All is grace. Since I celebrate the 50th anniversary of my entrance into the Society of Jesus on today’s Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, allow me to share with you the story of Sr. Lourdes, OCD, then one of the out-sisters of Carmel Bacolod.
Before leaving for my undergraduate theological studies in Jesuitenkolleg, Innsbruck in 1972, which would eventually lead me after ordination to doctoral studies there, I served a Mass at the side altar of the Church of Carmel Bacolod of my newly-ordained friend, Toto Suplido, now Msgr. Rufino Suplido of St. James the Great parish in Alabang, together with Sr. Lourdes, OCD, then one of the “out-sisters” of the Carmel Monastery in Bacolod.
In sharing Communion with one another at that Mass, Sr. Lourdes undertook to be my “spiritual Mom” as I accepted to be her “spiritual son.” Throughout my years abroad in Innsbruck and Munich and my early pastoral years as priest-in-charge of San Pedro Resettlement Area, she was my ardent prayer warrior until she died. She would send me letters and hand-made cards, stampitas, and bookmarkers, to remind me that I was in her prayers and loved. The sisters of Carmel now relate that when she was dying of cancer and in excruciating pain, she would conceal her painkillers instead of taking them, in order to offer up her sufferings for her spiritual son.
I now have in front of me the tin box in which she kept all my letters to her. On my altar in my private room, beneath the image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, I venerate her vow crucifix.
I believe I have remained 50 years in the Society of Jesus on the grace of such prayer and loving sacrifice, not only of Sr. Lourdes, but of the entire community of Carmel, Bacolod, as well as the prayers and witness of the many Jesuits and Jesuit-partners, my dear family and friends, who have been grace in my life and have not ceased to pray for me. This anniversary is not an achievement in perseverance, but testimony to God’s fidelity beyond all deserving. It is a milestone in grace. All is grace.