Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Never underestimate the value of your personal example, no matter how invisible you think you may be.

These two sisters made a lasting impression on me in my childhood.  And all they did to do that was go to Mass.

These two sisters, Tan Rita Tenorio Tuncap on the right dressed in the mestisa, and Tan Amanda Gumataotao Tenorio on the left, lived in a house just behind Saint Jude Church in my home town of Sinajaña.

I was a tanores (altar boy) and served Mass every single day, and these two sisters were there every single day, especially for the earliest Masses possible.

Our people had the reputation and custom of being early risers.  When the Americans first took over Guam in 1899, they found it unfamiliar (and even irritating to some) that the Chamorros started their day at 4AM.

Part of the reason was the agrarian nature of their lives.  People grew what they ate, so they started working on their farms and ranches while the morning was still cool.  The other reason was that many people went to daily Mass, which was as early as possible in those days when one had to fast from food and water from midnight till Mass.  Then one has to remember that there was nothing at night to keep people up late, so they went to bed early (for us moderns).  Echoes of Ben Franklin's "Early to bed, early to rise..."

Weekday Masses at Saint Jude's were at 7PM, and the two sisters were there.  On Saturday and Sunday, they would walk to church in the morning darkness to go to Mass.  They were so quiet.  They didn't talk while walking.  They would come inside, bless themselves with holy water, go into their pew, kneel and make the triple sign of the cross (Pot i señåt....) then the full sign of the cross from forehead to breast to shoulders.

After Mass they'd walk home just as quietly.  They smiled and returned greetings, but otherwise said nothing.

I always noticed the two sisters always wore black or some dark clothing.  This may have been because they kept the old tradition of wearing black as a sign of mourning (luto).  Tan Rita was a widow and probably wore the luto in mourning of her husband.  Tan Amanda never married and may have worn the luto in honor of her parents, or, she may have just preferred dark clothing.

Many women wore black for a year after the death of a close loved one and, in that year, did not go to parties.  Some widows wore black for the rest of their lives.

A member of the extended family told me that one of the two sisters (I forget which) kept a promesa, the custom of keeping a promise to observe a certain novena.  In preparation for the finakpo', the last day of the novena, she would not only hold a dinner for those who came, she would also buy hams or turkeys or what have you and give them to neighbors or others who were not expected at her own dinner.  She did this as a way of giving thanks for the graces obtained through the novena.  Che'cho' karidåt.  Works of charity accompany prayer.

Wise scholars?  Astounding preachers?  Yes and no.  Not in the usual sense of those words, but they were wise because they knew the fear and love of God and they preached eloquently through their actions.  What did I learn?

1. Do the good; do it every day. 
2. Do it because it is your duty to God, and for no other reason. 
3. Church is a sacred place.  God is present.  Show you know this through your decorum.
4. Pray and do works of charity because God gives you graces in His charity towards you.
5. Celebrate and throw a dinner.

What they may not have known is that someone was watching, and was edified.  This is also our duty.  Not only to do good for the love of God but for the love of our neighbor who sees you do good and is inspired.

But Tan Rita and Tan Amanda were too humble, in the real sense, to have even thought for a minute that what they were doing was inspiring to anybody.

Friday, October 25, 2013


"A healthy mind in a healthy body."

A goal we should all aspire to achieve!

Italy does its share in promoting this.  Besides the holy places and magnificent churches, one of the things I will always miss about Italy is the food.  NOT the pricey food found in fancy restaurants, but the simple, home-style cooking found in the humblest Italian kitchen.

First off, the Italians love their fruits and vegetables, and they put a high value on freshness.  Nothing out of a can or a bag.  From the garden to the table within the day.  They grill it, boil it or eat it raw but they don't fry it, as a rule, and, unlike the Spaniards, they normally don't add bits of meat to their vegetables to enhance the flavor.

When I have to eat out, I usually look for a tavola calda (literally "hot table," or buffet) which sometimes goes by the name "self service" (yes, English even in Italy) because the prices are low and you choose your dishes from a wide variety of healthy options.

So this was my lunch one day in Assisi.  Verdure miste (mixed vegetables) : carrots, artichokes, zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes.  Then, pasta (in this case farfalle) with zucchini and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Bread (no butter; in Italy, butter goes with bread only for breakfast).  For dessert, macedonia or simply a variety of fresh fruits cut into bite-size pieces.  Mineral water.  All for 7 euros or $11.  It's only the horrible exchange rate that makes this slightly more expensive for American wallets.

In Rome, I always go to this one restaurant where the genius of Italian cooking comes through for me in all its simplicity and respect for nature.  This is melanzane marinate (marinated eggplants).  The fresh eggplant is sliced, slightly grilled and marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper, parsley and a dash of vinegar.  So simple and yet the flavors that fill the palate bathe my soul in joy!  Thank you Lord for giving us these blessings!

Followed by hand-made ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in a tomato sauce.  On the side, even more spinach - boiled in salted water then sautéed in olive oil and garlic with as much lemon juice as you want.  I had a hard time convincing the waiter to serve me the spinach because, he said, the ravioli already had spinach in it.  In Italy, where everyone is an expert in cooking, the waiters tell you what to eat.

How could I not patronize this Roman restaurant when the owners are buoni cattolici (good Catholics) who proudly decorate their entrance with many holy cards (these were only a few on one side of the entrance) and who always serve il cappuccino (the Capuchin) extra portions???

Deo gratias!  Thanks be to God!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


It's a small world.

Before Brother Joseph Slominski became a Capuchin friar in California, he was in the U.S. Navy stationed at Radio Barrigada on Guam.  It was a small naval facility and he was in charge of the mess hall.

His stint on Guam lasted from 1962 to 1964, so he was there when Typhoon Karen hit Guam in November of 1962.

He was safe because his structure was entirely concrete.  But he still remembers seeing a boat parked right in front of the Agana Cathedral after the typhoon.  It went from the Boat Basin clear across a quarter mile or so to the front of the Cathedral as if someone had plucked it with their two fingers and gently placed it there.

A good Catholic layman, he befriended the Mercy Sisters, specifically Sister Callista Camacho, and had a 5 foot statue of the Blessed Mother brought to Tai Convent for an outdoor grotto.  Sister Callista had a plaque made "In Honor of Ski," which was Brother Joe's nickname based on his last name.

After the Navy, he joined the Capuchins and has lived most of his religious life at San Lorenzo Friary in the quiet Santa Ynez valley, not far from Ronald Reagan's ranch and Michael Jackson's Neverland.  He is a humble, friendly and cheerful friar; an inspiration to many.