Posts Tagged ‘Homilies. Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas’
Homily delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas during the Closing Mass for the Quadricentennial Year of the University of Santo Tomas held last January 27, 2012 at 4:30pm.
The University of Santo Tomas is the alma mater of all Catholic schools in the Philippines. For four centuries, this mother has nurtured and cared for millions of children, cradling them in her arms, nursing them from her bosom. The University of Santo Tomas is the mother of all schools and colleges and universities in the Philippines. From her womb, our alma mater has given birth to countless other schools, colleges, universities and seminaries in our archipelago. It is easy to declare that in varying degrees, all schools in our country somehow carry a Thomasian influence, even the Jesuit schools even if they are too proud to admit that.
This mother has nurtured heroes and saints in her classrooms. Great men and women, brilliant statesmen and justices of the court, pious Cardinals and bishops, zealous pastors and missionaries—walked through her corridors and pathways and rendered the ground on which we now stand sacred and hallowed.
But this mother whom we call UST cradles in the memory of her heart not only her renowned and famous children. Our dear alma mater, like all mothers, holds dear to her heart many more hidden, unrecognized and even forgotten sons and daughters buried in the tombs of anonymity by our unthankful society but certainly known by name by Jesus the Teacher of all.
After giving birth, the role of a mother is threefold—to feed, to clothe and to correct. A loving mother feeds her baby from her breast and from her kitchen. There is no milk better than a mother’s milk. A mother’s cooking is always special because it is prepared with love and tenderness. As she feeds, she also bathes and clothes. The baby’s first dress is her mother’s caress. The child’s first protection is her mother’s embrace. She clothes her child not just with linen and silk but with an ever ready protective embrace and an ever dependable security under her loving care. As she feeds and clothes, she also teaches and corrects. Indeed the best teacher is the mother and the best school is the home. A mother admonishes and guides, she instructs and she inspires.
As a mother’s duty is to feed and to clothe and to correct, so is the role of every alma mater school. UST feeds, clothes and corrects. She has been doing this for the past four hundred years, she will continue to feed and to clothe and to correct for the next four hundred more.
How has UST done this mission of feeding and clothing and correcting her children of four hundred years?
UST has nurtured scientists and economists, jurists and artists, engineers and educators, physicians and pastors. But what makes a Thomasian unique among the rest? The food that a Catholic alma mater feeds her children is Jesus, the Bread of Life, only Jesus, always Jesus. Jesus is the only food that every Catholic university must feed her children. The best lessons are not learned seated in the classroom but kneeling down by the feet of the Divine Wisdom Himself.
UST the caring mother clothes her sons and daughters not with prescribed school day uniforms. The official invisible clothing of every Thomasian is Christ himself. We must be clothed in Christ and with Christ. Jesus is our shield against evil and our protection from all harm. Unless we are all truly clothed in Jesus, we will all be embarrassingly naked and dangerously unprotected. As a mother’s caress is baby’s first dress, so is intimacy with Jesus the Thomasian’s first armor as they venture into life.
UST, mater et magistra, mother and teacher, corrects and admonishes; she teaches and instructs; she guides and shows the way. UST has produced champions in athletics and topnotchers in board and bar exams, she has nursed under her bosom luminaries in all facets of social life but the best teaching of this university is Jesus Himself. The other universities produce excellent men. The University of Santo Tomas produces other Christ’s. Our goal is Jesus. Our teacher is Jesus. Our lesson is Jesus.
UST our alma mater feeds us Jesus, clothes us with Jesus and teaches us Jesus.
Where are the children of UST? The successful and the famous alumni return with pride and gratitude. You are among that group. You have done well in society and brought pride to your alma mater. You are the honor of UST.
But out there in the dark alleys, inside jails and prisons, in cramped government hospital wards, in unnamed graves in public cemeteries, there are also sons and daughters of UST who did not succeed, dropped out of the way and have faded away in shame and guilt. They may be criminals waiting for conviction, ordained ministers who have abandoned their calling, corrupt public servants who have ignored the voice of conscience and many more wounded and broken and bruised Thomasian souls. This jubilee is for them too. In fact this jubilee is more for them than for the glorious and successful ones who are here. To these ignored and abandoned and convicted sons and daughters of our mother, we say: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Is.49:15) UST will never forget.
To you dear alumni out there in the fringes, ashamed and afraid to join this jubilee feast because in your judgment, you have brought stain to UST’s name; to you who have been ignored and rebuked, forgotten and ridiculed, suspected and convicted, despised and hated, the arms of the University of Santo Tomas reach out to you waiting to embrace you and bring you back close to her heart, back to the heart of God.
To you wounded and injured alumni, UST beckons “Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and deeply our new life.”
We praise and exalt you alma mater UST!
Four centuries of motherhood, mother unto eternity!
You reared us in wisdom and clothed us in sanctity
In you we have a mother, in you is our identity!
Teach us to love the Church and to love Jesus Christ,
Guide us when we stumble and be our guiding light,
Set our hearts on fire; may our minds be pure and bright,
That the world may see in us the radiant face of God!
Embrace your grateful children who return with their laurels,
Caress too the weary children wounded and forgotten,
UST we are back, never to leave you again
We shall carry the Thomasian torch, unto the world without end.
UST Alma Mater, Viva!
Meditation on Holy Thursday Chrism Mass 2011
Today like all other days, we gather to pray and to give thanks. What makes this day different from other days is that today we remember the roots of our priesthood. We make a pilgrimage to the Upper Room. We bring back the memory of the first Holy Thursday. We remember how he washed the feet of his friends. We remember that he said “Do this in memory of me”.
But think of it again. Did our priesthood really start only on Holy Thursday? Did our priesthood start only at our ordination? Did the journey start only when we entered the seminary?
Before the Upper Room, there was only the Garden of Eden. Before we heard the voice of God to follow him, we had only our parents. In the natural order of things, before we knew the church, we first knew our family. Before we saw the father of the parish, we first knew the father of the home. Indeed the first priest we knew was our father at home—he provided for us, he disciplined us, he cared for us, we kissed his hands and he blessed us. Before we heard that the Church is our holy mother, we first experienced the caress of our mother at home. Before we tasted the Bread of Life, we first tasted the sweet milk from our mother’s breast. In the beginning, there were no priests; there were only parents.
Before God called priests, God first created Adam and Eve. Before God called us to follow him, he first called our parents to love each another until death. Before Jesus called us to carry our crosses daily, we first saw how our parents were mindless about getting sick or how ready they were to die for love of us.
Indeed as we celebrate today the memory of our priesthood, we push farther than the Upper Room on Holy Thursday and remember our roots—the Garden of Eden, the garden of the home; the paradise of the family. We push farther than our ordination day and remember the mother who gave us birth and the father who provided for us. The first church is the family. The first priest is the father at home. The church’s motherhood comes only after our mother’s selfless love.
With the long training and rigid formation that we went through before ordination, how can we refuse the temptation to look down on our less educated parents? How can we prevent our parents from looking up to us to convince us that we have surpassed them in success? It is a temptation. It is an illusion. The greatest in the kingdom of God is not the most educated or the most popular or the most influential but the one who stoops down to serve. The greatest is the servant.
With our capacity to engage in hair splitting arguments in philosophy and theology, can our parents compete with us? Their mouths open in awe as their sons parrot out words too hard to understand. When they get confused listening to us, they call us learned! We must not forget that our mother’s novenas– that we now ridicule as self proclaimed intellectuals– were the prayers that sustained us and continue to nourish us in the ministry. Our fathers can only become lay ministers assisting us but the priest can only be greater than the laity if the priest loves the most. The best seminary is neither in Binmaley nor in Bonuan. The best seminary is the home. The best rector is the father at home.
Our parents teach us until now– and how tenderly they teach us– to be humble. Before gratitude, there is first humility. We cannot thank the Lord for the gift of our priesthood without learning from our simple parents the virtue of humility and purity of heart.
The priest may be a big shot in the Christian community but before his parents, the priest will always be only a son as he is always only a child in the presence of God. Today we remember our roots and we thank God for the gift of our parents. If God promised everlasting reward to the giver of a glass of water to a wearied traveler, can you imagine the reward in heaven for a mother who gives God the fruit of her womb?
As I behold the bishop’s ring on my finger, I cannot but recall the wedding rings of my parents—much simpler and much cheaper, less attractive than mine—and yet in the eyes of the Lord, much more important and holier than the ring I carry. The greatest indeed is love.
As I look at the vestments I wear to celebrate the Mass, I cannot but gaze at the old ordinary dress of my mother and remember that my best vestment is still my baptismal garment. That simple inexpensive white dress my mother gave me as a baby surpasses in value our expensive signature shoes and shirts that we have been accustomed to wear now. Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit.
We feel good and proud that we are able to fill up the pews of the chapels and churches when we offer the Mass and preach. Although our parents cannot fill up church pews as we do, they have filled up our priestly hearts with the love and blessings of God. Your heart is more important than the pews. Our parents know where the real treasure lies.
The church is my home. I fly back to the church my nest to repair my broken wings and heal my wounded soul. But there is no place to heal better than the chest of the mother who nursed us as infants. There is no hand more secure than the hands of the father at home who taught us how to stand each time we fell when we were just learning how to walk. How we miss that loving chest and those guiding hands of our parents. Priest of God blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that nursed you!
At the fourth station of the Via Crucis, we reflect on the meeting between Jesus and his afflicted mother. When our people hurt us, when the church ignores us, when those we serve attempt to destroy us, when it feels like walking in the valley of darkness, we only long secretly to meet our mother again to cry on her shoulders, to allow her to wipe our bloodied faces and receive new strength to move on to our crucifixion. Stabat Mater dolorosa.
My brother priests, before you became a father in the church, you were first a son for your mother and you will always be her son on earth and in heaven. Before you became a father for the people of God, you first had a father at home and no one can replace him in your life on earth and in heaven. Between now until the Mass this evening, please visit your parents at home or resting in their graves. Thank them. Bless them. Be blessed by their memory. You can only be the good priest that you are now because of your holy parents. Let their memory set your heart again to love your priesthood. Preserve your father’s good name. Do not allow anything or anyone to tarnish that name. By that name, God has called you. By that name you will return to God. May Mary, the mother of the Eternal Priest keep all our parents of priests in her loving embrace.
Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, Tell me what to say!
Did you lift Him up, sometimes, Gently on your knee? Did you sing to Him the way Mother does to me?
Did you hold His hand at night? Did you ever try Telling stories of the world? O! And did He cry?
Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, And you know the way.