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Robert B.

Badrina April 30, 2019


Vocation and Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises

My Vocation as the Call of Creation

“Many times it begins with the question on the search for meaning of life.”

– Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ

This is the line that made me realize the words that I am looking for at a time where I feel

that something is lacking in my life. I met the Jesuits on February 23, 2014 through a

Discernment Seminar. They showed us this video on vocation entitled, “May Call Waiting ka

Ba?” The video talks about people just like me at that time who are already professionals with a

stable career yet left everything and responded to the call of the religious life. After four years, I

did not expect that I will choose the same path. I left my job and entered to the Jesuit Candidacy

program to discern whether I have a vocation to the Jesuit way of life. As the result of our

program is fast approaching, it would be a perfect time for me to pause and once again look at

the story of my own vocation in the context of the call of creation. I will reflect on the

implications of my calling into being through the first creation story. Guided by the article of

Camilla Burns entitled “The Call of Creation,” I would look closely on the elements in the

creation story that reveal the meaning of my call. These elements are the word of God, chaos and

order, being made in the image of God, the invitation to bear fruit and multiply, God’s blessing,

the Sabbath, and Wisdom. I look forward that these elements will help me direct my own calling

in a particular way of loving and relationship with the Lord.

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The Word of God

“It is important that you are grounded that you are beloved if not, you might carry out

the mission just to receive affirmation or being loved.” This is one of the first things that I

learned in Arvisu through a conference facilitated by Father Roy Ragas. At first I cannot grasp

the reason why would we start with this theme instead of go directly on how we can discern the

will of the Lord for us. I was in the discernment house to know my mission in life and not to be

reminded of what I thought I already knew. But now I understand what it means to be “called”

into being, it is to understand that I am a response to the word of God. When God created

humankind which includes me, it is out of love that comes from the core of his nature. The

creation account is not at a single instance but a permanent relationship with God. Hence, the

source of my capacity, desire, and will to love the way God wanted me to love comes from God

himself. At first, I thought that my response to the seemingly invitation of the Lord is out of my

own desire only. Now it became clearer that everything is sustained through God’s love and

mercy. The most important fruit of my Vocation Workshop in 2016 is a realization that whatever

path I choose in life, God’s love for me will never diminish. God’s love for me is only dependent

on his nature and not on what I can do for him.

“The word of God made all creation, it is the source of continues existence of

everything.” The earth, the sea, the sky, the plants and animals are also called into existence by

the word of God which brings me into relationship with all these existence. I believe St. Ignatius’

understand this too well that he came up that we can find God in all things. The word of God is

the source of worth of all creation and this same word is the element that serves as the root of my

relationship to these creations. As I try to live my relationship to these creations with integrity

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and love, I will be able to live my vocation since I understand that all creation including myself

has been called into existence by the word of God.

Chaos and Order

As I reflected on this element, I remembered Father Eric Escandor’s question to me at the

start of the semester individual conference. “With all your achievements in life, where is God

there?” I was hurt with his question because I felt that my relationship with God was under

scrutiny. After more than a decade of service as lector in UP, attending daily masses and leaving

everything to enter Arvisu to know God’s will for me, yet these did not seem enough to prove

my love and thanksgiving for the Lord. But as I continue to pray over it I realized that despite all

the good things that I am doing for the Lord it seems that something is still lacking. Father Eric’s

question challenged me to look deeper on God’s role in my life and I was surprised that in my

life, God is just an afterthought, someone who is distant and meritorious.

In the creation story, the world is disordered chaos, dark and watery because God is not

yet present. The ordered universe is the sign of God’s activity and God’s presence. This is also

crucial in my life; I cannot continue a vocation that is not centered solely in God. Father Mon

Bautista told our group that Jesuit spirituality is hang up on God alone which is the primary

reason of our existence. The First Principle of Foundation of St. Ignatius is also clear on a God

centered life. “God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this

to save their souls.” This is the purpose of our existence as human beings, to be in union with the

Lord. Chaos and disorder are manifestations of a non centered God in one’s life. As I live my

existence with an awareness of God, I can experience a harmony in my own life. Although as per

my own experiences in the discernment program, this awareness does not necessarily means the

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absence of confusions, chaos and doubts. But every time I put it in silence and lift everything to

God, there is a deeper sense of union with a God of order who called me into this being.

Being made in the image of God

“God’s decision to “make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen

1:26) give us a clue about the being and doing our existence – our special role.” Father Manol

Montesclaros in our Old Testament class highlighted that Jesus came in the world to show us of

our real identity, our real capacity particularly in loving. “The God of Israel can only be imaged

by living beings, and that role is given to humankind.” The incarnation of Jesus provided us with

the real image of God in flesh through Jesus’ life, passion, death, and resurrection. In my own

vocation, I realized that one of my main motivations for choosing the road of religious life is a

deep desire to follow Christ. In following Christ, it means an invitation of denying oneself,

carrying one’s cross and then follows him. My image of God transformed from the almighty,

strong, and powerful into a vulnerable and even an ugly God through Jesus’ Calvary. This

transformation of my own image is anchored in an all loving and merciful God who is willing to

empty himself to show his real nature of capacity to love, the same nature that we also share.

This image of a loving and merciful God provides me my sense of being. The source of

my capacity and desire to love is a reflection of the life of God. It is a manifestation of my total

dependence on God’s image that gives me the capacity and responsibility on how to “do” our

imagehood. This is the next invitation for me, to bear fruit, multiply, and have dominion over

creation.

Bear Fruit, Multiple, and Have Dominion

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God’s generosity is manifested through the creation of the universe it is basically to bear

fruit and multiply. In my own vocation story, I remember the same experience of receiving so

much from the Lord that I felt it is not for me to keep but to share with others.

“Bro. Richard, kapag ba maraming ginive up, mas siguradong matatanggap yun?” This
is my question to Bro. Richard Sumera, SJ – my spiritual director for the three years. I asked that
because I felt that I am about to give up a lot of things when I entered Arvisu - time, career,
family, friends, and opportunities. I need to pause my life for almost a year so I want to be
certain, I want to be sure that I have a high chance of being accepted in the novitiate.
I came from a poor family, my mother is a fish vendor while my father is a fisherman
before they decided to become OFWs. Growing up, I learned to allow some advantage for my
younger brothers since I am the eldest. At a young age, I needed to be independent and
responsible since my family is also counting on for my help. I even experienced instances where
I am having difficulty paying for my books or I need to spare half of my breakfast so that I have
food for my lunch. But as I continue to reflect on these situations of my childhood, I saw the
generosity of the people around me. My uncles who contributed so that I can pay for my books
when I was in grade 3, my high school classmates who gave spare money for my allowance and
allowing me to join them in their vehicle as our transportation to school. Another high school
teacher gave me uniforms and a relative provided school supplies for me. In high school, I was
also given the chance to join an exchange program in Japan for one month that opened me to the
world.
When I was in college, I did not experience financial difficulty since my parents can
provide me with the things I needed. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I applied and got
accepted in a scholarship from the DOST which allowed me to pursue masters degree. Those
four years of my masters are some of the best years in my life where I was able to explore more
the country through our various research and fieldworks. I was also given the chance to attend
conferences both here and abroad. And as the saying goes, the best is yet to come; my
meteorology degree brought me to become a weather specialist in PAGASA. My former job
allowed me to earn enough to contribute for my family, it also brought me to various countries
for workshops and trainings. I even had the chance to live my dream of becoming a broadcast
journalist by providing weather news in radio, TV and print.

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When I told my parents about my plan of entering the Arvisu Candidacy Program they
did not agree first. My mother wants to take care of us when she returns in the Philippines for
good while my father wants to have grandchildren from me. At first I cannot understand why,
but now I saw that this is how they show their love for me. At some point we became very poor
materially but I never experienced poverty in terms of love. And maybe its God’s will to invite
me on this journey because my family even became closer after I told them of my plans. I saw
the generosity of my younger brothers by assuring me that they will take care of my parents if I
pursued this vocation.
Somehow I can’t help but believe that everything is according to God’s plan. My
membership in Lectors led me to be closer to the Eucharist hence allowing me to fall in love on
the mass. God did not bother me until such time that my family is ready for my absence and even
gave me two responsible and loving younger brothers to assure me that my parents are well taken
care of.
Looking back, I think it is necessary to ask that question to Bro. Richard, so that I can
realize that I have a generous God. Maybe I gave up the things that I have before, but I
remember that everything comes from God, as Father Weyms Sanchez, SJ told us in one of the
open houses, “I did not give up anything because in the first place its not mine, I am just simply
returning it to the Lord.” I saw the love of God through my family, friends and various
opportunities and perhaps the reason why I want to give more is because I first received much
from God. The things that I can give by living up my vocation are the things that came from the
Lord.
I believe as what Burns said, “having dominion implies a royal responsibility for
righteousness and peace.” But it always starts on the reality that everything comes from the Lord
and his calling for me is to be a steward of this creation.

God Blessed Them

According to Johannes Pedersen, a presupposition for understanding blessing is

recognition of soul. The soul is the totality of a person that is filled with power, allowing the soul

to grow and prosper and do its work in the world. The reality of humans having soul which came

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as a form a blessing before assigning the responsibilities of fecundity and dominion is also a

reminder that humans is more than flesh. One of the things that set us apart from other creation is

the existence of our soul which is a reminder that God blesses us; it is the creator who blesses. In

this aspect of my vocation, I felt the invitation to discern if the vocation that I want to pursue

provides peace within myself and the community where I belong. The oldest blessing at least for

Hebrew tradition includes the gift of peace (shalom) which is also part of the task to be fruitful.

Father Arnel Aquino told us, “In the beginning of our vocation we should look whether we are

happy and at peace. But as we continue to pursue this vocation, the next challenge is to know

whether the people around us is happy and at peace with our presence.” This makes sense to me

now given the importance of how I make use of the blessings that I received when God created

me.

Sabbath

It was one Monday afternoon, I was alone praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament and

asking the Lord what He wants me to do for him. Suddenly I heard the noise of someone

cleaning the roof and another wiping the glass of the chapel. I told God, “Lord, how can I listen

to you, I feel so distracted.” And it dawn on me, I felt that God is calling me to listen to him; I

am in the midst of distractions, chaos, and disorder causing the struggle to hear his call. It was a

very clear call for me, God wants me to fully discern and I felt that the Arvisu Candidacy

Program is the opportunity to set a time and space to know God’s will for me.

My first week in Arvisu is also a struggle for me given the change of environment with

new set of people that I needed to get along with. The gospel during our welcome day on July

21, 2018 talks about the invitation of Jesus to his disciple to come away in a deserted place and

rest a while. The word “rest” has kept on repeating in my head since then hence it became the

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focus of my prayer periods. One time as I meditated on this particular word, I found myself

inside the boat with Jesus along with the other disciples. I saw them resting while the others were

telling Jesus their stories of their missions. I also told Jesus of my own stories particularly the

start of my Arvisu program.

I shared to Jesus my experiences especially during the first few days. At some point I

encountered anxiety attacks. The result of the medical exam added to this burden. I was so

worried that they might ask me to leave because of poor health; I have high blood pressure. I

wondered, “Is this the call he wants me to respond?” I might mishear him. Perhaps I do not really

belong here. How can I listen to him if I am preoccupied with all my worries?

In those moments, I poured my heart out to Jesus, to the point of telling him that I am

tempted to jump out of the boat. Then he looked at me, he held my hand and told me “Do not

worry, everything will be alright.” He showed me one of his disciples, Matthew a former tax

collector, who was also not used to riding the boat. Matthew looked not so comfortable but he

just allowed himself to rest.

What I am experiencing is very normal for I am not in my comfort zone. I realized that

resting does not mean I would always be in my most comfortable situation. He even showed me

the image of St. Ignatius of Loyola, how he was lying on the bed in order to recuperate from the

wounds of battle. Maybe he was also not satisfied just lying on his bed the whole day but he had

no choice. As I continue to reflect on this, I realize that perhaps God is inviting me to rest, to

pause for a while. I am very anxious on what will be the result of the candidacy program that I

take for granted the desire of God to heal me first. Like St. Ignatius, this rest does not mean

always comfortable for me. At some point like him, there are wounds that could be re-opened or

bones that needed to be broken again in order for me to fully recover. But I am assured that God

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is not allowing me to rest alone… like what I saw in the boat. In the deserted place where we I

am called, I am in His loving presence.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) God knows the

importance of establishing a time for human to rest in order to repair the disorder and chaos that

has crept back into ourselves and our relationships. The time I spent in Arvisu is my own

Sabbath, to help me discern God’s desire for me. I find the “examen” as my space and time

within the day where I can examine my relationship with God through my various encounters.

The examen is like a “sabbath” within the day. Now, I realized the importance of spending my

time for rest with the Lord in order to repair damaged relationships and an invitation to renew the

call to start all over again.

The Wisdom Tradition

“The skills and abilities involved in daily living are matters of wisdom.” After more than

nine months of my stay inside the Arvisu House, I realized that a vocation should lead one

person towards transformation. My experience and desire of a deeper relationship with Christ

bears fruit of wisdom as manifested by conversion. Familiarity of daily encounter with the Lord

through the examen is the source of my capacity to discern what is good and evil. My spiritual

director taught me that in the long run it will no longer be a battle between good and evil but

choosing better over what is good.

I also learned that wisdom is not only doing the right thing, it is doing the right thing, at

the right time and in the right way. These actions as fruits of wisdom are only possible if I will

be able to develop a discerning and reflective attitude in my daily life. In the university where I

came from, we have this motto: “there is no way but UP.” I think this also applies in my pursuit

of my vocation. Every single day is an opportunity to understand more about myself and the

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most loving way to relate with others in connection to deeper relationship with God. The process

of transformation through wisdom is a life-long process but I am at peace that in this journey,

God is with me.

In twenty five days the result will come out regarding my application to the Novitiate.

After more than nine months of stay in the Arvisu Discernment House, dozens of conferences,

five day discernment retreat, five major interviews, ten individual conference forms, two

feedback sessions, eight hours of psychological exam, forty vocation rosaries, and hundreds of

daily examen, I am grateful with this time in my life. I know that I gave my whole self to the

process of this discernment. As in the words of St. Joseph Pignatelli SJ, “I do not know what

must come to me, but I know that nothing can happen to me which God have not foreseen,

ordained, and decreed from all eternity. That is sufficient for me.”

I started this reflection with the question regarding the finding of meaning in my life. As I

am about to open another chapter of my life, I am grateful that my search for meaning is guided

through a vocation that is called by the first story creation. I have a sense of peace because I

understand that my vocation is a gift from God which started from his own word, “God said.”

My desire is to have a total dependence on God as the center of my life which brings order to any

chaos brought by externalities. The source of my capacity to bear fruit, multiply and have a

dominion over creation comes from the image and likeness of God’s creative power. The

blessing that I received from the beginning continues to impart me a vital power to respond on

God’s invitation for relationship as well as relating with other people. God also provided

Sabbath, a time and space for me to repair disorder and chaos towards continues transformation

and gaining of wisdom as my response to God’s call for me. And in the end of the process, I can

lift up to God the words, “Father into your hands, I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

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