Saturday, April 16, 2016


Meet Father Leonidas Contos.

A rather dapper, sophisticated and distinguished man, wouldn't you think? And he was.

It was 1988 and I needed to take a class from outside the Dominican school of theology where I was matriculating.

The Dominican school was one of nine different theology schools that made up a consortium. To ensure that students took classes in more than one school, it was required that students take no less than one third of their classes from schools other than the one they were registered at.

I was loathe to take any classes from the Protestant schools (all far left liberal). I couldn't find an enticing class at that time with the Jesuits and the Franciscans, so I decided to take a class with the Greek Orthodox! At least they believed in the divinity of Jesus, had valid orders and greatly esteemed the Virgin Mary!

On the first day of class, I sat down with two other students. Yes, there were only three of us taking some class with Father (and Doctor) Leonidas Contos, a Greek Orthodox priest who sounded and acted more like an English parson. Cool, suave, debonair. Always in clerical collar and tweed jacket. A native of Connecticut, he earned his doctorate from Oxford.

He spoke in soft tones and leisurely, as if he were speaking to a handful of intimates, and he was!

We were graded on only one thing - a final paper at the end of the semester.

I decided to write a paper showing how even the Greek Church in the early centuries believed in papal supremacy as evidenced by their actions. I read the early Greek church histories : Eusebius, Socrates and Sozomen. Greek historians for a Greek professor!

I tried to show from the Greek historians themselves that, in practice, if not by explicit statements, the Greeks looked to the Bishop of Rome as having the final say in church controversies. I showed how Athanasius and many other orthodox bishops fled to Rome when the Arians took control of diocese after diocese. How the Bishop of Rome believed he had the right to scold erring bishops in the East and order them to set things right. And how eastern bishops bristled at papal reprimands. Obviously, eastern bishops felt the weight of Roman pronouncements. So forth and so on.

When I got my paper back, I saw that Father Contos gave me a B+.

A small sacrifice to make in defense of papal supremacy!

Monday, April 4, 2016


Down the street and on the other side of it lived two older sisters whom I knew only as Tan Ebi' and Tan Da.

Later I learned that Ebi' meant Nieves and Da was for Soledad. Tan Ebi' never married and so kept her maiden name San Nicolas. Tan Da was married and her married name was Mesa.

Like many of the older Chamorro women I knew when I was a child, the sisters were quiet and gentle. Tan Ebi' seemed to be the more sprightly one and Tan Da the more serene. Like many of us who didn't live far from the church, they would walk to Mass.

Those were the days when children were seen, not heard. I couldn't speak Chamorro anyway. Tan Da it seemed spoke more English than Tan Ebi'. Till the day she died, I never heard Tan Ebi' say a single word in English, though I am sure she spoke some.

It was when I was already a Capuchin brother than Tan Ebi' finally started speaking to me, and even more when I became a priest. It was all in Chamorro.

She would almost always tell me, "Hågo på'go si Påle' Román," "You are now Father Román," or words to that effect. Påle' Román was a pre-war Spanish friar with a longish white beard and a long nose and I suppose I reminded her of him.

Tan Ebi' was a member of the Franciscan Third Order and often wore her brown dress to Mass, as seen in the picture above.

There isn't really much else to say except that people like Tan Ebi' made me feel good about myself and the world I grew up in. Nice, simple people. Religious. They came to Mass and talked to God and all the saints. Nothing ostentatious. Gentle and sincere smiles.

I miss seeing people like Tan Ebi'.