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“Service is Prayer,” “Making Time” and the “Virtue of Asceticism”
The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Ministry – JPIC Scholarship Program of Santuario de San Antonio Parish Foundation, Inc. recently held its one-day Recollection at the week-end house of member Bambina Buenaventura. In attendance were Menchu Bautista, Dely Fernandez, Doris See, Mert Loinaz, Millette Ocampo, Girl Velasquez, Sister Marisa Lichuaco, Jean Chavez, Bambina’s sister Angela Quila, Mariza V. del Rosario and Jackie Macasias, JPIC Socio- Pastoral Worker.

The “Vision, Mission and Goals” of the JPIC Scholarship Ministry aims to provide Education, Spiritual and Moral Values Formation through scholarships and guidance to indigent youth in order to develop them into responsible Christian Filipino citizens (Kristiyanong Mamamayan).

Fr.Reu Jose C. Galoy, OFM, Parish Priest of Santuario de San Antonio and JPIC Scholarship Program Spiritual Adviser, officiated the Eucharistic Celebration, reminding the members during the homily to be “grateful for the gift of each other” in describing the interplay of roles played by the benefactors / donors and the parishioners through the SSA Parish Foundation, the Ministry members and the beneficiaries/scholars. As we pray in gratitude for the generosity of benefactors, Ministry members are empowered to continue its tasks together with its partner schools, planting the seeds of hope and love to the scholars/beneficiaries as they prepare to face life’s challenges. The Ministry members through their encounters with the beneficiaries give their time and talent nurturing faith in the Ministry. Through this privilege the beneficiaries are given the chance to secure their future and learn to give back to others in a spirit of reciprocity and gratitude. Education is effective when students are able to put into practice learning and skills in their daily lives for the price of the opportunity accorded them is to share with others.

As we sat in the living room overlooking verdant, grassy hills and mountains framed by white “thurnbergia” cascading from the veranda trellis, our attention pleasingly distracted by the melodious chirping of birds, warbling and whistling from the thick foliage, some gliding and soaring and swooping down around strikingly colorful bougainvilleas amidst the noonday sun, only to hide and nest in the towering trees or the leafy “Birds of Paradise,” Fr. Reu’s voice rises above the fresh, gentle breeze: “We serve because we pray. Service is prayer.”

After a sumptuous lunch, a discussion was led by Sr. Marisa about the values of “Making Time” and learning from each other. As mentors and guides, she advised a gentle approach to “correct with love” any misdemeanor or judgement lapses that students may have committed in the course of their learning experiences. In understanding the Filipino psyche in handling conflict situations, Mert Loinaz identified a “culture of silence” prevalent among Filipinos. This “silence” is brought about by fear, shame, lack of confidence or self-esteem, family pressure, the desire to maintain “status quo” or not “to rock the boat” due to lack of education or poverty. This “culture of silence” needs to be rechanneled into the ability to articulate needs and aspirations to create change. In guiding our youth Sr.Marisa stressed that forgiveness is not to “forgive and forget” but also to remember, to be remorseful, and to show sincerity and accountability for the wrong done. As we check each other out in “fraternal correction,” we grow and should not harbor hurt feelings, because we are corrected with love.

In the spirit of the Lenten Season, Sr. Marisa shared an article on “The Virtue of Asceticism” by Nicholas Austin, S.J. Asceticism is defined at a surface level as “the constellation of the practices of voluntary self-denial such as fasting from food.” It is self-denial to attain a higher spiritual level. Lent has often been associated with abstaining from something that one enjoys.

Fr. Austin, instead of focusing on what to give up for Lent (chocolates, sodas, Facebook, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) expounds on a “second philosophy”in understanding the virtue of Asceticism by asking: “What am I going to do, in a positive way, for Lent?” We must learn to seek space from the hectic modern day life to be with others, to be with God.”

Fr. Austin noted three distortions to the virtue of Asceticism:
1. Excess –“Fasting for long periods can lead to self-inflation and pride at one’s own achievements and end up being counter-productive as it can be followed by a binge.” The doctrine of the “mean” is the recommended approach to excessive fasting, which is the middle-way between too much and too litte, the mid-point between excess and laxity.
2. The distortion of Dualism – This sees the soul as good and the material world as evil, a rejection of the body and the material world as impure. The point “is not to free the soul from the body, nor even to repress the body and its impulses, but to raise these to a truly spiritual level to integrate them into the spiritual journey towards God.
3. The distortion of Empty Religiosity – This is focusing exclusively on external religious practice, losing “the power of religious practice to open the heart to a transformation leading to a deeper love of God and neighbor.”

What are the reasons for Asceticism?
1. Fasting can help us to find a proper authority over ourselves. When we deny ourselves pleasures, “we exercise authority over it, instead of letting it control us.”
2. A time to be alone, to cultivate ‘interiority,” through the Holy Spirit, to trust that even in loneliness, “the Spirit of Jesus is with us, drawing us to the Father.”

Recollection. A tranquility of mind. A religious contemplation.To bring back to the level of conscious awareness. It was a day well-spent in rediscovering our path and pitfalls as we plod on in understanding who God is, and through God, prayer and service as we reach out to others in love and sharing.

SSAP-JPIC Scho. Prog. Comm. / Jean Chavez