Franciscan Poverty Today

A TASTE OF SILENCE
by Conchitina S. Bernardo

In a parish like Santuario de San Antonio, envisioning poverty seems far removed. However, it has been told to us in countless talks and lectures, that the poverty we seek, need not translate to a lack of material and pecuniary possessions. Instead we are asked to be detached from such needs. Detachment, equates to poverty in spirit.

Our patron saint, Francis of Assisi, stripped himself of all material trappings. He lived poorly, begged in the streets, mingled with lepers, and worked among the least in what was then an affluent Italian society. He founded an order of Friars Minors. He is one of the Catholic Church’s greatest saints. Francis truly practiced poverty and lived it. We are not expected to do what he did. However we must look deeper into exactly what he meant. As parishioners, we are invited to do that.

In Centering Prayer, in the silence that surrounds us, we start by letting go of all thoughts. Thoughts are laden with wants, needs, feeling, desires. As we go deeper into the prayer and into that space where we let go of our thoughts, all peripheral yearnings start floating away and dissipating. We go into a “place,” where inner peace leads one to encounter a presence filled with love, and suddenly you feel you understand. You want nothing more. Your journey will then begin.

It is only through prayer, that your intentions can be purified. There is so much of our false self imbedded in our desires, even our good deeds. Specifically, the daily practice of Centering Prayer, almost always, invariably leads to service. The daily reading of scripture, through Lectio Divina, points one towards a direction. Suddenly you will feel detached, because your focus now changes from what you want, to what God wants. No more self. Poverty takes on a new perspective. You are poor, due to the absence of desires. The prayer, “may I decrease, and may You increase” is now your prayer. You develop an attitude geared away from you, towards the others. A path is formed. As the path clears, you know in your heart the beatitude that affirms you is the one that says … “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the
Kingdom.”

(Visit us at the Contemplative Outreach Philippines web site: http://www.cophil.org.ph
Join the San Antonio Support Group every Monday, 10 am to 12 pm)

As published in the January 22 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Rich Yet Poor

THE ABC’S OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE
by Lianne Tiu

Let us face it: We live in a community of rich people; we wear jewelries, use electronic gadgets, own cars, … but does it mean we cannot practice poverty which Christians are invited to follow?

Poverty is a virtue. It has nothing to do with dirtiness, ugliness or bad taste. It is not so much the external appearance; what is important is the attitude of our hearts – that they be detached from material possessions.

How to practice poverty will depend on each person’s calling within the Church. Some Christians are asked to give up everything as a testimony to poverty. But for most of us, the practice of poverty will be in the context of our families. This includes living within our means, not spending unnecessarily or creating needs, not owning anything superfluous, and cheerfully accepting shortage or discomfort when it arises.

Poverty is not to treat material possessions as our main source of happiness. It is to use them, which are God’s gifts, as means to achieve higher ends. We administer things well to serve God and others, keeping in mind that many are in want.

Instead of throwing things away, poverty is keeping them in good condition and making them last.

We can be rich yet poor. May we learn poverty from Jesus Christ, who is rich Himself, yet chose to be poor.

(Reference: “ Josemaria Escriva’s love for the virtue of poverty” by Jaime Cardinal Sin; “The Virtue of Poverty” by St Josemaria Escriva)

As published in the January 22 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Saint of the Gutters 1910-1997

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Voices from Yesterday and Today
by Peachy Maramba

SEPTEMBER 5
It is thanks to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a frail diminutive simple nun, that the conscience of the world was awakened to the true nature of poverty caused by lack of love and acceptance and the desperate need for everyone to help alleviate it. She stirred the world to love and to have compassion towards the poorest among the poor. This is why Mother Teresa is known worldwide for her special brand of poverty that she fought against and that she disseminated throughout the world. Little did anyone realize that this earth-shaking message brought by this angel of mercy would rouse the world to care for the poorest of the poor – the sick, the aged, the dying, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the marginalized, the downtrodden the people suffering from AIDS, etc.of the Gutters

HER LIFE
Mother Teresa as she is fondly known throughout the world, although she has recently been canonized a saint on September 4, 2016, was a mere Albanian nun who had originally joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Loreto in Ireland.
Assigned to Darjeeling, India where she took her religious vows in 1937, she
spent the first 20 years there in dedicated service first as a teacher and then as principal of St. Mary’s High School.During a retreat in 1942 she promised to
give God anything He might ask. This came in 1946 when she was travelling
from Calcutta back to Darjeeling by train for her annual retreat. She received
what to her was “a clear cut and specific call from the Lord to serve Him among
the poorest of the poor and to be a messenger of His love.”
After a two-year period of deep prayer for discernment of the true will of God,
Teresa in 1948 was given the blessing of God and Pope Pius XII to dispense with her Loreto vows and to begin her back-breaking selfless work in the slums donning her now familiar white sari with blue border.

DOING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD
With less than five rupees in her pocket, “with no hospice, no food
kitchen, no helpers, nothing but her trust in God,” boundless faith, courage
and enthusiasm she set out doing “something beautiful for God” as she nursed the sick and the dying lovingly cleansing their maggot-infested
wounds. This was because she saw only “Christ in a distressing disguise” in every human being she assisted. Thus her greatest joy was serving Jesus in
His varied images on earth.

Mother Teresa and her followers would collect the dying from the street
to receive loving care and respect until they died. In this way those who
lived like “animals in the gutter” were enabled to “die like angels.” It is no
wonder she was called the Saint of the Gutters. They also rescued abandoned
newborn babies from garbage heaps, seeking out the diseased, those hurt
with wounds often maggot-bloated. They did this because they saw themselves as serving Jesus. “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of My brothers, you did it for Me.”

AWARDS AND DEATH
In time Mother Teresa who for years toiled in obscurity was “discovered” by the world and was bestowed with innumerable awards the most notable being the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress. When she received the Nobel award she asked for no lavish banquet – only money which she gave at a Christmas banquet to more than 2,000 people of Calcutta. To this day no other saint has achieved her global popularity.
Although now widely regarded as a “living saint” she remained remarkably humble saying “we can do no great things only small things with great love.” This is what we were put on earth to do: “love someone apparently unlovable, unwanted or rejected – something beautiful for God.” It is said that “no woman in modern times has left a mark quite like that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta” and she did it by doing just simple things that had an extraordinary impact.

LESSONS FROM MOTHER TERESA
PRAYING OUR WORK

We pray our work by doing it with Jesus, by doing for Jesus and by doing
it to Jesus. Pray that we may be able to spread the love and compassion of Christ throughout the world. It is you and I who have to do it, each one in our own way, in our own place. But let us begin in our own homes first and then with our neighbor.

LOVE
We all thirst for the love of others. Love begins at home and then it
spreads out. Enjoy the joy of sharing, of giving, of loving until it hurts. This is the meaning of true love. Do we love until it hurts or
do we put our own interest first? Today there is much suffering in the world
and it is all due to being unloved and unwanted and unkept … people having no
time. This neglect to love brings spiritual poverty. We must all be missionaries of charity, carriers of God’s love. Keep the joy of loving God in your heart
and share this joy with all you meet, especially your family. When asked how to bring peace and joy to the world, Mother Teresa as a “manifestation of her loving resolve to be ‘an apostle of joy’” said, “Smile at each other. Let the husband smile at the wife, the wife at the husband, (make time for the family) be lovingly thoughtful, tender and gentle in our own home. This is what will bring peace and joy into the world. Accept your children, love them, be happy to be with your children, give your time to them.” Jesus gave up everything to do the Father’s will – to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God’s will. “True love gives until it hurts.” You are a liar if you say you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see. “Are we Christ’s love in action?”

GREATEST CONTRIBUTION
It is said that Mother Teresa’s greatest contribution to society was the
“conscientization” of the world that more than poverty and disease, it was the lack of love and acceptance that was plaguing our society.”

On September 5, 1997 Mother Teresa “quietly slipped out of the gutters of Calcutta to her well-merited mansion in heaven.”

As published in the January 22 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

A Tribute to +MELINDA RECTO SILVERIO, OFS by Fr Greg Redoblado, OFM

August 20, 1947 – November 30, 2016

The first time I personally met Tita Melon was during the OLAS seminarians’ carolling at the parish, around Christmas time of 2006. The event was organized by the Order of Franciscan Seculars (OFS) of SSAP of which Tita Melon was then OFS Minister. We became very good friends since then until her untimely demise last year. I have heard about Tita Melon even when I was still a temporary professed friar but it was only this time that we became close.

As a Secular Franciscan and a former Minister of the OFS community of SSAP, Tita Melon followed the Lord all her life through the examples of St. Francis of Assisi especially in simplicity and poverty. Tita Melon was very simple in her ways and looks. As a Secular Franciscan, her life of poverty is seen very glaringly in her overwhelming generosity. I got to know her up close in her very act of giving during the Christmas carolling of the OLAS seminarians. It was her idea that instead of them going around the houses, it will be the seminarians who will be the ones invited to come to the parish for a buffet dinner and to perform Christmas carols, not only to the OFS but also to the invited members of the SSAP community.

While OLAS was important to her, I also remember her working for CRIBS Foundation, Inc. CRIBS takes care of abandoned children, providing them with shelter, food and Christian education. She organized fund raising projects for CRIBS, as well as for OLAS. One of which is a play, “The Fiddler on the Roof”. The proceeds was given to OLAS. I also heard from her that she has been to our rural parishes in Cagayan Valley doing relief mission. She also went to Franciscan communities as far as Mindanao attending the IRD program during its beginnings. I am also aware that she gave away countless donations to friars’ projects and even for their personal needs. She joined many relief missions in her life especially when she was the Minister of OFS. The spirit of poverty means to claim nothing as one’s own. Tita Melon generously shares her time, energy and resources for others especially for the seminarians. She believed that they are the future evangelizers.

Before she died, she was busy soliciting to build a school in the OLAS campus. Unfortunately, she will not be able to witness its completion but the beautiful OLAS Porziuncola Chapel which she helped build will be an edifice to mark her life of poverty expressed in her overwhelming generosity.

As published in the January 15 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Steve Lopez (+): An Exemplar of Franciscan Poverty

by Marie Tycangco

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Steve Lopez was one of the pioneers of the Hospital Ministry. He was first invited by Marissa Oreta (+) to judge an art contest for the Mulawin Community Development Outreach Program, the first outreach program of SSAP, which started in 1984. They gave catechism classes to children studying in public school and the out-of-school youth. Since then he became an active volunteer until his passing in 2013. He started PGH Adopt-A-Child in 1990, together with Marrot Moreno and Marissa Oreta (+). Its main thrust is to help the poor, sick children at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). In 2011, the Hospital Ministry was formed. PGH became part of it, together with Rizal Medical Center managed by the Health Care Ministry and Our Lady of Porziuncola Hospital Inc. in Calbayog, Samar, managed by the Franciscan Missionaries, which were added to the list of parish beneficiaries.

As a volunteer for PGH, Steve would actively look for donors among his family, friends and business partners, to be able to supply the medicines that the children needed, especially when the ministry was not yet subsidized by the parish. He also recruited others to join the ministry. He organized activities for the children and their families in PGH, such as the mass baptism, healing mass, Flores de Mayo, living rosary in October, Stations of the Cross during Holy Week, among others, which continue to be done today.

Steve was also a member of other SSAP ministries such as the Order of Franciscan Seculars (OFS) and became chair of the prison ministry. He also helped other foundations outside the parish like Hospitalier de San Juan de Dios in Bocaue, Bulacan and Bahay Puso in Bataan.

He did not just limit his ministry work within the parish or foundations he was involved in, but also incorporated it in his business. He hired the students in his Bible Study Group in Mulawin to work with him in his arts and crafts business. He also involved his nephew, Gerardo Limcauco, in his outreach work. Mr. Limcauco continues to support the Hospital Ministry today.

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According to Marrot Moreno, “Steve’s heart and soul was in PGH.” He would fund activities for the patients and go the extra mile to interview the family of the patients and even invite them to his farm in Bataan, where he usually spends in weekends.

According to Nimfa Dumago, who he has worked with from the time he became active in the parish, “Steve is down-to-earth. He lived simply. He shared his wealth with the needy. He would go on home visits and give money out of his own pocket to the families of the patients. He told me that when he joined the ministry, he learned to deal with the less fortunate. He learned to become humble.”

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Steve is truly an exemplar of Franciscan poverty. He shared his time and material wealth with so many people. We too are called to share as much as we can because nothing is of our own. As recipients of countless blessings, we are entrusted with the responsibility to share our gifts with as many people as we can in God’s name.

Interviews: Marrot Moreno, head of Social Services Ministry, SSAP
Nimfa Dumago, SSAP social worker

As published in the January 15 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Franciscan Poverty: An Expression of Gratitude to Generous Father By Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

If there is one word that is immediately associated with Francis and the Franciscans, it is poverty. Talk about it within the ecclesial circles and the Franciscans come to mind with its external expressions of simplicity and austerity. Even as it is the most identifying characteristic of our spirituality. It is also the most conflictual, hence the most divisive. The historical reason why there are at least three major Franciscan Orders (Capuchins, Conventual and Friars minor) is precisely because of the interpretation of poverty in Franciscan spirituality. In the time of Francis up to now that the issue of the spirit of poverty in the context of the times remains elusive. Franciscans at all level will always remain divided when living out of Franciscan poverty is concern. As a Province in the Philippines, there was a time that a group intended to secede from the mainstream to found their own congregation in the belief that the present set up is not any more faithful to the spirit of Francis. Many would drop our present parish commitments as they thought parochial work is inimical to fraternal and simple life. Even this parish was not spared from this excruciating dilemma in arriving at the air conditioning of the Church. Individually all of us has the burden of continuously discerning the manner of living poverty as we adopt to the signs of the times at the same time be faithful to the spirit of Francis. Behind all these divisions and dilemma is the too materialistic orientation and interpretation of living out poverty.

For Francis poverty is not the first experience; it is not so much material deprivation as in simplicity and austerity .The first and primordial experience is the generosity and abundance of God’s love as Father. Hence, the appropriate response to the generosity of God is gratitude. “Gratias tibi Deo agere”. Thanksgiving and praise is the first attitude of man before a generous Father. After thanksgiving, poverty follows. Poverty is therefore not so much material deprivation and its accompanying variants of simplicity and austerity. It is fundamentally humbling recognition that all good things comes from God. He is the source of all that is good. He is the proprietor of all goods, the owner of all. Hence in the Franciscan vocabulary, poverty is defined as “sine propio” which means “ without calling anything as one’s own “; better yet not appropriating anything as one’s own. We are not the owners! God is. It is in this context of non-ownership that all the material ramifications should be reframed. Non-ownership means we are God’s stewards and as such goods of this earth meant for the enjoyment of the common good, not only for the indigestion of the few; it means a more equitable distribution of the earth’s resources which has been appropriated by the few. Poverty implies then a life of solidarity with the disposed in the search for just society. Solidarity includes being one in their pursuit of liberation from material poverty which in turn is the result of appropriative and acquisitive nature of man, legitimized by the systems and structures of society. Poverty is not only a negative protest but a calculated, political strategy against organized appropriation and selfishness.

Within a small community like a Church groups or religious congregation, it implies common property, sharing and accountability. It means sharing the Church’s resources for the use of the common good. The challenge of the present government for the Church to help in the drug problem by way of sharing its resources, expertise, counseling is in place. We are not owners of what we have and possess. Individually however poverty must be an expression of our interior liberation from mammon. In other words ,the voluntary poverty of the religious is only liberative if by our personal lives we are freed from the grip of mammon.