From the Beginning

12 August 2022, Friday of the 19th Week in the Ordinary Time

Memorial of St Jane Frances de Chantal, religious

Mt 19: 3-12

If Baptism is the first ritual sacrament that we have received, Matrimony, I believe, is the first sacrament that was instituted by God.  Jesus himself affirms it in today’s Gospel, as response to the Pharisees who tested Him by saying, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Beginning yesterday until today, our incoming prenovices, together with their parents, are having their Parents-Son Encounter.  Reflecting on this, which my parents and I participated way back 11 years, I see the connection between Marriage and Consecrated Life and Priesthood.  The commitment of my parents who lived through their married life for 52 years is not just an inspiration for me but a living and loving foundation of my Salesian priesthood.  When I was asked by my Novice Master, “Trace your Salesian vocation.”  Most of them traced their vocation by their first encounter, a stampita, their friendship and studies under the Salesians.  But me, knowing that I am not a product of Salesian education, I asked God, “Lord, if you are calling me to this life, show me the way.”  Response?  I phoned my parents and asked them, “When were you married?”  My Mama replied, “We’re married on May 24, 1969!”  I told my Novice Master about it and he said, “Claim that as the beginning of your Salesian life!” 

No marriages are perfect.  It has ups and downs.  But as St Paul, in 1st Corinthians 13 proclaims, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  Seemingly, these words are romantic to hear but if we look closely this text, the love that is exalted is not romantic but the love which is selfless, that stretches and that sacrifices. 

Today’s Gospel reading calls us to be pro-active when we come face to face with the issue on divorce.  There are only two countries that do not legalize divorce, of course, the Vatican and the Philippines.  Our NO to divorce is a YES for the greater good:  family life, for the education of our children, the good of our society and of our country.  How can we be pro-active?

First, strengthen our faith-formation programs that are geared in accompanying those who are engaged, those who are preparing for their marriage and those who are already married.  Our prayer moments must be coupled with couples and families who witness their faith and their marriage vows in season and in out of season.

Second, support young people whose families are not only broken but are also breaking.  Religious Education/Catechesis must be integrated with other programs in the schools and in our parishes such as Guidance and Counseling, Spiritual Direction and other programs for their wholistic recovery and healing.

Third, sustain faith-communities whose spirit and charism are meant to enliven family life and let their programs reach out to the poorest of the poor who are the most vulnerable in experiencing the threats that are anti-life and anti-family. 

Today, we remember St Jane Frances de Chantal.  Before becoming a religious, she was married but later became a widow.  St Francis de Sales was her spiritual director.  Francis de Sales immediately released her from the rigid lifestyle of her previous director by encouraging her to “do everything through love and nothing through constraint.”  He urged her to find God in the loving fulfillment of her duties in life.  This gentle guidance transformed Jane. 

Many young people and my friends asked me “Father, what if most of your aspirants would opt to married life, would that be ok for you?”  I told them, “It’s very ok.  Because we do everything through love, nothing by constraint.”  “Father, my husband is a drunkard!” “Do everything through love, nothing by constraint.” “Father, my wife is HiTaChi!” “Do everything through love, nothing by constraint.”  “Father, my children have no time with me but they have time with their gadgets!”  “Do everything through love, nothing by constraint.” 

Why am I repeating the same message?  Because love is the substance that unites us since from the beginning.  Amen.

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.

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