How a Filipino bishop lost, then rediscovered his faith

Everyone has a moment of doubt, a moment when one questions one’s faith, a moment that comes unexpectedly.

Even men of the cloth have their own moments of questions, moments of crisis, moments of looking into what they are going to do with life’s challenges.

Bishop Midyphil Billones, auxiliary prelate of Cebu Archdiocese, admitted that he too almost lost the faith, but then rediscovered it in a most unexpected place: in the midst Manila’s traffic jam.

A “great crisis” in his life came when his 74-year-old mother became ill a few years back. His only prayer was for an “extension” of her life. It was not granted.

The future bishop was not just ready to lose his mother. His father passed away earlier, ten years after, his sister, and only sibling, also died.

“It was really painful when my mother died,” said the soft-spoken bishop. “Because of that, I stopped praying, especially the rosary,” he said.

“I stopped praying the rosary because Mary left my mom,” he added. “She turned her back on me,” he said, sobbing.

Then a priest of the Jaro Archdiocese in the central Philippine, Father Billones said he continued his duties as seminary rector even if he was falling away from his faith.

He said he was “doubting” his priestly vocation because of grief and depression. “I felt so distant from the Lord and also from Mama Mary,” he said.

One time, when he was in Manila, he was caught in bad traffic jam. The driver of the car he was riding opted for a “short cut,” only to find out that the road was blocked. They were trapped.

Amidst the traffic jam, and whilst still emotionally struggling from the loss of a loved one, the priest again began to question his existence and God’s plan for him.

But sometimes some things happen in unexpected places.

While braving the traffic, the car stopped near a gate where a poster bearing an image of the Virgin Mary was plastered. “Am I not here who am your mother?” read the writing on the poster.

The priest broke down into tears.

“I cried because of pain, because of my sense of loss. I did not really grieve my mother’s death because I have to be strong and I have a lot of work,” he said.

“But I was so ashamed of the thoughts that I felt she did not care, and on top of everything, I cried because I learned that she did not leave me,” he added.

Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones celebrates Mass on the feast of Nuestra Señora de Regla at her national shrine in Lapu-Lapu City Nov. 21. (Photo by Sammy Navaja)

Bishop Billones made his “confession” in his homily during the Mass to celebrate the feast of the Nuestra Señora Virgen de Regla, or Our Lady of Rule, on Nov. 21.

It was the sixth death anniversary of his mother.

“I came here not just to celebrate Mass but, together with you all, I’m here as one child of the Virgin de la Regla,” he said.

Streamed live on social media, the bishop’s homily got more than 6,300 shares and about 254,000 views as of Nov. 27.

When he was ordained bishop last August, the moment turned emotional when Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, the ordaining prelate, wished that his family was present.

“But I believe they are here. And the family of God is here … bound to you not by blood but by love,” said Cardinal Tagle.

At 50 years of age, Bishop Billones is among the youngest bishops in the Philippines today.

In the midst of Manila’s “crazy traffic,” the bishop said he experienced the “grace of healing.”

He said the Blessed Mother saw and brought him back into the heart of God. “Believe it or not, the next day I started praying again,” he said.

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