Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 May 2020
I hope our bishop and my brother priests forgive me with this piece.
Or at least, understand my points and feelings about our clergy reshuffle due on June 30, 2020.
It is a long overdue reshuffle, twice postponed in 2018 and 2019.
We have all been looking forward to it.
In fact, I have packed all my things, so ready to go that since December, I have been saying good bye to my parishioners.
I have explained to them that I am so eager to transfer – not “leave” – because we have been programmed for it since 2018.
Besides, I strongly felt I have fulfilled my mission here in my current assignment which is my first parish to shepherd since 2011.
But came this COVID-19 pandemic.
Listening to Jesus in this quarantine
Admittedly, at the beginning of this quarantine I was still hoping that somehow our reshuffle in June will push through. But, everything changed slowly with me as the quarantine days moved on.
On the first Sunday of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), we borrowed a truck to bring around our parish the Blessed Sacrament.
I was so moved by the sight of the people waiting for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling on the street, some holding candles. There were people raising their hands praising God while others were in tears that made me think that despite our live streaming of the Mass, people were still longing for Jesus in reality through our ministry as priests.
Towards the end of our “libot”, we saw a rainbow.
I held the monstrance tightly and prayed hard, thanking Jesus for the grace to serve him, to bring him around my parish.
Most especially, I felt the rainbow as God’s reminder of his promise to Noah that he would never destroy earth, that he would take care of us in this pandemic.
As I prayed for my parishioners and loved ones to be delivered from the deadly COVID-19, I felt the Lord telling me to stay in my parish, to forget all about our reshuffle in June, and to take care of his flock entrusted to him.
I dismissed it, though I have always knew, the faintest voice within is always Jesus Christ.
Sharing Jesus in this quarantine
We kept that Sunday “libot” (going around) of the Blessed Sacrament, except on Palm Sunday when we blessed palms and on Easter when we brought around the parish the statue of the Risen Lord at dawn and afternoon to make the people feel Jesus is with us.
Last Sunday, against the advise of friends and relatives, I went to distribute Holy Communion to some parishioners after our 7AM Mass. Many came out to the streets to receive Jesus.
Again, there was a drizzle and soon after the last faithful received the Holy Communion, there was a heavy downpour.
“Pinagbigyan lang po tayo ng ulan, Father,” my tricycle driver told me.
I just nodded my head in agreement but deep inside, I felt Jesus crying with me, crying with us for all these sufferings and uncertainties we are going through.
In all these experiences nurtured in prayers, I felt Jesus asking me to stay, to remain in my current assignment.
Moreover, I am now more convinced we must forget all about this clergy reshuffle altogether while we are in a pandemic.
Remaining in Jesus in quarantine, in suffering with his sheep
We are living in a very historic moment of humanity, a suffering so widespread the world over, perhaps eclipsed only by the two world wars of the past century.
We in the country, especially in our province of Bulacan, are so blessed we have never gone through wars and other major calamities except for the perennial floods of the rainy season.
This is the only time we are truly one in suffering with our people.
And to think, we are not yet suffering that much as priests unlike in Italy and Spain where many priests have died due to corona virus!
I am not asking nor praying for more sufferings, of getting infected with COVID-19.
Simply be with our people for a longer period of time not until we get a semblance of some “normalcy” from this pandemic.
Yes, that could take until 2021 or November the soonest because for us to be thinking or be preoccupied with our new assignments at this time must be the least of our concerns, even something we should not be thinking at all considering the plight of our sheep these days.
The quarantine must be heaven sent for us priests to finally go down on our knees to pray more often than before, to be silent and be one with the Lord again whom we have banished from our altars and ministry especially at this time when many of us have already fallen into the trappings of television and social media to become instant celebrities.
For those having problems in their parish, transferring to another assignment will not solve our many issues. We just have to accept the truth the problem is not among the people but in us, priests. This quarantine is a silver-lining to show the goodness within us, the Christ in us who have been muddled by past mistakes and misinterpretations by people and brother priests.
Again, my apologies to our bishop and brother priests.
I have no intentions of knowing more nor claims to have received a message from God or his angels, not even in my dreams.
We may all be ready to transfer but, how about our people?
On May 11, we shall be commemorating the second year of the passing of Bishop Jose Oliveros.
I do not have fond memories with him.
But one thing I have learned from him is this: in 2006 I asked him permission for me to serve in Canada. He allowed me to go there to see for my self. He asked me to return after one year before making any decision because he told me, whatever is the will of God for me, God will surely let him know it too.
Glad I have obeyed him.
In the same way I am sure the Lord is speaking to us about his plans for our reshuffle.
Mine is just one.
Salamuch for listening.