A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to spend an afternoon with the new prior of Cebu – Fr. Michael Mary!
Below is an excerpt of our very rich and enlightening interview:
Hi father! Thank you so much for your time!
So what is it like to be back after so many years?
It is curious because many things change, and many things did not change. You see the joy to renew the contact with old friends, it’s nice. But there is always the sadness that many of my old friends have already passed away, like Cardinal Vidal, Mr. Creus, etc.
How many years were you assigned here father?
I was in Cebu from 1997 – 2002. For five years.
That was a long time.
At that time I was teaching Philosophy, that was my main apostolate. In San Carlos University (USC), in San Carlos Seminary College and in the Rogationist Seminary, Labangon. San Carlos Seminary in Mabolo, and then Labangon and USC – that was my triangle starting from Banawa Hills. Now I’m back as superior, in charge of the studies and the formation of the brothers in the region. Different missions.
So you don’t teach anymore?
I teach here to my brothers and sisters. For the moment I’m not teaching outside. I want to be sure to be able to fulfill my duties, before adding more.
True. Father, what do you love most about the Philippines?
First, I want to say, the gentleness of the people. Their welcoming spirit, their generosity, their simplicity also. And especially for religious people, for consecrated people, they are very much respected. It’s very different in Europe.
What were your best memories when you were assigned here way back 1997?
The feast of the Sto. Niño. Also some outings, community outings especially in Malabuyoc. Once, we were offered a day of scuba diving for all the brothers!
My best memories would also include our bishop, Cardinal Vidal. He was very kind with us, very fatherly. A good father. Some events also in USC, with some friends, my co teachers, who already passed away.
What are your hopes and dreams for the community in Cebu now that you are the new superior?
My main dream is to help my brothers and sisters and the people all around me, to meet Jesus and to discover the treasure that is also the treasure of my life – my happiness – that is the presence of Jesus. That’s really my hope.
Wow! (Speechless, what more can I say?!)
Father, can you give us a short summary of the last retreat you preached to the brothers and sisters?
It was to meet personally Jesus in your heart. Meeting Jesus, and with St. John, to take us again back to the First Love. With John, first, his alone-ness with God. To stay, to rest, to dwell with Jesus in the Eucharist. That’s the special witness, the special legacy of John for all his followers, for us his spiritual children. To receive the Eucharist, on the chest of Jesus, leaning on the bosom of Jesus. Wrapping ourselves, not physically but spiritually. This intimacy with Jesus in the Eucharist. Then receiving the Virgin Mary…at the Cross. And receiving Peter as the guardian of our vocation. To be faithful, to be fervent and faithful – willing fervor, begging the grace of faithfulness, until the end. Using the gifts we receive from Jesus especially through these three Alliances – the three whites. Three special alliances with St. John – first the Eucharist, received leaning at the chest of Jesus; Mary at the foot of the Cross; and receiving Peter. The white of the Eucharist, the white of the Immaculate, and the white of the Pope. These are also the three specificities of the Catholic Church: the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary and the Pope.
My last question Father, you said that one of your best memories is the Feast of the Sto. Niño…
…what is the significance of this devotion to our spiritual life?
Very important. When I was in Mexico, it was really Our Lady of Guadalupe, our Mother, Divine. To become children of God. And Jesus is the only Child, perfect Child. So Sinulog, is not just for me, a cultural devotion. It is beyond the folkloric aspect. Jesus is the eternal Child. He is the Child of the Father. It is for us to become children of God. Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. And the only Master to become a child, (because we are all broken children), is the real Child, the perfect Child – is Jesus. And in Him, we will enter our real childhood – childhood divine. You see, the program is deep, but it is actual. Very actual. And this is the link with our Lady of Guadalupe. It is very actual, because we are a generation more and more, of orphans. Meaning, perhaps due to the media, the parents, in a way, are lost, in the education of their children. The media, the digital world, is taking their place. But we are orphans because we are not children of machines. To become men, we need to be children. With real fathers and mothers. To become a child, the beloved child, and not an orphan. We have to pass from orphan-hood to childhood. That’s all the purpose of Christian life. There is a special challenge for today’s world. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared at a time that America–the indigenous people, completely lost their supremacy in culture. Juan Diego was a Mejica but now they are called Azteca – it means tramps. Tramps, the homeless. So orphans. The Spaniards, when they arrived in Mexico, they were also orphans of their culture. Mexico and the Philippines. We are very touched by this brokenness of heart, orphan-hood. It’s rich. The common message of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Sto. Niño, is to become children of God. To pass from orphan-hood to beloved child…from darkness to light
That’s a beautiful insight. Thank you so much father!
I hope I answered all your questions.
You sure did!
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OUR MISSION WILL TAKE A NEW STEP
Our vision is a city where young people can grow in their faith, in the sense of their responsibility. Inspired by this vision, we want to establish a new house for the mission of the Brothers of Saint John in Cebu City.