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                                                                 Chapter  Five

 

                                           A DIARY OF A NOVICE

 

 

 

January 7, 1976. 

Lord, here I am in Lipa for novitiate which started two months ago.  It is a beautiful place -- cool, quiet and restful. This is indeed conducive for prayer and reflection. This  is a time for me to know more about  the Redemptorist life and  about myself. Perhaps, here I will be able to discern if you are really calling me to the religious life.

There are eleven of us here, six senior novices and five juniors.  Nine of us are from the Visayas and Mindanao. There are only two novices from Manila. We have two novice masters, Frs. Dave Clancy and Ireneo Amantillo.  Fr. Amantillo will soon be leaving us since he has been appointed as auxiliary bishop of Cagayan de Oro.

We live a monastic existence. We wake up at five in the morning and  do our meditation at five thirty.  I still have to get used to spending thirty minutes in silence, being aware of your presence and meditating on your word. It is so difficult to concentrate and to sit still, especially when it is dark and cold. All I want to do is to go back to bed and sleep. After meditation we have the  Lauds,  the morning prayer.  Then we celebrate the Eucharist, either in the community chapel or in the church. After partaking of your body and blood, we rush to the refectory for a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs and the strong Batangas coffee. 

The rest of the morning we spend in conference or class with the novice master. We cover so many topics: Religious life, the vows, Redemptorist history and spirituality, the lives of the Redemptorist saints, the Redemptorist Constitution and statutes.

Fifteen minutes before lunch time we have the midday prayer. After lunch, we take our siesta. We do an hour of spiritual reading between 2 to 3 pm. Life here is not actually all prayer and reflection; we also have gardening and athletics from 3 to 5 in the afternoon. We also have cleaning assignments. At present, I'm assigned to clean the toilets and the showers. By six we are back in the chapel for meditation. After thirty minutes we begin our Vespers or Evening Prayer. Then comes the much awaited supper, followed by community recreation. We spend this time watching TV, playing cards, scrabble or other games. Those who lose in the card games are made to crawl under the table.  Fr. Amantillo has crawled under the table so many times. After recreation we spend time in the chapel doing our personal devotions -- making the station of the cross, saying the rosary, etc. By nine o'clock we gather for the night prayer. Then off we go to our rooms to do some reading or writing before going to sleep.

Once a week, each novice meets the novice master for colloquium. This is a time when we can share with him what is happening in our life --  our inner journey. We also make weekly visits to the SOS children's village as part of our apostolate. There will be periods when we will go out  go to the areas where Redemptorists are conducting missions. This is called “mission exposure.”        Every day here seems to be the same. But I like the rhythm of prayer, reflection, conferences, work, recreation, reading, etc. This is helping me develop the contemplative dimension of  my life. I hope all these will make me more aware of your presence in my life and deepen our relationship.              The novitiate period is like going through a period of initiation. It is part of a rite of passage – a time of transition. Those of us who are entering a new state of life – the religious life -- withdraw ourselves from the ordinary life in order to clarify our identity, vocation, mission and vision. At the end of this period, we come out and make a life-commitment.

I pray and hope that I will be able to decide to commit myself fully to you, Lord.

 

April 1, 1976

Lord, I've been  in this novitiate for almost five months.  I believe that  there are changes taking place within me. The most significant  is that I have grown more conscious of your presence and activity in my life. Well, I haven't experi­enced any ecstasy in my meditation but still I feel your closeness. I believe this is the fruit of  my constant prayer,  meditation and reflection  I've realized that what I lacked before was the habit of prayer and meditation. Before, I spent most of my time in my studies, extra-curricular activities, joining mass actions and demonstrations, working with the poor . There was no time for prayer and meditation, and I really didn't know how to go about it. No wonder that  it was your distance and absence that I felt.

 The past few months have witnessed a personal struggle to come to grips with the root vices that are hindering me from genuinely loving you and others. I am getting to know and understand more deeply who I am -- my dark side, my gifts and potentials.


 

April 10, 1976

Last night, I dreamt of Cynthia. I don’t  remember the whole dream.  It was just an image of her in a wedding dress.  She looked so lovely. Where was the groom?  

I felt disappointed when I woke up in the middle of the night. I went back to sleep hoping to see her in my dream again.

She's part of the past now and I should try to forget her. But how can I forget someone who has touched my life so deeply?

Thanks, Lord, for letting our paths cross. It made me aware that I am human and that I can fall in love. Perhaps this was your way of giving me  a glimpse of your Divine Love.

 

April 12, 1976

Our novice master told us that in the olden days the novices were taught to practice custody of the eyes. This meant that one should not look directly or stare at other people -- especially women.  That's difficult for me especial­ly when I see a lot of  pretty girls  who come to church. I don't know whether to thank you or to be sorry that you have given me a very appreciative pair of eyes. They always pop out at the sight of your beautiful creatures. This can be a source of distraction during mass. I hope this  aesthetic sense won't make the practice of chastity difficult for me.

 


April 23, 1976

I experienced a strange feeling during meditation. After gazing for a long time at the large crucifix, seeing you hanging on the cross, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sensation. Tears flowed from my eyes and the hair on my nape stood up. The words of the gospel continued to echo in my mind: "No, greater love a man has than to die for his friends."

 Yes, your self-sacrifice in the cross is the greatest sign of your love for us -- your love for me.

 I am not sure whether this religious experience is authentic. But this meditation is different from my usual ones -- free from distractions and no trace of the usual mental-intellectual musing.

If this is some consolation you are giving me after the desolation and dryness in my prayer life, then I thank you, Lord. However, I will have to remember always St. Theresa's warning: "They deceive themselves who imagine that union with God consists in ecstasies, visions, the joys of sensible devotion. It consists in nothing else but the subjection of our will to the will of God."

 

May 7, 1976

Monthly retreat. Theme: Evangelical poverty.

How does one practice evangelical poverty in the midst of ease and comfort? This is a contradiction that has to be resolved here in the novitiate. We are so well provided for we never experience want. There is security and comfort here, which I could hardly have if I were living outside.

If it is a matter of possessing a spirit of detachment and indifference to material possession and comfort, then there's no problem. But that would be incomplete without the exterior expression of evangelical poverty -- living a simple life and working hard among the poor in spreading the Gospel.


Since I can’t do much to change this structure,  I'll have to be contented with the present practice of asking permission for the use of things, working hard (especially staff work assignment, gardening, etc), never complaining should I encounter any discomfort, never desiring for more ease and comfort, control­ling my appetite and minimizing my cigarette consumption.

I am aware that I will still be encountering the same contradiction in the future as long as the present Redemptorist lifestyle remains the same. I'm glad that there have been re-examination made regarding our lifestyle.  In the recent issues of the Explorer, some of the Redemptorists are questioning our lifestyle and advocating a more simple way of living that is more Filipino and closer to the poor.­

Lord, I guess we still have a long way towards following closely the way your live two thousand years ago.

 

May 14, 1976

Sam Javelosa, Joe Perez, Doy and Magno made a surprise visit here before lunch. They are my friends and comrades from way back. I was very happy to see them. We had a good time discussing the latest news and reminiscing about the good old days.

After lunch, I had a long chat with Magno. It seems  that he is still in the dark with regard to his faith and direction in life. He is experiencing a sense of meaninglessness and emptiness. He is still searching for meaningful ideals and values to commit to and live by. I wonder how I can help my old friend -- he seems to be lost.

 He once told me that God and religion do not make sense to him. But I still pray to you Lord that he may open his heart to you so that you can transform the deepest level of his being, that he may personally encounter you and commit his life to you. It is only you who can fill the emptiness within him. It is only you who can give meaning and direction to his life.

Could it be that the crisis he is experiencing is your way of purifying his faith? Could it be your way of telling him that his life is empty and meaningless without you?

 

May 29, 1976

Apostolate in the SOS children's village this afternoon. I had a wonderful time playing with the kids. I was reminded of my own potential fatherhood. I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a wife and children of my own. But I think I will have to deprive myself of this happiness. Your call for me, O Lord, to serve you and your people as religious takes priority.


 

June 1, 1976

I dreamt of Cynthia again last night. I don't know why her image keeps hounding me in my sleep.

After reading a passage from the Gospel of John where you asked Simon Peter whether he loved you, I myself felt that you were asking me the same question. "Do you love me, Picx?"

This is not an easy question to answer. You know very well that I don't feel the same joy in your presence as I did when in the presence of Cynthia. If my love for you is measured by how much I feel towards you, then I can't honestly say that I love you that much. However, if it is to be measured by how far am I willing to commit myself to you, then I believe that I love you that much because I am willing to commit myself totally and unconditionally to you. I am even willing to sacrifice everything for you, including my happiness and my own life. I am not willing to do these things for Cynthia.

I feel there is still a need for me to deepen my personal love for you. I know that it is only this love that can keep me faithful to my vocation and commitment to you and your people especially when the going gets rough along the way. It is only this love that can inspire me to greater generosity.

 

June 5, 1976

Auntie Paz visited me this morning. She brought bad news from home: Papa was paralyzed by a stroke two weeks ago.

I have gotten over the initial shock but I am still filled with grief and anxiety.  Papa's sickness has badly affected my family. Besides worrying over Papa's condition, they face the problem of how to make both ends meet.  Sammy and Dodong will have to stop studying and look for work so that they can help Mama support the family. I wish I could be there with them during this difficult moment. I just feel so helpless - there's nothing I can do to help them.


I still can't understand how you could allow this sad thing to happen to Papa, Lord. A few months ago everything seemed to be going great for him. He was very happy with his new work  as an engineering consultant for the power plant project. This provided the financial security he had been longing for.      

All I can do is to make an act of faith that somehow a greater good can come out of this.

 

June 10, 1976

Mama came to fetch me this morning so that I can visit Papa at the Philippine Veteran's General Hospital in Manila.

I was just overwhelmed when I saw the tears in Papa's eyes. He appeared so weak and helpless. The right side of his body has been paralyzed. He was filled with self-pity.

It's good thing that my uncle thought of transferring him to Manila. At least there's a better chance for him to recover quickly. So far his condition has improved with physical therapy. He's still weak but he has lots of determina­tion and will to get better.

Lord, I pray that you continue to grant to Papa your healing grace.

 

June 15, 1976

Lord, in today's Gospel you command us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This commandment is too difficult for me to accept and practice in my life. There would be no problem if it is only a matter of loving and forgiving a personal enemy. But loving and praying for the unrepentant oppressors and exploiters of our people is a difficult thing to do. Do you think it is easy for me to love and forgive those military intelligence agents who tortured me during my detention?  I wonder if  this commandment will make sense to the people who have been suffering from injustice and oppression.  Will this not make Christianity the opium of the people?

Forgive me Lord, but my experience of working with the poor and the oppressed has made me critical about any teaching that will perpetuate their deplorable condition.

Is it possible to love and forgive the oppressors while at the same time continue struggling against them? 

Lord, grant me the wisdom to understand fully your commandment of love and the faith to truly practice it. Forgive me for my lack of faith in the power of love to effect a truly revolutionary transformation of society, a love that can bring about true justice and peace.

 


June 23, 1976

I'm getting more excited. Tomorrow we will be leaving for the Kibawe (Bukidnon) mission. I've been looking forward to this. You know how I enjoy mission work a lot. My last mission exposure was four years ago in Balingoan with Fr. Rudy Romano. This mission will be different from the previous ones since it is part of our novitiate formation. The emphasis here is learning to integrate our prayer life with the mission work.

 

June 29, 1976

I am here now in Kibawe, Bukidnon – the mission area.

We arrived in time for supper but late for the general orientation. I'm thrilled to be part of this mission band composed of 10 Redemptorist priests, a brother, one major seminarian and four novices. Fr. Godofredo Alingal, SJ, the parish priest had invited the Redemptorists to give a mission in his parish. The COs (community organizers) have been organizing this place for the last two years. Our role is to integrate the Christian message with the people's struggle. This will be the first time that the mission work will be linked with the CO process.

I met Fr. Daugdaug, Bro. James, Popoy, Pablo, Lourdes and Letty. They are members of the Iligan Redemptorist Mission Team who are undergoing training in community organizing here in Kibawe. This is the first time that the Redemptorists have lay members of the mission team.  After their training they will begin the experiment of combining the CO method with the mission work of building Basic Christian Communi­ties.

 

June 30, 1976

Here I am in a very remote sitio with Fr. Brian McDonagh. What a beautiful place -- cool climate, rolling hills, valleys and streams. The chapel is on top of a hill with a bamboo convent beside it. We were warmly welcomed by the people when we arrived this afternoon.

I'm so happy to be here among these poor farmers, sharing with them the message of liberation and hope. I really feel at home doing this kind of work among such simple people. This is a foretaste of the kind of life I'm going to live when I become a Redemptorist missioner.

 

July 4, 1976


I've been acting as facilitator in the group discussions. The people's participation in the discussion groups is a bit weak and they are encountering difficulties in grasping the mission message. They have a very deep faith in you, Lord. We're trying to help them see the connection between their faith and their struggle to transform society. It's not that easy. The process of realization will take time. I don't think we can accomplish much in five days. At least we have sown the seed and the mission follow-up will care of it.

I need to cultivate greater patience and hope. My constant personal prayerful encounters with you have been very helpful. My daily early morning meditations have been a source of energy, wisdom and confidence. I'm more convinced of the necessity of prayer in the apostolate.

Tomorrow our mission here in Kisolop will end. I'll be going directly to my next assignment in Micodal after the closing mass.

 

July 6, 1976

Fr. Paddy Martin and myself had our "baptism" yesterday when heavy rain poured down. It was a blessing in disguise -- imagine, my first bath after four days!

We are having  more difficulty here since Micodal is not a CO-covered area. It has not been organized. However, the attendance and participation is good.

Fr. Paddy gave me the major part of the work -- he takes care of the liturgy while I handle the mission seminar. At first I felt nervous because I had never conducted a mission seminar before. But I was inspired by the interest and enthusiasm of the people. I just followed what we did in the previous area. I divided the participants into small groups and let them share their experience of God’s liberating presence in their life. Then I gave talks about the God of Exodus, the God who sided with the poor and the oppressed. I also talked about Christ’s mission of proclaiming the good news of liberation to the poor.

I'm already experiencing the strain of mission work. Imagine, whole-day seminar sessions in the chapel and not much time for house visitation.

 

July 10, 1976

We ended our mission in Micodal this morning. Many people shed a lot of tears  as we left the place. I hope the tears were not meant for the chickens that we consumed during the mission. We must have eaten a whole poultry! Anyway, I think this is where the spirit of detachment comes in -- being able to say goodbye to the people and the place we have grown to love without our hearts breaking.


I'm here now in sitio Katipunan with Fr. Dominic McKenna. This is a very remote community of about 30 families. The people are very poor. Although the produce of the land is bountiful, they are often exploited by the businessmen who buy their products cheap and charge exorbitant prices for their goods. The majority of the people are illiterate; some have barely reached Grade 4. This place has never been visited by a priest before. Only a few occasionally go to mass in the town which is so far. So you can see how poor and abandoned these people are. And to think that there are thousands of sitios and barrios all over the Philippines with this same situation. I think I am feeling what St. Alphonsus must have felt when he saw the poor goatherds of Amalfi.

Lord, I can hear more clearly your call for me to dedicate my life to you and to the poor like them.

 

 

July 14, 1976

Feeling exhausted. We have a very heavy schedule: mission seminar in the morning and home visitation in the afternoon. Fr. McKenna gave me the task of conducting the mission seminar. Our home visitation is more like hiking and mountain climbing, since the houses are far apart.

Everything seems to be going smoothly. The people's enthusias­tic response is encouraging. They have been actively participating  in the reflection on their concrete situation and the liberating message of the Gospel.

The mission in this sitio will be over tomorrow. I will be leaving with some anxiety about the uncertain future of these people. I will just have to hope that what we have sown will someday bear fruit in their lives.

 

July 17, 1976

We spent the whole day with the mission team evaluating the Kibawe mission. Towards the end there was a heated discussion when the question was posed about adopting the CO method for our future missions. It was finally agreed to keep it experimental for the moment. The final decision will be made during the coming mission colloquium.

It seems that some of the older Redemptorists are insecure with this very demanding approach to the mission apostolate. They are used to the tradition­al "hit and run" method where the missioners just evangelize the barrio for a week and then move on to the next barrio. But this approach is not very effective. What is needed is not just preaching the Good News. We have to spend longer time in the barrios organizing the Basic Christian Communities using the CO method.

The RGS sisters (Sr. Priscilla, Celine, Cata and Jo) invited the novices  for supper in their convent. We had an enjoyable evening. I find them very attractive. They're so full of life. They are working with the Community Organizers and the Parish volunteer workers as a reflection team. They spend most of their time in the mountains among the poor farmers helping them reflect on their struggles in the light of faith. Instead of wearing the usual religious habit, they  wear denim jeans.


 

July 28, 1976

Back to the "contemplative" life in Lipa. I guess I'll have to readjust myself to the novitiate atmosphere after the mission exposure. I  think I have developed an attachment to the apostolic life.

This morning, I visited Papa at the Veterans’ Hospital before coming back here. He can already walk a little but his right arm and shoulder are still paralyzed. I don't think he can go home by August 15 as he plans.

Lord, I'm very worried about this. You know how hard this is for him and the family. Please hasten his recovery.

 

August 15, 1976

Magno came for a visit. I was so happy to see him. We  talked about the recent developments in the democratic socialist movement.  Although it is not as strong as the Communist Party of the Philippines,  the movement is slowly growing. They have organized the armed units. Magno is a candidate member of the Partido Demokra­tik­o-Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP).

He also told me about his recent conversion experience. He has regained his faith! He is even considering the possibility that you might be calling him to the religious life.

Lord, thank you for transforming Magno's life. May You continue to guide him as he discerns his vocation.

 

August 19, 1976

For the last two weeks, I've been constantly thinking about the democratic socialist movement. This has been the source of my distraction during  meditation. I'm torn between my desire to respond to God's call to the religious life and the need to actively participate in the struggle against the dictatorship. Anyway, I will keep my options open just in case it turns out that I don't have a religious vocation.

 

September 14, 1976


The mission in Lipa started yesterday. The Australian Redemptorists led by Fr. McGuire are conducting it. We have been asked to help out as part of our mission exposure. For the next four weeks we will be living a monastic life in the morning (meditation, lectures, devotions) and apostolic life in the afternoon and evening (mission seminars). This is a different type of mission, since it is conducted just near the monastery and we don't have to live with the people. We come home late at night.

 

 

September 21, 1976

Today is the fourth anniversary of martial law and the third anniversary of my arrest and imprisonment.  I have personally experienced the oppressive character of this dictatorial regime.

Lord, I'm trying to erase the bitterness and hate in my heart. I can forgive now those who have tortured me. Yet it doesn't mean that I will stop struggling for freedom and justice. You have taught me that forgiveness doesn't mean tolerating evil. Both oppressed and oppressor need to be liberated from sin and its effect in society.

What bothers me at present is that many of our people have acquiesced to martial law. There is very little resistance.

Lord, move the minds and hearts of our people and give them courage to struggle  for liberation.

 

September 24, 1976

There are so many beautiful young women that I encounter in the mission. I can't help but admire them from a distance.  Why am I so easily attracted to beauty? I think I can easily become a Don Juan like my grandfather if  I don't become a priest. Living a celibate life will be very difficult for a person like me.

For the last few days we have been reflecting on the vow of chastity. What strikes me is the idea that it involves the renunciation of the sexual pleasure of marriage, the joy of intimate love between man and woman, and the joy and fulfillment of parenthood. These are indeed great human values which I will have to renounce for the sake of the Kingdom.  It would have been easy if I don't like women, or if I hate children. O, Lord, this is what I have to give up for your sake. You'd better give me the grace necessary to live out this kind of life. You know how weak and vulnerable I am to beauty.

 

October 3, 1976

Lord, for the past two nights I've been having the same dream. What's so strange is the absence of images -- just a sort of feeling that overwhelms me in my sleep, an intense feeling of being loved -- by you. It was just ecstatic. Words are really inadequate to express the feeling I experience in these dreams.

I hope this is one of those instances when dreams express the inner reality rather than just wish fulfillment.

 

October 8, 1976

I celebrated my 22nd birthday the other day. I am already in the threshold of adulthood. I will have to savor the remaining years of my youth. It’s wonderful to be alive … and to be loved by you. There’s no greater gift you can give me.

One of the dangers that I must avoid in living the celibate life is becoming cold and aloof in my relationship with those I work with in the mission.  It seems that this is how I have been acting these past weeks. I don't even remember the names of those I have encountered.

Lord, help me to be more warm and loving in my service to others. It is easy to relate to people as if they were an abstract category, a faceless and nameless crowd. No risks and self-invest­ment involved. But to relate to them as individual persons is not easy. I know that my present way of loving others with a universal love would end up with loving nobody at all.

 

October 10, 1976

This evening after coming from the barangay meeting, I saw an old man in tattered clothes sleeping outside the monastery door. He was probably shivering, lying on the cold cement floor without any blanket. I just passed him by as if he wasn't there.

Lord, how hard it is to recognize you in that old man. Intellectually I believe that you are present in every person especially the least. But every time I meet them I don't even recognize your face. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to always recognize you in others especially the poor and the most abandoned.


 

October 13, 1976

I woke up with a very extraordinary feeling this morning. I felt very fresh and alive. Everything just felt beautiful -- the morning air, the rising sun, the birds singing and the church bell ringing. These things have always greeted me every morning but it is only this particular morning that I was very much aware of them. How I have taken these for granted. 

 

October 17, 1976

We held the general mission rally this evening as a culminat­ing event of the mission in Lipa. The people had a procession from their respective mission areas to the cathedral. Thousands of people came. I was really moved by this show of faith. Their presence was enough to deepen my faith in You.

 

November 18, 1976

Last night I dreamt of you, Lord. What a vivid and colorful dream! I saw you in all your splendor and glory smiling at me and welcoming me to your heavenly kingdom. I noticed the happiness in the faces of the people around you. As I went around, I met Nilda, my elder sister who died 12 years ago. She also looked joyful. I just can't describe the happiness I felt while I was dreaming. Can this be the feeling that we experience when we attain complete union with you and others in heaven? I thought it was for real but I woke up and realized it was only a dream. I hope it will come true.

I received a letter from Mama this afternoon. It seems that things are still not going well financially back home. Papa has not been able to go back to work because of his stroke. Mama is trying very hard to make both ends meet. I am amazed by Mama's deep faith in your divine providence. She assured me that you'll never forsake us. She's asking me to pray that you'll give her "the courage and patience to face these trials and crosses."

 I would also like to pray for Papa, Lord. He's having sleepless nights thinking about all these problems.

Six months ago, I asked you why you allowed the stroke to happen to Papa. Now I believe it was a blessing in disguise. Mama told me that last week Papa's co-workers were ambushed by Muslim rebels while on their way to the project site. Seven were killed, three of them engineers. Had Papa been there, he would have been one of those killed. Whether it's pure coincidence or not, I'd like to thank you for keeping Papa safe.

 

November 21, 1976

While waiting for the "mission follow-up" meeting to begin, I had a conversation with Sr. Lita. She told me that she's been praying for me. Of course, I was happy to hear that. She's a young and attractive sister who was professed last May. I hope we can become close friends.

We heard the news that Sam Javelosa, one of our major seminarians in Davao, was arrested by the military. He is the son of Colonel Eduardo Javelosa, the deputy zone commander. There has been a wave of mass arrests of religious and lay leaders suspected by the military of subversion. Even our monastery in Davao was raided and the military searched the place for subversive documents. I hope he won't get the same treatment that I received in the hands of those sadistic intelligence agents.

 

November 28, 1976

Magno came for a visit this morning. We had a three-hour conversation after lunch. He told me that he's seriously thinking of joining the Redemptorist CO Postulancy Program in Cebu this summer. I'm just amazed how he has regained his faith. For quite sometime he had drifted away from you and lost his faith. He studied various philosophies and ideologies hoping he could find meaning and direction in life but it was futile. One day while feeling restless and looking for something to read, the only book that was around was the bible. When he opened it his eyes fell on the text from the Gospel of John: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life." He looked out of the window and saw the sunset in the horizon and he was suddenly  overwhelmed by an awareness of your loving presence and tears flowed from his eyes. He experienced a sudden conversion, and his life was changed.

St. Augustine was right when he said: "you have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are ever restless until they rest in you."

It seems that my friend's conversion has deepened my faith.

 

December 14, 1976


The novitiate basketball team played against the Lipa clergy team this afternoon. Although I was able to shoot 40 points, our team lost (80-95).  I didn't mind  losing since I played very well and  I scored a personal best. What  vanity! Anyway, we were up against taller and better players.

 

December 17, 1976

Salvi made some Christmas cards for me. I seem to have become "artistically impotent" -- I used to make beautiful cards when I was in prison but now I am unable to produce anything creative.

I wrote a Christmas letter to Fr. Willy J thanking him for all he had done for me during my college years (for his guidance, his support when I was in prison, etc). This is the first time I've thanked him and perhaps the first time I've really appreciated the help he had given me in the past.

Lord, how many times have you shown your love and care for me through other people and yet I have often been unaware and ungrateful.

 

December 19, 1976

Frs. Lucey and Clancy left for Manila this morning. With both novice-masters away, I am in charge of the novitiate (since I am the capo).

This afternoon I saw Caloy  drinking beer for merienda (that's prohibited -- we can only drink beer during Feast days). So I reprimanded him harshly in public. I don't think he and the other novices appreciated such authoritarian conduct -- it showed in their faces. I should have done it privately  and in a calm way -- you know how sensitive we Filipinos are to public criticism. So this evening I went to his room to apologize and admitted that I made a mistake in reprimand­ing him in public instead of doing it privately.

Sorry, "being in charge" just got into my head. I acted like an authoritarian novice-master.

 

December 24, 1976

Many of my fellow novices have been receiving Christmas cards, letters and gifts these past few days. My empty mailbox reminds me that nobody remembers me -- that's what I thought until this morning. Sr. Lita's Christmas card was indeed a source of joy.


This is going to be the fourth Christmas away from home. I really miss my family a lot.  I know that this is one of the sacrifices I have to make in order to respond to your call. I hope they will discover the peace and joy of Christmas in spite of the hardships and financial difficulties they are encountering. After all, the joyfulness of Christmas does not depend on the lack of food, drinks, decorations, gifts, firecrackers, etc. Christmas joy comes from the awareness and appreciation of the greatest gift your Father has given to mankind -- you.

 

January 10, 1977

We attended the prayer meeting for priests and religious at the La Salle house this evening. Archbishop Ricardo Vidal asked us to pray for the forthcoming meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. The bishops will be discussing a very sensitive issue: The Church's stand vis-a-vis the Marcos dictatorial regime. I hope and pray that they will make a prophetic stance and not compromise with this oppressive regime.

 

January 15, 1977

Today is our 14th month in the novitiate. We have about four months to go before profession. I am feeling a sense of expectation for the most awaited moment -- my profession day.

I have made up my mind to respond to your call to uncondition­ally commit myself to you as a Redemptorist. It is up to the Congregation now to verify or reject the authenticity of this call and response. Please grant me the grace to do your will, O Lord.

This morning, I came across this passage which made a deep impression in my heart: "What is important is not what I want to do with my life, but rather what God wants to do with my life."

I am making this my personal motto as  I journey through life. Grant me, O Lord, the grace to be always sensitive and obedient to your will.

 

January 16, 1977


I  have been reading  Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain and The Man on the Sycamore Tree.   These are not the kind of books that I would have liked to read a few months before.  Lately, I have become interested in the Trappist way of life. What I find strange is that it has a great appeal for me. I wouldn't consider this as an indication of your call for me to live a contemplative life. You have not given me the  tempera­ment necessary to live this kind of life.  Yet I wonder if are you trying to make me aware of the need to develop the contemplative dimension of my life.

Grant me the wisdom, O Lord, to discern the movement of Your Spirit in my life.

 

January 21, 1977

Yesterday was the Feast of San Sebastian, the patron saint of Lipa. It was a day of feasting and drinking. We visited  17 houses in one day and we staggered home at midnight -- full and groggy. Now that is what you call gluttony! But it was not the food but rather the company. Did they not call you a glutton and a drunkard?

During this morning's conference we discussed the second chapter of the Redemptorist Constitution -- the Apostolic community. I used this as material for my meditation during this evening's medita­tion.

One of the things that have drawn me towards the Congregation is its strong community spirit. Living in community and carrying out the apostolic work as a community really means a lot to me. I wouldn't want to live as a "lone ranger".

 

 January 22, 1977

It is quite surprising but I am beginning to treasure the moments of silence and solitude. In fact, I'm beginning to crave for more. I need these moments of solitude to encounter myself and you, and to become more aware of your presence in my life.

 

January 26, 1977


I'm halfway through the life of St. Gerard Majella. He's not my type of saint at all. He was too superhuman  -- at least that is the impression I got from the account of his life. One would think he was more of an angel than a man. I can only admire him. It would be impossible to imitate him unless you give me the same extraordi­nary graces you showered on him. Reading his life has deepened my understanding of grace. The insight  I got is that "sainthood" is a gift. It does not depend solely on one's effort but rather on your grace and one's  cooperation with it. No matter how I aspire to be a saint, it would be futile unless you give me the grace to be one. Of course, I want to be a saint but the question is do you want me to be one? I'll have to aspire for whatever level of sanctity you call me to.

 

 

January 27, 1977

While meditating on the third chapter of the Redemptorist Constitution (Apostolic community dedicated to Christ) I felt you asking me whether I am willing to dedicate myself to you for life as a Redemptorist. My answer is Yes. I am aware of the demands and sacrifices involved but I still answer "Yes, here I am Lord, send me."  I know that it will not be an easy life but with your grace I hope to live a poor, chaste and obedient life dedicated to you and your Gospel.

 

January 31, 1977

It seems strange -- I've never been interested in the contem­pla­tive life and I yet find myself being attracted to the Trappist way of life. Probably Thomas Merton must have made a deep impres­sion on me after reading his books. Lord, I hope you are not calling me to this kind of life -- that's too much, becoming a Redemptorist is enough.

 

February 5, 1977

Last night I dreamt of Cynthia again. Oh God, she was so beautiful. Why do I always dream about her? Why does her image keep hounding me?

I have to ask myself again: Am I willing to forego the joys and fulfillment of a beautiful, exclusive and intimate loving relation­ship with a woman? With trembling heart and with the awareness of my personal frailty and imperfection I want to say: Yes Lord, if it means loving you more generously and totally. Yes Lord, if it means being more free and available for the service of your Kingdom. Yes, Lord. This is my response of love to you who has loved me with an everlasting love. I am aware that this kind of love can only come from you as a gift. So please, continue to pour on me this particular grace. Help me also to be always faithful to You especially when the time of trial comes. I know there will come a time that I might doubt or regret this commitment which I am about to make. But with your guidance and support I have nothing to fear.

 

February 7, 1977

Fr. Talty heard my confession this evening. I stayed on for another 15 minutes to listen to his words of wisdom. What struck me profoundly was his emphatic advice to approach you more personally.

His holiness edifies me. I see your tenderness and apostolic love reflected in this saintly old man. He is really someone to be admired and imitated. He is a Redemptorist who has faithfully lived out  his commitment for almost half a century and here I am just about to begin religious life.

 

February 8, 1977

During our colloquium Fr. Clancy asked me a question which I found difficult to answer: "What are you seeking in the Congrega­tion?" How could I answer such  question when I'm here not because I am seeking  something but rather because I have found something? I'm like the man who found the "pearl of great price" and who has given up everything in order to gain it.

The Redemptorist life (especially its ideals, charism, apostolic thrust and community living) has attracted me profoundly. Through all these years in formation, I have grown to love the Congregation and what it stands for. What make this kind of life so precious to my heart is that it gives a sense of meaning and direction to my life. It inspires me to greater generosity and heroic devotion to you and your people. It is here that I can develop and use my potentials and talents to the full. I feel a deep resonance between my gifts and the charism of the Congregation. In short, this is the kind of life that I'm most at home with.

But this is not my only motivation for aspiring for this life. I have become fully convinced that the main reason why I'm here is because I want to respond to your call. I am here to do your will. If this vocation was not clear to me then, I wouldn't be here no matter how attractive and beautiful this life is to me.

I am joining the Redemptorist Congregation out of love for you who has loved me with an immeasurable love, and out of obedience to your will. My heart will never find rest nor peace nor joy unless I respond to your call to live out my baptismal commitment as a Redemptorist.

 

February 10, 1977

Last night's dream inspired me to compose this poem. It's not really that polished but it comes straight from the heart.

 


 A Haunting Encounter

 

 You  haunt me  in my dreams

 in the restless hours  of the night.

 

I  thought  I had buried you

 into the deepest recesses of my memory.

 but your image keeps

 hounding me, reminding me

 of a road I could have taken,

 a road we could have walked together.

 

 Won't you ever

 leave my sleep in peace?

 

 How I wish

 I could walk the road with you

 like I told you an eternity ago.

 But  I have taken another path

 a path seldom taken,

 so narrow and rocky

 and which leads inevitably

 to Golgotha

 and to the kingdom. 

 

 I have said Yes

 to that Something and Someone

 that beckons me

 to take this path

 and there is no turning back.

 


 You  still haunt me and remind me

 of the  road  we could have taken  together.

 You  make me  falter in my steps.

 

 Alas,  that's what you'll always be‑‑

 a beautiful memory

 the woman in my dreams

 someone I encountered

at a junction of  my life.

 

February 13, 1977

We went to the Carmelite monastery this afternoon to "sere­nade" the nuns. Afterwards we had the opportunity to hear their angelic voices.

There was one thing I noticed with these contemplatives: the peace, serenity and joy that their presence radiates. This is especially seen in their faces, in their eyes and the way they move. Gazing at them gave me a feeling of awe and reverence -- as if I was in the presence of something or someone beyond the ordinary.

As I gazed at this lovely Carmelite, Sr. Mary Teresa, a question crossed my mind, "What's a beautiful woman like her doing in a place like this?"

It didn't take me long to answer the question myself, "She fell in love with you, Lord."

Human wisdom is insufficient to grasp the meaning and value of this kind of life. Human reason would probably dismiss it as a folly -- something meaningless and worthless. It is only through the eyes of faith and love that it makes sense.

 

February 14, 1977

Mama's letter arrived this morning. She asked me to pray that you might give her the strength to carry her cross. I am edified by the deep faith and trust in you. Papa is still recovering from his paralysis. He is now staying in the beautiful beach of Samburon. During the siesta hour,I wrote this poem for him.

 


A Grain of Sand        

 

As the waves wash away

your footprints in the sand,

so does He wipe away

your tears with His hand.

 

The pangs of despair and sorrow

will vanish in the morrow.

no longer will you limp

if you will let Him be your crutch.

 

Though your days may appear

as dark as the night,

you have nothing to fear

for He is your light.

 

For though you may seem to be

only a grain of sand

His love for you will always be

more boundless than the sea.

 

February 18, 1977

            "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness." (John 8:12)

            This is the passage that struck me deeply during my meditation this morning. This is really very meaningful for me especially when I apply it to my vocation.

            I am filled with a sense of gratitude to you for having called me to follow you as a Redemptorist. In responding to your call you have given me the light of life and never will I walk in darkness -- never will I drift through life aimlessley without a sense of meaning and purpose to my existence.

            This passage also reminds me of Magno and his conversion. He told me once that this is one of the passages that had enlightened the darkness of unbelief and that had brought him back to the faith -- and ultimately to you.

            Thank you so much, Lord. You have once again shown me how alive and effective is your word in the transforming the hearts of people.

 

February 20, 1977

Lent is just around the corner. This evening we held a paraliturgical service to anticipate its arrival.

I'd better start looking for possible ways of practicing penance and mortification. This will help me focus my attention on your passion and on the passion of the poor and oppressed who suffer with you today. This will be helpful in my ongoing personal conversion.

 

February 23, 1977

Ash Wednesday

I'm feeling tired and hungry after a day of fasting and helping in the distribution of ashes. I don't believe in the saying that one can't pray on an empty stomach. On the contrary, fasting helps me focus my attention on your suffering and that of the poor, who at this very moment go to sleep with empty stomachs. Fasting, in my case, is an act of freedom. For the poor it is meaningless because they are starving anyway. I hope the day will come when they can fast not out of necessity but out of freedom.

 


February 26, 1977

There's a dominant weakness which I must perpetually overcome: sensuality and self-indulgence. I am aware that if this remains unchecked and uncontrolled this will be the cause of future problems and contradiction in my religious life.

At present this is my resolution to deal with this weakness:

 

1. correction of attitude: instead of "seeking what is pleasant, avoiding what is unpleasant", I will "seek what is good and avoid what is evil."

2. not to give in to sloth

3. avoid procrastination

4. control my voracious appetite (cut down on daily food consumption by 50%, fasting every Friday during Lent)

5. reduce cigarette consumption (no smoking on Fridays, 1 pack per 1 week)

 

February 28, 1977

Meditating alone in my room is very helpful in improving my prayer life. It's better than meditating in the chapel with other novices. I think it is the atmosphere of privacy and solitude that makes a difference.  I can adopt any position that I find useful  and I can even talk to you in a semi-audible tone without being mistaken for a fool. However, I should not delude myself into thinking that growth in prayer life mainly depends on this. It should be regarded simply as an external aid that can help dispose me to lift my heart and mind to you and converse with you in a more conducive atmosphere.

 

March 6, 1977

We spent the whole day going around the mission areas introducing to the leaders the junior novices who will follow-up our work when we are gone.

What I  desire most when I become a Redemptorist priest is to spend my whole religious life as a simple missioner plodding though the remote barrios and sitios, preaching your Gospel to the most abandoned.


However, I must always remain detached from my personal inclination and will. My only desire will be to follow your will as expressed through the persons and event in life (including my superiors and community). This means accepting willingly whatever work you want me to do within the Congregation. But I might be given other assignments which would not appeal  to me. Thus, I must develop the spirit of obedience, the spirit of total availability to your will and demands of the Congregation. Without this I might easily become frustrated.

 

March 8, 1977

While we were washing the dishes this evening I heard good old Brother Placid sing "Old Man River." Then he sighed and remarked, "I'm beginning to slow down -- getting older  everyday."

I really admire the zeal and dedication of this old brother. In spite of his age, he still does  a lot of work and praying in the monastery (there's no retirement in Religious life). But tonight he showed signs of weariness -- and not only physical. He appeared to me like the man who has reached the evening of his life, who longs to sleep in order to greet the dawning of  a new day, a new life. Someday I will fully understand how he feels when I get to his age. But that is still a long way off. My wish is that I will still be a Redemptorist in the evening of my life. Please Lord.

 

March 12, 1977

We had recreation by candle light because of the brown-out after supper.  It turned into a drinking spree.  After a few bottles of beer we began to share with one another our "love stories." It was both hilarious and poignant remembering moments in our past when we fell in love and lost our innocence. Our novice-masters would really be scandalized if they knew how their novices spent their recreation with their tongues loosened by San Miguel beer and reminiscing those enchanting moments.

 

March 13, 1977


We dropped by Cipring's little hut during our house visitation in Sabang. He has been bedridden for 20 years yet I don't see any sign of self-pity or despair in him. He appeared cheerful and full of humor. There is  an inner peace that radiates from him. It seems to me that he has come to accept and embrace his cross calmly and courageously and without any complaints. What really impresses me most is his deep faith and trust in you. He speaks of you in a very personal and intimate terms and that gives me an impression of how deep is your relationship with him. He says that he never feels lonely because you are always near him. He spends most of his time in prayer and he seems to be undertaking an apostolate of praying for others.

I was deeply touched when, before I could assure him of my prayers, he already promised me: "I'll pray for you and your perseverance in your vocation."

 

March 18, 1977

Last night, the tailor came and took our measurements for our religious habit.  The novice-master has already given us the beads, the wire and pliers with which to make our own 15- decade rosary. I'm just excited. These are signs that the five of us (Tony, Salvi, Nelson, Claro and myself) will  be professed.

This morning, as I meditated on Psalm 136, the phrase kept hammering in my heart: "For his love endures forever." This aptly sums up all the wonderful things you have done for mankind and particularly for me. Knowing that your love for me endures forever gives me the confidence to face life.

Tomorrow we leave for Antipolo for our 15-day retreat. Please grant me the grace that I need for this retreat. May this prepare me intensely for my approaching profession.

 

April 15, 1977

Thanks a lot for the graces you poured on me during the retreat. It was an extraordinary and overwhelming experience -- an intimate encounter with you made possible by the movement of the Spirit and the contemplative atmosphere, the silence and solitude on top of the hills of Antipolo. I experienced a deep-felt awareness of your personal intimate love for me, my personal sinfulness, your infinite mercy. I think I'm now more ready to respond to your love and call by dedicating my entire life to you as a Redemptorist.

 

April 21, 1977

Yesterday, about a hundred and fifty leaders and representative from the Lipa mission areas came to the monastery this evening to give us a "despedida party." They expressed their gratitude for our pastoral work among their people. Saying goodbye to them and moving on is not that easy. But this is what our religious life will always be -- a never-ending hello and goodbye.


We went to Manila today to arrange our last will and testament with the lawyer. I decided to leave 50% of whatever money and property I have (at the time of my death) to my parents (or masses for them should they die ahead of me). The other 50% I leave to the congregation.

What I find amusing is that I don't  have any money or property to leave behind. When I die what I will leave behind will be memories and hopefully the fruit of the loving service I have offered.

 

 

May 3, 1977

Fr. Dave commented that I'm getting more excited everyday. He's right. I'm really filled with joy and expectation because the moment I've been waiting for is getting closer. This morning we tried on our new Redemptorist habits. Later I typed my formal application for admission to the Congregation.

 

May 6, 1977

Fr. Hugh O'Donoghue was here today. He told us that there are five guys in the south who are starting their CO Postulancy program this month. One of them is Magno. Upon hearing this I was over­whelmed with joy and my eyes became misty. I was simply moved by this good news.

Thank you, Lord! This is what I've been praying for.  His experience is an example of your grace at work in the life of a person. This somehow strengthens my faith in you.

Lord, grant my friend the grace of perseverance in his vocation.

 

May 7, 1977


Four more days before we say goodbye to the novitiate. But I still have to wait for three weeks for my profession (May 29). I already had my last colloquium with Fr. Dave this morning. I expressed my gratitude to him for all the things he has done for me during the novitiate. He has been a deep influence in my personal growth and development.

I spent the afternoon meditating on your goodness to me and in expressing my praise and thanksgiving to you.

 

Iligan City

May 28, 1977

Well, here I am on the eve of my profession day. I spent my whole day in prayer and reflection. I am now ready to say YES to your call. No doubts, no regrets -- I hope. I have reached the point of no return. There is no turning back, whatever happens. My heart is filled with peace and joy as I approach the moment that I've longed for.

.

May 29, 1977

            Pentecost Sunday. This afternoon, I  made my first profession.  What a perfect timing. The Church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and I make my commitment to you as a Redemptorist. I believe that the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life will enable me to remain faithful to the promises I have made and empower me to fulfill my mission.

            The Redemptorist Church in Iligan was packed with my family, friends and relatives. I could see the mist in the eyes of my father and mother as I made my profession before Fr. Allen  O'Brien -- the vicar vice-provincial, Bishops Amantillo and Capalla, and Fr. Frankie Cruise.

            Lord, thank you,  for the gift of vocation. I am aware of the duties and responsibilities that accompany this response. I am also aware of my own weaknesses and imperfections. Nevertheless, I am confident that you will continue to provide me with the graces that  I need to live out this commitment.