On 15 October 2023, the community of St Dominic’s Priory in Macau held a Mass in Memoriam of Fr José Luis Miguel Fernandez, OP, who passed away on 10 October 2023, and who was Prior of the community from 29 October 2014 to 9 October 2019.
In his homily, the current Prior of the community brought about some fond memories of Fr José Luis. Here are some excerpts:
“Charity, justice and piety move us to hold this Mass in memoriam of our beloved brother José Luis, former Prior of this community for five years, (2014-2019).”
We celebrate this Mass, first of all, to pray for his eternal rest: it is a Christian duty to pray for our deceased brothers and sisters. We offer this sacrifice of the Mass to earnestly beseech God to wash away Fr Miguel’s sin, to receive him and to welcome him in Paradise. This prayer to God on our brother’s behalf is Charity.
Second, we offer this Mass as a tribute of gratitude: to thank God for the gift of Fr José Luis; and to our brother for the many blessings that during his life he bestowed on us. We are deeply indebted to him and it is our duty to say “thanks”. This is Justice.
Thirdly, to remind Fr José Luis not to forget us now that he is in God’s kingdom, as our faithful conviction tells us. In fact, this reminder seems unnecessary, as it is in the nature of the triumphant Church, through the communion of saints, to be united and to intercede for us pilgrims in this valley of tears. (Every evening we remind our Mother Mary to turn her merciful eyes towards us, and to our Fr Dominic to fulfill his promise; now we add a new intercessor, this time someone very close to us. This is Piety.
How do we remember Fr José Luis? Some short condolence messages received these past days speak eloquently of what kind of person our brother was. (I quote): “We lost a good brother and friend; I remember his good manners, his enthusiasm and optimism; we have now one more intercessor in heaven.” “He was an intimate friend, a good brother, a sincere person, a gift of God.” “He was a marvelous companion, humble and always ready to help; a true Dominican”
A true Dominican! These three words summarize the life of our brother Jose Luis and offer, I think, a good portrait of him. Being a true Dominican means being a person of faith and of service; a contemplative in action, in line with the Dominican motto: “Contemplari et comtemplata aliis tradere.” I wish to reflect for a while on these words, while bringing back some memories from the life of our brother.
Fr Jose Luis, a man of faith and a humble servant
Faith is a gift, and keeping it, a task. At the end of his life, St Paul was able to proudly say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Those who knew Fr Jose Luis in life, considering it as a whole, can attest that he could make these very words also his own at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. (We try to be benevolent with those who have died and remember only the good things of them, letting negative instances and minor imperfections be forgiven and forgotten. Indeed, at the end, only big decisions and radical options in life count. No doubt, Fr Jose Luis had his own weaknesses, as any human being; and he was very much aware of them, I must say. But beyond them, there was a great soul, as manifested in some important decisions he took in his life.)
He could have followed the ordinary path of life most people take: to pursue a secular prospective career…; but no, attentive to God’s call, he decided to follow the Lord in his footsteps and consecrated himself to Him. He could have loved just a few, a family circle of relatives and friends…; but no, he decided to make room for all in his heart and, by imitating the Lord’s life-style, becoming available to all. In fact, he decided to give up father and mother, brothers and sisters, lands and country, to serve the Lord as a missionary. He could have succumbed to the temptation of being idle, introspective, selfish…; but no, he was very active, joyful, hard worker. His long CV attests to it: active for so many years teaching, preaching, writing, educating, inspiring candidates to religious and priestly life, serving in different positions, untiring animator of the Dominican Family in South America and Asia.
Yes, his enthusiasm for the Dominican Family was well known everywhere he worked. In Manila, while serving his San Juan community as Prior, he was also serving as coordinator for the Dominican laity; I myself remember his admiration and untiring support to the group of Lay Dominicans running the San Martin de Porres Charity Hospital. In Chile, Latin America and Caribe, he served as Promotor of the Dominican Family for 30 years, since 1984. Here in Macau, while serving also as Prior of the community, he became the cofounder and spiritual assistant of the first group of Lay Dominicans (“Torch of Macau”); it was a humble project, whose seeds remain here with us and whose members treasure found memories of him.
Definitely, Fr Jose Luis could truly tell us today: “I have done my best, I have run the full distance and I have kept the faith.” The latter was particularly true: Faith is basically trust in the Lord; and Fr Jose Luis fully trusted in the Lord, until his last breath. His readiness to accept any office of responsibility entrusted to him and his total availability to be sent anywhere by his superiors were only expressions of his faith and trust in the Lord. His final longing was the one echoed in the responsorial psalm of today’s Mass: “I shall live forever in the house of the Lord.” I am sure the Lord has not disappointed him. A beautiful legacy left to us!
Humanly, his death has been a great loss; spiritually, however, a great gain, for he continues accompanying us and his beloved Dominican Family in mysterious and more efficient ways than when he was with us. For this, our hearts are grateful to God and to him.
As we continue praying for our brother José Luis, we commend him to the Lord Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, pleading to Him that He give eternal rest to our brother.
May he and all our faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.