What follows is a reflection on weekend apostolate of John Paolo Romero on his weekend apostolate. Paolo is a prenovice of Don Bosco Seminary in Canlubang, Laguna.
My classmates and I were formally accepted as prenovices of the Philippine North Province (FIN) of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB). I see my being a prenovice as both a privilege and a grace from God because of my unworthiness. But this feeling of unworthiness makes me more reliant to God’s grace and providence.
As prenovices, we are sent to different Salesian Parishes every weekend to extend our help and to have exposure in the Salesian apostolate. I was assigned in St. Dominic Savio Parish in Mandaluyong together with Prenovice Romnick. The Don Bosco Youth Center in the parish is very dynamic that I got a bit of culture shock when I first arrived there. But this did not hinder me to express my love to the young people, and to experience the love of God through them as well. This desire manifests itself through my different experiences, both the good and not-so-good.
A 10-year old boy in St. Dominic Savio Parish, Dominic, who is also called, ‘the notorious,’ asked me a seemingly simple question during the catechesis, “Brads, sino po ang Diyos para sa’yo?” [Brother, who is God for you?] Thinking on how to please the boy and make him understand my concept of God in a very simple way, I answered, “Ang Diyos para sa’kin, parang syang hangin, hindi man natin nakikita, pero sigurado tayong nandiyan s’ya, kung wala, hindi tayo makakahinga” (God for me is wind, we may not see Him, but we are certain that He’s around. If not, we’ll not be abe to breathe).
Deep within, I was not satisfied with my answer that I had to ask myself again, “Who is God really for me? The creator? The redeemer? The Father? A friend? Teacher or mentor? Who really is He?” I was thinking on how God is revealing Himself to me in the here and now. I admit that I have never been attentive to this matter before and it’s strange how a 10-year old boy made me seriously think about it.
I note that God has given me what I do not like and has kept me away from the things I prefer – my apostolate assignment, my teaching loads and many other things. Sometimes I doubt whether God wants me to be in the seminary, because what I do not like is given to me. Just like putting a mosquito repellent lotion so the mosquitoes would go away because it drives them away. But looking closely on the situation, I realized that, perhaps, God is allowing me to experience such adverse things in order to stretch me and bring out the best in me. He may want me to be more obedient and stronger in will.
Now, who is God for me? Who really He is for me? He is a God who challenges me so I may become stronger; a God who allows me to undergo desolations in order to relish His comfort; a God who burdens me with so many tribulations so I may emerge triumphant; a God who pretends to hate me so that I may strive with my utmost effort to win His love.
Towards the end of the catechesis, Dominic shared his answer to the group, “Ang Diyos, para siyang kama, kapag pagod na pagod na ako, hihiga at magpapahinga na lang ako sa kanya” (God is like a bed. When I am already tired, I will just lie down and rest in Him).
Dominic, a difficult 10-year old boy, who has changed my perspective of God, of Love.