(Homily during the Eucharistic Celebration of Araw ng Kapatid, October 24, 2014, Capuchin Retreat Center, Lipa City)
What are we celebrating these days of the AKAP?
First of all, we celebrate the Feast of our Seraphic Father Francis of Assisi as a Province. It has always been difficult for us to gather on the feast day of St. Francis since some of our fraternities and parishes are under his patronage. We have St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Pulo, Cabuyao, Laguna, St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity at the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Parish in Sungay, Tagaytay City and recently added to these is St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Davila, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. And so we could not have a single point wherein whichwe can gather to celebrate on the day itself. We do have particular celebrations on our respective fraternities celebrate separately but we gather weeks later to celebrate the feast as a Province. And so this is the first cause of celebrating during these days of the AKAP (Araw ng mga Kapatid, Araw ng Kapatiran).
Secondly and rather glaringly, we celebrate during the days of AKAP the essential aspect of our life as Capuchins, of our Franciscan call (Bokasyong Franciscano, Buhay Capuchino)- our life inFRATERNITY. Quoting our General Minister, Br. Mauro Johri, from his most recent Circular Letter, “Fraternal life is a priority in our life as Capuchins. The individuality of each brother is a precious gift to be respected and supported, but the “I” of each of us becomes even more precious and fertile when it is realized within the “us” of fraternal life.”
But which fraternity do we celebrate? Do we celebrate merely the “present” fraternity?
These days we celebrate not only the present fraternity but the past fraternity and the future as well. Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero says, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan. What we are, our identity today is because of the rich heritage gifted us by our brothers in the past. What our forebears did should not be merely romanticized and relegate as passe or lipas na but lived as well in our present fraternities.
Certain characteristics of our fraternities then are worth noting and Br. Mauro made mention of these in his Circular Letter:
The brothers lived in withdrawn areas but even so could hear the cries of people and be of service to them.
The houses were characterized essentially with austerity and sobriety reminding the brothers that they were merely pilgrims and strangers in this world.
In their houses food had to be sufficient only for a few days by which others see in them that confidence and trust in the Divine Providence was more than just an edifying discourse or beautiful words.
The brothers went to places where no one wanted to go.
Because of the life that our former brothers lived the Order produced a multitude of saints. We celebrate a fraternity of SAINTS!
We bring the fraternity of the past into the present fraternity finding it a significant and relevant means of responding to the challenges we face today. And so we celebrate today:
– a fraternity of simplicity living a life limited to the minimum necessary not the maximum allowed,
– a fraternity which accomplishes the various forms of services entrusted to it by the Church because it is rooted deeply in prayer,
– a fraternity which is always open to every person without distinction of class race or nationality,
– a fraternity in which brothers put aside their personal conveniences, break loose from debilitating entanglements and are unafraid to go where the Church wants them to go even to places where no one wants to go.
We celebrate the joy of the fraternity but not joy per se but joy which is reaching out to perfection. We know what “perfect joy” means. It may entail pains and suffering those which is not brought about by sin because a person who is in sin suffers and is in pain but pains and suffering because we have been faithful to our commitment and covenant with God; pains and sufferings because we have proclaimed what is true; pains and sufferings because we have done what is right and broken loose from what is merely convenient, practical, the rush of conformist waves and what is pernicious cronyism. And so even if we suffer and are in pain, as a brother replies to me when I asked him how he is in his new ministry, we endure joyfully.
In such instances we look to Christ, His cross which stands alone on top of the hill called Calvary- alone accomplishing the Father’s will.
And so with these we bring the fraternity, our Franciscan call, our Capuchin life into its future- a life in communion with the Eternal fraternity. We have a vision of it now in the Eucharist we celebrate. “There is no Jew, Greek, Gentile, circumcised, uncircumcised…Bisaya, Tagalog, Ilocano here…all are one in Christ. A fraternity united, in communion. A fraternity of pardon, mercy and charity. A fraternity we truly will hopefully join one day!
We celebrate AKAP- Araw ng Kapatid, Araw ng Kapatiran- the past, the present and that which is to come!