Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Mangyan Christmas Connection

You cover your noses when we pass by while running away from us as if we are inflicted with communicable disease. You drive us away with words and gestures we hardly know but we do understand what you feel. You considered us nuances when we are in a crowd or public places. We know we are different in ways though we breathe the same air and share the same island. Rivers, mountains, forests and cultures made us apart but do not forget that we too share the same dream of living in harmony with nature and of unity. You laugh at us and you lined the generic term “Mangyan” with negative words in your dictionary but still we keep on daring dangerous terrains and risk our lives and limbs only for this season you call Christmas. At times we are objects of your insensible jokes and ethnic slurs. Even though, we cross angry rivers and life-threatening cliffs and sleep in the cold and dark forest just for this occasion. By the way, would you dare do that in return to reach us and celebrate with us in our rituals? I’m afraid not.

I feel sorry for the inconvenience, you who considered yourselves civilized, every time we beg for your leftovers and loose coins while you are eating in food courts or anywhere this Christmas. We do not have those kinds of stuffs in the mountains. They are good smelling foods of various tastes, colors and shapes that we also love to try once in a while. Like how you are delighted in seeing the exotic orchids and tasting the distinctive taste of our yellow ginger as one of the ingredients of your menu or in the comfort of lying on a hammock that we made.

We regret to annoy you while you enjoy. We beg you for food, clothing and money not only because we need them badly back in the upland but we also want to continue the tradition your great grandparents have started centuries ago. Christmas originated from your beliefs not ours, remember? Isn’t this tradition this time of the year was initiated by wealthy powerful lowlanders who grabbed our land and displaced us from our former haven? The natural resources that our ancestors nourished for generations are now within your reach thus under your care. Hope you care for it like what they have done for you are in such advantageous position having practically all the power, responsibility and the legal authority to protect them from intruders and exploiters and to promote them through environmental programs and projects. It is emphasized in our culture that the tribes are profoundly interconnected to our Creator, to others and to all creation.

At least, we always celebrate Christmas with you despite of everything and we both know that it allows us to feel that you are people of faith who care for the least of your brethren. Christmas connects us even if we always spoil your strolling around the plaza including your holiday revelries and parties wherever it is done with your loved ones and friends. But that’s the only way to connect and interact with you for, as I have said, we are world apart. You are not fully aware of our rich customs and traditions for you did not sincerely immerse with us. Who would be interested with irritants or inferior people, anyway? Oftentimes you people in government treated us as objects instead of subjects of progress and development. You only absorbed negative things about us using your own standards of looking at things. Looking through many spectacles that you designed and wear, we are inferior if not abnormal people based on every aspect of life.

We both don’t expect discussions on news of the day, the country’s present political feud, the global socio-political reality or the latest rumor in the entertainment world including the recent developments in modern technology and gadgets. For sure, you will not allow us to dive and swim on a pool with you and your beautiful kids or allow us to enter the privacy of your homes, to join you in your banquets inside air-conditioned halls. Thanks but no thanks, we are not interested in any of those either. We have our own swimming pool in rivers and we also throw parties of our own when we give thanks to the creator and we have homes where we share our blessings for all. Our homes are communal and even strangers are most welcome. Chances are, you would not be interested if I let you know how to catch wild pig or get honey from a beehive, to know what particular herb heal certain sickness or any of our economic activities, our own music, poetry and art, and the rest. There are indeed a lot of barriers between us specially language. But we have to acknowledge that there exists a “language” which we both speak and compassionately understood today: the hand gestures of asking and giving.

We may be nasty and dirty, foul-smelling and yucky minorities or natives (in fact, we do not want to be called as such) but please do not judge us. To borrow from your pop goddess Lady Gaga, we are “born this way”. Also, we were told that that long-haired man in g-string and was born surrounded by animals inside your churches is in no way judging on man’s appearance but the sincerity of one’s heart. How people share each other’s experience and how they define and refine their relationships, soul and spirit.

It shows that in five hundred years of our recorded history we have been abused. Your governments, past and present, does not truly help us restrain our rights and foster economic developments for us. But Spartan as we are, we have survived. We still celebrate and connect with you at Christmastime even you considered us as its mega-spoilers. Isn’t irritation at times wonderful than solitude? Truth to tell, annoyance is preferred by most people of my kind than being alone and lonely.

We are not acquainted with legal and political customs of your society and we let you took our land which is our life. We did not resist for we love peace. That was long ago but still we are discriminated. I cannot help too but wonder why you hate each other and why you can afford to hurt and kill your fellow citizens for senseless reasons. Why you forsake your own brother over petty temporal things such as finances and related processes. This way, we are more human than you are and forgive me for saying it. No wonder why you treat us differently. You cannot be at peace even with your own kind! How about us? We always avoid conflicts and we survived for centuries. Our main concept of justice is healing of broken relations rather than punishment. Consist of eight ethnic groups we never waged war against each other. Violence never be, never been and never will be a Mangyan norm. Have you forgotten that Peace is one of the major themes of your, or could I say our, Christmas?

When will you realize that Christmas is not celebrated to display your supposedly modern culture of excessive individualism and the obsessive pursuit of personal gains? The small amount of money, the used clothes and the crumbs from your table and everything you give us are keys that would free us from your chains of isolation and neglect. Even for a moment we feel freedom and relief, belongingness and acceptance. And we owe you a sack load of gratitude for that which words alone cannot express. To tell you the truth, it is more redeeming to embrace us with compassion than to discard us and therefore reject the connection that we begged and aimed for. We hope that one Christmas you come to realize that the things, both big and small, you hold in your hand placed on mine, whether as gift or alms, is a symbol of our interconnectedness. If you would only analyze you will know that you are not always the giver and we the receiver. We handed unnoticed important contributions from our culture to your great men such as missionaries, scientists, journalists, academicians, sociologists, scholars and community workers and the institutions or organizations where they belong. Since we are the ones who have direct contact with our endangered, beautiful flora and fauna including our wild animals and watersheds, we take good care of them the best way we can according to our culture, tradition and beliefs including legislatures that wherein our rights as indigenous peoples are written. Those are the things we humbly offer in exchange of what you are giving us this Christmas. Most importantly, we gave identity to this island we both cherish. Let this sense of interconnectedness brought about by Christmas lead us to similar acts of love displayed by that half-naked man wearing g-string, like me, inside your grandiose churches.

The man whose birth also annoyed the rulers of His time and made us all interconnected today…

(Photo : Education Ethnic Mangyan Center)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Junking Childish Junks

I have reached this age but it is only now that I completely realized that it’s insane to argue with a hard line political partisan and arguing with them is like arguing with a two-year old. Most of them are childish, just like a child of two who cannot yet distinguish between fact and fancy. To that toddler, Santa Claus is real no matter what he is told. He do not give a damn if his patron owns the meanest mouth in town as long as he’s is included in the “list of special gifts”. They are all praise to “Santa” the whole year round and especially during the holidays because if they don’t, their fat bellied giver would warn each one of them, “You better watch out…” But what really makes Santa so enticing to a young child? By nature, children are egocentric or self-centered. A child of this age believes in everything that will bring fulfillment to his desires, or “ambitions”. They are told: “Do not be naughty. Santa will not give you a toy for Christmas!” So, everybody in the kiddy station behave nicely but only to each other. But anyone to those who belong to other nursery will be the objects of his savage fury and hitting. When they are told not to heart and respect each other for they belong to same profession, they will even accused you of siding with the other group. It is indeed, useless to argue with a baby, or with people having traits of a baby, no matter how old they are.

Arguing with your opponent or somebody that are blinded by political eye-pads is very much the same with arguing with a baby. If we put different objects, both nice and mean, in his crib, say; a pacifier, a hacksaw blade, a leaded toy, a bottle of milk, a candy, a box of pin, a running chainsaw, etc., you cannot tell the child to treat them differently. All of your arguments will be in vain because for a baby - not unlike some of the political partisans in Occidental Mindoro - anything can be judged by whether or not it can be put into the baby’s mouth and eaten. Political partisans, on the same vein, have only one way of judging every issue, whether or not they can be swallowed by their patrons! As I have told you, it is only now that I fully understand that it is stupid to talk to a wall like where the stupid egg named Humpty Dumpty sit and fell.

Grown-ups like politicians usually “answer” arguments by vituperation and slander. They counter allegations with harsh words no matter how truthful they can be. According to Frederick Faber, “The art of saying appropriate words, especially in public, in a kindly way is one that never goes out of fashion, never ceases to please and is within the reach of the humblest.” They as leaders who attended Catholic schools supposed to know that. How can we communicate objectively our ideas if we use arrogant and foul words against our rivals or anybody who do not have same opinion as ours? The communication of ideas is impossible when all of the logical argument is inefficacious.

Me? I have learned my lessons. Fulton J. Sheen once wrote (the title of the book skipped my almost “golden” mind) that discussion and argumentation are useless with certain people. There are some souls that are incapable of understanding spiritual truths. Indeed, the late cardinal is right. He stressed farther, “As Christ was silent before Herod, there are some with whom discussion is futile because of their behavior, so, too, discussion is useless with certain minds because of their abnormal mentality or obsession with lies they created and repeated until they believe that they are the truth.” That childish junk should be junked like Santa Claus in proper and appropriate time.

Learning that sometimes arguments with someone is pointless, Jesus said, “Cast not pearls before swine,” since swine are not capable of appreciating pearls

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Timely Words from Future Cardinal Chito

Among his many credentials and achievements, Luis Antonio “Chito” G. Tagle, was a member of the International Theological Commission (Vatican City) prior to his ordination as bishop of the Diocese of Imus. He was here in our diocese some years back to ordain two diocesan priests, his former students as seminarians, and in his homily he constantly reminded the candidates of “pagpapakababa” (humility) and “pagpapakumbaba” (humbleness). The San Jose Cathedral was filled with laughter for reason that I prefer to keep to myself. Now, I had mixed feelings of laughter and pain whenever the anecdote crosses my mind. One thing is certain, Cardinal Chito, wherever he addresses the public he continues to bring light lightly.

Manila Archbishop Chito Tagle formally took over his archdiocese during solemn installation rites at the Manila Cathedral yesterday morning attended by more than 1,500 priests, religious men and women, and lay faithful from his previous diocese.

In his speech entitled “Priestly Communion” delivered during the National Congress of the Clergy held at the World Trade Center in Metro Manila last July 5 to 9, 2004, the prelate emphasized that, “A priest exercises his authority effectively when he finds, especially in difficult times, what the Church holds in common and lives by them…. He searches for what he holds in common even with his enemies, those who want to exclude him and whom who might want to exclude him in turn.” True enough, with constant rediscovery and rooting of a precarious bond among the priests would lead to dialogue, discernment and unity. He said that the practice of consultation and dialogue with other gifted people are to be intensified. We do not need a dynamic and intelligent bishop like Cardinal Tagle to understand that what we currently need as a local Church is the constant and intensification of consultation and dialogue among the clergy. All of us, friends and foes alike surely have things in common, and he jokingly added, “Ah, there they have something in common – they dislike each other!”

If you would ask me what would be the local realities to achieve unity and communion in my workplace and my diocese, I’ll just borrow in verbatim the words of Bishop Tagle: “A priest of communion cries with others until their common tears become the Church’s lamentation. He smiles with others until their common smile becomes the Church’s ode to joy. He is frightened with others until their common fear becomes humanities longing for trusts. He is poor with others until their common poverty becomes the world’s cry for justice. He loves with others until their common love becomes creation’s paradise. He is with others in order to be for them. And by being for them, he becomes more with them. And the Church becomes more what is meant to be.”

By actively doing her usual advocacy works and charitable programs within her ecclesiastical territory, we locate the Church where she belongs, not in the four-corners of our offices but in faith communities...

(Photo from Rafael Alfonso's Paintings)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Flying Priest and Nuns

Everybody knows that on December 12 we Catholics will be celebrating the Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe but only few are aware that in Honduras of the 80s’, there was a revolutionary priest nicknamed Guadalupe. People call the late Fr. James Carney as Padre Guadalupe, an expression of his deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. That time the most striking reality in Honduras was the degrading poverty of the rural peasants. Carney turned his back from the comfortable security of the priestly world to immerse and identify more deeply in the world of the poor. In his book “All Saints” (p. 404) author Robert Ellsberg has this to say on the American Jesuit: “Over the next decade Carney became increasingly committed to peasant struggles for land and justice.”

The author further wrote, "Grossly inequitable distribution of land left the majority of the rural population in the status of indentured servants – hungry, illiterate, living in shacks, resigned to watching their children die of malnutrition and disease. Meanwhile, the owners of the haciendas made a show of their Catholic faith, appealing to the bishops to bless the status quo and to denounce communism. But when the bishops began to talk about social justice, then the rich spoke of betrayal, heresy, communist subversion! Carney was a particular scapegoat.” He was stripped off his Honduran citizenship and was exiled to Nicaragua. Carney told highlights of his life in his autobiography called “To Be a Revolutionary: The Autobiography of Fr. James Guadalupe Carney” which was published by Harper and Row in 1987.

In September 16, 1983 after his armed band of Honduran guerillas (He served as chaplain of the Central American Revolutionary Workers Party or PRTC) was captured by the government forces, he was taken up in an army helicopter and hurled out, alive, to die on the mountainsides below. His remains was never recovered, wrote Ellsberg.

Getting thrown out of an aircraft seems the favorite execution method in Latin America that time. In Argentina way back in Advent of ’77 there was this story of the “flying nuns”. Sisters Alicia Domon and Leonie Duquet, both French nationals and members of Toulouse Institute of the Sisters of Foreign Mission, are said to have been tossed out of the airplanes over the Atlantic Ocean and like Padre Guadalupe, their remains were not been recovered.

The incident was confirmed later by a retired Navy commander, Adolfo Scilingo who confessed his role in the “death flights” of the “flying nuns” (a joke and rumor moving around that time in military camps). The former military officer testified that he did not know that the bodies are those of nuns and he said he is just following orders. And this is the saddest part: when he confessed his actions to a military priest, he was told the killings “had to be done to separate the wheat from the chaff!” Violation of human rights was so rampant in Argentina that time but the conservative Catholic Church remained largely silent those days. As silent as our local Church that did not even initiated a diocesan-wide and concerted campaign against the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

Before her disappearance and way back in Buenos Aires, Sr. Alicia Domon became closely involved with a courageous organization of women called Mothers of the Disappeared. Several months before her disappearance, according to Ellsberg, she had written to the archbishop of Toulous, “I would not ask you not to do anything to save me which could endanger others. I have already made the sacrifice of my life.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe was proclaimed “Patrona de las Americas y de las Islas Filipinas” in 1565 by Pope Clement VII. For all the Christians in Latin America and the Philippines, this feast is a reminder of Mary’s importance as type and mother of the Church and that crosses all cultural boundaries like the three internationalists that we have studied. The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe was clear: the church must not serve as the religious arm of colonial oppression. Today the message is still relevant but in a new context: the church should not allow herself used by politicians towards their selfish ends. Instead, conversion must be rooted in the experience of the poor and become a vehicle for their cultural and spiritual survival. This is the message of the Our Lady in Juan Diego’s ayate (cloak). This is the same message that was imprinted in the hearts of our “flying priest and nuns”.

Well, not all priests and nuns are the same. Some are even putting down the lowly and raises the mighty high above their thrones, an exact opposite of Mary’s protest in her “Magnificat”. ..

(Photo from

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dreaming Immaculately

This coming Thursday will be the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and with present socio-political situation we are currently facing, may we as a Church be challenged by this Marian feast to exhaust all our energy to wake up from deep slumber, to revitalize her concerted pastoral action, take her prophetic role and stand against the social ills in our midst like gambling, the power crisis, good governance and the likes. Just like before. We have to be once again socio-political deterrents and detergents that would keep her mantle clinging to her social principles immaculately spotless and not to allow gossipers and mudslingers stain it. Let us be visible as prophets and make our pastoral programs – both charity and advocacy - felt by the people. Are we allowing the Church to be ridiculed forever and its leaders are subjects and objects of intrigues? As before, let our intentions be holy and immaculate like Mary, the patroness of our diocese. In case you are interested to know, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated in the papal bull “Ineffabilis Deus” by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. It declares that Mary was born free from original sin because she was destined to become Mother of God.

In the global scenario, Mary is in perfect solidarity with the needs of women in all ages, and especially those that suffer under severe systems of oppressions. Author Megan McKenna describes this solidarity in her book “Mary: The Shadow of Grace”: “Mary is all the women, one third of the world’s population always on the move, fleeing starvation, war and disasters of flood, earthquake and drought. She is the woman who mourns the slaughter of the children, the execution of the state, the torture and disappearances of men and women.” Back here at home we are currently, as a faith community, facing uncertainties brought about by broken relations, pastoral stagnancy, gossips, cowardly crafted poison and hate letters, mudslinging, etc. Mary is with us as Simeon foretold the headaches and sorrows that she would have. But despite of her headaches and sorrows, with Our Mother’s help, we could crush the cheating and lying serpent under our feet!

In affirming Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we can trace back to a simple peasant girl in Nazareth who knew that love of her God demanded action for justice. With prophetic passion in her “Magnificat”, she prayed that the mighty are put down, the lowly exalted, and the hungry filled with good things (Lk 1: 52-53).

While the symbol of original sin points to unfaithfulness, the symbol of Immaculate Conception shows that even the accumulated sinfulness of the world cannot overcome God’s desire to serve. To put it in our present context, what’s hindering us from voicing our protests, say against social ills that the people are experiencing, in singing Mary’s “Magnificat”? Indeed, while the “Magnificat” is profoundly religious, it is also political. According to a well-known theologian named Dietrich Bonheoffer, as cited by Elizabeth Johnson’s book “Truly Our Sister” (p. 267): “It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might say the most revolutionary Advent song ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings …. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of the Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, even the power of God and the powerlessness of human kind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.”

In celebrating the Feast Day of Immaculate Conception we profess that in a woman we realized the true meaning of purity and obedience and in her we see what it means to be redeemed. We can only be socially redeemed if we put down the mighty and exalt the lowly if we make our social advocacy works back to life again. This would be once again our unifying factor. Just like how the Church initiated (and was participated mainly by multi-sectoral groups specially the Mangyans from all over the province) that historic march against the bogus Mindoro Nickel Project community consultation in Mamburao some years back (Please click here.). Are we not missing that kind of unified, sensible, sanctifying mass mobilization and campaigns? I am missing it, very much.

The Immaculate Conception is a symbol that summons us all to political and ecological actions and reminds us that we may not take a neutral position. In Mary, we see the future and destiny of our local Church. Our hope as community of believers in Occidental Mindoro is strengthen and may we in not so distant tomorrow, see a Church that is, “without wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and immaculate” (Eph. 5:27). And finally “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Did I hear somebody say, “In your dreams”?

And to borrow from a line from a famous song of John Lennon, who was assassinated on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in 1980, I maybe a dreamer, “but I am not the only one”…..

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Empty Seedbed and Priestly Departures

All of the seminarians from the Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) here in our province are calling it quits and have decided to get out this semester without hinting if they would come back or not. Though their school is not directly affected physically by the recent fire at the Chancery, they moved out en masse together with their rector, confessor and some personnel. The seminarians have expressed their sentiments through a Manifesto they have signed before they left. They have cited, among other things, guidance and care from the bishop and the urgent settlement of disputes among priests. That’s all I can impart so far for I am not in authority to explain its content. A move that I believe they will do in the succeeding days to a proper time and venue. Report on the incident appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday that can be accessed here.

The SJCS was established in 1984 while the SJCS School of Philosophy, second in MIMAROPA, came into existence barely three years ago. Occidental Mindoro’s first bishop, Vicente C. Manuel, SVD,DD just months after our local Church separated from the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan, opened it and clearly manifested that priestly ministry was our late prelate’s foremost concern. Among other pastoral offices, seminary formation is on the top of his “what-to-do-first list” then of pastoral priorities.

The action made by the seminarians was criticized by some quarters headed by faculty members especially those who are identified with the other faction of diocesan priests. They accused the rector, the registrar, their confessor and some of its lay staff of tolerating if not influencing the future priests, all minors, in their move. Majority of the teachers and few parents even sided with the accusers and they are also doing some counter actions as of this writing instead of proposals how to resolve the deepening factionalism among the clergy. Only one thing is certain: whether the allegation is true or not, the Church’s seedbed has been polarized and became voiceless and so quiet. It is now empty physically, of purpose, relevance and of meaning. My heart bleeds not only for the seminarians but especially for the future of priestly vocation in our province and the fate of our homegrown clergy.

Being a father of a seminarian I can feel the suffering brought about by inaction to settle the long lingering feud of the priests that never been attempted to resolve by the higher-ups. My wife and I offered my ONLY son to the cause of the vocation but those influential men in cassocks disappointed him. He was disillusioned and demoralized by this problem of priests’ factionalism. Yobhel is expected to graduate next school year but we do not give a damn and we let him go. He is not used to this kind of quarrel for way back home we always make it to the point that we settle differences before bedtime. My son is so vulnerable to this kind of silent but hostile environment. His decision came two weeks before his brothers and classmates at SJCS walked out. We are both misty-eyed he telling me his ordeal that made him - or us – frustrated and disappointed. Though he is not a signatory to the Manifesto, without doubt he supports his brothers’ cause. I raised him not to be indifferent and arrogant. For me and my son, a consistent academic topnotch, believe that a Cross, wherever it is planted, inside the church or outside of a sacred place or even in a hellish pigsty, it will always be a symbol of redemption and a way to salvation. People of influence can anytime uproot us but not the Crosses in our hearts. Those Cross in our hearts that lightens the cross rested upon our shoulders.

Many SJCS alumnus have already left priesthood and I do not want to reveal their number much more their names and other identity, including those seminarians who, for one reason or another, went out of the seminary door. Let us leave it at that and throw them blankets of privacy. One thing cannot be denied: the Church needs priests and its seedbed is the seminary and the seminarians, the seeds (Have you ever noticed that the word “seminary” has its roots in “semen”?). What would happen if Church leaders would experience shortage of it, I mean, the priestly vocation?

Pope John XXIII, according to a book that I will cite later, when asked his intention for convening the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) said, “[I] simply moved to a window and threw it open, to let in draft of fresh air.” Sylvia H. Guerrero of UP Diliman who wrote the Preface of the book added, “As the Second Vatican Council set for the Church on the path of ecumenism and dialogue, renewal and change, in an effort to unite all Christians, it also (as someone puts it) ‘threw open for doors allowing those inside the Church to exit’”.

The book I am referring to is a good read even for us laypeople to understand the priests we know who left their priestly vocations and ministry and the psychological and sociological reasons behind this phenomena. It is written by a clergy named Emmanuel R. Fernandez entitled “Leaving the Priesthood: A Close Reading of Priestly Departures” and I can well relate to his story of a dedicated priest whom he know that left the ministry: “That dear priest’s departure from the priesthood was my first encounter with the reality of priestly departures. And it was for a young seminarian like me a very painful and bewildering experience. I saw how that well-loved priest was suddenly disowned abandoned by his so-called friends. I witnessed his radical transformation from a well-respected public figure to pathetic object of ugly gossip. The experience led me to a painful realization that began to haunt me for the next several years: if it could happen to a very holy and dedicated priest like him. It could happen to any priest.” Fernandez took this study for his doctoral dissertation in Sociology where sociological and socio-psychological theory provided the framework. Recent developments here in my diocese made me guess that already there are priests who are now entertaining the thoughts of entering the “departure area” but let us all pray that they, especially those who are competent, able, dedicated and loyal pastors, would (and could) hang on. Without forgetting that in the end and still the last say lie on the lips of the subject priest and he is the most responsible for his formation and vocation but other factors are not to be counted out like his relation to his brother priests and local ordinary.

The book talks about a thing called “Lazy Monopoly Syndrome”. In brief, Fernandez stated that, “An organization can be considered a ‘lazy monopoly’ if, among other things, it can afford to lose its clients and personnel because it knows that their ‘departure’ will not significantly hurt the organization.” From the looks of it, this concerns not only the priests but may also apply to a lowly lay employee like me!

But do not get me wrong. I am NOT, repeat, NOT, calling anybody's resignation or ouster neither I am supporting such radical move. I am only for the urgent "Win/Win" resolution of the problem for we all belong to the Church as Christ's Body. "For no one ever hated his own body; he provides and cares for it; and that is how Christ treats the Church, because it is His Body, of which we are living parts." (Eph. 5:29) The priests should resolve it first and not the parents including its faculty members.

The role of the bishop is extremely crucial especially when priesthood is at the verge of trouble. “At such times, a fatherly handling by his bishop could go a long way in terms of encouraging him to persevere. It would hardly help to handle him in strict compliance with the precepts and guidelines of Canon Law. A purely legalistic approach to a priest in crisis would only worsen matters. What is needed is to temper what the Canon Law say with the flame of fatherly love,” says Fernandez from p. 263 of his book.

Our disunited diocesan priests need to sit for a dialogue and high officials should be allowed intervene and settle this biggest and scandalous vocation crisis in recent history of the Philippine Church. Or we will be a doomed flock of Zechariah. The shepherd’s duty was to take care of his flock and cannot afford to be careless. As in the Old Testament story we have cited, they were scattered and they became food for all the wild beasts including those wolves that prey while they pray. But with a brotherly reconciliation, we could overcome this situation. If the captain could only guide all his crew in a table and locked them in inside his cabin and have a heart-to-heart talk. In that way they cast the anchor into the deep in the middle of the cruel storm. The anchor stays in the deep until the tempest is gone.

Going back to the importance of the seminary among other offices, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical “Ad Cathoici Sacerdotii” has this reminder to local ordinaries: “The seminary is and should be the apple of your eye …. It is and should be the chief object of your solicitude.”

But sometimes, we are worms in somebody’s apple and our eyes are blinded by specks …

(Photo: One of the designs of SJCS' basketball uniform)