This piece continues Divine Word seminarian Marlon Vargas’s reflection on his recent home visit to the Philippines. After completing his second year of graduate studies at Catholic Theological Union, he spent part of the summer at home before leaving for his Cross-Cultural Training Program in Spain. While at home, he visited family and conducted retreats for youth, such as the group shown above. Here’s part two from the Philippines.
By Marlon Vargas SVD
My home leave would not be complete or as meaningful without spending quality time with my beloved family. I celebrated my first anniversary in religious vows with them. I enjoyed every minute that I spent with them. I felt great longing to catch up with them to fill up the five, long years we missed spending together, especially with my siblings. I had so much fun with my grown-up nieces and nephews. I now have a stronger admiration for my mom and stepfather who have persevered in their commitment of loving each other despite many challenges in their relationship.
I came to a deeper realization that, though I did not have the chance to choose the perfect family, I have many choices and chances to help my own family become a God-given blessing in my life.
All the learning experiences I gained while growing up with my family, such as values, behaviors, attitudes and abilities, have become gifts that I share with other families whom I serve in my ministry. My home leave gave me the chance to restore and renew my relationship with my family.
Coming home also was a completion of one of my missions in life—to meet and get to know my long lost biological father. T.S. Eliot once wrote that “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Finally, after more than 30 years of longing to know my father, my searching has come to an end. It was the hardest event during my vacation. Honestly, I have wished that the first and only time I met my father could have been just a simple and ordinary event. But, for me—someone who had been through a lot of pain and sufferings in life—it was not easy to face a person who made a decision in the past that I thought caused my life to be different and difficult.
Reconnecting with my father was emotionally challenging. Thanks to a good friend who accompanied and supported me in doing this life-changing encounter with my estranged father, I deeply and strongly believe that my meeting with my father was a particular grace.
It was a grace-filled moment of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. I do still have unanswered questions, but I don’t have to rush addressing those concerns. For it is true indeed that God will always answer our prayers according to His divine time and plan.
Right now, meeting my father was a concrete experience of finding and getting the missing piece of my being. It was a spiritual experience of rediscovering my self-identity and reaffirming my faith that God, the merciful and loving Father, called me to serve others.
My home visit fulfilled my expectations and hopes. They are all now a part of my joyful memories and meaningful life experiences; not just hoped for events about which I worry. It was such a God-given gift to spend vacation with many wonderful people. They have moved on with their lives, but I am grateful for being able to reconnect with them in ways that were very meaningful for me, ways that I needed to experience with them personally.
The two-and-a-half month vacation in my homeland was a break from my formation. I am deeply joyful and grateful that I had opportunities to be reunited with people who have been part of my vocation; be blessed with learning experiences through visits to significant places in my life; be renewed and restored in my relationships with my family; and be rediscovered in my identity and rejuvenated in my vocation as a Divine Word Missionary.
I am sad to again leave my home, especially my family. I feel what Jesus felt in Luke 4:38-44 when people sought him and would have kept him from leaving them. My heart urges me that I “must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose
I carry with me the joy, gratitude and hope that my home leave has given to me—the essentials that I need to fulfill my God-given mission. Home is where my missionary journey begins.
To read part one of Marlon’s reflection, click here.