In a few days, we will be seeing and attending school graduations again. A great majority of our students will receive diplomas and certificates attesting to the completion of their academic studies. Elementary graduates will go to high school; high school graduates will choose their college or vocational courses.
I graduated four times from school: the first one from the public grade school in our hometown; the second one from a Dominican school; the third one from a philosophy course in the seminary; and the last from our postgraduate course from the same seminary.
My most memorable one was my graduation from college. My classmates and I knew that this graduation was only an entry point to four more years of studies in theology. We were twenty in the class. My classmates had a consensus. I will proceed to theology certainly. I was the most qualified. I thought so too. I was mistaken. Nine were admitted to the theology department. I was not one of them. The rector told me to pack my things and consider the lay state. He said I was too stubborn and I had my own unbending mindset. Under stress, I would push for my opinion, inconsiderate of others. Emotionally, I was immature. Intellectually, I was conceited. I could almost hear it: “EVERYTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU!” It was devastating. It was humbling. It turned out to be cleansing.
I pleaded for a re-evaluation. I begged the rector to give me another chance. I could not trust myself anymore.! I knew I was not qualified. If I could get admitted, it would be by the graciousness of God, not my own. The seminary priests did not seem concerned enough. I went to the Carmelites to pray for me. I felt like I was in limbo for the two months of the summer vacation. I was afraid. I was hurting; I was helpless. I was insecure. I felt that everybody was ganging up on me.
In my helplessness, God answered. The rector took the sole responsibility of admitting me for the next school year. God is good. The rector was good. I did not deserve the reconsideration. It was an undeserved gift.
What lessons did that experience teach me?
First of all, it is God who is in control, not me. We are called not by men but by God. It is God who has the power. All is grace. No one is loved by God because of personal holiness or personal goodness. God loves us because He loves Himself. Indeed, is there anything good that we have that we did not receive from God? It is indeed humbling to know that no one is really worthy. Only God can make us less unworthy.
I also discovered the beauty and power of prayers again. It was a prayer in nothingness, from nothingness. The Carmelites taught me how to be nothing when I pray. When the faith is much, you will also receive much. We receive from God as much as we expect.
Lastly, I also began to recognize the fact that no one loves and serves God alone. We serve and love God always with the community. I saw how my parents suffered quietly with me. I felt the love and concern of my friends, who all knew how I wanted to be a priest. I could not have carried the Pain, the hurt, and the devastation of that denial without the help of my friends and co-seminarians. Nothing happens without God willing it. Now I look back to that college graduation with a grateful smile, healed and made whole by the grace of God.
COPING WITH FAILURE
Jesus Our Light