Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Year that was, and the Years that are to come

ROME (Italy). It was such a sunny and very hot day.  The day was Friday, 11th of June, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Closing of the Year of Priests. We were told, there were 15,000 priests in attendance. By far, the largest Mass ever concelebrated.
                We were already in line at left side of the colonnades facing the facade of St. Peter's Basilica as early as 8:15 in the morning.  I've never seen so many priests, save for the Philippine National Congress of the Clergy last January. I didn't know anybody except for the priests that I saw days earlier. But in that line, I just felt very happy and very much at Rome. We're in Rome and we're in the company of priests, bishops, Cardinals, and the Holy Father. It was family and it was home!
                The security check was not waived.  At 8:45 a.m., the bells were tolling. And we were still in line.  9:15 a.m. passed.  Finally, were made to enter near the Aula Paulo VI.  We were told to leave behind our bags.  Our bags!  Then, all had to take out their bottles of water, digital cameras, and everything that could fit in the pockets.  The entire Aula was filled with bags.  I just thought it would take a miracle of St. Anthony if I were to find my bag after the Mass.
                As we enter the Piazza di San Pietro, the sun was smiling. Nay, the sun was laughing! It was just too hot. I kept on praying that I'll make it throughout the Mass without fainting nor having my blood pressure shoot up.  Anyway, I thought, I took all my medicines that morning.  It's the Closing of the Year of Priests, and it is just a small sacrifice.
                Bottles were being handed out as we passed. Oh, one last bottle I saw.  I had it in my right hand. Yehey! My trophy. Then there was another hand. Non c'e piu'? An elderly religious nun. Obviously, there was no more at that moment.  Oh sister, I just closed my eyes, and gave it to nun.  And I just didn't look back.  No more water...
                Then I saw two Filipino priests. We were literally running to the available seats.  Let's take the seats near the aisle, I exhorted them. The Holy Father will pass by here, and so I hoped.
                And yes, seminarians came in and they were bringing along the much-needed bottles of water. In front of me was a Filipino priest, at his side was a Peruvian and two Chinese priests. At my side were Italian priests. And at my back were Polish priests. That is how universal the Church is. But the Chinese came more prepared than us. They had a blue umbrella with them. The Italian priest at my side was preparing for the long sunny morning. He poured water into his cloth hat and placed it in his head. I thought it was good. But I was saving my bottle of water to drink.
                Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See, H.E. Mercedes Tuason texted me then. Bring out your blue umbrella so I could see you.  She was, of course, seated along the diplomats sopra delle Collonade. Oh, the umbrella that she lent to me earlier on was left inside the bag that was now in the Aula and that which I did not if ever I would find it again.
                The Swiss guards then came to their assigned positions. The Holy Mass was about to start. Then, the very beautiful Litany of the Saints.  And the Holy Father started the Entrance Procession.  He was in the Pope Mobile, but without the bullet proof glasses. He seemed very happy seeing the thousands of priests.
                Viva il Papa! One group shouted.  Another group shouting Benedetto!  Followed by five rhythmic claps. There we were the Catholic priests, in the midst of the scandals engulfing us, we have chosen not be engulfed by this world's madness and utter sense of discouragement. It was not a celebration of priests, it was a celebration of the Priesthood!
                On the facade of St. Peter's was the tapestry bearing the image of St. John Marie Vianney, very serious looking. As if beckoning to us priests that we take our priesthood more seriously and with more dedication.
                The Holy Mass has begun, it was not the usual Penitential Rite, instead there was the Asperges. The sprinkling of the Holy Water calling to mind that from the wounded side of Christ gushed forth blood and water, the fountain of sacramental life.
                After the Homily of the Holy Father, we renewed our priestly vows. It was such a wonderful scene and an unforgettable experience, the thousands of priests responding three times to the three different tasks of the priesthood, and all were in unison. Volo!  I do.
                At the end of the Holy Mass, the Holy Father was kneeling before an icon of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani, Salvation of the Roman People.  He led in the Consecration and Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
                Once the Mass was ended, riding the Pope Mobile, he went around the Piazza.  And thankfully, he passed in front of us.  And no, I failed to take pictures, I was just elated to see him pass by just in front of me.
                And off we went to the Aula Paulo VI, would I find my bag?  I really didn't care then, I was just happy to have attended the Holy Mass marking the closure of the Year of Priests. I went to the spot where I thought I laid my bag on that particular part of the floor. And it was not there.  
                The Year of Priests might have ended but the coming years are to stay in and be in love with the Priesthood of Christ that we simply share in continues on.
                My bag was no longer at the pavimento. Somebody probably took pity on the bag that was just being kicked around and trampled on. He placed it on top of one of the seats.  And there I found it, with nothing missing at all.  I thought I lost it for good, but it was there.
                I thought it is also like the priesthood.  We, His priests, and the Priesthood itself, may be kicked around and trampled on, but Christ will elevate it all the more.  It's His, after all. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fullness of Life

 AT the height of the debate on the Reproductive Health Bill, I met so many new friends and allies and met a good number of foes too.  I have to be honest that it was one of those times that I felt personal pain when you read in the blogs, and hear and see in the media so many detractors of the Church’s official teaching, and yes even among the members of the Church.

                I would have chosen a more “quiet and tranquil life.” But then again, when I see the countless faithful—lay, religious, and clergy alike—that are heroically defending the Family and Life, I feel a more nagging pain.  I need to be a part of this warfare.  And the beauty of it all is that as I wage a personal warfare in my soul, you just feel you’re part of this bigger, cosmic warfare; and God has actually already won this war.  We are simply following through His victory on the Cross.

                We vividly recall how the Apostles were gathered at the Upper Room, waiting for the coming of the Paraclete.  St. John describes them to have been full of fear.  Then came the Holy Spirit.  He gave fortitude, wisdom, and strength.  They spoke, they preached, they performed miracles, and they even laid down their lives for Christ.  That is the Holy Spirit. That is the fullness of life. Not a life of comfort, but a life spent for others, for the Kingdom of God!

                Soon we shall be having a new set of national leaders.  The hibernating RH Bill would certainly be resurrected again, propelled by the same people, support by the same foundations, the same NGOs, the same funding agencies. They would return with vengeance. They were so close in passing it in the last Congress.  We have to brace ourselves.

                But our aim is not simply to weather the coming storm.  As in any warfare, we have to be equipped, foreboding, insightful, clothed and armed.  We do not have their material resources and vast network of people.  Ours is more of a guerilla warfare; never in the offensive, holed-up in our trenches, protecting our bastions, defending our enclaves.

                For how long could we fend off the enemies?  I honestly do not know.  I share the optimism of Cardinal Rosales, I also share the militancy of Cardinal Sin.  We have to have both.  We cannot give-in to discouragement but we should always be in the look-out.
                St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila, as she is better known) advises us to be ever-protective of our interior castle.  We have to fend off the enemies while they are away from the walls of the castle.  That is what we have to do.

               That is why for the many that think the RH Bill is simply a contraceptive-promotion bill.  Better think again.  It will be the Trojan Horse in our national morality.  From contraception to abortion. From reproductive health education to sexual concupiscence. From population management to total population control. We shall reap what we sow.  Sow contraception and we shall be harvesting abortion.

              Giving the benefit of the doubt is one thing, complacency is another.  We cannot afford to be complacent at this time.  I would not wish to be a prophet of doom and gloom, for certainly our people have always been God-fearing and family-loving people.  But I would not be true to my priestly ministry if I would not state it now. We cannot take things for granted.  We cannot be engaged in a guerilla warfare all the time. We cannot be tepid and lukewarm when it comes to Family and Life values.  Family and Life should always be our primary concern.

                Time and again, I have written and said in many fora, the first battle waged in world was the battle between the Woman and Her Fruit on one hand, and the Serpent in the other (cf. Gen. 3, 15) and the last battle to be waged would be between the Woman and the Fruit of Her Womb on one side, and the Dragon, the same ancient Serpent, on the other (cf. Rev. 12).

                It was and will always be defending the Woman and the Child in Her Womb.  Life is a gift from God and the Serpent will do anything to end that transmission of life.  Whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, defending Family and Life is not just an advocacy, it is an issue among so many.  It is a spiritual warfare, in the fullest sense of the word.

                In the wake of the very first bad news, that is the falling into sin of Adam and Eve, the very first good news (that is why we refer to it as the Protoevangelium), is the promise of the Woman.  This Woman who said yes to Angel Gabriel.  This same Woman who mediated to Her Son for His very first miracle at Cana.  The same Woman faithful at the foot of the Cross. This Woman clothed with the Sun.

                In the wake of this Warfare, to this Woman we have to have recourse to.  This same Woman was present at the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1, 14). This Woman, ever present at the critical junctures of the salvation of mankind, is present at this final battle.

                May, Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace, obtain for us the strength, the wisdom, the fortitude to constantly defend God’s gifts of Family and Life.