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A very dear friend Jenny Uy entered the novitiate of the Siervas de San Jose a few days ago. I was there to preside at the Mass to beg the Lord to bless her formation as a religious.
Jenny is from a well-to-do Chinese family. She graduated from De La Salle University, younger than her co-graduates. Soon after, she tried teaching at her alma mater, but she later on decided to join her parents in the family business. She did very well. She was earning a lot and was very daring in her business deals. In a matter of time, she gained the trust and confidence even of her business rivals.
God called her. She hesitated. God insisted. She bargained. Now she is a novice, ready and willing to leave all to embrace ALL.
In 1992, I asked her to attend the seminar given to lectors by the Liturgical Commission of the diocese. In this seminar, the essence of the celebration of the Eucharist was expounded, making it more meaningful. She started to value the need for a good preparation necessary to make them more effective as readers, not mere “newscasters.” Her love for the Mass grew deeper. Each time she read, she felt privileged that God gave her the chance to proclaim His word, and she tried to serve Him in turn with more vigor. She made herself more available to the EDSA Shrine community that it became a second home.
In June 1995, upon my invitation, she went to the Loyola House of Studies chapel during the wake of Fr. Maceda, who was a regular confessor at the EDSA Shrine. She was surprised that I asked her to join me when I knew that she didn’t attend funerals since she was scared of looking at dead people. She listened to the eulogy for Fr. Maceda: “He was a cheerful and active priest. For him, fatigue was not a hindrance to making himself available to anybody… his deeds will always be remembered by those who know him.
What he started will be continued by those he left. Many of us will not forget how he touched our lives.” She realized the kind of life she wanted to live -a life not for her but for God and others, a life with purpose, not mere existence, a peaceful, simple life. As she thought about it, she felt an inner peace reigning in her. She underwent hours of counseling and finally was able to process herself and had the courage to make a decision – to live a life totally different from her present one. She joined the religious order: Siervas de San Jose, a congregation that has inspired her with their works and cheerfulness even when she was yet in Grade IV.
From the point of view of the world, the decision elicits an exasperated sigh “Sayang.” She will waste her time doing less than she is capable of. She will live away from home, minus the comforts and warmth of her family, in order to live, eat and work with her spiritual family. It is not an easy choice. But this different choice happens to be the best choice.
Why should young women like her who want to follow Jesus be obliged to waste years in the novitiate? What if Church authorities woke up one morning and decided to cut the novitiate years into a month of formation, and then you become a full-fledged sister after two months? That would mean more sisters to serve. Isn’t that a great dream?
The novitiate years are important for the life of the religious. Jesus worked and grew up silently in Nazareth for thirty years. We call these years the hidden life of Jesus. The novitiate is the hidden life of the nun. It is the time for silence so that they can listen to God. It is the time for saying so many goodbyes so that they can say hello to new life, It is the time to be quiet and be still and to know that He is God.
The novitiate years are hidden years. But that these years are hidden do not mean that they have no worth or have no value. The novice who remains hidden bears witness to the golden value of silence, to the pristine beauty of humility and obedience. To the noisy and troubled world, the novice offers stillness and depth. To the grabbing and fame-hungry world, the novice offers the greatness of simplicity, to the world torn by quarrels and dissension, the novice in seclusion offers the soothing, gentle love of Jesus.
Perhaps we should consider a novitiate not only for nuns and priests but for all who wish to discover new peace in life and a new beginning. The hidden life of Jesus at Nazareth is the secret of his glorious Galilee and Jerusalem. The trouble with us is that we all want to see the popular Galilean, but few are willing to imitate the hidden Nazarene.
A NOVICE IN A TROUBLED WORLD
Jesus Our Light