My dear brothers in the priesthood:
The faith of our people is vibrant and strong. The flock of the Lord is a blessing of infinite consolations for us their shepherds. Our parish churches and selected barangay chapels are filled with people on Sundays athirst for the Lord and seeking to express their love for God. While there is great reason to believe that the faith is alive and strong in our archdiocese, the truth must be told that there are still many more communities deprived of the Eucharist on Sundays, the day of the Lord, due to their distance from the pastoral centres and due to the lack of priests.
This deprivation of the Eucharist is leading to an alarming spiritual malnutrition which on many occasions our people fill up by attending Sunday prayer fellowships of other sects. Attempting to reach out to the Catholic communities in far barangays, many priests have started the pastoral practice of celebrating Masses on weekdays to fill the thirst for Sunday Eucharist among the barangays. But the truth need be told that the Sunday Eucharist occupies a primordial place in our Catholic life.
PRIMACY OF SUNDAY MASS
It is true that, in itself, the Sunday Eucharist is no different from the Eucharist celebrated on other days, nor can it be separated from liturgical and sacramental life as a whole…But because of its special solemnity and the obligatory presence of the community, and because it is celebrated “on the day when Christ conquered death and gave us a share in his immortal life”, the Sunday Eucharist expresses with greater emphasis its inherent ecclesial dimension. It becomes the paradigm for other Eucharistic celebrations (Dies Domini, 34)
Among the many activities of a parish, “none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist” (Dies Domini, 35)
This light-and-shadow situation must be addressed so that the present thirst for the Sunday Eucharist may not worsen into a widespread spiritual desert. It can also result in the waning of appreciation for the primacy of Sunday in our Catholic life (cfr. Dies Domini, 5). Because nature abhors a vacuum, our absence in the barangays can result in unimaginable spiritual harm to the flock of the Lord which, if not remedied now, can take generations to reverse and heal.
SUNDAY MASS FOR EVERY BARANGAY
I am inviting my brother priests especially those in the ministry of Catholic education and members of team ministries to avail of the privilege granted by archdiocesan laws to celebrate two Masses on Saturday evenings and four Masses on Sundays. I admonish all priests to use this privilege fully by going to barangay communities and offering the distant poor the Body of the Lord on Saturday evenings and Sundays. It is considered liturgical abuse to use this privilege to accommodate special groups of the Catholic faithful in exchange for monetary gain.
The perennial complaint is that “the people are not coming to our Masses so we might as well not go”. It is time for us to be missionaries in spirit and disposition. We cannot just demand that the people be there when we are there. We have lost them by our long absence. The time has come for us to reach out patiently and recover their lost faith. The Sunday afternoons and evenings cannot be relaxed moments for a good pastor of souls. We must initiate a schedule of barangay Masses even on Sunday afternoons and evenings so that the poor, the marginalized and the distant may have an opportunity for Sunday Masses weekly. The children and the youth must be the favoured recipients of our pastoral presence in the barangays.
CREATION OF NEW PARISHES
By a unanimous vote of the Board of Consultors, all the vicars forane were mandated to prepare new clusters of barangays to become pastoral stations eventually to be created as parishes within the year. After consulting the priests and lay leaders in the vicariate, the vicar forane can recommend which cluster may take the priority pastoral attention. The primary criterion will be the openness of the Catholic faithful in the area to become a parish. The material sustenance of the priests may be provided by the Chancery for the first year of creation, in case the community lacks material resources. It is not necessary to have a big church as a pastoral centre. Modest living quarters for the priest to live within the mission community will be enough.
The only goal is to strengthen the base communities. The strength of the parish is not in overflowing Sunday crowds; it is rather in the vibrant distant barangays where the life of the parish truly shows. If the barangays are weak and cold, the Church is sick and bleeding. The poor cannot afford to go to our centres. We cannot leave them in the periphery. The Sunday Mass must be brought to them every Sunday.
Big and expansive parishes do not help nurture the faith. Faith will be impersonal and pastoral care will only be token ministries. We must create new pastoral centres. Small is beautiful. Small is the way to greatness. Strengthening the small is the only way to survive and stay relevant as a Church.
I plead with you brother pastors to take this vision to heart and adopt it as yours. We cannot allow the times to reduce us to be functionaries and temporal administrators. We are pastors first and foremost. Let us regain the shepherd’s heart when we were ordained.
May Saint John Marie Vianney set our hearts on fire again!
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
ORDER OF FAMILY PRAYERS ON VISITING THE CEMETERY
My dear friends, we gather today to pray for our brothers and sisters whose bodies lie here in rest. They have passed from death to life in company with the Lord Jesus, who died and rose to new life, and are purified now of their faults. We pray that God may welcome them among all the saints of heaven.
READING OF THE WORD OF GOD
Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians
We shall stay with the Lord for ever. We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. The Word of the Lord.
Let our response be:
R. To you, 0 Lord, I lift up my soul.
In you I trust; let me not be put to shame, let not my enemies exult over me. No one who waits for you shall be put to shame; those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith.
R. To you, 0 Lord, I lift up my soul.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.
R. To you, 0 Lord, I lift up my soul.
LITANY for the Faithful Departed:
Lord, have mercy… Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy …Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy …Lord, have mercy
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for them Saint Michael, pray for them, Saint John the Baptist, pray for them Saint Joseph, pray for them Saint Peter, pray for them Saint Paul, pray for them Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for them. All holy men and women, pray for them
Christ, pardon all their faults: Lord, hear our prayer Christ, remember the good they have done: Lord, hear our prayer Christ, receive them into eternal life: Lord, hear our prayer Christ, comfort all those who mourn: Lord, hear our prayer
Lord, have mercy… Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy… Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy… Lord, have mercy
With Christ there is mercy and fullness of redemption; let us pray as Jesus taught us:
All: Our Father . . .
Almighty God and Father, by the mystery of the cross, you have made us strong; by the sacrament of the resurrection you have sealed us as your own. Look kindly upon your servants, now freed from the bonds of mortality, and count them among your saints in heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Eternal rest grant unto them, 0 Lord. R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. R. Amen.
May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. R. Amen.
The Rosary is now prayed by the family.
FROM EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
It is now well established that in the early days of Christianity it was not uncommon for infants to receive Communion immediately after they were baptized. Among others St. Cyprian (Lib. de Lapsis, c. xxv) makes reference to the practice. In the East the custom was pretty universal, and even to this day exists in some places, but in the West infant Communion was not so general. Here, moreover, it was restricted to the occasions of baptism and dangerous illness. Probably it originated in a mistaken notion of the absolute necessity of the Blessed Eucharist for salvation, founded on the words of St. John (vi, 54).
The manner of Communicating infants was by dipping the finger in the consecrated chalice and then applying it to the tongue of the child. This would seem to imply that it was only the Precious Blood that was administered, but evidence is not wanting to show that the other Consecrated Species was also given in similar circumstances (cf. Sebastiano Giribaldi, Op. Mor., I, c. 72). That infants and children not yet come to the use of reason may not only validly but even fruitfully receive the Blessed Eucharist is now the universally received opinion, but it is opposed to Catholic teaching to hold that this sacrament is necessary for their salvation (Council of Trent, Sess. XXI, can. iv).
CHURCH LAWS ON FIRST COMMUNION
According to its provisions children may not be admitted to the Blessed Eucharist until they have attained to years of discretion, but when this period is reached then they are bound to receive this sacrament.
When may they be said to have attained the age of discretion? In the best-supported view of theologians this phrase means, not the attainment of a definite number of years, but rather the arrival at a certain stage in mental development, when children become able to discern the Eucharistic from ordinary bread, to realize in some measure the dignity and excellence of the Sacrament of the Altar, to believe in the Real Presence, and adore Christ under the sacramental veils. De Lugo (De Euch., disp. xiii, n. 36, Ben. XIV, De Syn., vii) says that if children are observed to assist at Mass with devotion and attention it is a sign that they are come to this discretion.
CERTAIN ERRORS ABOUT FIRST COMMUNION PASTORAL PRACTICE: (From John Cardinal Wright)
The Decree Quam Singulari, in treating the age at which children are to be initiated into their post-baptismal sacramental life, had to face (as had a decree on frequent Communion by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, five years before) certain doctrinal and ascetical errors that had become deeply rooted in Catholic life at the opening of the century, at least in some parts of the world.
One of these was the pretense that a greater discretion is required for first Communion than for first Confession. This, like most of the other errors, was rooted in Jansenism: for example, one was the idea that to receive first Holy Communion requires a nearly complete knowledge of the Articles of Faith and, therefore, an extraordinary preparation. In effect, this means deferring first Communion for the riper age of 12, 14 or even older.
REMEDY NOT REWARD
Another error was the pretense that "the Holy Eucharist is a reward (for virtue), not a remedy for human frailty," a conceit which is contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent that Holy Communion is "an antidote by which we are freed from our daily faults and preserved from mortal sins. (Cardinal Wright).
WHEN IS THE RIPE AGE FOR FIRST COMMUNION?
As far as age is concerned, the most suitable age seems to be still between seven to eight years, as we have it today, and this for many reasons.
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, the Vatican official responsible for worship and the sacraments, with the blessings of Pope Benedict XVI suggested that children be allowed to receive first Holy Communion before their seventh birthday.
Today, he said, “children live immersed in a thousand difficulties, surrounded by a difficult environment that does not encourage them to be what God wants them to be”.
A child’s first Communion, he said, was “like the beginning of a journey with Jesus… the beginning of a friendship destined to last and to grow for his entire life”.
But can children younger than seven truly grasp the doctrine of the Real Presence? Is it not more important to ensure they have a firm grasp of its significance?
On the other hand, children develop at different rates. If they are well prepared, it seems sensible for them not to wait unnecessarily. And it is better, surely, for the “journey with Jesus” to start as early as possible. (Cardinal Canizares Llovera).
PASTORAL ERRORS ON FIRST COMMUNION
In the precise determination of "the age of reason or discretion" not a few errors and deplorable abuses have crept in during the course of time. There were some who maintained that one age of discretion must be assigned to reception of the Sacrament of Penance and another to the Holy Eucharist. They held that for Confession the age of discretion is reached when one can distinguish right from wrong, hence can commit sin; for Holy Eucharist, however, a greater age is required in which a full knowledge of matters of faith and a better preparation of the soul can be had.
As a consequence, owing to various local customs and opinions, the age determined for the reception of First Communion was placed at ten years or twelve, and in places fourteen years or even more were required; and until that age children and youth were prohibited from Eucharistic Communion.
This practice of preventing the faithful from receiving on the plea of safeguarding the august Sacrament has been the cause of many evils.
It happened that children in their innocence were forced away from the embrace of Christ and deprived of the food of their interior life; and from this it also happened that in their youth, destitute of this strong help, surrounded by so many temptations, they lost their innocence and fell into vicious habits even before tasting of the Sacred Mysteries. And even if a thorough instruction and a careful Sacramental Confession should precede Holy Communion, which does not everywhere occur, still the loss of first innocence is always to be deplored and might have been avoided by reception of the Eucharist in more tender years.
Such is the injury caused by those who insist on extraordinary preparations for First Communion, beyond what is reasonable; and they doubtless do not realize that such precautions proceed from the errors of the Jansenists who contended that the Most Holy Eucharist is a reward rather than a remedy for human frailty.
This doctrine was not long ago strongly emphasized by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council given on December 20, 1905.
Daily approach to Communion is open to all, old and young, and two conditions only are required: the state of grace and a right intention. Moreover, the fact that in ancient times the remaining particles of the Sacred Species were even given to nursing infants seems to indicate that no extraordinary preparation should now be demanded of children who are in the happy state of innocence and purity of soul, and who, amidst so many dangers and seductions of the present time have a special need of this heavenly food.
From all this it is clear that the age of discretion for receiving Holy Communion is that at which the child knows the difference between the Eucharistic Bread and ordinary, material bread, and can therefore approach the altar with proper devotion.
Perfect knowledge of the things of faith, therefore, is not required, for an elementary knowledge suffices–some knowledge; similarly full use of reason is not required, for a certain beginning of the use of reason, that is, some use of reason suffices.
FROM SAINT PIUS X
Saint Pius X has deemed it needful to prescribe the following rules which are to be observed everywhere for the First Communion of children.
1. The age of discretion, both for Confession and for Holy Communion, is the time when a child begins to reason, that is about the seventh year, more or less. From that time on begins the obligation of fulfilling the precept of both Confession and Communion.
2. A full and perfect knowledge of Christian doctrine is not necessary either for First Confession or for First Communion. Afterwards, however, the child will be obliged to learn gradually the entire Catechism according to his ability.
3. The knowledge of religion which is required in a child in order to be properly prepared to receive First Communion is such that he will understand according to his capacity those Mysteries of faith which are necessary as a means of salvation (<necessitate medii>) and that he can distinguish between the Bread of the Eucharist and ordinary, material bread, and thus he may receive Holy Communion with a devotion becoming his years.
4. The obligation of the precept of Confession and Communion which binds the child particularly affects those who have him in charge, namely, parents, confessor, teachers and the pastor. It belongs to the father, or the person taking his place, and to the confessor, according to the Roman Catechism, to admit a child to his First Communion.
5. The pastor should announce and hold a General Communion of the children once a year or more often, and he should on these occasions admit not only the First Communicants but also others who have already approached the Holy Table with the above-mentioned consent of their parents or confessor. Some days of instruction and preparation should be previously given to both classes of children.
6. Those who have charge of the children should zealously see to it that after their First Communion these children frequently approach the Holy Table, even daily if possible, as Jesus Christ and Mother Church desire, and let this be done with a devotion becoming their age. They must also bear in mind that very grave duty which obliged them to have the children attend the public Catechism classes; if this is not done, then they must supply religious instruction in some other way.
CARDINAL CASTRILLON HOYOS, Jan 8, 2005
Pope Saint Pius X, a great Pope canonized by the Church, dedicated no small attention and pastoral effort to children. On August 8, 1910 he issued the Decree Quam Singulari, in which he established that children could receive First Holy Communion at the age of seven.
Important to the pastoral care of children is allowing them to approach the Eucharistic Communion, after they have received the necessary preparation in their parishes to learn the primary and fundamental elements of the Christian faith, without their having to wait unduly long. The age of discretion comes individually, around seven years, when common bread can be distinguished from the Eucharistic bread, the true Body of Christ. Few are unconvinced, together with Pope Saint Pius X, that the praxis of allowing children First Holy Communion at the age of seven has brought great graces to the Church. The rest must not fail to remember that in the early Church, the Sacrament of the Eucharist was administered to babies immediately after baptism, under the species of a few drops of wine.
To allow children to receive the Eucharistic Jesus as soon as possible has been for many centuries one of the strong points of the pastoral outreach to the smallest members of the Church. The custom reestablished by Pope Saint Pius X in his time has been praised by his Successors, including our own Blesses John Paul II. Canon 914 completely sets forth the Papal thought: «It is primarily the duty of parents and of those who take their place, as it is the duty of the parish priest, to ensure that children who have reached the use of reason are properly prepared and, having made their sacramental confession, are nourished by this divine food as soon as possible. ( Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos)
BLESSED JOHN PAUL II
For how many children in the history of the Church has the Eucharist been a source of spiritual strength, sometimes even heroic strength! How can we fail to be reminded, for example, of holy boys and girls who lived in the first centuries and are still known and venerated throughout the Church? Saint Agnes, who lived in Rome; Saint Agatha, who was martyred in Sicily; Saint Tarcisius, a boy who is rightly called the "martyr of the Eucharist" because he preferred to die rather than give up Jesus, whom he was carrying under the appearance of bread.
"My predecessor Saint Pius X gave a touching testimony to his pastoral love for children by the changes he introduced regarding the reception of First Holy Communion. Not only did he lower the age for approaching the Eucharistic Table (I was able to take advantage of this in May, 1929), but he also introduced the possibility of receiving Communion before the age of seven, if the child demonstrates sufficient understanding. This pastoral decision to bring forward the reception of Holy Communion is most commendable. It has yielded rich fruits if holiness in children and in the apostolate among the young, in addition to a flowering of priestly vocations." (John Paul II, "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way," Rome 2004, p. 103).
POPE BENEDICT XVI
At Castel Gandolfo on August 18, 2010, Pope Benedict reiterated the pastoral directive of Saint Pius X on the age of First Communion. "For this," continued Benedict XVI, "St Pius X recommended receiving the sacraments often, promoting daily participation in Holy Communion, (being) well prepared, and anticipating opportunely the First Communion of children at seven years of age, ‘when the child begins to reason’ … "
Meditation for Palm Sunday
April 17, 2011
The first day of Holy Week is called Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. We recall the triumphant entry of the Lord to Jerusalem hence the blessing of palm branches. Beyond this majestic welcome will be the mockery and scourging, the crucifixion and death of the same Lord. In calling this day Passion Sunday, we recall the pains the Lord endured in the hands of men; we remember the death he valiantly faced. We remember the love that he poured into his sufferings.
There is a second meaning to the words “passion of Christ”. It could also refer to the zest that comes from within him—a great commitment to somebody or to something. Passion could also mean a powerful or compelling feeling within us that drives us to think and talk and act in a consonant fashion.
The passion of Christ is love. The passion of Christ is the will of the Father. The passion of Christ is our salvation. What is your passion?
When I ask you “What is your passion?” I mean to ask “What animates you?” What excites you? What sets you on fire? What do you believe in? Are you still a Christian with firm convictions or have we become so deeply compromised that we are no longer sure on which we stand? Analysis kills our passion and fire. Grain once ground to flour, springs and germinates no more (Henri Amiel). What is it in your life that you are willing to die for? What is it in your life that you are willing to suffer for?
The color of this day is red because red is the color of fire. It is also the color of blood. Indifference must be cured with fire. The uncaring attitude must give way to a passion for love. Christ’s sufferings must urge us to be more involved and be more passionate. Apathy must give way to involvement for the transformation of society.
Let us allow the fire and blood of Holy Week to set our hearts on fire with a passion for stewardship. May the Lord ignite our hearts and inspire our souls for stewardship as we move closer to Easter. This is our Credo of Stewardship:I believe in the God of love, the owner of everything who possesses everyone. I believe in the God of mercies who has chosen me to be a steward of Mother Nature and Mother Church, in spite of who I am and what I have done, and in spite of the infidelities He knows I will still commit. I believe in the power of giving and in the power of loving like Jesus; because love is the only way to holiness; giving is the best proof of loving; and perfect renunciation leads to unlimited fruitfulness. I believe that in freely giving my time, in humbly sharing my talents, and in generously sacrificing my treasures, the Lord will always provide. He will take care of all my needs, and bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven. I will be the first to give. I will not wait for the others. I will keep on giving even if others do not give. I will not be afraid to have none. I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow, for tomorrow is an excuse of the greedy. I will keep my needs and wants simple and few, for I believe that in reducing my selfishness, I will grow in happiness and holiness. I am a steward of the Lord. I will return all these to Him with abundant yield! Much is asked of me because much has been given to me I praise the Lord for His kindness to me Now and forever. Amen.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 17, 2011+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Dagupan City – 15 January 2010. The Jimmy Fernandez Stadia was jam-packed with hundreds of fans who listened, sang and danced with the various artists who performed during the almost 2-hour “Aming Handog” concert sponsored by the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan for its pastoral programs. The audience included the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas, DD and the Auxiliary Bihop, Msgr. Renato P. Mayugba, DD, the priests and hundreds from the different parishes of the archdiocese. The concert was held last 15 January 2010.
“Aming Handog” was emceed by brothers Jomari and Ryan Yllana. Mr. Dingdong Dantes also performed during the show with a song to the delight of screaming fans! Radha and band and the band Kenyo, Krys Kyzer all perfomed several songs. The Calasiao Children’s Choir had a special participation in the show. The show was highlighted by two LED Video monitors.
The “Fathers” composed of eight priests of the Archdiocese sang a song. The “Fathers” are: Frs. Jerry Cera, Antonio Quintans, Edilberto Calderon, Julius Cuison, Fernan Estrada, Manuel delos Santos, Jim Cerezo and Eric Galivo.
The benefit concert came about from the generosity of Mr. Jomari Yllana who offered to produce the whole show. Mr. Yllana is a close family friend of Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas, DD, the Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan.
For the pastoral programs
The concert is to benefit the pastoral programs of the Archdiocese. In his letter to prospective donors, Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas was asking for help to “initiate and sustain some very important pastoral programs for the youth and the poor in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.” He further said that “we need to upgrade the formation programs of our catechists teaching religion in our public schools, We need to sustain our charitable and developmental programs for the economically poor brothers and sisters. We want to bring the bible to every Christian home. We need to sponsor more students to pursue their college education and contribute to nation building”.
The Calasiao Children’s Choir
Pictures courtesy of Fr. Primo Aquino