Many of us have probably seen , either in person or on television, some funny and happy moments of the Holy Father from the time the Sri Lankan Airways touched the Philippines’ soil. One was when he peeked through the window plane with his signature “Papal smile” just like a little boy excited to see what’s going on the ground! Another one was when he stepped out of the aircraft and was greeted not only by ecstatic young well-wishers but also by the gust tropical wind which blew away his white skull cap and his white zucchetto which flew off his head! I thought these literal “blown away” amusing moments were positive signs that the Holy Father’s brief stay in the Philippines would be the most joyful, meaningful and fruitful of all his visits throughout the globe.
True enough, the Holy Father was not just “blown away” but felt “annihilated” (wiped out) to see throngs of people at Tacloban airport’s Holy Mass who were patiently standing and waiting for him for long hours under the rain of a Signal No. 2 Typhoon “Amang” and even after ravaged by super typhoon “Yolanda”. The scene in Tacloban was the “very moving” moment for him. The Holy Father had nothing to say to the crowd but to walk with them with a ‘silent heart”. He told them to look at Jesus Christ on the cross, impressing them God’s unwavering love and unlimited hope, the God who never let one down and and the God who heals wounded hearts. This was confirmed by himself on his flight back to Vatican when he was asked by Vatican media. The Holy Father was also surprised to see a “sea of humanity” at the Luneta Park as millions of people attended the culminating event. He truly admired the good Filipino values, and was inspired specifically by their “gestures” displayed by all people from all walks of life (parents, elderly, men, women, boys and girls) which according to his words, gestures that are original, genuine, and “born from the heart”. He was amazed of the happiness and the “capacity to celebrate” of the Filipinos who never lose their genuine smile even under the rain and despite the lack of material wealth. He also loved the way Filipinos showed their Christian faith, simple yet unfeigned especially their devotions to the Blessed Mother and the Holy Infant Jesus (Sto. Nino). I thought the said comments coming from the Holy Father, who serves as Christ vicar on earth, made me proud to be a Filipino and a Catholic as well!
Similarly, the Filipinos were also “blown away” by the Holy Father’s extraordinary persona even if his presence in the country was short-lived! They were stunned and admired his love for the poor, his kindness, sincerity, humility, sensitivity, attentiveness, courage and dedication, and even his humor had a touch of God’s mercy and compassion. They were awestruck by his gestures as well, his comforting words, profound insights and messages of hope particularly to the disadvantaged and marginalized. The poor and typhoon survivors found succor and refuge in him which according to reports, some of them have recovered from despair caused by the super typhoon. His hugs, embraces and blessings especially to the young and the sick people provided them warmth, love, affection, understanding and a glimmer of joy with the assurance that God is with them!
Even the clergy and the religious who were given the privilege to attend the Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral and in other gatherings were “blown away” by the so-called Francis-effect. In fact, some of them had to use their tech gadgets to get a a souvenir of the Holy Father. I thought some of them have been reinvigorated and deeply touched by the spiritual messages and the challenges posed to them. The Holy Father reminded the priests that they should be “shepherds living with the smell of sheep”, as in they have to live in poverty, tend their sheep and be real “ambassadors for Christ” and to put all God’s teachings into practice.
In my case, I was completely “blown away”, while watching on TV the Tacloban event, by the pilgrims’ patience and endurance, of whom some of them came not only from Leyte and Samar but also from other islands of Visayas and Mindanao. The heartrending scene made my tears flow down my cheeks. I really prayed with the people in Tacloban that the Holy Father’s plane would be able to land safely so he could be with them. I was crying alone because I felt the Holy Father’s love and care for them when he decided to brave the trip despite the typhoon warning. While I may not have been the few chosen ones to be with the Holy Father and experienced it myself, I was completely “blown away” by his sincerity and sensibility, he put the needs of his flock first before his own. How I wish the Government leaders and business tycoons throughout the world would have the heart to be more generous and extra sensitive to the plight of the people specifically those living below the poverty line.
So, what have we learned from Pope Francis visit? Oh, we have learned so many things, about loving the poor, family, and even about the environment. We have learned that what is important on earth are not material things but to be able to live with the 3 languages of the mind, heart and hands harmoniously, as in, to think well, to feel well and to do well (with God’s mercy and compassion), particularly in this modern world that is overloaded with information. We have learned that we need to weep sometimes, we need to dream for the husbands, wives and children, and that we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. We have also learned that the poor and the disadvantaged are the center and at the heart of the Gospel. Pope Francis said: “If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cant understand the whole message of Jesus Christ”.
Thus, with Pope Francis spiritually guiding us here on earth to the right path, we will no longer be, literally and figuratively, “blown away” by the strong winds. Rather, we shall be able to weather the storms and resist challenges such as corruption and the so-called “ideological colonization” that attempts to destroy our Christian and family life . The Holy Father serves as our “rock”, the same rock in which our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to St. Peter and where His Church was built, the rock that will protect us, bring us back to our true mission on earth, i.e., for us Filipinos to become missionaries of God hopefully in Asia and ultimately allow us to see the beauty of God’s Kingdom.
I will end this reflection with verses from the theme song of Pope Francis visit:
“We are all God’s children
We are all the same
He is calling us by name to help the poor and lame
And to learn what life is really for
It’s to know and love and serve the Lord”.
Note: The above write up was earlier published by the author in a Fil. Catholic magazine based in NYC.