Bishop Antonio Tobias celebrates Solemn Pontifical Mass in the convent chapel of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches

On April 27, 2010, feast of St. Peter Canisius, His Excellency Antonio Tobias, Bishop of Novaliches, offered Solemn Pontifical Mass in the convent chapel of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in his diocese. He was assisted by priests and brothers belonging to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

This Mass is only the second Solemn Pontifical Mass to be celebrated by a Filipino bishop since September 14, 2007 (the first one had been offered by Bishop Camilo Gregorio of the Prelature of Batanes on September 14, 2008 — see this for a report on that Mass), and the first to be offered by a Filipino Ordinary in his own diocese since 1970.

Bishop Tobias had offered Solemn Pontifical Mass for the 2003 international colloquium of the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques in France, and a “Low Mass with Solemnity” last year, also in the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.

Source: Rorate Caeli

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Celebrating St. Valentine’s day by going to a Traditional Latin Mass in Sikatuna, Quezon City

Today, Feb 14,  is the Feast of St. Valentine, and I celebrated it by going to a Traditional Latin Mass in Our Parish of Our Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna, Q.C.  A year ago, on Feb 16,  my friend and I also went here for a Sunday mass. I can still remember her veil.  Time flies fast.  She is now with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Cebu for her Aspirancy.  Fr. Dan McNamara, S.J., my friend’s confessor and my thesis adviser, chided me that it is already my time to join him for a 10-day retreat this March in Baguio, just as my friend had done.  I’ll see if my schedule allows.

My  Baronius missal is actually my friend’s missal which she bought in Our Lady of Victories (SSPX) church in Cubao.  Of all the things that she has given me, the missal is my dearest treasure.  The prayers before and after the mass helps me focus more on the Eucharist, and helps me to be more thankful for the divine condescension.  I could not yet regularly pray the morning and evening prayers, but I try my best to make them since the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus and that of our Lady increases ones love to our Lord and Lady.  I always use my missal even in Novus Ordo masses.  After about four and a half months of using this missal, I can now read and understand the mass and the devotions in Latin.  I read the Epistle and the Gospel in Latin and I am surprised that my reading comprehension has increased.  Maybe it is because I am familiar with Scriptures so I can easily guess the meanings of the Latin words.  I also studied some Latin before by reading a textbook meant for Grade 1 Latin.  I only finished one-fourth of it, then I gave up.  I wonder what St. Ignatius must have felt when he studied Latin with little boys.  Humility is the foundation of knowledge.

After the mass, I saw Carlos Palad on the choir loft.  I went up to him.  And there I met Jesson who introduced me to Junar, a member of the ALMS Yahoo group,  and Dennis Maturan, the founding chairman of Ecclesia Dei Society of St. Joseph.  He is also an associate member of the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.  Dennis is the acolyte who chants the Epistle.  He chants well.  I also met Shirley Monreal, whose name I only read in the apologia-ph Yahoo group.

We went down and waited for Fr. Jojo to finish blessing some statues and other sacred objects.

Carlos Palad was holding two cds.  He told me he downloaded the Orthodox Rite for the Liturgy.  He loves this liturgy with  eight sacristans doing the censers.  He was able to download this before but his house was flooded during Typhoon Ondoy and his cds were destroyed.

We went to the back of the church.  I met there Nathalie and others whose name I cannot anymore recall.  I also met there Rommel Mendoza (?) who graduated Physics-CE in Ateneo de Manila University, batch ’89.  I am B.S. Physics batch 97.  We were not able to talk much since Fr. Jojo Zerrudo already came out of the sacristy.  And it is him whom I wanted to talk to about some matters.

Fr. Jojo and I talked in one of the rooms facing the sacristy, across a basketball court.  We shared experiences on the formation of the Latin Mass Society.  He told me that for eight years in Masambong, he only had Dennis Maturan.  Now, he has Gerard Cenir as his Liturgical Master of Ceremonies and he has a full sacristan group.  Fr. Jojo told me that I can ask Gerard to help train the ALMS sacristans.  Fr. Jojo’s choir is from U.P and many of them are members of the U.P. School of Music. The Traditional Latin mass in Sikatuna is indeed blessed.

Fr. Jojo advised me not to make much noise in Ateneo, to start the Traditional Latin Mass not with a bang but with a whimper.  I told him I still have to write to the Director of the Manila Observatory, who shall forward my letter to the Father Provincial, because there is no more Jesuit Community at the Manila Observatory.  I am still taking my time, crafting my thoughts, and praying for the right words to write to the Director.  Fr. Jojo told me that he prefers that ALMS start at the Observatory; the Oratory of St. Ignatius is too close to the Jesuits of the Loyola House of Studies.  The ALMS may crack under pressure.

I thanked Fr. Jojo for his advice and we parted.

Conversations with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J.: Traditional Latin Mass, Religious Life, and Sodality of Our Lady

I.  Traditional Latin Mass

Yesterday, we had a supper with Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J. ; he left for Davao City today.  With me are Genie and Dr. Celine Vicente from the Observatory.  There are three others more from the Companions on a Journey, a group who organizes retreats at the Ateneo.  Beside me is Fr. Dan.

“Father”, I said.  “Fr. Tim Ofrasio is having a check up this week for his allergies.  He asked me to contact him again next week, so that we can schedule a general assembly for the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.  We already have 24 members.”

“There are also other Jesuits getting sick.”  He mentioned two names.  They are not familiar to me.

“A general assembly?” Gwen asked.  “Why don’t you meet as a core group first?”

“A general assembly,” I said and nodded my head.  Many already sent me their schedules; I just need to find a common time when I get Fr. Tim’s schedule.

“You may find it hard to find a chapel that is suited for the Latin Mass,” Fr. Dan said.

I told him that MO chapel is fine, because the altar is movable to the wall.  There is an large old altar at the back of the chapel.  We can use that.

He agreed.

II.  Religious Life

Fr. Dan and Anna’s order came.  Fr. Dan has his favorite plate-size pancake and green mango shake.  They started to eat.

“So how is your friend in Cebu,” Fr. Dan asked me.

“Her mom texted me that she was able to call her at the convent.  She said Roxanne was happy and well there.”

“I am surprised he mom was permitted to call.”  Fr. Dan said.  “Normally they don’t allow communications for two years.”

“I am also more surprised that her mom sounds supportive of her.  Her mom was not really happy even the night before Roxanne entered.”

“That is really what mothers do when they see that their children are firm in their decision to enter.”

Our orders arrived.  Mine is pork tocino, rice, and egg fried sunny-side up.  I sliced the liquid yolk and mixed it with my rice.  This is the only thing I ordered whenever we come to this same restaurant for dinner with Fr. Dan.

“The Jesuits will now change the vocation promotions directors in schools  from Jesuit brothers to priests,”  Fr. Dan said.  “It is realized that a priest is a better judge of vocations.  He can also hear students’ confessions, which a Jesuit brother cannot do.”

“We also need priests in organizations, Father,” Gwen said.  “The ACIL (Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League) is still looking for a Jesuit priest moderator.  They were given a Korean and an Indian.  But they have language difficulties.”

III.  Sodality of Our Lady

Ma’m Celine’s and Gwen’s orders arrived.  I already finished my food.  And so is Fr. Dan and Anna.  Geniee is still eating her pancakes poured with honey.

Raqs arrived.  She is a member of the Companions.

Genie (or was it Gwen still) said: “The students in Ateneo do not anymore join the socially oriented orgs.  (Religious orgs are classified as socially oriented orgs in Ateneo).  They prefer to go to parties.  That is why many go to business and management orgs.”

I turned to Fr. Dan.  “Father,” I said.  “Maybe it is time to revive the Sodality of Our Lady.”

I saw a quizzical look on their faces.  So I said to them: “The Sodality used to be the largest organization in Ateneo.  You can never be a President of the Student Council if you are not a member of the Sodality of Our Lady.”

“That’s the Christian Life Community,” Raqs said.

But I told her that the Sodality and the CLC have different spiritualities: the CLC is more socially oriented; the Sodality has a stronger Marian character.

“Yes, that’s true,” Fr. Dan said.

Raqs said that she joined the CLC.  She is now an observer.  There are three levels: observer, then two more.  She was glad that I mentioned the Sodality.  She will ask about it.

When I finally get the Ateneo Latin Mass Society going smoothly, I shall work for the revival of the Sodality of Our Lady in Ateneo de Manila University.  As Fr. Z always say: “Brick by brick.”

Letter to the Ateneo Latin Mass Society (ALMS): We have a stable group

29 December 2009
Feast of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Ateneo Latin Mass Society Members,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Lord is gracious. We now have a stable group for the Traditional Latin Mass in Ateneo de Manila University.

In this letter, I would like to share with you two things: (1) a short history of our group and (2) what lies ahead for us at the start of year 2010.

I.  SOME BITS OF HISTORY

17 Dec 2008. Mr. Rene Raneses Jr. of the Political Science Department launched the Ateneo Latin Mass Society (ALMS) blog, http://ateneo-latin-mass-society.blogspot.com/ . He made two posts. The first is a call to join the ALMS. The second is a series of statements under the following headings: Who we are, why do we exist, what is the basis of our existence, what are our goals, does one need to learn Latin in order to assist in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass? There was not much response.

27 Jul 2009. My friend and I went to a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy (PLDM) in Sikatuna, Quezon City. The presiding priest is Fr. Michell Joe Zerrudo. In his homily, he announced that on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 31 July 2009, Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J. shall celebrate a TLM at PLDM at 8:30 a.m.

31 Jul 2009. The Feast of St. Ignatius. After the mass, I was able to meet Fr. Tim Ofrasio, S.J. I e-mailed him after and asked for a copy of his homily.

3 Aug 2009. Fr. Tim sent me his homily and I published it in my Monk’s Hobbit blog, https://monkshobbit.wordpress.com/.

28 Aug 2009. The Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. In my blog I made a call to form the TLM stable group in Ateneo de Manila University. There was still not much response.

4 Nov 2009. The Feast of St. Charles Borromeo. I was asked by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate to ask Fr. Tim if he wants to say a TLM in their convent in Novaliches. During our conversation in Loyola House of Studies lobby, Fr. Tim asked me if I have formed the stable group for the TLM. I told him I have about seven (7) who are interested to hear the Latin mass. I asked him if I can use his name in the Blueboard invitation for the TLM. He gave me his permission. But there was a problem with my Ateneo e-mail account. I was not able to make the announcement.

19 Nov 2009. I submitted a design proposal for the short-term renovation of the Manila Observatory Chapel to Mrs. Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, the Director of the Manila Observatory. She asked me to lead the renovation committee a few months before. This chapel is 9.3 m x 4.8 m, which can accommodate only about 30-35 people. The design simply transfers the Tabernacle at the center on top of a platform where candlesticks may also be placed on the sides. The altar is movable so that it can be free standing for the New Mass or pushed to the wall for the TLM. The committee’s problem is to determine the costs—labor, varnish, pews, etc. Mrs. Loyzaga would still look for the money for the renovation. But she already gave me her permission to use the chapel for TLM.

23 Nov 2009. The Ateneo Latin Mass Society Yahoo group was launched:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ateneolatinmass/ . There were seven members in the group, mostly Ateneo students who are recruits of Enrico Villacorta (IV BS Physics). The group was not able to meet.

15 Dec 2009. My Ateneo e-mail account was finally fixed. I sent an invitation to form the TLM stable group in the Ateneo Blueboard.

29 Dec 2009. The Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury. Our Yahoo group now has 19 members, with about 13 from the Ateneo. Four (4) members of the choir of the Parish of Our Lord of Divine Mercy (PLDM) are with us and they are students from UST and UP. Some of our members may not be able to join our meetings or our masses, yet they support us in many ways. So even if we come from different schools, even if we come from different countries, we all share one thing in common: we want to restore the Traditional Latin Mass in Ateneo de Manila University.

There are others who are not officially members of our group, but are interested to join us during a TLM at the Ateneo. I think we can reach 30 for each mass, or even more. Let us spread the word.

II. WHAT LIES AHEAD

A. Long-Term Goals

We need to organize ourselves and create an institution that shall outlive us. We need to create a Constitution that shall define our Mission and Vision, our Organizational Structure, and our Laws and Regulations. We need to make a clear and transparent accounting system, because we will soon be handling money from mass collections and donations. We need to provide a continuous training program for the choir and altar servers who shall set the standard for solemn pontifical masses in the Philippines. We need to have a Center for Latin Language Studies. We need to have a stable group of Jesuit priests who can celebrate solemn pontifical masses. We need to increase the number of our members from our tiny group of nineteen (19) to the whole population of the Ateneo de Manila University.

We need to extend our vision farther. We need to establish ALMS chapters in all Ateneo schools in the country and help other schools establish their own Latin Mass Societies. The more universal is our mission, the more we give greater glory to God.

B. Short-Term Goals

We need to meet as a group and divide ourselves into committees: choir, altar servers, publications, and finance. Please email me your free times for the second week of classes (11-16 January 2010); the deadline for submission is 6 January 2010. In this way, I would have sufficient time to reserve a venue for us at the Ateneo de Manila University. Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J. will be back at the Loyola House of Studies on 3 January 2009. I shall also ask his free time, so that I can formally present you to him as the Ateneo Latin Mass Society.

Agenda for the Meeting:

1.Introduction of Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J.
2.Introduction of each member of the Ateneo Latin Mass Society
3.Target date for the first TLM in Ateneo de Manila University
4.Break-up into committees

These are the tasks of the committees:
Choir

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a music director, vice- music director, and secretary
3. Decide on the Gregorian chant pieces for the mass
4. Decide on the days and times of practice
5. Determine the availability of an organ for the practice and for the mass

Altar Servers

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a head sacristan, vice- head sacristan, and secretary
3. Choose a manual for altar servers and determine its purchase or reproduction cost
4. Decide on the days and times of practice
5. Determine the complete set of vestments for each sacristan and the cost to purchase each set.

Publications

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a head writer, assistant. head writer, and secretary
3. Choose a photographer and blog manager
4. Decide if Mr. Rene Raneses Jr.’s blog,
http://ateneo-latin-mass-society.blogspot.com/, will remain as his personal blog or will be adopted as the ALMS official blog/website.
5. Decide on a blog/website layout.
6. Determine the purchase/reproduction cost of 50 missalettes that contain the unchanging parts of the mass.

Finance

1. Determine the capabilities of each member
2. Choose a treasurer, accountant/bookkeeper, and secretary
3. Decide on a bank where the Ateneo Latin Mass Society can open its bank account
4. Determine the signatories required for withdrawing money from the bank account
5. Describe protocols for counting the mass collections and depositing them in the bank account.
6. Describe protocols for fund or refund requests from choir, altar servers, and publications committees
7. Determine how the Acknowledgment Receipt (for mass collections and donations) and Payment Receipt (for priests) will be made with Ateneo Latin Mass Society’s name.

Please choose a committee that you want to be part of and prepare for the meeting. Our meetings would accomplish much in a short time if we have our notes and materials on hand. I would like also to ask the committee secretaries to send me the minutes of their meetings within a week after our general assembly, so that I can write a summary of our proceedings.

PRAYER

May the holy Lord, almighty Father, and eternal God vouchsafe to send His holy Angel from heaven to guard, cherish, protect, visit, and defend the Ateneo Latin Mass Society. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Mary for you! For your white and blue!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true!
We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

St. Thomas a Becket, pray for us.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Dr. Quirino M. Sugon Jr.
Coordinator
Ateneo Latin Mass Society

Frank Chow of the Vancouver Traditional Mass Society visits the Manila Observatory’s Chapel

I.  A Mysterious E-mail

I received an email from a certain fjch1 with a title “Best Wishes”.  I thought it was a spam.  But I opened it anyway.  And I read:

I’m an Ateneo alumnus (BS Bio 1976) who lives in Vancouver, British
Columbia. My wife and I attend Holy Family Parish, a Traditional Mass
parish in the care of the FSSP, and I am also on the board of the
Vancouver Traditional Mass Society. We come to Manila every December and
I’m excited to learn about your efforts to bring the Traditional Mass to
the Ateneo campus. It looks like you may already have found your stable
group, if the number of members of this Yahoo Group is any indication.

I would be interested in meeting you sometime (I’ve been following your
blog for a number of months). What will your schedule be like during the
Christmas holidays? We’ll be leaving for Vancouver on January 11, so I
could also look you up on campus when classes resume in the new year.

Yesterday he gave me his phone number and I gave him mine.

II.  Where Have All the Jesuits Gone?

Today, at 7:30 a.m. he texted me that he dropped off something at the Jesuit Residence.  He wondered whether I am already in the office.  I told him that I will be in school in an hour.  I was still riding the jeepney to Guadalupe then.  I thought he already left.  But at about 8:30 a.m. he texted me that he is touring around grade school.  He wondered if I am nearby.  I informed him that I am already on in Katipunan.  I shall be at the Observatory in 5 minutes.

When I arrived at the Observatory, I met Frank at the entrance door of the Observatory.  We shook hands.  He told me that he went to the Ateneo Grade School to visit the Chapel of the Holy Angels where he once served.  He said that there was once an altar attached to the wall there aside from the new altar.  The Tabernacle is still at the center, but the old altar is gone.

We went to the third floor of the Observatory to see the chapel. The third floor used to be the Residence Hall of the Manila Observatory’s Jesuit scientists.  But the Jesuits are gone and the community there was dissolved.  The remaining Jesuits at the Observatory is 86-year old Fr. Sergio Su, S.J. who studies the focal mechanism of earthquakes, and the 70(?)-year old Fr. David Skelsky, S.J., who made possible the transfer of many Standards equipments from the U.S.   He is currently assembing and fixing them.   But Fr. Skelsky is only on a loan; he will be back to the U.S. soon.

At the end of the stairs, a lattice of woodbeams barred our way.  Who locked this?  There is no knob.  Frank suggested to look for a latch or something on the opposite side.  I can find none.  Hmmm… I moved the woodbeams to the side.  It moved.  Welcome to the mines of Moriah!

We entered the chapel and knelt.  The chapel was bare.  There are no pews yet.  A small table served as the altar table.  Behind it is a chair.  On the side is the tabernacle.  It was veiled.

We entered the sacristy door beside the altar.  On the left are three small rooms for private masses that can accommodate only one priest and one server.  Each room has an altar pushed to the wall.  At the back is a small cabinet as big as two shoe boxes.  The cabinet contains some small candles and others.  Pasted on the cabinet door are the Latin prayers for each vestment.  Beside the small cabinet is a large cabinet.  It contains chasubles in different colors.  But they are old and dusty.  Frank took some pictures.

“It is sad that this place is dilapidated,” said Frank.

I accompanied Franck to the last room.  On this room was stacked the kneelers.  Each kneeler can accommodate only one priest.  The kneelers are stacked neatly now, unlike before when my friend and I saw them.  A week before she entered the convent, we cleaned these kneelers.  We removed the dusts with a Good Morning towel soaked in soap.  We cleaned each kneeler thrice.  It was her first time to handwash towelettes, so I laughed when saw her did it.  “What are you doing?” I asked her.  And I gave her a lecture in Laundry Washing 101.  I pity her sweet little hands.

III.  A Frank Conversation

Frank and I left the sacristy and went back to the chapel.  He took a picture of the main altar.  Seen through the tall windows on the left are the Observatory’s sprawling green fields.  There is the white solar building that jutted out like a rock of marble.  I pointed to the Grade School buildings beyond it, covered from view by a row of mango trees.  I pointed to my brick building towards the east, beside the big black sphere.  A thin mist shines in the morning sun.

Frank told me that in their parish in Vancouver, they have a regular Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday.  For seven years, they shared the church with a parish.  They petitioned the bishop to have their own personal parish.  Nothing happened until 2007, when a sympathetic auxilliary bishop came and Summorum Pontificum came out.  The Bishop found a church for them.  It was the parish church of a German community.  But the community dwindled.  They cannot anymore support the maintenance of their parish church.  So their parish was fused with the other parish, and the German church was given to the TLM community.

Today, this community has two FSSP priests: during Sundays, one priest says the mass while other hears confessions.  On special feast days, two FSSP seminarians goes to the parish and a high mass is celebrated.  Frank hopes that we can have something similar at the Ateneo de Manila University.  I agreed.

I told Frank that the new Church of the Gesu here at the Ateneo could not have masses every Sunday; it has only two Sunday masses per month.  The reason for this is that there are about three churches along Katipunan Avenue: Monasterio de Sta. Clara, Our Lady of Pentecost Church, and Our Lady della Strada Church.  If the Jesuits offer two more Sunday masses at the Church of the Gesu, these other churches would lose financially.  On the other hand, if we offer a TLM every Sunday, I think nobody will protest.  We are such a tiny group.

“Does the Director of the Manila Observatory approve the use of the chapel for the TLM?” asked Frank.

I told Frank that Mrs. Antonia Loyzaga is supportive the TLM initiative.  She has heard Latin masses in her youth.  She wants the chapel renovated to make it a real chapel with pews.  That is why she asked me lead the design for the chapel.  I submitted to her a simple design that I posted in the Ateneo Latin Mass Society Yahoo group (It is also available in my Padre Faura’s notebook blog in pdf).  My next problem is to make the costing.  Her problem is to find the funds for the renovation.  She said that the chapel, because it is a Jesuit chapel like other chapels in Ateneo de Manila University, should have its own budget from the Jesuit community.

“But the Jesuits are having financial problems,” said Frank.  “They have this property in Sta. Ana which they are thinking of selling.  But they may find it difficult to do so, because the property is being considered as a historical landmark” (see Inquirer article here).

I told Frank that I envision that the TLM mass collection will go to the purchase of vestments for priests, altar servers, and vessels.  I told him about the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.  They make these vestments.  I saw some of their chasubles–they are exquisite.  The cost is about PhP 5,000 per set, because the chasubles must match in design with the coverings for the vessels, for example.  I am not sure if one set means one liturgical color, and there are are about five colors–green, white, red, black, violet.

Frank said that if it is only P 5,000 per set, that is only about a $ 100, which is not big for those in Vancouver.  There are also Filipinos there who may like to help, even if they cannot be here at the Ateneo.  Frank ask me to canvass this soon and inform him of the amount.

We thanked each other and left the chapel.

When we closed the chapel door, we read a sign: Chapel of St. Joseph.

“Joseph is my middle name,” said Frank.

This explains the riddle: fjch1 means Frank Joseph Chow… I don’t know what h1 means.  I did not anymore ask him.

Monk’s Hobbit Notes: Frank sent me the pictures of the Manila Observatory chapel.  You can find them here.

Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J. to celebrate a Traditional Latin Mass at the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches

(Update 06 Nov 2009: This mass was postponed because Fr. Tim is sick.)

I

This afternoon I went to the Loyola House of Studies to visit Fr. Timoteo Ofrasio, S.J.  It is a few minutes walk from the Manila Observatory.  You know it is the Loyola House of Studies when you see a dead end. I climbed a few steps and went to the porter.

“Is Fr. Tim Ofrasio around?” I asked.

“Do you have an appointment?”  asked the porter.

“No,” said I.  “But Fr. Tim told me that I can visit him any day 3 p.m. down.”

“What is your name?”

“Quirino Sugon”

She called Fr. Tim and she asked me to sit down.  I sat on one of the lounge sofas.  The lobby is spacious.  In the wall facing me is a large bronze plaque with names of Loyola House of Studies donors.  On my left is an underground corridor and a little pool with a statue of St. Ignatius in his pilgrim clothes and staff.  Maybe he is looking for fishes, but like Peter he found none.  On my right is the porter and outside near the entrance is the store of the Jesuit Music Ministry.  The store sells cds, books, and music sheets.

II

I was still scribbling on the points I would like to say when I saw Fr. Tim walking towards me.  He wore a brown barong.  I stood to meet him.  We shook hands.

“The (Franciscan) sisters asked me to say a mass in their convent this First Friday?” he said.  “They will fetch me.”

“Do you know what kind of vestment they use?  Is it curve-shaped like mine or straight?” he asked.

“I think it is straight, Father.” I replied.  “They make their own vestments.”

I saw a golden chasuble in the convent last October when Sr. Magdalene toured me around.  Exquisite needlework.  Sr. Magdalene said that a set of vestments must be ordered together with other altar cloths.  And there are different vestment colors for each season.  I think she told me its about PhP 5,000 per set, but I may be mistaken.

“Do you know if the gospel is sung or not?” he asked.  “In Missa Cantata, it is the deacon who sings the gospel.”

“I think that the Gospel is in English, Father.”  I am not anymore sure about this.  I was busy looking at the missal and the chants the whole time that I hardly see the altar anymore.

“That is well.  I do not anymore have to practice how to sing the Gospel in Latin.”

“The sisters will fetch me at about 5:30 p.m.  Can you come?” he asked.

“If it is okay with you, Father.”  I replied.

“You may call the sisters.  But they may ask you to accompany me instead to Novaliches.”

This is what was originally planned last week.

“I also do not have a car, Father.” I said.  “We shall commute in that case.”

“It is better that they come here,” he said.  “I still have to bring my own liturgical vestments.”

III

“Have you formed a group for the Latin mass?” he asked.

“So far, I have seven.” I said.  “Can I use your name for announcement in Blue Board and in Campus Ministry, Father?”

“What is Blue Board?”

“Blue Board is the email subscription of the faculty and staff of Ateneo de Manila University.”

“Okay, you may use my name.”

“Do you know the email address of Fr. Jojo Zerrudo?  Some people are asking me.”

“No, Father.  But Fr. Jojo has a facebook account.”  Fr. Jojo has added me as one of his friends in Facebook.  I think I can find his email address there.

IV

“How is the Manila Observatory’s chapel?” he asked.

I showed to him a little sketch.  The Tabernacle I  moved from the side to the center.  There are three long candles on each side.

“You have candelabras there?”

“No, Father.  We still have to buy.  The altar is movable.”

“Well, the chapel should not be for exclusive TLM use.  The design is okay.  Just stick to the basics.  When you are done with the final design, show it to me.”

“Okay, Father.”

And we parted.

My friend enters the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches, Quezon City

Yesterday, after more than a year long of waiting, my friend finally enters the convent and joins the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate as an aspirant. Her home is in Novaliches, Quezon city; the convent is just a few minutes ride from their home. I hope her parents accompanied her. Only her mother does not approve of her joining the sisters; her father does not say anything. But my friend feels she is now ready. She has to enter to see if it is to the convent she is really called.  She planned to enter on October 7, the Feast of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  But she entered days before it to make it for the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, which is today.

I. Conversion Experience

My friend studied at the La Consolacion College under the Augustinian Sisters and finished as Salutatorian in high school.   She collected rosaries when she was still a child; she fiddled with them, but she can’t finish a rosary. As a middle child in her family, she tends to be alone. Her elder sister and her younger brother are playmates; she felt left out. Even in her elementary and high school years, she can’t relate well with her classmates. After a couple of unhappy relationships, she lost her sense of direction. She saw demons haunt her several times; they only vanish when she cry out to Mama Mary and to St. Michael the Archangel.

In her fourth year in college at the Ateneo de Manila University, she studied under Fr. Joseph Roche, S.J. in one of her theology classes; she is a Management Information Systems major, but theology, like Philosophy, is one of the core courses in Ateneo. It was 15 units in my time; I think it was down to 12 units in her time. Oh how she loved Fr. Roche. Fr. Roche would talk about the Catholic Church, the Saints, the Pope, Mary, and Jesus with so much love. But at times he can be temperamental: he would hammer his fist on the table as he repeats again and again and again the dogma of Faith he wants his students to remember. My friend always saw him at 7:30 a.m. in the morning to photocopy some biblical reflections in a newspaper for discussion in class; but many students did not appreciate his efforts. Before the semester ended, she went to confession to Fr. Roche. Her many sins were pardoned, and she resolved to go and sin no more.

After her graduation, she went to an 8-day retreat. The retreat master was Fr. Daniel J. McNamara, S.J., who was my research supervisor for nearly half of my life. A bond was formed between them. A father she became to her. Just like the many men and women whose lives Fr. Dan touched.

II. The Manila Observatory

Two summers ago Fr. Dan found work for her at the Manila Observatory. And two summers ago Fr. Dan sent me to the Observatory’s Ionosphere Building to write my physics dissertation; no one stays at the building anymore because Fr. Victor Badillo is confined at the Jesuit Infirmary. On that summer we met. According to her it was on the Observatory’s lobby. I was talking with Fr. Dan for a few minutes and she was there sitting looking at us, smiling. Fr. Dan told her later that I was staying the Ionosphere building alone. And she wondered who is this man who lives alone.

We only met a few times after that. Sometimes, it was while walking after mass or walking to the LRT station at Katipunan. I find her aloof, always fiddling her ten-bead rosary while walking. Sometimes it was during birthday parties. During the Feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the birthday of my friend at the Observatory, we were seated at the table with Fr. Dan. We talked about the saints and the mass. And we connected. But we never yet became friends.

Last November, I started writing my Monk’s Hobbit blog. One of my entries was on how Our Lady of Guadalupe converted me from the New Age Movement, how She taught me to read the Bible, and how She became my Mother after my mother died. My friend was able to read it. And she thought:

Here is a man who also loves Our Lady. What if he becomes my friend? I shall enter the convent soon, and I would be very sad if I enter without me knowing him.

She gave me a book on the Marian Shrines of France by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, the same religious order who wrote my favorite Handbook on Guadalupe. I blogged about the book she gave me. And in just a Saturday and a Sunday, I received about 3500 visitors; my average number of visitors then was only about ten per day. My post became the top 83 post in WordPress worldwide. That was February 8.  Like Peter seeing the miraculous catch of fish, I said to God:

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. I do not wish to open my heart to another woman again. I already lost my long-time best friend since high school, and I already died when we parted. I do not wish to die again. But not my will, O Lord, but yours be done.

III. My Twin Sister

Last 10 Feb 2009, she emailed me some of her thoughts. I wrote her that she sounded like St. Therese of Lisieux who do not wish to be outdone in loving Jesus and Mary. So she proposed the following pact of holy friendship:

We shall outdo each other in loving Jesus and Mary. The first one to go to heaven wins.

I agreed, save for one small note: the pact officially begins on the next day, 11 February, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

We went to 5:15 p.m. mass at the college chapel of the Immaculate Concepcion. The one who gave the homily was my college classmate in physics, Oliver “Ody” Dy, who was a deacon then; he is now a Jesuit priest. He told the story of St. Scholastica and her twin brother, St. Benedict:

St. Scholastica visited St. Benedict in his monastery. In a little hut outside the monastery, they talked. They talked about spiritual things for several hours until night came. Then St. Benedict told her sister that he must leave, because the visiting time is over and he is wanted at the monastery. Scholastica pleaded, but Benedict won’t listen to her. Then lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The rains fell. Benedict can’t leave. “O sister, what have you done?” he asked. And Scholastica said, “You won’t listen to me. So I prayed to God. He listened.”

I don’t know if you find this story cute. But I find it cute.

We smiled.  And since that time, my friend refers to me as her dearest twin brother, and I refer to her as my dearest twin sister.

IV. My Companion in Prayer

Last 15 February 2009, we went to Parish Church of Our Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna, Quezon City. It was our first Traditional Latin Mass together. It was the first time I saw her veiled.

We went to mass together everyday, usually at the college chapel. For special events, we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at Gilmore and renew our friendship before the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel holding the Infant Jesus. For me it was the most beautiful and lifelike statue of Our Lady that I have ever seen. Beautiful. She is really beautiful.

We also went to other churches. We went to a Benediction a few times at the Monasterio de Sta. Clara in Katipunan, Quezon City. During Saturday mornings at 6:30 a.m., we usually go to the Carmel of St. Therese at Gilmore, except last Thursday, October 1, on the Feast of St. Therese de Lisieux. If we can’t make it to the college chapel, we go either to the della Strada Church in Katipunan or to the Shrine of St. Joseph in Aurora Boulevard.

We usually pray the rosary together, usually in Latin.  Whenever one of us feels troubled or tempted, I or she prays the first half of Ave Maria; the other prays the second half.   That is our signal. And we talk.

We sometimes talk over the phone, when we can’t see each other, usually during Sunday’s when she is in Novaliches. Our conversations last a quarter to half an hour and we end with an Ave Maria and three Gloria Patri.

Everyday we text each other, usually around 10:30 p.m.to reflect on the day and say sorry for the wrongs we had done. She would begin with “How are you, Pope?”  And we end with a “Goodnight.”  I recorded some of our text messages in my private blog  to note down certain recurring thoughts and actions.  In this way I can help her discern her vocation.

(Pope is my nickname at the Ateneo. Paul is my nickname in my neighborhood. Quir is my nickname in elementary and high school. My real name is Quirino, but my baptismal nickname–if there is ever such a thing–is Pope Paul, because I was born in the Holy Year of 1975 in the reign of Pope Paul VI. I have a special devotion to Pope Paul VI and his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae”, is one of the Monk’s Hobbit blog’s battle cry.)

V. First Farewell

Last 24 February 2009, after a 6:00 p.m. mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Gilmore, my friend told me that she is entering the convent soon. The day after, 25 February, was my dissertation defense. On my way to school, I was crying. I emailed Fr. Dan. I was still crying.  I felt keenly my loss of my new found friend. And Fr. Dan wrote, “Hang in there, Pope.” I finished my slides ten minutes before my scheduled defense. I passed.

Last March 10-18, she went again to a retreat with the graduating students of Ateneo. Fr. Dan helped her review her life, by noting the highest and lowest points. He also helped her discern her vocation. Fr. Dan wants to know whether her vocation is only the result of her strong will and her romanticism, for “these are a deadly combination,” he said. Fr. Dan is suspicious of stories about demons or St. Francis telling her, “What is it that you want, my daughter?” These can be just the result of watching movies or strong imagination. At the end of the retreat, Fr. Dan said that he must talk with the sisters on April 5.

At the day of the end of her retreat, I went to the Observatory at 4:30 a.m. to meet my friend from Baguio. I waited at the lobby. She waited in front of my building. We never met until 5:30 a.m.

Last April 5, my friend told her story to the sisters while Fr. Dan listened. It was agreed that my friend will not enter the convent without Fr. Dan’s permission. Fr. Dan told her to wait until October.  I felt relieved.

VI. Second Farewell

October has arrived. Fr. Dan gave her his recommendation. Last Thursday night, my friends at the Observatory gave her a simple farewell party with two pizzas and watched a movie. She never enjoyed the movie of John Lloyd and Bea Alonzo. She hates anything romantic. Halfway she left and went to the chapel. I went to her after some time and we left.

I accompanied her to Novaliches and arrived at 12:30 a.m. She asked her parents if I can sleep at their home, so that I can join her for the 6:30 a.m. mass with the sisters at the convent; they agreed. She said  that Sr. Magdalene wants to show to me the details of their altar and the candlesticks so that I have some idea on how to make the proposal for the renovation of the Manila Observatory’s chapel. (I shall tell about this meeting in another post.)

I slept in her room; she slept in their sala. In her room is a large crucifix, about two feet high. There are also some little statues of our Lady and of St. Michael the Archangel. Her room was cleansed after a few inches of flood crept into their home last Saturday, during Typhoon Ondoy.  Some carton boxes are piled up high.  The carpet was rolled to the side.

Two Saturdays ago she was not at their home; we were caught by Typhoon Ondoy at EDSA. I was coming from Defensores Fidei talk at Greenhills; she was coming from their other home near University of Sto. Tomas. She tried to make it to the talk, but the flood was already a foot-deep there when she left. We met at Guadalupe train station.  We passed by Market Market and she bought a shirt and skirt; she was wet. We braved the storm  for a few blocks and found a taxi. Her umbrella broke before she entered.  But the taxi can only go as far as the American Cemetery. There is a long traffic of cars towards Gate 3. Nothing moves.  Only my umbrella sheltered us from the battering rain.  It was a long walk.

My sister-in-law told her that she can sleep at the room of my niece who was stranded at the University of Asia Pacific in Magallanes; the flood already submerged the second floor there, so they stayed at the third. During the night, my friend helped me paint Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have finished the sketch and painted the face. She colored the mantle and the rays. Our styles differ: she uses pastel like crayons–dark and strong; I undid some of her colors using cotton dipped in baby oil, because I prefer colors light and subdued.  Our painting is still unfinished.  I don’t know how our opposite styles can blend in harmony.  I have to study her style and use it where it fits.  I have to modify my style and invent new techniques.  This can take months of work.  Or years.  If God permits that we see each other someday, I don’t want to meet her empty handed.  I must show her the final piece.

VII. Third Farewell

After our mass with the sisters, we went to their house for lunch and went back to the Manila Observatory. She gave some ten-bead rosaries to our friends. We left again at 5:30 p.m. The rain poured. Typhoon Peping is coming. The waters in Katipunan was rising to a few inches. We got a taxi and rode to Novaliches.  It was three hours of grueling ride. I placed my envelope bag on my lap, placed a clean bond paper on top of it, and there she rested her weary head. My mission is to help her find her vocation and I have to make sure she enters the convent safely.

We arrived at their home. Her parents offered me some brownies and Zesto juice. Her mother asked if my phone number is still the same. I said yes. She was the one who gave me the phone when I lost my phone in their car on the way to Novaliches before. My friend ‘s phone is dead; she intentionally left her charger at their other home, so that she won’t be disturbed by text messages. She borrowed my phone and texted Fr. Dan. Fr. Dan gave her his blessings. When I was about to leave, her father told me that it was raining heavily outside. I said I have to go. I promised my brother and sister-in-law that I shall be home. I bade goodbye.

The road home was fast. I arrived at 10:00 p.m. My brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece were there watching TV. I said, “Good evening.” My niece took my right hand and touched it on her forehead. At 10:30 p.m. I called my friend in Novaliches. That was just in time, since she was also thinking of calling me. We talked for an hour.

“Pope, I am dying,” she said. She was crying.

I told her to be strong. I told her that the Aspirancy is for her to know whether the convent is really for her or not. I told her to be obedient to her superiors and open her heart to her new novice mistress; her spiritual director, Sr. Magdalene, is leaving for Italy this October. She cannot expect to make other people change, but she can change her way of seeing other people, just as St. Therese did. I told her to tell the novice mistress whenever she feels pain.

And we talked some more and renewed our pact of friendship. My sister must die to herself and purge her soul of inordinate attachments before she can be a bride of Christ.  For two years I won’t hear from her.  Yet despite this, I cried not.  I promised her before that I won’t cry anymore during our parting.  I kept my promise.  There are only two things in the world that cannot be bought but only spent, as an Aztec once said, and that is Love and Time.  I spent them well and I never regretted.  So even if mountains and seas and silence shall separate us in this life, she shall always remain with me in my heart, and we shall never be part.

Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone is thinking of me and loving me tonight
Somewhere out there someone is saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another
Somewhere out there our dreams come true.

VIII.  Notes on Her Sickness

My sister is sick.  She has bronchitis. The doctor at Medical City told her to come back after two weeks, to make sure that she is really well before entering the convent. She took the medicines but she never went back to the doctor, for the sisters have their own doctor. She has ulcer and hyperacidity. She cannot fast.   If she delays her meal even for thirty minutes, she feels acute pain in her stomach. She also feels pain in her left rib. When she laughs long, she feels pain in her left chest.  She also feels pain in her shoulders, maybe from playing the violin for hours.  She usually practices in my office at 6:00 p.m. while I do my research.  Her knees are weak.  A doctor in Cardinal Santos told her that the x-ray of her knees revealed that her knee-caps are not properly placed–an inborn defect.  She feels pain whenever she tries to bend her legs upward from sitting position.  The doctor advised her not to walk too long or climb stairs.  Kneeling is ok, because only the tendons touch.  But when she kneels to pray a rosary on a bare floor, her knees hurt.  Before it was only her right knee; now it is both.

I pray that she will persevere in the convent.  Nothing makes her happy than to see Jesus at the Adoration Chapel and to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Nothing makes her sad that to see Jesus placed inside the Tabernacle after Benediction and to see him received with profane hands.  If she can’t persevere, I may have to take care of her.