Small letter ‘S’ saints-A A +A
Saturday, October 20, 2012
WE stood next to John Paul II when we sang at Lorenzo Ruiz’s beatification,” our maid from Cebu wrote. Tering remained in Rome when United Nations reassigned us to Bangkok.
Will the wife and I glimpse Tering from cameras that pan crowds when Benedict XVI canonizes Pedro Calungsod of the Visayas October 21?
The 17-year old Filipino’s canonization comes 340 years after he defended his half-blind Jesuit mentor from machete attacks in Guam. Like Ruiz, Calungsod shows that the kid next door can summon up similar grit.
“He who is mighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name,” as the village housewife’s “Magnificat” puts it.
Tering’s excitement echoes in friends now in Rome. The Filipino Karilagan Choir sang at a Circo Massimo concert for San Lorenzo. The Mandaue Youth and Children’s Choir will sing, for San Pedro, on the canonization’s eve, at October 21 vespers and thanksgiving mass.
Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who initiated the process, retired before the Pope’s approval for canonization came. The new archbishop of Cebu chose to slip into the back row. Jose Palma instead asked Vidal to complete the work. “In life as in dance, grace glides on blistered feet.”
Was it only yesterday when JPII’s body was interred in a Vatican crypt? Even then, people chanted: Santo Subito (“Declare him saint--now!”)? Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the 264th successor of Peter was beatified swiftly May 2011.
Remember the “Bojinka Plot”? On Jan. 6, 1995, firemen broke into Room 603 of Doña Josefa Apartments in Pasay City. They found bomb-making chemicals. A computer revealed a plan to blow up 10 US airlines--and kill JPII.
A suicide bomber, garbed as a priest, would detonate his explosive when JPII passed on the way to San Carlos Seminary in Makati. But “the very hairs on your head are numbered,” the Galilean said.
Ruiz, Calungsod, Mother Teresa and ordinary mortals, like us, form a community of believers. Across the divide of death, we share grace that surges into eternal life. The Nicene Creed calls that the “Communion of Saints.”
“Today, you will be with me in paradise,” the dying thief was assured by his co-crucified. Paul addressed his letter to “the saints” at Ephesus.
There are capital “S” saints: Mary, mother of Christ, with Joseph; Francis of Assisi; Teresa of Avila; Therese of Lisieux; Ruiz and Calungsod.
There also are small letter “S saints”: maids, barbers to nuns and vendors. These obscure men and women serve God in neighbor. “Here comes everybody’s feast," James Joyce wrote.
Like Ruiz, Calungsod was an “overseas foreign worker.” They come to a country of OFWs but “no longer a nation of believers.” Only 21 percent of urban students believe in life after the grave, a McCann Erickson and Philippine Jesuits survey found.
Majority (88 percent) believe in a Supreme Being. But only 15 percent were instructed in their faith. “Doctrinal foundation and catechetical instruction (are) faltering,” notes Windhover magazine. “The phenomenon of bursting churches is misleading.”
Our houseboy clipped Calungsod’s photo, pasted it on cardboard on a makeshift stand. With his wife and two young daughters, Airen prays for San Pedro’s intercession. He will watch, with us, live coverage of the Rome rites.
Isn’t that the “communion of saints,” we planned to ask. The years have slipped by since Christmas midnight mass with Tering and John Paul II. Perhaps, we should just request Airen: “Please turn up the volume knob a bit.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 21, 2012.