Here's Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, doing what he does best: ministering to the people.
Brother Thaddeus Lancton, MIC, the Marians' newest missionary in the Philippines.
By Br. Thaddeus Lancton
The Lord called Abraham into a foreign land. This passage in Genesis is resonating with me lately, now that I am serving as a Marian missionary in the Philippines.
I remember mostly the promises God made to form nations out of the descendants of Abraham. But, when I recently reread the Genesis account, I was reminded of the many trials Abraham endured before God's promises were fulfilled. So, too, I am learning that all of God's promises require tests — spiritual tests. God is not a Teacher who grades us at the end of the day! He does, indeed, correct us, but not with red ink. He corrected us through the red Blood of His Son.
As for those other kinds of tests — college tests — with much help from God and some studious friends, I passed those tests last December at Franciscan University, in Steubenville, Ohio, where I earned a BA in philosophy. I thank God those tests are over. My diploma now hangs in Fr. Donald Calloway's office in Steubenville. With that particular chapter of my religious formation closed, I have come to the Philippines to continue my theological studies. School begins in June. I will have four years left before ordination. Brother James Cervantes, MIC, and Bart Lapus, a Marian seminarian, will be joining me here in August. We will all be studying at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, in Cagayan de Oro.
After a month of traveling to visit friends and family, I made my long trip to the Philippines. On the day of my arrival, I went with Fr. Mariusz Jarzabek, MIC, a missionary here, to the National Mental Health Institution. I needed a place to run after sitting in a plane for more than 24 hours. While I was running, Fr. Mariusz attended to the sick men and women who strolled the premises.
Father General Jan Rokosz, MIC, called Fr. Mariusz, and asked where he was. "I'm here with Br. Tadeusz (the name the Polish priests call me) at the mental health hospital." We had a great laugh — that I was already in the hospital because of traveling! But I stopped laughing after a minute. I'm not sick, but the people in this institution are, and they have such a great need for priests and spiritual help.
Father Mariusz regularly visits and administers the sacraments to those in the region in greatest need of mercy — the ill, the dying, the poor, lonely, and broken. He has therefore received the nickname (both because of his virtue and his appearance) of "St. John Vianney." At first, I was skeptical of calling him that, since I do not want to embarrass him. But when, on the following day, we visited the poor people surrounding the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong City, I was convinced I saw the spirit of St. John Vianney. There, in the broken language of Tagalog, Fr. Mariusz was explaining the image of The Divine Mercy to little children. They flocked to him as he gave out images of Jesus and some candy or cookies.
As we walked, we found two caskets. One father and one mother had died. The family's way of collecting money for the funeral was to gamble with card games. Father Mariusz, Angelo (our postulant in Manila), and I prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and the Rosary for them. I was surprised, and glad, to see with my very eyes the Marians' special calling — or "charism" — in action:
• to spread The Divine Mercy message and devotion;
• to spread devotion to Mary as the Immaculate Conception;
• to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and
• to serve where the need is greatest in parishes, shrines, and missions.
All four prongs of our charism were brought to Manila that Saturday.
I used to have doubts about my vocation to the Marians. Those doubts have almost disappeared since coming here. I see the spirits of both Blessed Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary Papczynski (1631-1701), the Marian Founder, and Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz (1871-1927), the Marian Renovator, in my fellow Marians here: Fr. Jan Migacz, MIC, and Fr. Walerian Pozniak, MIC. They both are intensely spiritual. They express their love for Christ through prayer, preaching, hearing confessions, and visiting the sick and dying.
What have I learned in the Philippines? That the Gospel is alive and effective, "sharper than a two-edged sword" (Heb 4:12). That Jesus Christ lives in His priests, enabling them to bring healing to His wounded sheep. And, that I am, for whatever reason, called to be a priest, too! Like Abraham, even my name has changed: "Joe" (from "G.I. Joe," in reference to the American soldiers who came to the Philippines during World War II). But it's close enough: I just tell them it's "Tadjio" (from the Spanish Tadeo). They smile at that, then a short conversation usually ensues, then laughter from the children. I'll see them again when I go running tomorrow.
When I see the faces of the Filipinos, I remember why I have come: to see and experience the Filipino way of living the Gospel. Many are very poor here, and so fasting has gained a new significance for me; not that I deny myself food for self-control, but I wish to give my food to those who have none. Our neighbors here at the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador sometimes go without dinner. So, I've learned to substitute a few "saging" (Visayan word for banana) for the rice, and give the rice to the Filipinos (which, to them, is like bread).
The Gospel is alive here, and I want to join in that life. I want to be free and joyful, like the children I pass every day who greet me as I pass by, "Father, Father!"
I want to be a "father," not a physical father, but a spiritual one. I want to spread the joy of Christ. But first, I must learn it from the joy of the poor here.
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