Indian Catholic News

Chrism Mass spurs Filipino priest not to break promise

For Father Raymond Ambray, Holy Thursday ritual is a timely reminder of how important his commitment to Christ really is.

Father Raymond Montero Ambray leads a prayer service for slain tribal leaders in Lianga in Surigao del Sur province. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Chrism Mass, a ritual where sacramental oils are consecrated by the bishop, is also a meaningful moment for members of the clergy who renew their priestly commitment.

The annual ceremony is a reminder for Father Raymond Ambray, a priest serving in the southern Philippines, that his promise to follow Christ means "to embrace the danger of being a priest."

“The priesthood could be the most exciting or the most dangerous job. But when danger comes, a priest must stand to what Christ died for,” he said.

The exciting part of his job is when he reaches remote areas where he enjoys the beauty of the forests and lives with tribal people.

With his motorbike, the priest travels four to six hours from his parish in Tandag Diocese to get to tribal territories in the mountainous areas of Surigao del Sur province.

“My job as a priest requires me to side with the people, even those who don’t have religions, especially when these people are oppressed and exploited,” Father Ambray said.

The priest is active in the social action ministry that includes campaigns to promote environmental protection and movements against human rights violations.

He led a campaign that aimed to seek justice for three tribal leaders who were killed by state forces in 2015.

His ministry has exposed him to threats, intimidation and persecution. He was once tagged as a member or a sympathizer of the communist movement.

“When a priest preaches that we must help the poor, we receive praise. But when we challenge the system to address the root cause of poverty, we are tagged as rebels,” he said.

Father Ambray admitted that there are times that he wanted to stop what he is doing because of the constant threats that he receives but “I cannot just break a promise.”

“Every year, on Holy Thursday, I take part in the celebration of the Chrism Mass. We recite our commitment as priests,” he said.

“And as a priest, we are committed to do what Christ did. He gave his life for others. And that kind of giving is not depleting but nourishing the life of others.”

But it is not only during Chrism Mass that the priest renews his promise. The priest said his promise is reaffirmed every time he presides over the Eucharistic celebration.

“Priests like me promise to die with the people and our faith every time we say the Mass. Every time that we take part in Holy Communion, we renew our discipleship,” he said.

On Holy Thursday, Father Ambray will again face his bishop and the people as he renews the commitment he made when he was ordained as priest on June 9, 2009.

His promise 10 years ago is still the same promise he has to keep, but he admitted that this time he is more willing to die for the people “because faith should lead us to freedom from structural sins that oppress the human person.”

Source: UCAN

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