OUR OWN WORST ENEMIES ARE OURSELVES, AND IN THE SAME VEIN, OUR OWN BEST FRIENDS ARE OURSELVES
Even though he has still doubts when he entered in the Novitiate, it did not became a hindrance for him to purse his reasons and aspirations in deciding to enter the Novitiate, i.e. to fall in love to Christ all the more, to follow Him more closely, to follow His examples, to get in touch all the more with the spirituality of Father Hannibal and the history of the congregation, to live and to understand fully Fraternal Life and Community Life in the Congregation of the Rogationists, and to become a good laborer of God’s Harvest. He was admitted together with his sixteen companions in the Novitiate on May 31, 2010, the commemoration of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
During the admission ceremony held at the St. Anthony’s Chapel of the Rogationist College-St. Anthony’s Boys Village, Alex together with his companions were trembling and stuttering in responding the prayer formula for the admission. It was their first time to experience that kind of ceremony whereby many people, including their parents, joined the ceremony looking at them happily. For the people, including their parents, witnessing a bunch of handsome and cute guys offering themselves publicly to the Lord was a great blessing. But for Alex and for his companions, it was a knee-shaking event. After the ceremony they were all congratulated by their visitors. That day was a big day for Alex because he saw not only his mother, but also his father who also attended the ceremony. He was congratulated by them with tears of joy. His father gave something to him. It was a card with a written message coming from his brother. As he opened it and read the message, he was heartened by what his brother had written, “Alex, congratulations to you and I am glad that despite the discouragement that I said to you about your decision to enter the seminary, I am happy for you that you are really serious and brave in offering your life for the Lord. If your heart’s desire is to serve the Lord and the welfare of the people, don’t stop desiring. Go on Alex! Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, and ain’t no river wide enough in order to chase your heart’s desire Alex unless you believe. Believe, always believe and the pursuit of your goals and aspirations will be complete.” After Alex read the message of his brother, he started to thank the Lord whispering in tears.
According to those who had been in the Novitiate, the novitiate period was considered as the purgation period in Religious Life. Indeed, many religious who underwent the novitiate, period before they professed the religious vows, were saying that it was an opportune time for a seminarian, who has the heart’s desire to follow the Lord, to examine deeply their main reasons and intentions why they want to follow the Lord. As Alex was reflecting upon this insight that he received coming from several religious whom he asked and talked about the novitiate experience, he asked himself; “How is the purgation process being done in the Novitiate?” From that question you will witness how the purgation process is being done in the Novitiate by telling to you some delightful, funny, sad, and inspirational experiences of Alex’s adventure and life in the Novitiate. Stay tune!
The first lesson that Alex learned from the Novitiate is Prayer Life. For him, it was an interesting and an exciting lesson because after the lecture of his Novice Master, they were asked to perform the exercises indicated in the hand-out that was given to them before the start of the lecture. Actually, lectures about Prayer Life became an interesting and exciting stuff for Alex not because of the teachings but because of the exercises that gave Alex an opportunity to sleep. Usually, Alex’s favorite hang-out for performing the exercises was the Novitiate’s chapel. For him, it was a strategic place for sleeping because nobody went there during the practicum and it was hard notice whether you are praying or not. Unfortunately, the more he tends to sleep during the practicum, the more he became accustomed with one of the improper dispositions in praying, i.e. sleepiness. So, sleepiness was one of the main problems of Alex’s prayer life. He wasted and over-sighted the chance to improve his disposition and attention on prayer during his Novitiate years. But, it was never too late for him to improve the loopholes of his prayer life. As Alex’s vocation journey continues to move, he gained some realizations about prayer life which became an effective tool for him to consider prayer life as one of the important foundations of Religious Life.
One of the memorable experiences of Alex’s Novitiate year was the Manual Work. Manual Work was considered as one of the efficient and effective tool for the Novice Master in order for him to see how skillful and flexible the Novices towards work. Alex was diligent and hardworking in terms of work, especially Manual Work. However, he easily gets tired. One sunny and bright day, Alex was working on the front lawn. He easily got tired of working on the front lawn because of the heat of the sun. So, he rested for a while under the coffee tree. Suddenly, he felt asleep and while he was sleeping his Novice Master was in a hurry going to the administration office of the Rogationist College in order to settle some reports and information to Fr. Gabby, the Superior of the Rogationist College-St. Anthony’s Boys Village. While his Novice Master was walking in a hurry on the path ways of the front lawn area, he saw Alex sleeping under the coffee tree. His Novice Master got really very angry and turned red seeing Alex sleeping so calmly under the coffee tree. His Novice Master shouted. “Kulit what are you doing? You are supposed to be working! Get up and work!” Alex immediately woke up in his sleep and did not notice that there was a branch of a coffee tree above his head. So, he bumped his head, his companions seen what happened, and they laughed out so loudly. For Alex, that was his unforgettable and embarrassing moment which helped him to realize that laziness is a great disaster for being responsible towards work.
Even though Alex’s novitiate life was far from the disturbance of the demands and stress of Academic Life, he was not able to escape the reality and pangs of one of the disturbances in following the footsteps of Christ, i.e. sadness. As he continuously walks through the paths of Religious Life, he cannot deny the fact that his intentions may sometimes be tested by tensions, boredoms, and unwarranted events. Scrutinizing all the experiences that he came across during his novitiate years, one of those that he cannot forget was when his father got a terrible sickness called Pancreatic Cancer. It was the last week of January when somebody asked him to call his brother because his brother wanted to talk to him urgently. He immediately asked permission to his novice master to borrow the novitiate’s cellphone to call his brother. He was stunned when he heard his brother this terrible news; “Papa was rushed in the hospital last week and the doctor found out that he has a dreadful sickness called Pancreatic Cancer.” Alex told these things to his novice master. His novice master was surprised on what had happened to his father. Without any hesitations, his novice master told him to visit his father in the hospital. After Alex talked to his novice master he went to the chapel and prayed for the immediate recovery of his father. While praying he wept because of the sudden news about the condition of his father. He kept on asking God “Why?” “Why God? Why are You allow this thing to happen to me?” This was his complain to God while he was in a moment of grief. Suddenly, his novice master came to the chapel. His novice master tapped his back and said, “Be strong Alex! God is with you.”
Alex visited his father at San Juan De Dios Hospital where his father was confined. He stayed with his father from morning to evening. That was a defining moment for Alex. Staying with his father in the hospital bed made him accept the fact that in life there will be always sickness, devastations, disappointments, and heartaches. It’s always given and a real phenomenon. But, what sickness, devastations, disappointments, and heartaches cannot be eradicated totally to a person’s conviction is his/her hope to get rid of all these unpleasant stuffs. He witnessed this entire thing to his father. After he visited his father in the hospital, he went back to the novitiate full of hope and assurance that God will never abandon his father. Every day he prayed for the immediate recovery of his father. His companions, too, pray for his father. Persistence in prayer made Alex surprised and blessed when he received the news coming from his brother and mother that his father was healed from his sickness miraculously. This unforgettable event of his made him realized how God is so gracious to him. Despite the shortcomings that he has, God still continues to work in his life. After he received the overwhelming news coming from his mother and brother he visited the chapel and spend a moment of prayer in front of the crucifix. “Thank You!” These are the only words that he uttered in front of the crucifix for he cannot express the happiness and joy that he felt after receiving the good news.
One cold evening of January 2011, Alex approached his novice master and asked for a Spiritual Direction. His novice master accepted gladly his intention to have a Spiritual Direction with him. In the middle of their dialogue, his novice master said something to Alex that made his heart enchanted, encouraged, and inspired. “As I read your biography and your vocation story it is very evident that God works into your life. It is very clear into your stories how God manifested himself in every failure, shortcomings, embarrassments, and successes that you encountered in life. You are down to earth Alex and you are also true to yourself. I appreciated all the more your courage and sincerity as I read your stories. They are all unique. They manifest how God molded you as a person. Indeed, it is very clear in your stories that despite the many weaknesses and flaws that you have, God is calling you for this kind of life, i.e. Religious life. Every experience that you encountered into your life brings about significances and indicators that He is calling you for a purpose and for a great mission. Alex, always consider these things into your life. Indeed, you’re unique in the eyes of God.”
May 30, 2011, a night before he will have his first profession, Alex called by his novice master for a dialogue and final instruction. In the middle of their conversation, his novice master voiced out to him some encouraging words that made him fascinated and inspired. “Once you professed your vows and became a bonifide member of the Rogationist family don’t forget your humble beginnings. Always remember that everything is a Grace. What you are right now is a product of God’s grace. Don’t waste what God has given to you. Also, always remember the poor. Follow your heart’s desire for the poor. If God alleviated you from your miserable situation, now is an opportune time for you to share the love of God also to those who are suffering and in misery. Alex, take courage and don’t be afraid to follow God’s heart’s desire.”
May 31, 2011, Alex professed his vows and welcomed in public as a new member of the Rogationist family. His mother, father, and siblings were present on the said event. Many people congratulated him including his family, batchmates, and friends. It was a remarkable and a memorable experience for Alex because he felt how God is so generous and loving. It was not yet the end of Alex journey towards Religious Life; rather it was just the beginning of the real journey.
(The Epilogue Part of his story will be coming soon…)