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Oct 02nd
Home Columns A Voice From America Christmas Still Brings Mystery and Magic to Those Who Believe
Christmas Still Brings Mystery and Magic to Those Who Believe PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Voice From America
Written by Ernie Delfin   
Tuesday, 21 December 2010 16:20


By Ernie D. Delfin


An unexamined life is not worth living for.—Socrates


T his year has brought  some milestones and many blessings to our lives. My wife and I also became grandparents when our only daughter, Donna Karen, and her husband Tri Nguyen became proud parents to a beautiful, precocious baby girl Olivia, before Mothers’ Day last May. Like many of our contemporaries who are “lolos and lolas"  (grandparents) we have also become part-time babysitters, a profession that has its own priceless reward during our semi-retirement.


Every decade or so, it seems, our lives morph into  another phase, with different set of activities – mental, physical, social and spiritual – and these changes become mandatory imputed by Some Invisible Power upon all of us, homo sapiens. Growing older and going through this life’s metamorphosis, however,  have its own rewards and make life worth living.  


The period between Thanksgiving and New Year has always given me the most-appropriate time to really ponder, evaluate and set my own priorities for the remaining years of my earthly life. For many years now, I have carved one long weekend in early January to go into a spiritual retreat away from home (like the St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista or the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, both in Northern California, or the beautiful Sierra Retreat in Malibu or the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona) and I find it very useful and reinvigorating to start another year on a higher plane.


It’s a very-inexpensive gift but a great blessing to have some uninterrupted peace and quiet for several days for self-reflection. Consciously planning and balancing life’s activities into all the essential quadrants (physical=to live, mental=to learn, social=to love and spiritual=to leave a legacy) is a must to live a more-fulfilled life.


Along life’s journey, I’ve learned much from countless of books and so many people from all walks of life – from the very-successful business people, to Ph.D.s and academicians, social activists, politicians and ordinary working people, as well as those in the religious life. From a distance, I enjoy playing some kind of mental chess-game in analyzing peoples’ their rai’son d’etre, fulfillment and joy. It’s an amazing revelation and may be ironical to infer that the “material” possessions a person has have little bearing to one’s degree of happiness or fulfillment. It appears that a person’s detachment to worldly things often means that he or she is attached to something else that is nobler and more important, which make him or her live a happier, more-fulfilling life. The lives of many saints like St. Francis or St. Ambrose are examples of this  phenomenon.


The last decade I have seen this reality more clearly, especially among the religious: priests, brothers, missionaries and nuns, who work daily for others.


The Example of My Sibling


My entire family and I find inspiration from my sister Letty, who as a Dominican nun for almost 30 years now, has worked since her graduation from the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T.) in Manila, Philippines. She has labored not only for her well being but more so also for the well-being and education of others. Just talking to her regularly and mentally comparing what she does in her religious life to what I do in my business life forces me to reflect what really matters most in life. She not only thinks of the welfare of others but also walks the talk every working day without any complaint. Even the occasional gifts that she receives are often re-routed to the more-needy people in the Philippines! Our family is doubly blessed to have her praying for us every day.


This example of generous giving, a genuine “Service Above Self” attitude inspires me to think and also pray for our leaders in my adopted country, the U.S.A. and my birthplace, the Philippines, to possess a more-servant leadership heart, to prod them to do more for the COMMON GOOD to our society.


It’s high time for all leaders to  start helping the country to move it forward and not just use their enviable positions to enrich themselves, their families and friends. They should be moved by the selfless examples of Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, 26, in sharing their vast wealth by giving back to the global community.


In the United States, I have great admiration and respect for former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter who continue to serve others in what they do in their foundations. Not resting on their laurels, they are leading the way selflessly to make this world a better place.


There is not a day that I don’t think of the Philippines. I cannot help but compare the Philippines’ living former Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos against  Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. I am praying for these three living Philippine former Presidents to  do what Presidents Clinton and Carter and also start  giving back to the country (whatever they have allegedly taken away from the people) before they die, which is certain to happen later if not sooner. Leaving a lasting-and-positive legacy should be on top of their New Year’s resolution too.


Join me in praying that God strike them with some blindness-causing lightning like how He did to Saul (renamed Paul) on his way to Damascus. Before his conversion, Saul was a persecutor of Christians; after his conversion, however, Paul became a most-zealous missionary in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. With God, nothing is impossible. Arroyo, Estrada and Ramos still have time to share their vast wealth with the poor of the Philippines.


What Christmas Is Really All About


I ndeed, Christmas emotes and evokes so many human emotions. Visible manifestations from human actions – from gift giving to feeding the hungry, from sheltering the homeless to putting up elaborate Christmas decorations and expensive Christmas trees, adorned with multi-colored lights – are more obvious during Christmas time.


Christmas makes happy people happier, grateful people more grateful but sad people sadder, too. Our sense of spirituality and generosity is multiplied as our hopes for a better year are enhanced. We also become more reflective and forgiving. Although as adults, we no longer believe in Santa Claus, yet we  still encourage innocent children to believe that there is Santa Claus who rewards them their wishes if they are good, kind and generous to others.


Deep in the recesses of our hearts, maybe, we long  to be like these innocent children again believing that Santa Claus is real. If we believe that Christ is the real reason for the season, then we must also believe that Christmas still has that mysterious magical power to change peoples’ hearts.  


During the holiday season, it is said that the sufferings and painful struggles of many people are exacerbated that even lead to more suicides and depression. I pray that families’ burdens and sufferings are lightened as I also hope that they remain steadfast in their faith these things will also come to pass.


To give solace to the weary and depressed, a classic book, entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning”  by Dr. Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor is highly recommended. Writing his personal experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Dr. Frankl concluded that  “any person can endure any kind of suffering, physical pains and even  torture as long as his mind is focused and attached to a more-profound calling, a higher cause that is more important than his physical body that will corrupt and eventually return to dust”. Mind over matter. Spirit over body. Substance over form. How true these sayings are!


Like in Christmas past, I thank my Creator and my Savior for the  blessings that He has given me, my family and my community. I pray that He give me the fortitude and  good health to continue to be His instrument to help spread His “GOOD NEWS” to others as best as I can utilizing my God-given talents, time and treasure. I do realize that there is still so much to do, yet so little time left in the “candle of life” that He has given me. The thought of my own mortality is somberly humbling, but it is consoling to remember the words of wisdom of a dear Franciscan priest-friend of mine, Fr. Emery Tang, OFM, who passed away last year. He wrote in his last book, Food for the Journey, “I may not have the time to do all the things I want to do, but God will give me all the time to do what He wills me to do.”


Lastly, may the bright Christmas LIGHT also mean (to borrow from Thomas Kinkade): Let Inspiration Generate Hope Today!


Merry Christmas and a Prosperous Peaceful New Year to all our readers! # # #


Food for thought  for today: ‘We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.—Winston Churchill


For any inquiry or feedback, please e-mail the writer at:     or



Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 December 2010 16:47
Comments (2)
1 Wednesday, 22 December 2010 13:48

I was touched by your story. It's full of good thoughts and beautifully written. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

Jesse Jose
Seattle WA
2 Wednesday, 29 December 2010 21:07
Merry Christmas to you too! and Have a Happy Prosperous Peaceful New Year!

Thank you for your kind words! Nakakataba ng puso!.. You made my day!


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