By Fr. Charles Gervais, SFM
About 12 years ago when I was serving in San Fernando, Bukidnon, Philippines, I went to a far off village called San José. Since it was the rainy season and some of the roads would be washed out, I could not get all the way there on my motorcycle but had to walk a good part of the way. For this reason I went in the afternoon and was to stay overnight at the home of one of the Christian leaders. The next morning I would celebrate the Eucharist with the people, witness a wedding and baptize some of the children.
When I got to the house at about five in the afternoon, the mother was feeding her four children who were about seven, six, four and two years of age. Her husband was not yet back from the rice field. I was to eat with her and her husband when he returned.
“In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
I noticed the eldest child, a boy, was as naughty as could be. He was pinching his younger siblings and stealing food from their plates. He was making the younger two cry and causing the oldest girl to fight back. It seemed that he wanted some special attention but his mother was too busy to give it. She just tried to control the situation by scolding him.
When the father came back from the field, the mother told her husband how naughty the eldest had been. After washing himself, he picked up the eldest boy in his arms and, without a word, went to the far end of the room and sat on bags of rice and corn that were stored there. For well over an hour he held the child and every once in a while I noticed him whispering in the boy’s ear. The young fellow finally fell asleep so he gently went and put him to bed. By this time his wife and I had already eaten. It was eight o’clock and so the man must have been famished after a long hard day’s work in the hot sun.
As he ate his supper, I looked upon his tanned, weather beaten face in the flickering candlelight. I thought to myself, What a beautiful example of selfless love. The man had only a grade four education but he instinctively knew what his child needed most.
Fr. Charlie Gervais is now serving in Canada, speaking at schools and parishes about the work of Scarboro missionaries.