Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The avid watchers of Father Fernando Suarez

CBCP said that they are closely watching Father Fernando Suarez activities. According to the article of Larry Faraon, instead of being avid watchers, these Church authorities should help in the effective crowd control since many people attending to these healing sessions are desperate or may be too poor to spend on expensive medicines just to extend their physical lives.

Before this article will be buried in the archives of the newspaper, I am preserving it here in this blog.

Larry Faraon

There is no doubt Fr. Fernando Suarez is gifted with whatever charismatic gifts there are in order to bring people to an experience mostly of instant physical healing. From an evangelical point of view, such healings should lead to a deeper experience of faith among the people. We thank the Lord for sending and using mightily such ministers of healing to manifest God’s mercy and love among the sick members of the flock. But the healing crusades of Father Suarez seem to have their share of unexpected turn of events, for instance, the almost unmanageable mass of people coming in droves and crowding the healing venues, long queues of people exasperated for waiting to be prayed over. There are obvious frustrations, disappointments, the irrational rush for tickets and sadly even sudden deaths happening right there in the venues of the healing sessions. But all of these sad turn of events are inevitable results of a lavish media hype surrounding the activities of the healing priest. The publicity afforded such healing services simply exploded.

Healings and miracles are happening everywhere without much media coverage and hype such as those in the thousands of prayers answered, mostly healing petitions in the popular shrines of Jesus Nazareno in Quiapo, Our Lady of the Rosary in Manaoag, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, or Our Lady of Good Voyage in Antipolo among others. Also, in our midst are other noted personalities with healing gifts such as Sister Gloria, RVM, Fr. Joey Faller, Fr. Teofilo Rustia, Fr. Andres Cacao and lay Catholic healers, Bro. Jiggers Alejandrino, Bro. Mike Velarde, Bro. Bo Sanchez, etc. Even the local arbularyo and a host of psychic healers littering the different parts of the country register healing successes among their believers. But there isn’t much hype or sensationalism in these healings. Mostly, especially in devotional centers, the healings happen in the privacy or confines of one’s very deep personal faith without media fanfare.

Now here come some bishops with loads of questions thrown on Father Suarez’s floor regarding his background, past activities especially in Canada where he is based, his merchandise and marketing of rosaries and DVDs to which the healing priest attributes healing powers, the construction of a gigantic Monte Maria Shrine where an image of the Virgin Mary shall dwarf the Statue of Liberty in New York, the “healing stones” and, of course, his violations of official protocol with the local bishop. Today, the healing ministry of Father Suarez is under the tight watch of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Phlippines.

The “watchers,” however, should go beyond the issues of merchandise, the church collections, the shrine, but should dig deeper into the meaning of all these phenomenal events. All of these peripheral issues could be answered by Father Suarez and his group satisfactorily in due time. In the meantime, what an opportunity for the church to reflect deeply on its universal healing mission, especially when in the past and presently, the institutional church represented by some bishops and priests have created more wounds and hurts among the “unwashed, uneducated, smelly” — the marginalized, rather than heal the wounds inflicted by religious bias, bigotry, negligence and Phariseeism.

For instance, the poor masses were wounded when some of their religious leaders joined hands with the plotters to oust a president they chose to lead them; also their eventual silence and indecisiveness on some glaring issues of corruption in government. Wounds are still gaping wide among the Catholic flock, while insult continues to be added on to the injury. These urgently need healing, too.

In my experience as a priest and pastor, physical healing is the easiest and most common form of healing. The more difficult is spiritual, emotional and psychological healing which revolves around acts of humility, repentance and forgiveness. Physical healing simply extends the borrowed biological life God has given us. Eventually, we shall all die; but not our hearts, minds and spirits; hence, the necessity of spiritual healing. There is so much the church leaders should be doing rather than just becoming avid watchers of the activities of healing priests.

In the meantime, the concern of Father Suarez and his organizers and perhaps of the bishops themselves should focus on effective crowd control. The people who come to the healing sessions are no ordinary people with ordinary needs. They are mostly desperate people wanting to liberate themselves from all sorts of illnesses without the benefit of costly medicines and hospital care, which they cannot afford to pay in the first place.

A repeat of the nightmarish Wowowee tragedy does not deserve an encore among these poor healing hopefuls, although both crowds were creations of media hype and the overrated expectations generated by such. The similarities and tendencies to fanaticism are giving us the chill in the spine. If only the group could get a little education from the crowd control experts of El Shaddai’s over one-hundred thousand regular attendees, then some unpalatable or untoward incidents could be averted. The worst thing that could ever happen in these grace-filled events is when there would be more wounds inflicted than wounds healed.

After all, the God who heals, Yahweh me rapha, is a God of order.