The Relevance of Pedro Calungsod
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 cities—all 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 Christ’s 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 figure—one 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.