Archive for October 2010
14 October 2010 – Dagupan City. The Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan will present a concert entitled ‘FADZ IN CONCERT” on October 22, 2010, Friday, at the CSI Stadia, Lucao District, Dagupan City with a matinee performance at 3:00 pm and a gala show at 7:00 pm.
FADZ is a jejemon word for priest. The youth fondly call their priests in the archdiocese “Fadz”, an address of endearment which the priests themselves allow the youth to use when calling them. The same jejemon word was used as concert title in view of the Church’s thrust to use new methods and approaches to make the Gospel more relevant to the youth and the poor.
This is the first time that such an all priests concert will be held in this archdiocese. The idea was born during the weekly Monday dinners that the Archbishop hosted for the priests to promote a spirit of camaraderie among the priests. After dinner, over a cup of tea or coffee or while enjoying dessert, the priests took turns singing with videoke accompaniment. The idea of a priests’ concert was born.
This is not a fund raising concert for a cause. The concert rehearsals became occasions for strengthening fraternity among priests. It was a team building exercise among the priests that extended to four months. It was fun time. It was bonding time. They came together once or twice a week during their free evenings—sang together, laughed together, danced together—not so much for the October 22 concert but for the sheer fun of being together. It was awesome to see the priests in their childlike simplicity dancing gleefully and singing with much gusto.
The concert is primarily an act of appreciation for the Catholic laity of the archdiocese. The priests dedicate this concert to the parish laity–they who have been so supportive of priests; so understanding with the shortcomings of priests; so constant and consistent in helping priests; so faithful in praying for priests. Through this concert, the priests will say to the Catholic laity: “We love you and we have always appreciated your kindness to priests. Our main fault is that we have not shown our gratitude all these years.”
This concert is an act of love from a grateful clergy to their ever supportive parish laity.
In spite of the shadows in the Church caused by issues of priests in problematic situations or priests not fully understood by their flock on certain social issues, this concert is a way to reach out to the laity celebrating what is right and beautiful with the world. The mark of Christian discipleship is joy and Christian life is a big feast!
Meditation on the occasion of the twenty fifth priestly anniversary of Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
How fast time flies! It has been twenty five years since the late Jaime Cardinal Sin laid his hands on me and ordained me a priest. What a blessing it was! What a blessing it continues to be! My vocation has been shaken by crises and subjected to endurance trials. All those trials and difficulties were blessings from God. I thank God for them. The pains that come from God are not meant for our stumbling. The trials that come from God can only make us better.
How shall I describe the past twenty five years of my life? It is grace. It is a gift by a generous God to an undeserving man. So much has been given to me—more than I need, more than I deserve, more than I can use, more than me. The blessings of God for me are larger than me. Everyday of my life since October 5, 1985, I have never missed a single day without offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass thanking God ceaselessly for calling me to be His priest. Whether on international travels or on vacation, in the thick dark forests or by a calm sea, on solitude retreats or on busy days, I have never missed a day without offering the Mass. In offering the Mass, I am most priestly. Being able to stand in the presence of God on behalf of men and being able to face men and offer them the love of God even if they are thousands of miles away, what an awesome grace! That grace is mine as a priest. I must never take this grace for granted. I must never get too familiar with this grace because this power is not even given to the highest of angels. It is mine. I am His priest.
My thanksgiving for my silver jubilee as a priest is not just a personal song of Magnificat. I thank God not alone but as a son of my Mother Church, a brother of my people, a disciple among disciples. I admit that the temptation was strong to celebrate my silver anniversary in quiet solitude as my heart has always longed for. Although I wanted to be a monk earlier in life, God called me to be a pastor in the world. I cannot and I must not celebrate like a monk. That is clearly not the will of God for me. I must celebrate as a bishop among his people—disciple among disciples, a brother of my people and a son of my Mother Church. My silver jubilee is not just a story of grace between God and me. There are thousands of people who became channels of grace for me through the years. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would live at Villa San Miguel under the shadow of a great man of the Church and eventually be allowed to witness the awesome unfolding of the history of God’s love for the Philippines. I was there as the story of EDSA was happening. I was there! I did not know why God put me there. It is grace.
I never thought that my appointment as the first rector of the EDSA Shrine would last me fifteen years. When my Archbishop gave me the assignment, he only told me to set the structures in place; that I was only to be a transitional rector and my duty was just to pave the way for the real rector. In fact, he did not install me as EDSA Shrine rector because he always considered me only as temporary rector. The EDSA Shrine was my first born, my first love with whom I shared my priestly dreams and passion. How did it happen that the temporary rector stayed on for fifteen years? It is grace. The EDSA Shrine community is a grace for my vocation as I am sure the Shrine has been a blessing to so many tired and weary souls. When the Holy Father sent me to Bataan to shepherd the people of God there, I went with love and obedience but with excitement and joy also because I have heard of the valor and rich heritage of that peninsula bloodied during the last war. EDSA Shrine was my first love but Bataan was love at first sight. I fell in love right away with her seas and mountains, her brilliant sunrise and fiery sunsets. But most of all, I fell in love right away with the tenderness of her people. After my brief and quick five year ministry in Bataan, I was asked “What was my most memorable moment in Bataan?” right away I answered: Everyday!
God willed it that I celebrate my silver year as a priest in Pangasinan as the pastor of this metropolitan See. I never thought this would happen when Cardinal Sin ordained me in 1985. Strange indeed are the ways of the Lord! God is a God of surprises. God loves to play jokes on people who plan their lives. Although Bataan was my love at first sight, Dagupan has quickly become the apple of my eye. Pangasinan excites me. Its people make my heart beat faster like seeing your crush. The priests of Lingayen Dagupan give me fire in my heart and blow strong winds beneath my wings. I don’t know why. The heart has reasons reason does not know. It is grace. I cannot explain it. It is a mysterious gift from God.
I have so much to be grateful for. I have been blessed more than I can ever imagine or ask for. Even then, let me dare bare my soul and ask for your gifts as I celebrate my silver year.
My brother priests, I ask for the gift of your commitment to celebrate Mass everyday regardless of the number of parishioners attending or the Mass offerings from the sponsors. Celebrate Mass daily even if you it is only the sacristan beside you. Don’t say it is a waste of time. It is such a great blessing to offer just one Mass. Believe that one single Mass has power to change the cosmos. Can you imagine the power of the daily Mass? And you have that power priest of God! No day without a Mass. A day without Mass is a day without breath. If you feel that way when you are unable to offer a Mass, you have begun your journey to mystery. Celebrate the Mass with utmost reverence vigilant not only for validity but for fruitfulness. Keep the fire in your heart each time you offer the Mass; this way, you can set other hearts on fire also.
My brother priests: relish the sacrament of penance. Relish hearing confessions regularly with much patience and compassion because we are sinners ourselves. We are not angels. If you start to think and act like angels, you will end up acting like beasts. Frequently go to confession yourselves and avail of the grace of the sacrament of mercy often. The barometer to gauge the depth of your spiritual life is the frequency of your confession. You may be a good administrator or a fast builder or an eloquent teacher or a popular pastor, but if you are far from the sacrament of penance, you are only yourself. You are not another Christ.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, make me happy and complete my joy for this silver jubilee by promising me that you will pray for the sanctification of priests everyday. Pray the rosary everyday and offer one decade for the sanctification of priests. Pray to keep us pure and humble and chaste of heart. Pray to keep us courageous and faithful and honest. Pray for us to discover again the power of being poor, the elegance of simplicity, the eloquence of working hidden. Every reform in the history of the Church started with the reform of priests. The crisis of the Church is really a crisis of saints. We lack saints but we have too many celebrities. The luster of celebrities is temporary. The saints will shine like the stars for eternity. May all priests be saints and may I be a saint with them.
What a great mystery, what a great gift the priesthood is! The decreasing number of young men ready to answer the call can be a symptom of a deeper crisis in society—the loss of the sense of mystery and the loss of the meaning of gifts.
In a society that is only focused on the palpable and verifiable, on the logical and scientific, mystery is absurd. Mystery has no place.
In a society where everything seems to be available in the classified ads and the media offers everything for sale, all gifts have price tags and no one needs to thank.
If we regain the sense of mystery and awe, the capacity to dream and wonder, we will regain the meaning of living. If we can say “thank you” and “please” more often, we shall realize that so much in life is a gift and we have so much to thank for. And we can be happy again!
Priests are mystery men. Priests are gifts of God to the world. Priests are gifts of the world to God. I am His priest and I am grateful, forever grateful. Amen.
September 28, 2010+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Bruce Lee’s Priest
Homily delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, DD on the occasion of his silver jubilee as priest held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City last October 6, 2010 at 10:00 o’clock in the morning.
God called me to follow Him and He called me through Bruce Lee. Before I heard the word of Jesus “Come follow me”, I first heard the words of Bruce Lee “Be yourself and learn the art of dying.”
Bruce Lee, not Jesus was my teen age idol. I was too sickly to engage in martial arts but I was an avid reader of Bruce Lee’s philosophy. Bruce Lee said:
Be flexible. Be formless. Be fluid. Be shapeless like water. You put water unto a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Water can flow or it can crash or creep. Be water my friend. Water has the continuity of movement. You must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying. The cup realizes itself only by being empty. Be yourself.
These words touched me deeply within. It disturbed my sleep. It distracted my studies. It left me desiring passionately to learn the art of dying. I wanted to be empty like the cup. I wanted to be formless like water. I wanted to find myself. This search brought me to the gate of San Carlos Seminary in Makati because our high school principal said that was where I could learn the art of dying like my idol Bruce Lee.
Called to Die
In San Carlos Seminary, they took me as I was – a Bruce Lee fan. I opened myself to my spiritual director but I kept it from my classmates. I was afraid they would not understand. Seminarians can be tough. They were all there because of Jesus. I was there because of Bruce Lee. Patiently, the spiritual director taught me: Tow thousand years before Bruce Lee, another wiser man said in Galilee, “If the seed dies, it bears fruit”. I fell in love with this man wiser than my teen age idol. I laid aside Bruce Lee album and magazine collection and answered the call of Jesus, “Come follow me.”
When the Lord says, “Come follow me”, He really means to say, “come and die with me.” The priesthood is a call to crucifixion. Priesthood and victimhood are two inseparable side to the same coin. Among all men in society, it is the priest who must be an expert in the art and science of dying. This is the dying that opens more lives. This is the dying that brings bright hope. This is the dying worth celebrating. I celebrate today twenty five years of dying for and with the Lord.
Without this art of dying, there would be no Church; for indeed Church was born from the pierced side of Christ. The Church was born from the dying and rising of our Lord. The most important, the highest, the most sublime expression of our faith is the Eucharist – the memory of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. How can the Eucharist be offered without the memory of the dying of Christ? The Eucharist teaches us ho to die, how to love, how to live.
Be like water
Bruce Lee taught me to be like water. Be flexible. Be formless. Be fluid. Be shapeless like water. You put the water unto a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. Water can flow or it can crash or creep. Be water my friend.
Bruce Lee taught me to be shapeless and flexible like water. Jesus taught us that too. In becoming a man like us, Jesus became a man among men. He did not cling to the honor of being God, he stripped himself of glory and became like us in everything except sin. Like flowing water, Jesus stooped down before his disciples taking the form of a slave and washed their feet and told us to do the same. In the Philippines, Jesus is a Filipino. In Dagupan, Jesus is a Pangasinense. He is like us. He is not different. He has embraced us. He has pitched his tent among us and live among us. Bruce Lee taught me the mystery fo the incarnation and inculturation long before my professors wrote those big words in the blackboard of the seminary classrooms.
It is Bruce Lee and it si Jesus who helped me in the vast and rapid changes in my ministry. From urban EDSA Shrine to rural Bataan, Bruce Lee helped me quietly to be formless like water. You put water into a cup, the water become the cup. They sent me to EDSA, I became EDSA. They sent me to Bataan, I became Bataan. They sent me to Pangasinan, I became Pangasinan. Take the form where you are poured. Flow like water. Be like water.
Dedication and Sacrifice
Bruce Lee said: Success flows form dedication and self-knowledge. What ws success for Bruce Lee was holiness for Jesus. Bruce Lee only saw success and nothing beyond it. Jesus pointed beyond success and opened the door to perfection. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, Jesus taught. What is the way to success? What is the way to perfection? Bruce Lee and Jesus shared a common road map – sacrifice.
If the seed dies, it bears fruit. If you want to be my disciple, carry your cross daily and follow me. Bruce Lee echoed this Christian tenet in these words: You must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying. The cup realizes itself only by being empty. Be yourself.
There is no holiness without the cross. There I no love without sacrifice. How mut the priest live out this call to die? Cardinal Sin taught me two very important lessons in dying. The Eucharist and the confession are sure way to the art of dying. Free your ambitious mind though confession. Learn the art of dying through the Mass.
My brother priests: Our vocation is such a great blessing but it can also be a great temptation. The priesthood can lead us to heaven as we touch heavenly thing here on earth or it can lead to our damnation if we take for granted the holy mysteries we hold. If you want sincerely to take care of your vocation, three things are necessary: celebrate Mass daily, pray the complete Liturgy of the Hours faithfully everyday and go to confession monthly.
I ask for the gift of your commitment to celebrate Mass everyday regardless of the number of parishioners attending or the Mass offerings from the sponsors. Celebrate Mass daily even if it is only the sacristan beside you. Don’t say it is a waste of time it is such a great blessing to offer jut one Mass. Believe that one single Mass has power to change the cosmos. Can you imageine the power of the daily Mass? And you have that power, priest of God! No day without a Mass. A day without Mass is a day without breath. If you feel that way when you are unable to offer a Mass, you have begun your journey to mystery. Celebrate the Mass with utmost reverence, vigilant not only for validity, but for fruitfulness. Keep the fire in your heart each time you offer the Mass; this way, you can set other hearts on fire also.
My brother priests: relish the sacrament of penance. Relish hearing confessions regularly with much patience and compassion because we are sinners ourselves. We are not angels. If you start to think of yourselves as angels, you will end up acting like beasts. Frequently go to confession yourselves and avail of the grace of the sacrament of mercy often. The barometer to gauge the depth of your spiritual life is the frequency of your confession. You may be a good administrator or a fast builder or an eloquent teacher or a popular pastor, but if you are far from the sacrament of penance, you are only yourself. You are not another Christ.
The breviary must be our daily companion. To pray the entire divine office daily is a grave duty for every priest. Don’t rush the breviary. Our first duty is to be intercessors. Our first duty is to pray. We can change the world on our knees not through rallies. Praying the breviary faithfully will expand your heart for love and strengthen your heart against sin prayer will keep you pure of heart.
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you help us priests? The Archbishop of Cologne had a ready answer. “If you want to help priests, go to your priests for confession.” The greatest pastoral achievement is the chance to penetrate hearts, restore peace to sinners and share the hope of God. Every absolution is an immense pastoral success! An absolution after confession is a greater pastoral success than building cathedrals or universities!
Friends of priests: How can you help priests? Go to Mass daily. Learn from the altar the art of dying. Let Jesus teach you how to follow him and how to die with him. Nobody remains the same after receiving Holy Communion.
Thank you for the grace of your presence today. I have been asked: What is my most memorable moment as a priest of twenty five years? My quick answer: Everyday … Everyday is memorable. Every day is a grace. You my friends have made every day of my twenty five years memorable.
Thank you, Bruce Lee, for being an angel to me. Thank you, Cardinal Sin, for teaching me to love my priesthood.
Thank you, Jesus, for calling me to be yours.
I am yours forever.