On May 31, 2020, Pentecost Sunday Mass was streamed live on the Xavier Kuangchi Facebook page and XS Nuvali Facebook page. In this Eucharistic celebration, Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, SJ, Ph.D, School President, pronounced his Final Vows in the Society of Jesus. On this day, Fr. Ari also celebrated the 25th anniversary of his First Vows.
The Mass was presided by Fr. Arnulfo O. Bugtas Jr., SJ, Campus Minister, and the homilist was Fr. Ramon Ma. Luza Bautista, SJ. The full homily may be viewed here.
Fr. Ari delivered the following thanksgiving remarks:
On New Year’s Day this year, I was very surprised to receive a message from Fr Provincial Jun Viray, SJ. It said that I was being called to pronounce final vows in the Society of Jesus. In the Jesuit system, one does not ask or apply to make final vows; one just waits for the invitation to come.
I was surprised because I finished tertianship only in March 2018, and with so many things happening in my school work, I thought it would take some more years before the Jesuit superiors would even think of considering me for final vows. And yet, this moment has come, and I am truly grateful.
I chose this date because of its significance as the 25th anniversar of my First Vows in 1995, and when it happened to be Pentecost Sunday as well, then I thought it all fit in very nicely. The custom is to keep this event low key, so I was trying to draft a guest list, trying to include Jesuits, my extended family, and all the people who have journeyed with me and supported me in my ministries over so many years. It was not easy trying to create a list, but with the pandemic, God has solved that problem for me. We are very few who are physically present here, but I thank all of you who have tuned in via Facebook Live to share this moment with me.
What are Final Vows anyway? What is this thing that Jesuits do after they have made First Vows, been ordained priest, and spent so many years serving in various ministries? Is it like being granted tenureship, or becoming a Partner in a company, or is it like platinum membership in a club?
These are quite imperfect analogies. Let me share instead the difference between the words I uttered 25 years ago, and the words I uttered today. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience are the same; they are perpetual; but 25 years ago I also vowed to “enter the Society of Jesus and to spend my whole life in it”, begging God that as He gave me the grace to make those vows, God might also give me enough grace to sustain them.
I have now spent 25 years as a vowed Jesuit, studying and working, doing what I have been asked to do, receiving training and serving in communications, Chinese Studies, Buddhism, and education. Today it is the Society of Jesus who has taken notice of my Jesuit life and saying to me, “It is good that we are here… forever na ito.” This is now for keeps. It is not only me making my offering of self; it is also the Society of Jesus offering me for service in the Church and in the world.
Thus, the words I uttered today are simpler and shorter because enough time has passed for me to sink roots in the Society of Jesus, and there is a commitment on both sides to journey together for the rest of my life.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, the moment when Mary and the disciples, many of whom had abandoned Jesus in his Passion, and were in fact hiding for fear of persecution, received the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. After his resurrection, Jesus went on a mission of mercy, not once mentioning the failures of his disciples, but offering them peace and reassuring them for the mission that they would carry out when Jesus is no longer with them physically. I call this to mind today, trusting in the Lord’s merciful love and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for my onward journey.
Wherever Jesuit life and mission take me now, I see my final vows as a further step in striving to become more and more like Jesus. Having studied Buddhism, I am in deep appreciation of our late Father General Adolfo Nicolas’ message to young Jesuits—to let Christ in, because it doesn’t happen once and for all. It takes time. Just as the Buddhist path to enlightenment takes time, even several lifetimes of striving to liberate the mind, so the path to becoming like Christ takes time, and much practice. Maybe that is what Christian enlightenment is all about, to become like Christ.
We Jesuits describe ourselves as companions of Jesus, sinners yet called, and that is my only desire, to accompany Jesus the Christ in proclaiming the love and mercy of God to the world. And I do that in fellowship with my brother Jesuits, represented today by my community, at once universal and local. It is another grace today for us to see that this small gathering, in this chapel where the saints of China gather around the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in this congregation / we experience the communion of all those who seek to follow Jesus more closely.
Reaching this milestone has been very humbling, and I can really only be grateful for all God’s gifts. I thank God for my family, for the gift of being near them these last seven years, for their constant love and support; I have not ceased to marvel at our history. When Angkong and Amma moved to San Juan in the early 60s, how could they have known that by having the next generation married in the parish church, and sending the boys to the Chinese school in the neighborhood, they would one day have a Jesuit grandson who would become head of the school? What a singular and unique grace that has been for us. All is grace.
I thank God for my brother Jesuits present here; we have come to know each other much better after two and a half months of quarantine. I specially thank my tertian instructor, Fr Mon Bautista, for being here despite the quarantine, and offering us his profound reflection.
I thank my friends in the school for their support in all the logistical preparations.
In the midst of a pandemic and so many uncertainties about our future, we thank God today for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and for the Holy Spirit that will help us find our way. We cling to God’s loving mercy, and dare to hope for a better future. And now let us join Mary, the Untier of Knots, the Mother of the Church, in her song of thanksgiving and praise.
At the end of the ceremony, a special video presentation that expressed greetings and messages of love and support from the Xavier School community, the Jesuit community, friends, batch mates, and family was shown.
The full version of the videos may be seen below:
The following photos were provided by Pat Dy:
(Click the thumbnail to view the photo in full size.)
Happy anniversary and congratulations, Fr. Ari! Luceat Lux!