CEBU City, Jan. 27, 2016 – A foreign missionary to the Philippines on Tuesday lauded the poor and their hunger for the Eucharist, saying often, those who have little in life are the ones more excited to receive Christ.
“This is where I learned that the poor feel a very special connection with Jesus in the Eucharist. They really love and treasure Jesus so much. Jesus is alive in those places in the peripheries where no one wants to go,” said Fr. Luciano Ariel Felloni, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, in a session he was facilitating at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu on Jan. 26.
Addressing pilgrims from various parts of the world, the Argentine priest introduced his talk by admitting he lacks advanced degrees unlike the other speakers who do.
“I don’t have [a] doctorate in anything. I don’t teach anything. I’m a professor of nothing. [That’s why] I don’t now what I’m doing here,” he said in a combination of English and Filipino.
However, he expressed pride he can speak from the point-of-view of his 21-year experience living among the Filipino poor.
Felloni went on to share his first encounter with residents of Payatas, a huge dumpsite north of Manila, thanking them for helping him become the person he is now.
“Once I told a lady [in Payatas], ‘Poor you.’ [She said,] ‘No, Father, it’s okay. When you were not here we were just poor. Now that you are, here we are Church,’” he said.
According to him, being with the poor enables them to become Church with oneself, and vice-versa.
“When you are there you make them the Church with you. And they make you the Church with them. That’s beautiful. They need that presence in the peripheries. We [also] need that presence,” he exclaimed.
Felloni also confessed to patronizing before Filipinos who seem “addicted” to Mass and insist on having one celebrated even for seemingly trivial reasons, rejecting this practice as resulting in “Eucharistic overdose.”
‘Spirituality of the people’
“I used to look down on that, saying this is ‘superficial sacramentalism.’ And in 21 years the poor have taught me to eat my words one by one. I realize this is what Pope Francis calls ‘spirituality of the people’,” he said.
Noting that the Holy Father recognizes them in all simplicity, Felloni stated the poor don’t just have devotions but a deep spirituality.
“They want the Lord to be there for them. They want the Lord in their happy moments and their not-so-happy moments. They want the Lord all the time and everywhere, and that hunger for the Eucharist is one of the biggest lessons I have learned from my people,” he explained.
Felloni, moreover, pointed out the poor is the “privileged place of Jesus outside the Eucharist.”
“Many times the poor, not us the priests, are the ones who make the presence of the Church felt in those places. Many times even we have no courage to live among them. But they keep the presence of Jesus alive. So let us learn among them,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)