One of the most moving scenes for me during Pope Francis’ recent Philippine visit was that of him and Cardinal Tagle consoling Kristel Padasas’ father at the Nunciature, after she was killed in an accident in Leyte during the Pope’s Mass there.
It resonated deeply because, having been in the same situation as Mr. Padasas many years ago, I had hoped to receive consolation and comfort from my church leader at that time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so.
Looking at the photograph brought me back to an afternoon in late May 1998, when my son lay in a coma in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Philippine Heart Center, and I, six months pregnant, received a visit from one of the pastors from our church and his wife. Maya Angelou has a famous quote, one that I’ve always taken to heart: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you say, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s a tenet I’ve tried to live by for many years now, having experienced first-hand how words can sting, and how the feelings remain long after the words have been forgotten.
Seventeen years down the road, I don’t quite remember what the pastor talked about, but what he said as we were walking toward the elevator stands out in my memory: “What is Jesus teaching you here?”
I stopped in my tracks, but was too stunned too speak. There I was, heavy with child, while my son hovered between life and death, and my pastor was asking me a question that I felt was completely inappropriate at that time.
Perhaps he meant well and wanted to say, “This is the time to place your full trust in Jesus.” But his question was, to be honest, uncalled for and highly insensitive to ask of a mother worried sick about her comatose son.
A few years later, I left that particular church and moved to another. Which is not to say there weren’t many other wonderful people from that congregation who were one with my family in our hour of greatest need. We have remained friends to this day.
This is why I was glued to the television all four days that Pope Francis was here, watching him closely, listening intently to all his words, inspired by his ways, reignited in ways that I did not think was possible.
I’ve said repeatedly that the Pope is not my Savior, but the Pope knows my Savior really well, and I see Him come fully alive in all of Pope Francis’ ways and words.
“There is nothing to fear because Jesus has been there ahead of you.” What words to treasure and to take heart! When I heard this, I remembered all the critical times in my journey, and nodded through the tears that, yes, He has truly been faithful and that with Him there is nothing to fear at all.
I’m certain we all have our favorite moments with Pope Francis, and to this day, there is so much to reflect on. He belongs not just to the Catholic faith, but to all of us. His shining example is worth emulating. I am truly grateful that we had him on our shores, gracing and blessing our lives for a full four days.
Pope Francis spoke about going into the peripheries long after he has left; let me try to help by talking here each week about a periphery which you may want to involve yourselves in, if the Holy Spirit moves you.
One is a book drive I am currently working on for the children of an elementary school in Loon, Bohol.
Loon, if you will recall, was the hardest-hit town in the province back in October 2013. The children need books in good condition (no torn pages, coloring books that have not been colored in, no old textbooks, please) and art and coloring materials for children ages 5-12.
There is an existing library but it is sorely lacking in books. If you wish to help out, please send an e-mail to [email protected], subject line “Books for Bohol.” We will advise you on the drop-off points.
Next week, I’ll talk about a periphery for children with heart disease. If you have other peripheries you can share, please write to me and let’s see how many we can reach together.
Many of us are already missing Pope Francis, but the real challenge is to keep his lessons alive. Remember his messages, and channel the longing for Him into giving. Onward to the peripheries we go!