4,000 filipino pilgrims, 2ND saint, 1 flag: faith unequaled

PHOTO - Filipino Catholics attend a mass at the Saint Gregory the Great Parish as part of a week-long celebration of the Canonization of Pedro Calungsod, a missionary killed 340 years ago who is being promoted as a youth hero.
Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images]

VATICAN CITY, OCTOBER 22, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Msgr. Marnell S. Mejia (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Marnell S. Mejia is a member of the Calungsod Canonization and Thanksgiving Committee. He is also the editor in chief of Bag-ong Lungsoranon, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Cebu.)

[PHOTO -A boy kisses a statue of Pedro Calungsod during a vigil at the Saint Gregory the Great Parish in Cebu on Saturday night. Millions of Catholics greeted the canonisation of the country's second saint, a missionary killed 340 years ago who is being promoted as a youth hero. Photo by Noel Celis, AFP]

On Sunday the eyes of the Filipinos are turned toward Rome.

A Filipino youth in the 17th century becomes just the second saint from this country that has been a Christian nation for almost half a millennium.

Pedro Calungsod, a missionary assistant martyred in the Marianas on April 2, 1672 with his companion, Padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores (now a Blessed himself), will be officially enshrined, together with six others, in the catalog, or canon, of saints—thus, canonization—by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Yet, for many, San Pedro Calungsod may just still be a name, if not a news item. After all, it took 340 years for him to get noticed by his katagilungsod (town mates).

One can try to wonder later who this new kid on the heavenly block is.

In attendance at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican are 4,000 pilgrims from the Philippines, joined by thousands of others more from other countries.

[PHOTO - CALUNGSOD ICON FLOWN TO ROME: OFFICIAL IMAGE. Up to 13,000 Cebuanos send off Pedro Calungsod's official image for the martyr's canonization in Rome. CEBU CITY, Philippines – Thousands of Cebuanos sent off the official pilgrim image of Blessed Pedro Calungsod to Rome, Italy on Tuesday, October 16, less than a week before Pope Benedict XVI declares the 17th-century martyr a saint. The police in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu estimated the crowd at around 13,000. "Blessed Calungsod was received warmly by the entire community. The experience was very overwhelming because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the entire Church," said Fr Charles Jayme, the official custodian of the pilgrim image of Calungsod. Calungsod's image was transported from its home at the Cebu Archbishop's Palace for the send-off Mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Photo by Ryan Christopher J Sorote]

Majority of the Filipino pilgrims come from Cebu and neighboring Visayan provinces, as Calungsod is identified in the records as a Visayan.

But for certain, there at St. Peter’s, everyone will carry just that one Filipino pride, and wave the same flag.

Ranking members of the Church’s hierarchy are there for the singular event, led by Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, the tireless promoter of Calungsod’s sainthood cause while still Archbishop of Cebu.

Also there is the present Archbishop of Cebu and current Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, Archbishop Jose Palma, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, and other members of the Philippine episcopacy, as well as a good number of priests from the different dioceses of the country.

Pedro, not Prada

These visitors in Rome had been given spiritual formation as part of their preparation for the canonization.

A catechesis on the life and virtues of Blessed Pedro Calungsod was required for those who signified their desire to go to Rome for the event.

Emphasis was given to their going to Rome to participate in a religious event. In other words, their focus should be foremost on Pedro, not on Prada, etc. (which could come later, anyway).

In Rome, prior to the big day, liturgical celebrations were lined up to keep the pilgrims attuned to the main event.

A Triduum, or three-day preparatory liturgical celebration, was held in different churches starting Oct. 18. Common prayers and spiritual talks were also conducted.

[Photo - VISAYAN SAINT. Cebuanos find a special connection with Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Photo by Ryan Christopher J Sorote Mejia said the image was accompanied by at least 100 vehicles to the Mactan International Airport for the 12:30 pm Cathay Pacific flight to Rome via Hong Kong. The three-hour motorcade, through the main thoroughfares of the 3 cities, caused heavy traffic and the postponement of several classes and business activities. A short prayer was made inside the airport chapel before the image was taken inside the plane together with 200 official delegates from Cebu.]

Not just a date in history

The activities are intended to drive home the point that the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod is not just a date in history, but an occasion that calls for a sustained and far-reaching response from Filipino Catholics, because with the honor that the new saint brings comes a call to renewal and recharging of one’s life and faith.

Knowing who Pedro Calungsod is can provide sparks of encouragement toward deeper commitment.

Twenty-five years after San Lorenzo Ruiz was canonized by Pope John Paul II, we are given another model of Christian witnessing.

Dialogue with the young

And if San Lorenzo is inspiration and guide to Filipino family men in particular, San Pedro Calungsod’s relevance should find greater resonance in the hearts and minds of the youth.

The youth have long been called the hope of the motherland. The sad reality is that many would give up that claim and promise once they get past their youth.

Along the way, many will be given to cynicism.

Others would discover new idols and icons in life that will point them to the stars of their dreams, often counseling unmoored compromise and pragmatism as necessary tools for success, or even simply for survival.

Calungsod’s martyrdom can dialogue with the young, if not the rest of us, that fullness of life does not consist in gaining things only for our own sake.

His heroic sacrifice of long past challenges us in the here and now to be more than just the sum of our own interests.

Faithful Pedro

Pedro Calungsod once stood up for something good that he truly believed in. And stared down evil at the cost of his life.

On that fateful day in Tumhon, Guam, Pedro could have opted to protect himself by fighting back, or, more conveniently, by running away.

But fortitude prevailed that early morning, steeled, for certain, by the word of our Lord: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)

Faithful to the end, he tried to shield the half-blind Sanvitores from his assailants.

Pedro was the first to fall, dying a martyr’s death at the hands of those who acted in hatred of the faith.

Now he is honored as an exemplar for different sectors, rendering this hitherto unknown Visayan into a multifaceted Christian and Pinoy model.

His novena prayer invokes him as “student, catechist, young migrant, missionary, faithful friend, martyr.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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