By Bro. Josefino Rona
STORY OF MY CONVERSION
Theme: Mother Mary will always find a way to save her child as long as he has still within him that little glow of hope and faith and sincerely call upon her name.
I attribute to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel the story of my conversion and my being saved from
being an unbelieving activist.
My Days of Darkness
I spent 16 years in the seminary preparing for the Priesthood. But towards the end of my Philosophy and Theology years, I was at rock-bottom, deep in the darkness of my confusion, depression and desperation which had interiorly oppressed me through all those years since my theology days in the seminary. Being top in my scholastic achievements, I could not understand why I thought I seemed to have lost the meaning of my existence. I felt that I was getting close to God, but at the same time so far away from Him. It was a painful interior experience.
I felt very strongly the need for prayer, but at the same time prayer no longer gave me comfort. It had no meaning. In fact, it became for me a mental torture. I no longer seemed to know who I was and what I was up to in life. There was so much anguish and so heavy a burden with so many problems not only within me but also outside of me
I was slipping away. I sensed that I could no longer grasp the meaning of me. I was losing me. My outlet was to retaliate against all the oppressions that I had been feeling within me and outside of me. I had no other alternative to resolve my issues, but the thought of “killing” the oppressors.
God, I thought, was my last resort; but God seemed so far away for me to reach, if there was any God at all. I was desperately waiting for His outstretched arms to take me out of the pit where I was. I still believed in Him, though; but He seemed to be at the end of nowhere. I could not grasp the reality of Him. I kept calling on Him for help, but He seemed too deaf to hear my deepest cries. I could not see nor understand what sort of a kind and merciful God He was or is. I was at the verge of not believing in Him anymore. It was so painful an experience not to find any more meaning in Him nor in me. I had nowhere to go.
As the years dragged on, I seemed to have lost my sense of meaning, self-worth and even my conscience. Anger and hatred of what was happening within me and around me gobbled me up into the greatest interior struggle and pain in my life. It seemed that I was ready to destroy anything that came my way. There was no meaning anymore in whatever I was up to. And the great insult to my intelligence and proud mind was that my belief in me could no longer patch up the deep pain of losing me.
My greatest pain was to realize that I had a problem but I did not know what my problem was. I was gasping and searching for my problem before I could wrestle against it. I began to hate what I felt about myself. I was just a hollow and empty worthless nothing. I no longer knew where to go and what to do. Everything seemed to be pulling me down. Wherever I turned and sought anchor I could see nothing but filth, corruption, oppression and pain. I could not take it anymore. My helplessness aggravated the pain that I carried within me. My situation was an insult to my intelligence, for I believed I was smart and could do anything I desired. But now I felt I was so useless, helpless and hopeless. It was so dark. I could not see.
This was also the time of so much socio-economic and political strife throughout the country. These were the days of troubled martial regime of the Marcos government.
Activism, demonstrations and survival trainings with some would-be rebels was my only outlet and occasion of relief, sort of. At least it gave me a reason to forget my dark self-pity. Many ideas played up in my mind, like the plan to burn the cities of Davao, Butuan, Surigao, Tagum with the band of activists that I had in these parts of Mindanao.
The thought of razing everything to the ground crossed my mind in order to bring everything to a stalemate, both to the oppressors and to the oppressed, the poor as well as the rich. For me the oppression that came from the selfish and “filthy” rich was so blatant that I had no qualms about total terrorism at that time. To destroy them was a basic option. On the other hand, I saw that the poor, many among them, simply wallowed in the misery of their indolence and ignorance, lack of respect for others and full of pride. Many used their poverty as a leverage to “become a sort of oppression” toward the rich. I thought that the rich as well as the poor were on the same ground; the former holding on to protect their possessions; while the latter struggled on to bring down the rich. The action from either side was also oppressive to my sense of dignity. That was why the thought of burning the cities that were within the area of my command crossed my mind, for I was then a rebel leader at that time. This, I thought, could avenge the pains that I felt, a pain that came from the unjust socio-political and economic environment outside of me as well as a pain caused by the turbulence of the darkness within my soul. The plan was not just to make a simple burning of a corner of a city, but a total terrorism and conflagration in the same manner that Emperor Nero burned Rome in the early century of the Church.
I was at the edge of myself. No one could stop me if that final decision would have ever been made. Thanks be to God; the thought did not mature nor materialize in me. He intervened!
The Dark Night of My Soul
I was in deep spiritual confusion and trouble at this time. I could not understand how God could be so good, so kind, merciful and provident when what I saw around me were so much poverty, sufferings, oppression, injustices, hatred and death among the many children of God.
Depression, interior oppression and desperation took a heavy toll on me through all those years. Twice I was subjected to psychiatric exams in different occasions. Once while I was a novice in the Novitiate of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; and another instance in St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary in Catalunan Grande, Davao City.
Prayer no longer gave me comfort. It was merely routinary. In fact, it became for me a mental torture. I no longer seemed to know who I was and what I was up to in life. There was so much anguish and problems not only within me but also outside of me. I simply dragged myself to mere survival letting the days and years go by with a heavy burden in my soul. I was slipping away. I sensed that I could no longer grasp the meaning of me. I was losing me. Sometimes the thought of suicide would cross my mind for I could no longer clearly see hope in the darkness of oppression and corruption and my own scrupulosity. My own spiritual Master could not understand what was happening with me. Perhaps he did! But. No! I felt he was helpless.
However, in all those years the Holy Rosary gave me a glimpse of hope and kept me alive, thanks to the Blessed Mother.
My inner darkness was more aggravated by so much socio-economic and political strife throughout the country. These were days of so much trouble.
I began to hate what I felt about myself, just a hollow and empty worthless nothing. I was deeply bored about life. I no longer knew where to go and what to do. Wherever I turned and sought anchor I could see nothing but filth, corruption, oppression and pain, both inside and outside of me. I could not take it anymore. My helplessness aggravated the pain that I carried within me. My own situation was an insult to my intelligence, for I believed I was smart and could do anything I desired. But now I felt I was so useless, helpless and hopeless. It was so dark. I could not see. Trying every means to hold on to something that could give me some kind of solid support to my gasping and drowning soul, I found nothing.
The thought of becoming a priest was for me becoming a lie. How could I ever tell the people that God is good and kind, a provider of our many needs when what I saw around me among His children was plain poverty, oppression and injustice. I used to poke my fist to heaven in my anguish and called on to God in the heavens “What kind of a God are you? Where can I find you?”
Mt Carmel Monastery, Davao City Carmel saved a lost soul
Mother Mary always finds a way to save her child as long as he has still within him a little willingness to hold on to a faintest glow of hope and faith to sincerely call upon her name. I felt my night was pitched dark. But God still left me with just a far distant little star in that vast sky.
I attribute to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel the story of my conversion and my being saved from being an activist groomed to rebel against the existing order and to fight in total terrorism against the blatant corruption among many in government.
My Confession in Carmel Monastery
In the deepest darkness of my own self, I still was given the grace to visit the Carmelite Monastery of Sisters in Barangay Buhangin, Davao City. This was my last ditch for hope, if hope was still on the horizon of my mind, for night was now falling fast upon and within me.
I made my confession to Mother Superior. “Mother, please look for a sister in your monastery who can pray for a soul. This soul is already lost. He can create havoc anytime.”
Mother Superior gently replied, “Yes, my son, I will look for that sister to pray for this soul. Could you give me his name?”
Without saying a word, I immediately got a little piece of paper as small as my little finger and wrote a name. I handed it to Mother Superior. I saw her hand reaching out to that little piece of paper that I gave. I could not see the face of Mother Superior for at this time there were bars between me and her, and behind the bars was a black veil covering everything inside from view of outsiders. Having given that little note, I thanked Mother Superior, got her blessing and hurriedly left the monastery. Little did Mother Superior know, or perhaps she did, that on that little piece of paper was my name.
I realized much later that that humble visit and the prayer and penance of that “wonderful sister” in Mt. Carmel Monastery whoever she was together with the prayers of my family took me out of the pit of my utter darkness. I was saved. I know I will meet her one day in heaven to thank her and the others who prayed for my salvation.
The Sigaboy Event Light at the End of the Tunnel
Easter Week, Holy Monday, April 8, 1968
Many things happened in my life that led to the mission that I have been taking. But the final thrust that opened my heart and mind to the mission that the Lord wanted me to do came one day in Easter Week of 1968.
These series of events led to a way of life that has become the philosophy and cornerstone of the mission that God has given me. This started in an experience and spiritual encounter with Our Lord Jesus. This was a most striking event that for me was my Mosaic Sinai experience or my Pauline encounter on the road to Damascus. This encounter with the Lord has put a stamp to the whole vision of the calling and meaning of my life on this earth. It has also put a stamp in my heart and mind to the mission that the Lord has outlined for me to do. This event happened on Easter Monday in 1968 in Mindanao, in the little village of Pundaguitan, Governor Generoso (Sigaboy), Davao Oriental.
Fr. Michael Hiegel, Maryknoll
As part of my pastoral training and in my third year of Theology, called “regency,” of the Regional Major Seminary (Remase) in Davao City, I was assigned to serve in Governor Generoso (Sigaboy), Davao Oriental to assist in the parish of Fr. Michael Hiegel, a Maryknoll missionary.
Fr. Hiegel was a former American soldier in France during the Second World War. After the war he dedicated his life to the service of God as an act of reparation for the senseless devastation of properties, the loss of many lives and all the ills that the Second World War brought about. He saw the meaninglessness of life on earth in the midst of all the deaths around him. He became a Maryknoll missionary priest and lived in the spirit of total dedication to Christ and Our Lady in the spirit of humility, poverty and obedience.
Fr. Hiegel was a short lean but sturdy priest, about 5 feet four. He was a very humble and holy man, not much of speech, but more of action, a man of prayer and contem-plation. In fact, he was called the “saintly social action priest of the Prelature of Tagum.” He never went on mission without the Rosary in his hands and the Blessed Sacrament in a pyx hidden behind his polo shirt as it hanged by his bosom like a lace around his neck. He wore a wash-and-wear shirt and had another one extra in his pocket in case what he wore had to be washed. He would wash one and had it dried while wearing the other. That was all the luggage he would bring with him in the mission. He literally went on his mission “without anything” as the Lord has instructed, except the Rosary, the Blessed Sacrament and his Mass kit. He was a real missionary totally dependent on God’s guidance and providence. He was always silently recollected and in a prayer mood. There was just an aura of simplicity and practical sanctity about him.
That Easter Monday Fr. Hiegel and myself took an outrigger banca to Barrio Pundaguitan, the last southern coastal village in Davao Oriental, some forty miles away from the center parish of Sigaboy. Fr. Hiegel was on the rear end of the boat, praying silently the beads, I on the front end just observing him and once in a while being attracted by the white corals and the multicolored fishes of the blue-green water below. The outrigger man and his motor in the center.
The Turning Point My Conversion and realization of THE TRUTH
Barrio Pundaguitan was celebrating its barrio fiesta at this time when the event of my conversion happened. God brought me to this far away barrio to make me experience a major turning point in my life: my conversion. This happened during Holy Mass at the moment of Ablution after Holy Communion.
As a student in theology, I was wearing my cassock. After I received Holy Communion (and this Communion was my last, I thought), I went back to where I was kneeling just some five feet to the left side of the altar. I did not swallow the Sacred Species yet. I kept it dry still on my tongue. With all my mind and my soul, I concentrated on the Blessed Sacrament on my tongue, squeezing all the energy that I could muster in me. I said, “God, if you are God, and if there is a God at all in this world, show to me that You are real!”
I continued, “Don’t give me philosophy; for there is a lot of conflicting philosophies going on out there in the world. And anyone can make their own philosophy if they want to. Don’t give me theology either; for there is a lot of conflicting theologies out there that has created confusion in the Church and outside of the Church. And don’t give me inspiration, for I can make my own if I want to. You must give me something which can convince me that you are God and that you are real. For, Oh, Lord, I am at the edge of me and there is nothing else for me at all at the end of this dark tunnel but death!”
For me, “real” meant I see, I touch, I feel, I hear. I seemed always boggled and at the edge of dealing with a “god that I cannot see, I cannot touch, I cannot hear.” I was through the years squeezing the very sap of me to make me feel this god and see this god.
I paused for a while, concentrated on the Sacred Host again, and continued a second time, “God, if you are God and if there is a God at all in this world, show to me that You are true!”
Again, I gave God the same condition, no philosophy, no theology and no inspiration. “There are so many things you promised in Scriptures, but where is the truth in all these? I can no longer see the truth. What I see is darkness! Oh God, if you are out there somewhere, come to my rescue. Out of the depths I cry unto thee, oh God, God hear my voice” echoing the deep cry of the Psalmist.
And for the third time, I cried with all my soul, pouring out myself to whatever God in the Sacred Host or out there could do, “God, if you are God and if there is a God at all in this world, show to me that You care!”
I was dying! Yes, dying for hope, dying for meaning, dying to have anyone who could take me out of the pit I was in. I was hopeless! I was drowning and gasping for meaning! I was clutching on hope against hope. This was the end of me beyond which I could go on no further. And at the same time, I was feeling afraid of the consequence of the terrorism that I felt was coming through me. My band of rebels were just waiting for me to give the order to burn cities and create havoc.
Then, miracle of miracles! Something happened to me at that moment, an event that has changed my life from that day on until today and has given meaning and direction to dedicate myself to the pursuit of the path of helping the Church make known to all what the Lord has wanted all Christians to tell the world. It was at that moment that all the darkness within me disappeared. From that moment on there has been no more question in my life. All my pains of self vanished. What remained has been the pain of the One who has loved us from all eternity. In just one instance the Lord brought me to an understanding of who I really am and why I had been in so much struggle and pain.
What really happened at that instance? Although everything happened quickly in even less than a flick of a finger, yet the impact of that event has been so strong that the impression has left its mark in my soul until today.
After my third deepest interior cry towards the Sacred Host, I suddenly saw a vision. To me it was more than just a vision. It was real! I saw Our Lord hanging on the cross right in front of me all drenched in blood. I saw Him deep within me. The impression I felt was that I saw Him outside of me. But I knew it was all happening inside my soul. I may compare that vision similar to a concave lens in which an image is seen outside the lens itself although the source of reflection of the image is imprinted inside the lens. How it happened, that I did not know. But one thing for sure I know, it was real and clear. The Lord Jesus Crucified hanging on His cross was right there in front of me. And yet I knew it was happening inside of me.
I had not the slightest doubt that it was the Lord. I immediately knew it was the Lord. I could see no spot on Him that was without blood, thick crimson blood flowing from the head crowned with thorns with His messy hair clotted with dried up blood! The nailed holes of His hands gushed forth fresh thick blood flowing down to His arms. Blood from the shoulders flowed to His breast. All this blood mixing with all the blood that gushed forth from the wounds made by the lashes of the whip, all the blood trickling down His whole body, down to His thighs and His feet.
As soon as I saw all this, like a mighty force pressed on my head to bow down so low. I could not dare look up to His blood-covered Holy Face. His wounded feet twitching and stretching in pain was just right in front of my face.
Then from His right foot a drop of blood fell and mixed itself with the dirty dusty ground. And a speck of blood mixed with the dust splattered itself on me. All these happened so fast.
At that moment, I was overcome with a heavy load of pain. My heart seemed pressed and pounding fast. My breathing became heavy, pressured and labored. I was gasping for breath; I thought I would die. I felt some weight upon me that I could not carry. It was heavy! very heavy! The pain was more inside me, even beyond imagination, for I felt the pain not in my body, nor in my mind. I felt the pain of the Lord within me, deeper than I could imagine or physically feel.
My heart and my mind were just seized with compassion and love for Him. I went out to Him, crying and dying to help Him. But I felt so helpless as He was on that cross. Oh, how all of my soul cried out to reach out to Him wanting to tell Him how sorry I had been in not knowing Him at all in me. I wanted to shout to the world how I loved Him and it pained me to see Him suffering for me and for all men. I felt the pain of ingratitude, negligence and contempt that creatures have unleashed upon Him. And more so from the pains I had inflicted on Him through the years.
If I could only help release Himself from that cross. If I could only free Him from that cross… give Him a little comfort of compassion. If I could only shout out to the world what it has done to its Maker. If only I could… If only I could! But here I couldn’t except to realize that I too contributed to the sufferings of the Lord. I had been a part and cause of His condemnation. I could not bear the sight of Him dying on the cross for me. My soul as well as my heart was squeezed to its utter nothingness at the sight of a Savior dying for love of me and all mankind and yet leaving us free to inflict pain on His love.
Lord, if I had only understood! If I had only known! If I had only the strength to stop the foolishness of the weaknesses of my being. If I had only realized how much You loved me I would not have dared to put You there on Your cross because of me and because of my brothers and sisters. Father, forgive all of us for not knowing how we made You suffer. Forgive me for being an accomplice in hanging my Creator on that cross……., oh, God, please forgive me, forgive me, a million, million times forgive me!
An echo of a thought – a message – that Our Lord revealed to Bl. Josefa Mendez in 1934 reverberated deep in my soul, “Even if you go away from Me a million, million times, I will wait for you up to the last moment of your death.”
I was sobbing deeply that only my soul could hear.
But that was not all! While I was seeing this vision and I was crying profusely like the world was falling upon me, I at the same time heard His voice in my soul, pleading,
“My son, I am suffering in the heart of every one who does not know who and where I am!”
The Holy Spirit made me understand that the Lord Jesus was calling from within my heart and wanted to tell me that He wants to be known in the heart and very being of every person, especially in every one baptized. It was so strong a realization that for so many years now I cannot get out of that experience of knowing and realizing that God dwells in us and suffers in us.
Then inside His right foot He allowed me to see all peoples of different races, of every color, of every culture, making me understand that in every one of them God is present. And in every one of them Our Lord Jesus is in pain for not being known and loved.
Then He made me see that in every problem that is in the world, deeper and beyond what people suffer from and feel about their pains, at the heart of it all it is the Lord Himself who carries upon Himself the pains and sufferings of all humanity in times past, in the present and in times to come, even deeper and beyond what people suffer from and feel about. He was, He has been, He is and will be suffering in every human heart and soul until the end of time as long as sin is in the world.
He allowed me to see and feel an iota of His pain deep in my soul. The blood that fell on the dusty ground splashing itself with the dirt upon me made me recoil in His pain. It was not a pain in the body, it was a pain of love in my soul, a pain of being neglected, a pain of not being understood, a pain of a God longing for each and every one of His creatures. Oh, an unimaginable pain of love, the Lord allowed me to experience. And yet that was only a speck of a drop of blood. What could have happened if it was the whole drop of blood, or all the drops of blood that Our Lord suffered! How could we be so blind!
I asked the Lord, “Why? Why all these wounds, Lord?”
He then answered me not in human words but in the reality within me,
“My son, it is because I love you and I love them all. I cannot go against my covenant of love that I have given to each one and to all of you. I have to carry it with Me until the end of your days. With these wounds I am wounded in the houses of those I love.”
My tears did not stop flowing while all this dialogue was going on in my soul. At that same moment there was a slight tremor in the chapel. My heart started to melt with pain, with love, with peace and with compassion.
Fr. Hiegel had to pause the Mass for a while. There was such a deep solemn silence in the chapel at that moment.
While I was deep in tears in the midst of those pains of love, I saw a soothing glow of light all around me. I felt that I was lifted up by the fire of the Holy Spirit burning within me. The light just lifted me up to stand and face the people with all my tears and said in the dialect, “Kung nakahibalo lamang kita ug nakaamgo kung giunsa kita pagmahal sa Dios!” (If we only know and realize how much God loves us! If we only know how much God loves us!). I wept my soul out to the congregation. There was nothing in me that could hold me back from crying out to the congregation the love of God for all. I had no sense of fear or shyness. Three times I uttered those words to the congregation urged by the burning pain of love as I faced the simple people of the barrio with those words.
The people felt so touched that they started weeping too. I didn’t know what made them cry. Perhaps it was because they were also touched by the Spirit. The people who were outside the chapel playing basketball and volleyball, even those who were gambling, stopped what they were doing and came around the small chapel at that solemn moment. I went back to the corner near the altar where I was kneeling at the moment of vision.
It took a little while after a deep moment of silence before Fr. Hiegel could continue the Mass.
I just knelt slumped by the corner feeling like a sack emptied of every heavy content that had been oppressing my soul in my pride and ignorance before the vision took place. The phenomenon was like a lightning bolt that struck straight at the deepest unreachable core of my being at that moment. Something opened in my soul. It opened up to a clear understanding of what the Lord wanted to convey to me. I felt as if all that was hidden from my sight in my deepest seeking was laid bare and open before me. All the complications of my questioning mind, my why’s and wherefores’, disappeared at that moment. I came to understand what really was lacking in me all those years.
It was difficult for me to accept, if not for the grace of God, that after all I did not know. I did not know God. Hence, I could have never known myself as a consequence of not realizing the very essence of my being, a child, image and likeness of God. But more than just a child and image of my God – the thought that my soul is God’s own dwelling place on earth; and the thought that God is dwelling in me and in the hearts of others; and that God is reflected in everything that God has made transported me into another plane of looking at everything. I was liberated from the burdens of asking the basic questions of why life seemed cruel to me and to our people. No! Life after all was not cruel. I just did not know what I was, who I was, why I was and what I was up to – God’s purpose for me here on earth.
There I stayed, “crumpled” in the corner where I was kneeling, weeping and deeply buried in my thoughts and pains, but pains of love those were. Two hours took me to get to myself.
The Mission “Look for me in the hearts of the others.” (Col 1:27 /Eph 1:10 / Mt 28:20)
Fr. Hiegel approached me and said, “Bro. Joe, let us get ready to go back to Sigaboy.” I answered, “Father, I am sorry, let me first brace myself up to gain strength.”
I felt so light, drained and emptied, not only of physical strength, but also of the burdens of the years and days gone by that weighed me down so low.
All my hatred was gone, my confusion gone, my fears and apprehensions gone. There was nothing left of me but my feeling of contriteness and the impact of the Lord’s mercy and love. All my questions and doubts vanished. From that day that this event happened until these present times I have had no more “why’s” to ask. Understanding, surrender, humility, peace and comfort mixed with that deep inner pain of the Lord’s unrequited love simply possessed me. The sense of self-pity simply disappeared from me. My thoughts solely riveted on those wounds of the Lord and all the blood from the dying Savior. I could not bear the sight of all the pains of humanity being dumped on Him. And I was a part of these atrocities heaped upon Him all the years.
The Lord allowed me to see myself in the light of His love and light. He made me feel the freedom of His love liberating me from the lack of understanding of my own self as to who I am, what I am, why I am and what I am supposed to be. My whole being was filled with compassion for all humanity. I started to understand humanity’s struggles and failures. Now I could clearly see why Our Lord cried out His first words on the cross,
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
The first person I had to forgive was myself, my pride, my haughtiness, my ignorance. I understood that I had no reason to condemn others because they too do not know what they are doing.
At that moment, the Lord gave me this message,
“My son, now that you have found Me in your heart, go, look for me in the hearts of others. Tell them all I love them. Tell them I am in them.”
Then I said,
“Lord, I cannot promise you anything anymore that I would be good. I know I will fail. Lord, You know the future, I do not. If I ever go to the left or go to the right, please, Lord, take me by the hand and lead me back to where You want me to go. Just give me a chance to love you and pay you back what I have lost through the years and to do what You want me to do…. And in future if ever in my weakness I may offend You again, please, Lord, remember this day that I plead of You that I may not ever be separated from You.“
For a brief moment I was left in deep silence.
Back to the Mission Center
An hour later, Fr. Hiegel and I took the same banca for our way back to the center mission in Sigaboy. While our little boat was plying smoothly upon the calm and crystal sea a several meters away from shore, I was looking blankly at the cumulus clouds above. My mind, oblivious of what was going on around, riveted itself on the vision and the pain He allowed me to experience. The sound of the monotonous roaring of the motor seemed to fade far away but lulled and caressed my aching heart. My heart remained heavy within me in the Presence of my God that I had hurt so much. I knew then that God loved me in spite of what I had done and that He understood every bit of me as I am. He took me on my terms. Blind, indeed, so blind I was. But here is a God who loved me beyond the sins and failures that have crushed me so low. How could I repay this wonderful God, this wonderful Father.
As we reached Sigaboy, I went directly to the mission chapel, sat myself before the Blessed Sacrament and continued to cry my heart out the rest of the day. I did not have the appetite to eat. The pain in my heart could not take itself away from the impact of what happened that morning at Barrio Pundaguitan. The pain of love was like a thorn in my soul that I could not extricate.
Until today I cannot forget that day nor have I ceased from the contemplation of looking for my God in the heart of me and in the heart of others, in spite of the struggles, failures and successes of the demands of daily living.
In the evening, I approached Fr. Hiegel to confess and tell him what happened to me in the chapel that morning. But I could not say anything because the humble and saintly Fr. Hiegel told me, “Bro. Joe, I know what happened in the chapel this morning. You have a mission to fulfill.” I did not understand what he meant, nor did I know what mission he was referring to that I would have to fulfill.
From that day on I have had no more questions to ask from the Lord. I have understood that the only answer to anything I would ask about life redounds to the purpose for which man has been created: Union with Him and to allow the Lord from within us to work out the miracle of his love and providence of our daily living so that the Lord from within the soul can work out and manifest His glory in us, with us and through us.
From that day on until today, I have learned to ask no more why’s. Now I know that the love of the Lord and His Providence are greater than all our failures and our sins.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1:18-20)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1 Cor 3:19)
Seven years passed after that Sigaboy event that the Lord made it clear to me what my mission would be. These were the five consecutive early mornings in February of 1974 that the Lord Jesus showed me the work that I would have to do.
It was in April 22, 1974 that the Blessed Mother confirmed to me and to Choly, my spouse-to-be, the mission both of us would have to pursue. (But this would be another episode in the story of my journey of faith and mission.)
Through the years my mission began to unfold itself clearly to me. In obedience to the guidance of Holy Mother Church the LORD’S LEAVEN MISSION began and has been going on growing in deepened appreciation of the Faith of God’s Divine Indwelling.
The goodness and love of the Lord is endless and greater than any of the burdens of our limited sinfulness. His Name be praised forevermore.
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