"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

[First Week 1/2] Humility As Mother Of All Virtues

YET, O LORD, YOU ARE OUR FATHER; WE ARE THE CLAY AND YOU THE POTTER: WE ARE ALL THE WORK OF YOUR HANDS. IS 64:7

Today we begin the four weeks of Advent Lockdown Journey in light of the pandemic.

Point Of Departure: The Humility of a Pope and a Deacon

T

he first pope, now St. Paul VI, to set foot on Philippine soil and in Asia for a 3-day visit from November 27 to 29, 1970, under the watch of then president Ferdinand Marcos, is fondly remembered after exactly fifty years today. It was the first ever journey that a Pope made to the Far East and the Pacific. Apart from saying masses at the Manila Cathedral, Luneta Park and Quezon Memorial Circle, he visited poor families in Tondo, Manila against the advice of government authorities.

On the second day of his visit, Paul VI ordained more than a hundred deacons to the Holy Order of priesthood. I would like to tell you the story of Fr. Alex Ulpindo, CICM who was among those who inspired me when I was still a seminarian. When the great privilege to be ordained on the Papal visit was given him, he renounced such a once in a lifetime opportunity to the great surprise of his conferers and superiors. It was touted as foolishness. His reason being a poor man who owed his vocation to the poor farmers and fisherfolk in his hometown in Tagudin Ilocos Sur. His greatest desire was to be ordained there with the poor people.

Rev. Alex thought he was off the hook already after that, until he was again summoned by his superiors but this time asking him to serve as the deacon of the Holy Father at the ordination ceremony. Finding no more reason to decline since he was the only deacon left who could do the ceremonial task, he said yes. Before the start of the mass at the Luneta National Park, his conscience was bothered as he thought about what he has done. He asked to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the Holy Father. Paul VI heard his confession right before the start of the ceremony. He said, "Forgive me Holy Father for I have sinned. I have renounced your beautiful gift to ordain me today. Forgive me. I am a poor man and I owe my vocation to the poor people in my own hometown. This is why I renounced this most precious privilege to be ordained by a Pope due to my ardent desire to be with the poor farmers and fisherfolk. Because of this I have disobeyed my superiors. I ask for your pardon and forgiveness." Even before the Holy Father could respond, he embraced Rev. Alex. Deeply moved by the humble gesture of the 25-year-old deacon, the saintly Pope said, "I have never heard something like this from anyone." He recounted that when he too was a deacon he longed to be ordained among his own people where he came from but it was not granted to him.

The following month on December 29, 1970, Rev. Fr. Alejandro "Alex" Ulpindo, CICM, was ordained in our hometown in Tagudin Ilocos Sur. He was the first son of the town to be ordained at the Conversion of St. Augustine Parish Church. In 1972 he was sent to Dominican Republic for his lifelong mission. Early next year, Fr. Alex will be joined by our parishioners to celebrate fifty years of God's blessings upon His people.

Pope Benedict XVI championed the cause for the canonization of Paul VI whom he described as "almost superhuman." He was the first pope to reject the papal trappings of luxury, e.g., he set aside the traditional papal tiara—a jewel-encrusted, three-tiered, conical crown—shortly after his election in 1963 and he donated its value to the poor. He visited the slums in Tondo Manila, November 29, 1970—the first Sunday of Advent. "Brethren, this is the first time the head of the Catholic Church has come to this part of your continent, and providence has decreed that it should be in Our humble person" (Radio Message To All People of Asia—11th speech at the inauguration of Radio Veritas). "We too must share with all, especially with those who are poor or in any way afflicted, their joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties (Gaudium et spes, preface). This is the meaning of Our presence here" (13th speech addressed to the Members of Various Communities).

"To you, the poor, I have this to say: remember that you have a supreme friend—Christ who called you blessed, the privileged inheritors of His kingdom. He personified Himself in you, so as to turn to you every good person, every generous heart, every person who wishes to save oneself by seeking in you Christ the Saviour. Yes, strive to raise yourselves: you have a right and duty to do so. Demand the help of a society that wishes to be called civilized but do not curse either your lot or those who lack sensitivity, for you know that you are rich in the values of Christian patience and redemptive suffering" (Homily at the Quezon Memorial Circle—10th speech, 29 November 1970).

Humility: Mother of All Virtues


I have chosen to use the living examples of St. Paul VI and Fr. Alex, who from the highest to the lowest ranks in the Church's hierarchy, have exemplified at some point what humility is. Countless saints, including Benedict, Augustine, Gregory the Great and Mother Teresa, consider the virtue of humility as the mother of all virtues.

St. Ignatius of Loyola looks at it as "a kind of ladder with so many steps that the number of those which have yet to be mounted is never ended; and it is necessary, by repeating the same acts, to begin again from time to time to go over the rounds which we have already climbed. Souls which have no humility cannot come out of themselves, because there would arise within them numerous passions and all sorts of curiosity that would embarrass and hinder them" (The Spirit of St. Ignatius).

Here is another from St. Teresa of Avila, "The truth is that, if we serve the Lord with humility, he will sooner or later assist us in our needs. But, if we lack this virtue, the Lord will leave us to ourselves, as they say, at every step. This is a great favor on his part, for it helps us to realize fully that we have nothing which has not been given us" (The Way of Perfection, 38, 7).

Grace To Beg For: "Lord give me humility, but a humility which permits me to love Thee." St. Ignatius of Loyola often addressed this prayer to God. He did not desire a humility not founded in trust and love towards God. In everything he always placed himself closest to the secure ground of God's love.

Points To Consider:
1. Take something from the ground, e.g., a plant or a flower, use it as a symbol to remind you of what it means to be grounded and yet exuding with life and beauty. Look at that plant or flower symbolizing your person and your relationship with the Creator.

2. Count your blessings: Humility and thankfulness are two sides of the same coin where we recognize God as the source of all the gifts we have received. Instead of crediting these gifts to ourselves, which happens when we feel entitled to something, we refer all honor, praise and glory to God and humbly acknowledge that we have often misused these gifts.

3. This Sunday's brief parable of the master returning unexpectedly requires a great deal of humility on our part. The message seems to speak to our context of the pandemic where Jesus stresses that there is no time to lose. Being humble before God means being fully awake!

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Comments

  1. Thanks Fr. Jom for this beautiful material which wil surely enrich our soul in this Advent journey.

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  2. Allow me to share an excerpt from Fr. Alex's email to me this morning after publication of his touching life story:

    Dear Fr. Jomari,

    Greetings from Home Sweet Home, Baguio City. I want to thank you from the depth of my heart for sharing me your profound insights. I meditated and prayed over your reflections. As I do this I am full of tears of the way you capture the event of my life with Pope Paul VI. The Luneta event of 1970 and my ordination in Tagudin Ilocos Sur are still very fresh and now you make it more vivid. I continue to treasure those events because they have marked my life as a priest... I have shared them to some friends who know me. Thank you and congratulations...

    So continue your great work of affirming and appreciating the life of others. I wish this Advent be a real blessing in your life of service. Take care. And pray for me...

    Thanks for your kindness.
    Fr. Alex

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  3. A good start for my Advent journey. Thank you Fr. Jom for inspiring us. Indeed, humility is a mother of all virtues... This is my constant prayer - the grace to be humble before God.

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  4. Thank you Fr. JM for your inspiring sharing . I will be looking forward for more as I journey in this season of Advent. Praying for you...God bless!

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