How relevant is Pedro Calungsod to the Church in the Philippines
today? (by Fr. Ildebrando Jesus A. Leyson)
The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has indicated renewed
catechesis as the first element of its program for a renewed
evangelization. A few years ago, it came up with the book
Catechism for Filipino Catholics. With this, it has
also recognized its need for more catechists who are imbued with
zeal for evangelization.
The greatest resource of the Church in the Philippines
for its evangelization is its dynamic young people who constitute
more than one half of the entire Filipino population. That is why
these young people are being organized and mobilized so that they
may get involved in the life of the Philippine Church as evangelizers.
Indeed, committed Catholic young Filipinos are the best evangelizers
of the Filipino people.
This solicitude of the Church in the Philippines for
a renewed evangelization extends beyond the Philippine Islands as
it is also very much aware of its special missionary vocation and
challenge to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations. It hopes not
only for Filipino Catholic Christians to go abroad to fulfill this
vocation, but also for those of them who may be working or residing
abroad to be heralds of the Gospel of Christ wherever they may be.
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. For this reason,
it has moved for the Cause of his Beatification.
How relevant is Pedro Calungsod to the Filipino
youth today? (by C. G. Arévalo, S.J.)
The youth of the Philippines today are undergoing a period of severe
testing of the traditional faith of their fathers. The
well-known shortage of priests and even religious; the lack of religious
and catechetical formation (it has been estimated that less than
10% of Filipino children receive adequate catechetical instruction)
especially in the urban areas, but increasingly in rural areas as
well; the massive population movements toward the cities, where
traditional family structures breakdown, and with them the handing-on
of traditional Christian belief and values; the moral impossibility
for traditional parishes to reach the majority of children and teen-agers
in the massive slums which are rising around the big citiesall
these factors contribute to the erosion of Faith among the youth
in the Philippines.
But, perhaps the most serious breakdown of the life
of faith among the young is the work of the mass media and the global
youth culture it propagates, even to the furthest mountain barrios,
areas still largely unreached by schools and traditional means of
instruction. The beliefs and values of often decadent post-modernist
currents in the West are fast becoming the norms by which young
people everywhere live: the morality, above all, so far removed
from what the Church teaches in family life, in sexuality, in the
pursuit of material wealth and of gratification (consumerism, drugs,
etc.). The victim of all this invasion is the traditional Faith,
the traditional moral standards, the cultural ways of life and behavior
which 400 years of Christianity have tried to make part of the Filipinos
way of life.
It is within this rather sombre background that we
must raise the figure of Pedro Calungsod. Here 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 teachings, its way of life. At the age
of around 17 he gave up his life for the Faith, bravely and fearlessly.
Against the attacks on Christian life, against the
prevailing lack of commitment to anything beyond material gain in
contemporary culture, against the confusion and relativism of post-modernism,
the unrestrained struggle for wealth and pleasure of the global
culture preached by the media, we can place before the eyes of the
young a role model of commitment to Christ and to his Gospel. We
can invoke the intercession of a 17-year-old native Filipino to
pray for, inspire and lead young people to a new understanding and
love for Christ and his way, to a willingness to give witness to
what the Gospel teaches, to a readiness by a young person to give
his life for Christ and his Church.
More: in an age when, as Pope John Paul II has said,
youth in the Philippines must be willing to bravely proclaim their
Christian Faith, both at home and even in other lands, what more
splendid thing can be done than to give a concrete young person,
catechist and missionary who is alive in the Crucified and Risen
Christ today, for our young people to know, to pray to, to imitate?
Pope Paul VI called Asia the continent of the
young. In fact, in rounded figures, Asia counts a total population
of nearly 4 billion people, and nearly two-thirds of these billions
are young. Pope John Paul II indicates in his Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in Asia that Christians are a tiny minority in Asia. Jesus
and his Gospel must still be proclaimed to billions in Asia who
have not yet effectively encountered the Christian Faith. Of about
105 million Catholics in Asia, some 69 million are in the Philippines.
Thus, the Philippines has a special responsibility to proclaim Jesus
Christ and his Gospel in Contemporary Asia. Pope John Paul II, during
World Youth Day in Manila in 1995, told the youth of the Philippines
that they have a challenge and a duty to tell Asia and the
world of Christs love, to make the new evangelization
a task they must take to heart.
All this serves as a background against which we can
reflect on the significance of Pedro Calungsod, a young Filipino
martyr, for our time, and the significance that his beatification
has for the young people of the Philippines today. This young Filipino-Visayan
emerges from contemporary 17th century accounts as a remarkably
attractive figureone to capture the imagination and idealism
of young people even in our post-modernist age: a martyr for the
youth to look up to, in an age when Jesus and his Gospel must be
proclaimed anew to the world that knows him so little, and needs
him so much.
2003 Fr. Ildebrando A. Leyson
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