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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Patience and Fr. Bob

Patience is the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties.Impatience is an opposite of patience or having a lack of patience. (from Wikipedia).

I will be graduating this Friday in UP. I love to tell my friends that I would be getting two MA degrees: one for Comparative Literature, the other for Patience. After a series of delays, postponements and last-minute changes within a four-year period I would be getting my diploma. And of course, to those who studied in UP or know UP system, patience is really a virtue that you should always carry with you.

But no, really, I'm a very impatient person. I hate situations wherein I have to wait for more than what I have planned for the day. I easily get annoyed by people who agree meeting me at a certain time but would show up 30 or 45 minutes late. I tend to walk out of conferences or seminars that do not start on time. I complain when movies do not commence on the advertised schedule. When I was a kid that I went home alone after attending Mass in Parañaque when my elder sister did not show up after ten minutes of appointed time and place. I had to walk some eight kilometers back home only to find that my sister was not home either. So I had to walk back to the church. I was five years old at that time and had to cross Bicutan interchange twice!

Long queues at ATM's, flight delays, bus drivers and conductors who take their sweet time at stop-overs, waiters who make me wait interminably really get me fuming mad. I am a very impatient person. But last week I was given a crash course on the value of waiting and being patient. I just came from Mall of Asia with my brother and his kids. I chanced upon Fr. Bob Hogan seated like a toddler on the stairs of Loyola House of Studies lobby. His hands were on the rail of the ramp for wheel-chair bound persons. His eyes, straight, focused on the driveway. He was obviously waiting for someone. I approached him and asked matter-of-factly,
"Father, are you okay?" To which he replied softly, "I sure am." Then I asked him the obvious, "You're waiting for someone to pick you up?"
"Yes, I am."
"How long have you been waiting here?"
"Well, she said she's going to pick me up at around 7:00." I looked at my watch and told him,
"But it's already 8:45, Father. Do you think she's still coming?"
"I'm not sure."
'But you're still going to wait."
"For a few more minutes."
"Really, you are that patient?"
"Well," he said without any hint of bragging, "I just spent an hour with a lady who had been lying sick in bed for 7 years. I think I can wait for a little more."
"That's incredible, I wish I had even half of your patience." To which he merely shrugged his shoulders as if saying, that's how my life's been, one of patient waiting.

I went to my room and promptly forgot about the incident. At 10 pm I called the porter and asked whether someone did pick Fr. Hogan up. The porter said no, nobody came. I asked when did Fr. Hogan leave his place, the porter replied, about past nine. I even forgot to ask the old man if he had eaten before his long wait with someone who never showed up.

Patience. I realize how easy it is for me to dismiss people who do not meet my expectations, who do not show up on time at the exact appointed place and hour. It's easy to label them as insensitive and chronic late-comers. Easier even to say that MY TIME is more important than theirs. Yet this one old Father showed me much more than I can learn from self-help books and recollections: that patient waiting is a divine act. Divine because it allows people to commit mistakes without judging them. It enables those who wait patiently to exercise their freedom, their generosity and understanding to be in the position of those who are being waited. Patience recognizes the need to let go of our desire to control many things including those that are really beyond our control.

And finally, patience recognizes too that in one time or another, people have been patient with me when I needed it most.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Gucci Gang Controversy and the Challenge of Spreading the Word of God

For days I have resisted the urge to type in Google's search box the phrase "Gucci Gang" for fear of stumbling into a "mindless and shallow" controversy that is currently rocking bloggers' world. I had been hearing stories spread from mouth to mouth about a certain Australian blogger who created a blog so he could exact vengeance (financial and psycho-emotional) against a high society member who did him wrong. The Australian threatens that until he is fully paid of the money owed him by his erstwhile lover and now mortal enemy, he shall continue to write revealing stories about the latter and his cohorts now known as the Gucci Gang. Local and international papers carried stories about the so called members of this gang and the things they supposedly do because they could afford to do it (and all because they are "high and mighty," says one blog commenter).

A few days ago, I threw caution to the wind and gave in to the itch of peeking into the lives of the most talked about personalities in the whole world wide web. From the moment I read the first entry of Brian Gorrell's blog I knew I was taken completely like an Earthling whisked into a hitherto unknown yet fascinating and fearful galaxy. Fascinating because the blog entries are written in flowing prose with the cadence of poetry while the stories read like the latest in Korean soap opera. Fearful because I have not read anything like it--the foulest and most irate words ever written against persons enough to make a grown man weep with shame.

In less than thirty minutes I was introduced to a world of intrigue involving fame, fortune, drugs and betrayal. I went back to the site again and again sniffing for more. The accusations and counter-accusations have yet to be proven in proper courts but what frightens and frustrates me is the possibility that those who are involved in the controversy and the people who want to get a slice of them may have been people we attended school with, taught, learned and went to church with. Judging by the flawless command of English written as reaction and responses by those who visited the blog, we could assume that they are 1) young men and women who attended or finished college, 2) have work in urban centers as they are familiar with the trendy bars and hang-out places, 3) know a thing or two about the members of the group and 4) are willing to spill the beans on those who have time to listen.

Mr. Gorrell was catapulted to a celebrity status when his blog clogged internet lines that Google initially contemplated shutting his site down to prevent traffic. His overnight success earned him a place in Wikipedia and all of a sudden CNN and other international media outfits are after him. Now he can talk all he wants and he has the world all ears. How easy it is for him (and for any other person who has the guts and gumption to tell all) to get willing and listening ears.

I wish the same was true with people who write and speak about the Word of God--that they get a million hits each time they post something about their reflection. Luckily we have a few people who continue to write about God and things of God despite the meager number of visitors to their sites. I was reminded of that story about a boy who learned that a dam in his village was about to burst. When everyone was told about the impending disaster and was preparing to leave, they boy remained, he stuck his finger in the crack of the dam, hoping that doing so would buy precious time for his villagers to escape.

Such is the challenge awaiting those few souls who preach the Word of God "in season and out of season."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In My Fathers' House

In My Fathers’ House

"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14: 2

When asked by a friend where in Cagayan de Oro was the best place to eat, Fr. Jett readily replied, “Loyola House.” The president of Xavier University was not kidding nor was he being partial to the members of his community at the Jesuit Residence. He was simply telling the truth.

It is not really that we have feast everyday. Special dinners at Loyola House are limited to major Church holidays, feast days of Ignatius and Xavier and birthdays of Jesuit priests and brothers. Outside of these special occasions, mealtimes at Loyola are plain ordinary. However, among the younger Jesuits of the house, we are in agreement that it is always better to eat at home rather than in any other place in the city because it is expensive to eat outside and the food is not always as good.

What is the secret of Loyola House? What makes residents and visitors stay for dinners and give generous comments on our meals? In my two years of stay at Loyola House, I have not purposely missed any dinner as much as I would not want to miss our communal liturgical activities. I have been thinking what makes our community special, what’s in it that we could forego invitations to eat in posh restaurants just to be with our fathers and brothers. These may be the reasons why.

We have an excellent chef in the person of Bro. Jody who is in charge of the kitchen, dinner preparations and serving. He is our secret weapon. His taste buds are as discriminating as Remy of the Ratatouille animated movie. He is very strict in the choice of ingredients, always insisting on the exact amount, freshest quality and instructs the kitchen staff to meticulously follow cooking directions.

But more than the food, I think it is the companionship, the collegiality and friendship of this motley crew of Jesuits with age gap as wide as six decades that keeps us together at dinner tables. We may be as colorful as any cast of characters in a comedy series or we may have different temperaments ranging from the saintly to the combustible, one common thread that binds us all is our love for conversations. Pick any topic under the sun, comment on it and pretty soon you’ll have the Jesuits around you talking seriously, passionately and animatedly about it.

We also like some friendly banter, the joking around at the expense of oneself and one another. Former Fr. General Pedro Arrupe cautioned young men who wanted to enter the Society of Jesus with this: You have to have a sense of humor if you want to join the Jesuits. This love of humor and exchange of sharp wit spice up any of our stale viands and transform them into something ambrosial.

However, for us scholastics who recently finished our regency assignments at Xavier University, what we would certainly miss is our fathers and brothers who are so unsparing with their praises and so lavish with their care and concern for us. Whenever we do the littlest things, they are always there to thank us and congratulate us, profusely and sincerely, that it sometimes makes us blush. They look for us whenever we are not around, wish us good luck on our upcoming projects and activities, ask later on about its successes and short-comings, pray for us when we leave for distant places and welcome us back home with smiles on their faces. You can’t get that even in the most expensive restaurant in all of Cagayan.

They say that Cagayan is the City of Golden Friendship. It is true. I have gained some good friends here, sometimes whole families. But what I would really cherish and miss most as I go back to Manila is the friendship that I made inside our very own home, in my fathers’ house.

To the members of Loyola House Jesuit Community, for inspiring us, mentoring us, showing us the deeper meaning of “Friends in the Lord,” A BIG THANK YOU.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Speak Loudly, Love

Last Wednesday, February 21, was Ash Wednesday. We begun our formal entry into the season of Lent: A Season of Love and Loving. Nothing can be more spectacular, more profound and dramatic than the Love of the Greatest Lover of all time: Our Lord Jesus Christ. We allowed the ministers of the Church to smear our foreheads with ash taken from the remains of palm branches of last year’s Domingo de Ramos. Just why are we doing this? Can we not just quietly go into a silent and less conspicuous way of reminding ourselves that despite our best efforts we have not approximated God’s glory and we falter along the way to perfection?

Actually, we can. But here's the catch: our Lord is a proud and loud Lover. He wants to declare from the top of the world, from deep within the deepest of seas and across broad valleys, how immense and great and lasting His love is for us! He is the type of God who wants to proclaim His undying love not simply by texting “luv u”. He wants us to understand, in loud and clear manner, and sometimes with accompanying heart-rending background music how He adores us. His love is not secretive and cannot be hidden like the love theme of the movie The Godfather:

Speak softly, Love so no one hears but the sky…

As much as possible Christ wants everyone to hear what He has in his heart. This He has shown by dying on the cross—perhaps the most scandalous and ridiculous event that happened in the history of mankind. And also the loudest. But that’s how He is, a fountain of love whose very essence is to give forth love. He was willing to undergo unspeakable torture and agony just to be able to communicate audibly this love which is also the Father’s love for Him. And for us. If there is a song that could capture this great love of Christ for us, it is Josh Groban’s Se from Cinema Paradiso:

If you were in my eyes for one day / You could see the full beauty of the joy / I find in your eyes / And it isn’t magic or loyalty / If you were in my heart for a day / You would have an idea / Of what I feel / When you hold me strongly to you / Heart to heart, / Breathing together / Protagonist of your love / I don’t know if it’s magic or loyalty / If you were in my soul for a day / You would know what is inside me / That I fell in love /At that instant, together with you / And what I sense / It’s only love. /

Huh! Tough love. Can anyone top that?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Gospel According to Wrestlers

As a kid I loved sleeping over at my uncle’s house on Wednesday nights just so I could watch my favorite wrestling program. Once the program had started, nothing and no one could drag me away from my seat, which I fiercely guarded, in front of the television. But when I learned in grade school that the human body was actually composed of fragile bones and tearable muscles, my fascination at watching Hulk Hogan take on a dozen opponents at one time all but faded. I had also confirmed the rumor that the matches were “scripted” (actually, choreographed is a more accurate term) and that those gargantuan guys were merely actors with over-sized biceps and bloated egos.

However, when I heard that the 2006 Wrestle Mania champion, Dave “The Animal” Batista, is half-Filipino, I have since reconsidered my smug snobbery of what advertisers pride as “the greatest show on earth.” From time to time I would watch the highlights of The Animal’s fights and I would be transported back to the days when nothing was better than a glass of warm milk after watching a good Wednesday night wrestling match. From the furtive glances at Batista’s Smackdown and RAW fights I am re-acquainted with the likes of Kane, Chris Benoit, Triple H, Rey Mysterio, JBL, Randy Orton and the Big Show. Watching them perform—as they jump and dive, elbow and punch, kick and slap, and strangle each other and utter insults at one another—make me realize that they are actually re-enacting in a crude fashion some Gospel values. Yup! Absurd as it may sound but you read it right: The Gospel according to 300-pound wrestlers.

Take for example how the 165-pound, 5’3” dimunitive wrestler, Rey Mysterio, who pinned down and beat the 500-pound Big Show. Or how the over-bearing and overly-dressed JBL who always arrived in the arena in his spanking new limo was humbled by a virtually unknown newcomer. Kings like Booker T were dethroned by mere gladiators like Batista and those who bragged their titles about were stripped of them. In wrestling, size and number do matter but they do not an outcome make. Reversals of fortune do happen here as they are proclaimed in the Gospels.

The Blessed Virgin Mary beautifully and eloquently speaks about these and other reversals when she sings of the goodness of the Lord in her Magnificat—of how a mere maidservant could be hailed as the greatest of all women whom all generations shall call blessed, and of how those who languished for the longest time would finally find reprieve.

He has shown might with his arm, has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things but the rich He has sent away empty. (Lk 1:46-55)

And this is what usually happens in wrestling matches. The “Big” threatens the small ones. The powerful belittles the weak. The famous and wealthy scorn those who have none. But they who remain humble and trust not in the vigor of their own arms but fight until the last of their breath “shall regain their strength” (Is 40:31). They who do not cheat and whose “hands are clean” and have not “sworn as to deceive” another (Psalm 24), they shall ascend the throne [the mountain of the Lord] as rightful kings.

Finally, in wrestling matches, as in our daily lives, there are what we call Tag Teams. Two wrestlers face a pair of opponents and together they aim to defeat them. One wrestler for example may try to outwit and outplay another from the opposing team. But should he be weaker than his adversary, when he is weighed down and can no longer move, when he comes close to losing strength and hope, all he needs to do is reach his arm out and touch the finger of his tag partner (like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak in Mt 9:20-22) and help is on its way.

In one way or another we may experience like we are being belittled, threatened, scorned by others more powerful and more intelligent than us. We may also feel that the weight of the whole world is on our bare shoulders and that we are losing stamina and strength to move on. We feel that we are ready to give up. We acknowledge that some things are just too much and too big for us. And it is in this recognition of our weakness and neediness that we get the help that we need. All we have to do is reach out our arm, or even lift a finger high, and the Ultimate Tag Partner shall finish the job for us. Isn’t that comforting a thought?

Now the more important question is, in the daily grind of your life, have you considered Jesus as a viable and available Tag Team partner?

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Singing like Vincent Van Gogh

What happens when a tone-deaf scholastic leads four new prenovices in singing The Theme from The Cardinal ? Well, your guess is as good as mine. I've always wondered whether St. Augustine was serious when he said, "To sing is to pray twice." Or if he did consider the fact that of the 4 point something billion people in this planet, only 0.000000012 % can sing like Pavarotti. While the rest of us mortals agonize over our "doe, a deer, a female deer" these demigods of the musical notes are already belting their Better Days song at age three.

What happened last night during our chant class was not really a total disaster. We just need, a little, um, practice! We may not be as good as the Vienna Boys Choir or Les Choristes du Saint Marc but we sure have the heart when it comes to praising God. And praise Him, we sure will, as long as we live. Now, it's really up to Him whether He would consider our singing praising or just plain croaking. Ribbit boys!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Moving Out, Moving On...

I have just finished cleaning the room that I would vacate for its new occupant. It took me several days to do it. I still have some packing to do. But that can be easily done. What's taking too long is deciding on which stuff do I keep and which to throw away. I am a very sentimental person. I keep the smallest post-it notes given to me by friends. I keep receipts and movie tickets. I have worn-out business cards of friends that I haven't been in contact with for the last five years. Even spent pens find their way into my things. I know who gave what to me so it was taking me forever whether I would throw away what things. It's like you are throwing away a memory of a friend or a loved one no matter how cheap or ordinary the gift was.

But we all need to move on. We can't carry everything with us. It would be too burdensome to be carrying all the stuff we have especially those of no use to us anymore; or those that might cause harm to us. If life is a journey, we have to travel light....

On Monday, May 8, I'll be moving to my new home and work assignment in Cagayan de Oro City (Southern Part of the Philippines). I will be Director of our pre-novitiate house there and at the same time teach literature at the college.