Pedro Calungsod: Patron saint of the youth

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Thursday, October 25, 2012


I WAS in Cebu last Friday the 12th and the whole city was celebrating the countdown to the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod. All churches had novenas and the atmosphere was as festive as our MassKara preparations. I tried to join in the bandwagon of the euphoria.

In Plaza Colon, they had this beautiful structural tribute to the Patron of the Youth. It was most impressive. In the Archbishop’s Place, there is a Shrine dedicated to Pedro Calungsod which I also visited to experience further the significance and the sanctity of the coming blessed occasion.
Some of my cousins and friends were making the trip to Rome for the canonization and were all excited. They said that there is a 5,000 strong Philippine contingent going, predominantly from Cebu and many parts of the Philippines where he is believed to be a native of. Many Catholic bishops of the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Iloilo and various Mindanao provinces want to claim Calungsod's official birthplace.

In the census research of Ginatilan, Cebu there is a longstanding record of Calonsor and Calungsod natives from their area in the late 1700s. According to the Parish Pastoral Council William Pancho of Ginatilan, Cebu, there is a claim that in the mid 1600s, there were three Calungsod brothers: Valerio Calungsod who migrated to Iloilo; Casimiro Calungsod
who migrated to Bohol and Pablo Calungsod who remained in Ginatilan, Cebu and assumed to be the father of Pedro Calungsod. Because of the uncertainty and to settle the argument, Cardinal Vidal ruled that he will not establish a definitive judgment on his birthplace, since Spanish records only indicate the words "Pedro Calonsor, El Visayo" as his native description. To the Cardinal, all Visayan provinces were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Cebu during the Filipino-Spanish era.

So who was Pedro Calungsod? Pedro Calungsod, also known as Pedro Calonsor, was born in 1654 and died in April 2, 1672. He is described as a teenage sacristan and a catechist who joined Spanish Jesuit missionaries, led by Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, to a voyage to evangelize natives of the Mariana Islands in 1668. The Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Ana of Austria funded their voyage. He was believed to be 17 years old at the time.

While in Guam, Calungsod preached Christianity to the Chamorro people, baptizing infants, children and adults. Missionary life there was difficult. Provisions did not arrive regularly, the jungles and terrain were difficult to traverse, and the islands were frequently devastated by typhoons. Despite all these, many native Chamorros converted to Roman Catholicism.

There was a Chinese criminal named Choco from Manila exiled in Guam who spread rumors that the baptismal water used by missionaries was poisonous since some sickly infants who were baptized eventually died. Many believed the story and held the missionaries responsible. Choco was supported by the medicine men who despised the missionaries.

Calungsod and San Vitores came to the village of Tumon, Guam on 2 April 1672. There they learnt that the wife of the village chief Mata’pang gave birth to a daughter, and they immediately went to baptize the child.

Influenced by the calumnies of Choco, the chief strongly opposed the baptism. Not to pursue the issue, Calungsod and Vitores went to a nearby shore and started chanting. They invited Mata'pang to join them, but he shouted back that he was angry with God and was fed up with Christian teachings.

Determined to kill the missionaries, Mata'pang went away and tried to enlist Hirao to kill them. Hirao initially refused, mindful of the missionaries' kindness towards the natives, but when Mata'pang branded him a coward, he became piqued and capitulated. Meanwhile, during that brief absence of Mata'pang from his hut, San Vitores and Calungsod baptized the baby girl, with the consent of her Christian mother.

When Mata'pang discovered his daughter's baptism, he was furious. He violently hurled spears at Pedro, but he was able to dodge the spears. Witnesses claim that Calungsod could have escaped the attack, but did not want to leave San Vitores alone. San Vitores banned his companions from fighting back. Calungsod was hit in the chest by a spear and he fell to the ground; then Hirao immediately charged towards him and finished him off with a machete blow to the head. San Vitores absolved Calungsod before he too was killed.

Mata'pang took San Vitores' crucifix and pounded it with a stone whilst blaspheming God. Both assassins then stripped the corpses of Calungsod and San Vitores, tied large stones to their feet, brought them out to sea and threw them into the water. Their bodies were never recovered. Thus, there is no first or second class relic of the saint during the canonization as nothing was retrieved of his body or his clothes during his execution.

Also, there are no known pictures or contemporary depictions of Pedro Calungsod on file. “The writer Alcina, who was a contemporary of Pedro Calungsod, described the male Visayan indios of his time as usually more corpulent, better built and somewhat taller than the Tagalogs in Luzon; that their skin was light brown in color; that their faces were usually round and of fine proportions; that their noses were flat; that their eyes and hair were black; that they— especially the youth—wore their hair a little bit long; and that they already started to wear camisas (shirts) and calzones (knee-breeches).” Thus, an image of Calungsod pictures him as a teenaged young man wearing a camisa de chino and usually dark loose trousers. His most popular attributes are the martyr’s palm pressed to his chest and the Doctrina Christiana as he was a catechist.

The Catholic Church considers Calungsod's martyrdom as committed In Odium Fidei ('In Hatred of the Faith'), referring to the religious persecution endured by the person in evangelization. Calungsod was formally beatified on 5 March 2000 by Blessed Pope John Paul II who declared: “From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Fr. Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr. Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side.”

Because of his beatification as declared by His Holiness, the Archibishop of Cebu, Cardinal Vidal proclaimed Beato Pedro Calungsod the Patron of the Youth during the 19th local World Youth Day on April 3, 2004 and again on April 8, 2006.
He is a role model; an inspiration and a guide to the youth; and recommends his intercession for the youth that they become envisioned witnesses of God’s kingdom here in the Visayas.

At the height of our Masskara celebration, Pedro Calungsod was officially canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City last 21 October 2012 during a public consistory with an assembly of Roman Catholic cardinals. Cardinal Vidal explains that the act of canonization is “an infallible and irrevocable decision of the Pope.” It signifies that a person “now reigns in eternal glory” and must be accorded honor due to a saint by the entire Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Martyrology celebrates Calungsod's feast along with Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores every 2 April.

While St Pedro Calungsod is the Patron of the Youth, he gave me (a not so young Catholic) a wonderful surprise! So, he is not exclusive to the youth! More in coming articles . . .

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 25, 2012.

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