Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Our prayer is God’s gift to us…and God is continually blessing us with prayers…prayers in so many forms.
Work is God’s gift to us…and we work for several reasons…and perhaps one of the most common reasons is, we work because we need to earn a living…but work could be more than just a living…it could become a form of a prayer…an offering to God.
The story of Cain and Abel makes me wonder, why was God displeased with the offering of Cain when both Cain and Abel offered to God the fruits of their work?…but towards Cain and his offering He showed no pleasure (Gn:4:5). Was it perhaps, because Cain failed to offer it to God as a prayer?
I strive to make my work my prayer to God. If as I work, I am conscious of the Lord, this consciousness allows me to strive to do my best...putting my whole self…heart, body and mind into my work…then I feel I am truly giving myself to God.
There are times, I must admit that, I feel I have to drag myself to do what I must…or I am unsure…or I was not as honest as I should be…and I would feel bad…and ashamed…but it is also during these times that I get to feel Jesus’ love…and I would asked for His forgiveness, or I would asked His guidance or consolation…or His grace to do my best…and then I am able to offer my thanks…and my praise…my sacrificial praise and thanks to God.
At the end of the day…in all sincerity…and in all honesty, I offer to God what transpired during the day…the good moments, the not so good moments…the difficult and the not so difficult…my disappointments…my accomplishments…asking God for forgiveness for my shortcomings…knowing that God has sustained me…and provided me with my daily bread.
Stevan S. Dimaguila
ADZU College Faculty
October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Zamboanga is a really big city in the Philippines- the third largest, with nearly a million people, at the tip of the western peninsula of the island of Mindanao, the second biggest island in the Republic of the Philippines. What a great name, Zamboanga- a name with music and joy in it.
But Zamboanga and Mindanao have a long history of Christian- Muslim tension and conflict. Muslims first came to Mindanao in the late 14th century, says a Muslim Web site on the internet. They resisted the Spanish conquistadors who followed, then America’s occupation, and some conflict has continued into Philippine independence, right up to the present.
I am pleased to report, however, that Zamboanga City today is a place where Christians and Muslims are learning to get along and live peacefully together. And these days, with Christian- Muslim tension and that is certainly something to take notice of and to rejoice in, don’t you agree?
I’ve just been reading about Zamboanga and this new Christian-Muslim dialogue in an article in “St. Anthony Messenger” magazine, the Franciscan monthly, sent to us by one good friend and written by another: Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M., a fine writer, great priest and all-around special person.
Zamboanga, Father Jack wrote, “is sometimes known as the City of Flowers or the City of Romance. But I will always remember it as the ‘Land of Hope for Christian-Muslim Dialogue.’” And that’s the title of his article.
Father Jack once taught in a Franciscan seminary in Manila, the capital, he said, and was eager to get back to the Philippines, so he went last year to get back to the Philippines, so he went last year with a study group sponsored by the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization working with people of all faith traditions to bring about a global community of compassion and service.
“ In 1984,” he wrote, “ a popular dialogue movement was launched in Mindanao to overcome conflicts among Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths. The movement calls itself the Silsilah Dialogue Movement and sees itself as promoting understanding among these groups. Silsilah is an Arabic word meaning ‘chain’ or ‘link’, and suggests the image of people drawing together ( like links in a chain) as one universal family united by a shared vision of dialogue and peace.”
Founded in Zamboanga City by an Italian priest, Father Sebastian D’Ambra, P.I.M.E., with a group of Muslim and Christian friends, Silsilah “ holds seminars and a wide variety of training programs, promotes friendship and interfaith dialogue and provides opportunities for prayer.”
Along the way Father Jack met a number of wonderful Muslim people and their Christian counterparts who are learning to get along. One highlight, he reported, was a big outdoor concert featuring music from various religious and cultural traditions, helping respect and love many wonderful Jewish, Protestant and Buddhist friends, as well as other nice people I couldn’t describe in any religious terms, except that we like them.
I’m sorry to say we haven’t met any Muslims personally yet, although we see more and more of them around, as I expect you do also. One day soon, I expect we’ll get to meet some Muslim people, and we’ll get to like them. It’ll be a pleasure.
Copyright 2009 by James A. Doyle
New York Times
What does E-U-C-H-A-R-I-S-T stand for?
E - Eternal life.
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54). Jesus gives us everlasting life. Eternal life is a desire in the heart of every person. Every time we eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ Jesus Christ
U - Union with Jesus Christ, Who is our Life.
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (John 6:56). Our union with Jesus is intensified in every reception of the Holy Eucharist by increasing sanctifying grace in us. Mother Teresa of Calcutta explained that in Holy Communion we touch Jesus. St. Vincent de Paul Vin•cent de Paul stated we leave Jesus in prayer to find Jesus in people.
C - Christ Jesus, totally truly present.
Pope John Paul II's call for Perpetual Adoration which brings about tremendous spiritual healing spiritual healing, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29). We in our lives accentuate the positive and celebrate this great gift of Jesus' real presence, the gift of real life.
H - Healing.
It is important to come to the Eucharist open to Healing of mind, body, soul and life. The Eucharist can help to nourish and sustain us. It is at Communion when we are closest to Jesus that we can ask for whatever we need.
A - Abandonment.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me" (John 14:1). Jesus abandons Himself, His Life to us on the Cross and again in the Sacred Host. This calls us to great respect for the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, present in our midst, Emmanuel.
R - Reconciliation.
"If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14). Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II has said that the Holy Eucharist restores life, and leads to Reconciliation and Reconciliation leads to the Eucharist.
I - Intimacy.
"Remain in me, as I remain in you" (John 15:4). The Eucharistic Presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsists. The most personal relationship in our lives is that with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Jesus waits for us to come and share with Him as a friend, our best friend. We should approach Him with the heart of Mary, who was closer to Jesus than anyone else, asking her to show us the way to His Sacred Heart. Pope John Paul II spends hours before the Blessed Sacrament every day. He challenges us to visit regularly. Jesus calls to us: "Will you not spend an hour with Me." Mother Teresa stated that the hours spent before the Blessed Sacrament are some of the most important hours of our lives.
S - Sacrifice.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37-38). Archbishop Fulton Sheen stated that we should never let our suffering go to waste. We should give it to the Lord so He can take it to the Father and intercede for us, our families, our loved ones and our lives. We should join our lives, our sufferings and joys, with the suffering of Jesus Christ, with the offering of the bread and wine which becomes the body and blood of Christ.
T – Transformation / Thanksgiving
Like St. Paul we are challenged to convert, to put aside what is not of God. We should give God permission to change what needs changing in our lives, and to imitate Mary and do only the Will of God. "Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). All the lepers were healed by Jesus. Only one of the ten came back to thank Jesus. Let us thank Him daily for the Gift of Life by participating in Mass as often as we can.
• Article written by Father James Whalen, the parish priest of Sainte-Marguerite-Marie parish in Cumberland, Ontario.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A prayer / poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero
It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Who kindled the light of truth
In the hearts of all,
You have chosen us for the mission
Of teaching others,
Even as you taught,
And have given to us, this community of educators,
The ministry of celebrating life
And of consecrating the earth.
Give us new hearts:
Open, understanding, committed
To all that is true, good, loveable;
Make us docile—to learn to serve
Even from those we seek to serve.
Infuse in us the spirit of collaboration
To enable us graciously to give
Even as we gratefully receive.
Pour forth your spirit into this,
Your community of educators,
So that the zeal of our personal commitment to YOU,
And the ministry of teaching
Be kindled in our hearts.
Praise and thanks to you Christ Jesus, Teacher
For calling us to be educators,
And for all others who teach in your name. Amen
Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realise it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is costly, care for it.
Life is wealth, keep it.
Life is love, enjoy it.
Life is mystery, know it.
Life is a promise, fulfills it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.
- Mother Teresa
I am convinced that, unless morally necessary, priests and religious should practice the asceticism of not announcing their personal preferences for political candidates. Particularly not on Facebook.
Like it or not, the moment one is ordained or takes religious vows, one becomes a "public person." As "public persons," clerics and vowed religious speak not just for themselves but for the Church. And since ordination constitutes priests as publicly authorized preachers, priests have to be careful not to seem to confuse particular political choices, within a morally permissible pluralism of options, with the Gospel. Otherwise, one unfairly limits, often without knowing it, the legitimate freedom of the faithful with regard to political choices, and also needlessly jeopardizes the unity in Christ of the Christian community, a unity that transcends parties and which the pastor has particular responsibility for building up.
I think priests and religious have to be more aware of their power, both the official power granted them by the Church in view of their ministry, and the symbolic power that they bear within cultures, particularly cultures in which religion remains a determinative aspect of common life. And they have to be careful and responsible in their use of it, particularly in the way they speak and express themselves in the political realm. Unthinking speech, in which private opinion and public teaching become confused, can only devalue and cheapen the moral authority of the church in the public sphere.
This is an ascetic practice, because it involves some sacrifice: giving up the gratification of expressing personal political preferences, often strongly felt.
But unless those preferences can be justified as morally obliging on the community, or virtually so,I think priests and religious should not give relief to their private feelings on specific political candidates by public expression.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
“We give her back to You, with grateful but breaking hearts"
By Catalino Arevalo, SJ
(Homily at the Funeral Mass for former President Cory Aquino, Manila Cathedral, August 5, 2009)
IF I may, I will first ask pardon for what might be an unseemly introduction. In the last days of President Cory’s illness, when it seemed inevitable that the end would come, the assignment to give this homily was given to me by Kris Aquino. She reminded me that many times and publicly, her mother had said she was asking me to preach at her funeral Mass. Always I told her I was years older, and would go ahead of her, but she would just smile at this. Those who knew Tita Cory knew that when she had made up her mind, she had made up her mind.
What then is my task this morning? I know for certain that if liturgical rules were not what they are, she would have asked Congressman Ted Locsin to be here in my place. No one has it in him to speak as fittingly of Cory Aquino in the manner and measure of tribute she uniquely deserves, no one else as he. Asked in an interview, she said that the address before the two Houses of Congress at Washington she considered perhaps the supreme shining moment of her life. We know who helped her with those words with which she conquered America . These last few days, too, every gifted writer in the press and other media has written on her person and political history, analyzed almost every side of her life and achievement as our own “icon of democracy”. More powerfully even, images of her and of Edsa Uno have filled hour after hour of TV time. Really, what else is left to be said?
SO, Tita Cory, you’ll forgive me if I don’t even try to give a shadow of the great oration that should be given here this morning. Let me instead try to say some things the people who persevered for hours on end in the serried lines at Ortigas or here in Intramuros can (I hope) more easily follow. This is a lowly tribute at one with “the old sneakers and clothes made tighter by age, soaked by water and much worse for wear” of the men, women and children who braved the rain and the sun because they wanted to tell you, even for a brief and hurried moment, how much they love you. You truly “now belong among the immortals”. But these words are for those mortals who with bruised hearts have lost “the mother of a people”. Maybe less elegantly than the seminarian said to me Monday, they would like to say also: “She was the only true queen our people have ever had, and she was queen because we knew she truly held our hearts in the greatness and the gentleness of her own.”
One of my teachers used to tell us that if we really wanted to know and understand a position held, we would have to learn it from someone fully committed to it. Just as only one who genuinely loves a person, really knows him or her also. So to begin with, I turned to three real “experts on Cory”; to ask them where for them the true greatness of Cory Aquino lay. My first source thought it was in her selflessness, seen above all in her love of country—surely above self; yes, even above family. Her self-giving, then, for us; what she had received, all became gift for us. The second, thought it was in her faith her greatness lay, in her total trust in God which was also her greatest strength. And the third said it was in her courage and the unshakable loyalty that went with it. It was a strength others could lean on; it never wavered; it never broke....Cory’s selflessness and self-giving; her faith (the Holy Father just called it “unwavering”); her courage, her strength. May I use this short list to frame what I will say?
O, let me name my experts now, if I may. They were three, all of them women close to her: Maria Elena Aquino Cruz, whom we know as Ballsy, Maria Aurora Aquino Abellada, Pinky to her friends; and Victoria Elisa Aquino Dee, Viel to the family. Kris and Noynoy are the public figures; they can speak for themselves. I hope they will forgive me that I did not ask.
First, then, her generous selflessness. For us this morning what is surely most to the point is her love of country. When her final illness was upon her already, she said—most recently at the Greenmeadows chapel (her last public words, I think)—that she was offering her suffering, first to God, then for our people. I heard that grandson Jiggy asked her why first for country and people, and she said that always the priority line-up was God, our country and our people, and then family. On radio, the other night, the commentator asked an old woman in line why she stood hours in the rain to get into La Salle . “Ito lang ang maibibigay ko po sa kanya, bilang pasasalamat.” “Bakit, ano ba ang ibinigay ni Cory sa inyo?” “Di po ba ang buhay nya? Ang buong sarili nya? At di po ba ang pag-asa? Kaya mahal na mahal po namin siya.” Early on, on TV, they ran many times the clip from a last interview. She says, “I thank God, and then all of you, for making me a Filipino, for making me one of you. I cherish this as one of the truly great gifts I have received.” A few weeks from her death, she could say that; without put-on or the least insincerity. “I thank you, for making me one of you.”
Her selflessness, her self-gift. Pope Benedict likes to say that the God whom Jesus Christ revealed to us, is Father. A Father who is wholly self-gift; the God “whose nature is to give Himself”—to give Himself to us, in His Son. And, the Pope says, that is what is the meaning of Jesus and the life of Jesus, and, by discipleship, what the Christian’s life is meant to be. We Christians, too, we must give ourselves away in the self-giving of love.
“Ang buhay po nya at sarili. Kaya po mahal na mahal namin sya.” In the last days, when finally and reluctantly still she admitted she had much pain, I kept thinking that only a couple of weeks before, for the first time publicly, she said that she was offering it up first of all for us.
Second, her faith
Second, her faith. Pinky says, it was her mother’s greatest strength; it was what was deepest in her. Her faith was her bedrock, and it was, bedrock. Frederick Buechner the ordained minister and novelist likes to say that through his lifetime, he’s had many doubts, even deep doubt, daily doubts. “But I have never really looked down into the deep abyss and seen only nothing. Somehow I have known, that underneath all the shadows and the darkness, there are the everlasting arms.” I think Cory’s faith was like that, not in the multiplicity of doubts (even if, in a life so filled with trial, there surely were doubts too), but in the certainty of the everlasting arms. More than once she told me, “Every time life painted me into a corner, with seemingly no escape, I always turned to Him in trust. I knew He would never abandon us if we trusted in Him. And you know, somehow, He found a way out for us.” And so Pinky says, “Mom was always calm even in the most trying times. She trusted God would always be there for us, She was our source of strength. She made this world seem so much safer and less cruel for us. And now that our source of strength is gone, we have to make our faith something more like hers. But we know in our hearts that in every storm she will watch over us from heaven.”
Devotion to Mary
Within this faith was her devotion to Mary, the place Our Lady of Fatima and the rosary held in her life. All we can say on this, this morning is that Our Lady truly had a special, living presence in her life: Mary was, for Cory, true mother and incomparable friend; as we say in the hymn—vita, dulcedo et spes: life, sweetness and hope. No, Mary was not the center of her faith, but its air, its atmosphere; and the rosary, her lifeline through every trial and crisis. In the long harsh months of her illness, Sister Lucia’s beads almost never left her hands. She was holding them, as last Saturday was dawning and her years of exile were at last done, when we know her Lady “showed unto her, the blessed fruit of her womb.”
Lastly, her courage, her strength. Her children tell us that their father was only able to do what he wanted to do, because her loyalty and her support for his purposes was total, so she practically raised them up as a single parent. Ninoy himself wrote, again and again, that he endured imprisonment and persecution, leaning so much on her courage and love. And after his death, when she could have withdrawn in a way “safely” to her own life with her children at last, she stayed on her feet and fought on in the years that followed, through the snap elections and what went before and after them, through her presidency and the seven coup attempts which tried to bring her down. Even after she had given up her rule, could she not have said “enough”, and we would all have understood? But with not the least desire for position or power again, whenever she thought the spaces of freedom and the true good of our land were threatened, she went back to the streets of struggle again. Once again she led us out of the apathy we so readily fall into; once again she called us out of our comfort zones to the roads of sacrifice.
Purity of heart
Here, even hesitantly, may I add one trait, one virtue, to those her daughters have named? One day Cardinal Stephen Kim of South Korea asked if he might visit her. Through Ballsy, she said yes. It was a day Malacañang was “closed”; they were making up the roster of members of the forthcoming Constitutional Convention. Someone from the palace staff ordered us turned away when we came; it was Ballsy who rescued us. Stephen Kim, hero and saint to his own people—perhaps, along with Cardinal Sin, one the two greatest Asian Catholic prelates of our time—spent some 45 minutes talking with her. When we were on our way back, he said, “I know why the Lord has entrusted her with power, at this most difficult time...It is because she is pure of heart. She has no desire for power; even now it is with reluctance she takes it on. And she has done this only because she wants to do whatever she can for your people.” He said, “She truly moves me by the purity of her spirit. God has given a great gift to your people.”
With this purity of heart, in the scheme of the Christian Gospel, there is joined another reality which really, only the saints understand. It is suffering. How often (it is really often; over and over through the years) she spoke of suffering as part of her life. Much contemporary spirituality speaks of suffering almost as the epitome of all evil. But in fact for all the saints, it is a mystery they themselves do not really understand nor really explain, Yet they accept it quietly, simply as part of their lives in Christ. There is only one painting she ever gave me. Kris said then, when her mom gave it to me, that it was her mom’s favorite. The painting carries 1998 as its date; Cory named it “Crosses and roses.” There are seven crosses for the seven months and seven weeks of her beloved Ninoy’s imprisonment, and for the seven attempted coups during her presidency, and many roses, multicolored roses all around them. At the back of the painting, in her own hand, she wrote a haiku of her own: “Crosses and roses/ make my life more meaningful./ I cannot complain.” Often she spoke of her “quota of suffering.” When she spoke of her last illness, she said: “I thought I had filled up my quota of suffering, but it seems there is no quota. I look at Jesus, who was wholly sinless: how much suffering he had to bear for our sake.” And in her last public talk (it was at Greenmeadows chapel), the first time she spoke of her own pain: “I have not asked for it, but if it is meant to be part of my life still, so be it. I will not complain.” “I try to join it with Jesus’s pain and offering. For what it’s worth, I am offering it up for our people.” Friends here present, I tell you honestly I hesitated before going into this, this morning. But without it, part of the real Cory Aquino would be kept from view. Quite simply, this was integral to the love she bore for her people.
Thanks to her children
AT this point, may I, following the lead Mr. Rapa Lopa has given, just speak a word of thanks to President Cory’s children, who shared so much of her service and her sacrifice. They have almost never had their father and mother for themselves. For so many years, they have been asked to share Ninoy and Cory with all of us. And because of the blood and the spirit their parents have passed on to them, they too gave with generosity and grace the sacrifices we demanded of them. Ballsy and Pinky, Viel and Kris, your husbands and your children, and Senator Noynoy, may we thank you this morning from all our hearts, and may we offer also the gratitude of the hearts of a people now forever in your debt.
I have used up all my time, some of you will say, and I have not even approached the essential: her political life, that she was our nation’s unique icon of democracy, that Cory Aquino who is know throughout the world; was TIME magazine’s 1986’s woman of the year; she who led the ending of the dictatorship that had ruined our nation, the bearer of liberation, of freedom, and of hope for a prostrate people.
So, by your leave, may I add one item, along this line at last. In October 1995, Milano’s Catholic University , conferred on her the doctorate honoris causa in the political sciences (incidentally, only her twenty-third honorary degree). This was only the fifth time this particular one had been given since the university’s inception: the first time to an Asian, the first ever to a woman. She wanted, at the end of her lectio magistralis, to spell out, perhaps for the first time with some explicitness and completeness, her personal political creed. She listed seven basic beliefs which, regarding political life , she said she tried to live by. Then she spoke of one more, “one more I may not omit.” Perhaps the paragraph which followed is worth citing here, even without comment, because it has something to say to our present hour.
(We cite her words now.) “I believe that the vocation of politics must be accepted by those who take up the service of leadership as a vocation in its noblest meaning: it demands all of life. For the life of one who would lead his or her people—in our time as never before—such a life must strive for coherence with the vision aspired to, or else that vision itself and its realization are already betrayed. That vision must itself be present, in some authentic way, in those who seek to realize it: present, in the witness of their example; present, in a purity of heart vis-à-vis the exercise and usages of power; present, in an ultimate fidelity to principle, in a dedication that is ready to count the cost in terms of ‘nothing less than everything.’ It is Cardinal Newman, I believe, who said that in this world, we do good only in the measure that we pay for it in the currency of our own lives. For us Christians, there is always the image of Jesus, and the price his service demanded of him. And for me there has been, as a constant reminder, the sacrifice my husband offered, and the word that it has spoken, to me and my people.” (Cory Aquino, end of citation)
With all this said, I am done. Ma’am, tapos na po ang assignment ko. It has been so hard to do what you asked. But I comfort myself that these so many words really do not matter. What counts in the end is really—what all this week has been; these past few days’ outpouring of our people’s gratitude and love; what will come after all this today; what we will do, in the times ahead, in fidelity to your gift. I received a text last night from a man of some age and with some history behind him. “She made me proud again, to be Filipino.” Maybe that says it all. Cardinal Sin used to put it somewhat differently. “What a gift God has given our people, in giving Cory Aquino to us.” The nobility and courage of your spirit, the generosity of your heart, the grace and graciousness that accompanied you always. They called it “Cory magic”—but it was the truth, and the purity and beauty, clear and radiant within you, that we saw. And the hope that arose from that. And when the crosses came to you and you did not refuse to bear them, more to be one with your Christ and one with your people and their pain. “Blessed are the pure of heart; for they shall see God.”
Thank You Father in heaven, for your gift to us of Cory Aquino. Thank You that she passed once this way through our lives with the grace You gave her to share with us. If we give her back to you, we do it with hearts of thanksgiving, but now, oh, with breaking hearts also, because of the greatness and beauty of the gift which she was for us, the likes of which, perhaps, we shall not know again. Salamat po, Tita Cory, mahal na mahal po namin kayo.
Reflections of a Newly Ordained Priest
Returning from Foreign Mission Gabriel Lamug-Nañawa, SJ
I didn't expect to get scarred in Cambodia . When I was missioned to Cambodia during our ordination to the priesthood nearly four years ago, an event which brought both tears of joy and anxiety to my parents, a number of people warned me about landmines and other dangers. Young and eager as I was back then, I didn't think much of their words of warning. Now, three and a half years later, I do find scars on my body, true gifts from Cambodia , and for which I am most grateful to God.
Until recent years, Cambodia had the highest number of landmine accidents in the whole world, averaging around two to three explosions a day, everyday. Within Cambodia , the province with the highest number of landmine accidents is Battambang. That is where we live. Although the number of incidents has fortunately gone down due to demining efforts and greater awareness of the people, our team from the Arrupe Welcome Center would go out to the villages everyday to seek out victims of mines and war, mothers, fathers, children with a disability, finding different ways of helping them.
The scars on my feet and legs remind me of this. We would ride motorbikes to the villages, along unpaved dirt roads that are dusty and slippery during the dry season, and muddy and slippery during the wet. I have fallen off the motorbike several times, into ditches and muddy pot holes, leaving scars that remind me of our team and their dedicated efforts to reach out to those whose very bodies, lives and families have been broken by war.
Once there was a poor man who used to be a Khmer Rouge soldier, a father of six who had lost his left leg to a landmine many years ago. He and his family lived two and half to three and a half hours away depending on how rough the road had become. Although we had been helping his family with land and a simple new house, we would oftentimes arrive at his home and find him drunk with his fellow neighbors. Expressing his willingness to change, we asked another NGO to give the community a workshop on alcoholism and domestic violence. Only days after the seminar, his wife rang us around eleven in the evening to say that he had just fallen from a tractor-drawn cart. He was seriously injured and couldn't move his body from the neck down. He was also drunk.
Since he was nowhere near any medical facility, the Cambodian team together with some foreign volunteers left in the middle of the night to pick him up and take him to the nearest hospital. This for me was simply heroism of body and soul. It was the Good Shepherd at work, God's fearless love reaching out to God's children, despite darkness, despite disappointments. They did reach him on time. He is alive and recovering from a fractured bone in his neck. I am happy to have scars that remind me of this breadth and depth of love.
A longer scar is on my belly. It took three operations within five months in two countries to put it there. It was due to an internal infection which I acquired because of my participation in the Passion play for Holy Week. But more than anything, this scar reminds me of a Buddhist lady who approached me on that Good Friday. She asked me if she could wash my feet. Sensing the purity of her intentions, we sat by a corner in the house. As she was washing my feet, just before the dramatization of Christ's Passion and Death, she started to cry and "confess her sins," telling me of the things she had done that weighed heavily upon her. As she finished she calmly said, "Please take all these with you to the cross." I was deeply moved. This Buddhist lady's intuitive action had touched my own faith and has ever since been a source of grace and inspiration for me. The scar on my belly will forever remind me of people's faith that continuously strive
to find God in different contexts.
Leaving Cambodia has not been easy. They are a simple people, with basic needs and uncomplicated relationships, and as of now still undistracted by the "noise" of consumerism. The people of Battambang, and the staff and students with disabilities of the Arrupe Welcome Center have all been wonderful. Simply to be in their presence was truly a humanizing experience. Those with whom I worked were fantastic, mostly Buddhists, some former Khmer Rouge soldiers and supporters, but many of whom have been my heroes and models for generosity and loving kindness. They have been most edifying, and their ways of doing things and of dealing with other people have unwittingly called me, even challenged me to be a better priest. The daily actions of our Apostolic Prefect, Msgr. Enrique Figaredo SJ, inspire the community around him to be joyful, always looking forward with a positive and loving disposition, always searching for creative ways to help the poor. Putting
this altogether, I dare say that within these years of living and working in Cambodia, I have experienced a sliver, a bit of something of the Kingdom of God.
Hence, having to leave all this behind has etched my third scar. Though not visible, I know it is there, for it reminds me of its existence every time I remember Cambodia .
In the end, our scars remind us of our past wounds. Some wounds we have inflicted on ourselves caused by our own mistakes, some we have received from other people. But at their best, some of our scars are there because we have dared to love, having borne wounds as the cost of reaching out beyond ourselves towards our neighbors in need. Jesus Himself freely received the Cross out of love, His wounded and broken body reminding us of God's fearless love.
I can honestly say that I have seen this love not so much in words but in everyday deeds, lived out and personified by many people I have met. The mere witnessing of this love at work is a grace in itself.
In Cambodia , there is a growing devotion to an image of Christ on the Cross with only one leg. More than just a scar or a wound, Christ is missing a leg. Although some may call it blasphemous, irreverent tampering with a holy image, it remains to be a meaningful icon that speaks to the people of Christ's compassion and fearless love.
In gratitude for the wounds that others have borne for us, may our own scars be out of love for God and for God's people.
Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Kick-off Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Province and ADMU
14 June 2009, Manila Cathedral, Intramuros … By José CJ Magadia, SJ
Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus
This homily has two parts. The first part is historical, and reflects on the special celebration for which we are gathered this morning. The second part considers the Church feast that we commemorate this day.
I. First, on the special celebration.
Exactly 150 years ago, on June 14, 1859, a Tuesday morning, ten Jesuits of the Aragon Province disembarked from the frigate Luisita. After months of voyage from Spain, braving often rough seas and sailing through with the uncertainties of nineteenth century travel, the ten missionaries finally end their long journey, setting foot on their destination, led by their Superior, Father José Fernández Cuevas. They entered this walled city of Intramuros, where we are gathered today, were warmly welcomed by the Augustinian friars who were there to meet them, and take them into their villa house, where the Jesuits stayed for a month and a half, while the new mission house was still being built. This special friendship with the Augustinians carried through in those early days in Intramuros, as each year thereafter, a Jesuit would sing the Mass and preach in San Agustín Church on the Feast of St Augustine and an Augustinian would do the same in the San Ignacio Church on the Feast of St Ignatius.
On that very same day, June 14, the Jesuits promptly made the rounds of the city officials, going through the protocol, presenting themselves to the colonial authorities, and informing them of their very specific purpose, “for the missions of Mindanao and Joló.” And the Jesuits subsequently did just that. Beginning with Tamontaca in the delta of the Rio Grande de Mindanao, they set forth to Tetuan and Zamboanga, Manicaán and Davao, Dapitan, Surigao, and Jolo. They climbed mountains and explored rivers, on foot, on horseback, old and young. They set up missions and built up parishes. They opened up mission schools, and administered the sacraments, and taught children their catechism. They wrote the first grammars and compiled the first dictionaries, in Maguindanao, and Tiruray, and Bagobo. And by the end of the 19th century, the Society of Jesus had taken over all the mission posts of Mindanao and Sulu.
But there was a not so minor matter that distracted them from Mindanao. In the 1850s, there was only one primary school in the city – the Escuela Pía on Calle Real, founded in 1800, but of far-from-ideal quality. On August 5, 1859, a group of Manila residents petitioned the Spanish Governor-General for the newly-arrived Jesuits to begin a school. The response from Father Cuevas was “no,” because the Jesuits mission was to be in Mindanao. But the petitioners did not allow themselves to be easily defeated by this refusal. They represented and insisted. So, Father Cuevas met with his men to discuss the matter. In the end, he told them that the answer was still “no,” unless the Governor-General would issue an order in writing. On October 1, 1859, a decree was promulgated transferring the direction of the Escuela Pía to the Jesuits and renaming it the Escuela Municipal. Thus, on December 10, 1859, twenty-three boys came to class on the first day under the new management. By March of 1860, there were already 170 students.
Thus re-commenced in this archipelago the great tradition of Jesuit education. Father Horacio de la Costa describes those early days well. “Classes were held from 8:00 to 11:00 o’clock in the morning and from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, except on Sundays and holy days. On Thursdays, the afternoon class was omitted.” There were no vacations, but during the months of April, May and June, there were no afternoon classes. There was life in that school, with voices chanting the Latin declensions or reciting the rosary or shouting at play. They studied reading, writing and ‘rithmetic; they read history and studied astronomy and discussed religion. They followed Cicero closely, “paraphrased him, imitated him, learnt him by heart, used his speech and idiom in the classroom, in ordinary conversation….”
By 1909, when that school was formally renamed the Ateneo de Manila, it had primary, secondary and tertiary levels well established. And since then, other Ateneos have been built in Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro, in Naga and Davao, along with other schools from the former Chinese delegation, and likewise in many small parishes in Mindanao and Culion – schools driven by the same ideals of excellence, sapientia et eloquentia, of seeking to do more for love of God and neighbor and country. Today, the Ateneo de Manila University has indeed become a much respected institution, led by professors, both Jesuit and lay – made great by its students, the many men and women who have walked its corridors, who have sat in its classrooms, who have brought their Ateneo spirit to worlds beyond the walls of their alma mater, who have offered their lives for causes beyond themselves, who have battled on many a field with their “Halikinus” and their “one big fight” over and over again through the years.
Yes, in all that has happened in the last 150 years, it is good to be grateful, since after all, gratitude is the most basic of prayers, because it is a recognition that all is from God, and that the opportunity to take part in God’s work is a privilege not a right, a gift not an entitlement, that in the end it is the Lord that works through creation and gives it life anew.
Today, as we remember 150 years of continued Jesuit presence in this country, we thank the Lord for the blessing of not a few good men – Jesuits from Cataluña and Valencia and Madrid, from New York and Buffalo and Syracuse, from Italy and Hungary through China, from Ilocos and Pampanga, Cebu and Misamis and Manila. They were scientists at Manila Observatory. They were pioneers and explorers in Mindanao. They were catechists and pastors. They were fantastic teachers and exacting administrators. They were social scientists like Father Frank Lynch, historians like Father de la Costa, martyrs like Father Manuel Peypoch and Father Godofredo Alingal. They were dedicated scholars and energetic preachers. They were in Bukidnon and Ipil, Cebu and Iloilo, Tuguegarao and Vigan. They gave retreats, ministered to prisoners, organized farmers and laborers, composed liturgical music, built churches, wrote poems, worked among lepers, ran seminaries, directed plays. They were priests and brothers, missionaries – gifted, not just with talent, but more so with a sense that the world had to be conquered for God, that there was no aspect of human life that cannot be touched by the healing presence of the Almighty. There was a sense that so much good had to be done, and so little time to do it in. There was an urgency, a drive, a fire that could not be quenched. There was a sense that there was “no reality that was only profane,” that somehow, somewhere, the finger of God would always leave its print. This was the gift of the missionary, for which today, we give special thanks.
II. Now, to the second part – we look to today’s feast.
Today is the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, a fitting feast for the 150th anniversary of the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines. For it is in the Eucharist that the Jesuits and the Ateneo truly find spirit, strength, drive. It is not a coincidence that when Jesuits pronounce their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, it is done before the Body and Blood of the Lord. After the vows are pronounced, the bread is eaten and the blood is drank, and once again, a covenant is sealed, like the covenant of the First Reading.
On the one side of the covenant is the human person who says he will follow God, who says he will obey all his commandments, who says he will sacrifice everything for the sake of his faith. But often, he fails, and he breaks his covenant. Such are the Jesuits, such are Ateneans, indeed, such are all human beings, sinful and unfaithful. Yet, the covenant remains sealed for on the other side is God, who on his part, pledges his unconditional love, despite the weaknesses and imperfections and sinfulness of human beings.
Whenever we recount the history of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines, we usually go down a list of the many institutions built, the many works that have grown, the great successes and contributions made. But every now and then, it is good to also take note that in many places, we also came and went, and sometimes with a sense that the mission was not yet quite accomplished. In Mindanao, we gave up our missions in Surigao and Caraga and Ipil. We left Tuguegarao and San Pablo. We sent men to Indonesia and Korea and Thailand, and those experiences did not last too long. Ours is not just a history of building works, but also of moving on. Sometimes we leave when the mission is done, but other times, we leave for other reasons, and there is a feeling that many things are still left hanging. But when we go, we are also confident that something is left behind, something stays, the work is picked up again by others, many of whom are more gifted and bring what we began to far greater heights. And in the end, despite our shortcomings, the work of God gets done. This is because of a presence far stronger.
This is what Eucharist is, a distinct and special presence. It is the fulfillment of a promise of the Lord. I will be with you always to the end of the world. I will linger, long after all are gone.
And this is why the Body and Blood of the Lord are at the heart of any Christian work. When the Lord is received into our human bodies, we are healed, we are empowered, we are given new strength and new spirit. We are impelled by the Eucharist to partake in the work of salvation, and do whatever good is asked of us, even if its fruits are not seen. And as good is accomplished, and community is built, the Church is made stronger, as men and women who are filled with the Lord create a community of the good.
This, then, is what we can offer a broken world, we who continue to look to the Body and Blood of the Lord, and receive him into our hearts. As we move towards the frightening future, in a Philippines that continues to be pained by poverty and inequality and injustice, where Filipinos are left with little choice but to leave the country for lack of a more stable future at home, where we remain bothered by a politics that is so mired in and stained by corruption, where the challenges of a new secularism and materialism have led to new forms of atheism, new philosophies that reject or undermine the transcendent, for whom God has disappeared into the mists – to such a world, we should offer new missionaries, like the missionaries of old, new bearers of the fire, new heralds of the good news, willing to win the weary world for the Kingdom of God, even if at times we seem to fail. Still, we carry on, fired by the Eucharist. We need new missionaries, who are no longer just blackrobed as the Jesuits of old. We need new missionaries who can play with the images of modern media, who can sing the music of our young, who can speak the language of government and politics, who can tap comfortably on keyboards, who can remain unfazed by new technologies and new ideas and new trends. The new missionaries are many of you, our alumni and friends, who share our spirituality, who go forth in businesses and family life and parishes and NGOs and movements, for it is there that you must call special attention to the subtle yet penetrating presence of God.
Finally, we turn to Our Lady once more, our patroness, in her white and blue, she who was the very first to bear the living Eucharist in her body, when she carried the Lord in her womb, who knows what it means to be filled with His Spirit and His love. We turn to Our Lady, and ask her to intercede for us, and to give us the gift of being called to be her son’s missionaries once more, to the world of the 21st century, and in this world to become true apostles, bringing hope and healing and peace.
ATENEO DE ZAMBOANGA
José S. Arcilla, S. J.
3 July 2009
I understand there is a minor controversy on the foundation of Ateneo de Zamboanga. Actually, our calendar dates are the result of an error of the 5th century monk, Dennis the Small, whose calculations on the exact date of Easter led to a mistaken date that our Lord was born between A. D. 4 and 7.
To understand the story of Ateneo de Zamboanga, we must keep in mind two things: the Ignatian ideal, and geography.
The Ignatian ideal for schools for externs he expressed in his instructions to the Jesuits who founded the first Jesuit college in Messina in 1534, that they must teach “letras y doctrina cristiana.” The ideal has not changed, and was later formulated in the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, the constant guide for all Jesuit schools. Did Ateneo de Zamboang fulfill the Ignatian ideal?
Geography tells us that Zamboanga is at the southwestern tip of Mindanao. “Zamboanga,” or “sambo-ang,” is the stake to which a boat is tied when mooring it. Samboangan, then, means mooring place. But before the Castilians arrived, there is no certain information about the place, except some legends still to be analyzed.
The Lutaos, the “floating people,” were its original inhabitants. Some were slaves, other were free tribute-payers to their Magindanao lords, who controlled the Pulangi and enjoyed power over lower lords who, in turn, had vassals on both coasts of the Zamboanga peninsula until Dapitan.
Compared with stormy Surigao, Zamboanga was described as an “earthly paradise,” the source of the “heavenly fruit,” durian, extremely delicious despite its penetrating smell. A Jesuit wrote that one walking along the streets easily knows wher you can find the fruit. The climate was drier here than in Joló, where, in a Jesuit’s words, “heaven sells rain at a high price.” In January 1640, a destructive eruption destroyed two villages about 10 kilometers from Bwayan. It was so loud that people in Manila (actually only Intramuros) mistook it for an uprising in Cavite, while people in Cavite thought there was fighting in Manila. Volcanic ash hid the sun, leaving Zamboanga in total darkness, forcing people to use candles. Believing the world was coming to an end, they prepared to die. The world did not end, and as soon as they could, people shoveled off the thick ashes that had accumulated on their roofs.
In Sibugay, a Pampango soldier came face to face with an unusually huge white monkey. Because it refused to budge and was blocking his way, the soldier tried to frighten it away. But the animal picked up a stick, reared to its full height, and positioned itself to hurl the stick at the soldier. The two grappled together, but the monkey was much bigger, and the poor Pampango turned around to flee, closely pursued by the animal until the camp. Exhausted, out of breath, and scared out of his wits, the soldier fell sick and died three days later.
The Jesuits brought Christianity first to northeast Mindanao in 1595, but lack of men forced them to discontinue their ministry. The Recollects followed them a few years later. From the start, the Manila colonial government was faced with stubborn Muslim resistance, and they wanted to garrison Magindanao. But a Jesuit missionary suggested that Zamboanga was a better choice because of its strategic position. A naval post at the tip of the peninsula could pick off not only the Sulu vintas flying north before the seasonal habagat, but also the Magindanao fleets rounding Basilan Island. In this way, the colonial government hoped to clear the sea.
In 1634, Fort San José (better known as “Del Pilar”) was inaugurated. Workers had come from various Philippine provinces and in due time their distinct dialects merged with Castilian and became Chabacano, the first hybrid idiom in the world.
By 1655, there were two Jesuit mission centers in Dapitan and Zamboanga. We have no time to detail their history, but we may mention that some Jesuits died for the faith.
One of them was a 36-year old Italian Jesuit, Francesco Palliola, assigned to Ponot. In 1648, a Christian apostate snuffed out his life out of hatred, because he insisted on Mass attendance, in their words, “Always Mass, always Mass.”
Fr. Juan del Campo was a 30-year old from Spain, who had been assigned to Siocon. He had converted some of the Subanen chiefs in the mountains, and persuaded them to dismiss their extra wives and live in permanent communities in the lowlands. But the future lay in the young, and he took in some promising boys from Christian families in Zamboanga to raise them as Christians. Ponot was not too far, where some renegade Christians had poisoned the minds of the Siocon elders. Fr. del Campo, they said, was gathering the boys to enslave them. By coincidence, the Manila government needed men for the polo or obligatory public service and fight against Sumuroy in Samar. In 1650, Imutum led his stalwarts who pounced on the Jesuit building a church in Siocon. A well aimed lance opened a deep gash, but the bleeding priest staggered to the river where the conspirators overtook him as he clambered aboard a patrol boat anchored there. They finished him off, as well as a Spanish corporal and five Pampanga troops with him.
Still the missions expanded, until in 1768, the Spanish Crown expelled the Jesuits from all his dominions. The people behind the move soon regretted their action, and petitions for their recall mounted in Rome. Reestablished all over the world in 1814, the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859, and two years later, they opened their first modern mission in Tamontaka, now part of Cotabato City.
In 1862, the barrio La Malama became the civil town of Tetuán, and two Jesuits left Tamontaka to start the new parish of St. Ignatius. Tetuán had no convento, and Don Balbino Natividad offered his house as the priests’ temporary residence. In one month, the people enthusiastically finished a bamboo and nipa shed and, on New Year of 1863, the Holy Eucharist was celebrated there for the first time.
The new parish was soon buzzing with life. Sermons and, catechetical classes followed a regular schedule, Sunday morning Mass was at 8:00 o’clock, and at 5:30 in the afternoon, the bell rang again for the common recitation of the Rosary, followed by another hour of catechism. The day ended with common prayers and devotions. On weekdays, Mass was offered at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, and the common Rosary was recited after the Angelus at 6:00 o’clock in the evening.
The results were soon apparent. Public morality improved, illicit unions decreased, and more people received the sacraments. As the mission diary records, the. first Lent after the Jesuits arrived, there were mission sermons on Sundays, catechetical lessons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and morning and afternoon daily in the sacristy, examination on the Catechism.
In 1880, a Jesuit wrote from Zamboanga that, if the reception of the sacraments was a “safe index” to public morality, Zamboanga would “not fare too badly. On important feasts, between 150 and 200 went to sacramental confession and received Holy Communion. On All Souls’ Day, about 300, “not only women . .. but also a good number of men.” Two years later in August, a Spanish warship from Joló arrived with troops stricken with cholera. Some recovered, but they had brought a dreaded plague, which, for four months devastated Zamboanga, Tetuán, Mercedes, Ayala, and other places nearby.
In Zamboanga alone, there were days when more than 100 died, and people buried as many as 170. A good number, a missionary wrote, “appeared before God without the help of religion.” At first, the priests stayed up night and day to help the plague-stricken, but exhausted, they, too, were forced to take some rest. People volunteered their help, but fatigued, they collapsed exhausted and many in turn died.
The plague soon ended, and Zamboanga became the most important town in Mindanao. In 1860, the island was divided into six administrative districts under a politico-military Governor. Initially, Cotabato was the seat of the Mindanao government, but in time, Zamboanga expanded and became the capital of Mindanao.
The Bonifacio uprising in Manila in 1896 hardly affected Mindanao. When news of the uprising reached Cotabato, an old man from Zamboanga residing there became furious, calling the rebels ingrates and helpless people without hope.
The Jesuits had intended to remain at their posts, but political uncertainty forced the Jesuit Mission Superior in Manila to recall them. When peace returned, General J. C. Bates, American commander of Mindanao-Joló, forwarded to the Jesuit Superior the petitions from Zamboanga and other Mindanao towns to send the Jesuits back to the towns and missions they had left. The priests, Bates wrote, would guarantee the peace, especially since the Jesuits enjoyed good relations with the Filipinos and the Muslims, and perfectly understood their needs.
All this while there was no talk of opening schools. But by 1906, a new situation challenged the Jesuits. Public schools had opened all over, and volunteer American teachers, not all of them Catholc, doubled as well-financed Protestant proselytizers. Fr Antonio Arnalot wrote about the new problem he faced from the non-sectarian schools. They were, he reported, the cause of religious ignorance and indifference . . . even of contempt for religious issues.”
The people themselves saw the difference, while the Jesuits quickly felt the need to open schools in their parishes. And when they opened parochial schools, these practically emptied the public schools. While hardly 20 children remained in the public school at Ayala, 70 boys and girls were studying at the Catholic school there. A public school in Tumbamor (or Recodo near Ayala where the Muslims repaired their boats) was totally emptied. In Mercedes, the public school pupils transferred to two Catholic schools there, which counted more than 105 boys and girls. At Tetuán, 65 pupils were at the Catholic school two months after it had opened, while the public school had only 12 girls under a Filipino Protestant teacher.
The previous Spanish colonial government had promoted the work of the Church, but the American democratic government, with their tradition of separation of Church and State, was at least indifferent. The American Protestants were actively hostile to the Filipino Catholic priests, and probably because they were fewer numerically, the American Catholics in the Philippines hardly did anything. But against all odds, the Jesuits refused to stop. By 1914 in Ayala, they had reorganized the Hijas de María, which soon formed an Academia de Santa Cecilia to promote liturgical music.
Frank Carpenter, the governor of the newly formed Moro Province, was openly a Protestant and a Mason. But he was friendly to the Jesuits, and assured them of his support. With his official staff, he attended the solemn exequies for the Pope and for the Jesuit Superior General, and even asked permission from the Archbishop of Manila to allow some Muslim sultans and datus to attend the ceremonies. But his friendly attitude was not enough to counter the problem of the youth growing up indifferent to religion, and the Jesuits believed the solution lay in Catholic schools.
Only the public schools could issue the título oficial on completion of studies. In 1916, hoping they themselves would be able to grant this same academic certification, the Jesuits in Zamboanga thought about working to “register or incorporate” their school under the title “Ateneo de Zamboanga.” They also hoped the Jesuit Superior in Manila would assign at least two Jesuit teachers to help them. Then, they could grant primary and intermediate academic certificates, as the public schools. This was how the Ateneo de Zamboanga began.
That year, Bishop Michael J. O’Doherty of Zamboanga wrote to the Mission Superior, Fr. Francisco J. Tena, that he wanted to open a high school “like that of the Ateneo de Manila under the charge of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus.” Initially, there would be only seven elementary grades, and classes would be held at the convento. Financial support would come from a fourth of the parish revenue, donations from Cathlic associations and other sources, and an annual subsidy of P1,000. The diocese would be financially responsible for the school, but academic programs and school discipline would the exclusive concern o the Jesuits. If the Society agreed, the Bishop would grant the necessary license and the land for the building.
The Jesuits accepted the offer, the incorporation papers were drawn up, but there were no funds. Not long after Bishop O’Doherty was reassigned to Manila.
But his plan did not die. In 1928, a group of active Catholics in Zamboanga wrote to the newly named Jesuit Superior, Fr. James Carlin, about a “matter of vital importance, momentous and of utmost importance to the Catholics of this region, and more particularly to the Catholic youth.” Silliman Instittue, a “Protestant institute in the full sense of the word,” had just opened in Dumaguete, and, for lack of a better choice, Catholic families were forced to send their children there. It behooves us, the letter continued, “to counter-check the dangers to which the Catholic youth of Zamboanga is exposed.” At Silliman, the young Catholics, “impregnated with Protestantism,” later spread it around, while the Protestants themselves are “using their best to deviate the Catholic youth.”
Among the signers of the letter, significantly in English, were the leading personalities of the town: S. Mendoza, editor of Voz del Pueblo; José Vicente Mapa, Justice of the Peace; J. M. García, Manager of the local branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands; J. Arquiaga, lawyer and editor of El Fenix; P. S. Rodríguez, director of the Zamboanga General Hospital; J. S. Álvarez, and Pablo Lorenzo, lawyers and farmers. To a man, they recognized that education was of great service to society and formed its personality. They were convinced that a Catholic school in Zamboanga would preserve and transmit the traditional values civil society develops. And they were willing to pay the price.
The Ateneo would need a monthly budget of P155 for teachers’ salaries: 40 for a teacher of Spanish, 35 for a teacher of English, 10 for an assistant teacher.. Where would the money come from? The men’s section of the Acción Católica donated P15, its ladies’ section 10, the Jesuit Mission Superior another 10, a small amount from the yearly tuition fee of P4, the profits from benefit programs, and a share in the stole fees.
Apostolic reasons, then, were at the heart of the beginning of Ateneo de Zamboanga. Parochial schools had preceded it, but for the first time, the Jesuit Catalogus for 1918 lists the Jesuit Francisco X. Ágreda as a teacher at the elementary school of the “diocesan Ateneo de Zamboanga.” Then in 1925, Manuel Mª Sauras was listed as the director of the parochial school, and the following year, Fr. John J. Monahan, took his place. In 1930, a year after coming to the Zamboanga mission, Fr. Thomas Murray became the director of the parochial elementary and high schools. In 1932, he was writing of the “large and busy” parish of Zamboanga and its barrios, and a “full school – kindergarten, seven grades, and a four-year high school. In the middle of 1931, Fr. Henry L. Irwin relieved Fr. Murray as director of the Ateneo.
Classes were held on the third floor of an office building, formerly a movie house the Jesuit Bishop José Close had bought for P8,000. It had five rooms, and a large corridor was converted into a biology and a physics laboratory, a library, an office, and a convertible assembly hall. The elementary school continued at the convento. For games and recreation, the children had to be satisfied with a rather limited yard adjoining the convento.
At the start of each school day, the high school students assembled for prayers and a hymn in the Cathedral close by. On Sunday mornings, they assisted at Holy Mass as a group, and on First Fridays, all the students were obliged to receive Holy Communion. There was no dormitory in town, and many of the lay teachers were not necessarily models of religious behavior, and this proved to be a drag on the religious life of the school. A letter at this time described the school as “make-shift” with limited funds and inadequate personnel.
Suddenly, on visitation of the diocese, Bishop Clos died in Bohol. Fr. José Roma became the temporary diocesan administrator, and Fr. Murray decided to separate the parochial finances from those of the school. In 1932, the first school prospectus was published in Spanish and English.
Ateneo de Zamboanga, the cover announced, was the “school with ideals,” a Catholic school where knowledge was not enough, for it can be used also for evil. More
respect and affection, and achieve what appeared impossible. In other words, schools were an instrument of evangelization.
Frank Carpenter, appointed Governor of the newly created Moro Province, was openly a Protestant and a Mason. But he was friendly to the Jesuits, and, convinced that cooperation with them would promote his policies, he assured them of his support. With his official staff, he attended the solemn exsequies for the Pope and the Jesuit General, and had even asked the Archbishop of Manila’s permission to allow the sultans and datus to attend the ceremonies. But this friendly atmosphere he created was not enough to solve the problem of he youth growing up indifferent to religion, and the Jesuits found the answer through Catholic education and Catholic schools.
By 1916, the children who attended the parochial schools were forced to study at the public schools, which could grant the título oficial after completeion of studies. Hoping that they could themselves grant this academic degree, the Jesuits in Zamboanga worked to “register or incorporate, as we say here, the school under the title “Ateneo de Zamboanga.” They also hoped the Jesuit Superior in Manila would send them at least two teachers. If the plan succeeded, they believed they could grant primary and intermediate academic certificates, as in the public school. Thus was started the Ateneo de Zamboanga.
A school necessarily implies four things: a program of education, teachers, infrastructure (classrooms, books, etc.) and, money. When established, the “Ateneo de Zamboanga” needed a monthly budget of Ph P 155, just to pay the salaries of the teachers: Ph P 40 for a Spanish teacher, 35 for an English teacher, 30 for a Spanish-English teacher, 10 for an assistant teacher, and 40 for five RVM Sisters at Pilar College for 150 girls. Where did the money come from? Ph P 15 from the men’s section of Asociación Católica, 10 from the ladies’ section of the same Asociación Católica, 10 from the Jesuit Mission Superior, a small amount from the yearly tuition of Ph P 4, the net gain from benefit programs, and part of the stole fees.
These details are not unimportant. Before Rome encouraged Catholic lay action, the people of Zamboanga were already aware of their duty in order to carry out a community project. This is all the more impressive, since books, besides paper and pencil, were freely supplied in the public schools. But in 1932, financial problems stood in the way. Few studied at the Jesuit school, Fr. Irwin noted, and these were reluctant to pay “even the inkimu tuition fee.” And the students were not getting the advantages of a true Catholic school should offer, because of the type of teachers the Jesuit school could afford to employ. And yet college tuition fees totaled only P20 each semester, payable in three installments.
Lack of money frustrated the noblest ideals, and for financial reasons only a limited number could be accepted into the Jesuit school. In the time of St. Ignatius, generous friends funded the Jesuit schools, for example, the first Jesuit school for externs in Messina, Italy in 1534. In 1595, Esteban Rodríguez de Figueroa who died trying to conquer Magindanao, funded the first Jesuit school in the Philippines, the Colegio de San José. But there were no families in Zamboanga who made similar bequests, despite their concern for their children’s education. In 1935, the local newspaper, Antorcha, mentioned that some families wanted Spanish to continue at the Jesuit school, for it was the language in the town and at the Asamblea Nacional. And they preferred their boys to have less time for games, “con tal que estudien y a prendan el castellano.”
Despite its problems, the Ateneo expanded. In June 1938, a night school offered classes in commerce and pre-law, for which the government required a library of at least 500 books on commerce. The official Ateneo fortnightly, The Atenean, came off the press on 22 November 1941, announcing a Christmas literary contest, which one of the students Guillermo Macrohon, won. The paper also described the reception of candidates to the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary (today, Christian Life Communities), a list of the intramural basketball teams, and, of course, the Grade School and High School honor students. And there was a column, “XYZ,” with an unsigned article, which read in part;
If girls would only spend as much time in thinking as they spend
before the mirror . . . perhaps there would be less failures in the
exam, less embarrassing moment in class, and the teacher could
reasonably be proud of his students.
Under Fr. Eusebio G. Salvador, assigned to the Zamboanga mission in 1937,the pre-war Ateneo expanded, with an enrolment of 230 in the Grade School, and 376 in the High School.
Then war came. Ateneo was ruined. When peace returned, Bishop Luís del Rosario, S. J. asked the Jesuits to revive the Ateneo before the Protestants cornered the market. The Jesuits themselves were still recovering from the war, but in 1946, three Jesuits reopened the Ateneo in Zamboanga: Frs. Salvador, who continued as the Director of the school, Kyran Egan, and Cesar Maravilla. In April a year later, the first post-graduation exercises for 22 students from the High School and 26 from the Grade School. Two years later, in 1948, the first two scholastics were assigned to the Ateneo de Zamboanga: Lucio Codilla, to take care of the Sodality (CLC), and Eduardo Hontiveros, the Sanctuary Society and the Glee Club. Finally, in 1949, Rome separated Ateneo de Zamboanga was separated from the Zamboanga mission, and raised its Jesuit community into a “domus reliogosa,” with Fr. Alfred E. Paguia as its first Rector.
We now witness the rapid growth and expansion of Ateneo de Zamboanga. The Bishop approved co-education at the school, and in 1950, the Bishop expressed his wish for a high school and at least two more Jesuits for the Ateneo. There was need to counter the “bad influence” of certain city schools. But there were no Jesuits to implement plans, although in 1952, a college department opened with more than 160 students. Four years later, 20 graduated with Arts degree.
In 1953, a high school class issued it own mimeographed newsletter, Literary Digest, to encourage the students to discuss and discover “budding writers” for the school organ, The Beacon. It asked the English teachers to submit “top-flight themes every third week of each month” to publish in the Digest.
Meantime, what kind of students and graduates did the school produce? In 1948, a Protestant team, “Youth for Christ,” arrived. Its leader, Dr. Robert Cook from Chicago was advertised as the “Foremost Leader of Youth.” The group organized a rally on 29 February, a Friday night, at Plaza Pershing. About 12 select and properly trained Ateneo students stationed themselves at various vantage points in the crowd. Their questions embarrassed the leader, who failed to answer some of their more pointed questions on the bible. One of the unanswered questions was “How do you know the bible is God’s word?” Dr. Cook hastily gathered up his mike and hurried away in his car. The rally quickly melted, Dr. Cooke was never heard of again.
This year, a film from Hollywood, “The Outlaw,” was banded in Manila, but its sponsors took umbrage and asked for a second judgment by a different group of censors. It was approved provided certain sections of the film were excised. Then, in Zamboanga, an alert Ateneo student spotted an announcement that the film was coming soon. He alerted Fr. Cesar Maravilla, the Moderator of the CLC, who immediately went see Mr. Villacora, the proprietor of the theater
The latter, a good Catholic, had already made arrangements to show “The Outlaw” together with a second box-office film. If he cancelled the first, he stood to lose hundreds of pesos. To his credit, Mr. Villacorta agreed to take the financial loss. He could not afford to make enemies of the Catholics in Zamoanga. Two other movie houses agreed to show the condemned film.
Then, a local newspaper columnist wrote:
Who are these defenders of public morals who attempt to tell
the people what can see and what they cannot see on the silver
screen? The movie is a mere cowboy picture with Jane Russell
thrown in. People who have not seen the picture are condemning
it because of the lurid advertisements.
The students, led by their Ateneo mentors, reacted. They checked, and learned that in Manila the Board of Censors headed by the Solicitor General, not the Legion of Decency, had condemned the film. It was not, the Board declared:
. . . the travesty on marriage that the picture conveys, not the
portrayal of lurid scenes, but . . . the government and civic-
minded organizations are cooperating in the nation-wide for
the diminution, correction and possible elimination of the
current problem known as Juvenile Delinquency. The exhibition
of this picture will counteract and destroy totally this joint effort.
The wave of criminality . . . in this country . . . is a factor that
urges the Board to suppress motion pictures that may inflame
the imagination of the misguided youth and may be misinterpreted
as glorification of forces that seek to make law and its representatives
And the Ateneans mimeographed and distributed copies of the decision, making sure the local news reported received his copy. Magnanimously, the admitted never having seen the film himself, but he had written his article on the suggestion of some friends. Fr. Salvador, Superior of the Zamboanga Mssion District, organized a month’s boycott (18 April-18 May) of the theater which had threatened to show the banned film. Result? The file was not shown, a triumph of Catholic action led by the sodalists of the Ateneo.
The Ateneo alumni helped reconstruct the Ateneo, inaugurated with a mammoth parade around the city. Scheduled to start on1 September 1956, the Ateneans began soliciting funds as soon as the parade ended, asking P0.20 from everyone to help fill the ground that would serve as the foundation of the new building. The details of the reconstruction we omit, but we may mention an unexpected difficulty the Jesuits faced when they planned to build the students’ chapel.
By 1958,various projects to raise fund for the chapel had already been started. A group of career ladies, for example, staged a musical program at the mayor’s private lawn in Sta. María, charging P10 from each family that came. Benefit movies also helped raise more money.
Then, in November, the Jesuits received notice that the Claretian Fathers would not object to the new chapel if it was exclusively for the Ateneo students. Building the school chapel would prejudice the interests of the Cathedral parish, for which a fund drive to renovate that façade had already been started. And the Archbishop, it was pointed out had not given any permission for the Ateneo project since he had never been informed about it.
The surprised Jesuits answered that, actually in several previous conversations with them, the Claretians had not objected in any way to the chapel. It was not meant to be a parish and, although with no faculties to administer the sacraments of marriage or baptism, it was hoped rather to help the Cathedral parish. Besides, no one could ban anyone from worshipping anywhere he wanted. The Ateneo chapel fund drive for only to reach P6,000 could not affect the Claretians’ campaign.
A students’ chapel for the Ateneo was justifiable, the Claretians admitted, but it would not do if it became the habitual and ordinary center for religious service. And it would be inconvenient to allow non-Ateneans to fulfill their Sunday obligations there, for the better educated in Zamboanga who could be the best parish helpers, would soon become “stranger” to the cathedral parish.
When it was brought to his attention, Archbishop del Rosario asked the Jesuits to sign a waiver to all their rights. To make sure they acted properly, the latter consulted the canonists.
The faithful, the latter answered, had the right to go and worship in any canonically erected public or semi-public oratory, although owners of a semi-public oratory could at discretion ban certain people from it. Furthermore, exempt religious Orders, like the Society of Jesus, had the right to erect a church or public oratory without the local Ordinary’s license, although its location needed his approval and license. In the Philippines, not only did the Jesuit Provincial Superior enjoy full authority to erect a semi-public oratory, but also all the Jesuit school chapels were semi-public oratories and did not need the Ordinary’s license. No one could ban attendance at any Jesuit semi-public oratories, and no license was needed for a fund drive to build one. Otherwise, it would violate the vow of poverty of members of the mendicant Orders, like the Jesuits.
On the other hand, a canonist wrote that it was “the obligation of priests, especially of parish priests, to look for means so that the faithful cold fulfill their Sunday obligation,” an opinion a Claretian canonist also expressed. The Jesuits, then, in Zamboanga could legally and with full a clear conscience continue their fund campaign and build a school chapel.
Finally, on 28 October 1961, in the presence of a large number of guests and friends, Archbishop de Rosario solemnly blessed the Ateneo students’ Chapel of the Sacred Heart. The dream, first envisioned by Fr. Paul Hugendobler, S. J., and realized in stone and concrete by Fr. Manuel Regalado, was turned into a reality through the united efforts of the Ateneo students, faculty, alumni, friends, and benefactors. Part of the drive for funds was a contest to sell tiles for the chapel, a contest won by Cesar Ledesma, a Grade Six pupil, who project, “”Buy-
And-Sell-A-Tile-for-the Chapel,” earned P500.
.Geradro Madrazo, Jr., editor-in-chief of the Ateneo students’ organ, The Beacon, wrote perhaps the best description of the new chapel:
The new chapel is now finished, a fitting home for Christ the King
. . . built by all the Ateneans, not simply supplying material things
-- but homage and praise. It takes only a few minutes to visit Him,
but what peace and consolation we can derive from that short visit,
and what great blessing He will impart to us.
Another wrote in the same editorial page:
. . . the ultimate aim of the Ateneo is to save your immortal souls.
If one comes to the Ateneo only for the academic subjects . . .
without having learned what it means to be an exemplary
Catholic and without that determination to try to be that kind
of Catholic, you have wasted your time and ours. Remember
that the Philippines is the only Catholic nation in the Orient,
and can only be as Catholic as the Filipinos who comprise it.
As we asked earlier, has the Ateneo followed the Ignatian ideal? At the end of the Vietnam War in 1954, millions migrated to live in the non-coummunist South Vietnam. But they had literally nothing, not even relatives who could have helped them start a new life. Shocked by what he saw, Oscar Arellano, president of the Philippine Jaycees, hoped to do something to help them. Earlier he had already seen in Zamboanga a program called “Help-the-Barrio” Mayor Cesar Climaco of Zamboanga and an Ateneo alumnus had initiated for the poor. Volunteers went to the barrios, and while their children played with the local barrio children, their parents discussed means to improve their living, earn a livelihood, better health habits, etc. When he saw the conditions in South Vietnam, Arellano already knew what to do. He started the well-known “Operation Brotherhood,” which sent thousands of Filipino physicians, nurses, and other volunteer helpers to humanize life in South Vietnam. It is not too far fetched to say that the seed of that work of Christian charity and concern for one’s neighbor came from Ateneo de Zamboanga.
In 1986, the Ateneo awarded diplomas to more than 700 graduates of the three departments of the school. The college valedictorian was Jane Bacar, only the second graduate in the school’s history to receive the highest academic honors, summa cum laude. The commencement speaker began by admitting he was not an Ateneo alumnus, but
. . . I am mighty proud to tell this audience that Ateneans formed
the front line in the past Aquino revolution. Those brave Ateneans
forced the formidable tanks and soldiers of Marcos equipped with
the most modern firearms to turn around without firing a single
shot. The courage and bravery of those Ateneans was the beginning of that triumphant revolution now called the “people power.”
As if it was the thing to do, those Ateneans, not just from Manila, but also from all over the country, who had braved the guns of Marcos, had externalized the Ignatian ideals.
Ateneo de Zamboanga had its share of successes and admirable exploits. Collegiate activities – spots, drama, elocution contest, music – have brought out the best in its students. For seven successive years, its nursing graduates recorded a perfect passing rate in the government exams. Vocations to the religious life have not been wanting. This is as it ought to be. St. Ignatius wanted only the best, and the Jesuits should strive only for the best of their students.
In 1987, Fr. Pedro Arrupe described his dream of what a Jesuit school ought to do, to form “men for others.” Faced with the rapid changes world wide, Jesuit education should form teachers and students deeply concerned with the serious issues of our day. Schools can never be ivory towers, splendid to look at, but isolated and elevated about the real world. Jesuit education should develop a fine sensitivity to the possible effects a school can have on the life of the larger community in which it tries to fulfill its mission. That is why he warned that we must never be “tied down by structures which become real straight jackets, [but] remain flexible and able to changer to meet the pressing human problems and, specifically, to study the dominant ideas that determine the march of history.” His words are famous:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-
others; men and women who will live not for themselves but
for God and His Christ – for the God-man who life and died for
all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of
love of God which does not include love for the least of their
neighbor; men and women completely convinced that the love
of God which does not issue in justice for man and women is a
Mindanao as Jesuit Frontier: Lessons from History
in celebration of
The 150th Anniversary of the Return of the Jesuits to the Philippines
University Convocation, Xavier University,
Cagayan de Oro
4 September 2009
Three Preliminary Points
There are three preliminary points before I go to the main topic of my talk this afternoon.
1) First, I present the following considerations in the spirit of “tantum quantum,” i.e., insofar as you find this talk helpful in understanding what you are all about as members of the academic community of Xavier University looking to the future. I cannot satisfy all the expectations of all the people gathered here this afternoon, given the limited time we have. Nevertheless, I hope that you may be able to learn a thing or two about the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines and their apostolic work, particularly here in Mindanao, and see what relevance this has for you and the whole academic community of Xavier University.
2) Second, before we begin, let us ask ourselves: what grace do we ask for on the occasion of this university convocation, a convocation we are holding while we continue to celebrate 150 years of the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines? I suggest that we be conscious of the “id quod volo” (the grace to be asked for) of the Contemplatio ad amorem of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Let us “beg the Lord to give us an intimate knowledge of the many gifts received so that, filled with gratitude for all, we may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.”
3) Third and final preliminary point: I would like to dedicate this talk to Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J., Mindanawon par excellence, he who loved this “great island,” Mindanao, he who loved Xavier University to which he dedicated the most fruitful years of his life. He was graciously present at the defense of my doctoral dissertation at the Gregorian University in 2001 and even shared a few thoughts on Jesuit history in the Philippines with the people gathered in that aula. He was always kind and generous with his time, sending me essays that he had written for Kinaadman and other publications. As Series Editor of the Mindanao Studies section of the Ateneo de Manila University Press, I welcomed Fr. Bernad’s book, The Great Island: Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao, which came out in 2004, as the first book published in that series. I thought it was fitting for his book to inaugurate this series which wants to promote a “Mindanao consciousness” among the peoples of this great island, a consciousness “that graciously respects and creatively expresses the irreducible richness and interconnected particularities of Mindanao and its inhabitants.” We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Fr. Miguel Bernad for promoting that consciousness in his life and published works. I believe that this is a legacy Fr. Bernad has left to Xavier University, one that is particularly acute and appropriate given the circumstances of our great island, Mindanao, and the new and challenging frontiers that beckon to us from all directions, especially in the field of basic and higher education.
The 150th Anniversary of the Return of the Jesuits to the Philippines
1. The Function of Story Telling
What do I propose to do at this university convocation? It is rather simple: I will be telling stories, describing in brief narrative form what Jesuits were doing in the past and drawing lessons from these stories for us today. In doing this, I hope to encourage you to tell each other stories as well, stories of the Jesuits you have known, stories about how you and these Jesuits have collaborated in making Xavier University what it is today, and to draw the appropriate lessons from them for the present and for the future. But why should we be sharing stories with each other? What is the significance of engaging in this narrative activity?
In his study of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy, Richard Kearney helpfully outlines four central tasks of “narrative.”
1) First, he says, we tell stories in order “to realize our debt to the historical past.”
2) Second, Kearney notes that we tell stories in order “to respect the rival claims of memory and forgetfulness.”
3) Third, we tell stories in order “to cultivate a notion of self-identity.”
4) And fourth, we tell stories in order “to persuade and evaluate action.” Implicit in this fourth task, I submit, is a profound engagement with the present and a proleptic concern for the future.
What then are the stories we tell each other as Jesuits and lay partners? What is the context of our story-telling today? I am sure the stories we tell each other are stories that honor the memory of our dead, that are crucial to our understanding of who we are, that enable us to negotiate the rival claims of what needs to be remembered and what needs to be forgotten, and that allow us to gauge in some way how far we have come in our apostolic works and institutions and how far we still need to go, given the shifting frontiers of our changing times. We are perhaps not conscious that these are in fact what we are doing when we engage in story-telling. But the celebration of an anniversary such as the one we have in the return of the Jesuits to these islands 150 years ago very often awakens us to the significance of a basic human need and activity.
2. The Context: General Congregation 35
Not too long ago, Jesuits met in what we have come to know as GC 35. Their primary goal was to elect a new Superior General for the Society of Jesus. That accomplished, they also discussed various crucial concerns that had to do with Jesuit life and mission. GC 35 in fact sets the context for the life and mission of the worldwide Society of Jesus; in doing so, the GC 35 calls us Jesuits, and by extension, you, our lay collaborators, to pay attention to three things:
1) First, we Jesuits need to rediscover once again our charism as an apostolic body of men, i.e., to rekindle in ourselves the Ignatian fire that kindles other fires (that fire is nothing else but the Spirit of Jesus Christ). Jesuits and you, our Ignatian lay collaborators, together need to rekindle in our hearts, again and again and again, this Ignatian fire that kindles other fires.
2) Second, we Jesuits and, in collaboration, you our lay partners need to discover the new challenges to our mission today; we need to hear once again that call that sends us to the new and challenging frontiers of Church and World.
3) Third, we Jesuits need to renew between and among ourselves, and between us and you, our lay partners, deep bonds of friendship.
Fire, Frontier and Friendship: these are the catchwords of GC 35.
It is within the context of this call to rekindle in ourselves that Ignatian fire that enkindles other fires, to discern the new frontiers of our time and to respond to them, and to strengthen and deepen our bonds of friendship, this triple call set for us by the last general congregation, that we are invited to tell our Ignatian stories as Jesuits and lay collaborators, to tell each other our Ignatian story.
Given our limited time, I would like to focus my sharing with you this afternoon on the theme of Frontiers.
“Frontiers” is a beautiful word. It connotes at least three things for me. First, it connotes a world that is familiar to us, comforting, affirming, and nurturing. It is our everyday world, the world of family, friends, colleagues, of our community here at Xavier University as well. Second, it also connotes something that lies beyond that familiar world, something new, something exciting, but also something frightening. Third, the boundary between this familiar world and that which lies beyond it is, precisely, what we know as the frontier. Between the known and unknown worlds lies a boundary, a limit; it is the frontier. This boundary, this limit may be seen as an imprisoning wall or as a liberating gateway. But however it is looked at, the frontier beckons by the very fact that it is there and invites those who are aware of its existence to cross over, to go beyond the familiar and to engage the new, the challenging, and the frightening space that awaits the intrepid adventurer...
Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, in his talk to the participants of a recently concluded congress on Jesuit Basic Education, quotes the Holy Father, Benedict XVI:
I think the key to understanding the word “Frontiers” is to return to what the
Holy Father said when he addressed us Jesuits during the recent 35th General
Congregation. Many of you are very familiar with this wonderful speech, when Pope Benedict XVI said to us and, by extension, to all of you: “The Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.” (Allocution, No. 2) “The geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach”: these places are our “frontiers.”
I do not pretend to know what these “new frontiers” are for you at Xavier University here and now. A profound and comprehensive discernment is obviously required of those who form the body of stakeholders of this university. Fr. General spoke of the new frontiers of depth and universality to which Jesuits and their lay partners are called; these new frontiers after all are rooted in God who is our ultimate frontier. The Ignatian Exercises and Ignatian spirituality insist on this: God, creator and redeemer, our ultimate frontier, our deepest and most universal frontier, is revealed to us in and calls to us from the new frontiers that beckon to us in this world. But I imagine that in speaking of “frontiers” it is helpful to attend to the following. First, Xavier University as a Filipino, Catholic, and Jesuit educational institution located in Mindanao must define what the “frontiers” are for itself. Second, Xavier University must ask itself what it needs to do in order to help administration, faculty, students and the communities that it serves meet the challenges posed by these new frontiers.
In recognizing and accepting the context set for us by GC 35, I would like to propose therefore the following points drawn from the stories of our past 150 years, for you to recall and to pray over, because after all the notion of “frontier” is an analogous and shifting one and there are lessons to be learned from how Jesuits and their lay partners engaged the frontiers of the past. I have had to limit myself of course to several stories, but hopefully they are stories that tell us the kinds of frontiers that our predecessors of happy memory struggled to engage, with greater or lesser success, given their lights and shadows. We no longer live in that past; but if today we are able to see farther and better than our ancestors did, it is because we stand on their shoulders, the shoulders of the men and women of the past for whom our today was their frontier...
There are two questions that I would like to pose with regard to the theme of “frontiers.”
1) First, in searching the historical past, where can we find some of the “frontiers” indicated to us, particularly those frontiers as collocated here in this “great island” of Mindanao?
2) Second, what lessons can we learn from history that would indicate to us the disposition for and requirements of mission to and service at the frontiers?
Let me insert at this point a summary of the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines from 1859 to the present.
3. Summary of the history of the Jesuits in the Philippines, 1859 to the present.
The Jesuits, who first arrived in these islands in 1581, were expelled from the Philippines in 1768. They would return in 1859 to a country that was quite different in many ways from the one that they had left 91 years before.
On 7 August 1814, Pope Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus to existence in the Universal Church. Close to a year after, the King of Spain, Fernando VII, would authorize the restoration of the Jesuits in Spain; he would allow them re-entry into Spain’s overseas territories several months after.
In 1824 and then again in 1827, requests were made for the return of the Jesuits to the Philippines. In October 1832, the Bishop of Cebu, Santos Gomez Marañon, wrote a letter to the Spanish monarch, asking that Jesuits be sent to work in his huge diocese, which then included the whole island of Mindanao. The aim was “to expand and revitalize missionary work in Mindanao, especially among the pagan tribes.”
After another Jesuit expulsion and restoration, Queen Isabel II formally re-established the Society of Jesus in the Philippines.
And so it happened that, on 4 February 1859, ten Jesuits from the Aragonese, Basque and Catalan regions of the then still one Province of Spain and under the leadership of Fr. José Fernandez Cuevas left Cadiz for the Philippines on board the “Luisita”. On the night of 13 June 1859, they dropped anchor off the city of Manila and would set foot on Philippine soil once again the following day.
[Insert at this point a ppt presentation on Jesuit history from 1859 to the present.]
I. Frontiers: Rizal and the Jesuits in Dapitan (1892-1896)
To go back now to the first of our two questions: what were some of the frontiers that our Jesuit and lay forebears had to contend with, particularly here in Mindanao?
Mindanao: that was the primary missionary frontier that the Jesuits desired to understand and to engage in their return to the Philippines. And Mindanao was a frontier both geographically and spiritually. Gradually but surely spreading themselves throughout the major districts of Mindanao, the Jesuits first of all ministered to the so-called “old Christians,” descendants of Boholanos, Cebuanos, Ilongos, and others who had settled in the coastal areas of the island in an earlier time, particularly in the north. The frontier however was in the more interior places and highlands, along rivers and in valleys ringed by heavily forested mountains and hills. The Jesuits would seek to evangelize the Tirurays, Manobos, Mandayas, Tagacaolos, Mamanuas, Bagobos, Subanons, and Bukidnons... They also tried to bring the sea-faring peoples of Basilan and the Sulu archipelago into the faith: Samals, Yacans and even the Taosugs. The Jesuits, taking over almost all of the existing missions run by the Recollects by the end of the 19th century, characterized their work in the great island as apostolic, because it was work for the Church, patriotic, because it was work for Spain, and civilizing, because it was work for the people. Of this work much has been written.
What I would like to highlight however is something that perhaps might surprise even Jesuits. In an essay entitled “Rizal in Dapitan” that Fr. Bernad wrote for his book The Great Island: Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao, he starts out by distinguishing between the private and public life of Jose Rizal during his time of exile in Dapitan, from 1892 to 1896. He counts as belonging to the private story of Rizal such episodes as his relationship with Josephine Bracken and his correspondence with Fr. Pau Pastells regarding his faith life. He then enumerates five areas where Rizal’s story is clearly a public affair, and it is this area that should interest us at this point. These are:
1) the projects undertaken by Rizal with Father Francisco Paula de Sanchez in Dapitan;
2) Rizal’s innovative approach to education in the school for boys he set up;
3) Rizal’s practice of his medical and surgical profession;
4) Rizal’s social consciousness evident in his commercial ventures;
5) Rizal’s efforts toward relocating the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from Calamba to Mindanao.
If we look closely at these 5 points, do we not see Rizal here engaging the frontiers of human and social life as he saw them in Mindanao by his activities, activities which, if you ask me, are somehow relevant to what Xavier University has been all about in all the years of its existence? Allow me to elaborate a bit on these five frontiers by using Fr. Bernad’s narrative:
1) First: the projects Rizal and his Jesuit friend Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez collaborated on in Dapitan were scientific, archaeological, historical, linguistic.
... It must have been...with great joy for Jose Rizal, newly arrived as an exile in a lonely place like Dapitan, to welcome upon his arrival in Mindanao the same Father Sanchez who had helped form him in his youth.
Rizal’s joy must have been all the greater when he found that Father Sanchez had brought along scientific equipment. Among them was a surveyor’s transit, which was to prove useful in their project to construct large relief maps in the town plaza. An aneroid barometer...proved useful for measuring the altitude of a hill. An apparatus for testing the potability of the water was also part of Father Sanchez’s luggage, while another instrument that Sanchez brought, a compass with an accompanying notation on the degree of divergence from the true North, later figured in Rizal’s investigation and trial in Fort Santiago.
One of the projects of Rizal and Sanchez was an archaeological excavation on a hill named Linamon, just south of Dapitan. It had been the site of a native settlement. ... From their aneroid barometer, Rizal and Sanchez had calculated the hilltop to be 324 meters above sea level.
A shallow exaction yielded a treasure, namely, a rough and primitive gold ring with a pea-sized ruby. Thus encouraged, they dug some more and found a tin medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Digging even deeper they found a real treasure trove for archaeologists: broken earthen jars, one of them adorned with the figure of a dragon swallowing the sun (probably intended to represent a solar eclipse). There were also various types of Chinese pottery and a Japanese celadon. After preparing an inventory and classifying the ceramics, Rizal sent the entire find to the Ateneo Museum of Natural History.
During their afternoon walks, Father Sanchez and Rizal went to the seashore and collected four hundred different kinds of shells that they sent to Manila for classification by a conchologist. These shells were later given to the Ateneo to augment its shell collection, which had so entranced the young Rizal as a student of natural history.
The very first project of Rizal and Sanchez together, though, involved looking up the history of Dapitan...
Their interest in local history later led Rizal and Father Sanchez to undertake a comparative study of the local language (Cebuano Visayan) and Tagalog... In (a notebook) Rizal had written his brief but brilliant treatise on the Tagalog language. On the first page was the title and dedication that read:
sobre la lengua tagala
al P. Francisco de P. Sanchez
por su antiguo discipulo
en el dia de su Santo
2 de Abril de 1893
Dapitan, Isla de Mindanao
Fr. Bernad comments that this dedication was “a delicate touch, a sign of affection” on the part of Rizal for his old Ateneo teacher, mentor, and friend.
Perhaps the most ambitious project undertaken by Rizal and Sanchez was the construction of a relief map in the plaza at the center of the town of Dapitan. Bernad quotes Fr. Sanchez’s account of the plan and its construction. Though not completed, the plaza relief map was supposed to show Mindanao, Luzon and six of the largest islands in the Philippines (presumably those of the Visayas and perhaps including that of Palawan). Geography here is translated into stone and steel cartography.
I quote this story from the pen of Fr. Bernad because, in its brevity, we see various things: geography, topography, natural history, cartography, archaeology, human history, even linguistics... These projects of Rizal and Sanchez, do they not tell us of Mindanao itself as a frontier of knowledge, of human, social and natural sciences, of disciplined research and investigation? When I was a regent here more than 20 years ago, there were names that stood out in the studies they made on Mindanao: Bernad of course, Demetrio, the Burtons, Madigan, McKeough, Costello, Ledesma, etc. The projects point to Mindanao as a frontier of study.
I dare say that today Mindanao continues to be a frontier of disciplined research in the natural, human and social sciences and their technologies. The problems that beset this great island, particularly those that have brought on the shedding of blood and the impoverishment of many due to social, political, economic, religious, ethnic, cultural differences and to the untrammeled exploitation of its natural resources demand even more intensive and comprehensive studies of Mindanao considered not just in its parts but as an integral whole. Xavier University, more than any other university in this great island, is perhaps in an ideal position to do this. Certainly, the three Ateneos on the island of Mindanao, forming the triple axis of an institutional triangle and closely collaborating with each other, are definitely in the best position to do this.
2) Second: Rizal’s innovative approach to education in the school for boys he set up.
This school has its origin in the “academy on education and fine arts” that Rizal and Father Sanchez conducted on the ground floor of the parish convento after Sunday mass. They wanted to do something for the young people of Dapitan, and so they decided to run what today we would call “seminars” and “workshops” in such areas as drawing, mathematics and geography. After the departure of Fr. Sanchez from Dapitan, Rizal decided to transform the “academy” into a regular school. Again, Fr. Bernad tells us the story:
His was an unusual school in several respects: in its curriculum, in its objectives. And it was also unusual in the sense that the students paid for their board and lodging, as well as for their tuition, not in cash, but with work. They all lived and worked on the farm thereby learning agronomy while also learning to support themselves instead of depending on their parents for their needs.
The school was small, with no more than sixteen boys, who were the sons of some of the principal families of the town. ... The “principal families” of Dapitan were, however, not wealthy, for in another letter to Blumentritt Rizal said, “These are poor but good boys whose parents cannot afford to buy books.” Apart from Rizal’s belief in the value of work, there was a more practical reason for his starting his school: he wanted to give the boys “some work to do.”
From his letters we have a list of the academic subjects taught in his school. Contrary to his own classical training, he did not teach the ancient classics (Latin and Greek). Instead, he taught Spanish and English, geometry and algebra (“up to the first degree of equations”), and geography. It is noteworthy that in the 1890s – before anyone had any inkling that the Philippines would become an American colony – Rizal was already teaching English in Dapitan. He explained the reason: “Por si acaso viajan” – in case they should travel.
In addition to the academic curriculum, his students learned by working on the farm. As the streamlet that ran through the property was too sluggish in the dry season to provide enough water all year round, Rizal and his students constructed a dam with walls of lime, clay, and stone (the ingredients of modern cement). Its base was 2 meters wide so the water dammed up to create a deep pool. When Rizal wrote to Blumentritt in March 1895, the water was 3 meters (9 feet) deep.
The construction of this irrigation dam was done by fourteen- and fifteen-year-old students led by a twenty-year-old foreman. Their biggest project ever, it entailed hard work, but they seemed to enjoy it. As Rizal said, “lo han hecho jugando jugando” (they did it as if they were merely playing).
And so that his students would not get bored with their studies and their work, Rizal even composed a school hymn for them!
Los problemas de ciencias exactas,
de la patria la historia estudiamos,
tres y cuatro lenguas hablamos
acordando la fe y la razón.
Nuestros brazos manejan a turno
el cuchillo, la pluma, la azada,
la piqueta, el fusil y la espada
compañeros de fuerte varón.
We study the problems of the exact sciences,
and the history of our country.
We speak three or four languages,
reconciling Faith and Reason.
With our hands (arms) we handle in turn
the knife, the pen, the spade,
the pickaxe, the gun, the sword –
companions of the brave man.
These lines reveal to us, according to Fr. Bernad, Rizal’s idea of the educated person. They reveal to us in fact Rizal himself. And they reveal to us as well some of his ideas on education.
I myself have questions about the gun and the sword, but in everything else, what Rizal here reveals to us as components of education seem to resonate with some of the programs of a Jesuit university like Xavier. The accent on agriculture and engineering for example... Has not the reputation for excellence of Xavier University been built as well on these twin pillars? There has always been that desire to translate the sciences into practical and effective strategies that produce food and build roads, bridges, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure. Abstract knowledge must issue in programs, technologies and machines. And all because Jesuits like Masterson and their lay collaborators have seen them as necessary for engaging the frontier that was Mindanao...
3) Third: Rizal’s practice of his medical and surgical profession.
In Rizal’s time, health was a major issue and, in many areas far from the major cities of Manila and Cebu, people did not have the proper medical care in easy reach. In Fr. Bernad’s essay, we read:
From 1894 until Rizal left Dapitan a year and a half later, patients came not only from the vicinity, but also from the Visayas – Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros, Panay. In one well-known case, a patient came from Hong Kong.
Because patients were generally accompanied by relatives, Rizal allowed them to construct temporary shelters on (his) property. To his brother-in-law he said: “Tengo muchisimos enfermos que vienen de diferentes pueblos, y ahora mis terrenos están sembrados de casitas-hospitales” (I have very many patients who come from various towns, and now my property is sprouting with hospital huts).
It was known that he was an eye specialist, and undoubtedly many of those who came from distant places had eye ailments. (Among Rizal’s extant papers are instructions for a blind man in Cebu.) Nevertheless, many, or, perhaps, most of the patients had other ailments. Rizal had to become a general practitioner.
...Rizal was more successful in more ways than one. Not only did his clinic attract patients from many places, but there was also the fact that he had to practice medicine and perform surgical operations in what might be called “primitive conditions,” without the benefit of hospital facilities and without the aid of a trained nurse.
Possibly, it is...no exaggeration to say that for at least three and a half years, or from 1893 to 1896, Mindanao, particularly Dapitan, became the most famous medical center of the entire Philippine archipelago.
Does Fr. Bernad exaggerate? I do not think so. But it is interesting to note that medicine and public health care were already frontier issues in Rizal’s time in Mindanao. They remain frontier issues in Mindanao even today. It is no secret that Xavier University recognizes this, and not just because the world demand for medical and health care personnel shows no sign of a significant decline but because right here and right now the practice of medicine and public health care remains a vital but unmet need of our people, particularly those in this great island of Mindanao...
4) Fourth: Rizal’s social consciousness evident in his commercial ventures.
That Rizal was a businessman when he was in Dapitan is not a very well known fact about the national hero. That he was a businessman with a social conscience is perhaps even less well-known. Bernad writes:
…Rizal was a businessman, although there was a social angle to his being one. While he was in Hong Kong, Rizal and Jose Ma. Basa had discussed the idea of a Liga Filipina, which Rizal promoted during his two weeks in Manila prior to his incarceration in Fort Santiago. The group’s purpose was to promote self-help and economic progress, the very same ideas Rizal propagated in Dapitan…by actually engaging in business himself. He was concerned that many of the townspeople were poor and that those who were farmers were being exploited by…middlemen who got most of the profits from farm products. Hence, Rizal, for his part, engaged in business to make a modest profit for himself, and also (as he told a brother-in-law) “to help them (the townspeople) a little.”
He had two business ventures, both of them partnerships. One entailed buying abaca and shipping it to Manila, in effect competing with…middlemen. The other venture consisted of fishing and fish marketing, for which the partners bought several boats.
This image of Rizal as a socially-minded businessman, though unusual and perhaps even strange, is attractive and appealing to us today. Rizal was a humanist, but a humanist who was also a realist and a pragmatist: what was also important was helping others make a better life. And this meant paying attention to economic life, to business, to improving standards of living among the ordinary people of Dapitan.
Jesuit schools are known for their management, accounting and business courses. And Jesuit schools are now becoming better known for promoting the social responsibility of business enterprises. To make profit, yes, but to make profit not at the expense of making life more miserable for people; it is to make profit that actually promotes a better life for other people. Given the financial and economic crises of the past few years in the world, the new frontier of doing business that embodies social responsibility is fast becoming familiar because recognized as necessary if we are to survive in a globalizing world. Globalizing business must carry global social responsibility.
5) Fifth: Rizal’s efforts toward relocating the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from Calamba to Mindanao.
Finally, the last activity under our consideration in Fr. Bernad’s essay “Rizal in Dapitan” looks at his efforts to relocate the poor farmers and their families who were evicted from the friar hacienda of Calamba to Mindanao. In the story told by Fr. Bernad,
Rizal came to own three farms in Dapitan. In addition to his seaside homestead in Talisay, where he lived and had his clinic and school, he acquired another piece of property inland, with money he had won in a Manila lottery. The property was located away from the sea, but beside a river that reminded him of his hometown, Calamba. To his family he wrote:
I have bought here a piece of land near a river that is much like the river of Kalamba, the only difference being that the one here is wider and more full, and its waters much clearer. How it reminds me of Kalamba! My land here has 6,000 abaca plants. … The land is fertile. Besides abaca, there is enough land for planting two cavans of corn.
He invited his family to come and live there.
He also bought a third strip of land, much larger and farther from town.
To (this) tract of land…he gave the name “Nueva Kalamba,” or New Calamba. In it he proposed to relocate the poor tenants and families (estimated at three hundred persons) evicted from Calamba in Laguna province.
Bernad says that Rizal had earlier made a
trip to British North Borneo, now known as Sabah, to obtain permission from the British authorities to establish a Filipino ‘colony’ (i.e., settlement). The British authorities welcomed the idea. Sabah, after all, was then very sparsely populated so that there was much virgin land available for cultivation.
The Spanish authorities however would reject this idea. Rizal was then arrested and imprisoned in Fort Santiago and then exiled to Dapitan. It was this concern for the landless farmers of his hometown
that impelled him to buy the large tract of land near Dapitan, naming it “Nueva Kalamba.” Two leaders from Calamba who inspected the place found it suitable. In order not to attract too much unfavorable attention, however, it was decided that the Calamba refugees would not be brought to Dapitan all at once, but in small groups, a few families at a time.
Fr. Bernad then says:
The Revolution, Rizal’s imprisonment and execution and the confiscation of all his properties (by the Spanish colonial government) prevented what would have been a great humanitarian project.
What we find narrated in these pages has been part of the larger history of Mindanao. Mindanao is populated today not only by the Moro communities and the Lumads but by the descendants of migrants and settlers who poured into Mindanao by the thousands in the course of the 20th century. Rizal’s intention was to help the poor tenants who had no land of their own. Migration therefore had a particularly social justice dimension to it. In an excellent article written by Michael Costello, the author analyzes the demographics of Mindanao. In 1903, he notes that the population of Mindanao and Sulu was 670,833, with a density of 6.58 persons per square kilometer!!! (Let me just note that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the population of the country stood at around 8 million inhabitants; Metro Manila at 12 million today had a much larger population than the whole country.) In 1980, the population stood at 10,905,243 with a density of 106.92 persons per square kilometer. In 2000, an internet resource puts the population of Mindanao at 18,100,000 people. I can imagine that today the population of Mindanao has crossed the 20 million mark.
People and natural resources, including land…and the conflicts born out of their interaction, particularly through migration, settlement, displacement of indigenous peoples, etc: Mindanao as a “frontier land of promise” is now a land of bitter contestation and armed confrontation. What role does a university like Xavier need to play in order to move us on the road to peace and sustainable development and progress for all?
In all these five activities of Rizal’s public life in Dapitan, we find frontiers in Research, Education, Health, Business and Migration delineated for us here in Mindanao.
What then are the new frontiers that define Mindanao for us today? What do the men and women of Xavier University think the frontiers are that beckon to them not only here and now but elsewhere and in the foreseeable future?
II. Requirements of Mission to and Service at the Frontiers
From a consideration of Mindanao as frontier engaged in by Jesuits and Jose
Rizal, we now need to consider the relevance of this engagement for us today. What lessons can we learn from Jesuit history in the Philippines that would indicate to us the disposition for and requirements of mission to and service at the frontiers? What virtues were required by work on the frontiers then? What form of these virtues is required by work on the frontiers of today?
Tamontaca (1861), Pollok (1861), Isabela de Basilan (1862), Tetuán (1862), Zamboanga (1865), Mercedes (1867), Ayala (1870), Bolong (1896), Davao (1868), Sigaboy (1870), Samal (1870), Sarangani (1875), Mati (1886), Peña-Plata (1896), Manay (1897), Dapitan (1870), and from Dapitan, Dipolog and Lubungan, Bislig (1874), Gigáquit (1874), Dinagat (1877), Taganaán (1877), Cantilan (1879), Caraga (1881), Cabuntog (1883), Numancia (1883), Tandag (1884), Lianga (1884), Baganga (1884), Butuan (1875), Bunauan (1878), Talacogon (1878), Játiva (1887), Veruela (1895), Esperanza (1897), Prosperidad (1897), Tolosa (1897), Alubijid (1878), El Salvador (1879), Tagoloan (1887), Balingasag (1887), Jasaan (1887), Gingoog (1887), Sumilao (1889), Linabo (1889), Sevilla (1893), Oroquieta, and Jolo (1878), Cagayan de Oro (1905), Cabadbaran (1913).
In pre-revolution times, thirty-six years after they started the mission of Tamontaca, Jesuits worked in at least 43 missions in Mindanao.
I realize of course that perhaps, for most of us, these are just names, names of towns and villages. But each name tells a story, a story of generous Jesuits, priests and brothers, and their lay collaborators, who labored long and hard to form Christian communities in Mindanao. We are allowed I think to boast: what would Mindanao be without the labor of all those Spanish Jesuit missionaries, and later the American and Filipino Jesuits that succeeded them? What would Mindanao be without Guerrico, Juanmarti, Gisbert, Heras, Urios, et alii? Without Hayes, Shea, Cullen, Krebs, Cunningham and others? Without Raviolo, Leoni, and Moggi? Without Alingal, Pacquing, Dagani, Tapiador, Sanchez, etc.?
Whatever one thinks of the “españolismo” of the Spanish Jesuit missionaries or the “Americanism” of the American Jesuits, no one can seriously dispute the generosity with which they plunged into missionary work in Mindanao.
Before the revolution, a full two thirds of the total Jesuit manpower of the Philippine Mission was assigned to Mindanao. In 1898, out of a total of 167 Jesuits, 60 Jesuits (36 %) were working in the Manila institutions of the Society, and 107 Jesuits (64 %) were assigned to the Mindanao missions. In 1924, Jesuits were responsible for 379 towns and barrios, with a Catholic population of 301,262, and 65 parochial schools. Here the generosity of the Province of Aragon, mother province of the Philippine Mission, must be acknowledged; in 1896, Aragon had 164 Jesuits (16 %) of its men working in the Philippine Mission, with 276 Jesuits (27 %) working in its other mission, Chile-Argentina (for a total of 43 % of Jesuits in mission lands!).
The difficulties that our ancestors had in Mindanao were various. I remember being struck by the frequency with which the word “neurasthenia” appeared in letters written by Mindanao Jesuits to the Mission Superior in Manila. One internet resource defines neurasthenia as “characterized by general lassitude, irritability, lack of concentration, worry, and hypochondria.” The term was introduced into psychiatry in 1869 by G. M. Beard, an American neurologist. Neurasthenia covers a wide spectrum of symptoms, including painful sensations or numbness in parts of the body, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and fainting. Some medical historians believe that neurasthenia may actually be the same as the modern day disorder of chronic fatigue syndrome.” Chronic fatigue syndrome...or, as Jesuit Father Vic de Jesus would put it, GFW, a “general feeling of weakness...” It is classified as a mental disorder triggered by stress or anxiety.
And yet the Jesuits did not allow this or any other reason to induce them to abandon the Mindanao missions. Despite the many problems and difficulties, they remained generous in serving the needs of Mindanao. The one and only time they left the missions was when the Mission Superior compelled them to return to Manila in 1898, after the 2nd phase of the revolution had broken out.
We must ask ourselves this question then: in our present context, what does it mean for us, the men and women of Xavier University, to be generous? What mission frontiers today need our generosity, and what kind of generosity is asked of us?
The Jesuit missionary mandate in the Philippines had to do with the evangelization of Mindanao. And yet Jesuits were flexible enough to adjust apostolic goals and strategies by responding to other needs brought to their attention. Thus it came about that Jesuits took on the running of schools as part of their apostolic work.
First example: in 1859, the Jesuits, freshly arrived from Spain, would be requested to take over the moribund Escuela municipal de Manila. This school would be renamed Ateneo municipal de Manila and, after the establishment of American rule, would become a private institution with the name Ateneo de Manila.
This coming year, we therefore also celebrate 150 years of the return of Jesuit education in general to the Philippines and 150 years of the Ateneo de Manila University in particular.
Second example: when the Spanish colonial government finally got serious about setting up a system of primary education for the whole country, a committee was set up. The Superior of the Jesuits then, Fr. José Fernandez Cuevas, presented “a complete plan in harmony with the one used in Spain.” He proposed that a normal school for the training of teachers be established under the direction of the Piarist Fathers (the “Escolapios”). The Queen however decided to assign the Escuela Normal de Maestros de la Instruccion Primaria to the Jesuits instead. And so it came to pass that the Jesuits showed their flexibility once again by accepting the direction of this institution in 1865, an institution that, by 1894, would be raised to the status of an Escuela normal superior. By the time the school lost its government subsidy in 1901, it had graduated 1,693 primary school teachers and 340 assistants, for a total of 2,013 teachers.
From the Ateneo and the Escuela Normal would emerge Filipino nationalists and leaders of the Revolution. It was not quite what the Jesuits intended, but given the circumstances, it was something that Jesuit education nevertheless produced.
The question that we must ask ourselves today then: how flexible are we, the men and women of Xavier University, in meeting the challenges of the times and in serving at the new frontiers opened up to us by Mindanao and the world of today? What kind of flexibility is demanded of us so that we may effectively allocate human and other resources to the service at these new frontiers?
I am sometimes under the impression that “mobility” is no longer a characteristic of Jesuit apostolic work, due in great part to the on-going revolution in communication technologies. Jesuits seem to be rather immobile, set their whole lives to be rooted in one place.
It is also a mark of institutions, particularly our schools, that they require a certain kind of stability in personnel for them to function properly and efficaciously.
Nevertheless, I have always been impressed by the extraordinary mobility of our men in previous times. It is not unusual to find the Rector of the Ateneo municipal or the Escuela Normal or even the Mission Superior based in Manila to be assigned at some point in his apostolic life to some mission station in Mindanao, and for our men in the Mindanao missions to be assigned to the Manila institutions. Stability of personnel was then much more clearly demanded by the Observatorio de Manila for obvious reasons: scientific work demanded highly specialized knowledge and skills.
Nevertheless, the question remains, given the new frontiers beckoning to us: what kind of mobility and therefore what kind of stability as well are demanded of us, the men and women of Xavier University, by the new frontiers of apostolic work to which we are being invited to respond?
After the Jesuits first arrived in the Cotabato delta and successfully established a presence there in 1861, they hit upon the creative idea of ransoming the children of slaves from their Moro masters during a time of famine. From these ransomed slaves the “Tamontaca reductions” would rise. Fr. de la Costa tells us this story in his Light Cavalry in vivid terms.
By 1875, sixty boys and thirty girls had been ransomed. With them the Jesuits founded the reduction—now the town—of Tamontaka...
As soon as they were of age, they were free to marry. Marriage constituted man and wife free citizens of Tamontaka. After the wedding ceremony, they were led to the Fathers’ wedding gift: a house, two hectares of land, household utensils, instruments of tillage, food and money until the next harvest.
And then there is the story of the Observatorio de Manila. This venerable Jesuit institution had its beginnings in the scientific experiments that two Jesuit scholastics, Francisco Colina and Jaime Nonell, conducted on the rooftop of the old Ateneo municipal de Manila. With primitive instruments that they themselves made, they sought to measure humidity in the air, plot wind patterns, gauge atmospheric temperatures, and other things as well. The arrival of another scholastic, Federico Faura, would boost the scientific stature of the incipient Observatorio. So much so that, with the assistance of interested businessmen and the Spanish colonial government, the Jesuits would engage in, among other tasks, procuring the latest scientific instruments and indeed inventing them, instruments that for example enabled them to predict typhoons that then never failed to ravage an unsuspecting country, decimate populations and hurt economic life.
The question then that we must pose to ourselves: what kind of creativity is required of us, the men and women of Xavier University, by the new frontiers of apostolic work? Here, it is interesting to note that scholastics such as Colina, Nonell, and Faura were creative, and allowed to be creative, in the matter of starting what would later become the Manila Observatory engaged in the frontier work of predicting typhoons, studying earthquakes, observing the skies and other such things.
It is also interesting to note that Nonell would become later in life an expert in the Spiritual Exercises, so much so that Fr. Louis Puhl, in his “Translator’s Preface” to his The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, would say: “All of the standard commentaries have influenced the translation, but it is not surprising if the influence of Father Jaime Nonell, S. J., is evident at every turn. For many years his books on the Exercises have been the translator’s constant companions, and have been used by him as their clearest and most logical interpretation.” Here was a scholastic-scientist who would also become a master of the Exercises. Here is an example of Jesuit creativity.
5) Openness to New Initiatives
In the aftermath of revolution and war, the Jesuits, much reduced in manpower (some one third of Jesuit manpower would return to Spain, to come trickling back in the next two decades or so), would nevertheless strike out in new apostolic ventures.
The first that must be mentioned is that Jesuits would accept the challenge of chaplaincy work in the Lepers Colony that the American colonial government would organize on the island of Culion. At some point in time, Culion would be the largest lepers colony in the world, with 5,000 lepers needing care and attention. Today we are still there, but now under a different set of conditions. Culion today is no longer a lepers colony but a young and vibrant municipality that has dreams of its own.
Perhaps the most important new initiative that the Jesuits would undertake in post-revolution and post-war years would be that of seminary formation and education.
In 1905, the Jesuits would accept the invitation to run and staff the Colegio-Seminario de Vigan in Ilocos. We would be there for 20 years. Problems with the local ordinary (is this an inevitable part of what it means for Jesuits to serve at the frontiers of Church and world?), among others, would push the Jesuits to leave Vigan in 1925.
The Escuela Normal would at some point be transformed into the Colegio-Seminario de San Francisco Javier, otherwise fondly known as San Javier.
Jeremias Harty, the new Archbishop of Manila, would entrust the San Carlos Seminary to the Jesuits in 1905 and for some 8 years San Carlos would be a Jesuit-run institution. In 1913, the Archbishop would take back his seminary and entrust it to the Paúles or the Vincentians.
In 1915, five years after the restoration of the Colegio de San Jose properties to the administration of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits would finally open the Seminario de San Jose as an apostolic school.
And now, not too far from here, is the Jesuit-founded St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, the theologate of the bishops of northern Mindanao. Though with a diminished presence, Jesuits continue to serve the dioceses of Mindanao through their administration of this important institution for the spiritual formation and theological education of the future priests of the Mindanao Church.
The question that we must pose to ourselves then is this: how open are we, the men and women of Xavier University, to new initiatives coming from sources in Church and society? What kind of openness is demanded of us by the new frontiers of apostolic work on the horizon?
6) Humility, and therefore Collaboration with Others
The post-revolution Jesuit Mission would suffer a rather prolonged manpower crisis at a time when Jesuits had to carry a terrible burden unloaded on them by historical circumstances. The missionary strategy that we insisted on when we first arrived in Mindanao, i.e., that only Jesuits be allowed to work there, and the pride that we took in our accomplishments in the Mindanao missions had to give way to the dictates of humility: there was no way we could continue to work for the flourishing of the Mindanao Church without asking missionaries from other religious congregations to help us. And so it came to pass that in 1908 the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus took over the Surigao and then the Agusan mission fields, the PME of Quebec would take over Davao in 1937, the Columbans would come to northern Mindanao in 1938, and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate would take over Cotabato and Sulu in 1939. We were responsible of course for bringing in the Religious of the Virgin Mary to Mindanao, and in Culion we collaborated with the SPC Sisters.
The question that we must pose to ourselves is this: humbly acknowledging our own limited manpower and resources, how willing are we, the men and women of Xavier University, to engage in genuine and meaningful collaboration with other institutions and groups, not just here in Cagayan de Oro City but across this great island, including the archipelagic sections of the south, so that the challenges of the new frontiers of Mindanao may be met?
III. Final Remarks
Just in passing, I would like to note that the apostolic work engaged in by Jesuits and their lay partners is never without a context, a context that is at the same time ecclesiastical, social, political, economic, cultural and, today more than in the past, environmental. Just to cite a few examples. The Spanish Jesuits and their lay partners labored under the centuries old system of the Patronato real de la Iglesia. To some extent, this limited their vision and would create problems for the Spanish Jesuits when confronted with the rise of Philippine nationalism and its challenges articulated by such as Rizal. The American Jesuits, those that came in the first two decades of American rule and those of the first big group that came to take over the Ateneo de Manila and the Colegio-Seminario de Vigan in 1921, were told to be careful about pronouncing themselves one way or the other with regard to the question of Philippine independence from the United States, a sensitive and thorny political issue.
Fr. de la Costa narrates a story of Faura conversing with Rizal on the occasion of a visit by their famous alumnus and the author of the novel Noli me tangere in 1887: “Father Faura, seeing the dismal change wrought in this gentle boy of ten years ago, now so hard of heart, said in a moment of bitterness a bitter thing. If he was so obdurate in error, the Jesuit said, then the Fathers washed their hands of him, because it was greatly to be feared that he would end his life on a gibbet.” I cannot help thinking that, for as long as Rizal lived (in exile in Dapitan and incarcerated at Fort Santiago) and even as he walked to his execution, the Spanish Jesuits would exert every effort to rectify their virtual excommunication of Rizal.
In 1900, Fr. Algue, with the permission of Mission superiors (but to the distress it seems of the Spanish Superior General in Rome), would allow the American Government in Washington D. C. to publish the two-volume and truly tremendous work authored by Jesuits: El Archipiélago Filipino: Colección de datos geográficos, estadísticos, cronológicos y científicos, relativos al mismo. Entresacados de anteriores obras u obtenidos con la propia observación y estudio, with its own Atlas Filipino, a precious work that obviously interested the Americans because of the variety of maps that it contained, navigational, mineralogical, ethnographic, etc. This work of scholarship was a useful resource for the new colonial masters. It cannot be helped that a scholarly work is used for political and economic ends not intended by the authors.
The new frontiers that are marked out for us by the signs of the times are not free from ecclesiastical, social, political, economic, cultural and environmental determinants. But Jesuits and their lay partners have always been imbued with a certain evangelical and pragmatic prudence that enabled them to divine what was more important and significant in their apostolic work.
Celebrations are expressed in the stories we tell each other as Jesuits and lay partners. As we tell our stories, we pray for the grace of gratitude for all the good things the Lord has done for us in the course of this year of celebration. We pray for the grace of gratitude as well for the great things the Lord has done for us the past 150 years. And as this anniversary year continues to unfold, let us pray then for two things: first, let us pray that we may have the courage to discern the new frontiers of the future, and second, that we may have the right kind of generosity, flexibility, mobility, creativity, openness to new initiatives, humility and collaborative spirit so necessary to our triple task of spreading fire that kindles other fires, deepening our friendship, and engaging the new frontiers of apostolic work to which the Lord calls us.
Antonio F. B. de Castro, SJ
Loyola School of Theology
Ateneo de Manila University Campus
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
pictures of fort pilar taken by Fr.Wilfredo M. Samson