Even the pencils get blessed!


St. Augustine Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from the Philippines where he is assisting with English classes. Today he writes about celebrating Mass in a country where open-air churches invite not only human worshippers but birds and dogs as well.

This morning Francisco Chavez came to pick me up and drive me to the cathedral for the noon Mass. He’s a Filipino who actually lived for many years in Toronto and where much of his family are still located. I think he said they migrated to Canada about 40 years ago. He’ll be my driver for the next two days as I’ll have the noon Mass on Thursday and Friday as well as today. I was drafted in part because the noon Mass is an English-speaking Mass and perhaps more important, most of our community left either yesterday or this morning for the ordination of one of our young SCJs near Davao.

St. Augustine Cathedral is about a 15-minute car ride from our house and is in the center of town. It’s a big, very airy structure, as the climate would dictate. As a result, our large congregation (even though it was midweek the church was full) was joined by a much smaller collection of birds flying hither and yon. Didn’t see any dogs but they often appear in church as well. Last Sunday at Immaculate Conception, for example, there were at least three sleeping dogs (under pews) before Mass started.

After Mass, dozens of people come up to the the priest (or priests) asking for a blessing. Sometimes it is for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, or to deal with an illness or other infirmity. Other times it is just a request for a simple blessing. This happens in a Filipino church much more so than in the States. Today was no different; it probably took me 15 minutes to get back to the sacristy.

I was also asked to bless a large collection of religious articles. Perhaps the most unusual request came from a young man and woman who said they were taking an exam tomorrow and would I kindly bless them and a offer a special blessing for their pencils too?

On a different note, this morning we said farewell to our last two Filipino students, Edgar M. Abid and Marvin S. Dalapo, Jr. Tomorrow they take their final exam at Xavier University then they’ll head home for their vacation before returning for the fall semester. So as of tomorrow it will be the six Vietnamese and myself for the next 12 days of English classes before we wind it up and I head back to Manila.

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