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.
By Natividad Santos, TOCarm
Regional Coordinator for NCR North Metro

Fr. Henri Nouwen’s book entitled “Can You Drink the Cup?” inspired me to explore on how we live the Lay Carmelite life. When Jesus asked James and John,” Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” I was spiritually challenged. We are the modern James and Johns who wish to imitate and follow Him.

What is this cup He is referring to? What is in our cups? What is it all about? The cup represents the life we are living which is a life of allegiance to Christ in a contemplative attitude which fashions and supports our prayer, fraternity and service. Have we lived what we are called to live? Let us HOLD our cups and critically analyze what we are going to drink. Let us look at our life as lay Carmelites.

Our cups contain both joys and sorrows. What a joy to belong to an Order which has produced great Saints - with wide influence, with charisms proven over centuries, in various cultures and traditions, offering a high standard of Christian living and a sure way to reach holiness. What a joy to be associated with the Order of Carmel thru our promises and to share in the spiritual benefits of the Order. We have led a well regulated life, have deepened our prayer life, have developed virtues and have performed spiritual exercises and good works. We are very determined not to offend God. God, in return, gives us consolations. Such display of exterior conduct and good works has won for us public esteem and respect.

But why is it that many of us find difficulty in fulfilling our promise of obedience and purity of heart? Do we really understand our Rule of Life? How many of us comply with memos and directives without arguing or complaining? How many recognize, listen to and obey their superiors, whom God as placed in their position as His representatives and in whom we must see Christ, despite their defects & limitations? How many are interested in Carmelite ministries? How many neglect their obligations because of a disproportionate concern for family and health? How many refuse fraternal correction? How many enter into compromises or cover-ups in order not to disrupt the “peace” or create divisions or simply to be popular? Do we have superiors who do not think, speak and act like Christ? And how many of us really consider each other as brothers and sisters, including those beyond the confines of our community? When subjected to fraternal correction, disciplinary action and even exhortation, some of us become defiant and insistent of our own ways and beliefs.

Why are these happening? Spiritual progress has not yet stabilized. Our evil inclinations have not been mortified. Our exterior lives have deceived us. Our lives have been a mixture of virtues and pride, of sanctity and illusions. Unlike St. Paul who groans at his human misery, some of us do not see ours and do not want others to point them to us. St.Teresa has this to say, “It is of no use offering them an advice…. They consider they have acted in a highly virtuous way, as I have said and they wish others to think so too… Well, I cannot find, and have never found any way of comforting such people except to express great sorrow at their trouble, which, when, I see them so miserable, I really do feel. It is useless to argue with them for they brood over their woes and make up their minds that they are suffering for God’s sake, and thus, never really understand that it is all due to their imperfections.”

Are we like the young man in the Gospel who have conscientiously kept the Ten Commandments and have desired perfection, but when faced with the requirements of the Master, hesitated and sadly went away? How many of us when faced with the exigencies of perfection come to a halt or turn back? But many among us live beyond this stage and have developed fortitude in spite of grave trials. How I wish I am one of them!
Whether our Carmelite life is wholesome or not, after a thorough reflection, we lift our cups to our community without shame and claim them as our very own. We are gathered by Christ into communities of love and trust, not of safe shelter or cozy cliques. Called by the same Lord, we are given the grace to cross the bridges of individual differences that separate us. We become free to listen and pay attention to each other. Lifting our cups involve sharing of life experiences to let others know what is in our cup. If our Carmelite life is well-ordered, it becomes life for others, encouraging and inspiring them to move forwards. If we incur difficulties and failures, we do not hide our shame and guilt. We discover that others think as we think and feel as we feel, for they, too, have their own difficulties and failures, thus, the community becomes a venue for confession, correction, affirmation, support and celebration. Community members are encouraged to lift up their own cups. We would discover the deepest longings for friendship and companionship. We would feel the strong communal cravings to reach full union with God, not verbalized before and probably not thought of. As a result, we would find courage to correct each other fraternally. Like the model community of Mary and Elizabeth, we desire and wait together for each others’ spiritual progress, nurture what has been started and expect with hope and trust the fulfilment of our perfection as God Himself desires..

Now, we are to DRINK our cups completely. This means living the authentic Carmelite life. How do we go about it? In silence, we confront ourselves. Let us not listen to the deafening voice of darkness that speaks of pride, avarice & sensuality. Instead, let us listen to the soft; gentle voice of the Spirit that speaks of selfless love, humility and complete surrender that is likened to the soft, murmuring voice heard by Elijah at Mt. Horeb. It will tell us how we have lived and how we should live. Led by the Spirit, we will be able to acknowledge our own lives without fear and not in secrecy.

To our Community, we express how the eyes of our souls were opened to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God. These are words of blessings that reveal that no one is less blessed than us. Together, we listen attentively to the promptings of the Spirit, Who unites us as a community of faith. Thus, all of us are able to keep the flame of our vocation alive and to take it seriously so that we can live courageously in this world not threatened by the dark forces and trustful of Someone Who is our refuge and protector.

To complete the DRINKING of our cup, let us do what we are called to do and not want to do. Do we have a thorough knowledge of Christ whom we profess to imitate? How can we lead if we do not know the right and proper WAY; how can we teach if we do not know the whole truth TRUTH, and how can we serve if we do not possess abundant LIFE? Let us study wholeheartedly our RULE of life to guide us in our spiritual journey. Let us know, understand and practice Carmelite spirituality, otherwise, our spirituality becomes a dead formula written on a crumpled paper with a fast fading ink or like the fruit made of plastic, good for decoration but not for nourishment. Let us tame our senses and mortify our souls. Our lives must be focused, joyful and well-oriented, geared towards a deeper and closer union with God, for the sake of WHOM, self-denial is a joy and self- surrender a victory to the brave, to the courageous and to the committed lay Carmelite.