Tomorrow is Father’s Day but I will not be writing about my or somebody else’s biological father but about some diocesan or homegrown priests from our province. We call our priests “father”, remember?
Majority of our homegrown priests are at present experiencing crisis either in their ministry or vocation. But I would not name names neither go into details for I am not in a position to do this, not because I am afraid of ex-communication or afraid of being accused as a deserter from my faith, or even worse, of sacrilege. They are men who in their childhood days were already exposed to the smell of the Mangyans, have crossed Occidental Mindoro rivers and mountains long before they have learned to read the Bible and entered the seminary. Decades ago before we call them “Father”, before they were ordained.
Their present experience or predicament lead me to think what Jesus warned the first priests and the kind of life they must anticipate. “Not only will they expel you from the synagogues,” He warned, “anyone who will put you to death will claim to be serving God”. (Jn. 18, 1) From my personal reflection, “death” here does not only concern biological death but death of morale and or of dying hope and of ministry. As promised, all of these will pass and the Lord will surely “overcome the world” but “Take courage!” (Jn. 16, 33) Just hang on, Fathers. Hang on to the Cross!
Your former or present parishioners, majority of them, in the silence of their prayers and tranquility of their actions are behind you especially in this troubled moment of your ministry. Their friendship and love, including those of your family and friends, would remain for the graces of your ordination have sustained us. If you hang on to the Cross, we will provide you ropes, and yes, even nails!
Seriously, we understand how you feel because this is beyond expectation or imagination. Indeed it is necessary being one with your priest brothers as a presbyterium under the staff of direction, authority and correction of the bishop. Indeed what a grace it is for a bishop to advance the mission of his priests and not to sideline or isolate them. Ministry-wise and even personally, no son is heavy to lift simply because he is his father. A true father’s heart, as displayed in the Story of the Prodigal Son, is an oasis of love and understanding. Every father possesses authority and intelligence balanced with care and affection.
Clerical intrigues and politics are two of the factors that corrodes a Church according to findings through the National Congress of the Clergy held last July 5-9 2004. In Workshop II : Spirituality and Lifestyle of the Filipino Clergy of the Congress it is reported, “This situation [of clerical intrigues and politics] creates a demoralization process that, sooner or later, becomes the fertile ground for mistrust, manipulation and disillusionment among leaders of the Church themselves. The disunity of the Church ensues and, at the end, it is the body of Christ that breaks down.” That Congress initiated by the former Chairman of the CBCPs Commission on Clergy Archbishop Gaudencio B. Rosales aimed at pastoral and priestly renewal participated by 4,000 priests coming from all over the country should have already forewarned our particular Church here in Occidental Mindoro. Certainly no good father would let differences among his sons left unsettled. Through immediate dialogue, which is the only way of resolving conflicts as far as the Church is concerned, everything must internally be patched up. A good father would not let a little spark among his sons left unattended or what we would figuratively reap is a destructive fire.
But I still expect that our own vision of “Father’s” Day will come soon. We are praying for a future that all the priests in our diocese will be united once more as “a truly Christian community united in worship, service and witness of Christ” as stated in the Vicariate’s Vision. This will be the time when our diocese institute systems concerning the growth of the priests where the lay and religious can share their particular charisms, collaboration and participation.
With my best lessons in life gained from them when he was already gone, my late biological father, Manuel Sr., would surely not mind greeting said priests, specially the elder ones, a Happy (Note the quotation marks) “Father’s” Day!...