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.