Riiiing! It’s 5:30am! Different alarm sounds can be heard from different rooms. Some would like to spend another 5 minutes in bed. One would take coffee immediately. For sure two people will prepare breakfast. You can start hearing the pots downstairs. But the singing of the birds are most beautiful in the morning. I never heard a bird singing before, until such time. It’s amazing how they would produce such a melody, amidst short pauses, as if they are following the notes and rests of a musical piece. As I listen, I would usually splash cold water on my face before going to the Chapel. It’s time for silent prayer which usually lasts for 45 minutes. Then we sing the Lauds (Morning Prayer) with the brothers, before going back for breakfast. The whole morning is usually packed with classes. There is Holy Mass at 11:00, and in the afternoon – missions! At night we have Vespers (Evening Prayer) and another hour before the Blessed Sacrament. This is usually how a normal day would go in School of life. With lots of ups and downs in between.
In our busy city life, we rarely hear the birds. And in our busy hearts, it’s sometimes hard to hear God.
School of Life is really a spiritual break. A time where we can pause to listen to ourselves, to others and most of all to God. It is really a time to go out of our comfort zone, to discover who we are and who we are not, to live for others, and to hear God’s voice speaking in the silence.
Last March 8, the School of Life batch 2019-2020 culminated their six-month formation program. But it is not the end. It is only the beginning. After a very colorful and exciting journey, we had a chance to talk to some of them wrapping up their experience in the last six months.
What are the lessons you have learned?
Jasper: To love more…The importance of the family and community life. It is not easy, but we were able to do it. If you love your family, you really find ways to make things okay. You will not lose hope in love.
Kulas: I learned to know more of myself. You see more of your flaws in community life. But you also have to learn to see with mercy, and not to judge so much. It teaches you to show mercy to those whom you are in community with, and also to teach you to have mercy for yourself. I guess a big learning experience is to see with the eyes of mercy those around you and those of yourself.
Tisay: To accept the imperfections of others and also to be patient towards them. I also learned to open myself especially in friendship, and also to open my heart to love them…Just to receive their presence and to give importance to their presence.
Mapet: I learned that in loving others you have to love them as a whole. You cannot love them just because they are nice. You have to love them even though they are not perfect. I also learned that I cannot live alone. That in order for me to be more effective and to grow, I need others to help me out.
What are the difficulties you encountered?
Jasper: The hardest thing is the difference in culture. We have four different nationalities – New Zealand, US, French, Filipino. And knowing French, they say it’s the opposite of Filipino, and American is somewhere in the middle, New Zealand is different also. We fought a lot! But I became closest to the one whom I always fight with. But it made our friendship grow because of that fight. And in the end I can say that even how different your culture is, you can still become a family.
Kulas: Learning how to respect the differences of others. You have to be able to sacrifice your way of thinking, or the way that you want things to be. And it’s very true that in philosophy you learn that in community life, the other is completely outside of you. They are not at all subject to you. So their reasons for coming, what they choose to do – it’s not within your control. You have to learn to live alongside people who are different from you on a personal level, cultural level, even different ages. Learning how to respect and work together, it was a big challenge.
Tisay: To love their imperfections. Sometimes, you cannot really open yourself. Also, to be more attentive to your task, because for me I always forget my tasks. Especially the classes, like philosophy – they are very deep. I have to think more and I have to go beyond. And also the people around me, sometimes I really can’t understand them. Especially with speaking English, sometimes there are words that I could not understand.
Mapet: One of my greatest challenges is to be more open to what I feel and what I really think. Because there were times that I thought that my thoughts and opinions do not really matter or it would not make any sense for others. So it was very challenging for me. But, when I got to know them better and I got more comfortable with them, I realize that to be more open and honest with the people that I love is really very important.
What are your take-away’s in SOL?
Jasper: I will miss everyone and everything we do together.
Kulas: Missionary life is not a time or place but it’s all the time. I realize that the mission field and where I am called to do mission is at home. And the relationships I have with my family and the work that I do everyday. It’s really a choice and an attitude to recognize that you are in the mission field as a Christian. It’s a part of your life. You are a missionary all the time. To recognize that the mission field is exactly where you are right now.
Tisay: To be strong. Because I know that I have this community who helps me to grow – especially to know myself and to know the Lord more. I know I will go out without this community. I think the memories, the love that they gave me, and the words that really comfort me and encourage me will be my shield, to grow more. To love and serve God even when I return to my place. To grow more in my prayers. What I have learned here, I will also share it to my community. What matters most for me now is that God loves me to be His child and for me to really know Him.
Mapet: I joined School of Life first of all to discern my vocation. But I learned not only about my vocation but I also learned how to really love people. This is my first vocation above all – to love others the best way that I can. I can be whatever I want and whoever I want to be. But whatever I do, it should be for the love of others.
How does it feel that you are at the end of this journey?
Jasper: It’s painful. It’s really painful. I never thought that it would be as painful as this. Every time one leaves, it seems that there is a part of me that is removed from my heart. Something that I will really miss. Something very important for me. I feel that I am not complete without this. We cried a lot.
Kulas: If there is one word it would be treasure. The last six months are precious to me now. What I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, the people that I’ve met, the community that we’ve built. It’s a thankfulness for everything we went through. All the good and all the bad as well. Because you learn from both. It’s an attitude that you hold the last six months as something precious that you’ve lived. It’s something that you won’t do again, but it’s so important for you.
Tisay: I feel sad that I won’t see the community anymore. There are a lot of changes that I will encounter. But feel blessed that I was a part of School of life. I just realize that six months is very short. God is so good. I know that He is the One who will fulfill my life. And my community here, they are a part of my life that filled my desire to be wanted and loved. I am very thankful for the six months that I have here, I received comfort and love from them. To see the beauty of each one of us. This really inspired me to do well and to bring myself to God.
Mapet: I feel really more equipped to face new challenges in my life. For me this is really a very good formation. Especially in terms of my spiritual life. I also feel more than grateful that I was given this opportunity to join School of Life.
Thank you Mapet, Ate Mae, Mau, Tisay, Ate Gen, Ampie, Kulas, Will, Bernabe and Jasper for such a wonderful time you shared with us and with all the people you have encountered in the last six months. May you welcome a new chapter in your lives as joyful missionary disciples! See you again in Cebu!
School of Life is a six-month, stay-in formation program guided by the Brothers and Apostolic Sisters of St. John. The program consists of formation classes, prayer life, community life, and different missions. It is also a period of discernment and reflection on the more important questions in life. If you are interested to join the School of Life, contact Br. Benedict Charbel: 0943 0069214.