Reminiscing Father Hayes, SJ, My Friend
Whenever my family and I eat at a McDonald's, I always remember Father William Hayes, one of the original American Jesuit priests of the Ateneo, who was a family friend for many years until his death.
We often visited Father Hayes at the Manila Observatory on campus where he then lived, and often we invited him out to eat and talk. He always accepted our invitation but he always preferred McDonald's Katipunan in front of the university campus. His order was always predictably the same: a plain Big Mac, no mayo, no pickles, no cheese, and a cup of strawberry sundae, which he enjoyed. He did not want anything else.
Our frequent trips to McDonald's made us very very close to him, and he knew the children by name and nickname (their nicknames are very much different from their names), their dreams and many other things, and of course our life. On our part we came to know about him more, his spirituality, his various ministries, which include visiting families of children living close to a garbage dump called Payatas, visiting children in the charity wards of the Philippine General Hospital. Once he brought us there to see and talk to the children, a way of saying there are many families out there who are not as materially blest as we were, but who we should also care about. And he always gave us a spiritual perspective of our life then.
Father Hayes has many other friends in both high and low places. And most of these friends help out in his charitable work in many ways, especially financially. For many years he said Mass at the Ermita Church of Our Lady of the Pillar, and we would often go to his Masses there, which he said with utmost reverence and piety, and this greatly edified us. He almost always went to this church by the poor man's taxi, the jeepney, which put him in contact with many people who did not have cars or could not afford a cab.
I first came to know Father Hayes when he was the retreat master of the first 3-day silent retreat I attended in the minor seminary in Apalit, Pampanga in the late 50s. I consider it the best and most fruitful retreat I ever attended. That first retreat had a huge and lasting impact on my spiritual life. And I knew he was always praying for me since then until I went to the major side (San Jose at Highway 54, now EDSA) and on to the Ateneo Grade School where I taught for five years.
I lost contact with Father Hayes for many years after I left Ateneo. After years of neglect of our friendship, I sought him out and presented myself, now with a family, to him. That was the beginning of our plain Big Mac and strawberry sundae meriendas we had at McDonald's Katipunan. There Maria and the children saw and felt firsthand how saintly he was. And we vowed in our hearts to be in some ways like him.
Father Hayes, my dear friend, is long gone, but I know that he has been praying for me and my family. I know, too, that he was instrumental through his prayers in the kind of life we have now and in my vocation to serve the Church as a permanent deacon instead.
When my family and I meet Father Hayes again, it will not be over a plain Big Mac and a strawberry sundae, and Big Macs and fries, but in a heavenly banquet where those his Lord and ours loves are invited to sit at table with Him, the Lamb of God, Who both Father Hayes and I have always longed to be with . . . forever.#
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find him." Sirach 6:14-16