The Way of Love

Reflections on the priesthood of +Rev. Fr. Anthony Chan P. Olaguer, III, LRMS

With the untimely passing of such a young priest, memories flood me of the many times I was a witness to the kind of priesthood he lived out.

I recall my first time meeting him was at his Thanksgiving Mass right after ordination, back in 2006. I was straight out of attending a Youth Encounter (a retreat of sorts), and was so fired up that I joined the composite choir that was formed to sing for the event. We were practicing the Responsorial Psalm, and he chose Psalm 116 (as you can see in the image above). Fr. Tony, as he was fondly called, had a gift for music, and he composed the Responsorial Psalm specifically for the occasion. It was memorable to me, not because of my being fired up and gung ho, but because the moment I heard the composition, I was drawn to it. I fell in love with it.

The following year, I was a participant at a National Convention for the youth community that I was active in, the Filipino-Chinese Catholic Youth (FCCY). He was both a priest and in charge of music for the 5-day event. That was the moment of getting to know him more, seeing how he passionately played for the young people. He was also very much engaging, never missing a beat to get to know the people who joined the gathering. It was a refreshing sight. From then on, we had numerous moments of working together, creating music, sharing stories, growing a friendship that was definitely rooted in God.

I would recall the moments of visiting him in his then parish assignment in Damar Village in Quezon City, just to exchange stories, share a meal, exchange ideas and compose songs. I admit, he was instrumental, albeit unconsciously, in my desire then to enter the priesthood. I was a witness to how he would visit barangays (communities), being one with those whom Pope Francis would say are in the peripheries, engaging and being with the least, the last, and the lost. He would say Masses there, get together with those who live in shanties, talk to them, and being a pastor to them. I most vividly remember when he asked me one time to help him design a shirt for a group of men that he bonded with in those areas. These men were drunkards, people whose lives revolved around drinking day in and day out. These were men who, upon experiencing the company of Fr. Tony, chose to turn a new leaf, and offer their time, talent, and treasure to the service of Christ through the parish. He called the group Kapatiran ni San Jose (Brotherhood of Saint Joseph). They volunteered in the parish as parking attendants, security, some even as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, all while revolving their lives in prayer and renewal under the intercession of Saint Joseph.

Another memory that stuck with me was his love for the youth. Apart from being with us in FCCY for years, he also animated the youth of the parish, many also coming from the same communities as the men. He asked me to help him out in one overnight youth camp which he was hands on in preparing and running. To me, it was a mission that I couldn’t say no to. His approach to facilitating the youth camp, to engaging with the young, was so similar as that of a father loving his children, whatever and wherever they are from.

Even as he was transferred to another assignment in San Jose de Trozo Parish close to the center of Manila, he made sure to always serve with zeal. He did the same, reaching out to the people across the 34 barangays, starting out the Divine Mercy Evangelization, by bringing the devotion to the Divine Mercy to families and homes. He never wavered in this devotion, and was an ardent lover of the Divine Mercy.

He was a firm believer of evangelizing people from wherever they are, most especially in via pulchritudinis, encounter by way of beauty. The work he put in to get the communities to work together to spruce up the parishes and make them even more dignified as places of worship are clearly evident. It bore fruit as it brought in more people to the parishes, not just to appreciate the beauty, but to be brought before God.

Immaculate Conception Parish — Damar Village, Quezon City (photo by Anthony Ariston)
Image taken from San Jose de Trozo Parish Facebook page

On a personal level, and looking back, I am thankful for him, and to him. We did have our rough times, as friends normally would. But it was an opportunity to grow, it was an opportunity to step out of what I’m comfortable of. It was an opportunity to look into myself and see what I need to work on. Those rough times brought out those moments.

The good times, meanwhile, made me learn to see God in my everyday. In fact, I would recall those times when I would see him for Confession, and afterwards, we would eat and feast, as he would call it, because “the prodigal son is home.”

Mostly, I would remember him as the priest who best personified the lyrics of this song:

I wish you’d hear the song I sing
I wish you’d join me as I sing
A song of peace, a song of love
A song which everyone would like to sing.

I wish that all along the road
The road to make the whole wide world
A place of peace, a place of love
A place where everyone could live as one.

And so let’s join our hands and sing aloud
Let’s show the world, let’s show them how
That the only way to make the world as one
Is to follow the way of love.

I wish that all the wars would end
So a time would reign in our land
A time of peace, a time of love
A time of unity for all of us.

I wish that all of us would learn
To take the journey hand in hand
To live in peace, to live in love
To live for those who seek the way of love.

And so let’s join our hands and sing aloud
Let’s show the world, let’s show them how
That the only way to make the world as one
Is to follow the way of love.

We’ve been sent to all the world
By Him who gave the Word
Now with Him who is the Way
We all cry out and say

Come let us join our hands and sing aloud
Let’s show the world, let’s show them how
That the only way to make the world as one
Is to follow the way of love.

I could remember him clearly in this song, because of his hype and energy when we were animating this in a leadership camp back in 2008.

FCCY Luzon- Way of Love — YouTube

I’m still at a loss for words as to why this happened, but knowing him as an ardent devotee of the Divine Mercy, I hold on to Our Good Lord’s promise:

“I promise that the soul that will venerate this image (of Divine Mercy) will not perish. I also promise victory over (its) enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory.”

“The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death.”

“Souls who spread the honor of My mercy…at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior.”

I do not know how or what his last moments here on earth were, but I simply hold on to Our Lord’s promise that He has welcomed Fr. Tony in His Kingdom.

Rest well now, my friend, and may you finally be with Our Good Lord in Paradise.

To you who read this, may I ask you pray for him, for I know prayer does wonders. Thank you.

Prayer for A Deceased Priest

O God, Thou didst raise Thy servant, Fr. Anthony Chan Olaguer, III, LRMS, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

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