Perhaps, you never know what blogging has done to me. Sure, many out there would bother to raise their eyebrows, especially the intellectuals among us because on the surface, blogging seems to concoct less marinated thinking and a tequila of writing-out-of-haste. Besides, there seems to be that howling question that could perplex the more boundaried in their privacy – why spill out personal stuff in public? I can only render due deference for keeping their fence well-guarded.
To me, blogging has been an experience of a prayer, and by prayer, I mean the intention and action to create a space for the Sacred and my longing to behold the Face, in between words and silence through listening. Blogging to me is self-discovery, having the ultimate goal of knowing God! The rest are pathways to the Sacred. Blogging is one way of travelling, meeting signposts of the Sacred along the way – some more aware of the signposts than the others, some more curious of the message than the others. I am only learning to be more aware, awake, curious and this alone is a mix of thrill and waiting in boredom unless I want to force-feed myself with every bewildering message I encounter.
For example – I am almost totally gripped now by one blogger whose message and integrity I am now completely learning to trust and listen. I trust the vision, the invitation into deeper solitude and silence and feel so engrossed by the depth of every entry. I can read entry after entry like scanning a newspaper page after page. But then – I am intervened by silence, by awe and it is often hazardous to one’s spiritual and physical health to ignore silence. Noise is a temptation towards dissipation, an escapist tendency as familiar as forcing my fingers to write just to have something to post so my readers keep coming back. It is so anti-silence the goal of which is to be safe with oneself and the Sacred more than pleasing others. So here’s the resolution – I won’t post for another 7 days. Let silence speak. Let me share with you my online silence. From here, let me leave you with this song: The God of Silence:
Fondly called as Bishop Iti, now he retires at the age of 60 due to some health reasons allowed by the Canon Law.
Bishop Zacharias Jimenez is the auxiliary bishop of Butuan (with Bishop De Dios Pueblos, hi Exodians!) while serving as the leading pastor of the Shrine of Sto. Nino. I have known him personally and attended one of the Lenten retreats he gave to the layleaders. Bishop Jimenez accepted me into the lay liturgical leadership of the parish when I was in Butuan. A longtime seminary formator, Bishop preaches with a clear mind, almost effortlessly offers Lonergan’s main ideas at the pulpit in the simplest terms possible. He always caught my attention everytime he opens his mouth. I can also sense the contemplative attitude in him – gentle, slow to anger, reasonable, nonjudgmental, and Spirit-abiding. As a token of gratitude, I gave him books when I left the Diocese.
Your full pastoral presence will be greatly missed by the people. I wish you a healing, happy retirement Bishop Iti…
At this juncture of history when the story of gay-turned-political-activist Harvey Milk, played adroitly and the plus of an Oscar win by newly separated Sean Penn is being embraced more popularly, a big “gay news” simultaneously is hitting America. Benedictine bishop Rembert Weakland admits publicly and through his memoir his struggles as a pillar of the Church and the fact of being gay.
I can remember Weakland, one great scholar and public speaker, and how I flavored some of my “high school” public notes from his reflections from The Catholic Digest. For such a public confession, he remains quotable indeed, for it remains congruent with the spiritual courage as a Benedictine that he has modelled for through all his years as a servant of the Church. His road was never easy, perhaps, more consistent with the “narrow way” that the Gospels would always flash on the highway. Claim there was that he had to settle a case with the amount of $450,000. Nothing could get financially and psychologically narrower than this! But here he is, in full regalia of honesty, and with so many walls of Catholic opinions to hurdle. I hope Roman Catholics worldwide can opine their way to compassion, and celebrate his way out of the narrow road onto a happy retirement.
He was never my mentor, at least in the classroom, and occasionally, I only had a glance of him or a casual greeting along the corridors of Loyola. Typical of tempered souls, there was some lightness in his gait and smile even if his eyes projected some probing seriousness. He got a PhD in Physics afterall.
But without having him as our classroom mentor, it was as if we had known Fr. Green, the 20 of us Novices then, and the fire that keeps burning in his heart – directing souls to God. Paragraph by paragraph, even word by word, we were assigned to masticate and digest the spiritual food that his slim book Opening To God had laid on the table of our souls. We have to read the book within the context of our regular prayer times, and so Fr. Green had become a household name. I don’t have the book at hand otherwise I could have retrieved the pages I was assigned to discuss before my Novitiate community. I don’t remember the details but when one Jesuit mentioned in his tribute about praying as floating in the sea, as letting go, the metaphor suddenly became more vivid to me.
The book was written for those thinking of beginning to pray, lay or religious. But Fr. Green was wise enough to admit that everyone from time to time recoils to the fundamental simplicity of prayer – that of opening to God like a plant basking in the sunlight. Find time to be still, open yourself to the presence of God and the rest is waiting. If one can love, then one can wait. Nothing extraneous. The beauty of this slim book is parallel to the academic legacy of William Strunk Jr. who tagged his classic grammar book The Elements of Style as the little book: “Omit needless words!” Opening To God, it seems, is becoming a spiritual classic on its own that even the Basilian Fathers in their official website has listed it as one great read in modern spirituality alongside Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing, Eckart Tolle’s Practicing the Power of Now, Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence of God, and Richard Rohr’s Simplicity.
Fr. Green bade goodbye before Good Friday. But the Easter mooring of his passion that many readers had anchored upon – his writings – remains steady and dependable as if he is just a shore away. Thank you, Fr. Green.
FR. THOMAS H. GREEN, S. J. died on Friday morning, March 13, at San Jose Seminary. He entered the Society on 7 September 1949 and was ordained a priest on 19 June 1963. Requiescat in pace.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence.” St. Augustine
It could be the voice of boredom, or of failure that makes you numb, disabling you to relish the “petty “beauty of life around you. It could be the voice of anger seething into some dangerous expression, tearing down your appetite for food and the holiday hues. It could be the voice of a loss of self-confidence after being publicly maligned or denied of one’s right. Or they could also be voices of merriment, or of a peaceful sense of contentment over what life is handing. “The sea has many voices; many gods and many voices,” TS Eliot delivered. But then, experience teaches us that the purple, gloomy ones are much harder to deal and name with than the pink and hopeful ones. In our Advent wreath, 3 are purple and there’s the lone, pink one catchy of our attention in the way it stands out. Yet, side by side we light all of them, actually acknowledging the dark-light tandem of existence. As we light every purple Advent candle, we are actually giving permission to name those voices within us, especially those voices that seem to tempt us to believe that God has been silent. Every lighted purple candle breaks that silence; every lighted pink candle breaks God’s “silence.”
I have lit that candle of hope before, and had that silence broken in the first miscarriage we had. We were a few steps from the locked doors of the emergency section of the hospital run by nuns. The distress was palpable on my wife’s face as we waited for the ER doctor and nurse, a wait that ended up in the “final flush” of the fetal remain. There was utter loneliness within compounded by the financial worry over the D&C (dilation and cutterage). It was one of the longest waits we ever had, a real Advent and the voices that were crying were loneliness and pain. But we keep believing, trusting that only God and God’s assurance of a steadfast love can cut through our deepest grief and eventually heal us. No one else.
What’s the voice that waits to cry from within you? Give it a name, light it. You need not be Catholic to spark your own match, on top of the fact that matches are affordable enough. Advent simply means that those who share in this rich tradition can break the silence together, can light those voices together, can make sense of the waiting together. We need not be alone and this is Advent’s beauty for us.
Photo credit: akuman1