Personal Reflection on WYK School Years in the 1972-1977  

Philip Cheung ('79) 

PART I  
On Pedagogues and Theaters  

Truly I say to thee- WYK equips you with more that writing public exams. The institution known by Jesuits as the College of ceaselessly evolving. In all his dreams, St. Ignatius would never have anticipated a heritage of learning and belonging of such dynamic persona as WYK. The school ever attempts to cater to the individual and encourage participation in activities in the provided tranquillity of daily community order, while stressing the need for discipline to maintain that order.  

As much as WYK plays host in calling one to vast and beautiful things, I never took a back seat to allow the teachers to mold me into a predictable plaster pillar of society. That would be unpardonable passive abandonment on my part and in any case not in the Jesuit vocabulary. If the teachers and priests taught me anything, it is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time and place, and to be healthily skeptical. I based my judgment on a value system which they helped me build through to the past point that I can challenge the criteriology and methodology which they used.  

Such is true education! I still have to be prepared for all possible outcomes of my thoughts, words and actions, and not shy away, because my feedback helps me reevaluate my belief system.  

Also included in me is the courage to stand firm and evangelize on against all odds such as did St. Paul. In the film "The Mission" Jermy Irons played the part of the pioneer Jesuit living amongst natives in Brazil. When the villagers were forced to leave their home by the Portuguese gunfire, he marched against the troops with Monstrance held high, until the Host physically fell, and he in death! I asked Fr. Harold Naylor: "Do we still believe in the power of prayer?" Oscar Romero repeated the same fate in El Salvado some years ago because of what he believed. In fighting the battles of life, large and small, it is that hardheadedness on a much smaller scale that helps me stay in the trenches and not give up. But I did not take the gunfire. 

The other day I was speaking as guest lecturer at the University of Toronto on surfactant micellization. I look at the audience of doctoral students and my thoughts inadvertently plied across the Pacific to the boys at WYK. I recalled the great amount of interests that the teachers generated when I was experimenting as a pupil in a WYK Laboratory. Now as full time chemical engineer in industry, I have always wondered what naturally and painlessly brought into my profession. I conclude that it is ultimately due to the tremendous amount of confidence imparted to me by the science I learned at WYK. And nobody in the school should have a problem with chemistry, or any other subject. Why? Because WYK uses the best pedagogues to students' knowledge and ability periodically, and to act accordingly. In the end there will be no gaps in  skills and  

 

information as far as the allocated curriculum goes. One leaves the school satisfied.  

There was a time when a good Drama Group existed in WYK. One year played, One year, I played Gartiano in the "Merchant of Venice". It was a tremendous expression of self because I was that character-jester, larger than life and nothing to fear, and may I add, ready to befriend the next guy and kick a football with him. Another year, I played the Greek spy in the Trojan Horse story, "Crying in the Wilderness", who was instrumental in playing out the war game. On the 50th Anniversary of WYK, I had the role of a soldier standing straight at a check point and not saying a word. It was then I realized with a sudden vividness the extraordinary relationship between "role" and "expression". For example, large companies all claim to be paternalistic and looking into ways of enhancing job satisfaction, while demanding homogeneity of corporate culture. The fact remains that one can never relinquish the "self " in any posting, no matter how hard one tries. It is impossible to turn into a chameleon every morning one walks through the office door. My theory is that a profession that allows you to express your ideals (which is part of your inner self) and that allows you to make them blossom, is the key to satisfaction. Because you have a definitive role to play which is cherished and celebrated, and that role is YOU which by definition no one else can replace! You are not you do! If your work is treasured; if your work remains unrecognized, you feel insignificant. A stable and important argument, that drama became a means of self-expression. This is not too surprising. Drama turning into work ethics which includes expression of one's soul and is a tale to be unexpected. It is that pattern of thought processes whereby philosophy is unmistakenly part of the mystique!  

PART II  
On Light and Sound 

Did I just mention the soul? I can only speak for mine. The later Fr. Bernard Longergan SJ said, "Religious experience at its root is experience of an unconditional and unrestricted being in love. But what we are in love with remains something that we have to find out". At WYK, I was taught that silent, listening, contemplative prayer is the first step to find out about the love that soul longs for my heart desires. In fact, Fr. William Johnston SJ ( Professor of Mystical Theology at Sophia University, Tokyo) wrote a beautiful book entitled "Being in Love" showing us the practice of Christian prayer. Indeed, "Christian contemplation is a path of love. It is nothing other than total fidelity to the greatest of all commandments, to love God with one's whole heart and soul and mind and strength, and one's neighbour as one's self." Let me so the Thomistic thing and share with you the humble fruits of my contemplation. I went on pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy, which a traditional Marian shrine visited Saints and Popes through the ages. I entered the Basilica where the Holy Houses of the Annunciation is enshrined, sat down and closed my eyes.  

Then I must have experienced what St. Niocodemus of the Greek Orthodox Church called the "(inner) vision of God's  

 

uncreated light." It was a wonderful experience. I was astounded by the profundity of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly I was transformed and viewed my soul with a clarity I had not known before. Then I was happy because I knew he really spoke to me - a beam of his light was cast upon the darkness of my mind, and "dispelled from me the double darkness of sin and ignorance of which I have been born" - at which point I broke into spontaneous prayer, "My soul magnifies the Lord!". I think I begin to understand the kind of joy our Our Lady experienced at the Annunciation. It was the joy of utter surprise by intense Love! The portion of Luke (1:47-55) which immediately follows in hymnic encomiasticism to Yahweh. On Sundays, prayer is both communal and personal. I try to reflect upon the love of the Sacred Heart in the Bread and Wine. Mental concentration is needed here. Do you appreciate the fecund silence of the World?  

Jesus has shown that prayer precedes His actions and decisions. He thanked His Father for always listening to His prayers before He rose Lazarus from the dead. He prayed for forty days in the desert before confronting evil and He triumphed. He prayed to do the Father's will before He braved the Passion. Jesus, our hypostatic Christ, has set the example of how we should conduct our affairs, big or small. The first step is prayer. We should always pray as though everything depends on God but work as though everything depends on us!  

In WYK, I was once jokingly told it was unnecessary to do too much penance because "other crosses come soon enough"! That seemingly benign statement actually prepared me psychologically for the vicissitudes I faced in later life, by recognizing their onset and taking steps to mitigate them early on, instead of not acknowledging their existence like an ostrich, and hope that the problems will go away. I coped better than some of my contemporaries, because they cannot accept that disasters can happen to them. Good Job was not immune, yet he coped. The "The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!" If one can repeat those words of Job in one's heart in times of helplessness and sorrow, then be glad because it is a very human prayer. It shows that you are sensitive! St. Iraneus of the third century defined the glory of God as "a human being truly alive". So, you see, even in adversities God is glorified. Sure, pain hurts, and for many people life is a constant struggle with challenges. I know too well the attitude that decided the effect that suffering has on someone.  

I started to examine the problem of pain together with the Jesuits in WYK from philosophical and theological perspectives. I did not understand why there was so little logic to human behaviour and I still do not know why there is so little love! Jesus confided to St. Margaret Mary (June 6, 1675), "Behold the Heart that has loved so much and been loved so little in return." Chilling words are not they? It is so easy to sit comfortably in one's armchair and pontificate with phrases such as "love is stronger because God is stronger." But what does that really mean? Just as a photon exists only if it flies through space at an speed of light, love exists only when it impinges and affects people. 

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