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To preach Christ in word and deed is ‘lunar ministry,’ says Bicolano Master of the Dominican Order

By Myrna S. Bermudo

Bicolano Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, master general of the worldwide religious order of the Dominicans or Order of Preachers, said that “To preach Christ in word and deed is ‘lunar ministry’. To spread the light of Christ is a mission of every teacher. To spread the light of Christ is the mission of the University of Sto. Tomas-Legazpi.” The University is formerly known as Aquinas University.

Father Timoner was born in Daet, Camarines Norte. Elected 88th Master of the Order on July 13, 2019, his office will last for nine years (2019-2028). He is the first Asian to be elected. He was Dominican provincial for the Philippines and assistant to the master general for Asia-Pacific at the time of his election.

Timoner presided over the Eucharistic celebration held at the UST-Legazpi dome on January 22, which marked the culmination of the UST-Legazpi’s 75th Founding Anniversary.

Very Rev. Fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP. Master of the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans. The Master of the Order is the successor of Saint Dominic. Fr. Timoner is the 88th Master of the Order, and the First Asian to be elected to the post. He was born in Daet, Camarines Norte. (Photo credit: UST FB page)

Preaching in front of his Dominican brothers, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, members of the board of trustees, rectors, presidents, priors, sisters, faculty, staff, alumni, students and benefactors who called the university their home for the past 75 years, Fr. Timoner said “What makes a Thomasian unique among the rest? The food that a Catholic school feeds her children is Jesus, the Bread of Life. Only Jesus. Always Jesus. Jesus is the only food that every Catholic university must feed her children. The best lessons are not learned in the classroom but kneeling down by the Divine Wisdom itself.”

“In his letter to the Master of the Order, St. Paul VI, conferred upon St. Thomas the title ‘Light of the Church and of the whole world.’ St. Thomas enlightens the Church and the world because he is totally devoted to Jesus, the Light of the World.’

Putting emphasis on being dependent on God alone, the master general who obtained his theology degree from UST in Manila declared, “yes, the church honors St. Thomas as a luminary, as a great intellectual figure. But we must not forget that towards the end of his life, following a supernatural revelation, that all he has written are merely a stock of straw. Nothing! And that he desires nothing but the Lord. The final words of the saint who wrote volumes were: ‘Lord, nothing but You.’”

Posing a challenge to Catholic teachers, he said “The Church is not like rock stars or superstars. Or stars who are celebrated. Because as St. Thomas said, it is important to illuminate rather than to shine. To shine is to attract attention to ourselves. To illuminate is to call the attention of people to what they ought to see and understand. Your duty is not to attract attention to yourself but to call their attention to the truth to illuminate. That is our vocation as preachers and teachers. We are the light of the world.”

In 2014, Timoner was named by Pope Francis as a member of the International Theological Commission, theologians who do research for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith.

“Jesus is the only real light of the world. We merely reflect his light. And the Fathers of the Church call this ‘Lunar Ministry.’ It is not lunatic ministry. It is ‘Lunar Ministry.’ It is to reflect the light of Christ as the moon reflects the light of the sun. What we are asked to do is to make us realize that the brightness of the moonshine depend on the moon’s position in relation to the sun. The brightness of our life as Christians depends largely on our relationship with Christ. The moon is able to reflect the light of the sun to the extent that it is exposed to the sun. When it is hidden from the sun, there is no moonshine,” explained Timoner . He said that the Church Fathers coined the term ‘lunar ministry’.

“Some of us, Christians, Thomasians, shine like the full moon. People look at us and they immediately feel the joy and peace from radiating Christ. They say that one who is in love glows and sparkles. Do you believe that? One who is in love glows and sparkles even in the dark. You can feel a certain kind of brightness that radiates from them. So a Thomasian who is in love with God and at peace with others sparkles and glows in an imminent way.”

Explaining further, he elucidated “Some of us are in a waning crescent moon, barely shining, almost hidden from Christ. It is like that when you see a Thomasian or a Christian who is plunged in gloom. Who is grumpy, cranky and grouchy and crabby who saps out your energy in the classroom or faculty room. Yong makikita mo pa lang ang anino, lowbat ka na. Because they sap out your energy. We have to pray for those persons. You know why? They are undergoing a “lunar eclipse.” There is something that blocks the light from the sun, from Christ, to that person. And it is our duty to remove anything that obstructs the light that comes from Christ.”

In conclusion, Fr. Timoner said, “We are the light of the world, Jesus assures us. But what kind of light are we? Are we full moon? Waning crescent? Or, a lunar eclipse? To preach Christ in word and deed is ‘lunar ministry’. To spread the light of Christ is a mission of every teacher. To spread the light of Christ is the mission of the University of Sto. Tomas-Legazpi. And as we continue the jubilee celebration within the two-fold jubilee of St. Thomas of Aquinas, we pray and we hope that all of us will not only shine but truly we may enlighten and that truly we may illuminate.”

The Master of the Order said that “the university is blessed because it is a community that is gathered, that is convoked together by the Eucharistic Lord. And we gather around the table of thanksgiving, around the table of the Eucharist, to give praise and thanks to God for the manifold blessings he has given us. One of this presents is the gift of Dominican presence and preaching here in the Bicol Region through UST -Legazpi which celebrates its 75th foundation anniversary.”


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