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.

The prepubescent dream (mis)adventure of Brother Allen

When I was twelve, as a fan of cartoons especially anime, I said to myself that I want an “adventure” when I turn fifteen. And when I turned fifteen, I didn’t have the same passion that I had when I was twelve. My grades were flunking though I was an honor student. I was not even looking forward to my life in the future like I used to as a little boy. In a career counseling session, I cannot even write my preferred profession or degree in college. I was looking for a “unique” choice but I don’t know what was it. The fifteen year old me was not as bright as he can be. He has a small network of friends outside of his chess varsity team. Aside from woman celebrities in television and films, his only crushes are composed of young school teachers. The girls are on separate schools since he studies in an exclusive school for boys. And that was my puberty in a nutshell.

And before I turn sixteen, the “adventure” happened in a way I didn’t expected. It was January 2005 when I was asked to represent my school for the upcoming Marist Youth Festival (MWF). This travel will turn out to be a series of “first times” such as riding an airplane and being away from my family for more than a week. With another student and Brother Pepito as companions, before we went to Koronadal City for the MYF, we visited an undeveloped place in the fringes of Davao and Bukidnon called Buda. It became part of Davao, Marilog District as a result of a plebiscite where the people decided it’s best for them to be under the government of Davao City.

There, I learned that the chill of Baguio or Tagaytay of Luzon was present too in Mindanao; people spoke Cebuano; agriculture was the main source of income particularly rice farming; power generator was a luxury since there’s no electricity; signal coverage of televisions and cellphones were nonexistent; waterfall was the source of water (which they label as “spring”); and that the Marist Brothers were working with the parish priest and were living together with the common folk.

Eleven years later, I am now back to Buda. As I transitioned from puberty to adulthood, this place seems almost unchanged in a nice way. It’s still cool, farming is still booming, I can now understand their language somehow, there’s now electricity and phone signal, people still get water from the “spring”, and I am now a Marist Brother working with the parish priest and living with common folks where karaoke seems to be the main source of entertainment.

Sometimes, I wonder what will happen if termites suddenly decides to infest our wooden house. And when I told Brother Ed, he said he never thought of that in his more than twenty years of stay here in Buda.

And now as a man in his late twenties who still watches anime, I wonder what will happen to me twenty years from now. Am I still going to be a Marist Brother when I turn forty and onwards? I am still discerning.

Please do pray for me and my vocation.

How to overcome the feeling of being out of your comfort zone?

I feel like the Easter joy hasn’t really sink in me. Or maybe it rubbed off me but it just subsided. If you feel so down, feel free to join me in my activity.

Review of the past: A writing activity
This is very simple. I’ll just do an activity that will help me situate my feelings. Just jot down what happened for the past two years, all the good and the bad. Borrowing Ignatian Discernment, let’s write down all consolations and desolations. And this is my entry:

Before (past two years)
Studies, LET, one year teaching, contact with the youth, catechism classes, more theological studies, international community living, and stay in my hometown, over exposure to technology, cooking practice, watering plants, washing my clothes, practicing of using iron, visit to my family, contact with parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, visit to my relatives, grandparents, cousins, outings, recollection, Retreats, spiritual direction, fraternal accompaniment, basketball, soccer, running, reading books, and blogging. I have a lot to thank for.

Now (this past three weeks)
No daily Mass, no exercise, bumming, more time in silence, different language, rural living, fireflies in my room, crickets and frogs singing, adorable cats, frightening dogs, strong cellular signal, drinking Lipton tea almost every meal, two to three hours conversation while eating, all male in the community, and a vacation ministry. 

Reflection
I think I’m still in the transition period. I might be still adjusting from being removed from my comfort zone. I’m thankful I wrote this so I can be grateful for all the blessings I got and not just focus on what I lack.

Deliver Me

Deliver Me

It’s second semester and it’s getting harder for me.
I’m more free but with added responsibilities.
With them, I know I have this tendency;
this wanting to please others
and to please myself as well.

Whenever it happens, deliver me from these.
If it’s not Your will, deliver me O God.

Writing Prompt: I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad

Discernment never stops

This afternoon, I’ll attend a recollection together with our fraternity in Cenacle Sisters’ Retreat House somewhere in Loyola Heights. It’s my first time to attend a retreat/recollection here in Metro Manila since I graduated in high school. All my recent retreats/recollections are usually in Mindanao.

This coming Monday, I might start a new blogging schedule of posting everyday non-stop for 30 days. This is in preparation for my role as the editor-in-chief for MAPAC newsletter. Because no one’s qualified they have to settle for a dork someone like me. Anyway…

Discernment never stops.

On skateboarding monks

Gallery

This morning, I watched an interesting video on YouTube about skateboarding friars, about two brothers, Didacus and Gabriel, who skateboard and entered religious life. At first, I was thinking that these might be a documentary made by professional skateboarders spotting some friars who know a little on their craft. Maybe this is one of their publicity stunts. Continue reading