Story By Joseph Madrinan
Photos by Armand La Morte and Fidel Cenir
In his immaculate white cassock buttoned with the purple of his Episcopal office, and his zucchetto, Father Bishop Gregorio (forgive the imprecise term, this is my term of endearment for every bishop) processed towards the prie-dieu especially prepared for him. From there he recited some prayers ( I wonder if it was the little hour of Terce, but quite probably it wouldn’t have been, otherwise it should have taken longer), and then started vesting. Washing his hands, a carry-over practice from the ablutions Jews do, he then proceeded to putting on the amice, then the festal alb, followed by the cincture. These pieces of priestly vestments, for the average Catholic nowadays, would seem to be museum pieces, something you only get to see, but you actually don't wear. During this time, the first chaplain, Fr. Jojo assisted him with the help of the Sacristan Mayor of PLDM. Tying the cincture half-way through, Father Bishop then put on his stole, symbol of priestly authority, followed by a beautiful golden chasuble, as the mass was votive to the Blessed Trinity. Finally, on his left arm, he wore the golden maniple. It was simply lovely, a bishop who in front of all the faithful transformed from his simple soutane, to the ornate priestly attire he wore for that day’s Mass: truly it was a sight to behold. As I was recalling this event, I can’t help to remember the word’s of Our Lord to Peter saying when he becomes old, even his belt will have to be put on by his servants.
As the bishop passed on from his daily attire to that of high priest, the faithful can’t help but be reminded that truly, the bishop becomes an alter christus, he no longer is just one among us, but another Christ, about to offer the same sacrifice of the Cross!
Intoning the Judica me, Fr. Bishop officially began the mass with the antiphon, Introibo ad altare Dei, I shall enter the altar of the Lord! Those who say the TLM is never interactive should have heard how the church resounded with the dialogue that ensued during the Judica me. Just because something is in Latin doesn’t really mean nobody will be able to respond, that simply is a fallacy, and all the more I would doubt that the ones who came on that day’s mass were the ferment of society, or the literati or some intellectual whackoes, No, they were simple-minded faithful.
Fr. Bishops sweet, flowing Latin was interrupted when he reread the day’s epistle and Gospel in English, and then providing a brief homily. There, he quoted profusely from the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (MP) and its accompanying explanatory letter. He talked of how, beyond reconciliation and unity, the MP was truly about providing the richness of Catholic Tradition to everyone and that it was about enriching both ordinary and extraordinary forms. To cap his homily filled with a Litany of Thanksgiving, he said, finally I offer this mass to you, who have been devoted to this mass. There he was, a bishop who truly understood the mind of the Holy Father, a true and loyal son of Holy Mother the Church, a pastor bonus, a gift of God to his people.
The silence that followed during the Canon Missae rendered more solemnity to the occasion, to this joyous day when two scores after the Pauline reforms, once again a Philippine Church resounded with the silent, almost whispering prayer of a bishop, about to bring Calvary present once more, in the Mass.
When the mass was technically done and the final blessing was given, the elaborate ceremonial of the Extraordinary Form doesn’t stop yet. In fact, first, it calls for thanksgiving in the reading of the first chapter of John, and then prayers of petitions to Our Blessed Mother and to St. Michael, for the conversion of sinners, the exaltation of Holy Mother the Church and the defeat of the enemy. Fr. Bishop, all the more did these with a distinct affection one can almost feel when he recited the 3 Ave Mariae and the Prayer to St Michael.
After taking off the sacred vestments, Fr. Bishop spent some moments of silence thanking God for what had just happened, afterwards and to no surprise, droves of the faithful “drowned” him, all wanting to take their chance to gain an indulgence by kissing his Episcopal ring, but more than that, to offer their thanks and the warmth of their affection to such a bishop who, to my own recollection, did what simply was a miracle.
As I am just 22, truly what I saw today was something I haven’t seen in my whole life, and thus I too thank Fr. Bishop for the “miracle” of the Holy Mass he has celebrated today.