priesthood

A glance at the Sacred Heart

One time, I saw Fr. Andres in his wheel chair just outside the chapel. I asked him what he was doing there. He told me that he wanted to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He needs to be assisted to walk, and since no one was around, he could not go inside the chapel.

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When I open the window for him to gaze at the tabernacle, he seems pleased. He then sheepishly smiles and tells me, “I wish to ask for another favor, but it seems that you are busy.” I reply, “It is okay, Fr. What is it?

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He wanted to visit the Sacred Heart image on our stair case landing. I was running late for my retreat, but I cannot refuse him. I pushed his wheelchair en route to the staircase where the image is enshrined. This very image I come to realize bids goodbye to those who leave and welcome those who come with its arms opened.

I can see in Fr. Andres’s eyes the profuse thankfulness when I yielded to his request. And more so, when he finally touched the hand of the image, which must have welcomed him the first time he arrived in the community.

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4 Tips to preserve the fire of priesthood

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A Filipino Salesian missionary, Fr. Roel Soto is the Delegate of the Salesians in Cambodia since 2014.

Everyone goes through low moments in life.  This is a reality because of our weakness and other difficult situations we go through.  Yet despite this reality we have to go through how was I able to preserve and keep the fire of my priesthood?  Let me share you some points that will be helpful to any priest like me, just as they have helped me a lot.

1. A constant and intense prayer life.  This does not refer only to the regular scheduled community prayer that sometimes forces one to pray.  I refer here most especially to one’s personal “date” with the Lord at a particular time in a day that one has chosen as the most appropriate time.  This is a personal time of encountering the Lord personally and intimately as a fruit of one’s choice and decision.   The intensity of this encounter is not on the length and frequency, but on the intimacy of this daily personal encounter.  In truth, this could also be heightened by one’s consciousness or awareness of the Lord’s presence and promptings during the day.

2. A spiritual director. It is a blessing to have someone always to talk to and open one’s heart in moments of difficulties and trials or even crisis.  Let us face the reality – we can’t all handle our problems alone.  Having someone to listen and guide us and follow our spiritual director is already a big relief and assurance of support.

3. A community-centered life. With all the influences of technology that could possibly lead us to individualism and isolation, giving special priority to community life is the key to a happy life.  The community oriented priest finds solace and comfort in the loving and supportive presence of his community, be it his original family, his fellow priests or his religious community.  Community living gives a lot of experiences of solidarity, love, concern, understanding, warmth in relationship, forgiveness, trust etc. which are very important in moments of crisis and difficulties.

4. A proper care of oneself. Many times we tend to focus on the spiritual aspect of our life, forgetting that our physical aspect needs also attention and proper care.  “A sound mind in a sound body.”  I would also say a healthy spirit in a healthy body.  Proper care of the body must be observed by having enough time for rest and physical exercise, and the right and moderate food intake to prevent abuses, imbalance and excesses.  Proper care of the body will contribute moderation, balance, and discipline to spiritual life.  With this in right perspective we will be able to keep #1 – intense prayer life.

With all these four points followed, the fire of our priesthood will be kept and the passion for the mission entrusted by the Lord to us priests will be done with dedication and zeal.

 

A Postscript to #DB200

12795451_934303873325932_2252616104766471671_nThe March-May 2016 issue of The St. John Bosco Today, the Salesian Family Magazine of the two Philippine Provinces, wraps up with the Philippine celebration of Don Bosco’s 200th birth anniversary. The pages of that issue contain a splendid comprehensive coverage of the festivities which had begun on August 16, 2014 held at Don Bosco Caritas up to the conclusion of the celebration at the Ynares Coliseum in Pasig City exactly a year after.

That magazine’s issue coincides with the month I was ordained as a Salesian priest, as if to indicate that a gift of a Salesian priestly vocation tops all the festivities to honor the 200th birth anniversary of St. John Bosco.  After all, for the Salesians, vocation is the crowning glory of the youth ministry.

I write this reflection nearly three months after that special commemorative issue was released, and after the date of my ordination which fell on May 14, Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle.

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Initially, I wanted to be ordained on April 2.  I chose the date since it is the liturgical feast of St. Pedro Calungsod, a young Filipino saint who was canonized some four years ago.  Although liturgical law would prevent me to celebrate his feast on that day since the day fell within the Easter Octave this year, I wanted a date that has an importance for me, not just any random date chosen out of convenience.

But when I proposed this to Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, my Provincial Superior, he did not approve of it. He reasoned out that the time to prepare for the ordination would be limited, and he did not want the ordination to be haphazardly organized. I did not merely obey him, I agreed with him for I only had a month left if I would push through with that date.

The next thing I caught myself doing was to scan again the calendar. I realized that I was back to square one. A seminary companion helped me look for the next possible date. It was then that we considered May 14.  But more than just being a feast of St. Matthias, our research led us to appreciate its value inasmuch as the life of the Salesian congregation is concerned.

Apparently, on that day in 1862, Don Bosco received the vows of the first members of the Salesian congregation which was at its budding stage.two_columns_poster

Likewise, we look back into that same day, too, when Don Bosco, through his dream, received a vision, about the two pillars, on which the Salesian congregation anchors its most important devotions on—the Blessed Mother and the Holy Eucharist.

In retrospect, that day when I was ordained a priest, though a celebration of the Church, is at its finest, a deeply Salesian event.

My prayer is that the grace I received through my priesthood may give birth to another Don Bosco.

Sino Siya? (Who is He?)

What follows is a reflection on weekend apostolate of John Paolo Romero on his weekend apostolate. Paolo is  a prenovice of Don Bosco Seminary in Canlubang, Laguna.

My classmates and I were formally accepted as prenovices of the Philippine North Province (FIN) of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB). I see my being a prenovice as both a privilege and a grace from God because of my unworthiness. But this feeling of unworthiness makes me more reliant to God’s grace and providence.

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As prenovices, we are sent to different Salesian Parishes every weekend to extend our help and to have exposure in the Salesian apostolate. I was assigned in St. Dominic Savio Parish in Mandaluyong together with Prenovice Romnick. The Don Bosco Youth Center in the parish is very dynamic that I got a bit of culture shock when I first arrived there. But this did not hinder me to express my love to the young people, and to experience the love of God through them as well. This desire manifests itself through my different experiences, both the good and not-so-good.

A 10-year old boy in St. Dominic Savio Parish, Dominic, who is also called, ‘the notorious,’ asked me a seemingly simple question during the catechesis, “Brads, sino po ang Diyos para sa’yo?” [Brother, who is God for you?] Thinking on how to please the boy and make him understand my concept of God in a very simple way, I answered, “Ang Diyos para sa’kin, parang syang hangin, hindi man natin nakikita, pero sigurado tayong nandiyan s’ya, kung wala, hindi tayo makakahinga” (God for me is wind, we may not see Him, but we are certain that He’s around. If not, we’ll not be abe to breathe).

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Deep within, I was not satisfied with my answer that I had to ask myself again, “Who is God really for me? The creator? The redeemer? The Father? A friend? Teacher or mentor? Who really is He?” I was thinking on how God is revealing Himself to me in the here and now. I admit that I have never been attentive to this matter before and it’s strange how a 10-year old boy made me seriously think about it.

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I note that God has given me what I do not like and has kept me away from the things I prefer – my apostolate assignment, my teaching loads and many other things. Sometimes I doubt whether God wants me to be in the seminary, because what I do not like is given to me. Just like putting a mosquito repellent lotion so the mosquitoes would go away because it drives them away. But looking closely on the situation, I realized that, perhaps, God is allowing me to experience such adverse things in order to stretch me and bring out the best in me. He may want me to be more obedient and stronger in will.

Now, who is God for  me? Who really He is for me? He is a God who challenges me so I may become stronger; a God who allows me to undergo desolations in order to relish His comfort; a God who burdens me with so many tribulations so I may emerge triumphant; a God who pretends to hate me so that I may strive with my utmost effort to win His love.

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Towards the end of the catechesis, Dominic shared his answer to the group, “Ang Diyos, para siyang kama, kapag pagod na pagod na ako, hihiga at magpapahinga na lang ako sa kanya” (God is like a bed. When I am already tired, I will just lie down and rest in Him).

Dominic, a difficult 10-year old boy, who has changed my perspective of God, of Love.

Fr Pepe marks 50th year as a Salesian Priest!

Fr. Jose Pepe Reinoso, SDB celebrated his 50th year as a priest last December 17, in the midst of confreres, friends and young people.

Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, Provincial Superior of the FIN Province, presided the Mass while Fr. Alex Garces, SDB, rector of Don Bosco Technical Institute and Fr. Alton Fernandez, SDB, spiritual moderator and confessor of our students of theology at the Seminaryo ng Don Bosco led some priest-confreres who came to concelebrate.

In his homily, Fr. Alton Fernandez, SDB highlighted the service Fr. Pepe rendered especially to the young confreres not just in the FIN province but also in the nearby provinces in the EAO region that have been sending their young confreres to the Seminaryo for their theological formation.

He also pointed out that Fr. Pepe has helped fortified the Salesian identity of the young confreres under his care.  Fr. Pepe has been the rector of the Seminaryo for a long time until two years ago when he suffered a massive heart attack.

Fr. Jun Lingad, SDB, a good longtime friend of Fr. Pepe gave a moving testimony testimony how on two occasions Fr. Pepe’s prayers brought about instantaneous healing. Fr. Jun himself experienced the healing of his diplopia [double vision] just after he asked Fr. Pepe to pray about this.

On another occasion, Sr. Cecilia, a Canossian, who did not personally know Fr. Pepe, was accompanying a co-sister visiting father. At a certain moment Sr. Cecilia just held Fr. Pepe’s arm and asked him to pray for relief from severe stomach pains that she feared could prevent her to travel to their General Chapter in Rome. She vouches that Fr. Pepe’s prayer was powerfully and instantly answered!

Toward the end of the Mass, the clerics of the Seminaryo presented a video presentation to recall Fr. Pepe’s journey as a Salesian priest. Br. Jerome Quinto, SDB did a wonderful job of rendering a video montage of this.

They also sang “Alma Misionera” and “For Good” for their dear Fr. Pepe.

This year, in the occasion of Don Bosco’s 200th birth anniversary, Fr. Pepe also marks his 60th year as a Salesian of Don Bosco

Ignited

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It was fifteen years ago when I recall having this conversation with a mentor about his life as a priest.

I was amazed to hear from him that after being a leader of his community, he steps down to be just one of its members, and be ready to obey to another priest who comes around to assume the leadership.

Back then, I regarded that priest as one of the best preachers. His sermons were anchored in real life and a great sense of humor to boot. I also knew him to be a teacher of theology. Such intellectual, I told myself.

But at that moment, my admiration toward that priest grew more at that very moment.

In my young heart, I felt the joy of living a life similar that of my mentor’s, and a flicker of light has been ignited.

“I know who she is”

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I’ve been reading this book by Fr. Stephen RossettiBorn of the Eucharist: A Spirituality for Priests. Here  below is a beautiful entry by one of its contributors: Most Rev. Victor Galeone.

The following is an entry from journal in 1996 while I was the pastor of St. Agnes Church in Baltimore:

Yesterday, after an emergency call at the nursing home, I was about to exist when I noticed a man in the hallway. He was sitting next to a woman in a wheelchair, tenderly holding her hands. Not a word was spoken. Not a word was spoken. He just sat there, looking intently into her eyes. I walked over and engaged in in conversation:

“Your wife, I take it?”

“That’s right, of forty-seven years.”

“Do you visit her often?”

“Every single day. Haven’t missed a day in four years, except for that blizzard last year.”

(During the exchange, his wife kept staring blankly into space.)

“She’s not saying anything.”

“That’s right. Hasn’t been able to for the last eighteen months—ever since her stroke. She has Alzheimer’s too.”

“Alzheimer’s! Does she know who you are?”

“Not really. But that doesn’t matter. I know who she is.”

What an indictment against me, Lord Jesus! How often during my quiet time in your presence, I’ve kept one eye on the tabernacle and the other on my watch. Don’t I deserve the same reprimand that your chosen three disciples received in the garden, “Could you not watch one hour with me?” Where is the love that should be animating my heart just as it did that of Saint Edith Stein when she remarked so lovingly, “He is truly there—and he is there for me!”