Posts Tagged ‘Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas’
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.
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.
Christmas is a feast of faith. Without faith, Christmas will only be a social festival. Christmas is a Gift wrapped in love to be received in faith. Without faith, Christmas gift giving is only a commercial gimmickry for profit and business gain. The merriment of Christmas must be a fruit of faith. Wishing “Merry Christmas!” without faith is no better than fools laughing madly without reason. Christmas can only be merry because heaven burst forth in love and revealed to us the name of God—Emmanuel, God with us!
Unfortunately, Christmas has been claimed by everybody as a long weekend holiday of joy without remembering Him who brought us that reason for joy.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become a season for festive lighting and amazing carnivals but people have forgotten how difficult it must have been for Mary and Joseph to find a room in the inn; the unfortunate couple continues to be rejected in our broken homes.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become a season for bargain sales and street markets even as the buyers and sellers seem to forget their immortal souls.
Unfortunately, Christmas has only become an adjective to describe parties and salary bonuses because we have forgotten that Christmas is an event of the past that must still continue to happen through us.
Unfortunately, Christmas carols have become romantic songs for loved ones we miss because people have forgotten the angels that announced his birth, the sweetest carolers of all times.
Unfortunately, Christmas caroling has become a yearly fund raising occasion because people have put a price tag into almost everything…and everyone.
Unfortunately, the simbang gabi is turning out to be just a Filipino Christmas tradition without understanding that it was first meant to be a thanksgiving novena for the gift of our Catholic faith that we now ridicule and ignore and consider obsolete.
But thanks be to God, that in spite of it all, Christmas is still the greatest feast of all because it celebrates the birth of Jesus, the greatest gift of all. We must regain the real merriment of Christmas and return to the real reason for the season. By faith all these will be possible. Without faith, this season will become just one of the pagan festivals. Christmas is God’s gift to us. Let us take it back from those who have spoiled it; ourselves included.
Emmanuel, God with us, increase our faith. Set our faith on fire again. Help us to live our faith with courage against all odds. Use us to spread the fire of faith all over our land. Lord, increase our faith! Emmanuel, strengthen our faith!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, December 24, 2012
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Post Synod Ruminations
We came together confused yet willing to listen, hurting yet full of hope, feeling abandoned yet reaching out to help. We were a sign of contradiction for the world and for ourselves. We came as evangelizers in need to hear what is good and holy, beautiful and true ourselves. In prayer, we told Jesus our confusions and doubts, our hurts and pains, our sins and betrayals and He spoke to us and gave us hope. We recognized the Lord as he spoke to us in prayer and as he broke the bread. We can say with joy now, “We have seen the Lord”.
Indeed the new evangelization must be the fruit of discernment coming from a Church in contemplation. Without contemplation, any action on behalf of evangelization is but a human exercise. Evangelization is an impetus coming not from intellectual hair splitting analysis or strategic planning but coming from above, from the Spirit who is constantly at work in the Church, the Spirit to whom Jesus consecrated His Church.
The new evangelization is neither a self defence of the Church for its self preservation nor a self protection from irrelevance. It is not for the sake of maintaining the status quo of the Church’s influence in a world that is so different from the world that the Lord Jesus offers to his disciples, a world to which the Church must never belong. It is not a self absorbed and self conscious attempt of the Church to re-invent itself to make it more attractive. In fact, the new evangelization is not for sake of the Church. It is for the life of the world pro vita mundi. It is for God who is at work in the world.
What must we do?
We must look for the poor. The poor are forgotten or ignored and have been made invisible and distant. The poor are not asking for charity. Like sheep without a shepherd, the poor cannot recognize their shepherds anymore because the shepherds smell differently. Indeed the good shepherd must smell like the sheep. The poor are not asking for money. They are asking for Jesus. They can get food from the social welfare agency. They can get medicines from the public clinics. They can be housed in government housing sites. From the Church, the poor want only Jesus. Who else can they turn to but the Church?
The poor ask for a little more of our time. They ask for presence without making them feel that we are in a rush for better things to do or for more important people to meet. The poor need to be assured that for their pastors, the faces of the poor is more important that the faces of their wristwatch.
The poor ask for friendship. The Church, while serving the hungry and the thirsty and the naked, must not forget that she is not a poverty alleviation agent of society but the conscience of humanity. It is our duty to make society understand that the poor ARE Jesus. It is the duty of our Church to make the poor understand that they are not too poor as to be unable to give Jesus to the affluent. The Church must be the conscience of the poor and the rich so that there may no longer be poor or rich; so that all may be one. Money is the least of all gifts. The first gift that we must give to one another is Jesus himself. At the sunset of our lives, we can only bring to heaven what we have given away. Nothing that has been given to us can be brought to the doors of his Kingdom, not even the graces we have received. Every grace is for sharing, for the building up of his kingdom and every bit of grace hoarded is lost. It is when we have truly emptied ourselves and given up all, that we can say we have loved like Jesus.
Where are the children?
The Church must look for the children and youth. The youth should not be told to wait for tomorrow to become relevant and important. The youth are the majority of the people of the world. Today belongs to them as much as the future. The new evangelization must be ready to give the youth a voice and the Church must lend the youth her ears and her heart. It is indeed only through the heart that we can hear the voice of the youth. Let us not wait for the youth to shout at us. Let us listen as they whisper. Let us listen to what they tweet and what they blog. Let us listen as they ask. We might not be able to answer all their questions and they do not expect us to do that anyway. If we can encourage the youth to talk as we to listen to them as Jesus listens and then teach them how to listen to Jesus, we will have a powerhouse in the Church not in the future but now. We do not need to be flippant and humorous to be with the youth. We just need to be Jesus for and with them.
Have we really lost the sheep?
The new evangelization must reach out to those who have been alienated from the Church. The hurting and the disillusioned, the misled and the confused, the ignored and the neglected must feel welcome and safe in the Church again. We the pastors must show that we are detached from the perks and privileges of our office; that our ordination is not a career ladder to pursue but a path of real service; that we can suffer without complaint; that we can be ignored and not begrudge; that we can let go generously without reluctance; that we can seek pardon without first offering excuses; that we can differ from those who do not share our opinions without losing civility and courtesy. Those whom the Church calls disillusioned Catholics say to us their pastors “We are not lost sheep”. In fact they say instead to us “YOU are lost shepherds”– that we did not really care for them. The sheep can endure our frailties but they cannot bear our arrogance in the confessional and the pulpit. Let us listen like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman by the well. The alienated are not asking for another desk to attend to them. They do not need an added survey to investigate their plight. They are only asking us their shepherds to return to the sheepfold and show them that we do care for them like shepherds for the sheep.
The new evangelization is not a call for new desks and new commissions. It rather calls for a new attitude of ministry, a new outlook at the world, a new way of being. The new evangelization is a call to conversion and that call is addressed to the evangelizers. If the evangelizers will not, the world will not believe. It is the poor and the children, the least, the last and the lost who will bring us to heaven.
In our homilies, I admonish you my brother shepherds to be extra sensitive to the needs of the children and the youth. The youth do not need hair splitting theological nuances during the homily. They are not expecting quotations from exegetes. They want to know the Gospel according to you, from your prayer. They only need to hear again and again that they are loved by God and loved by the Church. Let us speak the language of the poor when we preach at Mass and when we teach outside the liturgy. Talk about money during the homily is offensive. It does not inspire at all. Using telenovela characters as illustrations during homilies has no place in the sacred liturgy; it demeans it; it is vulgarity. In our homilies, let us be extra attentive to the confused and hurting, disillusioned and angry Catholics. Scolding parishioners during the homily is not good news at all. The Gospel is rich enough to inspire and ignite hearts. Let us use the homily to teach humbly, to inspire constantly and to bring joy to the laden and discouraged. One of the obstacles to new evangelization is the long unprepared Sunday homilies.
We are not afraid of the setting sun. We can walk through the night held securely by the hands of the Lord. The beauty of the moon and the brilliant stars will carry us through into the dawn of another beautiful day, the day of the Lord! Behold, he makes all things new!
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Rome, October 29, 2012
Intervention Delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas at the Synod of Bishops: HUMILITY, HOLINESS AND CHARITY
Dagupan City – 13 October 2012. Below is the intervention delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas at the Synod of Bishops being held now in Rome since October 8 until October 28. Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas is one of the four Filipino bishops representing the Philippines in the Synod. The other Filipino bishops are Archbishops Luis Antonio Tagle, Jose Palma and Romulo Valles. Miss Joy Candelario and Father Renato de Guzman, SDB are also attending as observers.
HUMILITY, HOLINESS AND CHARITY
in the New Evangelization
by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas
Lingayen Dagupan, Philippines
Comments on Instrumentum Laboris 37-38
Before we begin our common apostolic action for new evangelization, it will be advisable to first examine our ecclesial and personal consciences and ask “Why is there a strong wave of secularization, a storm of antipathy or plain cold indifference towards the Church in some parts of the world necessitating a new wave of evangelization programs?”
The new evangelization calls for new humility. The gospel cannot thrive in pride. When pride seeps into the heart of the Church, the gospel proclamation is harmed. The task of new evangelization must begin with a deep sense of awe and reverence for humanity and her culture. We must remove our sandals for the land on which we stand is holy ground before we came. We cannot resort to the power of the sword to convince the nations that the Gospel has power. “My kingdom is not of this world,” the Lord said. Humility is truth. Humility is seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Humility is solidarity with the rest of wounded humanity. The Church is holy because of Christ. The Church is a community of sinners because of us. Simplicity of lives and humility of heart are indispensable tools for evangelization. Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers. The hierarchy must shun arrogance, hypocrisy and bigotry. We must punish the errant among us instead of covering up our own mistakes. We are humans among our human flock. All our beauty and holiness we owe to God. This humility will make us more credible new evangelizers.
Secondly, the new evangelization must be done by new saints and we must be those saints. The great poverty of the world now is the poverty of saints. Whether we come from the first world or third world countries, everybody is looking for models to inspire and emulate. Our youth need models to inspire them. They need living heroes to ignite their hearts and excite them to know Jesus and love Him more. And we are so poor in this regard. Evangelization is not about something we do but something we are. Evangelization is not about projects and programs and plans but allowing God to work in our lives. Letting God be. Contrary to the popular dictum that we cannot preach to empty stomachs, our experience in the Third World tells me that the gospel can be preached to empty stomachs but only if the stomach of the preacher is as empty as his parishioners.
Lastly the new evangelization must be a call for new charity. We will be credible bringers of Gospel joy if the proclamation is accompanied by its twin messenger of charity. The proclaiming lips must be accompanied by outreaching hands for service. We must multiply Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Vincent de Paul. We must stay focused that, as we give bread and build houses, as we bring healing for the sick and liberation for the afflicted, all these we do in the light of the Kingdom of God. The best gift that the Church offers is not food or houses or legal aid. Our gift to the poor is Jesus, only the love of Jesus, always the love of Jesus. Our bread will turn stale and our medicines will expire but the mark of the love of Jesus is the charity that we must always long to share. The charity of Jesus is the gift of Himself. The charity of the new evangelization must be the gift of Jesus.
The new evangelization needs a new humility; a renewal in holiness and a new face charity for it to be credible and fruitful.