Eulogy for Fr. Guido Arguelles, SJ (1930-2011) by Ricky Jalbuena
November 15, 2011 2 Comments
Fr. Guido Arguelles, S.J. (Sept. 17, 1930 – Oct. 29, 2011)
My dear friends, today I share a tribute to a man of Christ, not just for the sake of honoring him, but to inspire and enlighten all of you in your own personal quest, by knowing more about our dear friend, Fr. Guido Arguelles of the Society of Jesus, who died on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2011, at the age of 81.
Much of what I shall share with you today, I have shared with Fr. Guido and the A.I.M. Chapel community during his 70th birthday. Guido was more thrilled to have a eulogy whilst alive, as he could bow, smile, sing and dance to all in great gratitude for a wonderful and beautiful life. I’m sure he’s now doing his oratory, song and dance to Our Lord and the Saints, as he marches into heaven.
Many have asked me who inspired me to serve the Lord and His community. I have already committed 32 years of my life for the A.I.M. Chapel community.
Many of you may presume that it was the influence of our dear friend, Fr. Jim Donelan, S.J., who was a former President of the Ateneo de Manila, and a founder of A.I.M. and our chapel. I must admit that Jim was only the
third mentor and influence. The second was the great Fr. Horacio de la Costa, a world-class historian, a former Jesuit Provincial, who was my college professor. The foremost inspiration is Fr. Guido Arguelles; I love Guido dearly.
I have known Guido for over 42 years. He was my theology and homeroom
teacher in 1st Year High School at the Ateneo de Manila, back in 1969. What
made him my #1 mentor and inspiration through all these years?
First, Guido was one of the humblest, sincerest and funniest Jesuits I have met. He may be a ham, but that’s for show. Guido readily admits faults upon his realization, and many times, he has apologized in public, that he is also a sinner like us, and that he has grave sins. That is a humbling experience, and takes a lot of courage.
What could be his grave sin? That is between him and God. But as a long time friend, I can speculate, which brings me to the 2nd reason, Guido emulated Christ’s commandment of LOVE. Sadly, that may have been Guido’s biggest problem. Guido loved “his neighbor”, particularly the poor and oppressed, too much….to the point that the love becomes too heavy a cross, and he would be hurt gravely. His being “Christ-like” becomes a dilemma because as man, we have limitations. Christ could turn water into wine, multiply bread and most important, carry OUR sins. Guido can’t. Yet, due to his great love, Guido tried to serve to the point that he over-extended himself, spread himself to thinly, and at worse, be bitter and cynical to those who oppress the masses. Thus, contradicting the commandment of love and not properly using the talents Our Lord gave him, are two sins Guido has confessed to his intimate friends. On top of that, pushing himself to the limit compromised his health, both physically and mentally. I personally believe that this continued stress may be the root cause of his smoking addiction, which eventually caused the emphysema.
This leads me to the 3rd reason why I look up to him. Throughout his life, Guido was committed to God’s Word, the Truth, and endless fought for social justice. From the time I met him in the late 60’s, together with Fr. Jose Blanco, S.J., Guido would be active in rallies against the Marcos dictatorship, and he eventually continued this crusade in his radio programs at Veritas. Guido would be active in fighting corruption through our justice system. He would always set up programs to feed or educate the poor.
But even in this respect, Guido has humbly admitted his sin of prioritizing his projects over the priority of God. This is a common problem with us, as our pride and sense of being become focused on our work, accomplishments and vanity; all these are useless escapes promoted by media and our material driven society.
Amazingly, at the end of the day, the Spirit brings Guido back to focus, to serve God primarily, and then His children.
This then is my 4th reason: Guido has been strengthened, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit whenever he put himself in the line of fire. I use to wonder if Guido would survive the martial law years with his endless battle for social justice and against corruption. His life was at risk many times. During the late 70’s, Guido was a regular celebrant at the U.P.
Chapel, but sadly, he was asked to leave due to his vigilance. For roughly 10 years, Fr. Guido was a fiery crusader in his radio program at Veritas. On the air, he would put himself at great risk to serve the people and many would wonder if he would still be around for another day. We have a history of hundreds of media men, many on radio, who have been snuffed by those in power. Guido was blessed and was a pillar at Veritas during the 80’s.*
But it was not only physical threats that he had to encounter. There were many mental, emotional and spiritual trials. Guido would even be ostracized by many of his fellow Jesuits. I thank God for giving Guido the perseverance to stay and even soar with the Society of Jesus.*
Unfortunately, the mental and emotional torture became too heavy, and in the mid-80’s, Guido got burnt out and had to take a sabbatical in the U.S., to rest and have a much needed retreat and encounter with Our Lord. Guido was abroad when the EDSA Revolution came. The Lord humbled Guido to be away in our day of social and political triumph.
God did not want Guido in the euphoria, because the work for social justice was not over, as all of us clearly know today. Furthermore, can you imagine the effect on Guido’s pride if he became a hero of EDSA? God wanted Guido to be a hero in ordinary times, for the ordinary lives of ordinary people, everyday of their ordinary life. Given that, Guido was gifted with a SPARK for our ordinary lives.
This brings me to my 6th reason: Guido was gifted with one of the sharpest and creative minds that I know, to the point of insanity. Through the years, I have seen so many great ideas flash in his head, that organizing
and editing his work is indeed a task. Many of you have read his work and reflections. Simple, beautiful and inspiring. Hopefully, much of these writings will soon be consolidated in a book. During the last two years, Guido would tell me that he should have spent more time writing, and in the process, could have been more effective in serving, inspiring and helping others, particularly the poor.
Guido is indeed a great communicator. His effectiveness is complemented by his sense of humor, and his love for music, literature and the arts. All of us have been entertained by his singing and dancing. He could sing the tunes of many Broadway musicals, and even add a dash of opera and inject an oration from a play.
In the process, Guido made us laugh, cry, and feel the word of God deeply. He hits us in our core. How does this happen? When we come to mass, most people have defense mechanisms around. The Israelites where similar; they didn’t even want to hear God directly. This defense mechanism makes many of us not listen to God’s Word. It could come as rationalizations or simply, justification as a social trend. Guido has a gift of humor, which opens our hearts and minds. The laughter puts down the defenses. Then, when Fr. Guido delivers God’s Word, we are hit in our hearts, many times deeply, as our conscience is naked and open to true examination. Yes, Guido hits us in our core.
My final reason is that Guido was ALWAYS THERE, particularly to comfort you. He may do this through his singing, dancing, jokes, or simply through his charm and smile. He has even made dying people laugh. Many years ago, while he would do socio-political work with student group like KASAPI, Guido was known to make “beso-beso” on the cheeks of the high school and college girls. The girls would complain about his “wet kisses”; yes, wet from perspiration, dust, dirt, fumes and smoke, as Guido would return from a rally, street march, or from charity work with the poor and marginalized. In spite of the sweat, many girls would still line up for a kiss, and we young men would envy his charm. We all loved him. In his desire to help and comfort all, there were sadly a few, who took advantages of him, and yes, he gets burned and had to suffer the consequences.
Fr. Guido was helping street children way before it became a trend. During the 70’s, Guido was in charge of Boys Town, Marikina. About 12 years ago, Guido managed a home for homeless teenage boys, a group which was difficult to handle and generally avoided by philanthropic homes. He tried his best, but eventually had to terminate the project when his health began to deteriorate.
For several decades, Guido helped the poor, particularly farmers, and started a livelihood project in Payatas. Indeed, Fr. Guido was a man for others. His example and dedication, managed to convince me when I was a young high school student, to spend two summers being a volunteer in Boys Town, and to even commute regularly with the public transportation to Marikina. Years later, his inspiration made me volunteer to serve Fr. Jim Donelan at the A.I.M. Chapel. I have now been serving the chapel for 32 years, and the SPARK came from Guido. From 1996 till 2009, I requested Fr. Guido to be a regular mass celebrant at the A.I.M. Chapel, and I am proud to day that he was the most dedicated and committed amongst the pool of priest we had. His energy even surpassed the younger priest.
In summation, I can attest that Fr. Guido Arguelles SJ is TRULY A MAN FOR OTHERS and a LOYAL SERVANT OF CHRIST. Guido lived a life of simplicity, and did his best to imitate Our Lord. His gravest fault may be that a mere man with so many limitations, tries his best not to just preach, but to truly live a Christ-like life, to the point that it hurts. Just like Christ,
Guido loves his neighbor, particularly the ordinary person and the poor. Guido loves all of us here. In fact, he loves us too much. That’s the cross he bears, whilst at the same time singing and dancing. That’s why I love
him. That’s why you can learn and be enlightened by his life’s story, with all its trials and jubilations. I shared many of these thoughts twelve years ago during Fr. Guido’s 70thBirthday and his 50th Anniversary as a Jesuit.
Today, I share them with you as Fr. Guido marches with the Saints as he
enters Heaven, and eventually sings and dances for Our Lord.
–Ricky Jalbuena / Oct 30, 2011