Saving the Blessed Sacrament

By John Lambert R. Minimo

The author graduated last March from the University of the East, Manila, where Columban Fr Bernard Martin, now 85, is chaplain. Lambert is a member of Opus Angelorum (The Third Order of the Order of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross).

‘In omnibus Amare et Servire Dominum. In everything, love and serve the Lord.’ These words inspired me every day in campus ministry at the University of the East (UE), Manila, where I graduated last March. I was the Overall Student Responsible of Student Catholic Action – Christian Communities Program (UE SCA-CCP), UE’s campus ministry. Balancing study and campus ministry work wasn’t easy.

But through one event God proved that He is with me, guides and strengthens my faith in Him.

Chapel before fire

April 1, 2016 10:00 pm 

I was alone in the Chaplain’s Office finalizing the preparations for the 85th birthday celebration of Fr Bernard Martin, our chaplain, the following day. After leaving the office I went to the chapel and prayed, ‘Lord, ikaw na ang bahala bukas.’ (Lord, you take care of tomorrow’s event.) And I went home.


April 2, 2016 9:00 am (Celebration of Fr Martin’s Birthday)

My fire volunteer friend John Paul Justin Aquino phoned me and said, ‘Kuya Lambert, nasusunog ang UE!’ (UE is on fire!). I thought immediately of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, nothing else. The true body of Christ in the tabernacle should not be burned. I rushed to the Recto Gate of UE and saw the smoke rising from UE as I passed San Sebastian Basilica, my heart beating so fast. At Recto Gate, I saw my adviser, Tita Tess De Jesus. ‘Tita Tess, yung Blessed Sacrament.’ I was crying because I wanted to save the Lord from the fire but the security guards would not let me enter.

After fire

I called Ate Beth Briones of campus ministry – she had been a Columban lay missionary in Fiji - Fr Martin, and others in campus ministry and told them not to come to UE. The celebration of Fr. Martin’s birthday was transferred to the Columban House in Singalong Street. But I stayed, hoping to enter the chapel to save the Lord from fire. The scene with burned buildings was like ‘the fires of hell’. I heard that the chapel was damaged. I started praying, ‘Lord, I will save you no matter what happens.’ I stayed at the gate with other campus ministry members.

Charred statue

In the early afternoon with the help of Dexter A. Villanueva, Campus Organizations Coordinator, I got permission to enter the campus. We discovered that the statues in the chapel and the processional cross had been saved. They were saved including the processional cross. Nabuhayan ako ng loob na maisave ang Blessed Sacrament sa Chapel.
But it was mid-afternoon before I finally got permission to enter the chapel, with the help of Director of the Office of Extensions and Community Outreach, Roger Espiritu who said to me, ‘I will not go home until the Blessed Sacrament is safe.’ Ms Annie Villegas, Director, Department of Administrative Services, and a security guard accompanied me to the chapel at 3:00 pm.

Crucifix untouched by fire

When I saw the altar, I was shocked. The large crucifix hadn’t been touched by fire.  I genuflected to it as a sign of reverence to the Lord. I started to sing hymns we use at Mass. I went to the sacristy to get corporals with which to wrap the pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament. I put on my sotana and handed the Paschal Candle to the guard. As I opened the tabernacle I started to sing ‘O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine’. I wrapped the pyx and placed the Blessed Sacrament in my pocket. Before leaving I looked at the crucifix. The Lord seemed to be saying to me, ‘Lambert, Anak. Don’t worry, I am here pa. I am safe. You can take me. We conquered the fire, I stood up and I am here.’ That was a moment I will never forget. He clearly spoke to my heart.

Accompanied by my friend John Paul I went to the Recto Gate for a taxi. While we waited a naked child approached me and pulled on my sotana, asking for something. I had nothing to give but placed my hand on his head and said, ‘God bless you’. He then ran away.

Then a security guard approached us to tell us that a UE van would take us to the Columban house. As we traveled I continued to sing ‘O Sacrament Most Holy’ while embracing the Blessed Sacrament tightly. My head continued to ache, I was very hungry and my hands were shaking.

Fr Bernard Martin’s birthday celebration

When we arrived at St Columban’s it was already after 4:00 pm and Fr Martin’s birthday celebration had already started. When he met me he transferred the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle in the chapel. After that I said to the Lord, ‘You are safe na, Lord’. I asked Fr Dan O’Malley, the Superior, and Fr John Keenan if I had done something wrong.  They said. ‘No, you just saved the Blessed Sacrament. Thank you’. It was only then that I could smile.

This was an experience I will never forget. Out of my love for the Blessed Sacrament, I would do anything for Him, even in my simplest way. Even in the toughest moments, the Lord is always there to remind me and call me anytime He needs my help.

Beth Briones, Fr Bernard Martin, John Lambert Minimo, UE Campus Ministery 2015-16