He may not have been elected Pope, but the people close to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle have always felt he was destined for a greater mission.
Theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo SJ, the cardinal’s friend, said his parents Milagros and Manuel Tagle kept his school papers and medals because they felt early on there “was something special” about their son, popularly known as “Chito.”
“Mrs. Tagle once said, ‘Looking back, we feel that God was acting in his life as if preparing him for whatever work God wanted him to do,” Arevalo said.
“He is not super special but there is a side of him, a certain goodness that is extraordinary and ordinary people see that in him,” he added.
Arevalo pointed out that Tagle could already pray the rosary when he was only 3 years old. Over the years, he always noted that the significant events in his ministry happened during the month of October, which Catholics believe to be the month of the Virgin Mary.
“Cardinal Chito has a very deep devotion to the Virgin Mary … which is very Filipino and our Lady of the Pillar (the patroness of the Diocese of Imus) has played a real part in his life,” Arevalo said.
During the canonical coronation of the image of the Our Lady of the Pillar in Imus last December, Tagle recalled that he was informed of his appointment as bishop of Imus, Cavite, on Oct. 17, 2001.
Ten years later, on Oct. 7, 2011, he learned that he was going to be the next Archbishop of Manila. And then on Oct. 23, 2012, while he was in Rome, he was informed that he was going to be made a cardinal.
“As I call it, the Octobers of my life,” Tagle tearfully recalled in his homily.
Tagle also recalled that, on the night before the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar on Oct. 12, 2001, he noticed a “floral aroma” filling the entire cathedral.
“I had gone down here to check if the church was ready for the Mass the following day. Oct. 11, 2001 … the whole church was filled with an aroma,” Tagle said.
“I looked around to search for flowers. It was impossible that it was caused by perfume because, in every nook and cranny, the scent was there,” he said.
Tagle said he came across some church workers and asked them about it but they replied: “Father, you also smell it? It’s scary. It has been going on for some time now.”
“I told them not to be scared … because God … and His Mother are with us,” Tagle said. “I never thought that it will be the beginning of the many Octobers in one’s life.”
Arevalo also remembered that after Tagle was ordained priest in 1982, he celebrated a Mass for seminarians.
“I remember this very clearly. One of the seminarians knelt in front of Fr. Chito and said, ‘Fr. Chito, next time I will kneel before you, you will be the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila,’” Arevalo said.
“That guy is not a priest and is now married in the US. I remember that very clearly. So even then, his classmates noted that he did not only have the brains, he also had a certain humility, a certain goodness. It was like God was guiding his life,” Arevalo added.
Tagle’s holiness and humility has attracted the faithful, with the number of “likes” in his official Facebook page growing from 118,000 three weeks ago to 136,057 as of yesterday afternoon.
“The sudden increase started when he left for Rome (for the conclave). We also noticed that the reviews of his fan page among bloggers around the world also increased because of his being papabile,” said Raymon Ritumban, production coordinator at Jesuit Communications (Jescom), which manages Tagle’s official Facebook page.
‘Likes’ from all over
Those who “like” his page come from various countries like Poland, Australia, Italy, Spain, the United States, Puerto Rico and other nations in Latin American, Africa and Asia.
“They have languages that we don’t understand anymore,” Ritumban said.
He said the number of visitors to the Jescom website, which hosts YouTube videos of Tagle’s TV show, also increased.
“Actually, we are doing troubleshooting because it seems access to the website has slowed down due to the traffic (hits) it is getting,” Ritumban said.