Seminary Memoirs, 1

There are days that life in exile takes all the virtues in you and you just simply take everything in stride. 

Or at least, that is what you think is the better way to do especially when everything seems to go wrong, and all those things that you do right, or at least you believe they are right, do not seem to end up the way you have expected.

Somewhere back in time, I remember: that I was once a prefect of students and in the seminary where I learned to pray and pray harder and learned the rudiments of humility and learned the hard way the wages of self-promotion. 

One thing good with seminary life, if at all it ever comes to a point that the world will turn upside down and that theocracy will take the good part of our reason and allow the men and those pretending to be men of God to rule over our affairs and our lives, private and public, is that you learn to be grounded. 

The humus, the earth, the good earth, is your ground. You learn to have your feet firmly planted on that ground or else you go the way of them the nuts who think of salvation as recitation of the rosary hour after hour after hour.

Which is not the case, as the empirical life of priests and clerics and them who have gone into the X-route (those X-men and former men) would reveal: Those who have had the taste of freedom in seminary life despite the walls, despite everything walled, despite the walling of their desires, and the walling of everything that can be let loose are those people who gain wisdom to see life more fully in the round, life lived in fullness of vision and in the sweetness of surprises, life lived in fidelity to the promise for both joys and its antithesis. 

And these people get to become better people--and thus, better priests.

Those who have not done any wrongdoing will go the way of priesthood with a breeze, for certain, because they do not make troubles, they do not rock the boat, they do not challenge the status quo. And for priests who are eternally infantile with anything that has something to do with relationships, this is exactly what they want: no more troubles now.

In all four seminaries I have had the chance to take part in the (de)formation of seminarians, I have both been lucky and not lucky: some did not like me, some tolerated me, some liked me a lot, the last group for obvious reasons. The devil, truly, likes company, in much the same that misery does.

But our misery in these seminaries both as a former seminarian and then as a teacher was of the metaphysical kind, a la Albert Camus, with his idea of the metaphysical rebel who despaired before all that is logical and convenient and comfortable. I am pretty sure that many priests teaching philosophy in the seminaries do not like him, this Camus guy, and neither that other misbehaving existentialist guy Jean Paul Sartre who even wrote an intro to the Frantz Fanon oeuvre on the mischief of colonialism and its impact on the minds of the young, the people, and society at large. 

I was the opposite of everything good in the seminary, I suppose, because I thought Marxism that was also some sort of good news for the oppressed, I taught existentialism and all the other things that could render the faith of the believer shaky and unsure even on firm ground. Ha, Socrates, you did a lot of good afflicting the comfortable, and comforting the afflicted. 

But I was a prefect of students--well, it was called dean of students then--a lousy title, if I may be allowed to say so. My charge: the sophomores. Where are they now except that like me, they are nowhere in the hierarchy of power of the triumphant Church. 

I am not sure now how many of those under my watchful--and carefree--care ever made it to the seminary--this word 'seminary' does not give me good thoughts, I tell you!--and then eventually to ordination time. 

Now, now, I am not sure, unless somebody out there will please stand up and be counted and testify that, indeed, indeed, I was a good man, and that, I taught my students well when I was their, ahem, ahem, prefect, or dean of students, or whatever that you call these titles now to hide the fact that, indeed, indeed, you are the seminary's Dobberman or Pit Bull or German Shepherd without the dog food but with graces earned from the heavens for your salvation in the afterlife. 

O, I remember one who made it to priesthood but is now in New York or New Jersey, I do not know which now and which side of the bridge or river in those parts is he really from, except that he does transportation work for some Asian airlines and had to go to other places and climes to train people into becoming better servants of airline passengers whose egos are sometimes as big and ferocious and fiery as the bursting Mayon, with lava and ashes and mud and vlog, this last one I learned lately from some volcanologist in these parts when I was asked to translate into Ilokano what the hell was going on in these islands, my islands, of fire and wrath.

But that is beside the point now.

The point is that the seminary is a couldron.

There you are either gold, or something closer to one. 

And if you are not one, get out so quickly because there is no point testing your goldenness if all you have are the 'kalawang' for the karat. 

No way, Jose, they say in other other part of the Pacific where I resided once for a number of years: No way, Jose. 

No can, no can, they say down here in Honolulu. No can gold if you no gold, no ken, no ken, the Ilokano speaking pidgin would say, a language I have learned to love and which I have vowed to learn quickly so I would be able to claim my rightful place in these islands, my islands. 

The second point is that the seminary is a snake pit.

You do not want to be bitten by venomous snakes, get out. 

There are no sacred tourniquets for the snake-bitten soul. 

Either you live it through, the dubiously heavenly venom in your body so that when the time comes, you can bite others and transmit the venom, or you climb through the great walls, in many ways like China's, or sneak out through the main gate when the 'sikyo' is not looking.

Or, if you are smart enough, give bones to the real dogs each evening, the big bones of red meat. But before you hand the bones over to the canine enemies of thy kingdom come, salivate as much as you can as if you are Pavlov's dog awaiting conditioning, and when you have produced enough saliva, spit on the bones, spit on them so generously, and in the deep dark, give the bones to the dogs as if you are making a sacrificial offering. You do that night in and night out until one day, until one day, the canine enemy shall have become your best of the beast of a friend.

Then you can plot your escape.

And you can go out any time you want and sneak in before the first bells are rung early at five o'clock when the hills in the east are still dreaming of the early morning sun.

Ah, seminary tales are tales of wonder and surprise and terror and one day, one day, I will write about them all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And the holy, the holier, and the never mind. 

Hon, HI
Sept 29/08 


Bukidnon said...

I'm tempted to add your litany with mine.

I also had a good share of the good, the bad, and the ugly seminary life can offer.

To test whether your were disliked, tolerated, or totally liked by your students before, I have this to say:

Those who disliked you failed to appreciate the colors and hues of life outside the walls of the seminary. In other words, they were the myopic creatures on the hills.

Those who really liked you understood fully well that while is unfair (in many counts, do not argue please), it has to be lived fully well, minus the pretensions of the misfits and the holier-than-thou.

Never mind the centrists.

ariel said...

Gee, you are darn right about our share of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I would like to read your memoirs as well. what about if we pool our tales and come up, for fun, with a book? forget history, the tale is more important, the tale and its promise and its surprises, and careful now, its terrors.

Bukidnon said...

I'm itching to start working on that "Tales" already. I have a title in mind, "The Tales of the Hills." It's gonna be a bestseller, mind you. Generations of young seminarians will find joy reinventing and reliving these tales long after we have told them all in the book.