By Fr. Andy Davy, MIC (Sep 13, 2009)
Peace be with you in abundance from the Lord Jesus Christ!
I want to share with you some of my experiences during the first month of a three-month stay in the Marians' Philippines mission in the Philippines. For those who don't know me, I am a newly ordained Marian priest (I was ordained in May) currently assigned to our Marian parishes in Plano and Yorkville, Ill. But for the months of August, September, and October, this mild-mannered parish priest is mysteriously transformed into "Fr. Andy of the Jungle."
Shortly before I was ordained, I was asked by the Very Rev. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, the Marians' superior general, whether I would consider going for a brief time to the Philippines to help our Marian missionaries at Divine Mercy Hills, Mindanao. My presence there would allow our missionaries some much needed vacation and retreat time.
I joyfully jumped at this opportunity, for I saw how ministering in this new mission could help me to grow in appreciation for the beautiful Filipino culture, a culture that has much to teach us Americans in terms of simplicity and the rewards and joys of leading lives that are faith-centered. One of the Marian missionaries, Fr. Walerian Pozniak, MIC (a.k.a., "Fr. Val"), put it best when he said that the "Filipinos are people of the heart who are in direct relationship with God and with other people. ... The Filipinos are also a very friendly and warm people whose hearts are open to something beyond this material world, to something supernatural." Besides the spiritual and cultural benefits that awaited me, I was delighted knowing that, by serving in the Philippines, I would also be helping out two fellow Marian priests — Fr. Val and Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC — whom I had gotten to know during my seminarian days in Washington, D.C.
I arrived in Manila on Aug. 2, and, after a rather hair-raising experience navigating through its busy streets, I arrived at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong City, just outside of Manila. At this Shrine, one of our Marian missionaries, Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, is currently serving. He is a great witness to me of joyfully living out the Marian vocation of spreading the message of The Divine Mercy and devotion to Mary as the Immaculate Conception, and offering our lives for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and serving where the needs are greatest.
He lives in very poor conditions and yet has such joy radiating from his heart. I was especially touched when he joyfully offered to sleep on a floor mat so that I could have a better bed (and I am much younger!). While I was only in metropolitan Manila for a few days, I can say that Fr. Mariusz's witness to me of the priestly life will have a lasting impact on me.
Another thing that will leave a lasting impression on me during my short stay at the Shrine was the way in which the poor and homeless are taken care of. The Shrine has a program called The Golden Hearts Club, in which the poor and homeless come and learn about the message of The Divine Mercy and sing songs of joyful praise to God. Seeing the huge smiles on their faces and seeing their eyes closed as they sang praise to God with abandonment, I began to understand that these people are not poor, but are truly rich. Their clothes were tattered and their figures famished, yet they were rich where it really counts: spiritually.
Since Aug. 4, I have been far from metro Manila, at the Marians' second mission location, Divine Mercy Shrine on Mindanao Island. Here, I have been assisting Fr. Val and Fr. Jan with the hearing of confessions, celebrating daily Mass, leading Eucharistic Adoration, and praying over the sick and suffering who come to this Shrine seeking the Lord's healing. I have been particularly touched by the witness of trustful faith in many of the pilgrims I have met and ministered to here. They come to the Lord as children come before a loving father, bringing their cuts and scrapes to Daddy so he can kiss them, hold them, and make them better.
For example, yesterday, I prayed over a man for general healing in his life, wherever he needs it, "spiritually, emotionally, physically, in the family ... wherever." I was amazed at his openness to receive healing. Even his very body posture seemed to cry out, "Heal me. Jesus, I trust in you!" The Gospel reading that day was about the deaf and mute man being healed by Jesus. With that in mind, I said to the man as I prayed over him: "Lord, as you opened the ears of the deaf with your touch, touch this man's heart and open any locked doors in his heart that cry out, 'I want to breathe anew and love again!'"
I noticed as I prayed this prayer over him that a flood of tears started to come out, as if the Lord had just opened a part of his heart that needed to breathe anew. I think the deep trust I saw expressed in this man prepared his heart to receive this gift of Divine Mercy in such a powerful way. Would that all of us could have this kind of trust!
Tomorrow, Sept. 8, we will celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or as the Filipinos affectionately call her, "Mama Mary."). What makes this birthday special here in the Philippines is that this is also the one-year birthday of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Mindanao. Tomorrow, the Shrine will be one-year old! We will be celebrating this double birthday in true Filipino-style. In other words, we will begin the birthday celebration early in the morning (which, I must confess, is not the easiest time for me!). And so at 3 a.m., before the sun rises, we will have a Marian procession with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima, as we pray the Rosary, offer flowers to her, and sing "Mañanitas" to her.
And as the sun begins to rise over the mountains, we will celebrate Mass — the greatest birthday present we can give to Mama Mary! I think it is going to be a beautiful day.
Please consider helping the Marians in our mission in the Philippines. Learn how.