Why I Joined Xaverian Congregation
Fr. Patris Arifin, SX
I’m 20 years old. I’m the first child of three brothers. As a common teenager, I have a big dream I want to achieve. Now I am studying in Driyarkara School of Philosophy. I’m a priest candidate student of Xaverian Missionary Society. Our congregation dedicates our mission to the non-Christian people all over the world. Now, it is the fourth year of my formation in this congregation. Our community members come from different countries, cultures, languages, etc. We live as brothers in a big family united by one vocation.
You may be wondering about this kind of life. Why do I study philosophy? why do I want to be a priest?
I will start from the first time I got interested in this kind of life (Priesthood). When I was 4 years old, I was already interested in priesthood life. Exactly, I was just interested in the outfit they wear as a religious, their happy live, their humility, and so on. It is a very superficial impresion. My daily life was close to priest and church activities. I used to imitateeucharist celebration in my play time. You know, not every child liked it. I remember about my father’s kindness by always joining the mass celebrated by his first son (as if I were a priest). I really wanted to be a priest. This experience always makes me smile every time I remember it. It was why I felt close to every kind of church institution, such as parish, seminary, monastery, etc. I’m not a novice to this kind of life. It made me grow up as a good boy. I was very diligent to pray. When my father fellasleep earlier, I used to wake him up to pray. I grew up in faithful education and habit.
When I was 11 years old, I joined the minor seminary located in Flores island East Nusa Tenggara. That was the time full of enthusiasm. I come from a 100% Catholic village as many others in Flores. Most people supported me and hope I could become a priest. However, several of them thought that it was too early for me to join the seminary. But, my mom and dad supported my decision very much. In the seminary, I faced a really different way of life. There were so many rules throughout the day. It was interesting and seemed cool because it showed different ways to live life.
However, it was not suitable to the 11 year old child. I still wanted to play, enjoyed my life without pressure, needed my mother to serve me, etc. For the first time, I was a messy student both in academic and in non academic realm. I often got warning from my supervisor. sometimes, it made me worry. I just wanted to be a priest but never thought of these boring rules. But, I can’t be against my nature as a child. I still did what I wanted to do, sometimes we played football in the class, fellasleep in the chapel, and missed home. Finally I was advised to go home at the second semester. Indeed, I was not happy because I realized that I wouldn’t be on the path to become a priest anymore. I felt downhearted. Moreover, I was confused how to explain it to my hopeless mother and father because they supported me very much. I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. It hurted me at first. I felt that I was an unreliable man. I was a failed man.
After that, I attended St. Fransiskus Xaverius Catholic Junior High School and continued to Senior High School until my graduation. In this period of my life (about five years), I experienced again what I had left before. I had a lot of friends, fell in love, and followed fashion trend. Shortly, I acted normally as a teenager. I thought I was a free person. I was free to determine what I wanted to eat, when I had to sleep, study or not. Gradually, I lost my first dream. I didn’t think about my first plan or my childhood’s ambition anymore. It was a very cloudy season in my life. Everything changed, but it seemed it was going as it should be. I even joined the school gang in which I grew up as a drinker, smoker, and a girl harasser. I was stuck.
You may think that it seems awful, but later I realized that it was not a main problem. I did all of those to make sure that I was worthloving people. In the inner of my heart, I felt a crippling sensebecause of my failed experience before. It caught up with me on my senior year at high school. That feeling puhed me up to try to gain back my self-confidence, but it led me to the dangerous circumstances. I became a beggar of acknowledgement, love and attention and at the same time I took benefits overothers as well.
Everything I did just to get attention, acknowledge, and love so that I would believe that I was valuable, that I was not as bad as a failed man. My confidence depended on what people say or what they think about my life, and I chased my tail to get it. All of my achievemens, talents, relations, I did just to overcome low confidence or a wrong self-concept. This problem engrained in me. Above all, I enslaved others as well because I was enslaved by my needs. I didn’t love anyone but just used them for my own benefit. So, I didn’t think that it was a freedom, but an enslavement. A slave determines nothing for his life and it happened to me. I was just a spectator. I became very selfish. I didn’t care about others but always self-oriented. So I was an injured man.
After graduation, I had a plan to go to university and took law major. I wanted to study in Jogja, where my friends mostly were. Nevertheless, this was only my loose plan. One day, I was invited by my friend, called Astra, to attend the seminary admissions test. At First, I wanted to ignore it. But, not long after that, I felt something propel me to receive that invitation.
The first test I joined was Xaverian test. That day is the first step for me to join the Xaverian Congregation. In the following month, there were so many congregations came to our school to give the entrance test. I joined all of them just to avoid the class, but something I never expected before that I was accepted. A month later, I received a congratulation letter from Xaverian and many others as well. To be honest, I tell you that I didn’t expect that I would be accepted. This time I really care about the question “What does it mean?” “Does it indicate something? “Am I still called?” I finally thought about what life was, where I came from and so where to go.
So far, I hadexperienced all things as an “abnormal” teenager such as alcohol, cigarettes, girlfriend, etc. But I didn’t feel that life was like that. So I wanted to get it off. I was aware about something I didn’t know but I believed it was real. I just can tell you like this.
Few of us worry about life that will end more than the awareness of whether we have already started it or not. Nowdays we see people go to mall every day, shopping as much as they can, find out the unhealty entertainment, ect., but still never fell satisfied. So, the question is why do they do that? Do we really need those activities? Those people think that they are free to do anything, but indeed they are enslaved by so many needs. They never fell enaught with what they have, they often think that thae would be better if they get everything. They never love themselves as they are, but as what they have and do. So, it is logic if they never fell satisfied. Finally they decide to commit suicide because they can not be the best they imagine, because there are so many better people than them outside.
This kind of people always looking for something fulfilling their desire. But don’t we think that this kind of live that always try to get everything for me is absurd? Now I tell you that even at the time you die, there are still so many many things you can never get. It means that your live is vain, useless and never get a crown. It means, you never begin your live, but in contrary you wasting time.
The next question we have to answer is how to start our life? First of all, we need what is called life vocation. For me, it is a pivotal thing. This one determines where we have to start and where to go. The question what our lives for, Jesus ever questioned to the first disciples “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). It is not as simple as we think. It is a deep question. For example, if I asked someone why he becomes a doctor and he answers because he wants to serve others, so the same questions is why he wants to serve. Sometimes we can’t find the answer. For me, at least, it indicates that life is a mistery. Where there is a question, there is an answer. So, if we realize that we have a big question, we have to believe that there is a big answer as well, eventhought we don’t not know what. In other word we have to acknowledge the fact that we believe in something higher than us which I suggest we call it God.
Based on my experience before, I often asked my self why I had never been satisfied with entertainment, good clothes, or something new, etc. I got the answer that I had a deepest need in my life, but I tried to fulfill it with the wrong things, so it was never be truly filled. It’s about soul’s needs. Something we can’t see or touch, but real. We know reality isn’t just about visible or touchable things. So our soul’s needs indicate the thing we can’t see or touch or even we don’t know, but exist. I thought, it was not achievement, but love. Love means accept my own self and others as well. This reflection helped me decide to join the Xaverian Community to follow and to truly start my life. I wanted to turn around my life by joining Xaverian Congregation.This decision threw everyone off. Until three years after, few of them still didn’t believe, but I understood it.
When I joined Xaverian society, not many things were changed. There were still struggles and unanswered questions. The question about what our life, especially my life for were still remain. One day I went to chapel and sat on the small chair. I didn’t pray. I just looked at the crucifix, may be there was an answer there. After 30 minutes elapsed, I realized that I was looking at the freedom invitation. I thought that “why does Jesus sacrifice his life if I am useless? Why does he forgive me?”So I suddenly realized how lucky I was and how valuable I was. It changed my self concept that my human dignity doesn’t depend on everything I do or people give to me. I also didn’t need to get the acknowledgement from people all over the world to believe that I was valuable. I didn’t need to be famous or wore good clothes to feel worthy to live. This confidence released me from needs enslavement and selfishness. Jesus’ love was enaught for me. It was my big answer of my big life question fulfilling my soul hunger. It was my genuine freedom that was taken from my selfishness enslavement.
My vocation principle is “Do it as a remembrance of Me.” Jesus directs me to do what he did for me. I myself want others to be saved and be free from selfishness enslavement. I want them to experience the joy I have. The joy of giving. Giving supposes that you have someting. that is what iI call LOVE. For me, the priesthood is practice. Every day I see people compete to get rich, defeat others, do whatever to get money. The world tells them that become rich, famous, trendy are the only way to be worthy to live. Those problem comes from the ide that life is about reaching as much as we can. they forget that joy comes from giving. because when we want to get anything we never feel that we have something, while when we start giving, we realize that we are someone for other peoples. This one creates joy in our heart. So, I hope that becoming a priest leaving everything and dedicated myself just for God by living among those people makes them sure that love is pivotal. I want to create the new joy among them. I will prove that God loves them and how important they are that makes me leave everything.
So far, it seems like everything is solved. Not at all. At a certain point, I am doubtful about what I believe. Am I really called? What can I do? I’m a sinner. Further more, I thought about what I can do for my family when I become a priest with vows of poverty? I even can’t freely hug my sister in the public area because it’s too sensitive with Chastity profession, because it creates a preconception before I can clarify. Is this vocation valuable? I get a knot in the pit of my stomach.
Sometimes, I am really disrupted by my experience before. I thought that I was a very sinner man, so I was not worthy. I struggled with this inferiority in about two months. Finally, in my prayer, I got the answer. “What are you worried about, Patris? I have altered you, so if now you think how good you are as a new creation, proclaim it!” My inner voice is really vivid making me brave. Now I understand that my weaknessesare useful for my mission. I will tell all people that I have ever passed the wrong way so that they don’t need to walk on the same way anymore. I also finally realize how great this vocation is. I had to leave so many valuable things to get it, family, home, culture, country, and everything I have ever had for which most of people struggle. Now, light goes off. I become a free man. I care less about what people say because I already love my self. It is different from selfishness.
The experience of enslavement I have told you before occurs because I reject myself. Not all of my life experience makes me think that I’m just fine. So I think there is no other way to solve this problem, except to love all of my own, myself. I have to love myself as my parents do. Thus, I can love others and help them to love themselves so they can do the same to others and so on. Now, light goes off. I am sure, the world will be full of love. But, it requires the first “sacrifice”. I am ready for it. That’s why I decided to become a priest. I think, my life vocation is to be love bearer.
This decision I made when I was 17 years old. I talked it to my parents and they allowed me to take it. Then, I left my parents, brothers, friends, village to join Xaverian Congregation in Jogja for the first time. At first, this decision threw everyone off and
was painful because I had to leave almost everything I ever had. It was a part of my sacrifice.
In this way of life, I want to tell all people that I have ever passed the wrong way so that they don’t need to walk on the same way anymore. I become a free man. I don’t need anything to cover my weaknesses. I care less about what people say anymore because I already love my self.
For me, life is a chance everyone must take.I don’t let grass grow under my feet. I don’t need to wait for so long to make a decision because the longer I wait the more difficult it becomes to take until I never do it. Decision occurs every time. I learn how important to make a bravedecisioneven for a riskful thing because I believe that if I don’t take risks, I never begin my life. It makes me leave out my crippling fear. One more, love makes everyone free and enable us to love others or even ourselves as well. So, everyone has to have a love experience to accept themselves.I think the victory over life isn’t when I defeat others but when everyone wins and assure them to love themselves as Jesus loves them.