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Archive for February 2013

Maintain the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace

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 1 day ago – 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!

Evangelization: To Gather Around Jesus

(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 ordering an essay 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 soft tabs is levitra sold at walmart levitrawithnoprescription viagra online in usa Cialis no prescription canada Cialis 10mg vs 20mg viagra onlnine buy generic 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 Cheapest buy esomeprazole generic in us how to order esomeprazole purchase from canada esomeprazole canada order purchase esomeprazole cheap 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!

Dagupan, the Galilee of our Vocation

Homily delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas during the Second Metropolitan Clergy Congress held in Dagupan City last February 4, 2013

The Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan celebrates her golden jubilee on February 16, 2013.  Can you imagine how it was fifty years ago?  Before the creation of the new dioceses, priests from the most western part of Pangasinan had to go to Dagupan; priests from the easternmost part of Nueva Ecija came to Dagupan; priests from the northernmost part of Tarlac came to Dagupan. Fifty years later, this journey to Dagupan is now an opportunity for us to thank the Lord for the gift of our being priests, the gift of our being Church.  The journey to Dagupan today for our Second Metropolitan Clergy Congress is not only a ride through memory lane. It is not just a return for nostalgia. Returning to Dagupan is returning to our roots.  Returning to Dagupan is returning to our priesthood. Returning to Dagupan is embracing again the call of new evangelization. Dagupan is the Galilee of our priesthood.

What does returning to Dagupan mean for us?

The journey to Dagupan should be a return to MERCY.  The sacrament of the new evangelization is the sacrament of penance.  The Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen, said that the work of a disciple may be summarized in two words: “Come” and “Go”. But later on, Fulton Sheen himself added—before the Lord told them, “Come, follow me”, He first proclaimed to them, “Turn away from sin, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”   In other words, there is a prelude to an invitation by the Lord to come and follow him. It is the invitation to penance. It is penance, first and foremost, of those who will be entrusted with the power to absolve sins. It is a return to the mercy of God.  I repeat what I have often stated in La Union and in Pangasinan:  the mark of a healthy spiritual life of a priest is the frequency of confession. There is no healthy spiritual life for a priest, if he is not comfortable with confession. Comfortable with confession does not mean making the confessional comfortable and air conditioned for us.  Our first duty in the confessional is not to sit but to kneel.  Our first duty as priests in relation to the confessional is not to sit in absolution but to kneel down in penance. Fifty years ago, the priests came to Dagupan, called by Archbishop Madriaga, for mercy, for compassion. The priests went to Dagupan because they needed to return to mercy. Returning to Dagupan is not only a return to mercy.

Returning to Dagupan is also returning to MINISTRY.

Priests come to the city to get from their archbishop the faculties for confession. People come to the city in order to get dispensations from the chancery.  Returning to Dagupan is returning to ministry.  We, priests, have been entrusted with the power to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. But my dear brother priests, please, please, please, remember this: there can be no authentic renewal in the church if our focus is always on the power of the priest to change the bread and wine. Renewal can only begin in the Church when the priest recognizes the power of the Eucharist to change the baptized, to change every priest, to change everyone. Let us teach one another not the power of the priest but the power of the Lord to change us! Every Mass should change us.  In every Mass the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  But in every Mass does the priest change more and more to become like Jesus?  Every baptism that we do should change us. Every confession, every absolution that we give should change us.  Every anointing of the sick should change us.  If we can change simple babies to become children of God, why do we allow grace to pass through us without changing us? The Church of the new evangelization cannot afford to continue to talk about the power of the priests.  The church of the new evangelization speaks about the power of the Eucharist to change the cosmos; the power of Eucharist to change the baptized; the power of Eucharist to change the minister. Earlier Msgr. Vengco quoted Cardinal Tagle saying that the signs of the times demand that we become really a humbler church.  Let us not wait for those times to humiliate us.  Before we get humiliated let us start humbling ourselves, because when the era of humiliating priests becomes the fashion in the Philippines, it would be too late to be humble. It would be too late to be humble, because then we would have inflicted the humiliation on ourselves. Humbling ourselves is a duty that comes with ordination. If we forget holiness, the Lord will teach it to us the harder way. Others will humiliate us. It will no longer be inspiring. It will just be a punishment we deserve for our clerical arrogance.

Returning to Dagupan is not only a return to mercy; it is not just a return to ministry and faculties. Returning to Dagupan is also, lastly, a return to MYSTERY. From western Pangasinan to eastern Nueva Ecija, to northern Tarlac, the priests come to Dagupan for Chrism Mass with a deep sense of mystery.  We passed the entrance exams in the seminary with our intelligence quotient (IQ) checked. Through the years psychology has evolved and recommended—even required—that the emotional quotient (EQ) be checked too. But for us priests, high IQ and high EQ are still insufficient because we still need a third quotient.  We need to possess the wonder quotient—the capacity to be awed; the capacity to enter into mystery and not get bored; the openness to a sense of mystery and not laugh about it; the openness to be awed; to be in childlike wonder; and not to be apologetic that we are mysterious priests because that is what we really are. Brother priests when you lose the sense of mystery in the attempt to be just like the rest, you steal from the people an opportunity to encounter God. If I have to kneel before you, I plead with you on bended knees: Do not give up your sense of mystery. What is sacred must be sacred; what is mundane remains mundane.  What is God’s must always belong to God; and you, my dear brother priests, you belong to Him! You do not belong to money; you don’t belong to women; you don’t belong to pleasure.  You belong to God in a deep, deep sense of mystery.

We have come together to return to Dagupan our Galilee.  I pray that these short hours that we will be together will give you an opportunity to return to mercy.  Over lunch, it is not too late to ask a brother priest aside, and tell him your sins and return to the mercy of God. Let the return to Dagupan be a return to ministry, a return to a humbler church.  Let’s not wait for the humiliation. Let us start the humility ourselves. Let the return to Dagupan be a return to mystery, that sense of awe, that sense of wonder, that sense of the sacred. Preserve it and safeguard it at all times.  We heard it said when we were seminarians that we are in the world, but we do not belong to this world.  We need to be reminded of that.  We were told when we were seminarians that to fall in love with a woman is bad; but we were also told that to fall in love with money is worse.   We have come to return to Dagupan.  We have come to our city of mercy, humility and mystery.

Let this be a pilgrimage of mercy; a pilgrimage of ministry, a pilgrimage into mystery. Let us bow down our heads and in the silence our hearts, thank the Lord that we are priests of His mercy, of His mystery, for His ministry.


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