Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dear Father

I LOOK forward to the dawn masses every year.

I can’t say I feel the same for many of the priests that challenge my miniscule piety, if not my attention.

Apparently, a lot of them think it is humor that will keep the faithful wide awake.

Maybe. I suppose, in the land of Wowowee, a company is bound to work the pulpit as if it were playing to the gallery for a grin a minute.

Had I wanted to be entertained, wouldn’t it make better sense to sleep until noon for the usual TV variety fare?

At the blue hour of 2 a.m., a shower lashes like a recollection of sins, accumulated, entangling, stinging.

Those who put the flesh to death to heed the 4 a.m. tolling of the bells in the blue dawn must deserve something a little more than St. Peter jokes.

Such as a priest who comes on time.

A shepherd who chooses what he says, knowing very well the human limits of his flock: their attention span and sleep deprivation, school and work schedules, traffic and public transport, even lack of a seat.

A pleasant, smiling visage on the wide screen is a reassuring visual for those of us following the mass from outside the church. Wouldn’t it even be better to have someone who does not belabor the point that he could have been God’s gift to Eve and her sisters had he not embraced theological studies, obedience and celibacy (no mention of humility)?

Also at the top of my wish list is a shepherd who cares for the community, truly.

One who will not only request for order from the crowd outside the church so that “the collectors can pass without obstruction.”

Hearing this announcement said without variation during three dawns in a row makes me conclude that some priests see no farther than the pulpit. Or the collection plate.

Do these fathers not see the crowd spontaneously make way for the old and the young, for people carrying their own chairs, for pregnant women, women with infants, children running after their parents, teenagers looking for their friends, parents running after their children?

For several years, there’s been an unspoken segregation observed in our parish during dawn mass. Even in the farthest reaches of the crowd milling outside the church, you will smell someone smoking a cigarette only seldom, if at all.

That’s because the smokers—mostly men whose tired, hard visages banish thoughts of political correctness—voluntarily cordon themselves in a spot across the street, away from the church grounds where women and children congregate. I’ve yet to see a public sign or a tanod direct this spontaneously eddying pool of nicotine lovers.

Despite the lack of divine intervention, the puff addicts and the rest of us take part in the mass. They can hold on to their ciggies to keep the cold and sleep at bay. We keep our lungs.

That must be why the priests in the parish make special mention of the collectors’ access to the crowd; that might be the only view from the pulpit.

Lucky for us, with only the night’s dome above our heads, we have something even better than a wide-screen monitor: a star-studded infinity that brings everyone—saint and sinner, joker and whiner— under one family. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Dec. 20, 2009 “Matamata” column

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