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What if?

What if the person, whom you expect to be the epitome of holiness, such as a priest, fails to meet your expectations? What if he is a drunkard? A chain smoker? A womanizer? Or a spendthrift?

I was led to this reflection because of the recent declaration of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that December 3, 2017 to November 25, 2018 is the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons. This is to prepare the faithful for March 16, 2021— 500 years of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines. The preparations began in July 2012, when the CBCP announced the “nine-year journey (Novena) for the New Evangelization,” with each year having a different theme.

In the CBCP News issue of October 11, 2017, Fr. Emmanuel Mijares explained, “ As we open this year therefore, you and I need to be faithful to our calling to be “saints together” as the one Body of Christ. The year of the clergy and the religious is an invitation for deeper discipleship and communion towards a common journey towards holiness (emphasis mine), for neither the clergy, the religious, nor the laity (even as consecrated persons) could do it alone.”

When I was still the CFC Provincial Area Head for Catanduanes, during our mission trips, we noticed that the tiny island of Jose Cardinal Sanchez produces many priests. When we visited the Our Lady of Piat Seminary in 2012, there were 80 students in Virac, compared to the scarce number of seminarians in Manila. 

Why was this, I wondered? In 10 out of 11 municipalities and their respective parishes, we observed that the Catanduañons take care of their local priests in so many ways. They cook for them, wash their dishes, do their marketing, tend their gardens, feed their dogs (and pigs and chickens), do their laundry, and most especially administer to them when they are sick. The Bicolano priests return the favor by striving to be respectable and virtuous while shepherding theirparishioners. They go from house to house after presiding at the Holy Mass, visiting the sick and comforting the families of the deceased. Most of them know their constituents and their families by name. Hence, children look to their clergy as role models, inspired to be like them someday.

Over the years, I have heard so many inspiring sto-ries about our clergy worthy of emulation. There was one priest who came from a well-to do family and literally “gave his riches” to his flock. Once we had a tete-a-tete with a dear Bishop and learned that every morning, he conducts a “mini-household” with his fellow priests. 

He even agreed to attend our CFC household! The spiritual adviser of CFC Catanduanes attends our Area Governance Team households upon invitation. My wife Cha and I, and even our children, have established close friendships with many of the members of the clergy. When we got married, one of our principal sponsors was our current parish priest then, who concelebrated the Holy Mass with the past parish priest - both of them remain our spiritual advisers and dear family friends. 

The Year of the Clergy theme allows us to reflect that all of us are human, prone to temptation and sin, but nonetheless struggling to be holy. In fact, to love, to serve, and to forgive, we need each other not only as objects but also subjects of this love, service and forgiveness.


When my wife celebrated her birthday last December, she wanted Holy Mass to be celebrated in her chosen venue Because it was Simbang Gabi season, we had a hard time getting a priest. By God’s grace, one CFC brother invited a priest, a foreigner. I fetched him at the Church but because of the traffic, I couldn’t park in front but had to park the car at the back. When I called him over the phone, I could sense his irritation. I maintained my humble composure and continued engaging him in a friendly manner, but he remained aloof.


But during Holy Mass, his sermon was one of the most beautiful and profound words I have ever heard in a homily! He said: “I am not supposed to preside in this Mass because bishops don’t allow this. But this is one of the oddities of God! God gives favors to those doing His will. And He gives special favors to those people doing His “errands,” just like this couple. So invest your time, talent and treasure to pursue the will of God...”

What if we always remember that our priests are the instruments through which we get closer to God? Then it would be easy to just focus on the good things they do for us, such as administering to us the Sacraments. What if we just include them in our prayers and understand that they are not Christ Himself but humans like you and me, also struggling to be like Jesus? What if we take care of our priests the way the people of Catanduanes do with theirs?

Let us lift up our clergy in our daily prayers. Cha and I particularly like the prayer of Mother Teresa and pray it every day. (Mike Bukuhan, MM Director's Message)

Added on Monday, February 19, 2018



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