A prayer concert helped people understand this popular parable so much better, says Lorna O’Hara

Jesuit Fr Manoling Francisco performing with the St Francis Xavier Choir at Queen of Peace Church. Jesuit Fr Manoling Francisco performing with the St Francis Xavier Choir at Queen of Peace Church.
The Meditation & Music prayer concert held at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace on Aug 8 and 9 struck the right notes.

The concert aimed to help the audience reflect more deeply on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It was performed by Filipino liturgical composer Fr Manoling Francisco, together with a choir from the host parish and the St Francis Xavier Choir from the Church of St Ignatius.

Using visuals and songs, most of which were either arranged or composed by the Jesuit priest, Fr Manoling explained the parable through narrative and music.

In most of the song segments, he accompanied the singers on the piano.

During the Aug 8 concert, he urged the audience to “reflect on our yearning for God and His longing for us”. Dressed in brightly coloured tops and black pants, the St Francis Xavier Choir sang a Filipino song, Tanging Yaman (Dearest Treasure), which Fr Manoling said “expresses our aching desire to see God”.

Another piece, To See the Face of God, which was a chant, was more interactive. Fr Manoling split the audience into two groups with each group singing either the chant or the harmony.

Fr Manoling then gave reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, highlighting the different views of the three protagonists.

In his reflection on the younger son, he concluded that the son showed “no indication of remorse, and was only preoccupied with his empty stomach that he decided to go home”.

He explained that the younger son returned to his father because of his personal need. The priest noted that some parents might even “go to the extent of disowning” their child if he acted like the younger son.

The St Francis Xavier Choir, together with a tenor soloist, then sang Empty Space, on how the younger son felt as he made his way back to his father.

Several other songs followed.

Reflecting on the older son’s response, Fr Manoling asked the audience, “Was the elder son’s anger towards his father and younger brother justified?”

Fr Manoling went on to explain that the elder son felt he was being treated unfairly, and that parents can feel this way sometimes when they think their children are being ungrateful. However, such an attitude is opposite to that of the merciful father, he said.

In the final reflection, Fr Manoling noted the selflessness and benevolence of the father who went to the extent of rewarding his younger son with a fattened calf. The priest said all should strive to be like the father as he possesses qualities similar to Jesus.

The closing prayer-song saw the audience clapping and singing to We Sing of Love, Alleluia together with Fr Manoling and the choirs.

Overall, the concert deserves a two thumbs up as much thought went into it. I certainly gained a wealth of knowledge about the Prodigal Son parable as Fr Manoling helped me to see things through the eyes of the two sons and their father. n

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See Fr Rolheiser’s column on Page 20

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