The other day, I got a text before I reached the office from one of my young students. She’s a Taiwan Chinese. She’s the best of my students in the class “Journalism Principles and Practices,” which I’ve met only for the second time last Monday (a no-school day because President Aquino made the end of the Haj season a national holiday to show respect for our Muslim fellow citizens).
How can I tell she’s the best of my 10 students in this class at The Manila Times College?
It’s a lecture and discussion class. In the two times we’ve had the two-hour sessions, she discussed just as intelligently as most of her nine classmates. But I have a way of finding out who’s been paying attention to the lectures and has digested the readings. The first 20 minutes of the class is devoted to seat work. Each student is asked to write down what they remember of my lecture in our previous meeting.
This foreign student has submitted the most faithful summary, in outline form, and with subheadings too, of the two lectures I’ve given so far.
Suddenly, on Thursday morning I got a text from her. She happened to learn that I have a smattering of Mandarin. Her text pleaded to be allowed to speak with her “school father” about a serious problem. I agreed and met her in the corridor outside The Times editorial office, where she tearfully told me about the problem. It turned out to be one of those tempests in a teapot. I find this old-fashioned idiomatic expression appropriate for something that pertains to a turmoil bothering a Taiwan-Chinese girl whose family owns a bakery somewhere in Metro Manila.
The problem had to do with her being treated rather badly by some of her classmates who she thought were her friends. Maybe it had to do with her being a foreigner, she felt. But I figured it wasn’t that. It was really because the people she had a bad experience with (not members of my class) had been misinformed about something she was supposed to have said but in fact hadn’t. That sort of thing.
Then she told me that because of this problem she had asked her elder sister to come to our school. Could I please see her. So I agreed to go down and out of our building in Intramuros. We crossed the street and went inside the Zucchero Café where her elder sister was waiting. I found out that the sister actually lives in London and comes home to Manila every so often. She reminded me of my eldest daughter who, small world, also lives in England, and used to live in London, with my Englishman son-in-law and their two children.
When we talked about my student’s problem with a couple of her classmates, I found myself talking to them about something I had learned from Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, and his first successor, the newly declared Blessed, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo.
My first memento from Blessed Alvaro is a photograph of him when he was the Prelate of Opus Dei with the words “Omnia in bonum!” and under those words “Roma 1978” written in his bold penmanship. St. Josemaria died in 1975, so Blessed Alvaro signed this picture for his sons and daughters to remember him by when he was already head of The Work for three years.
I told my student (without mentioning the names of St. Josemaria or Blessed Alvaro, because I didn’t and I still don’t know what her religious affiliation is) that I have always followed the advice of two sages.
And this is to be thankful to Almighty God for everything that happens to me–even the unpleasant things. For these too make me grow in wisdom, strength of will, and ability to confront, solve or at least deal with bigger problems that are sure to come my way.
Then I made it a fatherly talk. I noticed the elder sister was taking all of it in with interest and I think agreement. I alerted my student to forthcoming experiences of worse situations than what she had just gone through. But the important thing is to make sure that each difficult pass becomes a lesson that makes her a better person.
What, in my case, makes me sure that everything that happens to me is for my good is the “Omnia in bonum” teaching that I learned from St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro.
The words are from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (8,28): “We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
Fr. Roy Cimagala, in a blog he wrote on July 16, 2011, explains that the Latin “Omnia in bonum” is “all unto good” in English, which is a paraphrase of the quote from St. Paul. And the call of God for those who love Him is for them “to be saints.” To be sanctified. Become holy. Like Jesus Christ himself.
In St. Josemaria’s book, Furrow, under the chapter “The Struggle,” one finds Point 127.
He says: The test, I don’t deny it, proves to be very hard: you have to go uphill, “against the grain.”
What is my advice? That you must say: omnia in bonum, everything that happens, “everything that happens to me,” is for my own good… Therefore do accept what seems so hard to you, as a sweet and pleasant reality.