On Silence and Discernment

There are times when you are asked to do something out of the blue and you just have to deliver.

This morning, we had our General Meeting of all the school personnel in our library. As usual, I was the one who lead the opening prayer and the blessing of the birthday celebrants for the month of May. I need to step up in making prayers for our meetings as our Campus Ministry Coordinator had just given birth to her fifth child and her first daughter. It was my first time to see her daughter in the flesh and of course I am delighted to see a cute baby like her. Anyway, our general meeting was for us to set a direction before we start the school year next month. We will have approximately three weeks before we start our classes on June 7, a day after our celebration of the feast day of our Founder, St. Marcellin Champagnat. We’ll have a week of making our course outlines, action plans, and plotting our schedules for the coming school year.

Introducing a Brother
In the middle of the meeting, I was asked to introduce our speaker, our fellow Brother in the community, Br. Ted. I was just approached by the emcees before our meeting started. I opted not to say about his education background, past ministries, and achievements. That’s one lesson I learned from reading The Little Prince regarding information and details with the author’s critic on the adult’s mindset. Instead, I shared an anecdote on how I met him for the first time. I remember it was year 2004 during the first quarter of the school year (probably around July until October) when I was walking on the corridor of our school on a Sunday morning. A night before, we had our high school dance in the elementary gymnasium of Marist School, Marikina on a Saturday night. So yeah, I was walking with just my sando, shorts, and slippers when I saw Br. Ted, our school president and he greeted me with a “how are you?” That experience left an impression on me as I encountered the personnel with the highest position in our school humbly greeting me with a good morning and kumusta (how are you?). So I ended my introduction by saying that Br. Ted is a walking definition of a gentleman.

The Talk on Silence
In the middle of the talk, he presented us a trailer of the movie Silence. It was a film with Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson as their protagonists and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a story set on the 17th century about the journey of two priests who learned that their beloved mentor-priest had gone missing. To investigate, they went to a mission to Japan to search for their beloved teacher. Upon arriving, they learned of Christians worshipping in secret. If discovered by authorities, they would face persecution and be asked to denounce their faith or be tortured to death. The trailer is Br. Ted’s opening to his questions to ponder upon. Among his questions, the word “discernment” caught my attention. What is discernment? Does it play a role in my everyday choices from the most mundane ones like choosing what clothes to wear to the important decisions like relating to people whom I find it difficult to deal with? I remember during the open forum, one teacher asked the question, “How do we know if we are really doing the will of God?”. This one is a question that makes you pause for a while and be silent. Besides, discernment is fruitful if done in silence. God speaks in the silence of our hearts.

A new responsibility
I was asked to take the responsibility as the Working Students or Grant-In-Aid (GIA) Coordinator. Without hesitating, I just said yes. Last year, the position was held by a fellow Brother. But now that I am handling college students who are working as scholars so that they can finish their studies, I need to spend more time in prayer for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I need to reach out to their coordinators and to each one of them, listening to their concerns and knowing how can I train them to be hard workers and responsible scholars.

I am tired. I need to sleep now.

And let us always remember to pray for one another.

Good night.

Begin Again

My school ministry is like a basketball game.

I’m still in the same school but now I was told it’s my final year here.

Last year was the first half. Maybe I went down hard, got turnovers, missed some shots, and even had some highlight plays to be proud of. And this year, it’s my second half where I need to do a lot of catching up in terms of scoring points for my team. But I know I am not a star player nor a starter. I am a rookie; a role player to be quite honest.

I know what I can do and what I cannot do. I am happy to be benched if I know I did what I can do in the court. But now I am a sophomore, I have to step up my game when my time comes for me to enter the court.

Though I had my lapses in judgements, some hesitations in doing actions and making decisions, I think I had also done some daring and circus stunts which only a rookie like me can do.

But yeah, I think I know I could have done better last year and I know what it takes so I can contribute more.

Though being young have its disadvantages, I will count more its advantages.

Inexperience can be an opportunity for me to learn more; youthfulness means more energy.

But do I have what it takes to perform better? I believe I do. And if not? Then I guess I just have to admit my inexperience and ask for help from those whom I know can mentor me.

Knowing myself, I know it takes a lot for me to admit my own ignorance. But if it’s the way for me to learn, then I will shallow my pride and be humble to learn and be ignorant.

5 Years in Consecrated Life

I almost forgot an important event in my life. It was May 15, 2012 when I, along with 10 companions, had our habit-taking and consecration to Mary. I don’t have a copy of my prayer when I consecrated myself to Mary. All I ask our Good Mother is to journey with me by “holding my hand”. I have to search my archived photos just to see what happened that day. I was offline for more than a year that year except the final Sunday of the month where we were given a chance to use the computer and internet for an hour. If you look at my blog post archives, I think I wrote about that too. Anyway, when I had the chance to log in to my Facebook, I changed my profile picture with me wearing my new soutane only to be received with shocked or/and amused friends with me wearing eyeglasses and smiling broadly. Yeah, that was the year when I started wearing spectacles.

2012 was such a memorable year to me and I think I need to write more about that time when I spent two years in the novitiate.

I am thinking of buying a basic phone to spend less time with my smartphone with battery problems. Besides, my Notebook PC is a basic laptop. This is for me to write more, read more, and spend more time in silence.

I am just happy I made it this far in my religious life. I almost quit that year. I’ve been thinking lately about that decision when I hesitated to start religious life.

Maybe people had prayed for me and my vocation. I am thankful for them.

And maybe Mama Mary is still holding my hand. And I still pray for her to hold my hand and let her lead me to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wisdoms and Workshops

I’m supposed to go home now back to Cotabato but I stayed here in GenSan so just I can hitch a ride back with some new Brothers to be assigned in our community there. So I am here in Lagao community, without even booking beforehand, to connect to the internet, listen to radio, and update my Windows because of the Ransomware roaming around worldwide. So before wisdom heard is forgotten, let me type it down here:

  1. If you cannot clean a comfort room, you cannot clean the whole campus, said Br. Willy. This is the first statement I can remember from our one-week training in OND Mission Center on Marist Administrators Formation Program. This reminds me of the scripture passage which says, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Luke 16:10, NAB).
  2. Saint Marcellin Champagnat is a gift to the Church. This is something I took for granted. His life inspired me to enter the Marist Brothers. He is not only our Founder or our patron saint; he belongs to the whole Church.
  3. Simplicity is being grounded. It boils down on how you make choices every day from the way you relate with people, your dress, or how you purchase things. Simplicity is synonymous to humility, a word which is slowly fading away from people’s vocabulary. Humility comes from the root word humus which means ground. The more simple we are, the more human we become.
  4. Challenges makes you stronger. While making a symbol for the value of simplicity, we chose a plant. And this plant has falling leaves called challenges. Though these falling leaves give us a hard time, as time goes by, we will realize how these falling leaves would make us stronger because it turns into fertilizers later. And like falling leaves, challenges can give us life lessons which brings me to my final lesson.
  5. Don’t be afraid to commit mistakes. There were workshops in the program where we either don’t know how to do but we’re trying or we thought we know already what to do. Either way, we just let ourselves trust the process and let ourselves err from time to time. That’s part of learning; it is sometimes painful. But if we are open, we might find gems of wisdom. Besides, we don’t know it all.

That’s all folks. I need to take a power nap.

And by the way, Happy Mothers’ Day to all you readers!

Vacation to vocation: An effect of a month-long break

Being a teacher has its perks. One of them is the long vacation in between the school year. Since I’m still on a vacation mood, I will continue musing here and this time it will be about schooling, education, career, vocation, heartbreaks, intimate celibacy, and dreams.

A career or calling?
To be honest, I never dreamed of becoming a high school teacher when I was still a child or even a teen. The closest would be my dream of becoming a professor in college. Now one of my college pals just finished his master’s in Clinical Psychology. I could not remember if I mentioned that being a Marist Brother was one of my dreams as a teenager but anyway I’m telling it now. And since I am already a Marist Brother, I still dream of becoming a professor. But if I would do that, would it make my religious vocation not as a vocation (i.e. “a calling”) but as a career? Well, I would not really pursue it and just make it happen when I am told to teach in college. That’s out of the equation at the moment since I don’t have yet a master’s degree. I had some post-graduate units taken last year but that’s all I have. So that’s just one of my many desires and I am just being honest by writing it out.

Schooling and education
Seven years ago, I don’t even have the financial means to enroll in a post-graduate school before I entered the Marist Brothers. That time, I thought of going back to school again right after graduating in college. I still wanted to study. I was still unprepared in the transition of working right after college graduation. Just like my long break now, right after my college graduation, I was so restless in having a break in studies, thinking on my bed, and playing computer games. I had lots of exercise though. I was tired in studies but I want to keep on going. Mark Twain said he would not let schooling interfere with his education. I too had to keep that in mind. I was too selective in accepting job offers. I had my options: study again and/or work. Out of the blue, I entertained the thought of joining the Marist Brothers. They invited me when I was in second year college; I am Marist-educated; I am single; I know the life of St. Marcellin Champagnat; I lived with the Brothers in Mindanao for a week when I was still in high school; and I dreamed of becoming one. So, why not become a Marist Brother?

And these thoughts occurred to me so I contacted the Marist Brothers and told them that I am interested to become one of them. And they gave me one year to decide if I am serious with my decision or not. That’s why I worked as a property consultant and as a technical support representative even though I was underemployed as long as I can save money for my future trip to Mindanao.

Heartbroken?
I don’t even know if my close friends know about this. Maybe they just thought I was heart-broken. And if their reason is true, I should have been out a long time already. Or maybe that’s part of my unconscious motivation of joining religious life.

I remember in a dream six year ago in the Aspirancy House that I was being chased by some hooligans and I was shot dead. I woke up in the middle of that night and even posted in my Facebook status that I was thankful to be alive. The only explanation I can come up with that dream was that I was eluding something that I can’t accept or I don’t like and that my death was a reminder of my spiritual death since I was not a practicing Catholic when I was in college. So maybe the heart-broken part is true based on that dream but I would deny that consciously of course. Or am I running away from something other than that?

Intimate celibacy
The problem now is that I learned in religious life how to love many without being exclusively in a relationship with a woman; that I can be intimate while being celibate. (I will tackle this in the future.)

A recurring dream
But my death in my dream? I cannot really make sense of it. That dream recurred a few days ago. Again, I was riding a vehicle and I was being chased by some hooligans. But on this second time, I am alive. What does that mean?

And that’s it for an episode of my free-writing. Thanks for reading.

Please pray for me and my companions for our tomorrow’s trip to General Santos City. I would be there for a two-week training.

And that means a hiatus.

Again, let us pray for one another.

Excuse my latest gravatar

Hello, Allen here.

To replace my three-year old photo in WordPress, I changed my gravatar today. While watching a film in my laptop (which freezes once in a while because of the latest Windows 10 Creators Update), I took a photo of myself (a selfie in today’s vocabulary) inside my room. It just so happened that my room is painted white so no need for the white background that I usually see on photo studios here in the country. I remember taking one last November (?) for the Athletic Meet in Kidapawan City which I am using in Instagram.

I don’t like to appear creepy but if ever I look creepy, please tell me. Hahaha! Please have the guts to. I don’t mind.

I haven’t changed my About Page photo though.

Lately, I have been reading a lot in my social media news feed about Thirteen Reasons Why series of Netflix. I haven’t watched it though. Some of my friends in college are against watching it. And, by the way, these are the same friends who are encouraging me to watch Game of Thrones which I haven’t seen yet. If ever I will watch 13 Reasons, I will be critiquing it a lot. Of course, it’s about sensitive issues: suicide, bullying, etc. I read somewhere (Wikipedia, I guess), the author (it was based on a book if I’m not mistaken), was contemplating suicide once when he (?) heard someone’s story of committing suicide and ending up not succeeding and in the process had to gone through a lot of pain and suffering. So maybe the author (don’t know if it was a male or female) was inspired by the story. Brother Allen is not good in fact checking.

And yesterday, I saw in my news feed the shock of my life. I saw Papa Kiko on TED! I won’t be spoiling what he said there but in my opinion, it was the best TED Talk I ever seen! I may be biased because I’m a Catholic and a consecrated brother too. But you have to see it even if you are not Catholic or even religious.

So it’s now late in the evening and I have to sleep now. I have to wake up at 5 AM. See you around.

Finally, school year is almost over

Hello.

When was the last time I posted something here in WordPress?

Sometimes, I am more active in Facebook and Instagram. And when I say active, it doesn’t necessarily mean I post a lot. I usually just hang around and read. Possibly because I ain’t got time for contemplation. Speaking of contemplation, I will facilitate a recollection for the school’s Science Department teachers tomorrow somewhere in Pigcawayan. But that’s tomorrow so I don’t know yet what exactly would happen.

Last Saturday, I facilitated a recollection with a group sharing portion about Jesus raising up Lazarus from the dead (which was the Gospel last Sunday). Each one had to share. As the facilitator, I too had told some stories too. Together with the school canteen staff in the midst of the cool breeze from the sea, I teared up a bit when I disclosed how I missed my family.

And a random guy, who was not part of the group, suddenly caught me off guard when he sat in our cottage and boldly declared that, “There must be a reason why your family is living apart.” But instead of becoming defensive, I responded calmly that there’s actually no problem at allbetween us family members. Made it simpler when I said that instead of discussing there’s really no bad blood between us siblings or parents and it’s just my sister’s family having financial difficulty so she had to work in a foreign country. When he responded out of the blue, I sensed that the sharing mood changed a bit from being serious into uneasy. Maybe the random guy sensed it too so maybe that’s why he left afterwards. Sometimes, when a person shares a story, like the random guy I too tend to over analyze when all I need to do is to sit, listen, and read between the spoken words. That’s why when someone shares a problem with sensitive issue, I tend to ask how she or he feels and to help her/him think for herself/himself. From that experience, I see the wisdom why a facilitator of recollection must not mix their schedule with recreation. And somehow, I had practiced open vulnerability. Maybe non-Filipinos would have difused that question by replying, “It’s none of your business.” But I too am a Filipino who says hello by asking “Where are you going?” when I really have no intention of knowing the destination.

And since this coming Sunday in the start of the Holy Week, us Filipino Marist Brothers would spend a week in contemplation with Br. Michael Green, FMS as our facilitator/speaker. I don’t know him that much. I only know that he’s Australian. Actually, I prefer a silent retreat. But that’s another story.

Oh yeah, that reminds me to prepare a morning prayer and a Marian prayer for Maundy Thursday. Also, my renewal of vows is up next April 15. Just two days before my birthday.

I’ll share next time my toxic experiences during these past three months of teaching this schoolyear.