Capital Or Small “S”?

by Juan L. Mercado

The  gravestone sentence  read: “I believe in the communion of  saints.”. That’s lifted from the “Apostle’s Creed”, written by the Council of Fathers in 325 AD.  What has that got to do  ith our houseboy?  He snipped Blessed Pedro Calungsod’s picture from  Inquirer’s front page.

Our ancestors prayed this most widely used creed. We do too, at Sunday mass, often by rote, regrettably, with scant  thought of what it asserts.

Yet, it anchors what our parents knew as “Todos los Santos”.   All Saints  Day’, is marked on November 1. Pope Gregory IV,  in 837 AD, broadened this to honor, not only martyrs, but all who’ve passed on in grace, whether known or forgotten.

“All Souls Day“ follows on November 2. “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,” the Book of Macabees says.  Abbot  Odilo of Cluny, in 998 AD,  started  this remembrance in Benedictine  monasteries. The  rite spread   throughout the church – and  the Philippines. 

On eve of All Souls Day, crowds jostle into hastily cleaned cemeteries to pray before freshly painted tombs. Crowds can uncork bouts of giddy claustrophia. So, some families visit cemeteries earlier.  

The “Todos Los Santos” message, however, persists:  A community of believers, share across the divide of death, grace that surges into eternal life.

“Today, you will be with me in paradise”,  the dying thief was assured by his co-crucified.  The Samaritan woman at the well had a tutorial on this.  Paul addressed his letter to “the saints” at Ephesus.

Indeed, there are scores of small letter “S  saints”, maids, teachers, barbers to priests and market vendors. Despite flaws, these obscure men and women serve God in neighbor.  “Here comes everybody”s feast,”  author James Joyce wrote.

Then there are the capital “S” saints.  Their names ring out, when the Litany of Saints is chanted.   Mary, mother of  Christ with Joseph;  Francis of  Assisi,  Teresa of  Avila,  Ignatius  Loyola, Therese of Lisieux;  Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila — and  “San Pedro Calungsod”, if Inquirer’s  Oct. 28 editorial proves right. 

“No further questions,” the ‘Causes of Saints Congregation said on concluding it’s October 19 session, that editorial noted.  Members forwarded  to the Pope, their recommendation  that  the 17-year old catechist from the Visayas be raised to the altar.

Afirmativea vota dal tutti cardinali e dal santo padere per la canonizatione del beato Pedro Calungsod, read  a Facebook posting by the postulator: Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. “All cardinals voted  affimatively to recommend the Pope canonize Blessed  Pedro Calungsod.

In March 2005,  then  Pope John Paul II beatified  Calungsod — the last step  before canonization. The local church, celebrates his feast day on April 2.  A Calungsod shrine  stands within the archbishop of Cebu’s compound.

Benedict  XVI  makes the final  decision. He’ll  review reports by the cardinals and medical panel.  Among cases studied is that of a “brain dead” woman who works in Cebu today. “When  the process is over, we can  talk about it,” co-postulator Msgr. Idelbrando Leyson demurs.

Two Filipinas wait in the canonization queue. One is Isabel Larrañaga Ramirez who founded Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart in early 17th century.  In 1999, John Paul II elevated her  to “venerable”.  The other is a Chinay. Mother Ignacia del Espiritu  Santo.who  set up the Religious of Virgin Mary congregation in 1684: In  2007, Benedict XVI also named her “venerable.”

Calungsod and Fr. Diego de San Vitores were martyred in Guam April 1672. Much of  what is known of Calungsod is in “the Cebu archdiocese’s’ “Deposition” to the Congregation of Saints.  “This depended on the Posifio , prepared for the beatification of De San Vitores  for the dioceses of Manila and Agana.”

San Vitores’  “policy for his companions was they be unarmed”, historian John Schumacher, SJ, writes in  Philippine Studies. As a  young man, Calungsod could have escaped. But he choose to defend San Vitores who “was half blind”, all  sources emphasize,  “San Vitores was helpless without his companion, who led him by a rope around his waist! “

In shielding San Virtores, Calungsod took spear thrusts  and catana (machete) blows.  Attackers Hirao and Matapang then turned  on he Jesuit  who died with “words of  forgiveness”. Their bodies were dumped into the sea, bound together.

He was “joven bisayo or young, all 17th century documents reveal, Loyola House of Studies’  Catalino Arevalo, SJ notes. Did he come from Tigabauan?  Fr. Pedro Chirino established, in this Iloilo  town,  the  first  Jesuit school for boys in the Philippines.

Starting a new mission in Guam, the Jesuits were joined by “ the brightest and the best” students.   Did these 17 Filipino  teenagers sail from Cebu?  Calungsod  “family traditions say a boy, only 11 or 12, joined Jesuits in Mactan, then traveled to islands “near Hawaii” and was killed there.”

Like San Lorenzo Ruiz, was Calungsod an  “overseas foreign worker”? ’ Canonization may come to  a country of OFWs  but  “no longer a  nation of believers .” Only  21 percent of urban students  believe in life after the grave, a survey by  McCann Erickson and  Philippine Jesuits found. 

Majority or  88 percent  believe in a Supreme Being.  But only 15 percent  were instructed in their faith by parents   “The phenomenon of bursting churches is actually misleading,” notes  Windhover. magazine. “Their doctrinal foundation and catechetical instruction seem to be faltering.”

Our houseboy pasted  Calungsod’s cutout from Inquirer on to cardboard, with a makeshift stand. With his wife and two young daughters, Airen says they pray for Blessed Pedro’s intercession.

Isnt’ that the “communion of saints”, we itched to ask.  “How about coffee?”  We requested instead.

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