THE BALD, THE BOLD AND THE BIG BISHOP SAN DIEGO
Homily during the Funeral Mass of Most Rev. Francisco C. San Diego, DD, Bishop-Emeritus, Diocese of Pasig
Delivered by Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThD, August 29, 2015
Non est vir fortis pro Deo laborans cui non crescit animus in ipsa rerum difficultate, etiam si aliquando corpus dilanietur. “There is no strong man working for God, whose spirit is not lifted, whose courage is not fortified, in the midst of difficulties, even though now and again his body is torn apart.” (from a Christian Tomb in the Catacombs) These will be the words engraved on the tombstone of our beloved Bp. Francisco Capiral San Diego. He personally chose these words to be engraved there, perhaps, because he felt this best summarized his life, vocation and mission. They echo the words from the first reading taken from the Book of Wisdom: “…the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment will touch them.” (Wisdom 3:1)
I first met Bp. San Diego when I was a seminarian. On one occasion, he visited the seminary where I was being formed to the priesthood. What did I see in Bp. San Diego in that first encounter? What was my first impression of him then and even now? How would I describe him? Three words: BALD, BOLD and BIG.
First, he is bald! Siya po ay kalbo, kalbuhin o nakalbo na. They say when you have gray hair or when you become bald, it is a sign of aging. But they also say it may be a sign of being wise. As he aged, Bp. San Diego became a wise man, christian, priest and shepherd of the Church. He knew it was not easy to embrace the vocation to the priesthood amidst the comforts the world offered. Yet the wisdom of God led him to choose priestly life. He knew that this road less traveled would entail following whatever his bishop told him to do when he was ordained a priest. As a wise servant of God, he did. After ordination, he obeyed his bishop when he was first assigned parochial vicar and, later on, parish priest. He was given other pastoral assignments like becoming vicar forane and then episcopal vicar to shepherd his fellow priests. They were not easy tasks but he accepted them even though this meant more inconveniences. Bp. San Diego became wiser by God’s grace when he was told to do further studies in canon law, teach in the seminary and work in the matrimonial tribunal of Manila. They were additional works for him but he did all of these not thinking of what was comfortable for him but what God wanted him to do to serve God’s people. Indeed, even before, he became bishop, he was already a living testimony of his episcopal motto: Servus Dei, that is, “Servant of God” He was God’s selfless servant. He followed the words of St. Paul in our second reading from his letter to the Romans: “No one of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord, when we die we die as his servants.” (Romans 14:7-8) Naririnig po natin ito sa awit na ‘Pananagutan’: Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang. Walang sinuman ang namamatay para sa sarili lamang. Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa’t isa.
Second, he is bold! To be bold means to be fearless, especially in dangerous situations. Bp. San Diego was bold enough to accept his appointment as bishop. When he was consecrated bishop, he knew he would be uprooted from an urban setting to a rural one. He had to go beyond his comfort zone and work in a mission area. I can still remember that first encounter in that seminary visit I told you a little while ago when he shared his experiences as shepherd in Palawan. He shared to us how he boldly braved the strong winds and turbulent waves while riding a motor boat, going from one island to another in order to visit his priests who worked in the poor parishes. He drew strength and courage from the Lord to fulfill the work given to him. He boldly accepted the assignment to be uprooted once again and serve the Diocese of San Pablo, Laguna as its second bishop. And just when he thought he was to retire in that diocese, he was once again called and boldly embraced the challenge to be the first bishop of the Diocese of Pasig and lay its foundation that is bearing fruit now, and which will be remembered for the years to come. Last August 21, during the mass of thanksgiving for the 12th foundation anniversary of our diocese, even with his frail health and soft voice, he sort of gave his parting message to us when he told us to bear fruit by being united, by becoming one, and live up to the motto of the Diocese of Pasig which he personally chose: Ut Unum Sint. Bp. San Diego also spoke boldly about pastoral matters and made bold decisions for his priests. A number of times he was misunderstood or misinterpreted for his boldness in what he said or did for the good of the Church. But in hindsight, we must realize that in whatever he said or did, however brute, crude or rude it may have seemed, he was used by God to purify some of us to be better persons, better priests and better servants of the Church. The boldness of Bp. San Diego made him and us experience the dying and rising of Christ. He was God’s instrument to make us understand the movement from death to life. It is the image spoken by Jesus in the gospel, the same gospel proclaimed when Bp. San Diego was ordained bishop on August 10, 1983, during the Feast of St. Lawrence the Deacon: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24)
Third he is big! Malaki po siya. Malaki ang tiyan katulad ko at ilan sa aming obispo at pari. But what is really big about Bp. San Diego? He has a big heart. He showed his big heart by being a father to us. Madali siyang lapitan, kausapin, at makapalagayang-loob. Ipinaramdam niya sa atin ang puso ng isang tatay at lolo na palaging nandyan lang sa ating tabi. His big heart was manifested in his generosity and thoughtfulness. Palagi po siyang may regalong barong na tela sa aming mga obispo at pari. He was also generous in helping others, especially those in great need. And his big heart made him endure all the sacrifices brought about by his illness during the latter years of his earthly life until his death. Whenever, I visited him in the hospital, he would still smile and joke around, even though I knew he was in pain and had difficulty breathing because of his severe heart and lung ailment. His big heart wanted us to feel at ease with him. In a way, his big heart made us feel his love and God’s love for us.
Non est vir fortis pro Deo laborans cui non crescit animus in ipsa rerum difficultate, etiam si aliquando corpus dilanietur. Bp. San Diego, Tatay namin, Lolo Kikoy, thank you for being that strong man who worked for God, for being the priest whose spirit was not lifted, for being that bishop whose courage was not fortified, amidst difficulties, physical suffering and death. Salamat at paalam po mahal naming Bp. San Diego. Umaasa po kami sa inyong patuloy na panalangin para sa amin hanggang magkita po tayo sa minimithi nating lahat na buhay na walang hanggan. Amen.