Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another resurrection story

Cogito, DCHerald
April 12, 2009

What’s in the Tagalog mass that Filipinos in Tarragona would move heaven and earth to have it at least twice a month here? For an outsider, this may be an uninteresting question. But to more or less 300 Filipino OFW’s in this part of Spain, it is a question that’s worth reflecting. Or at least, to me, as I spent this Holy Week with them.

It all started as a wishful thinking a few months ago. They all knew that in Barcelona, the Filipino parish called Immaculate Conception and San Lorenzo Ruiz is so alive and growing, and is home to more than 15,000 Catholic Filipinos there. “How we wish we could also have masses in Tagalog here in Tarragona”, one middle-aged mother exclaimed, at one time when she met the parish priest, Fr. Bernie Alejo.

Last December 2008, on the occasion of Fr. Banny Pardillo’s short Christmas stay in Immaculate Conception and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, the Filipino Catholics in Tarragona (a one-hour travel by train from Barcelona) had its first mass in Tagalog at the church of San Juan Bautista, whose parish priest, Fr. Jordi Figueras, a catalán (native of Catalunya, another province of Spain), generously and gladly lent them.

Since then, the Filipino priests who are studying in Navarra would take turns twice a month to come, celebrate mass and hear confessions in Tarragona. During the Holy Week, I was requested to preside the celebrations like the Palm Sunday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, (a concelebration with the Spanish parish community), the Veneration of the Cross and the Easter Sunday. The idea is very much welcome on the part of Archbishop Jaime Pujol (who has been my professor in Navarra before becoming the archbishop of Tarragona). At least, the pastoral needs of Filipino Catholics in Tarragona could now be well taken care of.

* * *

Perhaps through a nostalgic desire to hear masses in our maternal tongue, God has drawn these OFW’s together to form a Christian community. Through a simple longing to sing Luwalhati sa Dios, or Ama Namin while holding hands together and with eyes piously closed, God has called these Filipino Catholics to be witnesses of authentic Christian life and to give testimony – in this corner of the world – of a unique Filipino Christian spirit.

Once again, God has called all of us, Filipinos – wherever we are and whatever our circumstances may be – to be true missionaries, even in the simply way of living our faith. We don’t need to do great things to become missionaries. Even ordinary things done with extra-ordinary love can become great in the eyes of God.

I remember how the lectors and other mass servers fumbled and committed lots of blunders (errors that could easily raise the brows of meticulous parish priests in the Philippines) during our liturgical celebrations, but I don’t mind them so much. I could see the purity of their intentions and the nobility of their desire to please God. Not a few Spanish priests and lay faithful had observed what my eyes saw. Truly, from the mouth of the humble and the simple-hearted, God could find His praises.

* * *

Jesus once said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw people to myself.” I believe, my experience with the Filipino Catholics in Tarragona is a concrete fulfillment of His promise.

As Jesus is lifted up on the cross, He draws these Filipinos to Himself to form a community of His disciples. It is not mere coincidence that this community is formed during the Holy Week when Christ Himself, while hanging on the cross, is “lifted up from the earth”. Neither should it cause us great surprise that this community takes its shape under the Cross of Christ. It is formed in and through that cross. It should be configured under the same cross.

Before our own eyes, the Passion and Death of Christ produces again and again abundant fruits. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it would not bear much fruit…” Once again, we see how Christ continues to work hard for our salvation, even after His resurrection. He never tires of drawing us, attracting us to Himself. And His most effective and efficient means is His own Cross.

From the perspective of Christ’s Cross, the story of the Filipino Catholic community in Tarragona has just begun. I think, it is a story that is worth meditating. For in the eyes of faith unfolds another resurrection story!

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"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.