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Oct 01st
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako A Blessed Day, A Special Day: "Dining in Carmel... ites"
A Blessed Day, A Special Day: "Dining in Carmel... ites" PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Thursday, 18 October 2007 08:51


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako


"T his is like dining in heaven," I told those smiling nuns. 


But I am going ahead of my story.  So, let me begin from the beginning.


This past Sunday was another special day for my sister in law, Sister Grace Marie.  She took her first vow as a "bride of Jesus."  You see, she's a nun in the Carmelite monastery in Shoreline, a quiet little town just outside of Seattle.


Two years ago, she had her "Clothing Day": A day when she was clothed in the habit of a Carmelite sister and assumed the name, Sister Grace Marie.


There are two vows a Carmelite nun has to take.  This past Sunday was the taking of her first vow.  Three years from now, she would again take another vow, which would be her final vow to becoming a nun.  And that's called, the "SOLEMN VOW."


So, I suppose, she's halfway there.


There was a special early morning mass and we were ALL there to witness and hear her declare her vow and share in her HEAVENLY joy: my wife, Maribel, Sister Grace Marie's only sister; my son, Jonathan; and all their cousins from Vancouver, Canada.  There was Cristy, ebullient as ever.  There was Rey and his wife, Tessie and their 16-year-old son, Rico.  There was Lolet and husband, Caloy and their 10-year-old son, Chad.


My cuz, Manuel, and his wife, Becky, flew in from Chicago to be with us, too.  That day became a family get together day and a RARE, happy occasion.  For all of them are KISSING COUSINS.  So you can just imagine all the kissing that happened that day. 


To me, a kiss is NOT just a kiss.  A kiss, if not Judas-like, can melt away hurts and TAMPUHANS, especially among kissing cousins.


St. Joseph's Carmelite Monastery Chapel, a quaint-looking chapel, located on the grounds of the reclusive-looking monastery, where Sister Grace Marie took her vow, was packed to a full house.  The angels must have heralded the occasion, because aside from us, many faithful parishioners also came to partake in the joy of Sister Grace Marie.


Father Robert Egan, celebrated the mass and officiated Sister Grace Marie's vow-taking.  Midway in the mass, I was CHOSEN to lead the PRAYER INTENTIONS.  We prayed to the Lord for "our family and for all families in the world."  We prayed that the Lord "help us mend all the BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS in our lives and make us merciful and forgiving."


We prayed for Pope Benedict XVI.  We prayed for the bishops and pastors of the Church.  We prayed for our nation and our nation's leaders.


Most especially, we prayed for all the Carmelite sisters of that community.  And with all my heart and with all the ELOQUENCE I can muster, I uttered into the microphone:  "Dear God, we ask you to bless them for all the sacrifices and prayers they offer for all the peoples and for peace in our world.  Let us pray to the Lord!"


L oud and clear, I heard all the sisters, sitting in a secluded section of the church, unseen by the parishioners, say: "Lord hear our prayer!"  Their voices rose above that of the congregation that gathered that day.


It was a beautiful gathering, I think.  It was solemn, joyful, blessed ... and mysterious.  I felt "cleansed" when I exited that little quaint chapel.


A reception followed, hosted by Sister Grace Marie.  There was a long line of people wanting to see her, hug her and tell her, "congratulations."  So, there were more HUGGING and KISSING.  And there was coffee and sweets ... and suman.  I grabbed a couple of suman and a cup of coffee and circulated among the people.  Many told me I did a good job reading the prayer intentions.  "Ah," I said, "that's because an angel came, took my hand and helped me lead our prayers."


Lunchtime came.  We invited our Canadian cousins to lunch.  We went to a Mongolian Grill place and occupied the longest table there.  Food abound.  Laughter abound.  Earthy jokes abound.  My cuz, Manuel and earthy, ebullient Cristy traded jokes.  And we, the spectators, roared with laughter, egging them on.


Then ... Maribel said, "Tayo muna sa bahay, magkape."  So, we trekked to my house.  I proudly showed them my lush backyard full of fall flowers.  There's an Asian pear tree, pregnant with ripened fruits.  I plucked one of the fruits to give to my cuz.  He took a bite.  The juice ran down his chin.  All of a sudden, there was a commotion of picking all the ripened fruits.  My Asian Pear tree was stripped.... 


After the coffee and more laughter, they all went home with bags full of Asian pears.  A flurry of more kissing and hugging came on as they said their long goodbyes at the door ... then again, on the driveway of my house.


My cuz and his wife, Becky, and Maribel, Jonathan and I were especially invited to dinner inside the monastery.  So we headed back there.  At the hallway, we were greeted by NINE smiling nuns: Sister Sean, the prioress of the monastery, Sister Michael Marie, Sister Emmanuel, Sister Agatha, Sister Teresa Benedicta, Sister Susan Elizabeth and Sister Miriam.


Their beatific smiles were contagious. 


The airy dining area overlooks a well-tended garden.  There were huge, colorful flowers that grazed the window that were "plucked from the garden," said Sister Grace Marie.  On the walls, pictures of saints and unknown-to-me long-ago nuns to watch over the diners.  There were three round tables.  We sat in the biggest round table there, which was gaily-decorated with flowers.  On my plate sat a colorful paper napkin, arranged like a big bouquet of flowers.


Sitting with us were: Father Egan, the celebrant of the morning mass; Father James Reichmann, who, like Father Egan, is also a Jesuit priest and a lecturer of theology and philosophy at Seattle University, Sister Sean, Sister Susan, Sister Grace Marie, Nancy, the church's choir soloist and her husband, Al Rustad ... and my cuz, Manuel and wife, Becky.  The two other tables were occupied by the rest of the nuns and a couple of benefactors.


The menu: Seafood salad, sweet potato casserole, stuffed baked zucchini, pineapple upside down, homemade ice cream, fruit salad, See's chocolates and fresh fruits platter.


A feast, an eye-popping feast, indeed!  Led by Sister Susan, we prayed over the feast ... then, salivating, I dove into the feast.


At my first bite of the casserole, I tasted something exquisitely delicious.  "Heavenly," I muttered.  There were bottles of merlot and shirraz from Chile and Australia that we could help ourselves with. 


That I did, generously.  Heavens!  It was potent! 


And the more I took a sip of the shirraz, the more the food tasted heavenly.  I consumed three full glasses of that potent heavenly wine.  I heard easy, flowing conversation all around.  But my focus was on the food.  I was pigging on the feast, GLUTTING AND SINNING in front of the nuns and priests. 


Then, Sister Grace Marie made an announcement that Manuel was going to provide a little entertainment: he's going to sing.  I clapped noisily and added: "My cuz used to be the understudy of Luciano Pavarotti." 


My cuz gamely got up and belted the song, "Ave Maria."  While my cuz sang, I looked around.  I saw different reactions.  Some were amazed.  Some were amused.  Some were mesmerized.  Some had their eyes closed as if in prayer.  I was slurping the nuns' homemade ice cream.


I felt good.  I was having fun.  I felt like I was in heaven, partaking in a feast at Jesus' table.     


When I finally gulped down two cups of strong coffee, I said aloud to no one in particular: "I think I am going to write something about this.  In fact, I already have the title for my story: ‘Dining in heaven.'"


"May I make a suggestion?" Father Reichmann replied.  "How about, ‘Dining in Carmel ... ites'?"


"Yes, why not?"  I said to him.  Thus, the title of this story.


Then ... Sister Sean announced that we were all going upstairs to say the night prayer.  We all sat in a small, darkened room, holding lighted candles.  We stood up.  We bowed.  We sat again.  We prayed.  We recited psalms.  We sang the hymn, "Shepherd me, O God."  I sang with gusto.  I felt happy, singing and praying to Jesus with all these beautiful people.


Then ... Sister Grace Marie prayed this:


"Almighty father, thank you for this glorious day of my simple profession.  Thank you for calling me to be a BRIDE OF YOUR SON.  I am most unworthy.  Because You love me and have mercy on me, I am what I am today.


"Oh, Holy Spirit, please grant me the grace to remain faithful to you and to love Him as I ought.  Thank you for all the people in my life, my sisters in Carmel, my family, relatives and friends.  Bless each one of them.  It is through them that You love me.


"Oh, Holy Spirit, please grant me the grace to love them as I ought.  All Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  Good night, my dear Jesus.  Good night, my dear Mother."


And, good night to y'all, too, dear readers.  It was a blessed day, a special day.  Thank you for reading my story. JJ


Editor’s Note: To read Jesse Jose’s article on the final vows of Sister Grace Marie, please click on this hyperlink:

Sister Grace Marie Takes her "Final Vows," Becomes a "Bride" of Christ Jesus


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Last Updated on Friday, 22 October 2010 11:32
Comments (1)
1 Monday, 23 November 2009 11:30
When I read again your article just past midnight (last night), a thought came to me. Why, the monastery would and could be the perfect place for the First Couple of the Philippines to retire after the President and his/her spouse retire from the office. If there is a constitutional requirement that a President, upon completion of his/her term, would become a nun or a monk, as the case may be, and the spouse would enter too the convent or abbey, then perhaps things would get a lot better for the homeland. In fact, sending the ex-President to the monastery would be a better place that sending him or her to prison (for plunder, as in the case of former President Estrada). Imagine a nun or a monk does not even own the watch worn on his/her wrist. Imagine President Arroyo spending the rest of her life praying (for the sins of mankind and not just of the Filipinos) and singing hymns to the Almighty like ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo . . .’ And First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, an alumnus of the Ateneo de Manila College of Law, joining the Jesuits and devoting the rest of his life serving people gratis et amore. But I guess that President Arroyo would say, ‘I want nun, oops, none of the above proposals . . .’.”

Well, I guess that Mr. Pascual and this writer, and possibly Jesse Jose, had the same Divine inspiration this week. All of us came up with the consensus that it would be better to give up material things, so as to be guaranteed spiritual fulfillment.

Lolo Bobby M. Reyes
As earlier published in the article
Our Idea of the First Couple Entering the Monastery Is Like Federico Pascual’s Proposal

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