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At The Crossroads

"Ano pa gid ang ginapangita mo? Hindi ka sagad kapangita sang wala." 

When I learned that I will be one of the participants in the pilot run of the revised Crossroads Weekend, I was very happy and at the same time excited. For months, I have been waiting for God's answers to the so many questions that I have in mind especially when it comes to my vocation. In less than a month, I'll be another year older and I'm really eager to know where the Lord is leading me. Of course I have set directions for myself, but as they always say, God's ways are not our ways, and so I'd like to confirm if the road I'm taking is not bringing me farther from the fulfillment of my two-fold mission: God's glorification and my sanctification. 

From the opening worship that Saturday afternoon until the praisefest yesterday, I was conversing with my God. Amazingly, the songs chosen by the worship leaders were personal favorites, and the very songs to which I could relate. In fact the first three songs sang in the opening worship speak of my journey that weekend. More of You - I Know - Fearless. I was there because I want to know more of God and His plans for me and I know that whatever He reveals to me is definitely something I can take because He will grant me the graces necessary. I also know that His will is surely the best because He loves me and He wants me to be happy. I will be fearless in responding to His call, no matter what state it may be, having the confidence that He is with me everytime, everywhere. :)

And so the weekend began. During the orientation, Kuya Adrian discussed the goals of the retreat; that is to understand and appreciate what discernment is and the three states of life, and to seek God's leading in choosing, discerning, and deciding for one's vocation. Ultimately, the retreat aims to answer this question: "Ano ang nakikita ni Kristo sa'yo?"

I cannot share all the details since this is a pilot retreat, but I will share some of the most striking parts, yung mga talagang tumatak sa akin at tumagos sa puso ko. :)

Session 1: The Journey (Ace Lu)
  • All life on earth mirrors these two truths: God's love and God's plan. 
  • Two greatest affirmations of God's love:
    • Creation Story - He created man in His own image and likeness. All the other creations were "good" but when God saw man, He said, it was "very good."
    • Life, Passion, and Death of Jesus - The Beloved for the beloved (man)
  • God has a personal way of loving us. Our vocation is our personal way of loving Him back. 
  • Discernment is a process. Do not expect answers right away. 
Session 2: Crossroads (Sr. Rowena Remulta)
  • Awareness is important when making decisions. Awareness helps us not to miss God when He's passing by, and to hear Him clearly when He speaks.
  • The seemingly small and insignificant decisions we make on a daily basis define who we are as a person. 
  • Crossroads should be a reason for us to rejoice. Not only does it indicate growth and maturity but it also reminds us of the two basic truths in our lives: 
    • The Cross: Reminder of God's constant and never-ending love
    • The Road: A particular road will certainly lead us to a destination. In the same way, God's love will always lead us to good. It can never be otherwise. 
  • Give space for God. Listen in, listen out, listen deeper, listen to the music of the Holy Spirit
  • To think, to discern, to decide is free. But not to think, not to discern, not to decide is costly because you have to pay the price. 
  • You will not be single forever. Life will demand from you. You need to choose, discern, and decide.
Session 3: Road Signs (Don Vivas)
  • The signs we seek should not be from an outward source whose outcome we desire. 
  • The signs become apparent through the realization of God's desire for our lives borne from our personal, inward search. 
  • Road Signs: prayer, scripture, sacraments, pastoral formation in SFC, people, significant event in our lives
Session 4: Joy Ride (Lawrence Quintero)
  • The most important choices we make in life involve three aspects: God (faith), vocation, and career; in that order. 
  • On vocation: there are three states - married life, religious life, single-blessedness
    • Married Life
      • marriage is a union of two people: man and woman
      • the purpose of marriage is to build a family
      • it is not a justification for lust; you don't get married just because you want pleasure
      • it involves coming together of two very different people; if you're looking for a perfect partner, then this vocation is not for you (only God is perfect, try religious life instead)
    • Religious Life
      • a call to a life of celibacy (purity) and poverty (simplicity)
      • a call to obedience (and it's more than just obedience to your superiors; every obedience is obedience to God)
    • Single-blessedness
      • a call to be happily single and celibate
      • it involves active discernment, it is a choice and not just a default
      • a life of opportunities - offering your time, talent, and treasure all to the Lord

More than the sessions, I was nourished, affirmed, encouraged, and blessed by the activities especially the individual consultation

After availing the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I immediately lined up for a consultation with a priest (Fr. Benedict). In all of the conferences I've attended, I have always consulted a nun and they all told me the same thing. If you want to get a different result, you must do things differently, right? So I figured, it will be interesting to hear insights from a priest. Add to that, I really admire Fr. Benedict's wisdom and since the first time I met him, God has never failed to speak through him loud and clear. Unfortunately, I was "bullied" by the brothers who insisted that the priest is just reserved for them and that I should line up for the nuns. Dahil kaka-confess ko lang at ayokong magkasala agad, umalis na lang ako. :) And so I went to the consultation area for Married Life and Single-blessedness. I was next in line for single-blessedness, and so I already grabbed the opportunity. :) 

Tita Sesi of Focolare Movement has a beautiful story to share. She had a boyfriend of nine years and they had already decided to get married. But one day she woke up realizing that she cannot spend the rest of her life with that man. And so they broke up. She joined Focolare where she met another man whom she thought might be the one. Before entering an exclusive boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, they decided to undergo formation to actively discern their vocation. It was then that Tita Sesi discovered her true calling - to remain single for the rest of her life. She is already 50 years old but her face exudes a youthful glow - proof of the joy and contentment she has found in responding to the Lord's special call. My take-home message from her is this: It is only in love that you find light; in light you will have wisdom, and with wisdom, you can see things in proper perspective. Think of each person you meet as another Jesus to be loved, then love them. The more you love, the more that God will manifest Himself. 

I stepped out of the hall with a happy heart which became even happier when I saw Fr. Benedict standing outside. He was just waiting for a ride back to their mission house. I approached him and asked if I can consult him about some things. At first he said he couldn't stay late because the following day is Sunday and I already know what that means for priests like him. But after a few minutes of conversing and kamustahan in Ilonggo, he asked "insa day haw, ginatawag ka?" ("Why, are you being called to religious life?") And so I told him my story - the same story I've been sharing to the nuns I've talked to, including Sr. Wheng. I also shared what Sr. Patrick told me during the MMC in Subic, that God sent me a person who can help me with life's challenges because I don't have to go through them alone. Then Fr. Benedict, with all sincerity, said, "I really don't like the term 'someone who can help you'. You are an Ilongga, you don't need somebody to help you." (Yeah! I know exactly what he means. I have three aunts who, by choice, are still single up to now. The reason? They are independent and empowered women and they don't really need a man to help them survive. They can do the things that men can do, even carpentry and farming. Kaya hindi talaga uubra ang mahinang lalaki.) Then he continued, "God sends us a person whom we can share life with, whom we can grow up with." The conversation went on, until he finally asked, "Ano pa gid ang ginapangita mo?" ("What else are you looking for?") Then he said, "Nobody is perfect. Hindi ka sagad kapangita sang wala." ("Appreciate what/who you have. Stop looking for what/who is not there.")

What happened was not a formal consultation because it was relatively short and we were just standing the whole time. But it was a grace-filled moment, definitely insightful and enlightening. :)

The last consultation I had was for married life with Ate Hazel Lasala, wife of Kuya Bob (SFC International Core Team Member and Metro Manila Head). She affirmed that my emotions are very real and she said I should savor every moment of this "test run." Of course she shared the positives and negatives of married life, but the funny thing is, I was the one who answered my very questions, analyzed my situations, and processed myself. Ate Hazel's role was just to listen and to validate. Before closing our session with a prayer, Ate Hazel reminded me to actively find ways to nurture my relationships because they are gifts from the Lord. 

Tears of joy and relief flowed. I couldn't be more grateful for everything God has revealed to me during those three consultations.

The whole weekend for me was a spiritual awakening. I learned it all begins with passion and desire. Guess what? I knew what I wanted all along. It's just that I've been wrestling with my own emotions, with my self, and with God because of fear which hides in my subconscious mind

But God is larger and greater than my fears. And at the crossroads of my journey, He was there to say these:
  • Love
  • Entrust yourself to Me (surrender)
  • Dare to dream
  • Know that I am with you always
And yes, I heard Him loud and clear! :)

So, am I able to finally discover my vocation?

.....

I say, YES! :) But I still am a work in progress.

And if there's one tip I can share for those who are also at the crossroads, it will be this: Combine your experiences with your relationship with God and that will lead you to the perfect vocation. (I really cannot remember where I got that but it's written on my journal. :D)

The key. And the message. :)

Affirmed! :)

With dear Sr. Wheng Remulta. :)

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