Jesus’ hands

Jesus’ hands

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i meant to blog this entry about a week ago, to be exact, but alas, preparations for mother c’s feast day and other matters in this beautiful journey of life, have pushed this entry to the bottom of my “to-do” list. and so now, with a candle lit to the right of me, i will now dedicate time to blog about this beautiful day which i experienced a week ago. let’s call it, an unforgettable full day of ministry! 🙂

i don’t want to forget this day, which is why i am choosing to blog about it. many beautiful moments happened on this day, and i pray that this may serve as a reminder to me of what a full day, dedicated to ministry, can turn out to look like – surprises and all.

the day started off pretty bad because i lost my ipod. either it fell out of a pocket on my bag or someone snatched it out of my backpack either as i was walking or on the jeepney. so i was pretty upset. i wanna say the first hour that i was at work, i was a zombie, trying to replay what could have happened to it. and i was also pretty upset because after not using my ipod for what seems, the past 2 months, i decided to bring it to work that day so that we could have more access to the music so that the kids could practice for their performances on the feast day. and so, that was that.

well, eventually, i moved on and got my head in the game. norlyn and i are in charge of the 3rd and 4th graders and teaching them, “The Jubilee Song,” but even more than just teaching them the song, we are in charge of teaching them the hand motions too. now THIS is a task. for the past couple of weeks we have been working with them, and well, it’s super difficult! attention spans are short, it’s hot, and let’s face it, they just wanna play and run around. well, “NO children, not yet! there is no time for that right now!”

there came a point to the day when it was so frustrating, that i started to get all scary teacher-like, and told a few of them that they would have to behave, otherwise they could not be a part of the performance. well, i always end up laughing at myself afterwards because half the time, 1) they are not listening to me and 2) they don’t understand me (my language!). so i decided, i needed to take a breather – so i left the room, did other things, and then came back, and saw that they were practicing all nice like. they weren’t screaming, and they were calm, and they were like absolute angels doing the hand motions and gestures. it was perfect! i was so happy! it’s also nice to work with a partner, because when norlyn got frustrated and tired, i was able to take over. it’s a nice exchange!

eventually i thought to myself, see crystal. don’t get worked up so easily…give them some time to get out their energy, and eventually they will get it…and they did! so it was a blessing. it was a blessing in my personal realization and it was a blessing that i was able to talk myself through my angst and frustration too. thank you Jesus for granting me that grace of patience that morning!

i think it was also a stressful morning because as norlyn and i were teaching the 3rd and 4th graders and also acting as disciplinarians (seriously!), i also had parents coming in to practice for the choir (that i was organizing), and i also had other parents coming in to also practice reading, since they would be serving as lectors. so i was thinking to myself – oy vey, i’m in charge of 3 things that are simultaneously happening at the same time. is this for real? the readers also had to translate some things into their own language and have their work checked, so i had to orchestrate that as well! my mind was going crazy, but then i realized. no crystal, you are NOT doing this on your own. so what did i learn to do? delegate! sr. terezinha worked with the parents, the other social worker helped translate, the choir of parents were good sports and helped with the other activities while they waited for the others to arrive, and i got to finish up with my Jubilee group. phew! that sounds so easy like clock-work, but dang, when you are in the moment, it was NOT that easy!

well, then there was a guitarist that was going to help us with the preparation for the feast, and he did not show up when he said he would…so i continued with my parents choir practice, and then all of a sudden, the other staff told me, “crystal, brother is here now to help with the music!” phew! thank goodness! so we all went outside, we had our new sound system in place, and he was leading the songs. PERFECTO. i got a break! you see, it was very frustrating too because for the past year-ish that i have been here, we did not have a sound system. that changes things A LOT. well, we finally really pushed for one, and it finally came this day, that hour for the practice. thank God!

so brother is a liturgist himself, and so he knows pretty much all the music, and not to mention he coordinates his own choir. sooo he is in the know, and i was able to take a break. and a breather. of course, as the person who has been coordinating the choir though, i have my own particulars and my vision of what it looks like. he definitely did not know who i was, but there i was, right in back of him, and also trying to coordinate with the kids. haha, eventually i was like, “crystal. let him do his thing. but you should probably introduce yourself to him because for all he knows, you are some random girl trying to bark orders from the back-seat.” so i introduced myself, and eventually i let him take charge of the practice – part of the difficulty in that moment was my pride – i didn’t want to let go of controlling the situation, but at the same time, i was like, um, no, maybe it’s better that he leads it! and so that happened. 🙂 oh the beauty of being me, and trying to have my way sometimes. but, if i knew what was good for me, i had to let go!

so then as that was going on, i also realized that i had to organize some of the materials that i was going to go over for confirmation class that afternoon. (yup, it was a packed day!) so we finished up choir practice, everyone was organizing the food for lunch, and i was busy making copies and printing off materials for confirmation class that was gonna happen in one hour. but first, i had to eat! that was a great time for me to catch up with brother, learn more about him, and find out that he is one of the DJs on the local radio station, which meanssssssss, yours truly shall be making an audio appearance. i just love how the holy spirit works sometimes! (all the time!) so that brought my energy way up, especially given that there was a lot of laughing involved, and a lot of jokes, and discussion on mission. pretty freaking cool if you ask me. 🙂

so then i hopped into a taxi on a crazy high of being filled with joy at the success of the morning’s activity (despite any of the stresses that i caused myself), and was happy, as i also had a box of jelly beans with me in my bag. i love jelly bellys. so i was chomping on my jelly bellys, and my taxi driver seemed pleasant. i even offered him some of my jelly bellys, which NEVER happens (pretty rare to talk to taxi drivers), but i figured, hey, share. AND it would be nice to change up his day a little bit. eventually we got to talking about my mission and what i’m doing here, and i learned that he is from a province about two hours away and works in baguio city during the weekdays (this is pretty typical). he has three kids all in catholic school, and he was happy with the fact that i was a missioner.

i think i was also interested in conversation at that time, too, because sr. T wasn’t with me, and it is pretty rare that i roll solo. i’m used to her striking up convos with the taxi driver, but i suppose since it was so silent in the taxi, i needed to step up my game, and we were both up for conversation. it was pretty traffic! as usual.

eventually we got to the church, and it was a pleasant drive with nice conversation. i gave him a 10 peso tip, and he was very grateful. 🙂 i get to the church and am greeted with a bunch of smiling faces! my confirmation kids!

ok, so i re-energized myself and got to assembling everyone in the church for confirmation class that day. i went over the rite of confirmation and the symbols of confirmation: the laying of the hands and the chrism. the kids listened and were very attentive. i was just going to teach for a little bit because the liturgical director was going to do a run-through with them for the actual day. well, she wasn’t there yet, and so i didn’t know what to do! we were stuck just waiting…and i think that while i was getting impatient waiting, they were actually fine with it, and we ended up rehearsing the songs for the mass. and well, that was FUN! 🙂 it really energizes me to see young adults really excited about their faith and to see them take initiative. when we started practicing the songs, some of them just picked up the guitar and started playing along to help guide us. it was awesome!

the liturgical director eventually came, and i was just like, dang, thank goodness! as we were going through the motions with the students, she was asking for my input and my ideas, and so i gave them to her, and helped her organize the different aspects of the rite. i remember stopping to reflect and thought to myself, “whoa, crystal, you’re like, doing it! you’re helping to coordinate a liturgy!” it was pretty cool. and then i thought about working with mish at mother cabrini high school and how she was in charge of all of the liturgies and how there were small glitches that may have happened (though no one noticed), but because you know that it happened, it can cause some stress and frustration over it. and so i ended up even having to remind myself, “crystal. don’t worry. it will all be well, and at the end of the day, the kids will be confirmed and it will be beautiful.” so that calmed me down. 🙂 thank goodness! let’s see how it goes on the actual day!

so then, we did a simulation of the “laying of the hands” and the rite with the oil being placed on their forehead with the sign of the cross by the Bishop. so there are about 26 of them, and so they each had their turn coming up to the “Bishop” (the stand in was one of the college kids!), and i remember just watching from afar, and immediately what came to my mind, was this exact picture:

i posted this picture a few weeks ago, when i blogged a reflection on world missions sunday, and this exact moment came to my mind this very day at the church. except it was in real life. i watched the college kid, stand in as the bishop, anointing the forehead of the eager confirmation candidates, and i realized, when the Bishop confirms these candidates, when he places his hands on their heads, when he anoints their foreheads with chrism and makes the sign of the cross, Jesus is standing right in back of him, also, offering that same rite. immediately what came over me were tears of joy – i was overcome with serenity and absolute joy. i thought to myself and felt in my heart, “oh my goodness! the holy spirit is real and SO powerful and how much i want these candidates to truly feel and understand the power of the holy spirit in their lives! and on the day of their confirmation, the holy spirit will just fill this church!” i remember just smiling and being so grateful and realizing again, “wow, crystal. you are getting way more than you ever thought for yourself!”

confirmation practice ended, we had merienda, and i think i skipped to the road as i waited for a taxi. i was filled with joy! i got in the cab and thought to myself, “ah! i can’t wait till i can see sr. t (i was going to their house), so that i can share with her these reflections that i experienced today!). i spent that whole cab ride home just replaying moments of the day and really feeling full of the holy spirit. i paid the taxi man, ran upstairs, yelled, “HERMANA!” (per usual, since WYD!), ran to sister’s room, threw my stuff down on her bed, and just gave her a big hug.

i shared with her my experiences in teaching confirmation that day and witnessing them practicing the rite, and i also shared with her how Jesus was really smart in sending people “two by two,” in pairs. it is so necessary on mission! but Jesus was a good companion with me that day and took care of me. i told her how i feel like God really is giving us more than we truly would ever have thought of receiving. i never knew that i would learn so much about the sacraments. and really, BECAUSE i teach baptism, first communion and confirmation, this means i need to prepare and i need to be an expert. and what ends up happening? i learn SO much! but really journeying with those preparing for the sacraments is where the gift lies. that is what i am finding. not to mention, i think i have a better understanding of the sacraments that i received growing up. my goodness, if only i knew this stuff more strongly back then!

sister t and i eventually started talking about the gift of that community where we serve. it is as if God had it really planned all along. sr. t calls it our “frontier.” it is a place that was really untouched, but was in great need. and what ended up happening? as soon as sr. t and i came, a missionary priest was also missioned to that parish, he welcomed sister and i, and we have been involved in the parish community and its extended community ever since. i still can’t even fathom how everything has worked out the way that it has – so beautifully. sure, there are the mishaps and the unfortunate turn of events that are inevitable, but really. wow, what a gift!

one of the best parts of mission, i think, is the “processing” part. this day was full of go-go-go. and it wasn’t even done yet, because we concluded with our community book discussion, that evening, so that was still awaiting us at the end of the day. but really, some of my best experiences so far on mission have been the times when i just plop down in sister’s room, and we just process our experiences from a single moment, from a visit to a community, or when we evaluate some of our pastoral ministry experiences.

sometimes when we go-go-go, it is easy to get lost in those times, and so easy it is to forget about the great graces that were within those “go-go-go” moments. at least this time, i didn’t want to let this day go without it being put down on copy somewhere. like my blog. 🙂

but all in all, this day was a grace. and i felt really good about all of it. knowing that Jesus literally had his hand on everything that day and just continued to whisper to me, “crystal, don’t get ahead of God’s grace. let the Holy Spirit move…” and that’s exactly what happened.

wow, i guess great things do happen when you give up control and offer it up to God. who woulda thought? 🙂

AMEN.

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