September 28 saw the University of Sto Tomas Chapel fill with lay and religious for the three-way celebration for Araw Ng Katolikong Laiko, Pagpupugay Kay San Lorenzo at Beato Pedro, and the Closing of the National Laity Week celebration ’12. The Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals is a member of LAIKO; attending in behalf of the BCBP were Nancy Catan, BCBP Manila, Ruth Marie C. Atienza, BCBP Sta Rosa, and Ester Vasquez and Bobby Samaniego of BCBP Manila.
The afternoon’s program began with the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist led by H.E. Most Rev. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, D.D., Archbishop of Manila. He was assisted by two other bishops and about two dozen priests.
In his homily, Archbishop Tagle said that being a lay person is not by chance, it is a choice – a choice to respond to God, to bring His Presence with us in our everyday lives in the secular world. He emphasized that it is true that being a martyr for the faith means to proclaim the truth of God in Jesus unto death. He explained that although the previous statement is true, the martyrdom for the lay person lies in his/her identification with Jesus Christ in that, through word and action, we are His witnesses in our everyday secular world, we bear His cross (our crosses may be big or very small, like smiling instead of being angry), we endure such suffering with joy.
The lay Catholics in the Philippines now have their own saints, both of them lay persons, in the persons of San Lorenzo Ruiz and the soon-to-be saint on Oct 21 Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Archbishop Tagle reminded the congregation that he believes this is God’s way of telling us that we, the lay persons of the Philippines, are the bearers of holiness and of sanctity to everyone around us.
The lay person is also an important witness to the religious orders and to priests, to remind them to persevere in being true witnesses to the Messiah, faithful and loving in all they do, in their religious and/or priestly roles. He commented that through fidelity to God and to spouse in marriage is a lay person’s most powerful testament to being able to persevere, through good times and bad, in faithfulness to his/her calling to the married life.
The Holy Mass concluded with everyone reciting The Prayer of the Laity. (This Prayer is posted in the BCBP’s FB: BCBP Kapatid ).
After the mass, the participants moved to the education building for the symposium on the upcoming canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod and its importance to all lay persons. Evangelist and author Bro Michael Angelo woke everyone up with his rapid and humorous remarks on how to practice one’s faith. He emphasized three points: focus, thankfulness, and humility.
Amb. Henrietta T. deVilla, Secretary General, Nat’l Commission for the Canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod, in her opening remarks gave a brief overview of the canonization process and asked Cardinal Vidal to tell of his experiences in doing the Vatican follow-ups. Cardinal Vidal outlined the rather complicated procedures and concluded, after learning that there were more than several thousand lay people plus about 400 religious listed for canonization this year, that God really wanted the Filipino people to have another lay saint to inspire the Filipino youth in the faith and so Blessed Pedro’s cause was put ahead of the others. Truly a miracle, he said.
The formal symposium on Lay Spirituality followed after an inspirational message by Atty. Aurora Santiago, Nat’l President of the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas.
Rev. Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J., Professor Emeritus, Ateneo do Manila University, discussed the upcoming Synod on New Evangelization that will take place in October 2012 in Rome. The synod of bishops will take up four points: 1) the mission to those who have not yet received Jesus Christ; 2) the church of the poor; 3) reviving the faith of those who have drifted away from the faith; and 4) evangelizing the young people. He cited statistics that there are 5 billion people who have not yet been exposed or received Jesus Christ and his message. Thus, this becomes a special vocation of the Philippines in Asia. Giving importance to reaching out to the poor, he explained that the vast majority of people, estimated at 68%, are poor; in fact Pedro Calungsod came from the poor and his example should be a source of hope for those with less in life.
He then cited a McCann survey done early in this century that concluded if conditions remain more or less the same in this country, that in 40 years the Catholic/Christian faith believers would be no more a majority, but a very small minority. This emphasizes the urgency of reviving the faith through new ways of evangelization as well as strengthening the traditional ways of faith building.
The need to evangelize the young people of the country is underlined by the result of a study done by four priests several years ago. The study statistically revealed that only 6% of the youth are receiving catechism and being introduced to Jesus; 94% of the youth are not receiving any faith instruction. This means that the basic Christian moral values and meaning of life are not being given to the great majority of the young. He believes that the youth of today are losing their faith by erosion.
Fr. Arevalo defined faith as not only accepting and professing a certain belief, but that faith must encompass one’s entire life, in submission to Jesus Christ in faith, love, and hope. We need a revival of biblical faith – the total submission of one’s life to God, making the response of Mary our response: “be it done unto me according to Thy Word.”
There is so much to be done in the Year of Faith, especially as we are beginning the Novena of the Years leading up to 2012, the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. In his closing comment on the two Filipino lay saints, Fr. Arevalo posed these questions: Are you, the youth of today, willing to die for what you believe in? Are you, the lay people, willing to die for what you believe in? Are we, the religious, willing to die for what we believe in?
Capping the afternoon’s symposium was the presentation by a youth group of a San Pedro Calungsod Musicale: Scenes from a Martyrdom.
Reported by Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila.