WHEN FR. STEVE Tynan prefaced his short talk with fb, I wondered how the lolas in the audience would relate to him. He even mentioned Millenials in his speech and my Feelenial eyebrows were further raised. But his audience comprised of our loyal kasambahays, Legionaries from the Curia (including those from his St. Benedict Parish) and BF Homes auxiliaries (for whom the activity was being rallied) warmed to him; their momentary snickers attesting to his connection with them. He asked Sis Rhea shortly before he spoke how much time he was alloted but I dismissed that as common courtesy to her short notice that he had another engagement right after his stint (he actually overshot his self-imposition, to our immense satisfaction).
He said that social media, like fb, is only face, not face to face, not sacramental, as when the Legion does home visitation, which is a face-to-face encounter. He qualified the apostolate in terms of loneliness, which is becoming an omnipresent dilemma of society, especially among the elderly. He confessed that he was recently reunited with his Mom and Dad in Australia and the extent of his father’s fondness for his homecoming son was expressed in a casual “Hi, Steve, how are you?” and the customary beso-beso. His old man could no longer go to the sliding door to let him in, had to wait for a son or a daughter to do it. I was thankful he did not elaborate; I have no parents anymore.
Visitation, Fr. Steve continued, is what Mary does. She visited cousin Elizabeth to help her pregnancy, making that moment mutual. The ministry of visitation can be done in many ways and for many reasons, he said. But when done, it should be done with Jesus, for the task to be seen as a ministry, the giving of our time to the other person, to cheer him/her up, give an ear to. This can be done to even one person a week, and that will equal to one less lonely person. We pray and ask the Lord what we can do for him/her. If we cannot cook, we can bring along a simple meal, or anything simple at all, to say to the person we love him/her and we thought about him/her enough to come to see the person.
Our witness to faith is simple, to do little things well. He told of their religious nun (of a Josephy Congregation) who taught them in Kindergarten and Grade II that a saint is one who does ordinary things with extraordinary love. He who thinks of the needs of others is like that, unlike most millenials (mali-nials, he punned) who are selfish, not sacrificial. This is owed, he said, to the world’s culture of choosing a different experience, like destination weddings or birthday parties no longer thrown in the common venue, partly because of photographs for posting on fb, to show that the elecratirs are getting around. He admitted that it is okay to a point, as long as the most important thing is that whatever the occasion, it should have the Lord. Here, he cited the example of Mary having Jesus in her life, as scriptures witness her with her Son, at the temple, the wedding at Cana, Pentecost, at the foot of the cross. Our desire should be to follow where the Lord leads, to ask ourselves what’s important, the focus in our life, what can we do for God. He didn’t mean construction chores or heavy-duty jobs, but prayer, the ministry of intercession, a most important stuff to make the Spirit move. He urged us not to think that, because we are old, we are useless, because God has always something for us to do, not only praying for ministry, for priests, to persevere for whatever ministry, and place it at the feet of the Lord, for it to multiply and strengthen and bring people to it everyday. God, he proclaimed, will hear and answer our prayer. Jericho, he shared, was a big fortress in the city. But Joshua was not daunted. He marched, stomped around it, and nothing happened, until the 7th time when, after persevering in prayer, he caused the city’s collapse.
He summed up that part of the Legion’s constitution is the ministry of visitation, through the telephone perhaps, although a personal visit is better, with or without a cup of tea. Especially, it is ideal to have a list of sick people to visit and pray for/with. Simply, the ministry of presence needs only an eye-to-eye contact, not really body to body, to encourage and fulfill our spirituality constitution, which we need to awaken the spirit of intercession. If, he said, our priest cannot give us a list, he asked us to come to his parish. When he asked if there were any questions and got a silent answer, he prayed the final blessing.
Emcee Sis Pinky thanked the guest priest and then introduced Kuya Ed for the latter’s welcome remarks. Next was the testimony of three auxiliary members among the audience. Ate Clare Gineta went ahead and shared that she started work at 17 and never stopped until her retirement. She is sustained by untiring prayers, a friendly neighbourhood and a prayerful community. Ate Eve Diocson could not refuse UtoLiza and was second to speak. She told of her early brushes with difficulties which Mary helped her overcome. From her initially problematic employment in Qatar which transitioned into a productive experience, to her losing a son and her husband in succession, she held on to her rosary. Kuya Noel Tamase credits Sis Rhea for his standing in front of us and teased Sis Pinky as sounding like a Jollibee game master (she works at McDonald’s). It was Kuya Ed who convinced him to be a prayer warrior but UtoLiza was instrumental to his acquiesence. He described the speakers before him as two holy women he looks up to and not because of age. His being an auxiliary won’t be complete if he didn’t start with PREX and the Legion of Mary. Full of anecdotes of his children and those of Sis Gelly’s and UtoL’s (who grew up in the Legion), he was frustrated by the latter’s absence (Senatus presidency was a priority) because she won’t be able to hear his mock moniker for her. He shared that it will be a year on August 4 since his wife Ate Malou had her heart attack (and a bypass later) and it was because of a praying community that they survived that second storm in their life. He claimed that he used to be one among the many who pray in a the-same-the-same manner, pretty much like copy-paste millennials, but has come to appreciate and pray the Hail Mary for its completeness. It was all very good, I nodded to myself, until he addressed to Sis Rhea a Czechoslovakian joke. Yet redeemed himself by enjoining us to not cease praying to Jesus twif Mary because, “Sinong anak ang makahihindi sa ina?”
Sis Rhea’s moment more than substantiated the Legion’s raison d’etre. Colorful pics (she prepared overnight with the help of daughter Hannah) highlighted the heart of Mary’s blue soldiers, their industry, inspiration and indefatigability, steered by her proficient presidency. Her casual delivery belied her confident focus on her ability to lead the Marian army.
Sis Gel Rivera, President of the Tower of Ivory, did an audio-visual presentation of the junior praesidium’s accomplishments and activities. Some of their creative handiworks were visible in the hall such as the Prayer Freedom and Write-Out walls. They also spurred fun time through trivia questions and match-a-Mary game. Winners won tokens.
And because God never runs out of surprises, the Lolas of Holy Family Center momentarily left the hall and returned, attired in festive baro’t saya, to regale us with a folk dance. Their number drew enthusiastic applause. For an encore, the energetic elderly contingent performed a medley of spiritual songs.
Crowds were scattered outside, where food booths offered dirty ice-cream, macaroni soup, taho, fish, chicken and squid balls. And indoors, where they could view the mini exhibit put up by the joint memorabilia from the memory chests of Sis Gelly and UtoLiza.
Outside of their immense thanksgiving to those who made the Legion Awareness Month a marked event in Legion history, the blue soldiers of Mary lift up their collective hands heavenward that, in spite of the spate of monsoons lately, that Sunday of July 29 turned out to be sunny, shiny and significantly extraordinary. Like Mary.
At the 4:30 pm Mass, Fr. Ryan Pesabillo’s homily connected with Fr. Steve’s talk. The Gospel was about the multiplication of the loaves and the homilist underscored the leftovers as a positive sign of the propagation of the ministry of sharing.