March 28, 2013
Come April 1, I will be opening a new chapter in my life, this time as an Aspirant to the Ordo Fratrum Beatae Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmelo (OCarm), a mendicant order in the Roman Catholic Church. (Know more of the OCarms in the Philippines, here). If God wills, I will be a Carmelite priest in 8 years time.
A lot of my friends were surprised, honestly because they believed that my decision came suddenly, and since many know that I was not raised a Catholic. In fact, I only had a week to finish all my responsibilities at work, since it was roughly two weeks ago when I learned that the two-months Aspirancy program of the order will be starting this Monday.
I was happy of course, but my biggest challenge was how I’d be able to leave all my responsibilities at work, knowing that many will be burdened by my sudden absence. Another would be how to break the news to my mother, who is a preacher at a born-again Christian congregation.
Truly, this journey is a journey of faith. And when we answer a spiritual calling, one must have the faith that whatever is left behind will be taken cared of by God.
This decision rests on two of Christ’s basic commandments.
When Christ was asked by a Pharisee and a lawyer as to what is God’s greatest commandment,
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).
I always believe that each person’s spiritual journey is his own. There is no such thing as substitution. We make our decisions, we travel our own journeys.
Each of the journey we take is an expression of our faith and our love for our God, whoever he may be, and this brings me to my other belief – the universality of spirituality.
God has different names depending on one’s tradition, but faith is universal, and by faith, I mean the belief in one Supreme God.
In the passage I quoted earlier, Christ said that there are two basic commandments: To love God and to love others.
Our expression of our love for our God may be different, but such love is there. We cannot say that one has lesser love for his God than the other because we will never know why his extent of showing such love is only up to that point. Others are just not as expressive.
This is my way of expressing my love for Christ – to follow a path of contemplation, prayer, and meditation.
I am blessed to have parents who are very supportive of our decisions. All my life I have donned several masks – a student activist, a physical therapist, a journalist, a spiritual traveler. In all the decisions that I’ve made, although most may not be to the liking of my parents, they would never do anything to force me, to bend me to their will. They always allowed us to grow on our own, with them as guides. They were full of advice, their worries always merged in it. But they trust us, that as responsible adults we will eventually make a decision that will determine our future. With this faith, and with faith in God, I know that my mom will accept and respect my decision.
With the second commandment, loving others, the Carmelite way of being with the people answers this commandment. It believes in social justice and I embrace such belief.
I do not subscribe to groups who believe that their ways are the only ones that are true, and this has always guided me in my decision to embrace everyone regardless of faith, gender, ideology, or affiliation. Even those whose beliefs do not conform with mine, I make effort to understand them and respect them.
Religion has taught me to be intolerant of others’ beliefs, believing that our path is the only right path, but all throughout my adult life I’ve come to learn that there is no one right path to salvation, and that the only genuine expression of God’s love is when we live God’s teachings in our life – and that is to live a life of love, tolerant and respectful of the uniqueness of others and willing to serve and to immediately say, ‘Achcha, Yes Lord,’ when called.
Now, I say, ‘Achcha, Father. Use me to be a light to the world and to preach your Gospel of Peace.’
Photo credit: Painting of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Sts. Simon Stock, Angelus of Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, and Teresa of Avila by Pietro Novelli (1641), Carmelite Coat of Arms | Video: Youtube