Crisis is an English word that has one Chinese character with two meanings: opportunity and danger. Obviously the use of two meanings depends on one’s response to it - either as an opportunity to grow or as an irretrievable mishap in life.
All those who were called by God have one way or the other experienced it. Abraham experienced his when he was ordered to wander aimlessly to a “land that I will show you,” and when this “Father of all nations” was required to offer in sacrifice his only son. Job experienced his in the “silence of God” while he was suffering unbearable pains he could not understand. David experienced his in sinfulness. Peter experienced his when his Master whom he called “the Son of the Most High” was put to death, and after bragging that he was willing to die for him, was forced to run like any coward.
Crisis is our common lot, for as Jesus has said to Simon Peter, “remember that Satan asked for you, to sift you all like wheat.” (Lk.22:31) Nevertheless, though man is exposed to such great danger, God, in a stroke of genius, made the same crisis an opportunity by which man could glorify God and through which God could glorify man. Thus, Jesus prayed for Peter, as He prays for us now “that your faith may never fail, so that you in turn must strengthen your brothers.” (Lk.22:32)
In the end, in the face of such inevitable plot which all undergo, it is not so much the successes or the failures that count most before God, but faithfulness. The French poet, Bernanos, made a wonderful prayer and pledge, which gives us the proper attitude in the face of all these:
“Lord, if I fall down, I will get up. If I fall a second time, I will rise up again. If a third time - or more - I fall, I will stand up all the same, again and again. If one day it happens that I cannot get up anymore, then crawling along the ground, with bloody elbows and knees, I will drag myself. But I have to go until I reach you, O my God, and see your face!”
Today as we end our issue on vocation, we would like to share with you some people who have made their crises as opportunities and occassions “to strengthen their borthers.” We present them as inspirations for all of us undergoing such torment.
Fr. T. went out of the priesthood at the age of 35, after only 15 years in the ministry. He bore two sons and a daughter from a very caring wife. They were married civilly and he worked hard as any father could to fend for his growing children.
One day he woke up with a cancer. It was malignant and he knew that anytime now he will come the way of all men - in death. There were so many wories to settle with the little time he got left. However what distrubed him most was his vocation. The law of the church was clear to him - he was a priest forever - and for getting out of the ministry and marrying a woman he was excommunicated, a renegade who will be deprived of the sacraments and a catholic burial.
The church in her magnanimity reached out to him in reconciliation commencing immediately the process which we call laization. He will be dispensed from his vow of celibacy so that he could marry properly and be reconciled with the church - a process which only Rome could grant. Nobody knew what went on into his mind as he struggled with God for a decision. However when he was approached and informed of the process he made this one decision: “I will die as a priest.” It was a disturbing decision, one which entails leaving behind his wife and the children he lived and worked for. But he has made up his mind and the process of laization was put to a halt. His children understood his decision and accepted it calling him “Tito Father” instead of that wonderful word every child would long to say, and every father would long to hear - “Tatay”.
He died - and he died a priest. And when we buried him he was garbed to celebrate the mass. His chalice was placed beside the coffin together with the paraphernalia of his ministry, worn by age and safe keeping, though not by use. His wife and children were also there somewhere in the crowded church.
Towards the end, the priest gathered around his coffin to give him the final blessing and to wish him farewell. Then as if by pure habit a priest intoned the ordination song “Tu es sacredos in aeternum.’ Teary eyed and with voices ready to break, the priests joined in the singing, “you are a priest forever. . .” The song still reverberates in my ears both as a reminder and as a challenge that the priesthood is indeed forever.