Gospel Reflections: Fifth Sunday of Lent

First reading: Ezk. 37: 12-14
“I am going to open your tombs; I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people; and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am Yahweh, O my people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves; when I put my spirit in you, and you live. I shall settle you in your land; and you will know that, Yahweh, have done what I said I would do.”
Second reading: Rom 8: 8-11
“… And, if the spirit of him, who raised Jesus from the dead, is within you, he, who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead, will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, he will do it, through his Spirit, who dwells within you.”
Gospel: John 11: 1-45
“…Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be glorified in it.
… Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him.
… I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live.
… Father I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”
Psalm 130
            With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

            This Sunday’s Readings and Psalm center on the Resurrection and the Lord’s promise of salvation.
Our god, indeed, is a relational God. And he is very much eager to continue that relationship with us, human. In the first reading, God the Father promised redemption of his people. He used the words ‘my people’ signifying an intimate relationship. And He is always willing to save that relationship, to have that intimacy with us human. Throughout the history, the Lord is always pursuing us to offer His salvation, to reconcile when we sinned, to accept our pleas, to grant us forgiveness.
Our God fulfills his promise. The book of Exodus detailed how God the Father fulfilled His promise of liberation of His people from slavery. Now, he is still always there for us, ever ready to free us from our modern slavery: Such as slavery to our sins, slavery to our pride and ego, slavery to material things, and many more. Those things cause our death, not the physical death, but the spiritual death, the death of our purpose, the death of the meaning of our existence. Many of us are living but already lost the life. And we can get that life back after reconciling with the Lord again.
He is just waiting, we just need to believe.
Many times in my life I also waiver in my belief and faith. But the good Lord never stops believing in me, until He brought back my faith again. He never stopped providing for me and my family, even when I was no longer praying. He never stopped to give me consolation even when I forgot him in my difficult times and sufferings. He never stopped to protect me from all dangers, even when I am so confident that I can manage everything in my life.
Now, I pray that everything I would do would be for God’s glory. Everything that we do for Regina RICA should be for His glory. For me, Regina RICA is one big and tangible miracle of our time. Miracles happen so that the Son of God may be glorified in it.
Jesus performed the miracle of giving life to Lazaru ‘so that we may believe.’ The other day I learned that ate Judith, our laundry woman, was sharing about her dream where she saw the nailed feet of Jesus. It happened when she was fighting for her life. I believe that was a beautiful near death experience of God. And she was, indeed, given a second chance to live: to give glory to the Lord, to experience the beautiful gift of transformation and conversion, to share the goodness of our God to other people.


Gospel Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Lent

First reading 1 Samuel 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a
“For the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Second reading: Eph 5: 8-14
“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.”

Gospel: John 9: 1-41
“He was born blind so that God’s work might be revealed in him.” 

     The readings and the gospel for the coming fourth Sunday of lent is all about blindness. Many times in my life I also experience blindness, of all sorts.
      Last Sunday was Adobo Festival at Regina RICA. It was also the blessing of the improved St. Joseph Rotonda, the new St. Joseph Statue and the new Bakery and Administrative Services (BASE) Offices.
      I was assigned to administer in SULOD at 8 a.m. At 9:45, Sr. Matt came and told me that I have to attend the blessings. She will take my post in SULOD until 1 p.m. So, I went down and joined the procession and blessings, and the 11:00 a.m. mass, afterwards. After the mass, I joined the adobo lunch. I tasted all kinds of adobo prepared by our kitchen staff and those brought by friends and pilgrims. I was so full when I finished. At 1:00 p.m., I decided to go back to SULOD to check if Sr. Matt was still there. But she was no longer there, and Sr. Tess was taking the post.
     So, I went down and decided to stay at the third level of Pasilungan to read the books that I brought with me. There was one pilgrim, a woman, silently eating her lunch in the corner. I just took the sit on the table near the stairs and started reading my book. Until, suddenly I fall asleep on the table. I have fallen asleep for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, I felt something I was disturbed from my sleep. When I woke up, I saw the woman standing on the side of the table, in the act of putting Pan de RICA bread and a bottle of Agua RICA on the table, for me. I was surprised, I asked, “What is this ma’am?” The woman, in a gesture, said that the food and drink was for me. I was ashamed my reaction was I rejected her offer. I said, “No ma’am these bread and water are our products. Please take it with you.” The woman suddenly gathered the bread and the water and left me without saying a word.
     It was late when I realize the beautiful gesture of love and care of that woman. She could be Jesus! Maybe she thought I am also a pilgrim at Regina RICA and I don’t have my lunch yet. Maybe she thought I am a poor sister and I have no money to buy my food.
     It was late when I realized, maybe I hurt her feelings when I rejected her offer of food and drink. I thought of chasing her, to at least say Thank You, for that beautiful gesture but she was no longer there. I just offered a prayer for her and thank the Lord for making me feel loved and cared for, until my feeling of guilt for my reaction was gone.
      On my first day at ICLA, I forgot to bring something for my snacks. I am not familiar with so many faces; I was just silently sitting after the break, waiting for the speaker to begin the session. Suddenly, a sister offered me all her remaining snacks. I accepted the offer and put the stuff in my bag as the session was about to begin. I was thankful to that sister. I realized she is one of my classmates in the AWFP, last year. I did not recognize her because she is an Indian, silent, and did not participate much in our activities. But the gesture of offering me something to eat, maybe because she observed that I did not take my snacks is very much a humbling experience for me.
     Oh boy, how God is always present wherever I go, through the people that he sends my way!
     My personal challenge now is to be aware of the presence of God in every event of my life. Most of the times, I am not aware because I am blind. I am blinded by my painful experiences. I am also blinded by my beautiful experiences. I am also blinded by my pride and ego.
     Pope Francis wrote about The Way of Humility for our practice. I pray that I can live with that.
     I pray that I will not be blinded by my painful experiences that I will not see the goodness of other people.
     I pray that I will not be blinded by my beautiful experiences that I will not see the sufferings of other people.
     I pray that I will not be blinded by my pride and ego that I will not love unconditionally and generously.
     I pray that I will not fail God’s call, and I will not fall away from God’s light and truth by my stubbornness of heart.


Taking Shape

"For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God." - Hebrews 3: 4 -

     When was the last time you have visited Regina RICA? Last Week? Last month? Last Year? Today, for sure you will find another structure built or another stone added to the shape. Yes, Regina RICA is continuously taking shape as the days go by.
     The development of Regina RICA started in 2009. From a typical mountain with cogon grass, mahogany trees and muddy soil, it is now a sacred pilgrimage complex visited by million of pilgrims in the past eight years. Much of its development is witnessed by the people, especially those who are frequently visiting the place.
     The 71-foot statue of Our Lady Regina Rosarii on top of the Hill is the very first structure that took shape in the sacred place. It is followed by the artistically designed modern Chapel on the Hill. As the growing number of pilgrims are gathering in the place, to pay a visit to Our Lady, the need for other facilities were seen. Creation of a labyrinth maze, clean rest rooms, restaurant, water refilling station, souvenir shops, retreat houses, gazebos, safe and spacious parking areas, sisters' convents, organic herbs and vegetable gardens, animal pens, new ROSA and ROCA houses, St. Patrick's Place, and Bakery and Administrative Services (BASE) offices continue to unfold.
     This year, the construction of the Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia is also at its peak. The putting up of the institute is the main reason for founding Regina RICA as it is called now, so that we can teach people how to live the contemplative way of life. As it is, we give everyone the opportunity to help us in the face lifting of Regina RICA. You will have the chance to be blest  more abundantly by sharing your time, talents, treasures and testimonies. We give you the chance to be God's channel of His love and mercy. We give you the chance to be our mission partner and God's helper in proclaiming the reign of God.
     Every Sunday at Regina RICA more than 70% of pilgrims are new comers. This is a manifestation that many people are seeking for a place like Regina RICA, where they can experience silence, solitude, serenity, stillness and the Love of God.
     Remember your first visit at Regina RICA, and you will realize that every visit is just like the first time. Because, there is something new every time. Because, God is the builder of this place.
     Together, let us create the shape of Regina RICA.

This Editorial is published on the March 2017 issue of the Sacred Space Newsletter, the Official Newsletter of the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii.


The Portrait of Jesus in Tala Leprosarium

Some parts of their body are missing. Some have incomplete fingers. Some have distorted nose. Many of them are bed ridden. Many are in the wheelchair. They are men and women, young and old.

They are imprisoned in leprosy. The disease is considered a curse, a sickness for sinners, as they say. I don't believe in that. It is more easy for me to believe that the disease is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), affecting human since the the beginning of the human story.

They are outcasted, rejected by the society, even during Jesus' time. That is why they learned to live in a different world, to protect themselves from the judging, disgusting looks of the so called 'healthy' human beings.

I can feel their insecurities. I can feel their hesitations to mingle in the society.

I remember Sr. Elvia - the Novitiate level coordinator of AWFP Formators - telling me that we, Novices, should be very careful of their sensitive nature. We cannot just call them lepers. We lovingly and reverently called them brothers and sisters.

It is not easy to win their hearts - wounded and broken - by their conditions and by the rejections of their own families.

I cannot see their smiles, at first. But as we started with the program, I started to see their precious smiles. I am grateful and appreciative of my co-Novices' genuine efforts to make them feel accepted and loved. Leading this year's batch of AWFP Novices becomes easy because of the support of all the Novices and our formators who just allowed us to grow.

Our mission was to bring Jesus to the patients of Tala Leprosarium. And we did all our best to make them see Jesus in us. But at the end of the day, I realized, I was the one who saw Jesus in them. I saw in them a carefree Jesus in the way they laughed. I saw in them a loving Jesus in the way they treat each other. I saw in them a happy Jesus in the way they appreciate our efforts to entertain them, I saw in them a communitarian  Jesus in the way they support and love each other as they live together.

(This article is first published in Pahatid -  the Official Newsletter of the Association of Women Formators of the Philippines - 2016-2017 issue)

By: Sr. Mary Irene V. Rafer, OP
AWFP Novices - 2016-2017
All rights reserved


My Breasts and the Mystery of Natural Healing

By: Sr. Mary Irene V. Rafer, OP
            I have abnormal cell growths in my breasts. My first ultrasound on July 1, 2013, before I entered as aspirant to the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii, showed that I have 23 lesions in the right and 14 lesions in the left. The largest lesion in the right measured 2.3 X 0.8 cm, while in the left measured 2.5 X 1.4 cm.
            When I requested for a breast ultrasound in February 13, 2015, before I was accepted in the Novitiate, the number of tumors decreased to four (4) with the largest lesion measuring 4.0 X 3.8 X 1.3 cm in the 10:00-12:00 retroareolar to zone B of my right breast. On my left, the number decrease to two (2) with the largest lesion measuring 3.7 X 1.8 X 3.1 cm in the 12: 00 A-B with microlobulation. Two tumors have microlobulation; one with wall calcification.
            January 5 of 2015, I had severe pain on my right underarm, including the right area of my neck as well as on my back. I also noticed the swelling and the reddish color of the skin on the area of my largest tumor in my right breast. I requested again for another ultrasound. The number of tumors increased again on both breasts. I have six (6) on the right and six (6) on the left. But the good news is the largest lesion on the right is now 3.42 X 2.33 cm only; on the left is 1.61 X 1.15 cm only. The severe pain, the swelling and the reddish color disappeared in three days, after I stayed most of my time in the garden, touching the soil and smelling the scents of my herbs.
            How did I discover I have lumps? December of 2012, I felt the pain in the lower part of my left breast, and when I checked there was something round, the size of a jack stone ball. I was shocked. That was my season of fear and uncertainty. That eventually became my point of departure for my memoir about identity, self-worth, career and life’s priorities.
            I know very well what it is to get the dread of discovering a tumor in the breasts and what it is to face all that comes after. For almost three months, I cried every night asking what went wrong. Now, the blue print of my being is at risk.
            My Sonographic Report impression on my second ultra sound is that I had “Bilateral Breast Cyst Showing significant interval increase in the size of the largest lesions and need additional imaging evaluation and / or previous mammograms for comparison.” I have no previous mammograms. See, I can already feel the tumors. So, I refused mammograms believing that its pressure and radiation, in the process, may do more harm than good to my already distorted cells and will even include the normal cells.
            But, thanks God, breast tumor is not a medical emergency. I have more time to research and decide what treatment to take from the many treatment options available. It is not contagious, so I cannot infect anyone. I decided I want to be in control of this disease. I am the one who is fighting for my life and I want to choose my fight. I have the ability to keep myself well. I chose natural healing. I respect my body and I do not see the point of having any part of it cut and remove and infuse with poisonous chemicals that destroy everything. Surgery does not really remove the cancer. Cancer cells are deeply buried, covered by the tumor naked to the eye. Only my body’s healing power can reach that deep. Further, I am a human person and my healing can also come from nature – where I come from.
            Mr. Google became my friend as I started my research for alternative cure of the disease. I decided whether the tumors are benign or malignant, my goal is to get back my cells to its normal programming and functioning. My goal is to shrink the tumors, naturally, until I am free of them.
            I am just lucky that my Canonical Novitiate was spent at Regina RICA. The place is very much conducive for healing. There, as much as possible, I consumed plants and herbs directly from the ground. I avoided processed, instant, fatty, sugary, ‘unclean’ foods – as described in the bible, dead food, and fast foods. The scents of herbs, grass and germinating seeds that I can smell in the morning whenever I am in the garden also do wonder in my whole being. And so my last Sonographic report is “Probably Benign Finding; short interval follow-up suggests (6 months).”
            Traditional Chinese Medicine considers breast cancer as “Chronic Negative Emotion.” That gave me the idea that every breast tumor is very much connected with the repressed emotions—whether negative or positive.
My infirmity made me understand and respect more God’s design. My idea is that human cells self-destruct or deprogram themselves, develop into tumors to protect the body from more harm and threatening diseases, to cope with traumatic experiences. And so, I believe there should be no battle with breast tumors or finding a cure. I just need to learn to participate in my healing process and unlock my self-healing abilities.
            I understand that every unkind word and action or traumatic encounter is detrimental to my cells. So, when I am confronted with disrespectful, cruel, bully, faultfinder and cranky people, I immediately back off. It is important that my tumors are happy. And so, I have to befriend my distorted cells, take good care of them until such time that they are returned to its original programming, and eventually leave my healthy body.
            Women with breast tumors should have a support group to comfort them. In my case, since I am in the novitiate, it is very challenging. Access to my family and friends is very limited or none at all. Taking care of myself, I do several self-soothing activities such as walking around the RICA land; listening to healing music, grounding; writing and herbal gardening at St. Hildegard’s Haven of Health and Healing.
            I believe the Intelligence of the Divine is embedded in all the cells of my body and in the cells of vegetable and herbal plants. And so, my cells and the plant cells can communicate. The chemistry of my body and of the plants and the soil that support the plants are the same. So, plant cells will take care of my distorted cells. I am confident that they will not make my cells into aggressive, invasive and vindictive little monsters.
            There are times the pain is so severe. Those are the times when my tumors feel ‘maltreated’ and not happy or when the estrogen in my body is increasing. I learned to listen to their cries, and be very gentle to myself. I learned to offer every pain to my God, for my family, for my congregation, for those who are asking for my prayers, especially for healing. But most importantly, I learned also to befriend my pain.
            Yes, my tumors have life of their own. They are also nourished by the nutrients carried by my own blood! And I respect them. I can feel now that they already shrunk by at least 30%. I thank God for all the naturally grown herbs and edible plants that I consume directly from the soil of RICA land.
            I want to live until I am 108. I want to tell more about the story of my constant healing. I want to see my family thrives up to the fourth generation. I want to witness the unceasing development of Regina RICA as well as its fruits in the future. I want my God to continue to mold and use me as He wishes.
             Nevertheless, death may come whenever it pleases. All I can control is my time in between and how will I live my remaining years. So, when I see something good, I appreciate it. When I crave for my favorite foods, I try to request for it or look for an alternative -whatever is available for our community. If the rose is particularly white, I kiss and gaze at it. At Regina RICA, when our pilgrims need to share their stories, I give time to listen attentively. When they want to take picture with me, I just allow them. When children approach me I hug and kiss them. When family and friends visit me, I dare to ask permission to meet and make quality time with them. Whenever possible I avoid dealing or living with ‘should’ or ’don’t’ of other people. Whenever necessary I give my peace and forgiveness, to those who need it, even if it is rejected or suspected. Every day I am happy to be alive that I can still see the beauty of creation; that I can still feel the love of my family, community and friends; that I can still praise my God.
One day I know the damaged cells on my breast will all die, naturally, as I live until my Creator is done with me.


A Blessed Sacrament or A Burning Light?

A pilgrim at Regina RICA, on a Black Saturday of 2015, showed this picture of Our Lady Regina Rosarii, he has taken on their visit. He said the illuminating circle near the heart of Mama Mary and the right hand of Baby Jesus is a Blessed Sacrament. For me, it looks like a burning  or illuminating globe. What is your message Our Lady? What is your message Jesus?


My Word of Thanks

                First, I want to thank the Holy Trinity for the graces and the blessings, that I am able to reach this stage.
                I thank Fr. Ferry for answering all my questions and confusions. Thank you so much.
                I thank my family for being here today. To my parents, thank you for giving me the gift of life. Thank you for giving me five beautiful sisters and three wonderful brothers. Thank you for the unconditional love. Thank you for always trusting me. Thank you for giving me away.
                Thanks to my visitors and guests; to my hermana in Sarong Bangi International, to my former officemates, to my lifetime friends.
                Thank you to my especial guests – Tita Cres with family and Tita Mary Ann.
                Thank you to all our staff.
                To all my sisters at the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii: Thank you for being a part of my formation. Thank you for the experiences and the lessons that I learned. Thank you for all your generosity and efforts in the preparation for today; Thank you Sr. Ding for being my first formator. I specially thank Sr. Menchie for showing me a concrete example of humility.
                Twelve months ago, I was accepted as a postulant. I was excited and quite sure that this is the life that I want. I was wrong. I was wrong to think that this is the life that I want, because the truth is, this is the life the Lord wants me to be. And, I thank Sr. Matt – my formator – for helping me realize this. Few days ago she told me, “don’t you know that you are protected by the Lord?” Looking back and pondering upon the events that happened in my life and the graces that I have received, I can say that, yes, indeed, the Lord protected me all along and saved me for Him and for His people.
                Thank you Sr. Matt for allowing me to grow. Thank you for the understanding. Thank you for just being you. Thank you for journeying with me, for feeling what I feel at every event in my life. Thank you for just being there.
                I always believe in the power of number. I believe that the Lord speaks to us through numbers. My life path number is five (5). Today, March 5, is very symbolic to me. My birthday is May 5, and that is also the foundation date of our congregation.
                Nine years ago, a brave sister founded our congregation – Sr. Eppie Brasil, OP. Thank you Sr. Eppie for starting our congregation. If you did not do it, I should not be standing here right now. Thank you for the opportunity to belong in your congregation that carries out the new expressions of Religious Consecrated Life. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for all that you did. My journey was not easy. It was challenging. Yet, it became exciting and bearable because you were there.
                Last week, a Dominican sister – Sr. Ella of Anunciata – gave Sr. Matt and me candles and fortune plants. She said, “Give these to Sr. Eppie.” I was delighted to receive those candles and plants. And now, may I give these to you? The candle symbolizes you as my guiding light. The plants symbolize my growth, and how I have grown. Sometimes, it may be slowly, but continuously. Please continue to be our light as our new congregation continues to grow until we become as the Lord has planned.
                Sometimes in January, a pilgrim visited here and the Lord made us meet. I invited her to go upstairs to visit Mama Mary. After several steps on the stairs she revealed to me that she was operated several years ago, after an accident. Her body is now supported by steel.
                I became worried and asked her if she can still go to Mama Mary. She said yes, so I just accompanied her, more gently. We were able to reach Mama Mary. Going down, she requested me to pray over for her. We were both crying as she was telling her story that manifested deep faith to the God of divine providence. We felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was a God experience for me. She is here now. Tita Mary Ann, you don’t know how much you gave me more reasons to stay. You don't know how much you gave me reason for being here. Thank you so much.
                As the mystery of my vocation is revealed to me everyday, and as I commit to him everyday, I know the challenges will always come. But as I continue in this journey I will hold on to his mercy and grace.
                One of our modular class teachers told us that we need a witness in this journey. And you are now my witnesses until I fulfill this journey to God.
                Thank you so much for your presence today. Please continue to pray for me.



<br><div align = "ceneter">Gospel Reflections: Fifth Sunday of Lent</div></br>

First reading: Ezk. 37: 12-14 “I am going to open your tombs; I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people; and lead you back to the ...