Is Your Well Empty?

A week ago I dropped (with some difficulty) all my work and other preoccupations, and took a bus an hour and a half out of the city to a Jesuit retreat house, where some of us are now taking a course on spiritual accompaniment. The retreat house is a peaceful place, surrounded by fields and bordered by towering, shade-giving balate trees. There is even a flock of (cute but admittedly dirty) sheep that comes by to graze at certain times of the day!

I didn't quite expect how relieved and light I felt at being here, away from all the usual pressures and things cluttering up my mind. As I breathed in the atmosphere of the place I also came in touch with the deep longing for God in my heart that had been obscured by all these other things. I had felt for some time now in the grind of daily life like I was trying to draw water from an empty well, but was not quite aware of the strength of my desire to hear and talk about God and - perhaps most importantly - to experience God's love…

Living Your Difference As Gift

As someone living and working in another country and culture, I have become quite familiar with the experience of “difference”. Some days I hardly notice it, having lived, breathed and moved in its shadow for so long. But at other times it still impinges, unwelcome, upon my consciousness: when I walk into the lunchroom and don’t understand the conversation with its jokes and innuendoes; when I try to make awkward conversation in Tagalog with the lady I buy vegetables from; or when my opinions on how we should live together as community seem to conflict with those of others.

The first few months of working in the place where I have my ministry now was an especially interesting experience. As a Singaporean with a background in law, newly venturing into research and advocacy on social issues in the Philippines with colleagues who were sociologists, I felt quite often like a fish out of water and unsure of myself. One day as I was relating this to a companion, she asked, “Well, what do y…

How Much is Enough? : Trusting God in the Questions

It’s been some time since I wrote. The intervening time seems to have passed in a bit of a blur. Some moments stand out: the sunset on late afternoon walks home, light moments with the community, surprisingly deep conversations with friends or people I met for the first time, curious dogs on the street, the excitement of children. But a lot of the time has gone by in restless activity – one thing after the other of what I might call work – leaving me drained and looking for ways out of the “productivity trap” (which I wrote about in an earlier entry).

It’s not that the work is not interesting. But sometimes I wonder if it is enough; if it really makes a difference. Perhaps some of this is due to the nature of the work I’m engaged in at the moment – research and advocacy – which has no visible immediate impact; but perhaps in another way it is a question that can be asked about anything that we do.

As I write this I’m sitting in a hotel in Cebu, where a colleague and I have come to do…

Fullness of Life: Blooming Where We Are Planted

Our guest writer this week is Valerie Tan.

I believe that many of us ask ourselves - what can I do to make my life more fulfilling? How can I be happier? And some of us may think that the answer lies in taking decisive steps to discern and effect a change in our external circumstances. For instance, a switch in careers, re-establishing ourselves in a different country, ending or beginning new relationships, etc.

I fully believe that there are times when God calls us to step into new territory. There are times when He leads us to new terrains and new experiences, as a part of our journey to be more fully human, more fully His children. There are indeed times when He will thus call us to take decisive action to move on from where we are, to move us closer to Him.

Yet, there are also times when He says - wait.

Just as it can be challenging to take a step into the unknown in order to move into new places that we are called to, it can also be challenging to sit on your hands and wai…

Why We Have Reason to Hope

A few weeks ago, the day after Christmas, one of my friends was telling me about her celebrations and ended off saying, “My heart is full!” I smiled on hearing that. What a lovely way to describe the overflowing blessings of a grateful heart!

I’m sure the end of the last year brought similar sentiments to many people. I always enjoy our FCJ community’s celebration of Christmas here in Manila as it gives us many opportunities to share joy and special moments with people around us. This year, there was plenty of joy to be had in the smiling faces, cheerful sounds and delicious smells of the season, but what touched me most was several encounters we had that revealed a little of the wonder and vulnerability of humanity.

One of these encounters took place when our community went carolling in a hospital with some of the young people with whom we work. Our objective was to bring some joy and sympathy to those patients and their families who had to spend the Christmas season in hospital. Fo…

Changing Myself

This reflection by Afra fcJ was inspired by the FCJ Constitutions, #276.

I can only change myself….
     What I cannot accept about others
          reveals aspects of me that I haven’t fully accepted
     What annoys me about others and my surroundings
          speaks of disharmony inside me that calls out for balance
     What triggers my disproportionate behaviours
          points to brokenness within me that needs healing
     What inspires me about others
          awakens my deep desires
     and what are my deep desires
          but God’s desires in me, and for me?
I can only change myself.

The time for conversion is today,
     is now.
I don’t have to wait for tomorrow
     because there is always something I can change about myself today … now.
Conversion is continual;
     it is always now.

It does take awareness
It does need humility, and gentleness
     to change myself only
     and to do it now and always.

(I look at my Beloved,
and my Beloved smiles and says,
“I love…

A New Year’s Blessing

Here we are again at that strange, blessed in-between time, between the old year and the new. I always appreciate this interval between the busy-ness of Christmas and the welcoming of the new year – a kind of fallow space in which to gather the blessings of the year that has passed, and listen to the new hopes and dreams emerging in our hearts for the future. It is a time for gratitude, and also for renewing our commitment to what truly matters.

As I looked back over this year, this passage from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letter to a Young Poet” spoke particularly to me:

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems. … I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in t…