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Renovation Of The Daughters Of Charity
Date: March 25, 2014


Introduction: The Motto

The motto of the Daughters of Charity, as chosen by St. Louise de Marillac, is taken from 2 Cor. 5:14 “For the love of Christ urges us”—though her version augmented its theological meaning by adding the qualifier “crucified”. What does this passage mean? At first glance, and as we commonly interpret, it points that the act of loving of our Lord is the one urging or compelling us to action. The burning flames in the DC logo encompassed by a huge image of the heart clearly emphasize on the love of Jesus for all of us, evident in His sacrificial dying on the cross. Moreover, the Filipino translation in the bible “Ang pag-ibig ni Kristo ang naghahari (o sumasakop) sa amin” goes along the same line of thinking. However, it is good to take a second look at the text and attempt to understand it not according to the eyes of St. Louise and spiritual writers, but on the spectacles of the author himself of the 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Doing so may enrich our perception of the pericope.

The original bible version is not in English but in Greek: ἡ γὰρ ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς “hē gar agápē tou Christou sunéchei hēmas”. Just like most ancient languages, Greek doesn’t use a lot of prepositions as English does. The inflection and change on the endings of a root word seal the deal. This is called the declension of a word in Greek Grammar. If transcribed literally, the phrase may look something like this: “Because the Love the Christ Urges Us”. The first part appears meaningless but the word “the Christ” here is in the genitive or possessive case that can mean any of these 4 possibilities:

  1. Christ is the subject of the action, the one loving us (nominal phrase, e.g., “commandments of God” = God is commanding): “Ang pag-ibig ni Kristo”
  2. Christ is the object of the action, the one receiving our love (objective phrase, e.g., “fear of the Lord” = we fear the Lord): “Ang pag-ibig kay Kristo.”
  3. Christ is a descriptive identification of “love”, the one who is the personification of love (apposition, e.g., “Friends of St. Vincent” = Vincentians): “Ang pag-ibig, na si Kristo…”
  4. Christ is the origin of love, the one who gives us the grace to be able to love (genitive of origin, e.g., “the ring of gold” = golden ring) “Ang pag-ibig na nagmumula kay Kristo.”

At this point, you may be getting annoyed with this trivial linguistic exercise and your question may be: What value does this exposition bring us as we renew our vows today? I say, “a lot”, because it will characterize what personal spirituality do we advocate as a Daughter of Charity. Allow me to explain the 4 different nuances, and let us check which frame of mind you belong:

(1st) Christ is the subject of the action, the one loving us: “Ang pag-ibig ni Kristo.”

This is when you believe that God is the one sustaining you to go on and on in your vocation. It is like being magnetized by an uncontrollable force, and you can’t help but be hypnotized and continuously awed by Christ’s overwhelming act of love. Subsequently, you just have to follow where the Spirit prods you to go, without concrete plans, without specific lines of actions, without objectified goals. Eto ‘yung madreng hindi gaanong nagpaplano sa buhay, pero lagi namang handa kahit saan ma-misyon, nang di umaangal. Hindi siya conscious kung pumalpak ang trabaho, basta ang importante ginawa niya ang lahat at sinunod niya ang Espiritu. ‘Pag pahugasin mo s’ya ng pinggan, walang problema; ‘pag utusan mo sa palengke o bangko, walang problema; ‘pag ipadala mo s’ya sa bundok, walang problema; ‘pag gawin mo s’yang Sister Servant, malaking problema… pero susunod pa rin dahil ‘yan ang sabi ng Espiritu. Samakatuwid, kahit saan mo siya dalhin, kahit anong assignment, kahit anong trabaho, kahit saang lugar, kahit nga sa Assumpta Park, walang problema. We commend sisters like this, who are very much open to the signs of the times, and to anything surprising she may encounter along the way. Nowadays, we generally tend to be in control always of our own schedules, calendar of activities and even our future. Let us learn from the examples of spirited and humble sisters in our communities.

(2nd) Christ is the object of the action, the one receiving our love: “Ang pag-ibig kay Kristo.”

This is when you think that it is your discipline, sacrifices and idealism that keep you going in your vocation. You do a lot of efforts to keep the zeal for souls ablaze, for you know that, just like a charcoal that is unguided, it will soon lose its warmth and fire in the dangerous open air. Thus, you spend a lot of times in prayer, studies, meetings, and careful plannings in order to keep abreast with the Vincentian charism. Eto ‘yung mga madreng seryoso’t dedicated sa trabaho at sa schedule. Bawal ang tamad sa kanilang bokabularyo dahil sila yung magbubuhos ng lahat ng oras para lang mapaganda ang apostolate at maibigay ang serbisyong dapat. Gagawin nila ang lahat para sa ministry, kahit mapuyat sila, kahit mapagod sila, kahit maubusan sila ng icecream sa refectory, kahit ma-miss nila ang tele-novela. Naniniwala sila sa kasabihang, “If you keep the rule, the rule will keep you.” Dahil kapag tayo’y naging pabaya, makakain tayo ng kultura ng mundo, at mawawala ang ating totoong layuning maging tunay at tapat na simbolo ng presensiya ng Diyos sa lipunan. We admire sisters like this because in a pervading culture of mediocrity and comfort, very few would be “all-out” into the ministry and into the ideal lifestyle of a religious. Let us be inspired by their Christ-like sacrificial self-denial, all for God’s glory.

(3rd) Christ is a descriptive identification of “love”, the one who is the personification of love: “Ang pag-ibig, na si Kristo…”

This is when you simply see Christ in everything, being true to the statement of Jesus in Mt. 25:40 “Whatever you do the least brethren of mine, you do unto me.” Here are sisters who wear a huge smile, who walk with an air of happiness, who exhibit a person-oriented nature, for indeed they see Christ in each and everyone. We can’t understand where they get their never-ending joy, but they seem not to lose it, even amidst difficulties, conflicts and rough roads. Probably, they find inspiration from what Pope Francis tweeted last Jan. 30, 2014: “I cannot imagine a Christian who does not know how to smile. May we joyfully witness to our faith.” Further, the Holy Father addressed earlier in October the sisters of Santa Chiara in Assisi the same thing: “I am so disappointed when I meet nuns who are joyless, who may smile with the smile of a flight attendant but not with the smile of joy that comes from within.” Sila yung mga madreng masarap kasama dahil laging may ngiti, hindi mataray, hindi nakasimangot, hindi sumisigaw, hindi magagalitin… in short, hindi suplada. Sila yung kahit pagalitan, kahit may problema, kahit may sumpong ang SS, at kahit nga ata tulog ay nakangiti pa rin. Sila ‘yung ‘pag kausap mo, feeling mo, ikaw lang ang tao sa mundo, dahil pahahalagahan ka niya. How the world today long for religious like this. The society nowadays doesn’t expect us to be builders, giants and mavericks. They simply need us to be happy in being holy, so that they may also aspire to be happy in their struggles towards sanctity.

(4th) Christ is the giver of love, the one who gives us the grace to be able to love: “Ang pag-ibig na nagmumula kay Kristo.”

This is when you believe that everything in this world is a divine gift from our Lord, because He is never outdone in generosity and His life on earth is a true example of how is it to give without counting the cost. Henceforth, all are called to share and partake of God’s blessings by sharing it to one another. Here are sisters who are very generous of their time and treasures, who are true mothers to anyone by their helping ways and nature. They are sensitive to what another sister needs, and are always ready to help, even when not solicited from. Handa silang magbigay kahit ano, kahit kanino, kahit magkano, basta meron sila. Kahit nga wala na sila, ibibigay pa rin ang mga pagkain, kape, at de-lata ng community makapagbigay lang. Kahit parang mali, OK na rin ‘yun, tulong na rin sa mga kasama niyang madre sa pagpapapayat. Kaya nga lagi siyang may dalang bag… kahit sa loob lang ng compound, para ‘pag may emergency, meron s’yang maibibigay na Maxx Candy, Sky Flakes, Paracetamol, Tiger Balm, Plastic Bag, 3-in-1, at kahit isang rolyo pa ng tissue paper… again, for emergency purposes! Para s’yang walking 7-11, puno ng grocery, 24-hours open, self-service, and the good news is: everything is for free! Kahit walang-wala na siya, magbibigay pa rin… dahil ang prinsipyo n’ya sa buhay ay: “Kaya nga ako tinawag na Daughter of Charity para laging maging charitable at mapagbigay sa lahat.” Let us be inspired from the examples of these sisters who think firstly of others before themselves. Christian faith anyway is all about giving and they are just being true to it.

Conclusion: Understanding One’s Uniqueness in Community-Living

To recapitulate, what we just presented are the dispositions of each sister according to our interpretation of the Greek phrase τοῦ Χριστοῦ “tou Christou” or “the Christ”, which can be illustrated by 4 H’s: Humble, Heroic, Happy, and Helper. You may be asking right now: “Which ‘H’ should I be if I want to be true to St. Paul?” The Apostle of the Gentile said in his first letter to the Corinthians (12:4-7): “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit, there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We are not here to choose which school in understanding our motto is the best. All of them are possible meanings since the original is in Greek, which is quite Providential because it allows us to understand the text in varying facets that opens the door for a plurality of ways and frame of mind in being a Daughter of Charity. What is needed, hence, is an understanding of each one’s uniqueness, an openness in one’s ways of expressing her spirituality, and a discerning spirit to learn from the beauty and sanctity of each other. Whatever may be the expression (i.e., you may be in any “H”), the important thing is that this urges or compels all of us in our mission, that our goal of living our charisms is never compromised, that we make a difference in the lives of others, and that we achieve the most important “H” expected from all us by God: Holiness.

 

By: Rex F. Fortes, CM

March 25, 2014

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