Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holy Family (A) - Get Up!

Mt 2:13-15, 19-23
December 29, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Flight to and Return from Egypt
When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”


I was struck by this passage from the Gospel according to Matthew:“So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave.” Get up”, what a powerful word and command used by an angel of God to the family of Jesus. “Get up” means salvation and is equivalent to “Faith and Hope". This is always what I say to my patients: "Have faith and never cease hoping that God will heal you. Get up, get up, you can do it!"

As a pastoral care worker, I always visit the sick most especially the seriously and terminally ill patients. In one of my visitation, I met Dave, 23 years old, single, and shy but a jolly person. His parents were there, taking turns in caring for him, although, both are working the whole day. My frequent visit made him to open up and shared to me about his life and his illness. They are not a close-knit family; they seldom see and gather together due to their busy schedules. He talks to them when he needs something or when there are issues that need their approval. Most often, he spends his time with his friends or ”barkadas” doing lots of “gimmicks” every night and one of this is going to a gay bar. From there, he learned how to earn easy money and to obtain properties. At first, he was reluctant and afraid to do it, but later on, he indulged himself in drinking hard liquor and in a gay relationship not only with one but with several partners. He was so happy and felt love and could buy anything he wants. Although occupied with so much works, his parents still attend to his needs and advise him to curb his night out with his friends and focus more on his studies. The influence of his friends and obsession led him to ignore his parents’ warning and advice. Eventually, he got sick and weak. He thought that it was just a common fever until wounds and pus came out of his external genitalia. He open up to his parents and brought him at once to the hospital. Several examinations were done and he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. His health deteriorated and his parents were very shock and sad about it. They have heard about HIV/AIDS except that they are not well informed. The attending physician explained to them everything and what precautions to be made.

Learning about his condition, I’m happy to share to him what I have learned in our seminars about issues on HIV/AIDS. During my daily visit, I did my best to explain to him and to his parents about HIV/AIDS. I told him that the source of his illness is through sexual contact with many partners regardless of their gender. And I added that another way of transmission is through mother-to-child transfer either during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding or through blood transfusion. It can also be transmitted through needle stick injury or from tattooing. And I emphasized to him that there is no transmission of HIV through coughing, sneezing, mosquito bites, swimming in the same pool, using the same toilet bowl, kissing, hugging, and eating at the same table or from the same plate or drinking from the same glass. The people around were surprised and relieved because they thought that they cannot be with people and need to be isolated totally.  The disease is contagious to some extent. My knowledge and understanding of this disease, helps me to be bold and confident and encourage many to “get up” and not to “give up”. God gave us “will power” in order to live. Faith in Him is needed. Remember when Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are heavily burden and I will give you rest …” When I received complaints regarding discrimination, I talked and enlightened our medical staff about this matter and even advised them to treat HIV/AIDS patients with dignity, compassion and respect.

As Christians, we are made in the image and likeness of God including those affected with different contagious diseases.  I suggested the family to bring Dave to San Lazaro Hospital where free medication is given and where all the victims are housed together. There are religious and lay volunteers who help in educating and treating their illness in all aspects: physical, emotional, etc. While confined in our hospital, Dave is slowly recovering, he also receives Christ back in his heart through the sacraments, daily communion, blessing of the sick and counseling. Dave recognized his mistake, realized and felt the love of his parents to him and determined to help himself to recovery and even encourage his friends to undergo treatment without fear and anxiety.

As a recommendation, I told him to live a chaste life, dedicate one’s life to Christ through service to others, prayer, frequent attendance at Mass, etc., to foster a spirit of fellowship, support and help others and be good example to others. For Dave, he can say “I’m home” not only to himself but also in the arms of his parents and our Savior Jesus Christ.

SR. CORAZON DE LEON, OP is a member of the Congregation of the Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic. She is a Sister Chaplain of the Pastoral Care Service of UST Hospital in Manila. She can be contacted though her e-mail at 


Christmas, Cycle A, OP Sisters, HIV, AIDS, Motivation, Pastoral Care, Hospital

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas (A) - The Best Story

Stories shape us. They shape our thoughts, our perceptions and our responses to the world.  In this Yuletide season, we may be enthralled with Christmas stories. Every year, Christmas stories became more and more popular together with ornamented Christmas tree, Christmas gifts, and the overall Christmas spirit. Christmas stories are important tools for spreading good spirit of Christmas. Actually, it is said that when Charles Dickens wrote his story in the 18th century, A Christmas Carol, the celebration of Christmas was on the wane.  But he used his story to describe Christmas as a time of love, a time of joy, a time when people respect each other, and a time when everything goes well.

For the kids, a famous holiday story is that of Santa Claus, referred also as Saint Nicholas in European communities. Saint Nicolas has been known in European tradition and religious history as the courier of gifts and prosperity.  The modern-day image of Santa Claus, which depicts good old Santa Claus in red robes happily singing while riding on his flying reindeer-driven sleigh, was featured as a TV ad by Coca-Cola during the 1970s, and it has stuck in the minds of children and grownups alike up until now.

There are also Christmas stories about the personal lives of famous people and even celebrities, and some have been shown as movies. There are even  stories about the childhood holiday memories of various people that have been written on books so as to share their experiences with the world. A widely popular book about an individual’s personal holiday experiences is ‘The Christmas Story’ by Jean Shepherd and  released as a movie during the early 1980s.

The purpose of Christmas stories is to capture the spirit of the season often with touching stories about the miracles related to Christ’s birth. Many of these stories, even the modern ones, have become a part of the Christmas traditions in many countries.  

The greatest of all Christmas stories is of course the story about Jesus’ birth. For me, it is the best story of love...the story for falling in love...the story for staying in love. Every time we read stories, we are on a journey of discovery. In the story of the Nativity, we are invited to join Mary and Joseph in their journey of discovery. When  Joseph and Mary are looking up at the baby in the manger, they invite us to share in their great joy. And this great joy is the good news for all people, ‘… and he came for us’.  When Joseph and Mary are nestling the baby, they invite us to cuddle the child in our arms  because he is ours, too. When Joseph and Mary are gazing the child’s face, they invite us to let him lock eyes with us, so that he can search our hearts - to fall in love with him and to stay in love with him.

Obviously, after reading stories, we responded in one way or the other - we cry, laugh, shudder, wince, frown, sigh, sulk and many more. When our hearts seize the real message of the story of Nativity, we allow the little child to be the light of our lives- to shine his glory and his mercy into every corner and dark place in us, so as to bring his light in all darkness of sin, confusion, fear and hatred. And this is the most beautiful act of response we could give to the story of Jesus’ birth.

John 1:9 says, ‘He is the true light which enlightens everyone’. If we allow the Light to take hold of our lives, we could discover in our journey that his light will never be extinguished.

In one of our relief works, I came to know Buboy, a family man whose house was ruthlessly damaged by typhoon Yolanda. He has six children and he drives a tricycle for a living. One of my companion sisters made an effort to look for Buboy at the evacuation area. This sister of mine  in the convent could not forget his kindness. When she was a high school student, Buboy was the tricycle driver who patiently waited for her dismissal every day. When we visited the devastated area where Buboy resides, most of the houses were powdered by the super typhoon. It was so heart breaking.  Buboy managed to repair his house with the help of the aid and with his little knowledge in carpentry. A week before Christmas we visited the place again and we were surprised to see many of the damaged houses were partially repaired. Houses have roofs already so they are not staying in tents anymore.  One of their unsung heroes was Buboy. We came to know that he repaired too quickly his house so he could help hapless families, too. We affirmed him and with a grin he said in Karay’a; “Mu dya lang makaya ko ma’krismas kananda sister”. (Only this I could give them this Christmas sister.) Buboy has a deeper understanding of what this Christmas all about.

I believe this is only one of the many Christmas stories you could hear or read. There would be more hundred Christmas stories that can be told and could shape other lives if we chose to stay in love with the little child in the manger.  Indeed, the true Light empowers us to be a light for others, too!

 Start telling now your Christmas stories.

A blessed Christmas and a grace-filled New Year!

SR. FILIAM ANN E. SEVILLENA, OP is the Vocation Directress of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines, Molo, Iloilo City and a student of Institute of Preaching of the Dominican Province of the Philippines.


Christmas, Cycle A, OP Sisters, Special, 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pagtawag, Pagtugon

Pagtawag, Pagtugon
Pagninilay sa Araw ng Katolikong Layko, Pagpupugay 
para kay San Lorenzo Ruiz at Beato Pedro Calungsod
ika-28 ng Setyembre 2012

Maayong hapon kaninyong tanan! Isang bisayang pagbati po ng magandang hapon para sa inyong lahat. His Eminence Most Rev. Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, His Excellency, Bishop Jessie Mendoza, Her Excellency Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, Rev. Fr. Roberto Luanzon, OP, Reverend Bishops, Reverend Fathers, dear sisters, missionaries and catechists, distinguished guests, our dear young people, grace abounds! Unworthy as I am, I feel very honored and truly grateful for having been invited to share to you my experience as a lay Dominican volunteer to Indonesia. Ako po ay magsisimula sa ngalan ng Ama, at ng Anak, at ng Espiritu Santo. Amen.
Karamihan po sa atin ay alam na si San Lorenzo Ruiz ay tubong Binondo. Samantalang marami ang mga naisusulat tungkol sa pinagmulan ni Beato Pedro Calungsod. Nariyang siya ay galing Panay, o Leyte, o Samar. Pero mas malapit raw na sa Cebu ang pinangagalingan niya dahil sa apelyido nitong Calungsod. Malapit rin po sa puso ko na tanggaping siya ay taga-Cebu; baka kako iisa lang ang lugar ng aming kapanganakan. 

Ang palayaw ko po ay Jho; ipinanganak sa Mandaue, Cebu; lumaki sa bayan ng Heneral Santos sa Mindanao; at dito na po sa Maynila nagkolehiyo at nagkatrabaho.

Nais ko pong hatiin sa tatlong puntos ang aking pagbabahagi: una, ay ang pagtawag; ikalawa ay ang pagtugon; at ikatlo ay ang mga aral na natutunan mula sa pagtugon sa tawag.

Ang Pagtawag
Ang simula raw ng pagmimisyon ay isang pagtawag. Tatawagin ka at ipapadala. Hindi nga ba’t tinawag ni Hesus ang mga apostoles at ipinadala sa mga bayan-bayan? Si San Pedro Calungsod ay tinawag ni Padre Diego para samahan siya sa Marianas. Si San Lorenzo, tinawag ng mga paring dominikano at napadpad sa Japan.

Ang kwento ko po ay malayo sa pagiging ekstra-ordinaryo. Nahihirapan po akong aminin na ako’y tinawag. Hindi po ako tinawag. Nagprisinta po ako. It was in the year 2004, when I first heard of the Dominican Volunteers International (DVI) through Rev. Fr. Clarence Victor Marquez, OP, then Promoter of the Dominican Missions here in the Philippines and Jemely Mesa, a close friend from General Santos City who was the first Filipino lay volunteer to Indonesia. She was telling me how enriching her experience was, that she learned many things from it, and that she has found herself there. Noong kinukwento niya sa akin ‘yun, parang bigla kong naramdamang nawawala din ang sarili ko, at nais ko ring hanapin, at baka dun ko nga mahahanap. I would like to confess that I was excited to volunteer not for any other reasons, but because of the very inviting idea of going to another country. ‘Yun lang po ang dahilan. Parang nakakahiya namang aminin na tinawag ako hindi po ba? Nagprisinta lang talaga ako. 

Mula noon, hindi na mawaglit sa aking isipan ang magmisyon, para makapangibang-bayan. Parang may bumubulong sa akin at nagsasabing, “Sige na, umalis ka. Para doon ka, makikita mo ang sarili mo doon.” Sa aking pagninilay, hindi ko po maipaliwanag ng lubusan kung ano nga ba ang aking narinig. Kung totoo nga bang may naririnig ako. Kung totoo nga bang tinatawag ako? Paano nga ba malalaman ‘yun? 

Nagdaan pa ang isang taon, hindi po ako nakaalis. Marahil ay hindi ako nagseryoso. Mas pinili kong magtrabaho. May hinawakan akong malaking responsibilidad sa Letran-Calamba noon kaya naisip kong mahirap magpaalam sa trabaho. Galing po ako sa mahirap na pamilya, panganay ako sa limang magkakapatid. Kinailangan kong tumulong sa mga magulang para mapagtapos sila. Iyon din ang isa sa dahilan kung bakit hindi ako natuloy. At marahil dahil hindi nga talaga ako tinatawag. 

Masaya na ako sa pagtuturo. Pinalad na malipat dito sa University of Santo Tomas (UST) ng taong 2005, at naipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral. Nakapagtapos ang mga kapatid ko. Nakalimutan ko na ang pagnanais kong magmisyon para makapangibang-bayan. Hanggang dumating ang isang pagsubok sa buhay personal at sa trabaho. Taong 2008, gusto ko nang iwan ang pagtuturo. Hindi ko ginustong maging guro. Pangarap kong maging abogado. Kaya lang, hindi nga ako kayang pag-aralin ng mga magulang ko sa malalaking eskwelahan. Salamat sa Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, sa kanila ako nag aral mula kinder hanggang High School at nung magkokolehiyo na’y nabigyan ng scholarship sa kursong Bachelor in Secondary Education major in Religious Education minor in English literature sa Mother Francisca Catechetical and Missionary Formation Institute sa Siena College, Quezon City.  

Nakapagtapos ako sa kursong Edukasyon. Tinawag nga ba ako sa pagtuturo, sa pagiging katekista? Parang hindi rin, parang nagkataon lang na may scholarship ako, no choice ika nga. Salamat at nakapagtrabaho ako sa malaking pamantasan; subalit ‘pag dumadating ang mga pagsubok sa trabaho, ginugusto kong iwan ang pagtuturo. May mga pagkakataon noon na tinatanong ko ang Diyos: “Bakit nangyayari to, Lord. Bakit ako nahihirapan? Bakit ako”? Puro ako tanong noon, ang nakalimutan kong itanong, “para saan po ang lahat ng ito, Lord?” 

I was at the most disillusioned part of my life that year, when the international promoter of DVI visited the Philippines. It was April of 2008 when Sr. Rose Ann, OP came to invite volunteers to mission. I presented myself. I wanted to leave. I wanted to escape. I was not called, I volunteered.

But God has His ways, His mysterious ways.

When I was asked where I would want to be sent, without hesitation, I responded “anywhere, where there is a need.” I said the words without second thoughts. I just wanted to go. After careful deliberation on the promoter’s end, I was told that I’d be sent to Indonesia. I was told that the sisters needed someone to help them in their school apostolate. Sr. Rose told me that whenever I would be ready, Indonesia’s ready to receive me.

When I asked permission from my parents, they hesitated to give their support. My parents told me that I should purify my intentions before finally deciding to go. Fears started to creep in. Gusto ko ba talagang magmisyon, o gusto ko lang tumakas? Naalala ko ang kwento ng propetang si Jonah sa Bibliya: hindi nga ba’t hindi niya ginusto na ipadala siya sa Nineveh? Tumakas siya, pero sa hinaba-haba ng kwento, iniluwa din siya sa lugar kung saan ninais ng Diyos na pumaroon siya. Ang kwento ni San Lorenzo, hindi man napatunayang totoo, subalit ang pagtakas niya sa isang kasong kriminal na ibinintang sa kanya ang nagtulak sa kanyang magmisyon sa ibang bayan. Wala naman akong kasong pagpatay o anumang kasong kriminal, subalit dumating lang sa bahagi ng buhay ko noon na gusto kong tumakas, ninais kong magpahinga muna sa pagtuturo. Ang hindi ko inasahan, makakapagpahinga nga ako, sa ibang bayan, oo, pero hindi sa pagtuturo. 

Tumakas lang ako. Hindi ako Tinawag. Naalala ko ang isang kwentuhan namin ng kaibigan ko tungkol kay Hesus at ang isang daang tupa, siya raw iyong tupang tangan-tangan ni Hesus. Nung tinanong niya ako kung saan ako dun, nasabi ko na lang, “kailangan pa bang i-memorize yan?” Hindi naman siguro ako nawawala pero ako yung nagpapahabol. “Habulin niyo ako, Lord; dali, Lord, bilis.” Hindi ako tinawag, nagpahabol ako.  

But God has His ways. He has His mysterious ways.  

While I was preparing this reflection that I am sharing to you this afternoon, I realized some good things. Are these God’s ways? As I was reflecting, I could only stand in awe at how God’s hands work in my life.  I never wanted to become a teacher. But here I am today. And if I may recall my High School days, I was not really good in academics way back. I would always find joy in extra-curricular activities. I never received an academic award, but I graduated with a leadership award, and “the Catechist of the Year award.” Yes. I was a student catechist since first year High School. I would remember coming to class late after recess because most of my recess periods were spent teaching catechism in the public school, a kilometer away from my school. I was happy doing things, not really because I so wanted to teach, but because I never really wanted to attend either my Mathematics or Science subjects which were usually scheduled after recess. Tumakas na naman ako. A nice escape, though, I could remember very vividly the happy times that I spent with the little kids, who would happily wait for me at the door, and how they would participate actively in the prayers and the songs that I would teach them. Katekista ako. Isa akong guro.

God has His ways. His mysterious ways. 

Ang Pagtugon
May kanya-kanyang paraan nga siguro ang pagtawag ng Diyos. At may samu’t saring kwento din ang pagtugon. 

Because I was not really convinced with my very reason of going, it took me months to discern. I had been praying, yes. But, perhaps, I had not prayed enough. My closest friends told me to ask for signs. I told God that I did not want to pray for signs not because I do not believe in them, but because I do not know how to read them. Nevertheless, I continued praying for guidance. A month, two months, three months… then saying “yes” happened at an unplanned time. I was waiting for a friend at around 5 in the afternoon. We were going somewhere and agreed to meet up in front of the UST chapel. But for some reasons, it seems that I waited for eternity, so I decided to get inside the chapel while the mass was going on. I was not really disposed for the Eucharistic celebration, so I was just there at the back sitting silently. After communion, the priest-presider introduced a concelebrant.  And I could never forget how he was introduced. I quote, “We have with us Fr. Robini, OP, an Indonesian priest who is here today to invite young people to help in the Dominican missions in Indonesia.” Is this a sign? I heard myself asking the question. It was August 6, the feast of the Transfiguration. Before I stood up and left the chapel, I whispered, “Yes, Lord, I will go!” 

Permission was granted, papers were processed. On October 14, 2008, during my send-off mass, Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, OP, the then Father Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, in his homily, told me, “Joan, fall in love with Indonesia.”

I first set foot in Indonesia on October 18, 2008. I stayed in the Generalate House in Jakarta for almost a month in preparation for my work. It was the 15th day of November in 2008 when I was transferred to Cirebon, a Muslim-dominated town in West Java. 
Sa kumbento ako tumira. Habang pumapasok ako sa kumbento sa unang pagkakataon ay samu’t sari ang aking naramdaman. Hindi ko maipaliwanag. The first thing I noticed when I entered was “big” everything in the Sisters’ place the big trees, the big doors, the big rooms, the big laundry area, the big kitchen, big mosquitoes! Everything was big! I felt a certain kind of uneasiness. ‘Yun bang tipong sa mga pelikulang horror ko lang nakikita. Ni hindi nga ako nanonood ng pelikulang horror, dahil malakas ang imahinasyon ko. Iyon ang unang problemang kinaharap ko. Totoong may mga naranasan akong kakaiba, at nung kinuwento ko sa mga madre, sabi nila, hindi raw k’se ako nagpaalam na ililipat ko ang pwesto ng kama sa kwarto. Normal lang daw na maranasan ‘yun ng mga bagong salta. Nagkwento pa ang isang madre na noong una raw siyang dumating doon ay may tumawag sa kanya ng hatinggabi, hindi niya kilala, pero kilala siya; ‘pag ayaw raw niyang maniwala, lumabas siya at nasa may punong manga raw ang tumatawag. Eh, ang punong manga po na iyon ay nasa tapat na tapat ng kwarto ko! ‘Nay ko po! Hindi ko alam kung binibiro lang ako ng mga madre. Pero, unang araw ko pa lang sa kumbento, parang ayaw ko na, uuwi na yata ako!

But Indonesian people are naturally kind-hearted. The sisters warmly welcomed me in their home. Sa kabutihang ipinakita sa akin, unti-unti kong natutunang yakapin ang kanilang kultura. Sa kumbento, kasama ako sa halos lahat ng mga gawain ng mga madre. Sa gawaing-bahay, tuwing sabado’t linggo ay katulong ako sa pagluluto; may mga pagkakataong ipinagluluto ko sila ng mga paborito kong ulam Pinoy. Sa almusal, tanghalian at hapunan, kasama ko sila sa iisang hapag. Kasama ko sila sa araw-araw na misa sa kumbento tuwing ika-5:30 ng umaga, sa bawat dasal at pagninilay, morning prayers, evening praise at night prayer. Hanggang ngayon ay tandang-tanda ko pa ang unang bahasang dasal-awit na natutunan ko. Hayaan niyo pong awitin ko ang ilang linya, “ajarilah kami bahasa cinta mu, agar kami dekat pada mu Ya tuhan ku, ajarilah kami bahasa cinta Mu agar kami dekat pada mu” na sa wikang Filipino ay nangangahulugang: “turuan mo kami Panginoon sa wika ng Iyong pag-ibig, nang sa gayon ay lalo kaming mapalapit sa iyo.”

Naikot ko ang halos lahat ng kumbento ng mga madre. Mayroon silang labingtatlong kumbento, isa lang ang hindi ko napuntahan, iyong sa Flores Island na araw ang bibilangin sa biyahe. Tumira din ako ng ilang buwan at tumulong sa orphanage house ng mga madre. Nagkaroon din ako ng mga teaching-learning sessions sa kanila. May conversational English and Speech classes, at Catechism classes para sa mga madre, mga guro mula pre-School hanggang Highs School, para sa mga empleyado’t mga kasambahay namin sa kumbento, at sa mga estudyante ng  junior at senior High School. At meron din akong theater classes sa mga piling kabataan sa eskwelahan at sa pinakamalapit na parokya. Magkahalong muslim at katoliko ang mga estudyante ko, maliban lang sa Catechism classes. Kung hindi naman ako nagtuturo, ay makikita akong tumutulong sa canteen.  Paminsan - minsan naman sa kumbento  ay may mga simpleng dance lessons kami ng mga madre; kaya sa mga maiikling programa sa eskwelahan at parokya, may mga madre nang nagsasayaw. 

They learned from me, I learned from them. I learned a lot from them. Pagbalik ko nga rito, sa isang programang pasasalamat ng Institute of Religion para sa mga janitors at security guards tuwing Pasko dito sa UST, ay itunuro ko ang sayaw na poco-poco; natutunan ko ‘yun sa mga madre. Sa parokya ng Santa Teresita dito sa Mayon street kung saan may mga ilang sesyon ako sa mga kabataan, sa ilang sesyon ko sa mga kapatid ko sa Catechetical and Missionary Formation Institute sa Siena College, at sa ilang mga grupo ng mga katekista sa ilang panig ng bansa, ay nagagamit ko ang ilan sa mga natutunan ko sa Indonesia. They learned from me, I learned from them. I learned a lot from them. 

One of the most challenging yet enriching experiences that I would always cherish was my encounter with our Muslim friends. My encounter with them did not happen so much in the classroom but mostly outside work hours. Naimbitahan ako sa mga bahay nila, kumakaing kasama nila, nakikipagkuwentuhan; nasaksihan ko ang ilang mga rito tulad ng kasal at paglilibing. 

I remember one conversation I had with a Muslim friend. We were talking about faith. We were exchanging stories of beliefs and disbeliefs. And he told me, “Kalau disini, yang persoalan mu, bukan hanya persoalan horizontal tetapi lebih, persoalan bertical.” (The challenge for you here now is not anymore horizontal but vertical), He meant that the difficulties encountered with work and with people I am with are more challenging than the challenge of the faith. I could not agree less. In a predominantly Muslim country, the challenge really is not about human relationships, but keeping the faith alive, amidst other faiths.   

Language plays an important role in mission. I had to learn Bahasa to be able to communicate and gain people’s trust. I did not have time to study the language when I was here, because things happened very quickly then, kaya nahirapan ako noong simula. May mga pagkakataong ayaw ko nang makipag-usap noon, magturo na lang; bahala na kung naintindihan nila o hindi. Ang tahimik nila noong una, hindi dahil ayaw nilang magsalita, kung hindi nahihiya raw silang magkamali. I took it as a positive hint. Pipilitin kong mag bahasa, kahit hindi tama, makapagsalita lang, at matututunan ko rin ang tama. I told them how difficult it was for me to speak their language, but I had to try to communicate with them, so in the same manner, they might want to try to learn to speak English, too. In two month’s time, with all humility, I admit that I could already speak and understand Bahasa Indonesia with a certain degree of confidence. 

When the International Promoter, Sr. Rose Ann came to visit us in March of 2009, she was surprised to hear the sisters speak confidently to her. I could not forget her words, she said, “The last time I came, they could barely say a word, they would just give me a smile.” What a real joy to my heart, a sweet recognition of our joint efforts. Noon pong kaarawan ko, ‘pag gising ko, may mga cards na isiningit sa pintuan ko ang mga madre, nakasulat sa wikang Ingles. Tuwang-tuwa akong basahin. Ang mga estudyante ko ay naghanda ng maikling programa gamit ang mga tula at awiting Ingles A real joy to my soul.

Fr. Pedregosa was right. I have fallen in love.  Like the “big” everything in the Sisters’ convent, the people’s hearts are “big” enough to embrace the world - A truly great surprise to my soul and my heart became ever more ready for greater surprises.

Ang pagtugon ay naging biyaya ng Diyos. I realized then, that with the overwhelming joy of being with other people in another culture, of establishing friendships with people of another faith, I forgot the very first reason why I volunteered to go to Indonesia. I experienced peace amidst unrest. I realized that peace is not necessarily experienced after the storm, but can also be that calmness during the storm.  

Indeed, God knows us, and just at the right moment, He steps in!
Marahil nga ay tinatawag ako; ang hindi ko lang alam gawin ay kung paano sumagot sa tawag. Pero dahil kilala tayo ng Diyos, kung nahihirapan tayong sumagot, tutulungan Niya tayong sumagot. Napagtanto kong ang pagtugon sa tawag ay nakasalalay sa tiwalang ibinibigay natin sa Diyos.

Ito ang isang aral na natutunan ko sa pagtugon sa tawag. Ang pinakamabisang baon sa pagmimisyon ay tiwala sa dakilang pag-ibig ng Diyos. 

Ang Aral na Natutunan mula sa Pagtugon sa Tawag
Wala akong kakilala ni isang Dominikanong pari roon, sa pangalan ko lang sila nakilala. Nakikita ko sila noon sa seminaryo sa Letran sa Calamba. Noong nagsisimula pa lamang sila, naging magkapitbahay kami pero hindi kami nakakapag-usap. Akalain mong sa mismong bayan pala nila ko sila makakasalamuha. Tumutulong din ako sa mga paring Dominikano sa pagbibigay ng recollection sa mga paaralan. Naroon  ako noong binubuo ang Dominikan Awam, Bahasa for Tertiary of the Order of Preachers. Marami na akong nakilala’t nakasalamuha na noong simula’y walang-wala. Kung ika’y walang kakilala, mahirap iyon, hindi ba? Kaya nga siguro ang mga apostoles, pinadala ng dala-dalawa; si San Pedro may Padre Diego; si San Lorenzo, may mga paring Dominikano. Ako, mag-isang bumiyahe lulan ng eroplano. My Indonesian journey was a leap to the unknown a leap of faith. Ang natutunan ko ay magtiwala, magtiwala, magtiwala.

Ito rin marahil ang naging mabisang sandatang dala-dala ng ating huwarang mga Santo. Unworthy as I am to compare my little faith with the greatness of their faith in God, but my struggle to keep my faith alive, brings me down to my knees, always. 

Sabi nila, the more that we receive gifts from God, the more responsible He expects us to be. Sabi ko noon sa mga dasal ko: “Lord, please do not trust me this much.” Hindi ko na po kaya ang iba. Minsan puro na lang ako reklamo. May mga pagkakataong nakikita ko ang sarili kong gusto na ring sumuko. May mga hindi naiiwasang pagsubok ‘pag nasa ibang bayan ka at malayo sa pamilya, pagsubok sa mismong lugar kung nasaan naroon ka, at pagsubok mula sa lugar na iniwan mo. Sa isa sa mga pagninilay ko, naalala ko ang sinabi ni Santa Teresita ng Batang Hesus, “The gifts that are given to us are measured by the trust that we give God.” Napagtanto kong ang kakayahan natin ay nasusukat sa laki ng tiwala natin sa Diyos.

Naalala ko ang kwento ni Fr. Gerard Timoner, ang Prior Provincial ng Dominican Province of the Philippines, sa isa sa kanyang mga homiliya noong nagkaroon kami ng community service sa Naga para sa UST Simbahayan 400 (paumanhin ho, kung may mga ilang detalye akong makakalimutan). May ama raw na tinuturuan ang anak na harapin ang mga pagsubok sa buhay ng buong lakas. Dinala niya ang anak sa hardin, at inutusang itulak ang isang pirasong malaking kahoy ng kanyang buong lakas.  Itinulak ng anak sa unang pagkakataon, hindi niya kinaya. Pinaalala ng ama, “anak, itulak mo ng iyong buong lakas.” Sa pangalawang pagkakatao’y itinulak ulit, hindi pa rin kinaya. “Anak, naririnig mo ba ako? Itulak mo ng iyong buong lakas.” Sa ikatlong pagkakataon ay sumuko na ang anak. “Tay, hindi ko kaya.” Ang sabi ng ama, “Anak, hindi mo ako pinakinggan. Ang sabi ko itulak mo ng iyong buong lakas. Hindi mo kinaya, dahil kulang ang iyong lakas, hindi mo hiningi ang tulong ko.”

Sa mga oras na iyon, napagtanto kong sa bawat pagkakataon na pakiramdam ko ay hindi ko na kinakaya ang lahat, ay ang mga pagkakataong nakalimutan kong humingi ng tulong sa Diyos. Tiwala lang sa Diyos ang sandata. Maging si Santo Domingo noong nagmimisyon, malaking tiwala sa Diyos ang baon. Naalala ko ang isang kwento tungkol sa pagmimisyon niya sa bayan ng mga heretikong Albigensiano. Isang gabi ay nakituloy siya sa isang bahay at ang may-ari ay nakipagdebate sa kanya magdamag. Naging malumanay si Santo Domingo, naging bukas sa pakikipag-usap, at bago tuluyang humiwalay ang gabi sa umaga, nahimok niya ang kadebate, nagbagong loob. The Dominican way to mission is kindness, openness and trust in the Lord. 

I had to choose leaving a young professional’s lifestyle, a relatively favored salary for a period of one year. Sa kabutihang loob ng mga madre, binibigyan ako ng allowance para sa mga personal na pangangailangan, shampoo, sabon, toothpaste, etc. na nagkakahalaga ng limang daang libo buwan-buwan. Limang daang libong rupiah, o P2,500.00. Pero ni minsan hindi ko naramdamang kulang ito.  There was not a single moment that I remember needing anything. I was fully embraced by God’s providence and people’s generosity.

When I told my closest friends of my plan to take a leave of absence without pay, some of them gave me that “you-will-not-be-able-to-survive” look. The decision was unpopular. Leaving families and friends, and old ways behind – unconventional, but there is one thing I learned, trust in God, and you will see the pain of detachment as a blessing.

Kinailangan kong lumayo para lumapit. Kinailangan kong mawalan para magkaroon.

My Indonesian experience brought me closer to the God I believe in the God Whom I questioned during those periods of disillusionment, the same God Who brought me to solitude, to a home away from home, for me to recognize my need of Him. Kinailangan kong lumayo para lumapit.

I might have missed many things from home and from school in that span of one year, but the many good things I gained are immeasurable. Lessons learned, friendships established, faith deepened. Kinailangan kong mawalan, para magkaroon. 

Tiwala sa Diyos ang pinakamabisang baon. Indeed, what God calls us to, He equips us for. Where God leads us to, He enables…

Inspirasyon natin ang ating huwarang mga Santong Pilipino. Hindi kinailangang mamatay o patayin katulad ng mga huwarang Santo natin. It may be a truism to say that not all are called to physically lay down one’s life for the sake of the Gospel, but we are all called to respond to the Gospel by studying it more and striving to practice this in our daily lives through our passion for truth and compassion for humanity. Hindi kailangang grandioso ang ating gagawin; sa maliliit na paraan ay sikapin nating tumulong sa simbahan, sa parokyang ating kinabibilangan. Ika nga sa Pondo ng Pinoy natin, “anumang maliit, basta’t malimit ay patungong langit.” 

Halikayo’t tingnan natin ang imahen ng dalawang Santong binibigyang pugay natin sa hapong ito. Halikayo’t tingnan natin ang kanilang mga mata, nang makita natin ang nakita nilang kabutihan ng Diyos, ang kabutihan ng Diyos na ibinahagi nila sa mundo, ang kabutihan ng Diyos na nagdala sa kanila sa kabanalan.

Taong 2004 nang una kong makilala ang Dominican Volunteers International; apat na taon pagkatapos noon, umalis ako para tumugon; apat na taon mula nang ako’y tumugon, heto ako ngayon sa inyong harapan, buong kagalakang ibinabahagi ang aking pagiging guro, isang katekista, isang laykong lingkod. Ika nga ni Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle sa kanyang homiliya, “ang pananatiling maging layko ay desisyon.” Maraming pagkakataon naman na ako’y mahikayat na magmadre, subalit pinili kong manatiling laykong lingkod. I am a lay not by chance but by decision and by the grace of God. Salamat sa Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine Siena, salamat sa Dominican Province of the Philippines, salamat sa Dominican Volunteers International, salamat sa Dominican Fathers and Sisters of Indonesia. Salamat sa Diyos! Sa aking pagtatapos, samahan ninyo po ako sa isang panalangin ng isang laikong lingkod:

Mangusap ka sa akin, Panginoon
Sa gitna ng pagkabalisa ng kalooban
Sa kabila ng pagkaligalig ng isipan
Papanatagin mo ako, Panginoon
Katulad ng mga huwarang 
Santong Pilipino
San Lorenzo ng Maynila at 
San Pedro ng Cebu
Mapabuti ko nawa at 
tunay na mahalin
Pagiging laykong lingkod 
na siya kong tungkulin
Heto ako Panginoon
Tulungan mo akong makinig
Turuan mo akong makiramdam
Ihanda mo akong sumunod
Sa lahat ng aking mga gampanin
Nawa’y malaman ng aking puso
Hindi ang nais ko
Kundi ang nais Mong sumaIyo ako.
San Lorenzo Ruiz at 
San Pedro Calungsod,
Ipanalangin ninyo kami. 

A religious educator since 1999, JOAN CHRISTI S. TROCIO  is an Associate Professor in the University of Santo Tomas - Institute of Religion. She is a graduate of Master’s degree in Education major in Religious and Values Education with specialization in Formative Counseling and Spiritual Direction at De La Salle University Manila in 2003, and is now a candidate for  Doctorate of Philosophy in Development Education major in Socio-Cultural Development at the UST Graduate School. She actively engages in community theater and in community development works and services.

Vocation, Mission, Special, Indonesia

4th Sunday of Advent (A) - Emmanuel

Mt. 1:18-24
December 22, 2013

GOSPEL READING: The Birth of Jesus
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.


What’s in a name?,” Shakespeare asked, “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” But names are utterly important. They convey a story, even a mission.
Some names tell a love story. Here in the Philippines, there are names that are a combination of the names of their parents, for instance, “Jezebel” is daughter of “Jess” and “Bella”. In the child, the mother and father truly become one. May mga pangalang nakakabit sa mga popular na tao. Sa talaan ng mga nag-aral sa Faculty of Theology ng UST mababasa natin ang mga pangalang: Jose Rizal, Joseph Estrada, Arturo Tolentino at Fernando Poe. Naging classmate ko pa si Joseph Estrada noong 1994. May mga family name naman na mukhang bagay sa isa’t-isa. Meron kaming Brother na ang apelyido ay “Granada”, at may isang madre naman na ang family name ay “Bala”. Minsan, tumawag si Brother Granada sa kumbento ng mga madre. Sabi ni brother, “Si Fray Granada po ito, sino po sila sister?” “Si Sr. Bala naman po ito, what can I do for you”? Wala namang pagsabog na nangyari sapagkat, taliwas sa kanilang apelyido, pareho silang huwaran ng kabaitan at kahinahunan. Meron kaming teacher sa High School, si Ms. Calajate; favorite student niya si Ms. Boo. May mga pangalang pinoy naman na nagbabago kapag nangingibang-bayan: si Rogelio Dagdag naging Roger Moore; si Topacio Mamaril naging Top Gun; si Maria Pascua naging Merry Christmas; si Ligaya AƱonuevo, naging Happy New Year.
Names are important. We begin the Eucharistic and every prayer with in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. God’s name gathers us together as a community. In the Gospel, we heard from the angel the two names of the promised Messiah: JESUS and EMMANUEL. Jesus means savior. It is the name that is above all names. It is so powerful. Peter even made a lame walk just by uttering: in the name of Jesus, walk! And the lame began to walk. If the name “Jesus” signifies what Christ did and continues to do, the name Emmanuel tells us WHERE JESUS IS. Nasaan nga ba si Jesus? Jesus is the God- who-is-with-us --- Emmanuel.
The book of Genesis proclaims the truth that we are made god-like, we were created unto the image of God. St. Paul reminds us that we are “temples of the Holy Spirit”. One huge Dominican priest told us, “I am not a temple, I am a cathedral of the Spirit!” God revealed Himself as the One who dwells with us, even in us --- Emmanuel.
I grew up in Daet and were brought up receiving gifts, not on Christmas day, but on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. We grew up believing that we received gifts not from Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) but from the Magi. It was a thoughtful custom, for as we beheld the Belen and marveled at how the Magi brought their gifts before the Christ-Child, we were gradually being taught that we received gifts from the same Magi because they see Jesus in us!
Mahalaga ang pangalan. Jesus, Emmanuel. The very name Jesus should make us thankful for Christmas. Jesus came to save us. Emmanuel reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, that God dwells in us, that God is with us all the time. And because of Jesus, there is one name that we all bear --- we call ourselves Christians. Iisa ang ating pangalan, tayong lahat --- KRISTIYANO, magkakapatid kay Kristo!
Feel nyo na ba ang Pasko?! When we do not yet seem to feel Christmas, it is because we equate Christmas with abundant food, expensive gifts and extravagant parties. But Christmas is more than any of these. Christmas is not about the abundance of food but the sharing of food that nourishes our bodily hunger as well as our hunger for fellowship and friendship like our gathering together in the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread. Christmas is not about expensive gifts but the priceless gifts of quality time we share with family and friends. More than just going to stores in search of fine gifts or looking at your closet for last year’s gifts to be recycled (ingat kayo at baka umikot at bumalik sa nagbigay sa iyo ang kanyang regalo), don’t look anywhere else but look into your heart. May mga tao bang hindi ninyo iniimikan sa loob ng napakahabang panahon? May mga tao bang nagpapabigat sa iyong kalooban? One of the greatest gifts we can give is forgiveness. Remember, the root word of forgiveness is give. It is a gift. Asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged and forgiving those who have wronged us are priceless Christmas gifts. Try it and I am sure you will feel profound joy and peace and then you can truly say: Pasko na nga! Maligayang Pasko po!

Very Rev. Fr.  Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP is the Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines.


Advent, Cycle A, OP Friars, Forgiveness, Sharing, Christmas, Name, Emmanuel