(March 2010) When God Does the Laundry

by Paola Bianca Jamolin

March 30, 2010. It was just one of those usual summer mornings in Bato. The commencement exercises of the local public elementary school were completed just the day before and so the kids were out in the narrow streets playing with their peers. A little sun and breeze made that Tuesday morning one of those perfect days for the kids to start their summer vacation and in the case of the mothers of Bato, to do the laundry. However, mothers, women who comprise the Benson Peace Village (BPV) prayer group, who would regularly attend the Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) activities, and who would engage in livelihood ventures offered by the ThinkActPeace Foundation (TAP), for the meantime, set aside their laundry duties to come to a whole-day Lenten Recollection facilitated by the BPV manager, Sr. Maria Lourdes M. Arcenas, RSM.

To hold a Lenten Recollection for the women of Bato was another first for TAP. At the same time, it was also a first for the women attendees, although one of them had experienced a half-day recollection sponsored by the catholic school where her son is enrolled in. The Lenten Recollection was not only a time for the women to take a break from their usual household routines and to take a rest from the hustles and bustles of life, but also to set aside time to pray and to reflect on their lives as women and as Christians who carry crosses as Christ carried His.  

At around 9 o’clock in the morning, the women gathered in Saint Joseph Prayer House where Sr. Lulu, RSM gave an orientation on the meaning of recollecting, what to expect and what to do during the sacred time that was given to them to recollect. Copies of the readings, songs, and reflection questions were given to each of the women. Art materials were also provided for those who wish to creatively express their prayers and reflectionss. In a nutshell, Sr. Lulu’s guidelines for having a meaningful recollection was summarized in the acronym SOAP, as inspired by the soap products that the women themselves made and that were being sold as part of the livelihood program of TAP.

S stood for silence.

As the opening song, Power of Love, was played, the women sang with the music and early on, tears already began to roll down the cheeks of some. After the opening prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, the women went to find their own spot along the beach where they spent hours of silence and simply being with their God. Silence was observed until it was already time to gather for the sharing of reflections. In order not to break the silence, serving of snacks and lunch were just signaled by a bell. The women would just come to the table, get their food, go back to their sacred spot, and eat, still in silence.  Turon with langka and orange juice were served during the morning snacks. While for lunch, the women feasted on pork barbeque, sautéed vegetables, and crabs cooked in coconut milk. The afternoon snack was hot ginataan. Sr. Lulu, RSM made sure that the women were delighted with the food for it is also through the humble experience of being well-fed that the women were able to feel God’s love for them.

O stood for openness.

After hours of reflecting, praying, and looking at their lives, the women once again gathered at the Prayer House for them to share their reflections. Incidentally, the soap products that the women make and sell were marketed under the brand Share. It was perhaps the highlight of the recollection, when the women one by one opened up themselves, without walls of hesitations, doubts or fears of rejection or of judgment. In the sanctity and confidentiality of the BEC circle, life stories were fearlessly shared. The greatest pains and frustrations were like thorns being pulled one by one out of their scarred hearts. As the process progressed, tears flowed not only in the eyes of the one sharing but also from that of the listeners.

A stood for attentiveness.

Each of the women relished the joy of being listened to and at the same time being able to listen to one another. The hours spent in silence may have made the women more attentive to what is God saying through their life events and the people involved. It may also have aided them to be more attentive to each other, to be listening not only with the ears but more importantly with the heart. Compassion for and understanding of what the other was going through could not be hidden by the tears that flowed.

P stood for prayer.

Everyone goes back to what was recollecting really about especially during this time of the church year. Yes, the women stepped back a little to look at their lives and to confront their failures and brokenness. Yes, they shed a few buckets of tears. Yes, they left their laundry at home just to stroll along the beach and to sleep in one of the cottages. And yes, everything was done in prayer. They reflected in silence, and with trust, they verbalized their present crosses, and were able to look at the Man at the Cross and see themselves. The Passion of Christ gives them strength to carry on with their own passion.

But things do not end here for the beauty of the BEC circle lies on the fact that its members are not stuck with the catharsis stage. Because of the trust and love that fueled the sharing, the women’s relationship with each other is raised to a higher level. The women gained hope and strength in each other as they continue to pray for one another. The difference is that prayers become more heartfelt now for each of the women already gained a greater understanding of what the other is going through. The next question becomes what are they to do as a community to be able to uplift one another and to foster each other’s growth. The challenge remains as they return to their own homes, facing their own realities of problematic households, broken relationships, frustrations, and failures.

God may not do the laundry that the women left at home (a good husband or a child may did), but He did a far greater washing and laundering of the BPV women’s hearts. After their recollection, after knowing that they are listened to, are accepted, and are loved not because of but in spite of, these women went home as freer, stronger women ready to carry their personal crosses in life as Christ carried His own. They journey with Him to the Calvary, hoping that they, too, will rise with Him on Easter. Indeed, when God does the laundry, the cleansing and scrubbing may deeply hurt, but it is only through this that the stains and soils of our brokenness are washed out clean so that He Himself can wear us as He reveals Himself to the world.