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Bro. Bert is such a special person in my life as parish priest, as former parish priest of his community at Holy Family’s. And so when Jeanny called on the phone to inform me that he was rushed to the emergency room, I didn’t hesitate to follow him there right away. I prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for him while on the way. God has shown his favor by allowing me to administer the Holy Anointing and grant Absolution and Apostolic Pardon to Bro. Bert.
In this homily, I want to pay tribute to Bro. Bert, from the vantage point of a parish priest looking at the spiritual legacy of his admirable parishioner.
I met Bro. Bert and wife, Sis. Bie when they paid me a visit shortly after I came to Holy Family. They expressed their joy at my coming and their hopes for my ministry. They were very cordial, respectful and authentic in that encounter that I can still vividly remember how they looked that day.
Later someone whispered to my ear, that Bro. Bert and Sis. Bie were precious assets in the community, that somehow they were wounded hearts from the previous parish administration, and that they would certainly want to be back in service if invited. So I gave the go-signal to have them both with us again in parish life.
And there they were. Emceeing at parish events, present in simple and major activities, Bro. Bert giving communion, and always taking pictures – and unlike other photographers, printing them out and sending them to me in a full album.
Bro. Bert became a close friend, however, when he asked me many times to serve the spiritual needs of his wife, Bie, then slowly defeated by cancer. When I visited their home or the hospital, I couldn’t help but realize how special their relationship was. They were so sweet, and being no longer teenagers, that made all the difference. Bringing them together was no longer the impulse of youth, the attraction of physical attributes or the allure of the future plans but their common, steadfast faith in the Lord. They were a model couple, and very faithful to their calling as active leaders in the CFM, Christian Family Movement.
When I last heard the confession of Bie, on her hospital bed, on her death bed, I was sure that for the first time in my life I witnessed what is called a “holy death”. And I thank Bro. Bert and Sis. Bie for inviting me to journey with them in that trying period in their lives.
After Bie’s death, we decided to help Bro. Bert get over his grief by being consoled by the presence of his co-workers in the parish, and by giving him responsibilities to keep him busy in volunteer work. I invited him to chair the scholarship foundation for the poor youth of Holy Family. There was no one more concerned, more committed, more vigorous in promoting the welfare of the scholars than Bro. Bert.
Many images came to my mind while I was praying for Bro. Bert this morning. And the tears fell as I reminisced Bro. Bert silently standing by me in my family home for the wake of my father. Or Bro. Bert just dropping by to give a gift to the parish for any of its project. Or Bro. Bert calling and texting to see how his parish priest is doing. Or Bro. Bert assuring me of his prayer for my own mother in her battle with cancer. Or Bro. Bert following me wherever I went, after I left Holy Family. He visited me in Tagaytay. He visited me in Sagrada Familia. He often visited me in Sto. Tomas de Villanueva, my present assignment. And he never stayed long. He just said hi! He just assured me of support. He just handed me something to be used for a charitable purpose.
And yes, how can I forget the time I was hospitalized at Cardinal Santos after a fatal internal allergy. I told people at Holy Family, “no visitors allowed”, because I didn’t want people to see my disfigured face. But one day, the door opened as the nurse came in, and Bro. Bert took the chance to follow the nurse. I saw him there and wanted to talk to him but he stopped me: Father I am sorry for entering your room. You said no visitors. I didn’t come to visit. I came to pray. And he stood there at the foot of the bed, raised his hand over me, closed his eyes and prayed. After that, he silently left the room. That gesture I will never forget.
And there were the many conversations, the many confessions, the many confidential texts messages. Most of the confessions I heard at the Heart Center. By the way, Bro. Bert was the only parishioner who brought me to Heart Center the most number of times. Because of him, I almost memorized every wing of that hospital.
I cannot tell you the content of these conversations but I can assure you that through these I came to know him even more personally. I came to know his sufferings, his fears, his hopes, his concerns for each of his children and grandchildren, his prayers for his wife. Most specially, his total abandonment to the will of God.
In this last season of illness, he would suddenly text me concerns about his health and his cancer manifestation as he called it. I kept two of his text messages in my folder because they were precious relics of a man holding on to faith in spite of the sufferings he couldn’t totally understand. I always encouraged him to trust in Jesus and in Jesus indeed he trusted.
Yesterday when I arrived at the hospital, they were reviving Bro. Bert. In my heart I felt what maybe Gretchen and Raffy, the doctors and nurses already knew deep inside. I whispered to him the formula of the Anointing of the Sick as I administered the Holy Sacrament. I whispered to his ears the words of Absolution for all his sins. In silence, I bestowed on him the Apostolic Pardon for the dying. And I stood there praying my rosary as I witnessed this time the holy death of a man who was tested much in is life but has refused to let go of faith. I talked to him and said; I f it is God’s will that you come home to heaven, Bro. Bert, then go with God. Years ago I witnessed the holy death of a woman, Bie. Yesterday I once again witnessed the holy death of a humble man of God, Bert.
It is true that in this life, we cannot bring everything with us as we journey along. In the end, as the years go by, we need to lighten our load as we follow our path. As the New Year comes, it is difficult to see how Bro. Bert is one dear person we will no longer see as 2012 unfolds. But he is now united with the true love of his life. He is now united to God for whom he was a lowly and servant worthy of trust. He is united to us all in spirit as he continues to encourage us by his unforgettable examples of service and devotion to Jesus and the Church.
Gretchen and Raffy and the family of Bro. Bert, thank you for sharing your beloved father to us in the family of the church. Only God truly knows how much we will miss him too. We know you grief. But we also know your hope and courage because this is one infectious legacy from this simple and silent but tireless worker for Christ.
Though he is gone, we will always be one with you. The one you love, the one you lost, we too love and we too lost. Only heaven gained much today as another holy man enters its gates.
Eternal rest grant unto Bert Singson, O Lord…