God knows best

The first thing I require is for you to have a Prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you. Each of the others must promise him obedience – of which, once promised, he must try to make his deed the true reflection – and also chastity and the renunciation of ownership.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 4


Sr. Adele has been in religious life for 57 years and she is now in her 70s, yet she refuses to be silenced by age, instead she is one of the busiest nuns in her community.

She is a teacher by profession, and a good one at that. One time she was asked to manage one of the congregation’s schools, but in the middle of her term she was ordered to vacate her office and give way to a much older nun who has lesser experience. The nun was set to retire and the leadership wants to do her a favor by allowing her experience how to manage a school.

Sr. Adele was told that instead of managing the school, of which she did impeccably and efficiently, she would instead handle the pastoral apostolate of their community.

She obeyed, and it was then that she was able to notice the needs of the workers of their school. She decided to do something and started a cooperative initially for the janitors but eventually to include all the staffs of the school. The cooperative grew and was able to help many people, not just the staffs of the school.

Sr. Adele had the choice not to obey her superior, considering that she was doing well as a school administrator, but her willingness to give way opened more opportunities for her to share her life to more people allowing her to find fulfillment in her religious vocation.

Obedience is a virtue brought about by our faith in God, that God is at work in our lives and that God will always have a better plan for us, even if we don’t see any good to the plan, initially.

When we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, we allow it to shape us, to mold us, to make us better versions of ourselves, and for us to have a much fulfilling life changing experience.

All we need to do is to say, “Yes” and to mean it, believing that God knows best.

How did obedience change my life?

Genesis 22:1-3, 15-18
Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test and said to him: Abraham! “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

A second time the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by my very self—oracle of the Lord—that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your son, your only one, I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command.”

Prayer
Lord, grant me an obedient heart, one that does your will even if my human logic suggests that doing so would not be good for me. Allow me to surrender my will to you and to accept your will in my life. Amen.

Advertisements

Laws of man

It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward

Rule of St. Albert, No. 3


Rules, laws are made in order to serve man and not the other way around, but sometimes we get cooped up with the technicalities of the rules, laws, or policies that we tend to forget the primary aim of what we are doing.

When Jesus allowed his disciples to pick grain during the sabbath, many scholars of the Jewish law were offended, thinking that what they were doing was unlawful, because on sabbath no one is supposed to be lifting a finger and do anything. It is reserved for prayer and holy obligations. It is a day reserved for God.

In the Book of Maccabees (2:15-48) we find the story of zealous Jews who fled to the mountains rather than worship pagan idols as ordered by the king. The soldiers went after them and attacked them on a sabbath. Because it was a sabbath, “they did not retaliate; they neither threw stones, nor blocked up their secret refuges,” (v. 36), which resulted in the death of thousands of Jews.

In the end of the Rule of Life, St. Albert reminds us that in all that we do, we must make sure to use our common sense, because “common sense is the guide of the virtues.” (RA 24).

Rules, laws, and policies are our guide in living a life that is acceptable in our society, however, we should not be slaves to these rules, laws, and policies, always, our yardstick is the example of Christ and that is love – loving God, by loving our neighbor.

If the rules, laws, and policies of man would seek to destroy human dignity, then we should seek to remedy it.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17).

In the same way, human laws should not enslave us. Rather, we should endeavor to make laws fitting to the will of our Lord, giving glory to God, even those laws which we consider to be desperately misguided and contrary to human dignity.

How am I a slave to human laws, rules and policies?

Mark 2:23-28
As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Prayer
Dearest Lord, please grant me an open and discerning heart, one that seeks to please you alone even in the midst of trials. Strengthen my conscience and guide me in observing the laws of man, that I may be able to use them to give glory to your name. Amen.

The peace of Christ

Albert, called by God’s favour to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons in Christ, B. and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near the spring on Mount Carmel.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 1


How would you respond to a person who does not seem to want to receive the peace of Christ?

When I was in one of our mission areas in Bataan, I reminded one of the mothers that her daughter will be receiving for the first time the sacrament of the Eucharist that Sunday. But her response took me by surprise. She said, “I don’t know, brother, if I would let her join.”

How could a mother deny her daughter the very presence of Christ?

When Christ sent his disciples to preach the Good News to the people he reminded them to wish the house peace, but when the house does not deserve the peace, they are to take it back.

But who really deserves the peace of Christ?

Christ instituted the sacraments so that we have something to hold on that would strengthen our faith and deepen our love for Him.

The sacraments allow us to participate in his passion – his life, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. But we will only take benefit from these wonderful gifts if we are willing to take it, to accept it. The gift is for all, but apparently not all are willing to accept them.

Are we willing to receive the peace of Christ in our lives?

Matthew 10:12-15
As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Prayer
Lord, grant me a heart willing and excited to accept you and to allow you to enter into my life. Let your peace reign in my house. Amen.

Fasting, an expression of love

You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 16


“Our teacher said that we are not supposed to eat meat, Brother,” Jessly, a grade five student, once told me when I told him to eat the food prepared by his grandmother.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because we just had our forehead marked with ashes,” he innocently said, although deep inside I knew that he just does not want to eat his food.

Fasting is one of the most overused religious practices and many people make it as an excuse for vanity, or worse, when they want something from God. Prayer and fasting, they say, is the surest way for God to listen to our prayer.

Fasting is more than that. It is not a magic formula to get God to answer.

Fasting is an expression of love for our Lord, and as the prophet Isaiah would tell us, what the Lord desires is for us to fast not simply by missing on food but by bringing His justice to the people, by showing everyone His mercy and compassion, by becoming ourselves agents of God’s mercy and compassion.

How?

Isaiah said: “(By) sharing your bread with the hungry and to bring the oppressed and homeless into your own home, in clothing those who are naked without neglecting your own people….”

God does not need us to do sacrifices, but the sacrifice that we do through fasting is but an expression of love, of being one with the passion and the sufferings of Christ. We want to experience the cross in the hope of understanding the love of God.

Fasting should bring us to this understanding and create a conversion in us wherein it becomes much easier for us to be a true neighbor.

How do I express my sacrifice for the Lord?

Isaiah 58:6-7
“Is not this rather the fast which I desire: break unjust fetters, untie the thongs of the yoke, set free the oppressed and break every yoke? Does it not consist perhaps in sharing your bread with the hungry and to bring the oppressed and homeless into your own home, in clothing those who are naked without neglecting your own people?”

Prayer
Dearest Lord, grant me a heart of sacrifice, willing to give myself for the sake of the other. Let me be an instrument of your love, Lord. Amen.

Kintsukuroi

On Sundays too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions and failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly corrected.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 15


Kintsukuroi (金繕い, きんつくろい), or golden repair, is a Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by joining together the broken pieces with the use of a lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

It reflects a philosophy of giving value to the brokenness of the object as part of its history, of what makes it even more valuable.

Each of us experience a form of brokenness – be it the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the experience of physical, psychological, or verbal abuse – but these brokenness shapes us into who we are. How we coped, how we handled these brokenness defines our character.

But, human as we are, the way we coped with or handled our brokenness may not be perfect. In fact, many times, it could be unhealthy. Instead of allowing us to grow and realize our full potential, we become stunted, stuck, and imprisoned by the walls we have built to protect ourselves.

That is because we were alone at the time.

In Carmel, we journey with our brothers, and most especially with our mother and sister, Mary (RIVC 2). By opening ourselves up for corrections, we allow ourselves to be worked on by the Holy Spirit, to be repaired and be put together.

Jesus was perfect in all sense of the word. He was a good Jew, he had quite a number of fans, he was well loved by many, a rockstar, except perhaps in his hometown where he was rejected, probably because they were all too familiar with the carpenter’s son and it seems unbelievable and hard to accept that someone they knew to be coming from a not so known family to suddenly be in the limelight. Yet, despite his being perfect, he chose to embrace brokenness – to experience to be flogged, to be tortured, to be mocked, to be humiliated, and to be killed – when he can choose otherwise.

But it is exactly in his brokenness that we experience wholeness. In his dying we see the beauty of self-sacrifice, of self-giving, as the path to salvation, to that place where we can experience wholeness.

Jesus is the Kintsukuroi, the golden repair.

When we embrace Jesus, he becomes our glue that would bind our brokenness. He becomes our lacquer of pure gold that would shine in our brokenness.

We are broken, but our brokenness is something that we should not hide, because it is in our brokenness that the light of Jesus would shine.

How did Jesus bind your Kintsukuroi?

Psalm 51:17-19
Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept.i My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn

Prayer
Lord, repair my broken heart. Bind it with the love of Jesus. Amen.

In allegiance to Jesus Christ

Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ – how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 2


The world is full of issues.

It will never run out of issues, be it moral, political, or spiritual, because the ways of the world is different. It is tainted by human interests, human desires, human needs, and that is why Christ showed us the way to the Father. What it really means to be truly human.

And then there are those who try to live a righteous life, in allegiance to Jesus Christ, they say, but then end up judging others, becoming unmerciful, unloving, making people stumble, and sounding and acting in such self righteous ways that we would no longer recognize Christ or the Father in their lives. For them, to look and sound holy is the way to perfection.

But what does “to be in allegiance to Jesus Christ” really mean?

To be in allegiance to Christ is to follow Christ, and that means to take the path of love. To be able to sacrifice one’s self for the sake of the other and to bring others back to God, not by judging them but through love.

Christ came in a world that is sinful, not to judge but to love.

Why did Christ rebuke the Pharisees and the Sadducees? People of the law, whose life have been dedicated to God and in the strict following of the law of God? Where they sinners? Definitely not, but they were so concerned of the laws of men that they closed themselves up from the spirit.

And so we hear St. Paul say:

But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter. (Romans 7:6)

How are we living a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ?

Romans 7:1, 4-6

Are you unaware, brothers (for I am speaking to people who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives?

In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter.

Prayer

Lord, grant me a heart that is capable of loving others despite their failings. Allow me to love those I could not love, and to see them in their struggles knowing that they too are searching for the love that only you could give. Let me be an instrument of love. Amen.

Rules

It is to me, however, that you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule you may hold fast so henceforward; and therefore:

Rule of St. Albert, No. 3


When Pope St. John XXIII convened the Bishops of the world to make the church more responsive to the needs of the times through Vatican Council II, the changes were drastic and many opposed.

It was unimaginable for many that lay persons and brothers were now able to take the Holy Communion under both species – bread and wine – on a regular basis. Some priests would even refuse to drink from the same cup with the lay and brothers.

For Br. Gesuino Carbone, OCarm, however, he believed in the wisdom of the church fathers at the time, and as such, he said, “If that’s what the church allows, that’s what is good for me.”

But he was also respectful to the sensitivities of his brothers, and so when a brother seemed reluctant to drink from the same cup, he uses a silver spoon to receive the wine.

Sometimes we are not as accepting when it comes to rules and policies that would break the norm and take us out of our comfort zones. Reasons would not be of lack. There will be plenty of those.

When the hermits of Mt. Carmel decided to ask St. Albert of Jerusalem to craft a rule for them, they were anticipating a total change of their lifestyle, realizing that eventually they would need to leave Mt. Carmel.

They knew that they would have to give up something, but they also knew that if they wanted to recreate the Mt. Carmel that they loved, they would need each other, for each possesses a piece of that sacred mountain, and each piece is precious. But for them to be able to live a life in community, order must be established, and each one must learn to express his freedom in relation to each other.

That was the role of the rule, to keep these pilgrims and hermits together at a time when their way of life was being threatened, and the rule has helped them define themselves and mark their role in the Church as a whole.

When a rule seems to challenge your beliefs, what do you do?

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Prayer
Lord grant me a heart that is ready to listen to the wisdom of the rules that you have set before me, not blindly accepting, but critically imbibing, looking for your hand in each event. Amen.

No extras

You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 13


When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God, he reminded them that they should not bring any extras, not money for their food or any bag for that matter (Matthew 10:5-15 and Luke 10:1-12).

He stripped his disciples of their comforts and taught them to rely solely on God, as he said in Matthew 6:25-26:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This is poverty.

Sometimes we tend to look at life based on our perceived needs and out inability to provide such needs. We then panic and resort to a lot of complaining, or at times even express our anger and frustration through harmful ways. We tend to forget that, come to think of it, we have enough of what we really need.

When Pope Innocent IV revised the Rule of Life of the Carmelites in 1247, he made sure that this would be suited to their new lifestyle, which at the time was beginning to be influenced by the Mendicant Orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans.

Their migration from Mt. Carmel back to Europe, made it impossible for them to live a hermit’s life, and for their survival they needed animals for them to produce their own food. However, they were to have all these based on their need and not for any other reason.

When we start to accumulate things even if we don’t need them, we start to also lose sight of our being Christians. We start to go on a “possessing” frenzy and instead of focusing on doing our Christian duties, we become more concerned on how we could increase our yields or profit. And we make reasons like, “We need it for us to be more effective in our ministries,” or such other similar reasons.

There is a reason why Jesus did not want his disciples to bring extra stuffs when he sent them out to preach the Good News, and there is a reason why he forbade them to take payment for their services. For Jesus, it is enough that they be satisfied with having food to eat and a shelter for the night, other than that, its excess.

This is poverty. The absence of excess.

Pope Innocent IV may have permitted us to do something about our livelihood, but he gave this permission with caution. It should be based on our actual need, not our perceived need, which, most of time, are but our wants disguised.

How do I live my poverty?

Luke 10:1-7
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

Prayer
Lord, please grant me a heart that desires only that which you desire for me. Allow me to be grateful for the little that I have and to appreciate your goodness for providing all that I need. Amen.

Power trip

Your brother B., and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: Whoever has a mind to become a leader among you must make yourself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman.

Rule of St. Albert, No. 22


Because of the authority, power and responsibility that some people are privileged to have been lent with, they sometimes forget that such authority, power, and responsibility must be exercised with the humility of a servant, just like Christ, and not as a king like Herod or the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s time.

A brother once came to me, distraught and disturbed. When he called a community of missionary sisters catering to migrant workers, asking permission to pray in their chapel for a few minutes, he was greeted by a very warm and grandmotherly voice, happy to hear that a group of brothers would visit them. She said she’d ask permission from their superior first, a common protocol among religious communities. The line went silent for a few minutes, but a few minutes later, he said that he was surprised to overhear a very angry lady shouting to the top of her breath. She was telling someone to lie and say that their chapel was under renovation. The brother who overheard the conversation, did not know what to do. He did not know how he should react, knowing that it was the sweet grandmother who was scolded by the angry lady.

A few minutes later, the comforting voice on the other end of the line came back, apologizing, saying that their chapel was being repaired. He wanted to console the person on the other line, believing that he must have caused the nice old lady sorrow, but he decided to just thank her and placed the phone down.

What really bothered him was when he heard that a few days later the nun superior of that congregation reprimanded his superior because he intruded their convent and that he called at a very unholy hour of the night. Allegations which he said were not true, because as a religious himself, he knows that the nuns have schedules to follow, especially when it comes to prayers.

All of us have issues to face, but when we are placed in the position to be the first among our brothers or sisters, that does not give us the right or the authority to lord over our brothers and sisters, so much more, on others who has nothing to do with us, except perhaps for an occasional crossing of paths. And definitely, it is just not right for us to use the influence being afforded to us, just to satisfy whatever issues we may be facing at the moment.

How much of a brother/sister have I become for others?

Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”  And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Prayer
Lord, grant me a humble heart, one with the desire to serve my brothers and sisters with an ever grateful and happy heart. And allow me to understand others who are in pain. Amen.

Being with the people – experience or experiment?

Here then are a few points I have written down to provide you with a standard of conduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming, will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. See that the bounds of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide of the virtues.

Rule of St. Albert, No 24


Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM., secretary for the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, told a group of young religious from different congregations in the Philippines that he does not believe in month-long immersions to different marginalized sectors because most of these immersions would actually end up experiments.

What he wants is for the religious to actually experience the life of the marginalized and that means being one with them for the rest of one’s religious life – in their pain, in their hopes, in the challenges that they face.

It is no wonder that for many, immersions to marginalized communities is a grand vacation, a time when a simple professed religious, or seminarians in general, is away from the scrutinizing eyes of the formators.

A friend confided to me once that he was disturbed when an old lady elder of a tribe where they had their immersion came to him crying, “Brother, your companion said that listening to our stories is not part of your being here. He said you are simply here to just live with us.”

Every opportunity we get to be with the people is an opportunity not just to understand them or their situation but also to show them that we are one with them in their most difficult time.

Listening to their stories, no matter how “uninteresting” they may be or “un-educated” or “contra-intellectual” they may be is part of our being one with them.

It is simply recognition of the trust and confidence that they have gifted us with. A gift that is very precious and rare, for they only share their story to those whom they consider to be part of their family, their tribe, their community, with someone who they consider to be special.

Besides, for a religious, vowed to follow the footsteps of the man from Nazareth, no story will ever be uninteresting, for every story, every encounter is an encounter with the Divine.

As children of God, how willing are we to go beyond our comfort zones and give more than what we can give to the people who needs us the most?

Matthew 14:13-16
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

Prayer
Lord, grant me a compassionate heart that’s willing to give more than what I can offer, knowing that all that I have, all that I am is yours. Amen.