Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Died at 104
(pic courtesy of grand daughter Marcy Blas)

In 1981 or 82, I saw a notice by the Guam Tribune, a newspaper owned by Mark Pangilinan, seeking village reporters. It wasn't a paying job but I figured I'd do it. You got to start somewhere, so I signed up for my home town of Sinajaña.

I did two articles on Sinajaña before I lost interest in writing more for the Tribune. One was on the history of the village and the second was on the oldest person living in Sinajaña, the man pictured above, Martin Oliva.

As a priest I usually don't have a problem asking to meet people but back then I was amazed that he was willing to talk to a 19 year old college kid.

Social Security says he was born in 1884, but in 1981 or 82, he was already claiming to be over 100. His family attests, also, that he wasn't bound to the age stated in later documents. So how old was he?

Back in the 1880s in the Philippines (where he was born), the Marianas and in many other places, a lot of people did not read or write and, even when they did, documents were not as big a deal as they are today. My own grandfather fudged his personal details (even his name) when he entered the U.S.

Based on his life story (I think he served in WW1) he must have been 100 or at least close to it.

I went to visit him in his home, where he lived with his wife. She was his 2nd wife as he had outlived his first wife. She herself was at least in her 60s if not older and was thin and spry and I remember her walking to Mass everyday with her umbrella in hand.

The question that I have never forgotten having asked him was "What's the secret of your health and long life?" For his age, he was still mentally sharp and physically mobile.

His answer was, "One cigar a day, one shot of whiskey a day and a page of the Bible every day."

That was his answer. For real.


(Social Security)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Today's funeral announcements in our local newspapers are certainly very positive, but sometimes in a way that poses a problem for those with a Catholic perspective.

Phrases such as "now rejoicing in heaven," applied to the deceased, if taken literally and not as a hopeful plea, take away the need for any prayers for the dead. If the deceased is certainly in heaven, all the official church prayers in the funeral liturgy are meaningless. Those prayers ask for mercy for the deceased; they ask that God give the deceased a share in eternal life. No need for that if we know for sure the deceased is in heaven.

I think, in many cases, families making funeral arrangements just follow a trend that was started sometime ago without realizing the theological implications.

Despite rampant secularization, Spain has a hard time shedding old, Catholic customs. And it shows in many of their funeral announcements which are thoroughly Catholic in their wording.

Take for example, Soledad's announcement above. The underlined phrase means, "Having received the holy sacraments." These sacraments would have been the Anointing of the Sick, and possibly also confession and Holy Communion had she been conscious and able to confess and receive communion.

In Ignacio's announcement, the family "requests a prayer for his soul" from the readers. (See underlined sentence.)

And Wenceslao's announcement (see underlined) says, "He died in a Christian way in Madrid."

This means that he died with the sacraments.

When my mother passed, I included the phrase that she died, "having received the consolation of the sacraments."

What a great example it would be if more of us followed this Catholic custom, still practiced by many Spaniards, to emphasize the value of the sacraments and to ask others to pray for the soul of the deceased.

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. 
(2 Maccabees 12:46)