After spending my Sabbatical as a Pilgrim and a Hermit for almost 7 months I am finally going home to Davao tomorrow. I came down from my mountain retreat in Busay the other day after spending 2 months as a hermit after finishing my barefoot pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. These last two months have been a period of reflecting on my journey from the Pyrenees across the North of Spain. It was also a time for reflecting on my life journey for the last 56 years. A very apt period since I celebrated my 56th birthday the other week, alone in my "hermitage."
Part of my reflection on my Camino experience was to go over and edit the diary of my pilgrimage which forms the 24th chapter of my manuscript: The Beloved: Memoirs, Diaries and Letters of a Priest. Making the final revision and editing of my autobiographical manuscript has given me the opportunity to go over my life-journey. I've also gone over photographs and created a photo-video.
As I go home, I bring with me the blessings that I have received during my pilgrimage and also my period of solitude as a hermit.
The first blessing is a deeper awareness of God's presence in my life-journey which has deepened my faith and trust in the Divine presence and my relationship with God.
The second blessing is a deeper appreciation of my priestly vocation and celibate commitment.
The third blessing is a clearer sense of how I want to live the remaining years of my life.
As I go home, I expect that there will be significant changes that will take place in my life. For over 15 years, I have lived an easy and comfortable life as a full-time professor in Davao. This has been the longest period of my life as a priest. The first period was as a missionary in the remote villages and mountains of Mindanao (8 years). The second period was as a scholar in Berkeley and Rome earning my doctorate (6 years). What has made my life bearable and meaningful over the last 15 years was my other involvements outside the classroom - part time pastoral work, BEC promotion, life & peace advocacy, clergy retreats, Christian-Muslim dialogue. For the next period of my life, I want to have more time to do these things. I don't want to be a full-time professor anymore. I want to live a more simple life-style, closer to the people - especially the poor, actively involved in pastoral ministry and forming BECs, continuing my life/peace/environmental advocacy and write and publish my books & articles.
I still have to work out the details. The second semester of teaching (November to March) will be a period of transition. The major changes will take place after that. What is definite is that I won't be spending the remaining years of my life in the classroom. It will be out in the field, journeying with the Lord's flock.
The next phase of my life will require going outside my comfort zone. It will mean truly making the journey from the mind to the heart. For almost 22 years, the life of the mind or intellect was dominant (six years of getting my doctoral degree, over 15 years of teaching). My extra-academic involvement & pastoral work was secondary. By nature, I am primarily a man of action and emotion - I am more at home working with my heart and hands. But by training, my head has been overdeveloped. I find dealing purely in ideas and abstraction very boring. I need to connect my head, heart and hands.
The challenge that I will face in the next period of my life is how to be more compassionate and caring, and translating theory into praxis. I will have to deal more with people and their day to day concerns and struggles, rather than dealing purely with ideas. It will mean being in fellowship - in communion - with people.
I will continue to be a theologian, but the locus theologicus - place of theologizing will no longer be the ivory tower of the academy - the library and the classroom. It will have to be among the grassroots community as I journey with the people. It won't be enough to just reflect on how God was made manifest in history as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. It will mean reflecting on how God is made manifest in the life and history of the people today.