TALKS WERE RIFE that the 13th Anniversary of PREX (reuniting all graduates of San Jose ang Tagapagtanggol Parish) would not prosper. Understandably causing some worry on the part of the organizers who toiled to leave no stone unturned for this holy undertaking. For there were some, if intuitions were to be accorded weight, who would rather the milestone did not come to pass. Alas and alack, they did not have a prayer. Which the prayer warriors of SJTP had an abundance of. Small surprise, therefore, that the dreaded turnout may not have filled the Church to her rafters but there were enough warm, faithful bodies to dance, praise, sing, serve and pray like David did. It could not be described as an extravaganza (like the planned celebration of the Fides Coop’s 20th anniversary, shot down on its third and final planning, putting all the efforts and preparation of the proponents to pffft) but a dyed-in-the-wool labor for the faithful to easily see, hear and feel that those who were present were virtual presents to PREX, the threshold of evangelization. The Lord could not have been perfectly pleased with His people.
As one joyful observer put it: “Ipakita nyo na yan (the glorious pictures) sa nagsasabing ‘Nasaan na ang mga PREX graduates, ipapa-abolish ko yan!’ Pero paano nga pala nya makikita e di naman sya member sa group na ‘to.” (God forgive me for the bitter thoughts, went the postscript). I consoled the poster with the reassurance that the thoughts were not bitter, just matter of fact, nothing to be sorry about.)
Especially when it was time for Kuya Ben, the charismatic, perennial master of ceremonies, to introduce the guest speaker, the equally affable Fr. Alan Castillo.
It has become customary for the Franciscan priests (and Deacon) of SJTP to preface their talks with “God is good” and for their faithful to respond with “All the time” and vice-versa it’ll be strange if the exchange did not take place. Having done with the ritual, Fr. Alan attributed the onset of PREX in the Franciscan community to a Rev. Fr. Hugh Zurat, OFM, who conducted the first PREX at Santuario de San Antonio, was appreciated by the late Cardinal Sin and so the Prelate required all priests to attend a PREX weekend in Baguio City. He motioned for Ate Terry to confirm the history and the latter dutifully obeyed. Then he moved onto St. Luke’s “Road to Emmaus,” the very first Talk in the Weekender. Using visuals, he portrayed the two men who talked while they walked, both of them apparently grieving the death of Jesus but without faith, for they did not recognize Jesus when He joined them. Only afterwards, when they were having supper with Him, did He show His face to them, before disappearing, enough for them to exclaim, “their hearts were burning during their walk with Him”. And they remembered His words, that they were spoken with authority, author being the root of the word, like a small Gospel, Fr. Alan said. “Gusto ko sana, malungkot muna ang kwento,” he continued. “Pero nagbigay na si Ate Choleng ng candy”. Then he picked up that Christ left the two men with hope, which was a good thing. “Kasi, pag wala nang pag-asa, tigbak na. When I was in Libya, para akong exile, sa disyerto, liminal (he admitted that the word, which meant transitional, was his favorite) lost, kaya in the desert ‘you can’t remember your name’ (we dueted in the America hit), kasi, ikaw lang, at Diyos, kung nananampalataya, so you move on or get stuck. And he recalled an author who said that many of us live a full life only to die at 30. Meaning we should take the opportunity to join PREX, which quenches the thirst for the Word, before we are past our full lives. PREX is full of hearts, a win-win experience, because it makes the Eucharist the way to love the Lord. Like St. Paul with the flaming sword, the road to Emmaus is proclaimed in the Mass in the breaking of the bread. When he was in Libya, he concluded, he did not get lost in the desert because when he was there, he introduced the people whom he was with to the Mass – to Jesus.
FOR HIS PART, Bro. Mark, said that one is truly evangelized if before sleeping and waking up God is in him; when in our hearts is Jesus Christ, not historically, but in a personal relationship, fulfilling His mandate to go and make disciples of all nations. Yun bang nagbabahay-bahay, dala hindi ganda o galing kundi mensahe at salita ni Hesus. Because evangelization is a mission of the Church. Hindi ito tungkol sa dami ng organisasyon na di matandaan ang uniporme, it is touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others, carrying the cross of others, not about having fb at home, and texting family members, baba na, kakain na, may picture pa.
That, in a (meaty) nutshell, was what the 13th PREX Anniversary of SJTP Weekenders turned out to be. Ordinary to many, yes (even forgetabble to those who are supposed church leaders but, for lack of knowledge [and, therefore, questionable faith], bash it) yet because of the extraordinary grace the speakers imbued it with, the resultant fervor matched the euphoric picture-taking. Simply, truly PREX-worthy. Amen.