The excellence of love

Vespers blog illustration

by Deacon Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD

A week before the profession of perpetual vows—the ceremony in which my confreres and I pledge to live in poverty, obedience and chastity for the rest of our lives—I had an opportunity to reflect upon 1 Corinthians 13. I asked myself two questions: When did I learn about the religious vows? How did I first learn the ways of living out the vows? These two questions led me to recall three regular occasions when I was a child.

Poverty

My family lived in relative poverty in Manila. During family mealtime, my mom taught my brothers and me to put only a small serving of food on our plates. We learned that the food must be shared. After everyone received a portion, then and only then could we take another serving. My brothers and I shared not only with food but also clothes, school supplies and shoes. Through this family condition, I learned about poverty.

Obedience

The second occasion was doing household chores. My mom was dependent upon me to maintain orderliness and keep the house clean. I cooked, prepared our table for meals, swept and scrubbed the floor and did laundry. When my mom went to work, she told me the what needed to be done. I paid attention. I even wrote her instructions on a sheet of paper so I wouldn’t forget anything. I learned obedience.

Chastity

The third occasion was taking care of my younger brothers. My mom taught me to love my younger brothers by taking care of them. When they were little children, I changed diapers, bathed, fed and played with them. I brought them to and from school and helped them with their homework. I spent most of my childhood taking care of my brothers. We developed a brotherly relationship. I learned about love.

False promises

Life changed when I became a young adult. I sought independence. I demanded freedom. After high school graduation at age 17, I walked away from my family.

After finishing university studies, I earned a good salary as a teacher. I could buy almost anything I wanted. I became self-serving with no need to worry about sharing. I had my own place. I managed it according to my own way.

I met many people in the teaching field. Some of the people whom I thought of as friends had questionable values. I ignored my inner voice that warned me because I longed for acceptance and a sense of belonging. I found myself trapped in unhealthy relationships. I cultivated shallow connections.

An authentic life

Fortunately, my life changed again at age 30. I entered the Society of the Divine Word with a strong desire to leave my old life behind. Formation has led me to a deeper understanding of the religious vows and to a stronger conviction to live out my life according to God’s holy will.

I have learned a meaningful life in the state of consecrated celibacy through personal friendship with Christ, living faith, fraternal sharing in community and selfless dedication to be committed to our vocation. In our community, we strive to form a true brotherhood, where every confrere can feel at home, form deep friendships and find fulfillment in his work and development of his talents.

Our shared mission calls us generously to place time, talents, work, and community goods at the service of our missionary task. By virtue of the vow of poverty, we strive to bind ourselves to a simple lifestyle. It enables us to accept our dependence on God and become inwardly free and detached from all earthly goods and honors. We become available and open to God and others.

In a world where so many seek to impose their will upon others, we seek to learn our vow of obedience in order to uphold unity in community. Our obedience unites us, helping us to focus on our Society’s missionary goals.

Through Christ’s love

As I look back and reflect on my past, I am able to heartily echo the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

“I solemnly promise you—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—to live for life chastity, poverty, and obedience, according to the Constitutions of the Society of the Divine Word.” With joy and gratitude during the perpetual vows ceremony, I uttered those words.

The love of Christ urges me to be prudent, worthy and responsible in carrying out missionary service with joy and gratitude. Through Christ’s love, each of us is able to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things.

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