Ruminations on literature, film, life, and what-have-you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

'Tis a Season to be Busy

A flurry of activities. For religious, moreso for priests, the seasons of Advent and Christmas are the most demanding. Well, there are of course, Christmas parties to attend, and come December 16, the Simbang Gabi novena dawn masses begin. That means getting up at 3:00 am for a 4:00 am mass everyday until the 25th.

For us scholastics and brothers, it means trying to help out, accompanying priests, helping with homilies, and of course trying to meet all of our deadlines before the Christmas break (which incidentally will be on the 22nd). It means braving the traffic to buy the perfect gifts for people who have touched your life. It means sleepless nights of balancing all of these activities and somehow trying to maintain our sanity.

For me, it means research, research and research. I am still trying to produce a decent proposal and that means reading more journals and books on the subject matter. I am currently perusing the book, The Psychology of Religion specifically studying religious experience and emotion.

Since I am going to study how display screens in liturgy affect religious experience, I need to have some way of analyzing emotions empirically. The book will help me provide the framework of the study.

There is a part of me telling me that I am treading into heretical ground since there is a risk of looking at the experience purely in an empirical manner—it is, after all a scientific investigation. But another part of me tells me that, done well, the study can help enhance the religious experience of parishioners whenever they celebrate mass. But it is a religious experience and so it involves not only screens and liturgical soundness, but a people and their God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Liturgy and Computer Science

My training prior to entering the Society of Jesus involves the sciences. I took Computer Science as my major in the Ateneo de Manila University where I concentrated on developing multimedia applications. After that, I worked for a company called Infinity Information Systems doing financial web applications research and development for Spectrasoft. I was invited to teach in the Ateneo, and I took my Masters in Computer Science while I was teaching.

The Society of Jesus is quite known for being much involved in the Sciences. The Information Systems and Computer Science Department is housed in a building named after Jesuit, Fr. Federico Faura, who founded Manila Observatory and invented the aneroid barometer.

I am currently writing my masteral thesis in computer science as a final step for my degree. For my area of concentration, I decided to focus on Human Computer Interaction, particularly, user-interface design. I initially wrote about developing user interfaces for online learning systems and its effects on user attrition. Because of my philosophy studies, I was not able to finish writing.

I then decided to write on a new topic. It is on Liturgy and Computer Science. There are a number of parishes in Metro Manila that utilize LCD projectors and Microsoft Powerpoint within the liturgy. I have experienced times when the slides do not necessarily help me to pray, but actually distracted me. I then realized, that in some way, this is a different sort of user interface, where a user (the parishioner) responds to stimuli, but he/she responds using liturgical actions. There must then be a way to use this technology, to improve liturgy, as regards pariticipation, as regards retention, as regards the entire user experience.

My mentor Neo Gonzales, has been very helpful supplying me information, especially on psychology, memory, and HCI. Hopefull I finish writing soon.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Just got a picture of my sister with her Chowchow, Niles.

I have always been fond of dogs every since I was a kid. Even when I entered the Society, dogs have likewise become a bundle of joy to me.

For instance, when I was still in Arvisu house, I attempted to train Bonjo (nick for Bon Jovi) and played with the irrepresible Clinton, and the who-are-you-looking-at Hillary. And when they had puppies (no, none of them were named Chelsea), that was a riot!

In Sacred Heart Novitiate, there was Magis, the half-German Shepherd whom I walked during the Long Retreat every morning. There's the half-Spitz Gandalf, who was as brown as their Carmelite donors—he was notorious for hiding under refectory tables, waiting for anything to nibble from generous retreatants. And of course, the dog Bishop (who was given by a bishop) caused a stir when one of the manualia assignments was listed as "bathe Bishop."

When I was sent Olutanga for my mission exposure, Fr. Kim Lachica's dog, Iggy, a native dog with an amputated foot, sat by my feet as I contemplated on life.

Here in Loyola House, Weyms' Rottweiler, Gabby, would look with her amber eyes and plead for someone to scratch behind her ears.

I suppose, if we Jesuits are called companions of Jesus, these dogs can be called the canine companions of companions?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Into the Quiet

After two years of novitiate, a Jesuit professes his first perpetual vows. Other religious congregations profess their first vows to be followed by an annual renewal of vows. In the Society of Jesus, (since the first vows are perpetual) we formands have a renovation of our vows, twice a year.

I am entering into a triduum retreat this evening culminating in our renovation of vows this Monday, 21 November. In my previous post, you have read perhaps of my anxieties, my fears, and these are the feelings that I am bringing into this weekend's retreat. I likewise bring my friends, my family into my prayers.

I'll be using the preparatory prayer I wrote in the Novitiate, and it is with this prayer that I end this post:

Lord, my God, you move in the faint murmurs of my heart.
Grant that I may listen to your whisperings
That I may surrender to your love.
Let your love tenderly catch me, surround me, and envelop me with Your being,
That every breath, every sigh, every smile, every tear
Every dream and every hope may be filled with Your loving presence.


I have not been quite myself lately. The past few days have not been that hectic, yet I am still agitated. You see, in a couple of months, I would need to go through the comprehensive examinations for philosophy.

In Jesuit formation, or the formation of the priesthood in general, it is expected that one goes through the comprehensives. I am on my second year of philosophy, and that means, yes comps time. However, I am also taking up my MS in Computer Science, and that means, come January, I would have to defend my thesis. These two brought together is giving me much anxiety.

I am afraid that I might fail. As my spiritual director pointed out yesterday, failure is not an option. And it should never be an option. Fear is caused by the unknown, and the best weapon against fear, therefore, is knowing. Knowing what? In my case, it's knowing the matter that needs to be taken up. It is knowing myself--that means, knowing my weaknesses, as well as my strengths, and using my strengths to my advantage. It is knowing, much more than anything else, that if things don't go as well as I hoped it would, everything will be alright, that I am still loved.

I beg, then for your prayers, as I go through this path where there is no room for failure. Help me beg for the grace of courage and trust that I may pursue my endeavors with much fervor, and accept whatever comes out of it.