Monday, December 28, 2009

Funeral of Fr. Abdon Josol,CSsR

The funeral mass of Fr. Abdon Josol was celebrated at the Redemptorist Church in Cebu at 9:00 this morning. Redemptorists from various communities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came to attend. Fr. Abdon's sister, relatives and friends also came.

Redemptorist priests and brothers carrying the coffin to the Redemptorist Church

prayer of reception at the church door (Fr. Ben Ma - provincial superior)

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal presided the funeral mass, with 2 Redemptorists bishops
(Bishop Irineo Amantillo and Bishop Manny Cabajar)

Fr. Picardal (that's me) preaching the funeral homily

blessing the coffin (Fr. Willy Jesena)

funeral procession to Careta Public Cemetery

Final commendation at the burial site (Fr. Ramon Fruto)

This is the text of the homily that I preached:

“Do not go gentle into the good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I used to believe that Dylan Thomas’ poem
which he wrote for his father dying of cancer
aptly described Abdon’s last few months
Many of us had the impression
that he spent his last four months engaged in a battle against cancer.
He appeared to us like a warrior heroically fighting the dreaded disease until his last breath.

When I came to Cebu on the last week of October,
a confrere asked me what brought me here.
I told him that I came to visit Abdon
and to help prepare him for death.
He wished me good luck.
He thought it was a mission impossible.
I had heard confreres telling me
that it was a subject no one would dare talk to him about,
that he was an impatient patient who would scold the nurses, attendants and doctors,
and that he was in a state of denial –
that he couldn’t accept that fact that he was going to die,
that he couldn’t let go.

After several heart-to-heart talks with Abdon,
I learned what was really inside his mind and heart.
One of the questions I asked him was:
“Abdon, are you ready to die?”
He said: Yes, I am ready to die any time.
I really want to live longer, there is still much to be done,
but if it God’s will that I go then I accept it.”

As I listened to Abdon, I came to realize a number of things.
It was not that Abdon was afraid of death,
or that he was in denial.
Abdon loved life and above all
he loved the congregation –
there were still so many things he wanted to continue doing.

Let us bear in mind that Abdon was one of the first Filipinos who joined the congregation some years after the end of World War II
He was the first Filipino local superior – in Tacloban

He was the first Filipino vice-Provincial and provided leadership during the early years of the martial law period.
He courageously guided the congregation as it took a more prophetic stance vis-à-vis the dictatorial regime.
After his term, he went for further studies and came back with a doctorate.
He started the SAT.
He was once again at the helm when was elected as the first provincial superior of the new province.

Even as he became a senior citizen,
the thought of retiring never entered his mind
He remained active, especially in building up the SATMI
and in his scholarship programs for poor.
He expected to live long enough to fulfill his dreams and plans.
It was therefore understandable that he was not yet ready to leave this world.

Abdon started with a combative stance.
He saw cancer as an aggressive invader.
He was determined to fight it out, to engage in battle
using all means necessary – chemical warfare, laser therapy, etc.
He found it difficult to admit weakness, vulnerability and dependence on others.
He went through his dark night –
angry at everyone, including God.

But he went through a process of transformation.
His attitude towards his sickness changed.
It was no longer a battle but a journey, an inner journey.
He began to look at his painful illness as an occasion of grace
and he fully accepted the reality of death.

Why grace?
Because the illness made him more aware of the divine presence – a presence that was sanctifying, redeeming, healing.
The healing that was taking place was an inner healing, that led to inner peace.
This enabled him to accept the excruciating pain without cursing those who were taking care of him.
It was grace because he experienced what it really meant to be loved and cared for by his family, confreres and friends

It wasn’t just his confrere and friends who came to visit him
our parish office staff, librarians, kitchen staff, labandera and some parishioners made the journey to Cebu to see him.
He was given time to say the words that were unsaid,
and hear the words that had nor heard before.
He was fully prepared to meet death finally came not as a thief in the night
but an expected friend that would lead him to life – eternal life.

Abdon did not lose the battle against cancer – for it was not a war. His death is not a defeat.
Rather, it has been a journey towards inner healing, and peace –
an experience of grace.
He has remained faithful to the vows he made – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, even until his last breath.
And as he go on his way ahead of us to the home of our heavenly father,
and as he claim the crown promised by Alphonsus
we say goodbye to him in the language that he loved:
Arrivederci, Abdon – until we see each other again.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrating the Joy of Christmas amidst Grief

Christmas eve community reconciliation service & renewal of vows

Christmas vigil mass

Christmas party

not physically present - Fr. Abdon Josol, CSsR (r.i.p.)
We are celebrating the joy of Christmas while our hearts are filled with grief over the death of a member of our community - Fr. Abdon. He died of cancer in Cebu five days ago. This is the first time that we celebrate Christmas without him. He went to Cebu for a check-up four months ago and he was not able to come home since he was confined at the Perpetual Succour Hospital. His body lies in state at the Redemptorist Church. The funeral mass and burial will be at 9:00 am on December 28, 2009. Cardinal Vidal will be the principal celebrant and I have been asked to give the homily. We will be flying to Cebu this Sunday.
We had our community Christmas party this evening. We placed Fr. Abdon's picture on the top of the refrigerator, together with flowers, candles, a plate with some food (ham, turkey, lechon) and a glass of red wine. This expresses our belief that death has not separated him from us. After the meal, program and exchanging gift, we all faced the picture, holding our wine-glasses and singing the traditional Redemptorist hymn: "Vivat in eternum."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sustainable Ultra-Long Distance Running (training for Trans-Mindanao Run and the Camino de Santiago)

Crossing over to Samal Island

Coastal Road to Penaplata

Run-walking with 18-lb backpack

wild camping in Dasag

I've been on a back-to-back runabout - run-walking for seven hours yesterday and five hours today. I started late yesterday because I had to say the 4:30 am Misa de Gallo. I carried a back-pack weighing 18 lbs - with water, clothes, sleeping bag, tent, some food. I used the Galloway method of interval running - run 3 min/walk 2 min interval. I actually enjoyed the running section than the walking. I still have to get used to long-distance walking. Last week, I walked for almost seven hours and I had blisters for the first time- I don't get blisters even if I run for 7-8 hours.I think my body has gotten used to running. I don't get a "walker's high" only a "runner's high" (it is running that releases the endorphins into the bloodstream). What I enjoy most is running up and down the mountains. I forget about the time, I become one with nature, and I feel God's presence. There is no loneliness for the long-distance runner - just the joy and ecstasy. It is indeed addictive -- that's why I want to do it over and over again.
This is the first time I ran-walked ultra-distances back-to-back two days in a row. I didn't feel any exhaustion nor was there any muscle-pain or soreness. The recovery was quick. I think the slow, easy running mixed with regular walking breaks made it possible. A low intensity run mixed with brisk-walking is the formula for a sustainable ultra-distance run. This will my strategy for running across Mindanao this March and across Northern Spain this June-July. The human body is not designed for fast-continuous running over long distances - it will eventually break down if there are no rest-recovery walks.
Last night, I camped on the beach. This is something that I love doing. I intend to do some wild-camping when I do the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. I would prefer to do it in Albergues/Refugios that have some ground or backyard where I can pitch my tent or in nearby church grounds. This is what I enjoyed most when I was walking from Rome to Assisi in 1994- I slept under the stars and in the porches of churches.
I know that the tent will make the pack heavier but today, I was able to prove that I can easily run with an 18-lb load. With a slight lean forward and bent knees (following the chi-running method), I felt my load pushing me forward. It was actually easier running than walking with a heavy pack (I could feel the pack pushing me downward during walking breaks). It's all about gravity.
Tomorrow, I will take it easy and do a 2-hour Christmas run the following day. I have to be back for the Christmas day mass at 10:30 am.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Misa de Gallo (Davao)

At 4:30 this morning I presided at the Misa de Gallo - the 4th day of the nine dawn masses before Christmas. The church which can accomodate a thousand people was full and many had to stand at the back, the side of the church and even the car park.

After the mass, the church-goers had "puto-bombong" and chocolate drink

With some parish youth leaders. More than 50% of those who attend the Misa de Gallo are young people.
Liturgically, we are still in the advent season, yet the spirit of Christmas is already here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Profession and Ordination to the Diaconate

This morning, a Filipino Redemptorist theology student (Shaun) made his final profession as a Redemptorist and then he was also ordained deacon together with 5 Indonesian Redemptorist theology students.

The newly ordained deacons with Bishop Ireneo Amantillo, Fr. Ben Ma (provincial superior), Fr. Cruz Manding (prefect) and othe Redemptorists.

Following the mass, Fr. Brendan Kelly, the superior of the Davao Redemptorist community and director of the St. Alphonsus' Theological and Mission Institute welcomed the guest for lunch and program.

During lunch, the Redemptorist seminarians entertained the guests. I also performed my one man band, playing the following songs: (Today, Blowing in the Wind, O When the Saints go Marching In, and Jingle Bells.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ultramarathon Training - Six Hours Runabout

One month after running the Philippine International Marathon for the Pasig River, I have resumed serious training. This morning I went on a "runabout" which started at seven and finished at one in the afternoon - 6 hours of running/walking up and down the mountains of Langub and Magtuod. I carried a backpack which contained water bladder, extra clothes and running apparel, towel, jacket, ultra-mobile personal computer, and 3 bars of chocolate - it weighed 13 pounds. This is what I will be carrying when I do the solo-unsupported Trans-Mindanao ultra-run this March. I didn't have any breakfast or lunch (except the fluids and the chocolate), yet I didn't feel hungry or exhausted running in the mountains with the unbeable heat. The short walking breaks made it easy to run six hours. This will be the method I will be using when I run an average of 50 km a day for eight days from Iligan to Davao across the mountains of Bukidnon and Davao this March.
Tomorrow, I will wake up early and walk for a couple of hours. Then I will do a three-hour run on Thursday. I hope that during the Christmas break, which starts next week, I can do longer back-to-back "runabout" lasting 8-10 hours. I only have 3 months of training before the Trans-Mindanao ultra-run.

After finishing my marathon comeback, I asked myself what next? I know that I can run a faster marathon someday or I can run longer distances - the ultra-marathon. As I get older, I know I will slow down, but I can improve my endurance. But I do not want to compete in ultra-marathon races, I just want to do solo-unsupported ultra-runs that could last for days. So the idea of the Trans-Mindanao Ultra run became more exciting. But will just be the beginning. This week, while making plans for my Sabbatical, I have been thinking of doing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela after my Spirituality Course in Rome in June. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage on foot which starts in St. John Pied de Port in France, crossing the Pyrenees mountains and traversing Northern Spain up to the tomb of St. James in Compostela. It is an 800 km journey which takes 30-35 days of walking. But instead of walking, I would like to run-walk it in 20 days, averaging 40 km a day. So I will be the running-pilgrim instead of the walking pilgrim.

So 2010, will be a year of ultra-running for me. Trans-Mindanao in March, Camino de Santiago in July. If everything goes well, I might even do a solo-unsupported run/walk from Davao to Aparri (via the Cordilleras) in September-October. Well, these are just plans which still have to be finalized by January. But if ever I want to do these, the best time will be during my Sabbatical. The next time I have my Sabbatical ten years later, I might be too old to do ultra-runs.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Silsilah Davao Gathering

Over 50 members of the Silsilah Davao gathered yesterday at the Samson Institute from 11 am to 5 pm today for our occasional get together. We shared the food that we brought (potluck), we had time for prayer and for sharing.

I was asked to share my reflections on the topic: the Role of Silsilah in the Dialogue for Peace.
Here is the gist of my talks which I delivered in Cebuano:

For the Muslims and Indigenous Peoples, Mindanao is their homeland. For Christians who settled in Mindanao, is the promised land. Yet often, Mindanao has become a No Man's Land. Through the years, armed conflict have erupted and many have suffered and died. There is a longing for peace among many of us.

Does Silsilah have a role in bringing about peace in Mindanao?

If our understanding of peace is the cessation of hostilities and coming up with a peace agreement between the government and the MILF, it would appear that Silsilah has little or no role in bringing about peace. We are just a small movement, we do not have any influence on the government and the MILF.

But peace is nore the the silencing of the guns. It is more than a piece of paper - a memorandum of agreement - signed by the government and the MILF.

There have been ceasefire in the past, peace agreements in the past - the Tripoli Agreement, the Peace Agreement between the MNLF and the Government, yet genuine and lasting peace has not been attained.

Genuine peace can only be attained when Christians, Muslims and Lumad learn to live in peace and harmony, as brothers and sisters and as friends, sharing the resources of Mindanao.

This requires dialogue at the grassroots level - a dialogue of life, a dialogue of faith, a dialogue of action (working together to address our common problems, bringing about development, justice and peace, and defending the environment).

This is what we in Silsilah are doing. We are just a small group, but we are planting the seeds that will grow and expand. We are showing to the world that dialogue is possible and this is the basis for a genuine and lasting peace.