Staying in love and the secret of being beautiful
Love every person that comes your way, love every moment of the day
I recently visited a friend staying in a home for the elderly. She is 70 years old and is living with other religious sisters who consecrated their lives to God through the profession of chastity, poverty and obedience. They are all in their eighties and nineties.
My friend, however, remains very warm, humane and beautiful despite her age. Her energy has subsided a lot but her smile stays very gentle and compassionate.
Nuns come together in Manila for prayer. Religious sisters consecrate their lives in chastity and love that open their heart to everyone who come into their lives. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
During our conversation, she recalled her passion to serve the people in the country's poorest regions. She said she missed the people, the gentle touch, the simple hello, the small gestures of concern, and the feeling of being needed.
Then there came a time that she joined her "co-workers of God's Kingdom" in a place where they rest and do therapy while waiting for their turn to be transported to the heavenly home.
When we talked about the residents of the community, my friend began to look sad. She asked why some of the hardworking soldiers of Christ in their early years have become stiff, demanding, and lonely.
I always believe that those who have established a deep friendship with God and his people will undergo a transformation of the heart. One day, an aging body will give way to a softer, gentler and compassionate soul.
I ask my friend, "What happened to these dedicated women who opted to give up marriage and family life and offered their lives in service to God and others? Why are they not happy waiting for the heavenly home?"
There was silence. We were groping for answers. We had some psychological explanations, but we could not be satisfied. At the end, I said it was a mystery indeed.
My friend's smile, joy, and contentment in that seemingly lonely home are obvious. Her memory would swing back and forth to the warm encounters she had with the poor, the priests, the seminarians, other religious women and men whom she encountered in her life.
Through the years, her consecration to God in chastity became a love that opens her heart to everyone who came into her life, without possessing anyone of them. The poverty she opted became the total gift of herself to everyone she encounters in her life journey. Her vow of obedience was her total and healing presence to everyone in her struggle to live her life to the full.
On my way home, I thought of Pope Francis, the pope of mercy, the smiling pope, Lolo Kiko, the gentle and compassionate grandfather to the Filipino people, the happy pope. I am writing my dissertation about him and the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. I recalled the defining moment that transformed Jorge Mario Bergoglio into a compassionate person.
He had his personal encounter with the loving mercy of God during a confession he made in one of the parishes in Argentina. Despite his being a sinner, he was lovingly chosen by God.
In an interview with Francesca Ambrogetti and Segio Rubin for their book about the pope, Pope Francis said: "I don't want to mislead anyone — the truth is that I'm a sinner who God in His mercy has chosen to love in a privileged manner."
His humility to accept his simple beginnings and his overflowing gratitude for God's loving mercy made him what he is right now: a pope who loves the poor, compassionate to the weak, who kisses the wounded and the "unlovable," who embraces abused children, and finds joy in every little thing.
I am convinced more and more that the secret of remaining young and beautiful is to stay in love like my friend, who remains beautiful inside and stays the same after so many years despite her weakening body.
Love every person that comes your way. Love every moment of the day. Love every little creature that you find in this universe. Stay humble, simple, and forever grateful to God. Happy Valentines Day to All!
Bonifacio Tago Jr. is vice president for academic programs and professor of philosophy at Good Samaritan Colleges in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. He is currently taking up a doctorate degree in Theology in Consecrated Life at the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia.