Ten years after i decided to serve the Lord, I found myself in an exactly the same situation - an international-multicultural-marian gathering.
Ten years before, on the 1st of May 1999, I happend to attended a Mariapolis in Antipolo of the Focolare Movement in the Philippines. It was from there that I experienced for the first time multiculturality and dialogue. And it was the first time to celebrated my birthday with thousands of people of different faith and races. Days before that event I went to the vocation office of the Claretian Missionaries in Quezon City to present myself for an interview. These are two occasions that perhaps are not just a mere coincidence but a sign to reflect on.
Our Lady of Fatima had been part of my life since it was introduced to us in St. Michael Academy, a high school run by the Dominican Sisters of Siena. And I remember very well that I was dedicated to the Blessed Mother when I was 5 years of age by my grandmother and therefore the rosary had been part of my life too. But I never thought that I could ever be in Fatima, Portugal. I never thought that I would be able to celebrate my birthday in Fatima exactly 10th year after that decision to take this road of life.
On the 30th of April, during the first visit to the basilica, i wrote something in the guest book of the basilica where people write their prayer requests or whatever they wish to write. And I wrote: "Maraming salamat po sa ipinagkaloob mong biyaya sa akin at hinihiling ko na sanaý magkaroon na ng kapayapaan sa Mindanao." (thank you for this gift, of which is to be present here, and i ask that peace may be attained in the land of Mindanao, Philippines). I consider the visit to Fatima on May 1 as one of the best gift that I have ever received in all my birthday celebrations although could be only second to that of the Jubilee year 2000, the day that i was accepted in Claret, the day that i started my life in the seminary.
The Claretian Students Ecounter in Fatima which took place from April 30 to May 3 was an enriching experience for me. That experience affirms that our vocation as Claretians is not just for our own homeland but for the world, our mission is for the whole world. Our being Servants of the Word is not just limited to proclamation of the gospel and in preaching, but rather it is of what ever is timely, urgent, and effective. It is posible to live in a community of different races, of different colors, of different attitudes, different views, different culture. That which unites us all is the charism of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the charism that he has given us to live, the way of love and service that Jesus had taught us in the last supper, and most of all the presence of God. Living in a community of diversity tells me who I am and makes me one with rest.
A Christian community is not a group of people merged together, living together equally or the same in all aspects, instead, it is a collection of individuals of different composition but has one thing in common that unites them all - Love. And that makes the difference.