The Thomasian community is “on the right track” by starting its Quadricentennial celebrations with a spiritual retreat, living up to the ideals of founder Miguel de Benavides, O.P., Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has said.

In the Quadricentennial Retreat (Q Retreat) attended by the faculty members, administrators, and support staff at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay last month, Rosales praised UST for preserving the fruits of the labor of Benavides, the third archbishop of Manila whose bequest of P1,500 worth of property and his personal library led to the foundation of the University of Santo Tomas in 1611.

Evoking the image of the mustard seed in the New Testament parable, Rosales said in his homily for the opening Mass last November 3: “What was then a small perspective has now become a big institution.”

The Q Retreat, bearing the theme “Tria Haec: Impelled by Faith, Propelled by Hope, Compelled by Love,” was held last November 3 to 5 for the first time in the University’s 400 years of existence.

Tria Haec, which means “these three” in Latin, refers to the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love cited by St. Paul, and portrayed by three statues on top of the Main Building.

Guest speakers Bishop Teodoro Bacani, auxiliary bishop of Manila, Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas discussed during the three-day event the importance of faith, hope, and love in a Christian’s life.

Faith is belief in the divine, Bacani said. “In this technical-positivistic age, what we see is what we get,” He said. “We should believe not only in what is created in our mind.”

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Noting the importance of hope, Tagle said on the second day that “the prevailing poverty makes people become more cynical about life.”

“The one big complaint of Filipinos today: nothing seems to work. Even simple things, they don’t work… people become angry, some even reach the point of cynicism that nothing will ever work,” he said.

He said that it is only through God that people will find true hope and happiness. “When we are talking about hope, we are talking about life … It is a matter of life and death,” Tagle said.

Talking about the “dearest” of all virtues, Villegas said on the last day of the retreat that love is a manifestation of contemplation, compassion, communion, and communication.

“The love of God is too much to be understood by the human mind,” Villegas said.

He added that love is best manifested through silent contemplation, unity, and sincere communication. “If you know silence, you can speak with him and understand him. Love is allowing yourself to enjoy God,” he said.

Villegas noted that people are easily affected with disunity even if there is one God, one Church, and one Trinity.

“Before we search for our differences, we must first look for what binds us all—one faith,” Villegas added. “We are all children of the same God. And there is only one God. If you are able to find God in your heart, you can find God everywhere.”

Nueva Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, who became the first Filipino rector of the University in 1970, addressed the virtue of hope and said that “lucid truth is the basis of authentic hope.”

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“There is crisis in every part of the world. The immediate answer of faith that grounds our hope is the love for God,” Legaspi said in his homily during the Mass for the retreat’s second day.

He also praised the University for remaining humble despite its commendable performance in state licensure examinations.

“Ang Tomasino, hindi mayabang, magaling lang,” Legaspi said. “It is also the Thomasian soul that vivifies the Thomasian community.”

In the closing mass on the third day of the retreat, Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa said the retreat was not about the participants. “The retreat is not about us feeling good, holier, or better. It is about thanking God,” he said.

De la Rosa led the participants in a candle ceremony signifying that Christ is the “light of the world.”

Aside from the daily celebration of Holy Mass and talks from some of the country’s most respected clergymen, the retreat also featured “witnessing”—a sharing of spiritual thoughts from lay people.

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chairwoman Henrietta de Villa, a former ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See, said: “UST is a home for joy. It gives [happiness] to those who know her.”

UST seminarians served as staff for the Q Retreat, facilitating activities such as the Holy Hour, the recitation of the rosary, morning prayers, the sacrament of reconciliation, and the Way of the Cross.

Faculty members thanked the University administration for holding a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.

College of Fine Arts and Design professor Victoria Mortel-Flores said the retreat achieved its aim of thanking and praising God. “The retreat is not solely about unifying the members of UST, but rather thanking God,” she said, echoing the Rector.

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UST High School teacher Imelda Rosales said the retreat was “an opportunity to bring the entire Thomasian community under one roof.” Jennifer M. Orillaza, Rommel Marvin C. Rio and Brylle B. Tabora

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