Circular Letter No. 3/2011
March 30, 2011
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
Here are some updates on some of the activities of MMP-Philippines:
1st Quarterly Formation for the Laity
“Thank you. The whole exercise was done smoothly. The formation was exactly that, a formation.” This was the remark of one of the 199 participants in the 1st Quarter Formation for the Laity held last March 12, 2011 at the Janssen Hall, Christ the King Compound, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City. The message was actually sent to another person via SMS. But, I would like to thank the sender personally for the kind observation. The remark seems to say that the quarterly program is rightly meeting its goal. Exactly that, a formation.
The program was initiated last year after an assessment on the diversity of groups doing the cenacle of the Marian Movement of Priests. Understandably, these groups have their own practices and orientations. To provide them with a common perspective in adopting and living the spirit of the Movement, the quarterly formation program was conceived. Having this perspective, the program also aims to offer modular presentations of basic themes, facilitating a thematic understanding of Our Lady’s messages in the light of the Scriptures and the Magisterium. With the benefit of gathering quarterly, the formation further hopes to deepen the commitment in living the consecration and in praying together in the cenacle. Lastly, the program aims to evoke the spirit of unity and collaboration in carrying out the work of Our Lady through the Marian Movement of Priests.
But, lest we forget, the formation is just a means. What is important is the one who forms - Our Lady Herself. In her message to Fr. Gobbi, she said: “My motherly action is the only thing necessary. It is my action alone that prepares souls to receive the gift of mine, that determines for each one the moment when will this be given, that gives a special grace by which my words can be understood and can produce in souls that marvelous reality which they express” (Message 77 d). This is how we look at the formation program: Our Lady herself forming us with her own maternal action.
The recent formation on the topic about Lent was surprisingly interesting. One most interesting was the learning that Lent was not meant for Easter, though, it is the peak of the celebration. It was intended, rather, for the preparation in baptism. During the early period of the church, Easter was celebrated without Lent. It was only later when Lent was observed as a period to prepare the catechumens for baptism. At that time, baptism was conferred mainly on Easter based on the belief it was the way to be initiated to the Paschal Mystery. Until now, this remains to be the faith of the Church. More than a ritual ceremony, baptism was valued as a lifetime commitment, thus requiring such a period of intensive preparation consisting of faith instructions. From a three-week period, the preparation was extended to five weeks, until finally, a forty-day season was established; following the forty-day experience of the Lord in the desert.
Clearly, Lent is meant for baptism. For those baptized, however, it is a period to prepare for the renewal of baptismal promises done yearly on Easter. This applies to most of us, but hardly anyone can remember those promises as baptism is conferred usually during infancy. This is precisely the purpose of the Lenten season: a period to learn the meaning of baptism and its inherent commitment that needs to be fulfilled.
The Church has ample provisions to help people prepare for the yearly renewal of baptismal promises. From Ash Wednesday up to the last week of Lent, the liturgy provides a lot of enriching teachings on baptism. One simply needs to listen attentively and do personal reflections from the weekday and Sunday scripture readings. This, of course, requires attendance in Masses, where these readings are proclaimed and explained.
On the practical observance, interiority is very much emphasized: in secret. This was how Lord underlined the practice of the Lenten disciplines. More than the externalities of religious piety, praying must be done in solitude; fasting must be observed as mastering self-control; and almsgiving must be done to learn to die-to-self in order to love selflessly. Interiority defines the observance of Lent by looking deeper into one’s self and discerning how to live the baptismal consecration with commitment. What a beautiful season Lent is to bring about a new springtime in the Church, when all the baptized are yearly renewed, committed to live the baptismal promises.
Interestingly, this new springtime is within the maternal plan of Our Lady. “But see how, in this most cruel winter, the buds of a renewed life are already appearing. For the Church, a new spring of the triumph of my Immaculate Heart is about to burst forth. Even now, her branches can be seen sprouting with many buds: those who have consecrated themselves to me and live by my own spirit. You are these buds whom I am placing on the branches of the Church. Her most beautiful springtime is at hand. This will be for her like a new Pentecost.” (paraphrased from Message 172 f-n)
Besides this, living the baptismal promises is an essential commitment of the Movement. This is clearly expressed in the words of consecration to the Immaculate Heart: “By this act of consecration, we intend to live, with you and through you, all the obligations assumed by our baptismal consecration.” This commitment, likewise, includes among others, “an interior conversion, free of any attachment, only to do always the Will of the Father.” Here, we see the mutual significance of Lent and the spirit of the Movement.
Indeed, the Marian Movement of Priests finds its place in the mainstream of the liturgical life of the Church. Finding its significance, a spirit, impalpable yet very strong and very alive, it brings forth springtime in the Church. In the spirit of Lent, I urge the whole MMP family to be more enthused to live the consecration daily in order live our baptism faithfully. I also call everyone to be dedicated and tireless in gathering regularly to pray in the cenacle of the Immaculate Heart, so much needed to persevere and grow in living the consecration. With and through Our Lady, may we have a meaningful and fruitful Easter.
1. Archbishop Bo of the Archdiocese of Yangon (Myanmar) has re-confirmed his invitation for the MMP Philippines to facilitate the annual retreat of the clergy, numbering around 100. To join them are priests from the Diocese of Hpa-an, a newly created diocese with around 20 priests. The retreat is set on September 12 - 16, 2011 in Yangon.
2. Bishop Villena of the Diocese of Bayombong (Nueva Viscaya) has also invited the MMP for the annual retreat of his clergy. The invitation was personally conveyed during my audience with him at his residence last March 8. The retreat was formally announced during the Clergy Meeting on that same day. It was scheduled on November 7 - 11, 2011 in Tagaytay City
3. The plan of the Diocese of Laoag for a retreat with the MMP is still pending, due to a conflict of schedule with the retreat of Bayombong clergy. Fr. Bong, the priest-in-charge for the Clergy Formation, is still negotiating for another date. The meeting I had with the Bishop and the priests last March 15 was hopeful, seeing their interest for the MMP. Bishop Utleg is the bishop of Laoag Diocese.
4. The Diocese of Digos, under Bishop Afable, cancelled the previously scheduled retreat with the MMP supposedly on July 11 - 15. Sis. Indai Banquerigo, MMP coordinator in Davao, relayed the information last month. Bishop Afable is dearly known for his support to the MMP family.
5. The Summer Retreat for Priests in Baguio on May 9 -13 is almost a month away. Some priests had inquired and expressed their interest, but very few have so far confirmed. Deadline for registration is set on April 30. We are reiterating our appeal to all cenacle groups to pray for the success of this retreat. With Our Lady’s special predilection for priests, this is one retreat that should not be missed. For the lay coordinators, please follow up the invitation with the priests in your area.
1. Recollection in Las Pinas
A number of leaders and members of cenacle groups from Las Pinas and Paranaque have gathered in a recollection last February 26 at the Cenacle House, 18 Avocado St, Pilar Village, Las Pinas City. I commend the coordinators for initiating this activity, aiming to revive and unify the cenacles in the area of Las Pinas, Paranaque and Muntinlupa, comprising the Diocese of Paranaque.
This area has been known in the past for many active cenacle groups. Imbued with the spirit of MMP, they were closely knit, doing yearly celebration of the Diocesan Cenacle Gathering. Lately, however, it was observed that the spirit seemed to have waned. Divisions and misunderstandings have unfortunately emerged. New engagements crept in, causing distractions and confusions on many. Some are still drifting around, but others are nowhere to be found. The need to revive and unify is indeed urgent.
Facing this challenge, I would like to quote some words of assurance from Our Lady: “The Adversary is tormenting you in every way, is placing snares upon your path, is sowing misunderstanding and divisions to bring you to discouragement and is seducing you with temptations of all kinds, in order to intimidate you and cause you to halt. Do not be afraid. I am covering you with my immaculate mantle and protecting you. I am always at your side, and I am leading you along the way which I have traced out for you. I allow his snares in order to purify you, but then I personally intervene in order to help you conquer them and to overcome them (paraphrased from Message 312 d-e).
As for the distractions and confusions, Our Lady has this strong reminder: “I want you to be truly detached from everyone. Do not seek other voices or other supports. Do not become uneasy if you find that movements inspired by souls to whom I have revealed myself are springing up here and there. On the contrary, all is part of my great plan. And so, each thing must be in its place. Your place is the Marian Movement of Priests (paraphrased from Message 73 g, i-j).
Let us pray that the effort initiated would bear fruit. Meantime, stay focused, detached from anyone or anything except to her, our beloved Mother.
2. the Cenacle reaches San Pablo
Last month, I wrote about the rapid spread of cenacles in several towns in Laguna, an amazing work of Our Lady through Sis. Nini and Bro. Boy Vista. From Calamba, they moved to Nagcarlan towards Paete, then changed direction to Los Banos. I still remember my wish: “May Our Lady lead them towards San Pablo.”
Our Lady, indeed, brought them to San Pablo. Sis. Nini and Bro. Boy informed me last week that the cenacle was introduced at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Calilhan, San Pablo City. They were welcomed by the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Dodie Arupo. Joining the parishioners for the first cenacle in the parish were companions from Calamba, Sto. Tomas, Nagcarlan, Liliw and Pagsanjan. A real answered prayer! Ave Maria!
Surprisingly, Fr. Dodie is a priest-friend. I just visited him last February in his parish together with two priests: Fr. Ric (from Antipolo) and Fr. Eyong (Batangas). We take turns visiting one another for fraternal bonding. But, I never expected that the cenacle would be brought to his parish, the first in San Pablo City. Nothing accidental, it was Our Lady’s plan. Whatever it is, Fiat!
But, I thought of Fr. Dodie. Do you know that, among us four, he is the only one who has yet to be introduced to the MMP? Fr. Ric has been for many years attending the cenacle of priests in Antipolo. Fr. Eyong has just attended the clergy retreat last October, and, since then, has been traveling far to join the priests’ cenacle in Quezon City. I think of Fr. Dodie, now - not just a priest-friend, but a priest who will be with us, too, in the love of the Immaculate Heart. Let us pray that Fr. Dodie would come to know that he, indeed, is also a priest-son of Our Lady’s predilection.
Certainly, all priests are sons of her predilection. May all heed her call and accept her invitation. God bless you all.
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
REV. FR. ROMERICO A. PRIETO
Marian Movement of Priests - Philippines