Our beloved priests. They can be happy, kind, calm, strict, or masungit, especially when it comes to decorum inside the church. But, as they say, it’s all in a day’s work.
But what if old age hits them?
For the past 13 years, Msgr. Bobby C. Canlas, Rector of the Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, hosted an annual gathering for our dear Lolo Pari–the retired and elderly priests. One of his advocacies is supporting retired and elderly priests. Mons Bobby holds this the Monday before Simbang Gabi, just before the busyness of the celebrations kicks in.
I was once again invited by our Rector for this year’s event, and was asked to render a couple of songs for our dear Lolo Pari. I remember my husband and I have sung for a couple of events in the previous years as well. This year was special, and I will tell you why as we go along in this post.
The Christmas Party for the Lolo Pari starts with the Celebration of the Holy Mass, which they concelebrate with His Eminence, Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, D.D., the Archbishop of Manila as the Main Celebrant.
Then, it’s time to partake of the feast. In between dinner, there were gifts and raffle prizes given to the priests (appliances, among others), which put smiles on the faces of our special guests and honorees.
At some point after one raffle draw, I was called to sing. Our kind Rector introduced me as a Shrine volunteer and an alumna of the Philippine Madrigal Singers. I chose to sing Filipino classics–Gaano ko ikaw kamahal and Mutya ng Pasig, which definitely were appreciated by the priests. And how I was humbled by their response!
The good Archbishop-Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales was asked by Mons Bobby to give a few words, after which, he led the honoring of the Blessed Mother, whose Immaculate Conception was celebrated last December 8, a day after this event. In his speech, he mentioned that he was talking to his seatmate, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, that it was fine if he didn’t win the raffle; hearing my singing makes him a winner already, and that hearing my voice is a miracle. Such nice words from the kind Cardinal. (He actually won a personal ref after saying that. God is great!) He said also in his speech that life is a miracle. Indeed, it is.
Former Bishop of the Diocese of Novaliches, Bishop Ted Bacani, invited me to reprise the two songs the following week, during the reception for his 50th Sacerdotal Anniversary as a priest. I reported this to our Rector after the party, and he said it was great to hear. He concelebrated Mass along with the Bishop’s priest-friends, which I was also able to attend. Our Rector supported me in that performance as well, in a gym filled with priests and guests. So much love for the ever jolly bishop.
As we were handing out the gifts to our Lolo Pari, some priests would talk with me and thank me for my singing. Also, they were very appreciative of the gifts that they received and the gathering that was, saying that this doesn’t happen everyday, that’s why they treasure it so much.
It was humbling that our Rector sent me a text message the following day, thanking me and saying that I won the hearts of our Lolo Pari. I replied that I was blessed to be part of that celebration, and to share God’s gift to them.
Our Rector was right. It isn’t easy to be a priest. Aside from the commitment to God, he is also committed to God’s people–saying Mass everyday, hearing confession, performing other Holy Sacraments and church duties. It takes so much to be a priest and these few chosen ones heeded the call, and remained steadfast in their commitment, until they reach retirement, until the end of their days. Pari Magpakailanman! (Priest forever!)
And here’s a news clip of that event at the Shrine of Jesus, done by our co-Shrine volunteer and TV5 reporter, Mon Gualvez. (Click this link)
So, make sure you greet your priests every chance you bump into them. Thank them, especially this Christmas Season. Their lives are perfect examples of self-sacrifice and service. They are considered Alter Christus, or another Christ, as Mons Bobby mentioned. May we see Christ in their lives.