Sunday, July 02, 2006

By Teresita Malanum, TOCarm

I left the country last November to fulfill my role as a doting lola to my one and only two year old grandson and to keep house for the young family of my eldest son who recently migrated to Australia.

Half-heartedly, I left behind my two families, my daughter and my other son at home as well as my TOC family in Pilar, Las Piñas City. I’ve grown so accustomed to my daily house routines and to the regular weekly and monthly activities with my Carmelite brothers and sisters that it was difficult for me to leave without any qualm or misgiving.

Sometimes however God disturbs the life you have been used to in order to rock the boat of your comfortable habitual existence. Just like verbal prayers, God does not want us to fall into a ‘rote exercise’ where the heart is no longer engaged because the words just automatically flow from the lips without feelings anymore. In short, in Australia, I did not have the usually comfortable "do whatever you please" life. Of course, my ‘apo’ is a delight to be with and will always be. However, it was not my house and I didn’t have ‘the call’ for anything. For the first time, I experienced being totally dependent on others, on my food, on my activities (I can’t go places except when I’m with them). Their activities were also my activities and I felt I did not exist as an individual who can independently plan to do what I wish.

It was by God’s grace that our Natl. Prioress, Sis. Nimfa suggested that I contact Pamela Dewhurst, an OCarm TOC who was living in Canberra where I also stayed. First, being blessedly single, she made time to accommodate me despite her busy schedule. Second, being an active Carmelite (her apostolate was caring for the sick and the elderly which also included traveling to distant parts of Australia to care for her older relatives), I witnessed how, through listening, God provides each ‘willing hand’ a beautiful ministry.

Pam is 73 years old and has been an Isolate Carmelite all her life (that is more than 50 years). She is an Isolate because she has no community in Canberra. Furthermore, although there are four (4) of them in the same area, they are actually far from one another because of the vastness of Australia. At least 3 times a year, they do try to meet over lunch or when somebody is around, they contact each other. Other than that, on their own, they have to take care of their spiritual growth. Pam said she gets her regular ongoing formation from their TOC newsletter, "The Vine", because (like our own TOC News), it contains articles rich in Carmelite teachings. For any important matter, she receives communications direct from the National Office situated in distant Victoria. Otherwise, she pursues her journey to Carmel all alone.

We met thrice during my stay there. And every meeting was always an edifying experience for me, for here was a 73-year-old woman who was very active in her Carmelite ministry of spreading the faith through her care for the sick and the elderly. Today, she has now centered her life on this. She has a deep Carmelite spirituality and she speaks about it with fervor. She talks animatedly about God and exudes God’s love in the way she treats people (the first time we met, she treated me like a long lost friend).

I was truly humbled by this woman who single-handedly, without the support of any community, was able to transform herself into a deeply committed Carmelite through her fastidious effort to learn more about Carmel (she has subscription to a lot of Catholic publications and reads a lot of spiritual books – yes, she truly sounds well rooted in God). I felt inadequate with my ministry as I saw her untiring service to the sick and lonely aged people. Being a stranger in Australia, she provided for me a sterling inspiration to hold on to Carmel’s treasures.

In Australia, I felt like I was also an Isolate Carmelite. I did not have any community to meet with. It was all up to me to keep the flame of my love for Carmel burning in the midst of loneliness, boredom and isolation. ‘Loneliness’ for those I left behind; ‘boredom’ for the life of being in the house day in and day out with very little respite from the humdrum of exactly doing the same thing everyday in the four corners of our home; and then ‘isolation’ for not being able to socialize with anyone else except with my ‘housemates’. I had no other friends, and although I found a very dear friend in Pam, I did not want to disturb her unnecessarily because she was always up and about with her apostolate. She was seldom at home.

What kept me going were the emails from a friend who is a ‘soul-companion’ in my spiritual journey as well as the very inspirational, informative, and thought-provoking writings from our fellow Carmelites in the blogspot which our very own National Prioress has so brilliantly made available for everyone to read anywhere in the world.

Without a community, I still felt in touch with our Philippine Carmel family through the emails/websites. It was with great gusto that I relish every article and I was often amazed with the depth of the writer’s grasp of the topic. It certainly showed that those who wrote the articles spent long hours of silent love before God. Articles were written with much reflection, with much personal first-hand experiences and with a generous amount of love and interconnectedness with the readers. These were my ‘spiritual oases’ far away from home.

Now that I’m back, I realized that it was not really that difficult to be an Isolate. But then, maybe it was not hard for me because I started my formation with a very loving and supportive TOC community where we were committed to grow and struggle with our difficulties together as a family of God. Maybe, it was also because I resolved to be always in touch with my Carmelite family through emails. It may also be because I kept Carmel in my heart through my readings. Maybe, because my thirst to know and to live the spirituality never ebbed but continually grew stronger in the midst of a spiritual drought of Carmel’s well in Australia.

And so to be an Isolate Carmelite, I believe we must first of all have the great desire to embrace the spirituality. To this desire, we must add the commitment to pursue the quest for Carmel relentlessly. How? We must exert effort to be in regular contact with the National Office here in Manila, wherever we may be. We must undergo academic formation not only from those that will come from the National Office, but from our own personal labor to grow in the knowledge of God. We should not put to waste the benefits, which are available from the lives and teachings of our Carmelite saints and from the ‘written sharings’ that we get from our brothers and sisters in Carmel.

It will also be a great aid to have a ‘soul-companion’ in this journey, for we need the support and guidance of somebody who has genuine concern for our spiritual welfare. Lastly, it is much better and often highly recommended, that we get a good spiritual director who could ably chart our journey amidst the tempestuous sea of our trials and temptations to the sure road of Carmel’s peak.
Now, if you ask me, "Which one would you prefer, to be in a community or to be an isolate?" I would certainly want to belong to a community. The physical, social, emotional and spiritual support that a community can give me is something I wouldn’t want to miss. Of course, there are squabbles, misunderstandings, competitions and all kinds of pettiness that can go with it. But hey! Even at home, we don’t have a perfect family. All those things are parts of our rough edges that God is so kindly honing ever so slowly, so carefully and so patiently to prepare us for an entrance to the next mansion. And even if we don’t have the community, God can always provide other people to serve the same purpose. I’d much prefer my TOC family to do this than to have others who are not of ‘like mind’ to fulfill the role.
Nonetheless, before you think that being an Isolate is no good, I’d like to clarify myself. God always knows what is best. It is He who decides and provides the opportunity for us to be in a community or to be an Isolate. Whatever the circumstances of our life, it is He who wills it to be so. Being an Isolate does not make us any less. Yet, to be truly a Carmelite, it is not up to God alone. It is also up to us. We cannot be a Carmelite by name only, we must live it. And to live it is to breathe it, i.e., to imbibe it by lovingly and eagerly making sure that we grow in its spirituality for as long as we live. Whether we are alone or with others, we must journey in it patiently and untiringly. We must trustingly allow God to bring us to the summit no matter what it takes.
By Rose Perol, TOCarm

Ang Regina Décor Carmeli TOCC ng Parokya ng Nuestra Senora del Carmen ay nagdiwang ng kanilang unang anibersaryo noong Marso 19, 2006. Ipinagdiwang nila ito sa pamamagitan ng isang misa na pinangunahan ng kanilang kura-paroko, Fr. Elmer Ignacio.

Sa loob ng isang taon ay maraming pagsubok ang ipinadama sa amin para mapatunayan kung kami ay karapat-dapat mabilang sa TOC. Isa na rito ang maraming lesson na dapat basahin at intindihing mabuti dahil gagawan ito ng pagninilay. Dagdag pa rin ang maghapong meeting at formation tuwing unang sabado ng buwan at ang pagdarasal ng Liturhiya ng mga Oras.

Mahirap ngunit napakasarap lalo na ng maranasan naming ang tatlong araw na retreat sa Notre dame de Vie Retreat House noong Nobyembre 2005. Hindi matumbasan ang kasiyahang naramdaman naming sa retreat na ito. At noon ding Mayo 6, 2006 ay nagkaroon kami ng Recollection at Day of Discernment para sa paghahanda sa nalalapit na pagtanggap sa amin sa Orden ng Carmelo.

The new novices from Regina Decor Carmelit TOCC, Pulong Buhangin, Bulacan during the fraternal visit, June 3, 2006

Buong husay na tinalakay ni Fr. Pol Evangelista, parochial vicar, ang kahulugan at prinsipyo ng "Discernment". Tunay na nabuksan ang aming kaisipan tungkol sa TOC. Naging mabisa, mabunga, at makahulugan ang Recollection na ito para sa aming lahat na nagsisimula pa lamang sa aming paglalakbay patungo sa bundok ng Carmelo.

Sa nasabi ring petsa ay para kaming sumuot sa butas ng karayom sa one-on-one interview sa pagitan ng aming prioress, Violeta Cruz, at Ruel Santos, aming formator. Salamat sa Diyos at naging maayos ang lahat. Matapos tanggapin ang kumpirmasyon mula sa National Council ay aming hinihintay ang araw na kami ay tatanggapin sa Orden ng Mahal na Birhen ng Carmelo at ito ay sa Hunyo 12, 2006 – araw ng kalayaan at kapistahan ni Beato Hilario Januszewski.

By Ruel Santos, TOCarm
Regional Coordinator

Mayo 8-10, 2006

Nagsama-sama ang mga komunidad ng TOC ng Malolos, Barasoain, Calumpit, Guiguinto, at Hagonoy sa kanilang taunang retreat.

Ito ay ginanap sa Notre Dame de Vie Retreat House sa Novaliches. Ang paksa sa nasabing retreat ay "Understanding Carmelite Charism II: The Rule of Saint Albert" na may pagninilay tungkol sa mga pangako ng isang Karmelita (obedience, chastity, and spiritual poverty) at tungkol sa mga katangian ng isang leader. Ito ay pinangunahan ni Fr. Domingo Salonga, Regional Spiritual Director.

Mayo 27, 2006 at Hunyo 3, 2006

Ginanap ang taunang fraternal visit ng National Council sa Bulacan. Nagbigay ng pag-uulat ang bawat prioress ng komunidad tungkol sa katayuan ng bawat TOC community at ang kanilang mga gampanin.

L-R: Ruel, Nimfa, Fr. Pete and Joe during the Calumpit-Hagonoy combined fraternal visit, May 27 (A.M.)

Joe explaining the new procedure for application and preliminary evaluation of candidates for Reception and Profession.

Local heads of the Calumpit and Hagonoy Communities

Pagkatapos ng pag-uulat ay ipinaliwanag ni Bro. Joe ang tungkol sa bagong paraan ng pagsusuri sa mga taong tatanggapin sa Orden at sa mga magbibigay ng profession sa TOC. Pagkatapos nito ay ipinaliwanag ni Sis. Nimfa kung paano mag-ministry ng YCPF, Scapular Confraternity at tungkol sa International Convention na gaganapin sa Setyembre 2006.

TOC Community of Malolos (Cathedral and Barasoain) during the fraternal visit on May 27, 2006 (P.M.)

A glimpse of the Guiguinto TOC Community during the fraternal visit, June 3, 2006 (P.M.)

The National Officers listening to the report from the local Prioress of Sta. Maria, bulacan Community, June 3, 2006 (A.M.)

Hunyo 12, 2006

Tinanggap sa Orden ng Carmelo ang mga postulante ng Regina Décor Carmeli TOCC, Pulong Buhangin, Sta. Maria at ng Holy Family TOCC, Guiguinto. Isang misa konselebrasyon ang ginanap sa parokya ng Nuestra Senora del Carmen na pinangunahan ni Fr. Domingo Salonga, Regional Spiritual Diresctor, at Fr. Elmer Ignacio, kura paroko. Ang mga postulanteng tinanggap sa Orden ay sina Cristina Mauricio, Josefina Santos, Lucita Villanueva, Estelita Libiran, Luzviminda de Silva, Adelina Pilapil, Rose Perol, at Boy de Silva ng Pulong Buhangin at Crisanta Flores ng Guiguinto.

Pagkatapos ng misa ay tumuloy sa parish hall para ganapin ang Regional Assembly. Dito ay tinalakay ang "Carmelite Identity in the Rule of Saint Albert" sa kadahilanan na sa susunod na taon ay ipagdiriwang ang ikawalong sentenaryo ng Carmelite Rule. Pinasimulan din ang "Pondo ng Karmelo" na ibinatay sa diwa ng "Pondo ng Pinoy" para makalikom ng karampatang pondo para sa nalalapit na national convention na gaganapin sa 2008 sa Bulacan. Ito ay para rin makapagbigay ng kaunting tulong sa National Fund.

Pinagtibay din sa nasabing pagtitipon ang pangalan ng rehiyon. Ang rehiyon ng Bulacan ay itinalaga kay San Jose bilang patron nito at tinawag na "Lay Carmelite Region of Saint Joseph." Pinili si San Jose sa kadahilanan na sa tuwing magtatag ng monasterio si Sta. Teresa ng Avila ay lagi siyang may kasa-kasamang imahen ng santong ito. Panatag niyang iniiwan ang bagong tatag sa pangangalaga ni San Jose dahil alam niya na ito ay lalago at mamumunga sa pangangalaga ng esposo ni Maria.

By Elvie de Dios, TOCarm

The Project 4 Community, trying to beat the threat of "La Niña," went on pilgrimage on Monday, May 8, 2006.

The plan was first to try the popular "Razon’s" halo halo and pancit luglug. Then on to San Sebastian Church to view the original image of our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was first brought to the Philippines by the Recollect Fathers. Afterwards, we agreed to watch the famous sunset at Manila Bay and take a stroll at the new Baywalk of Roxas Blvd. Since we would already be in the vicinity, we would try to seek an audience with our newly installed Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales who happens to be a long time family friend of Sis Sally, our local prioress. He resides at the Arzobispado, near the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.
Proj 4 TOCs with Cardinal Rosales

But, as the saying goes, "We plan, God directs." Calling to try to make an appointment, Sis. Sally was told that the Cardinal’s schedule was so hectic that Sr. Elsa, sister-in-charge at the CBCP, suggested we "ambush" the Cardinal when he comes down to start his scheduled activities in the afternoon. At the very least, we would get to kiss the Cardinal’s ring. It was necessary to be early, to catch him before 3:00 pm. And it came to pass, the Cardinal graciously received us! He made us feel important, as if there were no other people waiting for him. We spent a memorable and leisurely thirty minutes with the Cardinal. To top it all, at the end of our visit, he gave each of us a beautiful Rosary from Rome, a souvenir we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

After out visit, we felt there was no sense retracing our steps to go to San Sebastian, much less to have a snack at faraway Greenhills. Instead, we had a simple agape at Chowking and then, we spent some time in prayer at the Manila Cathedral. With our luck still holding, we found the underground crypt open to visitors so we were able to view the niches of Jaime Cardinal Sin and the other Archbishops of Manila who are buried there.

Bay Walk at dusk is a wonderful sight to see. Though the setting sun was partially obscured by some clouds, the beauty of creation was still breathtaking. These are one of the times when we believe there really is a God.

Brown ladies at Baywalk, Roxas Boulevard....

Supper was definitely another story to tell. We ate at the Aristocrat Restaurant, their chicken barbecue to die for among Filipinos both from here and abroad.

Enjoying the famous Chicken Barbecue at nearby Aristocrat...

With happy hearts, filled stomachs and aching arthritic bones, we rested that night with thanksgiving to a great God, each in her own way, and a prayer for those who made it an experience of a lifetime, specifically our dear Prioress, Sis. Sally, not to forget Sis. Fe [Buenaventura] for the use of her van, What with the high cost of gas these days! Indeed, Project 4 TOCs are blest.

By Violeta Veneracion, TOCarm
Regional Coordinator

On April 4, forty (40) TOC members of Cabanatuan attended a Recollection on the ‘Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery’ given by Rev. Fr. Reynold Oliveros. On the same occasion, three (3) members were administered the Hermitage Rites namely, Rosita Abando, Juliana Encarnacion and Emilia Hilario.

Meanwhile Fr. Reynold praised the TOC for their prayerful life, which according to him is the pillar that makes us holy. He further emphasized that spirituality without prayer is like a Gospel without Christ. Carmelite prayer life needs to be treasured as these produced many Carmelite Saints who had experienced the intimate presence of God in their lives.

The recollection was followed by our sharing of insights and reflections on how we have experienced the Paschal Mystery in our lives and in our community; how it has transformed our members into one, loving and sharing community.

As a community we have had our share of the passion and purification. There had been so much dissensions, divisions and intrigues in the past. At one time the community had refused to submit to national directives, but ‘dying to self’ had enabled us to triumph over the negativism prevailing in the atmosphere at that time. With God’s grace, good will prevailed. We had to undergo ‘death to self’, especially on the part of the local officers. Often times we have had to abandon personal ambitions, sacrificed our time, leisure and pleasure to serve the interests of the community. After the ‘dying to self’ or ‘self-denials’, we now experience life, love, joy and peace in the community.

After the recollection we felt we are ready to accept our crosses again and again because beyond these sufferings is the revelation of glory; beyond the cross is the crown of triumph; beyond death is eternal life.

April 11 – 12, 2006

Nine (9) members from Tarlac TOC Community attended the annual retreat on the ‘Carmelite Charism’ given by Fr. Pete Manilag, Jr., O Carm.
By Gloria Jumawan, TOCarm

A recollection was conducted by Fr. Paul Medina, O Carm on March 12, 2006 and attended by 34 members of the Dumaguete TOC Community. The term ‘RECOLLECTION’ according to him is to ‘collect again the life one must have to belong to the Carmelite Order.’ A Carmelite (TOC) should have a life of promise; a consecrated life to Christ and to Mama Mary. Just as Christ the anointed one, has consecrated his life in obedience to the Father with purity and poverty, taking a life of total surrender to the Father, so, should each and every one of us also follow his example of life of obedience, chastity and voluntary poverty.

Fr. Paul further shared to us that in the promise of obedience, humility is highly regarded as the greatest Christian virtue and is strictly observed. Obedience of the congregation to the superior should be observed and respected because the superior represents the community and the authority of the community is from God. If the Superior practices his authority for the good of the community this comes from God Himself. But if the Superior abuses his power this does not come from God anymore. In the context of the Third Orders it is expected that the members should obey their superiors, their memos and directives. If these directives and memos are for the good of the members, the members should follow because this authority comes from God Himself.

The promise of Chastity is the availability to serve the Lord. For the Third Order this is not the denial of sexuality but bringing it to the divine purpose with purity of thoughts, actions, gestures, speech, feelings and intentions. The members of the Third Order are expected to live in accordance with their state of life and practice the essence by which this promise is made.

In the promise of voluntary poverty, for the TOC this is the denial of worldly attachment in order to use the material goods for the greater glory of God. Poverty may be material, social and spiritual.

The recollection ended with the advice of Fr. Paul that when the National Council gives directives or memoranda for the community to follow, everyone should obey these rules because it is the voice of God who directs every member for the good of the whole community. One should not defy these rules since this may cause disobedience on the whole community. The members were also reminded to live a chaste life in accordance with one’s state of life. Our life is exposed to the dangers and temptations of this world but through the grace of God we shall be able to faithfully practice these evangelical virtues.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Challenges for the TOC Philippines Ahead….

By Pat Holandez, TOCarm
Formator, Sikatuna, QC

Fr. Pete Manilag, O Carm, TOC National Spiritual Director, invited all Priors/Prioresses and Local Formation Director/Directress to a non-mandatory Recollection/Lectio Divina activity last April 26 at the Titus Brandsma Center. Nineteen (19) came including the National Prioress and NFC Director. NCR-Luzon communities that were represented were: Bulacan, Tondo, Sta. Ana, Cubao, Kamias, Project 7, Sikatuna, Makati, Bacoor and Pilar, Las Piñas.

Everything proceeded so smoothly and effortlessly under the expert guidance of Fr. Pete. It was obvious that a lot of preparation was done beforehand because he catered to our different senses: of sight – with his well-selected visual presentations; of taste – with a ready bottle of candies for everyone; of hearing – with the small "gong" that resonated a soothing, lingering sound and with the beautiful video recordings of "My Prayer" and "Healing". With keen planning, he led us to open ourselves to our experiences in our respective communities. He divided the whole proceedings into three movements:

The 1st movement was the opening rite – where we watched in the projector screen scenes of injustice, harassments and other cruelties inflicted on the marginalized against the backdrop of the song, "My Prayer." One or two scenes were taken from the movie, "Passion of the Christ."

This was followed by another visual presentation, this time, excerpts from the movie, "The Lion King." We were instructed to view these while keeping in mind the official roles we were occupying in our communities. These dealt with human brokenness, denial, indifference, anger and putting the blame on others. These were followed by scenes touching on acceptance of guilt and the process of repentance undergone by the prodigal son, in short, the inner journey towards healing of broken relationships.

Finally, we were shown pictures that reminded us that we were created in the image of God and that He lives in us. God is the loving Father who forgives and waits for our "homecoming" and accepts us back with open arms and restores us to our full former stature as children of God. We were challenged to let go, forgive and be forgiven and take our place in the circle of life where we are expected to respect passages, "as time is the eternal healer and God’s love is healing us."

It was remarkable how all these unfolded one by one through the use of appropriate, well-selected dialogues from "The Lion King." The pictures shown while the song "Healing" was being sung were equally very moving.

The second movement was the reading of a Gospel narrative taken from John 13:1-15. It was about the washing of the feet of the apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ. We were made to share the particular verses or words that struck us and to select scenes in the Bible that reminded us of the drama that took place in the reading.

The third movement was the personal sharing from each participant based on the chosen words or verses in the gospel that we have read. Our sharing dwelt on our experiences in our capacities as Prioresses or Formation Directors or more precisely how we handle rejections, hurts, and offenses while discharging our functions and responsibilities in the local communities. Interestingly, some talked about their family experiences instead, but they were not stopped from doing so because in the first movement, it was pointed out that, paradoxically, the family is the greatest source of both wholeness and brokenness.

Since everybody, without exception, had to give a sharing, a major portion of the morning was spent on this exercise.

In his synthesis of the whole exercise, he reminded us that "There is a need for an internal authentic spirit that will renew and sustain our reforming spirit. The challenge now is to continue to discern and deepen our relationship with God. It is only then that we can move together in the community. By sharing the experiences of God in our lives, we will be guided and be able to see where we are commissioned by Him."

One thing that Fr. Pete could not over-emphasize was the importance of discerning God’s will constantly and be purified continuously even if everything appears all right. "Maraming nabubuhay sa kaplastikan," Fr. Pete declared. " ‘Tama ako’ seems to be the attitude they take." This is a form of clinging, according to him, to a false god and this needs purification. "Even if we are near God, it does not mean that we are not capable of being tempted by the devil. Always discern and continue changing even if goodness or a transformation has been perceived. Our priority is to get in touch with our internal selves through prayer, reflection and contemplation."

The TOC is challenged to move on and to let go of biases and false gods in our lives. There is the challenge of how to continue the purification process in discerning our rule, our commitment and our responsibilities as Lay Carmelites.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


By Fr. Pete Manila Jr. O carm
National Spiritual Director

My first months as co-journeyer of the lay Carmelites broadened my mind on the meaning of commitment. I witnessed how these already committed people made another commitment in life or intensified their commitments to a new commitment as members of the community of lay Carmelites. I officiated in a number of rites of Reception and Profession of the different tertiary communities. I was able to visit Mayon in Bicol because of the Lay Carmelites. There is joy in my heart as I listened the prayerful moment of profession before God and the people. By the rite of profession, I believe that the Lord consecrates us for a very obvious reason: to transform us, to deify us. Personal holiness remains a divinely ordained goal of human life.

Newly professed lay Carmelites, I do pray for your perseverance and may you prolong the joyous moment of your profession, to ponder in your hearts the presence of God who called you to this life. There is joy in doing more sacrifices because of your option and commitment in life. To become member of this community is indeed a way of finding the meaning of life in the presence of the Lord in the alternate way of living in community and in service.

The joy truly radiates as you authentically make yourself available more for God through this community. The joy in you makes you young and energetic, makes you move further to reach to our brothers and sisters who are in need, makes you pray harder and makes you beautifully human as you relate to one another.

I imagined how the first Carmelites professed also before God that they have to live a way of life which they believe as way of being faithful to the love of God and being faithful to the Spirit that guided them to come together, to be able to risk their lives in the uncertainties of their way of life because deep in their hearts they were convinced that God is with them. In the spirit of our forefathers in Carmel, we also enter Carmel in the spirit of trust and confidence in the loving presence of God.

May we realize that entering Carmel is not simply a matter of entering a building or a group or community. There is uniqueness in Carmel that distinguishes us from other groups of organization. Our profession to be in Carmel is an act of actively entering a drama playing out deep within every human life. We are awakened in the midst of our love story with God. It is a story of the human spirit encountered by God’s Spirit. We are explorers of an inner place of intimacy with God.

We are entering into the cell of purification, opening our hearts and minds in the whole process of transformation. It is a process of unmasking us, of knowing who we truly are—we are God’s children. It is a process that our desires are transformed so that more and more our life as humans and as Christians is expressing desires which are in accord with God’s desire. God’s desire is to see us truly His children.

Entering into this story of our life in Carmel purifies us that we want what God wants. This is what holiness means…we are not building castles on the air, but we are living naturally and beautifully human.

By Nimfa C. Tangcuangco, TOCarm
National Prioress

Have you ever wondered why a baby cries as soon as he leaves his mother’s womb and enters this world? I guess it is symbolic of the suffering awaiting him to which he is being introduced to at the very outset of his birth.

Suffering, pain, trials and all sorts of tribulations is a necessary requirement in order to survive in this life. Certainly we cannot escape from this reality. As Christians and followers of Christ, suffering and the Cross take on a greater meaning and significance because it is something we can never and should never avoid. To follow Christ is to share in His redemptive suffering. Certainly we fully realize that now, don’t we? But how many of us had this kind of awareness when we were growing up? How many of us tried to inculcate this same value in our own children when they were growing up as well?

I think I had this awareness because my own mother taught this value to us at an early age. We were taught the value of mortification when we were kids; the value of restraining our wants and desires that were not essential in life; the value of simplicity in life; the value of honest and hard work, of toiling with our hands. "Beautiful hands are those that do" – this was fed into our young consciousness day in and day out. I remember an enlarged framed copy of the poem with the same title [it was given by my mother’s sister who was a Nun] hanging in the girl’s bedroom to constantly remind us that if we want beautiful hands we should know how to use them for productive work; idle hands are never considered beautiful no matter if they’re soft and dainty….

In this age of advanced technology where various electronic gadgets are in one’s easy reach and one can produce work at the touch of a button, young people of today have lost the love for hard work, sacrifice or any semblance of pain and suffering. The word ‘mortification’ has probably lost its meaning to this present generation. Young people have been accustomed to the "easy" life and the "instant" culture. And who’s partly to blame? I think it is us parents who failed to inculcate the value of suffering and sacrifice in our children when they were growing up. It is us parents who over-protect our children from pain and difficulties necessary to build character. It is the grandparents who are always perceived to be "spoilers" of their children’s children, trying so hard to indulge their every wants and desires, spoiling them with material things instead of teaching them the value of self-denial at a young age. Without being aware of it they are probably indirectly contributing in bringing up individuals who would be incapable of making sacrifices in their lives as adults, in short, persons who do not have the strength of character to cope up with problems, difficulties and sufferings later on in their adulthood.

My eldest daughter who is presently the Chief Resident (Internal Medicine) in one of the leading hospitals in Metro Manila confided to me her frustrations regarding some of the present crop of residents under her supervision. It is to be noted that from out of an original 12 resident trainees which started out more than two years ago there is only two of them from that batch left to finish the training program in Internal Medicine; all the rest have chosen to terminate their training during their first or second year of residency because they could not cope up with the pressures of the training program anymore.

"This generation is really turning out a new breed of resident doctors," she lamented to me a few weeks back. "They cannot seem to cope up with the pressures and the difficulties. They go on leave or absent from duty even when they are not supposed to. They lack the necessary commitment for the work. They have no desire to make sacrifices or to sacrifice their personal wants for a greater good which is to serve the interest of the patients they are attending to".

Although my daughter belongs to this same generation she speaks of, she may presumably be of a different mold having been brought up in an entirely different atmosphere. As a mother I never indulged my kids’ every wants and desires that were not essential to their well-being at certain points in their lives. I made sure however that everything they needed, they were provided for. As I place so much value on books and reading materials, I indulged them with all the children’s books and activity books they desired and needed. With regards to other non-essential things however I taught them the value of self-denial.

I remember, when my eldest daughter was six years old in prep school she had a friend and classmate whose mother (as I perceived her then) had been somewhat over-indulgent towards her little girl. My daughter would tell me each time her classmate had a new lunch box which was almost every month: "Mommy, Trisha has a new lunch box again," probably trying to implicitly remind me that her lunch box was the same old lunch box she had when she was four years old and hey, couldn’t I perhaps buy her a new one? I would assure her every time that her lunch box was still functioning as it should anyway and that I would buy her a new one when she really needed a replacement. And it was the same with shoes because Trisha had a closet-full of pairs in her room.

Because my eldest daughter had signified her desire to be a doctor as early as 4 years old (she never had any other career in mind while growing up other than being a doctor) I had to prepare her very early on for the rigorous medical study ahead of her. I had to properly make sure she developed a study and reading habit at a very young age.

I never had to hire tutors for my children. I tutored them myself and I must admit I was rather a very strict tutor. I decided to be a full time mother and left my office job (when my youngest was a year old) totally behind me to be able to undertake this. I continued to tutor and to closely monitor their studies until they were in 2nd grade. In the succeeding grade levels I had withdrawn little by little from tutoring them because by that time they already developed a study habit requiring minimal supervision from me. By the time they were in 5th grade they were entirely on their own. I never had to worry about their grades in school from thereon.

Very recently my youngest daughter (now 25 years old) and I were discussing about the deprivations we experienced when we were growing up and she exclaimed in remembrance:

"Hey, yeah! I was a deprived kid, Mom. Did you realize that? I remember I had wanted so much for you to buy me those big crayolas but you kept saying ‘no, you make do with your present set of crayons.’ And I had always wanted so badly a set of those Play Doh things like the ones my other classmates had but you kept buying me those cheap molding clays. Aah! That was mean. You were a mean Mommy", she recalled with amusement.

And I guess this ‘mean-mommy-streak’ in me resurfaces each time I, as National Prioress, try to implement the rules on attendance very strictly refusing to make compromises because I would want to instill the value of self-discipline and of commitment among the members perhaps in the same way that I tried to instill the same values in my own children when they were growing up.
Nowadays I am very lenient with them because I know they have already imbibed the value of self-regulation as adults. I don’t worry much about them straying from the path of righteousness because of the value formation I gave them when they were young children. In the same way I would probably turn very lenient in the years to come just as soon as the whole TOC membership has undergone complete re-formation. After all what is there to be strict about when each and every TOC has learned to follow the rules dutifully at their own initiative without having to be reminded every time?

I believe it was those little deprivations in their young life (they had to answer the children’s activity books that I bought for them or do their school assignments first before they could watch TV or play outdoors), those opportunities at self-renunciations that certainly built their character and strengthened them to bear with frustrations and disappointments later on in their growing-up years and into adulthood. It was those ‘little pin pricks’ they have experienced early on that is helping them cope up with difficulties and hardships as they presently go through life in this world. Indeed "character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."2
Suffering and the Cross are very essential ingredients to live a genuine Carmelite life or genuine life in allegiance with Christ. Suffering builds our character and strengthens our faith in God. "Suffering breeds character, and character breeds faith, and in the end faith will prevail."3 We ought to always welcome every opportunity to suffer with Christ and to share in His redemptive suffering for others because we shall only be "made perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10)

And yet (again, may I ask!) how many of us truly appreciates the value of sacrificing our time, talent and treasures for the good of the Order? How many of us willingly & joyfully attend community meetings even when we would prefer to be at the mall or elsewhere? How many of us eagerly reads formation materials without complaints? How many of us follow directives obediently no matter how difficult it is for us? How many of us are truly willing to undergo the difficulties for the Third Order of Carmel?

The Cross. Suffering. The Dark Nights. The Desert. The Mount. These are images and symbols closely associated with Carmelite Spirituality. We do away with them and we do away with Carmel altogether….

1 Jesse Jackson
2 Helen Keller
3 Jesse Jackson, 1988 Democratic National Convention Address


By Joe Generoso III
NFC Director

Last March 27, Pope Benedict XVI told Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales (our recently elevated Cardinal), before he left Vatican, that the Philippines would play an important role in Asia in the next years. The Pope told this to him not once, but twice.

And just a month before that (prior his elevation as Cardinal last Feb. 22), during an interview with CNS (Catholic News Service) in Vatican, Archbishop Frank Cardinal Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, announced that Pope Benedict XVI is seeking to revitalize the faith life of the church, a "spiritual reform" that must begin with the world’s men and women religious. He spoke about the challenges facing religious life and the directions being set under Pope Benedict. Incidentally, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is the person who approves and confirms the TOC Rule of Life.

Since the Second Vatican Council, continued Cardinal Rode, some orders have abandoned their traditional fields of apostolate, only to lose themselves in uselessness or unproductive activities. The result, according to him is stagnation.

In Canada, for example, he said it is "mathematically certain" that, if things do not change, by the year 2040 the majority of existing religious congregations will disappear. However, he added that Asia has enjoyed a boom in vocations (up about 40 percent in recent years), and similarly, Africa has witnessed a tremendous increase in religious vocations except that some problems in the structure of formation and programs of study were encountered.

According to Cardinal Rode, one positive sign that’s receiving considerable Vatican attention is the growth of lay movements, many of which are tied to religious orders for their spiritual formation. "Throughout the history of the church, religious orders and congregations were always the ones pushing forward, bringing dynamism and a call for holiness. They were always on the front lines," declared Cardinal Rode, a 71 year old Slovenian, and a member of the Vincentian order.

Now, therefore, as contemplatives, we should consider these developments as providential and not just coincidental. We should reflect on what God’s message to us is; what is He trying to tell us as Lay Carmelites in the Philippines? What should our role in Asia be?

Whatever this role may be, are we prepared to assume it? Let us examine ourselves. What sort of spiritual preparation should we undertake to be effective in our role? I guess it is in this context we should view the statement of Pope Benedict when he says "spiritual reform".
When we speak of reforms, we are always at the forefront of them. We started ours many years ago and we are still at it. Though a little delayed, we are now seeing some results - members have begun to realize the real purpose of joining the Third Order and some of those who joined for the wrong reason have left. Those who joined for the right reason have started to seriously discern their vocation before applying to the next level of formation and they are starting to learn the real implications of being a final professed.

When Pope Benedict said, "the Philippines will play an important role in Asia in the next years", he did not give any specific time frame. It may happen next year, or it may happen three or four years from now. What is more important is, when that time finally comes will we, the Lay Carmelites in the Philippines, be ready to play that role of being "on the front lines, pushing forward, bringing dynamism and a call for holiness?"

Held at the Our Lady of the Pillar Parish,
Pilar Village, Las Pińas City on April 8, 2006

"What is your name?"

"What do you ask of the members of the Order here present?"

"I will render my promises to the Lord in the sight of His people within the walls of the house of God."

"May Jesus Christ, light of the world, be your guide and your great reward. May He who has brought you into the midst of us also bring you unto perfection..."

The NCR-NORTH Regional Council held its first Regional Reception, Temporary Profession and Hermitage Rites on the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25, 2006 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Cubao, Quezon City. The Eucharistic Celebration was officiated by the National Spiritual Director, Fr. Pedro Manilag, Jr., O Carm. The National Prioress was not able to come. She was admitted at The Medical City due to severe abdominal pain where she underwent a series of medical procedures. All results were normal, thanks to prayers offered for her. In her absence, Natividad Santos, Regional Coordinator for NCR-North assisted the National Spiritual Director during the rites. Joe Generoso, NFC Director graced the occasion and was like a "Carmel Big Brother" to the "CBB community mates".

The Cathedral was decorated for the 11 am wedding so the Eucharistic Celebration and the Reception/Profession Rites started at 9 am. Elvie de Dios, Regional Secretary prepared the booklets for the Eucharistic Celebration and the Rites. The processional march included the candidates for the said Rites and the National Officers. Offerors were the Regional Coordinator and the Local Prioresses – Mercy Castro (Immaculate Conception Community, Cubao), Trudy Mencias (Holy Family Community, Kamias), Sally Castro (Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, Project 4) and Rosmel Chavez (Tanay Community.) The choir was composed of members from Cubao and Project 4.
Candidates for Hermitage

The Local Prioresses as Offerors

Received into the Novitiate were Tina Guillerme, Rodolfo Ilo and Jerome Figueroa, all from the Immaculate Conception Community. Those who made their temporary profession were Heidi Bobis and Crisanta Coloma both from the Holy Family Community and Rossana Garcia from the Tanay Community. Hermitage Rites were conferred on Nena Concepcion (Project 4) and Carmen Santos/Estelita Songcog (Project 7).

A simple lunch was served at the Parish Social Hall. The success of this regional activity may be attributed to the coordinated efforts of the Immaculate Conception TOC Community and especially to Winda Poblacion, Cubao Formation Directress, Elvie de Dios, Regional Secretary and Sally Castro, Prioress of Project 4 TOCC. Almost all members of the region were in attendance except those from the Divine Mercy TOC Community, Sikatuna, Quezon City.

Received into the Novitiate

By Ruel Santos, TOCarm
Regional Coordinator for Bulacan

After the split of the Guiguinto Community and the foundation of the Pulong Buhangin TOC community last year, two (2) more communities were formed in the Bulacan Region.

On February 19, 2006, after obtaining an approval for the foundation of a TOC Community from Msgr. Flint Capiral, parish priest of the Barasoain Church, five (5) TOCs from the Malolos community transferred to the new foundation. They were later followed by another four (4) members from the same community to become the founders of the "St. Teresa of Jesus TOC Community." These were Menchie Martinez (Prioress), Baby Malana (Councilor), Susan Gregorio (Treasurer), Isabelita Tiongson, Ysabel Tecson, Merceditas Cruz, Raquel Ysais, Pol Gregorio (Secretary), and Ruel Santos (Formator). This new community meets every 3rd Sunday of the month at the Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Barasoain, Malolos, Bulacan.

In the same manner, on March 25, 2006, the TOC community of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit was split into two which gave birth to "St. Therese of the Child Jesus TOC Community" situated at the far-flung yet beautiful parish of St. Helena in Hagonoy. Fr. Emai Estrella, parish priest, was very supportive of this foundation. On the said date, the whole community of Calumpit came to Hagonoy to celebrate their last community meeting as one community and to inaugurate the foundation of this new fraternity. It was also on this day that election of the community officers was held under the supervision of the Regional Secretariat. The election gave birth to the following officers of this community: Priscilla Jose (Prioress), Efren Lopez (Councilor), Cristeta Tolentino (Secretary), and Paulina Calanoc (Treasurer). The formation of the new community will still be handled by the Regional Secretariat. The foundation of this new community was also graced by the presence of prospective aspirants.

By Natividad Santos, TOCarm
Regional Coordinator for NCR-North

For years, a man searched for the secret of achievement and success in life. In his dream, a sage appeared to him with the secret. The sage said, "Stretch out your hand and reach what you can". The man answered, "No, it can not be that simple". The sage said gently, "You are right. This is it. Stretch out your hand and reach what you can not". That is vision.

On March 11, 2006, Saturday, the TOC national leadership called for a whole day General Assembly for NCR-LUZON [mandatory for all Local Heads and Formation Directors/Directresses] to help the local communities create a better future. The National Council had wanted to know what their present inadequacies are and what have been done half-heartedly in order to focus all energies towards the fulfillment of an authentic vocation. The session would hopefully bring out knowledge of what yet are needed which lay Carmelites do not possess. That too, is vision.

That same vision must be the vision of all of us to enable us to stop anything that hinders our spiritual growth and to begin something that will help us soar with eagle’s wings to the mountain of holiness. We all desire esteem and praise, not of the world but of God. Do we all have a vision of what we truly need to satisfy that desire? This is what counts most - we must know where we are going. We must be "clothed with humility" to be brutally honest and conscious of where we are right now. Instead of being satisfied with what is now, our sights must be focused on what can be.

The session started with the assessment of how much we know our Rule of Life and Formation modules, directives and guidelines. They are the compass that chart our way. Like seafarers in the vast seas, we make use of them as guides to reach our destiny. If they are fully known and thoroughly understood, there would be no room for questions, complaints, doubts, fears and disobedience. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, "When we do not know to what harbor we are going, no wind is the right wind".

Survey questions were distributed. I myself found out that I could not perfectly answer them. When the correct answers were given out, it became the moment of truth for all of us. How many of us know them and apply them to our lives? How many of us know only half-truths? It revealed what we are and what we are not, what we know and what we do not know.

The session made me realize the urgent need to develop what I am and to stop pretending to be what I am not. For all of us, this was a lesson on humility. The Rule of St. Benedict states that the second element of humility is the acceptance that God’s will for us, may be at first seen as difficult to follow, will always be for our own good in the end. And what is His will for us lay Carmelites? It is "studiousness or the right effort after knowledge" as expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in His "Summa Theologica". Otherwise, he could easily accuse us of ignorance, which he considers a "sin when it is man’s fault because it pertains to knowledge he is under obligation."

Are we not obliged to know our Rule by heart?. In our excitement during our reception, we might have not been aware that we asked to be accepted and to share with others a way of following Christ more closely according to our Rule of Life. When we made our temporary profession, we promised to observe the Rule. Were we excited again? Have we been formed? During our final profession, we promised obedience to the Rule "at the altar of the Lord in the sight of His people within the walls of the house of God". Were we still excited? Have we not mastered our feelings? Do we really know the whole Rule? If not, is this clear negligence which is defined by St. Thomas as lack of due and proper care in the acquisition of knowledge?

Another element of humility is the ability to recognize that others may know just as well or even better, what ought to be done in a given situation and to accept directions from those who know. Some of us may be lacking this ability. Could it be the reason why some of us have been always quick to question directives from our superiors or to argue uncontrollably or to make compromises out of pity or shame or to complain of anything?

It really takes humility to study thoroughly and be formed. It takes humility to accept that others know better and are capable of giving directions. Humility is needed to bow to the God within others.
At the latter part of the session, questions were entertained. People who ask questions are admirable people. Sad to say, the same people asked questions. How about the others? Is everything clear to them? Sr. Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister said that "superficial people are those who simply go along without question in the world – ask nothing, troubled by nothing, examining nothing. Whatever people around them do, they do too." That is a sad and plastic life – routine and comfortable maybe, but still sad.

On my way home that very day, I got some form of inspiration - to form resolutions to make myself a formed lay Carmelite. These resolutions have been derived from truthful answers to many fundamental questions. Why was I not able to perfectly answer the survey questions? Have I pursued all the facts in the Rule and Formation modules? Have I realized that when I find myself under the power of my superior, it may not be to my liking and everything would not be easy; that others will do things differently and that it is another lesson in the lay Carmelite life to be learned? Have I realized that obedience is easy if I thoroughly know and fully understand the Rule? Am I being self-righteous that if I say so, it must be so and if I want it, I ought to have it? Can I stop complaining and start obeying? Have I realized that when I try to be when I am not, I become unhappy? Do I do all to become an authentic lay Carmelite?

Let us all have a vision that will make life better for all lay Carmelites. Instead of living flatfooted day by day, doing what must be done and resenting every step, let us fly like an eagle, regarding every moment a good moment and a step towards our goal of perfection. "As the Father is perfect, you must be perfect".

Friday, March 24, 2006


On the way back to Guinobatan after touring the neigboring Albay towns and Cagsawa Ruins located in Daraga, Mayon Volcano finally showed her perfect cone to the visitors from Manila(L-R: Joe, Nimfa & Fr. Pete). The group had to make a stop-over just to have the above photo taken. (Feb. 25, 2006)
FEB. 24-25, 2006

Some TOC members of Guinobatan with the National Prioress pose in front of the famous belfry of the Cagsawa Church that was buried during the 1814 Volcanic eruption of Mayon Volcano.
(February 24-25, 2006)

Profession and Reception Rites with Fr. Pete Manilag, Jr. O Carm

Reflection: PURITAS CORDIS….
TASTE and see the goodness of the Lord
By Rossana Garcia, TOCarm

The recently held recollection of the TOC candidates due for Reception and Profession last February 25, 2006 reminded us of the essence or purpose of the Carmelite life. Fr. Toto Jaranilla, O Carm, who gave the recollection made us recall and reflect through his discussions on the four stages of perfection as written in “The Book of the First Monks” by Felip Ribot, O Carm. Coupled with a look on the history of the early Carmelites as well as its influence on our way of living our vocation in the church and our expressions of piety and worship of God, the whole-day recollection left some very significant impressions on my mind worth pondering.
What are the four stages of perfection? These are guidelines to achieve puritas cordis, the purity of heart which is an acceptable offering to God, and the experience of the goodness of God even now in our lifetime. The First Book of Kings Chapter 17 verses 2-4, a familiar text for Carmelite embroidered the four stages we need to follow to achieve the above.

a) depart from here and go eastward, hide in the brook Karith which is over against the River Jordan… We can easily see the meaning of these words to imply detachment as when you depart from something or some place, a way of letting go, a form of spiritual and material poverty a departure done in silence divesting oneself of all worldly possessions

b) go eastward… One is given a direction, a command and such requires obedience; go eastward…do something which is difficult because it is going to a place unknown and foreign to you and everything that is unfamiliar is scary… go eastward… even though you know not what lies ahead. Such orders require a lot of willingness and giving up of one’s will. We have made our FIAT just as Mary did; we only need to remember it again and again.

c) hide in the brook of Karith… if we must hide, we hide not to evade the truth, not to run away from good but to hide alone with someone who is ALONE, to hide in the silence of one’s heart where God dwells, to be in solitude because there, God is waiting for us and we delight in His presence….. The brook of Karith…..Cherith……Charity… God is perfect charity, and if we are Carmelite’s, we must live in perfect charity.

d) …there I will send the ravens to feed you and you will drink from the torrent… God always keep His promises; He is never outdone in generosity; His providence will never fail. A person who is detached, obeys perfectly and communes with God in silence and solitude will always be provided by God because he knows what is His purities… then, after many struggles and purifications, we can live in puritas cordis, a heart free of stain, a pure heart as an acceptable offering to God and the person can truly experience God’s goodness even in this lifetime.

A Carmelite should make a difference like Elijah. The history of Carmel should have an effect on our lives. Our sense of history should bring salvation. Salvation lies in remembering God never fails to remember his love for us. Let us not read our history just like any history book which is just a gathering of historical facts, figures and events but the reading of our history should cause an effect on our way of worshipping and loving God for He continuously remembers us in the Eucharist.

The early Carmelites were pilgrims and crusaders. Needless to say that history repeats itself; we the Carmelites of this age are no different from the past. We are still sinners needing forgiveness because we are aware of our own humanity. Unlike the Saints who have the past, we have a future, and this future is viewed in the light of dwelling in the bosom of the Trinity, in the bosom of God.
The recollection reminded me to be resolute, repentant and convinced that the two purposes of the Carmelite vocation are achievable. The Saints in Carmel have proven it so...
By Joe Generoso III, TOCarm
National Formation Commission Director

At the beginning of each year, the first task of the National Council is to come up with the schedule of fraternal visits to the different communities during the next 10 months, excluding the first and last months of the year.

Considering the total number of communities to be visited and the individual and sometimes conflicting schedule of each concerned member of the council, makes the planning session a bit harder than planning a visit to the mall or a family weekend at the beach.

What makes this task even tougher is the fact that all these visits fall on a week-end and if you add to this the reception and Profession rites, Regional Meetings and Training Seminars we have to be present in, we are left with an average of only one (1) complete week-end per month for our family.

We have been doing this for the last five years. Is this what you call sacrifice? I call it, The CALL. When you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. I can write a book on what I have been through before my wife got comfortable with my schedule.

One thing is different this year, though. There is a new face (a young face at that) among the “old” faces in the National Council. This face is in the person of Fr. Pete M. Manilag, Jr., O.Carm., our new National Spiritual Director. Most, if not all of you have encountered him in one of the retreats you have attended so he is not really a stranger among the TOCs. You have seen his picture and have read his resume’ written by his biographer, the outgoing NSD, Fr. Toto Jaranilla in the 2nd page of the Nov-Dec 2005 TOC news. If you have not done so yet, you have a big problem. I advise you to go grab a copy right now.

We will all miss Fr. Toto and I especially will miss him and the lament he expresses during our fraternal visits. He used to say, “When will we start discussing about the Carmelite charism and deepening of our prayer life?”

His frustration is brought about by the fact that during those 5 years he was Spiritual Director, the topic of brown uniform, absences, factions and disobedience have always been the subject of discussion during the fraternal visits and the more important subjects like Carmelite spirituality and prayer life seldom, if ever, had been taken up. The irony of it all is, it is rarely the Aspirants or Postulants who constantly dwell on these chronic problems but those who have been in Carmel for a long time. Obviously, there is no transformation. Are they lacking in formation or simply close-minded or both?

Reading a book of St. Augustine, I came across the following scriptural verses written by Paul almost 2000 years ago but still aptly describe our present day situation:

And I, brothers, could not speak to you as spiritual people, but only as fleshly; I gave you, like babies in Christ, milk to drink, not solid food, for you were not capable of it-indeed you are not capable of it even now. While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving in an ordinary human way? (1Cor3: 1-3)

Yes, each year that passes by makes us another year older and supposedly wiser but some of us have chosen to remain as babies in Christ, preferring milk to drink instead of solid food.

By Nimfa C. Tangcuangco, TOCarm
National Prioress

I was reading the novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” a few days ago [in anticipation, as I write this, of the movie that is probably showing in movie theaters around you by the time this publication comes out of the press) and somehow the book had its way of re-orienting me of the misconceptions I previously had about geishas as a whole. I even had to do some research in the internet to learn more about them. One particular site has this description of a geisha:

The word Geisha is derived from ‘Gei’, which in Japanese means performance or entertainer, and ‘sha’, which means person, and dates back 400 years ago to the ‘Edo’ period. During this time the Geisha entertained at banquets and social gatherings by playing a Japanese guitar (called a Shamisen), and singing and giving dance performances.

There is often a misconception by some that Geisha’s are prostitutes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Geisha are refined and cultured girls and women who are highly trained in a variety of traditional skills. Besides playing the Shamisen, singing and dancing, the Geisha perform the Japanese tea ceremony, and are well versed in the art of conversation. Many learn to speak English in order to entertain Western guests.

The training involved in becoming a Geisha is very rigorous, and because of this the numbers of Geisha are declining. Few young women in today’s society are willing to devote themselves to such demanding training. To become a Geisha, if accepted, a young girl must go through an apprenticeship that involves living with a head Geisha. This training period takes five to six years. During this time, the Geisha trainee must help with the chores and the running of the house, learn customs and social skills, and take music and dance lessons. After about six months, the trainee Geisha is called a maiko girl, and accompanies a Geisha on her appointments in order to become acquainted with customers. At about age 20, the maiko must make the decision to become a full-fledged Geisha or not. If a girl wishes to marry she cannot become a Geisha.

When we reflect upon it - a Lay Carmelite goes thru several stages as well for a minimum of six (6) years before he/she becomes a full-fledged Carmelite or a Final Professed member. During all these years we undergo formation studies to learn the history, culture, customs or ways on how to become Carmelites. Our objective is to go on a spiritual journey towards transformation in Carmel and be what we are supposed to be: active-contemplatives living a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Oh well, you must be wondering what does being a Geisha have something to do with being a Lay Carmelite. In “Memoirs of a Geisha”, Sayuri (the lead character) had to undergo so much troubles and difficulties - she started training and attending Geisha School at age 9 (or was it 10?), became an apprentice Geisha at 15 and a full-fledged Geisha at 18 - before she could become the best and perfect Geisha that she was of her time. Mameha (her elder sister in the profession or her head Geisha) had once told her at the very start of her apprenticeship: “A geisha must be very careful about the image she presents to the world. Now as I say, I have very strict terms. To begin with, I expect you to do what I ask without questioning me or doubting me in any way. I know you’ve disobeyed Hatsumomo and Mrs. Nitta from time to time. You may think that’s understandable; but if you ask me, you should have been more obedient in the first place and perhaps none of these unfortunate things would ever have happened to you.”1

Teresa of Avila wrote that “The greatest perfection lies in obedience.” 2 Obedience is, without doubt, a most important ingredient in building up character and ensuring success in whatever a person aspires for in life. We hear of obedient students being great achievers and garnering honours for their schools and their parents. We see obedient children growing up to be responsible citizens and leaders of society, giving honour to God and country. In Lay Carmelite Communities obedient and compliant members contribute to the peace and orderliness in the Order and bring honour to Carmel.

Josemaria Escriva wrote, “Obedience is the humility of the will that subjects itself to the will of another, for God’s sake,”3 He further wrote, “Humility and obedience are the indispensable conditions for acquiring good doctrine.”4 In other words we are reminded that without humility we can never hope to practice perfect obedience. Disobedience is the product and result of pride, the sin of our first parents. Each time we disobey our pride invariably shows itself out.

In the Way of Perfection, St. Teresa of Avila wrote: “This attitude includes the great virtues of humility and mortification, careful obedience by not in any way going against what the superior commands, for you truly know that God, in whose place the superior stands, commands it. It is into this obedience that you must put the most effort; and, in my opinion, where there is no obedience there are no nuns…. I don’t know why a nun under obedience by vows is in the monastery if she doesn’t make every effort to practice this obedience with greater perfection. At least I can assure her that as long as she fails in obedience she will never attain to being a contemplative, nor will she even be a good active Sister….”5

In my six (6) years as National Prioress I have seen how disobedience to superiors in local communities has wrecked the peace and unity of a community; how it has stunted the spiritual growth and transformation of the members. Considering that we promise TO OBEY the rules of the Order during our profession, obedience then becomes a priority obligation in the life of a Carmelite. Considering also that the number one rule of St. Albert’s Rule refers to obedience to the Prior, obedience to our superior becomes a MUST DO for every member.

In “The Precautions”, St. John of the Cross teaches us that ‘obedience’ is the way to conquer the Devil. When writing about the second precaution against the devil, he declared:
“Let the second precaution be that you always look upon the superior as though upon God, no matter who he happens to be, for he takes God’s place. And note that the devil, humility’s enemy, is a great and crafty meddler in this area. Much profit and gain comes from considering the superior in this light, but serious loss and harm lies in not doing so. Watch, therefore, with singular care that you study neither his character, his mode of behaviour, his ability, or any of his other methods of procedure, for you will so harm yourself as to change your obedience from divine to human, being motivated only by the visible traits of the superior, and not by the invisible God whom you serve through him.

Your obedience is vain and all the more fruitless in the measure that you allow the superior’s unpleasant character to annoy you or his good and pleasing manners to make you happy. For I tell you that by inducing religious to consider these modes of conduct, the devil has ruined a vast number of them in their journey toward perfection. Their acts of obedience are worth little in God’s sight, since they allow these considerations to interfere with obedience.

If you do not strive, with respect to your personal feelings, to be unconcerned about whether this one or another be superior, you will by no means be a spiritual person, now will you keep your vows well

The above precautions are addressed to those TOC members who are truly serious in their desire to reach perfection quickly. Without this genuine desire to reach perfection, these precautions will invariably fall on deaf ears. It is unfortunate that there are still a great number of our members and even local leaders who probably do not have a genuine desire to reach perfection, while in this earthly life, because they do not seem to strive or exert extra effort to learn the art of perfect obedience to God’s will through their duly instituted leaders of the Order.

1 Chapter 12, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Published in the United States by Vintage Books
2 The Way of Perfection, Teresa of Avila, Chap 39, Item 3, page 190
3 J. Escriva, Furrow, n. 259
4 The Forge by Josemaria Escriva, n. 132
5 Way of Perfection by Teresa of Avila, Chap 18, Item 7 & 8, page 105
6 The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, The Precautions, page 659

(An Introductory reflection to the Carmelite Rule)

By Fr. Pete Manilag, Jr, O Carm
TOC National Spiritual Director

It is inspiring to meet or encounter people in our modern times who are seriously discerning to live an ancient rule of life, the Carmelite Rule or the Rule of St. Albert. This shows the relevance of this document in our quest for a meaningful and holy life in the modern times, in our present situation of crisis and conflicts, in the midst of confusion where we are being led to as individuals and as a people and in the urgent call to be authentic witnesses in our present world characterized by partiality or lack of commitment. This reflects the human desire to live in the presence of God and to experience joy within ourselves. This is the desire that binds the Carmelites of old to the lives of the Carmelites of our times. This is the desire that moved the first Carmelites to live in a solitary place; it is what moved the saints of Carmel to live in God’s presence. This is what transcends our affiliation to first, second or third order of Carmel. This desire signifies our oneness, our common lives, our common dreams and aspirations, our common death and resurrection with the Lord. We live in a common journey towards fullness of life with God. Because of this, I am comfortable to address you as my sisters and brothers.

We are convinced that Carmel’s rule of life is a guide to holiness. It is because many of faithful Carmelites had lived it and find this primitive rule as a sign that truly points us to God. This is a living document that continues to inspire and move us in our journey towards union with God. This document challenges us to allow ourselves to be possessed by the presence of God. To be able to love in the love of God, to want what God wants. Any interpretation of this document that is driven by personal biases defeats its very meaning. Let this document talk to us, challenge us and move us in an ongoing process of transformation to God.

Carmel’s rule of life is addressed to spiritually mature people. This short document enables us to be attentive and open to cooperate with the movement of the Holy Spirit. This facilitates our growing process and moves us in the journey to transformation. Nevertheless, immature interpretation of the rule will lead us to nowhere, to many lapses, to many failings and to rigidity.

Attentiveness to our religious experience or the presence of God in our lives is the very spirit of the Carmel’s rule of life. The Holy Spirit is the supreme guide or the supreme rule of life that leads us to the real meaning as children of God. This attitude also enables us to recognize that God loved us first. That God is present in the lives of the first Carmelites even before the document was written. I believe also that God is present in our lives even before reading this document or any other documents like the Rule of Third Order of Carmel and Statutes.

We have to bear in our mind and heart that the rule of life was handed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to the first Carmelites as an affirmation of the life they lived and as an ongoing reminder for them to be faithful to the very spirit of the first community. The rule as a document is an articulation of the lived spirituality of Carmel. The Carmelite Rule reflects something of the lived experience of the hermits on Mt. Carmel prior to drawing up of a codified set of formal document, which has come to us as the Rule of St. Albert. This is not theory to be proved but the truth of life that has to be lived and nourished. Therefore, the lives of the first Carmelites serve as the rule for us today. They are our living guide, models of living a life of intimacy with God, of prayer and solitude and of Contemplation.

Their experience of God awakens our own experience of God. Let us be attentive to the God in our heart, the One who assures that He is with us till the end of time, the God in all moments of our lives and the One who is present even in His seeming absence.

Let our journey in Carmel continue. We have begun in God’s presence, we move towards the fullness of our lives in God’s presence.