"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

[First Week 2/2] Humility As Poverty Of Spirit

St. Francis of Assisi, Mirador Jesuit Villa, Baguio City (Photo: 8thworker) 

Point Of Departure: The Little Flower of Bukidnon

Before proceeding, I invite you to read also my previous post [PART I] on the humble life of virtue of Marineng Daw-it, a.k.a., Girlie. She came from a tribe of indigenous peoples in Bukidnon where I was assigned as a pastor in the rural municipality of Cabanglasan.

Humility As Poverty Of Spirit


here is a hidden chapter in Girlie's life that I would like to share. When she was younger, she was given away as a second wife to a married man with children. It is an accepted practice to have two or more wives as long as the husband could afford to support them. Girlie, being a Duae or second wife, was an object of domestic abuse especially from the first wife and her children. Girlie suffered a lot in their hands. She was treated as the slave of the household. She was not allowed to go out of the house for fear that she might leave. She would be given punishments at times, e.g., forced her to drink urine, et. al. There was a time when finally she was able to run away and found refuge in the forest where she stayed for days and weeks without proper food and shelter. Eventually she found her way back into the village. She was very sick at that time and needed immediate hospital care. The saddest part of Girlie's lot was when nobody among her own people, not even her own blood relatives would extend help. It is a practice in their tribe that any one who would help such a fugitive would be asked to pay the husband who has the sole right and jurisdiction over her.

It was Fr. Mateo "Mat" Sanchez, SJ, then the parish priest of Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe Parish who attended to her needs. She had no choice but to go into exile. She was almost left half-dead when she was first discovered by Fr. Mat who immediately brought her to the nearest hospital. It was a miracle that she was still able to survive after losing a lot of blood due to a miscarriage. After her recovery she never went back to her village. The parish took her in to stay with the scholars in the parish dormitory for children of indigenous peoples. When I was assigned in the same parish as a newly ordained priest, I marveled at Girlie's transformation into a virtuous young girl who willingly and lovingly served others not only us Jesuit priests but everyone whom she found in need of her help. Girlie did not become bitter after all the cruelties that she went through. She chose to forgive and chose "what matters and what passes away... what is necessary from what is not..." I was blessed to witness the greatest manifestation of her virtue before she died. Once, when we celebrated a thanksgiving mass of Fr. Braulio Dahunan, SJ, Fr. Mat was with us in going to the mountain village of the Umajamnon. There I met for the first time Girlie's estranged husband. As soon as we were back home, I told Girlie about it and I even showed a video clip of the people from her home village which she watched in the eyes of love. She was not bitter but all smiles to me especially when she saw in the video her estranged husband. To me it was a clear sign that she had forgiven her family and her own people. The day before she died she made a firm resolve to offer her life of service to the parish. She asked permission from our parish priest, Fr. Ulysses Cabayao, SJ if she could stay for good in a small house that was not in use. She stayed in that house for a few days like a consecrated lay person until the fatal accident happened.

We may feel enraged towards the oppressors of Girlie or to her culture, which a good number of us would probably choose to do. Girlie, who had all the right to be angry, chose the virtuous path of forgiveness and tenderness. 'To good to be true' you might say, but Girlie was a real person who was given a supernatural grace from God. She has shown that 'Poverty of spirit' is something to be sought and which all of us are called to live out. Girlie was rich in one thing—her utter dependence before God though she did not possess extraordinary talents, abilities, wealth, and achievements like many. Her 'material poverty' was not a hindrance to offer herself to the service of God and others. Her pure heart prevented her from harboring ill feelings and hatred towards others. She chose to let go of all that might possibly get in the way of her total self-giving. Any body, then, no matter how rich or poor, is capable of living out spiritual poverty—the emptying of self so that God can fill us with life and love. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Grace To Beg For: "...seize this time of trial as a time of choosing... a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not... We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people—often forgotten people—who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: "That they may all be one" (Jn 17:21)", (Urbi Et Orbi Homily of Pope Francis, March 29, 2020).

Points To Consider:

I lifted the following schema to help us understand where we are internally in light of the pandemic. Our Advent experience can be made more meaningful using these five aspects as our backdrop.

TO LIVE is to conjugate the five verbs expressed below.

a) TO HAVE; b) TO DO; c) TO EXIST [My own translation of R. Lumabao's "To Be" to differentiate the third and the fifth aspects]; d) TO LOVE; e) TO BE [BEING]

When a group of shipwrecked people arrive at a deserted island, they go through these five verbs. They go on "making one's life"—going through these five great cultures.

a) TO HAVE: Before living [a certain kind of life], it is necessary to survive; and that is why the first thing that the shipwrecked person needs is to have—to have food, to have a roof, to have weapons, etc.

b) TO DO: And to have, one begins to do, e.g., one builds a hut, then one plows the land, searches for food, hunts animals, i.e., one begins to fight against the environment until it is made habitable.

c) TO EXIST: And when, [through] having and doing, one has already been able to integrate oneself somehow into the environment that was previously hostile and adapt it to one's needs, this person already begins to exist. One begins to achieve a culture of well-being—a technical (symbiotic) culture.

d) TO LOVE: But this person is not alone. One has arrived at that island with others. And others can be a threat to one's life, goods, and happiness.

Only when one manages to create some relationship with them that are at the same time satisfactory and stable, can that person begin to secure one's well-being. One has begun to love—[within a] culture of having relationship or the culture of "loving."

e) TO BE [BEING]: Because, when this person begins to wonder about the "why" of all that one has done; when one begins to act, no longer out of fears, impulses, or whims; when one is able to enter within one's very self and, finally, to find a coherent and durable sense to what one is doing, then this person finally begins to be.

From the culture of well-being, one passes at last to the culture of being good [or virtuous]. One has already begun to "save one's soul." One is already able to explain and to justify one's life before oneself and others. One is already able to know why one chooses some things and leaves the others.

Source: Eight Days of the Spiritual Exercises, Florencio Segura, SJ trans. by R. Lumabao, SJ (Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc. 2005, pp. 210-211)


  1. Good morning Fr. JM! Before I start my tasks today, I checked if you have something written for today that I can reflect on as I continue my Advent journey... And here it is.. Reading the hidden story of Girlie, it moved me to tears... As humans we can be cruel and gracious... It always depends on us what path we will choose... Girlie has chosen the right path of forgiveness and loving... She is truly blessed and extraordinary... Her story has made a mark in my heart...Choose to be gracious, forgiving and loving...Thank you Fr. JM once again... Have a blessed day...

    1. Thank you for your sharing how the little flower made a mark in your heart... Girlie's spirit continues to fulfill God's plans for her even with this pandemic. God bless us.

  2. Fr. Jom,
    Human experiences help me to see the face of God. Thank you for sharing the God in you and the God in others. While reading, I was moved to reflect my life and how God has been shaping my heart. Indeed, real joy can just be felt when one chooses to love and to forgive. May I have a heart like Girlie, who chose to forgive and to love.
    Thank you Fr. Jom for sharing. May God bless your ministry..

    1. Thank you Sr. Line! Yes we only look and reflect on our own journey and rediscover that the real joy is just around the corner! By choosing!


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