joking became a reality

joking became a reality


 so today at SLU (baguio city), after sharing my vocation/mission testimony with a couple of classes, i was hanging out in the lounge for all of the religious who were involved with vocation week. i enjoyed it because i got to reconnect with some of the sisters i met last year, and got to meet some new priests – many from manila and out of town. exciting stuff!

so i was talking with one of the priests who has done mission work in bolivia, peru and japan (his congregation specifically works cross-culturally, he is filipino), and he was super funny and approachable, at least from the conversations i had with him in the past few days. and so, i was joking with him after i found out he was going to be the presider at tonight’s mass.

and so i said, “hey father! you’re going to be the priest for tonight? did you prepare your homily yet? can you make sure it’s not boring please?” and so he laughed and said, “haha, no, i was just going to read through the book.” and i said, “i just don’t want to fall asleep ok?” and so he said, “ok, do you want to do the homily?” and i said, “haha, yeah father, ok, i’ll do the homily – i’ll just read what you were going to read! haha!” – but of COURSE i was joking!

some of the sisters present in the room, interjected and said, “no father, you have to do the homily.” and even then, the Missionary Sisters were not sponsors of tonight’s mass! but he said that none of the other congregations were going to be present…! and so then, he shared stories about how in many of his experiences on mission, it is the members of the community who share during the homily and so he continued, “crystal, i’m not going to read anything! can you do the homily?” i looked at the time. it was 3:20pm and i was going to speak at a class at 4-5pm and then mass was at 5pm! but ahhhh! i agreed. 🙂

i scrambled to find my Anawim Way with the daily readings for the day, looked through the Gospel, and boom! of course, today is the day for Our Lady of Sorrows. oy vey. how was i going to speak on this! i spoke with father for about 5 minutes, we talked about a few things, and then, i was entrusted and commissioned to give the homily! and so, i ran to the chapel, and after 23 minutes of praying, looking to the Gospel for inspiration from the holy spirit, and eventually writing down these thoughts, this is what i came up with:

Good evening everyone! My name is Crystal Catalan and I am serving as a missioner alongside the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But today is not about me, but rather, today is a Feast where we look to Mary as a woman of compassion, strength, and incredible faith and love – Our Lady of Sorrows. It is about how we may connect with our Lady.

With Jesus on the Cross, there stood his mother. His mother feeling pain, sadness, indescribably emotion, but she was there – waiting, loving, and accompanying.

Jesus says to John, “Behold your mother.” And with this, in turn, Mary is too, our spiritual mother. She is the gift that Jesus has given to us. Just as the disciples took in Our Lady of Sorrows and were entrusted with her care, so too, are we entrusted with our brothers and sisters in community. Just as Mary serves as an example of compassion, we too, can look to her as a model of what it means to have a heart full of love.

Earlier today, Fr. Rolly asked me a vocation question. He asked, “Crystal, why is it that you are doing what you are doing? How is it that you made a shift from life in California to a missionary life that led you to New York and now the Philippines?” My answer?

My heart was moved with compassion as I saw the suffering during my first experiences of mission in Manila. I saw the orphans, worked with the recovering prostitutes, I saw the hungry – those physically in need, but also spiritually. And I had to act – NOT as a Savior, but as a daughter of God wanting to be in solidarity with the pains of my brothers and sisters.

And this, I feel, is my gift – to have a heart that is moved to action. I can sing songs, write poetry, and read stories of these pains, but i had to DO something, and God has called me to the Philippines to serve.

One of my favorite quotes is by Frederick Buechner when he says, “the place where God calls you is where your deep gladness meets the world’s greatest needs.” And so, with that, may we continue to ask for the intercession of our mother, Mary, as we uncover how it is that we may best serve the living faces of Christ that we encounter everyday: in our families, our classrooms, barangays, and our schools.

As Vocation Week continues, I ask you, what is it that YOUR heart into compassion? How is that YOU can serve in giving the gift of your life to serve others? 

May God bless you and may we everyday spend our lives in gratitude for the mission that God has called each one of us to live out in faith and love.

the theme of this year’s vocation week is “Gratitude and Mission” and so i tried my best to tie it in somehow. i was so extremely grateful for this opportunity to share with the entire Church my reflection on this Gospel and how it is linked to my faith journey on mission. as i was writing, that’s what i did – i wrote, reflected, paused, then just began writing again, and prayed for clarity through the whole process, remembering that everything i say is to direct the congregation to Jesus. things always turn out better when intentions are set that way: God-centered. 🙂 the holy spirit really pulled through for me on this one! sr. terezinha and i are reading one of the Pope’s books together and she reminded me, “just see with the eyes of the dove [holy spirit]” which is one of the themes that we have been encountering through our book discussion. and so, i kept that in mind.

at the end of mass during the announcements, Fr. thanked me and said how nice it was to have a lay person give the homily – and a woman, at that. i feel extremely blessed that in the few moments of conversation that i had with him, he entrusted me to speak to the congregation. and now, i can say that i officially gave my first homily! 🙂 God. is. good. 🙂

Mama Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.


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