“Bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized, to be shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.” – Pope Francis
Propagators of the good news
In a one-on-one interview at the Asian Journal office, I asked Fr. Archie Guiriba about his calling to serve God and the miracles he has witnessed. Short in stature, yet huge in presence, Fr. Archie was constantly reaching out and at times, forgetting his personal needs. He had to be reminded by his assistant to change out from the yellow vestment he wore.
Fr. Archie belongs to the Order of Franciscan Missionaries (OFM), who are well-known for their evangelizing missions. If readers are familiar with the California missions, 21 still exist today out of the 100 missions that were established by the Franciscan missionaries in America. According to SeeCalifornia.com, “Recall that in 1776 the Declaration of Independence declared East Coast free from British control, but 3,000 miles away on the West Coast Spaniards sought to claim the lands by building 21 missions from 1769 to 1823. Under the leadership of a Franciscan, Fr. Junipero Serra, the California mission system had been launched.“
Today, the OFM, using email and internet, disseminates the daily video reflections of the Gospel, from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Much like the U.S.-based Franciscans, Fr. Archie has forged a strong collaboration with Channels 5, 7 and 13 as others, to televise his yearly Lenten retreats at the Araneta Coliseum, attracting tens of thousands of attendees.
Fr. Archie is cited by Allan Anderson and Edmond Tang, editors of The Asian and Pentecostal: The Charismatic Face of Christianity in Asia, as a fringe group leader, “who started Shalom and organizes his own TV masses and miraculous crusades. In some dioceses, bishops try to stop the spread of this group, yet people are very attracted by the healing sessions and keep flocking to the masses and prayer rallies of Guiriba.” They theorized that earlier Charismatic groups were influenced by the middle class who set boundaries using power and possession, leaving out the poorer classes who felt oppression, to seek other groups.
Here in Los Angeles, Fr. Archie worked with the Asian Journal (AJ)’s Roger and Cora Oriel. He praised the role of AJ in evangelizing God’s word these past two months. “I am grateful that my schedule of healing masses was printed in AJ.” He credits the newspaper’s role that the healing masses in Los Angeles were well-attended, in that, “AJ was gracious in telling the people the dates, the times, the churches we will be reaching, a very good role in 21st century’s evangelizing.” He kept a hectic schedule, visiting nine churches, traveling at times, over 120 miles in a day.
He approached one of the AJ staffers, and he moves his hands, as if flying: “Remember, fly above the storm clouds. There is but one direction, upward.” He smiles and leaves her to write.
“Every writer should be accountable to the Lord,” he says. “Media’s role is very, very sensitive – we have to be responsible with our writing. Can you imagine if most of your writings [are] based on the word of God?”
He continues his homily. “In our country, the writings are colorful. Even if nothing substantial, it is published. It is made significant, with a newsprint date. Every writer’s communications [are] very vital. The greatest communicators in the world are here, gesturing to the Bible, e.g., St. Paul, writing to the Romans. What quality of writing is generated by the world today? Is it good news? Imagine if all of our us are propagators of good news?” He informs us that St. Paul wrote with excellence and quality.
He says, “The greatest communicator of all is the Holy Spirit. He loves you very much whether you are an atheist, for you are a human being created in the image of God. Words that are pertinent and powerful make a large impact to the people,” then, he makes us repeat in unison, “If you confess with your mouth and believe with all your heart you shall be saved, for with heart you believe that God hath raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead, for with your mouth, the confession is made into salvation.”
Gesturing first with an open hand, he says, “If you are a mess,” then with a fist pump, “turn your mess into a message.” He turns his fist pump upright, into a modern symbol of struggle, of fighting for a cause.
The healing messages to the body, first from the mind
“Sickness is a lie,” Fr. Archie declared at his last healing mass in Los Angeles, “What is the truth? The truth is that you are healthy.”
He then relates JR’s diagnosis of stage 4 cancer who was told by his doctor that he has three months to live. “Until now, he is alive, that diagnosis was false, he is alive.” He then recites Romans, 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
He continues, “God loves you whether you know it or not; whether you like it or not.” He then recites, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“You are not an accident of history,“ he asserts. In cases of rape, he said, “if a child is born, don’t blame the child, it has nothing to do with the circumstances of his/her birth.”
When a child was born of artificial insemination to Joel Cruz, Fr. Archie asked, “Tao ba ito?” (Is this a human being?) Yes is the answer, and he baptized the child, even if other priests refused. Three sets of twins were baptized.
He asserts, “My assignment is not my decision but my discovery.” He has been a priest for 40 years this October. He turns to us: “All the more of your responsibility, you become creative writers not only to magnify the sensational, but the truth! If we accept God, we reach out to others, we are reaching out to people and bringing them to the Kingdom of God.”
Who is Fr. Archie?
He was born to Emiliano and Narcisa Condes Guiriba. He heard God’s calling as a gradual process, which developed over the years. In high school, he stayed at the Colegio Serafica in SF del Monte, Quezon City and studied at the San Jose Seminary run by the Jesuits. He was inspired by Fr. Antonio Luto, a pastor who was humble, generous, approachable, serving others, preaching well based on God’s word.
In the seminary, he learned several languages, and even today, continues to acquire different languages. He can speak seven languages (Spanish, Latin, Italian, French, German, English and Tagalog) and is currently learning Hebrew so he can study the Bible in depth.
“If you know Latin, it is easy to study Spanish, Portuguese and French. If you know German, then English and Dutch become easy to pick up. If you study the Semitic languages, then you become fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, “ he said.
But, a language of grace is what I am curious. I asked him to share the miracles he has witnessed.
First, his ordination by Bishop Teotimo Pacis on October 12, 1977 at the Cagsawa Ruins in Bicol. He was joined by two other Franciscans, Fr. Pete Montelyana and Fr. Oscar Ante. He remembers the torch lights, illuminating the place. Franciscan songs were sung, “Come build my church.”
For those non-Bicolanos, Cagsawa tower ruins are what remains of the 16th century Cagsawa church, built by the Franciscans. The church was then destroyed by Dutch pirates, rebuilt again by Fr. Francisco Blanco and then, destroyed by the eruption of Mount Volcano in 1814. It has now become a tourist destination, preserved by the local government and the National Museum of the Philippines.
How did you feel then, I asked? “I remember being excited to preach the word of God through media and after that, I had radio Veritas and television exposure,” he answered.
He shared the miracles he witnessed after praying for a painter with lung cancer. His sister went to the Philippines and asked for prayers for his brother, “So we prayed…your brother is healed. You can go home now. I believe he is healed.”
But she asked Fr. Archie to go visit him in Istanbul. At first, he refused. But, later, he went, accompanied by Dr. Freddie and Luz, who are passionate benefactors of Shalom.
He continues, “When we were there in Istanbul, I asked the family to pray with us – are you [the family] willing to receive Jesus as your Lord and Master?” They all said yes. “We danced, we sang, we prayed together.”
“After we prayed, lo and behold, this painter who has been in bed for 12 years, stood up and danced too. He declared, ‘I am healed, Fr. Archie. I will now drive you in Istanbul.’” As he drove, he took Fr. Archie to his favorite restaurant and they had seafood, kebabs and “it was far beyond my imagination, it was God who was healing. He is still alive,” the priest recalled.
Another miracle is a man who resides in Bicol, who fell from the coconut tree. He had been paralyzed and could not walk for 12 years.
This is when I paused and asked Fr. Archie – “Why 12 years in both cases of miraculous healings that you witnessed?” He responded, “12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel.”
This paralyzed man was carried by his family and they all attended the healing services during Holy Week at the Araneta Coliseum (seating capacity of 16,500). They all rode the bus from Bicol to Manila. Just as we prayed, as “I declared through Jesus Christ,” he was healed. He stood up, he ran, he shouted, “I am healed. I am healed.”
“ That was God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit which healed him, “ he added.
I asked if he has a vision for his life for the next decade, “My focus and my passion is to preach about God and the righteousness in Christ Jesus. The salvation, the healing, when a person receives Jesus, he receives the Holiness of God, it takes faith to believe it. Be holy as my father is holy, Jesus said. It is a command, it is not optional. Key to our victory – ‘Shalom’ – meaning of grace. Christ did not sin. Yet He became sin, so that you and I, sinners, we become justified.”
He recites Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited if he gains the wide world and suffers the loss of his own soul or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
He speaks of transformation, of mess into message, of open hand into a fist pump, of confession into salvation. A sense of humility in imploring God’s mercy, a sense of openness to receive God’s grace of healing and anchored in a deep belief that God is all powerful!
* * *
Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.