Wanting in the Wake of Wonder

I have just, once again, as if for the first time, discovered a reason why it is that I am, at times, drawn to watch news reports and read articles on current events of note through our present times, suddenly reacquainted with an awareness of what drives me to keep on keeping on being and becoming ever more abreast of issues with insightful perspectives to bear witness and to hopefully be deeply prescient upon the recent and ongoing plights of our society today. 

The sordid significant streams of self-disquietingly thoughtful reflection serendipitously sought that, eventually, seemingly inundate, satiate and suffuse one’s inner life, apparently help reconnect me further with a continual desire to remember my father’s love and loves of life, family and friends along the journey of journeys unto eternity.[1]

I miss my Dad. I yearn for whatever semblance of paternal wisdom and fatherly advice he would generously, keenly and timely provide throughout life lived together with loved ones. 

I remember watching Dad in his retirement, intently viewing television for hours on end with focused concentration and undistracted attention toward various items in a variety of news broadcasts. There would be several sections of journalistically reputable newspapers strewn about after his reading them each day throughout the week and especially the Sunday edition of prominent publications hot off the press along with a diverse plethora of weekly and monthly magazines from subscriptions and sometimes nearby newsstands in town. This would inevitably well inform his contributions to stimulating dialogue in the casual course of engaging conversations with others. 

By his example, Dad inculcated in me a cultivating, captivating curiosity for currency in national and world affairs that would have untold repercussions on my developing certain principled views on civics and international issues. A lawyer, labor and business leader in his decades long career following higher education and training, after service in the Philippines under U.S. General Wainwright’s command during WWII, my veteran father’s acute and heightened sense of duty, righteousness and responsibility concerning liberty and justice for all was a poignant influence on his son’s worldview. It would later serve to strengthen my vocation in ministry upon encountering the theological approach of holding the bible in one hand and the published news of current events in the other while praying through daily devotions with the offering of intercessions unto the One able to accomplish that which would address our concerns for the day. 

I am continuously seeking, searching for such tethered feeling of ancestral embrace with my father, imagined as though face to face. I constantly aspire toward that experience of parental approval uniquely obtained from the relationship key to a sense of identity as a man’s man can only derive from that one filial connection. It speaks to a familial interconnectedness. One realizes, albeit posthumously, that such transcendent inheritance is more pertinent and important to a farther extent than they had even already been aware of before. The reality of a parent’s impartation of prosperity in perspectives prior to their passing is wrought with similarity of sentiment on to one’s own progeny for posterity in perpetuity. 

We visited his grave on Friday, Mom and I and three among my younger of six daughters. They, their “Lola”/my mother, and I marked the time together in loving remembrance on 9/11 eleven years after his departure from this earth, now nineteen years since our nation’s terrible experience of world events on September 11. 

A statue of a flower

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By my father’s gravesite at midday on 9/11 with loving memory of songs and family in 2020

We are left upon the aftermath in the wake of unspeakable grief and loss continuing on amidst times of global uncertainty amongst hundreds of thousands more afflicted and multiple millions affected through the present pandemic. I am bereft of sensibilities it seems at this point potentially desensitized to the dearth of dread for deathly disease plaguing the nation’s most vulnerable among us. I wonder what Dad would say today. 


[1] “Now unto the [One] Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the Only Wise—be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.”

A Tale of War

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 A TALE OF WAR: Family members tell New Castle man’s World War II story Tuesday, November 10, 2009

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MARIANO AND NATIVIDAD ESPIRITU visit a World War II memorial on a return trip to the Philippines many years after the war. (Photo provided)

By JOHN HODGE

jhodge@thecouriertimes.com

Bataan and Corregidor. MacArthur and Wainwright. Philippine guerrilla forces. The Death March.

For most Americans those words are the stuff of history books or old movies about World War II. But for family members of the late Mariano [G.] Espiritu they are vivid, captivating tales they have heard many times.

Espiritu, a New Castle resident, died on Sept. 11, 2009, at the age of 88. His obituary would bring goose bumps to any student of World War II, and certainly to any veteran of it.

His wife, Natividad Espiritu, did not meet Mariano until after the war. But she, their children and their grandchildren know the stories. They’ve heard them over and over, and can repeat them in detail.

Natividad and her son, the Rev. Rex Espiritu of New Castle, recently sat down for an interview about Mariano’s wartime experiences.

Served Under General Wainwright

The people of the Philippine Islands were looking forward to independence after 40 years as a U.S. territory and, before that, four centuries as a Spanish colony. But before independence was realized, they had to deal with an occupier: Japan.

The Japanese occupied the islands in December 1941, just a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Mariano Espiritu was there, on the island of Luzon.

He joined the army but fudged on his age to do so.

“He was supposed to be 21, but wasn’t yet,” Mrs. Espiritu said with a laugh. “He lied about his age – just by a few months.”

Early in 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur to leave the Philippines to go to Australia and begin organizing the Allied counterattack. MacArthur left General Jonathan Wainwright in charge of the Philippines. It was Wainwright under whom Espiritu served.

“There was an American officer going around looking for ‘bright young men,’” Mrs. Espiritu said. “He went to Mariano’s room and saw a lot of books.”

The officer was impressed with how well-read the young man was. Mariano was immediate[ly] assigned to Wainwright.

Narrowly escaped the Death March

In the spring of 1942 the Japanese completed their conquest of the Philippines. The last two bloody engagements were the battles of Bataan Peninsula and the nearby tiny island of Corregidor – where Wainwright was holed up.

“He (Mariano) talked about it in bits and pieces,” Mrs. Espiritu said. “He was taken prisoner.”

Through quick thinking, Mariano escaped the infamous Bataan Death March, during which many American and Filipino prisoners died.

“There were two groups of prisoners – the civilians and the soldiers,” Mrs. Espiritu said. “Mariano got into some civilian clothes and pretended to be the husband of a civilian woman with two children. During one of the moments when the Japanese were not looking, he jumped into the river and breathed through bamboo reeds.”

Rex Espiritu expressed surprise at his mother’s recollection. “This is the first time I ever heard those details,” he said.

But Mrs. Espiritu quickly pointed out how Mariano protected the woman he momentarily befriended.

“She was afraid she was going to be raped by the Japanese. When the soldiers came toward her, my husband shouted ‘Malaria! Malaria!’ So they did not come close to that woman. They thought she had the disease.”

Fought with guerrilla forces

Mariano fled into the mountains and lived among the natives for a while. He eventually joined the Philippine guerrilla forces, which operated behind the scenes to harass and impede the Japanese occupation army.

This led to further dangers for the young Philippine soldier. On one occasion his horse fell to bullets intended for Mariano.

“The Japanese shot at him and missed, but hit his horse,” Mrs. Espiritu said. “Both he and the horse fell into a ravine. He hurt his elbow when he fell on the ground. He could not get medical treatment until after the war and his elbow was damaged until his death.”

Most importantly, Mariano eluded capture again. He remained in hiding until MacArthur’s army landed in the Philippines in the fall of 1944 and began liberation of the islands.

“Luzon was the last island to be liberated,” Mrs. Espiritu said.

Hundreds of American and Filipino prisoners were set free, including General Wainwright himself. Espiritu was eventually reunited with his unit.

Husband, attorney, labor peacemaker

By virtue of the Tydings-McDuffee Act of Congress the Philippines became an independent nation on July 4, 1946, a year after World War II ended.

Like thousands of his comrades, Mariano Espiritu took advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights and went to college. He graduated from Far Eastern University in Manila and became an attorney. Much of his career was spent as a lawyer for the Mobil Oil Company in the Philippines.

“I was still a high school student,” she said. “We worshiped at the United Church of Christ. That’s where we met. But I didn’t see much of him for a while because I entered the school of nursing at [the] University [of the Philippines (UP) — Philippine General Hospital (PGH)]. While I was there, I needed a partner for the junior-senior prom. I did not have a boyfriend at the time, so I asked Mariano to be my partner.”

Throughout his career with Mobil, Espiritu worked to resolve conflicts between the labor union and corporate management. The Espiritus immigrated to the U.S. in 1972. They came to New Castle in [summer of] 200[5] to be closer to their son. The Rev. Rex has lived in New Castle since [January] 2005. In addition to Rex, Mariano and Natividad also had a daughter, Marina Espiritu Lutz, who now resides in Delaware. There are [seven] grandchildren.

“God brought my father to deep lows and raised him to great heights,” the Rev. Espiritu said.

In the meantime he met and married Natividad.

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What is required in the ninth commandment?

www.bible.com/100/exo.20.16.nasb

The Heidelberg Catechism

Q. 112. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. That I do not bear false witness against anyone, twist anyone’s words, be a gossip or a slanderer, or condemn anyone lightly without a hearing. Rather I am required to avoid, under penalty of God’s wrath, all lying and deceit as the works of the devil himself. In judicial and all other matters I am to love the truth, and to speak and confess it honestly. Indeed, insofar as I am able, I am to defend and promote my neighbor’s good name.

Prayer: Blessing for the Sick

A BLESSING FOR THE SICK

Lord Jesus, when you were on earth, they brought the sick to you and you healed them. Today we ask you to bless those in sickness, in weakness and in pain.

For those who are blind and who cannot see the light of the sun; the beauty of the world, or the faces of their friends:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those who are deaf and cannot hear the voices which speak to them:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those who are helpless and who must lie in bed while others go out and in:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those whose minds have lost their reason and those who are so nervous that they cannot cope with life:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those who must face life under some handicap; those whose weakness means that they must always be careful:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those suffering from debilitating or terminal illness and for their caregivers:
Bless your people, O Lord.

For those who are near the hour of death and in their final struggle:
Bless your people, O Lord.

Father, your only Son took upon himself the sufferings and weakness of the whole human race; through his passion and cross he taught us how good can be brought out of suffering. Look upon our beloved ones who are ill, whom we now remember in a special way. In the midst of illness and pain, may they be united with Christ, who heals both body and soul. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, as we ask your help for dear ones who are ill, we ask you to help us to be healing people in our time and place. May your love touch others through us, and may we help all people to live in peace. We ask this through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

https://stfrancisnyc.org/prayers-for-the-sick/

17 Mile Drive (July 2010)

Christian Faith Stands the Test of Time

Giving Thanks to the Lord for the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) through the challenges of undergraduate studies in collegiate years past….

Bringing the Word to Life

A milestone offers me the opportunity to give witness to God’s faithfulness. Fifty years ago today, I surrendered to Jesus Christ, actively received his salvation and indwelling Holy Spirit, and committed my life to serving him. This after six months of resistance following a sermon of invitation I heard in Seattle in January of 1970. The problem was pride, conceit, self-sufficiency, and fear within me, preventing me from trusting God with my life. But the pursuit was on, and finally I just gave up because God wouldn’t let it rest. I was in high school at the time, and new Christian friends came out of the woodwork to support my new faith. My appetite for reading the Bible was voracious, and I read the whole thing in six months (yeah, I ended up skipping Ezekiel because I just couldn’t get it the first time). From then on, through difficulties and…

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God of wind, flame, joy, love

Today’s Lectionary. Try the app: http://itunes.apple.com/app/id583885035

Almighty God,

who on the day of Pentecost

sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles

with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,

filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:

by the power of the same Spirit

strengthen us to witness to your truth

and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God, heal us in spirit

www.presbyterianmission.org/devotion/daily/2020/6/29/

Collect

Great God, you are one God,

and you bring together what is scattered

and mend what is broken.

Unite us with the scattered peoples of the earth

that we may be one family of your children.

Bind up all our wounds,

and heal us in spirit,

that we may be renewed as disciples

of Jesus Christ, our Master and Savior.†

Amen.

— Monday 29 June 2020

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/daily-prayer-pc-usa/id568520697

Pastoral Perspective — On Prevailing Perseverance Upon Confluence of Critical World Crises

As excerpted from a Time Magazine piece on the twentieth century theologian Karl Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963 regarding his counsel to students of theology nearly a century before now:

“[Barth] recalls that… he [had] advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper—and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’”

The article goes on to give us more of Barth’s thoughts on journalists and their place in the world:

“Newspapers, he says, are so important that ‘I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church – in that order. Journalists form public opinion. They hold terribly important positions. Nevertheless, a theologian should never be formed by the world around [them] – either East or West. [One] should make [one’s] vocation to show both East and West that they can live without a clash. Where the peace of God is proclaimed, there is peace on earth… implicit. Have we forgotten the Christmas message?’” (1)

Visions of Christmas in July 2020? What better way to observe summertime for me this week during a global pandemic with international mass protests’ civil unrest and worldwide economic uncertainty than myself visiting the N Jersey shore on an uncrowded socially distanced Fathers’ Day weekend with two of my daughters and son-in-law (J.G., Ph.D.’20), saying goodbye to past frequent oceanside jaunts from Princeton seminary days, giving thanks for blessings in celebration of commencements followed by their pending imminent move while grieving in lament, missing anticipatedly the loss of proximate opportunity for such respite and times of refreshing in the near future!

Having a daughter attending college presently studying journalism, and another one whose most recent degree in divinity involves pastoral studies in practical theology, the eminent 20th century pastoral theologian’s wise words of counsel bear witness prominently on my mind for our own present day and time of ill, evil, and dread in the new millennium. Present leaders of prominent theological institutions in our nation’s land forthrightly offer forthtelling prophetic thoughts and sobering sentiments of late.

“When the President and other national leaders became aware of the deadly nature of COVID-19, where was the urgent effort to marshal national resources to create the necessary tests and the PPE that we knew we would need? Where was the effort to bring the country together to create a united front against this deadly disease? Where was the spirit of international cooperation to foster collaboration with other countries when facing a global pandemic? These are not only political questions; they are moral questions — questions with life and death in the balance.” (2)

I grow tired these days of popularized nonsensical responses unduly influenced by polarizing politicized propaganda in the face of the staggering confluence of critical crises our world is experiencing today. In the midst of these cross streams of debating rejoinders, I judge they will eventually prove to be unhelpful remarks even and especially when issued from positions of authority over us. In and through the cacophony of belabored discussions, beloved, we shall not cease nor desist in the call for moral leadership to rise above, to stand up for the cause of the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the afflicted, the marginalized, the needy, and the most vulnerable among us.

I pray the Lord deliver—save us from our own selves, from ignorance, from incompetence, from apathy, from neglect, from inaction, from senselessness, from stupidity, from hopelessness, from resignation, from disease, from evil, from death. O Lord, in your mercy…. maranatha • even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly

May the better angels of our nature prevail, preside, and persevere by providence of providential provision for all humanity.

In the grip of grace, for justice and peace,

—Pastor Rex Espiritu

________________________

[1] http://barth.ptsem.edu/about-cbs/faq

[2] https://www.ptsem.edu/news/a-call-for-moral-leadership — Craig Barnes, Princeton Theological Seminary • Greg Jones, Duke Divinity School • Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary • Jan Love, Candler School of Theology – Emory University • Greg Sterling, Yale Divinity School • Emilie Townes, Vanderbilt Divinity School