My Encounter with a “Retired” Priest
By Apolinario Villalobos
First of all, I am not in favor of using the secular term “retired” to the priests who are advancing in age and who need to rest due to ailment. The ailing and aging priests are handicapped but they should not be considered as retired. The word is most inappropriate for them because of their spiritual vow which is supposed to be for their lifetime. The priests should not be treated like ordinary employees who retire at age 60 or 65.
I met a religious guy in Divisoria while I was taking my lunch in a sidewalk carinderia. He was neatly garbed in a black polo shirt and denim, but his age showed on his furrowed face. He was stuttering which as I learned later was due to a mild heart attack. I came to know about his real identity when he was addressed by the owner of the carinderia as “Father”. I got curious, so I broke the ice by admiring his bracelet made of cat’s eye beads. I was also glad that he accepted the coffee that I offered.
Like me, I found out that he has friends, too, living in Baseco compound. That noon, I found out that he walked all the way from the said place to Divisoria which for a guy his age, could be taxing. In all honesty, he admitted that he was a “retired” priest. He stopped saying Mass because of his stutter. In my ignorance, I asked him if “retired” priests with handicap like him are not allowed to co-celebrate a Mass, by just sitting on the side of the altar but still garbed in appropriate garment for the Mass. He said, he was not offered such invitation, yet. I asked such question because I witnessed Masses, especially, those intended for well-known personalities, with plenty of co-celebrators who just stand behind the celebrating priest. So, I thought, why is it not possible for a handicapped one to just sit on the side? All he told me was, it’s difficult to be retired, especially, if it is against one’s will.
My new-found friend is now living with his nephew who assists him in his continuing advocacy of reaching out to the children of financially-handicapped families. Some weekends, his nephew would be with him to distribute goodies that he would collect for weeks. When I asked him for future plans, he replied that for as long as his two feet can still carry him to wherever he wanted to be, he will never get tired of reaching out to his “children”.
Advocacies similar to what the priest practices are not difficult to develop in the heart of any person who is willing to share. All one needs is a resolute compassion. It can be done and the priest has proved it.