ON HIS FACEBOOK PAGE, Boboy leaves behind some photos and a few messages. I found three entries that seem to capture the essence of this very private, very shy, almost mysterious Jesuit priest.
First, there is the video of Pope Francis preaching about the importance of Silence in his morning mass at Sta Marta in October last year. The Pope says, “Say your piece and then keep quiet. Because the truth is mild, the truth is silent, the truth is not noisy. It’s not easy what Jesus did (he was silent after being driven out of the synagogue). But the dignity of the Christian is anchored in the power of God. With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction even within the family, silence and prayer.” Yes, the first thing that strikes one about Boboy is his silence. He is very comfortable with silence. And so he can be vey mild-mannered very soft-spoken. Gentle. Patient. None intrusive. That is why he was the best couselor for many, he had the patience to just listen to people. He was comfortable in letting others do the talking. That therefore means that he held people in high esteem, that he had respect for everyone. He made you feel that. But more importantly, over and above his relationship with people, his silence, I guess had to do with being quiet so he could listen to God, so he could pray. I remember when we were theologians, he edified me as a freshman theologian, because early in the morning he would already be up and praying, meditating in our little community chapel. Every morning. I also remember in our LitCom discussions the many times he would cushion me from rushing into action—and always reminding me the Ignatian principle of discenrment. “Let’s just pray over it first,” he would tell us as the LitCom senior. Yes, Boboy was a quiet man, a man after our Lord, Jesus who tells us to imitate him for he is meek and humble of heart.
(That doesn’t mean of course that there were no light moments with Boboy. In fact, when we had the time, we would sneak out and go to a videoke or Karaoke bar. And Boboy with his full baritone voice was our Frank Sinatra. Too bad, Fr. Arnel Aquino of Himig Heswita did not discover this hidden talent of Boboy. But these instances were few and far between.)
An entry in Boboy’s facebook page is dated January 26, only this year. It is a quote from our favorite writer J.R. Tolkien; in his epic saga, The Hobbits, Gandalf is asked why he chose Bilbo Bagins to carry the mysterious ring. Gandalf responds, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” I myself used this quote when I tried to explain to a group of retreatants Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exortation entitled Gaudate et Exsultate in which he talked about finding holiness in the everyday through our everyday ordinary duties and responsibilities. Even Pope Benedict the XVI preached in one Christmas mass that we keep on looking for God in the extraordinary, among the powerful and the grand, when the sign that God gave us was the insignificant, powerless, most vulnerable infant in the manger. Yes, ever shy and ever private, Boboy avoided the spotlight. Though his intellectual and creative gifts could have easily brought him anywhere, he prefered to stay simple and modest. He was not ambitious, he simply performed what was asked of him, what was expected of him, what was assigned to him. He was happy doing what we Jesuits call de more, or our way of proceedings. He never imagined himself a pioneer, a giant or a trailblazer. He did not get excited over big ideas or big projects, he was already happy with the ordinary day-to day tasks of the priest. If Ignatius taught us to find God in all things, buboy certainly found, to borrow the title of a famous book, the God of small things.
Finally, there was an advertisement or an event invitation in Boboy’s FB page. It read: “Libreng Goto ni San Ignacio: Sapagkat nagutom ako at binigyan ninyo ako ng pagkain.” It also supplied the venue and the time for the event. This was Ateneo de Naga’s unique way of celebrating Ignatius’ feast day every July. The Jesuits would feed anyone with soup, sandwich or in this case goto. I can imagine Boboy getting very excited over this. Like many Jesuit, Boboy has tried his hand in many of our apostolates. He has been assigned to many of our schools. And yet everytime I would bump into him, he would tell me his dream job was really pastoral or parish work. I do remember him being very serious with our Sunday apostolates in the chapels of Payatas and Montalban. He experienced a certain high being with people especially the poor and the ordinary folks. He loved performing the sacraments, especially the holy eucharist. In these, he really felt the fullness of the priesthood. I have seen the comments of a lot of people in facebook, those who knew Boboy because he had baptized their infants or officiated their weddings or heard their confessions. Truly through his pastoral work or activities, he has touched many lives and to many of them, Boboy was clearly, more than anything else, a pastor, a priest, channeling God’s grace to his people.
What is a priest anyway? Pope Francis in the occasion of his declaration of the Year of Mercy in 2013 defined this for us. He says, “As priests, we are witnesses to and ministers of the ever-increasing abundance of the Father’s mercy; we have the rewarding and consoling task of incarnating mercy, as Jesus did.” The work of a priest therefore, he says, does not consist of “purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall, or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish…. The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be moved and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal fount; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one…. For us priests, what happens in the lives of our people is not like a news bulletin: we know our people, we sense what is going on in their hearts. Our own heart, sharing in their suffering, feels compassion, is exhausted, broken into a thousand pieces, moved and even consumed by the people.” Indeed, Boboy was very close to this vision of the priesthood of Pope Francis.
My dear friends, we now mourn Boboy’s untimely death. He was too young, many said. Like in a popular song, he was gone too soon. And yet as these snippets from his facebook would tell us, Boboy has lived a full, meaningful life devoted to his Lord and his King. And now with St Paul, he could say I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Boboy, Dios mabalos sa pinahiling mong ehemplo samuya. Pahingalo ka na, noy. Turog na. Pagmata mo sa langit, pakikumusta na lang ki Ina asin sa satuyang Karungnan.
(Boboy, thank you for the example you have shown. Rest in peace. When you wake up in heaven, give our regards to Our Lady of Penafrancia and to our Lord.) AMEN.
–Fr Nono Alfonso, SJ