Breed of Heroes and Saints


This morning, I with Bro. Vince and some seminarians, joined the 8 o’clock mass at the Cebu Cathedral in solidarity with the Filipino people to express anger over the abuse and misuse of state funds by the government. About two weeks ago a protest rally organized by ordinary citizens went viral in Facebook to have a “Million People March” in Rizal Park. Others joined in the protest in different parts of the country as a citizen-led democratic exercise in a “picnic style gathering” just to express indignation and disgust. The night before, I was still unsure if I would go. 
My friend Cheryl encouraged me to join and pray for them as they would participate in this protest from Fuente Osmena and walk towards Plaza Independencia. She text me that she was anxious because there had been reports of a bomb scare. So I decided to join the mass as a Filipino and as a priest to pray for our country and the safety of the marchers and the gathering that would ensue.
The mass was organized by the Cebu Clergy headed by Msgr. Romel Kintanar on behalf of Archbishop Jose Palma who is out of the country. The Eucharistic celebration was attended by religious men and women, seminarians, lay church organizations and concerned citizens. Bishop Julito Cortes, Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu, gave a thought-provoking and challenging message in his homily.
I would like to paraphrase some of the ideas in his message. He said that the Mass was a gathering in order to bring to the attention of the Lord this grave injustice over wasted public funds for private gain. As a people of faith we are to discern, to grieve and pray.
We discern because we in Church at times grab “a piece of the pie” by tempting and encouraging government officials to corruption. Thus he emphatically declared:  walay mangayo! (we shall not ask). We grieve over a political system which allowed lack of accountability. We pray for our government leaders who are supposedly our stewards. As a community of faith, we continue to say no to sin! No to the evil one and we need to be anchored in faith.
Bishop Cortes also said something very inspiring by connecting the gathering on the meaning of National Heroes Day. He said that it’s a reminder that we are capable of heroism. We are much more dignified and borrowing from the words of Cardinal Luis Tagle “we can do better than this!” because we are a breed of heroes and saints!
He tells the faithful an episode in Rome when Pope Francis met Cardinal Vidal. The pope asked him where he came from and the old prelate said “I come from the Philippines.” On hearing this, Pope Francis was said to say: “Ah the Philippines. The land of saints!”
At the end of the mass, Msgr. Kintanar invited all church-goers to march to Plaza Independencia. A sizeable number of people from all walks of life were already there. There was music, protests songs, prayer from different religious groups even from a representative of agnostic-atheists. But most of all the crowd was educated of the “why” of the gathering. I felt happy that I was in that event. I felt I did my duty as a Christian and as a Filipino.
Cheryl texted me later in the afternoon: “Glad you and the seminarians from Don Bosco counted in for this noble and significant cause for our country. The weather was great. We had a peaceful walk and gathering. But most of all we made a mark in society.”

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