Like a Lampshade in a Warehouse
From dark room to light, The seminar for Seminarians 2022 made an illuminating impact for more than two-years “home stay” seminarians. A dark environment is full of risk. There are a number of reasons why the room might be naturally dark. Small windows – perhaps we all have a vivid experience during lockdown– a north-facing position, shading by trees, foliage, or other external features, or a basement location can all make it more gloomy. During this pandemic, seminary formation met a lot of challenges; from online classes, unpredicted lockdowns and financial constraint, from coping with boredom and loneliness, and attendance of the Holy Mass celebrations. Indeed these years of priestly formation are demanding and crucial. Here in the Philippines, we all love to improvise whenever some necessary resources are lacking. Perhaps these years of painstaking quest for knowledge and growth can be compared to a warehouse. You know you have earned and saved something that one day you can use and share. And most of the time, it seems like we are always shadow boxing and chasing the lights.
Over twenty seminarians from different dioceses of the Philippines took their backpacks to Tanay Epic Rainforest Camp Parc, Tanay Rizal last June 2-5, 2022. Excitement and real chances are on the face of all participants after such a long time of not traveling and getting together. Every activity and gathering is like filling a gas tank running out. An encounter with someone, face-to-face, is always a delight, especially proven this pandemic.
Boasting the illuminating effect of the S4S 2022, smiles and laughter at every get-together and sumptuous meals, the trademark Epic Parc team building, the nature-friendly environment, brilliant Filipino historians and scholars as speakers, and the pioneering glazed theme about the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines, all these small bulbs promote and become ambient light.
The conferences and talks were profoundly substantial. Prof. Paul Dumol, medieval history expert, explained a twofold character of Filipino faith during the period of nationalism and revolution: perseverance and resilience. Prof. Dumol brought us to analyze events and written primary sources. “Our interpretation of history can be revised and is in progress according to the evidences and facts at hand,” he added. Prof. Arnel Joven, expert on Japanese era, focused his conference on the conditions of the Filipino Clergy during the American and Japanese era. He underlined three important factors: a) that during the advent of Protestantism, Filipinos would preserve the Catholic Faith; b) efforts for unity in the part of the clergy and Church hierarchy, and c) priests were with the suffering people even in the war-filled environment.
Fr. Kristoffer Habal, formator of San Carlos Seminary for the Archdiocese of Manila, discussed during his talk the important qualities and challenges for seminarians in the next five hundred years of faith. “The essential quality of a seminarian in the next five hundred years is no other than holiness!” he emphasized. Noteworthy is the talk given by Bishop Oscar Florencio of the Militray Ordinariate. The bishop offered heartwarming stories during his assignment in Leyte when the typhoon Yolanda hit the province badly. It came to his disposition that he needed to regain the consciousness of the seminarians. In his creative way, the bishop transitioned the trauma of his seminarians into acts of faith, hope, and love. He believed that the seminarians are the future of the Roman Catholic Church. He gave an inspiring message: “In every worst experience springs a component to the mission. The gift and grace to be sought were rooted in the seminarian’s intimate encounter with Jesus Christ.”
While the routine broke new ground and open the doors to new insights, the seminar takes the real shape on the meditations, recollection, silence, prayers, confession and above all in the solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist. One of the striking thoughts from the series of meditations of Fr. Jim Mendoza, Director of the Seminar told us is about direction. He quotes from St. Josemaría Escrivá, “You think you are quite important: your studies, your research work, your age, “you are seminarian”…you are no longer a child! Just because of all that, you, more than others, need a director for your soul (The Way 63).
Every time we start the meditation, my eyes are captured by the table lamp. Like any other lamp, a table lamp’s light is directed by its shade. A small amount of light flows through the loose weave of the shade itself. The majority of the light is directed downwards and out at something of an angle, permitting light to flow over a larger area than the lamp itself. The height of the lamp which in our case is the Word of God, and the width of the lower shade being our limitations, our human conditions. Both determine the area lit by the lamp and the shade.
Like a Lampshade in a warehouse is S4S 2022. We come with our own story about the struggle and the demand behind the failures and the success: the engagements and the problems that clouded many youths of today. The seminary formation and even life itself could be a warehouse for many of us but thanks to Christ- centered nitiatives like this seminar that help us to focus and direct our light to the present. The lampshade may be small and ordinary, but directs and motivates us to bring light to others, Now and Today!