The year 2007 is one of the most unforgettable years in my life. For those who have been aware of my journey in the Salesian life, like Fr. Roel, the reason is quite obvious: last year, I finally entered the novitiate after three attempts as a pre-novice.
I marveled at the omnipotence of God’s grace as a novice. Fr. Mols, the formator In-charge of the pre-novitiate community could have not said it any better, “the novitiate is the most wonderful year in a life of a religious.”
Looking back, I can only agree with him.
But then, I would be lying if I say that all is cherry in the novitiate. It is not. I had to grapple with so many issues that haunted me —both human and spiritual. But then again, I told myself that I could dismiss these concerns. After all, they were not life threatening. Tagalogs put it best “malayo naman ito sa bituka.” I was not aware that I was in for some more severe challenges.
It came when I got a phone call from my mother. She told me that the result of the biopsy done on her revealed that she had a renal cancer. Her doctors told her that she is on stage two and the malignant tumor needed to be removed right away before the situation becomes irreversible.
This came to me not only as a bad news but it has shaken all of me—my vocation, included. Reviewing my journal, I can easily say that it’s one of the most difficult challenges I had braved during my novitiate year.
I prayed harder than before.
When I was an aspirant, it was a habit for me to pray 10 ‘Hail Mary’s’ or at least one decade of the rosary while lulling myself to sleep after lights off. In the novitiate, I continued on with this habit. But when I got the news about my mom, I did not only offer an extra decade or mystery, but persevered to dedicate one extra rosary each day.
And then the answer came.
Mama called, breaking to me the news about the surgery. She told me that the doctors had to remove her right kidney since the tumor had already outgrown it.
But by and large, the operation was a success. However, this came with a hefty price.
To ensure that the cancer would not recur, she opted to have a post-surgery therapy to the tune of at least P 10,500 every week. The medication would last for 6 months. Roughly, we’re looking at a whooping P 252,000 all in all.
Hearing this from her, my heart sank in dismay. In between the long dead air of our phone conversation, I could only venture questions. I could not recall if I was able to offer consolation. That was the first time in my life that I felt so hopeless and helpless.
In my prayers, I found myself confronting God, asking Him what He exactly wanted from me. I remember telling Him that the situation would have been different if I were out of the novitiate. I could easily provide for the cost of her medication.
Then there was silence. No answer came. At least, not at that moment. For I would realize how God seemed to have arranged things to fall in their proper places.
Fast forward to this day, I always feel goose bumps rising whenever my mom would share with me the journey of healing she has undergone and how that situation would not only lead her to giving importance to her physical health, but more importantly, how it has directed her to forge a stronger relationship with her Creator.
I marvel at how God seems to have sheltered her and our family as the cost of her therapy went through without us shelling out even a centavo for it. Her officemates would tell her that she is fortunate to have a seminarian-son. But I was quick to point out to her that it’s not about me.
Mama is a devotee of the Perpetual Help. On Wednesdays, we would expect her to come home late from work because she faithfully goes to Baclaran for the novena. I strongly believe that this devotion has not been fruitless.
Last July 16, she went to the National Kidney Institute for her last medical treatment. Incidentally, that was also the feast of our Lady of Mt. Carmel. As Mary rushed to her cousin Elizabeth, Mama could have used the very words of Elizabeth: "Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (cf. Luke 1:43).
I have a confession to make. I find it mushy when people talk about Mary and attribute to her miraculous works—both great and small. I don’t have anything against it. Maybe because I am just not that type. But as a Salesian, I learnt that it is important to see how obvious it is that the Blessed Mother is always our good mother (cf. Vol. VIII BM).
This event in my Mama’s life has led me to open my eyes and heart to such a reality.