Saturday, August 24, 2013


Sister Mary Mark Martinez, RSM
+August 24, 2013

I never went to any Mercy school, so my first encounter with Sister Mark was in 1980 when I was in the Father Dueñas Minor Seminary.  Every Tuesday, our Rector, Father Tony Perez, went to say Mass at the Oka Convent and we had to go along with him.  Well, we knew we were bound to have a good meal, too, because we stayed after Mass to have dinner with the sisters.

I had heard of Sister Mark before I saw her on those Tuesday evenings at the Convent; heard of her as the strong principal of the Academy.  So I was a bit intimidated by a person with such a reputation.

But she showed a different side of herself when she was with her sisters at the Convent.  She would get up on occasion and sing a funny song or tell a joke.  She made me laugh.

Years and years later, as a priest, we would say hello and maybe talk a little, but nothing lengthy.  But in the recent past, we had talked a lot more and that was when I bonded with her a bit more.

The Sister Mark I never knew.  The habit was simplified by the time I knew her.

She opened up to me and told me all kinds of stories.  But, more than that, she was very friendly with me, joking with me, taking an interest in my activities.  She was intelligent, witty, capable, lively, positive.  I never had an unpleasant second with her, and always, always, always good feelings and good experiences.

Teacher, principal, superior, formation director, historian.

A woman with a good head on her shoulders and a happy heart.

Rest in peace, my dear Sister Mark.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Capuchin missionary Påle' Román had his weaknesses, as we all do.

He was very strong and passionate, and not always diplomatic or prudent in his speech.  He stepped on toes.  Often.

But he had his virtues.  He could learn new languages at lightning speed.  He was a tireless worker.  He was an effective public speaker.  And he had great influence over many people.

In 1905, while many churches in the Philippines were just recovering from the effects of the revolution and the conflicts with the incoming Americans, Påle' Román was sent, with a few other Capuchins, to some towns in the southern Tagalog region to win people back to the practice of the faith.

The Church of Tayabas

In these towns, such as Tayabas and Lucban, people had strayed away from religious practice because the Spanish Franciscan friars had abandoned them during the revolution against Spain and in the turmoil of the transition to American rule, which some Filipinos opposed.

Spanish priests of any sort were unpopular with many people.  Intrepidly, Påle' Román and the others went into these towns to urge people to come back to the sacraments.

Påle' Román, armed with his good command of Tagalog which he had learned in Manila since his arrival there in 1901, enjoyed much success in Tayabas and Lucban in that year of 1905.  Couples living together or married only by the civil authorities came to him for the sacrament of matrimony; confession lines were long; the churches full to hear his preaching; people came to Mass.

The Pulpit in Tayabas Church
Did Påle' Román preach from here?

So successful was he that he was sent to the nearby town of Sariaya, another Franciscan parish abandoned by the friars during the political and social upheavals.

But in Sariaya, Påle' Román experienced his Good Friday.

Instead of great success, he was surrounded by a cloud of controversy from the beginning, ensuring a quick conclusion.  He lasted in Sariaya for only six months, from December of 1905 till June of 1906.

The Church of Sariaya

It seems, according to the Capuchin records, that a certain Filipino priest, a native of Sariaya, was very interested in being assigned to his home parish when it became vacant.  Instead, when Påle' Román was assigned there as parish priest, rather than the native son, trouble started.  His family and their allies began to make life difficult for him.

Apparently, the last Spanish Franciscan pastor was also greatly disliked, having had a town resident get in trouble, or, if memory serves, even sentenced to suffer the death penalty.  Another kastila (Spanish) priest meant trouble.

Church staff quit.  Many people avoided church.  His convento, or residence, was pelted with stones.  Storekeepers were instructed not to sell him food.  Påle' Román himself, perhaps with some humor, recounts how he saw from his bedroom window funeral processions passing right past the church to the cemetery without the priest's blessings, to a cemetery he himself could not access because the cemetery keeper refused to give him the key.

Even American officials went to Sariaya to try and mediate.  But, in the end, Påle' Román was recalled by his own Capuchin superior to do work elsewhere.  His Triduum of Six Months ended without his death, and without a resurrection.

The parish priest today of Sariaya was kind enough to let me see the baptismal records.  It shows that Påle' Román was not totally incapacitated in Sariaya.  He did baptize while he was there, as the records show.

In his own accounts, he did have supporters.  Some slipped him food.  But they had to be careful going about this, lest they antagonize Påle' Román's opponents.  Priests come and go, but Påle' Román's supporters would have to deal with his enemies long after Påle' Román's departure.

The Sariaya cemetery : closed off to the parish priest

So, in a kind of reparation, with the help of my good friends, I offered Holy Mass in the church of Sariaya.  It was a special experience for me to offer the very same Mass (the traditional Latin Mass) in the same church where Påle' Román said Mass, amidst much controversy.  My Mass, in contrast, was celebrated in placid tranquility.

I also met the town historian, Eric Dedace, who was most helpful.  I can say that one chapter of this story has now been closed in my book.  With much gratefulness.

Sariaya Church as Påle' Román probably saw it
The Rectory
It's been renovated, but it's basically the same structure that was pelted with stones when Påle' Román lived there in 1906.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


In the year 2000, since I had to go to Rome as a delegate to the Capuchin General Chapter, I had a chance to try and develop a devotion to St. Dominic, something I consider under-developed in my own life.

I knew of him since childhood, if only as the one who "gave us the rosary," as the Chamorro hymn Ta Fan Lisåyo says.  As a kid, I read about his life as a former Augustinian who saw the need to preach the Catholic faith in the south of France during the Albigensian heresy.

Even before I became a Capuchin, I knew he was a contemporary of Saint Francis and that they had met.  Then, as a friar myself, I came to understand our orders as "twins," calling each other's founders "Holy Father Francis" and "Holy Father Dominic." 

There is a tradition that, on the feast of St Francis, a Dominican preaches, and a Franciscan preaches on the feast of St Dominic.

Later, I went to a Dominican school of theology.  Most of my theology professors from 1986-1990 were Dominicans. 

But there, we heard almost daily about St Thomas Aquinas - not St Dominic. 

I still consider myself quite inadequate in the area of St Dominic personally; who he was, and what were the main characteristics of his vision and ideals.

So in 2000 I decided, on a free day, to make a pilgrimage to the Church of Santa Sabina, the international headquarters of the Dominican Order, where tradition says Saint Dominic and Saint Francis met to talk and pray.

Santa Sabina in Rome

The church, actually a basilica, is somewhat out of the way.  But I found it, and approached the porter, a young lay woman; probably a Dominican tertiary.  She spoke no English, so I spoke in broken Italian.  I asked to see the cell (room) where Saints Francis and Dominic prayed.

She said I had to wait; the priest who could allow me access was out.  So that was my first surprise; that this room was not a main attraction there for visitors.  In fact, there was no promotion about it at the church.  It was like a well-kept secret.

How good that porter was to stand there for the better part of an hour, trying to keep me occupied by speaking to me in beautiful Italian, and bearing with my poor Italian.

Finally, the priest was available and he let me into what I remember was a pretty non-descript room.  Some call it a chapel, but I don't remember it as one.  But that was 13 years ago.

I sat there, and said some prayers and tried to imagine the scene 800 years ago.  But I must confess that not much happened and I made for the door.  I was happy to have waited almost an hour for a fifteen minute visit.

I later learned that a Carmelite, Saint Angelus, was also involved in the visit between Saints Dominic and Francis.  I suppose, then, it was their moment, all those years ago.  And I still need to get to know this Saint Dominic a bit more.