europe.

He was shaken to think that his scientific career might bring him in contact with abortion, which the church teaches is a grave sin. “What is it that I’m doing? Would I ever compromise my faith based on the pressure for success?” he wondered.

Now, he says he has a deep interest in bioethics. Inspired by a handful of priest-scientists around him at Catholic University and some of the greats of Catholic history — priest Georges Lemaitre who first came up with the Big Bang theory, monk Gregor Mendel who originated the study of genetics — he envisions a potential future bridging the two realms. He wants to advise scientists on the ethics of their work.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Zambia: 8 dead, 28 injured in stampede for free Church food

By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban with Mwebantu 06/03 - 11:12 (Africa News)

ZAMBIA - Zambian police have confirmed the death of eight people and injuries sustained by 20 others during a stampede after a church event in the capital, Lusaka.

The stampede occured when organizers of a prayer event, started distributing free food parcels to the crowds that had attended the event – an outreach program at the Church of Christ’s Olympic Youth Development Center (OYDC) – on Sunday, March 5.

Local media portal, Mwebantu, quoted a police spokesperson, Esther Mwaata Katongo as disclosing that among the dead were six females, one male adult and one male juvenile. Five died on the spot while three died at hospitals where they were rushed for medical attention.
"The victims are among the 35,000 which the group called Lesedi seven, had invited for prayers at OYDC. The group had also organized food hampers to distribute to people. This Lesedi seven is a grouping under Church of Christ."

The injured persons are said to be receiving treatment at Chingwere first level hospital and Chipata clinic while the bodies of the deceased have been taken to University Teaching Hospital mortuary.

“We have since dispersed the gathering and an inquiry into the matter has been instituted,” the police spokesperson added.