by Rev. Kevin Joshua B. Cosme
For almost two weeks, I lived like a blind person.
And it happened before my ordination.
I was scheduled for ordination on May 1, 2021. In civil society, this is Labor Day. In the Church, it’s the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. That my ordination fell on these memorials was no accident where I was concerned. I had to “work” for my ordination under pain and even hiddenness, like St. Joseph the hard and silent laborer.
Three weeks before the big day, I went on a five-day retreat with my ordination companion, Fr. Hansel Marasigan. Upon returning to the bishop’s residence where we lived, we were quarantined for some days because we had been outside for so long. Towards the end of that period we were to get our swab tests done, and if we turned out negative we would get to return to our rooms – and to our normal lives.
With my classmate Joshua Sadernas, at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches where I was to have my ordination retreat.
A few days before the swab test, I was invited to participate in a whole day Zoom webinar for our clergy. But there was something wrong with my right eye. I could barely keep it on the computer screen before looking away in pain. It was also red and watery, so I kept my camera off most of the time and wore a makeshift bandana to keep it covered. I looked like a crewmate from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Except I wasn’t having fun.
Living in Darkness
The following day I was nearly blind, or at least that’s what it felt like. I could barely open my right eye, and the slightest sliver of light would send me reeling in pain. Somehow my left eye was affected, too, so I had to spend that day in darkness: both from making my room as dark as possible and from keeping my eyes closed.
They say you only know the value of water when the well runs dry, that you only realize the value of something when it’s no longer there. And oh, how I took my eyesight for granted! I didn’t know it was so difficult to eat fish or chicken with utensils if you couldn’t see anything. I had to fumble my way to the bathroom with my arms stretched forward, like a zombie, just to wash my hands. I couldn’t use my phone. I couldn’t use my laptop. I couldn’t even read a book.
Living by Faith and Not by Sight
I couldn’t see. I was in constant pain, and it wasn’t even lunch yet. I never wished more badly for night to come. I longed to have to sleep again so I could find some reprieve, but bedtime was still ten hours away!
So I listened to six hours' worth of books and podcasts. Then in the days that followed my eyes got marginally better. I resorted to wearing shades on top of my glasses just so I could manage the light in my already dimly lit room.
Thank goodness there was also an app that had prerecorded prayers. It was all I could do to listen and follow along as the voices prayed Lauds and Vespers on my behalf.
Amidst the darkness, prayer became my light. I was really living “by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
It didn’t make the suffering go away. It made it meaningful. And I needed that sense of meaning in the events that followed.
In the morning of April 21 my companion and I had our swab test taken just outside the bishop’s residence. It was the first time I was outside since quarantine, and despite the gentle morning sunlight and my thick shades, my eyes were burning. A few hours later, my parents arrived to take me to the hospital for a check-up.
But after getting in the car, my mother informed me that my lola just died.
It was so surreal. I couldn’t process what was going on because I was in so much pain. My eyes were watery and my nose was running and the mood in the car was tense. Papa’s mother just passed away and he was making calls to his siblings and the funeral parlor and it was all too much. What was happening?
Rest in peace, our dearly beloved lola Cecilia Cosme!
The silver lining in all this was me meeting Dr. Mae Singson, a very kind, competent, and religious ophthalmologist who remains my doctor to this day. She diagnosed me with Recurrent Corneal Erosion. It seems that some time in the past, my eye suffered some physical trauma causing the cornea to keep on eroding, and it wouldn’t heal properly.
That explained a lot, because I’d been noticing my right eye tearing up, turning red, and generally giving me a hard time the past several months. Well, at least I knew what was going on now. She prescribed some eyedrops and discussed her plan for treatment, and then we went our way.
One week before ordination, I could feel my ordination companion getting nervous. If I didn’t get better by the time ordination came, chances are he wouldn’t get ordained either. I was improving, but just barely. I still had to wear shades for as long as the sun was up, even during mealtimes. I even accepted the fact that I might have to wear them to ordination, or maybe sport an eye patch. How cool would that be?
Although I was suffering, although I had just lost my lola, although the prospect of ordination was uncertain, somehow I wasn’t worried. I guess all that time I spent without sight made me “see” things in a different way, with eyes of faith.
I knew that the life the Lord was calling me to wasn’t a bed of roses. It meant sharing in His cross, yes, but also in His joy and laughter and friendship. Jesus was asking me to trust Him, and when I did, I found peace.
Laying down your life for others is precisely what ordination – and discipleship – is all about.
Things may not go the way we want them to, and no matter how much we pray the suffering may not go away. But what is certain is that God is in control. And what He wants to happen, He will make happen, even if it means you get ordained with just one eye open.
Me and my ordination companion, Fr. Hansel Marasigan. We made it!