by Tinnah M. dela Rosa
It’s been a few days since Pope Francis left the Philippines.
As I tried to recover from the busyness of the past days during Pope Francis’ Papal Visit to the Philippines, I took time to pause, reflect, and relish what his visit means to me personally. I have realized a few things during these spiritual days:
1) I am grateful. There is much cause to be grateful. The last time we were visited by a pope was when then Pope John Paul II came to celebrate World Youth Day with us in January 1995. Back then, I was a new teacher chaperoning my freshmen high school students. Exactly twenty years later, Pope Francis graced our humble country with his presence. What I gather is that he came to show his solidarity with those who have been ravaged by recent calamities. This time I became a liturgical music minister.
Pope Francis’ visit brought out the best in many people. His visit has helped us look beyond our tiny part of the world to the areas where love and compassion are experienced the least. In the few days he was here, I experienced more kindness, patience, self-giving sacrifice, joy and solidarity displayed by so many people, even complete strangers. Pope Francis’ presence has helped me become more aware of the quality of my own presence to others. How do I love? How do I live? How must I love and live from hereon?
2) I am blessed. I am fortunate to have been part of the 1,000-voice choir (comprised of members from many different choirs throughout the country) that sang at the Luneta Grandstand last January 18th, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a chorister such as myself. Some people see that as a blessing because we were in such close proximity to where the pope was, unlike the approximately six million people present who were out in the rain. There is something about being in the presence of holy persons that many Filipinos refer to as a blessing. I got to sing along with the best singers in the country. But more than the physical proximity to the Pope, convenience or prestige one might associate with this opportunity, I was also blessed with many moments of grace.
Reflecting these past months on the music we sang for the mass was a blessing for it has brought me closer to the Lord for whom the songs were composed. What a joy it is to hear and sing such music! Fr. Manoling Franciso, SJ, who was commissioned to compose the music for the concluding mass, is truly a gifted musical genius for having used multilingual lyrics that include the major language groups in the Philippines. It was a brilliant way to reflect our diversity as a Filipino people and God’s call for us to be united as we share in the banquet of the Lord.
Though I was the lone member of my choir who sang, I was blessed because throughout the rehearsal days leading to the concluding mass, I had many opportunities to reconnect with old friends and become acquainted with many new friends. And boy, did I meet so many of them! I had many intimate conversations with people from the rehearsals beginning in November 2014 until the actual Papal Mass last Sunday. At almost every rehearsal, different people asked me to join them or offered food to share. People took care of me upon learning that I was on my own. They were inclusive and generous.
I am also touched by many non-Catholic brothers and sisters who joined us in serving God through the choir. After all, we have but the same God who practice our faith in different ways, as one chorister mentioned on social media.
3) I am called. I’ve always felt a stirring in my heart since my high school days in St. Scholastica’s College Manila to be in solidarity with the poor and to work for justice. Luckily, my experience of college life at the Ateneo de Manila University and my continuing involvement with the Christian Life Community reinforced this preferential love for the poor by drawing its connection to finding God in all things. God, indeed, can be seen in the poor. And it is for the many poor and suffering people, those on the margins, that our gifts must be used. These lessons I’ve learned since high school were echoed by Pope Francis. His message continues to move me to tears.
While I have always tried to respond with generosity each time God calls me, I am challenged to an even deeper response to mission, wherever this may lead me. I am challenged to see how to better love and show compassion with joy in my heart as a lay, married, Catholic educator, formator, and composer. It is quite unsettling to have this mix of emotions. It is a bit frightening to not know where God is calling me next. But I am confident that the Lord who calls me through Pope Francis will lead me. That is all that matters.
Pope Francis, your presence and witness to Christ’s sacrificial love has had quite an immense effect on so many of us from the Philippines. Personally, you have inspired me to follow Christ more closely to the peripheries with those on the margins of society. Holy Spirit, please enlighten me so that I may discern how best to follow Christ, our Lord.
Tinnah M. dela Rosa is a long-time youth minister, educator, retreat facilitator, member of the Christian Life Community of the Philippines and an emerging liturgical composer. She composed the Gaudium Mass songbook and CD and founded PraySing Ministry online in 2012. Visit www.praysingministry.com to access her liturgical compositions and prayer materials to help you deepen your faith through praying and singing.