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See how the Virgin waits for Him…

Cultivating a Spirituality of Waiting

Growth vs. Development :

Perspectives in Understanding the Human Person

We notice that the pace of our life today is not only fast but it is becoming faster.
As a consequence of this, we cope with so many demands, whether these would be
personal and collective or relational and functional, that makes us yearn not only for
competence but also for survival. Life today is somehow driven by the Olympic theme
which is threefold: STRONGER, FASTER and HIGHER.

As educators of the young, we witness how our learners grow and develop.
Growth and development are two terms that are seemingly interchangeable. But
according to some experts in education, each does not reflect the same idea to the other
and vice-versa. Growth is quantitative while development is qualitative. But sometimes,
we are tempted to equate the two terms in our day to day praxis as educators. We tend to
“look” at “who” the person is in terms of “what he/she has” achieved and attained in life.
If he/she has acquired more, then, we can easily see in him/her that human potential. In
other words, the more he/she has in life, the easier it is for us to identify him/her as a
human person----TAO SIYA. (Sabi nga ng karamihan sa atin, mas madaling mahalin at
unawain ang tao kung siya ay may CARacter at PESOnality.)

Thomas Moore in his book Dark Nights of the Soul defies such understanding
on looking at “growth” and “development” by using the same “pair of eyeglasses”. He
points out that “if you live in a society in which growth is the measure of happiness then
you might expect to be saturated by the values associated with ambition and craving…..
the image of unlimited growth and success, is not the characteristic of the soul, which is
not satisfied with speed and striving….. The soul thrives more in small, local settings,
where ambition is toned down by other values like those of family, place, nature and
peace.” In other words, the “being” is more than that of “doing and having” for the
“being” is always on the process of “becoming”. The human person is a subject in
formation. In truth, formation is a lifelong process of becoming a person that God desires
us to be.

Therefore, to grow and to develop as a human person does not only require time
and effort but also patient endurance.

Growth vs. Development in a Classroom Setting

Many of us share in our learner’s joys. A very concrete example of a joyful

experience in teaching is handling A1 class. Because this class is made up of fast
learners, it is not difficult for us to facilitate the teaching-learning process because they
are docile. We need not to strive in explaining to them the lesson because they can easily

But how about handling a heterogenous class in which the capacity varies from
one learner to another? It takes not only a lot of time, effort and creativity but above all,
patience in waiting the proper moment for them to learn. When that happens, the
“moment” becomes “a momentum” for both the teacher and his/her learners. “Patience
in waiting” does not mean that we have to wait when they can learn but it is an
expression that refers to the teacher’s conviction that his/her learner, no matter how
problematic this pupil/student is, is capable of learning because he/she is a person. A
person is endowed with potentials that help him/her help him/herself. (An experience of
hoping when a student can change oneself from being a bully to somebody who can
control his/her temper. In this case, factors have to be considered why he/she is into that

In this particular scene, we can see that a teacher is not only imparting his/her
knowledge, values and skills but he/she is also a person endowed with a mission to care
the human person (In Ignatian Spirituality, this is referred to as “cura personalis”). Since
our profession is essentially forming the head, the heart and the hands of our students, we
have to keep our minds, hearts and hands open to the young. I remember a teacher, (Jean
Baptiste de la Salle (?) or Marcellin Champagnat(?)) who advised the teaching brothers
by saying, “If you can’t teach them, love them !” Teachers, by nature, by vocation and by
mission have the passion for teaching because we have compassion for others.

In other words, “patient waiting” is never in vain. What we are waiting is not
something that is ideal but it is something humanly possible. What we are moving
towards to is also coming near to us. When we encounter a former pupil/learner coming
back to us thanking us for all that we have done to him/her, it a sure sign of that
momentum that we have been longing to see “in flesh and blood”. Gratitude is an
indication that the person has become what he/she is ought to be.

Based on the given situations that we encounter today, we can also see a
meaningful antidote to keep us always afresh as teachers. This antidote is not really
something extraordinary. Because of its sheerness, sometimes, we find it hard to discover
life-giving treasures from a too ordinary life story just like what we have. In spite of our
struggles in taking time and effort to be human, all we have to do is to patiently endure in
the school where for formation is a lifelong task. In our day to day endeavor to bring out
the best of our learners, we patiently impart to them all that we have.

We wait for something better than what we have today is coming. The good
things that we expect for the future are coming not from a distance. While patiently
waiting, the best that are yet to come are coming nearer and nearer to us. Until, we will
find in ourselves that what we are hoping for are becoming present in our very hearts. In
other words, we cultivate the virtues of perseverance, endurance, patience, hope, faith,
peace and love which are more than what the world of stronger, faster and higher can
offer. You and I believe that these are the things that people of today need. As teachers,
we need to cultivate these in our lives so that we can give them what they really need.
(We cannot give what we don’t have.)

Waiting as a Spirituality for Teachers of Today

Waiting is an integral component in Christian Spirituality. Waiting implies a

preparation; making oneself ready for a meaningful event to happen. Such event is
meaningful not only for oneself but for the good of all; it is both personal and collective.
On the other hand, waiting cultivates in us the virtue of hope. Hope is considered as a
theological virtue that responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in
the heart of every man. (CCC 1818) It is natural for us to set our minds and hearts to
something higher than us, to a vision that inspires us to aspire for more rather than
acquiring more and to look forward for the fulfillment of our longing to be saved from all
things that oppress in all aspects of our human life (physical, mental, psychological,
emotional, economical, social, spiritual).

In our life as a Church, there are two liturgical seasons that call us to prepare
ourselves for two significant celebrations: to usher us for Christmas, we have Advent and
Lent for Easter. But between the two, it is the season of Advent that we give emphasis
for joyful waiting as a preparation for the coming of our Lord which is two-fold in
character: his first coming (Christmas) and his second coming (Parousia). The readings
from the first day of Advent until December 16 talk about his Second Coming. From
December 17 to December 24 before the Midnight Mass on that very day, the readings
invite us to reflect on Biblical icons who present themselves as models of preparing for
the 1st coming of the Messiah. Among all the icons, the Blessed Virgin Mary stands out
among the many Biblical images that portray what the whole people of faith of yesterday,
today and even in the future who long to “see, touch and hear” about the Messiah.

I would like to share with you only three significant points why Mary is our
Model of Waiting. In the next part, I will try to connect these points to our Christian
Spirituality as Educators of today.
1. Mary is a virgin ready to be astonished
2. Mary is a woman of contemplation
3. Mary’s motherhood and discipleship as concrete praxis of hope

1. Mary: a virgin ready to be astonished

Life, because of its ordinariness, is oftentimes disregarded. We never appreciate

the beauty of each day and even the uniqueness of every person around us because we
encounter them 365 days in a year, 31 days in a month, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, in his book A Shattered Lantern narrates a story of Hi and
Lois. This story is based on Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s cartoon series.

In the first frame, Hi, the father of the family and an accountant
by trade, is on his way to work. Driving in his car, he is saying to
himself: “Another dumb day, going to the same dumb office, to
work on those same dumb numbers that I must have worked on a
thousand times before!”

In the second frame, his wife, Lois, is cleaning a floor and saying
to herself: “another dumb day, cleaning this same dumb house
that I must have cleaned a thousand times before!”

In the next frame, we see the older children on the school bus.
One is saying to the other: “Another dumb day, going to the same
dumb school, with the same dumb teachers, working at the same
dumb stuff we’ve been working on for a thousand days already!”

Finally, in the last frame, we see the youngest, Trixie, a child of

about two, standing in her crib, wide awake, fresh for a new day,
her arms up in the air, facing the sun, shouting in joy: “Another

When we were still children, we were so eager to celebrate our birthday each year. We
were so excited to become adults. We look forward to attain our ambition in life. That is
why, like Trixie, each day is a gift worthy to be lived to the fullest and with a sense of
gratitude to the Giver of life, days and years.

On the other hand, adults tend to think about “what they can do” rather than to accept the
reality that even in their age of independence, they still are recipients of ordinary
blessings from God “who has done great things for us”. We are so obsessed about what
we can do, what we can produce, how many have we attained, how effective and efficient
we are in our functions to gain “pogi and ganda points”, etc. Yes, we respond to the call
to each to “Bloom where we are planted” but have we not noticed that our ways to bloom
are artificial? Why? Because we are using fertilizers that are never organic!

Christian Spirituality is not grounded on what we do and what we can do with our God
but it is essentially a conviction and a commitment to generously respond to our God who
has done great things for us. When we look at our lives as Christian educators in that
perspective, astonishment leads us to appreciate life and work with a sense of awe and
wonder (Another day!) and never as a repetition of things being done that wearies us
(Another dumb day!)

Mary is an exemplar to this reality. Her title “virgin” does not only mean her
youthfulness and that she never had sexual relations. Virginity in a Biblical sense means
integrity of life because such life is possessed by God. Kathleen Coyle in her book
Mary in the Christian Tradition: From a Contemporary Perspective writes that in the
Hebrew Scriptures Israel is referred to as virgin to symbolize her sacredness. In Mary,
her virginity symbolizes not just her moral virtue, but her holiness. In other words, her
being young is her total gift of self to God. Holiness is not primarily our own making. It
is God’s action in our lives that makes us whole and holy.

The Annunciation narrative, which is one of the stories that we hear this season of
Advent, allows us to see Mary as a person pointing to the fulfillment of the Promise:
Jesus Christ. It is not her story. It is actually, Jesus’ story in which Mary takes a
supporting role. Though she has a supporting character, Mary is found favor with God.
Notice that in the Annunciation story, Gabriel never called Mary by her name but he
addressed her as “Rejoice, O highly favored one!” To be favored by God means to be
graced by God! In the story, Mary was somehow astonished by this greeting that she
must have encountered on a very ordinary day of her life. But she pondered on the Word
conveyed to her by the angel. Grace, according to Jose Cristo Rey Garcia-Paredes,
CMF, in his book Mary and the Reign of God: A Synthesis of Mariology is given not as
a privilege but so that they may become channels through which grace can flow to the
people, to the world.

What made us decide to embrace teaching as a profession? We have reasons to

tell why you and I are teachers. But God has a wonderful reason why he called us to be.
In this Advent Season, we inhale and exhale the Spirit that Mary breathed two millennia
ago. By taking Mary’s ways, we discover that, just like her, God has destined us to be
His collaborators in fulfilling the Plan of Salvation and Liberation that is already taking
place here and now and will reach its fulfillment when Jesus comes in glory on the last
day. Thus, like Trixie, we can exclaim, “Another day!”

2. Mary: A woman of contemplation

God can make wonders in our personal and collective lives if we allow Him to
touch our lives. By allowing Him to do this to us, we need to be contemplatives.
Contemplation is defined by Rolheiser as experiencing an event fully, in all its aspects, by
which it can lead us to a certain contuition of God. (R. Rolheiser, OMI, A Shattered
Lantern, p. 23.)

To be effective contemplatives, we need not to understand more but to love more.

Loving makes us develop fully as persons. I remember, one time I shared to my mother,
a teacher also, about my experience with this particular student who was so problematic.
I was about to give up. But being a formator of catechists, I still had to find other
solutions other than my own. So, I shared to my mother about this experience of mine
until I asked her, “Until when should I stop understanding this student who gives me a
terrible problem?” My mother replied, “You can stop understanding him if you can no
longer love him.” My incapacity to understand the person is basically my need for
imagination. Imagination is not fantasy. Again, borrowing from Rolheiser, “imagination
is the power to create the images we need to understand and respond to what we are
experiencing”. (R. Rolheiser, Agaist an Infinite Horizon, p. 201.) We need a healthy
imagination to stand before any reality and have a sense of what God is asking of us.
In the life of Mary, at the Annunciation, she was challenged to be creative in her
imagination. Who would have thought that you would receive the invitation to be the
Mother of God on one fine day? According to J. C. R. Garcia-Paredes, CMF, Mary
was in distress not to the vision of the angel but to words of God spoken by Gabriel. The
Gospel shows her in dialogue with herself, searching for a more meaningful
understanding of God’s will in her life.

Furthermore, Mary was not only in distress but she also objected. Her objection
is not to the will of God for her but how she could bear a child well in fact she was
already “engaged” to Joseph. But the Divine Assurance is an indication on God would
carry out the Plan of Salvation in which Mary will be His collaborator. With this, God’s
will is always possible.

I believe that Story of the Annunciation is not an event that happened in Mary’s
life at one setting. It was a process coupled with prayer. Mary, in that story, distress,
confused and even objected, conversed not only to herself but to God. She is pictured by
the writer of the Gospel Story as a woman who was fully aware not only of her given
facticities as a woman and as a Jew but as a person who trusted in God’s will. The author
never presented Mary as person who asked God in the moment of distress, confusion and
objection “What can I do? What must I do?” Instead, the author paints Mary as a
contemplative, a woman with a healthy imagination by putting this question into her
mouth, “How can God do this to me?” Indeed, by becoming contemplatives in our day to
day experiences, we become like Mary, who pondered the Word of God and became full
of God, “full of grace” (kechariktomene).

The varied conditions that we have are challenging us to become contemplatives.

From the pressing demands of our academic work up to our ordinary routines in our
family, from the varied issues that beset our personal and collective lives, in the midst of
the many struggles that we are confronting be it functional or relational, etc., we turn to
Mary as our model of contemplation. In spite of these gnawing challenges, she was
consistent in her faith in God and her daily life because for her, prayer is finding God in
all things. She is, indeed, not only our intercessor. She is pointing us to Jesus by telling
us “to do whatever he tells you”.