Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembering a friend on her birthday

Yesterday was my friend's birthday but I couldn't celebrate it with her - as usual - because she is in a Poor Clare monastery, in the island of Siquijor, far from Davao. Sr. Mary Angeline (I still prefer to call her Gina) was an engineering student and reader in our church in Tacloban when I was assigned there after my ordination in 1981. We occasionally met after mass and had enjoyable conversation. Although I really wanted to become close to her I tried to maintain some distance because I was very conscious about my vow of celibacy and chastity. When I left Tacloban for my new assignment I wrote this poem:

It was only a brief encounter
yet every time I whisper your name
to the wind
and remember your elusive image
I am reminded of the emptiness within.

You remain a mystery to me
but you have awakened feelings
that have lain dormant for ages
that I feel so alive.

My only regret is:
time and fear would not allow
our minds and hearts to be one.
Perhaps it was safer that way.
No risks, no heartbreaks
and the parting was easy.
But now I go on living a celibate existence
haunted by that fleeting moment.
Years later, I was surprised to hear that she had become a contemplative nun. While I was studying in Rome, I received a card from her and two pictures: one of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other her picture during her final profession. She wrote that she "constantly remembers me in the silence of her heart. " I wrote this poem:

All alone - as usual.
The only company I have:
framed images on fujicolor paper,
an image of the Lady who loves me
but whom I cannot see nor touch,
an image of the woman who lovingly
remembers me in the silence of her heart
but whom I cannot see nor touch.

Not even the veil can hide
the radiant beauty and kindness
that brightens this dark night.

So far, far away.
One is on the other side of eternity.
The other is on the other side of the world,
in a monastery on a distant island.

Yet they keep me company
like the moon on this dark night.
We have been writing occasionally through the years (she can only write to me during Easter and Christmas) and I have visited her monastery several times. I also met her in Tacloban in 2005 when she was taking care of her dying mother. I hope I can visit her next summer.
I thank God for the gift of friendship. I didn't expect to become close to someone whom I seldom see.
Happy Birthday Gina - oops, Sr. Mary Angeline. Unfortunately, she won't be able to read my blog. No internet connection in the monastery.

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