No other reason but to be a saint

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We drove through a long road. Some parts had arching trees, some had upright ones, some had none, but most of the path made us feel protected.

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We were behind a tricycle carrying slender tree trunks (bamboo shoots, perhaps?) on top of its canopy. Behind us was another tricycle. As the one ahead turned right to a path going to another barangay, the other followed. We continued forward.

At a crossroads after a 10-minute drive from the town, we turned left, and the road rose to an open gate that led us to a silent monastery on top of a hill in between the mountains in Castillejos, Zambales.

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Disturb us, Lord.

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Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, 1577

Not so long ago, I was introduced to this prayer from a friend’s blog, Elisa, on Tumblr. I wanted to find it again a few months ago, but I couldn’t quite remember how it went, but I knew the core of the prayer – how one wanted to boldly go further away from the shore to see the stars. And then today, I remembered.

I love this prayer. Although it was penned several millennia ago, I find that we can all relate to this longing. In the first lines, I find how beautiful a disturbance or intervention is when it comes on a time when we think we have it all figured out. By ‘it,’ I mean we have reached our dreams or are on our way to them. Or we have let our pride in ourselves and capabilities weigh heavier than our relationship with God and how we treat our neighbor. Or perhaps it can mean we have become too comfortable with our lifestyles, wanting to relax and rest rather than to work hard for others and then take a little rest, only to regain energy for another week of serving again.

Sometimes, it is very easy to be tempted to just be idle. To have control over your time. It’s easy, because social media made it easy for us to compare where we are to somebody else’s phase in life. We are conditioned to think that this was the pinnacle, the finish line where we should be, when I know deep in my heart that there is something more, that there should be more than this. I’m no stranger to insecurities and self-doubt, so I must constantly remind myself of how God wants to push us, to disturb us, to dream bigger dreams than ourselves. Happiness isn’t the main goal, because there’s so much more to life than a fleeting feeling. He wants us to realize something more courageous than chasing happiness and worldly comforts.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of plans – plans for the coming years. I have a few thoughts in mind, but I really really really don’t know, and sometimes, it just frustrates me. I feel like one wrong move could lead me to a path He doesn’t want me to be or falls short to who He wants me to be. Like there’s the best option, but I didn’t take it. How does one discern? How does one know if something is in His will or not?

Whenever I feel like my heart is going towards something, I ask God that He purifies my motives. I believe that in everything we do, it must be done out of love rather than serving the self. So maybe, wherever we find ourselves in life, we must do it more for God and others. I don’t know if there is a specific vocation or place He wants us to be, but maybe we’ll know when we get there.

Maybe this is part of the mystery of faith. And this is where we are called to work hard and trust Him wherever we are right now. We cannot be lax nor indifferent – we cannot afford to do so, as that is the perfect time that fear can strike us numb or pride can stifle our growth.

The farther we are from land, to the point that we can see it and its lights no longer, we only have the stars to guide us. As we venture from what is comfortable to a path that leads to loving and serving deeply and truly, we only have God to trust.

Silent, listen

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Silence is a word that’s been in my mind lately. It is interesting to know that the letters in ‘listen’ are the same in ‘silent.’ When we are silent, that’s when we can hear. When we are silent, that’s when we can listen.

It’s difficult to hear the words of a soft-spoken person. I have a colleague who speaks softly, and sometimes, I have to ask again for what she said or I would come nearer to hear her.

I too am soft-spoken. One time, I accidentally hit the back of a man’s foot who was walking in front of me in a grocery store. I said ‘sorry,’ but because he didn’t look kindly towards me, I thought he may have not heard what I said.

There’s also the time I was speaking to my nephew Connor, hours before our flight back to the Philippines. He told me non verbatim, “I can’t hear you!” So I had to speak louder.

I remember reading about how God speaks to us in a small still voice.

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? – 1 Kings 19:11-13 

We have a God who displays true humility. He does not go about loudly but quietly.

My mind has been in a clutter lately, my heart too is tugging towards somewhere, somewhere I feel that God is leading me to. While I’m trying to ask God more, to discern what it is He is trying to say, I am led to the word ‘silence.’

To hear God’s small still voice, one has to be silent. One has to go nearer. The same way that I would do to listen clearly to what a soft-spoken person is saying, to what I am saying.

When I feel like another complaint is rising from my throat, I remind myself to be silent. When I feel like saying something ill towards something or someone because I was hurt, I remind myself to be silent. When I feel like my mind and body are too stressed out, I remind myself to rest and to listen in the quiet.

Then this week, I was led to this beautiful video inspired by Mother Teresa’s words on the beginning of holiness from Likable Art. I forgot what led me to this video, but I am thankful that I have found it. It has brought me much peace and clarity.

God speaks in the silence of the heart and we listen, and then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart. First we listen, God speaks, and then we speak and God listens and that connection is, is prayer, is oneness with God.

The fruit of prayer, is deepening of faith and the fruit of faith is love and the fruit of love is service. And the fruit of service is peace that’s why we need to pray to have a clean heart and if you have a clean heart we can see God.

And when we see God, naturally we begin to love one another that means, we see, and we look, and then we give our hands to serve and our hearts to love and that’s the beginning of holiness. -Mother Teresa

I especially love how Mother Teresa once said these words… And I can relate to this right now as I have been needing silence. One cannot discern wisely without silence whatever it is that the Lord is calling me to, whatever calling or vocation. I have ears; I pray that I may not just hear but to listen.

Whose tears reflected the stars

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“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.” – St. Ignatius Loyola

Julie shared a page to me in Facebook; it was called Ignatian Spirituality. I believe that was the second time I chanced upon St. Ignatius – the first probably when we were still in elementary school, reading our books about the Saints.

The third was when I was introduced to the writings of Fr. Jett Villarin, the current President of Ateneo de Manila University, because of a blogger I followed on Tumblr before who posted excerpts from Fr. Villarin’s homilies. If I remember correctly, the first ones I’ve ever read of his writings were Startle and Feathers.

Because I was moved by his writings and reflections, I came upon his book “Startle: Gathering Light from the Word of God” online. When I went to a local bookstore one time, I was glad to have found it, sitting comfortably in between other books.

I’ve underlined, highlighted, wrote on the margins and in between lines of this book, and I’ve written my favorite lessons on my brown journal so I wouldn’t forget. I gave my copy as a Christmas present to my cousin Paffy last 2014. I hope that he has learned from Fr. Villarin’s writings too, as much as I did.

Fr. Villarin, again, if I remember correctly, mentioned of St. Ignatius crying under the stars. I was re-introduced to this image again when I bought a copy of Fr. James Martin’s book entitled “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.” I’ve only read up to around 50-70 pages, then stopped for a while, thinking that I may have to read this on a more appropriate time.

Although it has been a long while since I last opened that book and read, I’ve come to understand more of Ignatian Spirituality. I had learned that its core is about finding God in everything, in every aspect of our lives. He isn’t just in Sundays within the Church, because He is a living and active God. He lives and thrives in our daily routines, in our chores, in our work, in our family relationships, in school, in friendships, in marriages – everything.

Because of this book, I got to learn more about St. Ignatius too, about how we was once a soldier of valor and of worldly pursuits, then he was injured in battle. This humbling and painful event in his life led him to read upon the saints like St. Francis of Assisi, how he and other saints gave away what the world branded as important and turned to a life of poverty and self-giving.

St. Ignatius was inspired by the lives and virtues of these saints and hoped to imbibe within him the same values. After much reflection and sharing of God’s revelations to him, St. Ignatius continued on his studies, then later on founded the Society of Jesus, or what we commonly know as the Jesuits.

And that’s what I knew of this Saint whom they call the Saint of Second Chances. I knew little of him still and of the Spiritual Exercises he had shared to others.

Then came the day I saw the trailer of Ignacio de Loyola.

I knew more of him through this film, about the man whose tears reflected the stars above him.

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Be a Light Bearer

Pray for Light

When we have nightmares, the first thing we do when we wake up from them is to turn on the light. When something bad has happened over the evening or the late hours, we cannot wait for the sky to lighten. When we are lost, people describe the place we are in as a ‘tunnel,’ and that there is always a light at the end of it. In different cultures, there are many festivals and events which celebrate the winning of light against darkness. When there is a blackout in the night, we make our way along corridors and enter rooms, while feeling surfaces for the matches, a flashlight, or a phone, just to see again. When others are lost, we are told to be the light to them, to guide them to what is true and what is good.

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