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.

Review of the day

Though I am not a Jesuit or well versed in Ignatian Spirituality, I practice the examen. I learned about it when I entered Marist novitiate. We call it as the review of the day. Done every evening, we spend at least 15 minutes to think about the graces we received throughout the day. We thank about the people we encountered, the events that had transpired, new learnings, and other things worth recalling. After the end of our examen, sometimes we recite the confiteor where we pray about our shortcomings, what we have done and have failed to do. In active school ministry, five to ten minutes of the review is already a luxury.

This evening, I was late in our prayers because I talked to one student and I supervised the students in cleaning our classroom. Wednesday evening is dedicated to a Marian prayer. We prayed thr rosary. During the pause after the Salve, I brought to my prayer the one student I scolded because she had incurred nineteen absences, most of them unexcused and spent just cutting classes. I prayed and I hoped that my scolding was an expression of an honest anger because I care for this student.

After our evening community prayer, I picked up a guitar I borrowed and I remembered the “storm” last Monday even while plucking and strumming fledgingly. Actually, I dreamnt of Agnus sitting inside a chapel and I sat beside Agnus. Afterwards, I read again the “storm” conversation that talked about me in a public post somewhere in social media and I viewed it in a different perspective; detached and unaffected. I actually didn’t exert effort. It just “flowed”. As one Sri Lankan Brother told me last year, the better word is equanimity. I imagined talking to Agnus privately; listening to each other. Not trying to convince or win over Agnus but to understand and be compassionate with this person. How does it feel to spread hatred against others? How lonely it is to live a life full of hate in one’s heart?

I somehow get now what Bishop Barron was talking about in one of his podcast episode in Word On Fire. The true test of love for others really is to love our enemies. To love them as the “other” and not just an extension of oneself.

To have an idea what is an examen, you may download the Daily Examen application in Google Play.

Prayer of a wayward novice

Dear Brother,

You know well the love I have for You
And Your love cannot be repaid by this wayward disciple
O how I easy it is to forget my vows to serve You and my brothers and sisters;
to be chaste, poor, and obedient like You, our Good Brother
And here I am, trying be like you yet ungrateful for wasting Your gifts
But see my intentions and not my faltering steps
Because I admit that I will always stay as a novice in following You more closely
And You, my Master, are always there to teach me
Let me unlearn the ways where I seek false comfort
and redirect me by being the lamp to my path.
Thank You for being my co-pilgrim, the God-with-us. Amen.

Your little brother,
Allen

Prompt: 2nd year anniversary of my First Profession of Vows

Sunday Reflection: How a water drum inspired me

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Introduction: This is the first time I will post a Lectio Divina (Diving Reading) Reflection. As a Marist young Brother, I don’t give sermons. But like a teacher (or a future teacher), I can give my personal experiences. I’ll do it the WordPress way. Just pardon my English. Continue reading

How do I pray contemplatively?

Now, I will talk about something that I am not yet good at; call me a novice in contemplative prayer. I first met it during my novitiate, a stage focused in preparing and discerning to enter consecrated life. I opened a book about prayer called Opening to God by Thomas Green, SJ. It introduced me to the contemplatives and Doctors of the Church such as Saint John of the Cross and Saint Theresa of Avila. Later, I learned about books on contemplation such as Silence on Fire by William Shannon, which is heavily influenced by the great Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Now, I’m reading a very good book by an unknown writer, The Cloud of Unknowing. It’s written in a didactic way that I really find easy to relate because of the skillful translation of Carmen Acevedo Butcher from Middle English to modern English.

What is contemplative prayer about? To put it simply, it is a prayer of being and not doing. It will make to reflect more in silence. Like what the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I believe it is enriching my spiritual life now. Try it.