A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
March 31, 2013
By Jose Veloso Abueva & Ma. Socorro Encarnacion Abueva
Following our Catholic Catechism, Coring and I had long understood our life’s purpose as Catholics to be: To know God and to love God and serve Him; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We were to follow God’s commandments and the teachings of the Church. To pray always, to avoid sin, to help our neighbor in need, to confess our sins and do penance, and thus strive to live in His grace. In this way we would live a good Christian life and hope to merit life eternal in heaven.
In fact, for very long each of us had sought our Catholic life’s purpose so imperfectly.
As orphans early in our lives, we had both felt insecure and driven in order to survive and overcome. We worked hard and sacrificed to obtain a good education, at U.P. And our parents left us a good example as Catholics.
My own parents, who had served in the underground provincial government, were tortured and executed by Japanese soldiers as our country was liberated from the Japanese occupation late in 1944. I recovered their broken rosary among their skulls and bones and soiled clothes at the site of their execution on a hillside in Valencia, Bohol, our home province.
Thus I had sought and valued a modest, comfortable life for myself and my family, success in my profession, a good name, and a legacy to be remembered by. But I also grew in wanting to serve my country and humankind in the various ways I was best prepared to do as a teacher, a scholar, and an activist. With some reward, I guess, in my worldly pride.
Past fifty, I became more conscious of my mortality, God’s judgment, and eternal life. More and more I learned to understand and mean my vow in my morning prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of your love, peace, justice, and joy.” This gave clarity and direction to my life, work and relationships.
While Coring and I lived in Tokyo (1977-87) we were able to meet Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa personally on different occasions. They were honored guests and lecturers at the United Nations University where I served. It was so inspiring to be with them up close.
As we knelt the Holy Father raised me up by my arms, saying “Brother, God love your family.” I would write a poem on this encounter and on the occasion of his visit to the Philippines. And I took several long-distance photos of the Holy Father as souvenirs. And one of Mother Teresa.
Indeed, serving and preparing for eternal life with God and our loved ones is what really matters; as it should have mattered from the beginning.
Coring and I came to a fuller realization of this truth during our 10-day pilgrimage in the Holy Land in Israel on 9-19 March 2000, with 44 other Filipino pilgrims.
In our journey of faith, discovery and renewal we were led by Father Robert P. Reyes, of the parish of the Holy Sacrifice in U.P. Diliman, and Fr. Renato Roque C. Villanueva, of the parish of St. Vincent Ferrer, in Candelaria, Zambales.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land was our new beginning. In praise and thanksgiving, and with His grace, following Jesus and His teachings and commands became our renewed vow and resolve.
Following Jesus is also the title of our anthology book on our pilgrimage that we collectively wrote and I gladly edited. Each pilgrim contributed his or her own mini memoir and reflection. As did our shepherd priests their homilies. Our members from the Family Rosary Crusade also made a video of our days in the Holy Land.
So we have mementos and reminders of our blessed journey in the first year of the Third Millennium: Christus heri, hodie, semper (Christ yesterday, today, always).
Four years later, refocusing the purpose of our lives in each of the forty days that Coring and I read and reflected together on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, we realize how much more we should do to put God at the center of our lives, to love and serve others, to extend His fellowship, and help fulfill His mission on earth. We are also asked to strive for holiness!
It is good to be inspired by our first two Filipino saints: San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod. And by Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis whom we deeply admire. And also to respond to the challenge by the theologian Hanz Küng to actively participate in the affairs of our Church if our bishops allow us.
Personally, we believe that women should be allowed to become priests. Women religious can attend to the spiritual and social needs of so many more of the faithful who are not served because of the shortage of male priests.
This little essay is our latest “Life Purpose Statement”—my joint commitment with Coring, that summarizes our humble understanding of God’s purpose for our lives.
For this awakening we thank God with all our hearts.
We humbly pray for His grace to enable us to live our sense of our life’ purpose. As we share it with all our loved ones and our sisters and brothers in Christ.
This year Coring will turn 81, and I will be 85. For some time now, some of our friends and relatives would re-assure us: “You’re looking very well.”
P.S. Evidently, they had not heard of a true story told by Nelson Rockefeller, one-time Governor of New York State and the Vice-President when Gerald Ford became the President. (After President Richard Nixon had to resign because of the Watergate scandal.)
Gov. Rockefeller would remind his friends of the stages of life: “Infancy, adolescence, youth, early maturity, middle age, seniority. And, finally: “You’re looking very well.”