Christmas letter from Philippines

Our Lady of Remedies Church
Malate, Manila, Philippines

Christmas 2012

Dear Friends,

It is now the middle of December and I am trying to write this general letter for those of you who use Email. I was able to get off the Snail Mail letters a few weeks ago.

Frequently, I am asked questions like, How many years are you in the Philippines? My answer to many of those enquiring – since they are under 50 – is that I arrived here before them!

Christmas is a very busy month for Christian Churches and none busier than in the Philippines. Here in Malate, a total of 77 couples are scheduled to be married during December. None on Sundays or Christmas Day, however. Then on the 16th the Novena of Masses begins. In Malate we have one at 4:30am and another at 8pm.  Many who attend are those who do not normally “darken the doors” during the year.  The practice has spread to other parts of the world where Filipinos are living; even some non-Filipinos take part.

Last Sunday marked the formal implementation of the new English Roman Missal here in the Philippines. Together with priests and lay people all over the world we find that the language used is often very awkward.  The translation is much too literal.  What Rome insisted upon was Formal Correspondence; what was needed was Dynamic Equivalence.

Around this time last year, a terrible flood hit one of the areas in Northern Mindanao where I once worked (1968 – ‘76). It destroyed houses and bridges and the number who lost their lives is around 2,700. This year’s was just as bad.  The full force devastated a Province that never got hit before. Number of dead is estimated to be around 1,000 with another 800                                                                           still missing. Dead?

Thanks to family and friends, my vacation last Summer in Ireland was very enjoyable. I travelled almost 2,000 miles inside 6 weeks.  Despite that, I was unable to visit all the people on my list!

I am very grateful to you all for your many acts of kindness towards me. And a special word of thanks to those who contribute towards the funds that I use for my work.  The Social Services cannot fulfill the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people who are extremely poor (many of them are Street Families) and so on a daily basis I find trying to respond to those who come to us for help.

Last week, during my Retreat at a Jesuit Spirituality Center, I became even more conscious that every Christian is a missionary. It is two-way; giving a little, receiving a lot. I trust that you feel the same way about your mission in life. May God continue to bless you and your family with health, happiness and holiness. A Blessed Christmas to you all.