Walking on a sacred ground

HE was a shy, timid, introverted young man who wanted to be a missionary. But his superiors did not believe that he could make it.  “Out in the missions you have to be outgoing, energetic, and filled with excitement,” his superiors told him.

He insisted on saying that God is calling him to work in the missions. His superiors agreed with a condition that he first spend a year with a community to see how he would play out with the people.

A year later, his superior went to check his status in the community. They talked to the people to see how the young man was doing. To their surprise, the people spoke highly of him. “Yes, he is a shy, introverted young man, but that itself is a gift to us. His quiet presence is very comforting, his persistence shows strength, and his homilies are well prepared and well thought of,” the people told the superior. “He has come out of his shell a little bit, and he is doing quite well,” the people added. “He is a man of deep faith.”

“But would you take him as missionary in your community?” the superiors asked the people.” “Yes, we’ll take him,” they answered.

Sometimes we have criteria of men and women whom God is calling to his service. And some of these criteria call for  “perfect” candidates. But as in the story of the timid man, it’s not always so with God. God can call young men and women in spite of their weaknesses. God can make their weaknesses their strengths. And people can see something great and marvelous in them.

A priest who spent a lot of years giving spiritual direction to seminarians and priests once said:  “When I receive someone for a spiritual direction, I see myself as entering into a holy ground. I see God’s hands working in the life of this person. And it’s a privilege to be walking on the sacredness of his soul.”

I’d say too that entering into a human soul is like walking on a garden. One sees beauty and grace in the human soul; one also sees weeds and thorns. And it’s not always a smooth walk; it’s walking on rough ground. But the walk is so sacred because you see God’s hands working in this beautiful garden of a person’s soul.

I have stopped quickly judging people since my recent work with young men who feel called to be priests. It’s because I’ve been seeing God’s clear and concrete designs in the lives of these young men. It’s an awesome experience. It’s a mystery to behold.

May we see the sacredness of each person that we have and encounter in life!  May we see their souls as sacred grounds and beautiful gardens where the Master of Creation continues to put his hands to work!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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