Homily on my Ruby (40th) Ordination Anniversary
ICLA, 10 September 2015
Rev. Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD
My dear friends:
Today, we are celebrating my 40th ordination anniversary, 45th anniversary of my first profession of vows, 30th anniversary of my doctoral defense at the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana (Rome), and, more importantly, my 15th year of teaching at the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA).
Forty years ago, fifteen (15) of us were ordained. Today, only four (4) of us are still alive and active in the ministry. One is a missionary in Brazil, another one is a missionary in the Netherlands, and two of us, our former Superior General and I are assigned to the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies (DWIMS) in Tagaytay.
Moments like this are moments of reminiscing, celebration, and renewal. The question is: “How did I come this far? Why did I survive?”
Idealism kept me going for the past forty (40) years....... Great minds had influenced me in my religious, missionary and priestly life. I was influenced by Dag Hammarskjold, the former Secretary General of the UNO. He once said, “I do not know when and where and why, but the moment I said ‘YES’ then my life has had meaning. William Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 29, said that “people with what they most enjoy are contented least.” In my life, I tried to do the opposite – that is, “with what I most enjoy, I was very contented.” Regrets, I have had a few; but in general, I have a happy religious, missionary, and priestly life. Albert Einstein has also influenced me a great deal. He once said, “Make it simple, but not simpler.” I kept that in mind. I tried to live a simple life. And as a teacher, I emulated Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Siddhartha Gautama, who became a Buddha. Like Socrates, I teach by asking questions, like Jesus, I teach by telling stories, and like Buddha, I took silence as the answer to the riddles of life.
On the lighter side of life, I enjoyed the music of Burt Bacharach, especially the song “Alfie” sung by Dion Warwick. As the song goes, “Without true love we just exist.” Love is the essence of life. I love other peoples, other cultures, other religious traditions, and so forth. I love what is different from me, what is different from my culture, religious tradition, and so on. The word “different” had made my life make the difference. I also loved the music of Yanni, a Greek-American musician. He once said that “the best things in life are available to everyone.” Such things are silence, beauty, friendship, happiness, and so on. I believed in what he said and so took advantage of these good things in life.
Of course, prayer kept me alive! I prayed a great deal, but not in the conventional way. I communed with God in a non-conventional way. Believing that the “Earth is God’s Temple,” I enjoyed praying with nature. While praying, I tried to absorb the beauty, majesty, power, and the truth about God revealed in the created world. My prayers are also influenced by the current events that are taking place today. I loved praying for the victims of natural calamities, victims of diseases, victim of unjust structures and systems, and so on. The spirit of liberation theology influenced my daily prayer since the late 1960s when liberation theology was born.
The prayer that I said on the day that we were ordained....... was this: “Lord, give me the grace to finish what you have allowed me to begin in your name. Bless those who have helped me reach your altar.”
What we are celebrating today is not what I have achieved as a religious, missionary priest. Rather, we are celebrating God’s love for humanity and the created world. Grace upon grace was poured out on us and so we celebrate today God’s blessings.
We are also celebrating the missionariness of God. We are celebrating the mystery, the deep and unconditional love of God for us and for the world, and his mission to make us come to the knowledge of the Truth. It is not so much that we understand the mystery, but that the Mystery understands us. It is not so much that we love God but that God loved us first. It is not so much that we come to understand the truth, but that the Truth sets us free from ignorance of who God really is.
We also celebrate today the giftedness of the many peoples whom I have encountered across cultures and religious traditions. Their welcoming smiles, words of encouragement, and prayers had paved the way in building a welcoming and inclusivist Church for contemporary times.
Moments like this are opportunities for renewal....... And so, before you, my brothers and sisters in Christ in ICLA, I will renew my vows. I will recite the formula that we used forty-five years ago.
“And so, I, Edgar Javier, solemnly promise you, O holy and triune God, to observe forever poverty, chastity, and obedience, in accordance with the Constitution of the Society of the Divine Word.”
“Mary, the Star of Evangelization” I entrust my whole life to you. Saint Arnold Janssen (SVD founder) and Saint Joseph Freinademetz (first SVD missionary to China), pray for me.
Thank you for joining me today to celebrate the Eucharist, the bread for our missionary journey. I look forward to celebrating with you – God willing – my golden jubilee on September 5, 2025. God bless us all.
Written by Fr. Samuel Canilang, CMF
Fr. Marcellí "Marcelino" Fonts, our retreat director this year (2015), is a Spanish Claretian Missionary working in Japan ‒ which is a part of the Claretian East Asian Delegation ‒ for several years (about 40). He was born near the birthplace of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the Founder of the Claretian Missionaries, in Catalonia. He is a Claretain by birth and by vocation!
Fr. Marcelino is not really a stranger to ICLA. Just a little bit of history: ICLA was founded upon the collaboration of Claretians in Asia. In the year of the Institute's foundation, Fr. Marcelino was the major superior of the East Asian Delegation. Under his leadership, the Delegation supported the foundation of ICLA, not only morally, but also finacially. Moreover, for some years, he taught the subject on prayer in the Institute.
Fr. Domingo Moraleda, the principal founder of ICLA, used to call Fr. Marcelino "un santo varon" ‒ a holy gentleman. Fr. Marcelino ‒ as a missionary, as a superior, and as a formator ‒ has a long and deep experience of the life of prayer. He has successfully blended the Christian tradition of prayer and a popular Asian method of meditation ‒ particularly, Zen. He has been giving seminars on prayer for several years in different parts of the world.
The annual retreat of the ICLA students for Academic Year 2015-2016 started on August 24, 2015. The Theme of this year's retreat is CALLED to be AWAKE, AWARE, and ATTENTIVE.
After the Community Morning Prayer, Fr. Sammy Canilang CMF, Director of ICLA, introduced the Retreat Master, Fr. Marcellino Fonts, CMF - a Spanish missionary, who lived in Japan for forty years. More information about Fr. Fonts, especially his participation in the establishment of ICLA, will be written in another article.
Each day of the retreat has two conferences: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There are also two guided meditations. The Eucharistic celebration is usually at 11:00 AM except on the last day which will be the culminating activity at 5:30 PM. Each night at 8:15 is the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for adoration.
In the first conference, Fr. Marcellino Fonts posed these questions: Am I awake? Fully awake? Some of the highlights of the first two conferences are shown in the slides below.
The Center for Accompaniment, Renewal, and Empowerment of Students (CARES) carried out the planned first recollection day for ICLA students on July 25, 2015. The Claretian Theology students joined the ICLA students for the recollection. Fr. Victor F. Sadaya, CMF was the Recollection Master.
In the conference he gave, Fr. Vic first asked the students the following questions:
Fr. Vic gave 12 tasks to do in journeying through Religious Life with joy and passion. These tasks are:
1. Discovering our Unique Purpose in Life
2. Enlarging our Vision
3. Willingness to Walk a Ridge of Uncertainty
4. Seeing Life in Constant Wonder
5. Seeing Ourselves as God Sees us
6. Uprooting the Roots of Bitterness
7. Accepting the Challenge to Transformation
8. Affirming Our Belovedness
9. Affirming Others’ Belovedness
10. Being a Joyful Giver
11. Becoming a Selfless Servant
12. Living an Integrated Prayer Life
Expounding on the 12th task, Fr. Vic quoted from several sources to make it even clearer to the students that prayer is very important in the life of a religious and anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He said that integrated prayer life basically means a “rooting of oneself in Christ” for Christ is the whole meaning of a religious (Vita Consecrata, 16).
Based on the gospel of prayer (Sr. Luke’s Gospel), Fr. Vic stated, “If our activity is to be wise and fruitful and in accord with God’s will and plan, it must be preceded by moments of stillness, of prayer, of being alone, of intimacy with God, and of being in touch with our own inner worlds. If religious life is following Jesus, then a religious should follow Jesus in his prayer.”
“Only those who pray have a message to convey.” (Pope Francis)
Fr. Vic began his talk with some questions and ended it with two questions for the students to reflect on in the moments of silence and personal prayer provided for them.
1. Looking at my life at present, in what ways am I living with joy and passion?
2. How can I become a better religious? What are the challenges or invitations for me?
The recollection ended with the Eucharistic celebration presided by Fr. Victor Sadaya, CMF.
The Institute is very grateful to Fr. Vic for accompanying the students in their first recollection for Academic Year 2015-2016.
The first general assembly of ICLA resident students for Academic Year 2015-2016 took place on June 26, 2015 at the Conference Room of the Institute. It started with an Opening Prayer led by Ms. Lettie Taberdo, who also explained the reasons why a general assembly is necessary.
ICLA is not just an institute for higher studies, but also a center of formation and a residence /home for students, who live together as brothers and sisters. Psalm 133:1 captures the vision of community life: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.”
Fr. Jonathan Bitoy, CMF announced the appointed Coordinators of resident students. They are Fr. Jonathan Balakase from Zimbabwe and Sr. Sandra Toscano from Bangladesh.
Ms. Menchie Rojas presented the Center for Accompaniment, Renewal, and Empowerment of Students (CARES) Thrust for AY 2015-2016.
Fr. Yoseph Ferdinandus Melo, CMF presented some guidelines for the community liturgy and Mrs. Eisen Villanueva gave the house rules and regulations.
The resident students selected the service team they wished to join. This was followed by the initial meeting of the various service teams, namely, (1) Liturgy and Prayer, (2) In-house Service, (3) Food, (4) Manualia, (5) Sports, (6) Socio-Cultural, and (7) Medical.
After the short initial meeting of the various service teams, some students articulated their concerns related to the community life of the resident students.
The first general assembly was concluded with the community evening prayer prepared by Sr. Lin Yanzhen, CCV.
The Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) is a center for doing theology to revitalize spirituality and mission in emergent churches, particularly in Asia.