Lagura: The truly great in Heaven

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By Fr. Flor Lagura, SVD

In the service of the Word

Saturday, September 22, 2012


THE boxing world in the 1960’s was partly amused, partly thrilled when a brash young boxer from Louisville, Kentucky, Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, taunted and challenged the reigning heavyweight champion, Sonny “(Bad) Bear” Liston for the crown. Not many gave the “Louisville Lip” a ghost of a chance. But in that memorable fight in 1964 before thousands in Miami and with the whole world watching, the young boxer who boasted to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” shocked everyone by knocking out Sonny Liston. Soon afterwards Clay or Ali would boast, “I am the greatest!”

The Lord’s disciples also competed among themselves to see who would be the greatest in the Kingdom Jesus would establish. Their “apostolic intramurals,” however, were done in secret, ashamed that the Lord would hear of their ambitions.

When Jesus learned about the competition, he did not quash his disciples’ ambitions. Rather he channeled them towards true greatness. Unlike worldly greatness based on coercive power and haughty exercise of authority, greatness in God’s kingdom consists in seeking to be the last and doing so by serving.

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Also in the 1960s Tony, a young man from Dumaguete, went to the Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay to apply to the SVD. With his diploma from the St. Paul’s College, Dumaguete the bright-eyed young man was encouraged to become a priest. However, Tony insisted on becoming a religious brother. In that humble calling he would be able to serve people more.

Studies for the religious life were rigorous and long, yet Tony took them all without flinching. He recalls that his teacher in Spanish demanded that every student in his class recite from memory Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.” Bro. Tony dutifully delivered the long yet beautiful poem in Spanish with mastery and flair.

This same wholehearted dedication showed later in his religious life Soon after professing his perpetual vows Bro. Tony was sent on a mission to the villages along the Agusan River. There he came to love the people, and his people loved him dearly in return.

Bro. Tony’s religious superiors sent him abroad for further studies. At the Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. Bro. Tony obtained his master’s degree in architecture with distinction.

Upon his return to Cebu he taught and served at various administrative positions in the College of Architecture and Fine Arts of the University of San Carlos. He helped design many chapels, conventos, churches and other buildings in honor of God and in service to His people. His last achievement, before the Lord called him home, was a collaborative work with his colleagues in designing an ultra-modern and a truly architectural wonder: the Fr. Joseph Baumgartner Library-Learning Center to serve students and faculty in the USC-Talamban Campus.

Bro. Antonio “Tony” Flores SVD might not have floated like a butterfly or stung like a bee, but at the wake held in his honor, his confreres, relatives, colleagues and friends remembered him fondly as they prayed to the Lord to be kind and merciful on a servant for whatever lapses committed out of human frailty. As they said their sad but grateful farewell, they entrusted the unfinished mold of a human life spent in humble service to the love and wisdom of the Divine Designer.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 23, 2012.

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