PANDEMIC CHALLENGES AND BLESSINGS

By Tina Quiros

A year and a half after Covid 19 was declared a global pandemic, I can now look back, reflect, and thank God for His abiding presence in the midst of the crisis that all of us have experienced, and continue to go through today..

Like every person on this planet, regardless of race, income, belief system, culture, etc., I had pondered and prayed fervently. I asked myself this question: Was this God’s way of speaking to me with regard to the way I live my faith, my relationships, my priorities, my life?

As the pandemic went on, there was a pervading sense of loss that I felt. There was a loss of freedom for mobility and people interaction face to face. There was loss of lives. And there was a creeping loss of trust and hope within me. And yet, through all these I felt a strong need to turn to God even if I did not understand. It was like He was telling me to just believe and all will be well. How? By letting Him be God and leaving everything up to Him in complete trust and surrender.

I prayed as I never prayed before! Among its fruits is that I gained a greater clarity about the deepest desires in my heart. “Quarantining” with God, gave me time and space also to determine how I should live my relationship with Him. And clearly it is to obey Him, love Him and serve Him faithfully.

Being in a more silent pandemic environment at home, I became more introspective and more aware of the flaws of the human condition with its propensity for an endless need for material goods and pleasures, and an exaggerated desire to control people, situations and events. It became crystal clear to me that I needed much less to be able to live joyfully, and to find contentment and peace with the simpler and more mundane but nonetheless sacred things around me.

With very limited person to person encounters, the world of virtual reality became the new normal. Zoom meetings for spiritual, business, or social matters became the means to be connected with others. Thus there are now many opportunities to attend Mass, spiritual talks and classes, community prayers, etc. The Internet brought me in contact with more people, family and friends, than in pre-pandemic times, making me realize that all of us share the same fears, hopes and dreams. Thus we find ourselves praying for one another, even being “prayer warriors” for people who need prayers.

God is in our midst despite these trying times. We only need to keep our gaze on Him. “Be still and know that I am God.”

REMEMBERING FR. THOMAS

In the Coordinating Circle of Service, there is one committee called The Legacy of Thomas Keating, headed by Billie Trinidad. It is completely dedicated to keeping the Vision of Contemplative Outreach alive by holding true to the integrity of Fr. Thomas Keating’s works and teachings particularly with regard to Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina; and to honor him by continuing to consent to God’s presence and action in our lives.

With gratitude in our hearts for the gift of Fr. Keating, and for Centering Prayer, here are some messages from COP members expressing their heartfelt gratitude for the prayer that has changed our lives forever.

  • I “met “Fr. Keating when I was searching, with only a desire in my heart but nowhere to go. He showed me the path that would take me back to my beginning, and with refreshing personal encounters along the way.” (Charit Montalban)

  • “TK’s greatest legacy to me is SILENCE where I am home and at peace with the One.” (Carmel Dael)

  • “Fr. Keating taught me to find comfort and peace communing with nature. I now see God in a sunset, hear Him in the wind, feel Him in blades of grass, taste Him in droplets of water, and smell Him in the clear, clean breeze of the mountain air.” (Conchitina Bernardo)

  • “Fr. Keating taught me to spend more time with God in silence.” (Gilda Reyes)

  • “My search led me to Snowmass where I found what I was looking for - Centering Prayer.” (Betty Florendo)

  • “With the gift of Centering Prayer, Fr. Keating showed me that I am never alone, and that God is with me always, in who I am, in every person I meet, in all creatures, in all of nature, in all the events that happen, in silence and in the noise, in every breath I take.” (Terly Chikiamco)

  • “I shall be forever grateful to Fr. Thomas for showing me that God is my loving Father, not a judge or policeman. In my silence I am at peace with Him.” (Doris See)

  • “Fr. Keating brought me to Centering Prayer which deepened and enhanced my prayer life.” (Chita Castillo)

  • “Fr. Keating gave me a taste of how God loves. I am learning to forgive even if forgiveness is not asked of me, and to love even at the risk of not being loved back in return. Thank you, Fr. Thomas.” (Billie Trinidad)

  • “To me, Fr. Keating was total presence. When talking with him, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the crowd. Thus, making you feel valued and loved. In centering prayer, when I am totally present to God despite all the distractions, I also tell God how much I value and love Him. Thank you, Fr. Keating, for your teachings.” (Dedette Gamboa)

  • “Fr. Keating helped bring me back to the Christ that dwells within me.” (Len Hizon)

  • Fr. Keating taught me to live from a space of Love – to be open to the God of Mystery, to let Him influence every aspect of my being and experience. His wise teachings have completely changed my view of reality from one that was small and shallow (in depth and expansiveness), to one that is boundless and all-embracing of people, and all of creation! Thank you, Fr. Keating! Deo gratias! (Tess Colayco)

Videos of Fr. Keating (In YouTube)

SOLACE

Solace is the art of asking the beautiful question, of our selves, of our world or of one another, often in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavour; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.

Solace is the spacious, imaginative home we make where disappointment is welcomed and rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation.
Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate wisdom to come to the fore, a part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave like everything else, and leading us, when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, to the birdsong in the tree above our heads, even as we are being told of a death, each note an essence of morning and of mourning; of the current of a life moving on, but somehow, also, and most beautifully, carrying, bearing, and even celebrating the life we have just lost. - A life we could not see or appreciate until it was taken from us –

To be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands, to a voice that does not soothe falsely, but touches the epicenter of our pain or articulates the essence of our loss, and then emancipates us into the privilege of both life and death as an equal birthright.

Solace is not an evasion, nor a cure for our suffering, nor a made up state of mind. Solace is a direct seeing and participation; a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part. Solace is not meant to be an answer, but an invitation, through the door of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.

To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even more amusing companions for others.

Solace asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable loss that will accompany you? And how will you endure it through all the years? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you were beginning to understand it, take you away?

From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
2020 Revised Edition. © David Whyte: and Many Rivers Press

By Thomas Keating

“God just is—without any limitation. And the way to connect with this “Is-ness” is to just be, too.”

That is why I practice Centering Prayer. I want to be with Being. As you hunker in take the time to be with Being.

“This is one of the precious gifts that the discipline of Contemplative Prayer communicates. It transmits Christ’s experience of God as Abba.”

God loves us as a mother and a father. We should feel free to approach God as a loving and nurturing father and mother.

“To live in the presence of God on a continuous basis can become a kind of fourth dimension to our three-dimensional world, forming an invisible but real background to everything that we do or that happens in our lives.”

Silence teaches me who I am. Silence shows me the actions I should take. Silence teaches me what actions not to take because someone else is best suited for the task. Silence shows me the way forward. I need both silence and action. They make me whole. I hope you feel the same way too!

“Entering “your inner room” and “praying to your Father in secret” are obviously aimed at deepening our relationship with God.”

I sit with God because I love God. I desire to go deeper and deeper into my relationship with God. And see what happens. God’s depths are bottomless like a vast ocean.

“The heart of the Christian spiritual journey is God’s determined will to transmit to us the maximum of divine light, life, love and happiness that we can possibly receive.”

It is there for us to receive. God loves us more than we will ever comprehend. Let go and open to God’s unconditional love. Trust God!

“Divine love, however, is a fire so intense that no one can be fully exposed to it in this life without turning into a grease spot.”

HAIKUS

by    Ada Mabilangan    Betty Florendo    Billie Trinidad    Carmel Dael    Chita Castillo    Tess Colayco


 

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