PARTNERS IN THE MISSION FIELD

Aaron James R. Veloso

            We know very little about the life of the soon-to-be second Filipino saint, the Visayan martyr Pedro Calungsod. But Divine Providence has allowed enough historical records to be kept intact for us to know the nature of Blessed Pedro’s apostolate.

From the book Histoire des Isles Mariannes nouvellement converties á la Religion Chretienne, et de la mort glorieuse des premiers missionaries qui y ont prêché la foi by the French Jesuit Fr. Charles le Gobien, S.J. (1700), we know that our saint was a « vertueux catéchiste, qui servoit les Peres depuis quatre ans avec un zele, qui luy mérita la couronne du martyre. » Fr. le Gobien attests that our martyr was a virtuous catechist who served the Fathers zealously for four years, which merited him the crown of martyrdom.

Blessed Pedro Calungsod was a partner in the Jesuit mission field in Marianas, a faithful companion of the Spanish Jesuit Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J., so much so that despite having the ability to evade the deadly spear and katana of Matapang and Hirao, he chose to be loyal to his apostolate, his superior Blessed Diego, and his God.

This particular aspect of Blessed Pedro’s life strikes a chord with me because I can fully relate to his experiences. Like him, I too share in the Jesuit mission field — not among infidels, like our new saint — but among the poor, the sick and the down-trodden in the Philippine General Hospital, where the Jesuit Fathers have served for more than a century.

I remember the first time I gave a formal catechism in the PGH, to a child preparing for First Holy Communion. But this instance was different from all the others, because I was giving catechism to a child who lay in bed for such a long time (and will lie for some more) because of a disease that could kill him. I was in a quandary as to how I would share with a sick child the tenets of our faith and how to make him realize Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist. I wanted to assure him that despite all his pain and suffering, Christ loves him very much.

I was quite lucky, because unlike our martyr, I didn’t face hostility. I was met by a smiling face that belied a hunger for knowledge of the faith. He could have asked me why the Lord chose to make him sick, but rather he asked me how he could prepare himself to be worthy of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

We could all learn so much from that child. He was writhing in pain, but he was in peace. His eagerness for the Holy Eucharist trumped the pain he was experiencing. How do we react to sufferings, pain and misfortune? How eager are we to listen to the message of God’s love?

As much as I was catechizing this child, he was also catechizing me. He reminded me of God’s love and His presence in our every waking minute. Despite not being briefed in the tenets of our faith, he magnified God by his humility, perseverance, and most importantly, faith.

This represents a challenge for the laity of our Church. Do we still allow God to use us, humble lay people, to touch the hearts of our brethren? Do we still make an effort to see God in all things and to magnify God in our daily activities?

May Blessed Pedro Calungsod’s humble example be magnified in all of us. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

 

About the blogger

Aaron Veloso has been helping with Blessed Pedro’s canonization since 2008. Counting Church history as one of his interests, his undergraduate thesis tackled the evolution of the Catholic Church in the Philippines vis-à-vis the evolving forms of government in the country. He is also the Prefect of the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception in the University in the Philippines.