KUYA ARNEL WAS ringing the doorbell while I was in the last stage of getting ready for our (Totus Tuus) Journey. I asked our kasambahay Mean to tell him to give me five minutes and then we were off to fetch Ate Maricar and Sis Irene. We collected his and Ate Relly’s anniversary cake first, one which had “Hail Mary Full of Grace” iced on it, because their 27 years of marital union was similarly blessed. Having done that, we proceeded to the Monfort Center of Spirituality without Sis Irene because she had a nursing review class to conduct that day.
The Center is located at 121 9th Street, New Manila, Quezon City, a familiar, fond place we can always reach no matter the weather or the traffic. It was not my first time to go there and be excited but the exhibit, which will run from October 22 to November 12, 2016, is special in the sense that it will feature my very own Fatima image along with other collection pieces and varied religious Marian and Montfortian memorabilia. This year’s theme is Burning Love for God Alone with Mary. Sis Gelly is the Overall Coordinator of the exhibit so it is not an accident that it opens on the feast day of Pope John II. Sis Gelly knows the inextricable link between St. Louis de Montfort and the Pope.
(The Pontiff thought so highly of the writing of the saint’s book, True Devotion to Mary, that he spoke about him saint on many occasions. In addition, on December 8, 2003, he wrote a special letter on the occasion of the 160th Anniversary of de Montfort’s publication. In this letter he wrote: “I myself, in the years of my youth, found reading this book a great help. There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to Him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ. The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God”.
True Devotion to Mary was such a lasting influence on him that when he was elected Pope in 1978, he chose his papal motto from words written by St. Louis De Montfort.
“As is well known, (in) my episcopal coat of arms … the motto Totus tuus is inspired by the teaching of St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. These two words express total belonging to Jesus through Mary: Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt. (I am all Yours, and all that I have is Yours.) “This Saint’s teaching has had a profound influence on the Marian devotion of many of the faithful and on my own life.”)*
We got there after collecting our last fare, bubbly Sis Liza, at McDonalds on EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, with time to spare before the collective rosary was prayed. A little while later, main celebrant Fr. Richard Magararu started the Mass with Frs. Paul and Frederick concelebrating. Fr. Richard’s homily hinged on the church’s seeming silence over the spate of extrajudicial killings. Like those who died deserved it, likening it to Pilate’s having Galileans killed in the temple and to the 18 persons in Siloah who were crushed when a tower fell. Because if they thought those who died were worse sinners than the others, they are wrong and will suffer the same fate unless they change their ways. Then he talked about the fruitless fig tree whose landowner wanted to cut it down but his gardener said not yet for he will cultivate it and, if still it doesn’t bear fruit, will agree that it be cut down. The landowner is the Father, the fig tree is our faith and Jesus is the gardener not easily giving up on us.
The church is quiet because it is praying that the phenomenon stops and life becomes normal and our faith rises again, because Jesus is our guide that never leaves and nourishes it. Yet the change must start with us for faith to fulfill. Our God is a merciful God. He gives us all the second chances. We are all sinners. We cannot just condemn anyone because are all sinners. We are called to repent.
Mary was human. In the TTJ, we learned the Montfort way that she is the fastest safest and surest way to Jesus, to God, the Unknown. God is so much for our sinfulness that we need a human. This is Mary.
Within the Mass (made beautiful by a choir of brothers Ate Car and I could not help singing along with (especially their nostalgic Amare et Servire), Fr. Richard announced the wedding anniversary of the Cruz couple and the joint birthdays of Kuya Benjie (Sis Gelly’s husband) and their daughter Angelica to the applause of the congregation. They were blessed before the final blessing, after which the faithful queued up to kiss the relic of St. Louis de Montfort.
Shortly thereafter, Fr. Paul announced the ribbon-cutting ceremony to be done by the Fernandez Family. They were with their matriarch, legionary Ate Finny, Kuya Reg’s widow.The lilac ribbon was cut, tossed and caught by Sis Cecile in the audience. It now rests beautifully, like a laurel, among the treasures of many collectors.
Before all this came to pass, I should not forget to thank Sis Ana Marie for another book, Magnificat, that she gave me before Mass commenced. It was one of many back issues she had with her which she distributed to the others in accordance with their birth months. The generous lady was evidently a book lover; she was giving away her loves to people she felt the feeling for.
The TTJers prepared spare snacks in styrofoam packs. While we, the lay, and the clergy and ours and their guests were having them, Sis Fe announced there was more food, a multiplication of brunch that included actual lunch and juices in tetra pack. Love was indubitably a resident attribute of that Monfortian haven, due doubtless to its patroness and her loyal advocates, within and out.
I shanghaied Ate Car into a shaded area with two long benches. Then waved Sisters Bubbles and Becky to come join us. The last pair to complete our sixsome were the Cruzes. Having heard us singing at Mass, Sis Becky asked if we were choir members. I sang my response. If that surprised her, her similar rejoinder was more surprising to us. If she was aware that she was a revelation, she wasn’t conscious of it because busy reciprocating our welcome appreciation thereof. All this hilarity was familiarly random but because of Ate Car and her father’s daughter’s uncanny knack for igniting a witty spark into an explosion of gas, even the others from adjoining benches within earshot gravitated towards us. It was a breaking of bread made pleasanter by the musicality of kindred souls uniting further with shared sentiments laced with good humor and easy laughter. So much so that the communal energy warmed the already humid noon. Not too far from where we were, I saw white-shirted seminarians huddled in their lunch table, their laughing strains of brotherly cheer warming the afternoon air. Love in surplus. Surely, those pockets of camarederie, albeit fleeting because earnestly endearing, must be the sort that echoes in eternity. We profess our faith as hard as we proclaim our fun. Then it was time to collect our lunch litter and trek upstairs for the next phase of the “journey”.
My sharing partner was Kuya Arnel. It was our reunion of sorts after separate circumstances put a gap between us, thankfully not wide enough to make the chasm unbridgeable, for the Saturday sessions do bring us together, however assigned to different partners. I often rode with Sis Gelly, who was up early that morning to run errands for her family and varied hands-on efficiency, so the convoy assigned to me was not hers but Kuya Arnel’s (twin of her) Escapade.
On behalf of someone who was absent but e-mailed him his sharing, Fr. Dodong read the e-sharing out loud. Sis Gelly surmised it was someone we mutually know; I was bolder in declaring that the profundity of the sharing gave the sharer away. But Fr. Dodong, bless his circumspect soul, simply smiled. Who knew what or whom did not matter. It was the message from a mouth-muffled messenger.
He had to leave (again, and one is quick to perish the suspicion that it is a trick) to celebrate another Mass so Sis Fe took over. Like the organized organizer that she strikes me as, she efficiently assumed the task and quite emphatically impressed on us that everybody shares, no one is spared. The smiles that reacted to her ruling were cool and collective.
Before dispersal, we had to gather again in the pantry for our regulatory brewed-coffee bonding, thanks to Sis Fe’s Cavite beans, what was left of the mamons earlier and the anniversary cake. Lunch spawned singers heretofore unheard so there was effortless egging for the group to sing an anniversary song, the celebratory word substituting birthday in the traditional ditty no adult or anyone younger can miss.
And then it was time for parting, never sorrowful for the group has now grown on one another so the fare-thee-wells are but expressions of see-you-soon reassurance. Until they meet, travel, bond and reconcile with Mary – and each other – again.
*culled from a commentary by Gretchen Filz
by Abraham de la Torre