Loving the Poor or Loving the Idea of Loving the Poor?

To commit to love the poor, to have the preferential option for the poor is not an easy task.

It should not even be a task. It should be a way of life.

And as a way of life, it is something that should be examined in the perspective of a relationship, a real relationship.

To borrow the thoughts of St. John of the Cross, there will come a time when this commitment, this ministry, this way of life will undergo the dark night of the soul.

As any relationship that enters first the honeymoon period, that stage when everything and everyone seems good and feels good, when nothing can ever go wrong, that will all go away and turn for the worse, if not the worst, if that relationship is to advance and deepen. That is when one enters the agonising experience of the dark night of the soul, when one is led to question whether the decision made was really right or should have been made in the first place. And that is when purification happens. When one is led to examine one’s motivations and choices and ways of dealing with the relationship. Am I really in love with the poor, or am I in love with the idea of loving the poor?

When a sincere confrontation happens, when a full consideration of what the relationship calls for, a sharing in all the joys and fears, the hopes and sorrows, what takes place then is that one is given the space and the time for a mature decision to fully enter the relationship and continue the journey or to walk out of it.

It is that moment, when, in love, and in full surrender, as Jesus has said, “not my will but yours, Father,” that we will be able to freely and fully commit ourselves in love to the poor, even until death.

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Who Are The Poor?

In the parish, everyone can be considered poor. Materially poor. If the basis were the reality that everyone was informally settling before along the railroad tracks. If the basis would be other things like educational attainment, income per family, there would be be differing opinions. But it is a common thing among the community members not to refer to themselves as poor, though they accept that they are poor. It is enough that one is poor. There is no point to rub it in.

The poor in the community are those who have limited choices or options in life. In work, education, resources. Limited access to health care. Limited representation in government and even in church. Limited choices or worse, none at all. Because of the structures, unwittingly or otherwise, put into place by those in power, either in the government or in the church.

Blessed are the poor. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The goal of becoming church of the poor is for the people to remain poor. Not out of oppression. Not to remain in destitution. But as a choice. To be in union with Christ who chose to be poor. A loving choice, a dignified one, freely made, to be free of the powerful lure of the material and to be truly in service, ultimately, to that which is spiritual.

This is the good news, that the evangelized, have become the evangelizers.

Arrancel Free System

The arrancel is the system in a parish setting in which there are fixed rates whenever the sacraments are celebrated. There has been a lot of nuancing and explanation that the arrancel is not payment for the sacraments but that they should be seen as generous support to the operations of the parish. However, it cannot be avoided that connections will be made with the arrancel as payment, no matter how long or comprehensive the teachings or catechisms may be. There will still be people who will see the arrancel as payment for sacraments. And they are the majority.

How to correct it?

Through a radical move.

Remove the arrancel.

Will this work?

It has. And it will.

Many parishioners have received the sacraments especially that of baptism, confirmation and marriage. And people have been generous than ever.

Why then are some priests and parish leaders afraid of implementing this?

The heart has its reasons that reason cannot understand…

Towards the Building and Transformation of Basic Ecclesial Communities

Here are key principles that will hopefully guide us build a strong foundation in building the community…

5 Aspects of Basic Ecclesial Communities
1. Koinonia: Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
2. Kerygma: Luke 4:18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
3. Leitourgia: Catechism of the Catholic Church 1070 “In the New Testament the word “liturgy” refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity.”
4. Diakonia: John 13:14-15 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
5. Church of the Poor: Plenary Council of the Philippines II 137 “Our vision of the Church as communion, participation and mission and a Church of the poor, that is a renewed Church…that is the movement to foster Basic Ecclesial Communities.”

6 Goals/Steps to Christian Growth (Matthew 28:19-20. Matthew 22:37, 39. Matthew 25:40)
1. Member: Matthew 28:19 “Baptize them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
2. Disciple: Matthew 28:19 “Teach them all that I have commanded you.”
3. Minister: Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
4. Missionary: Matthew 28:19 “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
5. Prayer Leader: Matthew 22:37 “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.”
6. Servant Leader: Matthew 25:40 “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”

Brief Background About the Community…

The members of the community came from different areas of Muntinlupa City, as far as Sucat, Muntinlupa to Tunasan. Formerly informal settlers, now given the security of a place to stay without the fear of being evicted, a family was provided with a 20 sqm house by the National Housing Authority. Sometimes, a dwelling houses as many as 2-3 families. Many of the church volunteers have been active before in the parishes they have once belonged to. When they transferred starting 2008, there has been no celebration of the Eucharist for at least a year. After that, mass was celebrated once every Sunday in different locations, such as the National Housing Authority office as well as the covered court. When the quasi-parish was established October 14, 2012 under the patronage of the newly canonized saint, San Pedro Calungsod, 2 masses were celebrated every Sunday, 6AM and 5PM. Street masses were held on weekdays in the different areas of the community.

No community is created out of nothing. It comes into being because of people being brought together by chance or by choice. It is brought together because of God’s plan.

Members of the parish bring with them their hopes and dreams, their fears and biases, their best and worst practices and traditions when it comes to the faith. It is from these background that the joyful and challenging task of community building takes place.

Vision of the Community

Ideally, a community should be the one to articulate its vision and mission, with the pastor to guide the discernment process.

Since the community, when it was established, does not yet have a lot, a church structure, even an office (the temporary office was the stage beside the basketball court, where the masses are celebrated) a request was made to Vice-President Jejomar Binay for the National Housing Authority to allocate a lot for the parish church. Together with the proposal letter was a presentation including the initial vision for the community…

  • The San Pedro Calungsod National Shrine and Parish envisions itself as a Church of the Poor, a place of meaningful encounter between God, parishioners and OFW pilgrims, a refuge for those seeking hope and healing, a venue for people to be agents of change through creative spiritual formation and livelihood programs.