Monday, July 12, 2010
On Bishop Francisco "Cisco" Claver, S.J.
(Funeral Mass, Loyola School of Theology, July 7, 2010)
I write this sharing two days after the Funeral Mass on Wednesday evening, 7 July 2010. I had spoken without notes and with only a general outline in my mind. Here and there this written piece might be embellishing a bit. But to the best of my memory, it is how I said what I wanted to say about Bishop Cisco Claver, S.J.
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Jesuit provincial, Fr. Jojo Magadia, asked me before the Mass if I, as a friend of Bishop Cisco, could speak briefly after Communion. At the chapel sacristy, Cardinal Dency Rosales also asked me if I could speak on behalf of the Bishops.
I am here not out of obedience to Fr. Jojo or to Cardinal Dency but I am here out of fear. I am afraid that Bp. Cisco might visit me tonight and complain, “Orly, my friend, you did not visit me while I was sick.”
But most importantly I am here because of love. At the Wake Mass for Bp. Cisco last Friday evening, I approached Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J. and before I could react he hugged me and said with a break in his voice,” How Cisco loved you!” I broke down in tears and held on to Fr. “Rev.” So I am here because of love.
My brothers and sisters, what does Bishop Cisco Claver mean to the Church in the Philippines and beyond?
During the Martial Law period, someone collected his homilies and essays together into one book with the title, “Even the Stones Will Cry Out.” During those very dark years in Philippine history, Bp. Cisco consistently, passionately and courageously denounced the injustices and contradictions of Martial Law. So great were the injustices especially against “the little people” (the “poor, deprived and oppressed”) that if he were silent, “even the stones will cry out!”
I think of Bishop Cisco’s significance to the Church in the Philippines in terms of those biblical stones. He expressed his mind and heart in his pastoral work and theological-pastoral reflections. These are like stones built upon one another that speak of who Bishop Cisco was as a person and as a bishop-shepherd, not unlike the stone rip-rapping and bridge that he built with his Bontoc hands along the creek on this university campus.
His pastoral work and reflections indeed are stones that speak out loud and clear about what lay deep in his mind and heart about the Church. Communion, Co-Responsibility, Participation, Discernment were his constant themes – heady theological themes that came alive concretely in the Basic Ecclesial Communities, particularly in the Diocese of Malaybalay and the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.
He applied these themes in his treatment of social issues – people empowerment, politics, human rights, justice and peace, development, indigenous peoples, environment, land reform, the relationship between ideology and faith, the impact of culture on life, etc. etc.
In the turbulent years of the 1980’s when ideology effectively influenced the minds of many pastoral workers in Mindanao, I am convinced that it was he who turned the tide in the life and death struggle between ideology and faith.
He changed the Marxist structural analysis that was popular in those days by factoring in the reality of culture both in the causes of social problems as well as in the processes of social change. This insight from the anthropologist Bishop Cisco on cultural analysis made us aware of the abundant resources of our deep culture of religious faith.
I believe then that his seminal work on cultural analysis placed religious faith once more at the center of the Church’s response to the politically and ideologically laden field of Mindanao. For the Mindanao dioceses religious faith, untainted by ideology, became once more the measure of ideology itself as well as the dynamic motivation for pastoral workers towards social change.
One can discern the stones built by Bp. Cisco in the major pastoral letters and statements of the Philippine Bishops on social issues, in the writing of which he collaborated or was the principal writer.
These stones are especially discernible in the Acts and Text of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, held five years after that stunning and transforming People Power I Revolution at EDSA. Communion, Co-Responsibility, Participation, Discernment, Dialogue, Basic Ecclesial Communities, people empowerment – these are interweaving themes in PCP-II. As the final redactor of the PCP-II texts, I was more than delighted to retain verbatim most of the things that Bishop Cisco contributed in his easy but elegant and cadenced inimitable prose.
So what does Bishop Cisco mean to the Church in the Philippines? The stones will cry out.
May I now speak of Bishop Cisco as a friend.
In the past 30 years Cisco and I collaborated in possibly more than a hundred projects of reflecting, writing, speaking, in various parts of the Philippines, Asia, and Europe. We relished being in the same discussion panels, interviews, conferences and writing group. We shared our thoughts and brought them to the floor of the CBCP. We agreed on most issues, disagreed on a few, but were united on the issues that counted most.
It was my great misfortune that when the CBCP writing group was about to draft the famous Statement of the Bishops after the 1986 Snap Elections I was in bed at the Heart Center of the Philippines. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the CBCP President, had asked me to moderate the Bishops’ session to evaluate the conduct of the Snap Elections. The results were a clear consensus. Widespread fraud in the elections everywhere except in one or two dioceses. What then must we say about the government that assumed power through indubitable rampant fraud? The moral principle was clear. Cardinal Vidal requested me to help write the Statement. I informed him that I had to go to the Heart Center. I gave him my notes for the content of the Statement. While reading the Final Statement at the Heart Center, I consoled myself in believing that Bp. Cisco and the other members of the writing team had indeed read my notes. [At today’s CBCP Plenary Assembly, 10 July 2010, Cardinal Vidal told me that upon receiving my notes, Cisco had remarked, “Good, now I do not have to think too much!” Cisco with his usual dry humor!]
But the basic response of the Statement to the government’s lack of moral authority was classic Claver: “Let us pray together, reason together, and act together” – a mantra on Communion, Co-Responsibility, Participation, Discernment that many subsequent CBCP statements would echo.
It was the anthropologist-Bishop Cisco who understood the 1986 People Power Revolution in terms of the converging values of Lakas and Awa. The People Power Revolution was the explosive irruption of Lakas-Awa, the power of compassion, of love shared, of love expressed in sacrificial, unselfish and generous service of solidarity for the sake of the common good, of a love based on deep religious faith that transcends religious denominations, becoming a massive force for social transformation.
After 1986 we both shared the idea that it was time for the Bishops to withdraw from the public arena and let the people activate their God-given charisms in political leadership.
But after a year of EDSA I, euphoria turned into dismay. The Bishops wrote their first letter on Corruption. Bp. Cisco gave it the title, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” We also wrote a statement on Land Reform in response to the watering down of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Only two or three years ago the CBCP wrote another letter on corruption, the second of its kind and during the term of a second lady president. This time it was my turn to give it a title. I chose, “Let Justice Flow Like a River.”
It is difficult for me to express what Cisco means to me. (Many have remarked that Cisco and I think uncannily alike. Perhaps.). We both want to stay in the back rows of the Bishops’ Conference. We exchange notes, share ideas, evaluate them, and either write them down or act on them. He was my social conscience. We lined up some collaborative writing projects regarding the Church in Mindanao in the 1980’s and regarding EDSA I, to “correct history” as he said. He asked me to begin the writing. Somehow I did not. But we did push each other into writing things down. I came out with outlines. He came out with books. God gave him immense talents. He shared them in service to the Church, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
In one of our CBCP Pastoral Letters, we quoted Sacred Scriptures about a messianic time of grace when over the land and over the people Justice and Mercy shall embrace and kiss. At the passing away of Bishop Cisco, God’s justice and loving mercy have embraced and kissed – for him. He is with the Father. He is with Jesus whom he proclaimed in the Spirit with eloquent words, spoken and written, in all arena of human life.
I express the collective grief and deep condolences of the Bishops of the Philippines to the Claver family. You have lost a great brother. We have all lost a Filipino prophet without peer, truest priest, innovative humble shepherd, a very dear friend. Who can take his place?
As for me...farewell, Cisco, my dearest friend. Please don’t visit me tonight. Even now the rain continues to fall, the tears of nature flow…my tears flow….
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato