BLESSED PEDRO CALUNGSOD AND THE MISSION
By Msgr. Esteban Binghay
The Catholic Mission in the 16th Century
What were the characteristics of the Catholic Missions in the Philippines of the 16th Century?
The following information may be important if only to provide the context of the issues and points in order to understand and deduce learnings from the Catholic Missions in the Philippines of the 16th century.
A. The Time Line:
- April 7, 1521 – Arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu. With him were Fray Pedro Valderama and other missionary companions.
- April 14, 1521 – Baptisms of Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana including 800 members of their tribe. As a token, the statue of the Sto. Nino was given as a gift to Queen Juana. A war between Magellan and Lapulapu erupted. Magellan was killed and their cross was burned. The initial mission was shortlived.
- April 8, 1865 – The second wave of missionary activities began with the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and five Augustinian priests led by Fray Andres Urdaneta.
- 1571‐ Formal start of the Preaching of the Good News, beginning in Cebu, which was its center, then to Manila, Panay, Masbate, Ticao, Burias, Albay and other parts of the Archipelago.
- April 28, 1595‐ Manila was separated from the church of Mexico and was made an Archdiocese. From Manila, the Mission spread to the rest of Luzon.
- August 14, 1595‐ Pope Clement VIII made Cebu Church a suffragan Diocese of Manila which included the whole of Visayas and Mindanao. It also included the Ladrones Islands (Mariana Islands), now called Guam.
B. The Understanding of Mission in the 16th Century
(Taken from the talk of the late Bishop Vicente Manuel, SVD, during the Pastoral General Assembly in the Archdiocese of Cebu, 2005, which was its Year of the Mission):
Origin/Source/Root of Mission
He said, “mission in the past was primarily seen as mission of the Church which was understood as a mandate given to the Church by Christ, to send missionaries to mission lands. These missionaries almost exclusively foreign‐born, were sent Ad Extra.
way mission was conducted, it was as if the agent of mission was the Church and the missionaries.”
Range/Scope/Extent of Mission
“In the past, mission was understood as the extension of the visible church where it was not yet present. It was how the mission command was interpreted. Making disciples, baptizing and teaching were seen as church‐oriented activites”.
Purpose/Motive for Mission
“From the Fourth Lateran Council came the expression ‘outside the church, there is no salvation’ (extra ecclesiam, nulla salus). This was the assumption that motivated the great missionaries of the past to go to mission islands. In the past, the motive for the mission was the salvation of non‐christians who would risk damnation if they were not brought into the fold of the church. And this task was entrusted to a special group in the church known as missionaries”.
C. The Missionary Methods of the 16th Century
Religious processions were one of the most effective missionary methods employed by the early Missionaries (i.e. 16th century). Even the street planning of the towns was such that it complemented the religious processions. For example, along the streets where the processions would pass, were the residences of the town folks. As a result, whether the people participated or not in the procession, they could not avoid nor escape hearing the songs and prayers as the procession passed by. In effect this facilitated catechesis. Moreover, they used dramas, religious paintings and other audio‐visual effects in order to facilitate understanding of the mission message or catechizing.
Preaching/proclamation was the most common form of missionary methods since the time of Jesus. What is most important about this, is the effort of learning the local dialects or languages of the natives. Fr. John Schumacher, S.J., the Jesuit Philippine church historian mentioned that the early missionaries learned the local dialects. The implication of this are most laudable. Through this, the missionaries were able to enter into the world views of their audience, thus, facilitating their integration among the natives. Secondly, their immediate objective was to understand and be understood by their audience.
Fr. Ildebrando Leyson mentioned the Litanies and Novenas which were printed in the dialect. These were also related to the missionaries’ efforts at maximizing their communications with their audience and widening their reach.
In the Mariana Missions, when Matapang, the father of the newly born child, was still in his house, both Fray Diego and Pedro Calungsod were teaching songs to the children. It was a case of maximizing their time in missionary work.
II. The Mission of Fray Diego Luis de San Vitores and Pedro Calungsod
Fray Diego Luis de San Vitores was the head of the Mission to the Ladrones Islands. In fact, it became his obsession to missionarize the islands upon seeing these at a distance on his way to the Philippines. Through his efforts, finance and personnel were provided albeit difficult to secure. It was, immediately before the mission sailed to the Mariana Islands, did the two meet either in Cebu or Cavite. Actually, Pedro Calungsod was a young lay catechist who was well trained by the Jesuits. It was a confrere of Fry Diego Luis de San Vitores who recommended him to the Mariana Missions. He must have been a product of the “boarding schools or the seminaries for the indios” for mission assistants, in the Visayas, either in Leyte, Samar, Cebu and Negros. Both were trained and afire for the Mariana Missions which was part of Cebu, a Suffragan Diocese of Manila at that time.
Both arrived in Guam, on June 16, 1668, in the company of five Jesuit priests, one Jesuit student and forty‐one non‐spaniards, who were mostly Filipinos. Thirty one of them were either catechists, soldiers or servants. Pedro Calungsod and Fray Diego were together missionizing the islands. Pedro Calungsod prepared the people for the catechesis which was to be given by Fr. Diego. He did this by gathering the children, men and women who wanted to learn about the faith. He also took care of the needs of Fr. Diego, preparing things for him and serving him at the altar and helping him in teaching catechism composed in Chamorrow language by Fray Diego. Since Fray Diego’s vision was impaired greatly, Pedro assisted him personally by guiding him on his way around to visit families. Guidelines were also drawn up because of certain issues like, the nobles wanted to be baptized and attended to first by the missionaries; baptisms reserved only for the nobles; superstitious beliefs and practices such as keeping skulls and bones of their ancestors and images made of wood and carved on trees which they worshipped in their houses out of superstition were either buried or burned. The horror of sin instilled in them was such that people clamored for the sacrament of confession and easily accepted rigorous penance. On the part of the lay missionaries, the witnessing value of their faith was strongly demanded by Fray Diego who was observing these himself. As a signal for the people to gather, the missionaries upon entering a village would start singing the Act of Contrition and the explanation of the Christian doctrine in Chamorrow. Other added attraction were some give aways or gifts for good students in catechesis.
The catechism classes were done by chanting the truths and the Christian faith. The lay assistants were well instructed to give baptism in case of necessity. They also replicated the boarding schools for boys in the Marianas in 1669 and named it Colegio de San Juan de Letran, where they trained selected Chamorrow boys and companion catechists for the Jesuits in the Marianas. In spite of their heavy work in the missions, they never neglected their prayers and sacred liturgies.
Doing missions in the Marianas also meant establishing peace between quarelling villages. Through the goodness of the missionaries, even the hardened soul got converted and became their friends. In other words, Christian doctrines necessarily bring morality.
III. Pedro Calungsod’s Relevance or Significance Today
His martyrdom for the faith he preached should serve as a model in living our faith either by doing or by dying. Pedro Calungsod’s significance for us today then, lies in his being a lay and youthful missionary. Moreover, he could not have been the “virtuous catechist” nor the “good soldier of Christ” were he not formed adequately for this in the family and the school of formation. In other words, he has become a model of the young lay missionary who because of his commitment to the mission gladly accepted martyrdom. However, his life serve as a reminder and encouragement that the young lay missionary need not be a martyr, which is invitational, i.e., not all are called to physically lay down his life for the sake of the Gospel but could also show this by studying it more and practicing this in their dialy lives through service and compassion to the poor by involving themselves in the pastorl work of their parish, or as lay missionaries for foreign missions and encourage vocations to the priestly and religious life.
Ultimately, in retrospect, the union of Pedro Calungsod with God’s will seemed to have been provided by Him. And this, according to Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, is the spirituality of the missionary – that of a saint.