Daily inward journey

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By Luci Lizares

Winners

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I WAS invited to one of those talks on spirituality and I was not shortchanged because the speaker was Will Hernandez and he showed us a way to achieve our spiritual journey through soul care.

Before anything else, who is Will Hernandez?

He is a Filipino, born and raised in the Philippines, and a graduate of Visual Communications, major in Advertising Design, at the University of the Philippines.

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In 1995, he went to the U.S. with his wife Juliet and their two sons, Jonathan and David, to pursue his Master of Theology degree majoring in Counseling Ministry in a seminary in Texas.

Moving to Southern California after, he started his doctorate program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. He finished his Ph.D. in Practical Theology with a special concentration in spirituality/spiritual formation.

Today, he holds a private practice in Pasadena doing counseling, life coaching, and spiritual direction (including running a nine-month Ignatian Spiritual Exercises for small groups following the 19th annotation of St. Ignatius of Loyola). Will is a lay Eucharistic minister, an Oblate, and is the founder of Center Quest.

His favorite teaching course is on the spirituality of Henri Nouwen, a course he himself developed out of his Ph.D. dissertation work. In addition, Will also teaches various courses on Nouwen (both “live” and via online) at various Protestant and Catholic institutions. His three books, which I was able to have a copy and read, were all based on Henri Nouwen.

In the words of Will Hernandez: “I want to personally welcome you to celebrating and promoting the life and work of one of my spiritual heroes: Henri Nouwen. People all over the world have been extraordinarily impacted by the life of this “imperfect” saint of God. I invite you to join me in the continuing exploration of Nouwen’s unique spirituality, a spirituality that points us to Jesus, who specializes in working through imperfect vessels like you and me.”

Nouwen says, "Hope is an attitude where everything stays open before me. It is daring to stay open to whatever today will offer me, or tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now, that is hope ... Whenever we pray in hope, we put our lives in the hands of God. Fear and anxiety fade away and everything we are given and everything we are deprived of is nothing but a finger pointing out the direction of God's hidden promise."

Will Hernandez calls Nouwen the imperfect saint of God. The thought of imperfection resonates with all of us. Yes, we try to follow the perfect Jesus despite our imperfection. We are imperfect beings who live in a world of stress and tension and yet trying to sail through the tough journey.

Spirituality is accessible to all, Hernandez says. The spiritual life is a journey with three movements starting from within, the inward knowledge of one’s self, to the outward, which is reaching out to others and finally to the upward, which is grasping God.

Soul care consists of the inward journey to the soul, the heart, the self. Its pathway is solitude. Solitude connotes not merely being alone and away from the noise and the din, but the going deep into one’s heart. The outward movement is the service we give; the hospitality we extend to others comes when we know ourselves better. And having mastered these, the upward direction is communion and union with God through prayer. The three processes in soul care are cyclical and holistically integrated. They cannot be separated.

The inward is achieved through psychology, the outward is arrived at ministry and we reach God through theology. They are all intertwined. It is a coherence of solitude, service and spirituality.

As we go to the deepest recesses of our being in personal psychology, we encounter our brokenness, our weaknesses and we deal with them plus the factors that contribute to the tensions and the stresses that surround us daily.

When we minister to our neighbor, and empathize and share in their joys and sufferings we express our love for God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “I liken my own suffering as the kiss of Jesus. I want a share in His suffering.” How we express our theology manifests our love for God.

Our spiritual journey is a trilogy of the integration of our realizing and rising above our imperfections and seeing these imperfections in our neighbors as well and still loving them and loving God by loving ourselves and our neighbor. Through a process of integration, we acquire a love that unifies-love for self, love for the other and love for God.

The three books I read of Will Hernandez are The Spirituality of Imperfection, The Spirituality of Integration and A Life of Tension. They tell the story of our lives which is a daily exercise in soul care. If we cannot integrate our imperfections in this world of tension then the journey to spirituality is not accessible to us. However, the three movements from inward (self) to outward (to others) and upward (to God) can help us achieve this integration.

Soul care…a daily, lifetime challenge…accessible but not quite easily achievable but definitely possible.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 14, 2014.

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