The Journey Within
By Fr. Galen Cortes, C.Ss.R.Running around this jungle of voices Trying to catch the rhythm within How many nights shall I wake to figure out my dreams? And as you have said you’ll journey with me, swear to the end?
(1st Par., Music and Lyrics, G. Cortes)
The whole mission area was covered with darkness and the night seemed so endless. There was no electricity. It was about 8:00 pm, the Tatay of the family said, “Father, are you not going to sleep? It’s now late in the evening.” “What? It’s still early,” I said to myself. Anyway, I went to lay on the bamboo floor.
There was a sense of restlessness, a feeling of plunging into the unknown. I was a third year High School student when I had to say what I felt as a result of the building of little events in my life, e.g. learning my first verse of the Bible (Mt.4:19, “And He said unto them “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people,” winning the Vocation Poster-Making contest, the peace situation in my hometown and the passing of the diocesan seminary entrance exams. I told my mother, “Ma, I’m going to enter into the seminary. I’d like to help people and make them feel the presence of God. “Right then and there, she replied, “No. What would you get in being a priest? Beware! I’m going to tell your father and your brother.” (I was informed then later that my brother would hit me should I push through with my plan.) I talked to the recruiting priest and he asked me what I feel. I was silent. Then he visited my mother. What he got was a blunt “No”. I was so sad and anxious. I cried almost every night wondering why they would not support me. Added to this, all my friends and classmates were reprimanded by my parents not to talk to me about priesthood. I felt I was abandoned. My father said to me, “I will stop serving the church as a lay minister”, which he eventually did. Furthermore, he scolded me saying, “Well, if you feel you’re grown up, fly with your own wings.” I said in silence,: Why Lord? When I want to follow you everyone seems not to understand your way.”
The dark night seemed to linger on forever.
“Sir, dine in or take home?”, the lady at the counter said with the background music playing to the beat of “Totoy Bibo”.
I found myself inside a fast food center. People were queuing for their orders. There was a sense of haste, hustling of customers and the busyness of the ladies at the counter while at one corner a family of four enjoyed their meal and each other’s company.
“Why am I here?” I remember the days when I was working. I was a quality control supervisor in one of the export processing companies in Mactan. Years before that, I was an engineering college instructor (ECE) and taught also in one of the local review centers. As soon as I received my first salary, I said to myself, “Behind that, I thought also that I would share my income with my parents, which I did for a time.
One morning, I told our personnel manager that I have to quit my job. A human resource development officer said to me, “Why are you leaving us? Are you going to work in another company? We can promote you here.” Still another said, “I heard that you are planning to enter the seminary. Well, it’s similar to what you are doing now, you will be dealing with people but the difference is that you’re earning money here.” Meekly, I replied, “I’m going to follow my dreams and the best way is to wake up.” When I said that, deep in me, I still felt the emptiness in my heart. I had to find my destiny.
When I was working, I was not that religious in terms of Catholic Church Attendance. I rarely attended Mass, maybe only once a month but what I remembered was, I used to read passages in the Bible almost every night. I had my spontaneous personal prayer at all times. I was searching during that time. Occasionally, I attended UCCP Sunday service, joined Born-Again Bible crusades, participate in Grace Gospel bible-sharing, marched with the Aglipayans and observed Muslim religious rites.
I was disturbed with what’s going on with my life, on the other hand, I was refreshed by music. I joined local music bands which I did even when in high school. I dig music “…still haven’t found what I’m looking for (U2), shout…let it all out (Tears for fears)…Photographs and Memories that’s all I have…(Jim Croce). Needless to say I was “jamming with the Lord”(Bob Marley).
Knock!Knock!Aw!Aw!Aw! came the reply of the dogs in the seminary.
I entered the doors of the seminary. Days before I returned home and said to my parents, “Pa, Ma, I have been following your wishes and plans ever since, it’s now high time that you have also to grant the wishes of my life.” With that, my mother cried, “Son, we are old now. Who will take care of us?” My father said , “We will be missing you.” He added in a light manner, “ Maayo pag gidaghan ta mo sa una, duha ra man gud mo.”
I joined the Redemptorist when I was 26. At that time, I never knew the responsibilities of being a Redemptorist Missionary as compared to a Diocesan priest until I live as one and came to love the Congregation especially the mission apostolate.
While in formation, therewere ebb moments of my journey. I was haunted with the thoughts of my parents who would always say, “Son, you better transfer to our diocese here. You will be near to us.”
While at the same time also, I met my own self with my brokenness and giftedness. Sometimes, I ask myself, “ Am I suited to this calling?”But God has a way and a time of responding. In due time I was reconciled with my parents, coming to accept each other and my calling. I realized they supported me all the way. I was ordained at the age of 34.
Recently, I finished a renewal course in Tagaytay City. I was watershed of my vocation. Thanks be to God, He affirmed that initial calling.I’ve been running away so long and the farthest distance by far is between my reason and affection Am holding on, clinging to myself, numbing with the unknown yet You invite me to surrender For nothing happened by chance to those who put their trust in You And what’s the window for when there are no walls after all…
( Par. 1 Master Artist, Lyrics G. Cortes )