Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bro. Dodong's Big Day!

On the 13th of December, some of the students together with Fr. Cruz travelled to Iligan for the final profession of Bro. Dodong on the next day, Dec.14. Riding on a van, we traversed Davao to Iligan road in an 8-hr trip. We left Davao City at around 8am, took our lunch somewhere in Bukidnon, and arrived at Iligan past 4pm. After supper, the rehearsal for the rite of profession took place, with some of the students taking roles as servers, lectors, etc. The excitement was in the air especially in the face of Bro. Dodong as he prepared himself for his big day.

After all things for the next day was prepared, with the rite already rehearsed, we proceeded to the refectory for a simple fellowship. Eat, drink and be merry! We had a good time laughing, sharing stories and drinking together with other confreres from different communities and units.

And so Bro. Dodong’s day came…

At around 10am in the 14th of December, the final profession commenced. While the faithful are waiting in the church, the liturgical servers, Bro. Dodong with his parents, Redemptorist confreres, guest priests, and the mass presider and Provincial of Cebu, Fr. Ben Ma, were processing from the front office to the altar accompanied by Fr. Fruto’s singing of Veni Sancti Spiritu. The place was in a solemn mood as the liturgical celebration continued. Two of the car watch boys sung the psalm while Fr. Fruto shared about Bro. Dodong’s vocation and the vocation as religious brother in his homily. Bro. Arnel led the faithful in praying the Litany of the Saints. Then the celebration of the Eucharist continued.

After the whole celebration of the Eucharist, Bro. Dodong delivered his reflection and thanksgiving speech. Teary-eyed, he shared how wonderful his life and the day had been with all those people who were significantly sharing, supporting and praying for him in his journey towards religious life. Then the photo-op for the finally-professed Redemptorist happened. Everyone wear a smile as they congratulate Bro. Dodong in his most special day.

A simple yet equally sumptuous lunch awaited everyone in the convent’s refectory. That’s how Bro. Dodong’s final profession ended and so the day’s celebration.

But oh, wait, not for the students. Immediately after lunch we had to return back to Davao for the next day’s another big event: the final profession of Bro. Shaun and his ordination to diaconate together with the five Indonesian confreres. Again, we have to take our homeward eight-hour trip back to Davao with our sometimes-slow-sometimes-fast driver. (what’s his name again?) But we had a stomach-filling pit-stop in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Thanks to the generosity of Fr. Ben’s family, we had something in our stomach as we travelled back to where we belong, our Davao Community!


Friday, December 11, 2009

The Gift of "50 Years"

This Monday (December 6, 2009) was one of the very significant days of the month because on this day we celebrated the golden jubilee of Fr. Allen's profession. The day began with a joint community recollection. The theme for reflection was very fitting indeed; PERSEVERENCE. So in the morning we spent time together reflecting and sharing our past experiences in life as a redemptorist and why we are still here continuing in this religious life. We ended the recollection in the afternoon at 4 pm with a community mass presided by Fr. Allen.

To make the day even more special, team of the month planned a common celebration on this very same day (usually, a common celebration is on the last Sunday of each month.) That is why that evening we had dinner in the garden and we gave special recognition to Bro. Eugene, the birthday celebrant of the month of December as well. Aside from the members of the community, there were also some of the close friends of Fr. Allen whom he personally invited.

One thing I noticed was that most of the songs played during that evening were something I have never heard before (which means that they went back more than 28 years ago.) Perhaps these songs were meant to help Fr. Allen recall the good old memories of his past 50 years of his profession. Fr. Picx read for us his poem that he composed for Fr. Allen in this graceful occasion as well (although somebody said to me that this poem was the one he used for his own 25th anniversary and he just changed the number 25 to 50!)

In the end Fr. Allen gave a closing remark expressing his thankfulness to God for the gift of life and the gift of vocation, to all the guests who came, to the community for the support, and to those prepared for this evening. Then the big, blue cake was brought in for Fr. Allen to make his wish. I didn't know what he asked for but I knew that my wish was fulfilled; I didn't have to wash all the dishes after that because everything was taken cared of by the food catering. ^ ^


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What’s So Amazing about Grace?

Our Br Shaun shares a beautiful refelction on Grace as he prepares for his final profession and deaconate this coming December 15. May the Lord shower him with plentiful grace and blessings and keep him close by His side during this special moment.

When I was in the mission during my immersion year, a lay missionary introduced me to a book “what’s so amazing about grace.” It says that God’s grace is amazing because despite human weaknesses and limitations, God continually showers us with His blessings. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us and forgives us always. That's what's so amazing about grace. And as followers of Jesus, we are invited to do the same, to love others with no conditions.

My final profession and ordination to the Diaconate on December 15 certainly make me say that indeed God’s grace is amazing. God has been with me in the joys and challenges in the formation even when times that I failed to recognize Him.

While preparing for this important event in my life and the lives of my brother Indonesians, many things come to mind. I was worried when the cards were not yet done. Sometimes even during classes, my mind is preoccupied with the many things that have to be looked into; the liturgy, the choir, the powerpoint for songs, the visitors. But behind these external preparations, deep within my heart is praising. But I can’t thank God enough through my words. And so I’m hoping and praying that I would be able to thank Him through a life of gratitude because of His amazing grace every single day of my life.

Several years ago I painted a face of a man with his hands covered on it. The painting symbolized my emotions caused by the death of my mother. I was angry to God but I was ashamed to show it. I was ashamed to tell Him how painful it was seeing my mother “tortured” by cancer. I was also ashamed of myself. I thought I knew God from my studies in College and from the seminary. But the God that I experienced with what happened to my mother was different from the God that I learned. I had difficulty reconciling my mind and heart.

This painting caught my attention a few days ago. It’s like a scar. But unlike my gloomy feelings when I painted it, my emotions now are of gratitude and love. The painting is like a scar that reminds me not of pain and sorrow, but of God’s love that silently, constantly, and deeply surrounded me even those times when I was rock bottom. I could not have survived without Him. He seems to say now that despite my limitations and struggles, my loneliness and frustrations, He loves me and calls me to be His own. The painting becomes a reminder of God’s presence in my life even in the most difficult times.

Back to the present, I realized how fast the days have passed. I’ve been here in SAT, now SATMI, for almost 5 years already, but it seems like it was just yesterday. Many things have changed; people came and went, some were ordained, others changed course. Davao city have also changed a lot. But the greatest evidence of the changes along the years is my hair. No need to explain here why. ;)

Time runs so fast and so as changes. And with all the changes that happened in my life, last year I decided to put to mind to live one day at a time. It’s a great effort for me. I always tend to live either in the past or in the future. But having conscious of the blessings each day makes me somehow lessens my past and future-oriented mind. I learned to savor moments. I learned to appreciate each day and welcome new things and changes.

The mass and the liturgy of the final profession and ordination will only take a little more than an hour, but it will definitely be the start of the new chapter of my life. And like any other stories whether fiction or real, new chapter means change. And I welcome change with trust in God.

I love art, may it be music, dance, photography, or painting. After all life itself is an art. One of the many things that I learned in my journey in the formation is that loving others is an art, a difficult art. It may take a lifetime to learn this wonderful art, but this is the only way to follow Jesus.

To all of you who have been part of my formation, thanks so much for your support and prayers. May God grants you His promise of a hundred-fold for your understanding and love. God’s love is amazing. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” as the song says. I pray that I may be able to share His love to others through my words and actions. It’s difficult. It’s easier said than done. This is the greatest challenge in this kind of life. But I‘ll take it one day at a time.

I’m now towards the end of my initial formation, and I can say that the road is as important as the destination. Each day is precious. Each day has its own unique blessings. Many changes will come the coming days and weeks. “Life is a constant flux,” as the philosopher Heraclitus had said. But one thing remains - God’s amazing love.