For the group’s ethnographic study, they decided to find out what happens in the day-to-day life of a seminarian, in this case a San Jose seminarian that resides in San Jose Seminary located inside Ateneo de Manila University.
Knowing that the residences and houses of these people are usually not open to anyone so as to strictly maintain security, silence and holiness, the group felt that they can’t just barge their way in and randomly observe inside despite being Ateneo students. In order for them to get inside the Seminary, Gelo, one of the members in the group, decided to contact Brother James Santos, who was his former teacher in Christian Life Education back in 3rd year high school and was coincidentally Miggy’s teacher in 3rd year as well. Brother James served as the group’s key informant for the fieldwork.
With the group having conflicts with their respective schedules and contacting the Sikh Temple, which was the group’s original plan, they decided to go with their back-up topic. They figured that it was more convenient and less hassle because it is nearer everyone and the group already had a possible contact in mind and also because of the time constraints. Knowing Brother James; that he pursued becoming a Jesuit and maintaining contact, Gelo messaged him and he willingly agreed. With his hectic schedule however, the group was only able to meet him last Saturday afternoon. This worked out in favor of the group because two in the group had their NSTP in the morning so transportation was not a problem and second, the group eventually knew that Saturday was usually a time of rest for people working in seminaries. This meant that whoever the contact in San Jose Seminary would not be pressed for time in allowing the group to become acquainted with the seminary and its residents.
Come Saturday, 4:15 pm, the group went to meet Brother James at Loyola House of Studies, where he and his fellow Jesuit seminarians reside. Introductions were done, specifically for Marty who was a stranger for him at first.
Realizing that there was still time before the group met with the contact, Brother James decided to tour the group around the Loyola House of Studies. He led the group to a nearby garden that was facing the Loyola School of Theology. Once outside, he proceeded to give a brief background of the school. According to him, Jesuit initiates attend this school in order to take up Philosophy, Theology, and other subjects that are essential in their formation towards becoming priests. Afterwards, he informed the members that San Jose Seminary is a diocesan seminary while the Loyola House of Studies is for people who wish to become Jesuits. This is where the group first gained knowledge with regards to religious life. The group thought ever since that San Jose Seminary was also a place for Jesuit seminarians. He then continued to explain. Brother James was asked by Gelo what the major differences were between the two. He said that there are two kinds of priesthood, religious and diocesan. The religious priesthood are Jesuits while Diocesan priesthood are Jesuit trained. The diocesans are parish-based meaning they are sent to different communities and dioceses, telling mass on their respective parishes. The religious on the other hand are more of formators and take on a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience which can be seen in Brother James’ simple attire. Religious priests can administer the sacraments as well. Another difference is that the Jesuits study and practice Ignatian values/spirituality while diocesans are free to choose which value/spirituality they want to study and practice: Ignatian, Carmelite, Augustinian, Dominican, etc. The whole formation to become a Jesuit takes 12 years while it takes only 10 for diocesans. Brother James also noted that the diocesan brothers in San Jose Seminary are called Josefinos after their patron saint, Saint Joseph. The second building that Brother James led the group to was Fr. JM Lucas S.J. Renewal Center which was essentially a dorm where students who go on retreats or recollections reside in during their stay.
Right after the tour that Brother James conducted, he was messaged by his contact telling him that he was done with his daily duties and that he was ready to meet the group. He then proceeded to walk with the group towards San Jose Seminary in order to meet up with his contact. When the group was nearing the entrance, they ran into Father Manol Montesclaros S.J., who was a resident in the seminary as well as an acquaintance of the group’s accompanying Jesuit brother. Brother James introduced each member of the group and then told Father Manol what our business at the seminary was. After a few questions, he asked Brother James to take a picture with the group by a nearby statue of Mother Mary in case “the group needed documentation for their study,” as he put it. Once the picture-taking session was over with, Father Manol said a few parting words, wishing the group luck in their project and then went back to his musings.
Left to right: Marty, Miggy, Gelo, and Father Manol
After that encounter, the group followed Brother James into the lobby of the seminary and proceeded to wait by the couches while he was conversing with the attendant at the front desk. During this time, the members took to inspecting the lobby and overall appearance of the venue. The one thing that stood out was this grand marble wall near the left side of the front desk. On that wall were various batches from the Loyola Schools and the Ateneo High School that were benefactors of the seminary. The group was in awe because of the beauty and serenity of the place. The group began to realize the amount of money that was put into making this place what it is today.
A few moments later, Brother James’ contact arrived in the lobby. He introduced himself to the group as Brother Jason Alde, or “Jas” as he is called by the residents. Furthermore, the members found out that it is currently Brother Jas’ second year of priesthood in San Jose Seminary. After introductions were set, the role of the tour guide was handed over to the diocesan brother, with Brother James tagging along the group since he “had time to kill.” The first stop in this tour was the main chapel wherein Mass is always held. Similar to the marble wall back in the lobby, the members of the group noticed that the floor tiles and the walls were made out of marble. In addition to this, there were also statues of various saints placed along the walls. The beauty of the chapel was more displayed when lights were turned on. It was also during this part of the tour that Brother Jas told the group that there were two San Jose Seminaries in the country, with the second one being in Cagayan de Oro. After becoming acquainted with the chapel, the group proceeded towards the conference rooms located beside the entrance. According to Brother Jas, those rooms were used mainly for counseling and other, more personal matters like meetings and conferences. There was just something about the entire vibe the place gave the group. It just felt like you were in a different place that separated you from the real world. You felt secure and at peace with yourself because of the place. It was so quiet with a relaxing breeze brought by the tall and plenty trees which surround the seminary that can calm your mind and it just made you feel so much better just by being there. It felt like going on a mini retreat because there were just a few people in the area and the few people that were there greeted you with a smile and a small conversation. They just made you feel at home and welcome.
Throughout the remainder of the tour, the members of the group found themselves surprised. The reason for this was because their individual stereotypes about seminarians were broken apart; They were able to gain a new perspective on people in their line of work. One of the factors that brought about this development was when the group was shown the recreational facilities as well as the “TV room”. In the recreational room, there were equipments such as a billiard table, books, ping pong table, and various musical instruments. Brother Jas explained that seminarians “relax and have fun” and they really have a designated time for recreational activities after they are done with their duties for the day. It is their way of bonding with one another while at the same time having fun. In addition to that, Brother James made a joke about how the group probably thought that seminarians led “boring lives” and how all they did on a daily basis were to read books and pray. Another interesting feature that the group saw in the recreational room was the honesty store. Seminarians are allowed to get food and drinks anytime of the day just as long as they write in the log book and pay later on. The group found this interesting because we were surprised on how disciplined the seminarians are. They are disciplined because they can easily just get stuff for free but they choose not to. The group also found it funny because Brother Jas mentioned that there are some seminarians that “forget” to pay and he said this while laughing, this goes to show that they are in fact, human after all.
Also, during the tour, the group would on occasion run into other seminarians and workers. The first group of people the group chanced upon were both buying snacks at the “honesty store” when the group entered the TV room. When they noticed the presence of the other people in the room, the two brothers asked Brother James and the members if any of them wanted to buy at the store. The group kindly declined the offer and the pair proceeded to leave the room. The next person that Brother Jas and company were able to meet was Brother Earl. During that time, Brother Earl just finished playing basketball with his fellow seminarians. Upon meeting the aforementioned people, he apologized to them if he was in any way emitting an odor due to becoming sweaty. The group waved this off and after a few exchanges, Brother Earl excused himself in order to get water and freshen up. Thirdly, Brother James and the students were introduced to the cooks behind the cuisine that the residents of San Jose Seminary are treated to everyday. They were actually kind enough to allow the students to enter the kitchen and document the place even if on a regular day, no one is allowed inside the workplace except the cook and the helpers.
Throughout the run-ins with the different residents of the diocesan seminary, the only thought running through the minds of each student was that the people there were amiable and easily-approachable. None of them gave off the vibe that they weren’t open to any type of communication and some were even willing to assist the group with any concern they may possible have. One of the cooks even went so far as to invite the students and Brother James over for dinner because it was already 5:40 pm when the tour ended, to which the group respectfully declined.
After the tour, Brother Jas lead the others to one of the conference rooms in order to take a mini rest from walking around and to talk about life in the seminary. Once each person was seated comfortably in the room, Brother Jas left and came back shortly with copies of the community schedule, which contained the itinerary for each day of the week as well as the various activities held in some of them. After analyzing the schedule, the group members noticed that at 6:30 am and 6:00 pm everyday, Personal Lauds and Personal Vespers are practiced, respectively. One of the members, Miggy, asked Brother James what they were. He explained to Miggy that Personal Lauds were basically personal prayers done in the morning while Personal Vespers were prayers done in the evening.
Another thing that the students took note of was the practice of Examen, which, according to the schedule, was done twice everyday, one right after the seminarians wake up and the other right before they sleep. Brother James and Brother Jas explained that in an Examen, a person would look back on the day that was. It is an Ignatian value wherein one tries to recall the events which happened beforehand throughout the day and try to find God’s presence in those times. It is also a way of examining how he sees God and what His plan is for him. The person undergoing the examen would take into account the things that uplifted his being as well as the things that brought him down during the day. He would give thanks to the Lord for being able to experience all of these things, the good ones for giving life to his spirit and the bad ones for giving him experience with regards to handling obstacles that come his way. After giving gratitude, he will end his Examen by asking the grace of the Lord in the coming day. This was explained to us as a prayer that was personal because it is more of a silent prayer and not something to be recited out loud. This short period of the day, which only lasts for 15 minutes, allows us to reflect on what happened and try to become a better individual after reviewing the recent events in our day.
As if luck was on the group’s side, they also found out that the seminarian may choose to conduct their personal Examens during their free time. Brother Jas also brought it up that he would conduct his own around 6 in the evening on occasion. With all of this in mind, the students made a request to the seminarian if they can join him in his Examen. Brother Jas gladly accepted our request and asked each person, including Brother James, to get comfortable in the conference room. Once everyone was seated accordingly, Brother Jas then began the Examen asking everyone to reflect and look back on the day that has passed. Afterwards, the participants began the next step by trying to remember their individual shortcomings or sins they may have committed during the day, and asking the Lord for forgiveness. The next phase involved everyone remembering the blessings they received throughout the day and giving thanks to the Lord for all of them. Once that was done, Brother Jas initiated the last part by requesting the participants to ask the grace of God for whatever individual concern each of them may have. The Examen came to a conclusion through the recitation of three Glory Be’s.
After the prayer session, Brother Jas excused himself for a short while to talk with his fellow seminarians. During this time, Brother James asked each student how every one of them felt after the Examen. In general, all of them felt more relaxed and at ease after the prayer session.
After each member gave their personal thoughts on the activity, they then asked Brother James to give a short orientation on the Examen. He began by giving a brief background on the activity, telling the group that it dates back to when St. Ignatius was conducting his pilgrimage in Manresa. According to him, St. Ignatius always had with him his journal where he would write all of the things that he experienced as well as his personal thoughts and feelings. Brother James also said that once St. Ignatius established the Society of Jesus about 400 years ago, Ignatius encouraged his fellow Jesuits to have a prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what is now called the Daily Examen.
After giving the historical background, Brother James went on to explain the mechanics of an Examen. He said that while an Examen can be performed in a variety of ways, there is a basic set of guidelines as to how to go about the activity, which was what the group actually followed during their earlier Examen. He said that in this guide, the Examen is divided into five parts:
- Ask the Lord for Light: This meant that the participant would want to view his day through the eyes of God.
- Give Thanks: The participant recalls the blessings he received throughout the day and thanks the Lord for all of them.
- Review the Day: The participant looks back on the day that has passed.
- Face Your Shortcomings: The participant acknowledges what is wrong in his life and in him at the moment.
- Look Toward the Day to Come: The participant asks himself in what aspect he needs God in the day to come.
After the orientation, Brother James was asked what made the Examen such a significant part of the seminarians’ lives and what made it different from just normally praying to God. He went to explain that in an Examen, one doesn’t simply talk to the Lord but rather, he lets the Lord enter his being. Through the spirit of the Lord, the person is then able to look into himself and the things that uplifted his spirits or those that brought him down during the day. Furthermore, he said that the seminarians conducted the Examen twice a day because the evening Examen is interconnected to the morning Examen of the following day. This meant that those who performed the Examen after they wake up were actually praying for the concerns they may have had the night before. Brother James also added that in his case, the Examen helps him in finding out more about himself, where he loves more and loves less, as well as remind him why he entered the Seminary in the first place.
The daily Examen performed by the seminarians of San Jose Seminary is one of many other practices that show how faith plays a big role in our society. According to the CIA’s The World Factbook, Philippine demographics show that there are several religions in the Philippines such as Catholics, Muslims, Iglesia ni Cristo and more but in particular, 80.9% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic while 5% are Muslims and 2.3% are Iglesia ni Cristo. This means that the different religions, especially Roman Catholicism, influences us greatly in our everyday lives and of the way society dictates how we live.
In the case of Brother Jason Alde and the rest of the San Jose Seminary, their way of life is rooted in the Catholic Ignatian Spirituality teachings which is akin to that of their neighboring Jesuit seminary. As already stated earlier, they make sure that they are able to perform the Examen twice on a daily basis because it is their way of thinking on everything that has occurred to them during the day, both the good and the bad. For them, the prayer activity is a means of guiding them towards becoming better servants of God.
To cap it off, everyone in the group was treated to an enlightening experience during their visit to the seminary. They were able to find out how a seminarian lives out his life on a daily basis. Moreover, they realized that the Examen is not specifically only for those undergoing priesthood. It is an activity that encourages literally everyone from various walks of life to look into themselves, both spiritually and mentally, as a means of attaining a way of life centered around the values perpetuated by Christ and His followers. In the words of Brother James, “Ika nga ni St. Ignatius, ‘Mawala na ang lahat, huwag lang ang Examen’”. If there is any takeaway from this experience with the seminarians, it is that choosing the religious life is not at all how we perceive it to be; boring, hard, do nothing but pray, and many more. The tour and conversation the group had with Brothers James and Jas showed that being a seminarian is fun and exciting. They showed how they try to take each day one at a time allowing God to lead their way and direct their lives. With their simplicity and happiness, they show content with what and where they currently are and smile and face each obstacle that lies ahead.
Left to right: Brother Jas, Miggy, Marty, Gelo, and Brother James
“The World Factbook: PHILIPPINES.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 14 Nov. 2017, http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/geos/rp.html.
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