Homily of Fr. Ronald Masilang on the Feast of St. Hannibal held at the FDFCS (June 1)
HOMILY OF FR. RONALD N. MASILANG, RCJ
Feast of St. Hannibal Mary Di Francia
June 1, 2020
25th Anniversary of the Religious Profession
of Frs. Ed Fernandez, Carlos Guzman, Ronald Masilang,
Dexter Prudenciano, Henry Ramos & Christoper Salonga
Today, we, the Rogationists and Daughters of Divine Zeal, the sons and daughters of St. Hannibal Mary, together with the entire Family of the Rogate, celebrate with great joy the solemn feast of our Father and Founder. Happy feast day!
St. Hannibal Mary, by divine predilection, was called by God to diffuse in the world the divine command of Jesus, the Rogate. This divine gift, this charism, received by our holy Founder became the very passion of his life, the reason of his being, the driving force of his charity, and the path of his sanctity. The gift of the Rogate, like a great treasure, was not buried or hidden, but was shared. Thanks to St. Hannibal’s wisdom, thanks to his intelligence and generosity, thanks to his desire of making the Rogate universal. Thanks to St. Hannibal, that for 123 years now since the foundation of our Congregation, God continues to call generous men of our time to become Rogationists religious and priests who, like him, will continue to obey the divine command of the Christ of the Rogate, that is, to unceasingly beg the Lord of the harvest for many and holy laborers. Our daily “Send, O Lord, Holy Apostles into Your Church” that was first taught to the poor and abandoned orphans in Avignone Quarter whose prayers are never rejected in heaven, becomes our song of supplication, our daily canticle, our unending hymn, our praise and thanksgiving, our filial trust…God, indeed, hears and listens to our cry! He continues to send many and holy laborers in His harvest.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of young men sailed on the sea to go to Cebu City where they would continue their vocation discernment at the Rogationist Novitiate, St. Hannibal Formation Center. After a year of discernment and formation under the guidance of their Novice Master, Fr. Cesare Bettoni, 13 out of 17 Novices made their First Religious Profession on June 1, 1995 (8 Filipinos, viz. myself, Ed, Carlos, Dexter, Henry, Chris, Reno & Arvin and 5 Indians, viz. Sabu, Vinu, Tommy, Sijo & Diliph). Now, 25 years after, there are only 8 of us, myself, Frs. Carlos, Ed, Dexter, Henry, Chris, Sabu & Vinu). Vocation to Rogationist religious life is truly a gift, a gracious gift, a divine gift. In front of every gift given by God, which oftentimes if not always would give us a sense of unworthiness (which is indeed true, for nobody is worthy of such an undeserved gift), we cannot but be thankful, be grateful! Gratitude is the best response to this gift of vocation, to this gift of love, to this gift being a Rogationist! Gratitude that comes from being loved and we cannot be grateful if in turn we do not respond in love.
Gratitude to God’s fidelity…
Many of us, if not all of us, have issues about fidelity. Be it in relation to people or things, commitments, relationships, name it, many times if not always we find it hard to be faithful. Fidelity seems to be the failure of many. Yes, we do try to be faithful, at times we succeed, at some other times we fail, and we fail a lot! But God never fails! He is ever faithful! Jesus is faithful up to the end of his life!
Twenty-five years of religious life is awesome! It’s a milestone! For the six of us, celebrating this jubilee of our religious life must indeed be a milestone! How come we have reached this far? How come we have travelled this far? We know that you too are awed by this wonderful event! (Are you? Masaya ba kayo? Bilib ba kayo?) These young postulants and religious might be thinking with admiration “Wow! Ang galing! Ang lupet nila! Sana all!”) However, with humility, my dearest brothers, I believe we are one in acknowledging that we were not always faithful…there were many occasions, then and now, that we were proud, too concerned about our own plans, too trivial, pretentious, undisciplined, naughty, disobedient…unfaithful. But God’s fidelity sustains us…It is his kindness and love that always save us. We keep on running away, and he never tires to search for us. We keep on closing our ears, but God never stops calling us. Twenty-five years of our religious life is indeed a testimony, not of our own fidelity, but of God’s. It is he who is ever faithful. And as we continue on responding to his loving voice that calls us, may we, like Jesus, be sustained by his fidelity up to the 30th, the 40th, the 50th, up to the end of our life! Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness, that even we are unfaithful, You always remain faithful!
Gratitude in the midst of the storm…
On June 1, 1995, the day of our first profession, it was in the news that there would be a storm. In fact, when we left Cebu in the evening of June 2, 1995, a day after our religious profession, there was a storm. While we were on the open sea, the big ship was like a toy being tossed by the strong waves…I was so afraid (I don’t know with my companions), but I was really afraid, first of all, because I don’t know how to swim, I’ll get drowned; second, I just made my religious profession! Oh my goodness! It would be a short-lived religious life! How would they write our necrologies! But, even I was afraid I believe in my heart, we will arrive safely! Indeed, we reached the port of Manila the following day safe and sound. Looking back, each one of us certainly has his own share of difficulties, of challenges, of fears. (Si Fr. Dexter lang yata ang di nakaranas ng bagyo sa buhay nya! Napakabait po ni Fr. Dex! Masyadong pinagpala!) Along our journey, we certainly faced our own storms, the frightening waves, the fear of not reaching the shores…But we repeatedly hear the tender voice of Jesus whispering to us, assuring us: “It is I, be not afraid.” So our hearts are filled with gratitude that in the midst of the storms of life, we were never abandoned (even though at times we may feel so), but the truth is, the God who calls us, who loves us, is always there. Thank you, Lord, for your abiding and saving presence, that even in the midst of the storm, You are there!
Gratitude for the companions…
Few days ago, it dawned in me that there were thirteen of us who made the first religious profession…sabi ko, “Ang swerte naman talaga ng batch namin! Lucky 13!” Look at how lucky we are…Fr. Gaspare Gallitto was our Superior/Rector when we were aspirants, he died on April 29, 2012. Fr. Joseph Aveni was partly our Novice Master for about 5 months and was a spiritual director for many of us, he passed away in July 24, 2010. Fr. Luigi Toffanin, who was our Superior during the first year of our religious life, died on August 23, 2013. Fr. Cesare Bettoni, our Novice Master, it would really be beautiful if he were here with us today, passed away last May 21. Our Prefect, Fr. Loji Pilones, joined the Diocesan Clergy in the US and our dearly beloved Kabukluran, Fr. Gabriel Flores made a decision to settle down. May bagyo nung first profession namin? Ngayon 25th, may pandemic naman! So, you see now… Are we so lucky? No, I would say, we are not lucky, we are so blessed! Fr. Gaspare introduced us to love and appreciate our vocation…it may be so external, but he taught us how to genuflect properly, how to observe proper posture during liturgical celebrations especially during the mass, he inculcated in us to break regionalism, that we are but one Rogationist family. Fr. Aveni, we all know, has left us the very edifying examples of his life. And as our Novice Master, even for a short period of time, he made us fall in love with the Padre, with the Congregation and with the Rogationist religious life. His formative conferences on the Father Founder, the History of the Congregation, the Vade Mecum and the Catechism of the Vows, which were all done with passion, simply nurture our desire to become religious. Fr. Luigi, who was often silent, soft spoken, tender and loving taught us to be more caring and loving as well to our confreres. Fr. Cesare, oh our dear Fr. Cesare! Strict, strong, at times naughty, seemingly had all the answers for every question under the sun (that’s why some novices during strolling would avoid him), particular about the details, an artist, a good listener, a believer in everyone’s capacity, a father, a brother, a friend…He taught us how to be truly human while striving to be a better religious each day. Fr. Loji, unknown to many, would find a way how to help seminarians having financial difficulty to go home during vacations, and would not pressure them to pay when they returned. Dr. Gabriel Flores, our philosopher and friend to many of us, taught us many good things as well, among them, which we appreciate until now, is that he accompany us in our apostolate with the poor in Apello, Rodriguez and Maricaban in Pasay; Boracay and Libjo in Parañaque. Our Friday apostolate with the poorest of the poor in the slum areas make us love all the more those who were loved by St. Hannibal Mary.
Our twenty-five years of Rogationist religious life is a journey with confreres who, in many ways have taught us, have formed us, have loved us. The antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah in today’s Lauds, Solemnity of St. Hannibal echoes the words of St. John the Evangelist: “They will know that you are my disciples because of your love for one another.” After murdering his brother Abel, Cain was asked by God: “Where is your brother?” and Cain answered: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are perfectly aware of our individual’s limitations and imperfections, but unlike Cain, we should be able to say “I am my brother’s keeper.” We cannot afford to hate our brothers, otherwise, we will lose each other. The beauty of our Rogationist religious life is all the more made beautiful by our capacity to love even the ugliness of each other. The confrere or the brother next to you, will be the one you will grow old with, he will take care of you when you get sick and when you grow old, and he will bury you when you die. We may not be able to exchange “I love you’s” everyday or even hesitant to say those words, but may we learn each day to show some love for our love will keep us together. Thank you, dear confreres! You are a blessing to us and we hope that we too are a blessing to you!
Then and now, God provides us with companions in our journey, our families, our benefactors and friends. Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with companions along the way that we may not get lost, that we may not get tired, that we may not forget, that we may not be alone…that we may continue answering your divine call!
Beinte Singko Años na po kami! As we continue on living with you dear confreres, may our life reveal each day the beauty of the story of our vocation and of God’s love and fidelity! That by living our Rogationist religious consecration, St. Hannibal’s gift of the Rogate be shared, be received and be lived by many more young people who will be called by the Lord of the Harvest, the Christ of the Rogate. Truly, we are ever grateful, we are ever joyful for the gift Rogationist Religious Life. Amen.