This is the Oratory/Chapel of the new Xavier School Campus in Nuvali in the gathering dusk. Today is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. In many mysterious and blessed ways, Xavier has played a major role in my life. I reflect on this with profound gratitude, with intense joy, with deep humility and with a heartwarming affection and love.
- St. Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit missionary. He dreamed of the day he would land in the Chinese mainland and work for the evangelization of China. But, like Moses, he died within sight of his promised land but was never able to set foot himself in China.
- The China mission has always loomed large in the Jesuit consciousness. From the work of Mateo Ricci in the 18th century to the Jesuit missionaries expelled from China during the Communist take-over in the late 1940s, Jesuits have always had a special affection for the missions in China.
- The Philippine Jesuits hosted the China Missionaries when they were expelled from the mainland. For the longest time, this band of Jesuits were looking forward to the day they would be returning and resuming their missionary work in China. When this took long in coming, they were eventually integrated into the Philippine Province.
- These Jesuits of the China missions continued their work in the Philippines among the Chinese communities here, establishing schools for these communities: Xavier School in Manila, Sacred heart School in Cebu and Santa Maria in Iloilo.
- It was in Xavier School that Anabelle and I met and fell in love. In Xavier School, we made life-long friends, met inspiring mentors and models, saw our love take roots and blossom.
- When it was time to build our first home as a family, it was a condo in Xavier Row located in Xavierville.
- Most of our working lives have been spent as Jesuit lay collaborators in Xavier School and Ateneo de Manila.
- We owe our spirituality today to the many Jesuit friends we have met and made along the way.
All these seem like disjointed and unrelated events. And yet as I look at them, I see a common thread. Jesuits have often been associated with grands visions and great projects. Anabelle and I are ordinary teachers wanting to do our share and give of ourselves whenever, wherever and however we can. It was the inspiration from Christ and love of Him that drove Xavier and the Jesuits of the China Missions to work at evangelizing the Chinese people. It is the same inspiration and love that led me and Anabelle in the work of education and into each other’s arms.
At some juncture of time and space, there was a serendipitous, no a grace-filled, moment when the grand vision and great work of evangelization intersected with our little and ordinary lives. Between Anabelle and I, we have come into the lives of thousands of students just as they have come into ours. I can say that I am a better person today because of these encounters – reason for my profound gratitude. I pray that I have somehow helped some of them become better persons through the things I said or did for them – reason for my intense joy and deep humility, for I know I am not worthy. Many have stayed on and lingered in our lives as friends, as confidantes, as colleagues in work and in apostolates, as extended families – reasons for the heartwarming love and affection that Anabelle and I feel.
Yes, blessed have been my eyes to have seen what I have seen. Blessed have been my ears to have heard what I have heard. Blessed has been my heart to have been loved the way I have been loved. And blessed has been my life for Christ has come and stayed on with His love and His graces.
Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’