The warmth of his touch scorched the coldness of the night. The heat crawled from his fingers through my veins and into my entire being, stirring churning emotions that I never felt before. The sensation swept me away into the wonderland where the Prince and I lived happily ever after…
Life’s a Fairy Tale
Hearing some bursts of laughter from inside the house, I gave Tiya Agnes a curious glance.
“We have a guest. It’s Bro. Greg”.
Bro. Greg was a seminarian – used to be. The first time he was here was last year. He stayed with us for two months to complete the community exposure required by the Congregation. His buoyant and humble personality quickly endeared himself to the barrio folks.
I entered the house and joined in their conversation. I learned that Greg already left the seminary. Three months ago, he was diagnosed with a condition which rendered him unfit for missionary work. After a series of soul-searching and consultations with his Spiritual Director, it was deemed best for him to leave.
“God must have other plans for you. Discern his will and follow the way He has specially prepared for you. Remember what Mary said when he was told by an angel that she would bear the Son of God. ‘Be it done unto me according to your word.’ And Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His death. ‘Your will, not mine, be done.’ Obedience, Total surrender, complete submission to the will of the Father, no matter how absurd or unfair it may appear. That is the greatest expression of faith, the best way by which we can serve God. It’s not the number of years, not the significance of the action, not the method by which we serve. It’s the willingness to forget ourselves and our ambitions, to take up the cross, and to follow Him wherever He leads us, that defines our faith”, his Spiritual Director counseled.
The transition from the seminary to life outside proved difficult.
Greg belonged to a prominent clan. Their clan controlled both business and politics in their province. The clan consisted of successful businessmen and professionals. But there was something lacking. “For devout Catholics, the greatest achievement and the biggest pride is a priest in the family”, his grandfather, the clan patriarch, repeatedly emphasized.
Maybe, religion and ambition, faith and pride, were separated only by a fine line and it was too difficult to distinguish one from the other. Both could travel the same road and pursue the same goal for exactly the same reason but entirely due to different motivations. I wondered which one did God favor more. Was God treating both with equal regard? In the history of human existence, ambitions were advanced and pride was heeded in the guise of religious pursuits and expressions of faith. If it was of any consolation, at least, the spiritual camouflage put some level of restraint to mundane obsessions. The specter of a world with unrestrained human desires and impulses made me shudder.
It seemed that the mission to give the clan the only ‘Jewel’ which it lacked was assigned to Greg even before he was born. Ever since he was a kid, he had been groomed to fill that void. More than anyone in the clan, he was exposed to and pushed to participate in church activities. He was forced to volunteer as an acolyte. He was enlisted to become a member of the Lectors’ Guild, the choir, the Columbian Squires, the Youth Ministry, and other Catholic organizations. His decision to enter the seminary, however, was not forced on him. It was his personal choice. Through the years, his passion for priestly vocation developed. So, he decided to join a missionary congregation after finishing high school.
The entire clan celebrated when he declared his decision. A grand party was held in thanksgiving.
I wondered how could the rich children of God waste so much of their wealth to thank God for special favors He bestowed on them, while the least among their brothers and sisters starved to death. Wouldn’t it please God more if, instead of throwing lavish parties, they gave the hungry something to eat, they visited those who were abandoned in prison, they cared for those who battled an illness in solitude? But even in faith, life wasn’t fair and equality was a myth. Even in religion, there was a hierarchy of God’s children. Or perhaps, I was just envious.
In his speech, Gov. Fausto, the clan patriarch, proudly announced that a brave member of the clan had finally answered the greatest and most challenging call, to be a priest.
Understandably, all members of the clan were shocked when Greg told them of his decision to leave the seminary. Almost everyone, including his parents, doubted the real reason why Greg left the seminary. They thought that he really wanted to get out of the seminary in the first place and he just took advantage of the diagnosis to justify his decision to leave.
“Sometimes, they even insinuated that I just feigned the illness”, he sadly shared. Although they did not directly confront him, they treated Greg with apparent coldness.
“Before, they would always hold a party every time I went home. Everyone wanted to spend time with me. Now, It seems that I’m invisible or I’m suffering from a contagious disease. Everyone is avoiding me.”
“I can’t understand why it is happening to me. God took away my dream to become a priest and I accepted it, no questions asked. But why take even my family away from me. What wrong have I done?” Greg’s voice cracked.
I felt pity for him. I never imagined that someone so close to God would ever come to the point of questioning the way God directed things, or at least, allowed things to happen. It made me realize that when I doubted God and my faith, it was a turbulent ride that every believer, even the ardent ones, chanced upon once in a while.
I took and clasped his hands inside mine, making him feel that he was not alone, that I understood him, that I felt his pain, that he could always count on me.
The Prince and I
That was just the first of his frequent visits. Considering that it took about two days to travel to and from his province, he stayed for two to three days, sometimes a week. One night, I heard him playing the guitar while singing along just outside the house.
If I were to write a tale of perfect life Neither pen nor paper I would need to find I would just think of you and I Your smile would paint our paradise
You are a goddess so beautiful Your magic vanquished my helpless soul Though at times my pride runs away My heart returns to you to stay
A perfect world of wonders and fairies A perfect place of divine bliss A perfect life in wonderland A perfect love that’s what we are
My memory recalled the first time that I heard the song. It was during his community exposure. He was sitting in exactly the same place. He was wearing the same shirt. He was playing the same guitar. He abruptly stood up when he noticed me standing a few steps behind him.
“Nice song. Is it a new song? I never heard it before”, I said.
“It’s original. I composed it. You haven’t asked, I’m a frustrated composer.” He intended some laughter, and I obliged although I didn’t quite grasp what was there to laugh at.
Just like then, the night was nippy; the sky was clear; the moon was full; the stars were bright; and the wind was soothing.
This time, however, he didn’t notice me yet, or so I thought. He just continued playing the guitar and singing the song. I looked up and marveled at how wondrous the universe God created. It was so intricate yet so orderly. Everything had a place. Everything has a purpose. Everything was beautiful. What a masterpiece! How could I not believe in God?
The sky is clear The moon is full The stars are bright
But without you Here by my side the night’s all dark
You are the light of my world You are the breath of my life You are my joy, my delight
“Did you add that portion? Or I just missed that part the first time I heard that song?”
He ignored me. He kept playing the guitar and singing the song over and over again. So, I let the amazing scenery and the alluring atmosphere engulf me.
Before I noticed, he was already standing right beside me. Looking up in the sky, he whispered; “What is the world without you”. I glanced at him. “Of course, without God the world is nothing. It would not exist to begin with.” I tested whether my answer could get a passing mark if he was my theology teacher, surmising that he was also pondering on the greatness of God’s creation.
“Of course, You are right. God created the universe. He plans everything. He planned it when I was sent here for my community exposure before my medical condition manifested. He wanted me to find the path He had prepared for me before I left the seminary. He wanted me to see the light before my world crumbled in darkness.”
I felt his hand touching mine. “I composed the song while I was here. You were my inspiration.”
The warmth of his touch scorched the coldness of the night. The heat crawled from his fingers through my veins and into my entire being, stirring churning emotions that I never felt before. The sensation swept me away into the wonderland where the Prince and I lived happily ever after.
“You are the goddess so beautiful, the light of my world, the breath of my life, my joy, my delight.”
I was caught totally off guard. I didn’t know how to react. On one hand, I wanted to take my hand off his. On the other, I wanted to hold his hand even more tightly. I wanted to embrace him. I wanted to let loose the feeling that I had long restrained.
“What are you smiling at?” Greg asked while cuddling our baby. “Nothing. I’m just happy.” Indeed, the memory intoxicated me with joy.