The Cardinal will meet you at 8am. Please be at the Archbishop’s Residence before then. These were the instructions given to the My Pope team via email, and as meeting with Cardinal Tagle was such a momentous occasion, we made sure we were at the venue 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Promptly, at 8 am, the door swung open, and we caught a glimpse of a man wearing a simple, short-sleeved barong, with a beaming smile.
How do you start your day every morning?
There are good days and bad like any other, but the moment I wake up, I thank God for this new day, and I ask for the grace to be able to see Him during the day—and also to be given the grace to respond to Him and to serve Him. I normally wake up at 5 am or earlier. I try to spend time in prayer and meditation before the workload begins. I always aim at an hour if possible. If not, I try to split it up. At noontime, I try to incorporate the examination of conscience. It keeps me in touch with the thoughts, feelings, and reactions in me. I ask: What comes from the good spirit? What comes from the evil one? So that in the afternoon, I know what to avoid. It keeps me in touch with myself. I become honest, humble. This helps you get in touch with how God can be working in you.
What do you look forward to most in your day?
My life is a little structured, and also not so structured. Structured in the sense that there are religious duties to fulfill. At the same time, you cannot predict what will happen in all of those. So what I look forward to really is that more open and adventurous aspect of the day. The structure at first glance does not provide anything new—but every meeting is unique. With the persons that I meet, I’m a learner all the time. That’s what I look forward to.
Are there times that you ever get discouraged? What helps you keep the faith?
I’ve been a priest for more than 35 years. So I’ve had a lot of moments where discouragement can come in. So I try to catch myself—to be mindful—what causes discouragement? Very often, in my case, it’s a temptation when I start becoming quite rigid in my goals and expectations of myself and of other people. When I see that, I tell myself: Look, maybe you’re getting discouraged because your plans are not happening, maybe you’re getting discouraged because your desires are not being met. What if God is offering you a better story? Another project? Another path? What helps me is a heart-to-heart confrontation with myself.
Second, maybe the storyline I want to pursue is good, but God and life are offering a better story. Can I be open to that? To see whether—without totally abandoning my plans—I can allow myself to be led?
Third, it is good to have a healthy sense of humor. Knowing how to laugh at yourself. Knowing how to take people seriously, and God seriously, and yourself, not as seriously. For me, being able to laugh at yourself is a manifestation of faith. It shows you can let go.
How do you end your day?
I always end my day with thanksgiving and gratitude. In fact, before the evening examination of my failures, I first spend time looking at how God has been good to me this day through persons, events, the weather, the food, through a simple smile… And then when you are floating in an experience of love, that’s when you also realize your faults. It’s easier to admit to them when you know that you are loved. You don’t need to prove yourself because you’ve seen that God loves you. You can accept your failures. Your resolve to do better is motivated by love. You can go to sleep smiling.