“Life with Christ is a wonderful Adventure” – this was a famous line by St. John Paul II reassuring everyone of the joy in following the Lord.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas is a living testimony to this ‘wonderful journey,’ he shares his adventure throughout his priestly ministry on a Forum at Mercy Café last February 27.
Priesthood: A Continual Unveiling of the Mysteries
Priesthood is a gift and a mystery. The truth is God chooses any priest out of love and the criterion to it is hidden to God alone. The attitude, characters, values, backgrounds, even of whom and when we are called stays a mystery.
Abp. Socrates has one great example of a mysterious call and the good bishop shared how he learned, grew and was transformed by the different mysteries he encountered. One of his many learning that struck deep was realizing the wonder of God’s mercy.
Abp. Villegas was called through the death Bruce Lee, he said he was intrigued in one of the actor’s line “the cup realizes itself only by being empty,” and wanted to die like his idol – to cut the long story short his principal brought him to the seminary where he could die to himself, and he did.
He was also confident in saying that he tried his best to be faithful to his vocation from the start of his seminary formation but he still encountered a lot of disappointments and frustration.
Through these he understood the deeper call of priesthood as he said “My vocation as a priest is not because I am worthy or I passed the exams, it is really Awa ng Diyos (Mercy of God).”
Symbol of Love
When asked what is the definition of Love is the bishop answered that we look at Jesus as the Cross and we see real love.
“Jesus in the cross is the perfect symbol of Love, saying there is no greater love than to die for your friends,” he expressed.
Going back to those mysteries that tested him, there was a specific story he retold. That was when he was advised to leave the seminary after graduation in college – expulsion without probation.
In order to be reconsidered he was sent to Talim Island for two months, the uncertainty if he could still go back to the seminary had a toll on him and soon this feeling of pruning bloomed to a revelation.
“Those uncertainties purify my love and move my love to the ideals of Jesus’s love,” he shared.
He was eventually accepted again and he continued his quest. A lot of defining moments followed and through each of it he became the person we know today, in everything that happened – he was formed to this exact Archbishop capable of being the CBCP President and Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan.
It was not an easy feat, it never is never will be but one striking quote he said was “Mysteries of disappointments and frustrations shaped my understanding that my life as a priest should be a matter of sacrifice” and I will hold on to it. (Errol Fonte)