Journey to St. Augustine: A CSFIP Encounter
What a privilege it is to be in a community where spirituality is being nourished and nurtured! But, learning about one’s spirituality requires willingness to ask, listen and most importantly, surrender.
I was in a reflective mood when I accepted the challenge to be one of the delegates of the Comprehensive Formation and Immersion Program for OAR Schools (CSFIP) at the Recoletos Formation Center (RFC), Mira-Nila Homes, Quezon City last May 14-24, 2019.
The 10-day formation program is a response to Decision #32 of the Life and Mission Project (LAMP) of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno which requires that it “design and implement a comprehensive spiritual formation and immersion program for all religious and lay administrators, teachers, and office staff of all our educational institutions” (cf. LAMP, OAR p12).
I have been a Recoleto by heart and mind ever since I can remember. What I have come to know about my spirituality helped me to understand my ideal way of life—the Augustinian way of life. The significant part of my Augustinian spiritual journey is identifying my unique God-given purpose. But I also need tools if I want to continue living with purpose; this is one of my significant realizations.
During the 10-day program, I came to appreciate more than ever the value of friendship in the community, that as a member of the Recoleto family we must spiritually equip ourselves and embrace the OAR charism.
Living the Augustinian Values
Fray Lauro Larlar, OAR, prior and rector of the RFC, talked about Augustinian Values and Pedagogy. Stepping into interiority always connects to truth and freedom— if I am an interior person I live in truth, in consistence with who I am and my commitment.
Being an educator and counselor is quite a big task. I guide students, who are mostly teenagers, as they discover themselves. I lead them to the true knowledge of their own selves. I am an instrument of God for the formation of these youth who are truly the future of our society.
My passion is to develop their potential and to encourage their growth and journey until they become like Christ. This lifework maybe exhilarating but it can also be exhausting. In the process of counselling students, it is so easy to share fondness, enthusiasm and joy with them. Yet, I see to it that I also maintain the proper atmosphere in my class making sure that while fraternity and friendship is promoted, discipline is also observed. No matter how warm these scenes appear to be, I also make sure I take a break from the nonstop demands of being both counsellor and teacher. I recharge myself through silence and rest to make sure I do not exhaust my spirit so that I will always have something to keep on giving to young ones charged to my care.
Imbibing the Communitarian Spirit
Along the way we need tools that will lead us closer to our goal thus, values and pedagogy are part of our journey in achieving the goal to become like Christ. These not only take us to a whole new level but also help us to strive for further growth and learning. The more we grow and learn, the more experiences we can share with others. Through this, the cycle of learning through the OAR charism becomes evident. Then, relating with other members of the Recollect community becomes easier than what we imagined.
However, the great challenge is that all communities should be able to live in unity despite the individual differences of its members.
Community was very important to St. Augustine and he believed that personal differences should enrich the members of the community rather than divide it. We may be all different, but we can live in unity, enriching our brothers and sisters with the gifts that we have received from God. It is our goal to complement each other.
Just like the tension of having opposing minds and ideas, choosing one at the expense of the other can be challenging. Once, I had to choose between the brightest idea presented by a colleague and the opposition of a dear friend against that idea. I had to encourage people to work as a team instead of focusing on our differences so that we could understand each view. This way we avoided division in the community. In the end, our values kept us together and prevented issues from breaking our workforce apart.
The climax of our spiritual formation was the Immersion Program. The closest thing that we could practice the communitarian spirit was through the formation life in RFC. That became both a challenge and a grace. We were able to join some of the activities (Holy Mass in the morning, meal times and even recreation time) of the novices. The idea that you have something in common with people you don’t even share a common language with became fascinating to me. We found ways to connect despite the barriers. Life at the formation center had been a pleasant surprise and yet I realized that it is truly a blessed life.
The Legacy of Agustinos Recoletos
Being now spiritually awakened, I gained insight on the importance of knowing about the Agustinian Movement. Fray Emil Quilatan, OAR talked about the history of the presence of the Recoletos in the Philippines and the influence of the Augustinians to the spirituality of every Filipino. Truly, it is commendable how the Agustinos Recoletos helped to evangelize people across the archipelago—from building churches to fulfilling apostolic works, to establishing schools for the education and formation of the Filipino youth.
The historical Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas houses the world-famous Bamboo Organ that a Recollect priest, Fr. Diego Cera, invented. This became a national heritage and the famous Recoleto-established Intramuros Museum in Manila is now one of the most sought-after historical landmark.
Each spiritual journey is unique but emulating the journey of enlightened saints could be uplifting. Fray Huberto Decena, OAR talked about Scriptures and the Augustinian Saints. Knowing the biographies of the Augustinian saints and canonical candidates has helped me to embark in my spiritual journey. It may not be important for others to know the Augustinian Saints, but this makes my journey unique because it deepens my understanding about how we can contribute in the revitalization of the Augustinian charismatic identity through the lives of these saints.
United by One Charism
Being one of the seventeen lay delegates of the said spiritual formation has opened my eyes in many ways. Knowing that each one of us is living entirely different lives is in itself beyond amazing. We all come from different backgrounds and yet we were all grateful for the opportunity to study and internalize our being part of this one big Recollect family. We now embark on a journey that is aligned with our own beliefs and faith. We are transforming into a community of purpose-driven people who are living the OAR charism.
Being part of this event made me appreciate even more than before the importance of our Recollect community and how this community helps me to live out my God-given purpose as member of the Recoleto family. Inspiring others, sharing from the heart, inspiring the self and the people around—these are among the beautiful aspects of the Augustinian way of life!
Story and photos by Ma.Nita V. Bolo, CST-R guidance counselor and teacher
(photo below: The 17 delegates of the Comprehensive Formation and Immersion Program for OAR Schools (CSFIP) at the Recoletos Formation Center (RFC), Mira-Nila Homes, Quezon City last May 14-24, 2019.)