Latest Stories

Startling realizations in a book of Gospel reflections


Beginning with the title, the book is immediately eye-catching and unusual. “Startle: Gathering Light from the Word of God” by José Ramon “Fr. Jett” T. Villarin, SJ (Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc., Quezon City, 2012, 199 pages), gathers Villarin’s written reflections on the Sunday Gospel and, in a fine sampling of the book’s language and logic, explains itself.

“We see starlight and are no longer startled,” Villarin writes of the cynical and ever-shifting world we live in. He speaks of the wonder St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, felt upon looking up at a star-filled sky.

It is a kind of wonder Villarin wishes to share with his readers: “That the Word may awaken you, that love may startle you and lead you to unexpected openings and to some surprising space in your life. And when you are startled by love, may you find the courage and the quiet to decide.”

President of Ateneo de Manila University, Villarin spent time as a Jesuit scholastic but is also a scientist by training. This figures in “Startle,” because the essays often involve a different, distinctive realization that comes from Villarin’s diverse background.

For example, he connects the Nativity with the space-time continuum. He finds a link between the feast of the Sto. Niño and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Villarin juxtaposes the landowner from Matthew 20 with his experience trying to get a seat on a Bukidnon bus. He links science with religion, the everyday with the eternal.

Short and smart

There are many things we seek from the homilies given on Sunday. We wish they be short and smart. Villarin’s essays smoothly meet those requirements. His writing is elegantly simple and compact, with the pieces averaging just three pages each, including the weekly Gospel passage.

The book’s 52 essays are divided into three sections for easy reference: Manger (For Advent and Christmas); Crown (for Lent and Easter); and Woodwork (for Ordinary Time), making “Startle” a worthy weekly companion for Catholic readers.

But one does not have to be Catholic to appreciate the  craft and the insight behind the essays. Villarin often grounds the Gospel lesson on personal experiences, making them accessible. Then, he unwraps his take on the passage, and we find out we now want our homilies to be startling, as well.

In the essay “Word,” Villarin speaks of our fear of silence. “We are afraid because, even if we do not hear it, we know it is there. It is the silence of our loneliness, our poverty; the silence of our not being known or understood or forgiven; the silence of lovelessness.”

In “N-Dimensional,” Villarin ponders the meaning of Easter: “Simply this. That because of tonight, we now know that all the world is charged with the life and love of God, as it has always been, although we may not have known it.”

Sacramental moments

To maximize “Startle’s” effect, one should follow the advice of Jesuit Philippine Provincial superior Fr. José J. Magadia, SJ, in the book’s foreword: “The best way to go through this book is to read each reflection slowly, and then pause.”

In these essays one will find affinity with the sterling qualities that many people have found in the ministry of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle: humble, modern, faithful, dynamic and accessible.

In “Startle,” Fr. Jett Villarin illuminates through the rich mix of the real world and the Word of God, leaving you changed and inspired through the brightness of his writing, reminding us that faith is, indeed, a wonderful thing: “The lines of our lives have arrows that point to infinity. The sacramental moments that give depth to our lives are carried on to infinity. Blessed, indeed, are we who have yet to see all this, and have somehow come to believe.”

Available at leading bookstores

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Books , José Ramon “Fr. Jett” T. Villarin , Lifestyle , Startle: Gathering Light from the Word of God

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  8. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  9. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  10. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  1. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  4. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  8. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  9. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  10. This is not just a farm
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Gigi Reyes back to face charges
  • Like Passover, Easter festival of deliverance
  • How other faiths in PH observe Holy Week
  • Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
  • Cardinal Tagle: Start new life with true peace
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao top Mayweather contender
  • Rain or Shine, Ginebra clash for No. 6 spot
  • Ateneo eyes quarterfinal spot vs Benilde
  • Style contrast marks OneFC ‘Rise of Heroes’
  • ‘Pacquiao a great ambassador for basketball’
  • Lifestyle

  • How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  • Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Entertainment

  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Awarded TV couple brings Jesus’ life to the big screen
  • Business

  • Top-selling insurance agent opens her dream café
  • Connecting and transacting with one another
  • Building wealth for health
  • Why Mandaue Foam buys, rather than rents, space
  • A workplace of new possibilities
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Cesar Chavez movie sparks memories of Fil-Am labor leaders
  • Filipinos in US poised for success
  • Visas for priests and other faith leaders
  • DOH to continue tracking co-passengers of OFW infected with MERS virus
  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition