Imitation of Christ: My First Owned Book
…from Fr. Robert O. Sullivan, O.M.I.
By Apolinario Villalobos
I got the paperback, “Imitation of Christ” when I was in first year high school, as a prize for besting other contestants during the extemporaneous writing in English competition as part of our school’s Foundation Day celebration. It was donated by the school’s Director during the time, an Irish Oblate priest, Fr. Robert O. Sullivan. Unfortunately, its only part that I was able to read was the dedication which said: “Apolinario, be like Christ in any way you can”…with the rest of the pages, I failed to read.
My reading interest during the time was limited to the National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Hardy Boys series, Philippine Free Press, and occasional encyclopedia about history and geology. As a first year student, I felt I was not prepared to immerse myself into something which I was afraid I might fail to comprehend. I carefully kept and brought the book with me anywhere as far as Tablas in Romblon when I was first assigned there by PAL, as a precious property, until I finally gave it to a childhood buddy, Teddy Lapuz, who was suffering from a failed kidney transplant, and which eventually caused his death later on.
I did not regret giving my book to a dear friend who chose to die alone, or rather in the company of Christ, as he would always tell me when he was still alive. His statement gave me the idea to give him my precious book. I just hope that he was able to read it and blessed by its message. If indeed, he did, what I have missed, has become his spiritual gain.
Despite my missing the content of the book, I love to presume that when imitating Christ’s acts, one should be spontaneous, so that no compulsion is felt. The acts should emanate from the heart. The consciousness about the acts of Christ should form the strong foundation of a person to support his subsequent actions. To do the acts of kindness should not be forced on someone. The act may be inspired by others, or by an experience, if not as an innate desire. And most importantly, to be Christ -like is to be universal in all acts of kindness that knows no barrier. Easier said than done? Not really, because one need not start with something big to do it. All that such act needs is something within the means of a willing and sincere benefactor that can be shared with others – discreetly and unconsciously.
Many people are actually imitating Christ without their knowing it. Ordinary cigarette and candy vendors who give direction to lost pedestrians, are among them. Even the street sweepers, who do their job sincerely, knowing that they get paid out of the hard-earned people’s money. The street is full of modern-day Christs, people who do not think twice before sharing a few coins with a child driven by the pang hunger to beg, a student who helps a fallen old woman, and many others.
I may not have read the book given to me by Fr. Sullivan, but the cover and title are deeply impressed in my mind, reminding me that one need not be rich to be able to share blessings. I realized today, that to be Christ-like is the moving spirit behind the school where I learned the rudiments of Christianity, although, named after His mother…the Notre Dame of Tacurong College, a humble school with a big mission, and which tries to reach out to all, regardless of their religious affiliation.