Young Martyr
Pedro Calungsod:
The Young Martyr of the Visayas

by Louie Jon A. Sanchez, The Varsitarian

 

It has been more than a decade since the first Filipino saint was beatified. Lorenzo Ruiz. He was martyred in Nagasaki along with eight other Dominican priests. Since then, the Philippine Church has been paving the way for other noble Filipinos who, through their past heroic faith and courage, are deemed worthy of being officially proclaimed beatus, blessed. There are Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, founder of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the largest religious congregation for women in the Philippines, and Francisca del Espiritu Santo, founder of the Dominican Sisters of Siena in the Philippines. Both women lived in the 17th century.

It was faith, and fate that brought them to the church's mission of evangelization. They came from all walks of life; regardless of color, wealth or origin, their missionary zeal stood as a living witness to the faith even at the point of death.

Pedro Calungsod, a 15th century Visayan, was no exception. At about 13 or 15, he was already helping in the local Jesuit catechesis. At 18, he was martyred "in hatred of the faith" by two Guam natives, while trying to protect Jesuit priest Diego Luis San Vitores. San Vitores was later beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

The road to sainthood

For many years, the figure of Calungsod had been left to oblivion, until the Archdiocese of Manila pushed for his elevation to the pantheon of saints.

The Archdiocese of Cebu has been working on Calungsod's case since the 80's. It has included in its masses a prayer for beatification before the final blessing. A growing number of literature is also being produced about Calungsod.

Many devotees feel that Calungsod's beatification is imminent, in time for the several beatifications scheduled on the great Jubilee Year 2000.

A report published in Today newspaper said the vice postulator for Calungsod's beatification, Father Ildebrando Aliño Leyson, had recently been informed by the Roman Congregation for the Canonization of Saints, that the body would "take up the dossier on the young Filipino proto-martyr from the Visayas, formally discussing and passing at least a preliminary judgment on his case," an optimistic phase for Calungsod's speedy elevation. A plus factor in Calungsod's cause is that he died a teenager and he should thus stand as a model and inspiration for the Filipino youth. Calungsod is the perfect example to Pope John Paul II's idea of a youth dedicated to the Church's mission of evangelization.

Humble beginnings

 

Calungsod's beginnings haven't been solidly established, and there are disputes regarding his birthplace which could be Cebu, Bohol, or Iloilo, although the former already laid the process for beatification.

 

Based on accounts, Calungsod was taught in a Jesuit minor seminary in Loboc, Bohol. For young recruits like him, the training consisted of learning catechism, Spanish, and Latin. They would be later sent with the priests to the countryside to perform daily religious functions as altar boys or catechists. Some of them were even sent to missionary centers overseas to accompany the Jesuits in their arduous task of proclaiming the Good News and establishing the Catholic faith in foreign lands.

 

Heeding the call

 

On June 18, 1668, the zealous Jesuit superior San Vitores, answering a "special call," began a new mission composed of 17 young laymen and priests to the Isles de los Ladrones (The Robber Islands), which the Spaniard renamed as Marianas, after the Queen Maria Anan and the Virgin Mary.

 

The task of converting the islands was first successful. The missionaries reached out to the backward poblaciones and baptized over 13,000 natives. Capillas began to rise at various sites as Catholic instruction became extensive. A  school and church were even built and dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola in the City of Agadna in the northeast. Calungsod and other young missionaries were instrumental in realizing the Jesuits noble objectives.

 

Dilemmas

 

The Marianas missions were eventually shaken by difficulties, conflicts of interests, and challenges from the natives themselves. Some converts broke away from the new faith and turned against the Jesuit for odd reasons, like fearing what some of the natives claimed as the "magical" rituals and ceremonies of the missionaries.

 

Choco, an influential Chinese who earlier came from a sunken wreck, misled the local folk about the religious practices of the priests, such as baptism, which he claimed to be a way of killing the children. He also claimed the Mass wine was poisonous. He was later arrested by San Vitores and converted to the faith.

 

Fierce native leaders made life hard for the Jesuits and their young helpers. Armed rebellions and movements took place in the localities. One major insurgency was the 40-day siege by a chieftain named Hurao of the Spanish garrison where the Jesuits were housed. The Spaniards overcame the insurrection and San Vitores revived their mission. The meek priest later forgave Hurao and asked authorities to release him.

 

The fighting did not stop there. The natives continuously seized and set afire the Spanish settlements. San Vitores and his companions were able to renew their evangelization only after a cease-fire agreement ended the hostilities.

 

Martyrdom

 

The Jesuit mission in Marianas gradually declined as member of the mission were killed.

 

On April 2, 1672, San Vitores and Calungsod went to Agadna after a mass, to baptized new-born children and to visit and bring back to the faith an elderly Filipino named Esteban, who was once hired by San Vitores as his tutor in the local dialect.

 

While passing in the area of Tumhon, the two encountered the native Matapang, who had converted to the faith but broke away after being influenced by anti-Christian macana groups. Matapang's wife had just given birth to a baby girl, and San Vitores offered her baptism. Matapang in disgust sent the priest and Calungsod away.

 

However, San Vitores and Calungsod stayed and went to the nearby beach. They gathered the children playing around and other adults for catechism. Like Christ gathering the little ones around him, San Vitores admonished Matapang to join them. Matapang resisted the call and left with a plan of getting back at the priest for good.

 

Matapang saw another native, Hirao, and asked for help in killing the priest and his companion. Hirao was at first hesitant, being aware of the priest's kindness. He even reminded Matapang of the big help San Vitores showed him when he was severely wounded. But Matapang was resolute and even convinced Hirao to turn against the priest. They looked for weapons and plotted the death of the missionaries.

 

Upon their return, Matapang and Hirao attacked Calungsod, but the young missionary was able to escape the spears aimed at him. He tried to get closer to San Vitores to protect the priest, until a spear suddenly pierced through his chest, wounding him. One of the killers breached his skill with a machete axe. the priest suffered the same fate, with only "May God have mercy on you," to utter.

 

News of the bloody sacrifice of the Jesuit missionary and his companion reached the Philippines and on May 3, 1672, a Te Deum and requiem was held in their memory in Manila.

 

Although he might have lived more than 300 years ago, Pedro Calungsod is perhaps representative of the Filipino's youth's dynamic commitment to the Catholic Church's mission of evangelization.

 

True "fishers of men" and "harvesters in the Lord's vineyard," modern day Pedro Calungsod are all around the globe. They risk their lives in foreign lands while proclaiming the Good News of salvation to everyone.

print: October 20, 1999, The Varsitarian, Vol. LXXI No. 6

Prayer to
Blessed Pedro Calungsod
 
Blessed Pedro Calungsod,
student, catechist, young migrant,
missionary, faithful friend, martyr,
you inspire us
by your fidelity in times of adversity;
by your courage in teaching the faith
in the midst of hostility;
and by your love in shedding your blood
for the sake of the Gospel.

Make our troubles your own
(here mention your request)
and intercede for us
before the throne of Mercy and Grace
so that,
as we experience the help of heaven,
we may be encouraged to live
and proclaim the Gospel here on earth.
Amen.
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Prayer for the Beatification
of the Servant of God
 
Lord God,

through your Son Jesus Christ,
You taught us that there can be
no greater love than to lay down
one's life for one's friends.
Your servant, Pedro Calungsod,
inspires us by his fidelity
in times of adversity,
by his courage in teaching the Faith
in the midst of hostility,
and by his love in shedding his blood
for the sake of the Gospel.
We humbly ask you to raise him
to the honor of the altar,
so that we may count him
among our intercessors in heaven
for the glory of your name.
We ask this
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

AMEN
Prayer for Special Intentions to
BLESSED PEDRO CALUNGSOD
 
My Lord,

In your grace,
you have shown through your
servant,
Beato Pedro Calungsod,
the sublime prize of following
you;

Through his martyrdom, you
have shown us that age and
race will not hinder us from
serving and loving you;

His youthful fervor in
defending the faith earned him
the title to be called Blessed;

Thus in confidence,
I humbly call unto him to pray
with me, and to intercede for
this urgent favor
(make a request) and that through
his glorious life, I may try
to emulate him, together
with Mother Mary, who
have without reserve said
yes to your will.

AMEN.
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