Following Jesus Through St. John Bosco
They say love is blind but marriage is the eye-opener!
When we speak of marriage, we speak of a choice. In marriage, the couple have chosen each other for life. The greatest reason is love.
The Gospel (Mt 4:12-23) relates that Jesus chose his disciples. What were the qualities of his choice? He chose fishermen; unschooled individuals; from the lower echelon of society. We can also say, even God’s love is blind!
This brings me back to my own calling. I am now 16 years as a priest and counting! God did not really call me personally; as in appearing to me in person like the disciples. But he called me through a Salesian, Fr. Pat Buzon (now a bishop of the Diocese of Kabangkalan, Negro Occidental).
I was then in Grade 6 at the University of San Carlos when he invited me to enter the minor seminary in Don Bosco – Lawaan. I was not really paying attention to his vocation orientation; I was then busy talking with my friends. But what caught my attention – when he showed pictures of the aspirants all in smiles. At the background was a beautiful waterfalls! I thought – Wow! Kanindot sa Don Bosco may waterfalls didto.. that was how I ended up in Don Bosco! There never was a waterfalls because that picture was actually taken during their outing in Kawasan Falls, Badian, Cebu. But that encounter changed my life. I am now who I am because of that fundamental encounter.
Among other things, I learned 3 things in staying with DB; in being with DB:
1. I acquired a Big-Picture Thinking
I learned to see the Grand Design of God in my life. I acquired the ability to Look Beyond! Don Bosco can teach us to find our place in the big picture.
Once I attended a seminar. It was tiresome and very scholastic. But during the breaks, the secretariat placed puzzles outside the hall for our recreation. One had 1,000 pieces. Little by little the puzzle’s panorama was coming. Finally it was completed except for one missing piece. We looked for it. But we did not succeed. Next day, one participant declared he had the last missing piece. “Iyang diskarte” – to have the honor of completing the whole picture! I realize: in our life, God is that missing piece! We can never be complete without Him.
There is this movie: “Don’t Cry for Me Sudan.” Its about the life of a Salesian Korean missionary, John Lee who worked as a priest, doctor, teacher, conductor, and architect in the small Sudan village of Tonj. Father John Lee died of colon cancer in 2010. A funeral was held for him by the local dinka tribe in Tonj, with many of the tribal warriors in tears.
After High School, he wanted to be a priest but his mother did not allow him because his elder brother already joined the Franciscans. So he thought he could also serve as a lay person. He became a medical doctor, a surgeon. Still later as a military doctor, the call persisted. He remained restless. “I had to go after Jesus to find peace and fulfillment.” He ended up becoming a salesian priest and missionary in Sudan. He found his place in the great scheme of things.
2. Little Things Count
Mama Margaret taught little John Bosco to see God not only in Church but also in nature (beauty of the heavens); in people (God’s generosity through them); in the events of life (abundance of harvest). Mama Margaret stressed that God was actively present in the world and in our life. Thus, we should do everything for Him! For God’s glory! Moreover, God sees the little things that you do. They count; they are the ingredients of eternity. God appreciates the small things that you do especially done out of love.
Don Bosco became a maker of saints among his boys: Dominic Savio, Michael Magone, Zeferino Namuncura, Roderick Flores. His secret: Do your ordinary duty with great love for God! It’s a very simple spirituality of Being there. Being responsible. Not running away from the tasks we are bound to fulfill. Having the courage to show up even in doing the most distasteful and oppressive duties of ordinary life.
3. Never Give Up: on myself, on people, in the world.
One amazing story I read is about a 21-year old Bosconian from Cordoba, Spain: Bartolome Blanco. He was martyred in 1936 together with other Salesians. Shot in firing squad. It was a time of christian persecution by the order of the Communist government. Till the end of his life he was forgiving his tormentors. He wrote his family: “I ask you to avenge me with the vengeance of a Christian: returning much good to those that have tried to do me evil.”
He wrote a letter to his girl friend at the eve of his death. These are the two highlights in his letter:
He expresses his great love for her and says goodbye. He encourages her: from now on, your primary objective should be the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will be re-united in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.
Towards the end of the letter, he reminds her: there is a better life, and attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.
Today, Jesus continues to call us and invites us to follow Him. He uses people or the events of our life. I am just glad the channel he used in calling me was through the Salesians of St. John Bosco!