On Easter Sunday, 21st April, the De La Salle Brothers in the Philippines offered a Mass of thanksgiving for Brother Visitor, Edmundo Fernandez’ years of service as LEAD Visitor. In attendance, were Brothers who were able to make it to La Salle Green Hills, back from their places of retreat and close family and friends. Below are excerpts of Brother Dodo’s shared reflection in the Mass. (Br. Sockie de la Rosa FSC; Photos: Mr. Marc Gepaya)
Our Faith Must be Bigger Than Our Fears (Abridged)
Br. Edmundo Fernandez FSC
Change always brings about new fears: for those being changed, for those who will experience change and those will effect change. In the current context that’s old leadership on our way out; you, the Brothers who will be the recipients of change or non change; and new leadership who will be the new agents of change. For those of us on our way out we might ask, as those who have been in this job for a long time often do: will I still be relevant after this? For the Brothers, they might ask: will the changes be too disruptive? Will I be brought out of my own comfort zone? Will the new Visitor understand my needs? And for new leadership coming in, I am sure they ask themselves at night: how on earth did I ever get this job?
I think these are healthy fears. Healthy fears give us boundaries, they allow us to define who we are and what our values are. But there are unhealthy and irrational fears --- fears that imprison us and shackle us. They are called Phobias and according to the American Psychological Association the list of phobias keeps on growing it is hard for them to have an exact count. There are the common ones: Claustrophobia is the fear of confined or crowded spaces; aerophobia is the fear of flying and acrophobia is the fear of heights. But there are also the unusual ones: Pogonophobia is the fear of beards and cryophobia the fear of ice or cold. If you have Hierophobia you cannot be a Brother because that’s the fear of sacred objects and probably the worst for me would be Bibliophobia for you will never be able to hold a book or come near a library.
Fear is profound force and we live with it everyday of our lives. Small, big, trivial, deep seated fears – we have them all. For some it can be paralyzing. Often we leave our fears unarticulated or un expressed to anyone. And we live with them and carry them much like Jesus carries his wounds – they are signs of our humanity and our longing to be healed and be well. My recent fear is tied to my long 5 – week walk in Spain in less than two weeks’ time. Most of you would know that it’s a daily walk of between 20 – 30 kms a day for about 30 – 35 days. My fear was whether I would be able to finish it and my anxiety reached a level that I was having dreams about it for three consecutive days.
Ultimately, this is the gift of Easter for me: that Christ’s resurrection, his triumph over death, light over darkness gives us the courage to name our fears and the strength, if not to overcome them, at least not to be cowed by them. Do I still have the fear of not reaching the end of my Pilgrimage? Yes, I do but I believe that my faith is bigger than my fear and like the road to Emmaus, In the end, if anything happens, I can always take a taxi to my next destination! I know the Risen Christ will walk with me though I may not recognize him. Our faith must be bigger than our fears.