Saturday, April 29, 2006


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".

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