SOMETIME AFTER GRADUATION from PREX Class Number 9 in August 2009, I was enticed by my euphoria to join the Legion of Mary’s Our Lady of the Annunciation Praesidium. I did not credit much the invitation of the other male members of the mixed group (a rare setup in the Holy Spirit Parish) because I knew that, in my heart of hearts, the enthusiasm might pass and it won’t be fair to those privy to the recruitment to attribute its entirely-my-fault ebbing to them. Suffice it to say that I wanted to see how far my renewal will take me without anybody influencing its development or decline. PREX, then, suffused me with a new understanding of my Catholic faith and I was so happy with the discovery that I wanted to milk every opportunity that might increase it. If the process did not shake the earth, so to speak, I toss it. Otherwise I hang on.
I joined the choir to find a better venue for my singing than videoke bars or other occasions of libation. In the company of church singers, my passion was tempered with a discipline I could never have plumbed had I pursued the pedestrian preoccupation, not that I could afford it in my unemployed state (in spite of my friend’s reassurances that he’ll never tire buying my drink). Whoever said that church singing is twice praying must have been struck by the same force that hit me when I sang with a choral ensemble. A much later discovery was the singular stirring singing with churchgoers evoked, like you are one voice, albeit without any authoritative baton to appreciate or deprecate you, or personal aggrandizement from accolades received after the celebration. The only selfish motive that I had in choosing to sing independently of a body is to allow God to hear me as I am, mere minstrel to His listening Lordship. While I credit the choir discipline no end for my unconscious, unobtrusive musicality, I thought I’ve reached the summit of my singing, at Mass, alone or with the congregation, directly to God. Pneuma Choir made me reconsider. I found the austere composition of this 4:30 company of choristers plain, unassuming, not attracting attention, welcoming. Kuya Patrick even joked for me to bring along a coterie, anytime. The spare group seemed to thrive in economy yet was not averse to expansion.
My initial active membership in the Legion of Mary was short-lived, a deja vu I felt early on. Apart from my fleeting zeal, my fledgling faith could not handle my differences with a member thereof. Neither could I put up with what I felt were occasions of sin whenever I was in the group’s meeting or any other activity and there was unease in me. My focus on the seriousness and solemnity of the proceedings had a separate piece. I quit.
I tried an apostolate that sounded prayer-oriented. For the first few outings with the group, I observed that, save at Mass, they do not pray before or after any activity in or outside the church. I did not mind it so long as their dedication took them to marginalized areas to sing at street Masses. The discontent with a prayer group that did not give justice to its name nagged on I had to bring the matter to the attention of the coordinator. Once or twice, I was allowed to lead and close the prayer (probably to keep my whining at bay) but no one was forthcoming to assume the task after me. We were carrying an ill-fitting name. I quit.
But PREX was – is – quite another. Class Number 9 left an indelible imprint in my being that comes alive whenever a seminar is conducted. I drop everything for it. I do not only attend every class to be seen and heard but also to pray and sing and dance and serve. Like David did. I do not have to be reminded of it, It has become a devotion of sorts I am ill at ease if not fulfilled. On a whim, I decided to not only deliver a talk at one class in San Jose ang Tagagtanggol Parish but also to serve Mary’s spouse full-time. It was a paradigm shift. A calling that has been long in waiting for me to choose. From the seminar hall, I joined the music ministry, filling in for animators who do not make it, moving on to the secretariat core group up till the secretaryship of the body. In-between Legion work and BEC, I made myself available to home visits in Doña Juana presenting to the residents PREX as the third factor of our sales pitch (the other two being BEC and the church-based cooperative).
I felt the difference between comfort zone and apostolate. At the Holy Spirit Parish, the proximity to the seminar hall was bread; going to Doña Juana (often times on foot) was crumbs. Like in Matthew’s Gospel where the woman stubbornly entreated Jesus on behalf of her sick daughter, I was convinced it was either bread or crumbs for both puppies and children or Matthew was kidding. God created the world with heart and humility, no hierarchy, double standard or inequality. Why would I deprive an already depressed community of my service, when it was entirely up to me? In order, however, to make my move official, and upon the counsel of well-meaning brethren, I coursed my decision through channels of authority, and was favorable rewarded.
Where the Totus Tuus Journey taught me to give Mary my all, I owe the Legion, as the threshold to the deepening door, my punctuality and regularity as regards attendance and the recitation of the Catena (or the chain of prayers handed down by the Fathers before us), the link between her Legion and the life of her blue armies, substantial active work, and absolute respect for the confidentiality of discussions. In brief, my transition from a reckless rascal to a silent, simple sojourner in the pursuit of constant, continuing consecration.
More than the euphoria PREX enchanted me with, and the discipline the choir instilled, the Legion inculcated humility in my person, heretofore so puffed up with himself.
PREX taught me how to bend my knees. Singing made me soar. The Legion kept me knelt.
ABRAHAM DE LA TORRE