Villegas cites priests’ commitment and journey

WE are the memory of God. We are the legacy of God. We are the inheritance of God for His people.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas reminded his fellow priests during his homily for the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday at the St. John The Evangelist Cathedral here. (Chrism Mass, often the largest annual gathering of clergy and faithful held in each diocese, is a celebration of the institution of the priesthood with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”).

He said priests want to be remembered and remembered for a long time. “To be ignored and forgotten gives us a very unpleasant feeling of uselessness,” he said.

While priests and bishops are usually given grand funerals in gleaming coffins surrounded by large wreaths, but dead priests are not even a footnote in a research paper and are occasionally remembered by people when they print baptismal certificates long after they are buried.

Villegas asked: Is that all about our priesthood? To work hard? To preach well? To beautify churches and build grand parish halls? To send scholars to school? To build hospitals? To build schools and then just fade away eaten by the worms of amnesia? No children to carry our names? No endowment funds to be named after us? Is that all about us?

He said the answer is “No”.

He pointed out that their names as priests are not just written in the memory of history books. “We are the memory of God and our life is the fulfillment of His promise to His people “I will be with you unto the end of the ages”, he said.

He said the death of God’s faithful priests is not only remembered but is precious in His sight.

While priests are God’s gift to His people, Villegas again asked: When they see us, do they really thank the Lord? Does our giftedness lead our parishioners to say “Salamat sa Diyos, may pari kami (Thank you Lord, we have a priest)”? Are they happy to see us? Are they inspired to be with us? All of them? All of us? Always?

He said growth is easier when gratitude is abundant. “When the people of God are grateful, they also become holier, more generous and more courageous.”   he said.

Villegas again asked: When they see us, do they hide for fear of another fund raising? For fear of being scolded? For fear of being openly rebuked or ignored? For fear of being humiliated in the homily in front of the parishioners? 

In the end, Villegas apologized to the people for priests’ shortcomings, saying, “My dear people of God, look at us your priests. We are the gifts of God to you in spite of us. Pasensiya na kayo sa amin!”. (Eva Visperas)

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