ST. ISIDORE IN BALABAGAN: AN EXAMPLE OF LIVING A SIMPLE LIFE

by Daryl Sarabia Tecson

All of us are called to live a good and just life. We are not called to live a perfect life because none of us humans can do that. But, how can we live a good and just life? Are we not tired of giving reasons to ourselves that humans cannot live that kind of life in reality? Yet, if we can’t, why is it that there are a lot of human beings who became saints despite their imperfections?  Could it be that it is only in our mind that we keep on saying that we can’t live that kind of life?  This is because we believe that this is the reality of our existence here on earth as humans, not like God who is perfect.

Our mission in the parish of Balabagan , Lanao del Sur, which lasted for three months (from March to May) somehow, will answer these questions especially when one knows more about the life of Saint Isidore, their patron Saint. Majority of the population are Muslim-Maranaos. Only 20% percent are Christians, from which 5% percent are Catholics. Yet, the Christians there continue to hold on to their faith in God.

I always believe that it is the work of the Holy Spirit when choosing a patron saint for every parish and chapel.  That is why, for me, Saint Isidore is really destined to be the patron saint of the parish of Balabagan.   Majority of the people  live a simple and harmonious life, together with their families, despite the conflicts and their bloody history. They are even surrounded by Muslim communities who also treasured their own faith, belief and culture.

Like Saint Isidore, who was brought up in a religious family, and showed us how to live a good and just life, the whole community of Balabagan, both Christians and Muslims, showed so much compassion, and even valued their faith to God despite their differences.  These are shown through their practices and how they sacrificed their time just to praise and deepen what they believe.   

Same with the Catholics, especially in celebrating the Holy Eucharist, they participate and respect one’s faith and belief by respecting the tradition and practices of the Muslim community.  This is also the clear message of Saint Isidore, as he was known until now, that, before he would do his work to plow his field, he would first visit some of the churches in Sevilla to pray and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  Because of that, Saint Isidore was known for being blessed, holy and kind to others, even to the animals.

This is also what the community of Balabagan does at present.  Despite their own biases and reservations with other religions, still, they showed so much kindness to one another. They are all like Saint Isidore who was very approachable and kind person. Yet, this is also one of the challenges they need to look into. A challenge to be humble enough to respect and understand one another, especially with people of other religions.  The people showed much appreciation and respect to their differences in terms of culture and religion.

Although, there were situations that brought so much pain to the Christian community, especially to the Catholics.  One of the chapels of a Christian Community experienced desecration by un-identified Maranaos.  They forcefully entered the chapel, defecated it, broke the image of Jesus on the Cross and destroyed other sacred images of the saints.  

However,  this really communicates a message to each one of us.   In reality, we may not be able to show our love perfectly to one another, and even please anyone, yet we can always offer that little character, behavior or traits we have.  Some examples are our deep appreciation, respect, understanding and patience. And most especially our humility, no matter what culture, belief and faith we have.  

I believe that our connection with one another is not based on our culture and religion, but a connection of humanity.  That is why, this is a deep reminder to the call of God, especially to us Catholics.  The life of St. Isidore is a clear and powerful reminder of God’s call for us to live a holy and prayerful life, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, and to serve God’s people in whatever way we can.  

Moreover, Saint Isidore is also known as the patron saint of nature.  That is why, it is very important for us today also to restore back our attention and care, to protect and restore the vitality of the environment.

Lastly, we hope to deeply listen to God’s call, as to how He wants us to live in this world.  We look on the examples of our saints, like Saint Isidore, who listened well to God’s loving presence and committed his life to live a good and just life, by being simple and having a deep faith to God, that led him to be blessed, holy and humble.

This is a reminder of God’s call for all of us to praise and glorify Him with all our hearts, so that we may be able to welcome one another into our lives, to show our respect, humility, friendship, brotherhood and understanding, despite our differences in culture and religion, and even with our own imperfections.  And we respond to this call by living simply.  Amen.

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