BLESSED PEDRO CALUNGSOD AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
By Msgr. Dennis Villarojo
What is the New Evangelization and why is it called “new”?
The term “New Evangelization” was first used by the Blessed Pope John Paul II during his apostolic visit to Poland in 1979. He used it again when he visited the churches in Latin America in 1983. In his address to the Bishops of Latin America, the Pope said, “The commemoration of this half millennium of evangelization will have full significance if, as bishops, with your priests and faithful, you accept it as your commitment; a commitment not of re‐evangelization, but rather of a new evangelization, new in its ardour, methods and expression.”
Thus the “new evangelization is not a matter of redoing something that was inadequately done, as if the “old” one did not achieve its purpose, nor is it taking up what has been left unfinished, or simply repeating what has been done in the past. It is “the courage to forge new paths of responding to the changing circumstances and conditions facing the Church in her call to proclaim and live the Gospel today.” (Lineamenta, The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, no. 5)
The working paper of the XIII Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” lists six sectors whereby the “changing circumstance and conditions facing the Church” are encountered.
I. SECTORS CALLING FOR THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
According to the Working Paper, we find ourselves today in an “era of profound secularism, which has led to a loss in the capacity to listen and understand the words of the Gospel as a living and life‐giving message. Although it has not directly denied the existence of God, this secularism fosters “a mentality in which God is completely or partially left out of life and human consciousness.” (Lineamenta, no. 6)
At the personal level, this cultural trend is marked by “temptations to superficiality and self‐centeredness, arising from a predominating hedonistic and consumer‐oriented mentality…” While this is offset by some signs of religious reawakening in other parts of the world, there is also the threat of fundamentalism which can use religion to justify acts of terrorism.
B. The Family
In human interrelationships, the phenomenon of migration has caused the deterioration of familial bonds, the erosion of values that hold us together as families and peoples, and the loosening of the human ties from which we derive our identities and which give meaning to our lives.
C. Social Communications
The means of Social Communications have vastly improved human life by giving greater access to information, new opportunities for knowledge, developed new forms of solidarity, thereby creating a truly “new world culture” that encompasses geographical and racial limits. These potentials however have inherent risks, such as the overconcentration on the self and personal needs, the reduction of objective values into purely subjective experiences, the alienation of the social life from the moral dimension, the formation of a culture of superficiality and mere appearances.
D. The Economy
The growing disproportion in the access to resources has bought about conditions of greater disparity between and among nations. The moribund economy of many so‐called developed nations has high‐lighted the problem of using material forces alone in establishing rules to govern financial and economic relations.
E. Scientific and Technological Research
The advances in the scientific and technological field have given science a privileged position in people’s imagination, and we turn to them for answers that concern truth and meaning even though we know that the responses they provide are only partial and not totally satisfying.
F. Civic and Political Life
The changes in the political structures around the world since the Fall of Communism has spawned new realities and posed greater challenges. In our country, our own “EDSA Revolution” has empowered us to chart the political course of our nation, though the choices we have made since as a people did not always bring about our hopes.
II. THE PERSON OF JESUS: CONTENT, PROCLAIMER AND CENTER OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
While the six sectors for evangelization are changing and shifting, the Lineamenta is clear about the unchanging content of the new evangelization: “In referring to the Gospel, we must not think of it only as a book or a set of teachings. The Gospel is much more; it is a living and efficacious Word, which accomplishes what it says. It is not so much a system of articles of faith and moral precepts, much less a political programme, but a person: Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God, who became man.” (Lineamenta, no. 11) Thus, in the new evangelization, we seek to encounter Jesus anew so that his person, life and words may shed light on the six loci of evangelization.
A. By virtue of the incarnation of Christ the world has been imbued with the presence of God. In the person of Jesus we experience intimacy with God the Father and we receive empowerment from the Holy Spirit. In prayer, we encounter Jesus and we are assimilated into the life of the Holy Trinity. By reading the word of God, we allow the story of Jesus to become part of our own life‐story and transform the way we live
B. The Holy Family stands as mirror and exemplar of our own social condition today. Forces beyond their control threaten to rip them apart. The powerful at the time of the Lord’s infancy made life difficult for them, causing them displacement from their domestic milieu. Yet, they held together as a family through Mary’s and Joseph’s faithful discernment of God’s will. At the finding in the temple, Mary called upon the boy Jesus to recognize their authority as his parents by expressing to him their concern for him: “My child why have you done this to us? See how worried your Father and I have been, looking for you.” (Lk. 2: 48) Jesus, however, asserted a more basic source of his identity: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must to be in my Father’s business (v. 49)?” Families will hold together in spite of separation and dislocation if at the core of their familial relationship, they are built up in God.
C. Though the means of social communication were not available to Jesus during his time, he nevertheless reached out to people through the truth of his preaching and by the power of his healing touch. At the core of these means of communication is the person of Jesus himself, who is the Eternal Word of the Father. In spite of the limited means at his disposal, Jesus was still able to hold his audience spell‐bound because “his word carried authority”(Lk. 4:32), that is, he communicated his own being through the outpouring of himself.
Communication is not just passing out a message, it is above all establishing a relationship with others, and relationship is always the reciprocal giving of persons. This means that a self‐enclosed attitude cannot be the basis of communication. Today’s social networking can only be truly social if its participants engage each other in genuine dialogue and authentic interaction, always seeking each other’s good and serving each other’s need.
D. The parables of Jesus are essentially religious and ethical teachings, but they are also applicable to the economy. This only goes to show that morality is inseparable from sound economic principles. In the parable of the talents(Mt. 25: 14‐30), Jesus has taught us a principle of good economics. When something is invested, something is harvested. When something is kept hidden and locked up, neither the keeper nor those around him benefit. The parable of the rich fool (Lk. 12:16‐21) complements this parable, for the rich man who hoarded his goods is comparable to the servant who hid his talent under the ground. Goods that are locked up will not multiply, nor will they benefit the common good.
Our world today suffers from a moribund economy because too many resources are locked in the hands of those who have the greatest access to them. Consequently, money is not translated into goods because the few who have the money do not need too many goods, and those who need the goods do not have the money. The net result is that those who have the money are losing its value, and those who do not have are even more deprived of the needed resources to provide for their most basic needs.
This has led to large‐scale indebtedness, which cannot be untangled because of the requirements of commutative justice. To loosen up the ever‐tightening knot, Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Caritas in veritate has proposed an economy of gratuitousness, in which a gratuitous spirit replaces strict commutative justice, allowing nations, institutions and individuals to “start all over again,” so that goods and resources that have been locked up in the hands of a few may once again circulate, thereby creating wealth and promoting progress. Is this not the spirit of the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt. 18:23‐35) as well?
E. Technology is the world’s newest object of idolatry. Some people do worship technology as if it provides all the answers to the questions of human life. They thus dedicate their lives to its service, even at the cost of their own souls. Although technology as we know it today was unknown during Jesus’ time, the Lord did provide us with the basic answers to the most profound questions about God, the world and the human person. The attraction of technology lies in its ability to make things easy for human beings. It breaks up the limits of what we can do. In his response to the devil’s temptation to change stone into bread (Mt. 4:4), however, Jesus set firmly the limit of what we can do ‐‐‐ not what is beyond our power to do, but what the word of God has told us is the limit to our powers. Technology may change stone into bread, but the bread technology offers cannot fully satisfy our hunger.
F. Recent history has been marked by the mass actions of people who have claimed their right to be free from repressive regimes. Nations and peoples have emancipated themselves from tyranny following the example of our own EDSA revolution. Yet, the dismantling of totalitarian regimes has not always resulted in greater progress for many. We have only crossed the Red Sea to be liberated from Egypt but we continue to wander in the wilderness. Like the Israelites of old, we need to recognize the dominion of God in our lives and to follow his commandments. Only by a corresponding transformation in the way we live can we attain the fullness of life.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5‐7), has taught us the way to live. We need to build our nation on the rock of his words ‐‐‐ practicing self‐discipline, learning to forgive, giving generously, loving faithfully.
III. BLESSED PEDRO CALUNGSOD: WITNESS, CATECHIST AND EXEMPLAR OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
Blessed Pedro Calungsod lived in a vastly different time from ours. The mission in which he assisted used a method of evangelization appropriate to his time. Yet, the values which he lived are no different from the values we need to embody in the new evangelization. In particular, his boldness in leaving home and accompanying the missionaries to spread the Gospel in a possibly hostile environment is a call for us to be also courageous in giving witness to Christ in our present circumstances.
1.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and Culture: The young people of the Marianas practice a form of liberal and licentious sexual life. This was a temptation for someone of Blessed Pedro’s age. Some of the young people who have embraced the Christian faith actually lapsed back to their native ways, but Blessed Pedro remained steadfast to the end.
The subculture of the young today tends to take sexuality in a casual way, abandoning the dignity and esteem with which our Christian faith considers the conjugal act. This is no doubt influenced by some sectors in the media, which promotes a degraded view of human sexuality. Against this insidious influences, we must affirm that culture does not determine morality, it is rather morality that must purify some distorted elements of culture, so that “(we) do not conform ourselves to the present age, but let the renewal of (our) minds, so that we may discern for (our)selves what is good, pleasing and perfect.” (Rom. 12: 2)
2.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and the Family: although we have no knowledge of his family life or of his familial roots, we see him at the service of the families in Guam, as he assisted Blessed Diego de Sanvitores in his effort to catechize the natives and to baptize them. This same activity caught the ire of one head of a family, Matapang, who, through the insinuation of the local medicine man named Choko, thought his baby has been infected with poisoned water. It was at the service of the family that San Pedro lost his life.
3.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and the means of Social Communication: There were no hi‐tech gadgets during Blessed Pedro’s time, but what he had was the zeal of a missionary, which is more than is needed to gets one’s message across. There is no substitute to face‐to‐face encounters, actual conversations that lead to friendships and house visitations that open up homes to the grace of the Holy Spirit.
We must use the means of social communication to strengthen relationships, to develop our capacities for good, and to spread the Gospel of Jesus.
4.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and the Economy: The time of Blessed Pedro did not have the complex economic system of our world today. The Marianas was only a stop‐over in the lucrative galleon trade between Acapulco and Manila, and neither Blessed Diego nor Blessed Pedro was mentioned as being involved in the economic activity of the island. Yet, in his activity as an assistant to Blessed Diego, and in his reported act of valor, we see the underlying principles of good economics. In leaving the relative security of his homeland to face the dangers of an uncertain land, San Pedro displayed the detachment and the generosity of a true missionary. Detachment and generosity go together because one cannot be truly generous unless one is willing to let go of things. In realizing the economy of gratuitousness, we must learn to be generous and to be detached from material things.
5.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and Technology: Our technology today was unheard of during the time of Blessed Pedro. The people of his time did not have the conveniences we take for granted today. Yet, they had some things which technology, in our time, has slowly taken away from us. They had diligence, patience and endurance. Today, because of the conveniences of technology, we are wont to complain at the slightest difficulty, delay or inconvenience. We have become too dependent on technology, to the point of losing the virtuous qualities that would have made us better human beings.
6.) Blessed Pedro Calungsod and Politics: Blessed Pedro and Blessed Diego were both victims of political intrigue among the natives of the Marianas. They were powerless against the calumnies of Choko, who spread lies about the nature of baptism and the intentions of the missionaries. What made up for their political weakness was the solidarity they had with each other. Blessed Pedro stuck it out with Blessed Diego, although he could have joined the natives in their pursuit of the happy life. At the very least, he could have ran away at the threat of mortal danger. Much has been made of the fact that the agile young man initially evaded the lances thrown his way, but the fact that he merely evaded them means that he could have run away, far from the scene of Matapang’s rage, but he did not. He stayed close to Blessed Diego, refusing to save his own skin in the hope of saving his master.
Loyalty, courage, solidarity ‐‐‐ these are salient qualities sorely needed to effect real change in our political landscape. We are accustomed to think of politics in terms of elections and political parties. It would be anachronistic to impose these concepts on the life of Blessed Pedro. Yet the values that make Blessed Pedro a loyal assistant are the same principle that should underlie our politics. This is because the fabric of a nation is ultimately made up of individual threads, the strength or weakness of which determines whether the nation stands or falls.