HOMILY During the induction of the new PTA Board of Trustees
The idea of establishing Claret Vocational School is a dream, an offshoot of the outreach program of Claret School and in line with the vision-mission of keeping Claret responsive to the plight of the poor and the needy as well as to the challenges of the Church and the changing world.
The idea was originally suggested by the current School Director to the CSQC Board of Trustees, simultaneously echoing the same to the Claret PTA Executive Board and to the Claret School Alumni Association officers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. With the CSQC TVI Core Group constantly discussing and planning for its registration and accreditation with TESDA, we are about to embark on a journey of no return and to celebrate it with passion and fashion towards the forthcoming Golden Anniversary celebration come 2015-2016. Allow me to delineate my vision of where I am going to lead the school and charter the course of events that is slowly (but surely) evolving with God's blessings to give birth to the CLARET VOCATIONAL SCHOOL.
I came from Cebu and my mother's family is located in the vicinity of Atlas Mining Corporation where the majority of the people earn their livelihood working in the mines. There was a story when I was a child that when miners go down into the coal mines, they usually bring a sparrow (maya) in a cage. So that when any poisonous gases begin seeping into the mine shaft while the miners work, the bird would be affected first. Therefore, if the bird suddenly got sick, or worse, keeled over, the miners would immediately evacuate the mine.
Another story was my experience with the pastoral exposure/immersion program, which Claretian seminarians undergo before ordination. I was sent to one of the far flung areas of Quezon Province and lived with the tribal minorities known as Dumagats. They were main occupations are fishing and farming. One day, I remember vividly, I was invited by the leader of the tribe to go fishing. With a group of small bancas (boats without motor/machine), we sailed to the direction of the Pacific Ocean. After rowing for several minutes or an hour, I asked the leader, 'How can we catch fish when we don't have the technical gadgets and modern facilities to find out if there are fish underneath?"
The patient Dumagat leader told me, "Don’t worry Brother Rene. If ever there are birds flying in the sky, it is a clear sign that there are fish under the sea". True enough, when we saw a lot of birds flying in the dark blue sky, we cast our nets and caught a lot of fish.
We continued our journey until we reach the high seas. With fear in my heart, I ventured to ask again, "How can we trace back our point of origin. We do not have compass or telescope to see far and wide?" Again the leader, with a grain of salt on his face, replied, "Don't worry Brother Rene. For as long as there are clouds, we will not and we could not be lost".
And I asked, “What is the connection between clouds and direction. And the leader added, “You see, there is smoke when there is fire. The smoke is the one producing the cloud. When there are clouds, it is a sure sign that a nearby island will be in sight. If we are lost, then we will ask and inquire from the people of the island regarding our exact location. And we can return safely to where we come from.
And since I am like the doubting Thomas, I retorted, "How about if there are no clouds?" And the leader with a big smile on his face said, "If there no clouds Brother Rene, then it is a clear sign that we have to start praying to your God and our God”....
The moral of the story is this: Just as the birds are connected to fish, clouds with smoke and men with God, I believe that all creation is interconnected.To paraphrase the old Aeta sayings, "Frogs are connected to people, rocks to stars, maya to the lawaan or balete tree and sea to forest. "All life is an interconnected membrane, a weft of linkages like chain mail. " If we want to have this CLARET VOCATIONAL SCHOOL, we should be mindful of this basic interconnectedness of all things, this interdependence of everything. As one author said, "...thou canst not a stir a flower without troubling a star".
3.1. NEW SIN, NEW VIRTUE
I feel that we are in the process of charting a new sin. The new sin is the inability, or the refusal, to look at the implications of everything we do in a very much wider context in the past.
In other words, the new sin is our REFUSAL TO BE MINDFUL OF INTERDEPENDENCE. It is our failure to acknowledge that what we do in Manila has repercussions in Mindanao, Sulu and Batanes – and vice versa. And what we do today has consequences for tomorrow.
We see the devastating effects of this new sin in the pollution of Laguna de Bay Lake, Pasig River and our seas, in the violence and crimes bred by poverty and ideology, in the obscenely distribution of the country and world’s wealth.
On a more personal level, we see evidence of this sin every time we make a decision without considering its ramifications for people and things beyond ourselves. Or when we audaciously assume that our limited point of view is the only and correct point of view.
With every sin comes the need for a new virtue. According to Monica Furlong the new virtue for our day is this: “the determination to connect. ” It is the virtue of loving the earth with all its wonders and doing our best to heal its creatures.
How do we practice this new virtue? How do we grow in the determination to connect? I suggest three ways:
~ by listening,
~ by living in community, and
~ by growing in compassion.
These three ways are, of course, interconnected.
The stoic philosopher Epictetus said that, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so that we would listen twice as much as we speak”. One way we grow in our determination to connect is by listening. This means we take time to listen to the world around us – even to our animal pets. It means we listen to other people too especially to our parents, spouses, children and friends including our parents-in-law.
A well-known psychiatrist believed that the experience of not being listened to actually made people unwell. Conversely, the experience of being listened to made them well again.
There is saying, “Listen and you will hear the footprints of the ants”. This is a dramatic statement that if only we know how to listen, even footprints of the ants can be heard. If you want, listen and you will hear the footprints of God walking under and beneath your shadow, God journeying with us, a God who is Emmanuel, a God who is with us and for us, a God within is and among us.
So we grow in connectedness by listening to creation, to other people, and to God. In addition, we grow by listening to our own thoughts and feelings. This means we take time to ask ourselves questions such as these:
~ Who am I?
~ Where do I want to go?
~ What do I really want and desire from this life?
~ How am I feeling about this particular situation?
~ What effect will my decision have on others and for tomorrow?
3.3 Living in Community
If we truly listen to the world around us and to our own thoughts and feelings, we cannot help but grow in the awareness of oneness with each other, in the realization that we are living in a community. This appreciation of community is perhaps more important for us today than ever before, for we live in a culture that deifies autonomy and sufficiency, like the song I AM THE ROCK by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. It is a world that downplays concern for the common good. “Have it your way!” “Look out for number one!” Me first! – are just a few of the popular slogans that reflect our culture’s excessive individualism and too much stress on exclusive family tie.
Individuals with a sense of connectedness live in a belief that we are profoundly interconnected to God, others, and all creation. Consequently, they willingly contribute to the common good-even in small ways like observing traffic lights, donating to scholarship funds and be a member of PTA and Alumni Association. They realize that this belief in community is not an option. It is, as poets, ecologists, activists and singers and composers keep telling us, essential for the survival of our planet earth...” No man is an island... or IMAGINE THERE IS (NO) HEAVEN. Or are we just a dreamer? Then we are not the only ones...so the song goes...
3.4. Growing in Compassion
Listening to others and regaining our sense of community will lead to compassion.
The dictionary tells us that compassion is “sympathetic awareness of another’s distress coupled with the desire to do something to alleviate it”. In other words, it is the ability to slip into another’s shoes and to experience the other person is suffering.
So crucial is compassion to humanity that a Russian novelist by the name of Dostoevsky dubbed it ‘the chief law of human existence.” Compassion is crucial, yes, but it is not always easy. One author once remarked, “WE CARE. IT IS OUR CURSE”. Compassion is difficult because it is easier to reject a hurting world than it is to embrace it with compassion.
4. Concluding Prayer
Please read the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 25-37). All of us will be asked by Jesus “who is my neighbour”? And the lawyer answers, “The one who treated him with mercy.” To which Jesus replies, “Go and do likewise”. Go and do likewise is another way of saying to the lawyer and to each one of us, LET YOUR SENSE OF CONNECTEDNESS LEAD YOU TO PERFORM SIMILAR ACTS OF LOVE. If we do this, we will become neighbor to each one of us who sometimes are waylaid down in the humdrums and byways of ordinary and everyday life.
The question then is posed to us, “Why CLARET VOCATIONAL SCHOOL?” It is because, my dear friends, our way to be interconnected, interrelated, inter-dependent. For we subscribe to the maxim, “Bawat bagay ay may kahulugan, bawat hakbang ay may patutunguhan...”
“Nothing in the world is single, all things by a law divine. In each other’s being mingle”.