News and Events
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
Pastoral Letter for the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
My dear people of God:
As responsible citizens of heaven and citizens of our nation, we must face the forthcoming elections always from the viewpoint of faith and with the mind of the Church enlightened by the values of the Gospel.
What can the Church—bishops, priests and laity gathered by the Spirit of God—contribute to the forthcoming elections?
Our best contribution is to PRAY that the Lord of history guide every voter and guide every candidate in the forthcoming exercise of civil responsibility. It is only the Lord who can give us peace during elections. It is only God who can enlighten us in our decision making so that the voice of the people can truly reflect the voice of God. If we cease to be a praying people and lose our link to God, our humanly inspired decisions can only lead to the loss of our soul as a nation. Prayer is the most important untapped resource in nation building often ignored and even ridiculed. The Church must restore the confidence of our citizenry in prayer. Remember EDSA.
The Church can also contribute a reverential SILENCE in the forum of public discussion. Silence is the language of God. We must regain our vision to be a contemplative Church and refuse the temptation to be popular and attractive. The silence of contemplation is the only antidote to the insane and ridiculous campaign strategies that we watch. The silence of contemplation is the cure to the disgusting, unreal and chaotic flavour of the election period. The Church can be a prophetic sign of the mystical silence of God in the midst of the cacophony of mud throwing and name calling in campaign platforms.
The Church is the CONSCIENCE of society and it must remain so. The beatitudes need to be re-proposed. The Ten Commandments need to be re-injected into the lifeblood of our national conscience. The Catholic social teachings about the promotion of the common good, the challenge of solidarity, the spirituality of stewardship and similar teachings must be taught more vigorously and passionately. The best time to teach these gospel lessons is now as we choose our civil leaders.
The Church must be a MOTHER and TEACHER of voters and candidates together. The Church must be a mother and teacher also for all the candidates from opposing political parties. As mother she loves all and refuses no one. As a teacher, she rebukes with love; she corrects with mercy; she guides firmly always celebrating what is right and beautiful among her opposing children. She must be an example of humility in the midst of arrogance. She must be a reminder of the presence of the divine among us.
What must the Church—bishops, priests and laity—not do during this campaign and election period?
When the Church ENDORSES CANDIDATES in political elections she always ends up a LOSER. The endorsed candidate may win in the votes but the Church never wins with him. In endorsing candidates, the Bride of Christ the Church tarnishes her spiritual mission with the stain of the mundane. The endorsed candidate might win but religion has been reduced to a political party; religion has been used for political gain and our spiritual mission has been compromised. We will be lonesome widows after the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign.
The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such. Paraphrasing the Lord in the Garden of Agony, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. RELIGIONS THAT WALTZ WITH POLITICS WILL DIE BY POLITICS.
When elections are PEACEFUL and HONEST, the Church WINS in the elections. When elections are morally credible and losers and winners stay civil and courteous, the Church wins in the elections. When every vote is cast from CONSCIENCE and not from convenience, the Church has truly become the formator of conscience and has shown herself as a mother and teacher faithful and obedient to her Master and Lord. Candidates and voters are children of the Church. Candidates against one another are brothers and sisters in God.
The Church must guide and not dictate.
The Church must unite and not contribute to the division.
The Church must pray and not add to the confusion.
The Church must heal and not inflict hurts.
The Church must be in the world but not belong to it.
How can we your shepherds help you to exercise your civic duty as Catholics? What guidance can the pastors give to the flock entrusted to their care? We your archbishop and priests in Lingayen Dagupan admonish you to examine your candidates diligently in the light of our Catholic faith. We advise you not to vote for the candidates if:
1. The candidate cannot declare a categorical and clear NO to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages or D.E.A.T.H issues. Pro choice is anti life.
2. The candidate has been linked to drug trade, drug possession or drug use or receives money from illegal gambling or has done nothing to stop illegal gambling specially jueteng. Silence is consent.
3. The candidate has been convicted for a criminal offense. Government officials must be honourable.
4. The candidate supports black sand mining or tolerates irresponsible quarrying or illegal fish pens. Nature is our mother; if you can rape your own mother, what else will you not do?
5. The candidate has not done anything until now to uplift the plight of the poor. Performance is better than promises.
6. The candidate is giving money or distributing goods to voters during the campaign period. Vote buying is prostitution.
7. The candidate has been involved or linked to terrorism or the use of goons for self protection within or outside the campaign period. Peace is the only way to peace.
8. The candidate shows off religiosity only during the campaign period or is antagonistic to church teachings and practices. Corruption and hypocrisy are twins.
9. The candidate is unfaithful to his or her spouse and children. Corruption begins at home.
10. The candidate has other members of the immediate family in government positions already. Promoting family welfare and promoting the common good cannot mix.
We submit these guidelines to you and plead with you to bring them to prayer. If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win.
If you sell your vote, you sell something sacred; you make yourself a cousin of Judas too.
May Mary, Mirror of Justice, whom we tenderly venerate in Manaoag as Our Lady of the Rosary, help you to be good disciples of the Lord and patriotic citizens of our country.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 14, 2013
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Chrism Mass at Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral, March 28, 2013
Our Chrism Mass this year is celebrated under the glow of the newly elected Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Many people from within the Church and outside the Church refer to the Pope as head of one billion two hundred million Catholics all over the world. Head of the Church!
But wait. Let us review our catechism for a moment. The Pope is not really the head of the Church. Christ is the head of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ. The Pope is the visible symbol of Christ on earth; he is the symbol of Christ the head of the Church. For the universal Church, the Pope presides in charity in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. When the Pope speaks to us, it is Christ the head who speaks. When he blesses, it is Christ the head who blesses. When he serves, it is the service of Christ the head that he continues to do.
Like the Pope, you my brother priests share in the ministry of Christ the head of the Church. In the Chrism Mass of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us priests that when we preside at the sacraments and offer the Mass, we act in the person of Christ. Through the years, we priests have invoked those words “in persona Christi” to refer to our priestly actions, priestly witnessing and priestly preaching—speaking and acting in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the head of the Church.
What kind of head does the Church need? What kind of priests who act in the person of Christ the head must we be? Are we really signs of Christ the head for his body the Church? What kind of a head are we, my brother priests?
Some heads have thick hair; some heads have no hair. Some heads have grey hair; some heads have hair as black as midnight. Bald or hairy, grey or black, all heads need a body. A head that has no body is dead. A body that has no head is dead. In other words, the first duty of a good head is to remember that it is only part of a body; that cut off from the body, the head loses life. The head cannot go right while the body goes the other way. Where the body goes, so goes the head!
A leader is someone who is strong and can command a following but this strength as a leader is best shown by listening to those under our care. The ears have been put on both sides of our head. The eyes have been put in front of our heads. The eyes and ears are on the same level on our head. The duty of the head is to watch with love and care. The duty of the head is to listen with respect and obedience. The lips have been put below all these because talking is the least of all our duties. Go and teach. Use words if necessary. The most important role of headship is watching with care and listening with love. That is the headship of Christ.
When the eye is impatient, love is lacking. When the ear wants to speak rather than listen, love has been lost. Can we still watch by with patience and joy without complaining about time lost and wasted? Have we become so used to talking and being listened to that we cannot sit down anymore without chatting? Can we still listen to litanies of worries without interrupting and without getting annoyed? The head may still be connected to the body through the neck, but if we have lost the capacity to watch lovingly and listen tenderly, to keep quiet respectfully, to stop senseless murmurings trying to sound funny, and to resist useless chatter, we have in fact beheaded the body.
How are we as heads of schools and shepherds of parishes?
Can the head be without the heart? Should logic always prevail over emotions? Can intellectual understanding be enough without fervour? The head needs the heart and the heart needs the head. Intelligence needs to feel and feelings need logic.
Chinese wisdom says “The mind resides in the heart”. At the sunset of life, we will be judged according to love, not according to intelligence. Brilliant minds can be admirable but only love can save peoples from sin. It is only with heart that we can see rightly. Love is blind indeed. See the sinner in the confessional not with the mind of canon law but with the mercy of the heart of Jesus. See the beggar at the church door not with the eyes of first impression but with love and first intuition. Listen to your heart my brother priests.
If we keep on repeating too often that we are signs of Christ the head we can grow in self importance and exaggerate our ego. A regular pilgrimage into our hearts through prayer and frequent confession can shrink our ego to normal size and remind us that we are only signs of the real head; that we are not the head ourselves.
My brother priests, can we still think with our hearts? Can we still be tender like the Good Shepherd? Are we afraid to receive compassion because it reveals us as vulnerable priests? Are we afraid to admit our thorns in the flesh because it will shatter our myth that we are super heroes? We are only earthen vessels. We cannot let Christ glow unless we let our glamour go.
How are we as signs of Christ the head? What kind of head should we be?
On the day of our ordination, the bishop laid his hands over us. Our heads were put under the hands of another man. Although those hands were lifted only after a few seconds, the laying of hands over our heads continues to this day. In other words, the good priest must always remember that his head is under the hands of the Church, under the hands of the Lord. The head must learn how to kneel. The head must know how to bow. The head must learn humility. Humility is the only crown that the head must wear. Humility is the crown of all virtues. When the bishop wears a miter, he does not wear it as a crown to extend the head and make him taller. He wears the miter as cover over his head. It cuts the head to a smaller size. The miter is the roof of God’s power. We are all under it. We are not bosses. We are servants.
The head is on top of the body; but on top of our heads, the hands of the Church will always be there. The head must submit to a power higher than it. We are disciples not Masters. We are stewards of the mysteries of God, not owners.
The Church has been hurt a lot by our arrogance and conceit. We would be better signs of Christ the head with greater humility, deeper piety and lifestyles of simplicity.
My brother priests, tonight when we remember the institution of the Eucharist, let us thank God for trusting us to be signs of his headship in the Church. In a minute when you renew your priestly promises, promise also to be humble signs of Christ the head—always one with the body, always one with the heart, always under the power of the Lord. The sign cannot be the head itself. We must decrease so that Christ the head may increase.
Let us bow our heads and enter the heart of the Lord.
Words of the Most Reverend Giuseppe Pinto, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines at the Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the 50th Year of the See of Lingayen-Dagupan as a Metropolitan Archdiocese Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Dagupan City, 16 February 2013
Your Excellency Most Reverend Socrates Villegas, Metropolitan Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan; You Excellency Most Reverend Jose Palma Archbishop of Cebu and President of the CBCP; Your Excellencies my brother Archbishops and Bishops; Distinguished Government Officials, Monsignors, Fathers, Men and Women Religious, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends.
Today, the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan celebrates its Golden Jubilee as a Metropolitan See.
I am happy to be with you in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Dagupan City, with my collaborators from the Apostolic Nunciature, Monsignor Gabor Pinter and Monsignor Seamus Horgan.
In their name also, I cordially thank your Archbishop, His Excellency Most Reverend Socrates Villegas, for the kind invitation to this extraordinary occasion. And it is just that. Even if, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, the role of the Metropolitan Archbishop has been modified, he still has important functions to fulfill in his province. Those include guarding the faith and the ecclesiastical discipline in the suffragan dioceses.
The symbol of his dignity and duty is the pallium, given by the Pope to the metropolitan archbishops as a concrete sign of their pastoral service and of their communion with the Successor of Peter, who is the Head of the Apostolic College.
With this Jubilee, Archbishop Villegas, the clergy and the faithful of Lingayen-Dagupan renew their commitment to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3), professing, living, and manifesting the same faith by works of charity.
The last paragraphs of the First Letter of St. Peter, addressed to the exiles of the Diaspora in Asia, contain this interesting detail: “I write to you through Silvanus” (1Peter 5:12). This phrase makes us think that Silvanus may have helped in preparing the letter. Pope Benedict the Sixteenth (XVI) makes the same observation during his Lectio divina at the Roman Seminary a week ago: Peter did not write the Letter alone, but rather he gives expression to the belief of an entire Church, which is already journeying in faith (cfr. Benedict XVI, Lectio divina al Seminario Romano Maggiore, 9.02.2013).
The same istrue of each local Church. Listening to your Archbishop and reading his pastoral letters means listening to the voice of Christ and the voice of the Church; it means strengthening out unity in faith and action.
Lingayen-Dagupan was elevated as a Metropolitan See during the years of the Second Vatican Council and celebrates its Golden Jubilee during the Year of Faith. A happy coincidence, and because of this, a time of grace to profess the faith with a witness that must be seen in every sector of society.
A Christian must not think of faith as a private act. Pope Benedict the Sixteenth affirms that the verification of personal and communal faith is the consequence of a choice: to stand with the Lord so as to live with him (Cfr. Lettera Apostolica Porta Fidei, 10).
Today, the light of Christ and of the Gospel shines with great intensity in this particular Church and it shines in the streets and the squares of Dagupan, in the cities and villages, in schools and neighborhoods, and also over the splendid Lingayen Gulf.
In thanking the Lord for the many gifts He has lavished upon this ecclesial community, with the hope of abundant works of faith and of Christian charity, I am pleased to transmit the warm greetings and Apostolic Blessings of the Holy Father Benedict the Sixteenth (XVI) to each of you, to your families, and especially to the elderly and the sick.
Our Mother Mary, who goes before the Church on its pilgrimage of faith, will continue to point the way forward with her guidance and intercession.
Ad multos annos! Mabuhay!
(Homily Delivered by Fr.Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP., Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, during the Solemn Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the See of Lingayen-Dagupan as a Metropolitan Archdiocese on 16 February 2013 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Dagupan City)
His Excellency, Most Reverend Giuseppe Pinto, His Excellency, Most Reverend Socrates Villegas, Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers, Ours sisters and brothers in the Consecrated Life, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are present in this Eucharistic gathering, in this assembly of thanksgiving, to give praise and thanks to the One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the grace of the golden jubilee of the elevation of the Church of Lingayen-Dagupan as a Metroplitan See. A Mystic once said: to thin is to thank! Indeed, when we think of the countless blessings of the past 50 years, we cannot but be thankful!
I am sure you are wondering why a stranger was assigned to give a homily on this important occasion. I am as perplexed as you are and only Archbishop Soc knows the answer! My “frightened-yes” to his invitation last Christmas Eve was motivated by gratitude to the Archbishop’s kindness and availability in the many occasions we have invited him. I have a confere who was invited to give a talk on a topic he hardly had any competence. After the talk, he knew in his heart that he did poorly. As he sat with the audience, he told one of his listeners, “I hope it was not that bad”. He got a quick reply: “Its alright, I do not blame you, I blame the one who invited you!”
“You are the salt of the earth.” Every Christian worth his salt knows what this means. But for a Pangasinense, the words of Jesus have an added meaning. The ancient name of the province is Panag-ASIN-nan, the place where salt is made along the sea. The purpose of salt is to bring out the best taste and flavor of food. When put to good use, salt does not make the food salty but makes “the fish taste fishier, the eggs more egg-like and the vegetable, more vegetable” Without a pinch of Pangasinan salt, the vegetables of Baguio, the bagnet of Ilocos, the sisig of Pampanga, and the best cuisine all over the country would not taste as good. To be the salt of the earth is to draw out the best in people; it is about inspiring people so that their authentic selves, the divine image from which we were fashioned, become more transparent in us. To be the salt of the is to make our neighbors and ourselves better. You are a real salt of the earth, if, as a parish priest, you enable those who serve the church to become better in their ministry, the lectors become better proclaimers of the Word, the collecteras become better ones, the young people, more enthusiastic, the old people more hopeful for a better church community. Brothers and sisters, you are a real salt of the earth if your presence inspires people in your workplace, or school, or family to become better. You are the salt of the earth — Panag-asin-nan. You provide salt for the Philippines; you can be salt of the Philippines, salt of the earth. Today’s Jubilee celebration of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, together with the Dioceses of alaminos, Cabanatuan, San Fernando de la Union, San Jose, and Urdaneta, is a celebration of the birth of a people-as-church through the preaching of the Word and celebration of the sacraments. On this year of faith when we listen attentively to the call for a new evangelization, I propose to look at the “old evangelization” and see important lessons that could be useful for our work of evangelization today.
According to historians, the Augustinians were the first preachers of the Gospel in Pangasinan. But their missionary efforts have won more converts among the Ilocanos in the north and Pampangos in the south than in Pangasinan itself. Except for Lingayen, Dagupan and Manaoag, the rest of Pangasinan was hostile to the missionaries. The Augustinians would attribute such behavior to the hardheartedness of the Pangasinenses; though it is most likely that such hostility was a result of the identification of the missionaries with the Spanish soldiers whose abuses against the natives were reported by the Augustinians to the King.
Barely two months after the first Dominicans arrived in the Philippines on July 21, 1587, six of them were sent by the Bishop of Manila, Domingo de Salazar, OP. to Pangasinan. They settled in binalatongan, now San Carlos, in a hut of bamboo and nipa. They labored hard without any success for three years. The natives refused to sell them food or provisions to make them feel unwelcome. At one point, the vicar, Fray Bernardo Santa Catalina, was accused of impregnating a young woman who hailed from a noble family. When the attempt to destroy the missionaries’ reputation did not work, the natives tried a different strategy. A village chief offered the tenacious friars a chinanta of gold , about 6 kilos of gold, just so they would leave their village in peace. Imagine that: the natives were willing to pay, so that the friars would stop preaching! Either the Gospel really troubled their conscience so much; or the friars were extremely annoying preachers! (I think that could be a creative form of fund raising: “Donate, or else, I will continue to preach!”)
For three long years, the friars faced a different kind of martyrdom. Their lives were not threatened, but their reputation and integrity were constantly put to the test. Yet the missionaries persevered. How can they be threatened, when they have already placed their lives in the hands of God from the moment they decided to make a perilous journey across the Pacific? How can they be tempted with glittering gold when they have already decided to leave everything to follow the Lord? These were friars who responded to a recruitment letter of Fray Juan Crisostomo, which read, in part:
In the first place, the voyage is difficult; one has to go through many hardships; The food and drinks rot; the ship gets dirty and stinking… I really wonder if we would get any vocations today if our vocation poster says: “be a priest, and we will offer you a dangerous journey with rotten food and drinks!”
The letter continues:
We must preach, moreover, through our lifestyle so that, if our teaching of doctrine does not move hearts, our lives will move all those who see us; this is the best of teaching.
The friars must have taken this to heart so that after three years of unsuccessful efforts, a chief decided to ask for baptism. Aduarte reports:
One native chief approached one missionary one night and said: “I have observed you for three years; if one does not eat, neither do the others; if one prays at midnight, so do the rest; if one avoids women, so do the others; all follow one rule or path; all have patience and do us good. Thus, I have determined to believe you, because I am persuaded that men of this manner do not lie.
This moving little story of the “old evangelization” of Pangasinan presents important enduring lessons for a “new evangelization” today.
First, those who are called to evangelize must have the proper motivation. The friars who were sent to Pangasinan in 1588 responded to a “recruitment letter” by Fray Juan Crisostomo in 1586 that minced no words in describing the hardships of both the journey and the destination. The invitation attracted men with heroic motivation, who were fired up by the Spirit, summoned by the irresistible grace of God; hence they can face any danger and failure.
Second, the missionaries preached as a community. The group was called a barcada, for they arrived in a barca, a boat. Today, we call close friends “barkada”. For these missionaries, the first apostolate is to live in community. Our first Dominican communities were not called “conventus” or convent but sacra praedication, holy preaching, the task around which we were gathered. The first apostolate is to live in community. The unanimity of heart and mind of the church remains its most eloquent form of preaching. The “old evangelization” that is surprisingly ever-new bears witness to this. Tertullian reported that the Christians’ works of love captured the attention of the unbelievers who confessed in astonishment ; See how they love one another!
To live in community is to preach as one community. The basic ministry of the parish priest and his parochial vicar is to live harmoniously in community. The foundational apostolate of the parish community is for all the parish organizations and their leaders to live in unanimity of heart and mind. Experience tells us that this is a very difficult apostolate, to live together in community and to preach with one voice.
It was during the same missionary era when the friar “Antonio de Montesinos preached a sermon in defense of the natives in Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti). The Spanish conquistadors who were terribly offended by the sermon went to complain to the Prior, Pedro de Cordoba. And the Prior told them that “when Antonio preached, it was the whole community who preached.”
A great number of our people today are confused because they hear divergent voices from our pulpits. Can we say today, that when a priest of Lingayen-Dagupan preaches, it is the entire church community that preaches? Let that be our hope.
A third and final lesson: the missionaries tried their best to listen to the voice of the people. The missionaries were given a very simple pastoral program: Once assigned to different places, we must begin to learn the language, which is hard work, and with its knowledge, we shall catechize the unbelievers on the matters of our holy Catholic faith…
This is the simple pastoral program that gave us the first book printed in the Philippines, La Doctrina Cristiana of 1593, that is written in Latin, Spanish and our very own native script, Baybayin. Our newest saint, San Pedro Calungsod, is depicted holding a copy of this book. This 420 year-old catechism is the oldest document that proves we have a native script. This means that the first evangelizers tried their best to learn the language of the people. The oldest translation of the Lord’s Prayer in Tagalog is a classic example of intercultural theology. For instance, the petition “lead us not into temptation”, which is difficult to understand because why would a good father lead his child to temptation, was translated as “Huwag mo po kaming iiwan upang di kami matalo ng tukso” (Houag mo caming eeuan nang di cami matalo nang tocso ). The missionaries listened to the culture and discovered the Filipino value of “walang iwanan”.
To proclaim the Good News, motivated by no less than the compulsion to speak from the abundance of one’s heart abour God’s boundless love; to preach the faith of the Church with a firm conviction that to live the values of the Gospel in community is the first form of preaching; and to listen attentively to the voice, values and culture of God’s people, these are important lessons of the “old evangelization” that should have an enduring influence in today’s new evangelization.
As we thank the Lord for the gift of a jubilee and pray for the blessing of more jubilees, let us remember that evangelization is about inviting people to gather around Jesus, to become a community nourished by Word and Sacrament. To baptize in the name of the Triune God is to build a community patterned after the perfect commjnity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Evangelization is ultimately the work of God who is ever ancient yet ever new.
Congratulations and a Blessed Jubilee!