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Christian Gabriel Capinpin


A Final Word on Christian Capinpin

My last official mission as parish priest of Holy Family, Kapitolyo in Pasig City was to bless the newly repaired and refurbished library of our parochial school last April 29, 2009 at 4:30pm, just before my thanksgiving and farewell Mass. The library was also renamed that afternoon as the “Christian Gabriel D. Capinpin Library.”  Since early this year, Christian has been my favorite topic in homilies, talks, recollections and even classes in the seminary. Who was Christian Capinpin?  Why was he important to his family and friends, his parish, to other young people and children, to the rest of the world?
Christian was a young man of 19 years, when he suddenly died on February 3, 2009 after just a very short but also complicated and puzzling blood-related illness.  In the years I have been his parish priest, I sensed that there was something beautiful not only in the externals of this handsome young man, but more in the interior part of his character, his soul, his silent but fruitful life. The week before he died, he arranged an interview with me for a school paper work about a very interesting and hot topic of the day.  While having that interview I had the curiosity of looking at his face intently and just admiring how blessed I was to witness a truly innocent person –  pristine on the outside but radiant from the inside.
I mourned the death of Christian more than I did for any of my parishioners past or present.  For he was my friend. And I couldn’t believe my faithful text-mate, my eloquent conversationalist, my food-tripping companion was already ahead of me in paradise. To this day and probably to many more years, he will be a constant feature of my daily Masses and prayers because it is then that we are close friends always.
At his death though, a revelation truly happened to me about Christian.  His family gradually uncovered the real person – a boy too-good-to-be-true, according to his dad Raffy, an older brother worth idolizing, according to Renz, a dutiful son, said his mom Jane and to his girlfriend and one treasure, Kathryn, the most amazing person ever!  Letters and messages from classmates, friends, companions in his athletic field, unearthed the face of a young man who overflowed with love and kindness that was almost unbelievable.  Yes, I have known this before but not at this magnitude and scope.  He touched so many lives, he filled so many hearts with warmth, he made so many people feel God present in a humble soul.
We know that great men and women leave traces of their greatness everywhere.  In the case of Christian, his overflowing love and his great ambition to serve live on in the unity of his family, in the legacy he left for the students of our parochial school, in the deep traces of his presence in the hearts of his friends, in the impact of his example, hidden and subtle, on the community of faith that made him blossom as a good follower of Jesus.
I am writing this about Christian Gabriel Dytuco Capinpin as my final tribute to his memory and his influence in my life as his parish priest.  I failed to say this in my farewell Eucharist but I know it was obvious in my life, that my term as parish priest in Holy Family Parish, Pasig, was truly blessed because I have encountered a young man who was capable of great things through the simplicity of his life and the normality of youthful routine and the depth of his faith. 
If people are wondering if the youth can save humanity, then we already have an inkling of the answer in the brief but influential life of Christian.  If people are surmising whether the youth can be positive forces for the future, then discover the answer in this young man’s dreams and his actions filled with love.  And if people are wondering whether the dead can inspire life, I can certainly say that it has already happened in the past.  The power of the Resurrection changed the cross of death into life-giving force.  Christian merely attached himself to the Lord of Life, Jesus, who was always in his heart.  And with Jesus, even there in heaven, he continues to transform and challenge our lives today.

homily at Christian’s wake

The tragic thing about death is not so much the loss of opportunity or the end of possibilities or even the damage it can do to people. I think the greatest challenge of death has something to do with the word ‘goodbye.’ A goodbye is not an easy word to say. The French have a saying that every goodbye is a little dying. Death, which is an ultimate goodbye to earthly life, is therefore a hard-hitting and very painful goodbye.
We may try to numb our senses to the pain of separation. But we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that someone close to us, someone we live with, someone we share so much with, someone whose life intertwined with ours, someone who has a place in our heart – that someone is no longer here. He has gone.
What about the familiar face, the lively smile, the gentle manners, the kindly gestures? What about the light moments, the serious talks, the unforgettable experiences?
We fear death because we fear that death will separate us from a person and from everything else the person is known for. And then we say, we miss that person. And truly, we do. Missing someone is like dying many times every day. Missing someone is going through life covered with a dark cloud or a light mist. Either way, we want to see clearly, but we honestly can’t.
I remembered the other day that Christian, one afternoon last Christmas season 2008, when he suddenly appeared at the parish rectory, brought with him not only his precious girlfriend, Cathy, whom he introduced to me. Christian also brought with him a gift for me, his parish priest. I know it was a book but I never really took a serious look at that book. I was more interested in the love of his life, the joy of his life, who I was meeting for the first time and who I heard of from Christian many, many times in our conversations. I searched for the book and found it – The Last Lecture. It was about a professor, diagnosed with terminal cancer, seizing the opportunity to lecture his students not about dying, but about living.
Christian wrote a short dedication which when I read again moved me so much. Let me read what he said: Dear Father Ramil, may our friendship endure despite the distance! Thank you so much for the memories that we have shared and I hope we have many more in the future! I wish you all the best in your new assignment and may that Lord always guide you. Your friend, Christian Capinpin.
Since I have met him in the parish, we have always exchanged gifts on Christmas. Christmas is also his birthday. My friend knew I was transferring to a new assignment this year and he registered his protest when he learned about it. But even before I move to my new post, Christian has already moved ahead of me into his new home.
He was hoping the memories shared will remain. He was praying there will be many more future memories of friendship.
As we celebrate this Eucharist, I know all of us, and for his mom Jean and dad Raffy, and brother Lorenzo – more than all of us – are trying to hold on to the memories of Christian. We have said goodbye to his gentle face, his wonderful character, his bodily presence. We know we cannot keep those now. They are forever gone.
But we want to keep the memories. The photos of Christian with his friends, the letters of his classmates, the message of his love Cathy – all these try to preserve the remaining memories of a wonderful person’s brief life, just all of 19 years. The stories of his mom and dad, the recollections of Renz – all these reveal how much they are trying to conserve whatever is left of Christian’s private life with them. Only they know the real Christian, with his secret joys and pains. These memories of Christian are now no longer just memories for this wonderful family. They are now treasures, source of strength and inspiration, source of joy.
How do you keep the memories alive? The passion may be strong at this time. The feelings may be overwhelming in these first few months and even years. But we know as human beings, our lives move on and we cannot afford to sit down and brood over memories. We cannot shut ourselves in our rooms and spend the day reminiscing. It would not be fair for us. It would not be what Christian wants from his family and friends. That is why, many people forget the memories of people they used to love. May people decide to erase memories of people they once knew.
For those who truly love Christian, I know you are saying to yourself: I will never forget him. He will always be in my heart and mind.
But we cannot do this by our selves. We can only do this if God is with us.
Jesus teaches us today how to remember Christian forever and not only to bring back old memories of him but to bring him back in contact with us. Jesus knows the power of love but also the danger of fading, forgetful love. Jesus whose love alone is most faithful in all of human history and all of salvation history leads us to the perpetual memory of our loved ones who have gone before us.
Today, we celebrate the Eucharist for Christian. The Mass is Jesus’ memory made alive each time we gather to listen to his words and to receive his body and blood. The Mass is also the meeting point of the entire creation. Nature is here in the elements we use. Human beings are here adoring God and praising him. Angels are here helping us to love God more. And the souls of the departed are here, Christian is here, though invisible, not in memories alone, but truly present with us, loving God with us and praying to God with us, as he has done while he was bodily alive.
Do you want to remember your departed loved one? Do you want to get in touch with them? Celebrate the Eucharist. It is our new rendezvous, our new meeting point, our new contact.
Many times, Christian came to the parish office offering Mass intentions for his departed relatives. He believed in the power of the Eucharist, as we all do, to be forceful in bridging heaven and earth. Now, we are the ones offering Mass intentions for Christian. For one year, starting from the day of his death, our parish in Kapitolyo will celebrate 6pm daily Mass for Christian’s soul, to remember him and to make him present still in our faith community.
How many young people today, and even old ones, have grown bored with Mass and even neglected to prioritize the Eucharist all because they failed to understand what it truly means.
But my memory of Christian will not be primarily about the topics we discussed or the food we ate. My memory of him will take me to the moments I have seen him faithfully attend the Eucharist with his family, and reverently received Communion, and silently listened to the Word of God.
Christian was not always attentive at Mass. Going out of the adoration chapel, I saw him sleeping through the homily of another priest. After Mass I sent him a text message: I saw you at Mass. And I caught you sleeping through the homily. I will report you to Father. He replied: Oh no, Fr., please don’t. I admit that I was very tired, so I slept. – who was I not to forgive a tired Christian?
My dear friends we go from here not to more tears and sadness but to more hope and consolation. Our source of recovery and impetus for life comes from Jesus in the Eucharist.
I would like us all to send back to Christian the greeting he scribbled on the book he gave me. This is a message we send him every time we remember him in the Eucharist. Let us rise and please repeat after me:
Dear Christian: may our friendship endure/ despite the distance! Thank you so much/ for the memories that we have shared/ and I hope we have many more in the future./ I wish you all the best in your new home/ and may the Lord always bless you./ Christian, pray for us, your family and friends./ We love you.
Fr. Ramil R. Marcos
Feb. 7, 2009; 10:00am
Mount Carmel Church, Gilmore