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"O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me."*
Why do some residents want to leave the facility? Why do they feel imprisoned? What is it in institutions for the abandoned that makes them feel unwelcome?
These questions have been hounding me from the start of our stay at a home for the abandoned (mostly elderly) ran by a religious congregation.
One brother once quipped that what he does not understand is that many residents seemed to show no gratitude. Well, at least some of them, since most are either mentally or physically incapable of deciding or expressing their will and concerns.
But for those who have the mental capacity to decide on what they want, some are keen on leaving, even those who already know that when they leave they have nowhere to go, no certainty when it comes to livelihood, and most probably may be spending the rest of their life in the streets living in a most undignified manner.
"Jesus, hear me," we ask him, but then do we also listen to our brethren in need? Do we allow ourselves to be His ears for our brethren in need?
"From the desire of being esteemed; From the desire of being sought after; From the desire of being loved; From the desire of being honored; From the desire of being praised; From the desire of being preferred to others; From the desire of being consulted; From the desire of being approved; From the desire of being over estimated. Deliver me, O Jesus"
Working in Cebu for more than ten years, I have become so comfortable with the people that I go with, with my work and the perks that come with it, and with all the events that I get invited to that going home to Dumaguete never crossed my mind.
For me, where I was was home because I've always felt the warmth of family and friendship with the people I was with. But there were also times when I would get this urge of leaving a place for the sole reason that I could not be in the same place with a certain person.
I reckon that that maybe what some residents feel. Though they refuse to say the reasons for their desire to leave, you can feel it in their words that they don't feel welcome or that they don't feel at ease and at home.
I realized that at times all we need is a pat on the shoulder or the back; respect for our dignity no matter how difficult we may be at times; and an ear to listen to our hopes, dreams, frustrations, anxieties, worries, and nonsense quips. These are basic human needs.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, O Jesus, but allow me to give myself to those in need of your love.
"From the fear of being humbled; From the fear of being despised; From the fear of suffering rebukes; From the fear of being falsely accused; From the fear of being forgotten; From the fear of being ridiculed; From the fear of being injured; From the fear of being suspected. Deliver me, O Jesus"
Their condition per se, already made them feel undignified.
When previously they were fully able, now they are dependent on others. Even their most private activities like bathing, defecating, or eating, are no longer personal, but public, of sorts.
This humbling experience compounded by their already low sense of worth rooted from the fact that they were abandoned and rejected, one way or the other, by their family and their loved ones triggers a desire for warmth, respect, for dignity. They need affirmation that they are still persons, human beings, and not animals as they feel they are made to feel.
One of the most difficult residents I encountered never makes the day pass without hurling insults and complaints. Despite him bathed in his urine, he shuns bath time and every time he shouts like an angry animal. I was told that there were even times when he would throw feces at caregivers. Why?
One time after bathing him he said, "Thank you for treating me as a person." I was stunned, I was happy.
The abandoned are suffering the pain of being forgotten, of being left behind by the people they love. It is our very obligation to give love. How could we say that we follow Christ if love is absent in the things that we do, when we are ambivalent to others' needs, choosing only to serve when the person to be served are those who are easy to be with?
From the fear of being humbled, from the fear of being ridiculed, from the fear of being despised, deliver me, O Jesus, and grant me the courage, the strength to move on. Egg me on, O Jesus, to continue with this most difficult path, less trodden.
"That others may increase in the world's esteem and I diminish; That others may be praised and I unnoticed; That others may be loved more than I; That others may be chosen and I set aside; That others may be preferred before me in everything; That others may be more holy than I, provided that I am as holy as you would have me. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it"
Despite these questions, despite my being critical at how the residents are being treated, I have to realize that what I perceive may not be what is happening for there is always another angle to a story; the mountain will always have a side that remains unseen.
We were created perfect and so no one is inherently evil, even if in my perspective a person has done something I find disagreeable. That is a fact that I need to fully understand, and my experience during the immersion brought me to the realization that for every wrong we are capable of doing, there is a triggering factor. That does not make a person evil per se, rather it makes him even more human.
But how do I respond? Will rebuke change them? Will criticism change them? Will reporting to management change them?
Love will change them, for sure, and as Mother Teresa said, we are to be the very embodiment of God's love for humanity.
"He (God) keeps on sending you and me to prove that He loves the world, that He still has that compassion for the world. It is we who have to be His love, His compassion in the world of today," she said.
But how can we be God's love if we judge others for their deeds for as she said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
That others may be loved, grant me the grace, O Jesus, to desire it and allow me to be your expression of love to others.
"Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours."
Jesus himself suffered abandonment. He was abandoned by his disciples – Peter, nonetheless; he was abandoned by his people; he was abandoned by the law. (John 18:15-18, 25-27, 38-40; 19:4-, 14-16).
And with this abandonment he expressed his thirst for humanity's love. "I am thirsty," he said on the cross. (John 19:28). But as Mother Teresa articulated this thirst, it is not for water, but for the love of humanity – the pained, the crippled, the abandoned, the rejected.
Would I be able to quench the thirst of Christ on the Cross.
To be the expression of God's love for humanity, by giving my whole self to the service of humanity would be one way. Perhaps not in grandiose ways, but in small ways, done with love. As Mother Teresa would say, "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
Grant me the grace, O Jesus, to be your heart for those in need, one person at a time, that I may quench your thirst for my love and for their love.
This is my faith reflection on our month-long pastoral immersion last August 2015. *The quoted verses are from the Litany to Obtain Humility written by Fr. Charles Belmonte and attributed to Rafael Card. Merry del Val.