Trying to catch up again! Geez, days rush by—talks and gatherings all day and evening and then we crash into bed until the alarm rings and we start all over again. It is not always easy to find internet connections and when I find one I jump for joy.
To make up for lost time, we left Boracay after a few days of rest. The people there, like everywhere in the Philippines, were gentle, joyful and full of faith. My talk with the young people went very well as I ramped it down to a very young audience. They responded with enthusiasm and faith. Tim Staples caught a cold and has been coughing his way through his talks. He’s a great guy and nothing gets him down. The people love his conversion story and all his stories.
It was pouring rain in Manila when we returned and we jumped right back in the saddle. Our special task on this trip was to visit all the Catholic schools and we have filled the auditoriums of about 20 large high schools talking to crowds of cheering and faith-filled young people. After the talks they surround Tim Staples, Janet and I asking for our autographs, treating us like rock stars. It is truly humbling and amazing. These kids love the Catholic Church and have a thousand questions.
About questions—it is very interesting. In America people come up to a microphone to ask questions, but not here! In the Philippines the audience uses their cell phones to TEXT their questions into the moderator’s cell phone and he reads the questions off his cell phone. At one high school we received over 60 text questions in a matter of a few minutes. It is soooo cool.
After a few days of work in Manila, we jumped on a Philippines Air jet and headed for the southernmost island of Mindanao, to the beautiful city of Davao. My wonderful friend Yeti Lim picked us up and we expected to go to lunch. It was 2 PM. But instead of lunch he rushed us right off to the local Stella Maris Catholic School for two hours in the hot and humid outdoor auditorium with over 1300 high school students sitting on the ground.
I LOVED t his group of kids! They were fun, energetic, tuned-in, and serious about their faith. (The picture shows a group of girls from Davao who wanted their picture on my website.) They had excellent questions and even after 2 hours in the heat, after the bell rang to end school on Friday afternoon—these kids did not move! They wanted to hear more and kept asking questions and refused to leave. We could not believe it! We signed more autographs afterwards than we can believe. They were even surrounding Janet asking for her signature and wanting to shake her hand.
After a very late lunch and a gallon of water (it is always about 90 degrees with very high, sweaty humidity), we took off to the seminary to speak to over 200 seminarians, not from all the Philippines, but only from the island of Mindanao! These young men were unbelievable. We even men some “underground priests” who go to other countries but I cannot expose them. They were truly men of God with the courage of St. Paul.
Tim told the seminarians his conversion story and I talked to them about being priests. They loved his story and his theatrics (he is very fun to listen to—and to watch!) and I talked about how the priesthood was not a job but a love affair with the bride of Christ. While we talked I notice a rat run along the wall, a mouse in the corner, lizards on the walls eating bugs and a lucky cat prowling around for his evening snack. It is so cool being here. We talked to the seminarians and priests for two hours—a blessed two hours.
One thing that bothers me: in the Philippines, very few priests wear a collar, or distinct priestly clothes. So, everywhere I go I challenge them to be proud of their position of standing in persona Christi. When I commented on my disappointment with the incognito priests the seminarians erupted with applause. I challenged them to wear their collars to show the world they are priests of the Most High God.
We did not want to leave the seminary. It was great. By talking to over 200 seminarians we actually reached millions of Filipinos through them. They will be the priests and bishops of the Church in the years to come. We challenged them to be orthodox, conservative and to be faithful to the pope and the teaching of the Church.
To bed late again and then up this morning to go to the NCCC Mall in Davao, owned by our host Yeti Lim and his family. This family is exemplary and puts their money where their faith is. We love this family. I just finished my 2-hour talk and Tim is now telling his story. Janet and I are sitting here in the crowd working on my laptop (they have wi-fi here—yeah!) I am writing this blog entry as we listen to Tim. Next I have to join him on stage again to answer questions for 2 hours. There are well over 2,000 good folks laughing and crying and being proud of the Catholic Church.