FOURTH SUNDAY OF OCTOBER
DATE: October 28, 2012 (Ordinary Time: 30th)
THEME: Saint Pedro Calungsod
READINGS: Jer 31:7-9 / Ps 126:12. 2-3. 4-5. 6 /Heb 5:1-6 / Mk 10:46-52
REFLECTIONS BY: Binghay, Germinanda and Kroeger
Saint Pedro Calungsod – I
“Calungsod as Missionary”
Msgr. Esteban Binghay
“What do you want me to do for you?” “Rabbuni,” the blind beggar said to him, “let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road (Mk 10:51-52).
Friends, I have just narrated the encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus. The former exerted a lot of effort to gain the attention of Jesus, despite the real uncertainty of being able to reach Him. The crowd was just too big and the distractions too many. Yet, Bartimaeus could not be stopped. However, little did he know, that Jesus noticed him despite his perceived difficulty. They were able to talk with each other. He received his sight. Then, he followed him. In other words, he became a missionary.
To be a missionary is a calling and God provides his apostles with their basic needs to be such. Consequently, one notices that missionary saints project calmness, happiness and gratitude, even in the midst of difficulties and struggles—even when facing death. Psalm 126 captures this common disposition among the missionaries: “They went away, went away weeping. They come back, come back singing, carrying their sheaves.”
Many biblical scholars are unanimous in calling the Gospel according to Mark, a “passion narrative with a long introduction.” This is because according to H. Hendrickx, a bible scholar, Mark the evangelist presents Jesus as the Suffering Messiah. In other words, without suffering there is no salvation. The Gospel reflects the persecution unleashed by Emperor Nero against the Christians at that time.
During the time of San Pedro Calungsod mission meant proclaiming the Gospel to the natives of the Mariana Islands, which were then under the canonical jurisdiction of the Cebu Diocese. Calungsod died for mission on April 2, 1672 at the age of 18. He stayed faithful to his mission companion, Blessed Diego de San Vitores, a Jesuit whom he protected from the attacks of the assassins.
This appears to be highest form of witnessing, likened to the death of Jesus on the cross, laying down one’s life to save all. The encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (90) sums this up by saying that the spirituality of the saint is identical with the spirituality of the missionary—doing God’s will. Needless to say, therefore, the greatest happiness the missionary can ever have is nothing else than doing God’s will; nothing is so expressive as the offering of one’s life for his friends and his God. San Pedro Calungsod just did this. He accompanied Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, the Spanish Superior of the Marianas Missions, helping him during house visitations because of his impaired eyesight. Both offered their lives to God.
In his book, Pedro Calongsor Bisaya: Prospects of a Teenage Filipino, Father Ildebrando Leyson established the identity and certainty of San Pedro Calongsod and presented him as a Jesuit-trained teenager who was capable both in mind and body. The book describes him as “a virtuous catechist and a good soldier of Christ.” In fact, he was a product of a boarding school for boys, an evangelization method used at that time by the Jesuits.
We can only surmise about his family life. A good tree bears good fruits; good family is a fertile ground for God’s missionary calling. His faith and his loyalty to his missionary companions attest to this. As a communicator of the Christian faith he walked what he talked. Pope Paul VI realized that people believe speakers not because of eloquence but because of their life witness.
Just as God provided Bartimaeus with his eyesight, so God provides the basic needs of those He calls to be missionaries. San Pedro Calungsod is one of them. Let us entrust ourselves, especially our youth, to the care and prayer of San Pedro Calungsod, our second Filipino saint.
NOTE: Monsignor Esteban S. Binghay, PA, is the Mission Director of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Saint Pedro Calungsod – II
“Catechist and Communicator of Faith”
Fr. Jonathan Germinanda, MSP
The celebration this year of World Mission Month, in particular of World Mission Sunday last week (October 21, 2012) became more meaningful for us Filipinos because of the canonization of the second Filipino saint, San Pedro Calungsod; at very young age he responded to the call of spreading the faith and eventually offered his life for Christ as a martyr in Guam. I can just imagine the crowd of Filipinos gathered at Saint Peter’s Square beaming with pride as they see the image of a fellow Filipino raised above them. In the same way for most of us here back home who witnessed the celebration, we cannot but feel the same joy and gratitude for this privilege and honor given to one of our own who is now elevated in the canon of saints. But more than the privilege and honor it gives us, we cannot but also remind ourselves of the invitation and challenge it poses to us, Filipino Christians. What makes San Pedro Calungsod’s canonization meaningful for us? What example does his life give us?
Few details are known about his life: he was a companion of Father Diego de San Vitores who travelled to the Mariana Islands to do mission work and spread the Christian faith among the peoples there. Indeed through his commitment to his task, not only as a companion of Father Diego, but as a catechist who taught the lessons of our faith to the natives, Pedro fulfilled his calling to become a true follower of Christ.
In his homily during the beatification of Pedro Calungsod in the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II has this to say about him: “From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Father Diego de San Vitores to join him on the mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Father Diego, but as a ‘good soldier of Christ’ preferred to die at the missionary’s side.”
San Pedro Calungsod was someone who not only knew his faith but actually lived it out. His task as a catechist bore fruit not only because he taught the teachings of the faith, but because he lived his faith out through his deeds. Pope Benedict XVI has noted that “the secret of a good catechist is to live what you preach…. Unite the transmission of right doctrine with personal testimony…. This example of life is necessary so that your instruction does not stay in a mere transmission of theoretical knowledge about the mysteries of God, but that it leads to embracing a Christian way of life.”
This is what we need most in our Church today: to give witness to what we teach and preach. Unless people see in our lives as Christians the deeds and actions that bear witness to what we say, then all will just remain as words that will not move people to see that Jesus Christ is in us.
Indeed, like Bartimaeus in the Gospel, we ask the Lord to make us see, to see how faith can be made manifest, not only in words, but through deeds. And so, we look to San Pedro Calungsod and pray to God through his intercession that we may also be courageous in giving witness to Christ in our present circumstances.
NOTE: Father Jonathan Germinanda, MSP is currently studying Missiology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.
Saint Pedro Calungsod – III
“Heroic Witness of Faith”
Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM
A people rejoices! An entire nation celebrates! Faith is strengthened! Mission continues! These were the sentiments of Filipinos worldwide when Saint Pedro Calungsod was canonized in Rome, along with six other generous servants of God.
Calungsod, beatified in 2000, becomes the second saint from the Philippines (following San Lorenzo Ruiz who was canonized in 1987). Many titles are ascribed to Calungsod: dedicated catechist, young migrant, enthusiastic missionary, faithful friend, unwavering martyr. However, as the canonization was held on World Mission Sunday, the Church desired to emphasize the missionary dimension of his heroic witness of faith.
History. Data on the life of Calungsod prior to his missionary work is limited. Yet, it is certain that he was a young native of the Visayan region of the Philippines, born around 1655. Probably he received his basic education at a Jesuit boarding school, learning to communicate in Spanish while developing various skills in writing, translating, drawing and singing.
Calungsod is one of several young catechists who travelled with some Spanish Jesuit missionaries to the Ladrones Islands (later renamed the “Marianas”) in the Western Pacific in 1668 to evangelize the Chamorros. On April 2, 1672 Calungsod was martyred, along with Jesuit Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, in the village of Tomhom on the island of Guam by enemies who opposed the work of the missionaries.
Witnesses said that Pedro had several chances to escape martyrdom; he was young and agile. However, he did not wish to abandon Padre Diego. Others noted that Pedro probably could have defeated his aggressors, but he was unarmed since Padre Diego never allowed his companions to carry weapons.
After Pedro was mortally hit with a spear, Padre Diego gave him sacramental absolution; then the assassins also killed Padre Diego (beatified in 1985). Their bodies were thrown into the sea; no remains were ever found.
Scripture. Calungsod’s life mirrors several elements of the scripture readings for October 21, 2012, the day of his canonization. As the prophet Isaiah notes, he gave his life “as an offering” and “the will of the Lord is accomplished through him.” Calungsod certainly put his confidence in the Lord who is able “to sympathize with our weakness” (Hebrews). Calungsod took Jesus’ words in the gospel to heart: “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all.” He literally imitates Jesus who “has not come to be served but to serve—to give his life as ransom for many.”
Exhortations. Listen to the words of Father Ildebrando Leyson of Cebu, who vigorously promoted the cause of Calungsod: “The Church in the Philippines has found in the young lay Catholic Filipino missionary catechist and martyr, Pedro Calungsod, its inspiration and intercessor as it strives to realize its desired renewed evangelization and missionary vocation.”
Jesuit Catalino Arévalo has written: “He was a young man who knew his Faith, who was willing to leave his country to be a missionary in a distant land. He spent practically all his teen-aged years teaching the Faith, laboring for its spread, undergoing difficult trials and surmounting them, out of love for the Lord, out of his devotion to the Church, its teaching, its way of life.”
Cebu Archbishop and CBCP President Jose Palma affirms: “I am excited about the upcoming canonization of San Pedro Calungsod [which is] … a wellspring of grace for the faithful because it is a gift of faith…. It’s not only for the Visayan people, but for all of us Filipinos.”
Challenge. During this World Mission Month, it is none less than our own missionary Pedro Calungsod who invites the entire Philippine Church to rediscover and deepen its missionary vocation. The words of Blessed Pope John Paul II continue to echo in our ears: “I wish to tell you of my special desire: that Filipinos will become the foremost missionaries of the Church of Asia.” Saint Pedro Calungsod, pray for us. Make us enthusiastic witnesses and missionaries of our faith.
NOTE: Father James H. Kroeger, MM is professor at Loyola School of Theology, East Asian Pastoral Institute, and Mother of Life Catechetical Center.