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Chapter Sixteen

LETTERS FROM ROME

 

 

Communita di Sant'Alfonso

Via Merulana 31

Rome, Italy

 

August 30, 1991

 

Dear Karl,

Greetings from the eternal city.  Rome is really a beautiful city although it looks like a ghost town this month since the natives have gone on vacation.  Even the stores are closed.  It's probably because of the heat.  In a couple of days everything will be  back to normal.

A few days after we arrived, Caloy and I were able to join the Filipino group that went on a pilgrimage to Pagani, Pompeii, and Sorrento.  We visited the shrine and tomb of St. Alphonsus.  I was filled with awe when I saw his room, clothes, wheelchair, pa­intings, sculpture pieces, clavichord and composi­tions.

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 Philippines and Berkeley. Your letter arrived the other day and this time, I thought I should stop procrastinating.

I wish to thank you for the support and encouragement.  Please extend my warm regards to the itinerant community and the mission team.

 

October 10, 1991

 

Dear Claro,


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 Rome by foot. Last week I was able to visit the old Redemptorist places -- Scala, Pagani, Materdomini and Ciorani.  We visited the Redemptoristines at Scala and I was amazed to see so many young and pretty sisters. We also attended the first profession of the Redemptorist novices from the Neapolitan, Sicilian and Lisbon provinces.

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.

 

 

November 7, 1991

 

Dearest Carol,

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 Berkeley but I like the place. Rome is really a beautiful city and there are many beautiful women.         Take care, I'll  be praying for you and for the success of the paper.

 

 

December 5, 1991

 

Dear Cynthia,

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 Australia?     

I'm enjoying the "la dolce vita" here in the Eternal City. I live with 80 other Redemptorists who come from all over the world-- from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Poland, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, England, Uruguay, Vietnam, United States, Canada, Africa, and the Philip­pines. This is like the United Nations.  I occupy a room on the fourth floor from where I have a good view of the  dome of San Pietro Basilica.  There is a piano in the common room  that I can play regularly. There is also a gym complete with weights, nautilus, stationary bike, rowing machine, and a Jacuzzi pool. Our building is  near the Coloseo and the Circo Maximo where I usually jog.

            In spite of the tight schedule, I still manage to get involved with the apostolate among the migrant Filipino workers here in Rome.  Many of them come to the Centro Sant'Alfonso every Thursday and Sunday.  I usually celebrate mass with them and preach during the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I'll be conducting the advent recollection for them on December 15.

I was planning to spend Christmas in Ireland but I changed my mind when the Irish confreres told me that this is the coldest time of the year and I won't be able to enjoy my visit.  I'll just go there during summer.  Anyway, I'd like to find out what Christmas is like here in Rome.


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 Berkeley in '89.  And now even in the midst of this big community I still feel lonely. As Teilhard de Chardin once wrote to a friend: "I have here many confreres, but no friends". What makes me lonely is when I realize that I am totally alone, and there's no one to turn to, and no one really cares about me, and I even have to grieve alone. The only way to overcome loneliness is to reach out to others and to allow others to enter my life.  Easier said than done.  Making friends and developing deep relationships is very difficult.  It means taking risks, even the risk of being rejected, and the risk of falling in love and thus, making a fool of myself.  I hope I can find some friends here.

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.

 

December 10, 1991

 

Dear Merlyn,

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 Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is just the most recent example).  We can only hope that both sides will be realistic and creative enough to stop the spiral of violence and resolve the conflict peacefully. Let us pray that peace based on justice will ultimately reign in our land.

My warm regards and Christmas greetings to my godchild Mark

 

December 11, 1991

 

Dear Karl,

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 Davao. He used to be one of my contacts with the democratic socialist movement.  The news of death cannot but affect me as the sixth anniversary of my mother's brutal death approaches. The question that confronts me is the same question that many of our people are perhaps asking:  Is it possible to celebrate the joy of Christmas in the midst of death, grief and suffering? I'm sure you, too, cannot escape this question as you soon observe the  anniversary of your father's tragic death. Yet I still believe that the celebration must go on for this is an affirmation of life and hope in the midst of death and a seemingly hopeless situation.  This is what I have learned from the poor after working and living with them through all these years: the capacity to celebrate life in the midst of death.  This I believe is what Christmas is all about.

It is extraordinarily cold here this year.  In fact it is much colder than Berkeley. I am finding it very difficult to adjust to this weather.  My skin has dried up, my face is swollen and I have colds all the time (Caloy and Ben commented that I look like Marcos!).  I seem to have developed an allergy to this chilling weather.  Even the dandruffs have increased and my hair is rapidly thinning out and falling.  My energy level is very low and my  self-healing is not working effective­ly. So I have to use some medicinal cream on my face. This weather is just depressing.  And it's not even the height of winter yet. A feeling that continually haunts me: I'm not as young as I thought I was. Time to let go of youth, accept the inevitability of growing older.  Or better still, see it as the maturing process.

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 Rome, the FAO.  

I'm glad to know that Carol is pushing through with the Mindanao paper. And as a bonus, she is also in love!  I hope that it will work out this time. 

Recently, I've been receiving a lot of mail from friends, from the Philippines and the Bay Area. I've been thinking a lot about the handful of friends that I have and I am beginning to appreciate their friendship more deeply. This Christmas I would like to thank you, among others, for the gift of friendship.  Thanks for being a kind and generous friend, confrere and brother.  

 

December 16, 1991

 

Dearest Carol,


Buon Natale!  I'm sure this is one of your happiest Christmas with all the blessings that you have: the Mindanao paper is finally going to be launched soon, you are in love and you have friends like us.  You must tell me the name of the paper and the name of your dear doctor.  I pray and hope that this time it will work out. And no more talks about  becoming a nun. But take your time, don't make him feel that he is being pursued and pressed to make a commitment. Play hard to get, and let it just develop.  Don't forget to "visualize" yourself and himself living happily ever after (that's not just a fairy tale, I assure you).

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 wrote from Cambridge twice. I am still tempted to take up her invitation to meet her in Paris this summer, but since I am already studying French here, I don't have any more good reason to go to France.  Some Christmas cards have already arrived.  It's consoling to remember that I am not forgotten. One thing that I have grown to treasure is the gift of friendship.  As I told you once, I have discovered that what I need most are close friends rather than a wife or lover. Friends make it easier for me to live a celibate life.  This Christmas I am thanking my friends for giving joy to my life.  Of course, you are one of those that I am giving thanks to.  My hope and prayer is that may this friendship last for a lifetime, and that I may see your grandchildren.

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.

 

February 1, 1992

 

Dearest Veronica,

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 Berkeley.  I have to content myself with writing letters and playing my new Russian violin to keep the blues away.

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.

 

 

February 24, 1992

 

Dear Karl,

It was, indeed, a pleasant surprise to receive your postcard and the package from Kenya.  I hope the EATWOT proceedings and statements will soon be published.

I just came back from a three-day meeting of MISSIO-AACHEN scholarship holders held outside Rome in Villa Cavalleti, Grotta Ferrata.  It was attended by 27 students from all over Asia and Africa.  There were four of us from the Philippines.  Two of them know you -- Fr. George Carin from Marbel and Selina Unding from Jolo (she is a mestiza Tausog and is Dong Galenzoga's friend and schoolmate at that Institute for Islamic Studies). 

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 Vatican statements about these subjects. All these are very helpful for my dissertation on the BECs. 

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 Philippines has to be written. We need to experiment more on this form and get the people from the BECs more involved in shaping a theology from the grassroots. I think the earlier attempts to develop a theology from the grassroots did not get off the ground  because no effective methodology was developed.  Fr. Carlos Abesamis pointed out that the poor have to be involved in doing theology but how they are to do this was not made clear.  I think narrative theology is one form in which grassroots communities can participate in developing theology.  We should not expect the poor to theologize in an abstract, systematic and discursive manner.  What we can do is encourage them to tell their stories in creative ways (encouraging them to create their own psalms, epics, parables, songs, poems, drama, creeds, etc) and  in a liturgical setting.   Our seminars and pamalandong have to become less intellectualized and more creative.  Even the bible-reflections have to become less a sharing of insights and ideas,  more a sharing of their stories and testimonies.  It is through their sharing of the stories about their life and struggles in the light of the Story of Salvation that they will discover God's liberating presence. I wonder if this can be done during this mission. I think we need another Pakiglambigit but this time the authors will no longer be only the members of the mission team but rather the members of the BECs.

This semester I will submit my dissertation topic for approval.  As you already know I am planning to write about the BECs in the Philippines.  I'd like to focus on the ecclesiological statement made by PCP II about the BECs as the realization of the Church as Communion, as a Prophetic-Priestly-Kingly People and as the Church of the Poor. Last semester, I wrote a research paper on the ecclesiology of Communion in the Early Christian Community (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35) and how it can function as a model for the BECs today. So that will form a chapter of my dissertation.

As I told you before, I will be in the Philippines for three months (July-September 1992) to gather more research materials.  I haven't finalized my itinerary yet. I will probably visit offices, centers and libraries that have materials on the BECs and I will also do some field investigation.  I am planning to visit the BECs in our former mission areas as well as those GKKs in Tagum (where it all began), BCCs in other parts of the country (Negros, Cebu, etc).  Of course I will also visit Dumingag and Josefina. I wonder if you have any suggestions where I can go and the persons to contact.


Please give my warm regards to the itinerant community and the mission team. 

 

 

Easter 1992

 

Carissima Veronica,

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 "Harvard Man." Your workload seems to be heavy with your classes at the various schools (of education, law and diplomacy,  and medicine). But don't drive yourself too hard.  Don't forget to relax and have fun.

The landscape here in Rome is changing. It is such a wonderful experience to witness the coming of spring.  The cold winds are gone and the sun shines brightly each day.  The "dead" trees are suddenly becoming alive as the leaves begin to sprout.  And the days are getting longer.  I can now easily go out and jog along the Circo Massimo and the Baths of Caracalla.

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 Rome and the Pax Christi-Rome. The creative liturgy was excellent and the Church was packed.  The Pax Christi members handed out some reading materials after the mass. At last I have their address. They meet regularly once a week. I hope to join them once my workload is lessened . 

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 Ireland for a month's vacation. By the second week of July, I'll be in the Philippines for a three-month research work.  I'll be gathering materials for my doctoral dissertation on the Basic Ecclesial Communities.

So long for now.  You are always remembered affectionately in my prayers.

 

June 11, 1992

 

Dear Ramon,

I hope everything's well with you and the Vice-Province.  The school year ended yesterday and this afternoon I will be leaving for Ireland. This has been a very tough year for me -- adjusting to the Italian culture, learning three languages (Italian, Greek and French),  doing a number of courses at the Greg, and preparing my dissertation proposal (it was finally approved a few weeks ago after going through a lot of red tape). So I really deserve a break.

I will be in Ireland until July 4.  Fr. Dan Baragry will act as my "tourist guide" there.  It won't actually be vacation the whole time. the first nine days I will be in Limerick helping out in the Novena and hearing confessions. The last two weeks will be spent going around the green Isle.

I will be back in Rome on the 4th of July and leave for the Philippines on July 8.  I will be in Manila from July 9 to 17, in Cebu from July 18 to 23, in Iligan from July 24 to 31.  During the month of August  I will be  in Zamboanga, Davao and Bukidnon.  I will be in Bacolod the first week of September and will be in Manila the last two weeks of September.  I should be back in Rome by the 6th of October.  As I told you before, the main purpose of this trip is not for pleasure.  I will be gathering research materials for my doctoral dissertation which I will begin writing next school year. The approved title is: An Ecclesiological Perspective of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Philippines.  The starting point for analysis is the PCP II ecclesiological vision of the BECs (The BECs as an expression of the Church as communion, as a priestly-prophetic-kingly people, and as Church of the Poor). I'm sure you can give me an insider's view since you were there.

Please extend my regards to the confreres.  See you soon.

 

October 10, 1992

 

Carissima Veronica,

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 Ireland during the month of June.  The weather was just perfect and we went all over the green isle.  Can you imagine seeing the sunset at past 10 in the evening. The only scary experience was in Northern Ireland which was like a war zone. Seeing soldiers patrolling the streets reminded me of home.  The IRA bombed the train station in Belfast and we had to go to the next town to take the train back to Dublin.

After my vacation in Ireland, I went home to the Philippines to gather research materials for my dissertation.  I visited many parts of the country.  There have been a lot of changes especially in the political terrain. A very encouraging development is the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government and the revolution­ary forces. They seem to be taking El Salvador as a model for a negotiated peace settlement. I hope that the war in the countryside will finally end.

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 Rome.

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.

 

October 14, 1992

 

Dear Dan,

I just got back from the Philippines more than a week ago. I travelled with Ramon who came here for a meeting of the commission on the laity.


My stay in the Philippines was very fruitful.  I was able to gather a lot of materials for my dissertation.  I also visited Manny, Karl, James and the  lay missioners in Dumingag.  There has been a lot of progress in the Iligan House. 

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 US before the end of the year or early next year. My sister Mely will be accompanying him.  Sammy left for California last month and Dodong will soon be joining his wife in New York.  Cely left for Oklahoma last week to work as a physical therapist.  Tingting is working as a seaman on a foreign vessel.  Only Inday (the baptist doctor) and Nonie will be left behind in the Philippines.  Nonie's children are growing fast and John-john is now regularly serving at mass as an altar boy.  He already told his mother that he wants to be a priest when he grows up.

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 Philippines by Easter of `93.

I would like to thank you for the wonderful summer in Ireland.  Caloy and I really enjoyed our stay there.

So Dia Guich, and all the best for the new school year.

 

November 23, 1992

 

Dear Ramon,

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 Kingdom of God (John Fuellenbach) and Spiritual Counsel­ling & Formation (Herbert Alphonso). Ben and I are classmates (he's auditing Fuellenbach's course).  Senen is studying Greek and Hebrew. Even with less than two months into the semester he is already complaining how very busy and exhausted he is.  I've been telling him to take it easy otherwise he'll burn out before the year is over.


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 New York who is married to an American wrote and told me that for more than a year she has been suffering from a chronic pain in the neck, shoulder and right arm. She had to stop working. She had already gone to several doctors, physical therapists and even to a psychotherapist but so far she has not experienced any relief. A mutual friend told her about my  healing gift and she is inviting me to New York this Christmas vacation and she will pay for my round-trip ticket and expenses. Can I have your permission to go there?  I know how you feel about us going to the U.S. but this is a special case. I want to help my friend whom I haven't seen for more than ten years. So if you don't have any objection I should be in New York from December 20 to January 10.

Please extend my regards to the confreres.

 

 

December 1, 1992

 

Dear Karl,

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 Assisi recently and visited the basilicas of St. Francis and St. Clare.

Please give my Christmas greetings to the Mission Team, the community and students in Davao.  May the peace and justice that we have longed for become a reality during this season and the coming new year.

 

 

December 15, 1992

 

Dear Carol,

How have you been?  I regret there was very little time for us to have a heart-to-heart talk when I was in Davao. I was very disappointed when you didn't turn up for our lunch date.  It is really different when you are in love -- you forget your friends and you don't even answer their letters (or you are  just too busy beating deadlines).  It just happens that two of my closest friends happened to have fallen in love at the same time  and they could no longer spend time with me last summer or write to me.

In his last letter, Karl informed me that you have a problem with your kidney and will probably go to Manila for a check-up and treatment.  If this is so, I will pray for you that you may experience God's healing grace.

 Please take care of yourself.  Have a Joyful Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.


 

 

December 16, 1992

 

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 Philippines and this brings back a lot of sad memories.  It makes me remember that exactly seven years ago today, I helplessly watched my mother die after being shot in the head by military men.  And my memories bring me farther back during the early years of martial law when around  this time, I could hear the Christmas carols outside my prison cell while on hunger strike. Christmas is not usually my most joyful season. Yet to celebrate it amid memories of grief, pain and loneliness is an act of hope. And this is how millions of our people who are poor and who are suffering celebrate this season of joy.

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 Assisi. It dawned on me that like St. Clare, you must have found Him whom you love.  Unless you have really experienced God's love you cannot give yourself totally and faithfully to Him. Once you have fallen deeply in love with Him who is love, no other man's love can fully satisfy you. The biblical quotation you have chosen for your perpetual profession  card describes this profound experience: "I found him whom I love. I held him fast, I would not leave him". My only hope is that you can still say this at the end of your life when you are preparing to meet Him face to face.


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 mountain of Busay, finding it difficult to believe in God, trying desperately to pray. At that time I was already considering the possibility of leaving the priesthood and joining the NPA if the situation worsened. I asked for a sign from God. One month later, I received news that the members of the hold-up gang composed of military men who were responsible for my mother's death were killed in a shoot-out with the police. After another month, the EDSA uprising took place and Marcos was deposed. Whether or not these events were just pure coincidence, I became firmly convinced of God's liberating presence. I can say that I'm still a faithful priest by God's grace. I am confident that in the years to come, it will be God's loving grace that will enable me to remain faithful to my commitment. You know, one of my deepest desires is to be able to celebrate the diamond jubilee of my ordination.

By the time you receive this letter, I'll be in New York enjoying a White Christmas.  Last month, Flor Marmita (a Waray friend, remember her?) who is now living there and is married to an American wrote and told me that for more than a year she has been suffering from a chronic and debilitating pain in the neck, shoulder and right arm. She had to stop working. She has already gone to several doctors, physical therapists and even to a psycho­therapist but so far she has not experienced any relief. She believes that I can help in her healing process and invited me to New York during the Christmas vacation (all expenses paid). I responded favorably and she sent me a check for my plane ticket. Twelve years ago, I wouldn't have thought of myself as a healer.  In fact I was  skeptical of faith-healing (which I considered as fake-healing).  But four years ago, I  discovered that I have this gift of healing -- the healing touch. I have kept it a secret and used it only in times of emergency.  But somehow, word just gets around. I have healed a  number of people  in the Philippines, in California and here in Rome. Most of the cases I healed successfully were often psychosomatic diseases or stress-related ailments (migraine, arthri­tis, cyst, muscle pains, allergies, skin diseases, hyperten­sion, sinusitis, nervous breakdown, etc). I've often discovered that many of them needed inner healing first before they could be healed physically.


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.

 

January 11, 1993

I just arrived from New York at 11 this evening.  Ben told me that Papa died of heart attack early this morning.  Louie, Senen and Caloy came to my room to offer their condolences.

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.

 

 

March 14, 1993

 

Dear Flor,

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 Philippines last month. Cely and I were able to get home a few days before Papa's funeral. It was a long wake (nine days), but the atmosphere was not really that bad --it was more  of a clan reunion with all the relatives and friends around. I stayed on for a couple of weeks after the funeral  to settle some family matters and also to rest.

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 Copenhagen for the Holy Week to give a retreat for Filipino migrant workers and help out in the liturgy. 


Well, I'll be signing off now. Please give my regards to Paul, Nimfa & Gunding.  Advance Easter greetings.

 

March 16, 1993

 

Dear Ramon,

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 Rome during the summer. I have no more formal classes. I'm just auditing a course on "Priestly Formation" at the Greg. Ben is also attending the class.

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 Copenhagen during the Holy Week. He wants me to talk about the idea of building up BECs for Filipinos in a foreign land.

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.

 

 

April 15, 1993

 

Dear Karl,

Easter Greetings! I just got back from Copenhagen where I spent my Holy Week.  Fr. Patrick Sheils, who is working among the Filipinos in Denmark, had invited me. I  gave a seminar on "Forming Basic Ecclesial Communities in Denmark," had a two-night "Encoun­ter with the Youth" and conducted a recollection. The schedule was very hectic and I  had very little time to see the place. Now I feel I need a week's vacation to recover.


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 Brazil anymore as I previously planned. I have decided to stay here in Rome and continue working on my disserta­tion.

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.

 

 

 

April 16, 1993

 

Dear  G,

Easter Greetings! I just got back from Copenhagen where I spent my Holy Week.


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 New York on the second week of January I got the news of my father's sudden death (he had a heart attack).  So I had to rush home to the Philippines for the funeral. He was only 70 years old. He had a stroke 16 years ago which paralyzed half of his body.

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 Brazil and endure the long hot summer here in Rome so that I can continue writing my thesis.

 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.

 

 

May 30, 1993

 

My dearest G,


Ciao! It's past midnight. 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 Italy, was there. It so happens that it is also the 16th anniversary of my religious profession. So I can boast that the pope and the president of Italy were present when  I celebrated it. Anyway, I'm very grateful to God for the gift of vocation and the grace of perseverance. As I told you before, being faithful to the commit­ment I  made is not that easy. That's why dreaming about being able to celebrate my diamond jubilee is an act of faith and hope.

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.

 Congratulations for 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 Berkeley (California) four years ago. As you know, the reason why I was sent for post-graduate studies is to prepare myself for formation work. It would seem that I am "condemned" to this kind of work for the rest of my religious life.

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 offered in Cebu every summer (usually after easter week) at the Redemptor­ist Holy Family Retreat House. It is conducted by a team headed by Fr. Calpotura, SJ of the Emmaus Center. The participants are mostly formators coming from the different parts of the Philippines and Asia. When I  did the FIS in 1987, there was a Poor Clare formator from Cebu who attended it. If you are interested just tell me and I'll give you the details of how to apply for it.

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 bought in New York last Christmas. It is a very fascinating story of her life. It is poetic rather than a strict historical account. I like it very much and I have re-read it several times.  I'm sharing it with you and your community. I'm going to tell you a secret.  Among the women saints, St. Clare is my favorite. I became fascinated with her after seeing the movie about St. Francis more than 20 years ago. Last year when I went to Assisi, I prayed at her tomb. And you know what I asked from her? That she would send me a true friend -- a soul friend, someone with whom I can relate deeply and intimately without endangering my celibacy.  I made that prayer at a time in my life when I felt so lonely. Friends were difficult to find. My close friends in the past had become so distant. Friendships that I thought could last a lifetime became simply bittersweet memories.  And so I asked St. Clare for the gift of friendship and waited for a long time. She finally answered my prayer -- with some humor. She gave me a hidden friend  that I can neither see nor touch (Clare must have made sure that I don't have to worry about my celibacy!). I think you are the answer to my prayer. 


 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.

 

Company

                                                     

Night.

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.


 

 

July 27, 1993

 

Dear Karl,

Warm greetings!  It's summer and everybody is  out of Rome to escape the heat. Senen is in Paris studying French and many of the Poles and the Latin Americans are in Ireland to learn English. The only guys in the collegio maggiore crazy enough to stay around and work on their dissertation are a Mexican doing a doctorate in scripture and yours truly.

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.   

 


August 26, 1993

 

Dearest  G,

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 Philippines a few days from now. It so happens that she is staying in a monastery just across the street. So I accompanied Pons to visit her. I couldn't resist asking her if she would bring this  package to you.

Last August 11, I went to Assisi for the celebration of Clare's 7th centenary of birth. I made sure that I could be there for the 11 a.m. opening liturgy at the Basilica of St. Clare. When I arrived I discovered that the main celebration will be on the following day. So after praying at the tomb of Clare, I walked up to Mt. Subasio to visit the hermitage of St. Francis (Eremo del carcere). The place is so beautiful and peaceful -- it reminded me of the hermitage I built in Busay. In the afternoon I was able to join the Vigil Mass for St. Clare but I didn't stay until the end since I had to rush back to the train station to catch the last trip for Rome.

As I promised, I am again sending you a couple of books that might be helpful in your formation work. Johnston's book Being in Love: Practice of Christian Prayer is  the best book about prayer that I have read recently. Cencini's Psychology and Formation will perhaps help you understand the use of psychology in the formation process. I was wondering if you already have a copy of this splendid booklet Clare of Assisi: Light for the Way, anyway just to be sure I'm sending you one.

So all the best in your new assignment.  I remember you constantly in my prayers. Please continue to pray for me.

 

Ciorani, October 6, 1993

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 Alphonsian places: Napoli, Materdomini and Scala. Tomorrow we will be going to Pagani where Alphonsus spent his last years and where he was buried.

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 Naples. This was the dominant motivation when he founded the Congregation. Even the location of the Redemptorist houses was based on this option. For him, to opt for the poor meant to be incarnated among the poor, to live in the world of the poor.

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.

 

October 23, 1993

 

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 part of Italy (Ciorani). I was attending the Alphonsian Spirituality Course and touring the original places where the Congregation was founded. Nobody knew it was my birthday and I was too shy to announce the good news to everyone. So I had to celebrate it quietly and alone. Anyway, I have decided to stop counting the years and just count my blessings. I can't believe that I am about to turn 40. I don't feel like a middle-ager, in fact I feel ten years younger. But I can't deny that age is catching up with me. My hairline is receding and I'm 15 pounds overweight. Last month my blood pressure reading was 160/100 -- that's too high. Sometimes I feel some chest pains but I just ignore it, hoping that it's the product of my imagination. I haven't run a marathon for the last three years -- I can no longer run faster and farther  as I used to. The youthful vitality and idealism is fading. I have become more and more aware of my own mortality. It is difficult to admit it but I am at the noontime of my life.

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 Berkeley, California four years ago. She received her doctorate from the Gregorian University.  In the proceedings of the Carondelet Conference, The Future of Religious Life there is a chapter written by a Poor Clare sister which you might find helpful. Joseph Rayes' Living Religious Life, is also excellent. It is less academic and more experiential. Being a Franciscan, his ideas on Religious life is probably closer to yours. Nemeck & Coombs' Called by God: A Theology of Vocation and Lifelong Commitment is a bit heavy but it is useful for a deeper understanding of vocation. I'll send you some more next time. Please don't hesitate to tell me what kind of books you need in your library. Don't worry about the payment, it's my gift to you and your community. There are a lot of generous "Warays"  in Rome who come to our Filipino Center every week. If there are other favors you want to ask, don't hesitate to tell me -- "your wish is my command."


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 Philippines. It is a relevant topic since the main pastoral thrust of the Church in the Philippines is building BECs. There is an effort to build small faith-communities in all the parishes and to make each parish a network of BECs. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines has recommended that the building of the BECs be vigorously promoted. The Catholic Bishops' Conference has been asked to make an official statement regarding the nature of the BECs. It was recommended that the BECs as a subject be taught in the seminary. So what I am doing is to help in the process of clarifying what the BECs are from a Church perspective. Hopefully this work will help the bishops, priests, religious and lay workers understand more deeply the BECs. In this thesis I will also be drawing a lot from my own pastoral experience of helping build BECs for over a decade.

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.

 

 

October 30, 1993

 

Dear Karl,

Thanks for the update  regarding your struggle  in Mahayag to protect the environment. I am reminded once again of our experience in San Fernando. I wish I am there with you rather than being here spending most of my time working on my dissertation. I hope your recent trip to Australia helped generate support in the lobby against the dam project.


I can understand very well what you shared in your previous letter (dear Carolina and Nikki). Like you, I am also starting to face the midlife issues. It is a time of grief. Saying goodbye to everything that is associated with our youth involves grief. The greatest sadness is the awareness that we may not be able to realize our utopian dreams. I think this is the crisis our generation is facing today. Like you, I have also realized that I have really done very little.  But since my expectation about what I could accomplish was not that high, I am not too frustrated. It is like watching a glass with water -- it can either be half-empty or half-full. Karl, even if you think you haven't done much, in the eyes of many people (that includes me), you already have really done a lot. The history of the Mindanao-Sulu Church cannot be written without your name etched on it. While reviewing materials (books and documents) for my dissertation I have often come across your name. The quantity and quality of books and articles you have written at this point is amazing (I doubt if I can do the same thing in my whole lifetime). We should not discount the San Fernando experience which has become a model for the people's struggle for the integrity of creation. You should not forget the significant effect you have on others (including me) with your gift of friendship. Instead of looking at things that are left undone or of dreams that have not been fulfilled, I think it is important to also look at the impact of the little things we have done. Whenever I am tempted to despair at how little my accomplishment is, I only have to remember the tiny pebble tossed into the stream causing ripples or the  drop of rain that falls on parched land or on a flower. A most recent scientific theory  called "chaos theory" states that a butterfly flapping its wing can trigger a storm latter on. Because everything and everyone is interconnected and interrelated, whatever we do, no matter how little, will have a significant effect although we might not see it immediately.

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.

 

 

November 13, 1993

 

Dear Claro,

Greetings from the Eternal City! It's getting colder here and the golden leaves are on the ground. The weather is just unpredict­able. One minute the sun is out and then suddenly it rains. The days are getting shorter -- it's only five thirty in the afternoon but it is already dark.


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 Rome is really an international community. It is the biggest Redemptorist community in the world.

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 Rome on your way to England.

 

 

December 6, 1993

 

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.

 

 

December 4, 1993

 

Carissima Veronica,


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 Philadelphia is so far away from Rome and I would have trouble asking permission and money from my superiors. Anyway, I will remember you in my prayers and masses especially on that special day. My hope and prayer for both of you is that may your love continue to grow and deepen through the years and may you be able to celebrate your golden wedding anniversary.

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 Chile two decades ago. I was also asked to share my own experience of violence (my torture and imprisonment, the brutal death of my mother) and my participation in the non-violent struggle. I remembered the vow of non-violence that we made with the Pax Christi in Berkeley two years ago.

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!

 

 

December 7, 1993

 

Dear Karl,


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 Rome."  Although  there's some truth to it, the rumor was highly exaggerated. Yes, I've really been depressed -- I've been through the normal process of grieving. I had difficulty going to sleep, I was again afraid of sleeping alone in the dark, I had nightmares. But I have been able to bounce back. The period of mourning is over and I will ritually celebrate it during my father's 1st death anniversary next month.

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 Samar. Last year after I learned from a common friend that she was making her final profession, I sent her a card. A few months later  I received a Christmas letter from her and that began our regular correspondence. We have become very intimate friends in spite of the distance that separates us. I can easily share my inmost thoughts and feelings with her. In my darkest moments after my Father's death her letters and prayers became my source of consolation and joy. She is a person who makes me feel lovable, who brings out the best in me, who makes me laugh, who brings me out from my shell and self-centeredness. You know, one of the questions that has haunted me in relation to God is being answered through her: "Is it possible to love and be loved by someone whom you can neither see nor touch?" I am very thankful to God for this gift of friendship and I hope that this will last  a lifetime.

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.

 

 

December 13, 1993

 

Dearest G,


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 Samar. The choir will be joining a choral contest next Sunday and they will also be singing during the Christmas liturgy at our church of Sant'Alfonso.


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.

 

 

A Psalm of Longing

 

"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.

 

 

January 20, 1994

 

Dear Karl,

Louie just told me that he is going to the Philippines and will be visiting the RIMC (Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Community) in Mahayag. So I am hurriedly writing these few lines to say hello. I hope you  receive my Christmas card. Thanks for the Christmas greetings.

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 San Fernando. Instead of giving a talk, I read the narrative poem that I wrote entitled: The Epic of San Fernando.  Everyone liked the poem and the JP Commission reproduced it and distributed it to the participants.

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.

 

 


February 14, 1994

 

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.

 

 

April 2, 1994

 

Dear Auring,

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 Davao to teach.


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 Berkeley is and you will be wishing that you can stay for another year. Don't be surprised, that's what everyone feels. The question that many ISWers ask by this time is: Is there life after ISW? You will be going back to the real world and the real Church with all their imperfections. You need to prepare yourself for re-entry (like the astronauts preparing for landing). Otherwise, you will have difficulty adjusting to reality and you will find yourself angry and depressed  living in an imperfect world, an imperfect Church, an imperfect religious community.

Please extend my Easter greetings to our friends there -  Mila & Dan, Ruth & Sean, and Claire.

 

 

April 25, 1994

 

Dear Karl,

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 Rome revising the chapters and preparing the final draft. I want to make the defense before the end of the year or at least the early part of 1995. I have already been scheduled to teach Ecclesiology and Missiology in Davao by March 1995.

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 Rome or to go to the movies. I also run every other day. It's a joy running around the Colosseum, the  Circo Massimo, and along the banks of the Tiber River.

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.

 

 

April 30, 1994

 

Dearest G,

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 Assisi and then spend several weeks in Ireland.

Sorry to hear about your ailment.  I'll be praying for your complete recovery during my pilgrimage.

 

 

September 14, 1994

 

Dear Claro,

Shuresh and Mervyn are leaving for England tomorrow so I thought of  writing a few lines just to say hello.

I'm glad to hear that you had an exciting time in the US. The "wilderness retreat" was something that I would have enjoyed. I first heard about it from a book I read last year, Patrick Arnold's Wildmen, Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible. I hope someday you can organize something like that in Mt. Apo or Mt. Kan-irag. I'd be glad to join. It is something a lot of young men as well as middle-age men would enjoy.

I've had my own experience as a "wild man" and a "pilgrim" this summer. In July, I walked from Rome to CastelGandolfo and slept in the woods near the Pope's summer residence. In August, I walked alone from Rome to Assisi for six days (180 km). I slept in the open fields and camp grounds, "sotto le stelle," (under the stars). I also slept and at the steps outside a couple of  basilicas. I carried with me a pack, a sleeping bag and a tent. I was like a tramp. I was stopped by the carabinieri along the way and they asked for my identification. They couldn’t believe that I was priest walking alone from Rome to Assisi on a hot summer. I arrived in Assisi in time for the celebration of St. Clare's eight centennial birthday.


While in Ireland, POC told me that you were coming in September. I'm sorry I missed you. The weather was just perfect at that time -- very little rain. I was around when the IRA declared its historic cease-fire. I left Ireland on September 6. When I arrived in Rome, my  notebook-computer was stolen while I was waiting for a train to the city. I've been trying to recover from my depression ever since and at present I'm trying to revise the final draft of my dissertation on a borrowed computer.

I might be able to defend my dissertation before Christmas or by January at the latest. I hope to be back in the Philippines on or before February. So  I hope we can have our "class reunion" (You, Senen and myself) during the Christmas break.

So all the best in your course in St. Anselm. Advance happy birthday (November 9) -- we're entering the roaring forties. See you soon.

 

October 6, 1994

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 Petra. I shared the ice cream with Senen and some confreres in the fourth floor. During lunch time the Father Rector announced that today is my birthday and everybody sang the "Tanti Auguri" while the chef rolled in the cart with the birthday cake. After lunch I received  a phone call from my sister Nonie from Iligan. In the evening I celebrated my birthday at Nita's apartment with Josie, Inday, Susan, Bonnie and the others.

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 Rome. The series of birthday celebrations is a sign of how much others care for me. They make me feel that I am loved.

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.

 

Noontime

 

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

completely.

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

more attractive

and lovable within.

The clock tolls.

It's already midday.

 

October 21, 1994

 

Dearest G,

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 Rome most of the time working on my doctoral dissertation. In August, I went on a walking pilgrimage to Assisi. It took me six days to walk from Rome to Assisi. I slept most of the time under the stars -- either in the open field or outside the churches.  Near Acquasparta, a priest brought me to a Poor Clare monastery where the sisters were celebrating a Triduum in honor of St. Clare. I was able to meet the Abbess and some members of the community after the evening liturgical celebration. We had a late night refreshment.  They were so wonderful! I reached Assisi on  the eve of the Feast of St. Clare. I spent the night in vigil outside the Basilica of St. Clare and in the early morning of her feast I attended the Eucharist in front of her tomb. 

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.

 

December 15, 1994

 

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 held in Washington. This will probably be helpful for your novices and your community. It is very good. I like most of all the talk of Sr. Mary Francis. It has helped me appreciate more the charism of Clare and the way of life of her daughters. She is a saint that I admire so much. Of course, you remind me of her. You probably don't realize how much both of you have touched and influenced my life so deeply.  There is so much that I am learning from you -especially the value of contemplative life and the radical witness of evangelical poverty.


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!  

 

January 31, 1995

 

Dear Abdon,

Greetings! I recently received the good news that I can defend my dissertation on February 23 at 4:00 pm.  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 Rome marathon (March 12). Of course, the remaining time will also be spent in saying goodbye to friends and for the series of despedidas. Most likely I'll be in Cebu the first week of April.  See you then.

 

 

March 28, 1995

 

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 Philippines.  Last month, on February 23, 1995, I finally defended my doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University.  There were over 90 friends and confreres who came to witness the grueling defense and to provide support.  I was granted the doctoral degree in Sacred Theology, magna cum laude. On March 12, 1995 I ran the Rome City Marathon -- a 42.2 kilometer road race along the beautiful streets and piazzas of Rome.  There were over 5,000 runners who participated and I finished 2,803rd place (my slowest record -- I'm getting old).  Thus, I have finished my dissertation and received my degree, I have run the race and reached the finish line and now it is time for me to go home.

I'll be leaving Rome after Easter.  I will be in Manila by April 20.  I'll be spending several weeks in Cebu and Iligan and then report to Davao on the last week of May.  Classes begin in June.

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 Rome and to my friends here.  Rome is a city that I have learned to like.  There is so much beauty here -- not only the women but also the place.  I suppose that I have to go through a process of grieving.  Yet the idea of going back to our country and starting a new chapter of my life in Davao also fills me with excitement.  There is so much to be done.  I'll probably be spending the next decade or two helping  form a new generation of Redemptorists.  I will also be doing a lot of theologizing from the local situation.  There are very few theologians in my country and I hope to contribute to the development of a local and contextualized theology.

Well, time to sign off now.  Please continue to pray for me.  I constantly remember you in my prayers.