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.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters:
Our country continues to suffer grave crises, disasters and challenges. We are reminded of the experience of the tempest at sea by the Apostles when they feared for their lives. Jesus chided them for their lack of faith. (cf. Mk 4:35-41)
Our Problems as a Nation
We have had our share of violent storms. Typhoons Sendong and Pablo inflicted horrific damage – the loss of lives, the destruction of properties, the dislocation of thousands of families, the radical disruption of human life and livelihood, and the severe trauma of survivors. We must listen to expert environmentalists who declare that much of these natural disasters are due to the destruction of our natural resources, our forests and rivers, as a result of unabated logging and mining. These must lead us to examine and question the sincerity, quality and effectiveness of the governance of our leaders.
But this is only one in a long litany of storms, not necessarily natural. We can include:
- the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity. This is due to the slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote, in spite of examples that we clearly see in the West,
- divorce, resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children,
- contraceptives, leading to more abortions,
- the use of condom, aggravating HIV-AIDS infection, and
- school sex education, bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy.
- the continuing corruption and abuse of power by public officials due to lack of information, or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public. It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials. Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?
- the widening practice of political dynasties. As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and offer better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. We are aggrieved that lawmakers themselves defy the supreme law of the land by not following the mandate of our Philippine Constitution given 26 years ago to make an enabling law to ban political dynasties.
- the issues raised to the COMELEC on automated election concerns. Election is not a matter of speed but of trustworthiness and honesty. If not properly addressed the present automated election system can lead to wholesale cheating. The integrity of a pillar of our democracy – the election – is at stake.
- the inability and unwillingness of those in power to take the road of social justice. This has resulted in failure to share the resources in the country to meet basic rights of the poor, such as secure jobs, decent housing, adequate medicine, ownership of lands that they till, and quality education. New “rights” are being pushed while the most basic rights are being ignored!
- the deepening of the culture of impunity. Extrajudicial killings, unsolved crimes and kidnappings continue and the government is not able or lacks the political will to prosecute the perpetrators and touch powerful people.
- the unabated suffering of the poor in spite of bright economic ratings. Growth itself, that is, more products and more money, should not be the sole aim of development but also equity. The huge gap between the rich and the poor remains. There is little inclusive growth!
We note the above social and political storms that buffet our Filipino life because they deeply touch the experiences of our people. We speak for those who suffer. We bring these concerns to those who have responsibility and hence accountability. These stormy situations need not be so!
The Position of the Church
Our position on the above issues is based on our faith, a faith that is integral, a faith that surrenders to God in the intimacy of obedience and love. Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious. Such belief is synthesized in the social doctrine of the Church
Catholic moral and social teachings declare:
1. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC, no. 2270). The use of artificial means to prevent human life from being conceived is evil (CCC, no. 2370). Sexual acts are forbidden outside of marriage (CCC, nos. 2390-91).
- Therefore, we denounce the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, the political and financial pressures imposed on lawmakers, and the imperialism exercised by secularistic international organizations in the legislative process.
- We admire and commend the valiant efforts of lay people and lawgivers to prevent the passage of the law.
- We support the efforts of our lay people in challenging the RH Law in the Supreme Court and in other venues within the bounds of our democratic system.
- We support and encourage the participation of the laity in electing competent and morally upright candidates who are faithful to their correct and informed conscience.
- We shall be vigilant and act against moves that will be destructive of family and life.
2. Political corruption is one of the most serious deformities of the democratic system because it rejects moral norms and undermines social justice, which is the justice of the common good (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or CSDC, no. 411). Freedom of information promotes integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order (see CSDC, nos. 414 – 416).
- Therefore, we denounce the non-prosecution of alleged perpetrators of corruption and strongly call upon the government to pursue allegations and signs of corruption of power holders not only of the past but also of the present, even of friends and party mates.
- We likewise call upon government to give due priority to the passing of the Freedom of Information Bill at the soonest possible time.
3. Political authority exists for the common good. It is not to be exercised for the sake of private and family interests or simply for the interests of a political party. When political authority is exercised merely for these narrow interests, it betrays the reason for its existence. Moreover, such situation breeds corruption and inhibits general access to political power which is a fundamental mark of democracy (see Gaudium et Spes orGS, no. 74; CSDC, e.g., nos. 393, 407, 410).
- Therefore, we denounce the continued existence of family political dynasties and the continuing delay of passing a law to implement the constitutional provision banning political dynasties.
4. “Every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and duty to promote the common good by using his vote” (GS, no. 75). Such right and duty would be denied if obstructions are put in place to prevent its free and responsible exercise, such as dishonesty in elections.
- Therefore, we call upon COMELEC to adequately address the issues and respond, place corrective measures if necessary, to the studies of technical experts to the alleged deficiencies of the present system and technology of automated elections. There can be no transparency in elections if the COMELEC itself is not transparent.
5. Love of the poor who in the Gospel reflect Christ himself impels us to work for justice for the poor (seeCCC, e.g., nos. 2447-48; CSDC, no. 184). This requires promotion of social justice, not by targeting the reduction of the number of poor people.
- Therefore, as Church of the Poor we direct our social action services towards the development of the poor.
- We shall provide moral guidance to the better off in our society to be in active solidarity with the poor.
- We call upon the government to be serious in implementing the asset reform laws that are in place in order to bring social justice such as CARPER for the farmers, UDHA for the urban poor, IPRA for the indigenous people and the FISHERIES CODE for the fisher folks. The end of CARPER is only 1½ years away and agrarian reform accomplishment is dismal, being bogged down by bureaucracy, legal technicalities and poor governance.
Consistently Proclaiming the Truth
As pastors we heed the urgent appeal of St. Paul:
“Proclaim the message: be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2Tim 4:2-5).
We remind all the faithful that what is popular is not necessarily what is right. What is legal is not necessarily moral.
Each has to follow his/her conscience. But “conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” (CCC, no, 1783).
Faith and Hope amidst the Storms
In the midst of the country’s natural and social upheavals, we see ourselves in the boat with the Apostles buffeted by stormy waves. We are tossed about by the waves created by the secularist spirit, which continues to reduce the role and place of religious faith in the public sphere. Our cherished moral and spiritual values are at grave risk. We are overcome with fear and anxiety, perhaps also wondering if the Lord has fallen asleep, or if the Lord does not care that we are drowning (cf. Mk. 4:38).
We have to hear once again the Lord’s words: “Quiet! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). He rebukes the winds and the storm ceases. He is the Lord who has power over sea and sky. He has power over dark spirits. It is He who poses the question to us: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk. 4:40).
This is the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI challenges us to respond with faith to the events around us. With our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Mt. 14:27-31), we will not drown but even launch deep into the risky waters of modernity. We should not be afraid. Our values are those of Jesus, of His Gospel, and of the Kingdom of God.
In spite of the storms we know that the kingdom of God is already among us. The Divine Spirit continues to blow, also in our time. With the eyes of faith we thank and praise the Lord:
- for the growing consciousness among many of the lay faithful that they have to take seriously their political duties. We commend and support lay initiatives to form circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates and even to run as candidates in order to bring values of God’s kingdom in the public discourse. We will help the people to know the stance of those who run for office on important issues of the country.
- for the many programs that promote the Natural Family Planning methods. We commit ourselves to promote these programs in our local churches and to teach our people Christian values on family, marriage and the Gospel of Life.
- for efforts among the young to live chastely even in a world that does not value the sacredness of sex. We commend such movements as TRUE LOVE WAITS, LIVE PURE and similar initiatives of education to chastity. Indeed, purity attracts!
- for the courage and steadfastness of many lawgivers to resist political and monetary pressures. For those who have other opinions, we seek to understand them with patience and charity.
- for the effort and bold steps taken by the government in pursuing peace in the country. It is our hope that these peace initiatives will be matched by equally bold steps to bring about justice, for peace is the fruit of justice.
- for the great clamor among the people to do away with political dynasties. If congress is unwilling to act on this we support initiatives by the lay faithful to pass an enabling law against political dynasties through the people’s initiative which the Constitution provides.
With Jesus in the Ark of Peter we always have hope. But with faith and hope, we must have love. Buffeted by the same stormy winds are the poor with their many faces. Our pastoral statement addresses the political and social issues that bring them deeper into helplessness and hopelessness. We must voice out their concerns, be their moral guide, be with them – the unborn and “little ones,” the young, the women, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the slum dwellers, the workers, the fisher folks, the migrants. Our love has to bring them the Good News – the Gospel – with all its social, political and ethical implications.
We entrust the mission of the Church in these troubled times under the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Life and Mother of the Poor. Mother Mary, pray for your children in your beloved Philippines.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ JOSE S. PALMA, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu & President, CBCP January 28, 2013
(A Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)
Beloved People of God:
The Year of Faith which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI opened in Rome on October 11, 2012 will end this year on the Feast of Christ the King, November 24, 2013. The Holy Father said that the Year of Faith would be “a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.”(1) It is “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”(2)
For us in the Philippines, the Year of Faith is foundational for a nine-year “Era of New Evangelization.” In our Pastoral Exhortation to open the Year of Faith, “Live Christ, Share Christ,” we, your Pastors, said that the nine-year period of intense evangelization in our country will culminate in 2021 with the 500th anniversary of the Christian faith in the Philippines.
Therefore, this year 2013 we begin the Era of New Evangelization with the first of the nine-major pastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines – Integral Faith Formation.(3)
A. Commencing the Era of New Evangelization
1. The PCP-II Vision and Mission of a Renewed Church
In 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) envisioned a renewed Church, a participatory community of authentic disciples of Christ, a Church of the Poor, a Church-in-mission. In 2001 at the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) we declared that to achieve the vision we would “embark on a renewed integral evangelization,” a mission that PCP-II had described in terms of the New Evangelization of Pope John Paul, “new in its ardor, methods and expressions.”(4) It is to fulfill this mission of renewed integral evangelization or New Evangelization that we drew up the nine major pastoral priorities of the Church in the Philippines.
Given a fresh and powerful impulse by the Year of Faith, we focus this year on the first of the pastoral priorities – Integral Faith Formation.
2. The Meaning and Necessity of Faith.
What is faith? “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed.”(5) As personal adherence to God, faith is one’s total surrender to the love and wisdom of God. It is the entrustment of oneself to God in total dependence on him. It is the free offering of one’s mind and heart to God. “Faith is our adherence to the Triune God, revealed through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is our friendship with Christ and through Christ with the Father, in their Holy Spirit.”(6) By faith we freely commit ourselves entirely to God.(7) This is what we really mean when we say, “I believe in God.”
On the other hand, as a free assent, faith is the virtue of saying “yes” to the truth that God teaches in the Sacred Scriptures and in the living tradition of the Church. This is what we express when pray the Act of Faith:
“O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man, and died for our sins and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.”
The Act of Faith expresses a religious and intellectual assent to all the truths that God has revealed.
Faith then involves the total person, his heart and mind. It “touches every part of us: our minds (believing), our wills (doing), and our hearts (trusting).” (8)
Without such faith, we cannot be saved. Once again the CCC teaches us: “Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for salvation.”(9) Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith no one will ever attain eternal life.(10)
3. Positive and Negative Qualities of our Faith Today
But not every one who says “I believe” will be saved. The question then is: Is it real faith? Hence we need to look into the kind of faith that we have. Is our faith one that possesses the mind and heart? A faith that flows into daily life such that our private and public life demonstrates our being true disciples of the Lord?
In truth our Filipino faith is deep and simple. We are not embarrassed to perform religious rites, like making the sign of the cross, or to display religious articles in vehicles. Many even dare to follow religious practices in places where the faith is banned. And yet our faith is largely uninformed, prone to ritualism and pietism, tending towards the externals of prayer and sacraments without understanding their meaning. And most of all our faith is separated from life; we do not practice our faith, putting it aside when it comes to crucial decisions regarding, for instance, money or power or popularity. This is why in our predominantly Christian country poverty, social injustice and lack of integrity are glaring while dishonesty and corruption continue with impunity.
4. The Impact of Secularism on Filipino Faith
Yet another powerful social force, a secularist and materialist spirit, is impacting our faith. Beginning in Europe with the Age of Reason and Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, the secularist and materialist spirit has gradually but decisively taken over the developed world, resulting in the ignoring of God, the loss of faith, the weakening of divine authority and the authority of the Church. Secularism and materialism have created their own values, contradicting and rejecting the universal values of the Gospel as taught by the living tradition of the Church.
The tools of social communication disseminate the secular ideology of developed countries. This has resulted in a type of faith that adheres selectively to some doctrines of the Church but rejects others as incompatible with changing modern times, with democracy and religious pluralism. We see examples of the inroads of secularism and materialism in the setting aside of moral values and rejection of religious authority in the debates that led to the unfortunate passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. We also see the influence of the secular spirit in legal attempts to redefine the limits of human freedom, the beginning of human life, and the nature of marriage and family.
In these difficult times we hear and heed the words of the Lord that we are in this world but we are not of this world.(11) Our faith impels us to cherish and defend beliefs and values that are countersigns to those of this world.
5. The Need for Integral Faith formation
The weaknesses of our faith and the challenges facing it summon us to renewed integral evangelization, to new evangelization with new fervor, new methods and new expressions. This is the rationale for integral faith formation. It is a process that seeks and leads to maturity in faith, a faith that is informed and lived, a faith committed to the mission of announcing the Gospel of Jesus, including participation in the work of justice and social transformation.
B. Lord, increase our faith!
1. Knowing and Deepening our Faith – Conversion
The process towards a mature faith begins with realizing that one’s faith is weak, is not always concerned with essentials but with externals of religious practice and obligation, does not lead to total personal commitment to the Lord, and is not always ready to say “yes” to God’s will – in brief, that faith is not lived. We need conversion and renewal. The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization confesses:
We firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Christ who alone can make all things new…. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially of his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission…. We know that we must humbly recognize our vulnerability to the wounds of history and we do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins.(12)
The realization of weakness and sinfulness leads the believer to a great desire to know the faith, to be informed about it and to deepen it. The cry of the disciples for help that they may more closely follow Christ and be patterned to his way of thinking, acting and behaving, relating and valuing is also our plea: “Lord increase our faith!”(13)
At the basic level we need to know what we believe in. If you are asked what you believe in as a Catholic, simply recite the Apostles Creed, a true summary of the fundamental articles of Catholic belief. The Apostles Creed is further elaborated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, or simply the Nicene Creed – a result of the first two universal councils of the Church in the years 325 and 381.(14)
Today we have a comprehensive systematic and organic synthesis of the content of our faith in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1991. This universal Catechism is contextualized into our Filipino situation by the Catechism for Filipino Catholics, 1997. Moreover, the social doctrine of the Church which elaborates on the commandments of God in the CCC is now systematically organized in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC), 2004.
With the Sacred Scriptures in one hand and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the other hand, supplemented by the CSDC and CFC, a Filipino Catholic has the fundamental tools of knowing and deepening the faith. Admittedly one is not expected to study all these books. Guidance by catechists and religious teachers would be necessary.
2. Personally Knowing Christ
But it is not enough to have an intellectual knowledge of the faith. What is absolutely imperative is a personal, loving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He is the center of our faith. A personal knowledge of Jesus is the adherence of the heart, a personal entrustment to Jesus, friendship with Jesus. An uncompromising religious assent to the teachings of God as authoritatively interpreted by the living teaching authority of the Church can only flow from a passion for Jesus, Teacher and Shepherd.3
3.Celebrating our Faith – the Liturgy
Faith is God’s precious gift to us. We have to celebrate this divine grace by thanking, praising, and adoring the Lord. Nowhere can this be most properly done than in the Liturgy, the prayer of the Church. For it is in the Liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the memorial of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, that thanksgiving, praise, worship and the offering of one’s self to God is done in the very action of Christ the High Priest. It is Christ who offers his own sacrifice in the Eucharist through the hands of the Priest. It is Christ who is present and active in the other sacraments of the Church. Hence we celebrate our faith principally through the Liturgy. The catechism teaches us: “When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi…. The law of prayer is the law of faith: The Church believes as she prays.”(15) We celebrate our faith as well when we read the Scriptures and when we pray. In all these, the Spirit of Christ helps us and Christ himself is present.
C. Living our Faith – Charity as Faith in Action
When we know our faith and understand its meaning especially for our salvation, it becomes imperative for us to live it through a truly moral life, a life of fidelity to God’s commands. It is most tragic that a grace so priceless such as faith would not be lived from day to day. Faith has to be a norm and guide of life, its energy, inspiration and light.
To live a truly moral life is to be faithful to the 10 commandments of God. The first three commandments express our love of God and the last seven express our love of neighbor. This is why the Lord summarized the 10 commandments into just two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(16)
A genuine moral life is, therefore, a life of genuine charity. Charity is faith in action. When we received faith from the Lord at our Baptism and became members of the family of faith, we promised to believe in God and to reject all forms of evil. This promise was a promise to live a truly moral life, to be Christians not only in name but also in deed. Pope Benedict XVI urges us to pray that our “witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith – is a task that every believer must make his own.” (17)
D. Spirituality – Discipleship of Believers
To strive to live a truly moral life is to journey on the way of discipleship. A life of faith and charity is a life of discipleship, a life of being united in mind and heart with Jesus, the Teacher and Lord. This is spirituality in its depth. (18)
By its very name spirituality refers to life in the Spirit. It refers to the pattern of Jesus’ own life of being Spirit-led and Spirit-driven as we see in the first chapters of St. Luke.(19) Hence to be holy or to be spiritual is to live in the Spirit,(20) to abide in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit (21) as St. Paul is wont to say. Only when we are imbued with the Spirit and follow the Lord Jesus in discipleship can we live an authentic moral life, a life of faith and charity.
The result is a lifestyle directed by the values and attitudes of the Gospel, the values of the Beatitudes, a lifestyle that consists of a mind-set and behavior that are focused on charity and justice, inspired by faith.
The spirituality of a living faith is maintained and nourished by prayer, personal or liturgical, individual or communal, devotional and popular or official. Prayer links faith and action. Even as prayer flows from faith, prayer also sustains a lived faith.
E. Sharing our Faith – The Witness of Life
Faith is not a gift that we keep selfishly to ourselves. It is a gift to be proclaimed, communicated, and shared. This is why Jesus bequeathed to the Apostles, the fathers of faith, a final mandate:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(22)
While every believer has the duty to proclaim the faith, most everyone is not called to do so in the way of catechists, religious educators, religious men and women, and the clergy. But everyone is called to share the faith by the witness of a good Christian life.
A few are called by God to witness to Jesus by the offering of their very life as martyrs of the faith. This is why we are incalculably blessed with the canonization of our second martyr, San Pedro Calungsod, last October 21, 2012. Being a young lay catechist, he proclaimed the Lord Jesus by teaching others to know and accept the faith. By becoming a martyr like San Lorenzo Ruiz he gave the ultimate witness of his life.
It is first of all by the silent witness of a truly moral Christian life, a life of faith and charity that we share our faith with others. This requires a life of fidelity to God’s will in the midst of daily challenges and daily work at home and at work. It requires fidelity to our God given responsibilities in the family, in the neighborhood, in the Church and in the wider society.
Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI confirms this truth of Christian witness:
The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers by their very existence in the world. Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.(23)
Applying the same truth of witness to the whole Church, the recent Synod on the New Evangelization stated:
It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus, by her witness of poverty and detachment, and by her witness of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.(24)
We reiterate this truth which is also a challenge for all of us — it is by the witness of a truly moral life, the witness of a life of faith and charity, that we can eloquently and credibly proclaim and share our faith in the Lord Jesus.
- In the light of this year’s focus on integral faith formation, we call upon dioceses, their catechists, religious educators, lay leaders, men and women Religious, and clergy to design and implement a long term program of faith formation for families, youth and children, using and adapting the CCC, CFC, and CSDC for this purpose.
- We call upon schools, catechetical institutes, Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith communities, religious organizations and movements to do the same.
- We assign the CBCP Commissions with faith formation components to take the lead in this important project and provide assistance to the dioceses when necessary.
Conclusion – The Prayers and Inspiration of Mary, Mother of Faith
As we end this pastoral exhortation, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Woman of Faith and Mother of Faith, is our guide and inspiration. She listened to the word of God, reflected on it, strove to understand the mystery that the word announced, and from the depths of her faith she said “yes” to God’s will. Her “Let it be done to me according to your word” became the daily norm of her life of faith and charity. May our Mother assist us to increase our faith.
We conclude with some words from the hymn “Live Christ, Share Christ,” the official hymn for the 500th anniversary of our Christian faith in our shores:
The gospel is our blessing but also our mission.
To the poor and the children we bring his salvation
To the rest of the world his message of compassion
To all of humanity his challenge of conversion!
We are blessed, we are loved
We are called, we are sent,
We will teach, we will serve
We are Christ’s, we are Church!
For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+Jose S. Palma, D.D
Archbishop of Cebu and President, CBCP
27 January 2013
1. Porta Fidei, no. 4.
2. Ibid., no. 6.
3. In order to achieve the vision of Church that the Second Plenary Council (PCP-II) envisioned in 1991, the Council called for “renewed integral evangelization.” For this purpose the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR), 2001, identified nine pastoral priorities, namely: integral faith formation, renewal of the laity, active participation of the poor, the family as the focal point of evangelization, the parish as a communion of communities, renewal of clergy and religious, active participation of the youth, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and mission ad gentes.
4. See Vision-Mission Statement of the Church in the Philippines, 1992; Pope John Paul II, Discourse to XIX Assembly of CELAM, Port au Prince, 1983.
5. The Catechism of the Catholic Faith (CCC), no. 150.
6. Catechism for Filipino Catholics (CFC), 1997, no. 124; see also PCP-II, no. 64, 66.
7. See Dei Verbum, no. 5; cited by Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, no. 25.
8. CFC, no.128.
9. CCC, no. 161; see Mk. 16:16; Jn 3:36; 6:40ff.
10. See Mt. 10:22; 24:13; Heb. 11:6.
11. See Jn. 17:11-17.
12. Message of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
13. Lk. 17:5.
14. See CCC, no. 195.
15. CCC, no. 1124.
16. Mk. 12:30-31; see also Dt. 6:5.
17. Porta Fidei, no. 9.
18. For a spirituality of discipleship, see Final Statement of IV FABC Plenary, “The Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World of Asia,” Tokyo, 1986, no. 4.8 “Lay Spirituality”; see also Final Statement of V FABC Plenary Assembly, “Journeying Together toward the Third Millennium, Bandung, 1990, no. 9.0, “Spirituality for Our Times.”
19. See Lk. 1:12; 3:4, 14.
20. See Rom. 8:9-11.
21. Eph. 5:18.
22. Mt. 28:19-20.
23. Porta Fidei, no. 6.
24. Instrumentum Laboris for Synod on New Evangelization #158
By Fr. Nicasio Villamil Jr. 23 January 2013, 25 Days to the Golden Jubilee of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. The seminary is the heart of the local Church. It is the project of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan to establish a Theology Seminary for its sustainability and also in celebration of its 50 years as an Archdiocese come February 16, 2013. The construction is moving towards the finishing stage of the Phase 1 of the project in time for its initial opening this coming academic year. As such, the Archdiocese, to augment the resources of the construction,, has come up with an appealing yet noble project dubbed as:
ARTISTA PARA SA SEMINARISTA ALD Priests vs. Artistas Fund Raising Basketball Exhibition Game For the Benefit of the Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary February 28, 2013 Narciso Ramos Complex, Lingayen, Pangasinan 4:00 pm
The Artista team is led by Anjo, Jomari and Raymond Yllana and their friend-actors like Onyok Velasco, Gene Padilla, Eat Bulaga Mr.Pogi winners and more. The target attendees of the event are all interested people plus students and employees of the 16 Archdiocesan Schools and Colleges, parishioners and members of mandated organizations of 39 parishes, government employees of the locality and other attendees from other colleges, universities, other institutions and business establishments in Central Pangasinan.
Come watch your priests and favorite stars play. Enjoy and be blessed! To watch the game, tickets at P200 and P500 will be available in all ALD parishes and Catholic Schools. Special tickets will also be available for the “Dinner with the Stars” and photo ops after the game. Watch out for more details!
February 2, 2013
St. John the Evangelist Parish
St. John the Evangelist District
February 9, 2013
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
San Antonio de Padua
Chapel of the Resurrection
St. Catherine of Sienna
February 23, 2013
Our Lady of Purification
Our Lady of Immaculate Heart
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Sto. Tomas Catholic School
March 2, 2013
Mary Help of Christians
San Isidro Labrador
San Lorenzo Ruiz
March 9, 2013
Epiphany of our Lord
St. Columban’s College
March 16, 2013
Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Visitation of the BVM
Malasiqui Catholic School
March 23, 2013
Most Holy Rosary, Calmay
April 6, 2013
Sts. Peter and Paul
Cirsto Divino Tesoro
Pastoral Station SB
St. Pius V
April 13, 2013
Annunciation of the Lord
Binmaley Catholic School
April 20, 2013
April 27, 2013
St. Rose of Lima
St. John the Baptist
St. Joseph Husband of Mary
May 4, 2013
St. Charles Academy
Holy Family, Tandoc
Blessed John Paul II
Jesus the Nazarene
May 11, 2013
St Gabriel the Archangel
St. Thomas Aquinas
March 25, 2013
March 26, 2013
March 27, 2013
Ushers and Usherettes
April 7 and 14, 2013
Basic Formation Seminar for New Lectors and Commentators
April 21 and 28, 2013
Basic Formation for New EMHC