IT WAS AT a BEC bible-sharing session that I met Ate Myla Custodio. I learned later that she has joined the Annunciation Praesidium of the Legion of Mary. We didn’t meet there because I have transferred to the Tower of Ivory; that our paths crossed at all is a blessing that keeps enriching my existence.
That she is more prayerful than me is evident from the reflections that she shares with our Thursday group. Perhaps she sensed the little spirituality in my insights is why she offered to lend me her books to, “instead of sleep on the shelf,” keep my faith increasing. She shared with me her Parousia experience at a time when my ipad’s storage reached maximum capacity. I was never able to squeeze myself back to the process. I borrowed my wife’s bigger ipad and was happy to discover its podcast feature. I was slowly able to catch up on the daily Bible series of Fr. Mike Schmitz. However, when the tablet prompted an upgrade, I excitedly submitted to it without thinking and even risked using a passcode. When it reverted to the starting procedure, it didn’t recognize the passcode I gave so I was forced back to my old cranky model while its bigger version is waiting to be taken to the shop for reformatting.
It was much later that I found out that Ate Myla is a diplomate at the Philippine Heart Center and Far Eastern University Hospital. Her character and personality were of a nature that, until she is asked, there is no revelation of her person. I am not a curious animal so my getting to know her better through our collective exchange raised up her humility bar.
Especially so when she started asking me if I would be interested to read the spiritual books she has been acquiring in search of holiness. Therefrom, I’ve perused her books on St. Augustine, St. Faustina and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33-day DIY Retreat, an enormous source of comfort, serenity and spiritual joy. Her latest blessings are “The Way of a Pilgrim,” with an accompanying prayer rope (more about this later), “Consecration to St. Joseph” by Fr. Donald Calloway (like Fr. Michael an MIC priest) and Fr. Michael’s “33 Days to Merciful Love,” another DIY Retreat in preparation for consecration to Divine Mercy.
I couldn’t put the Pilgrim book down and finished it in two sittings. She said she wasn’t sure if it was fiction or a truly inspired experience of the anonymous Russian peasant whose life story was translated by Olga Savin and given a foreword by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I agreed with her that the translation was so inspired the author could have been authentic but was humble enough to remain unknown because sharing his story was already a further source of spirituality. Making a name might have changed the course of his life story. Whereas his anonymity only elevated his generosity. What astonished me was that, embarrassed by my assumption that she was giving me the odd-looking string of knots (I’ve seen Muslim worry beads to know the rope from them), I could not believe that she was indeed giving me not only the prayer rope but also the expensive book because she has her own. It didn’t escape me that her generosity paralleled the pilgrim’s.
I took the prayer rope to a priest to be blessed but he was out so I’ll have to do it another time. Meanwhile, I’ve started to pray the prayer that goes with it (“Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) when I’m not busy and after my vespers. I don’t exactly experience the pilgrim’s rapturous feelings when he prays the prayer while holding the rope in his left hand (so he can make the sign of the cross in his right), but only because maybe I’m not doing it like he did. A prayer is a prayer is a prayer is what I’m holding on to in carrying on with what I have started. Until my very own prayer rope is sanctified. It’s called chotki, by the way, its Russian term, and the Greek equivalent is komboskini. There is a short literature on it by David La Mar which I will translate in Tagalog later to reach as wide a readership as possible and make chotki, the prayer rope, easily understood. If you will notice, the prayer is made up of ten words. I liken it to God’s ten commandments, made shorter, but uttered repeatedly, to underscore not only Jesus being God’s Son and merciful but also the pray-er’s deep desire for mercy and earnest yearning to atone for his sins. The repetition is its manifestation. Like breathing, it is something one cannot be without. Amen.