LIKE I DON’T believe in accidents, it didn’t happen by chance that Ate Myla gifted me (again) with a spiritual book. Her initial pretext was that she will lend it to me (like most of her books that she ultimately made me own) but when she delivered it, she said she has her own copy so I can keep it. Her books are treasures, in case one cares to know, and this recent one, “Consecration to Jesus through Saint Joseph,” by Dr. Greg Bottaro and Jennifer Settle, is certainly nothing less.
She and I have a copy (mine her double) of an earlier book by Fr. Donald Calloway, which paved the way to our first (separate) consecration to St. Joseph. This is my second (and probably hers, too) and I’ve thanked her profusely not only for the books but also her influence in my spirituality. Like most consecrations, this latest one is supposed to start on a saint’s feast day. She gave it to me on September 8, evidently egged by her Marian thoughtfulness, but I only started perusing it the next day, so I’ll have to count 44 days from Mary’s birthday to October 22 which, holy coincidence, is the Feast of St. John II! She made me aware that this will overlap with my novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help but I reassured her that it will not clash with that.
On that night, when I came home from a libation with a friend, the alcohol did what it usually does to my mind, even going down to my heart, filling both faculties with anger. (The past is no longer worth revisiting I’d rather not go there.) I share the lanai with my son Aesop. Being the most proximate member of my family, as well as kindred in a detached situation, I picked him to bear the brunt of my stupor. Long story short, he surprised me for calmly putting up with the rubbish I dumped on him and, in the end, while he did not agree with everything I said, he listened in an accepting, respectful way. On Mary’s Nativity, I bothered my son’s silence with garbage.
When I woke up, while thanking the Holy Family for another beautiful, better, and blessed day, I was assailed by what I did the night before. I could not believe that I was back to my old nasty habit of raising up a storm and made an audience out of my innocent son, whose only misfortune was he was there for my lashing. Guilty beyond redemption, I shared the awful feeling with my most significant Catholic, Kuya Noel. He was not surprised that I was back to my bad habit and opened both his ear and heart to my confession. And prayed for me before we parted.
I asked for an apology from Aes. He was as composed as last night and understood that my outburst was caused by alcohol. Then we talked again, differently this time, because I vowed to him the same vow I made to Kuya Noel, that I will never touch the lethal liquid again. He said it wasn’t necessary, perhaps because it was too tall a task for me to fulfill, but I was determined. And when I left to attend a joint birthday celebration and office blessing, I reassured Aes I will be true to my word.
Ate Lyn’s birthday (and the blessing of their Unica office) was on September 13, the 8th day of my novena to Our Lady of Sorrows. To reinforce my promise to Aes, I stayed long enough with our mutual friends, led greeting the celebrator with my signature birthday song, even improvised a cat’s meow in-between an impromptu group’s tik-tok version, and waited until the right moment to leave. My life is an open book to these dear friends so I kind of intimated early on the talk I had with my son and repeated my decision to cold turkey on drinking. No one disagreed and we carried on with the cheerful celebration. When Kuya Don returned from buying liquid provision, I stood up and said my goodbye. Ate Lyn would not let me leave without wrapping a doggie bag to-go so I gave in. As soon as I got home, I gave the take-home to Aes and prepared for vespers.
Since that first cold-turkey day, I have also offered to Our Lady of Sorrows, on the third day, my pledge, which was yesterday. The six-week devotional has a theme and prayer after the reflection for the day. Lined pages are provided for long and short entries in the daily journal. Reading up on the consecration’s Day 8, Week 2, the subject was vice of pride and virtue of humility. I was struck by the humility of St. Joseph, who earlier planned to separate from Mary and save her from humiliation but, visited by an angel in a dream, set aside his will to obey God’s. Unlike Lucifer and Adam, who were dominated by pride, our spiritual father made a free and humble choice to serve God. It mentioned Pope Francis’ homily of December 23, 2013, and my late-bloomer could not help but go there. I’m sharing here the summary of that sermon.
Pope Francis commented on the simple yet profound prayer found on the Church’s lips in these days leading up to Christmas: “Come, Lord!” “In this final week before Christmas,” the Pope said, “the Church repeats the prayer, ‘Come, Lord!’ and she calls out to the Lord with various and different names: O Wisdom, O Root of Jesse, O Dayspring, O King of the Nations and, today, O Emmanuel.
The Church calls out to the Lord in this way, the Pope explained, because “she is awaiting a birth.” “This week, the Church is like Mary: she is awaiting a birth. The Virgin,” he said, “sensed within herself, in body and in soul”, that the birth of her child was near. And he added: “surely in her heart she said to the baby she was carrying in her womb: “Come, I want to see your face, for they have told me you will be great!”
The Church lives this spiritually, Pope Francis continued, for “we accompany Our Lady in this journey of waiting” and “we, too, wish to hasten the Lord’s birth”. This, the Pontiff said, is the reason for the Church’s prayer: “Come, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O Wisdom, O Emmanuel.” This invocation, he said, recalls the final words in the Sacred Scripture; in the last lines of the Book of Revelation, the Church cries out: “Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha,” which “may indicate a desire or a certainty: the Lord is coming.”
In fact, Pope Francis continued, “the Lord comes twice”. His first coming is “what we are about to commemorate, his physical birth.” Then, “He will come at the end of time, at the close of history.” However, the Pontiff added, “St Bernard tells us that there is a third coming of the Lord: His coming to us each day: each day, the Lord visits His Church. He visits each one of us. And our soul also enters into this likeness: our soul comes to resemble the Church; our soul comes to resemble Mary.” Here, Pope Francis recalled that “the Desert Fathers say that Mary, the Church, and the soul are all feminine.” Hence what is said of one may analogously be said of the others.
Therefore, the Pope continued, “our souls are waiting in anticipation for the coming of the Lord, open souls calling out: Come, Lord!” Over the course of these days, he said, the Holy Spirit moves in the heart of each one of us, forming this prayer within us: “Come, come!” Throughout the Advent Season, the Church keeps watch like Mary. And “watching is the virtue, the attitude, of pilgrims. We are pilgrims. Are we watching or are we closed? Are we vigilant or are we safe, and secure in an inn, no longer wanting to continue on? Are we pilgrims or are we wandering?” (Inwardly I answered, I’m back to my pilgrimage, I will no longer wander, until my faith is fully restored.)
That is why the Church invites us to pray “Come!” and to “open our souls in watchfulness.” We are invited to perceive and understand “what is happening within us,” to ask “if the Lord comes or does not come; if there is room for the Lord, or if there is room for celebration, for shopping, for making noise.” This examination of conscience, he said, should lead us to ask ourselves: “Are our souls open, as the soul of Holy Mother Church is open, and as Mary’s soul was open? Or have we closed our souls and put a highly erudite note on the door saying: Please do not disturb?” (Like Joseph was not disturbed by his dream, Lord, I will heed every word You or Your emissary send me.)
“The world does not end with us” and “we are not more important than the world.” Therefore, “with Our Lady and the Church we would do well today to call out: O Wisdom, O Key of David, O King of the Nations, Come, come!” and, he added, “we would do well to repeat it many times.” It is a prayer, he said, that allows us to examine if our soul communicates to others that it does not wish to be disturbed or, if instead, it is “an open soul, a great soul ready to receive the Lord.” A soul, the Pope concluded, “that already feels what the Church will tell us tomorrow in the Antiphon: Know that today the Lord comes and tomorrow you shall behold his glory.” (Of that I shall strive to be worthy.)
As early as September 1, the airwaves could not wait to play Jose Mari Chan’s iconic “Christmas in Our Hearts.” It did not surprise that it started a chain reaction which is not expected to end until long after the holidays, our country being the longest celebrator of this season. The Pope said there are two comings of the Lord which we ought to anticipate, His birth, and His second coming. However, he hastened, St. Bernard tells us there is a third coming which is as significant – because recurring – His coming to us each day, when the Lord visits His Church. He visits each one of us. And our soul also enters into this likeness: our soul comes to resemble the Church; our soul comes to resemble Mary. Throughout the Advent Season, the Church keeps watch like Mary. And “watching is the virtue, the attitude, of pilgrims. We are pilgrims. Are we watching or are we closed? Are we vigilant or are we safe, and secure in an inn, no longer wanting to continue on? Are we pilgrims or are we wandering?”
That is why the Church invites us to pray “Come!” and to “open our souls in watchfulness.” We are invited to perceive and understand “what is happening within us,” to ask “if the Lord comes or does not come; if there is room for the Lord, or if there is room for celebration, for shopping, for making noise.” (Which Christmas has become lately. No longer the traditional silent night of prayer, vigil,) and examination of conscience which, the Pope said, should lead us to ask ourselves: “Are our souls open, as the soul of Holy Mother Church is open, and as Mary’s soul was open? Or have we closed our souls and put a highly erudite note on the door saying: Please do not disturb?” (Because we are busy consuming the consumerism of Christmas?)
Therefore, “with Our Lady and the Church we would do well today to call out: O Wisdom, O Key of David, O King of the Nations, Come, come!” and, the Pontiff added, “we would do well to repeat it many times.” It is a prayer, he said, that allows us to examine if our soul communicates to others that it does not wish to be disturbed or, if instead, it is “an open soul, a great soul ready to receive the Lord.” (And, if I may add, if it is a soul similarly worthy to rise with the resurrection of the Lord because, more than His incarnation, Easter reminds us that His birth was only momentary, despite the interminable merry-making, because He ultimately died, because of our mindlessness, our sinfulness, and the consumerism that prevails, more than the opening of our hearts to the poor around us, and the victims of the pandemic that persists. Really and truly, can we honestly open our hearts and be disturbed by the dire needs of our neighbors? Whom we ought to say to “Come, come!” We can never be ready for a Christmas that we have stripped of its Christian heart, or of its Reason, if He cannot resurrect us with Him when He comes, if we are not ready, daily, to be disturbed by our brethren’s poverty.