Homily by Fr. Carlos Estrada

Homily Funeral Mass for Manoling de Leon
Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes
August 15, 2015, Saturday

When I was requested to celebrate this funeral mass, I realized I knew little about Manoling. I had met him on several occasions and we have talked briefly, but I did not know him that deeply. So I decided to read some parts of his book, “Pinoy Pilgrim”. I also asked Fr. Joe Cremades to tell me what he could about Manoling. Fr. Joe was a former Regional Vicar of Opus Dei when Manoling started attending spiritual activities and they had talked regularly until Manoling discovered his vocation to Opus Dei.

What did I discover from “Pinoy Pilgrim”? In the chapter on his spiritual trajectory, Manoling described how he met Opus Dei, and after talking with Fr. Joe, he was convinced God was calling him to Opus Dei. Reflecting on what had attracted him, he wrote: “God wanted me to be holy. The first time I heard it, I was captivated by what seemed like a goal worth like no other. It seemed impossible, which is why it challenged me.”

He then compared this with zeroing in on earthly goals in business and life which eventually bored him because there was nothing more to be learned.

He said, “Holiness is different. When I applied the same formula that worked so well with human goals, it didn’t work, because holiness or sanctity is supernatural and divine. After the first five years in Opus Dei, I saw myself as still very far from the ideal. I still lost my temper, felt temptations left and right, and realized that virtues I thought I possessed would turn out to be temporary. Struggle was the name of the game, and I loved it. I was challenged by something that was not easy. Here at last was a goal that would take a lifetime…. It is one hell of a fight to the finish, but by God, I’m enjoying every second of it!”

What did Fr. Joe say about Manoling? He told me two things. First, his great love for Opus Dei, which led him to be very generous. He was a great help for Fr. Joe, especially in getting donations for the different projects of Opus Dei, both here in the Philippines and abroad. For all Manoling’s help for Opus Dei, we will be eternally grateful.

I also witnessed Manoling’s love for Opus Dei back in 1987, when Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, at that time Prelate of Opus Dei, visited the Philippines. Not only did Manoling help a lot in some of the logistics of the trip, he also shamelessly and eagerly followed Blessed Alvaro around like a young boy. He would be in different get-togethers with Blessed Alvaro, including the ones for young college students at the PICC and in Samar Study Center. People were surprised to see an old man in the middle of all the young boys. He also followed Blessed Alvaro around in his trip through other Asian countries where there were Centers of Opus Dei. The only ones he didn’t appear in (at least not too obviously) were the gatherings with the women.

The second thing Fr. Joe said about Manoling was that he never gave up on people even if dealings with them were difficult. You may argue this point, but I go back to what he wrote in his book about the need to struggle

What lessons can we draw from the life of Manoling? Evidently, he was not a saint in his lifetime. He probably is one now in heaven. But the way people lived their lives teach us certain things.

When, like Manoling, we are in our own coffins and people visit our wakes, what will they be saying about us? Shakespeare put the following words in the lips of Marc Antony, in the play Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” I beg to differ. Goodness seems to be hidden, but it is what remains. Evil does not last. Goodness always conquers evil because of Jesus Christ’s victory over the devil and sin. Hence, St. Paul would be able to write in one of his epistles, “Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?” I wish that others would able to say many good things about us despite our weaknesses and defects.

A story is told about a Mafioso who died. As you know, the Mafiosi in Italy also practice the Catholic faith, though their lives are often not in keeping with Catholic beliefs.

Before the funeral mass, the brother warned the priest-celebrant: “Father, you surely know that my brother was heavily into criminal activities. But in your homily you must say that he was a saint, or else…”

So the priest began his homily saying, “This Mafioso whom we are about to lay to rest was a cheat, a liar, a murderer, a drunkard, and a good-for-nothing, but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”

Manoling did a lot of good during his lifetime. He had his weaknesses just like everyone else, but he struggled. Towards the end of his book, drawing lessons from his pilgrimage of life, one of the tips Manoling wrote was, “Be good”. It is not the same as “Be perfect”. True that Jesus tells us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” He is referring to the goal, heaven, where our perfection lies. “Be good” is the same as “Struggle for that perfection.” Here on earth, Manoling struggled. Now he enjoys the crown of victory in heaven.

Manoling is now at peace. Most likely, in the midst of all the trials and difficulties in his life, he was already at peace in a way. Now he truly “rests in peace”.

A final consideration. St. Josemaría Escrivá, reflecting on his eventual demise and the legacy he would leave behind, namely many children of his spirit who discovered their vocation to Opus Dei, told a group of them some years before his death:

When Our Lord would have called me to his presence, almost all of you will continue here on earth. It is the law of life. Remember then what the Father told you: I love you a lot, a lot, madly, but I want you to be faithful. Never forget it: be faithful. When I would have left this world to enjoy life with God, through the infinite mercy of our Lord, I will still love you. You can be certain that then I will love you even more.

I would think that those thoughts of St. Josemaría could well be said of Manoling. From heaven, he looks down upon us and loves all of us. He continues to love Opus Dei and I turn to him for our needs. He now supports our projects from heaven. Manoling loves you, Chatina, Dino, Carlo, Leah, Guada. Perhaps he loves you now even more.