Sunday, October 21, 2012

Proclaim your Faith!

(A homily delivered at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore; on the last day of the Triduum held on October 20, 2012 for the Canonization of Pedro Calungsod.)

·       10:00 A.M. Mass of the Holy Name of Mary
o   Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales – Presider
o   Abp. Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I. - Homilist
·       Readings: Sir. 24:17-21; Resp. Ps. - Lk. 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54;  Gospel Lk. 1:26-38

Your Eminences, my Brother Bishops; Distinguished Officials of the Philippine Govt, led by our Vice President (Binay) and the Phil. Ambassador the Holy See (Mercy Tuason); Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters; my Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

Mary – the Star of Evangelization

First, a question. On this final day of our Triduum, why do we celebrate the Mass in honor of the Holy Name of Mary?

Because this Mass brings us back to the Mariana islands of the 17th century, It brings us back to the time when Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J, and his young missionary partner, the Visayan lay catechist, Pedro Calungsod proclaimed the Christian faith to the Chamorros of Guam.

Our Mass this morning reminds us that Padre Diego had a very strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. He dedicated the first church in the new mission to the Sweet Name of Mary. By the sweet name of Mary he hoped that the mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the Chamorros would be blessed by God with abundant fruit.

That hope has been realized. On the original site of the first Church, there now magnificently stands the Cathedral - Basilica of the Sweet Name of Mary, a symbol of the Christian and Catholic faith of the people of Guam. Through the veins of their beloved leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron who is with us today, flows the blood of his Chamorro ancestors as well as the blood of his Filipino grandfather from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. In the history of the local Church of Agana, Guam we see once again the truth of that ancient aphorism: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

Padre Diego passed on his deep devotion to Mary to the young Pedro Calungsod. These two valiant missionaries, priest and lay teenager, under the inspiration and guidance of the Blessed Mother proclaimed their faith with zeal and courage among the Chamorros.

The Mass this morning also brings us back to the 1st century, to that room in Jerusalem where Mary and the Apostles were gathered in prayer. Suddenly in that room there was the sound of a mighty wind. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit filled them and transformed them.

Driven by the Holy Spirit, inspired and strengthened by the presence of Mary the Blessed Mother the Apostles would later go forth to the different parts of the civilized world, even to distant unknown lands, literally to the ends of the earth. Everywhere they proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of all. 

As Mary saw the Apostles off to tell the story of Jesus, her own Son, she prayed for them and was their Mother from afar. For the Apostles, Mary was the living memory of Jesus, their beloved Teacher and Lord.

Mary then was present at the beginning of the Church’s mission to evangelize. She was also present when Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod began their missionary work. Mary, indeed, is the Star of Evangelization, as Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have said. She is the Star, the brilliant beacon that reflects to others the face of her own Son. She is the Star that points unmistakably to her Son.

Jesus the Center of Proclamation

But what did Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod really proclaim? What do we proclaim when we evangelize?  Do we proclaim an inspired book called the Sacred Scriptures? Do we proclaim a set of beliefs and rites that we call Christianity or Catholicism?  Do we proclaim an ideology or a humanitarian program that we call human development?

No, my brothers and sisters, we proclaim a Person, a Person who has a face and a name. We proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s Son, God’s own Son, Jesus the Crucified One. We proclaim the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, that same divine mystery by which Jesus saved us and all humankind from sin. It is the story of Jesus that we tell. Jesus is the beginning, the center and the summit of our proclamation.

The Duty to Proclaim

But do we have a duty to proclaim Jesus? Yes we do. We hear today the poignant words of St. Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9-16). This cry follows from his words: Faith comes by hearing. But if no one speaks how can we hear? And how can one speak unless one is sent? (see Rom. 10:14-18).

When you and I were baptized and became members of the family of faith, the Lord sent us to speak his name, to tell his story to others. It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we become a people of faith – in – mission.

How to Proclaim Jesus – Tell the Story of Jesus

But how do we proclaim Jesus? Our model of proclamation is Pedro Calungsod. Let us look at his statue. Pedro is carrying a book entitled, Doctrina Cristiana, It was the Spanish catechism written in the Philippines from which he learned the fundamental articles of our faith. From it he developed a strong and lively devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother. His mentor was Padre Diego. They were not only teacher and pupil to each other. They were partners and friends. It is from their friendship and especially from their intimate friendship with the Lord that they could teach others about the love of Jesus.

And so by carrying the catechism book, Pedro Calungsod teaches us that we have first to know our faith, to know Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and be united with Jesus.

The Doctrina Cristiana of the 17th century has evolved into a new synthesis of the Christian faith in the 20th century, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To know your faith, the sure guide is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When you take up the catechism believe what you read, live what you believe, and share what you believe.

But knowing Jesus is not enough. We must have, most of all, a passion for Jesus, a love for Jesus so intimate and so strong that we just have to share him with others. He is the divine gift that we cannot keep for ourselves. We must want to share him with others.

But how to share and proclaim the Lord and Savior? My brothers and sisters, simply tell the story of Jesus to others. Tell the stories that Jesus told -- about the providence of His Father, tell others that God is concerned most about the human person even as he cares for the beautiful lilies of the field and the blithe birds of the sky. Tell people about the Lord’s mercy and kindness, his love of the poor. Tell others about how he drove away those who desecrated the house of prayer, why he called some people hypocrites, how he abhorred those who were greedy and selfish, how he had compassion on the little ones of society, widows, orphans, strangers and little children. Tell the stories that Jesus told about love of neighbor, about forgiveness, and prayer.

Parents  and Children

If you are parents, tell the story of Jesus to your children. Children love stories, tell them of Jesus’ birth, how Jesus was lost and found in the temple, tell them story after story, miracle after miracle, parable after parable, tell them his message in simple ways, how Jesus loved children, how he loved the poor. Tell them about how Jesus sacrificed his very life on the Cross for them. Share with them your devotion to Jesus, your love for Jesus. Teach them about the Mass and how to pray, be their leader of prayer at home. Pray the Rosary with them. You must love Jesus passionately in order to do these.

Husbands and Wives

Husbands and wives, remind one another about what it means to be Christian, to be a follower of Jesus. Remind one another that your marital love is a sharing of the love of Jesus for you. Tell one another that the love of Jesus for you and for us is ever faithful, that even when we are unfaithful, He forgives. The love of Jesus for you must flow to your children. Such love within the family makes responsibilities less burdensome and is carried over to the fulfillment of responsibilities at work, at the office. It is a love that works for justice in society, the kind of love that struggles against social evils, against the lack of integrity and the bane of corruption so deeply entrenched in our beloved Philippines. It is a love for others without pretense.

Mass Media

Today we have to use the means of social communications to proclaim Jesus, his life and message. You do not have to be a radio broadcaster or a TV personality.

So often the internet is used for evil, for pornography, for scams and crimes. Instead use the internet to share what is good. Send biblical messages by SMS, by texting. Use twitters and blogs to share your faith, Chat with others about how your faith has always been an anchor of hope in the midst of difficulties. Send inspirational pictures and images by email, youtube, or facebook.

Today the power of communications, of the internet, email, facebook, is beyond calculation. 

Young People

May I appeal particularly to young people – and for young people. San Pedro Calungsod was only 14 years old when he went with Padre Diego to proclaim the Lord Jesus in Guam. He was not too young to be an evangelizer. He is the model for young people to live and proclaim their faith.

Already in our country, the youth are at the vanguard of renewing the Church and society. They are active in the catechetical, liturgical, and social action ministries. They serve in various transformative small communities of faith. With energetic and enthusiastic youth, parishes become a communion of communities.   

Yet today various forces compete for the attention of the young. At their most impressionable age, young people are constantly bombarded by mass media with images and messages of secularism and materialism that are contrary to the Gospel. The loss of faith is evident and widespread in the world.

We hope that the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization can provide answers to the question: How can we proclaim the faith to young people with “new ardor, new methods and expressions?” The young are the present and future of the Church. We all need to be with them.

Overseas Filipino Workers

At this point may I give tribute to the millions of our overseas Filipino workers in every continent of the world.

We only think of OFWs as our country’s economic saviors. But they are more than economic agents. They are faith-givers. We have heard hundreds of stories about how OFWs are not embarrassed to show the external signs of their Catholic faith, how they bring to Mass the children of families that they work for and teach them how to pray. By doing so they attract the parents of the children to renew their faith and begin to pray again.

You, our dear OFWs, are truly the new missionaries and evangelizers of today. We salute and thank you most deeply. Hold on to your faith. We pray with you and for you as you work, often in a hostile environment.

Martyrdom and the Daily Witness of Life

My brothers and Sisters, in all probability you and I might never be asked by God to give up our life for the sake of our faith. God indeed asked Pedro Calungsod. And he responded generously and courageously with his life. With his teacher, missionary partner, and friend, Padre Diego, he went to his death for the sake of Jesus. Now both Padre Diego and the lay catechist Pedro hold the palm of martyrdom. Look at his statue -- Pedro is holding that palm. Martyrdom is the ultimate witnessing to Jesus, the ultimate form of proclaiming the faith.

But as Blessed John Paul II has said – a faithful Christian life, though silent and unsung, is a most eloquent proclamation of our faith in Jesus (see Ecclesia in Asia). You are credible in telling the story of Jesus to others only when your life is lived as a faithful disciple of Jesus, a disciple who lives the Divine Teacher’s way of valuing, his way of relating with people, especially with the most needy, his way of doing good.

For in the final analysis, to proclaim Jesus is really to share you own experience of Jesus, your own friendship with Jesus, your own following of Christ.  This is what the Apostle John said: What we have seen, what we have heard, what we have touched, this is what we proclaim to you so that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ! (see 1 Jn.1: 1-4).

When we truly proclaim Jesus by our daily Christian life, we can also exalt with Mary, the Star of Evangelization, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” My very life, my very being proclaims the greatness of the Lord!

My brothers and sisters, God bless you!

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(Last of a series)

27. Who is the Center of our proclamation?

What we proclaim is not a revealed book nor an ideology, not a doctrine nor a social cause, not some great human value nor an idea. The center of our proclamation is “before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God” [John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990, no. 18; cf. CFC, nos. 216-17, 220-22, 464]. He is our Lord and our Savior. Through his passion, death, and resurrection – the Paschal Mystery – he saved us from sin. This is why the Cross is the symbol of our faith.
Unfortunately aggressive secularism ignores our faith in Jesus and puts it aside to the margins of public life, or even rejects the faith. That is why we have to tell the story of Jesus, proclaim him as the Lord and Savior. We have to “Live Christ, Share Christ.” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, “Live Christ, Share Christ, July 23, 2012].

28. How should we proclaim our faith?

We proclaim our faith in many ways. We tell and teach others about our faith. Parents are the first teachers of the faith for their children. By teaching their children who God is, how to pray to God, what his commandments are, parents share their faith with them. Besides cooperating with God in giving and nourishing the physical life of their children, they also give and nourish their life of faith. We share our faith with others by providing material and moral support to those whose main task is to preach and teach the faith such as priests, religious, catechists, missionaries and other collaborators in the Church’s mission. But most of all we proclaim and share our faith with others by our life, by our witness of a good Christian life. In the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 2:42-47] many were daily attracted to the new faith by the faithful Christian life of the early followers of Christ. Ordinary day to day fidelity to the Lord’s law of love – ordinary holiness – is the most eloquent proclamation of our faith.

29. What kind of new evangelizers should we be?

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, new evangelizers have to be: persons who have mature faith “because they have encountered Jesus Christ, who has become the fundamental reference of their life; persons who know Him because they love Him and they love Him because they have known Him; persons capable of giving solid and credible reasons of life.” [Papal Address to the 64th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, May 24, 2012].

30. Who are our models of faith?

In the first place is our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the Woman of Faith, always obedient to the will of the Father and the constant faithful disciple of Jesus her Son [See CFC, nos. 155-59]. Despite not fully understanding the profound mysteries of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery, she gave her obedience of faith to God. The “cloud of witnesses” of the faith is the multitude of Saints in heaven. Among them are recent men and women of holiness such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed John Paul II, Padre Pio, our own San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

31. What does the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod mean for us?

Pope Benedict XVI will declare Blessed Pedro Calungsod as Saint in Rome on October 21, 2012 and will add yet another Filipino to our models of faith. Like San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Pedro Calungsod is a lay martyr who gave up his life in an ultimate witness of his faith in the Lord Jesus. As a young catechist he was a teacher of the faith. He is a model for all Filipinos, especially for our Filipino youth, to be faithful to Jesus with love and courage till death.

32. What event does the Year of Faith and the canonization recall to Filipinos?

San Pedro Calungsod was a Visayan youth martyred in far away Guam 151 years after the Spaniards first brought the Christian faith to people in the Visayas. The first Holy Mass was celebrated on the island of Limasawa on March 31, 1521. San Pedro Calungsod is canonized in the Year of Faith which is only nine years away from the 500th anniversary of the faith of Filipino Christians. For this reason on the day of San Pedro Calungsod’s canonization on October 21, the Church in the Philippines “will embark on a nine year spiritual journey that will culminate with the great jubilee of 2021. It is a grace-filled event of blessings for the Church starting October 21, 2012 until March 16, 2021” [CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of New Evangelization, 2012].

33. How shall we prepare for this great event - the 500th anniversary of our Filipino

The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines exhorted us to prepare for the 5th centenary of our Christian faith in the Philippines with a nine year “Era of New Evangelization.” The opening of the Year of Faith and the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod take place during the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, October 7 to 28, 2012. The Synod of Bishops explores the theme of New Evangelization. In view of the weaknesses of our faith and the negative influences of secularism on our Filipino culture, a New Evangelization is necessary in the Philippines. In fact 21 years ago PCP-II already envisioned a “new evangelization” or “renewed integral evangelization” for the Philippines [see Message of the Council to the People of God in the Philippines, in PCP-II Acts and Decrees, 1991, p. xcviii; see esp. nos. 186 – 201].

34. What is the New Evangelization?

The term New Evangelization “designates pastoral outreach to those who no longer practice the Christian faith” [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, December 3, 2007, 12], a situation which is due to the secular and materialist spirit. Pope Benedict XVI said that this new cultural situation has signs of excluding God from peoples’ lives and tries to marginalize the faith from public life (Benedict the XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, May 30, 2011). We have already noted that our faith has to be renewed. Our culture is now very much influenced by the secular and materialist spirit. Therefore, a New Evangelization is necessary, “new in its ardor, methods and expressions” [Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Post au Prince, 1983]. Such will surely renew both our faith and the Church.

35. What is our general plan for the Era of New Evangelization?

We need to intensify our efforts to achieve the vision of renewal that PCP-II and the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR, 2001) drew up. It is a vision of renewed integral evangelization towards a renewed Church. We may call it a vision of New Evangelization in the Philippines. It calls for a multifaceted renewal of faith, renewal of laity, clergy, religious, parishes, and renewal of mission. For this purpose, the NPCCR identified nine major pastoral priorities. These are: (1) Integral Faith Formation; (2) Renewal of the Laity; (3) Active Participation of the Poor; (4) The Family as the Focal Point of Evangelization; (5) The Parish as a Communion of Communities; (6) Renewal of the Clergy and Religious; (7) Youth as Evangelized and Evangelizers; (8) Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue; (9) Missio ad gentes.

36. How shall we address the Nine Major Pastoral Priorities of the Church in the
      Philippines during the Era of Evangelization?

For the nine-year era of New Evangelization to be fruitful, it is absolutely necessary to hold the Holy Eucharist as central so that the grace of the Eucharist would accompany all our evangelizing efforts. Prayer must accompany the New Evangelization. We need to realize that the journey of faith and discipleship begins with conversion, metanoia, a change of mind and heart. With these in mind, we shall dedicate each of the nine years of the Era of New Evangelization to one of the nine-major pastoral priorities. Thus:

2013 – Integral Faith Formation;
2014 – Renewal of the Laity;
2015 – Active participation of the Poor in Evangelization and
Social transformation;
2016 – The Eucharist and the Family – this year the International Eucharistic 
                        Congress will be held in Cebu;
2017 – Transforming the parish as a Communion and Communities;
2018 – Renewal of Clergy and Religious;
2019 – Active Participation of the Youth;
2020 – Ecumenism and Inter-Religious dialogue;
2021 -  Missio ad gentes.

37. What is the significance of Mission ad gentes for Filipino Catholics?

The final year, 2021, of the Era of New Evangelization will be the 5th centenary of the Filipino Christian faith. The focus will be on the mission of the Church ad gentes or the mission to those who do not yet know Christ. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, we are reminded that our faith is missionary. Recent Popes have pointed out that the Church in the Philippines has a “special missionary vocation” and is called in a special way to be a missionary “to the nations” – ad gentes, particularly to Asia [Pope John Paul II, to the Philippine Bishops in 19981; at the World Youth Day in 1995; cited by the CBCP Pastoral Letter, Missions and the Church in the Philippines, July 5, 2000]. This is so because the Philippines is the biggest predominantly Catholic country in Asia. Pope Benedict XVI speaks of the necessity of sharing our faith::  

…faith in God is above all a gift and mystery to be received in the heart and in life and for which we are to be always grateful to the Lord. But faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it will bear fruit; it is a light that must not be kept hidden, but illumine the whole house. It is the most important gift that has been given to us in our lives and we cannot keep it for ourselves” [Benedict XVI, Message for World Mission Day to be celebrated on October 21, 2012].

38. Do the Year of Faith and the Era of New Evangelization address burning issues
      confronting our society today?

Yes, they do. Our goal is a renewed faith and a renewed Church. This is a vision of a faith and Church engaged in the mission of integral evangelization. This mission includes the task of social transformation. As a renewed Church we have to be actively involved, through a renewed integral faith, in helping resolve the burning social issues of today such as corruption, poverty, the destruction of the environment, threats against human life and dignity, and other burning issues of our day. Most of our problems are due to the dichotomy between faith and life. A renewed faith, that includes the social implications of the Gospel, would certainly address the problems directly.  

39. Prayer for the Year of Faith

According to Pope Benedict XVI “Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in Baptism” [PF, no. 9]. Therefore, following the example of the early Christians we should recite everyday the Niceno-Constantinopolitan profession of faith:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,

(At the words, up to and including “and became man,” all bow)

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Reciting often the short traditional Act of Faith will also deepen our faith:

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
October 1, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(Second of a Series)

14. In what way is the secular spirit at work in the proposed Reproductive Health Bill?
The promoters of the Reproductive Health Bill assert that the bill has nothing to do with religion or morality. According to them the use of artificial contraceptive means to prevent conception or to terminate implantation is simply a matter of safeguarding the health of women. They say that preventing unwanted pregnancy through contraceptives and choosing the number of children parents want is responsible parenthood. Preventing pregnancy through artificial means also alleviates the burden of the poor in raising too many children. In addition, the secular and materialist argument allows the distribution of contraceptive means to young people and to the unmarried in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The promoters of Reproductive health consider all these acts as necessary and useful. These acts are allowed because of the freedom of choice. Sex outside marriage is also fine as long as it is “safe sex.” Moreover, some proponents say that no religion or church can impose its teaching on how a woman should take care of her body. What she does with her body is her “freedom of choice.” These arguments are the influence of secularism that rejects faith and morality as norms of action.

15.  What is the official Catholic position on the Reproductive Health bill?
As teachers of faith the Bishops of the Philippines point out that the distribution and use of artificial contraceptive means to prevent conception and the implantation of the fertilized egg in the womb are not morally neutral. Based on official Catholic moral teaching, they are in fact morally evil. Moreover, the Bishops point out that aside from purely Catholic moral teachings, there is a universal moral law, the natural law, which serves as a moral guide for all [see Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the International Congress on Natural Law, Rome, February 12, 2007; see also Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC), 2004, nos. 138-41]. Furthermore, the freedom to choose cannot be contrary to the law of God who gave that freedom. Briefly and simply, the freedom to choose is not absolute. It is necessarily limited by the moral law, as taught authoritatively by the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church [Cf. CSDC, nos. 137, 139].

16. What is to be said about members of Catholic educational institutions who 
dissent against teachings of the Church?
Invoking the principle of academic freedom, some members of Catholic educational institutions publicly dissent against official Catholic teachings regarding the Reproductive Health bill. This may be another example of the influence of the secular and materialist spirit in our midst. A Catholic institution of higher learning, whether pontifical or not, has to be faithful to its identity, nature, and role as a Catholic institution. One of the distinctive marks essential for Catholic identity is fidelity to the Christian message in conformity with the magisterium of the Church [see Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae (ECE), August 15, 1990, I, no. 13; see also United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, An Application to the United States, 2001, Part I, V and Part II, art. 2]. This is also to adhere to the special charisms of the religious community that founded the institution. In fact the Catholic identity of the educational institution is usually expressed explicitly in its vision-mission statement. Moreover the Catholic identity of Philippine Catholic Universities is confirmed by membership in the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) whose statutes were approved by the Holy See in 1949. Therefore, by its very nature and identity a Catholic educational institution adheres to the truths that are contained in the deposit of faith, Scripture and Tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the Church.  Faculty members share in the responsibility of preserving and promoting the Catholic identity of the institution. Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out the confusion created among the faithful “by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership” [see Pope Benedict XVI, Address to U.S. Bishops on ad limina visit, Rome, May 5, 2012]. In brief, academic freedom is not a right for faculty members of a Catholic educational institution to betray its Catholic identity and nature and cannot be a reason for dissenting against the official Catholic position as on the Reproductive Health Bill [On academic freedom see Code of Canon Law, 1983, c 218; likewise relevant are cc 806 and 810].

17. What kind of faith do we, Filipino Catholics, have?
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines characterized our Filipino Catholic faith in several ways [see PCP-II, Acts and Decrees, 1991, nos. 8-17]. Our faith is deep and simple. We express our Christian faith publicly without embarrassment. We are often faithful in attending Holy Mass and in praying novenas to different saints. We outwardly celebrate the Sacraments, such as going to Mass, being baptized, receiving confirmation, getting married. We are aware that God has an influence on our life. We have a sense of God’s own time. Even when abroad when it is difficult to express our faith, we try to be faithful to our religious duties and devotions.

18. What are the weaknesses of our faith?
While we are outwardly devoted to the practices of our faith such as going to Mass, celebrating the sacraments, praying the Rosary, etc., we often do not understand their meaning. Much less do we put into practice what they really mean. Our faith is not lived in the public sphere. It is separated from life. Hence, “we are sacramentalized but not evangelized.” Our faith is ritualistic and devotional, i.e., centered on externals and non-essentials. We see this kind of ritualistic faith in our veneration of the saints, in our processions and fiestas. Our faith is also sometimes fatalistic, attributing almost everything to God without our own responsibility. Thus we say bahala na ang Diyos when we take unnecessary risks (as in riding overloaded buses or boats), when prudence and wisdom should tell us not to take the risks [For the weaknesses of our faith see PCP-II, no. 13 and CFC nos. 116-18]. Because we really do not know our faith well, we are often easily persuaded by religious teachers who interpret the Sacred Scriptures different from our own interpretation. In other words, to a great extent we are Catholics only in name, but are very much uninformed and focused on externals.

19. Because of the inadequacies of our faith, what should we do during the Year of Faith?
The Year of Faith is a privileged occasion for us to know our faith, deepen our faith, live our faith, celebrate our faith, and share our faith. Pope Benedict XVI urges us “to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction…. to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist....” The Pope prays “that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility” [PF, no. 9].

20. What can we do to know our faith?
We need to study our catechism, especially the most essential elements of our faith. We have to understand their meaning for our life. The essential elements of our faith are contained in the Apostles’ Creed that we recite during Sunday Mass. It is called the Apostles’ Creed, because it is a faithful summary of the faith of the Apostles and was the ancient profession of faith of the Church of Rome, the “See of Peter, the first of the Apostles.” The Apostles’ Creed is elaborated by the Niceno-Constantinopolitan, which originated from the first two ecumenical councils of the Church (in the years 325 and 381). This creed is common to the churches of both East and West.

21. What does the Apostles’ Creed contain?
The Creed contains the 12 Articles of our Christian Faith, namely:
Article 1 – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
Article 2 – I believe in Jesus Christ the Only Son of God.
Article 3 -  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary.
Article 4 – Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
Article 5 – He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again.
Article 6 – He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Article 7 – From thence he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Article 8 – I believe in the Holy Spirit.
Article 9 – I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
Article 10 – I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
Article 11 – I believe in the Resurrection of the Body.
Article 12 – I believe in life everlasting.
These are the fundamental elements of our faith. We should know and understand them with our minds and hearts. When we recite with faith the Apostles’ Creed we unite ourselves with God and with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us. Our “Amen” at the end of the Apostles’ Creed expresses our firm conviction that God is trustworthy and that we absolutely trust in him.

22. How do we celebrate our faith?
We celebrate our faith in God by adoring, praising, and thanking God. This is our response to God and for his blessings to us. We give this response of faith through prayer especially through the liturgy.

23. What is the Liturgy?
The liturgy is the prayer of the Church and consists principally of the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, the event by which Jesus our Lord saved us from sin. When we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. We believe that in the Mass, Christ is present and active. It is He who offers his own sacrifice. The ordained priest acts in his name because he shares in the priestly power of Christ because of priestly ordination.
The liturgy also consists of the other Sacraments. By his power, Jesus acts in the other sacraments such that when we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism, it is Jesus himself through the hands of the priests who baptizes us. We also celebrate our faith when we read the Scriptures and when we pray. In all these, Christ is present and active.

24. How should we live our faith?
We live our faith by living a truly moral life, a life that is faithful to the commandments of God. Jesus himself said: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” [Jn. 14:21]. The commandments are summarized in the law of love taught by Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Mk. 12:30-31; see also Dt. 6:5]. The law of love is elaborated in the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments express love of God and the next seven commandments express love of neighbor. The truly moral life, therefore, is a life of genuine charity. Pope Benedict states: “Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other” [PF, no. 14]. Charity is faith in action. If charity, then also justice, because justice and charity are inseparable. To love God and our neighbor, to avoid offending God and neighbor through sin are actually the promises we made when we received Baptism, the sacrament of faith. At our baptism we promise to believe in God. This also means to love God and reject sin. The baptismal promise is a promise to live a truly moral life. We are Christians not only in name but also in deed by living our faith in private and public life.   

25. How else should we live our faith?
When God gave us the gift of faith at Baptism, he incorporated us into his own family of faith, the Church. The Church has a mandate to safeguard and teach what God has revealed. She is our Mother and Teacher. We live our faith when we are faithful not only to what the Church declares solemnly as divinely revealed but also to the doctrinal and moral teachings that the Church has consistently and ordinarily taught through time.

26. Do we have a duty to proclaim our faith?
Yes, we have. The obligation is included in the mandate that Jesus gave his Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always until the close of the age” [Mt. 28:19-20]. To proclaim our faith is to proclaim the good news of Jesus our Lord and Savior. This is our mission from the very moment we were baptized and became members of the Church. The whole Church exists in order to proclaim Jesus as the Lord and Savior. St. Paul expresses the duty of every member of the Church: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” [1 Cor. 9:16].

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Primer on the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization

(First of a Series)

 1.  What is the Year of Faith?

On 11 October 2011 Pope Benedict XVI issued his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, Door of Faith (PF), and declared a Year of Faith from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013. The Year of Faith would be “a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith” [PF, no 4]. It would be a year “to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith” [PF, no. 6]. The Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world,” a year to intensify the renewal of the Church [ibid.].

2. What is the significance of the starting and ending dates of the Year of Faith?

The starting date, October 11, 2012, is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Vatican II (1962-1964). This Council led to the deepening and greater understanding of our faith and to the comprehensive renewal of the Church as it confronted the many changes of our times. The same date is the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which is the summary of our Christian faith. The ending date, November 24, 2013, is the Feast of Christ the King who is the center of our profession of faith.

3. What is faith?

“Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time… it is an assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” [CCC, no. 150; CBCP-ECCE, Catechecism for Filipino Catholics (CFC), 1997, nos. 114-15]. Faith, therefore, is a personal acceptance of God as the source of everything that we are and have. It also means to obey God. To obey comes from the Latin word ob-audire, to hear or to listen. Faith means to “submit freely to the word” of God [CCC, no. 144] who in many ways speaks to us, such as in the Sacred Scriptures, in the Church, in the celebration of the Liturgy, in prayer, or in ordinary situations of life.

4. When do we receive faith?

At the beginning of the rite of Baptism the priest asks: “What do you request of the Church?” The godparents of the child to be baptized answer: “Faith.” It is through Baptism, the “sacrament of faith” that God gives us the gift of faith. Through Baptism we are born into new life and become adopted children of God and heirs of heaven. We are incorporated into the family of faith, the Church.

5. Is faith necessary?

Yes, faith is necessary for salvation. The CCC, no. 161, teaches us: “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for our salvation” [cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40 ff]. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith no one will ever attain eternal life [see Mt. 10:22; 24:13; Heb 11:6]. 

6. Why is the Year of Faith necessary?

Pope Benedict observes that today we can no longer presume that a person has faith [see PF, 2]. Faith is sometimes openly denied and rejected. It is no longer a norm for everyday life. There is now a crisis of faith. Many developed countries that were once Christian no longer practice the faith. Our own Filipino faith has many weaknesses. Because of this situation, the Year of Faith is necessary. It is a special year for us to know our faith, deepen the understanding of our faith, live our faith and share our faith.

7. Should our faith keep up with changing times?

Yes, our faith should keep up with changing situations. Like the Church that began a period of renewal with Vatican II and opened its windows to the modern world, faith should be immersed into our modern situation. However, the Church has “to transmit the doctrine pure and integral,” in a new way, “according to what is required by our times,” without weakening or distorting it [see Pope John XIII, Address at the Solemn Opening of Vatican II, October 11, 1962, cited by Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the 64th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, May 24, 2012]. Therefore, our faith must remain fundamentally unchanged in content, while its expression may change so as to be understood by modern man. Our faith must dialogue with the modern spirit, adopt what is authentically of the Gospel, reject or purify what is not. As always we have to heed the prayer of Christ to the Father for his disciples after the Last Supper: “…they are in the world…Holy Father, keep them in your name….they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth” [Jn. 17: 11-17].

8. What is the secular and materialist spirit?

We may distinguish between moderate secularism and radical secularism. Moderate secularism accepts the mutual relationship between secular and the spiritual and religious. Vatican II states that the demand for the autonomy of secular affairs is proper only when it is not in conflict with the moral law or claim independence from God [see Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, no. 36]. This primer focuses on what Pope Benedict XVI has called “radical,”  aggressive,”or reductive secularism [see, e.g., Benedict XVI, Address to U.S. Bishops on Ad limina visit, January 19, 2012]. Henceforth in this primer the term secularism refers to radical or reductive secularism.  This kind of secularism does not respect the spiritual and religious sphere of life. It is sometimes called the “modern spirit.” It emerged from the Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason (from about 1650 to 1805) and asserted that reason and science are above faith. It also taught that universal truth comes only from reason and science. This philosophical idea gradually displaced faith and became the prevailing attitude in economically developed countries in the West. In the second half of the 20th century, new secular teachings challenged the “modern spirit” and changed it into an even more radical form. It is called “the post-modern spirit.” As a result of these secular and materialist philosophies for many countries of the West faith no longer has any major role in human behavior and official government policies. Faith is reduced to the private sphere and is not allowed to play any role in the public sphere. Religious symbols and prayer are even banned in public places in some countries.

9. What does secularism as understood above in this Primer say about truth?

Whereas the modern spirit asserted that reason and science can establish universal truths, the post-modern spirit states that there are no universal truths, either from reason and science or from faith. The post-modern spirit asserts that all truth is relative. Truth, whether doctrinal or moral, depends on the individual, on the opinion of people, on culture, etc. This is called “relativism.” The post-modern spirit teaches that truth does not depend on the word of God or on the authority of the Church. Sadly the culture of secularism is now the emerging global culture that has even influenced predominantly Christian countries such as the Philippines.

10. What does secularism positively contribute to society?

The secular, materialist, and relativist spirit promotes individual freedom and democracy. It upholds human equality and dignity. It promotes the empowerment of women. It rejects discrimination based on religion, gender, culture, and social status. It respects religious pluralism and fosters religious tolerance. It has promoted the immense advances and possibilities of science and technology, such as in medical treatment.

11. What is the negative impact of secularism?

Because of the secular, materialist and relativist spirit, the world is experiencing a loss of a sense of the sacred and a loss of faith as well as a loss of the sense of sin. The secular spirit ignores God. It makes faith irrelevant to public life and policy and makes it only a private affair. It has resulted in a severe weakening of divine and church authority and a rejection of enduring and permanent moral values, such as in marriage. Moreover, it advocates the error of utilitarianism. This philosophy states that what is useful, practical and convenient is the right thing to do, and not what is morally right. The language of morality which was once a language of goodness and evil has been substituted by the language of “political correctness.”

12. What are other negative influences of secularism?

The secularist, materialist and relativist spirit has resulted in the legal approval of artificial contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics (selection of only normal offspring). The spirit has likewise resulted in excessive individual freedom even at the expense of the common good. For example, on the basis of unconditioned freedom of speech and expression, disrespect of revered religious persons, symbols and doctrines has generated protests and violence in different parts of the world. The secular spirit has also resulted in sexual freedom, such as in the approval of pre-marital sex, various forms of sexual unions, divorce, and even the approval of prostitution in some countries. From these negative influences comes the breakdown of family life.

13. What does secularism say about the Church?

We now see the influences of the secular and materialist spirit in some opinions ventilated in public. These opinions state that the Church is outdated. The Church, they say, is still living in the “dark ages” and has not been enlightened by the light of reason. It is not in touch with the changing times. Instead the Church is responding to modern ways of thinking and valuing by asserting old doctrines and outdated moral values. Those who are faithful to Church teachings are labeled “conservatives” and those who dissent are “progressives” or “liberals.”  An example of the secular and materialist view may be found in the present debate between pro-life and pro-choice, between opponents and promoters of the Reproductive Health Bill now being discussed in the Philippine Congress. 

(To be continued)