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Yellow Flowers

Sister's Corner


My Testimony

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16, 2015

Year of Consecrated Life

Good morning!

I dare to stand before you today to give testimony of the Lord’s faithful love and the enduring, loving presence of Our lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I am Sr. Azucena Marie Ong.  I belong to the community of Carmelite Sisters in this Monastery, but I am not bound to Papal Enclosure because I am an extern Sister.  I share the same spirituality with the Enclosed Nuns but I am especially devoted to the external service of the Monastery which cannot be performed by the Enclosed Nuns.  I find joy in serving others, in serving my community, and at the same time, I could sit quietly at the Lord’s feet and listen to His words, like Martha and Mary merge into one.  If Mary has chosen the better portion while sitting at the Lord’s feet, and Martha was busy with serving the Lord, how would it be like if I choose to be both.  Isn’t it the best portion which I should not be deprived of?  The silence and solitude of Carmel is also mine to enjoy when there is no exterior duty to attend to.

1973 Nov 9 - The Out-Sisters taking their time out with Mo. Marcela and some friends

Before I entered in this Monastery I was aware that Carmel is a powerhouse of prayer.  It is where the Nuns meditate day and night on the Law of the Lord, praying and offering sacrifices and oblation for the Church, for priests and for the salvation of souls.  But I learned and was made to understand that in Carmel there are no limits to prayer. . .  as long as one is present to God it is enough – because a Carmelite depends on God alone.  It is the experience of God, direct and intimate, that zeal for the salvation of soul originates and through it also, the apostolic and missionary fervor overflows.

I heard about St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of the Child Jesus.  They were cloistered, hidden in solitude and silence.  They became great mystics but they were also great missionaries.  They simply allowed God to possess them, but not without being conscious of their own imperfections, not without their tears and struggles, not without the dark nights and the cross.  I love to think of them, of their zeal for the Lord and for souls.  And I am inspired to follow in their footsteps.  Like them I dreamt of the pearl of great price, and I wanted to find it in Carmel. But first I must learn the value of detachment, which is never easy.  I have to sell everything I possess, everything I like, everything comfortable and easy. 

My family had a little business in the heart of the city.  Even in my young age, I used to sit at the cashier’s desk to receive payments and to count money.  I was living a comfortable life, full of zest for the business we were into.  Then curiosity of the things which are religious just entered into my world.  There in our little store I met Sisters from different Congregations doing errands for their community.  Since I was very friendly I made conversations with them and before I knew it, there was some longing in me of a taste for religious life. It was creeping into my young heart slowly but firmly.  Perhaps God sent them to me, I would tell myself.  There was quiet joy every time I think of this.  The pearl of great price was beginning to haunt me.

          And so, I set out, despite the objections of my family, especially my father, to search for my heart’s desire.  I entered Carmel without the permission of my father but the community decided to send me back home.  Was it not God’s will for me to be in Carmel?  I could only submit humbly to my seeming failure but the restlessness never left me.  The pearl of great price was a haunting melody.  I did not give up!  The second time I run away from home, nothing could stop me.  Or perhaps it was the work of the Lord . . . this nostalgic call to detachment which was echoed by the Prophet Hosea:  “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak to her heart.”

I was plunged into the wilderness of Carmel.  Life was never easy.  The journey, indeed, was sometimes beyond my capacity to bear.  I was not accustomed to the hardship, the rigor and monotony of life.  It was an exodus from a soft bed to a hard one; from sumptuous foods to strange menu that I have tasted for the first time; from the sweet scented and comfortable fabrics I wear to a rough and uncomfortable religious habit, and many more. . . Then one afternoon, I was informed that our house was in flames, nothing was left except the precious lives of my family.  Many times during prayer I asked the Lord if I could last for another month.  And then, when the night was too dark, God spoke tenderly to my heart. It was all worth the price: to feel the love of God, to be assured of His presence, what more can I ask?  He became my rock!

My Papa was not a Christian but my mother was a pious catholic.  She made sure her children were baptised in the Catholic Church.  Papa had a great respect and love for her that he allowed her and all their children to practice the faith.  Mama died when I was 2 years old. I did not grow up with a mother’s presence in the house.  Since I am the youngest and the apple of my family’s eyes, I was filled with loving attention.  St. Teresa was 12 years old and St. Therese was 4 years old when their mothers died.  But they were not wanting with a mother’s love and care because they found a mother in the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Knowing this, I did the same.  I entrust myself to Mary’s protection and guidance.  Sure, indeed, in her own discreet way, Mary holds me by the hand.  How did I realize she was there for me?

 Papa came to Carmel with his tears and urgent pleading:  “Ako wala asawa liwat, bantay lang Inday.  Ako bayad simbahan gwa lang Inday.”  My heart would almost break.  The community left me in the parlour with Papa, giving me the freedom to decide.  Besides, they couldn’t bear Papa’s crying.  It was a terrible anguish for me. . .In the heart-breaking presence of Papa I was speechless.  I could only look at him in silence.  I believe I have chosen the better portion.  Shall I be deprived of it?  But something did happen. . . I didn’t know how long we were there in the parlour.  I just felt the embrace of Our Lady, and as if I was standing on a rock.  Then Papa turned towards the door and heeded for home.  I was left in peace.  After the anguish, the best portion is still mine to relish, I only have to keep still – and the rest is history.

There is one last beautiful experience which I would like to share with you: I have failures in my response to the Lord’s bidding to be holy – to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.  But one thing is most certain:  The Lord loves me despite myself.  His promise never fails. Papa has learned to accept wholeheartedly my vocation.  In his hospital bed a priest came, without our asking for one, and he administered the sacrament of Baptism to Papa, just before Papa died. God’s perfect timing, indeed!  How can I thank God for this?  It was more than I could ask or imagine!  That’s how faithful and true God is!  And I know, Mary’s hand was also on this.  I did try to do what her Son tells me!  And behold! I got what my heart desires. 

The journey is still long for me.  But, I am happy.  Christ, my Rock, loves me and gave Himself for me. I can only sing His mercy forever!  In my joys and difficulties Mary’s love and protection enfold me.  She is my loveliest Azucena, perfuming my life with her motherly presence. To her, I, with the empowerment of my community, will not cease to sing a song of praise:

          Pagdayawon ang imong himaya, O Maria, nga Iloy sang Dios. 

          Bansagon ka sa tanan nga duta.  Azucena ka nga maamyon!


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