The Anchors of My Faith
Agustin L. Sollano, Jr. (The Freeman) - November 9, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The newly beatified Roman Pontiff is one of the reasons why I cannot afford to relinquish my Roman Catholic religion. The other two reasons are the newly canonized Popes, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, about whom I wrote previously in The Freeman (February 4, 2014; p. 17).

The 1964 issue of the “Mission World,” published by the Society of the Divine World (or S.V.D., for Societas Verbi Divini), carried my article entitled “I Kissed the Pope’s Ring.” I was then still Fr. Agustin L. Sollano, Jr., SVD. The article related a special audience granted by Pope Paul VI to friends and relatives of the newly ordained priests, among whom were two Filpinos: Rev. Fr. Leonardo Mercado, SVD from Cebu and Rev. Fr. Antolin Uy, SVD from Leyte.

In October, 1975 Pope Paul VI granted a special audience to Julio R. Cardinal Rosales together with the Filipino Pilgrims of the Holy Year. I was in the group together with Atty. Augusto Go, Director of the then Cebu Central Colleges, and with Pres. Lizares of the then Cebu Institute of Technology.

The fourth reason for my Roman Catholic faith is our beloved Pope Francis who, according to a report in The Freeman of October 22 (p. 15), recently introduced the expression “God of Surprises” to the vocabulary of the Roman Catholic Church. The name he chose is reminiscent of the “Poverello” (the poor man of Assisi) who reminded the Church that our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed the world by poverty and humility not via money and other material things.

Yahweh, God’s name for us Roman Catholics, is indeed a “God of Surprises.” To begin with, the Roman Catholic Church is one of the branches of the original Christian Church initiated by the God-man, Jesus Christ. Thus, Christians are those who accept Jesus Christ as true God and true man. You see, if He were not God, all His sufferings could not adequately atone for the infinite offense against God due to man’s sins. On the other hand, if He were not man, He could not shed blood to atone for man’s sins.

The distinction between Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic came when an Augustinian priest from Germany, Rev. Fr. Martin Luther, OSA, protested in 1517 against the preaching on indulgences in connection with the construction of the biggest church on earth, the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. In effect, priests were preaching: “If you contribute for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, your stay in purgatory will be shortened corresponding to the amount contributed.”

Martin Luther protested (the origin of the Protestant Churches) claiming: “You cannot buy heaven with money!” Consistent with his protest, he removed from the Christian Bible the books with direct or indirect reference to purgatory such as the Book of the Maccabees, Esther, etc. and, to our surprise, the recent Popes (including St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II, and Blessed Paul VI) affirm that heaven cannot be bought with money. Otherwise, only the rich can have access to heaven.

The late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote about three surprises that will meet us in heaven: 1) We will be surprised to see people there whom we did not expect to end up there; 2) To our surprise, we will not see in heaven people whom we expected to be there; 3) And the greatest surprise of all will be seeing ourselves in heaven due to God’s unspeakable grace and mercy.

A story is told about a cursillista who was in heaven. Looking down to purgatory, he saw his parish priest there. Surprised, he asked the latter. “Why are you there, Padre?” The reply he got was: “Shhh, quiet! The Bishop is still lower than where I am now!”

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