A Message on the Great Fr. Reuter

As my first share with www.englishallyoucan.org, here’s a piece by Lotis Key regarding her experience as a young girl. Read on and find out what relationship she had with the late great Father James Reuter. — A. Ramirez

I Love You Father Reuter

I was twelve when my parents divorced.

My father was a tall, golden haired, blue eyed American, who’d served in the Pacific, and returned home flourishing a delicate souvenir from the Philippine Islands.

My tiny mother, observing this new world through almond shaped eyes, looked up to see tall, white America, bending down to examine her. They spoke slowly and loudly at her, remarking to each other, “Isn’t she cute?” My mother had her Masters, a PhD in English literature, was fluent in four languages, and did not like to be referred to as cute.

After two painful decades of having to buy her shoes in children’s stores, she broke the law, and with two half-white daughters in tow, escaped back to Manila.

I wasn’t yet a teenager when we stepped off the ocean liner. The intense heat, the constant swirl and hum of laughing, yelling people, was overwhelming. My mother moved quickly to hide us, and within a few weeks, my younger sister and I were installed in a Catholic girl’s school: St. Paul’s College of Manila.

It was unclear. We were barely religious, maybe only very slightly Catholic … at Christmas. Who was St. Paul? We were children, why were we going to a college? Ah, the confusion was only beginning.

Both of us came equipped with English, Spanish and casual French. The lingua franca was Tagalog, which we could not read, write, nor understand.

Both of us were much taller than the Asian girls our age. My sister was a blonde. I had a forest of curly hair. Like a nightmare in slow motion, we were buried alive, in a landslide of shimmering, pitch black tresses, that flowed from the heads of graceful, miniature nymphs. These girls didn’t guffaw their laughter, they giggled demurely. They didn’t argue a point; in disagreement they pursed their lips and lowered their eyes. They didn’t push or shove; they pouted and turned away slowly, lifting high, one perfectly curved eyebrow. We were wildflowers blown into a hothouse of exotic orchids. They wanted to talk about love. They looked us over and asked … did we have a brother? We had no brother. Ohhh, tooooo baaaaad.

We also didn’t have the right shoes. The right socks. The right book bags.
This was the 1960’s and we’d been raised by bohemians who’d encouraged us to speak our minds, ignore our appearance, and argue both sides of Fidel’s take-over of Cuba.
We were American peasants in bad need of a full spa make over.

To make matters worse, we had no father. Not only had my mother married a white man, she’d divorced him, and retuned home with two fatherless girls. This information produced a wave of deep shock that washed over everyone around us. Where is your father? Will he come to get you? Will you see him again? Does he have another woman?

My sister, being younger, took it more in stride and prospered, artfully winning friends with her honeyed locks and dimpled smile. I closed and toughened. My mother had managed to escape imprisonment on the wrong planet, and one day, I would do the same. I was an alien who would never, ever, paint her fingernails.

Then, one morning, studying alone on the stone steps of the school chapel, my life was changed. I looked up, to see a tall man in a white cassock crossing the quadrant, Sister Nieves, and Sister Joanna, hurrying to keep up with him. He was talking in the loud voice of the white male, not hushing his tones for propriety’s sake. He was striding along purposefully, not mincing his step to accommodate the women. The bright sun on his golden hair haloed him, making his approach akin to that of a bright comet. Was I dreaming? Was this a saint? Was I dead, but didn’t know it yet?

The angel marched straight towards the chapel, and hypnotized by my approaching destiny, I froze. Looking down at me, a homeless animal crouching on cold stone, he smiled and said brusquely, “You must be the fatherless girl”. His eyes were blue, blue, blue. This was the first white man I’d seen since having bolted America. In coloring and shape he looked startlingly like my father, whose memory was evaporating within me.

Sister Joanna said, “Her name is Lotis”.
Sister Nieves said, “Lotis, this is Father Reuter”.

I was paralyzed, like the kitten before the tiger. Father Reuter, put his large, white gold hand on my curly head and said, “Come, talk to me, I’ll hear your confession”. Confession? What was that? What should I confess? That I felt ugly and stupid? That I hated this place? That I hated myself? Ignorant of the concept of personal sin, unaware of what confession was supposed to consist of, these were the things I told him.

I talked to Father Reuter that day, and many, many more days, over the years to come. He heard my “confession” in person, every week or so, and the rest of the time, I talked to him in my heart, in my dreams, in my prayers. In reality he didn’t treat me any differently than any other little girl. I was no special pet or favorite. I don’t know if he even thought of me at all outside the confessional. I am unaware if I ever made any particular impression on him. No. It was him who made the impression on me.

Father Reuter, had been sent to the Philippines, by the Jesuits, just before WWII and was interned by the Japanese. At wars end, the Jesuits asked him to stay on for a bit, and he did … returning to the U.S. for a visit, only once, in the next 60 years. There was nothing of the effeminate about this priest. Nothing soft, flabby, or repelling. His love was not vague, distant, or carefully guarded. A gruffly practical, quick tempered, get to the point!, kind of priest, he could grab you by the back of the neck, give you a shake, stare you down, and demand immediate love and obedience in the same instant. He was a steely eyed, unflinching priest, who rarely whispered when he could shout, loved with an iron fist, and was simultaneously feared, and adored, by all who knew him.

In this day of gross immorality, I don’t know if anyone can understand, how, without the slightest hint of sexual impropriety, a little girl can love her priest, and find her salvation through him. But it is true. Father Reuter was more than a man, or a priest. He was a father.

Before I knew God in the personal way I now do, I knew Father Reuter in place of Him. Before I could accept God as my Father, Father Reuter was there to model that role for me. I was a lost child, who might have been lost forever, if not for this celibate male taking me for one of his children. He encouraged me to speak, and communicate, my thoughts. He pushed me to develop my voice. He made me understand that even if I didn’t fit in, I was valuable to him.

After high school I went on to a life filled with many elaborate diversions. I did foolish things, and was pushed by a curly haired, wild nature, to adventures that sorely tried all around me. I can remember times I would pause for an instant and think, “I should go to Father Reuter for advice”, but pride mixed with shame, would erase the impulse. In my heart nestled a deep fear he might no longer love me. Anyway, I was an adult now, capable of dealing with life.
I no longer needed a father of any kind.

I finally did go to see Father Reuter, but only recently, some 40 years since I’d last seen him at my graduation. I’m not taller than I was in high school, but bent over with age he was now shorter than me. His trembling hands and feet, were misshapen with arthritis. His golden hair was gone. He was wearing his cassock and seated in a wheelchair, yet when I entered, he struggled to rise, and kiss me.

I looked into his eyes and they were blue, blue, blue. I was twelve again, and struck dumb with love. I could barely talk, and in his fatherly way he understood, and did the talking for me. Nothing important really, just making enough sound to ease the tension and let the ghost years slip away. As time dissolved between us, the feeling of his strength, the powerful force of his love, the intensity and vigor of his fatherhood, coiled and wrapped itself around my heart, pulling me to my knees before God, in the very deepest of gratitude for this man.

Dear, dear man, I never said this to you, but I always wanted to:

I love you Father Reuter, and I always will.

 

Update: The above piece was a story shared by one of the people who supported me when I was starting this blog. In the beginning, this blog was open to anyone and to my students who wanted to share their thoughts and stories. But many of my friends and students lacked the time or the inclination to really write. I have kept their posts though in appreciation of their support for my blogging effort. A huge thanks and much love to you all! — Summer

My Saturday Epiphany

We are blessed differently — we Christians recognize this. Yet, this seems easier to think about in the abstract, for what makes it difficult though, at times, is not being truly grateful for whatever we have, — or being unable to accept the situation we find ourselves in.

Times when many ‘whys’ — borne of envy, fear, insecurity — assail our minds and erode our faith in God. Times when anger replaces the love that should fill our hearts, and we turn to put the blame on others, on things, and sometimes, on God Himself for the kind of life we have, never on ourselves.

It’s times like this when we need to pause, and reflect more deeply on how we can overcome such doubts. Where is the envy, or fear, or insecurity coming from? Are we  lacking in self-confidence; do our values lie in only the material? What is in the other that we value so much that we fail to appreciate our own? Do we use them as benchmarks for our lives? Don’t we recognize God’s intended goals for us?

Is God truly present in our lives, in ourselves? Perhaps, we  lean only on our own understanding without relying on His guidance. That is perhaps the reason we commit so many blunders. On the other hand, we should know that from the mistakes we make, we can learn our lessons.

God allows us to run the course of our lives through our free will –and when we fail, or stumble, He only wants us to stand up and try again and again. Like a child who is learning to walk by himself, he slips, stumbles, falters – with his mother or father silently watching so the child can get up by himself, and walk again. Like a baby bird who hesitates before he can fly on his own, we are just the same. Through our weaknesses we become strong. Through our mistakes, we become a little bit more perfect each day.

At the same time, too, God invites us to listen to Him, to let Him lead us, or let Him walk with us — yet many times we run away, or hide from Him. Then when we fail to reach our dreams, our goals in life, we start asking — why?

On the other hand, we may indeed be faithful, putting God at the center of our lives, and living the Gospel values. Yet, the more we seek Him, the more we feel God is nowhere — we experience what St John of the Cross calls “the dark night of the soul.” Hence, in our self-pity at times, with weakening trust, we cannot but feel unloved…

I for one have experienced many times being assailed by my fears and doubts, by my lack of faith. I sometimes feel so unworthy and so much unlike the great saints of the Church — that I cannot be like them, and so much away from God. I truly admire those whose faith is unwavering, whose faith even gets much stronger in the midst of suffering — physical or spiritual.

Yet, how good my God truly is — for on countless times in the darkest of nights, He makes His presence known to me. Like the glint of the early morning sun after a night of rain, God comes to freshen my soul.

I love you, O God. Amen                                                                                                

Reading material

 

Learning at Asian Social Institutes (ASI), the students are mostly left to self study books and so do I. I read material alone in my room, but soon I am very sleepy. Thus, I looked for my friend for what we read handout together. I recognize that my friend who doesn’t know reading ways as well as how to read faster, so I shared with her about reading methods that I was learnt at East Asian Pastoral Institute for several months before coming to the ASI.

My teacher taught me skill of reading include three steps: First, Look over the entire article quickly, paying attention to the heading of the different sections and trying to get a general idea of the contents of each one. Second, read the article for the main ideas. Do not be distracted by words, sentences and phrases which I don’t understand. Don’t stop down every word and looking it in my dictionary because it will spend many my time. Instead, I can use context clue let guessing the meaning of words. Moreover, an important idea will be repeated in different words. Finally, I reread material two or three times quickly be better for understanding than once slow.

Besides, the teacher also taught me how to read faster with three ways: First of all, preview – if it’s long and hard. Indeed, previewing is especially useful for getting a general idea of heavy reading like long magazine or newspaper articles, business reports, and non-fiction books. Next, skim – if it’s short and simple. This means that skimming is good way to get a general idea of light reading like popular magazines or the sports and entertainment sections of the paper. Lastly, cluster- to increase speed and comprehension. Being mean, I look at groups of word instead of one at a time to increase my speed enormously. In other words, I read my material as fast as I can. Concentrate on seeing three or four words at once rather than one word at a time.

Rewrite reading’s methods, I share not only for my friend, but also for everyone who want to interest. Furthermore, I also want to thanks my teacher, whom is enthusiastic and patient taught us with all her heart, by practice reading English books every day. I hope that those who read this article also try practice well. It is also a way to thanks my teacher and please prays for my teacher has good health and condition to continue her teaching career.

The rain and rain and rain!!!

 

Today, the weather is not good. It has been raining for 3 hours on the morning. After that, it has stopped rain for an hour and then it’s starting to rain again, and until now it is still raining. Hence, looking at the window, I miss my hometown very much. I thought about my family, congregation and community where I used to live and serve. All of them love me very much although sometimes has something what I do is not good. Now I want to write many things about them, but I cannot because I am being rain of tears.
Lord, I offer my people what I love to you. Let’s keep them in your name as well as bless for them and be with them forever.

The Reason There is No Class

 

This is not my first time to go to a new class, but today I feel nervous with my new teacher and my new classmates. All day long, I was eagerly waiting for hours in my class, but today, there was no class because there was a storm that was attacking the Philippines.

I know in the Philippines there are many storms that happen in every year. This storm has just started. I have never lived in region which has storm, so I cannot have my deep empathy with people who are living in the storm. I have seen everyone hard after the storm and felt compassionate toward them. This compassion is described to through my specific actions: if the storm is near the place where I live, I try to help them overcome the bad effects of the storm; conversely, if it is far, I will share some of my matter to them. At this time, I am studying in the Philippines, am a new student, I don’t have time as well as any matter to share with Filipino. Consequently, I only pray to ask my God to blow the storm return offshore to the Sea. Or, if He doesn’t want to do that, He can lessen the devastation of the storm.

Maybe everyone wonders why I am nervous with my new class. I feel worried about it because my English is not good. My English listening and speaking skills aren’t clear as well as writing isn’t sure. Thus, I am afraid my teacher and my classmates ask me some question that I don’t understand and be able to answer.

I wish the Filipino and me could overcome the natural storms as well as the hurricane of language. Being so, we feel peaceful and confident in our life and in learning as well.

My new friend

There is a girl who lives in Ho Chi Minh City at Vietnam to invite me making friend with her through my face book. After talking together for a short time, she asked an appointment with me today because she wants to share her great ambition to me.

Her wish wants to make charity that helps the poor patients and helps the orphans, but she cannot make it alone. Thus, she needs many people who have aspiration as her. For the poor patients, she wants to establish charity cook rice for them every week. The finance is earned from distribution of goods of everyone who attend her group. For example, Mr. Tom, a member of the group takes a commodity from main company cost 500 Pesos after that he sell cost 800 Pesos. That interest sent to the group for charity. For the orphans, the group visits the children and has enjoyable activities with them. In addition to group’s activities spirit, the group also shares some confectioneries and toys for them on weekend. Furthermore, the group also cut hair for them in every last month.

After hearing from her, I also share with her a little of my experience about charity. I have set up a group of voluntary students. We collect waste plastic material in the residents’ houses to sell and the money is used to cook rice soup for the poor patients in two hospitals of Binh Thuan Province every Sunday. In summer, we launch the campaign “collecting school manuals to help poor friends.” These activities are disseminated largely in the Diocese.

Rewriting this legitimate aspiration, I ask to you who are reader pray for her best wish is performed in her hometown. May God bless for this good work.

My Special Birthday

In my Convent, we never celebrate our birthdays, we only celebrate our baptism. Nonetheless, since I go to school again, my teacher and my classmates celebrate with me. Thus, every year on my birthday, I always thank God for having created me in the world. This year, my birthday is very special because it is also Happy Father’s Day.

On Father’s Day, I give time to think about my father more and sometimes I phone to say happy father’s Day to him. I miss my father very much. My father always loves me. He usually does all things for me, even now that am already a nun. Every time my superior allows me to visit my family, he always cooks many things for me as well as prepares the bed for me to sleep well. Furthermore, he drives me to travel as well as visits our relative. Until now, I live very far from him but he always telephones to ask me only two question, “How are you?” and “How do you live?” These two questions he repeats every week when he talks with me. He always encourages me to learn and reminds me to live well with everyone. I try to live by his words every day.

Maybe on my birthday of this year, nobody will celebrate with me because I just moved to a new school, but I feel glad about it because I will pray for my father and myself more and more. Indeed, I am enjoying this occasion. I would like to express my deep gratitude to him for all what he has done for me on my birthday. I want to say, “Father, I love you!”