I am Home

By: Fr. Nilo A. Lardizabal, OP

(A Reflection Celebrating Five Years of Priesthood and Ten Years as a Religious Dominican)

A relative once visited me in the seminary in Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City and asked: “Aren’t you coming HOME for the holidays?” I answered: “I am home.”

Though that response was quick and prompt, it did require a little reflection on my part because that fact was both sweet and bitter. The life that I chose as a religious has always been a beautiful one. That’s easier said than done though. Mind you, it isn’t devoid of troubles and quarrels; but seeing it from a greater perspective – the life of prayer, assiduous study, community life and simple joys and trials that go along with it, I learned with patience and hardship over a long period of time. This makes me firm and happy with what I have.

Young students ask me if I get envious whenever I see young couples together, and loving each other. I say ‘yes’, especially when in a jeepney they show their affection in front of me. Of all places! But then I recall the decision I made. The choice to be a religious was mine, with God’s mercy, and that of my community of brothers. These young couples have something that I do not have. That’s a fact. But I also have something they do not have – the gift of a religious vocation. And like all gifts, it is what I treasure.

When I was a student of the Masteral Program in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas, thrice a week I would come home late because my classes were in the evening. Sometimes though I would arrive at a time when the brothers were praying the Vespers, or the Evening Prayer. Hearing the hymns and the psalms being chanted gives me a sense of peace and serenity of home. Of course, a voice may fall out of tune here, or a falsetto would come out of nowhere, but I am home. These are my brothers, I thought reflectively, and this is my life.

Once a brother made me furious over something, and the whole day that irritation was with me. Then in the evening before prayers he just smiled and embraced me. All the anger was gone in an instant! How can I not forgive? He is my brother, and I too must love him. I said to myself: “Lord, this is an injustice on my part. I was mad the whole day, yet you gave this one instant when I can forgive him.” This makes the life of a religious special in its own way. There is “space” for misunderstanding of course, but a whole “room” for charity.

It’s funny but the ever-popular “Pinoy Big Brother” mania is all too common to us religious. This was popular in years past but no longer today. Imagine living not with ten people but fifty! But in the seminary, we do not call them housemates, we call them brothers. Imagine sharing all the heartaches and joys. Listening to them and being listened to. Religious life is a constant living out of the virtues not for oneself but for others. We are not perfect individuals; we do not live in heaven. But we try our best. Offices, classrooms and sometimes homes seem to be full of chaos and strife; and it will remain such if there is no desire to be humble, forgiving and loving. Our communities of friars are expected to learn these difficult virtues also. The challenge belongs to us too.

I wonder why they call it a “Big Brother House” and not “Home”. Are they there just to survive? Are they mere competitors? More than that though, it involves a discovery of oneself and others. Home is where the heart is, a saying goes. I think it means giving yourself whole and entire to your neighbors, to your housemates, to your brothers. It makes living with others worthwhile.

Another relative asked me: “What does it feel losing your family when you entered the seminary?” I remarked: “I did not lose anything. I gained more. What does it feel to gain fifty brothers instead?”

( Fr. Nilo A. Lardizabal, OP, is a regular writer of this magazine. Only 33 years old, he is a missionary in Surabaya, Indonesia, and is the current Vicar of the community. With a doctorate in philosophy, he teaches philosophy and theology at the major seminary in Surabaya. )

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