By Louise P. Abesa
Warren Buffett advises people to choose their friends well. He believes that one should choose friends who are better than oneself.
The faithful departed who lived as good friends of God here on earth are called saints by the Roman Catholic Church. Many of them are saints with a small “s”. Their sanctity is known only to their family and friends. A number are included in the canon of saints after a long and expensive process of beatification and canonization. They are the saints with the big “S”.
In 1975, when Msgr. Josemaria Escriva, the Spanish founder of Opus Dei, had just transited to heaven, someone suggested to the then newly appointed Filipino ambassador to the Holy See, Antonio C. Delgado, that he help advance the cause of canonization of Opus Dei’s founder. However, having the welfare of the Filipinos in mind, Ambassador Delgado thought that he should instead help advance the cause of canonization of a Filipino. It was not an easy task. Delgado and his team had to do a lot of research on Filipinos who led exemplary Christian lives until they zeroed in on Lorenzo Ruiz who was martyred in Japan for his faith in 1637. The Chinese-Filipino martyr was beatified (on 18 February 1981 in Manila) and canonized (on 18 October 1987 in Rome) by Pope John Paul II. His feast is on 28 September.
Interestingly, the cause of beatification and canonization of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva was meanwhile advanced by Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, Archbishop of Florence and Vatican’s deputy secretary of state for ordinary affairs. Cardinal Benelli was once hostile to Opus Dei when he was assigned counselor of the Vatican’s embassy in Spain. He eventually had a change of heart because of the warmth and respect accorded to him by Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Escriva’s secretary general and eventual successor, despite the misunderstandings between Cardinal Benelli and Opus Dei’s founder due to political circumstances during Franco’s regime. Benelli wrote to Pope Paul VI suggesting that the cause of canonization of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva be started. St. Josemaria Escriva was beatified (on 17 May 1992 in Rome) and was canonized (on 6 October 2002 also in Rome) by Pope John Paul II. His feast is celebrated every June 26, the day he transited to heaven.
As mentioned earlier, there are very many holy men and women who have led exemplary Christian lives and although not canonized, have made an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of people whose lives they have touched. Among God’s good friends while they were journeying here on earth are two catechists worthy of emulation.
Laureana Franco or Ka Luring was a very close friend of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila. Fr. Ramil Marcos, former secretary of Cardinal Sin, tells us in the September 2017 maiden issue of Trellis, the magazine published by the Catechetical Foundation of the Archdiocese of Manila (CFAM), that Ka Luring was the seminarians’ patient guide. Being an experienced catechist, she was able to impart to them a lot of wisdom. Cardinal Sin, himself, talked to Ka Luring about his concerns for the Church and entrusted them to the power of the prayers of his humble catechist. When she was not busy with her catechism class, Ka Luring took care of the elderly in a depressed area near her home. She even helped indigent college students to get scholarships. The business of sainthood is expensive; expensive in terms of time and resources offered for the glory of God. A hall in San Carlos Seminary’s Layforce Center has been named after Ka Luring.
The saintly catechist from the Diocese of Antipolo is Yollie Mangahas Leon. She has gone back home to heaven last year at the age of 72. In the words of Dr. Antonio N. Torralba, editor-in-chief of Character, the official magazine of Campaign for Character Education Tenacity (CaChET), a project of the Alalay sa Pamilya at Bayan Foundation, Inc., “Yollie was a facilitator, speaker, listener, inspiration igniter in development interventions nationwide, making sure that ‘all is well’, from start to finish. She was, by etymology and deeper meaning, a volunteer, someone who would surrender her voluntas, her will, to the service of God and fellowmen.” “Her counsels reverberate in minds and hearts, and she seemed to have given them with flawless hold of Christian doctrine.”
I was so lucky to have had a close encounter with Yollie Leon in a meeting of CaChET volunteers during the latter part of 2016. Her light demeanor easily put one at ease. She was so down to earth with her advice. She gamely told us that the best mouth wash is the virgin coconut oil (VCO), a welcome information for teachers, catechists, and mentors who need to maintain good oral hygiene. Curiously, I heard from another friend that VCO is good antiseptic for gum wounds especially after tooth extraction.
When another catechist wondered aloud what a Don Bosco priest meant when he said, “Talagang Opus Dei na Opus Dei kayo!”, Yollie wisely answered,”…doctrine…sound doctrine…we give good doctrine…”