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IEC Day Five: Mabuhay!!!

Mary Rose Bacani Valenti

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mabuhay means something like “Long live” or “Welcome” in Tagalog, the language in my native country, the Philippines. I heard this word a lot today because the dynamic and charismatic Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle from the Philippines was periodically cheered by a lot of Filipino fans during his catechesis! Today’s featured continent was Asia, and as a Filipina, I was so, so proud to be on-camera with Matthew Harrison for today’s live events. I believe it has been one of the strongest days of the Eucharistic Congress (and I’m not just saying that because I’m of Asian origin).
You`ve probably heard a summary of today’s wonderful catechesis and witness talk from other producers, so I would just like to share my biggest light: True living of the life of Christ, that is, a true Eucharistic life, comes from loving God above all. God will show you how you should show compassion, but you should put his will first. It sounds self-evident, I know, but there was still something to discover in this for me.
The story I really appreciate from Bishop Tagle’s catechesis is the one of the woman working at the market on a Sunday morning, getting ready to leave at 10 am. Bishop Tagle tells her that he is sure God will forgive her for working on that day if she wants to be able to feed her family. This woman berates him for not being more encouraging about living the Sunday as a day of rest and time with family. I’m sure Bishop Tagle was thinking that he was being compassionate. But he didn’t ask God first how he wanted him to show his compassion. The woman knew that true compassion comes in the way God wants it.
Which relates to what Elizabeth Nguyen Thi Thu Hong brought out in her Witness talk about the sanctity of her late brother Cardinal Francis Nguyen Van Thuan. Cardinal Thuan was imprisoned for 13 years, and nine of those years was in solitary confinement. His love for the Eucharist led him to celebrate Mass in secret while in prison. At one point, when he was 48 years old, he thought of all the experience and training he received. He was disappointed – how can he take care of his flock, of his people? Then he realized that God was asking him to love Him, not love his work. True compassion for his people came from loving God first, so that he can show compassion the way God wants him to. Cardinal Thuan later realized that his flock is the people in the prison. It is to them that God wants him to show his compassion.
Both Bishop Tagle and Elizabeth, but especially Bishop Tagle, focused on the part of looking into yourself to see what’s stopping you from really giving of yourself to others. Bishop Tagle invited the audience to think about the times we sacrifice children to the god of lust, or sacrifice people to the god of greed. I could see that he was showing how social justice should flow out of making God first. Love of brother and sister comes from reconciling yourself with them, from asking for forgiveness for the times you didn’t think of them before yourself.
The Penitential Service was really and truly wonderful. The Gospel story of the Prodigal Son was play-acted to a wonderful script. The three characters of the two sons and the father were played so well and the problems, hurts and insecurities that the two brothers brought out in their characters were things we could all relate to. All this baggage hinders us from going closer to God. I loved the scene of the father at a distance from his sons, as if there was this invisible bridge that he couldn’t cross. That’s because the sons still had to accept their own weaknesses and their father’s love for them despite their weaknesses. They also had to forgive each other, and after having accepted their father’s love and receiving forgiveness in their hearts (represented by the Sacrament of Reconciliation), they could go towards their father and embrace him. And only then could they experience true communion with him.
And so the whole theme flowed into the theme of reconciliation. I never thought much about the relationship between reconciliation and eucharist, but I did today. The Eucharistic City became a City of Forgiveness as the Sacrament of Reconciliation became open to all pilgrims from noon till 3:30. It was great to talk to people about why they were going to Confession and what they got out of it.
But let me share two little things I found interesting, related to the theme of Reconciliation. One thing is that I heard about chicken-wire version of the Ark of the Covenant, which is in Youth Space. In it are sheets of paper, on which people wrote their Eucharistic pledges --- some related to how they would pray or think of others before themselves. It was a really wonderful way to practice reconciliation and communion with all people.
The other interesting place I found was the Park of the Saints and Blesseds. I was really drawn to St. Isaac Jogues, who was described as a person “glued to the Blessed Sacrament.” That’s beautiful.
I pray that our hearts be always glued to the Eucharist. Long live Christ the King.  Mabuhay!!

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