Faith

When you feel nothing, or feel like nothing; when it seems as if God has withdrawn His graces from you, never lose hope or feel like He has abandoned you. He only wants you to be more dependent on Him. Perhaps you have become a little too proud and self-reliant, and your actions have been afflicted with self-love, carried out out of self-interest. You have forgotten to honor God himself.

Look then to Christ on the Cross. Gaze at Him, at the bloodied body, the bloodied wood. Look at Him. Contemplate on the scene. Remember what He endured for you. Look at His palms tearing as the weight of His body pulled Him down, at His mouth gasping as His lungs choked in its own breath, at His feet which could stand no more of the nails driven through flesh and bone, bound to the Cross. See all that pain and then unite to the Cross all your sins, miseries, falls and faults. These are the only things you can offer because nothing good comes from you. Good comes only from God.

Persevere. Find joy in the fact that you are in the present struggle, where you are fighting whereas before you would spiral into sin after sin after sin. Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit loves you. God the Father loves you. The Holy Trinity dwells in you. If God does not give you consolation, it is because He is testing you. And testing includes the pain of God’s love burrowing on your hardened shell of pride, lust, and envy. As the shell is being destroyed or broken, you suffer. You are in pain.

Own the pain. Offer it to God, placing it on the hands of the Immaculate – let our Mother turn our wretchedness into something presentable to the Jesus. Offer your mind, body, heart, and soul. Have faith that in giving your thorns to Christ, He will grant you the grace that will strengthen you in your struggle, purify your love, and reinvigorate your hope. Offer all your trials in reparation for your sins. Let your atonement serve the needs of those who are enslaved by sin. Continue fighting. God will never ever leave you alone.

We may be unfaithful, but he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self.
– 2 Timothy 2:13

Led On

Manila
18 February 2017

Dear M:

One year ago I found myself at the precipice of a remarkable change in my life, my conversion. While it was indeed something brought about by God, one of the catalysts was a man, a colleague, CC, who led me on, or in hindsight, I thought led me on. He came into my life when I was grappling with questions over my identity, and my faith was being sorely tested. As I was being drawn to respond to the demands of my Christian vocation, I found myself in the midst of going back to square one – developing feelings for another man. I asked God, why? Why was I feeling this way towards him? Why, with all the working and praying, was I still attracted to men? Why did you make me this way? I felt betrayed by myself, incapable of striving for conversion, and at a loss as to what my vocation really was.

I don’t think CC intended to lead me on. He is, after all, straight. Perhaps I mistook his kindness towards me as romantic interest. It didn’t help that circumstances added fuel to my imagination. I kept dreaming of him, and in waking hours, running into him. There were countless coincidences, and what seemed like romantic innuendos which aggravated the situation. At my lowest, I cried in the evenings, and kept to myself. I buried myself in prayer, and in the process, took for granted the valuable friendship offered by so many other people in my life. My response was to “come out” to CC subtly, to make it clear to him that I was a man with same-sex attraction. I wrote about my feelings on Facebook where we were friends but deliberately avoided him at work so as to antagonize him or make him wonder. I alluded to him in my written works while in real life, I did my best to elude him: changing my directions and routines so as not to run into him, or when I had to speak to him, doing so without looking straight in his eye.

In hindsight, all of it seemed foolish, in fact, juvenile. I was overwhelmed by my infatuation, and it became obvious. While I was trying to take strides in my conversion, his presence kept holding me back. I wanted to dislike him. So I psychologized him. I analyzed my attraction to him as a consequence of my disorder, a sad projection of physical attributes and behavioral qualities I wish I possessed. I feared him. But at the same time, I ignorantly demanded for answers – from God, from myself, from him. Was he really leading me on? Is God playing a trick on me? Was holiness really possible for me, and for people like me?

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Fight

Pasig
7 February 2017

Dear CL,

I am deeply sorry for all the things I have said, written, and done about you, and to you. How I wish it were easy to quit this disorder, to simply turn around and say, yes, I am healed. But perhaps God has found it necessary to purify me through my Cross and as often as it is that our faith is a paradox, it had to be through my disorder – facing it, going deep into it, and as H writes it, “owning” its pain – that I can go beyond the wound, and be hidden in His wound.

I am sorry for having unsettled you. I am sorry for having put you through some of my mad schemes, for alluding to you negatively in my works, for evading you, for wanting to exact that pain you had – perhaps unconsciously – inflicted on me. I will not excuse myself. I will not justify my actions.

I wish I could undo a lot of things. But there is no use waxing nostalgic over faults. I failed in many of my resolutions. And in failing them, I had perhaps hurt you too.

I am sorry. I owe you at least this.

Pax,

F.L.

Silence Is The Language of Love

Silence is the language of Love. It is the music of the heart in communion with God. Mary was withdrawn in prayer and enveloped in silence when the angel appeared to her to announce the good news of our salvation. It is in the silence of his sleep that Joseph dreamt of the will of the Father. Zechariah’s voice echoed with praise after a period of silence: nine months worth of pondering over the miracle of John’s conception and the mystery of our salvation that was to be fulfilled.

It is in the silence of Gethsemane where Christ drew strength to accept the cup of his Father’s will. It is in the quietude of the mountains where our Redeemer communed with the Father. It is in the silent hours of testing which revealed the faith of the apostles. It is in the meekness of the martyrs where the glorious crown of salvation was realized. It is in the quiet reflection of their lives where the saints discovered the loving mercy of God and their call to holiness.

It is in the stillness of the moment that the past whispers the secrets of conversion, and the future mightily echoes the promise of our eternal reward. It is in quietude that the present is deciphered and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit become clear. It is in the silence of the Cross that our Lord’s passion spoke eloquently of our salvation. And it is in silence that the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament calls out to deadened senses, deafened hearts, and muted spirits.

Quiet now. Be still, hearts. Let our contrition render us speechless. In silence, listen. Our God is calling out to us. It is when we are silenced in this world in our final sleep that we awake to the glorious choirs of heaven.

Grow

Sto. Tomas, Batangas
29 January 2017

Dear C,

You never fail to remind me of how important it is to be attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit. In the same vein, St. Josemaria Escriva was relentless in teaching us that we have no two lives but one, and that we cannot separate the spiritual from the material. Wherever we are, that is where God is, where Christ is, where the Holy Spirit moves, lives, transforms, leads, and loves. I had almost forgotten about your words the last few days. And yet, true to Himself, God made sure He would be remembered.

On my way to a work assignment here in the province, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a beautiful insight. Inside the bus this morning, drained from the last twenty hours of traveling back and forth from Batangas to Manila, and in desperate need of sleep, I managed to have a few minutes of prayer. Looking at the shifting heights of foliage which lined the highway – trees, rice fields, shrubs – all of it – it dawned upon me that Nature is a reflection of man’s struggle, of man’s spiritual journey.

Starting out as almost inconspicuous seeds, these plants burst forth from the weight of the soil into the glory of the sunlight. What muscle it must have taken to crawl out from the shells of promise and rise up to the air where men and women alike can behold the joy of life. Man’s faith, indeed, is precisely like how Jesus illustrated it in the Gospels – small like a mustard seed but nourished, pruned, and cared for, rises as the largest in the horizon, sheltering birds of every kind.

We are like seeds of plants too. Our faith requires us to grow up, to push the mounds of the earth out of the way, and bathe in the heat of the Divine Love. And as we grow upward, our roots must go deeper, our hearts more interior in Christ, in the nourishment which we must ensure will reach to every corner, every fiber of our being. How something so simple and something so often taken for granted can stir so much joy is truly a work of the Holy Spirit. All of creation must move forward, must progress, must evolve, must struggle, must suffer, must grow and fulfill its potential.

C, pray for me, that my roots go deeper, and I persevere to break out from the earth, letting my branches shoot into the promise of God’s radiance and life-giving love.

Pax,

F.L.

Flute

Manila
22 January 2017

Dear H,

I am a defective flute producing noise rather than music. My body is afflicted by cracks that become evident when my soul tries to sing. Those who hear me wonder what am I, who am I, if I can ever become an instrument again.

But there is one who can fix me. And only one. Whereas an ordinary man may try to tape the fissures on my body, try to cover the spaces wherein the wind blown by the music maker seeps, the one who can fix me breaks me first then makes me whole.

When he plays me, I sing the tune I was made for, my sound wafting in the air, melodious and full of life. In a symphony, I blend with the music of harmony, and stand out while remaining one with the echoes of the orchestra.

People ask, isn’t he the defective flute? Isn’t he he instrument once broken, and who could produce nothing by squeaking yelps, who could barely carry a tune, who stood out of the harmony because he could never stay on key? How could he sound like that?

And they will find out it isn’t my own doing. They will compliment my sound but they will glorify the one who fixed me, the one who made me whole by breaking me apart, and putting me back together piece by piece – every hole, every fiber, every strand united to make music once more.

The world’s symphony is a noise – out of key pianos, broken guitar strings, malevolent violins! Yet there is one who brings back the music to these defective instruments, one who will bring awe back to those who listen. They will be filled with joy at what we could do. But they will praise the one who gave us back our meaning, who is our meaning, who is the composer, conductor, and music all at once. And the more defective the instrument is, the more room there is for the one who fixes to show his power. The more people will glorify him and yearn to be fixed by him.

May I never tire of letting myself be an instrument of his.

Pax,

F.L.

Actions Speak Louder

Manila
15 January 2017

Dear H,

When I wrote to you about the desire to isolate myself, to retreat into silence, it was because of my track record around people, especially close friends. Few of them know my struggle for holiness. Even fewer understand or are in a disposition to understand my actions. To them, I am still my old self – the gay man who allows his sexuality to define his actions; the jokester, the loud and foul-mouthed college boy; queer, vulgar, crudely comic, and eternally disposed to poking fun at his own romantic misadventures. To them, I am still just that – the token gay friend.

And around them, I still tend to be my old self. Around them I have tried to  temper my words, distill my humor, and avoid topics or conversations which connect me to my past. But almost as much as I have tried, I have failed. That is where this desire to cut them off, or to cut myself off from them, comes from.

And while it is perhaps necessary to remove from myself from occasions which only harm my soul or at least pulls me back to the life I left behind, I have come to realize that something so drastic may only result in discouraging them from responding to their individual call to conversion. To put it simply, in their company I have an opportunity to do apostolate in my words and actions.

Cutting them off may mean well for me. But what will it do for them? In a world increasingly hostile to the Gospel, seeing such extreme behavior may only reinforce their negative sentiments towards the faith. Not that I am afraid to be tagged conservative or Catholic or religious. No. Indeed, it is tempting to “scandalize” them with my conversion. But perhaps it will be more fruitful to lead them to Christ not by an attention-grabbing act of “change” but through active charity which manifests itself in a quiet steadfastness I can proclaim through prudence, refinement, and humility.

This requires fighting human respect. It is easy to mistake silence in conversations as prudence when in fact it is human respect dominating the soul – that fear to be criticized for having an opinion different to the world. In so far as charity is concerned, prudence is also speaking out without losing one’s spiritual poise, without falling into self-righteousness.

H, pray for me that when I am in the company of old friends, I do not lose the presence of God. May the grace coming from the Holy Spirit always guide me in my speech. May I always revere the name of God, and respect the dignity of others. May I never fear to be misunderstood in letting Christ proclaim the message of the Father through my actions and words.

Pax,

F.L.

Strangers

Manila
07 January 2017

Dear H,

I have noticed that the more I am in the company of others the more I become an other to God: estranged, desolate, and alone. How little are the consolations we receive from other men, how ephemeral the comforts we gain in worldly affairs. It seems the more I am out there, the less of myself I come home to.

There is a need for me to go back in silence, to draw the curtains close, to cut myself off from the world once more (without “physically” cutting myself off from the world) and rediscover the reasons for my conversion; to reacquaint myself with the joys which came in experiencing the warmth of that first flame, that first Yes.

The struggle for holiness includes the need to, like Christ, retreat to the mountain of silence in prayer, far away from where one has exhausted his being in the presence of men. It is during these moments of silence, far away from the noise of the world, the chaos of our disorders, and the chatter of our interior voices when the heart”feels” the most, the mind examines the life of the body the best, and the spirit rests in peaceful, prayerful slumber.

Pax,

F.L.

New Year

Manila
01 January 2017

Dear H,

I am not very good with beginnings and transitions. And so tomorrow, the first working day of the year, frightens me. As a young boy, I disliked first days in school. I often got homesick, even if the school I went to was only ten minutes away from our house. The same boy reappears on every first day back to work after a long vacation. Waking up early, bearing the commute, tackling the mountainous heap of work from last year – it all seems daunting especially when you are still shaking off the holidays.

I often wish the work I am in required me to work during the holiday season rather than be granted an extended leave. Even if it were only for half days between Christmas and the New Year, I’d happily spend it in the office just so I do not lose motivation and momentum that is so often the case when you’re removed from a daily routine. Yes, I tried to be as productive at home during the Christmas break, but the thought of tasks left for the new year, and the inevitable additional work that will arise as soon as I arrive on my desk tomorrow really puts me out of rhythm.

Perhaps it’s also because of my job? It’s not the usual desk job I enjoyed when I was still a fresh graduate. Back then, I looked forward going back to work because, well, there wasn’t much to work on. I simply returned to the office to write, and writing was something, and is still something, I enjoy. My present job means a lot of “fixing” loose ends – troubleshooting, problem solving, managing both customers and managers, not to mention, managing oneself. It doesn’t help the customers can be quite nagging, and the managers are, well, not really good in their roles.

These professional concerns have not been overlooked in my spiritual direction and professional mentoring. In fact, they have often been the subject of my conversations with C, my spiritual director, and JD, my new mentor. C advised me to bear with my managers – yes, I have a number of supervisors – as patiently as I could, always serving with cheerfulness, always working with order, focus, and passion. JD, on the other hand, suggested I bring up employee management issues to the higher-ups rather than keeping quiet and simply “bearing” the troubles not out of charity but out of human respect which I often fall trap in. He knows I tend to say “yes” to my bosses because I mistake quantity of tasks as working with efficiency, and my failure to rise to their management style as incompetence on my part all the time.

What has always been agreed upon not just by my spiritual director, mentor, and myself, but by my parents and friends who know my troubles and anxieties, is that I am in a unique opportunity to really grow as a Christian even in what seems to be the most hostile professional environment. There are so many opportunities to really acquire and develop patience, and countless situations where I can learn to relinquish control and depend on God. For all my frustrations and fears, these people have never tired encouraging me. But they also know when to empathize, and can see objectively if, indeed, I am being overworked or if I am simply whining out of laziness. It’s good to have people like them telling me my professional role is God’s way of teaching me hard work, and instilling fortitude. Indeed, how many times have I been left with nothing else but my faith to get through and survive a stormy day at work.

Maybe this is my apostolate? Maybe this is my platform to holiness – to be that man who stands firm in his faith without eschewing professionalism; the man who becomes a bridge of unity when there is discord in the workplace; the man who remains a man when the going gets tough; the man who doesn’t flee from a problem but faces it courageously. But the responsibilities can be quite overwhelming. Sometimes I feel inadequate to carry out my role at work because it would mean going out of my comfort zone, and because it also presents so many occasions for failing. And when you’re busied by interior struggles, the external struggles appear like added crosses, the professional setbacks and pains like more pins to an already punctured heart.

But if I am to become a saint, I cannot allow my feelings to dominate my life. I cannot go back becoming that young boy in fifth grade who cries on the first day back at school. I can’t be homesick, not when people already depend on me to carry out my duties responsibly and yes, with great devotion. After all, if I want to offer my work to God for the sanctification of my soul, I cannot present to him something mediocre. I need to always give my all, my best, my whole being, applying to my work the same love and attention to detail I am sure Christ did as a carpenter in St. Joseph’s workshop.

If our Redeemer was dutiful in his hidden life as I am sure he was, than I cannot expect anything less from myself. I must struggle to work well, to remain patient and cheerful in the office, to develop spiritual fortitude internally and externally, to acquire Christian perfection through the secular role God has blessed me with to serve others and Him.

Wish me well, dearest H. Pray for me.

Pax,

F.L.