IT IS IMPOSSIBLY doable to douse enthusiasm pushed by the prospect of a collective confession. I’d venture that the feeling would not be far from what children felt when it was their first time, even if it might have been probably tinged with dread. As an adult who does not remember how it was, my giddiness came close to euphoria. Add to that the fact that the opportunity of doing it to a Montfortian priest is a first (no flashback would help describe it but the sensation is sufficient to keep the awareness awed). With the bonus of a consequence that the same priest continues his audience with the confessors in the penultimate phase of the Totus Tuus Journey (confession being a requisite to their consecration, along with the others in the twenty or so journeyers); their recollection follows afterwards and then the much looked-towards highlight, their being set aside to serve henceforth as evangelizers of the Word, through, with, in and for Mary.
Not for long. We were met with delight by those already waiting at the session hall. Yet the glee was not noisy, only fond and curious, because we were late, even if an advance text message explained the tardiness. Thus, Fr. Dodong’s session begun.
His opening salvo was “Why consecrate?” No answer was forthcoming I so wanted to raise my hand, looked back at Ate Relly gesturing my desire, but she simply smiled. No fair, we mutually, silently acknowledged. So Fr. Dodong gave the answer on my mind, “Because as the Father is holy, so are we.” And because the priest was who he was, it was followed by a flood. “All the good things in heaven shall be added unto us;” “We’ll do things twif Mary in the context of being holy;” “To immerse our humanity in God’s divinity, like a drop of water in an ocean;” and “To be able to discern when torn between two horses.”
And he spiced it up again with a story about a gossip who was told by a priest of the dire consequences of her rumormongering so she was changed. She cut her tattling in half (snickers).
When he translated again the Totus Tuus meaning, it evolved into “Falling in love and staying in love with God and getting married to Him.” But he was quick to warn us to beware after consecration because that is when the devil becomes busy to lure us away from holiness.
What makes this missionary endearing is that he walks the extra mile to get his messages across. As was his wont, he gave away handouts which refreshed the four means to obtain wisdom, the last of which consisted of true devotion to Mary consisting of the PITCH (Pure, Interior, Trustful, Constant, Holy) characteristics. Added to those were the exterior and interior practices one becomes habituated to, happily including TWIF which has, to the journeyers, become a familiar attribute of the devotion.
The second handout was a colored illustration of the heart. It had a 7-track diagram which depicted the seven stages of consecration. White arrows continuously point forward, because renewal is constant, with blue arrows signifying a level of deeper spiral. The encompassing green backdrop is perfect union with God, where the lover at first sight is transformed into the Beloved. There were enough copies and, where there was no more, my fellow renewers got their smartphone cameras to work. Proof positive that the materials from the priest’s pontifical university days are not taken lightly. I have kept copies of the past mementoes pressed between pages of the handbook.
Not one to take his audience for granted, he further simplified the essence of the TWIF properties. He likened the consecration process to cooking, where the chef reigns supreme, so you try to imitate him using knowledge from his cookbook. But no cookbook will ever equal the expertise you attain when you learn the trade through, with, in and for the chef himself. With Mary, cooking is like knowing the cook, befriending him and having him when it’s time for you to do the cooking. It is, like how Mary would do it, starting simply, having faith and pleasing and serving God. Because in doing things with Mary, you will be like her.
The rosary, Fr. Dodong said, is one potent instrument in obtaining grace from Mary. Their beads are flaming torches that guide us in daily life; fiery furnaces that burn negative things and toast the devil when he tries to entice us. It holds three promises: 1. a spiritual crown of roses and crown of virtues; 2. at death, Mary will fetch us and lead us to eternity where we will be born again; and 3. a share in the crowns we gave her and Jesus.
Montfort, he offered, wrote that when we live our consecration, we receive 7 gifts: 1. knowledge of our unworthiness; 2. share in Mary’s faith, which gives life; 3. gift of pure love; 4. great confidence in God and in Mary; 5. communication of Mary’s spirit; 6. transformation to the likeness of Jesus; and 7. greatest glory of God.
To hammer home gift number 4, he told the tale of a father who was telling his family that they needed a miracle to save his son’s life. His little daughter heard it, went to her room, broke her piggy bank and went to the nearest drug store. She told the counter lady that she wanted to buy a miracle and handed over what her piggy bank contained: P14.75. She was about to be sent out by the counter lady when their commotion caught the attention of a surgeon who was on his way in. The surgeon owned the pharmacy and, when told of the little girl’s story, was moved tremendously. Long story short, he helped the family get the boy into a hospital where he was treated until he was back to the pink of health. All because of the faith of a little girl and a miracle worth P14.75.
Fr. Dodong had two more stories to tell. One about the farmer who was ashamed to offer the king his harvest of mangoes because they had unsightly black dots compared to the other farmers whose yield were luscious. He knew the palace gardener and told him of his predicament. The gardener took him to the kindly queen. She reassured him that the king will appreciate his offering. Then they went to the palace kitchen where she ordered the cook to peel the mangoes, arrange them nicely in a platter and they all proceeded in a procession to the king’s chambers. No king would have denied a queen’s handiwork.
The other was about Alexander the Great who, gravely ill, had a strange request before he died. He wanted doctors to be his pallbearers, pearls to pave the way to his funeral and his right hand to protrude from his casket. Asked why, his logic was incontrovertible. No matter the great physicians attending to you, death is inevitable; the pearls prove that wealth will not be of any help to your failing health; and his open hand will show everyone it is empty, he is leaving the world the way he came to it, with nothing.
Then he highlighted the Holy Trinity as present in the Hail Mary (God the Father sending the angel Gabriel to announce that the Lord is with her), the Lord’s Prayer (Jesus prayed in the garden) and the continuation of the Hail Mary (where Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, and whose child in her womb leapt for joy, exclaimed “Mother of God”). Duh! I kept nodding and shaking my head. In utter belief.
Fittingly, we prayed the holy rosary and he concluded the evening’s session by blessing us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
ABRAHAM DE LA TORRE