Posts Tagged ‘Pastoral Letter’
Pastoral Letter for the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan
My dear people of God:
As responsible citizens of heaven and citizens of our nation, we must face the forthcoming elections always from the viewpoint of faith and with the mind of the Church enlightened by the values of the Gospel.
What can the Church—bishops, priests and laity gathered by the Spirit of God—contribute to the forthcoming elections?
Our best contribution is to PRAY that the Lord of history guide every voter and guide every candidate in the forthcoming exercise of civil responsibility. It is only the Lord who can give us peace during elections. It is only God who can enlighten us in our decision making so that the voice of the people can truly reflect the voice of God. If we cease to be a praying people and lose our link to God, our humanly inspired decisions can only lead to the loss of our soul as a nation. Prayer is the most important untapped resource in nation building often ignored and even ridiculed. The Church must restore the confidence of our citizenry in prayer. Remember EDSA.
The Church can also contribute a reverential SILENCE in the forum of public discussion. Silence is the language of God. We must regain our vision to be a contemplative Church and refuse the temptation to be popular and attractive. The silence of contemplation is the only antidote to the insane and ridiculous campaign strategies that we watch. The silence of contemplation is the cure to the disgusting, unreal and chaotic flavour of the election period. The Church can be a prophetic sign of the mystical silence of God in the midst of the cacophony of mud throwing and name calling in campaign platforms.
The Church is the CONSCIENCE of society and it must remain so. The beatitudes need to be re-proposed. The Ten Commandments need to be re-injected into the lifeblood of our national conscience. The Catholic social teachings about the promotion of the common good, the challenge of solidarity, the spirituality of stewardship and similar teachings must be taught more vigorously and passionately. The best time to teach these gospel lessons is now as we choose our civil leaders.
The Church must be a MOTHER and TEACHER of voters and candidates together. The Church must be a mother and teacher also for all the candidates from opposing political parties. As mother she loves all and refuses no one. As a teacher, she rebukes with love; she corrects with mercy; she guides firmly always celebrating what is right and beautiful among her opposing children. She must be an example of humility in the midst of arrogance. She must be a reminder of the presence of the divine among us.
What must the Church—bishops, priests and laity—not do during this campaign and election period?
When the Church ENDORSES CANDIDATES in political elections she always ends up a LOSER. The endorsed candidate may win in the votes but the Church never wins with him. In endorsing candidates, the Bride of Christ the Church tarnishes her spiritual mission with the stain of the mundane. The endorsed candidate might win but religion has been reduced to a political party; religion has been used for political gain and our spiritual mission has been compromised. We will be lonesome widows after the elections for marrying partisan politics during the campaign.
The Church must refuse to play with the fire of political power or it risks burning herself. The Church does not win when her endorsed candidate wins. The Church should not be perceived as winning or losing an election. The Church must be beyond such. Paraphrasing the Lord in the Garden of Agony, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. RELIGIONS THAT WALTZ WITH POLITICS WILL DIE BY POLITICS.
When elections are PEACEFUL and HONEST, the Church WINS in the elections. When elections are morally credible and losers and winners stay civil and courteous, the Church wins in the elections. When every vote is cast from CONSCIENCE and not from convenience, the Church has truly become the formator of conscience and has shown herself as a mother and teacher faithful and obedient to her Master and Lord. Candidates and voters are children of the Church. Candidates against one another are brothers and sisters in God.
The Church must guide and not dictate.
The Church must unite and not contribute to the division.
The Church must pray and not add to the confusion.
The Church must heal and not inflict hurts.
The Church must be in the world but not belong to it.
How can we your shepherds help you to exercise your civic duty as Catholics? What guidance can the pastors give to the flock entrusted to their care? We your archbishop and priests in Lingayen Dagupan admonish you to examine your candidates diligently in the light of our Catholic faith. We advise you not to vote for the candidates if:
1. The candidate cannot declare a categorical and clear NO to divorce, abortion, euthanasia, total birth control and homosexual marriages or D.E.A.T.H issues. Pro choice is anti life.
2. The candidate has been linked to drug trade, drug possession or drug use or receives money from illegal gambling or has done nothing to stop illegal gambling specially jueteng. Silence is consent.
3. The candidate has been convicted for a criminal offense. Government officials must be honourable.
4. The candidate supports black sand mining or tolerates irresponsible quarrying or illegal fish pens. Nature is our mother; if you can rape your own mother, what else will you not do?
5. The candidate has not done anything until now to uplift the plight of the poor. Performance is better than promises.
6. The candidate is giving money or distributing goods to voters during the campaign period. Vote buying is prostitution.
7. The candidate has been involved or linked to terrorism or the use of goons for self protection within or outside the campaign period. Peace is the only way to peace.
8. The candidate shows off religiosity only during the campaign period or is antagonistic to church teachings and practices. Corruption and hypocrisy are twins.
9. The candidate is unfaithful to his or her spouse and children. Corruption begins at home.
10. The candidate has other members of the immediate family in government positions already. Promoting family welfare and promoting the common good cannot mix.
We submit these guidelines to you and plead with you to bring them to prayer. If Jesus would vote, for whom would he vote? Vote like Jesus. If you cannot find Jesus from among the candidates just make sure you do not make Judas or Barabbas win.
If you sell your vote, you sell something sacred; you make yourself a cousin of Judas too.
May Mary, Mirror of Justice, whom we tenderly venerate in Manaoag as Our Lady of the Rosary, help you to be good disciples of the Lord and patriotic citizens of our country.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 14, 2013
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
(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
Pastoral letter on the occasion of the opening of the jubilee year marking the fiftieth anniversary of the elevation of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan in the year 2013
Beloved people of God:
The Church of Lingayen Dagupan is rich and wealthy in the golden graces of God! Indeed the true treasure of the Church is the Lord who is always present amongst His people. And God has always been with us. The Diocese of Lingayen was created on May 19, 1928 with Bishop Cesar Maria Guerrero as the first bishop. It was renamed Diocese of Lingayen Dagupan on February 11, 1954 due to the destruction of the Lingayen Cathedral caused by the Second World War. On February 16, 1963, it was elevated to the rank of a metropolitan archdiocese with the late Archbishop Mariano Madriaga as the first archbishop. It is now the time of grace to prepare ourselves for the golden year of the Metropolitan Archdiocese in 2013.
This jubilee year is a year for remembering and beholding the greatness of the Lord. Indeed, every year, month and day since we were made a diocese is an epiphany of his goodness and bounty. Our thoughts return to the crib where the mother and her child were visited by the wise men: “They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Mt.2:11).
GIFTS OF GOLD
We offer the Lord our gift of golden thanksgiving for blessing us with pious and fervent bishops since we were made a diocese. Our first bishop, Bishop Cesar Maria Guerrero died in the sweet odor of wisdom and sanctity, as acclaimed by one Franciscan priest, at the time of his death. Archbishop Mariano Madriaga, our wartime shepherd, led the diocese during its most trying times—the Commonwealth period, the hostilities of the Japanese occupation, the destruction during the liberation unto the years of the Second Vatican Council reforms—as a faithful sentinel and guardian of the faith. Archbishop Federico Limon, SVD guided our Church to give birth to two new daughters—the Dioceses of Alaminos and Urdaneta. Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz gave a new kind of fire to the call for the Church for social engagement and transformation. With his characteristic passion, he gave his best to bring the Gospel of Christ to every aspect of human reality.
The golden years behind us were blessed years in the company of the missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word and the Order of Preachers. The Mary Help of Christians Minor Seminary in Binmaley and the Mary Help of Christians College Seminary in Bonuan have been bringing forth holy and zealous pastors for the Church indeed more precious than silver or gold. These seminaries have contributed numerous pastors for the people of God faithful to the mandate of the Lord of the harvest: “Don’t take any gold, nor silver, nor brass in your money belts” (Mt. 10:9). The “woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet (Rev. 12:1), whom we know in Pangasinan as Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, has guided us through the years leading us to the heart of Jesus her Son. We cannot forget the innumerable lay leaders of our Catholic organizations and basic ecclesial communities who form another array of soldiers for Christ ready for battle, faithful and loyal, courageous light and salt for the world. The laity of Lingayen Dagupan are golden gifts from God!
SCARLET AND GOLD
And yet our golden year as an archdiocese is not purely lustrous gold for indeed “the mother church dressed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, has in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and impurities” ( cfr. Rev. 17:4).
This jubilee is also a time for repentance. It is time for contrition for blessings wasted, for opportunities squandered, for allowing the powers of malice and sin to prevail among us. We admit as we strike our breasts that we, pastors and flock, are responsible for the endless crosses on which the Good Shepherd continues to be crucified even until now in Pangasinan. The blasphemies, to which our Lord and the Church are constantly subjected to, need to be confessed, healed and forgiven. The neglect of the Sunday duties and laziness to pray; the irreverence shown toward the Mother of God; the calumnies and slanders we throw against one another; the sacrilege thrown against the spiritual treasures of the Church. The Church our mother is in agony and travail as she holds in her hands the abominable crimes of her children.
During this jubilee year we kneel in contrition before the poor whose cries for help we have often ignored. We kiss mother earth and caress with our bloodied hands our dead rivers and ripped sea beds and say “We are sorry!” We have raped our forests and leveled our hills with relentless logging and quarrying blinded by our greed and avarice. Mother Earth is in travail and in agony and we have caused it on her.
We shake our heads with shame and guilt at the scandals caused by the men of the Church upon the Church they were called to serve. When the priests’ lifestyle is inconsistent with his vocation, the Church is hurt. When priests act more like hirelings than shepherds who must be willing to die for the sheep, the lambs leave the herd confused and puzzled. When celibacy is violated, when human respect is not observed, when basic courtesies are laid aside, when revenge is allowed to prevail over forgiveness, when service is always linked to the returning benefit, the Lord is crucified again and again. Our golden chalice is filled with our sins, in fact overflowing. Our golden robes are stained by the blood of our iniquity. Let us lay aside our gold and put on ashes. We beg pardon from the Lord. Let this jubilee renew us. Let this golden year make us new.
GOLD WE HAVE NONE
And Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!" (Acts 3:6). The jubilee is a time for mission. Celebration without contrition is triumphalism. Contrition without courage is lame. Let this jubilee year be a year of courage for the mission of the Lord. We will not be afraid to have neither silver nor gold.
Gold and silver we have none! I hope we will be able to say that with conviction. Our first and only power is the Lord and our first and only way to the Lord is love. We must pray but it is not enough to pray. Our prayer must make us think and talk and listen and act and be like Jesus—that is the apostolic action that we need in the Church. Any pastoral action or assembly that does not come from prayer will fail. Any prayer that does not lead us to apostolic charity will wither. Love without service is mere sentimentalism. Service without prayer is social activism.
We have a dream. We dream of a church renewed. Gold and silver we have none but we are a people who believe profoundly in the love of Almighty God. We are a people poor in the things of the world but courageous in the faith we profess. We stammer when we speak but we pray fervently from the heart and we teach with zeal and conviction. We are ourselves are a people in need but we serve generously disinterested in rewards. We are more than a million Catholic faithful but we are close to all and each one is friend of everyone. Our real gold is God. Our gift of gold is our love.
YEAR OF GRACE
We are opening a year of grace. It is a blessed time to celebrate and blow our trumpets for the Lord. This is a time of grace to seek forgiveness and share forgiveness with hearts humble and contrite. The year of grace is a year of hope. We look beyond our horizon and see beyond the rainbow a renewed and revitalized Church courageously and boldly proclaiming God’s love and joy.
We entrust this year to Mary Help of Christians whose guiding hand has brought many of our young men to the altar as priests of her Son. As we now break the ground for the construction of the theology seminary, may our Mother guide us, give us courage and bring us to live for Jesus her Son.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, February 16, 2012
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan