In My Father's House

Poems, Prayers, Inspirations, Photos and Musings about life, love and what it means to be a child of the Father

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Awake! Be Alert!

When the season of Advent comes we often hear from the Gospel readings the summon "Be awake! Be Alert! The Kingdom is coming!" This often brings anxiety to those who think that the Kingdom of God will sweep over the metropolis and anyone it finds asleep or not doing good will suffer dire consequences. Far from it. The message of the Gospel is not the message of fear but a message of joy and anticipation.

Jesus' message of salvation and hope will not be the message of Wallstreet or apocalyptic-themed Hollywood movies. It is a message that everyone longs to hear: "Every tear shall be wiped away...There will be no more death..." So what should our attitude be towards this message? One of calm and serenity, of peace and joy. And therefore, the "Awake! Be Alert!" call is not so much a summon to be on guard for something ominous that is coming but rather an invitation to an awareness that the goodness of God is happening as it is being proclaimed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ignatius as the Man of La Mancha

Last night, I watched Repertory Philippines' production of The Man of La Mancha. I must say that the musical was impressive--from the costumes, the set, the voices to the acting and the production design--a true work of art.

What moved me in the musical was the uncanny similarity of Don Quixote and his pipe dreams and Ignacio de Loyola and his passion. Both were called mad during their times. Don Quixote battled imaginary giants and invincible foes while Ignacio fought his own devils and demons tormenting him and making his heart captive.

Both of them left their earhtly treasures to pursue their respective ladies. Don Quixote, his Dulcinea; Ignacio, his Madonna della Strada. Both were knights in their own rights. Both loved starring at the starry sky, their eyes fired by vision from within. Both had brushes with the Inquisition. Both dreamt of impossible dreams, bore unbearable sorrows and ran where the brave dared not go.

But one thing differentiates the two: Don Quixote's was a personal quest--probably not for personal glory but nevertheless it was motivated by his personal love for Dulcinea--while Ignacio was pursuing an even madder dream--to conquer souls for God. Ignacio, unlike Quixote, did not "strive with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars" but left everything to the will of God. He surrendered his dreams and visions and hopes as a final act of submission and humility to the God who called him to form the Society of Jesus, a ragtag army of delusional and sinful men, whose only claim was that they too were loved by God.

And so, the dream lives on...

Don Quixote's oration could very well speak of and for the Society of Jesus:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical may be madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness. To seek treasures where there is only trash...Too much sanity may be madness, and maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.
Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha
Spanish adventurer, author, & poet (1547 - 1616)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

You Really Love Me, Don't You?

I have lived a good 17 years of my life in a town where storm rages like hell. In one year we can have as many as 20 typhoons, four of them would be super typhoons of 120-160 kph wind velocity. I have seen whole houses uprooted from the ground, roofs flown several meters away and floods reaching up to 8 ft. in height. There were times when we celebrated the whole Christmas season when our houses were submerged in water. Only makeshift wooden bridges connected our home from our neighbor's and out into the municipal road.

How did we survive? By sheer imagination.

We learned how to fish in the flood water. My father devised a way how to trap huge shrimps (they are almost prawn-like) from the canal that ran parallel to our house. He sold many of them and gave away some to the delight of our neighbors. They never learned where he got them.

Washing clothes proved a great problem to my mother but her domestic ingenuity triumphed. We still had fresh clothes on our backs despite the balmy season of rain and flood. Cooking and washing dishes were the same as when we still had land to step on. Except during those times, we had to conserve water, the most precious commodity, next to air.

We went to school as usual. We sometimes took a dip into the flood water. That was where I got amoebiasis, I think. But we survived, anyhow. By sheer imagination.

But something stronger than the storms kept us sane. It was the firm belief that God is stronger than all the forces of nature. He is more powerful than the most fearsome and fiercest
destruction we see all around. God Himself is our refuge. He never leaves us, in the most difficult times in our lives.

I look back at my life and see thousands of storms that hit me, directly and indirectly. Somehow, after twenty seven years of being buffeted by wind and water, I'm still standing. Yes, by sheer imagination. By luck. But most of all, by the love of God, who strengthens me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Climbing Out of the Bottomless Pit

Some people really mystify me. There is a priest in the community where I live who's been suffering from an acute form of clinical depression. The first time I met him he was still a jolly and convivial person. He even accompanied me to a dentist to have a tooth root-canalled. A few months after, he became silent and withdrawn. His movements at dinner table showed that he was not his usual self. His head was always bowed and his shoulders stooped in an awkward angle. He refused to talk to anyone, or rather, he lost the zest of talking.

He is now often seen at the chapel praying and in deep communion with the Beyond. But one amazing thing about this priest is his unselfish attitude towards those who are less equipped to help themselves. Despite suffering depression, whose depth no one, not even psychologists can fathom, this priest does little acts of kindness to other infirm Jesuits. He never complains. He reads books to a bed-ridden elderly priest who cannot talk on the account of the tube inserted in his throat. He volunteers to push for another priest his wheelchair so they can both travel around the house. He plays harmonica to another father who is suffering from Alzheimer's. From time to time, he tries to engage in conversation with the younger Jesuits. He is a source of inspiration to all.

Persons like him make a community holy. He embodies suffering with love and in love. He recognizes that he is not the only one inside a bottomless pit. Others are in it too. He does not wallow in his pains. Instead, he helps others to get out of their own pits. And by doing so, finds his way out.

Christ did not promise to take us out of our bottomless pits. But he vowed that He will be with us, every moment of it, until we too, find our way out.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Be a Saint: Why Not?

Believe it or not when I was kid I wanted to be a saint. Back then my understanding of saints were people who had mystical and magical powers. I was fascinated by stories of extraordinary Christians who performed miraculous deeds. St. Martin de Porres topped my list of admirable saints. I imagined him levitating in an empty church sweeping cobwebs off chandeliers and stained glass windows. In my child's eyes I saw him feeding roaches and mice with breadcrumbs from the convent's pantry. I wanted to know how he could tell ants and mosquitoes to keep away from people.

Next to my list were children saints whose mouths expelled rose petals and leprous saints whose gangrenous wounds exuded heavenly scents. I also had such fond respect for saints who battled demons and evil spirits though at that young age I wouldn't want to have their power of exorcism. Saints who possess the ability to cure people at will also figured in my imagination. I wanted to imitate them, to go around our neighborhood touching the foreheads of those who were afflicted by malaria. We had a neighbor whose three daughters were born deaf and mute. I wanted to touch their tongues and ears so they could talk to us normally. We had a hunchback playmate who was in and out of the hospital because pus had to be extracted from his back. I, too, wanted to cure him of his misery.

When I was a bit older I heard of saints who could be in two places at the same time. I wondered how would it be like to be in the province doing nothing while also attending school. I wondered which places I would visit and which relatives would I surprise by my bi-locating act. But nothing fascinated me more than saints who could read minds. I imagined looking into peoples' eyes and seeing in all clarity what their thoughts and concerns were. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I asked myself, to read through your teachers' thoughts, to guess accurately your classmates' ideas without actually doing some research?

However, I also learned how difficult were the lives of these saints were. They had to pray all the time. They had to do unimaginable things, great sacrifices, exemplary works of charity and mercy. They had to watch their tongue, guard their thoughts and control their actions. I realized that I couldn't do that at all times. Then my desire to be a saint like Martin or Pancratius or Rita became just a childhood fantasy. I was convinced that saints were born not made.

A few days ago, in Fr. Jojo's homily, he carefully differentiated the saints from ordinary mortals like us. He said that saints are people, like us, in every way except for one thing: their desires to please God exceeds their desire to be great. They are people whose constant preoccupation is not to be good, per se. They are people whose unflagging diligence at prayer and works of mercy are a result of their great love for God. In effect, he was saying, that constancy in one's desire to please God, makes saints in us. It is not powers or the miracles attributed to saints that make them great, but their great love for God which enable them to do great and wonderful things. And there are a host of other saints, known and unknown, who did not manifest amazing powers over nature, Ignatius and Alphonsus Rodriguez were among them. Ignatius founded a religious order that changed the world, Rodriquez was merely a lowly brother who opened doors to pilgrims and visitors. But they were both canonized as saints.

It is not therefore in the kind of work that one does that makes him/her a saint. Rather it is the amount of love one puts in his/her work that makes him/her a saint. Maybe it's not too late for you or me to be a saint...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Todos Los Santos sa Plaza Lacson

ni Sch. Weng Bava, SJ

Alas nuebe ng gabi nang simulang gumapang
Ang mga kaluluwang pagal sa maghapong
Pagpipigil-patay, sa mga nitsong sako at karton
At sa kung saan-saang sulok na hindi basa
Inilatag ang mga katawang nanlilimahid sa siphayo

Habang ang ila’y kuntentong nakabaluktot sa loob
Ng peryodikong may pabatid ng bagong kabubukas
Na kondominyum, ang mga paslit ay pawang anghel
Sa pagkakahimlay at ‘di pansin ang papatinding lamig
Sa plazang itinayo para kay Meyor Arsenio Lacson

Sa bandang pedestal nang yumaong alkalde ng Maynila
Maaninag ang isang dalagitang durog sa kasisinghot
Sa supot ng rugby, nangungulit ng pera sa isang mamang
Maganda ang bihis at panay ang lamas sa suso ng bangag
‘Di alintana ang mga matang nagmamasid at ‘di nakakakita

Doon sa may malahiganteng paso ikinabit ng aling patpatin
Ang pansamantalang kulambong tumatakip sa kasisilang
Na sanggol samantalang ang asawa’y nakatayong nagpaparaos
Ng tinunggang alak sa kalawanging bakod at saka nagmumura
At nagbabantang papatayin ang kalaguyo ng may TB’ng asawa

Sa ilalim ng nakabubulag na liwanag ng isang lampara
Tahimik na nagbubuklat ng aklat abugasya ang isang mataba
At bata pang estudyante samantalang sa harap niya ay
Masugid na sinusuma ng matandang lalaking abuhin ang ulo
Ang mapapalad (at tatamang tiyak!) na mga numero sa lotto

May mga lalake’t babaeng magkalingkis ang mga paa
Mga magsing-irog na inabutan ng libog at dilim at kapos
Din naman sa salapi at hiya ay doon na magpapalipas ng gabi
Malawak, maluwag ang Plaza Lacson at walang ipinagbabawal
‘Di gaya ng mga sementeryong pang mayaman