INVICTUS

Spiritual Reflections By Fr Roderick Salazar SVD (Philippines)

Out of the shambles after the storm
Out of the ashes after the fire
Out of the tears after the parting
Out of the pain after the heart-break
Out of the depth of my soul
Oh Lord, hear my prayer.

Through the hole in the wall of what was once his home,
the forlorn little boy stares, at the camera that tries to
capture his woe, staring at me, at us, through me,
at all of us, beyond whatever it is he sees and feels,
this lost and lonely little boy. Our brother. Our child.
What is to become of him and his family, O Lord,
You know. Please come. Maranatha.

In the midst of the rubble of the Rolly rumble, she squats.
No home to live in, no kitchen to be in, only pots to cook in.
At least, pots, two to hold what rice there may be for the day
heating in the hopeful fire on the stones in the heap
of the mud of the misery that the rains had left behind.

From under the sheets she dries in the sun, she waves
Shirtless he stands and smiles as does his daughter.
There is a camera somewhere and someone behind it
so, hello, here we are, this is where we are, our home gone
or crumbling but hello, we grieve, we sigh, we smile again.

In the flooded street outside shattered houses, they play,
the children in the sitio smiling – how else – waving
at photo-recording of the moment, never mind their names.

In still stagnant water, on the street where they live, they place
a table and chairs for — what else – a round of beer or more.
The men. And she, smiling too, she drinks her drink. The lady.
Lovely and proud in her practical shorts, smiling in the flood.

Meanwhile, all around, everywhere around, from the mud
they pull out the car, the chair, the box. The wood and
crumpled iron sheets they gather and hammer in the nail.

INVICTUS. UNCONQUERED. My nation. My people.

William Ernest Henley. From 1875. He lends us the words:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul….”

Storm-shattered island province Catanduanes, she tries to rise.
Tiwi and Tabaco, near to Mayon, they struggle to rebuild.
Guinobatan, Ligao, Polangui, Camalig, and towns I cannot name,
hit by streaming mud dislodged from quarry-weakened Mayon base, and rolling rocks and more rocks rocking already rock-strewn
ruins of Cagsawa, all slapped hard, very hard by relentless Rolly,
O Lord, please help.

My sisters’ homes, they have no light but You and Yours.
The streets I used to walk in boyhood years,
in the dark, they cry for You. O Lord, please come.

Today, the 4th of November, Feast of San Carlos Borromeo,
Patron of our University of San Carlos in Cebu, today St. Paul tells
the Philippians, people of the city of Philippi, (perhaps also us?
the people of this our nation that would be called Philippines?):

‘God is the one who, for His good purpose, works in you both to
desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning,
that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without
blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you shine like lights in the world.”

Today, the 5th of November, birthday of our SVD founder, Saint
Arnold Janssen, in Your Gospel we read of the Good Shepherd.

You are He, O Lord. Do please come to us, restless little lambs that
we are, and old and stubborn runaway sheep, please come to where we stumble and cry and hide, too proud to call for You,
but come. Please come.

Today, I smile, happy and proud at the news that my grand-niece Andrea, she and her friends, in their teens, are asking the world and anyone for help for the people of our region. Using Facebook and Twitter and beyond, they gather whatever help they can to distribute to anyone in need.

I remember, dear Jesus, that in the Gospel that John wrote, the disciple who bears the male equivalent of the name Andrea, Andrew/Andres, the brother of Simon Peter, is the first, with John, to follow You, asking “Where do You live?” to which You reply “Come and See.”

Andrea and her fellow followers of You, and the many like them,
I see and hear about as they go and see where You live in our neighbors, in our storm-stricken, typhoon-tattered places.
They go around and spread Your love and theirs around.
Please be with them always.

A century ago, uncertain of what would happen to his legs, poet
William Ernest Henley wrote his INVICTUS, since then a stirring poem for darkest nights and nebulous days of many a people
and nation, in war, in struggle, in uncertain peace.

“Master of my fate”,
he said he was, ending his poem,
“Captain of my soul”.

Such, too, we are and must be, O Lord, with Your Grace.

In the dark of our sins, in the face of the storms in our lives
we raise our hands to You.

Out of the night that covers us,
black as the pit from pole to pole,
we rise to meet the DAWN that You are.

Out of the despair that tempts us to stay down,
with William Ernest Henley we rise INVICTUS
finding in our hearts some notes to sing:

“Dawning has just begun,
it is the morn of the dawning of time.”

INVICTUS.

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