Friday, February 29, 2008

On the Love of the Shepherd

The discussion of the constitutions this month commenced with the reading of the scriptural passage heralding the barrage of articles belonging to the fourth section of the Rule.

Mk. 6, 34 reads “He saw a great throng, and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”

It must have been an overwhelming task for the Shepherd to develop compassion to the “shepherdless sheep,” and after owning each of them, to minister to them.

I am writing the final draft of this paper minutes after covering in our constitutions class more than 20 articles pertaining to the mission of the Society. Let me offer one word to summarize everything: breathtaking.

The work of the Salesians is enormously difficult and it will go on ad infinitum. Salesians of Don Bosco will continue to exist as long as young people are around.

Being a Salesian-in-the-making, I feel that it asks so much from me; No, not merely the ideas that I have or the talents that have been given to me or my zeal in the apostolate. It asks of me to give myself completely to the ministry.

The task is equally challenging and frightening.

It is challenging because of the exciting work that lies ahead. To journey with the young people of the present time is the best thing I can offer for the future. It is a privilege to work for their welfare in the realms of the academe and especially in enriching their lives by inviting them to discover, nurture and follow their own vocation.

It is frightening because I feel that I am not yet equipped for the overwhelming task to minister to the young. This thought has engulfed me especially when I received the “go signal” to move on to the next stage of my Salesian formation.

Only love

As I acknowledge the feeling of my inadequacy, I console myself with the thought that my commitment to improve more myself in view of preparing for the mission has never been greater. In fact, I have been surprised realizing the past months that I am explicitly asking for the grace to love more my vocation in order to give more to the apostolate.

St. John Bosco continues to become my model in the field of dealing with the young. Having read the first volumes of the Biographical Memoirs, I cannot but be imbued by his love for the young.

Earlier this month, while waiting for the result of the deliberation regarding my application for the first vows, I promised to accept wholeheartedly whatever decision Fr. Provincial would hand me. With this, I devised plans to welcome either.

If ever I get a “no” to proceed, I told myself that I wanted to go back to the teaching profession, pursue a doctoral degree in Anthropology or even entertain possibilities of teaching and studying abroad.

However, if in case my application gets a “yes,” I commit only one thing: to love more.

Come to think of it, the only energy that sustained the poor educator-priest in Don Bosco to labor for his destitute boys was his love for their soul. Nothing else, nothing more.

This thought led me to consider asking myself these questions: Have I loved the young? As to which extent this love would stretch me?

My response to these queries became a lot easier after undergoing some very difficult moments of purification earlier this month.

I take care of my formation because I love them.

The simple sentence above may be too uncomplicated, but it has put me in a very backbreaking ordeal.

Even up to this point, my mother is undergoing a medical procedure in her battle against cancer. As her son, I don’t only consider her need for me to be at her side to give her courage and support, I am aware that finances may be her major concern. Albeit painfully, I excuse myself to be with her and to provide help to the family as all of us face this major difficulty.

I chose not to go home to bury my dearest grandmother earlier this month to shield myself from any distractions. It was a painful decision to not pay my last respect to her, but I had to do it in the name of my formation.

Love is fundamental to our mission. In fact of all the types of love, a specific one is offered to us to be the hallmark of our identity: Pastoral Charity.

As I excitedly put a conclusion to this year of my novitiate, I continue to pray for the grace of love of the Good Shepherd. That I myself feel it so that I can share its fruit to the young people I will meet in the future.