I was in high school when I first saw the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. I believe it was sometime in 1986 after the People Power Revolution. I just felt very happy to have seen him pass by us students as we were made to stand along the street to welcome him and the late Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Torpigliani.
I wrote him after some months and told him how much I admire and respect him. He was gracious enough to respond back and even sent me an autographed picture of himself which I faithfully keep to this day.
What followed were the tumultuous years during the Aquino administration, so many coup attempts and natural disasters. Cardinal Sin would regularly call on the people to pray or even to rally at the EDSA Shrine to protect the gains of the EDSA Revolution, and I would always be there. How I loved and admired Cardinal Sin.
When I was a seminarian in the Eternal City, he would come to visit Collegio Filippino and although I did not reside there, one of the resident-priests there, Fr. Greg Gaston, facilitated my meeting with him. It was sometime in 1995. And how he was so gracious to converse with me for almost an hour speaking about so many things.
In January 2002, the anniversary of EDSA II, I was accompanying the International Pilgrim Virgin Statues (IPVS) of Our Lady of Fatima and were at the EDSA Shrine. Cardinal Sin was then very weak. I am not sure if he still recognized me, but I remember him looking at me intently. I was too “shy” to get close to him and speak with him. It was the last time I saw him alive.
To this day, I remember him with great admiration and emulation even. He was such a prophetic pastor.
March 2002, I was in a personal retreat in Lipa Carmel. During one of the “break time,” I conversed with the late Prioress, Mo. Bernadette. During the conversation, she mentioned and encouraged me to see the then Archbishop of Lipa, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales. And I did see him. He was so gracious to speak with me, although there was no prior appointment whatsoever, and he didn’t even know me beforehand.
Then he became the Archbishop-Cardinal of Manila. Last 02 May 2010, we had the Mass for the Filipino Family and the Covenant Signing for the Protection of Family and Life. We requested His Eminence to preside over the Holy Mass and deliver the Homily. Even with such a short notice, he gladly accepted. And the Homily was such a beautiful and very timely one.
After the Holy Mass, I approached His Eminence if he was willing to meet the secular media and he did, graciously accepting the request an interview. It began at around 2:00 in the afternoon and ended almost at 3:00. I was there all throughout the time of the media interview.
His Eminence was so insistent on his being optimistic on our country and on our people, and yes, even on the electoral process. It was in that context that he was asked that if there would be fraud, as many were foreseeing then, if there was a need for a reprise of People Power. He answered that he didn’t hear any of these “prophets of doom” (my words) speak. But if there were, he does not agree since there constitutional and legal recourses. Only if all these are exhausted should we have recourse to People Power. It was also at this point that Cardinal Rosales said there were no parallelisms to the Philippines in 1986 to the Philippines in 2010. Hence, at that point (02 May 2010), he sees no need for People Power. HE DID NOT SAY WE SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING IF THERE WOULD BE FRAUD. He simply said no need for People Power, as of yet.
Hence, it pains to see and hear other Catholic clergy and religious reacting against Cardinal Rosales. There are so many forces that wish to portray and would wish to put a wedge between Catholic leaders. I hope and pray we do not fall into their trap.
That is why among the Catholic faithful, many would like to compare and contrast the two Cardinals of Manila. That one apparently is so active and militant, the other is passive and less passionate. I really have to disagree.
The Church in the Philippines needed a Cardinal Sin during that time, and God gave us Cardinal Sin. The Church in the Philippines needs a Cardinal Rosales now, God gave us Cardinal Rosales. Each with their own prophetic role to play, each with their own charism and style, and I dare say, Cardinal heroically lived up to that role and Cardinal Rosales heroically living up to his.
I shall always remember the words of my own bishop, Bishop Florentino F. Cinense, when one time in our serious conversations, he said, when God (through the Church institutions) sends a bishop to a particular diocese at a particular time, it is because that bishop—with his style, character, spirituality, wisdom and strengths—is what is needed at that particular time. When the time comes, and God sends another, it is because in that time, that particular bishop fits in God’s plan.
I always struggle to see things in God’s perspective, at least to approximate it; that is to say, to discern God’s Will. And in the end, despite how tempting it is to look and consider things from a purely human point of view, we see the greater, the deeper, and the bigger picture when we strive to look at things supernaturally.
Cardinal Rosales—with his own particular character, wisdom, and strengths—is what the Church in Manila and what the Church in the Philippines needs now. And I most lovingly and joyfully bow down to God’s Will. There will be another that will succeed him, and we are sure, it is him that would fulfill God’s Will for that particular time. I believe it is what they refer to as the Grace of Office. And I believe that, I hope you do as well.
In this month of May, this month dedicated to Mary, may we pray more fervently for our Bishops, and for all priests as well. We lovingly consecrate all our endeavors to Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace, may She, in turn, offer them to Her Son. Ave Maria!