IT TOOK A spell for me to get back to Francis Gross Jr.’s Days with Uncle God-Momma. But I was convinced he won’t be forgotten. I left him on page 46, a page I took a little of to deposit in my mind before I withdrew to ensure I’d explore his touching insight. He said the kind of person he’d like to be is himself, not a doer of great deeds but of small ones. If that’s not humbling, many stars will glitter less.
An early morning procession ushered the celebration of the 100th year of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima in the Holy Spirit Parish of BF Homes, Quezon City. A holy Mass followed it. The parishioners were halved: two busloads were going on a pilgrimage to Nueva Ecija and Tarlac so the church was half-filled. No matter, it did not daunt Fr. Rory Lunario to deliver a homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary that was as loving as it was lyrical. Two beatitudes prefaced his homily: one of entitlement, which was the greatest ever to be bestowed on an earthling, to be the mother of God; and the other of a spiritual life, that came with the imperative of the grace. Mary, ever silent and simple, said “Yes” to God yet her humility and obedience treated the entitlement like an invisible entity. She was not blessed among women for being whimsical. The Magnificat extols her fiat worthily.
The Annunciation praesidium of the HSP Legion of Mary, belatedly thoughtful for the mothers on their day, the one following Fatima’s centennial, wished to gift them with a wooden (like the statue of the Virgin of Antipolo) rosary bracelet each. Kuya Tony Viray, Grand Knight of Columbus (I almost wrote Christ), made it his command. The Legion, at a loss for never-sufficient words of gratitude, reciprocated with a spiritual bouquet. I sincerely prayed the unanimous effort placated UtoLinda.
Known (to me) to render extensive sermons, Fr. Rory did not allow Mary’s centenary to go without a proper paean. Hence, he poised himself on the ambo like a soldier blue and, like a bell, rang the Anawim’s virtues. After all, would he and we all be here a hundred years later? He was simply leaving a mark for all to take home, let pass, or instill in their hearts. I knew how to install him in mine.
He did an encore at the fellowship later, when he was asked by one-(wo)man formator Ate Ella to address the audience on behalf of parish priest Fr. Bobot. I liked that he called our attention to the parish logo imposed on the picture wall: one faith, one spirit, one community. It aptly highlighted the Church’s theme for this year: The parish – a communion of communities. The breakfast, sponsored by an anonymous church group of kindred hearts, and catered by Ate Ally Orendain, was full, filling and fulfilling. Too bad the fellowship house was not. The few whom we broke bread with, however, made quality out of our quantity.
Fr. Rory introduced his sermon with the annunciation as the greatest herald to reach human ears. The angel Gabriel greeted little Mary with tidings of joy. There was no comfort in the announcement, initially, because of the natural anxiety that assailed the innocent lass. She could not question God’s choice but her condition (she was a virgin, was she not) perplexed her. Gabriel reassured her by saying it was the Holy Spirit’s grace-laden doing. He would be the same one to reassure Joseph, when it was the latter’s turn to be just to his bethrothed. Or Jesus would have been fatherless. It felt like praying the rosary when the priest’s homily wrapped itself around the other four joyful mysteries.
As a PREX Secretariat member of the San Jose ang Tagapagtanggol Parish, I am assigned to its documentation committee, besides my voluntary support to the music ministry. I try to make my presence as unobstrusive as possible. I am already a resource speaker and sharer and do not wish to spread myself more thinly. It was a surprise, therefore, when, during an informal meeting one Friday, the chair couple asked me to attend an NDAPPS workshop the next day. I’m a self-avowed PREX addict and made the question moot and academic. The result was fruitful and euphoric. PREX is an all-time high.
From the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple, Fr. Rory called the congregation’s attention to war because of the absence of peace. He said we observe devotions but are not devoted. There are many other Marys, as a matter of fact as many as the devotions to them, and it is not enough to belong to a Marian group but to be another Mary. I knew what he meant. To be silent, and simple, and suffering. The antidotes to war.
My wife’s business nosedived and it was all she could do not to be stressed out by it. Our help had to leave. I thought that was a good sign for me to be useful. She, our two sons and I discussed the labor distribution mechanics and the deal was done. There is no need to hire help that I can handle. It has been more than two months since and she has been hopeful lately that things are starting to look up. I smile. I am not optimistic. I am certain. I offered our setback, like everything else, to Mary. She did the same to, with, in and for Jesus. Of course the turn-around had to happen.
Barbra Streisand does not have qualms mourning the loss of her Coton de Tulear Sammie, a loving companion for 14 years. She even considers the Royal Madagascar the daughter she never had. She made me remember my son Alex crying when his Spitz Cotton died and when my youngest brother Sunny shed tears while burying Bam, a Terrier mongrel. Prompted me to ask Alex how old Bronson, our Dachshund mongrel, is; he is 4 years old. And made a permanent memory of my recent acquisition, Bruno, a Doberman mongrel, a gift from the Sta. Cruz family, loyal receivers of the block rosary Mary.
It is not so much San Jose as Fatima that is linking me inextricably to the faithful urban poor of Doña Juana. It started out plainly. I was invited to deliver a talk and the invitation repeated itself. Then, because of my dismount song, I was enticed by the music ministry to join them if I was free. Long story short, and several animated singing afterwards, I hit it off with the dedicated servers of PREX San Jose, most of them coming from Fatima chapel. Mary keeps manifesting herself in me. The Holy Spirit allowed me to go to the foster father of Jesus because it will inevitably lead me to Mary. My divine family cannot be more consummate.
Kuya Ross rang our bell, he was with Kuya Joel; they were on the way to another talk commitment of the former. I hugged them both, Kuya Ross tighter. He was here yesterday to deliver his usual PREX Talks 9 and 10. He looked none the worse for wear. He suffered a stroke and shuttled from Cabuyao Community Hospital to the Philippine Heart Center. The physician’s prognosis was a choice between angioplasty and a bypass. The PREX community stormed heavens for his well-being. When I went to visit him in the latter, a stranger was sitting on his bed; he had been discharged the day before. I did not blame Murphy for my procrastination but missed the man. In the brief exchange that we had that morning, he told me of a story involving a woman who, sensing his difficulty, helped him go to a hospital. She was a total stranger. It was all he remembered of her. She was the reason he chose to get out of the hospital. And let it be His will. I think I know the woman. I know he will be well.
Like me, Frank sings at the slightest provocation. I like that he uses language I relate to. He admits he has little voice (mine is loud when uncontrolled), no training (I thank choir discipline for mine) and no sense of timing (Sorry, Bud, but I got this). The other thing that we have in mutual bounty is a good ear. This has served me in good stead when I move from choir to choir for reasons more ethical than anything else. My quest ceased like a respite from a tedious task immediately after (our) completion of Totus Tuus. The Pneuma Choir I am with is as stark as its epithet and unassuming membership. Their choice of hymns is neither popular nor elitist. They have a simple repertoire the congregation sings with like it’s a most natural sing-along communion. My passion has found a terminal. Kuya Ross has thrown caution to the sky. He came at a time I was putting a lid on this piece. Accidents being what they’re not, I realize his nickname is only a letter short of Frank’s family’s.
Abraham de la Torre😇