Pre-Renovation Survey of the Manila Observatory Chapel and Sacristy

A Survey of the Chapel

At the third floor of the Manila Observatory is a chapel, located near the stairs.  From the outside, all you see is a series of vertical planks designed in such a way that you won’t see what is inside directly.  The air flows past these the spaces between the planks and the screen wall near the ceiling.

There are two doors, left and right.  If you open one of the doors, the first thing that you will see is a series of tall windows allowing a good view of the Observatory’s green fields, which stretches out to the Ionosphere building towards the East, the Solar Building on the South West, and the Grade school building beyond it.  And then you see the heavens.  “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

But the chapel is empty.  There are no pews.  But this is where we hold our First Friday masses.  Instead of pews we use chairs, ideal for office use, but not for a chapel.  We sit, we stand, but we never kneel, even during consecration.  Sitting masses is becoming very common here at the Ateneo de Manila University. I’ve attended one in the Jesuit Infirmary. And I saw another one in the Theology Department, even though it is not a chapel.  As long as there is a table to serve as the altar and people have chairs to sit down, we can have a mass.

I sat on one of the three white monoblock chairs.  My friend brought it there, because she loves to stay there to read her Liturgy of the Hours.  Actually, I bought the book for myself a year ago to teach myself how to pray like medieval monks, but after reading for a week, I get lost.  When she saw my book, she asked if she can have it; so I gave it to her.

I gazed at the altar wall.  On the left side is the Tabernacle.  The front face is plated with gold (probably brass).  The other faces are painted gray-green.  A red lamp is burning beside it, which means that Jesus is there.  Mrs.  Tony Gonzaga, the Director of the Manila Observatory, told me that the Father Provincial, Fr. Jose Cecilio “Jojo” Magadia, S.J., was surprised that we keep consecrated hosts there.

Above the tabernacle is  a white bas relief of Mary carrying the Infant Jesus, probably made of resin.  The bas relief of St. Joseph the Worker is on the right corner.

At the center of the altar wall is a crucifix.  I am glad that it was a traditional sculpture and not that of the mummified Christ I saw at the Church of Our Lady of Pentecost along Katipunan Avenue.  Jesus Christ hangs on the cross, eyes downcast. I like this better than the highly stylized, clean-shaven Christ at the altar of the Church of the Gesu.

The altar is simply a four-legged table with mantle.  I don’t think there is a relic embedded on the table.  Relics of saints are usually placed in little boxes and embedded on church altars.  The priest kisses this relic before saying the Holy Mass.  In the olden days, when a church is about to be destroyed, one of the first things the priest will get is the relic on the altar (and the blessed hosts, of course, lest they be trampled underfoot by the enemies of the church).

Mrs. Loyzaga gave me a task.  She wants have the chapel renovated to make it as a permanent chapel of the Manila Observatory.  My job is to make suggestions on what needs to be done.

I measured the chapel area: it is 15.5 ft x 27 ft.  The raised altar area is 8 ft x 7 ft.  Thus the space for the pews is only about 15.5 ft x 20 ft, which is 310 sq. ft.  If the aisle is about 5 ft x 20 ft or 80 sq. ft, then the remaining floor area for benches is 230 sq. ft.  If each person requires a 1.5 ft x 3 ft space or 4.5 sq. ft, then the number of persons that can fit in a 230 sq. ft area is about 50.

A Survey of the Sacristy

On the right side of the altar wall is a door.  I opened it.  There are two cabinets attached to the right wall.  The first cabinet contains sacred vessels, linens, and albs–many of them are starched, though spotted with little yellow marks.  I guess it has been a long time since these were used.  Maybe decades ago.  I saw about twenty Mompo wine bottles.  They have to be thrown away.

The second cabinet contains chasubles.  They are new and well kept.  It is common for priests to just wear the chasuble on top of their ordinary clothes, then don the stole.  I know Fr. Tim Ofrasio, S.J. will not be content at this.  Fr. Tim is a professor in liturgy at the Loyola House of Studies.  He was invited to say mass there several times, but he refused: he will only agree provided he is completely vested.  I saw him took off his priestly clothes weeks ago when he said a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna in the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola: he was wrapped in layers of sheets and tied with cords before he donned his chasuble.  Fr. Ofrasio, S.J. celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass everyday in his private chapel in LHS.  Fr. Tim asked me to form a stable group for TLM so that he can celebrate it publicly in Ateneo.  So far, I have only blogged about it.  But I shall form this group soon.

There are three little rooms on the right side, each of them a third of the size of the chapel.  These are probably dressing area for priests.  I think a a priest can say his mass private mass there, in the days when the priest faces the altar.  If I am not mistaken, all priests are required to say mass everyday.  A recent option is to concelebrate.  In large masses at the Church of the Gesu, it is common to see ten priest concelebrants.

There is another little room straight ahead.  To my dismay, all the kneelers are stacked there.  Each kneeler, which can accomodate only one person, is attached to a stand where a priest can put his breviary or rest his elbows as he prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  I once saw Pope John Paul II praying in a similar kneeler.  I wiped the dust from one of the kneelers with my bare palm.  It turned black.

I looked around and saw a Saint Andrew Bible missal.  which was published in 1962.  So this must still be the missal of Pope John XXIII, the one used in the present Traditional Latin masses.  I did not take it at first, because it looked all English to me.  But my friend took it later and showed to me the Order of the Mass in Latin.  And I said, “Ah” and “Oh”.  She had bought her Baronius missal last week in Our Lady of Victories Church.  That was P 2,000.  Since I do not have money, I shall content myself with St. Andrew’s.  I don’t think anybody else in the Observatory will use it.  The Manila Observatory once gave away lots of its books to have more room for research.  So I shall consider this missal as part of this give away.  I shall bring this missal every mass, even in the present Novus Ordo Masses (Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite).  The text of the 1962 Roman Rite (extraordinary form) is very conducive to full and active participation in the mass, by helping me meditate on the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In this rite, the priest becomes filled with holy fear in approaching the altar to offer the Most Holy Trinity the most perfect Sacrifice of Christ in Calvary.  Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. may describe this as Mysterium Tremendum and Mysterium Fascinosum.  Unbelievable.  It is only now I truly learnt what the mass is.

“Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J.: the man who goes for broke”: a homily by Fr. Arnel C. Aquino, S.J.

Today’s 11:30 a.m. mass at the chapel of the Immaculate Conception at the Ateneo de Manila University was officiated by Fr. Arnel C. Aquino, S.J.  (see his picture here at the Jesuit Music Ministry blog; he is at the top picture, the priest with a stole).  He is a little priest, but musically gifted.  I only knew him by name before, since he is one of the liturgical music composers in my Himig Heswita songbook.

His homily was about Fr. Roque Ferriols.  After the mass, I approached him and asked for a copy of his homily.  He readily gave it to me and signed it.  He gave me the permission to post it on my blog.  Here is his  homily:

Homily on Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J.

by Fr. Arnel C. Aquino

A day after I arrived in Manila last week after two years of being away, I saw Fr. Ferriols.  I was told that he was going to class.  “He still teaches a class?”  I asked, as though the answere weren’t right before me.  Fr. Roque was literally, literally inching his way to class, his destination for that day.  By the way he walked, you wondered not only if he’d make it to class on time.  You also wondered if he would even make it at all.  You wondereed what he felt, what was going on in his mind.  But most of all, you wondered, “Why?”

As I wearily unpacked my luggage later that day, I remembered when I was in Philosophy, oh, about 2000 years ago, and Fr. Ferriols taught us when he had fire in his eyes and fire in his mouth and fire in his fists.  And there was great honor in being under Ferriols, because the spirit of the times was that if you didn’t go through Ferriols, you didn’t quite go through the Ateneo.  But then, coming back to the present, I thought that dear Fr. Roque had already reached his dreams.  He should really be just resting, reading, watching tv, hearing confessions here and there, saying mass, and wish for the end of the Arroyo regime–things that a good old man should be doing after a job well done all of his life.

But the truth of the matter is: here is a priest, a man, a creature of God who goes for broke, and keeps going for broke.  Fr. Ferriols makes you wonder if at such an age you would still go for broke over something you were so very passionate for all your life–or would you just rest upon a silent rock like a dry, wet leaf and allow the seasons to slowly return you unto the earth?  Fr. Ferriols makes us wonder if there is something in our lives that we have done out of powerful love for God, that we go for broke over it–despite being mocked for it and being asked why.  Fr. Ferriols makes me wonder if I have loved God enough at any single point in my life, so that I go for broke: broken body, broken heart, broken bones and broken spirit–and yet keep inching my way towards my destination, because deep in my heart, God is still on fire.  Even when the world around me things if I would make it there on time, or if I would ever make it at all.

Go for broke, that’s what I strongly sense is the message of today’s gospel.  To give everything that we are for a particular passion for God and God’s people; to lose ourselves in that passion, so that broken pieces of ourselves fly all over the place, leaving us with hardly anything, anything except God.  Only God.  And in God, we are made incredibly whole.

Mass at the Jesuit Infirmary in the Loyola House of Studies: the Anointing of Sick Jesuits

I.  The Road to the Infirmary

Today is the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.  It’s 5:30 p.m. and I haven’t yet went to mass.  I am thinking of going to de la Strada, but it requires an effort.  I called my friend and she suggested that I go to the Jesuit Infirmary chapel at the Loyola House of Studies.  “Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J. is the celebrant,” she said.  I haven’t been there before.  So I agreed to go.

The Loyola House of Studies is a 5 minute walk from the Manila Observatory.  I walked downhill in a winding road until I reached a dead end marked by a pine tree; cars would have to go around it to go back to the Observatory.  I asked the porter where the Jesuit Infirmary is.  She pointed me to a narrow corridor, a tunnel through the hillside.

“Go straight, turn left, and climb the stairs to your right.  The chapel is in the second floor.”

I went inside.  It was gloomy.  And spooky.  I have played Dungeons and Dragons before and this is a real dungeon.  Oh, I have been here before.  That room in the corner is where I took my oral exams in Theology 131 on Marriage under Fr. Adolfo N. Dacanay, S.J, a canon lawyer who finished his doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome.  My exam question is on the relationship of Fundamental Option and venial sins.  I took it an hour before the sun rose.  The corridor was as dark then as it is now.  I can still see in my mind Fr. Dacanay sitting behind his wooden desk under a lamp light.  Now, the door is closed.

I turned left.  On my left is a garden.  A little farther and higher is a church with its unmistakable stained glass windows, shining like precious gems in the setting sun.  I wished to be there but it is not the chapel I seek.

I opened the double door.  One stairway goes down to the right; another goes up to the right.  I went up.

When I arrived at the second floor, I turned right and saw the Infirmary.  There is the nurses’s station on the right and straight ahead is little chapel filled with people for mass.  An Indian priest greeted me before the door.  I asked if I can come inside.  He said yes and showed me an empty chair on the second row.  I sat.

II.  The Mass at the Infirmary

The celebrant is not Fr. Roque Ferriols; it is Fr. Jun Viray, the Rector (of Loyola House?). He is still young, in his 40’s.  Serious, soft-spoken, reserved–a figure of red and white against a background of a large IHS surrounded by the Latin words: ET VOCATEM NOMEN EIVS IESVS (I am not sure if I remember this right).  This translates to “And you shall call him Jesus,” the words the Angel Gabriel said to Mary during the Annunciation (c.f. Lk 1:31).

Fr. Ferriols is beside me wearing his characteristic slippers, his legs swollen from years of walking.  He does not wear his usual maong jeans.  Instead he wears a striped purontong or a half-pajamas.  Over his grey t-shirt is a blue stole embroidered with ethnic designs of crosses and zigzag lines.  His head droops.  His cheeks sag.  He is in his 80’s.

This is a sitting mass.  Everyone sits on chairs throughout the mass–no standing or kneeling.  I guess because the normal participants are old and sick Jesuits.  Some Jesuits even come in wheel chairs.

The chapel can only accommodate forty.  The first two rows are reserved as a rule for sick priests.  The next two rows are for the professors of the Loyola House of Studies who sings as the choir accompanied by a guitar.

During the consecration, I hear Fr. Ferriols mumble the words without opening his lips.  At the sign of peace, I shook hands with him.  This is a rare encounter:  I shook hands with the only priest in Ateneo who is called not Father but Padre.  Padre Ferriols spearheaded the adoption of Filipino in Philosophy in the 70’s.  I took my Philosophy in Filipino, but with a different teacher–Mr. Simon Gregorio.  And I agree with Fr. Ferriols:  the act of doing philosophy in the native tongue, enriches the language, as new concepts are formed, and the Filipino worldview is laid bare:

Meron.  May roon. May doon.  A state of having a place (in the universe).  There is.

Kalooban.  Loob.  Inside.  That which is inside of man, his innermost self..

Pagmamahal.  Mahal.  Priced high.  To love is to to put a high price to someone more than the golds of the earth.

Before the mass ended, the Fr. Jun Viray lays his hands on the sick priests and anointed them with oil in the forehead and in the hands.  There are three other priests who were sick, but they are in their rooms.  They too were anointed with oil after the mass.

There was a sign in the door saying that after each liturgy, we must pray the Hail Holy Queen for the recovery of the sick and the rich harvest of vocations to the priesthood.  I waited for Fr. Viray to lead the prayer; he did not.  I guess the prayer should be said in silence.  I prayed the Salve Regina.  When I left, I saw ten old priests inside the chapel still praying, half of them Americans and half of them Filipinos.   I do not know them, but they must have been legends, too, in their prime.  Now their eyes have grown dim and their backs are bent low.  Yet still they prayed.  Then I recall the words of Qoheleth the Seer:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years approach of which you will say, I have no pleasure in them; before the sun is darkened. and the light, and the moon, and the stars, while the clouds return after the rain; when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, And the grinders are idle because they are few, and they who look through the windows grow blind; when the doors to the street are shut, and the sound of the mill is low; When one waits for the chirp of a bird, but all the daughters of song are suppressed; and one fears heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well, and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7)

Six Filipino Jesuits to be Ordained as Priests on 4 April 2009 at the Church of Gesu in Ateneo de Manila University

As a priest is ordained he is entrusted with a chalice and a paten–the vessels he will use in the celebration of the Eucharist.  “Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to Him.  Know what you are doing, and imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

The Society of Jesus invites you to the Ordination to the Priesthood of Xavier C. Alpasa, S.J., Francis D. Alvarez, S.J.,  Jason K. Dy, S.J., Oliver G. Dy, S.J., Frank Dennis B.  Savadera, S.J., and Antonio Roberto de G. Sian S.J., on 4 April 2009 at 8:30 a.m. at the Church of the Gesu, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, with Most Rev. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, D.D., Bishop of Imus, as Ordaining Prelate.

At present there are 72 young jesuits who are preparing for ordination.  If you would like to help support their priestly formation, write to Mission de la Compania de Jesus.


Thanks to Rev. Oliver Dy, S.J. for the invitation.  Ody and I were classmates in the B.S. in Physics program of the Ateneo de Manila University. When we were still in college working in the electronics laboratory, one person entered the lab and Ody said his most unforgettable line: “Welcome to Hell!”  Ody and I usually cross each other at the Ateneo and chat for a minute or two.  I attended his ordination as Deacon last year.  I am glad I can attend his ordination to the Priesthood this year.

I also know Rev. Francis Alvarez, S.J.  We were both members of the Ateneo Honor Guards.  Francis succeeded me as the Flight Leader of the Honor Guards Alpha.  Francis was also our Batch Valedictorian.  In his commencement speech, he talked about the “leap into the unknown” or in the Filipino translation of the venerable Padre Roque Ferriols, S.J., “Lundagin mo, baby!”  Into the unknown Fracis leaped and became a Jesuit.