Opening of AY 2016-2017 Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies and Institute of Preaching
There are two versions of my reflection-sharing with you. One is a shorter version, it is a “direct” reflection and the other one takes a longer route because it passes through the memory lane. Allow me to take the latter. I am not sure if it is a good news for you because it means this homily is going to be longer. Still, I hope it would be of interest to you. You see, I entered the Province a long time ago, long before many of you were born. I will say it straight: it was in 1980, about 36 years ago. We, as a Province, were barely 10 years old, still trying to walk on our own and to take charge of our own destiny. Bata pa ang Province noon. There were no permanent Formation Houses yet except Santo Domingo. There was no Pre-Novitiate in Calamba; no Novitiate in Manaoag. It was a time of change. The program of the studies and the formation program at that time was different. Just to give you an idea, the setup was: When you enter, you take 4 years of Philosophy, then you take the Novitiate and afterwards, you proceed to Theology. There were 3 stages of formation, just like today, but the way we call them also changed. When I entered, in my first year, we were called “postulants”, but on my second year, we became “aspirants” because at that time, the aspirants referred to those “aspiring to enter”.
Later, it has been defined that the first two years will be the Aspirancy program, then the Postulancy, then the Novitiate. That change affected the program of studies and that change is purposeful – there is a reason for the change. As I have said, I entered as a “postulant” and on our second year, we became “aspirants” and on my third year, “postulant” again, then the Novitiate came. There are two reasons for the change: the first is a human factor, the age, since many of those entering in our formation program came from high school, they entered at a very young age. I entered at the age of 16. So practically in the old program you graduate in Philosophy at the age of 20. So the reason is, and it is our hope, that the change will make the brothers more mature. If that is the case, then, well and good, but that is the hope – that after the Novitiate you are more mature in terms of the age and more mentally mature. The second reason is, I would say, more religious. It is our hope, the hope of the formation, the hope of the formators at that time, that by this time, the brothers have been initiated in the Novitiate to the Dominican life. So the difference is, in the new program, you have gone to the Novitiate, you have gone to the Constitutions, you have been initiated in the Dominican life and therefore, should have a deeper grasp of what Dominican study is. Since by this time you are already professed, you can make a deeper commitment to the life of study.
This is the topic that I want to revisit and reflect on with you as we invoke together the Holy Spirit at this opening of the school year: Dominican Study and Charity. Our study has a very clear purpose and end. You find this in LCO 27 and let me quote. “It follows that our study should principally and zealously be directed to this: that we may be of help to the souls of our neighbors.” It is not for us. We are not the end of our study and if we may look, the end is not even in finishing the degree – the completion is not there. The end of our study is when we become of help to the needs of our brothers and sisters. We cannot fully grasp and appreciate this pillar of our life apart from its very purpose. Dominican study is oriented to love of neighbor expressed in service not to undermine that also our study leads us to the glory of God and to our own sanctification. From our Fundamental Constitution, I quote: “Not only do these things (study, together with the other pillars of our life) contribute to the glory of God and our sanctification, they also bear directly on the salvation of humankind, since together they prepareand impel us to preach; they give our preaching its character, and, in turn, are influenced by it.” Angatingpag-aaral ay mahalagangbahagingatingmisyon. Ito ay isangpaghahandasapaglilingkodsakapwa. Ito ay pagpapahayagngpagmamahalsaatingkapwa. Kaya saatingbuhay, lahat ay pinaghahandaan at inaaral. If you want to be of help to your country, study. If you want to be of help to families and engage in the family ministry, then study. If you want to counsel and lead others or to direct other people, study. If you want to serve and build the Church, study. If you love God, study. Recently, we learned that our very own brother, Fr. Rolando delaRosa, was appointed Rector of the Angelicum, Rome. It gives us some pride in the Province. We are happy for him. But we also know the demands. That day when he was about to leave, I knocked at his door and I saw him packing not only clothes but books and materials to be used in studying Italian. This means that even at that very age, past 60’s, the command of our ministry never stops. You have to continue studying even for life. The more one engages in the ministry, the more you realize that you need to study. Otherwise, one loses esteem. It is an apostolic life in the full sense of the word from which preaching and teaching ought to issue from – an abundance of contemplation.
This year, my brothers and sisters at the PDCIS and IP, our foundation for love and discipline of study is laid. Here, the mind is trained to navigate through different contexts and difficult questions. Today, I think it is very exciting to study because we are faced with so many questions in life.Today, our engagement in ministry is different because the people that we serve are well informed and have access to information. We cannot just settle by just knowing something here and there. The demand of our study is that it should be a disciplined study. That is why we have professors and that is why we need our brothers here at my back. Your professors are here to help you. If they cannot enkindle in you the love, at least they will instill in you the discipline. They know too well from experience the demands of study as well as its value to our mission and different ministries. You know, in the long years of study in formation, what I find very challenging actually is not the study itself, but the feeling of boredom at times and the feeling of being irrelevant. Parangangtagal-tagalmonangnagaaral, walaka pang ginagawa. You do not feel you are at the service of other people and that challenge is something we have to fight against. We need to be patient like a coconut tree, long for many years, we are fruitless, but we expect when the right time comes, you will bear much fruit. I experience this in my own formation. When I was graduating from Philosophy and writing this baby thesis, it was in February 1986, during the EDSA Revolution. Imagine, it was so difficult to stay in your table while a lot of things are happening around you. We were joining this four-day event in EDSA, we had to march to Malacañan and Camp Crame, and at the same time, we had to finish our thesis. One cannot help but question, “What is the point of writing these things when we know a lot of things are occurring?” At that time, I felt “irrelevant”. You feel you cannot continue anything and this, my brothers, you have to live in patience because our study is not a simple engagement. It is about preparing us so that we can love effectively and efficiently.
It is because of this reason that we start the school year by invoking the Holy Spirit. I do not know if you have noticed: the first thing that struck me when the readings were sent to me was the alleluia verse and this comes from the prayer to the Holy Spirit. The prayer says: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.” I have been praying this for years and every time I pray this, actually my mind is telling me something like, “Lord, help me pass the course. Help me get a high grade. Let me figure out the answers to my exams.” But the prayer contains much more, more than maybe what we desire to ask. The prayer does not just refer to the mind. “Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love”. It is the fire of that love that we need because it is the same fire that will lead us to the love and service for our neighbor. It is the same firethat comes from the Spirit that will lead us to the verypurpose of our study, that is, “that we might be of help for the salvation of others.” So we renew this purpose as we invoke the Holy Spirit in this opening Mass. We call on the Spirit not just to help us but also to lead us to the very purpose and end of our study – patiently and with discipline, we may be of help to our neighbors… Be patient my brothers with this love. With the fire of love of the Holy Spirit, we are able to respond to the demands of study. In short, mag-aral nang mabuti para makapag lingcod nang maayos.
Br. Filemondela Cruz, Jr., OP