MONTREAL (CNS) — Church authorities in Montreal said they were expecting 1,000 people at St. Joseph’s Oratory for a special mass with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. When mass started at 6 p.m. April 6, the crowd was twice as big.
Tagle, 58, archbishop of Manilla, is among the most influential church personalities in Asia. He took advantage of his stay in Montreal as president of Caritas Internationalis to meet the Filipino community there. Many young families attended the event. All evening long, phones and tablets were held up high, trying to get a picture of him. At moments, security agents had a hard time escorting him through the enthusiastic crowd.
In his homily, Tagle reflected on the anxiety and concern that lead many to hold onto unnecessary material goods.
“It’s Wednesday, what should I wear? Green, blue, red, purple? Those questions are not bad in themselves. But according to the Gospel, we can search for those things with anxiety. Some people search for those things, because they worry. I will die if I don’t have a burger! Some people worry: I already wore this. What will people, my friends, think? That I’m poor? But we are too focused on ourselves. That generates fear. So we grab, we possess. We do not want to run out of food or clothing, or the things we consider important for life,” said Tagle, stressing matters of social justice.
“God created us not to own, but to take care of creation. Stewards, not owners. And this vision: God gave everything to human beings for their food. Not just to some human beings, but to all. Because of anxiety, the fear that makes me hoard, some people have so much, and other go hungry. Some people have so many clothes, that they do not need or cannot wear anymore. As we accumulate that clothing, other people go around naked, or terribly clad, feeling cold.”
He called people to seek the kingdom of God, throw away anxiety and embrace trust.
“Trust in the one who gave us life. Focus on the justice of God, the justice that makes us as caring as God,” he said.
Tagle concluded his homily with a story that brought tears to some in the crowd.
“I had a meeting with a principal of a school. She called the parents of two students. Only the mother came. ‘Your children have exceeded the allowed number of absences. The school year is only two months old and they have already consumed the allowed number of absences. I have no choice but to exclude your children from school.’ The mother said: ‘I know.’ That angered the principal: ‘You know but why did you allow it to happen? You are an irresponsible mother.’
“The mother said: ‘You know, they have only one pair of shoes which they share. When one child wears a pair of shoes to go to school, the other must stay home.’ ’’
Tagle said he asked the principal what she did. She said she was reduced to silence.
He said she had a whole closet of shoes, and that morning had wondered: Which shoes will I wear today?
“Her problem was which colour, which style will match my dress today,” he said.
The cardinal said the principal let the children remain in school, and she “launched a campaign to get shoes to poor children. And they discovered, in their school, that many children have no shoes, many come to school without having breakfast. That changed her outlook and the policies of the school.”
The cardinal looked at the assembly and added: “What do we seek?”
Gloutnay is on the staff of the Montreal-based Presence info.