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‘Love Letter’ from God

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‘Love Letter’ from God

I asked God for a sign that He was calling me for the priesthood. And He gave me “Love Letter.”

“Love Letter” is a 2003 Koreanovela revolving around Adrian (played by Jo Hyun-jae), who, because of a promise he made during his childhood, enters the seminary after giving up his love for his childhood sweetheart, Angela (played by Soo Ae). Louie (played by Ji Jin-hee), who also falls in love with Angela, hinders their affair by hiding the love letter written by Adrian to her (hence the title). At the end of the story, Adrian is ordained a priest but keeps his friendship with Angela.

The drama series did not gain much popularity, but it struck me in more ways than I could ever imagine, both for its romantic and spiritual undertones.

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The timing of its release in the Philippines was perfect: March 2004. At that time I was considering  entering the seminary, much to my parents’ surprise. I was about to graduate from high school and the priesthood was the only option I wanted—a desire that I had nursed since I was a child. My parents thought I had put this idea aside because I did not enter the minor seminary when I was in high school.

I mustered enough courage to tell them that I had applied for entrance and got accepted for a final interview. They had no choice but to accept the situation. The die was cast, but it was “Love Letter” that boosted my confidence in making the decision.

While watching “Love Letter,” I saw another innocent detail worth noting: the names of the protagonist and the antagonist. In the Philippine adaptation of the series, both characters carried my two names, a possibility that I never thought would happen. There was even a point in the story that both names were designated to the same person, as pointed out by the protagonist’s mother. When I shared this detail with my friends, they believed it was just an act of fate. I, on the other hand, believed it was an act of faith. God had a reason for me to watch this series. The signs were clear: I must go!

I was unable to finish watching the series on TV when I entered the seminary in June 2004. Yet I was toying with the idea that the plot might happen in my life. Hence, I created my own version of “Love Letter.”

Before high school graduation, I planned to give a letter to my batch mate, telling her of my affection for her. Although her name was not “Angela,” I considered her the angel of my life. Unfortunately, as in the story, the letter did not reach her hands. My nosy older brother found out about it while I was writing the draft. Being a tattletale, he told my mother about it, who then reproached me with her litany of the do’s and don’t’s of a priest-to-be. Nonetheless, I kept the letter, reminding me that at any time I changed my mind, I would have it ready to be mailed.

From the Queen City of the South I traveled to the Summer Capital, the way Adrian flew from Korea to Rome to study for the priesthood. I tried my best not to contact “Angela,” heeding the seminary rule of having less communication with the outside world. But there came a day that I looked at my love letter and once again thought of reviving my love for her. When I revealed to her my plan of courting her by phone, she answered in the negative. She wanted us only to be friends. Once again, the letter-sending failed.

But things did not stop there. I still thought I might have a chance if I asked her personally when I returned home for my vacation. But a year before our college graduation, I learned that she had gotten pregnant. This event gave our life story a new twist: her not graduating on time and me not seeing another chance of us being together forever. I was just glad that her boyfriend faced up to the responsibility.

Still, there was a feeling of bitterness in me when I learned about what had happened to her. But as time went by, I started to view the event as God’s way of purifying my intentions. It was an opportunity for me to understand the real meaning of priesthood: responding to a call to serve and being a witness to the loving presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in a community while maintaining an inclusive friendship.

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I continued my journey toward the priesthood, which was not a walk in the park. After college seminary, I fell in love again with another girl, but it did not last long. I simply could not continue fooling her as well as myself, knowing that I would profess my vows before the Lord and His people in the next year. With that decision, I kissed my love letter goodbye.

Now, I am involved in writing letters for our missionary projects for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere.

My real-life drama unfolded in a finale almost similar to that of “Love Letter.” With God’s grace, I was ordained a priest. I personally invited “Angela” to my ordination, and thanked her for the friendship that we promised to keep all these years. She gladly came to the event along with her husband and children. I believe we have written our happy endings magnificently. We have “fought a good fight, ran the race, and kept the faith.”

As we discern our calling in life, whether for the priesthood, married life, or our chosen profession, let us be reminded that signs are everywhere. God can call us through a “still, small voice” or the loud cries of refugees seeking asylum. His voice can be heard in the mundane activity of riding a jeepney to school or in an extraordinary moment of organizing a fun run for cancer patients. In my case, it was just one of those lazy nights while I was watching TV that I saw my vocation in a new light.

“Love Letter” may have been created out of a director’s imagination, but it can happen in real life because of divine intervention. I thank this Koreanovela for giving my vocation a kick-start. But, above all, I am grateful to God and to everyone that He sends into my life for believing that I could respond to this call right from the very start.

Rev. Fr. Adrian Louie Z. Atonducan, 29, is a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and is the assistant parish priest in St. Roch Parish, Grosse Roche, Haiti.

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