Of laity and of saints

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By Carlos Legaspi Jr.

Questions that Matter

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


A LOT of articles had been and is being written of experiences with the two new great saints of the Catholic Church. It is with great jubilee to have saints who have lived during our lifetime. Of course, I was not yet born during the papacy of the “Good Pope” but I have heard and read much of what he has done to the Church. In fact, St. Pope John XXIII was a part of my High School term paper titled “The Great Popes.” I am very familiar with St. Pope John Paul II for I was a seminarian during his papacy.

What makes a person a “Saint”? It depends upon how one sees the term “saint.” When one says that with a capital “S,” then it would refer to those persons who have undergone the process of beatification and canonization. Martyrs, holy men and women, exemplary Catholics, and best imitators of Christ are often made as “Saints.” They are proclaimed as such for us to follow and imitate. Their virtues and values are those which would bring us closer to God and God closer to us, as what St. John Vianney would put it.

Their lives are lives anchored on the teachings of Christ. The other notion of sainthood is our response to the call to holiness. Each one of us are called to be “saints.” We have to live a life that is anchored on the life of Christ and the teachings of the Church.

In this year of the Laity, every Catholic is challenged to live a life that is called to be saints and are sent forth as heroes. It is also demanded for us to choose to be brave. The canonization of St. Pedro Calungsod reminds us of our faithfulness to the faith while St. Pope John XXIII and St. Pope John Paul II remind us of faith in action.

Allow me now to recount some of my experiences with the Pope. I was in my sixth grade during the Pope’s visit to Bacolod and what can you expect from a simple sixth grader from a well-known Catholic school in the city? So, like the ordinary faithful, I was under the scourging heat of the sun at the reclaimed area of the city. I accompanied my mother most of the time and ate lots of lollipops. We were in the place since 8 a.m. It was like a huge camp. One of my cousins was lucky that she was chosen together with her classmates to offer the Pope flowers. My grandmother bought a first row chair to have closer look at the Pope.

Prior to the visit, I tried to have a little research on who is this man everyone was talking about. With those things that I have learned, I knew who he was and what his office was all about. It also opened my eyes to the role of the Church in the society. At that early age, it was opened to the injustices and the signs of the times. Beyond the cuteness and the spiritual aura of the Pope was a vision of injustice, poverty, inequality, hatred, vices and oppression. Beyond the shouts and chants of joy was the reality of sorrow and pain of the poor. These were the ideas that played inside my mind. From then on, I tried to expose myself to the realities of life amid the good life I was born to and used to.

With these in mind, I told myself I have to be active in the Church and work for social transformation. The writings and acts of Pope John Paul II and those of the late Bishop Antonio Fortich burned the ember within me. Seeing great injustices and disparity, I came to my senses and upon graduation I pursued priestly training in the seminary. While under training, I tried to update myself of the realities. I was told to pursue my studies at UST but I begged to stay with the diocese and continued to put into realities the things being studied. It seems that I placed both the teachings of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II into practice. It opened my eyes to the realities deprived of me when I was in my primary education.

However, after four years of seminary training, I followed a different path and entered the academe. So, I am now bringing with me teachings of Pope John Paul II’s social transformation and Pope John XXIII’s ecumenism (openness to other religions). This is a legacy that I will live throughout my life.

St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII, St. Ezekiel Moreno, Sts. Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, Mons. John Liu and John Su, and Engr. Faraon Lopez, pray for us.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 29, 2014.

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