Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monastic Life

Three days after returning home from our retreat, some discoveries lingered in my mind. The most impressive fact was that of Dom Martin Gomez, a Filipino renowned fashion designer who abandoned his life in the spotlight to join the Benedictine Monks.

According to the official site of Senator Migz Zubiri, when Dom Martin attended the launching of the Senator's book about Bukidnon, he was asked why he entered the monastery, he answered "In all of us, there is a thirst, a yearning for God. But oftentimes, we busy ourselves with so many things we never really go deep into our hearts to find what is missing. I knew there was so much more I wanted in life. My searching brought me to this monastery in Bukidnon. It is here where I finally found my 'home' with God," (source: www.migzzubiri.org).

However, life in the monastery did not hamper his desire to show how talented and creative Filipinos are, he continued his passion in haute couture by creating exquisite designs of Filipino Liturgical Vestments that are truly world-class.
Dom Martin Gomez, former fashion designer who found peace of mind and contentment in the arms of the Benedictine monastery
 The tranquil environment of the Monastery. From a distance, we can see here the monastery museum where the vestment designs collection of Dom Martin are exhibited
Some of Dom Martin's fabulous designs on display at the Monastery Museum of the Benedictine Monks in Bukidnon

In time for the observance of Holy Week, I couldn't help but think some remarkable individuals who made sacrifices to seek personal contentment away from the fame and fortune they used to have. Some of them embraced simplicity and thoroughly gave up the glory they once possessed.

Last semester when I took the Ignatian Leadership for Managers and Entrepreneur subject in my MBA course, I found out that the MATEO SANCHEZ of the ancient Jesuit community was actually PRINCESS JOANNA OF SPAIN! can you believe that?? This rare case was mentioned by Chris Lowney in his best-selling book "Heroic Leadership" which we used in the class as a supplementary reading material.

The Spanish princess, a sister to King Philip II of Spain (to whom the Philippines was named) was one of the three children of Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, Charles V. She married the crown Prince of Portugal, John of Braganza and bore him one child, the future King of Portugal, Sebastian, but the crown Prince died shortly after the birth of their child so Joanna went back to Spain, she left her infant son in the royal court of Portugal. She acted as regent for her brother, Philip, who married Queen Mary I of England. 

When Mary I died, Philip moved back to Spain to administer his kingdom so Joanna left in the background. During those years, the Spanish and Portuguese royals were fascinated with the institution established by Ignatius de Loyola called the Society of Jesus, Joanna asked Loyola's permission to join the community but she was turned down because Society of Jesus was exclusive for males, but she insisted and made an agreement to keep her membership a deep secret.

She discreetly joined the community and none of the Jesuit's top officials knew it, except Loyola, she assumed the name MATEO SANCHEZ and lived in seclusion. None of the Jesuits at that time knew or met Mateo Sanchez. The person behind the name had never attended their gatherings. But Joanna's rare case was not repeated in the succeeding centuries and the Society of Jesus strongly maintained to accept male members only.

Joanna's father, Charles V, also relinquished his fortune and royal titles to live in the monastery. During his reign, his extensive empire dominated the world, stretching from the European continent down to the Caribbean and Africa (Philippines was colonized during the reign of his son, King Philip II), hence, his reign was dubbed by historians as "at which the sun never sets". But towards the end of his life, the emperor became disillusioned and seek serenity and peace of mind, he then abdicated and gave up his comfortable life in the royal palace. He was succeeded by his brother, Ferdinand, as Holy Roman Emperor while his only son, Philip, succeeded him as King of Spain. Charles V went to live in a secluded monastery for the rest of his life.

Ignatius de Loyola himself descended from a noble family of Basque ancestry (whose territory was formerly located between Pyrenees mountain and Andorra near the border of Spain) when he decided to leave his distinguished career in the military to search for a deeper meaning in the religious life, he established a congregation that became known to the world with their mission and commitment in the field of Education, the Society of Jesus, he also pioneered a unique form of meditation and prayer, Spiritual Exercises, which became the universal practice of the Jesuits.

St. Francis of Assissi, a son of a very wealthy cloth merchant in Italy, is another great example, he gave up his fortune and abandoned his comfortable life to live in poverty and found contentment in the monastery. He established the Franciscan religious order later on.

Such inspiring thoughts to ponder in the observance of Holy Week...


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