In her speech in the victory party of the movie “Starting Over Again,” director Olivia “Inang” Lamasan narrated her anxiety over the acceptability of the ending of the movie to the public.
She had fought for the different ending, which was counterintuitive in terms of the formula for box-office success. She fought for it because she believed it was more faithful to the story and message of the movie; more faithful to the integrity of the story and to reality.
Despite this faith and conviction, she could not rid herself of her anxiety. When the movie was shown to the creative and production teams, the response further fueled her anxieties. People found the ending heavy and painful, etc. Will people watch such a movie?
She continued to go into a frenzy of anxiety, praying all the novenas in her prayer arsenal, until it came to her, Inang said in her speech: “Be still and know that I am God.”
When the movie opened, it became the highest-grossing film on opening day; the highest-grossing film on its first four days; the highest-grossing Filipino film overseas; and the highest-grossing non-festival film.
Ronald Holheiser, in his 2013 book “Prayer, Our Deepest Longing,” writes that “In Scripture, the opposite of faith is not doubt but anxiety… it is to be anxious and fearful at a deep level.”
This is why we seek prayer and solitude. It is to know that we are safe in God’s hands.
This Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 11: 25-30), the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, gives us the same reassuring words from Christ himself: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
No doubt this has become more difficult given the growing desire for greater connectivity. The desire is two-edged. On the one hand, it is technology-driven coupled with the prodding of business to be more connected, to be more by having more.
Deepest connection lies within
On the other hand, the desire is still the yearning of the human spirit to connect on a deeper level, on the level of the spirit, soul and heart. Minus the gadgets and technology, our deepest connection lies within, in the stillness where we know God.
Fr. Roque Ferriols, SJ, our esteemed Philosophy professor, often says, “Matapos masabi ang lahat ng masasabi, ang pinakamahalaga ay hindi masasabi.” (When everything that can be said has been said, the most important cannot be said.) We remain still and in silence allow the most important, the essential to reveal itself—God and his loving providential presence.
Let me share actual experiences. In my early years as a priest, I journeyed with a young man who wanted to overcome his shyness and fear of working with others. We were both doing our master’s in Fordham University.
He was very smart and hardworking. He functioned well and did an excellent job whenever he did it by himself or with one partner. But when group work had to be done, he just faded into the background.
Arriving at a breakthrough
It was after 11 months when he finally made a breakthrough. He finally identified his trauma—witnessing a violent altercation among his elder siblings and their father.
This experience so traumatized him that every time he was in a group, it triggered this memory.
I kept quiet and let him be. No words, and after a while even the crying and shaking were no more.
We shared in the silence and stillness which were his. It was a moment of healing.
From then on, he slowly overcame his “handicap” and gained the confidence not just to work with groups, but to actually lead groups at work.
I shared in a previous article the time I was going through my midlife crisis. I was blessed to have a wise and graced spiritual guide, Fr. Benny Calpotura, SJ. After close to two years of seeing him regularly, I was ready to go into the “the other half” of my life.
In that conversation he told me that I had come to the point where I needed to make a choice whether to enter the core of my relationship with Christ or stay in the periphery. When the meaning of the statement hit me, we both kept quiet.
I sat still in his office. No words. He sat still, save for a few times he puffed on his cigarette. To this day it was that deep realization in silence and stillness that guides me.
It is that choice—to enter the core of my relationship with Christ—that makes me reintegrate at different stages in my journey.
I have had very deep and meaningful spiritual conversations with a number of actors and actresses from ABS-CBN over the past 12 years. What, I think, accounts for the depth and meaning, the spirituality of the conversations is their desire and struggle to be in touch with silence and stillness with God.
The ones who persevered in the journey got to moments of realizations and reintegration. Again, when these moments came they came in silence and stillness.
I am not anti-technology nor anti-gadget, but I am most certainly pro-solitude, pro-silence and pro-stillness.
Only in God will our spirit, soul and heart will find rest.
We “go placidly amidst the noise and haste” of the day to day, always remembering “what peace there is in silence.”
This is why we seek prayer and solitude, silence and stillness. It is to know that we are safe in God’s hands—a God who is lovingly providentially present, always.