Editorial: Humanizing a saint-A A +A
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
IT'S actually a bit of a downer to note that the Visayas, almost five centuries since Catholicism was introduced in its shores by a Spanish fleet led by Ferdinand Magellan, could only produce one saint so far.
But that also explains the eruption of joy after Pope Benedict XVI announced recently the canonization of seven blessed persons, including the Visayan Pedro Calungsod, on Oct. 21 this year.
Then again, the matter of ascribing sainthood to a Catholic faithful is a very human undertaking.
Had it not been for the painstaking push by the Cebu archdiocese led by then archbishop (now archbishop emeritus) Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Calungsod’s martyrdom would have gone unnoticed by the Vatican.
Calungsod, who will be known as San Pedro de Cebu (the first Filipino saint is San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila), has been referred to in reports simply as a Filipino catechist.
Calungsod was killed in Guam in 1672 while helping Spanish Jesuit priest (he’s now “blessed”) Diego Luis de San Vitores spread the word of God there.
(That means he is not an overseas Filipino worker in the strictest sense of the phrase. He joined San Vitores not for the pay but as a volunteer to help the priest spread the good news in a foreign land.)
“As the promoter of their cause, which began in 1986, I am very grateful to the Lord for the great blessing He has bestowed on our people,” Vidal said.
Calungsod’s sainthood, however, is not the dead end. Instead, it provides the cardinal and the Cebu archdiocese a new challenge. Once he is saint, the next task is to humanize him.
The purpose of the Church in elevating people to the level of saints is not to make them God-like and therefore unreachable but to make ordinary Catholics believe that these saints’ faith and outstanding work are humanly achievable.
Before Calungsod became a martyr, he was an ordinary Visayan. The challenge for the Cebu archdiocese is therefore to flesh out the soon-to-be-saint’s life.
Calungsod’s martyrdom is well-known, but much still needs to be told about who he really was. In this sense, the story of San Pedro de Cebu still has to be expounded.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2012.