Looking Back at the Philippines
In the course of reminescing with Emmanuel about our experiences, joys and trials of life in Manila, it occurred to me that until now, a year after I left the Philippines, I have not really had anyone to talk through my experiences with and it was wonderful to have someone to relive my experiences with, to look back on our time together, the badminton games we played, the people we knew, the ups and downs of our missions and our re-entry into life back in Europe.
With my thoughts still focused on the Philippines and my time there, it was difficult to write anything else for this blog, so I thought to share with you what I wrote in my private Journal two years ago. It was interesting for me to re-visit it and I believe it may be of use to us still. Following is an extract from the entry for 15 May 2004:
"Today has also been grace-filled as the Breviary spoke to my heart and to my condition.
From the Office of Readings, St Augustine says: “We are praising God at this moment when we are gathered together in the church… but provided he does not cease living a good life, he praises God continually. You stop praising God only when you turn aside from righteousness and all that pleases him. For if you never turn aside from a holy life, though your tongue is silent your life speaks aloud; God has ears for what your heart is saying.” (from Eastertide: Week 5, Saturday).
This struck me hard and is also the key to the contemplative-active life. We are told to pray unceasingly; surely this is the way: to praise God in communal and private acts of worship and to praise him with the sweet incense of holy lives.
This brought to mind the adage about St Dominic who was said to be either “talking to God or talking about God.” What this might mean is that the holy Founder was either in formal prayer or when he was not he continued his commune with God through his holy and God-centred life.
Another insight came from the intercessions of the day: “Christ is the bread of life and he will raise up on the last day those who are nourished by his word and his body.” The key word is nourished. The Eucharist and the Scriptures must not merely feed us. We don’t just read the Word and consume the Word made Flesh and then it has no effect. No. We must be nourished by them. This means that they form the basis of our growth and development. It is life in Christ. Receiving the Eucharist daily and reading the Bible daily are not enough for our salvation and resurrection in Christ if we have not begun to live in Christ; if his Body & Blood does not run in our veins and build up our own bodies as a spiritual temple, as it were.
Lastly there were passages of the Scriptures which struck me: “Let your minds be remade and your nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2) This is the heart of transformation in Christ: we have to re-make our minds. This is achieved by reading what is of God and reading the Scriptures and spiritual books. Somehow, if we manage to re-fashion our attitudes and mindset, we will slowly re-fashion our very natures for what we put into ourselves will re-fashion us for good or evil. Like food that manifests itself in our bodies, so too with ideas; they will manifest themselves in our lives. If we are transformed by Christ, we will be able to discern what is from Him. We are attuned to his Word and sensitive to what poisons our mind just as a healthy body is able to reject unhealthy food.
Another passage was 1 Cor 9:26: “I treat my body hard and make it obey me.” How far I am from this attitude. How willful my body is and how enslaved I still am to its impulses! This is why fasting is good for us; it trains the body to obey the will.
And finally from Psalm 118:34, 36: “Train me to observe your law, and to keep it with my heart… Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain.” Once more the keynote is of conforming to the Lord’s will and this is only brought about by hard work, perseverance and learning from God. It hints at the transformation of mind and heart so that we will learn to do the good that is of God.
These then are the key steps in building a life that is full of God’s praise. Then and only then will we be saints: men who praise God in and out of church. Men who pray unceasingly. Men who are lovers of God’s law."
May Our Lady of La Naval, Patroness of the Philippines (above) pray for us!