Communita di Sant'Alfonso
Via Merulana 31
Greetings from the eternal city.
A few days after we arrived, Caloy and I were able to join
the Filipino group that went on a pilgrimage to Pagani,
My language course is going smoothly and I can already speak Italian like a "bambino". We have just finished the first part (beginner's level) and will be starting the intermediate level next week. Most of my time at present is spent in learning the language. During my free time I explore the city by foot. I've gone to most of the tourist spots already. I still have to visit the catacombs. I must have already lost about six pounds after walking around the city this past few weeks.
As you can see I've been so preoccupied with the language course
and touring the city that I haven't come around to answering the letters I
received from the
I wish to thank you for the support and encouragement. Please extend my warm regards to the itinerant community and the mission team.
Thanks for remembering me on my birthday. One thing I dread about birthdays is that they remind me that I am getting older. Yes, WE are indeed getting old (you'll also be 37 a month from now). I can't believe how time flies. We were just barely 14 when we entered St. Alphonsus Seminary -- it seemed that we even didn't go through adolescence-- and now here we are at the threshold of midlife. Next time we know it, the young men in the congregation will make fun of us as we reminisce about the good old days while being pushed around in our wheelchairs. I can't help but grieve over what I am losing -- my youth, vitality, idealism, enthusiasm, and even my hair. Still I am thankful to God for the gift of life. I would like to savor every moment of whatever is left of my life.
I'm doing alright here. I spent the last two months learning Italian and exploring
Classes at the Gregorian will begin next week. The lectures will mostly be in Italian. So this is going to be a very tough semester for me. Anyway, I'll survive.
So, all the best. Keep up the very important work you are doing for the vice-province. I hope will have more vocations this year. Please give my regards to Senen and also to your staff. Advance birthday greetings.
Thanks for remembering me on my birthday -- better late than never. I thought you have already forgotten me. I've been longing to hear from you.
Classes at the Gregorian started two weeks ago. I am taking the following courses: Vatican II as Encounter of Theologies, Ecclesiologia nel primo millenio, Verso teologia dell'ambiente (ecology-- the most interesting course), Sociologia di religione, L'uso della scrittura nella teologia dogmatica, and Introduzione ai padri. I am also studying Greek and French to complete the language requirement (two classical languages, and three modern languages excluding Italian). As of the moment I'm still struggling with my Italian and I find it difficult to understand the lectures especially when the professors speak so fast.
Well, this is not exactly la
dolce vita, but I am enjoying my life here. It's not as enchanting as
Buon Natale! How are you? I hope you're doing well and the
children are not giving you a hard time. Is Tony still planning to go
I'm enjoying the "la dolce vita" here in the
spite of the tight schedule, I still manage to get involved with the apostolate
among the migrant Filipino workers here in
I was planning to spend Christmas in
The Christmas season
is the loneliest and most depressing time for me. It reminds me of the lonely Christmases
I had in the past: inside a prison cell in '73, after my mother's brutal death
in '85, being alone in my apartment in
With regards to my love life, it's zero as usual. Well, there's someone in my French class that I really find very attractive -- bellisima. But she will remain one of those whom I secretly admire and passionately long for from a safe distance (the list is growing). One of my "weaknesses" is that I am easily enchanted by beauty. I am trying to develop a contemplative attitude towards beauty-- that is, being able to contemplate and admire beauty without desiring to possess beauty.. I'm just playing it safe. Anyway, I have realized that what I need are true friends, not a girlfriend or a wife. Of course, it would be a blessing to have friends who are also pretty. With my passionate drive it is not easy to be a celibate. I'm constantly aware of my need to love and be loved, my need for intimacy, my need to relate deeply with others. I don't want to become a cranky and lonely old priest like some of those I have met. Nor do I want to be like those who act like Don Juan and finally run off with a woman. The question that I have kept asking myself is how can I become a loving and caring person and yet still remain a celibate. The reason why I value my friends so much is that they make me more human, they help me overcome my loneliness and they sustain me in my celibate/religious commitment.
This Christmas I am thanking God for the gift of friends (that includes you). You, Ann and Doy have been my friends for over 20 years (we're not that old, are we?). Our annual get-together over the last eight years have meant so much to me.
Please extend my warm regards to Tony and the children, especially AG. I pray that God will continue to shower you with His blessings.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you are still able to celebrate the joy of Christmas even as you grieve over the death of your brother Doming.
When Doming decided to join the armed struggle, I'm sure you knew the risks that he faced. He had already offered his life for the cause he believed in (like your husband). He made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the price for his commitment. We can only hope that his death was not in vain.
With you I grieve for all the victims and casualties of the
war that is going in our country (whether it is called total war or people's
war). You have already lost both your parents, your husband and recently your
brother. This war has produced so many
widows and orphans on both sides. And the most tragic truth is that this is a
war that can go on and on without any victors, only victims. I don't believe that the government can ever
succeed in defeating the NPA with its total war policy. Neither do I believe that the CPP/NPA will
ever succeed in seizing power and install a communist government. Marxism/Leninism is an ideology that has in
practice been undemocratic and ineffective and that is being rejected all over
the world (the dramatic collapse of the
My warm regards and Christmas greetings to my godchild Mark
Buon Natale! May you experience the blessing of Christ's peace in the midst of the continuing war in the countryside.
How's Christmas in Dumingag? Are the guns silent there during this season? Or will more widows and orphans go through a dark Christmas?
Merlyn recently wrote and told me about the death of her
brother Doming in Bonifacio after being captured by the military. Poor Merlyn,
she had already lost both her parents and her husband and this time it's her
brother. I also got a letter from Sceny telling me about the death of her brother-in-law and my friend Delfin, a
labor leader killed by a policeman in
It is extraordinarily cold here this year. In fact it is much colder than
My consolation at present is that I have recently met some
new friends. There's a couple, Edgar and
Tina, who are very kind to me and who
often invite me to their home. Edgar
used to be the secretary general of Lakasdiwa
in the early 1970s. Later he worked with Louie H. at the Justice and Peace
Office of NASSA (or was it AMRSP). He
and Tina were involved in setting up the CPAR (Congress of People's Agrarian
Reform). He is now working with a UN
agency based here in
I'm glad to know that Carol is pushing through with the
Recently, I've been receiving a lot of mail from friends,
Buon Natale! I'm sure this is one of your happiest
Christmas with all the blessings that you have: the
I've been receiving a lot of mail from friends lately. Karl wrote me four times already for the last
two months. La Cubana (Veronica) also
Ciao, and may the Loving God multiply your blessings and lessen the angst. May the coming year 1992 be the Year you have longed for.
Welcome to the 21st century! I can imagine how you feel about your new computer. It's a pity my laptop computer doesn't have a modem, it would have been fun communicating with you via electronic mail. I'm glad to hear that everything is going well with you at Harvard.
The first semester has just ended. I've been very busy with my research paper. I passed with flying colors the written French examination although I can't speak it well. Anyway, all I need is to be able to read French theological books and articles for my research.
Next semester I'll be carrying a heavier load and there will more pressure. As they say here, "no time for love" and no more la dolce vita.
Having no one to talk to in an intimate and deeper level can
be depressing. There's no one here I can bring to a bar or a restaurant for
meaningful conversation and good food as well.
That's what I miss most about
I just remembered that exactly one year ago today, we had our Pax Christi Retreat. What I like about that retreat was the depth of our sharing in the group which helped me deal with my post-traumatic syndrome which the Gulf War had re-awakened. I remember you talking about loneliness and I could feel what you felt. What I treasure most in my memory is when we went out later that night to Denny's for late dinner and a wonderful conversation. Today, I feel much better. The nightmares have not been bothering me for a long time, I can sleep much better and I am no longer afraid of sleeping in the dark alone. I think the healing process started when I stopped repressing or denying the pain, when I got in touch with my grief, anger and loneliness. Being able to share these things with others rather than keeping them to myself helped a lot.
I hope you'll receive this letter in time for Valentine's Day. Have you found a Valentino already? This time I won't have anybody to invite out for dinner on Valentine's day. Of course, I remember last year when Dennis, you and I celebrated Valentine's at that Thai restaurant. Now all I can do is live in the past.
Well, I'd better get back to my books now. Please take care. Happy Valentine's! May you feel God's loving presence in your life. Ciao!
p.s. I enclosing a poem that I wrote recently. It's for you.
An Epigram Written Near the Coliseum
Outside the bar
near the colosseum
I drink my cappuccino alone
and I gaze at the stars
above the eternal city
and I see your enchanting face.
It was, indeed, a pleasant surprise to receive your postcard
and the package from
I just came back from a three-day meeting of MISSIO-AACHEN
scholarship holders held outside
The second semester just started last week. I'm doing five courses: The Role of the
Church in the Economy of Salvation, Il
Dio Degli Oppressi, Teologia
Anthropologica, Sacerdotale Regale Dei Fidele, and Greek. The most interesting subject is Il Dio Degli Oppressi (the God of the
Oppresed). It is taught by a Brazilian
theologian (Felix Pastor) and it covers Liberation Theology, Basic Ecclesial
Communities, Popular Religiosity, and the
Even with this heavy load, I still try to find time for relaxation. We've had a lot of celebration at the Filipino center -- Christmas, New Year, Valentine's, monthly birthday celebration. I am now a member of the band/combo that plays during these celebrations (I'm the organist). We also have occasional get-together with Asian Redemptorists. Louie, Ben Ma, Caloy, Bro. Kevin and myself occasionally go out for a Chinese dinner.
Recently, I have been doing a lot of reading on narrative
theology. One of the major proponents of this theology is John Navone who is
teaching at the Gregorian. He argues
that the narrative or story is
the form in which theology is expressed in the Bible. All the kerygma, creeds
and dogmatic formulations are based on the Story. The problem with Western theology is that it
has become too philosophical, abstract
and analytical that it is difficult for ordinary people to understand. For us
Asians who are trying to develop a theology from the grassroots, the western
theological method is inadequate. Even
liberation theology (while the method is based on a dialectics of praxis and
the Word) continues to be theology written in abstract prose rather than in
story, poetry, parables and psalms. I think the books you have written or
edited (Pumipiglas, the Hindi Malilimutan: Symbols During Martial
Law, the Pakiglambigit and People's
Option ) are in the right direction as to the appropriate form which
theology in the
This semester I will submit my dissertation topic for
approval. As you already know I am
planning to write about the BECs in the
As I told you before, I will be in the
Please give my warm regards to the itinerant community and the mission team.
Easter Greetings! May the Risen Lord who turns our mourning into rejoicing fill your heart with joy.
I'm glad to know that you are quite happy at Harvard and that
you are seeing a very nice "
The landscape here in
A few weeks ago, I attended a memorial mass for Archbishop
Romero and the other Latin American martyrs. It was organized by the
Association of Latin Americans in
As usual, I am trying to cope with the academic demands at the Gregorianum. I am doing five courses, three of which are being taught in Italian, one in English, and one Greek-English course. I was already enrolled in the German language course but unfortunately (or fortunately) it was cancelled. At present, I am writing two research papers. I am lucky that I am using a computer. Otherwise, I would have burnt out from this "paper chase" a long time ago.
Classes will be over by the first week of June, so I am
looking forward to a long summer break (four months!). I am going to
So long for now. You are always remembered affectionately in my prayers.
I hope everything's well with you and the Vice-Province. The school year ended yesterday and this
afternoon I will be leaving for
I will be in
I will be back in
Please extend my regards to the confreres. See you soon.
Your letter must have been in my mailbox for the last three months. I'm so glad to hear from you again.
I was in
After my vacation in
I got back four days ago just in time to celebrate my 38th birthday. I can't believe I'm already at the threshold of my mid-life. I know that this a critical period in my life when I'm most vulnerable.
Like you I constantly get depressed and lonely (this is a problem that we have in common). I know that the only way to overcome this is to reach out to others and develop a network of friends. But it is difficult to find friends and to cultivate closer relationships especially in a new and strange place. It is indeed depressing when there is no one to talk to and share our inmost thoughts and feelings. Loneliness is caused by the absence of intimacy in our lives, and we feel it most when we feel isolated, rejected or abandoned. We will no longer be haunted by loneliness when we are able to truly give and receive love.
The school-year is just beginning. I am taking a couple of courses and most of
my time is spent in research. I should
be able to defend my dissertation by the early part of 1994. So, I still have
two more years here in
I hope everything turns out well for you this school year. Please keep in touch. I always look forward to your letters. You are fondly remembered in my prayers.
I just got back from the
My stay in the
I was able to see my father and all my brothers and
sisters. Papa has applied for American
citizenship and he is hoping to leave for the
The new school year has just begun. Senen is finally here studying at the
Biblicum and he is already complaining about the difficulty of learning
Hebrew. Ben Ma is still here attending
supplementary classes at the Greg. He'll be going home to the
I would like to thank you for the wonderful summer in
So Dia Guich, and all the best for the new school year.
Greetings! We're finally settling down to serious study after
a very long summer break. I'm in the
process of going through the mass of materials that I gathered last summer,
making a bibliographical list and constructing a tentative detailed outline.
I am attending two courses at the Greg: the
Word seems to be getting around that I am a healer. Two weeks
ago, I healed a staff member of the Philippine embassy who had been suffering
from a chronic pain in the neck and shoulder for the last two months. After two healing sessions, the pain was
completely gone. The last few months I
also healed other Filipinas who were suffering from various ailments
(arthritis, urinary tract infection, skin disease, sprained ankle, ovarian
cyst, etc.). I have strictly told them not to spread the word around,
otherwise, I won't have time for anything else. Just recently a friend in
Please extend my regards to the confreres.
Louie brought your letter. I'm glad to hear from you again.
I read your "mission journal" in the Explorer. I was particularly struck when you mentioned the process of listening to the stories of the people in the mission areas. This is even taking place in the mission team recollection. I wonder if you are making any documentation. As I told you before, this is a very valuable resource for a theology from the grassroots. How they tell their stories reveal to us how they view reality, how they interpret their experiences, and how they understand God's presence and action in their lives. We have to revise the methodology and process of our bible-sharing, seminars and liturgies in such a way that would enable them to tell their stories in correlation with the biblical stories. I wonder if it is also possible for the members of the mission team to make a "narrative report" instead of just a progress/ evaluation report (if Luke was able to write the Acts of the Apostles you should be able to write the Acts of the RMT). An anthology of personal stories coming from the members of the RMT and the BECs would really make a great contribution. Needless to say, that would be an extremely valuable resource for my doctoral dissertation. This is what is lacking in the existing literature on BECs -- the inside stories on how they were formed and how they are developing. I think this is a project that is worth undertaking and this can be the focus for the next study month after the Dumingag Mission.
Your friend, Larry Kaufman, is doing his doctorate in the
Alphonsianum. We went to
Please give my Christmas greetings to the Mission Team, the
community and students in
How have you been? I
regret there was very little time for us to have a heart-to-heart talk when I
In his last letter, Karl informed me that you have a problem
with your kidney and will probably go to
Please take care of yourself. Have a Joyful Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
Dear G, (I still have to get used to calling you by your religious name)
Your Christmas card has brought warmth and joy to this cold
and dark morning. Today I'm just feeling particularly depressed and
gloomy. It's probably the effect of
winter. Or most likely because today the misa
de gallo starts in the
It gladdens my heart to hear especially from you. It's been more than ten years. You were the most attractive woman I met in
Tacloban. When I heard later that you had joined the Poor Clares I wondered how
was it possible for someone as beautiful and as intelligent as you to waste the
rest of your life hidden in a remote monastery in a "god-forsaken"
island visited regularly by storms. You know, I got my answer last month when I
visited the tomb of St. Clare in
I'm amused when you say that you're so happy that I'm still around -- still a faithful priest. I remember last summer when my sister told me that her friend was very surprised that I'm still a priest 12 years after ordination. Such reaction is expected when we hear so many priests leaving after a number of years in the ministry. You are probably aware that many of the Waray Redemptorists you know have left us. Fr. Pasky left in 1985. He is now working with a farmer's organization and is married with one child. Fr. Jack, who left six years ago, is also now a real father. Last year Bro. Gil left and married Gina -- Fr. Claro's younger sister. The only Warays left are Fr. Claro and Fr. Carlo.
It is not easy to remain faithful to my vocation especially
when I am easily attracted to beauty and I occasionally long for a more
intimate relationship. Sometimes I wish I had a son or daughter. There have
been times in my life when I was filled with doubts and regrets. After my mother was killed, I went through a
crisis of faith and vocation. I remember being alone in my hermitage up in the
By the time you receive this letter, I'll be in
Thanks a lot for your prayers. It is very assuring to know that there is a dear friend praying for me and remembering me constantly. I do believe in the power of prayer, especially the prayer of those holy women who have dedicated their lives to silence and contemplation. I think God will listen more to you because you are the apple of His eye. The intention that I would like you to pray for me is this: that I may become more and more human, that I may become a more loving and compassionate priest, that I will have more close friends, that I will have less lonely nights, that I will never become a cold, aloof or cranky priest as I grow older, and that I will be granted my deepest desire (the diamond jubilee of my ordination). I, too, will remember you constantly in my prayers and masses but you will have to let me know someday what it is that you need and desire most.
I have written too much, I think I will have to sign off. It is not often that I can share my innermost thoughts with someone like you.
BUON NATALE! May you experience the JOY and PEACE of Christ this Christmas and in the coming New Year.
I just arrived from
I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn't go to sleep. I decided to celebrate mass alone in my room for Papa. I finally broke into tears during the mass. I can't believe he is dead.
Thank you very much for the letter of condolence. It was very consoling. Thanks also for sending the computer transformer.
I got back from the
It will probably take some time for me to recover from the
shock and grief. Yet there is so much to be done here. I'm very busy with my doctoral dissertation
work. I'm already behind schedule. I have to prepare for the Lenten recollection
that I will be conducting next week. I'm
also going to
Well, I'll be signing off now. Please give my regards to Paul, Nimfa & Gunding. Advance Easter greetings.
Since I returned I've plunged back to work on my doctoral research. Thank God,
I have almost all the materials I need and I'm just going through them --
reading, note-taking and analyzing the data. There is still much to be done (I
have not even started the actual writing stage) that's why I have decided to
remain here in
Besides the academic work, I've been busy working among the
Filipino migrants. Last month, Louie asked me to take charge of the Filipino
choir. Next week I will be conducting a Lenten Recollection. Paud Shiels has also asked me to conduct a
series of Recollections for Filipinos in
I would like to thank you and the confreres for the support during my family's bereavement. When I got back here, a community mass for my Father was also celebrated with the confreres. I was the presider and I preached in Italian. Ben also organized a 40th day celebration with the Filipino confreres and some Filipino friends. The support of the confreres at home and here has helped me a lot in the process of recovery from the shock and grief.
Easter Greetings! I just got back from
When you wrote about the 10th anniversary of your arrest, it also brought back painful memories. I just remembered that today is the 19th anniversary of my release from prison. Like you I experienced the evil of torture, solitary confinement and indefinite detention. It was a traumatic experience that I wanted to forget. Since then, I had been haunted by the recurring nightmare [I later learned that this is a symptom of what psychologists call a "post-traumatic stress disorder"]. I never had the chance to really process that experience afterwards. I just got on with my life, resumed my studies and 18 months later entered the novitiate. I know what you mean when you speak about the blessings that come from such a harrowing experience. After going through a crisis of faith, I made a leap of faith and re-affirmed my religious vocation. That experience became for me a rite of passage, of being tested by fire and of growing up.
The dissertation work is progressing very slowly. I'm still reading
the voluminous materials I've gathered and taking down notes. This phase is taking longer than I expected.
I won't be going to
Congratulations for surviving Dumingag. I'm sure the mission rally this Easter went well. I wonder if you can send me the summary of your mission evaluation.
Please extend my warm regards to the members of the itinerant community and mission team. My condolence to Manny for the death of her sister.
Easter Greetings! I just got back from
It is still difficult for me to really feel the joy of
Easter. I've been going through my own personal sorrowful mystery. As soon as I
came back from
I have happy memories of him during last summer that I was home. We spent a lot of time together -- listening to his stories and experiences, going to the beach, going out shopping, giving him a massage, visiting the grave of my mother and grandfather. While listening to his stories, I sensed the depth of his anger against his father which he had been carrying since he was a child. I can never forget that day when I accompanied him to his father's grave. At first his face was very stern. Then tears flowed from his eyes as a he said: "Father, I forgive you." I put my arms around his shoulder as he continued to weep. After that, his face became soft – he had made his peace with his father. The following day I saw him used an old shiny cane. He informed me that it belonged to his father.
I felt that I was getting closer to my father for the first time. He was no longer the distant and strict father of my youth. He had become a tender and lovable old friend. Whenever he introduced me to his friends I could sense that he was very proud of me. I became aware that I was his beloved son in whom he was well pleased. And then suddenly he's gone. I was hoping that he'd still be around when I celebrate the silver jubilee of my religious profession. It will probably take some time for me to get over the shock and grief. It took me three years to recover from my mother's brutal death. I just hope that this time the period of mourning will be shorter.
My dissertation work is progressing very slowly. I have
decided to cancel my trip to
Will you please continue to include me in your prayers. I need it very much especially during this period of my life. I'm going through a lot of stress, I feel weak and vulnerable, I feel so alone and God seems so distant. And praying does not come easy. Yet I am once again making an act of faith that God will never abandon me and that He is near even though it is difficult to feel his presence.
My dearest G,
Ciao! It's past .
We just got back from the Basilica of St. Peter where we concelebrated with
Pope John Paul the vigil mass of Pentecost.
There must have been more than 2,000 priests and bishops and 30,000 people.
Even Luigi Scalfaro, the president of
Thanks a lot for the very consoling letter and the photographs. I tacked our Blessed Mother's picture on the wall and I framed yours and placed it on the desk where I can see it often. Don't worry, it won't scare the cockroaches away. But I'm afraid about the ants -- your smile is so sweet that it will most likely attract the ants (ha-ha). The pictures constantly remind me that there's someone who lovingly remembers me in the silence of her heart and prayers. It also reminds me of God's healing love which is often channeled through persons like you. This awareness brings so much joy and consolation to me especially during this difficult period. Just gazing at your beautiful smile can drive away the depression and loneliness. Thanks for keeping me company. In my dark night, you are my sister moon. You said that I may mail the pictures back to you when I don't need them anymore. Well, O.K. I promise to do that. But you'll have to wait for a long, long time --probably after my diamond jubilee.
being assigned to Formation as novice-mistress. It is a very heavy
responsibility -- especially when you are taking care of the novices. Don't
tell me you are that old already, or you must be very good to be given such
responsibility. Since you asked me to share with you some points about
"guiding souls" and "formation program", I'll do it on
installment basis. Whatever I have to share will be based on my experience as a
member of our Formation secretariat and as former director of the Pastoral
Initiation Year. I also did some courses on Formation while I was in
I understand your apprehension about the lack of adequate preparation. Under normal circumstances, those who are assigned to formation need to undergo some form of training. In your case it will be what we call "on the job training." As you go along you will pick up the required skills and knowledge. You'll have to consult with those who were previously assigned to the novitiate. It will also be helpful to remember your own experiences as a novice and how you were guided and formed. Your positive experiences should tell you what to do, the negative (or traumatic) experiences will tell you what not to do.
There is a very helpful four-week intensive program for
formators called "Formators' Institute of Spirituality (FIS)." It is
If it is impossible for you to get any specialized training, the only way left for you is to do some self-study. This means doing a lot of reading. I wonder how good is your library. The kind of books that you need are on the following subjects: religious formation, psychology (especially its role in formation), spiritual direction, religious life in general & contemplative life in particular, the vows, biographies of St. Clare and other saints, the rule (or constitution), the history of your order, prayer and meditation, etc. You'll have to set aside time for serious study. Occasionally, I will send you some books and articles that might be of help.
A very important method for formation and spiritual direction is the writing of the autobiography. Each novice should be asked to write her life-story. This can lead to a deeper self-knowledge and a discovery of the pattern of grace -- of the movement of the Spirit in her life and her inner journey. The best way to know and understand a person more intimately is to listen to her life-story. It is important for the novice-mistress to know the life-story of the novice to help her discern her vocation and to guide her more effectively. Within each one's life-story is the story of faith, love, pain, vocation, conversion and growth. It can become an occasion for remembering and contemplating the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of one's life. Depending on her ability, the novice can also be asked to write the psalm of her life, or the song of her life. (You said you want to write your own life's psalm -- why don't you start now. I'd be very interested to read it).
A similar method which focuses on the present period is the journal writing. Each novice should be asked to keep a spiritual diary or journal. On it she can write her experiences (both sorrowful and joyful), her thoughts and feelings, her consolations and desolations, her prayers, etc. This is also helpful in tracing her spiritual growth and development. This is a tool for self-understanding and for discovering the movement of the Spirit. Before each colloquium or spiritual direction session, the novice should review her recent entries and share these with her spiritual director. (When I was a novice, I used to submit my diary to the novice-master the day before every colloquium).
As you probably know, the best way for the novice to imbibe the charism of the religious order is to know intimately the life-story of the founder. She should be able to read the different accounts of the founder's life and later she may be asked to write in her own words the saint's life-story. Again this can be done in creative ways. One can write the story as if it were her own autobiography (a first person account). If she is an artist she can even draw or paint the different scenes in the founder's life. Or she may even write an epic poem or narrative poem about the saint's life. What is important is that the novice can tell the story of the founder’s life. The novice should also know the life-story of the members of the order who have lived heroically the charism of the founder in the course of history. It can also be helpful for her to know the story of the older members of your community. Finally, you as a formator should be able to share your own life-story. The novice should see in your own life how the charism of St. Clare has been incarnated and lived (no matter how imperfectly). From the document of St. Clare's canonization it is written: "Her very life was for others a school of instruction and doctrine. In this book of life the others learned the rule of life; in this mirror of life the others beheld the path of their own life."
Nowadays, the most common metaphor for formation and spiritual direction is the "journey". Formators and spiritual directors should be aware of their role as companions or guides in the inner journey of those who are going through formation.
There is still much I would like to share with you about formation and spiritual direction but as I said earlier we'll do it by installment. I would prefer that you also share with me the details of your present formation program so that I can make some comments.
By the way, I am enclosing a book about St. Clare which I
Once again thanks for the joy and consolation that you have brought to my life. Thanks for reminding me that there is Someone who lovingly cares for me and who will never abandon me. I hope someday I can do the same for you if ever you go through your own sorrowful mystery. May God continue to bless you and make you an instrument of his divine love. You are remembered with so much affection in my prayers and masses.
p.s. I'm enclosing a picture of our private audience with the Pope. He gave me a rosary and blessed me.
p.p.s. I am also enclosing a poem I wrote for you.
All alone -- as usual.
The only company I have:
framed images on fujicolor paper,
an image of the Lady who loves me
but whom I cannot see nor touch,
an image of the woman who lovingly
remembers me in the silence of her heart
but whom I cannot see nor touch.
Not even the veil can hide
the radiant beauty and kindness
that brightens this dark night.
So far, far away.
One is on the other side of eternity.
The other is on the other side of the world,
in a monastery on a distant island
that used to be called the "howling wilderness."
Yet they keep me company
like the moon on this dark night.
Warm greetings! It's
summer and everybody is out of
This is a very agonizing work. I'm now spending eight hours a day just reading and taking notes. I have more than 300 books, articles and documents on my bibliography so it takes time to go through these thoroughly. By September I should be making a detailed outline so that I can start the writing phase by October. The target date for the defense is before the end of the school-year (around May or June 1994). At the moment I'm not sure whether I can beat my self-imposed deadline. I'm already two-months behind my original time-table. It all depends on how fast and how well I do my work. If my director and reader are satisfied with my final draft and won't ask me to make major revisions, I might make it. Otherwise I will have to make the defense at the beginning of the next school year (October or November 1994).
During this past few months I have been trying to recover from the shock and grief over my father's unexpected death. I went through bouts of depression. I was having a lot of nightmares. I was afraid to sleep in the dark and had to keep the lights on. It took me quite a while to get back to the rhythm of work that I have established previously. I'm feeling much better now and I think the period of mourning is coming to an end.
I'm glad that you have decided to take a sabbatical. Have you finally made up your mind about what to study? A doctorate in Anthropology or Sociology seems fine. That one on Organizational Development also seems interesting. Whatever you take, I suggest that your doctoral dissertation will involve some field research or case study about the mission, the BECs or anything that mission team is involved with (popular religiosity, sociological perspective of BECs, or organization development and BECs). You will be needed in the future to help staff the "Alphonsian Pastoral-Theological Formation Institute" (if it is approved).
Please give me warm regards to the community and the mission team.
Ciao! it's me again. My Franciscan friend (Fr. Pons) told me
that there's a Poor Clare sister from Calbayog who is returning to the
Last August 11, I went to
As I promised, I am again sending you a couple of books that
might be helpful in your formation work.
So all the best in your new assignment. I remember you constantly in my prayers. Please continue to pray for me.
Today I celebrate my 39th birthday. I woke up early for meditation and then jogged for an hour in the hills of Bracigliano. Nobody knows it's my birthday and I don't have any intention of announcing it to others. So this will be a quiet celebration.
I am here at Ciorani with 14 other Redemptorists from the Collegio Maggiore attending the
Alphonsian Spirituality course. Ciorani is a historic place for us Redemptorists because this is the first
canonically erected Redemptorist foundation.
This was built by Alphonsus and used as a mission base. The first
General Chapter was held here. This is also where Alphonsus wrote many of his
theological works. This is therefore a fitting venue for the Spirituality
course. We started six days ago and we've already visited some of the important
This is a very helpful experience for me in deepening my
understanding of the Alphonsian charism and spirituality -- especially what it
means to be a Redemptorist. What stands out very clearly is Alphonsus' option
for the poor and the most abandoned. For him to follow Christ the Redeemer was
to preach the Good News to the Poor -- to opt for the poor. This orientation
was present when he was a young lawyer and was visiting the hospital of the
incurables. This was present when as a young priest he ministered to the Lazaroni, the poor in the slums of
What I also find amazing is the fact that it was out of his pastoral experience with the poor that he wrote his theological works. This is a very important realization for me as I enter another phase of my life. I expect to be doing a lot of theologizing after my studies. What kind of theologian I will become will be based on the example of Alphonsus. It will be a theological reflection that is grounded on the option for the poor and on the pastoral praxis in the midst of the poor. This means becoming a "theologian from the grassroots."
Alphonsus was a very talented man. He was an artist, a musician and a poet, etc. He used all these talents for the evangelization of the poor. I hope that, like him, I can also use my talents in the context of my option for the poor.
I thank God for the gift of life, the gift of vocation, and for the gift of being here.
My dearest G,
Thank you so much for naming the monastery puppy after me. It is indeed an honor. Normally, mothers name their babies after persons they admire: saints, heroes, movie actors, friends, etc. Since you have vowed yourself to perpetual virginity, naming the pet dog after me was the next best thing. I am greatly honored. This must be the first time in history that a dog has been called Picx. Lucky dog --with the kind of affection he must be getting from you I am already green with envy. This is one of those times that I would gladly change places with a dog. Ha-ha-ha.
No need to apologize for the long silence that seemed an eternity. I understand and respect your silence. Please don't feel obliged to frequently write to me. Even if seems to take forever --I can wait patiently. The knowledge that you lovingly remember me in your prayers is enough even if I don't hear from you for a long time. Of course, whatever letter that comes from you is a source of great joy and consolation. It makes me feel so close to you inspite of the distance that separates us.
A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my 39th birthday (October
6). I was at that time in an old Redemptorist Monastery located in the southern
Mid-life is a critical period of transition. This is the time to make some sense out of the first half of my life -- what was it all about? A time for questioning and reaffirming a commitment that was made in my youth. Shall I continue walking the same road or change direction? After spending most of my ministry trying to respond to the needs of others, I am becoming more and more aware of my own needs -- especially the need to love and be loved. After several years of helping heal others, I am becoming more and more aware of my own need for inner healing. I have reached a point that I can humbly accept my weaknesses and my need for others. The important journey that has to be made at this time is the journey inwards. And I need someone with whom I can talk to, who can walk with me on this journey, with whom I can engage in a dialogue of life. Encountering you at this stage of my life is indeed a great blessing that I would like to thank God for. With a friend like you, I don't need a wife.
I hope you don't find it tiring reading about my innermost thoughts and feelings. But there's really no one here with whom I can freely share what is in my heart. I am not used to this. I prefer to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. I really feel uneasy talking about myself. I don't want to appear like a weakling or a child desperately needing sympathy. I have this fear that I might be misunderstood and rejected. Yet I instinctively feel that if there is anyone who can help me through this dark period of my life, it will be you. God's loving grace is often mediated through persons like you. I hope that in some way I, too, can be a channel of God's grace to you.
I'm glad to know that you find the books and the reading
materials useful. This time I am sending you some books on Religious life. I
was planning to send these to you through Sr. Auxie but I was worried that she
might have to pay for the excess baggage. She was already carrying so many
"pasalubongs" and I didn't want to burden her with some more
packages. The book by Sandra Schneiders New
Wineskins: Re-imagining Religious Life Today is so far the best I have come
across with regard to new perspectives on religious life. The part I like most
is chapter 11 "Friendship in the Life of Consecrated Celibates."
Sandra was my professor in
The school year started last week. I'm attending only one
class taught by a famous theologian, Avery Dulles. Most of my time is spent
working on my doctoral dissertation, An
Ecclesiological Perspective of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the
Well, this reminds me - I'd better go back to work now, there is still much to be done. Please give my warm regards to Sr. Auxie and pat Picx (your dog) for me.
Thanks for the update
regarding your struggle in
Mahayag to protect the environment. I am reminded once again of our experience
I can understand very well what you shared in your previous
One of the temptation in midlife is to use up of our energies in doing more rather than in being more. Somehow it is easier to face the world outside and to make spectacular plans of changing the world. We want to be busy doing a lot of things. But the challenge at this stage is to be still and to face the inner world. We need to make the inner journey. We have developed compassion for others, can we be compassionate with ourselves? With our body? Can we learn to listen to and respond to our needs? Can we at least learn to be at peace with ourselves? During this transitional stage, turning inwards is a necessity if we are to prepare ourselves to live the last half of our life. We should not make work as an escape from facing ourselves and our inner issues. Developing a more contemplative attitude and lifestyle is one of the tasks of midlife.
I have given up the utopian project of constructing a perfect, classless society. But I have not given up the dream of making part of this world a better place to live in. Although I still consider myself a socialist, I have lost faith in ideologies. What we need today is more concrete and creative praxis and less messianic/sectarian/utopian thinking. The little that each of us can do will hopefully contribute to the transformation of this world.
Classes started a couple of weeks ago. I am attending Avery Dulles' course on "The Uses of Scripture in Systematic Theology". The rest of my time is spent working on my dissertation. I am already behind my self-imposed timetable. It is a slow, agonizing labor -- perhaps like a mother giving birth to a child. I would like to defend the thesis by the end of the school year (June 1994) but right now I am not sure if I can beat this deadline. Otherwise, it could be as late as the beginning of next school year (October 1994).
Well, all the best in your work. Give my regards to the members of the Itinerant Misssion Community and the lay members of the mission team. I remember you warmly in my prayers.
Greetings from the
Thanks a lot for the "Redemptorist Bulletin" you sent me. It is very well done. I like the format -- in particular the combination of pictures and short articles. As they say, a picture can paint a thousand words. I look forward to the next issues.
Four days ago, we celebrated the 261st anniversary of the
founding of the Congregation. Over a hundred of us Redemptorists coming from
the different parts of the world participated in the celebration. During the
celebration, I was struck by the "multinational" character of the
Congregation. There were confreres from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, England,
Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, United States, Canada,
Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Zaire,
India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia and of course, the Philippines. I was
reminded that after 261 years, the Redemptorist Congregation is truly spread
out all over the world. Our community here in
Last month I attended the ten-day "Alphonsian Spirituality Course." It was organized for the student-priests of the Collegio Maggiore. It was based in the monastery of Ciorani (the first canonically erected Redemptorist foundation where the first general chapter was held). The lectures were given on the life of St. Alphosus and the early history of the Congregation. Every other day we visited different Alphonsian places: Marianella (where St. Alphonus was born), Naples (where he grew up, studied and practiced his profession as a lawyer), the hospital of the incurables (where he had a faith-experience), Scala (where the Congregation was founded), Pagani (where Alphonsus spent his last years and where he was buried), and Materdomini (the shrine of St. Gerard).
While in Ciorani, I saw the room of Alphonsus. The table where he wrote his devotional and theological works was still there. And so were the copies of the books he wrote. He was a prolific writer. What was most significant was the fact that his writings were based on his pastoral work.
In Pagani I saw Alphonsus' works of art. There were paintings of the Madonna & child, the crucified Christ, sculpture of the suffering Christ. I saw the music sheets of the religious songs and hymns he wrote. The clavichord on which he played was also displayed. I also read the poems that he wrote. He was a very gifted man and he used his talents to express his faith. In fact his theology was embodied in these works of art, music and poetry.
In Scala, I saw the cave overlooking the Amalfi coast. This was the place where Alphonsus used to withdraw for silence, solitude and prayer. The place reminded me of the contemplative dimension of the Alphonsian charism. Alphonsus was able to integrate the active and contemplative dimension of religious life.
The "Alphonsian Spirituality Course" was not just an ordinary course. It was indeed an experience of going back to our roots and of deepening my understanding of the charism of our founder. Personally, it has helped me clarify my understanding of my personal vocation within the congregation.
Well, I'll have to sign off for now. All the best in your
vocation work and also in your forthcoming sabbatical. I hope you'll visit
Dear Inday & Peter,
Well, how did the wedding turn out? I'm sure it was one of the happiest moments of your life. I'm so happy for you. I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures that you promised to send me. I received the letter and invitation one week before the wedding so I thought it was too late to send you a wedding gift. Anyway, I remembered that I already gave you an amount in advance. This time I am sending you a combined wedding/Christmas gift. It is an excellent book, Fit to be Tied: Making Marriage Last a Lifetime. Don't worry, it is not written by a Catholic author but by a Pastor and his wife. I was planning to write you a long letter giving you some advice on how your love can grow "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do you part." But then I thought you wouldn't appreciate such advice coming from an unmarried Catholic priest -- even if he is your brother. So I hunted for this book and what I want to tell you is better expressed here. My prayer for both of you is that may your love grow and deepen through the years and may you celebrate your golden wedding anniversary (I promise to attend it if I will still be alive).
Inday, I would like to assure you once again that my feelings for you have not changed even when you decided to leave the Catholic Church to become a Reformed Baptist. I have always been fond of you and I continue to respect you. Years ago, when Mama and Papa told me about your decision and shared their worry that you might be damned forever, I told them that you have the freedom of belief and if you thought that becoming a Baptist would make you a better Christian there's no need to worry about your salvation. It was painful for me when you couldn't attend the funeral mass of Papa but still I had to respect your decision. I found it difficult to believe that your denomination would not allow you to pay your last respects to your father and to consider our rituals as idolatrous and sinful. In your last letter you were worried about Papa's salvation. Probably you have been led to believe that only those who belong to your church will surely be saved and Catholics like Papa and the rest of us (including me) will surely go to hell. Don't worry, God is more merciful and compassionate. Ultimately it will not be by our membership in our churches that God will judge us but by charity and compassion (see Matt 25:31-46). Of course, salvation is God's gift that is offered to us and it is not something that we can claim as a privilege by membership in a church. So don't worry about us and don't waste your efforts trying to convert your other sisters to your denomination. My only hope is that you will become a better Christian, more loving and compassionate, and less critical of those who do not share your beliefs. And always remember that in spite of differences of beliefs we are still brothers and sisters, and we believe in the same Father who is in heaven and in the same Christ who came to save us and the same Spirit who continue to inspire us. We may have different ways of praying and different ways of expressing our faith but what unites us is stronger than what separates us. My affection and respect for you have not diminished in spite of the differences. I look forward to that day when you will no longer feel that you are committing a sin by attending our church services (for weddings and funerals) just as your Catholic brothers and sisters (and relatives), don't have any guilt-feelings when attending your church services - especially your wedding (I assure you, I would have attended your wedding if I was not out of the country).
MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR. May God continue to bless you.
Thank you very much for the very consoling letter you sent me
several months ago and for the wedding invitation I recently received. I'm so
happy for you. Of course, I envy the lucky guy. I would like very much to
attend your wedding but
Last week, I attended a four-day seminar on
"Non-violence" organized by the Justice and Peace promoters group for
the members of the General Councils of the Religious Orders. It was very
helpful for me especially in understanding the experience of violence and in
deepening my commitment to active non-violence. One of the resource persons was
Sheila Cassidy, the author of the book Audacity to Believe. She shared her
experience of torture and imprisonment in
Well, Christmas is just around the corner so I take this opportunity to greet you a very Merry Christmas. I'm sure you are looking forward to the New Year when the wedding bells will soon be ringing. Finally, I would like to thank you for the gift of friendship and especially for the kindness that you have shown me. You will be remembered fondly . Arrivederci!
I am amused to know that there has been a rumor circulating
around the vice-Province that I have been "down and out and depressed in
You know, I occasionally feel depressed and lonely, even if I live in this "community" of 107 confreres. Whenever I descend to the depths of depression, I don't usually stay there for long. What has helped me a lot are the handful of friends who have been very supportive. A letter from a friend or an invitation for dinner is enough to lift me up. Your letters have been very helpful and for this I thank you. There is also a couple here (Edgar and Tina) who have become my close friends. They regularly invite me to their home for dinner and for stimulating conversation.
The person who has helped me so much is someone whom I
haven't seen for more than ten years and whom I probably will never see again.
I met her when I was doing my pastoral year in Tacloban. She was the most
attractive woman I ever met and I admired her from a distance. She was the kind
of person I could easily fall in love with. She is now a Poor Clare sister
living a silent and hidden life in a remote monastery in
Well, Christmas is just around the corner so I take this opportunity to greet you a very Merry Christmas. I am enclosing a Christmas note for the RIMC and the RMT.
As I was about to start writing my Christmas letter, your card/letter arrived. Yours is one of the earliest greetings that I received this year and I already feel guilty this letter won't reach you by Christmas. Anyway, I just want you to know that you are in my heart, mind and prayers all the time and not only during Christmas. The picture on my desk constantly reminds me of you.
Thanks for the belated birthday greeting. It is never too late. Belated birthday greetings also to you. November 9 happens to be the day we celebrate the founding of our Congregation. Congratulations! Being able to celebrate nine birthdays in the monastery is indeed an achievement. If you were able to survive this long and found meaning and purpose in your life then I'm sure you will be celebrating 50 more birthdays there. I still find it difficult to understand how a person like you can find meaning and happiness living a hidden and silent life. Has it been easy for you to live this kind of life? No doubts? No regrets? You remain a mystery to me. There is so much about you that I want to know more deeply. I am curious how God really touched your life. What was it that really made you decide to commit yourself totally and radically to Him? What is it that helps you not only to survive but to thrive in the monastery?
I am simply overwhelmed when you write that I occupy a special space in the silence of your heart and that you unite yourself with me in your prayers and daily communion. This is the awareness that I will treasure constantly for the rest of my life. As long as I know that somewhere out there, there is someone who cares about me, who prays for me -- then I don't have to feel alone or abandoned. This is the only assurance that I need. I would like you to know that I too feel the same way about you. I may not be able to see nor touch you but you have touched me deeply and I feel so close to you. You are a sacrament of God's love.
You know, I am not as depressed or lonely as I used to be. There was a time when I was afraid to sleep alone in the dark. But now I can have a good night's sleep without being bothered by the recurring nightmare.
These past few weeks I have been very busy helping train the
choir sing the Christmas hymns in four voices.
The choir is composed mostly of Filipino domestic workers who come to
our Filipino center on Thursdays and Sundays. Many of them are from
I was wondering what to give you for Christmas. First, I thought about sending you some seedlings for roses that you can plant in your garden so that you can have a constant fresh supply of roses from me. However, I soon found out that roses don't have seeds so I have to give up that splendid idea. Instead, I decided to play the piano for you and record it on the cassette. I am also sending some books for your novitiate library -- one on Religious Vows by Joyce Ridick and the latest biography of St. Clare. I am enclosing a poem that I wrote recently: "A Psalm of Longing." Incidentally, I discovered that the questions that I have been asking about my relationship with God is being answered in a very unexpected way -- through you.
Well, I'll have to sign off now. Once again I greet you a JOYFUL CHRISTMAS and a BLESSED NEW YEAR! Thanks for also considering me a gift to you as I consider you a gift to me. From now on, Christmas will no longer just be a reminder of the tragedies in my life. It will also be associated with the experience of joy because it was during the Christmas of 1992 that I first received a letter from you -- a letter that has made a difference in my life ever since. Thanks to you, God's loving grace has become more real to me.
"like a deer that yearns for running water,
my soul longs for you" (Ps 42)
Day and night I yearn for you,
with all my heart,
with all my soul,
with all my mind
and with every cell of my body.
O, how I long to see your face,
to hear your voice,
and to touch you.
Oh God! it's crazy
yearning to be close to someone
hidden and distant.
How can I possibly love
and be loved by someone
I cannot see nor touch?
O, how I long for that day
when we will come face to face
and see the beauty behind the veil
and we will be fully one.
It will be eternity.
Louie just told me that he is going to the
The other day I attended a public meeting organized by the
Justice and Peace Commission of the Union of Superior Generals. Over a
hundred attended -- mostly members of
the General Councils of the various Religious Orders of Men and Women. Gene
Sharp, a world-renowned authority on Active Nonviolence was the main speaker.
He is the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution and has written a number
of books about active non-violence as a strategy for achieving justice and
liberation. I had been invited to share about our experience of non-violent
struggle against the logging operations in
How's the struggle against the dam construction getting along? Can you send me any materials or write up regarding the latest development.
The dissertation work is going very slowly. I hope that I will be able to defend it before the end of 1994. Please give my regards to the members of the RIMC and the RMT.
My Beloved G,
Happy Valentine's! I know it seems inappropriate to wish you a Happy Valentine's. This is a very special day for lovers which we, religious, do not normally celebrate. But just the same, I would like you to know that you are lovingly remembered today. I used to think that by taking the vow of chastity I also gave up the capacity to love and be loved. Now I am convinced that the vow of chastity and celibacy is the commitment to love in a radical way. We are called to live the way of love that Christ taught and showed -- a love that is unconditional, compassionate, non-possessive and non-exclusive, self-giving and self-sacrificing. It is a kind of love that need not be expressed in a physical-sexual way, but yet can still can be very intimate. It is a kind of love that can transcend space and time. No, we, religious are not exempted from loving. Without love, chastity becomes empty, meaningless and self-centered. Thus, we, too, can celebrate Valentine's day.
I've been reading your letter over and over again. Your sharing about how God has touched your life has helped strengthen my faith. It is embarrassing to admit that I am a man of little faith – even if I am a priest and a would-be theologian. The apostle I can easily identify with is Thomas. Believing does not come easy to me. I have a scientific-rationalist mindset that is naturally skeptical. The more I study deeply the doctrines of our faith, the more I am filled with doubts and uncertainty. It is easier for me to become an agnostic or even an atheist than to be a believer. I've been through several crises of faith before and I had to make some agonizing leap of faith. Even now I am aware how weak my faith still is. I know this is going to be a lifetime struggle -- the struggle to believe. It is paradoxical -- I long to experience God's loving presence yet at times I doubt the reality of God's existence. It is a humbling experience when instead of me helping strengthen other people's faith, it is the deep and simple faith of someone like you that helps strengthen my own faith. I am more impressed by the witness and testimony of those who have experienced God's loving grace than the theologians who speak about God in a very abstract and unintelligible way.
Well, I'll have to accept the fact that you will remain a mystery to me as you are to yourself. It will take a lifetime to know and understand ourselves more deeply. At least your sharing and self-revelation can help me understand you better. You know, I'm still very curious about your hidden life -- what really is life in the monastery about? What is the daily horarium that you often talk about? Is it a life lived in total silence, prayer, and penance? What kind of manual labor do you do? Do you have time for study and recreation? Is it so serious that you don't have the chance to laugh? How many are you in your community and how many novices are you guiding now? Do you receive visits from you relatives and friends or are you totally cut off from humanity? Forgive me for asking these questions -- you don't have to answer them but I am just ignorant about cloistered life. The only time I'd been to a Poor Clare monastery was when Fr. Pons brought me to see Sr. Auxie. All I saw was a sister behind an iron grill but I never learned anything about life inside the monastery. Thank you so much for enclosing that silver jubilee homily of a Franciscan. It is still to early to think about the homily for my silver jubilee. I still have eight more years to go. I sometimes wonder whether I will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of my religious profession or my 25th wedding anniversary. However, as long as you pray for me daily, I will be able to celebrate my silver, golden, and diamond jubilee of profession and ordination. There is one thing that I will surely include in my homily -- to thank my friends (especially the most special and hidden one) whose love and prayers have helped me remain faithful to my solemn commitment through the years. When my jubilees come I will thank you in person (if that is possible) and also celebrate them with you.
You made me laugh when you said that you will be my first witness for my process of canonization. That sounds impossible and improbable. With all my doubts, my weaknesses and my sinfulness I am the most unlikely candidate for sainthood. Besides the idea of people making a statue of me, and celebrating a fiesta in my honor seems funny and unthinkable (San Amado, pray for us!). Yet, I am embarrassed to admit this and I've never told anyone before about this secret desire -- I really want to become a saint. Well, not a canonized Saint but rather someone living a life of sanctity -- a life freed from the sin, selfishness and greed, a life of loving intimacy with God and with other human beings, a life lived in service to the poor and the needy. I know I won't be able to become a saint through my own efforts alone -- I need God's grace and I am still waiting for God to touch and transform my life. I will be contented to become an unknown and undeclared saint -- at least known only to God and to some special friends like you.
I am enclosing an amount for a guitar and a tape-recorder. The name of the donor is Mrs. Flor Modesto. Will you please pray for her and her grandson, Goldwyn, who was stabbed a few months ago. If there is anything else that you need, please don't hesitate to tell me. I know that it is part of the vow of poverty to depend on the mercy and generosity of others so there is no need to be ashamed about asking for anything you need. In case you are wondering where the money is, it is sandwiched between the two pictures (of Fr. Pons and myself in the ski resort of Terminello and of myself in Greccio where St. Francis built a Christmas crib). Let's just pray and hope that the guys at the post office don't find it first.
For my Valentine's gift I am sending you a book by my favorite poet, Kahlil Gibran (the Prophet) and a tape of this book. It's very beautiful. There's also a tape of the talk Thomas Merton gave to his Trappist novices about friendship within the monastic community -- this might be helpful for your novices. And lastly, I am enclosing some seedlings of petunia and the bella di notte (the beauty of the night) for your garden. I hope they grow on Philippine soil and climate.
Well, time to sign off now and go to bed. I hope I'll meet you in my dreams. Please take care, may you continue to radiate the love and joy you have received from our heavenly Father.
Easter Greetings! It's Black Saturday and I decided not to do any work on my dissertation and spend the day writing Easter letters to my friends. Originally, I was planning to resume work after taking a break for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. But I feel a bit weak to do any work after fasting for a week. I break my fast tonight after the Easter vigil ceremonies. Even if you receive this letter after Easter week I would like to let you know that you were remembered during Easter.
As you probably guessed, I have been very busy writing my
thesis. I'd like to finish the writing phase
before the end of this school year so that I can spend the summer doing
the revisions and defend the thesis by the beginning of the next school year.
So while everybody has gone away for the Holy Week and Easter Holidays, I am
still here working. When everybody goes away for the summer holidays three
months from now, I will still probably be here revising my work and preparing
the final draft for submission. I think I need a long break when I finish
everything and before I go back to
You only have less than two months before the end of the ISW
course. I'm sure that by this time you have come to realize how short your
period of stay in
Please extend my Easter greetings to our friends there - Mila & Dan, Ruth & Sean, and Claire.
Belated Easter Greetings. Thanks for sending the RMT BEC
module a couple of months ago and for the letter which I received a few days ago.
I've been planning to write you but I decided to do it once I finish the third
chapter of the thesis so I can send you the first three chapters for your
comments. As you have guessed, I've been very busy with my thesis-writing. In
fact, I was one of the few left behind during the Holy Week and Easter Week
holiday. I might even spend another long hot summer in
No need to worry about burning out, I am enjoying my work.
Besides I take occasional time-off to go for walks along the historic sights of
My circle of friends here is widening. During the weekends, I often get invitations to parties and celebrations. Last Saturday, my close friends Edgar and Tina invited me and the Filipino confreres for the blessing of their new apartment. Tina had asked Caloy and myself to do some poetry-reading. It was an enjoyable evening of music and poetry.
Yesterday I celebrated the 13th anniversary of my priestly ordination. I had scheduled a meeting with the choir before lunch. It developed into a surprise celebration when they brought along food and some gifts. After the afternoon mass I was invited to a party with some friends. They taught me how to dance the tango and the boogie-woogie. Tomorrow night we (Louie, Senen, Caloy, Kevin and Gerard) will be going to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate what I call the "bronze" jubilee of my ordination. Nowadays, reaching the thirteenth anniversary of ordination without any wife and child is indeed an achievement that needs to be celebrated.
I'm so glad that you will be evaluating the mission areas and holding a mission congress. I am waiting for the results of the evaluation and the proceedings of the congress. I 'm sure it will be helpful for my thesis. I hope that someday, even the areas missionized during the Marcos era would be studied. It would be interesting to find out the pattern of development of the BECs and the parishes after the mission.
The idea of helping dioceses train their own mission teams is excellent. I think this is one of the ways that we can multiply ourselves. With the present method that we have, we can expect to help an average of ten parishes or less for every ten years. With the experience that we have accumulated I think that the RMT should be able to help train BEC organizers for other parishes and dioceses. Every mission should become an opportunity not only for organizing BECs in a particular parish but helping train BEC organizers for the whole diocese. I think we can adopt the old PECCO idea that every organizing program is also a training program for organizers destined for other areas.
Well, I'll have to sign off for now. Please extend my regards to Manny, James, Rere, Willy, and other members of the RIMC, the members of the RMT too.
Easter Greetings! Since we're still in the fourth week of the easter season it is not yet too late to send you this greeting.
It's been a long time since I heard from you and I've been wondering if you received the package and the donation for a guitar and a tape-recorder that I sent last February. I don't fully trust the post office -- there have been cases of theft by those delivering mail. If you haven't received it, please tell me so that I can find another way of sending you the donation.
I've been dreaming a lot about you. At least my wish to meet you even in my dreams has been granted. I wrote down an account of some of the dreams -- you can probably help me to interpret them:
I dreamt that we were like eagles
soaring in the sky.
No matter how I tried to fly away from you
You were always there beside me.
I woke up suddenly and realized
that my wish has been granted
that I may at least meet you in my dreams.
Again I dreamt that we were inside an old Church
you were standing with the other sisters
in front of the altar.
I was with the other priests walking in procession
as if we were going out of the Church.
When I saw you I turned back and approached you
And in front of everybody I touched your beautiful face
and kissed you.
I suddenly woke up feeling so happy
and yet regretting that the dream was cut short.
I wanted to go back to sleep
so that I may see you again.
I dreamt that I visited you in your monastery.
Your sisters had a referendum -- whether to allow me
to celebrate the Eucharist with your community in the chapel.
As we came face to face and began to converse
you told me that your Abbess was worried about us.
She doubted whether it would be a good idea for us
to continue writing to each other.
I felt a deep sense of sadness.
As if my heart was pierced by a knife.
And when I woke up I prayed asking God
that the dream won't come true.
I wonder what these dreams mean. The image of two eagles soaring in the sky together is so beautiful. It represents a relationship that is grounded on freedom and commitment -- a relationship that can transcend limitations. The other dream is also about the deep communion between us within the matrix of our vocations. The last dream seems to be a dream of anxiety or worry that this relationship could be cut off.
The school year will
soon be over and it will be summer time again.
I am planning to go on a walking pilgrimage to
Sorry to hear about your ailment. I'll be praying for your complete recovery during my pilgrimage.
Shuresh and Mervyn are leaving for
I'm glad to hear that you had an exciting time in the
I've had my own experience as a "wild man" and a
"pilgrim" this summer. In July, I walked from
I might be able to defend my dissertation before Christmas or
by January at the latest. I hope to be back in the
So all the best in your course in St. Anselm. Advance happy birthday (November 9) -- we're entering the roaring forties. See you soon.
It was still dawn when I woke up to celebrate an early
morning mass. Later I went out to run in the park near the Terme di Caracalla.
I did the short form of Tai Chi and headed back home. As I passed the portineria, Bro. Pio called me and gave
me a package. It was ice-cream with a
birthday card from
This is part of the series of my birthday celebrations which began last week. Last Saturday, I went out with Louie and Kevin to a Chinese restaurant. On Sunday, I had a celebration with the choir. Last night, we had a celebration at Edgar and Tina's home. This coming Saturday we will have another celebration at the apartment of Mrs. Martinez. Well, it's not every year that I celebrate my birthday this way. But this is a very special birthday since I am turning 40.
Finally I have reached the noontime of my life. It's strange but I don't feel that old. I still feel that I am in my early 30s. But every time I face the mirror and see my receding hairline and my expanding waistline, then I get the feeling that I am no longer as young as I used to be. Of course, the aches in my knees and my chest remind me that age is catching up with me. From time to time I am filled with the question of my mortality. How much time do I have left?
Forty years is such a short time. I can't believe how quickly the years have flown. And I feel I haven't really done much. The next forty years could even pass so quickly [that is if I reach eighty]. I wonder if I can accomplish anything significant. There is a psalm which expresses poignantly what I feel: "Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty if we are strong, And most of them are fruitless toil, for they pass quickly and we drift away" (Ps 90).
I think I will have to learn how to live in the present moment. I don't want to live in the past. Nor do I want to focus my attention towards the future. I need to discover and savor the graces and the gifts that come my way.
Looking over my experiences during this period of my life the message that is coming through is: I am loved. I am Amado, the Beloved. During the period of mourning after my Father's death I have discovered finally how much my Father loved me all along and how much I loved him. I was the apple of his eye and he was proud of me. I have so many wonderful memories of him -- not just childhood memories, but the last two summers I spent with him.
During the last two years I have also experienced deeply what it means to love and be loved. The greatest gift that I will always treasure is my friendship with G -- a friend from way back who became a Poor Clare. How is it possible for us to relate deeply and intimately without seeing or touching each other is part of the mystery of divine love. I consider her my soul friend -- even my soul-mate. My only hope is that this relationship will last a lifetime.
Reflecting about my Father's love and about my friendship with G, I have come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be loved by the God who is Love.
I have also been blessed with a number of good friends --
Karl, Carol, Edgar and Tina, and the
circle of friends here in
In the evening of my life I will be judged by love. All I can say during the noontime of my life is -- although I may not have filled the world with love -- I have been able to love real persons and have also received love from them. It may not be a significant achievement but that is good enough.
With Robert Frost I am able to say confidently -- grow old along with me, the best is yet to be. As the cliche goes: life begins at forty.
As I gaze at the mirror
I see a stranger.
The lush and curly locks
are almost gone.
There are now furrows
on the forehead.
The fire in the eyes
seems to be dying out.
Tears long overdue
threaten to put it out
There are scars
on the chubby cheeks.
The stubble is turning to silver.
The lips that have been kissed
only in dreams
are turning pale and dry.
I wish this is only a mask
and there is someone
and lovable within.
The clock tolls.
It's already .
Kumusta na? I hope everything is fine with you. Did you receive the package and letter I sent you last June? You are remembered constantly in my prayers and I long to hear from you again.
I just remembered that your birthday is coming up (November 9?) so I am taking this opportunity to send you this birthday greeting. How young are you? I also celebrated my 40th birthday last October 6. Finally I have reached the noontime of my life. It's strange but I don't feel that old. I still feel that I am in my early 30s. But every time I face the mirror and see my receding hairline and my expanding waistline then I get the feeling that I am no longer as young as I used to be. Of course, the aches in my knees and my chest reminds me that age is catching up with me.
The summer break is over and the school year has just begun.
I was here in
I have finished writing the rough draft of my thesis and I am in the process of editing and revising it. I was hoping to finish my work this month so that I can defend it before Christmas but that won't be possible now. Maybe next month I might be able to submit the final version. This means that I should have my defense in two months (January or February 1995). I'm already pressed for time since I have to start teaching in March.
How's the petunia and the bella di notte, are they blooming now? And how is the pet dog that you named after me? I hope, someday, I will be able to see the flowers and the dog -- and you.
My dearest G,
This morning I went to the university to formally submit the book-bound copies of my doctoral dissertation! You can just imagine the contented smile on my face as I handed my "magnum opus" to the Segretaria. And when I came back my joy was multiplied when I saw your Christmas letter on my mailbox. Two letters from you in one week! Last week I received the letter and birthday card you sent last October. I'm just so glad to hear from you again after almost an eternity of waiting. Really, I'm just so happy to know that you are all right and in the best of health. I was worried that you might have a relapse. Thanks a lot for the wonderful card and the pictures (it seems that the novice-mistress looks younger than her novices -- or are they mostly late vocation?)
It is so consoling to know that you continue to remember me in your prayers. After all these months of waiting to hear from you I thought you had forgotten me. I think it is just my insecurity -- you know one of my greatest fear is of being rejected and abandoned. This is something that I hate to admit even to myself. I think it is wrong for me to feel this way but I can't help it. Oh God, how I wish I will be delivered from my fears, anxieties, and doubts. This feeling of insecurity also characterizes my relationship with God. I know that He loves me and cares for me. Yet there are times when I am filled with doubts and anxieties. I just feel so insecure and suspect that He has abandoned me. This is what I felt these last few months. So many things just went wrong. First, my computer broke down and I had to write a 60-page chapter all over again because I was not able make a back-up copy of that particular chapter. Just as I thought I have recovered, my computer was stolen. You can just imagine the helplessness and despair that I felt as I went all over the place looking for the rascals who took her away. I kept on praying that I would be able to get it back but it was all in vain. I didn't have any money to buy a new one and I couldn't bring myself to ask my superiors to get me a new one because I know how expensive it is. Luckily somebody lent me an old computer and I was able to continue working. As I was ready to print the final version I received the amount that I needed from generous friends and relatives. So I was able to get a new computer and finally finish my work. Despite this heartbreaking and depressing experience I have felt God's grace at work. In my helplessness I have experienced the generosity and kindness of other people and I was able to get a new computer -- much better than the one I lost. As you say, everything ends well in due time.
I am sending you some tapes of a seminar on Clare of Assisi
The public defense of my thesis will most likely take place on the last week of January. So I will need your prayers. I will send you a copy of the thesis once it is published.
I conveyed your greetings to Mommy Flor and she asked me to enclose her Christmas card for you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Greetings! I recently received the good news that I can defend my dissertation on February 23 at . I was expecting that it would be earlier but there are no defense scheduled during this period since there are exams going on until the middle of February. Anyway that gives me more time to prepare for the big day. There's a group within the Filipino community that has assured me that they will take care of the snacks and the video coverage.
I might stay on for another five weeks after the defense to
wait for the publication of the thesis and to run the
My dearest G,
Easter Greetings! The letter you sent almost two months ago finally arrived. I'm so glad to hear from you again. I feel fortunate that you have not decided to cut off communication with me and that you continue our regular correspondence. That has been one of my worst fears since we started writing each other. Last year when I didn't hear from your for a long time, I dreamt that you told me that you were doubting whether it would be appropriate to continue writing to me. I went away feeling so sad and desolate. When I woke up I was glad that it was only a dream. You probably don't realize the effect your letters have on me. Through your pen and paper you have touched my life, you have brought joy and consolation to me in moments of depression and grief, you have helped strengthen my faith, you have brought me closer to you and to God. I'm glad that you are beginning to realize that living a contemplative life does not necessarily mean cutting off all human communication and relationships. Loving God totally does not mean giving up deep and loving relationship with others and cutting yourself off from the rest of humanity. What I admire most about St. Clare was that she was able to love God totally and at the same time she was able to love others deeply and tenderly. From her isolated monastery in San Damiano she was able to radiate her love to others. Through her letters she was able to relate deeply with others even if they were far away and there was no chance of meeting them. I believe that this was the fruit of her contemplation and experience of God's love. God is not a jealous and possessive lover. The more you love him the more he demands that you love his creatures. When you truly experience his love you will be impelled to share this love with others rather than keep it for yourself. The greatest sign of holiness is not piety -- it is the capacity to love God and his creatures. So, I hope you won't consider people like me as a hindrance or distraction to your growth in holiness.
Several nights ago, I dreamt that I met you in a monastery on top of a hill. I was waiting for you at the visitor's parlor for a long time. I was wondering if you were still around. Finally you came and we talked for a long time. I felt so happy being with you and I wished the moment would never end. When it was time for me to leave, instead of walking away I flew away like an eagle soaring in the sky. Then I suddenly woke up and realized it was only a dream. I immediately went back to sleep hoping to meet you again but, unfortunately, I just slept soundly. Anyway, I felt so happy to meet you even in my dream. The dream reminds me of a visit Fr. Claro and myself made to a Poor Clare monastery near Scala (the birthplace of our congregation) last December. A Redemptorist confrere had told us that he met a Filipina (Sr. Clara) in the monastery of Sta. Chiara. He had occasionally been invited to give a retreat to the sisters. He called the mother superior and was able to talk with Sr. Clara over the phone. She invited us for lunch and we gladly accepted. She served us a very sumptuous Italian meal. We had a long conversation with her and we told her that we have a friend who is also a Poor Clare sister. We also had a chance to talk with her Italian mother superior. I was amazed by their hospitality. All the time I was thinking about you. Will I ever get a chance to visit you someday? Or will it have to be only in my dreams?
By the time you receive this letter I will most likely be
back in the
I'll be leaving
As I reflect on the chapter of my life that is about to end, I count the blessings that God has poured on me. One of the blessings that I treasure most is the friendship that has grown between us. It is something that I never expected would happen. When I met you in Tacloban 14 years ago I admired you from a safe distance. I enjoyed those brief encounters and chance meetings with you. I wished we could be close friends then but it did not happen. There was not enough time and I was trying to avoid any involvement that I thought would threaten my vocation. When I left Tacloban, I thought I would never see you again or hear from you again. I sometimes wonder if what has drawn us closer these last two years is pure coincidence or is there a divine purpose behind it? What has happened seems to be uncanny and even impossible. Our dialogue of life started at time when I was suffering from depression, loneliness, grief and doubts of faith. I never expected that you will occupy a very special space in my heart. I never expected that it will be through you that my faith in a loving God would be deepened. I never expected that it is possible for me to love someone deeply and chastely without even seeing or touching her. I have come to consider you my sister, my friend, my soulmate, my beloved and my companion in my inner journey of faith. As another chapter of my life begins, I hope that this friendship will continue to grow. I pray and hope that this will help us deepen our relationship with God and keep us faithful to our respective religious vocations.
It is not easy for me to say good bye to
Well, time to sign off now. Please continue to pray for me. I constantly remember you in my prayers.