1, The featured image from this entry is from the PH Jesuits Facebook page.
2. The pictures of the seven churches below were taken during my personal “visita iglesia” or church pilgrimage, usually done before the Holy Week in the Catholic tradition.
The greatest losses are opportunities that bring you back to God. When you have no other option to turn to whenever heartbreaks and failures happen, you realize that He has always been waiting. I had my first experience of unrequited love and the pain that came with it around 2009, but I saw God amidst that. Ten years on, He has again reminded me that He never left my side and always waited for me to return – just like the father in the parable waiting for his wayward son.
If you will remember, I came from a relationship of four years that never quite worked out. I went through the five regular stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—as with all breakups. Midway between depression and acceptance, I saw this advertisement on Facebook for a vocation seminar organized by the Philippine branch of the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus.) It was a seminar for young, single men considering to give their lives to God, to be held on the last Sunday of February. I signed up without hesitation as I had nothing to lose anyway; the seminar had free food, and it provided a usual break from my Sunday routine.
You might ask: why priesthood? You see, this man right here has a terrible track record in the love department. I was single for most of my life and was never fortunate when it came to women. I was also a late bloomer, having had my first relationship at age 24. Whatever gifts I received came with an equivalent price. It was only after breaking up that everything made sense. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be married and have a family of my own. God already gave me an opportunity to experience romantic love, and now the trial period is over – I don’t hate Him for it. In fact, I am even thankful for being able to try out something that most people would wait a lifetime for. God lets one experience eros (romantic love) and philia (ideal love) before showing what agape (universal love or charity) truly means.
Moving on, the seminar featured talks by two Jesuits—one known for contributing reflections on the Word of God in one of the popular broadsheets, and another known for composing songs used during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Writing down each and every detail from that seminar would take up a lot of space here, so I’ll just distill it to a few salient points:
1. God uses weakness to make people better, and failures are one way that He brings you to where you should be.
The first relationship I had was a miracle in itself, brought about by God pitying me after more than 20 years of not having one. I made mistakes during the four years that I had a partner, and I’m not going to deny that it contributed to the eventual decision to part ways. Regardless, I didn’t leave empty-handed; I learned a lot of lessons and picked up many insights. I’m far from where I’m supposed to be, but at least I know the path to take.
2. People tend to go towards the things that appreciate them; the better isn’t always obvious at first glance.
I never saw myself become a blogger who writes about food, much more someone who writes non-fiction essays as a forte. Food was a coping mechanism for me and eating was my way of dealing with problems. Since I’m eating on a regular basis, why not combine both interests–food and writing, in this case? Thus, you have this blog. What started as a journal documenting my random food trips outside has become a passion project in itself. I’m aware that I eat a lot to cope up that some might call me a glutton, but why should I care? I feel at ease when I dine alone. Would people appreciate me if I stop eating and try to reach out? If the answer is no, then I go back to my business.
3. God wants you to be happy. When you follow what God wants, your dreams get granted in a different manner.
I’m no stranger to being disregarded and passed over. In fact, I’ve stopped trying to get people’s attention. The rat race is tiring and it’s more enjoyable to live life at your own pace. Now, some of you might frown upon this as it usually equates to complacency – but this is where I am happy. I personally believe that God didn’t want me to join the rat race for fear of losing myself in the process. For what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? (Luke 9:25) I’ve had unfulfilled dreams, yet some of them came true in a different manner. The first Jesuit I mentioned earlier talked about how he dreamed of living in a large house with a long driveway and a beautiful gate when he was younger. Interestingly enough, he lived in a large house (the priests’ residence) with a long driveway and a beautiful gate – with the initials of the Jesuit order!
4. Humbly accept that you don’t know everything. There are things which you cannot accept at first, but you have to do so eventually.
Going back to the first point, I’m not going to deny that I’m bad with women because of my introversion. All my knowledge and command of the English language, at the cost of not having the ability to relate to the opposite sex. But that’s the price I have to pay, and I accept it. I don’t know where to go at 28 – to become a priest or start a family. I don’t know whether to take up a graduate degree or attend short certificate courses. I don’t know if I’ll look for a job (if I find one) or I’ll just resort to doing blue-collar work. Hell, I don’t even know if I can even wake up tomorrow. But yes, things just happen.
5. Even when you find God, don’t think that everything will be good and perfect.
This point, I believe, is the most important takeaway from the vocation seminar. My life didn’t become better the next day after attending this seminar. (It would only be possible if I snapped my fingers whilst wearing the Infinity Gauntlet with all six stones attached.) I still have problems, and I still rant about them. However, let this not lead you to a nihilist conclusion–one in which God doesn’t exist and life is inherently negative. If anything, God only shows you a new perspective.
I left the seminar with an unclear decision as to whether I would join the priesthood or not. The calling is never a walk in the park; it entails discernment with every step of the way. And once a decision is made, conviction is needed to tread this path consistently without faltering. As I mentioned above, I do not know whether God will put me in the priesthood – that final choice is up to me. If anything, however, it showed me a more level-headed perspective as to what my next steps should be.
Not every loss is a loss in the eyes of the Higher One. Sometimes, losses are but opportunities to step back and assess where you will go.
Until the next post.