Antipolo City, RIZAL—The Coronavirus (CoVid-19) pandemic is forcing cities and nations into border lockdowns and citizens into isolation.
And yet it could not stop the Prior Provincial, Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, from welcoming into the Order of Augustinian Recollects five young men who made their simple profession of vows at St. Ezekiel Moreno Novitiate-Recoletos (SEMoNoRe) in this city last June 27, 2020.
“Your profession of vows is unique, it will be remembered in history because the backdrop is the pandemic we are experiencing right now,” Fray Selma said in his homily.
Those who professed their simple vows were Fray Mark Joseph Quirante, OAR (Quezon City); Fray Joseph Neil Baygan, OAR (Jagna, Bohol); Fray James Esplanada, OAR (Cainta, Rizal); Fray Judd Galinato, OAR (Guindulman, Bohol); and Fray Mc Airel Capinpin, OAR (Brooke’s Point, Palawan).
Because of the pandemic, the solemn rites were done without the family members, relatives, and benefactors of the five friars. And yet it was streamed live on the official Facebook page of the Province.
In a message of gratitude just before the mass ended, Fray Baygan addressed his loved ones and those of his batchmates’ who might be watching online.
“The current pandemic costs us to distance from one another, which prevented you to be here. Yes, you may not be here with us right now, but you are still with us. We are present to one another through social media, but above all, in the Spirit of the Lord, the agent of our communion,” he said.
Renunciation of material properties
Night before the Rite of Simple Profession of Vows, the candidates renounced their familial inheritance through a simple rite presided by the Prior of the Community, Fray Paulino Dacanay, OAR. This was in accordance with the provision of the OAR Constitutions no. 219 which states, “Before making his profession, and with effect for the period of time in which he is to be bound by simple vows, the novice must hand over the administration of his belongings to a person of his own free choice.”
Fray Dacanay also emphasized the essence of this renunciation as a dependence on God’s providence. “Have faith and confidence in God. Be assured and confident enough that God is always there even in the most difficult situation,” Fray Dacanay exhorted the candidates.
The religious as spiritual therapists
In his homily, the Prior Provincial talked about the relevance of religious life in today’s highly secularized society.
“There is sickness in the world, and the religious are called to be spiritual therapists,” he said.
Fray Selma enumerated excessive materialism, sexual liberation and the false concept of sexuality, and the false concept of freedom as symptoms of the world’s illness. The three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, he added, are what counter-remedy such maladies.
“Material wealth, sexuality, and freedom are all good and they are not to be despised, but we profess our vows because we know that there is a higher good than all these: the Lord himself, his kingdom,” Fray Selma said.
He added that the religious vocation is a gift inasmuch as not everybody can receive it. Unlike God’s Commandments which are obligatory, the profession of the evangelical counsels, he continued, is voluntary.
“By our vows, we are trying in our lives to irradiate the light and the person of Christ, telling the people who would see us that the life beyond, the eschatological life, can already be lived in this world,” he said.
He encouraged the young friars not to be afraid because it was the Lord who called them despite their weaknesses and imperfections.
“God does not call us because we are good, but because of His love. He calls us because he is entrusting us with the mission of continuing his saving works,” he said.
The religious, he added, is not exempt from life’s crises. And so when crises hits them later on, The Provincial advised them to always go back to their vocation story, to the moment when they experienced a “particular, special, personal encounter with Jesus” which prompted them to offer themselves to the Lord in the religious life.
Indispensable in the perseverance in religious life, he said, is cultivating an intimate relationship with the Lord in prayer life, and having a “personal, continuous, and consistent conversion”.
“Yes, we feel unworthy and sinful just like Augustine our father. But the Lord would say, ‘I am calling you, this is not your work, you are just my representative’,” he said.