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WOEs and WOWs of Life – Part 1 of 2

Fr. Francis Ongkingco



IN my few years dealing with young people (as well as not-so-young), I have constantly imparted some advice to help them in their spiritual and ascetical adventures.


I call one group the WOEs and the other the WOWs. The WOEs stand for Words Of Encouragement and the WOWs for Words Of Wisdom.

The both groups are intimately intertwined, but the WOEs are more addressed to persons coming out of some difficulty or obstacle in life. The WOWs are for individuals who may be doing good but can be better and more fruitful.


The WOEs and WOWs hope to give both young and not-so-young some inspiring light in their short-comings, beginnings, and victories.


In this first part, let us see some of the WOEs:

Sin cannot have the last say in your day. Remember that God’s mercy is more powerful and effective than our sinful condition. After a fall, you cannot sadly slouch and think that there’s nothing more to do about it. Pray, ask for forgiveness, decide how to make up for one’s faults, ask for advice, and go to confession if necessary.


Be Cool, not Frozen. It’s fun to be cool and simply hang loose. But make sure you don’t freeze yourself from promptly doing what you ought to do for God, neighbors, and your civil duties.


Don’t just do it … Do it for Someone! Virtue isn’t just about filling up your day with things to do in order to avoid doing something bad. There will usually come a time when you will exhaust your to-do list. Things will be more meaningful if you have someone you love in mind (e.g. God, Pope Francis, parents, friends, etc.) for whom you can offer everything you do.


The World is Round. Learn to schedule your digital indulgence by cutting down on screen time daily. You must constantly remember that the world isn’t your flat screen but is made up of loving faces, hands, shoulders, and smiles we can interact with!


Stragedize. The tragedy of your falls is rooted in that you never plan ahead or perhaps, you never have a plan at all. Remember, the devil always has a plan. Either you have a spiritual strategy or every day will be a tragedy.


Don’t play Benchwarmer. No one wants to be a benchwarmer. After you experience the sad result of your faults, you may fear to launch yourself back into the game. But there is no other way: to pass, assist, and score is only done by playing in the field in real-time.


Senseless and Sinless. By nature, man can never be sinless. But he often falls because of his senselessness or plain lack of common sense to learn from past mistakes. Personal sincerity will help you to discern what things you must do in order to avoid getting off the track repeatedly.


Purity isn’t a Career. Purity is important, but it’s not the only virtue you have to live as a Christian. Making a career out of it, that is, lopsidedly struggling to only avoid impure occasions will impoverish your spiritual growth because the playing field of your spiritual life is limited to purity alone. Blaze a trail and discover new horizons in your love for God.


Say NO to OKAYtions of sin. To sin is bad, but sometimes it’s worse to think that there’s no big deal to slightly rub oneself with occasions of sin. That is never OKAY. As St. Theresa of Avila once said, “There can be no genuine love [or love at all] in someone who belittles a small fault against the beloved because it isn’t mortal.”


My DeFAULT settings. It’s wise to know our default settings, that is, what we are more inclined to when we are not engaged with duties or commitments. Where does the gravity of our ego pull us towards? If we sincerely confront ourselves, we can gradually struggle against it and place Christ as our center of gravity.


Filling in the Gaps. The spiritual combat isn’t only about systematically uprooting vice. You must focus more on planting virtue with the help of grace. Moreover, you mustn’t leave the empty holes once occupied by vice to be later filled by the devil’s suggestions when you are not vigilant.


Don’t take sin sitting down. The fact that sin happens is sad, but it’s worse to simply take sin sitting down and do nothing about it. With God’s grace and our sincere desire to begin again, we can! Be contrite, make amends, sacrifices, and go to confession.


Don’t Think, Pray! Overthinking about one’s defects, mistakes, and sins is toxic.

Overanalyzing only foments a hidden and disordered desire to appear good and pleasing to others without a sincere resolve to change. Prayer, rather than thinking, does wonders and can truly change our hearts. Prayer allows us to face God squarely and accept ourselves humbly as we are before Him and others.


Always Have a Say in your Day. Even if many unexpected things happen during the day, we must never allow a day to pass without having fulfilled the small heartfelt resolution meant for our conversion. This will be a clear north star that gradually guides us away from the dark, shallow and dangerous reefs of sin, pride and discouragement.


Don’t get sad, get even. Sadness, St. Josemaría Escrivá warned, is an ally of the devil. Rather than being sad or disappointed about one’s faults, strive to get even not with sin or the devil (neither wise nor possible) but with oneself. Apply personal discipline, sacrifice, and think about the others. You give your ego and emotions less attention than they deserve, curbing their disordered inclinations and even lifting these up to God.

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