“This morning, about 1 hour and ½ before sunrise, offered to the eye the grandest exhibition of divine power blazing forth from the E. by N. in the inexpressible golden tinge on the sky from N.E. to S.E. The nearer the vast Luminary approached, the more the eastern horizon seemed to dart, or pour forward a sea of fire, whose waves were met by a cloud from the west, as extensive and as gloomy, as the eastern panorama was vivid and enchanting. Just as the sun’s disk danced on the summit of neighboring hills, the black cloud dissolved in a smart and long continued rain; this latter proves to be a blessing to the parched fields, for it did not stop our corn works.” –Fr. Patrick Kenny SJ, 9 May 1826Fr. Patrick Kenny SJ, a Jesuit priest, writing in his diary at New Castle, Delaware on May 9, 1826.
7 April 2020, 11:20 PM
I turned 19 years a priest today. And I just cannot help but write something about those years, because it wasn’t all a bed of roses. It was more akin to the experiences of Fr. Patrick Kenny SJ in 1826.
Born in Dublin in 1763, Fr. Kenny came to Wilmington, Delaware in 1804 to serve a small Catholic village in his area. He maintained a diary—or a journal—just as many Jesuits in the past and the present are keeping. It was in those journals that I saw many of his troubles, almost grumbling, sympathetic, humorous, and the perennial complaints from the pain of a sore leg.
I have those: a mix of travels, travails and triumphs. And these past weeks? You guess it: the challenge of a sore left foot, due to three metatarsal fractures from an unstable stage during a school wide mass for the Intramurals.
But most days, those 19 years have been graced with approximately that of Fr. Kenny’s experience of an early May morning two hundred years ago, when the sun gradually rose, as if being painted right before his eyes. He said that it was “the grandest exhibition of divine power blazing forth!”
Witnessing creative growth in my ministries, discovering 20th century skills, and blazing unconventional trails are some of the many “exhibitions of divine power” in my personal life. My heart is grateful to the Lord for giving me 15 years in media ministry, which have been the source of my joy.
Part of this joy is the knowledge that I am working with many people in the Church, particularly with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, DD, who is now assigned as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome. I have been a student of Cardinal Tagle in Theology, and it has been a pleasure to be together hosting Kape’t Pandasal, produced by the Jesuit Communications Foundation Inc., and aired on national television. With him, Fr. Nono Alfonso SJ, other Jesuits and lay partners in Jescom, I am assured that I am doing the right thing, because I have mentors with me.
Another graced moment is the discovery of educating, forming, and accompanying young people in their lives as my life-long passion and vocation. I have met these young students in various educational institutions beginning in my first assignment as a newly ordained priest in Xavier University High School (2001-2003), the University of the Philippines (2003-2008) Ateneo de Manila University High School (2011-2016) and finally, Ateneo de Davao University’s Senior High School (2016-present). Even prior to my presbyteral ordination, I had students under my tutelage in Xavier University High School (1995-1997).
When I went to California in 2011 for my Tertianship, the last stage of Jesuit formation, my prayer and discernment clarified youth ministry and its accompanying media apostolate as paths tailor-made for me.
When I look back at all those years, including the challenges that my audacity has brought me in both working with the parish priest of the University of the Philippines-Diliman in 2008, and the administration of the high school of Ateneo de Manila University as it transitioned to a new educational system in 2016, I continued to be awed at how the push and pull of fighting, failing, and standing unwaveringly on one’s principles have taught me fortitude, patience and humility in waiting for God’s vindication.
Some triumphs do not happen when you want them to. Sometimes quick is not in God’s vocabulary. But I am still learning—humility is not easy to come by.
If I would stand where Fr. Kenny once stood, my mind and heart would just be steady and as still as a witness to the drama unfolding in the sky. But just as he wrote, “the black cloud dissolved in a smart and long continued rain,” he too has to return to the schedule of a long and grueling day.
Fr. Kenny never wrote in that journal entry his happiness; it is simply there in his steady attention.
The same thing for me at this very moment. As this day is about to end in ½ hour, I find myself in stillness. I am happy, but tomorrow is another day.