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IN MEMORIAM: El Amado de Dios

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(Homily deliverd by Fr. Edilberto Cepe, Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists, at the wake for Fr. Amado L. Picardal, on 5 June 2024 at the Redemptorist Church in Cebu City)

El Amado, the Beloved. That was the proposed title of Picx’s autobiography or memoirs. I remember that I was still his student when I read the preliminary draft of the “Beloved.” Amado! Beloved!

So much has been shared about Fr. Picx. As we gather for this wake mass, I find myself pondering, what more can I add? I can attempt to distill the essence of what has been said. But I must admit, I am unsure if I can do it.

As I reflected on what to share with you, I checked the possible readings. I originally planned to take one of the Gospel readings for a funeral, that of the Beatitudes, which could summarize what our brother tried to live throughout his life. But that was already used last Saturday. I checked on the readings for today, especially from the Gospel of Mark. Initially, I thought that it was far from our celebration of grief. What can the story of a wife who lost seven husbands have to do with the life and death of Picx? But, upon deeper reflection, I found out that there is a connection. I have found not just one but two connections: First, the idea of descendants for the dead man, and the second, the words of the Lord Jesus that “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

First and significant point: “If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife with no child, his brother must take the wife and raise descendants for his brother.”  A little explanation here. This teaching is from the Old Testament, and the reason for the descendants was so that the dead man’s name and race should continue.  It is essential in a tribal society.  The name of the patriarch must continue; there must be an heir.  

Here, we talk about the man, Amado, the Beloved. He did not father a child (Salamat sa Dios!). But the heir does not have to be a physical child.  Throughout his life, Amado did everything he could to live up to his name and his call as the beloved priest of God. Amado’s life, teachings, advocacy, and actions affected so many that there is a part of Picx, an heir, in us, his friends, families, and supporters. 

He was multi-talented and multi-faceted, and this was evident in the many engagements that he had. He did not allow his past hurts and pains to cripple him from doing what is right and just.  In fact, he transformed them as a source of inspiration and power to do concrete acts that the same pains could not be inflicted on others.

Instead of making him fearful, his experiences of imprisonment and torture made him more courageous to stand for what is right.  Without a wife to commit to, his love was transformed into concrete expressions and actions for others, be it in protecting the environment or people’s rights, and also shown in intimate moments with friends, time for coffee (he used to love Blugre in Davao), treating students to dinner and a bottle of beer at the end of the semester, or in sending emails, texts or video messages.

He kept his vows guarded; he had some special and close friends, but he lived according to the standard of the vows he made. He was not very showy in terms of affection, but towards the latter part of his life, you can see his affection in the way he cared for Bro. Bruno, his dog.  Our staff, Joann, shared with us how Bruno had transformed Picx.  When Bruno was still a puppy, Picx bought him his sleeping mat, toys, and dog food.  Picx had Bruno as his companion when praying, eating, and working with the hermitage. The poem he penned on the morning of his last day expressed the kind of special bond that he and Bruno had. 

He lived his vow of obedience as obedience to God and to do God’s will. Coupled with his advocacy for justice and human rights, he could be determined to do what he thinks is right, even if, at times, this could bring him into disagreements with his superiors. It was said that Picx could be stubborn.  Yes, but always on the side of justice, of what is right, of what is good.

Reflecting on the influence of Picx on me brought me deep into the second letter of Paul to Timothy (the first reading).  We can appropriate the words of Paul as he spoke to Timothy as Picx’s way of telling us his students, family, and friends.  Picx can equally say, “of the God he served with a clear conscience, who gave him not a spirit of cowardice but rather of power, love, and self-control.” (cf. 2 Tim. 1:3, 7).  Just as Picx made sure that the flame of the Spirit of God in him was stirred so that he continued to live an active missionary life even amid threats, he is asking us to do the same.  Picx bore his own share of hardships because of the Gospel.  Paul’s words in today’s reading could be his words to us as well: “Do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake, but bear your share of hardship for the sake of the Gospel with the strength that comes from God, … the Gospel for which he was anointed preacher, apostle, and teacher.” (2 Tim. 1:8, 11).

Paul’s words for himself and Timothy could be Picx’s words for himself and all of us who have been touched and influenced by his life.

Picx had been my professor in almost all of my Systematic and Dogma classes in Theology. He always ensured that we learned and took to heart what the Church teaches and learned of the Scriptural and Theological bases before we would venture into the voices and current views of theologians. And he always made sure that from the high point of theology, we go down and see the pastoral and missiological implications of what we are studying. That is always the bias of Picx: unsay koneksyon niini sa kinabuhi sa tawo ug sa atong misyon.

I can still remember one of his questions during the comprehensive exams. He asked me about Vatican II and PCP 2’s views on the Church and how the Philippine Church should move forward. It was not difficult for me because I immediately remembered his “Awit sa GKK.” For many of us, “Awit sa GKK” is gasgas na, and the tune is simple, even simplistic. But the song’s lyrics will always tell us what and how the Church should be. It is always a communion of the people of God following and sharing in the mission of the Lord Jesus. Before synodality became vogue, Picx already had it regarding communion, participation, and mission. For my part, Picx was not only a teacher; he was not only a confrere but also my mentor and at times, tormentor. How he lived his life challenged me also to live concretely my own Redemptorist life.

And this brings us to the last point of the Gospel.  Our God is a “God not of the dead but of the living” (cf. Mark 12:27).  In God’s eyes, all of us are alive, even our friend Amado.  The God who mattered in his life, the God who stirred in his heart the flame of love for justice, human rights, care for creation, and peace, is the same God we believe in, the same God that gathers us together. With his memories and advocacies alive in us, Picx will continue to live on not just as one person but in all of us: in the words we utter, in the concrete acts we do, and in every move that we make. We ask the God of the living to inspire and move us even as we bury the dead body of our friend. The Beloved’s life and work continue to live on.

To conclude, let me quote a portion of the letter he wrote to the Council requesting permission to undertake a “Camino de Cebu” journey from Oslob in the south to Daanbantayan in the north in October 2023 last year:

“As I reach 69 years, which is the average life expectancy for Filipino men, I am grateful to the Lord that I have lived this long despite the dangers and life-threatening experiences.  How much longer I have, only the Lord knows.  It could be a few months or over 20 years.  I wish I could reach 90 or a hundred.  But what matters most is not how long I live but living life to the full.  This is what I have done, and I am ready to go on my final journey anytime the Lord wills.”

My brother, Amado, indeed, you have lived a full life. Go and meet face to face the One you love, to whom you sacrificed your whole life.  And it is also my hope, as it is yours, that one day, your beloved Bruno will be welcome in the heavenly home.

Fr. Amado “Picx” Picardal: Missionary of Hope in the footsteps of the Redeemer
IN MEMORIAM: “You can never imprison God’s word” by Bishop Emmanuel T. Cabajar, CSsR
Bruno’s last view of Fr. Picx

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