Witnesses to the love and mercy of the Sacred Heart are seen everywhere even in the most unlikely places and circumstances. My nephew, Mike, died suddenly in Singapore, a non-Christian land where Christians and Filipinos are the minorities.
On the plane while traveling to Singapore, we, relatives were wondering how get to the hospital, for Mike's body, how to arrange for the wake, the burial and the hundred other attendant details connected with the funeral. We realized that we were in a foreign land ignorant of all customs and procedures there.
But while we were worrying and struggling with our doubts and fears, we continuously prayed for guidance and help from our favorite patron, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and found comfort in His Promise.
As we kept in mind His invitation found in Mt 11:28, "Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will give you rest." With great confidence and trust even without a single clue, I sat back and fell asleep, tired as I was from the long journey from the United States and then boarding another plane to Singapore.
When we got there, we were most pleasantly surprised by the warm reception we received. What struck me most was that we were in a foreign country and a non-Christian one at that. Yet the Church, where the services were being held, the Church of the Holy Trinity was almost full not with Filipinos (there were only about 13 of us), but people of other races - Chinese, Malaysians, Hindus.
They had taken charge of everything including the wake, the novena prayers, the funeral mass and the cremation. We felt that we were simply guests there. It turned out that these foreign people who were mourning and crying, were companions and co-parishioners of Mike in that Parish. It turned out that Mike was an active and dedicated parishioner - a missionary and a convincing witness of the love of Christ to others.
He was a Eucharistic Minister and member of several ministries. He helped in the celebration of church programs like the Catechetical and RCIA ministries when new converts were admitted into the Church. He would assist in the celebrations by bringing food and helping serve these to the visitors and congregation as well. Not wanting to leave the premises dirty, he actively took part in cleaning and tidying up the place.
At times, his kids felt neglected and would complain that he had promised to take them to the zoo or shopping but that they were already late. But he would just smile and tell them that one of the marks of a good Christian was his generosity to help others. By way of his example, he was effectively teaching his children acts of compassion for other people.
Another of these ministries helped foreigners especially the newly recruited ones find decent living spaces. Mike actively assisted them to the point that at times he allowed them to stay at his house for free until they could find a suitable place to live in.
Before Mike moved to Singapore, not many knew that he had previously joined the Knights of Columbus Chapter and even volunteered to become one of the "Twelve Apostles" that our Church the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati usually recruits for the traditional Maundy Thursday washing of the feet rituals.
All the stories that his co-parishioners and office-mates related to us about Mike pleasantly amazed us. But such a person was Mike; a total surprise to all of us, his close relatives. His personality had completely turned around 180 degrees - he was transformed from the happy-go-lucky, unconcerned, self-centered and complacent individual that we had always known to a sympathetic, generous, merciful, and compassionate person.
In our surprise and delight, we forgot to cry. Instead we were treated to a rare kind of witnessing to Jesus Christ; the kind of witness that the Bible often exhorts us to be - living witnesses of Christ's love for us to others even to complete strangers.
Thank you Mike for showing us the way to be a good Christian. I think it was God's way of letting you fulfill His great purpose to "go out into the world and tell the Good News" (Mt 28:25), and you did it in living your life, simply and without fanfare, pouring it out to others in imitation of the love of the Sacred Heart for you and for us all. May you rest happily in God's Kingdom.
[Mike Denoga, by the way, is Estela Denoga's son. He was only 38 years old when he died.]
Angelita P. Makalinao
THE MESSENGER OF DIVINE LOVE
Volume III Number 1