Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation

3/F Spiritual-Pastoral Center (CEFAM)
Seminary Drive
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights
1108 Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (02) 928 6040
(02) 426 6001 loc. 4875

Reflections on the Road

15 May 2013
Sharing at Mass
PSI for Formators

What is TRUTH? What is this truth that St. Paul in the first reading tells us can “build us up and give us our inheritance”? What is this truth that people, that you and I, can “pervert”?

Allow me to highlight 3 points culling it from today’s readings:

First is the truth that God “protects and guards us”. In all of human history, in our personal life story, God protects and guards us in countless ways. We have actually been reminded of it during these days of the PSI. God does it through our family and friends, our support system, through our inner child who wishes to reveal more of our real self---who we are, through our body that amazingly protects us, helps us cope with a multitude of feelings, and heals. God does not allow us to be permanently lost unless we deliberately choose it for ourselves.

Second is the truth that joy is God’s desire for us. Joy is God’s desire for us in this world and in life eternal, not suffering. While in this world, life will test us. We will experience difficulty and pain whether caused by others, however unintentional it might be, or by circumstances or self-inflicted measures. Eva said, “Things will get worse before it gets better.” God makes no promise of a totally easy and pain-free life, but rather a promise of his consistent and constant presence that will journey with us through the road of transformation. This is the gift of Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit with and within us.

Third is that God’s word is truth itself. Not lies, not deception. The marks of God’s Word that is Truth are light, life and love. If we come to the Lord with our real self--- the scarred, imperfect self---we will be led to greater light even in the seeming darkness, to a fuller life as we grow in inner freedom, and to a more encompassing love as we strive to live a love that gives and receives.

We pray that throughout our life journey, we may ever fix our gaze on Jesus, our Lord, who is God’s Word embodied, God’s Truth personified. He protects and guards us. He desires our joy. He is the Truth leading us to light, life and love.

- Rizalina T. Simpas

22 May 2013
Sharing on Readings
ICM Retreat House, Baguio

Reading (Sirach 4:11-19)
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 119:165, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175)
Gospel (Mark 9:38-40)

On the 5th of May, we embarked on this PSI journey, a journey unlike any other. It was not to distant lands we set our sights on but it was to the very core of ourselves that we dared to venture. Sure it was exciting but also scary, difficult and painful. Yet, we have as guides and companions our compassionate facilitators. We also have each other, and it made us more brave, knowing we are not alone. For all that and more, we come before our good Lord with hearts full of praise and thanksgiving.

On this second day of prayer, I am moved to present some points for your consideration.

First point - after all that inner work we have engaged in, can we now say that we know what it is we really want? Are we in touch with the desire deep in the recesses of our hearts? And have we the courage to name it, to own it and to claim it? To finally say with conviction . . . . This is MY desire. It is mine!

Second point - having said that, have we gotten around asking for it? Pleading for it and waiting trustfully? St Ignatius says to stay with our begging bowl in hand and wait until what we desire is given us. In these days after Pentocost, does the prayer of the Church "pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit and fill once more our hearts" ring true for each one of us? Can we . . with faith in our hearts say . . . Give it to me?

The First Reading tells us "He who loves Wisdom loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by The Lord . . . She comes back to bring him happiness and reveal her secrets to him and she will heap upon him treasures of knowledge . . "

In this Eucharist, as we come before our God, let us ask ourselves if we desire Wisdom. Can we believe, do we believe that God desires just as intensely . . if not a bit more, to give us a portion of his wisdom? For it is only with Wisdom that we can even begin to pray that we be graced with a discerning disposition. A disposition which allows for the pause . . The silent waiting . . . The hopeful anticipation . . . that what God is desiring for me be revealed to me in my own authentic desire.

Which brings us to the third point - God's Wisdom in us moves us to pray for a discerning disposition. As it unfolds and graces us, it makes it possible for the authentic desire or desires of our hearts to be made known to us. This desire being revealed to us is actually God's desire for us because how else did we get it?

God's wisdom can give us the inner peace we are all yearning for in the Psalm. God's wisdom wants to give us the interior freedom to be as allowing and accepting as the Jesus Mark knew, loved and followed.

And so dear companions and friends in our Lord, we find ourselves coming full circle . . . . From beginning to beginning. From God to God.

- Carmelina R. Enriquez

20 May 2013
PSI for Formators
Baguio City

When Fr. Mawe asked me to do the reflection for tonight’s Mass, his only requirement was that it should be “Short lang.” I thank Fr. Mawe for believing that I am capable of brevity. I am not sure I can do justice to that faith, but I will limit myself to only three points, drawn from today’s Gospel (Mark 9:14-29) and from the insights that have emerged in the PSI.

First point. We need to acknowledge our demons.

I don’t know how many of you identified with the possessed boy in today’s Gospel before you started the PSI. Maybe for some of you it was easier to see some of your formands in that possessed boy. But perhaps an indicator of how effective the PSI has been for us is whether we can now see ourselves in that boy. Scott Peck, in the excerpt from his book The Road Less Travelled which Eva gave us for our first prayer session today, says: “… most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health.” We are all possessed by demons, even those of us who are already formators.

Our extreme needs are examples of such demons. These demons make all of us partially deaf, unable to hear God’s love for us, and partially mute, unable to proclaim it to others. And the demons who whisper to us are just as deafening and dangerous as the demons who shriek. Maybe the demons who whisper are even more dangerous than those who shriek. We don’t even realize that they are demons, and we may think, because they speak softly and subtly and wear attractive religious habits, that they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. For instance: an extreme need for achievement, disguised as a striving for excellence for God, which causes us to neglect the needs of formands or children for nurturing. An extreme need for nurturance, disguised as total self-giving love for formands or children, which does not allow them to develop a mature self-determination. An extreme need for deference, disguised as perfect obedience, which fails to challenge religious authorities to uphold the standards of the Kingdom. An extreme need for aggression, disguised as fraternal correction or prophetic denunciation, which fails to embrace with compassion those who are unable to uphold our own standards.

These demons, our extreme needs, arise from the childhood traumas that we all have had, even those of us who grew up in the most loving environments. As the boy’s father says of his son’s demon, since childhood, our demons have often thrown us into the fire and water to kill us. It is already a miracle of grace that our demons have not killed us, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. That we are all here today is a sign that God has spared us the worst possible consequences of our demons—that the shrieking, or the whispering, of our demons has not made us completely deaf to God’s love.

It is an even greater miracle of grace that our demons have not made us completely mute—and that God has even harnessed our demons to bring some of us to where we are now: that in seeking, in a self-centered way, to satisfy our extreme needs for achievement, deference, order, exhibition, autonomy, succorance, abasement, and aggression, we have been led by grace into lives and ministries that are dedicated to proclaiming God’s love for humanity.

But God’s respect for our autonomy is much more perfect than that of any good enough mother or father or formator, so God always leaves something for us to do. The extent to which we can hear and proclaim God’s love depends on the extent to which we ourselves take hold of our demons, and we cannot take hold of them until we recognize and acknowledge them first. Much as some of us may have hated taking the EPPS and reflecting on its results over the last few days, owning our extreme needs is a necessary step in becoming more self-possessed—that is, in becoming less possessed by our demons.

Second point: “Everything is possible to one who has faith.”

Even when we have acknowledged our demons, and sometimes precisely because we have acknowledged our demons, there may be the temptation to despair of ever being able to shake off their power over us. We forget too easily that God is working with us on this, and we start to think that it is all up to us.

It is true that God leaves up to us the choice of acknowledging our demons, of taking hold of them, and of reaching beyond them to God. But even when we have made this choice, it is impossible to act fully on this choice unless we also leave up to God the outcome of our struggle. We need to surrender our desire for control, trusting that in God’s great love for us we cannot ever be lost unless we ourselves lose our trust in God. Only if we cling to that trust does the impossible become possible. Only if we allow ourselves to be possessed by God do we become capable of true self-possession.

Third point: God will help our unbelief.

The bad news is that few if any of us have the perfect faith that will drive out our demons completely, at least in this life. It would be wonderful if we could read the story of the possessed boy in the Gospel as a metaphorical promise that we can be converted once and for all if we proclaim our belief: that Jesus will expel our demons, maybe through something like the PSI, and we and our communities will all live happily ever after as good servants of the Kingdom.

But the reality is that growth in self-knowledge and self-possession is a lifelong process, and rarely an easy one, and we cannot do it unless we daily renew our trust in God—most especially through prayer. And the reality is that growing our trust in God is itself a lifelong process.

But God understands that because of our personal histories all of us have problems in varying degrees with trust, and God will help us to grow that trust by never failing it. Because they are human, our parental figures, our peers, our partners, our friends, our formands, and our children all fail our trust in one way or another; and we, in turn, fail the trust of our parental figures, our peers, our partners, our friends, our formands, and our children. But God repairs the damage we inevitably do to each other’s capacity for trust by never failing us.

We can allow God to grow our capacity for trust by coming face to face with God in prayer, as we are doing now: laying all our demons and all our unbelief before God, remembering all the ways in which God has sustained us despite all our demons and all our unbelief, allowing God to strengthen us with the unconditional love that we can ultimately get only from God. So it is fitting that we end the PSI by spending three days exclusively with God. For as Jesus tells His disciples, this kind of demon can only come out through prayer.

- Eleanor R. Dionisio