On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come!
A Special September to Remember
This week, I wanted to call to mind today’s Feast of The Beheading of John the Baptist by remembering the anguish I felt when leaving my family to go to the seminary out in Rome over 18 years ago. As you will read, it was one of the worst days of my life, but it has led me to so much more than I could ever have imagined as a priest, with the opportunity to meet and help families, couples and individuals from around the world. I thank God for his mercy on me and the lessons I’ve been able to learn and share.
Which brings us to exciting news about Spicing Up Married Life, my newest book for couples, whether dating, newly-wed or celebrating their golden anniversary. For those of you who have not heard (I know, I know. I’ve been talking about this for a few years now), we have submitted the final layout to the printer and we are gearing up for a September 22 release, my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary!
(Spicing Up Married Life: Releasing on www.Gracebeforemeals.com on September 22, 2012.)
To promote its release, some may have heard me mention on a radio interview that we would like to offer a 10% discount to all those who register on our site for the newsletter and blasts.We are very excited to share this message and delicious recipes for all couples, whether young or old, especially in today’s world in which the sacrament of marriage is under attack. So stay tuned to upcoming blasts that will offer more news on the book’s release and a new look for September! May God bless our endeavors.
Losing your head or your soul?
Originally Published August 29, 2007
It was a terrible day, perhaps one of the most difficult days I had as a young man. The date was August 29, 1994. I felt as if my comfort zone was stretched to the limit. Thoughts of loneliness and sadness filled my head with swimming confusion. I had to put a smile on my face, but inside I was hurting pretty bad. What was this terrible day? It was the day I left my home for the seminary in Rome and would not be allowed to return for 2 years.
A little dramatic? You betcha. It was hardly a prison sentence, but Filipinos tend to be a bit dramatic – especially when it comes to saying goodbye. But that’s how I felt on the day I left my family, friends and all that was so comfortable to me. Although I could never deny the interior excitement I felt about living and studying in the Eternal City, the painful “weaning” process of leaving my loving and supportive family was no piece of cake. It kinda felt like my family – a unified body – was somehow being separated.
I remember that day and that particular feeling of separation because it was the Feast we celebrate every August 29, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist!
Despite the daunting and unusual reason for celebrating, I was actually consoled by it. It providentially reminded me of the cost of being a follower of the Lord. Find me a saint who was not willing to make sacrifices and be a martyr for God, and I’ll show you a false prophet. John was true to his words to the point of being willing to die for his faith. Others would follow, in particular a group of Carmelite Nuns who also lost their heads – but not their souls!
As a young 24-year-old seminarian wanting to become a priest, I needed a heroic Feast day like John’s Beheading to remind me that I should be willing to make some sacrifices and endure some homesickness for the sake of the Kingdom.
I am sure by now you can tell that I’m slightly dramatic when it comes to some of my spiritual thoughts. I think most people are. If we want to grow in our faith, we need to see how God teaches us through small things, such as times when families have to say goodbye for a while, and experience the sadness of separation. I think of parents saying goodbye to children leaving for school, military families who experience deployment, and even here at the seminary – young men who decided to break up with girlfriends or leave the comforts of a high-paying jobs because they were called to discern the Lord’s will! It’s strangely beautiful to see this type of sacrifice. At the very least, it’s inspiring. That is why we celebrate August 29, no matter how difficult it may be.
Today’s Feast day reminds me that we’re called to be heroes! That happens in small ways, not just in big ways. When a parent does not give in to worry, but instead trusts that God will watch over her child leaving home for the first time; when children going off to college don’t sell their souls to a false sense of liberal education, which I sometimes call “libelous” education; when a teenager avoids the wrong pressures of peers, even if he gets cut off from the rest of the group; when a priest takes it on the chin for preaching a difficult truth from the pulpit! They’re all heroes – albeit less dramatically than St. John the Baptist – but we all have to start somewhere – like leaving home for the first time.
After dealing with the sadness of homesickness, I began to realize that God sometimes calls us through difficult experiences to get us to trust him more. I still admit that leaving my home for Rome was one of the worst days of my life. But ironically, a close second worst day came when I left the seminary to go back home. The seminary became my home, and my classmates became brothers. Again, it was very difficult to say goodbye to them. Although inside I was excited to return to the US to preach the Good News, I couldn’t help but call to mind my “first worst day,” and the Feast celebrated on August 29!
My “last supper” before I left my family was breakfast. My last supper in Rome was a pizza, in particular a zucchini pizza. I thought of an interesting recipe to combine the two. A zucchini pizza omelet! This gives me a tasty combination of the 2 worst days of my life! Not such a bad life, huh? For the recipe [click here].
In the midst of struggles and challenges of this day, let’s remember the cost of discipleship. We all may not be heroes in dramatic ways, but following the way of Christ and trusting him in small ways is a good place to start. In moments of challenge, we turn to God and ask for His blessing to help us remember that life isn’t just “physical” existence, it’s also spiritual existence.
Let us pray:
God our Father, You called John the Baptist to be the herald of Your Son’s birth and death. As He gave His life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in Your Gospel. Grant this through Christ our Lord! Amen.
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