It is not easy to be a student. You have to attend classes, and sometimes, when your classes start early, you would have to wake up early to catch your morning classes. There are projects that the teachers require, there are field demonstrations, there are quizzes, there are exams. You have to study hard in order for you to pass. It is not easy to be a student but somehow all of you managed, all of you persevered. There may be subjects where some of you struggled in, but there are subjects where you did well. Some of you eventually ended being in the Dean’s Lists and the President’s List.

It is not easy to be an athlete. You always want to compete well, to bring pride to the university. Therefore you train, you wake up early to condition your body, you spend hours and hours of practice. Often, because of that, you sacrifice on the other parts of your lives — you spend less time watching movies, watching television, you spend less time with your friends and loved ones. Whenever I go to the gym for some exercise, I would often see our basketball team train early in the morning, already training. It is not easy to be an athlete. You train hard for the school, sometimes you lose and it is painful. And there are joys in winning, such as in the annual DACS (Davao Association of Catholic Schools) sports fest. But in all these, despite the difficulty, you somehow made it.

I can only imagine how challenging it is to be a student-athlete in the Ateneo. Academic standards are high and they need to met by everyone, no special considerations, projects. Expectations are high in sports, the Jesuits have a tradition of excellence not only in academics but in sports as well. I remember when I was in Ateneo de Manila, Jesuits and alumni would watch the UAAP games live and would be expecting Ateneo to give a good fight, a winning fight against other teams, especially if it is Ateneo – La Salle. This must have placed too much pressure on our young students. How can we maximize the time that we have: the twenty four hours that we have everyday, the 168 hours in one week?

You may have felt some difficulties, too.

But in all these challenges, we ask ourselves — do we simply give up? Do we simply waver in our pursuit of excellence, not just academically and physically in sports. No, that is not the Jesuit way, that is not the Ateneo way.

We recall, we review, we remember again and again, our motivation, our reason, our impetus in being an Ateneo student athlete: Magis. Let that be our cry: magis!

What is this term magis? A quick google search will lead you to this definition: Magis is “a Latin word that means “more” or “greater”.

In the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius asks us to reflect on the following questions:

What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing now for Christ?

What ought I to do for Christ?

Magis refers to the wanting to do more for Christ. It is an expression of an aspiration and inspiration. It relates to forming the ideal society that is solely centered on Jesus Christ.

Magis does not simply mean being number 1, or being the best. Sometimes we think of this as such — dapat palaging number 1, dapat palaging the best, dapat tatalunin natin lahat ng competitors natin. No! Magis means doing your best out of your loving response to God who loves you so much.

Allow me to give you an example. I am a priest and as a priest, I know that people who attend the masses that I preside expect me to give them a good homily, one that nourishes their souls to help them become better and better Christians. And so I really do my best in preparing my homilies whenever I preside. I spend time, usually in the mornings, usually two to three hours in reflections, prayers and writing the homily.

I remember the first instance when I went to the chapel to hear mass — that was not my mass to preside, and whenever I can, I want to be able to hear masses everyday. And typically, I would be there at least 15 mins before the mass so I can compose myself, be silent. After some time, I realized Madel, tapping my knees while I closed my eyes in prayer, Father, tabang po. I was shocked when she told me, our priest assigned cannot come, since I was there, can I preside. I looked at my watch, it was already 12:05 — the mass should have started 5 mins ago.

I had not even seen the gospel reading, how can I say yes? I looked around and I even saw one of my Philosophy teachers present in the congregation. And I remember she would frown and grimace sometimes when I talk, similar to when I was at college doing the oral exams. Nakakakaba at nakakainsecure. I evaluated, what does magis mean, in this instance? Magis means giving a good homily. Does magis mean saying no to presiding the mass because I cannot give a good homily because I do not have time to prepare. I prayed quickly — and I realized, magis is saying yes to presiding the mass, even if i would not look good — because I will be an instrument in bringing Christ into the lives of people hungry for Christ in the Eucharist. The mass is not about myself, not about the homily. And so the more loving thing to do, the magis, is to say yes, even if I might not look good, even with a mediocre homily — but to lovingly make Jesus present to the people hungry for Christ in the Eucharist.

Magis — what can I do more for God, even if it may be difficult, even if I may not look good in front of other people. But doing this for God, out of our love for God.

And so my dear student athletes, I ask you, in being students of the Ateneo, in being athletes — consider magis more and more. We ask ourselves:

What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing now for Christ?

What ought I to do for Christ?

You have done well, as you persevered, and are here. We thank the Lord for that. But we continue to ask ourselves:

Can we dedicate our studies more and more for Christ? We can have that extra motivation and inspiration to understand our lessons because that is an expression of our love for God, that will generate the opportunity later on to help other people. As you get developed more and more in your own concentrations, like environmental scientists, engineers, and so on, you will get the credentials to help people using your degrees.

Can we dedicate our sports, more and more, for Christ? Can we dedicate more and more, not for ourselves, but for other people.  I was informed that many of you participate in conducting sports clinic in various locations — can you do that with more zest and energy, knowing that these are done out of gratitude for the God who gave you these gifts?

You have done much — and I admire you and congratulate you for that. I am proud of you! As we ask ourselves:

What have I done for Christ?

What am I doing now for Christ?

I know you have done much. I congratulate you all, I am proud and happy for your achievements. As you grow older, some of you graduating, we also ask,

What am I to do for Christ?

Let the love of Christ motivate and inspire you, as you search more and more for the more, your magis!