THERE WERE THREE Masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Nativity in BF Homes, Quezon City. Two were celebrated at the Holy Spirit Parish, one at the covered basketball court. I was not able to go to either of the first two but I promised myself to make it to the latter for many reasons: I cannot miss honoring our Lady; it is another occasion to write about (in spite of two pending articles due to PLDT’s incredible inefficiency I’d rather not dwell in); and my debt of thanksgiving to Mary is piling up. If my life depended on it, this is going to be posted now, on fb, and let the other pieces wait until Monday.
The Legion of Mary, besides, was in support of Ms. Martina Eileen Hernandez (Ai-Ai de las Alas) Sibayan’s “Panata kay Maria,” a yearly devotion she pledged to Mary for private, significant reasons. It is owed to her homage that I discovered her Papal Award in 2016 for “distinguished service to the church”. The “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice,” which is the highest award given by the Pope to lay people, shocked the awardee enough to blurt out, “Why me? I’m a sinner!” By any other attribute, that’s a winner.
There were two celebrants in the 11 am Mass, Fr. Alan and Fr. Jun. I will talk about the latter for the obvious fact that will be surely shared by those who were there and lapped up every nuance of his homily, because laced with banter and so doubly boomeranged to both thrower and thrown-upon. To wit, he gave the congregation a hearty “Good morning!” which the audience received lukewarmly. So he threatened that if they did not energize, they will have no lunch, and repeated the greeting. The crowd chorused a lively response. Which he took – and verbalized – as indicative of their predilection for food as an enticer. The crowd became alert. Then he delivered a deluge of intertwined bits on Mary and Jesus and God leaving the conclusive endword blank for the crowd to fill in. At first, he engaged the children’s group (on the left). The young easily picked up the pedagogy so he shifted to the right group of adults. Expectedly, and taking from the youth’s response, the grown-ups gamely joined the repartee, even to the point of an apparent stab at age or looks, which the same woman being ascribed at took good-naturedly and so encouraged the priest. Because the congregation was already getting where the priest was going, to the meat of the feast. He knew that his audience were the poor of Barangay Holy Spirit yet his candor never changed or waned.
His wit went on overdrive because matched by the adrenaline of his diehards He thwarted the kids’ premature guesses with endearing reprimands and joshed the adults with polite pranks the interaction grew in electric increments with mutual accord and amusement. Catechism and courteous comicality blended beautifully.
Ai-Ai’s devotion blended with the Legion of Mary’s mission to propagate Christ’s reign on earth. Approaching the audience, Fr. Jun counseled them to pray so that, like Christ in the Eucharist, we will live and die and resurrect. And he impressed upon the kids the old wives’ tale that, if they misbehaved, the priest will gobble them up. The snicker prodded him to stretch the joke to take care of their wound because the same priest will appear there. More laughter.
The El Shaddai choir needs to be commended. Four pairs of ASTB voices gave the event an elegant air helped by the well-attired gentlemen and begowned ladies. Regal in spite of the hot, open, iron-roofed basketball court. Even as beads of sweat shone on their foreheads. Before, during and after the Mass, their pipes soothed the noonday humidity. The piano man and superb sound system complemented their musicality; they gave the Eucharist solemnity and, through hymns specifically sung for her birth anniversary, homage to Mary.
I liked best the part where Fr. Jun asked the kids why they loved their moms. Not lucky with the boys, he asked a girl who did not disappoint with, “Dahil nakikita ko sa kanya si Maria.” And a special kid (he did not know) answered with, “Mapagmahal, nagpalaki sa akin.”
What I didn’t like was that there were two priests, a lector and a commentator but no one remembered to include in the liturgical celebration the prayers for the faithful. Before the final blessing, the lector announced that roses will be distributed to be offered to the Celebrator; he didn’t have to warn the offerors not to take the flowers home (are the poor always suspect of a misdemeanor?). His companion (both were from GMA 7) was about to present Ai-Ai for her thanksgiving address but remembered there were other celebrities (like them) to be introduced. In fairness to the benefactress, her spiel was as simple as her decorum all throughout the activity. She never called attention to herself and, when she needed to control the restlessness of the children (where the priest noticeably and probably necessarily used a sibilant pssst), spoke in a normal voice like her “Ninang” Angel described their exchange on the phone and through text messages. I thought the “sinner” was living a simple life like she really merited her Papal award. If I didn’t mind her before, she made me blink this time because of her behavior. Her spouse commendably detached himself from her moment with Mary and the many.
Even Fr. Jun was spare with his affirmation of her. As, without the high praises usually reserved for popular persons, it seemed sufficient for him to conclude a charmed and charming discourse as a simple choice. And for his audience, to declare an applause necessary, without being asked for their propriety.
Not only did Eileen elevate Mary to her rightful queenship, she fed the Queen’s indigent constituents with her Son’s holy Host and catered, sumptuous food and, as a take-home token, put laden bags on their backs and groceries. She delivered more than what she promised and, still gracious with generosity, she announced that the milestone will be marked again in a December get-together. Amen.