Young Chapter Nuns Batch 3
June 3-18, 2012
St. Scholastica Retreat Center and Spirituality
Symbol: JOURNEY WITHIN
Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality
during their visit with the CM Sisters
St. Teresa's Well
Symbols: Cocoon, silkworm & Butterfly
Teresian Prayer of Integration
“…In The Hollow Of The Rock…”
“When my glory passes, I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” (Ex. 33:22)
In the book of Exodus, Moses asked that God show his face to him. The quotation above was God’s response. He would let Moses see his glory but not his face, only his back and he set Moses in the hollow of the rock
This passage comes to mind as I cherish the experience of the Batch 3 Young Chapter Nuns’ Retreat/ Renewal almost two months ago. The venue was St. Scholastica Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay. Batch 3 were the following sisters: Sr. Judith of Cebu, Sr. May of Infanta, Sr. Marissa of Laoag, Sr. Yvonne of Malaybalay, Sr. Luz of Naga, Sr. Angie of Ozamiz, Sr. Jo Mary of Gilmore, Sr. Marian of San Pablo,
Sr. Carmela of Vilvoorde and myself. It was a two-week course from June 3-18, 2012. Our stay there felt exactly like that of Moses when God set him “in the hollow of the rock.” There, Our Lord gave us a glimpse of his glory. Like Moses, God enabled us to see his ‘back’.
While preparing for the seminar, there wasn’t any expectation. I didn’t ask anything from God neither was this passage from Exodus in mind and if ever it was, I would not have asked Our Lord to show his face, as in literally. Figuratively, I guess, but then I didn’t ask for it either. Two things though, I was certain of. One was that I was in for a surprise. I knew in my heart God was preparing something in this renewal course. He had to, because this would only happen once in the lifetime of a Carmelite. And two, when the renewal course ends, I will be friends to nine Carmelites from the nine Carmel who’ll be attending plus Sr. Loida, CM, our facilitator and Sr. Mary Grace, the Council member from Lipa Carmel who will be with us throughout the course. Sure enough, these two happened plus a lot more.
Long before the course, I was already trying to prepare my heart. The seminar was announced two years ago. I was supposed to join the 1st batch in June of 2011 but wasn’t able to. No one from Zamboanga Carmel attended. The 2nd batch came in October 2011. Again I wasn’t able to go. It was Sr. Genevieve who attended. Mo. May, in consoling me had these words: “Ardeen, it will be in God’s own time that you will attend.” To this, I agreed but with some doubt. True enough, when Batch 3 was scheduled, everything just fell into place. Nothing came in the way to hinder me from going.
From the first moment of our gathering as one group at the lovely sala of the dormitory, we just found ourselves blending comfortably as though we already knew each other for a long time. I suppose all ten of us were simply open to let each one enter into the life of the other for 15 days that we would live together and be a community coming from ten different Carmel. I guess it was this attitude that gave us the space to just open up and share everything and anything that life is all about. We bared our joys, little triumphs, disappointments, pains, failures, faults, foibles and broken selves and even our bittersweet stories of human love and friendship. Most of all, it was recalling how Our Lord led us to where we are now, that is, Carmel and living under the wings of his mercy and love. It was this same openness that gave us the needed space to have a ‘glimpse’ of the glory of God and this very sacred moment became the ‘hollow of the rock’ where God unfolded himself before the ‘eyes of our heart’.
These fifteen days were extra ordinarily grace-filled. The liturgy, the inputs, the meals sometimes in silence and most times filled with laughter and with mission stories of Sr. Carmela, our missionary to Vilvoorde Carmel in Belgium, the times spent in practicing songs for the Mass and the hours, our break time and ‘kuwentuhan’ time of the ‘nocturnal group’ in the kitchenette which most often were filled with cracking laughter courtesy of the humor filled anecdotes of Sr. Marian and Sr. Carmela’s funny experiences during her first years in Belgium. There was also the showcase of ‘Carmelite talents,’ from singing to acting to painting and even karate. The voice of Sr. Yvonne, the youngest in the group, could make you feel as though you’re standing close to the gates of heaven. There were also the impromptu performances of Sr. Angie, Sr. Marian, the Association Secretary, Sr. Judith, Sr. Carmela and Sr.Luz. Even Sr. Loida gave a sample of her ‘opera’ like voice. In the theatre side, we have budding actresses in the performances of Sr. Marian of San Pablo, Sr. Yvonne, Sr. Angie, Sr. Carmela, Sr. Judith, Sr. Luz and Sr. Jo Mary with Sr. Marissa and Sr. May as very credible narrators. The fathers too had their share. Msgr. Rey of the Assist Ministry belted out a song for the birthday celebration of Sr. Angie which was the Saturday before Corpus Christi Sunday. We had our mananita for her where in only God knew how we were able to assemble just before the Mass without her being aware that we would serenade her. And oh, we had karate class for free from Sr. Luz who has a black belt in her credentials before she entered Naga Carmel.
Our “pasyal galore” was so much part of the bonus in ‘gazing at the glory of God.’ These included traveling as far as the beautiful Pico de Loro where we had so much fun and laughter as we toured the place plus the sumptuous lunch given us, and our swimming at the beach of Punta Fuego, dinner at PanCake House, the trip to the CM Retreat House which was supposed to be the first venue for our renewal and our ‘last stop’ in Lipa Carmel passing by the house of Sr. Mary Grace. However, in Lipa, there was already both sadness and excitement. Sadness for it was our last moment together. We were through with the seminar. Sr. Marian of San Pablo was no longer with us. She was left all alone waiting for her mother to fetch her at the SSCS to bring her back to San Pablo. There was excitement because of the ‘pabitin’ lovingly prepared for us by the Lipa community but so much more because we were heading back to our respective Carmel, wherein we would ‘test the waters’ we have drunk at the ‘fount of our Tagaytay’ experience. When we left Lipa, Sr. Luz was fetched by Sr. Socorro and they headed back to Naga while Sr. Angie stayed behind for her ten-day retreat there.
It was in all these but especially in the telling and the sharing of life and our personal story, how we all ended up in the same path, i.e., Carmel that the glory of God was made manifest. In each story told, God was so evident. With the keen eye and ear of Sr.Loida, placing each individual experience into perspective, each one of us saw clearly how the hand of God was at work in all the events, even from the womb until now! It’s not that we didn’t see God in our lives before attending the seminar but in this renewal course there seem to be a freshness in perceiving the active participation of God in our life and that every event was there for a purpose.
All ten of us have very different and unique stories, with varying degrees of drama, melodrama and even comedy to it but the level of openness of each one was the same. It was to our loss if we held back from opening up to the group. And we all felt the sacredness of the moment, almost a palpable presence of the Holy Spirit. After sharing our stories, the ten of us had the same feeling of being cleansed, healed and renewed and most of all, of being loved by God to the extreme and unto folly!
It is now November 27, 2012. I began this article first week of August. The seminar was almost five months past yet the memory and the grace has not diminished. The ‘moment of saying goodbye’ would also be a different story to tell. I guess, when the group arrived at the SSCS, each one was simply “I”. When we left SSCS, the ten of us were no longer the same, we became one beautiful tapestry of wonderful colors with our life stories interwoven with one and the other. Before we left the place we have promised to pray for each other as we go back to our respective Carmel. Thus, in my remembering, I carry in my heart a part of each one of them as the nine of them are carrying my memory in their hearts. (I am imagining the nine of us are also in Belgium because
Sr. Carmela is already there since July 18. She brings with her a piece of each one of us in her heart. Indeed, this is a great blessing!)
The challenge of the Renewal is for us to go back to our respective Carmel with freshness in our smiles, in our service to the community and hopefully each day to grow deeper in love for Our Lord Jesus. This is our “pasalubong” in heading back home to our respective Carmel. And, Our Lord for sure is helping us in this task as he has never stopped making himself ‘felt’ especially and even in little and ordinary events of the seeming humdrum and the routine life here in the cloister. From the moment I came back here in our lovely Zamboanga Carmel, God saw to it my heart will always have an imprint of this rare ‘Tagaytay’ moment. This too is part of the surprise package that is a continuation of the renewal course. However, to write about this event might take another two pages.
As I end, my heart swells with gratitude to the Association, Mo. May and the members of the council. Mo. May has ever showered us with motherly warmth and love, to our Prioresses and our communities for this privilege given us. Gratitude also goes to all the 22 Carmel all over the Philippines who have accompanied us with their fervent and loving prayers. And to Sr. Marian, the Association Secretary who was the fount of laughter during those 15 days, Sr. Mary Grace, for her quiet and gentle presence and for that ‘smile’ of hers assuring us in our sharing we are ‘perfectly imperfect human’ as well as her mother who graciously entertained us and her brother, Kuya Dick, who served as ice cream, Mo. Bernard for accompanying us to Tagaytay and for Gilmore Carmel for the graciousness and hospitality, Mo. Teresa and Lipa Carmel for the laughter and the experience of being child once again in the ‘pabitin’, Sr. Cecile for accompanying us from Lipa to Gilmore, Sr. Tessa of Laoag and Sr. Carmela of Infanta for sitting with us and being our ‘good classmates’ for three full days, for the ‘pro bono’ inputs of
Fr. Maxell and Cecille Manikan, all the priests who celebrated the Holy Eucharist with their beautiful and well prepared homilies, for Fr. Bing, our Father Provincial, who was there to welcome us and who celebrated mass on our first day and gave that inspirational opening remarks before the first session of Sr. Loida. There was also Fr. Dan who stayed overnight for our confession, all the CM sisters who helped Sr. Loids in coordinating so we could have mass everyday, Manong Boy the driver of Mo. May , the driver also of the CM sisters who brought us to Batangas, Lito the cousin of Sr. Mary Grace for being our gracious host in Pico de Loro and for Tita Lydia who at the 11th hour accepted us to her home in Punta Fuego, and the staff of the SSCS for their kind and efficient service.
Of course my gratitude also to my nine batch mates, for being wonderful companions, friends and sisters for 15 full days. Their names, faces and memories never fail to bring smile to my face and warmth to my heart.
And finally for Sr. Loida, our facilitator who knew so well how to draw the line for us to see more clearly the ways of God. Her listening ear, her kind and sweet smile simply made the way for us to just open up in the sharing of our life story and yes she had the knack, what they call serendipity esp. in my case, without even meaning to, but just the same so able to hit the mark, where I was supposed to neglect and to lay aside a crucial experience at this point in my life. Thanks to her, God showed me what was of pressing importance which needed attention for healing to take place. Where I am now plus the welcome gift of God to me, is so much to her credit.
I began this with a passage from Scripture. I am ending it with another one, this time from the movie “The Seventh Seal”:
“I shall remember this moment. The silence, the twilight, your faces in the evening light. I’ll carry this memory between my hands as carefully as if it were a bowl filled to the brim with fresh milk. And it will be an adequate sign, it will be enough for me.”
And since Our Lady is the mystery that my name carries (or is it the mystery that carries my name?), with her I exclaim:
Magnificat! Deo Gratias!