30 Minutes of Grace

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In the past few weeks, I’ve been attending the 6pm mass at the Jesuit Health and Wellness Center. It fits my schedule well as I can go right after late afternoon meetings and before basketball practice. Mass is held daily in the chapel on the ground floor. Very simple. 30 minutes tops. No singing except for the Allelluia. All presided over by various Jesuit priests. Homilies are short and well thought-out. There is a discerning audience after all. Aside from the Lolo Jesuits, there is a smattering of scholastics, religious and lay people like myself. But beyond the convenience, I love going there because it is the most edifying of masses.
The first thing you see upon entering are the backs of the elderly Jesuits, or the Lolo Jesuits as we fondly call them. Some are wheelchair-bound, some are stooped over, some need their caregivers seated beside them for assistance. Nearly all of them are wearing their stoles. As the mass starts, their voices rise with the responses and during consecration, you see their hands lift, however feebly, as they participate in the familiar rite. They are given communion in their seats, and they patiently wait for the chalice that follows so that they can complete their holy supper. After mass is over, quite a few remain seated, deep in prayer and reflection.
I used to get sad looking at them – they seem so weak and depressed. But a Jesuit doctor says that’s not necessarily so. They may seem bent and broken but they’re not. They continue to be strong in their faith and their love for the Lord. So now I look at them with new eyes and I see how determined they are to participate in the mass, in all their frailty. I just need to look at Bro Refuerzo in his regular place by the altar, serving the presider ever so slowly and leading the Alleluia. I love hearing the voices gather strength as the mass progresses, even if Fr Chuang’s is sometimes just one second behind. I love how they say peace, some of them even standing and poking their brothers to make sure they see them flashing their “v” signs! And woe to the presider who forgets to give communion to Fr Tony Bautista – he is not afraid to raise his voice and demand for his host!
I always sit in the last row. And even if those snowy heads do tend to look alike, I manage to identify most of them from my vantage point. After mass, there is always an opportunity to greet them and chat with the sociable ones like Fr Ray, Fr Jess or Fr Sim. I get “kilig” when I see their eyes light up with recognition as it can only mean that I am going often enough that they recognize me.
So if you want a 30-minute dose of grace and holiness, attend mass at the JHWC. It will be the highlight of your day. It is for me.
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