Wednesday, June 29, 2011

As I was walking and finding some materials that can be recycled in an abandoned room in the seminary, I accidentally saw a certain piece of paper, of which, I think, intentionally torn by someone from a book. I got a little attention to it because it imprints my favorite bible passage (Ps.139) especially during my younger years in formation. I love to read this passage and became so real to me when I read it in visayan version. This passage sustains and motivates me in times of difficulties, frustrations, doubts and desolations.  
To my surprise, it was artistically revised by a certain author which, of course, I don’t know or even heard his name. But, honestly, it still stirred my innermost being and I think it’s worth posting, it might be a good material for reflection and prayer. 
(Just be aware of your feelings and emotions while reading this short yet touching work of art.)

Charles K. Robinson

I know you. I created you. I am creating you.
I have love you from your mother’s womb
You have fled – as you now know – from my love.
But I love you nevertheless, and not-the-less
And, however far you flee, it is I who sustain
Your very power of fleeing, and I will never
Finally let you go. . I accept you as you are.
You are forgiven. I know all your sufferings.
I have always known them.
For beyond your understanding,
When you suffer, I suffer. I also know
All the little the little tricks by which you try to hide
The ugliness you have made of your life
From yourself and others.
But you are beautiful.
You are beautiful more deeply within that you can see
You are beautiful because you yourself,
In the unique one that only you are,
Reflect already something of the beauty of holiness in a way
Which shall never end.
You are beautiful also because, I, and I alone,
See the beauty you shall become.
Through the transforming power of my love
You shall become perfectly beautiful
In a uniquely irreplaceable way,
Which neither you nor I will work out alone.
For we shall work it out together.

Source: EMMAUS Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Homily for CKC Thanksgiving Mass

As the school year comes to an end, I could not afford to leave this institution without expressing my heartfelt gratitude to all of you. Before I would share some insights and memorable experiences, allow me to render you a song:
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march,
march into hell
For that heavenly cause

And I know, If I'll only be true
To this glorious quest; That my heart
Will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be
better for this
That one man, scorned
and covered with scars,
Still strong with his last
ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable….STAR!!!!!

Kining karaan na kaayo ug siguro unappreciated song entitle Impossible Dream captures my one-year experience as a teacher here at Christ the King College, and I think everybody can resonate with the message of the song. Every little success is a gradual realization of our individual dreams. “To dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star “- Graduation day, is somehow reaching that unreachable star in our life. I did not dream to become a teacher and I hate myself being imprisoned with my own thought that I don’t know how to teach. But with my one-year experience here at Christ the King, I proved myself to be wrong; that I can do many things more that what I know. My one- year teaching experience has come to an end and this successful year adds another ladder in reaching out that unreachable star called PRIESTHOOD.
A casual conversation with Sir Rey, ingon sya, “God works in a very ordinary way”. As I pick up bits of experiences of my one year stay at Christ the King College, I came to realize that indeed I met God in the ordinary events of my life. In my short yet fruitful stay at CKC, there were instances and insights that transpire me to continue what I have started. I learn to love CKC and I learn to love the place though, my first reaction when I heard that I would be assigned here at Christ the King College, honestly I did not feel any excitement maybe because my initial plan is to be at St. Michael’s College- Iliigan or San Isidro College in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. But with much obedience to the seminary formators, I submit myself.
My first week here at Gingoog is a tearful week. Walay kaila, dili ko familiar sa lugar, wala ko kabalo asa ko matulog. Naglibot –libot hangtud nakakita ug usa ka boarding house, pagkatulog nako, walay banig, walay unlan, daghan lamok, daghan abug, in short, Hugaw…hehehe… until I found myself crying in the corner of that dark room holding my cell phone, dialing my bishop’s number seeking for comfort and guidance. I almost quit that night, nganu ba nga mianhe pa ko aning dapita nga malipayon naman ko sa Surigao  with my work in a certain micro-financing institution. One time, I was standing in front of the school, akong gitanaw ang intero palibut sa schooll, miingon ko, karong tuiga anhi maglibot ang akong kinabuhi. I was standing for a few minutes but no one seemed to notice my presence.(How sad!!!.. hehe) But as I recall everything, I regard it as a moment of grace. I was plunge into the unknown street of Gingoog City yet it is on that same street where I found God in a much unknown way. Mao nay giingon ni Joan BaiNo, on her reflection paper “it’s amazing to realize that ordinary things like the normal occurrence of nature can be an avenue for us to praise and thank God”. Tuod man, sa ginagmay ug yano nga kasinatian, akong nahimamat ang presensya sa Ginoo. In every challenge I conquer, in every difficulty I pass, in every failure I stand, in every heartache I heal and in every smile I share.
I have many valuable and happy memories to tell with my 1-year stay at CKC. Of course, I also learn many things not to mention ang pag- updating sa mga syllabi, making and hitting the deadlines for grades and test questions, checking quizzes and exams, learning plans, basa sa mga reflection papers nga ang uban copy paste ra… dreadful class observation with Mam Grace… unsa pa sir jong? Naa pa ba mam Arlene? Hehehe… But I would like to highlight some of my realization in my stay at CKC.  First, a priest or a person who aspire to become a priest needs to be plunge into the unknown so that he may experience God’s miraculous work in his life. This is one aspect of a priest life that I realized, that is, to live a life of radical freedom – radical freedom means, a priest/seminarian willfully accepted a certain unknown area of assignment for a certain purpose yet without concern of the outcome. Kana bang walay kabalaka ug unsay ‘muabot’ ug unsay ‘umaabot’. I work and give my best but it is in God’s own hands that determines the outcome. To fight the unbeatable foe; to bear with unbearable sorrow; to run where the brave dare not go. I dare to fight, I dare to run not because I know I would become victorious, but rather, I dare to accept the challenge because I know God is with me. I am not formed to be a teacher but I bravely accept the challenge to be a teacher because after all it is not my work, it is totally His work and I just let myself participate in this noble mission. Second, a priest/seminarian needs not to be a foreigner to his own people. A kind of priest/seminarian who is emerged with his people yet continues to live with his own identity and not a priest/seminarian in a pedestal which is beyond our reach. Mao bitaw nga ganahan ko makig-story-storya sa mga tawo ug mga studyante. Gapaningkamot ko to reach out and understand my students and the people around me so that I would have an idea of what is in their mind, their interests, and their individual concerns. As such, I could also appropriate what they need.
Why priesthood? Nganung  magpari man ka Sir nga pwede naman ka manarbaho ug mamenyo? I was constantly struck with such question posed by some teachers, students and friends.  I faithfully ponder and asked myself, Nganung mag-pari man kunuhay ko? As I tried to trace the history of my vocation, it is just a simple attraction sa mga gamit ug sinina sa pari yet later on I became curious of their life, with this, the vocation to the priesthood started to sprout. I don’t know how to explain it but one thing is certain, I am happy and contented with the kind of life that I chose to live. My answers may not satisfy them but it sustains my belief that I made the right decision. I am living inside the seminary for a quite long time but my vocation remains a mystery and would always be a mystery. I will not waste my time searching for the best answer to rationalize my vocation because God knows my heart more than I know myself. The fact that I am contented and happy with my life is indeed a sign that God has a plan for me. It may not be certain but the value of my faith is more than the value of certainty.
With my one- year stay at Christ the king College, there were times that my vocation became blurred especially when I feel so exhausted working with all the things that I am not used to do. I have plenty of what if’s – what if dili nako mupadayon sa pagka-pari?, what if mangitan nalang ko lain nga trabaho. Mamenyo ug magpuyo nga ordinaryo yet again I was reminded with the song “still strove with his last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable star”. Fortunately, those times became a moment of renewal for me. The desire to continue was still burning in me which made me realize that I really have the vocation. It was a time of reassurance and affirmation that my decision is not just mine but it is God’s plan for me. Pwede naman tuod ko magtrabaho , mabuhi naman siguro ko yet , I chose to be who I am now. And that is radical freedom again. You chose not because you don’t have any other option but you chose because you are free.  Freedom is a gift from God that I should be grateful for. I do not know what lies ahead in this exodus of my vocation, but whatever I may be in the future I would offer it to God as a gift for his goodness to me.
            Sa kanunay nako ug sakay sa rela, mu-ingon na lamang ako nga “Christ” instead of saying Christ the King College. Kun adunay mangutana ug asa ako/kita nag-trabaho, nag skwela, etc  mu-ingon ta sa “Christ” o taga –“christ” kita.”. The word Christ from it etymology “Christos” which means someone who is chosen, anointed, elected to be a leader in a community. In the time of Jesus, the word “Christos” was used, Jesus as Christos, with a capitalized letter C understood as a Messiah the chosen/anointed one. We always claim to all people we meet, “Taga – “christ” ko! It quite surprising that we are all bringing the tag “chistos” – that is, to become a little “christos” or “christ” in our own simple way. This might not be my own challenge as a faculty member of CKC but, perhaps, for all of us. Kitang tanan nga nagdala ug muangkon nga taga “christ” kita magpadayag unta sa mga hiyas subay kang Kristo nga atong gisunod. Sa kadaghan sa mga tawo sa Gingoog City, pipila lamang ang adunay opurtunidad sa pagskewla ug pagtrabaho dinhi. It is on this sense that we could also claim that like Christ, we too, are the chosen few, chosen to be a positive influence to anybody who come in contact with us; that the light of Christ may radiates in every heart of all CKCians. Perhaps, this is what the message of our gospel this morning, it talks about righteousness. Righteousness is not just a word, not just following the letters of the law; not just following rituals and religious practices; not just a desire, nor a license to be with God but rather a COMMITMENT to make others live to the fullest; commitment to relive that christ-like-image in us.  Being the only Catholic and RVM institution in Gingoog City, we may be the catalysts for social transformation and that our presence would somehow cause a little difference. Ang atong pagka-taga christ aduna untay claru ug dako nga kalainan sa uban ug kining maong identity ug kalainan ato usab nga ipa-ambit sa uban.
In closing, a certain pericope from the gospel of Matthew it says, “Ex abundantia enim cordis os loquitur” – From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. My heart is filled with so much joy and gratitude that I could not let this joyful moment of my life pass without sharing it to people who are very dear to me. In a very special way, would like to thank RVM sisters for accepting me here. For Fr. Jhong Burlat, SSJV for giving me the chance to be the holimist today.  
For all the deans, teachers, staff, workers and students. For all that has been and for all that will be…Thank you so much for journeying with me.
Deo Gratia!

                                                          JAMES WENDELE PLAZA PURACAN
                                                                     March 18, 2011@ CKC


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In "Diaspora"

         Imagine that you were lost in a place that you believe you are very familiar of, a certain place that you were accustomed to live yet eventually become totally different. The feeling of excitement and confusion collide with the thought that things will go well. It was the same feeling I felt when I first enter SJVTS after living in 'diaspora' for two years. I felt like I was a stranger to a place so close and meaningful to me. Many things had changed after two years of being away from the care of the seminary, new personalities both from the seminary formators and staff. The sub-community buildings were renovated, the chapel was artistically painted, though I honestly missed the archaic ambiance of it. Some house rules were changed and improved to cater the needs of the seminarians. The change is something very external and I am not greatly affected by it, what is significant for me is I am here with full dedication to continue answering His call. My heart is filled with so much gladness with the thought that I am finally living at home - Vianney
          I am now under the Formation Year called the Galilee Year (SPFY).Galilee is a significant place for us Catholic, and Christians in general. It was in this place that the disciple met the person whom the called Christ. It was on that same place where most of the miracles of Jesus happened. Biblical stories of life, miracles and conversion took place on this place. The twelve disciples living and working in Galilee doing their ordinary routine met Jesus and unexpectedly called them for an extraordinary mission.
          This year would be a moment for me to pause for a while. Pausing does not mean to waste time doing nothing at all, but rather, it is a moment to ponder, relive and rediscover significant memories from the past that brought me to this noble calling. After nine long years since I first utter my little ‘yes’ with just a handful of knowledge of what kind of life I chose. It is, as it were, a journey to visit an old place of origin. I firmly believe that it would be clearer to trace back my humble beginning and discover new things out from that old concrete experiences before I finally move a little bit forward.  There were many consolations and desolations, defeats and triumphs, successes and failures, frustrations and joys that had happened in my life, such experiences evoked in me the desire to go on no matter what it takes so that I would not regret it in the end. I was once lost, a failure, and a loser but those experiences brought me to a lifetime realization how valuable my vocation is. I want to go back to the ‘Galilee’ of my vocation, where I first met God and experience His miracles in my life, hearing the invitation to embrace this extraordinary calling. With all honesty, I am truly excited and at the same time quite frightened looking ahead of what kind of formation I am going to face; I might not able to surpass all of those. What is in my mind is not so much on surpassing but the quality of formation that I might live with. Perhaps, it was just the same feeling when the disciples were asked to go back to Galilee after hearing those kerygmatic stories of Jesus of Nazareth. They were all excited hearing the news that Jesus was resurrected yet confused and frightened of what was ahead of them there.
I was touch by the reflection of Fr. Raul Dael when he spoke about vocation. For him, ‘vocation is being who you are’. Priesthood is not something external, it is not a process of reaching something or acquiring something, rather, it is something deep within that needs to be ignited. It is already in the persons inner being the qualities and potentialities of being a priest. When a person sees some qualities of a priest, eventually it creates a ‘vocation-spark’ in ones consciousness and later on gradually realizes that he has a vocation. This reminds me of how prophet Jeremiah was uniquely called by God.  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jer.1:5). The more a candidate to presbyter knows his real self, including the dark shadows of his existence, the more a priest can appreciate his priesthood.
I would like to highlight some important points raised by my formator Fr. Raul Dael, SSJV on our orientation, of which I think very important to remember:

 “Galilee Year is a period for the broadening (pagpalapad) and deepening (pagpalawom ug pagpalugdang) fo the seminarians’ perspective and appreciation of their priestly vocation. More importantly, it is a time for more personal appropriation (pagpahaom) and a greater integration (pagpatibook) of the spiritual, human and pastoral pillars of formation towards an authentic priestly life and fruitful ministry (pagpaambit/pag-alagad).

It is on this line of thinking that I realized that this Galilee formation year of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary is all about moving closer to the light because it is more on strengthening ones spirituality and at the same time encountering our personal, and at times, shameful shadows.  It is like an imagery of a person standing a lighted candle, the more a person get closer to the source of light the more it creates a bigger shadow of which we don’t even care to look back. Now is the opportune time to tightly hold on to that candle and fearlessly face the ‘shadows’ I created.