I could not believe that Pope Francis has already left. His five-day apostolic visit to the Philippines has ended rather too quickly, it did not feel like five days at all. During his stay, he has imparted to us a lot of deep teachings, so deep it took a while to make sense to me. I have long been amazed of the personality of this particular Church head, and his coming has crossed-out one of the items in my bucket list. His visit however, will be pointless if none of his homilies and speeches (or parts of it), be reflected.
Sharing with you my favorite Pope Francis statements made exclusively in the land where he got the “best hospitality”, the Philippines…
5. The Apostle tells us that because God chose us, we have been richly blessed! God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph 1:3). These words have a special resonance in the Philippines, for it is the foremost Catholic country in Asia; this is itself a special gift of God, a special blessing. But it is also a vocation. Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia. (Concluding Mass at Manila, PH 01-18-15)
I have neither seen my religion as a blessing nor a vocation. My years of studying in a Catholic institution and serving as mass chorister felt like mere pastime and school requirement adherence to me. Looking back, I attend mass, recollections, and sing praise songs with no true understanding of what I am doing: why I am doing it and for whom. I am just present because of a variety of unimportant reasons. Because I love being with my friends in the group, I love showcasing my talent, and I am extremely in debt for the trust my choirmaster gave me.
I remember a choral audition 11 years back done in our school chapel during lunch time. I accompanied a classmate wanting to be part of the group. I had no intention of auditioning myself but the choir adviser came to me and said “Write your name here, year and section“
I said, “Ma’am I’m not auditioning, I just came here to accompany a friend”
She said in reply, “Diba kumakanta ka? Gamitin mo ang ang talent na yan, kung hindi kukunin yan sayo ni Lord” (You sing, don’t you? Use that talent, or the Lord will take it from you)
Okay, so being the obedient student I am, I sang “Sayo Lamang” by Joey Albert, hummed some notes accompanied by the piano, and was assigned as Alto 2. I do not even know what that means then, but I stayed the following 11 years.
Now with almost two years outside of the choral service (my choir went on hiatus), and after hearing Pope Francis’ words, I felt that I had to go back. I have to pay back all those ignorant years and be a renewed server. I believe this is the missionary work Jesus wants me to be in and to continue doing until my vocal chords allow me. I already have a church and a group in mind, I just hope I pass their audition. When I get in, I pray that I could give justice to this vocation.
4. Dear young boys and girls, today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. The emarginated people, those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else. Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry. (Encounter With the Youth at Manila, 01-18-15)
I could not agree more with this statement. Crying has definitely been an act done in hiding. It gives out an image of being weak, of suffering, or any other thoughts that we people are afraid to let others know. In my encounter with Pope Francis during his concluding mass in Manila, I could not help but weep during his homily and when the song “Tell the World of His Love” was being sung. And to my amazement, a lot people: young, old, men, and women alike, are all weeping with me. For once, we let go of our heart’s burdens and did not care of the people around.
According to Pope Francis, certain realities of life can only be seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I remember last year when my family and I attended a recollection and we all cried during the part when we expressed our gratitude to one another. It was then that I appreciated all my family members. Also, during times when I lost a loved one or a friend, I cried because of longing; but later realized that the loss is for the betterment of everyone.
I am quite lucky being a woman having a very weak control of my tear ducts. I cry while watching news of lost airplanes, of seeing my fellowmen devastated by calamities, and many other unfortunate moments. I am thankful that the pontiff touched on this. Now I know that the act of crying denotes courage.
3. God awaits us to surprise us. Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God. Let us not have a computer psychology that makes us think we know it all. All answers on computers – but no surprises. The challenge of love. God reveals himself through surprises. Don’t be afraid of surprises. They shake the ground beneath our feet and make us insecure, but they move us forward in the right direction. (Encounter With the Youth at Manila, 01-18-15)
This account is one I could relate very well with my career. For now, I am quite sure of what I would do with my future: I will soon put an end to my nursing career and then pursue my dream of becoming a journalist after taking some odd jobs to finance my studies. I was quite disappointed with what happened with my nursing career: I do not feel fulfilled doing my job and all my attempts of working overseas failed. I cannot believe I wasted almost 9 years of my life to a profession I will soon leave. Whenever I pray, I do not ask to be given the best examination score, the best patient, or the best interviewer, I just pray that God do what he thinks is best for me. And so far, all I got is failure after failure.
Honestly, I am no person who is good at waiting. I always hope that things happen sooner rather than later that is why I made all the possible actions I can make to prosper in my career in all the chance I get. Now, I believe God is asking me to slow down and wait for his surprise.
Wait. Just wait Peng.
2. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us. Have I learned how to beg? Or am I self-sufficient? Do I think I need nothing? Do you know you too are poor? Do you know your own poverty and your need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty. (Encounter With the Youth at Manila, 01-18-15)
This one is truly hard to comprehend. I always thought that sharing to those need, giving alms, taking care of the sick and all that are acts of kindness in which we give a part of our selves to others. That is why they say “It is better to give than to receive”, right?
I was in awe when Pope Francis asked the laity to become beggars. When he said that we have to learn to open our hands from our very own poverty, I realized that I might have all the material things I need, but there are a lot more things that are lacking in my life. I lack the happiness of a complete family, the serenity of a calm mind, the contentment of having little to spend; all these I could learn from people I thought I was better-off, with nothing to share to me.
1. The devil is the father of lies. Often he hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being “modern like everyone else”. He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes. And so we squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink; we turn in on ourselves. We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. That is sin: [to] forget at heart that we are children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world. (Concluding Mass at Manila, PH 01-18-15)
Pope Francis has gained popularity because of his simplicity and humility. I already had my eyes on him the moment he was elected pope. He has such humility that he accepted the congratulations of the cardinals who have elected him standing, instead of sitting on the Papal throne. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used as tradition. He also kept the iron cross from his time as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors. The next day, he refused to live in the extravagant Apostolic Palace and instead stayed in a modest guesthouse.
I knew then that this pope is different. Not that I know all the other popes before, but I always regard the head of one of the biggest religions in the world as unreachable, larger-than-life, and one who stays nowhere outside Rome. Pope Francis has revolutionized that idea of mine by being approachable, down-to-earth, frugal, and poor just like all of us.
In this era when it is very hard not to be engrossed with modern gadgets, sophisticated clothes and elegant lifestyle, he tells us that all this beautiful objects are the devil’s way of distracting us from being innocent and contented children of God. I am glad that he truly practices what he teaches. I pray that I could be like Pope Francis: never losing sight of the things that really matter in this life.
The Philippines has made history when Pope Francis’ concluding mass gathered an estimated six to seven million people: the biggest papal event despite the bad weather. It was quite an experience being pushed, shoved, and drenched in rain for 19 hours. For the first time in my life, I slept on the street with people I barely know, I ate lunch packed in a plastic bag, and I did not care when my shoes were covered in mud.
When Pope Francis came in his vehicle, I knew that all the sacrifices of the millions of people there were all worth it. He gave us strength to renew our faith and hold on to God’s promise; that’s the Pope Francis effect. In the same way, the people’s smiles and cheers according to him, give him energy to stand up, smile and wave his hand tirelessly in his motorcades; that, on the other hand, is the Pinoy effect.
Lo and behold, we have just witnessed the perfect example of being a beggar.
In this amazing opportunity that the Holy Father has graced our country, I thought that lucky are those who have personally meet him, kissed by him, taken selfies with him, but much blessed are those who have taken to heart the messages he had spread.
Thank you Lord for this Pope.
N.B. This is the winning article in the Literary Festival Competition – Essay Category, of The Centerpost, the official student publication of Manila Tytana Colleges.