Monday, October 06, 2008

A Ghost that Haunts

On the occasion of my 5th month of being a Salesian, I’d like to share with you this piece below which I wrote for the Salesian Bulletin.

"IT is enough for a young person to enter a Salesian house for our lady to take him under her special care."

I’m pretty skeptic about Don Bosco being attributed to say that “The boys in a Don Bosco school are led by the Blessed Mother herself.” The reason may be simple, I did not go to any Don Bosco school, except when I had to take some ecclesiastical subjects in Don Bosco Canlubang. But then, that’s pretty understandable, I was already a seminarian that time.

In Fr. Roger Miranda, then a student of theology, I first met a figure of “Don Bosco.” The meeting did not take place in a Salesian setting, but in the playground of our parish as he would go there for his weekday apostolate. Sure, he gave us a dose of the religious stuff through the catechism classes he would give, and also the Sunday gospel he would painstakingly explain to our young minds. But beyond these, there was something in his persona that captivated my young heart. I was only 12 years old then.

I marveled at his skillfulness in dealing with us. He seemed to be in great ease playing and exchanging jokes with us. He made sure that he called each of us by our name. Such a beautiful hands-on experience of what Salesian loving kindness is!

Even before meeting him, I already thought of becoming a priest. And my encounter with him all the more enriched this desire. No, I did not enter the seminary after that encounter; instead, I decided to enter high school and later on finish my college studies.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, I had the experience of working in the “real world.” But after barely a year in the corporate world, I saw myself facing a blank wall asking this question to myself: “what’s next?”

That time, the juvenile thought of becoming a priest flashed into my mind. It was like a ghost of my past which suddenly appeared to haunt me. It was persistent enough to push me make a quick arrangement with some Salesians whom I know. They did not only facilitate my entry to the seminary like signing documents and others, but they made sure that they had given me some dosage of advice.

I could not forget Fr. Rene Lagaya’s words “when the moment comes that you start doubting your vocation, remember the reason which drove you to enter the seminary.”

Having finished my college studies, I was literally given a freehand to chart out my formation path. Skipping some years in the pre-novitiate seminary (the usual arrangement for “late vocations” like me) was part of the option. Spending four years in the seminary, I did apply and was accepted for the novitiate in 2004. However, one day before my entry to the novitiate, I chickened out. I decided not to pursue it. I realized that I did not only choose to take a longer route (to spend four years in the pre-novitiate formation) but a sudden turn to a different path (to leave).

With a teaching experience and a master’s degree to boot, working in a word-class university in Manila was a cinch. Juggling part-time jobs—writing, teaching, tutoring—along with that professioral post was, modesty aside, just a child’s play. Fat pay check, prestige, and unlimited possibilities of career advancement were no longer a distant dream, but a reality.

But despite these all, I realized how sad I was. I felt so empty. Right then and there, I exactly had a first hand experience how it felt to be in a profound state of misery.

And then the inevitable came; a “ghost” which haunted me once in the past, returned. It made its presence felt once more. With a mixture of delight and hesitation, I recalled my seminary days: the simplicity of life, the simple joys of being with my companions and the overwhelming encounter of God.

From somewhere, I heard a distinct voice which seemed to tell me, nay commanding me, “Come home!”

And then, events happened so swiftly. Before I knew it, I was already talking to my spiritual director and then in-charge of the prenovitiate seminary, Fr. Rene Molina. After expressing my profuse apologies in my sudden “departure,” I signified my desire to come back. To my pleasant surprise, he did not only open the doors, but he welcomed me back with a tight embrace.

Fast forward to May 6, 2008, I made the vow to live obedient, poor and chaste according to the way of the Gospel set out in the Salesian constitutions.

Being a three-month old Salesian, I still shudder at the thought that I now don the cassock, and I append my name with the letters “SDB.” If I have anything to boast of, it is because of His grace; that alone and nothing more.

Oh, about that Don Bosco quote above, I don’t totally agree with it because it seemed to be lacking. And if I may venture “…If Mama Mary cannot lead the boys to a Don Bosco school, she sends her Salesians instead to lead them to her. “