This was given by Fr. Lamberto Ramos during his talk on Discerning God's Will at the Men's Conference 2018 spearheaded by OPNE (Office for the Promotion of the New Evangelization)
Amoy anghel pa ako ngayon (I smell like an angel, 102 days after my ordination to the priesthood! But amoy lupa na rin, senior citizen na kasi, at 66 years, going on 67, five days from now!
This is the story of my conversion, my commitment and my communion (in the words of Fr. Joe Q); this is the story of how I experience Jesus' unconditional love in the form of acceptance, affirmation and forgiveness, of Jesus' renewal of his friendship with me, of Jesus' sending me on mission: the first one - as a married man to my dearly departed wife Vilma of 34 years and father to three children Johann, Carlo and Ana, and the second one: as ordained minister. Pope Francis in
Evangelii Gaudium calls this encounter, engagement, and entrustment. This is my story.
My Jesus-Encounter remains a work-in-progress.
On the road to Emmaus two disciples encountered the Risen Lord. But they failed to recognize Him. At the breaking of the bread "their eyes were opened" (Luke 24:13). The encounter became a touching experience for the disciples. "Were not our hearts burning within us?", they asked each other. The generations of disciples after them, us included, should continue to ask,
"Isn't our heart burning within us as we encounter the Lord in the Eucharist?"
My Jesus-Encounter has a similar burning heart that I have kept alive over the last 55 years, ever since I entered the Minor Seminary in 1963, through San Carlos Seminary in 1971, up to year 2014 when I took theology courses at Loyola School of Theology, five years after my wife Vilma died.
"Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam." ("I will go in to the altar of God; to God who gives joy to my youth.") I memorized this as an altar server when I was 10 years old, 56 years ago, the response to the opening words of the priest celebrant "Introibo ad altare Dei" ("I will go to the altar of God"). Unknown to me, every time I served at the early morning Mass, I entered the heart of the High Priest, Jesus Christ. That childhood experience was the early stirring of vocation that started as a spark evolving into a fire and would be kept burning inside me over the next 55 years.
The story of this vocation is inextricably linked with the three loves of my life: it began with the first woman, Mary, to whom I was dedicated by the second woman my mother at my birth, as my mother (whose fervent wish was to have a priest-son) repeatedly told me. The third woman, my wife of 34 years, died 9 years ago. Three nights before she died, she told me that I should go back to my first calling, the priesthood. On her deathbed, I told her with tears:
"I love you, forgive me, I have not given you all the wealth I have promised you when I married you."
With a sweet smile she embraced me and said: "you will become a priest. That is all the wealth I wish." Mary, the Mother, fetched my mother and they both fetched my wife from this earth. I know. And now the three of them stand beside each other watching me.
They always did, these three loves of my life.
CALL TO HOLINESS
Years ago, I learned that vocation is "the universal call to holiness" and that there are different ways to respond to this call, i.e., like the choice of a particular state of life in the church as an ordained minister, or be a good married man and father; and the chosen mission related to each state of life.
I am happy to say that the last 43 years of my life have been a continuing self-giving love in service to my late wife and to my children for whom we have collaborated with love to raise as witnesses to the Good News and in imitation of Jesus' life as good practicing Christians. In a manner of speaking, my life is a series of self-giving love and service, with "rest in-between": the rest being: obtaining three Masters degrees here and abroad, getting a decent means of living, and succeeding, by becoming president and CEO of various multinational companies that utilized my management expertise and experience, all of whose joys and sorrows, successes and disappointments including failures, I have offered to God in prayer and thanksgiving.
My Identity. The fire that was hidden but was kept burning finally surfaced. When I made up my mind that I would get back to studying theology and place myself at the service of God through his church, I have come to terms with what I have to do with my life: not "fuga mundi"“[flight from the world”] but "to actively involve and participate in the saving mission of Jesus, sent by God for the life of the world" as an ordained minister.
My Mission. The Holy Spirit has been leading me all these years to the realization that a Jesus-centered life is all Thanksgiving (Eucharist). And like Saints Augustine, Benedict, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, and many others - I am turning my back (Metanoia) from everything (my lifestyle) to be able to embrace (Koinonia) all God's people and serve them (Diakonia).
I can only attribute this to the GRACE of God: it highlights my relationship between HIM who calls, and I who now respond in discipleship and faith. Grace accompanies and transforms my every act, leading to a deeper Jesus-encounter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fr. Lamberto S. Ramos
Fr. Lambert was ordained a priest last June 1, 2018, 55 years after meandering through 2 seminaries namely San Carlos Seminary and Loyola School of Theology Ateneo, “with “interruption in between” such as: regency, a happy marriage, 3 children, master’s degrees in Philosophy (Ateneo), Business Economics(University of Asia and Pacific), Marketing Management (RVB Technological University of Delft, the Netherlands), successful domestic and international corporate career (Alaska Milk, General Milling, Jardines, Budweiser Beer, Hardiflex, Nextel among others), then wife’s cancer and subsequent demise.
Presently, he is the Shrine Rector and Parish administrator of Our Lady of the Abandoned, Marikina City.