Pope Francis proclaimed 2015 a Year of Consecrate Life. It coincides with the 50thanniversary of the 2nd Vatican Council’s two important documents that pertain to consecrated life namely, Perfectae Caritatis (Decree on Religious Life) and Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church). Consecrated Life has many diverse forms. There are hermits, virgins, members of contemplative institutes, apostolic religious, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life and many other new forms according to the needs of the Church.
These forms of life are part of the holiness and mission of the Church. Moreover, each is a gift from the Holy Spirit to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. More often, those who belong to these forms of life have taken the gospel challenge seriously. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:35). They consecrate their lives totally for the Lord.
The first time I encountered a religious sister was when I enrolled at the University of San Carlos as an elementary kid. My principal was Sr. Leonoris, a Holy Spirit Sister. On Saturdays, I and my siblings would still be at school for piano lessons with Sr. Priscelda coaching us. Eventually I dropped out of the lessons because the sound of the playground was more attractive than the sound of the piano.
Brother Mario Rossi was the first male lay religious I have ever known. He was Italian. His big, black spectacles and penetrating blue eyes made him look serious and strict. When I enrolled in Don Bosco Missionary Seminary in Lawaan as a high school student, he was economer and in-charge of the kitchen. He was a very simple religious, talked very little but worked so much. Though he was in his 60’s, I saw him doing the marketing in the morning and working at his garden in the afternoon. He planted several fruit trees like papaya, jackfruit and mangoes. But the most exotic then was the fig tree. When the fig tree bore fruits and when he wasn’t looking, many of us aspirants were helping ourselves at them. He had skillful hands. When our water system would stop working, he was there as plumber to make it work again.
I saw the inner goodness of Bro. Rossi many times. When he was done with his kitchen chores after dinner, one would usually see him seated by the staircase near the kitchen. Some of us boys would flock around him. He was originally a missionary for China. But when the Communist took over, he and other foreigners were asked to leave. He ended up in the Philippines. In those evening conversations he would tell us stories of his China mission, his village in Italy and other milestones of his life. But we had to prod him to keep talking because talking was not one of his gifts.
He was also there to observe us and to know us better. One evening, I came to sit beside him by the staircase. That afternoon, I almost had a fight with a companion in the playground over a football game. I was then, impatient and hotheaded. Winning was everything to me. I was surprised that he told me: “Figuracion, be patient. Be humble!” I realized Bro. Rossi knew each of us. He was teaching me, outside the classroom, a lesson on character building.
Pope Francis would like to highlight the women and men religious who take Jesus as their inspiration to live poor, chaste and obedient. Despite the spiritual pollution of the world, God’s grace continues to touch people to live only for God. This is the witness of the “martyrdom of religious life and it sounds an alarm for people. “The witness that can really attract is that associated with attitudes such as generosity, detachment, sacrifice, self-forgetfulness in order to care for others,” says the Pope. Thus he challenges all religious to “wake up the world. It is possible to live differently in the world.”
Consecrated life is actually rooted in baptism. The consecrated person is only expressing such commitment in a radical way. Thus the life of the consecrated person is a reminder for all men and women in our times that our very first vocation is not priesthood, nor marriage or a single state. Our primary vocation is to know Jesus, to love him and serve him in our brothers and sisters. They show us that our lives goes beyond this world.
(This article also appears in My Column: “Sharing the Word,” Cebu Daily News, September 13, 2015)Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.