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.

1 comment:

jomil said...

To Fr. Pix,

I am very happy that Fr. Abdon has returned to his most loving Creator. But I am a little bit sad because I was not there during the funeral. By the way Father I am Jomil, a collegain of SACFH. I used to bring the meal and visit Fr. Abdon at the hospital with some of the collegians or with Fr. Ben. Every time I went to the hospital there were something that made me always glad. Although seeing Fr. Abdon in pain, I could always reflect and praise God because of this wonderful life that saw and heard that from Fr. Abdon himself; even he suffered greatly he is very thankful to God and loves this life. Fr. Abdon, though he cannot remember me is not far from me, he is like my grandfather. And now that he is with Jesus, I am so happy that he will not anymore feel the great and terrible pain. Fr. Abdon is indeed a true and excellent servant and priest of God. I admire him and hopefully could be like him, too, who follow, serve, and love Jesus until to his last breath and to eternity.