For True Love Can be Found in Tale as Old as Time


When you consider yourself a 90’s kid, it is impossible for you not to have come across Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Back then, when it was still in cartoon format, my mother revealed that I sat in the movie theater for more than three hours because I found it that good. On the third run, she said that she had to literally drag me out of the theater and the only thing that consoled me was when she brought me to the music store to purchase the soundtrack which was in cassette tape! The tape lasted for about a month until the film gave up due to constant rewinding. I’m not sure how many tapes I asked my mother to buy. All I can remember is that I found the story revolutionary. The narrator, at the beginning, even asks:  who would ever fall in love with someone as hideous as the Beast?

But watching the Live Action film now at 29, despite knowing by heart what the storyline was, I saw it in a whole, new, different light. Beauty and the Beast speaks of what love is truly about. Beauty and the Beast, in a way, reflects the kind of love that we all long to have and the “love” we should avoid at all cost. And so to begin with, what is love? And how does the thought of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) in Love and Responsibility and C.S Lewis find its place in the scenes of Beauty and the Beast?

LOVE AS ATTRACTION (Amor Complacentiae)

“A human being is beautiful and may be revealed as beautiful to another human being.”

The lesson that the film conveyed was obvious: love looks beyond outward appearances. While Belle was not attracted, initially, to the Beast, she found beauty behind the horrible facade. Getting to know a bit about the Beast’s history and developing an unlikely friendship with her “captor,” she saw “something there that wasn’t there before.”

There’s something sweet and almost kind
But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined
And now he’s dear and so unsure

I wonder why I didn’t see it there before.

On the other hand, the Beast similarly found himself being drawn to Belle who, despite him taking her prisoner in place of her father, showed him kindness he might have never experienced before. He sang:

She glanced this way, I thought I saw
And when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw
No it can’t be, I’ll just ignore

But then she’s never looked at me that way before.

As the days passed by and the two got closer, Belle found in Beast his value as a person. Beast as he was, there was something that endeared her to him. In the next stanzas of the song, Something There, Belle sang of her attraction to Beast:

New and a bit alarming
Who’d have ever thought that this could be?
True that he’s no Prince Charming
But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see.

Note the last line in bold. Wojtyla, in Love and Responsibility, said that “the attraction must never be limited to partial values, to something which is inherent in the person but is not the person as a whole. There must be a direct attraction to the person: in other words, response to particular qualities inherent in a person must go with a simultaneous response to the qualities of the person as such, an awareness that a person as such is a value, and not merely attractive because of certain qualities which he or she possesses.” This attraction to value is the “something in him that I simply didn’t see.” It was Belle seeing Beast in a whole new light: he may not be “Prince Charming” but he was beautiful as a person.

LOVE AS DESIRE (Amor Concupiscentiae)

And so we can find in Beast a transformation too. Even if not explicitly said, he initially saw Belle as  someone who could help him break the curse. As he spent more time with her, he found himself longing for her as a woman and as someone who can be his companion. She was no longer “an object he can use” to change him. Suddenly, he wasn’t alone and he realized that he cannot be alone.

I was the one who had it all
I was the master of my fate
I never needed anybody in my life
I learned the truth too late.

Beyond the need for her to set him free, he desired her as someone he could be with.


In the newest addition to the soundtrack, Evermore, Beast beautifully sang of what he felt about Belle when he let her flee the castle. One heartbreaking stanza points significantly to what C.S Lewis wrote in his book, The Four Loves.

I’ll never shake away the pain
I close my eyes but she’s still there
I let her steal into my melancholy heart
It’s more than I can bear.

As the Beast got attracted to Belle, he slowly opened up and revealed himself to her. Vulnerability is a needed step in any relationship. It actually opens the door to it. C.S Lewis wrote:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

For years, the Beast locked himself up in that tower, thinking no one was capable of loving him and accepting him for who he truly was. It even took time for him to break his walls and “surrender” to love. For the first time, however, he discovered the glory of love and that he regretted learning the truth too late.

In a way, we might find ourselves identifying with the Beast after an experience of pain of loving another. We may have the tendency to lock ourselves up in our the towers of our minds and refuse to give our heart away to anyone. “I don’t want to get hurt,” you might say. But doesn’t true love hurt? When we give ourselves totally to someone in love, or to anyone for that matter, we expose ourselves, indeed, to pain. But we might be forgetting how joyful it is to truly love someone and that that experience of joy should make any pain worth it. Alfred Lord Tennyson said it so well in his poem In Memoriam: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all …”

LOVE AS GOODWILL (Amor Benevolentiae)

One can find a contrast of “loves,” in the film in the figures of Gaston and Beast. While Gaston was debonair and very much handsome, Belle was right in saying that he was “a beast” inside for being narcissistic. At the beginning, we find Gaston wooing Belle in an attempt to have her as a trophy wife.

Right from the moment when I met her, saw her
I said she’s gorgeous and I fell
Here in town, there’s only she
Who is beautiful as me
So I’m making plans to woo and marry Belle.

Gaston’s idea of “falling in love,” was not loving the person for her value but for her physicality. Wojtyla warned that we might think we love someone but in fact we treat them as “an object for use.” In no way should be persons treated as objects to satisfy our needs and desires. This madness and self-love drove Gaston to his rage and eventual demise.

For the Beast, he became truly human because of love and that it even moved him to do the heroic: he let her go. While it may sound absurd-letting go of the one you love– it is an act that points us to true love . The Beast willed the good of the one he loved. At the expense of pain and the possibility that she may never come back, he loved her truly that he set her free to go to her father. He knew that he may remain a beast forever and that the curse may never be broken but he went out of himself, out of his tower, out of his ghastliness and put Belle’s welfare before his own. Even if the physical transformation would not occur, he was able to truly transform from a beast to a truly loving human being.

“Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities inherent in man.The person finds in love the greatest possible fullness of being, of objective existence. A genuine love is one in which the true essence of love is realized–a love which is directed to a genuine good in the true way.”  -Love and Responsibility (Karol Wojtyla)


After Belle’s declaration of love, the beauty of the once-Beast and the castle inhabitants was restored to its former glory. Ah love! See what true love can do? It makes people change for the better, it makes moments of goodness last forever.

I shall end this article with the final song we find as the credits roll: How Does a Moment Last Forever? Listen carefully to the lyrics and you would find the glory of true love. And how does the song point to the Divine, or to God?

How does a moment last forever?

How does our happiness endure?
Through the darkest of our troubles
Love is beauty, love is pure
Love pays no mind to desolation
It flows like a river through the soul
Protects, persists, and perseveres
And makes us whole.

I realized that the reason why that stanza resonated so much with me was because it reminded me of Saint John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul:

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

In the dark night of the soul bright flows the river of God.

Isn’t it eerily similar? Well the composer Tim Rice might have done a parallel thought as he also wrote songs for Jesus Christ Superstar and King David.

Bottomline is, Beauty and the Beast teaches us so much about what love is truly about. And what is true love? Despite the darkness, despite the pain of loving, love endures to the end. It wills the good of the other just like how Jesus willed our good and loved us even unto death.

True love lives on. God’s love for us, like a song, is forever.

Lesley Anne Rosal is a Fulltime Pastoral Worker for Live Christ, Share Christ, which streamlines Catholic Lay Evangelization. She is also part of De La Salle University – Manila’s Theology and Religious Education Department, teaching Theology to college students. She obtained a Master Degree in Religious Studies major in Catechetics at the Don Bosco Center of Studies and is currently completing units and a thesis to graduate with a Master of Arts in Theology, major in Moral Theology in the same institution which is an affiliate of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. She is fascinated with anything John Paul II, Hans Ur Von Balthasar, Karl Rahner and Edith Stein. She loves to bake.

[This post was first published in]


His Beautiful Feet : These Beautiful Feet


My feet aren’t really pretty. It’s rough, calloused and often dry. During my insecure years, it became a source of shame so I had to make sure I always had lotion in my bag and make sure I get foot spa once a month. I didn’t know why then I just really didn’t like my feet. But last weekend, I saw my feet in a different light. I saw that despite the flaws, I had beautiful feet.

From January ’til last week, I have not been able to really let everything sink in. It was only on the Friday just before the World Singles’ Congress of my community that God “caught me captive” in a 12-hour long bus ride due to a missed flight that could have brought me to Bicol in a jiffy. All along I thought I was checked in only to find out five minutes later from the counter check-in cut-off that I should have verified first before I assumed.

So left in the airport with the tarpaulins of Live Life, 20 books of Tito Frank Padilla, flyers for Live Life and Uplift and 2 bags, I took an Uber to the next available bus ride to Legazpi. As I sat at the back of the airconditioned bus after a whirlwind decision, fighting off the what if’s and why’s, I stared out and suddenly in dawned on me that I have 12 hours to sleep, reflect and simply be quiet.

Ah silence. I have been craving for a prolonged period of it since I came back to Fulltime Missionary Work after two to three years “out of it” and since I also accepted to teach Theology in De La Salle University – Manila. In between the two that I’m juggling, some responsibilities remained – I was still a student of Theology in Don Bosco Center of Studies and I was a household servant, a sister, a friend and a daughter to my sick parents. Of course, with all these I had to contend with something that tests my patience each and every time: commuting in Manila Traffic.

So it was not bad after all; God does write straight with crooked lines. Despite the strain in my back the entire congress, I had a different beginning to it compared to the rest of the delegates and it revealed something new about how I saw things and how grace probably changed me…for the better. :p

If last year was a year of testing and grappling in the dark, this year began with a sense of urgency to go out there. It was as if God turned on the switch and said, “Lee-an, it’s time. Go.” From just studying, my schedule became peppered with meetings here and there. Overnights, reading, studying, lesson planning, one on one sessions…it was crazy. I would manage to squeeze prayer in the morning and in the in betweens but I missed how much time I had for it the past year. When I got home, I would try to do an Examen or a rosary only to find myself jolting out of bed at 3:30 am. I fell asleep.

Back to the bus, I was able to savor quiet time with the Lord. I was able to review what happened from December to January and I saw how His faithfulness was pronounced in each moment of joy and pain. It became clearer to me why I had time off to just study – I could better teach now than before. It was also revealed how the dark actually led me closer to the Lord and how being close enough (but not really) can change one’s heart. Somehow, I learned to be a person who would just leave off everything to God.

The old Lee-an would probably be sulking in the airport, crying at the things that were going wrong and complaining about the weight of what I was bringing to Bicol. I was surprised myself at how simple and how swiftly I moved from “What now?” to “What can be done?” How, in my mind, if there was a solution, do it and if there wasn’t leave it up to God. He knows better anyway. I smiled at the thought that I was actually peaceful and happy. That when grace brings you to completely trust in the Lord, things become simpler. The “burdens become light.” Never mind if at the middle of the trip, I was jolted awake by the driver’s sudden step on the brake and the news that we almost slammed into the bus in front of us. Never mind if all the things that were supposed to be checked in had I not missed the flight went flying to all corners of the bus. I was happy. I was peaceful. And I was thinking, “Really, God, did I get crazier?”

I realized that God already showed me what I needed to do in the Kingdom and prior to that, He equipped me by allowing me to stay at the foot of the cross. I was made to proclaim His love in any way I can. I was made to teach who He is in a manner that will “cut to the heart.” I was made to love a lot of people and surrender myself to Him who is Love and who is the love of my life. I was made for mission. And with the “I” came these rough, dry, calloused feet.

Just before going home, I was blessed to be with a group who made stopover in a beach in Sorsogon. While I am not a beach person, I loved watching the sea and putting my feet into its shallow waters. I loved watching the waves crash slightly into me and then get pulled back into the horizon. I loved the smell of the sea. I loved the peace it brings.

Wearing my black sandals which has accompanied me in all the long walks of my life -World Youth Day – Madrid, Asian Youth Day – Korea, Alay Lakad in Antipolo plus the important meetings, talks, events – I slipped my feet into the cold water. The sand was soft and I burrowed my feet sometimes into it. I looked into the horizon and saw how the journey was from last year to that moment. I smiled and closed my eyes, feeling the wind’s chill bite my skin. Even if physically no one was beside me, I knew He was there in the water with me. Watching with me. Breathing in the salty air with me. He was there as He had been with me since the beginning. He never left even if I thought He did.

In my mind I imagined Him beside me. His feet beside mine. His had the bruises that He got from all His missionary journeys. His had the familiar wound from the nails of the cross. And His was beautiful. I looked at mine – calloused, dry and in a way, bruised too. I smiled that my feet was slowly becoming like His. At that instance, I appreciated how mine was flawed. At that instance, I looked at Him and looked back at my feet. They were beautiful too.

These feet have a long way to go. My heart tells me that there is more to be done. There is an ache in my belly to spread His love – fast and I don’t understand fully why. All that my mind can fathom at the moment is that I need to keep walking. If need be, I will even run. Because really, at the end of this race is the fulfillment of something I have been so longing for – one day I will really see Him. Hug Him. Stay with Him for as long as I can.

One day, I shall also kiss His beautiful feet because it was the same feet that allowed me to witness this life like no other.

This Agape Love


There I was in the classroom, discussing to a bunch of college students at 7:30 in the morning, that mysterious and often debated upon four-letter word. Even if the time of the subject and the subject itself – Theology – are challenges already for a newbie teacher, I felt the mood perk up, noticed that eyes were suddenly wide with curiosity and saw that tiny smiles were forming in usually sleepy faces. After each slide of showing familiar references in pop culture, from the poetic to the “jologs,” giggles filled the air. I even caught one student daydreaming as I called her attention. Oh love, see what you can do?

I proceeded to move into the four loves, engaged the class in a banter as I moved from eros to philia and then to storge. As I was about to discuss the love that would be my jumpoff from human experience to Theology, I caught myself discussing something from memory as an example. A prolonged Freudian Slip, I guess? I continued on, replacing “me” with “I have a friend.” And then at the end of the discourse I said, “…and then she found herself falling for this someone and desiring not to possess. Rather, she wanted his sanctity. She wanted his good and she prayed for it whenever the pain would hit her heart.”

“Is that the last love, Miss? That one they call Agape?”

Surprised that one student knew, I nodded, paused for a while and tried to make sense of what I just revealed to the class (who was clueless that it was me) and even to myself.

I clicked the next slide to bring me back to earth and well, this showed up:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

The discussion went on and then I briefly touched Agape just to deepen what love was in the philosophical sense. So I began with Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility to introduce love in its stages – attraction, desire and goodwill. 

  • “The feelings or attraction that one person feels toward another often begins suddenly and unexpectedly, but this reaction is in effect blind.
  • “Response to the qualities inherent in a person must go with a simultaneous response to the qualities of the person as such, an awareness that a person as such is a value, and not merely attractive because of certain qualities which he or she possesses.”
  • “A human being is a person, a person whose nature is determined by his inwardness. It is necessary therefore to discover and to be attracted by the inner as well as the outer beauty.”
  • “The subject in love is conscious of [desire’s] presence, knows that it is there at his or her disposal so to speak, but working to perfect this love, will see to it that desire does not dominate, does not overwhelm all else that love comprises.”
  • “A genuine love is one in which the true essence of love is realized — a love which is directed to a genuine (and not merely apparent) good.”

  • “Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities inherent in man.”

Then came the slide that made my heart sting at the realization that – without wanting, expecting or forcing any of it – I’ve fallen in love with someone I didn’t like to.

It is not enough to long for a person as a good for oneself; one must also, and above all, long for that person’s good.

My questions in my head, the pain I had in my heart and the lesson that I had to finish…imagine all that happening in an hour and a half! I finished the lecture rounding up all disciplines to give reason to the faith and finally relating agape, goodwill and the sacrifice in Calvary.

Fast forward to two chats with a good friend and a Divine Appointment and the acceptance that whatever this is is something beautiful from the Lord despite the many “why’s” that I may ask along the way.

“Basta ingatan mo siya. Alam mo na yun.”

“And that is what you call Agape – desiring the good of someone, loving without expecting anything in return. That love that He showed on the cross, He is letting you experience it in a different and unexpected way. This is good. This is from the Lord. Let Him tell you what this is for – for that person and for you as well.”

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.” (The Four Loves, C.S Lewis)

Funny isn’t it? How what a teacher can be discussing in the classroom will be met by God in such an astonishing way by letting the teacher firstly be a student of life and of the Master she proclaims? 

For whatever this is, I’m not quite sure. So many times I have asked the Lord to take it away only to discover that what is existing at present is actually a gift. From an antagonistic stance before the Giver of Love, from a defensive line “I do not welcome this feeling, Lord,” He transformed that into an appreciation of what is and this: “What a happy feeling this is, thank You Lord.” Which reminds me actually of what my literary hero wrote in his book, The Four Loves:

“Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even to suffer for, God; Appreciative love says: “We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.” Need-love says of a woman “I cannot live without her”; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection – if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.

In a world that thinks love has to be (at all times) reciprocated and that love no longer exists when one is “no longer happy,” I am thankful I am able to experience, even if only a part, what love as goodwill is. I will always be forever grateful that once again, just like what He has been doing all my life (except that now this is a very surprising context of it), I was led to the foot of the cross. Wanting to know, waiting for things to unravel in His perfect time but enduring and pondering everything in one’s heart, difficult as it may be.

I will always be thankful that in my lifetime I found out that such a kind of love is possible to attain – this heartwrenching, painfully beautiful, paradoxical love called agape.

For the Wind will Always Blow Where it Wills


“If it is God’s will, He will bring you there no matter what.” I held on to this as 2016 began. I came out of a room in the Seminaryo with much hope despite the uncertainty. My Spiritual Director gave me a hug and reminded me to “shine for God, Lee-an.” “Remember that the lamp should not be hidden. Its purpose is to shine. So shine, Lee-an. The light is inside you. Shine!”

Two months ago, I was checking the schedule for the last semester I had in Don Bosco Center of Studies. Finally, I thought, this would be the last card I will be signing and the last enrollment I will ever do. As I copied my schedule, my eyes drifted to the schedules beside the postings for the Saturday Master in Religious Studies group. For a moment, I stopped what I was doing and found myself wondering what it would feel if I sat down in the classes in the other department. I smiled, shook my head and muttered, “impossible.” Because even if it tickled my curiosity, I thought that studying with a bunch of seminarians on weekdays seemed out of this world. I had an amazing job then at Poveda and I was happy where I was. Surely, it was just a fleeting “what if” running in my head, right? I can let go of the thought of imagining myself taking Pastoral Communications, Johannine Writings, Pneumatology, Spiritual Theology, Ethics, etc., right? It doesn’t make sense to quit my job, take another path and subject myself to another round of sailing into the uncertain seas, right? Little did I know that those questions actually took root in my heart and that God was probably smiling at how I was belittling how grace can actually work in the seemingly absurd and craziest of situations.

I passed my pink enrollment card to Ms. Gina, beamed as she said, “Matatapos ka na,” and walked away. As I was nearing the staircase, I walked back to the schedule board and checked it out again. I entertained the thought that crossed my mind as I scanned the schedules of those taking Theology: “But, what if?”

“But Father, I am happy where I am. I am having the time of my life! It’s just that, the images of those schedules bother me from time to time. I want to switch my mind off.”

Fr. Mike smiled. “I understand that you are happy but Lee-an, but as if you never learned what God has been teaching you all along.”

“I do not understand.”

“Isn’t there any hint of longing in between those bouts of joy?”

I paused for a while and closed my eyes. As how it was each time I was with my Spiritual Director, some images of the past came flitted into memory and there I felt it – I knew I desired something more even if I was deliriously happy where I was. And then a familiar question, “What if?”

“Imagine you are on your deathbed and the regrets of the past come crashing down on you. If God brings up this “what if,” would you be happy you did not even try?”

It was Holy Week of 2016. I went on an alay-lakad with friends and proceeded to attend the Holy Week Retreat with the Cenacle Sisters. For four days, I was made to reflect on the Gospel wherein Nicodemus spoke to Jesus in secret. I struggled with my “what ifs,” and tried so hard to reason out with God. “I am not brave enough to do something this crazy, Lord.” 

It was a beautiful Saturday night at the Cenacle. I was almost at the end of my retreat and I still didn’t have the guts to say yes to what was glaringly clear before me. I prayed for grace, for a word of assurance, for courage.

“Then we were invited to remember Abraham, our Father in Faith because he put all his trust in God. As somebody puts it very well, trust is the jump we make when we cannot understand anymore. So often in our lives, we don’t under-stand what is happening in us and around us but we are invited to trust. And then, in His own way, God “sees,” God “pro-vides,” and the lamb that suddenly appears –in the bush, in our lives–is the sign of God’s fidelity, the assurance of His presence.”

What is the blessing of darkness? That we become helpless and empty, unable to understand, and yet allowing God to work silently in us, to invite us to hope and trust in Him, simply because Jesus is risen, and His new life is within us, even if it is so hidden most of the time. The spark of the Divine is in us: the fire of his love in our hearts, the light of his wisdom in our minds, even if so dim.

-Fr. Robert Champoux, SJ

The next day, I sat down on my last session with the sister who helped me discern.

“You look very happy! So what was God’s message?”

I told sister that I may not know what may be ahead of me but I am sure that God wants me to take a crazy leap of faith. I may still have so many questions but when has God really failed me in my life? He had always been faithful even if I wasn’t. He had always provided even if I did not ask. And if He loves me this much, who am to say no when He asks me to jump?

“What passage in John’s Gospel struck you the most?”

Fighting my tears I read:

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can this happen?”Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?

-John 3:8-10

He came to Poveda an hour earlier from his scheduled Mass. I was excited to talk to him again as I admired him greatly for his humility and passion. The phone rang in the office and I was told by the President to meet the mass presider in her office. I ran, opened the door and found his familiar smile greeting me as I entered.

“Kamusta na?” He said.

I proceeded on telling him what happened during my retreat and how I finally decided to resign from Poveda.

“You did tell me two years ago that I will leave two years later.”

He chuckled and asked me what my plans were. I replied that I still wasn’t sure yet but I have several options I was currently entertaining. Probably sensing there was more to what I was saying, he pointed out:

“But is that what you truly desire? What do you really want?”

I mentioned to him how I desired to teach Theology and how I’d like to make people understand that it is not simply an intellectual exercise. Theologizing should lead us to a deeper relationship with the One who we are getting to know more and more.

He looked at me intently for a minute and he said the words that confirmed what God really wanted me to do:

“Go take Theology. Take it with the brothers. I will support you. Don’t worry about the tuition. The Church needs people who will do just as you desire.”

“Are you joking?” I clarified.

He laughed and slapped my arm.

“Mukha ba akong nag-jojoke, Lee-an?”

I hugged the good priest after his mass and at that moment I knew that as he wrapped his fatherly arms around me, that was God embracing me and reminding me to take courage.

“This is just the beginning,” the good priest said.

Today, I write this on the last day of 2016. I am now taking Theology with the brothers on…weekdays. How I was able to sustain myself this year was not how I imagined it to be. I lived day by day not knowing what will happen and only hope became my reason to continue the crazy, uncertain journey.

I battled with my questions, I went through the pain of His silence and I almost lost hope.

Do I regret letting go of Poveda? In a way yes. It was painful for me to let go of my students and the family to whose spirituality I attribute much of who I am today. Then again, there are greater desires that I had to pursue and greater dreams that I needed to risk for. God was calling me to something more I know not what up to this very day.

2016 became a learning year for me. I felt the joy of Mary of Bethany as she sat with Jesus and listened to His every word. It was a pause that was needed; an out-of-this-world leap of faith that many questioned. Even I, at the later part of 2016 questioned the Lord again why I had to take the road less traveled when I could be an ordinary 8 to 5 office worker, doing the usual stuff ordinary 29-year-olds were doing.

But as my Spiritual Director said during our session this December, “God called you for something else and even if you may not be the ordinary 8 to 5 Millenial, admit it that you are happier and content doing this extraordinary call. You wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, right? You might be happier than the rest of them are.”

“So shine, Lee-an! There are unlimited possibilities that await those who say yes to His will. Take the lamp out from hiding. Go and let His face shine in you that the rest of the world may see.”

2016 was a year of painful uncertainty but it taught me greatly that when I put my hope in God who is the only certainty, I have nothing to fear. The Wind will always blow where It wills.

So 2017, let’s shine for the Lord. Bring it on. 

Finding Nazareth: Letting Go, Moving On, Finding Home


It was 2011. Clutching a letter I will never send to the person who broke my heart, I approached the life-sized Belen in the chapel of the nuns of the Servants of Saint Joseph. Feeling weak in the knees, I knelt and clutched the letter to my chest. “It is so hard to let go,” I whispered. I bowed my head, trying to fight the tears. But in the stillness of that night on the 29th of December, in the solitude of the provincial house of the sisters who took me in, I wept like I never did in my life.

I felt like a wreck after a four-year relationship. Fresh from World Youth Day – Madrid, what I was half-dreading came true: he left me for someone else. I remember telling the Lord during the Vigil night with the Pope: “If there is anything hindering me from totally being Yours, take it away. I only want to do Your will.” Having an inkling of what God might demand, I added: “But not this. Not us.”

I still held the letter close to my chest. My counselor made it clear the day before why I was with the nuns that night. I had to do the second to the last “letting go letter” and leave it in front of the tabernacle. It was a necessary step in my road to healing. I had to let go. I had to let it go.

I looked at the image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, my eyes blurred by tears. “I was not expecting it would be this painful. I did not ask for pain. Why?” It was around ten in the evening and just like His reply to every “Why,” I was met by something I dreaded. I was met by silence.

“Come to us in Nazareth,” she said after I told her my story. “We just live a tricycle away from the hospital. Come spend a night with us.”

I was still a nurse back in 2011. That week, I was assigned to take care of an elderly nun from a congregation called Servias de San Jose. I recall entering the room filled with nuns who smiled at me warmly as I introduced myself. They noticed the cross I was wearing as asked if I was Catholic. I nodded and told them I just came from World Youth Day. I found myself going back to stay in that room longer after my shift. They made me share my story and I also listened to theirs.

That week, too, my counselor told me that it was time for me to do the second to the last activity: I had to pour out my feelings in a letter to the person who caused me pain. “You have forgiven three persons who have hurt you the most from way back. Before you get to forgive the last person, you must let go of this one.” The last person I had to forgive was me. I would never get to forgiving myself until I let go of my resentment with the others. And so on that 29th of December, I found myself in front of the gates of the nuns who I met in the hospital.

“Welcome to Nazareth,” one sister said.

“Nazareth…Nazareth.” The word “Nazareth” was chanted beautifully during lauds and vespers. It struck a familiar yet still mysterious chord in my heart that day. I knew the Lord was telling me something. But just like how God beautifully writes the stories of our lives, I wouldn’t know what it meant until I finally opened my hands and said: “I’m letting go of the hurt, Lord. I forgive the person. I am finally letting go.”

My counselor looked at me in the eye and leaned forward when I told him why I couldn’t find it in my heart to forgive. With a fatherly tone, he said: “Forgiveness is not a two-way street, my dear. You call that reconciliation. Would God grant us that? Praise the Lord if that will happen! But you see, forgiveness is really something you give without expecting anything in return. Forgiveness is really not to affirm the other that what he did doesn’t matter anymore. Forgiveness is something you do for you. It means that you are letting go of the hate so that light can finally shine through the cracks of your heart. Only then can you be free. Only then can you be at peace.”

I couldn’t still leave the letter in the manger before me. I wasn’t still very brave enough to do so. With a heavy heart, I turned my back and walked towards my room. “Let me do it tomorrow, Lord. Grant me the grace to just let it go.” I remember putting the letter in my Bible that night and just like any other night unknown to the world at rest, I cried myself to sleep.

“Happy Feast Day!” I was greeted by the nuns that morning. It was the congregation’s Feast Day – The Feast of the Holy Family. “You coming here is no coincidence,” the vocation directress told me.

I joined the entire province for lunch and I sat beside a very kind sister. She asked me how my stay was and I thanked her for welcoming me. I told her that staying there with them was a grace from the Lord since I prayed specifically for a place where I can do my counseling activity.

“Did God tell you a particular message while you were staying here?” I thought about it for a moment and I remembered the word that constantly made an impression on me from the very beginning. “There is one, sister. I still do not know though what it means. I only keep hearing the word, Nazareth.” I was sure I saw her eyes twinkle as I mentioned the word. She gave me a warm smile, held my hand and explained:

“You know, Lee-an, Nazareth is where Jesus spent His growing years in. There in that place He stayed with Joseph and Mary. Lee-an, Nazareth is the home of the Holy Family. Nazareth means home.” 

Sister squeezed my hand and looked at me with a gaze that made me tear up.

“Nazareth means you are home, Lee-an. From whatever tiresome journey you’ve gone through, Nazareth tells you: Welcome home. Welcome home, Lee-an.”

I ran to the room where I stayed to get hold of my Bible. I was home! How foolish of me to not let go when God has welcomed me in His home? I opened my Bible to get the letter.

It was gone.

“Well, maybe God did what you couldn’t. He took it away without you knowing. And you know what? That is how He loves you. Maybe He wants to tell you now that you should carry on. He’s got you covered. You only have to be still. When you are home in His arms, you only have to be still. Be still now, my child. Hush that questioning heart and just relish the feeling of being home.”

I left Servias that day with a peace that I knew came from the God who welcomed me home. Did the pain leave with the letting go? No. And it was there as I walked, waving goodbye to the kind sisters, that I realized how forgiveness can give us peace. That kind of peace that sits comfortably with pain and embraces it for peace does not mean the absence of pain. Peace is knowing that you have God within. Peace is being home with the God who loves us.

A week later from the day I left Servias, I received a text from the same nun who journeyed with me. The letter was still nowhere to be found. I remember rushing to the Adoration Chapel nearby filled with joy that God did something extraordinary to remind me how much He loved me dearly. I remember, too, that it was on that day that I began praying for the person who I loved and yet hurt me. Finally, after God affirming me that He wants me to move on, I did.

I gazed at Him and at that moment I knew…I was free.

Five years from that day, I finally found the courage to write this story. Looking back, I do not actually regret having gone through that moment of pruning. Yes, it is painful to subject your heart to the healing process but remember that a plant only bears much fruit when some parts of it gets cut away and pruned. It is only when you allow God to purify you that you will experience incomparable joy and I’m glad I made the decision to let Him have His way in me.

Five years from that day, I am still home. I have found Nazareth and if there is one thing I should not let go of, it’s just that. In God’s arms I am home. Finally finding home, finally finding joy, I am never letting go.

The Voice that will Soothe the Ache


Have you ever felt that one instance among many when you pause and take in the view before you and…you just know that there is more to this life that you live?

Somehow, when you look at the sun rising and setting, you just know that there is this ache to be enlightened from all the mysteries that life brings.

Here’s something you need to ponder on: one day, everything will be put into the light and your questions will have answers. The emptiness that is there, despite you trying so hard to fill it in with the many things that you think will make you happy, will be gone when the appointed day comes that you meet the One who will heal that gaping hole in your heart.

But should we really wait for that day and then spend the rest of our days to while away? Or can we seek to hear an echo of what is to come? Maybe you simply need to take a step to be open to address that ache within.

I believe that when we were born, aside from the fact that the first cry we made was meant to expand our lungs to adapt to a whole new world apart from our mother’s womb, that first cry was the sound of the ache that our hearts make, reflecting the fact that we are not made for this world.

I guess the key is that in this busy and noisy world, we need to be stilled once in a while. The world has forgotten the value and beauty that silence can bring. Maybe because we are terrified of silence?  Maybe because when we are quiet we find that the issues that we have repressed come to the surface? We confront the truth of who we are and why things are?

It will only be in silence, however, that we will hear the voice that will break through the ache. That voice may not give you all the answers to your questions in one go but I’m pretty sure that He will give you one thing that will assure you that in this pilgrimage called life, you are never alone; He will give you hope.

So do not be so cautious with silence. It may be the answer you just need at the moment. Close your eyes. Feel your heartbeat. Lift your hands and with much faith, pray. In the calm, hear His voice say: “Come, child. Come.”

And you might hear a beat
On the door of your heart
When you do, let it open up wide
It’s the voice of Jesus
Calling you his bride.
So listen, little girl,
Somewhere there’s a King
Who will love you forever
And nothing in the world
Could ever come between
You, [my love] and this Lover.

And Heaven’s Only Answer is the Silence of God


There will come a time when the Heavens will lure you into an embrace that seems eternal. There will come a time, too, when it will laugh with you, sending sunshine so beautiful you will smile as it kisses the earth. There will come a time when it will send rain and despite the downpour and the incovenience, you still find a giggle in between sighs. But there will come a time that it’s suddenly quiet. Suddenly, not even an echo of comfort can be heard. Suddenly, the luring will be no more. Not a ray of sunshine. The storm will become unbearable, it will be even harder to hope. Suddenly, your heart shall cry and will ask just one question; that one question that is often hard to confront, often bitter to say: “Why?”

Defeaning the silence will be, it can drive you crazy. You will plead for a drop of consolation to satisfy your thirsting soul and yet everything is dry. Prayer becomes dry. The interior life will be dimmed by unanswered questions. Oh how you wish you can tell others of how painful it is! Oh how wish you can scream! But that will not be so in your everyday dealings because despite the ache, the peace and joy never left. No trace of the agony will even be found when people hold your hand and smile. You will find it insane for pain and peace to hold hands as if they are friends. A hint was all that He will leave you, though – whatever darkness this is, it is absolutely necessary for you. Hence, the peace. Hence, the joy. And you will find it so…insane.

But one day, He shall allow a trickle of water to seep through the cracks; a little ray of sun shall pierce through the gloom. Oh how this heart missed You, you will exclaim, and you want to savor in the moment. Then there it will be again, that dreaded silence you wish would just end.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”40When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

-Matthew 26:36-46

Yet even if the Heavens will seem asleep while you weep and even if the world around you will be oblivious to your aching, take comfort in the words He said: “Get up and go.” You shall not remain slumped in that dark road forever. Learn to walk in the dark, He will seem to say. Put your hand in your heart and close your eyes, letting the peace affirm the thought that even if you cannot see, feel or hear, you know He never left; He is closer to you more than ever. You know how this will all end. He is and will always be anyone’s ultimate end. So you then will walk and the traces of fear shall be overcome by grace. What will be left of the questions is the one you know that will get you through this life with much contentment and joy: “What do You want me to do?”

I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved; all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

-St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

Then later on you shall find a glimpse on why He said that it was absolutely necessary – this silence you wish to get away from: the longing for Him will bring you to find Him in others. To quench the thirst, even a little, you must share the water in your well to the one who will come to you and ask: “Where can I find this living water?” Go smile and find joy because the silence will caress you to love as He has consumed you with love. You will suddenly have this courage to head to the cross.

The dark will not seem so dark any longer. Hope will be revived in the heart. The aching for more will no longer be a bother “in this holy lonesome echo of the silence of God.”