The youth group of our Religious Family of the Incarnate Word is called the Voces Verbi, from the Latin, meaning the Voices of the Word. This is taken from a phrase from St. Augustine who says that anyone who announces the Gospel is a voice of the Word. Our meeting was held in the St. Joseph Formation House of the Franciscan Conventuals in the cool highlands of Tagaytay, thanks to the generosity of one of our benefactors.

An important aspect of our youth group is the emphasis placed on formation, whether intellectual or spiritual, in order to equip them to live in a world that is getting more hostile to their faith and where many challenges abound.

The formation topic for this meeting focused on something which the Second Vatican Council says “must be accounted among the most serious problems of this age, and is deserving of closer examination”, that is the problem of atheism. The Catechism teaches that “the desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.” This means that the happiness that man so desperately seeks for, can only be found in God, and so atheism, practical or theoretical, necessarily leads man astray from that which he was created to be!

The session for the day began with a talk on the difference that God makes in our existence and what a would without God would be like. Then we discussed the proofs of the existence of God which natural reason can reach.

This was followed by workshops facilitated by the religious, where what was learned was reinforced through discussions and the participants were able to relate their own experience and strategies and propose means by which to bring what they have learned to their friends and family members who need to hear what they have learned.

Each group then presented the fruits of their discussions and shared their insights with the other participants. Several interesting questions were also raised which bear more reflection and would be good topics for future formation sessions such as the notion of natural law.

This was followed by a festive lunch and fogon where the participants, who came from different and far flung parts of the Philippines were able to show off their talents in song and dance.

After this, a formation talk on spirituality was given by Fr. Bernardo Ibarra on the great enemy of our Soul, Satan, and the means and strategies employed by the Devil, whom St. Ignatius of Loyola in his spiritual exercises variously likens to a woman, strong when given her way but weak when resisted, a lascivious lover who flees when his evil purposes are revealed or an attacking general who looks for the weakest point in a city to concentrate his attack.

One must always be paying close attention to the motions of one’s soul, to discover whether he is in consolation or desolation, and to see the hidden influences on his soul, whether they come from the Lord God or from Satan, in order to effectively respond and not be born by the wave of whatever comes his way.

Thus, the Christian must resist the temptations of Satan by agere contra, that is to act against, and doing the opposite of what the enemy wishes, he needs to be open to his confessor and spiritual director about the temptations he is facing and then to know his major defect, the gateway of Satan into his soul.

This was followed by a period of meditation, while confessions were being heard. After the praying of the Holy Rosary, we had the celebration of Holy Mass.

It was truly a fruitful and blessed occasion, where intellectually and spiritually strengthened, we are more equipped to face the multifaceted challenges of our journey through the tempests of life while seeking the safe harbor of heaven.