The Jesuit who talks with birdsBy Raymund Fernandez
Cebu Daily News
The children speak of the Jesuit who talks with birds. They spy on him. And when he is not looking they watch him walking the corridors. They tell how birds actually come to land on his fingers.
The older ones look for the scientific explanation to all these. They theorize he has bird feed in his hand and this is why the birds actually come. The younger ones simply go by the easy explanation. He speaks with birds and the birds speak back at him. It is a simple mystery of a divine nature.
But the divinity of it might only be our own imposition. The children themselves may have only the vaguest notion of the phenomenon of divinity. It does not take a miracle for a grown man, a Jesuit even, to try and talk to birds. The miracle, if it is there at all, is only if the birds actually speak back at him and perhaps reveal the deepest secrets of the human condition, in a sense to show him and us the way out of our earthly predicaments. As they might have done for countless generations.
Now is not the best time for Jesuits. But if one knew the Jesuits well and had been familiar with what they have gone through over history including Philippine history, then one might understand better the paradox of being Jesuit. They were some of the first missionaries here. Dr. Jose Rizal was their student. They taught him well. That is why. And yet…
In the time of martial law there were many Jesuits who defended the cause of freedom. And yet the Jesuits teach obedience and sacrificing one’s self to higher authority. The Jesuits must know all these are paradox. And in the end the paradox can only be resolved by obedience to reason and the search for truth, moral will, and all these at the most personal level. For that is how God calls us and speaks to all of us. Not only from a pulpit, nor always by institutional pronouncement but directly into our hearts, as if God were a bird. And there is no guarantee we will each be told the same thing. Even so, the truth of God and the truth of reason cannot be separate. That’s what Jesuits have been teaching young children for generations.
On the issue of the Reproductive Health bill, the young children are only being true to themselves. True to what they had been taught. And if the young children have become teachers themselves, what else can be expected of them?
What the books teach us is that all religions must be separate from state institutions and governments for religious freedom to exist and be guaranteed. The same must be said of academic institutions if we will ever get any closer to truth. Looking back on history, this lesson can be nothing else if not sacred.
True, the institution of the Catholic Church in the Philippines can prevent the passage of this bill or render it absolutely toothless in the end. But at what cost? The recent controversy at Ateneo University has put all thinking Filipino Catholics in a terrible spot perhaps unprecedented since the time of Dr. Jose Rizal. On one end is the institutional church’s characteristically unyielding and dogmatic position. At the other end stands all we know to be right and correct. And then somewhere between these ends the primordial question: What does the church have to do with any of these?
And where is the safest position? The safest position is to be silent. How can anybody trained by Jesuits take that particular safe course? Only those the Jesuits themselves failed or those who would fail the Jesuits. Those who learned nothing from them.
And we must wonder: Aren’t we paying too high a price for this already? And please remind us, what was to be gained by all these? This is only mere legislation having as much worth as any other Philippine law. Were we not taught that if we are to be saved it will be by something more than any law writ on paper? What will it take to convince us now: neither will we be un-saved by any law un-writ on any paper?
We have better things to do than to be involved in all these. But now, there is a group of teachers who must be defended for speaking their minds. And what we had been taught is that we must defend them vigorously as best we can. And for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do. To do the right thing according to our calling is what the birds sing of all the time. And it is a song as joyful as the sight and feel of a bird alighting and feeding on one’s hand.
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