Dear Cathedral Ohana:
I write to you from Makati in Metro Manila this morning and in a few minutes I will be heading off to the Cenacle House in Quezon City for three days of silence and spiritual direction. The name “Cenacle” comes from the Acts of the Apostles and is the room where Mary, the mother of Jesus, sat in prayer and waited after Jesus was placed in the tomb and subsequently resurrected from it. To me, it speaks to patience and anticipation in our spiritual lives, something with which I hope to get in touch during my time on retreat.
After my retreat, I will go to the national headquarters of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines for a two-day meeting with representatives there. For those of you who may not be aware, I am on a national church commission that collaborates with the church in the Philippines, which is why I often come here to lead and participate in spiritual retreats.
Being here brings back memories of my childhood in Guam and trips that I took here as a child to visit with friends of my grandparents. Even at that young age I remember being struck by the mansions of Forbes Park and the stark contrast they had to the poverty that I saw in the streets. Life here is difficult for many people and on one of my recent trips I recall driving by what they call a “sari-sari” store, which is a small shop on the street where you can buy water, snacks, and the like. As we drove by the store, I was shocked to see an open casket at the entryway and when I asked my driver what was going on, he replied that the family was waiting for funds so that they could bury their loved one. This could take several weeks or even months. In the meantime, the embalmed body stayed outside the store. I was also told that many families set up temporary mah-jongg casinos, taking a cut of the proceeds in order to fund funerals and burials for their loved ones. And yet, in the midst of these challenges, the faith of the people here is strong and steadfast and that’s something I want to tap into. Perhaps that’s part of why I like coming here so often. It makes me realize that while we think we can control things and manipulate guarantees in our lives, God is the only one in control and as I said in the sermon this past Sunday, the only thing we can really do is focus on the presence of God if we want to achieve both inner and outer peace. These are the realizations that I have as I drive through the streets of Manila which are not only full of life, but also rawness, honesty, and truth.
So, I ask for your prayers as I prepare to go on retreat and I will keep you in my prayers as well.
But before I close this missive, however, I’d also like to reflect on my time with Cathedral over the last week since I last wrote to you. First of all, I want to thank Heather Patton-Graham for being there on Sunday morning at the 10:30 service so that I could leave after the sermon and come home to pack for my trip. It’s been a joy to have her with us on Sunday mornings. I’d also like to thank you all for your understanding about the issues we were having with the sound system. You were all so kind about it and the only comments that I got were not that you couldn’t hear, but that you liked that I was preaching from the aisle rather than the pulpit. That did my heart good. Please rest assured that Liane is working on the issue and we hope to have the sound system up and running by this coming Sunday’s services.
I‘d also like to report that we had a small, intimate, and beautiful wedding in the sanctuary on Friday afternoon for choir member Andrew Sakaguchi and his partner Roland. I was touched that it was important to Andrew and Roland to have their wedding in a church setting and in the presence of God.
Please know that I’m thinking of you from afar, and that I will write again next week with reflections on my silent retreat after it is complete. Please take care until then.