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Brothers

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. (The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2013 - 12:00am

When asked by a student, what a brother is, an older religious brother replied, “We are like nuns, but we are male.” Come to think of it, it would be easier to understand it that way. But I believe, the best way to describe what a brother is, is to witness one as he gives of himself to the mission he is called to.

Religious brothers are hard to come by these days. Oftentimes, people will be more exposed to nuns or priests as one grows up in the Church. For Jesuits, the religious brother comes from a calling that is special and much blessed. He knows that he will not be a priest, but he knows also that in responding to God’s call of love, he may be able to give himself more fully by doing the responsibilities of the brother.

There are a number of Jesuit religious brothers I have met in my life. I remember the bearded Bro. Oscariz who introduced football to my prep class some 35 years ago. I remember Bro. Dunne who was always present in our Days with the Lord weekends in high school. Even in the novitiate, I was privileged to have met Bro. Greg Tabon, who was a master of all trades and keysmith! Together with him were the likes of Bros. Calixto Silverio, Faustino Refuerzo, Sulpicio Quipanes and Deogracias Trinidad who did daily manual work for the community.

Among all of them, the brother who has had most impact in my Jesuit life is Bro. Louis Tremblay who I met during my regency in Cebu way back in the year 2000. (Brother was a Canadian missionary sent to the Philippines during the 1970s.) A medium-built yet burly fellow, he would do the similar manual work that the other brothers would be doing. I remember him walking around the campus, trying to supervise the work that was being done, and checking if all things were running well.

At times, he would chuckle loudly as kids will rush towards him to receive the Filipino blessing of a “mano.” During the Christmas season, one would see his wide grin as the kids began calling him “Santa Claus” as he looked like him. As he also carried an uncanny resemblance to Jorge Bergoglio, I heard that he would joke around saying, “Isn’t Pope Francis gwapo?”

Just like other Jesuit brothers, he would go out of the way to lend a helping hand. He would gladly run errands for people. Sometimes, he would go out of his way to make one feel welcomed. Bro. Louis would also not let work stop him from helping others. I have also been witness to how he helped in their education and in life. He would talk to people. And he was not afraid to give correction if the situation warranted such.

As he prayed fervently and worked hard every day, he imbibed a certain kind of practical spirituality that led him close to Jesus. His cheerful way endeared him to many. His giving of himself to the work that he had as a Jesuit brother earned him the respect of all the members of the community.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday perhaps talks about the same brotherly love that may be absent at times in our day to day life. It talks about thinking of others even in the smallest things that we do. It proposes that the way to be closer to God is to do the heroic act of everyday heroic living. Through actual prayer and prayerful work we may best keep our focus as we listen to how God’s Spirit moves us to grow.

Cardinal Tagle best described this when he engaged all Filipinos to lead heroic lives.

“Inaanyayahan ko ang lahat na tingnan, dinggin at mahalin ang mga dukha at naghihirap bilang tunay nating kapwa at kapatid...pakinggan ang tibok ng puso ng ating bayan.. pakinggan ang tinig ng Diyos, lalo na sa ating konsensiya.”

If these are important words to someone holding on to Jesus’ reminder in life, then one ought to remind one’s self not to be blinded by the passing things of this world. One may have to choose to use the blessings that are given him. One may have to understand that our talents are given us to be God’s good instruments.

A few days ago, Bro. Louis suffered a seizure and went into a coma. He had to be attached to the ventilator to help him breathe. He was able to wake up from his coma after a few days. And as I was missioned far from him in Mindanao, I prayed to God that I may be given the opportunity to see him and give him a blessing — to thank him for pointing me towards Jesus.

God’s blessings led me to return to Cebu as a meeting of Jesuit educators and a Catholic education convention were held there during the week. And my prayer was heard! I was able to visit Bro. Louis.

As I went close to his hospital bed, his eyes opened wide. As he could not talk because of the attached machine, he held my hand and put it close to his heart. And he pointed to the crucifix hanging on the wall. In his being weak, he still managed to do the everyday heroic things that he did when he was strong. I placed my hands on his head and prayed for him. But in my visit to Bro. Louis, I believe that he was the one instead who gave me the blessing.

I told the story to Bro. Louis’ superior and the superior told me of his encounter with him.

In the hospital, the superior was asked by brother for permission to go.

“Go where?” the superior asked.

“To Jesus because I will be able to help the community more and pray for you all when I am there with him,” brother answered in true form.

I pray for the younger Jesuit Brothers like Bros. Noel Cantago, Raymund Belleza, Jeffrey Pioquinto, Rico Adapon, Eric Esteba and Kenzlee Ybañez. May you continue to be gifts to the people that you meet each day.

And to all of us, may we continue to be living witnesses of how God blesses His people through ordinary, everyday things.

AS I BRO BROTHER BUT I CALIXTO SILVERIO CARDINAL TAGLE CEBU DURING THE CHRISTMAS ERIC ESTEBA AND KENZLEE YBA ONE
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