It is a very good tradition that we are gathered together before the start of the academic year to invoke the Holy Spirit for the gifts that will lead us students, professors, administrators as partners in the different endeavors of the Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies and Institute of Preaching.
I suppose if everything will be okay, this year, the process being done by the Father Regent and Moderator of Studies is the last Mass of the Holy Spirit for the PDCIS. We are sad that this will be the last but we are also happy that we will be part of the full circle now of where we all have started because many of us have studied in UST. And I believe that invoking the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, we normally describe this Person in different images.
In the First Reading, we started with a strong driving wind. For us from Mindanao especially from Davao, we had no typhoons in Davao except for “Pablo” and when we first came to Calamba, we were so happy to see the typhoon coming. While the people from Luzon were hiding inside the seminary, the people from Davao region were out looking at everything that could be brought by the wind, from the roof to the branches of trees and everything that could be blown by the wind. We were so happy then.
We have seen that this Center and UST must probably be (integrated). I think it is to start a full circle that we are going to send our students to UST which will be our center of institutional studies. I think it’s not so much of a destruction of the PDCIS, but giving a new order. The Holy Spirit gave order to the chaos that was there (during the Creation of the World): to put order in the creation of God. Hopefully, that would be the same picture that we would have when we see a configuration of our centers, that is, a strong driving wind. And I hope that the strong driving wind that can be seen outside is also present in each one of us. I believe many of us started our vocation with so much drive, so much enthusiasm, filled with motivation. I hope that it is still there. Because as we go on, I know that all this lethargic and weakening may take place but hopefully the strong motivation will always be there to help us through to follow this call.
And there is also this image – the tongues of fire, tongues for communication. The people were in confusion. But the confusion is different compared to that of the Tower of Babel that people did not understand each other after they spoke in different languages in the Old Testament. But (in the New Testament), it was a confusion that they understood because they heard the disciples in their own tongues. It was like a fire in the same way as there was a driving wind. I hope that fire will always be enkindled; burning, because as you can see, as we go on in our vocation, there are so many fire extinguishers along the way. Many at times, we could be hit by the fire extinguisher and fire may die out. But somehow we still have that kind of ember within. The wood is burning overnight only to be covered by white soot, and just remove that soot, there is still the fire. What we need is to put more dried woods so that they could be turned into another living flame. So we hope that this center will help us; to have those woods for us to keep burning. And the burning that we have, hopefully, will not extinguish us because others might be burnt out for all other causes. I hope that we will be like the burning bush: Burning, but not consumed; burning and giving warmth. Burning and giving life to those who are in cold situations. I hope that the fire of the Holy Spirit will be given to us this year.
There is also that image of the breath. I attended to Fr. Salgado the night that he died, I asked, “Father, what is happening with you?” because he was sounding differently, and he said, “I could not breathe.” And when I attended to him in Loyola when he died already, there was no more life in the corpse of Fr. Salgado. When the breath is out, there is no more life. When we had this program in Sri Lanka, I remember, about justice and peace with the Jesuits and Franciscans. They likened the dead body like “umbalakada”. If you have been to that place (or country), it is a kind of dried fish, very hard like wood. You have to scrape it in order to eat it. Without breath, we will be like any hard things, no flexibility. But the breath that the Lord gave us is the same breath that he gave in creation. He gave life, a kind of order for one’s being to function, for life to continue.
In our Second Reading, there are so many gifts in a way that we have brilliant professors and brilliant students, musician, librarian. Those people are partners here. Hopefully the Spirit will guide us to put order in everything: the breath that gives life, one body moving as one. I believe that that is the purpose of life: That it gives order in everything. As you go on with life, look for a kind of connection of everything. When Fr. Winston and Fr. Stephen conducted our ongoing formation as priests of different ages, we discovered that this stage of our journey and even in the early part of it, we must see the seamless connection of everything. This is life, good or bad, everything is connected. In our study, I hope that we could see the connection of things. But most often, I could see that many of our brothers after studying in our different centers of study, there is a kind of disconnection in how one integrates knowledge and application to life. When we value life, we only value life in terms of abstraction, in terms of classes where we discuss the value of life. We value life where we are in our different ministries.
I remembered talking to one of our brothers, seeing the end of the war, destroying the tomb of the Tamil peoples and I commented, “How come they are destroying the tombs? They are already dead.” And I received his answer, “Because Father, they are dead. Their tombs should be destroyed.” But I told him, “They are dead and they could not do anything. And besides if that is my father’s grave and you do this I’d get angry.” And then he said, “No, they should be destroyed because they are terrorists.” But then that brother came here to the Philippines and after he came here and we met again, he said, “You were right, Father, those tombs shall not be destroyed. People need a place to mourn.”
I hope that kind of study will help us connect to reality: not that we disconnect ourselves from reality because we were so much. I think when pride enters into our minds, we only impose what we think is right. I think that is not reality; that is not Truth. I hope that our Truth would be congruent to the reality we are facing. I hope that our studies would answer the questions of our times. Our studies would be relevant to determine what ministries we will have.
When we were under Fr. Enrico as students of Philosophy, he assured us that we will forget everything that we learn. We will forget things that Aristotle, Plato, other Philosophers, Derrida, Habermas, everyone, we will forget. But what he asked of us, a kind of frame of mind, a kind of structure of mind that when we’re faced with Truth, we would not move away from Truth. We will support the Truth. We will put our lives even, and align ourselves with Truth. And I hope and pray that the brothers in this Center in this Mass of the Holy Spirit, we ask Holy Spirit to help us to discern in our study, to put us and align us with the strong drive of fire that is within us, the connection of things, to see in us, in our hearts that everything is connected. I hope we move as one Province. We are in the process of renewing the Ratio Formationis Particularis and the Ratio Studiorum Particularis. I hope not only the Formators, not only the brothers in-charge of studies, but all of us would be responsible to integrate. We had a meeting these recent days with the mission. We were asking ourselves how could we really integrate everything that we call priorities in our studies. I think it is time for us to see the connection of everything. We ask the Spirit to breathe into us this new life and to connect everything, the gifts, that the Holy Spirit has given us. So we ask the Holy Spirit, in the opening of this academic year to guide us in our studies and to inspire our professors and administrators here as partners to connect everything that we know in our Dominican journey, in our Dominican Life.
11 August 2017, Aula San Pio, San Pio V Building, Quezon City
Transcript by Br. Vince Stanley B. Iñigo, OP