MANILA, Philippines – From his sickbed, Father James B. Reuter of the Society of Jesus (SJ) expressed his praise and gratitude to the people he has chosen to serve for seven decades.
“I had been asked on many occasions why I have been in the Philippines for 71 years and my answer is, the Filipinos are the most lovable people on the whole face of the earth,” said the 93-year-old Ramon Magsaysay awardee, freedom fighter, and Catholic mass media icon.
Interviewed on Wednesday by the Church-run Radio Veritas, Reuter said, “I cannot think of a place that is more attractive to live in than the Philippines. I have never gone back [to the United States]… I have never considered giving up my vocation here in the Philippines because I think it is beautiful. It is what God wants and it brings me personal joy and gratification.”
“It is a blessing to be in the Philippines,” he added.
The Catholic Church through Radio Veritas is offering a daily Mass at noon for Reuter who is confined at Our Lady of Peace Mission Hospital in Parañaque City which he established to provide free medical services to the poor.
“We honor icons of the priesthood like Fr. James Reuter, an icon and apostle of Catholic media,“ said Radio Veritas president Fr. Antonio Pascual.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2009 as the Year of Priests.
“He [Reuter] promoted the Christian faith through multimedia, including theater and art, to ‘inform, form and transform’ individuals as disciples of the Lord.
“We offer prayers and Masses for him every day, especially at Radio Veritas in this moment of great pain and suffering of Father Reuter that God may give him peace, comfort and healing,” Pascual said.
At 93, Reuter may be sickly physically “but his spirit and mind are active and inspiring,” Pascual said.
In the interview, Reuter praised the Filipino people’s love for and generosity toward one another. But what endears them most to him, he said, is their close relationship with God.
“I find the Filipinos I talk to are closer to God and it really touches me when people come to me. I am always wishing that I was so close to God as they are. I am far closer to God [through] the people here in the Philippines,” he said.
It was in the Philippines, he said, where he learned the true value of giving and receiving.
“I learned from actual experience here in the Philippines that if you truly give anything you will receive so much. So I would say it is a blessing to be here. And it is a blessing to help those who are in need,” Reuter said.
He urged Filipinos to continue to help one another.
“For everyone in the Philippines, right now the test is to help those who are in need, to help those who need help. It is not enough that we are grateful for the gifts that God has given us but we have to reach out to others as far as we can,” he said.
At this point in his life, he said he was simply thankful for all God’s blessings, including his sickness which he considers a “gift from God.”
“I just want to live as God wants me to live and go home to Him when it is time. Hopefully when I go home, I will be with him forever.” –Dona Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer