- Filipino Catholic Laity: Called to be Saints… Sent Forth as Heroes!
- 2014: Year of the Laity
- Wake up Catholic Laity
- Three Challenges for Christmas and the New Year
Filipino Catholic Laity:
Called to be Saints… Sent Forth as Heroes!
A Pastoral Exhortation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
for the 2014 Year of the Laity
OUR dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You already know surely that this coming 2021 we shall be celebrating the 500th year of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. For in 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines, and in Cebu, he, a lay person, catechized King Humabon of Cebu, his wife and their people. The king and his queen were subsequently baptized together with their followers. It was on this occasion that the queen, newly given the baptismal name of Juana was gifted by Magellan with a statue of the Santo Niño, which was later found in 1565 by soldiers of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and is now preserved in the Basilica of the Santo Niño in Cebu.
In preparation for the celebration of this providential event of the first arrival of Christianity in our shores, the Church in the Philippines has planned nine years of intensive evangelization, with a theme for every year. For the year 2013, we celebrated the Year of Faith provided by then Pope Benedict XVI. The Year 2014 will be the YEAR OF THE LAITY.
Our Situation: The Gospel of Joy
Pope Francis says “The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 52)
If we were given an opportunity to describe the situation of the Catholic laity in the Philippines, it would be the paradox of poverty and abundance. The devastation that typhoon Yolanda brought upon our brothers and sisters in Samar and Leyte has created surges of pain and anguish all over our land and even beyond our shores. The typhoon left us dazed and lost groping in the dark for answers and explanation. Poor as we are, this pauper among the nations of the earth hides two jewels in her rags. One of them is our music. Our other treasure is our faith. As long as there remains in these islands one mother to sing Nena’s lullaby, one priest to stand at the altar and offer God to God, this nation may be conquered, trampled upon, enslaved but it cannot perish. Like the sun that dies every evening, it will rise again from the dead—Horacio de la Costa, SJ.
The first and most important truth about you Filipino Catholic laity is not poverty but the greatness of your dignity. This dignity derives from God’s unmerited choice of you to belong to God’s holy people. God called you in Christ to be united to his Son. When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit united you with our Lord Jesus the Son of God, and thus you became true sons and daughters of God, partakers of the divine nature. There is no greater dignity on earth or in heaven than that of being adopted children of God, and being made truly his children, and thus co-heirs to eternal life with Jesus Christ. This dignity flows from the love of God, and made the author of 1 John exclaim, “Behold, what manner of love God has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are. Beloved we are already the children of God but it has not yet appeared what we shall be, because when we see him, we shall become as he is.” This is what also made St. Leo the Great exclaim, “Recognize your dignity, O Christian . . .” That grace came to you with your baptism which is a true rebirth to eternal life.
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. (Evangelii Gaudium, 1)
When you were united to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you were also incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the Church, and you became members of the people of God. Your membership in the Church is a full membership. You belong to the Church as much as any pope, bishop, priest, or religious does. You are not second class members of the people of God. When you live the life of grace, you are full citizens of God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, the Church teaches that “the greatest in the kingdom of God are not the ministers but the saints”.
When you were joined to Christ by the Spirit at baptism, you also became sharers of the threefold mission of Christ teacher, priest and servant. You were baptized not only to share in Christ’s dignity as Son of God, but also to share in his mission for the salvation of the world.
You share in Christ’s dignity and mission with all others who are likewise united to him by the Holy Spirit. In uniting you to him, Christ also united you to all those who are united with him. With all those who are united to Christ by faith and baptism, you form one body of Christ, whose head is no less than Christ himself. Thus the whole body manifests and prolongs Christ’s life and mission in the world.
You, our dear lay faithful, have as your particular mission the sanctification and transformation of the world from within. In fact, many of you are called by the Lord to do service in the Church and for the Church. Such is the case of lay liturgical ministers and catechists, for example, who perform an indispensable service in the Church community and its institutions. Such also is the case of lay people who are asked to participate in the administration of Church property and works.
Yet, your own specific task, and the special responsibility given to you by the Lord is to find your own sanctification in the world, and to sanctify the world and transform it so that this world becomes more and more God’s world, God’s kingdom, where his will is done as itis in heaven. You are called by Jesus to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to preach the Gospel to every creature, and to make all nations his disciples. This command to the whole Church falls especially on you, who are in the world.
As Pope Francis has been repeatedly telling Catholics, you must go into the world of the family, of business, of economics, of politics, of education, of the mass media and the social media, to every human endeavour where the future of humanity and the world are at stake and to make a difference, the difference that the Gospel and the grace of Christ bring to human affairs.
Our Situation: The Challenge of the Gospel
When we look at our Philippine world with the eyes of faith, there are several areas of special concern which you, our lay faithful should direct your attention and action to.
Pope Francis calls our attention to “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ. (Evangelii Gaudium, 2).
Poverty is a social and spiritual problem in our country. A great percentage of our people live below the poverty line. They do not even have the necessities for decent human living. It is estimated that twelve million of our people have gone to foreign countries in their search for adequate income to support their families’ needs. While this has brought many material advantages, it has also resulted in great harm to family life. And many of our overseas Filipino workers work in conditions of servitude and are often submitted to humiliations. Still a vast number of our people are without work, and many are forced to live in slum areas and in miserable situations. A vast number of our children are unable to go to school, and those who do go get sub-standard education in poorly equipped schools. Many have been driven by poverty to cater to the lusts of human predators.
Though there have been significant economic gains, the same percentage of our people have remained mired in poverty over the past several years. The wealth of our country has remained woefully mal distributed. This endemic poverty is gravely contrary to the will of God. You, my dear lay faithful are in the best position to creatively work our solutions which will satisfy the demands of justice and charity. What are you doing to create wealth, to preserve wealth, and to share wealth? Do the more prosperous among you feel the sufferings of our poor brothers and sisters, and do you think of ways and means to help alleviate their poverty, and help them towards prosperity?
The second is the problem of politics. We say “problem of politics” because, as we have repeatedly pointed out, politics as it is practiced in our country is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to our integral development as a nation. Politics as presently practiced, and as it has been practised for a long time, is riddled with graft and corruption.
Our elections are notoriously noted for their violence and vote-buying and for the lack of proper discernment in the choice of candidates. Recent developments have highlighted the corruption connected with the pork barrel which those in power are loath to give up despite their blatant misuse for political patronage. It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power. What are you doing to help get worthy people to positions of authority and power? What are you doing to get rid of the politics of patronage, violence and uneducated choices? What are you doing, our dear lay faithful to rid our country of graft and corruption? Do you perhaps participate in corrupt practices by selling your votes, by buying votes, by bribery and acceptance of kickbacks?
Business and Commerce
Corruption in politics is paralleled and strengthened by corruption in business. We know that our tax collecting agencies are notorious for their extortionary practices. Corrupt tax collectors of course imply business people who cooperate in their corrupt activities either to survive in business or to reap bigger profits. It is also known that too many of our tax payers do not pay the correct taxes, while the taxes that are collected are often misspent in over-priced or ghost projects. Corruption in business leads to the further impoverishment of the poor and the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.
Greed and Selfishness
While poverty and corruption are real and great evils; we must search for their causes. Our culture has been contaminated by the twofold greed for money and power that has characterized much of the modern world. In our consumerist and materialistic society, people are valued according to what they have.
Pope Francis says “Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised—they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. (Evangelii Gaudium, 53)
The greed for power is the twin brother of greed for money. Those who have money easily get into power, and when they are in power, they can protect and increase their acquisitions. In our country, winning a government position is often the passport to affluence. Politics in the Philippines is a business proposition.
The first casualty of such greed for money and power is the truth. To get money and power, to keep money and power, to increase their money and power, people have recourse to lies and cheating. The truth is easily disregarded and sacrificed. This is true also in the mass media where what is sought after and broadcast is not so much what is true but what is news; the competition among the networks and the printed media is not so much for accuracy in reporting but for ratings which attract more money and build up greater power.
Common Good is Ignored
The second casualty is the common good. The sense and responsibility for the common good is sadly wanting in our country. The culture of greed for money and power caters to the selfish interests of individuals, families and economic and political groups. Our families which are characterized by an admirable closeness are also characterized by a closedness that is unmindful of the common good. This being closed to the common good is especially evident in our politics where political dynasties are nurtured and people vote with little consideration for the impact on the country of their votes. But even our mass media are often tools of vested interests rather than instruments for the promotion of the common good. In business, in politics, in the entertainment business, in media, profit almost always has priority over service despite protestations to the contrary.
Pope Francis warns us “Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).
Challenge and Mission
The renewal of our country thus demands of us all, and especially of you, our lay faithful, a return to truthfulness and the fostering of the sense of the common good. A society that is not founded on truth cannot stand, because a society not founded on truth is either founded on lies or deceit which can provide no stable basis for human relationships and a stable social order. Thus, we must obey the biblical injunction “to do the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We must seek the truth, speak the truth, do the truth. This means that we must seek what is right, speak what is right, and do what is right; and to do so “in love”, that is, in solidarity with and service of others.
Know the Faith
My dear lay faithful, the greatest challenge for you is to know the content of our faith, and to bear witness to your faith by a life of faith. We wrote to you a few months ago praising your simple but deep faith. Yet we had to point out to you two main deficiencies of the faith of our people: first, that the faith of many is uninstructed and, more importantly that this faith has been separated from life.
So many of our people do not even know the fundamentals of our faith! They thus become very vulnerable to the seductions of other religious groups who find them easy targets of their recruitment efforts. Many of our Catholics cannot even answer attacks on basic Catholic doctrines like the divinity of Christ, the Eucharist, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the veneration of images.
Live the Faith
But more harmful even is the separation of faith from life. It is certainly a shameful proof of our failure to evangelize our country that our churches are filled with people, our religious festivities are fervent, our Catholic schools are many, but our country is mired in poverty and in corruption. Many, perhaps the majority of the corrupt people in politics and in business are graduates of our own Catholic schools and are “practicing” Catholics. The majority of those who cheat in elections and those who sell their votes are also baptized Catholics. This is also true of the bribe takers in public offices and the looters of our public coffers. As we noted in our pastoral letter, the criteria for decisions taken by many in politics do not derive from faith but from other sources inimical to the Christian life. The poison of the greed for power and wealth has already pervaded the political and business systems.
We echo the challenge of Pope Francis “We want to challenge “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism”, who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith. The Church, in her maternal concern, tries to help them experience a conversion which will restore the joy of faith to their hearts and inspire a commitment to the Gospel. (Evangelii Gaudium, 15)
Thus we urge you to promote a continuing education towards maturity of faith among our people, starting with our Christian families. But even more importantly, we ask you to make your faith bear on your day to day decisions and activities. It is only an integral faith, a faith that believes, a faith that worships, and a faith that works in love (Gal. 5: 6), that will serve as God’s way “to make all things new” in our beloved country.
Communities of Faith
Since the corruption in business and in politics that we must fight against is systemic, we your pastors, urge you to unite in groups which through prayer, discernment and concerted action will renew the social and political fabric of our country. Individual goodness is not sufficient anymore. The good individual will only be swallowed up by the evil system. While individual witness is important, it is in unity that good Christian people will get their strength and attain victory.
To sustain and strengthen you in your efforts, we urge you to read the BIBLE, God’s written word. Read it not only to study it but pray with it. When read prayerfully, the Bible will nourish your life. It will be a lamp to guide you in your journey. It will help you resist temptations; it will help you to know and follow Jesus, our Lord.
Second, we urge you to have recourse to the SACRAMENTS. Value your baptism and prepare well for the baptism of your children. Let parents take seriously the responsibility they undertook at baptism to raise up their children as good Christians.
Christian marriage should be valued not only as a beautiful and solemn ceremony but as a welcoming of Christ into the life of the couple and their future family. Hence, it must be adequately prepared for by pre-marital instructions. Christian married couples should see their marriage as a public commissioning by Christ to serve and protect life and married love itself.
We ask you to have recourse especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Eucharist, participated in actively in faith, is the source of Christian life and strength. It is the bread of life and of martyrs. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, on the other hand, will help us heal our moral wounds and give us the grace to fight sin in ourselves and in society.
A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.
At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it. (EG, 45)
And finally, we ask you to stand up for Jesus not only in religious activities but in your private and public life. Speak up for Jesus and his Church in public discussions. Do not be afraid to be identified as Catholic Christians. You have been called to be saints; you are sent forth as heroes. Take courage. Choose to be brave!
May the example of our two lay Filipino saints Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod be your inspiration for the coming year!
May the Jesus and his Mother be with you and with us all, and make us, a “pueblo amante de Maria” also truly the land of Jesus in Asia.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
December 1, 2013, First Sunday of Advent
2014: Year of the Laity
“Called to Holiness… called to Mission” (PCP-II, 402)
(A Pastoral Exhortation)
THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declared 2014 as the Year of the Laity.
This is the 2nd of the 9 yearly themes of the CBCP’s Era of New Evangelization in preparation for the 5th Centenary of the beginnings of Christianity in 1521, namely, Holy Mass and baptism.
Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” – The Joy of the Gospel, released 24 November, writes: “All of the baptized whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.” (n. 120)
Vatican II in the Decree “Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 18 November 1965, states: “The Layman’s apostolate derives from his Christian vocation, and the Church can never be without it.” (n. 1)
Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church. (Cf. Acts 11:19-21; Rom. 16:1-16); Phil. 4:3).
These lay “proclaimed the message” to the Jews and Greeks in Antioch (Act 11:19-21). Others “work hard for the Lord in various ministries” (Rom 16:1-16). Men and women helped Paul defend the Good News. (Cf. Phil. 4:3)
Lay people’s specific vocation is “to eliminate and order all temporal things with which they are closely associated that these may always be effected and grow according to Christ and may be to the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 898).
This initiative is necessary in “permeating social, political and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life.” (CCC 899). (Cf. Vat. II, The Church, n. 33).
Our campaigns: against the proposed open pit mining at Tampakan; the proposed Coal Fired Plant in Kamanga, Maasin, Sarangani; the Pork Barrel Scam (Priority Development Assistance Fund of PDAF); and others, are based on scientific and legal evidences provided by lay experts.
This laity’s proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church is acknowledged by Vatican II (Cf. Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, nn. 32-36).
To be effective evangelizers formation in integral faith is needed by lay evangelizers. They must also “learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith.” (Laity, n. 29).
I exhort our lay leaders to be holy because God is holy (cf. 1 Pet. 1:15-16); and “to heal and transform society, to prepare the temporal order for the final establishment of the Kingdom of God.” (PCP-II, 435).
May Mary, Star of the New Evangelization guide us in our journey towards God’s Kingdom.
+DINUALDO D. GUTIERREZ, DD
Bishop of Marbel
16 December 2013
City of Koronadal
Wake up Catholic Laity
MY dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
The Year 2014 is the Year of the Laity.
In the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan, we will bring to a ceremonial closing on February 17 our golden jubilee year as a metropolitan archdiocese. On February 11 this year, we will also remember the sixtieth anniversary of the renaming of our Church as Diocese of Lingayen Dagupan. God willing, we also hope to bless our new theology seminary building and chapel.
Who is the lay person? The lay person is someone who belongs to the people of God on account of baptism and shares in common priesthood of life. The priesthood of life bestowed on us by baptism defines the identity, mission, dignity, vocation and spirituality of all Christians.
It is important to observe 2014 as the Year of the Laity and avail of this occasion of grace to attend to two pastoral concerns that need conversion. First, we need to bring the laity out of the situation of passivity; at the same time, it is imperative that our priests be more open and willing to share church responsibilities with the laity. We need to cultivate in our archdiocese a fresh sense of co-responsibility in the Church and to explore all possibilities for priests and laity to work together with mutual respect and fraternal charity.
Let us reflect on the challenging message of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium:
Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the People of God. The minority—ordained ministers—are at their service. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church. We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities.
In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making. Even if many are now involved in the lay ministries, this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. It often remains tied to tasks within the Church, without a real commitment to applying the Gospel to the transformation of society. (EG, 102)
I am inviting our parish communities, chaplaincies and pastoral stations to look for these three signs of a healthy Church life in our communities this year. When the year 2014 ends, let us look for these fruits:
More catechists and more social action ministers than liturgical lay ministers.
The rosary is prayed at home in more families with the parents and children praying together.
Every year, there is at least one young man who will enter the seminary and answer the call to be a priest.
There is a remarkable interest among our lay faithful to be ministers at the altar but there is a high degree of hesitation to speak about the Catholic faith as catechists or work among the poor members of the parish as social action ministers. There is a bit of glamour and prestige at being seen at the altar. The lay faithful are primarily called for social engagement outside the church building. Our laity is staying too long inside the church doing work inside the church presuming that God is pleased. This must be corrected. There must be more laity working for God in society than at the altar.
If the family is a little church, the mother and father of the family are the “priests” of that church. It is not enough to pray in the parish church or barangay chapel. We must bring the prayer outside the church building. The rosary must be prayed in every home. We can organize barangay block rosaries, coros of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal or Divine Mercy clusters. A parish without family prayer at home is sick. The best contribution we can make for society is indeed prayer but prayer must be brought out of church premises and brought at home, at work, in the plaza, in the streets, in the market and grocery stores; indeed everywhere.
A vocation to the priesthood and religious life is a sign that the family has raised its children in the faith. The priest is called from among the laity in order to help the laity grow in their friendship with the Lord. The priest serves the laity; it is not the other way around. Every vocation to the priesthood is a great grace for the family. Every family must pray for a vocation at home. The priest and the laity depend on each other.
There is much work to be done. I hope the priests will be more trusting and open with the involvement of the laity. We pray that our laity will wake up from passivity, be fired by the Spirit and dare to change the world for Christ.
Let us bravely pursue this mission and challenge priests and laity together.
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS, DD
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
January 1, 2014
Three Challenges for Christmas and the New Year
TO the People of God in the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, and to all men and women of good will:
During this season of Christmas and the beginning of a New Year, we can keep in mind three major challenges for our prayers and common action:
1) “Remembering Sendong, Caring for Yolanda” is the slogan adopted by our many volunteers from Cagayan de Oro in their relief and rehabilitation mission in Leyte and nearby places.
We commend and encourage these multi-sectoral teams of volunteers – coming from our universities, NGOs, LGUs and the archdiocese – to continue their relief efforts for Typhoon Yolanda-affected families.
Even as we observe the second anniversary of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro, it is now our time to contribute whatever resources we have for the upliftment of the disaster-stricken communities in the Visayas.
2) We are also praying and hopeful for peace in Mindanao through the completion of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
Despite the armed crisis in Zamboanga City a few months ago, the majority of peace-loving Christian, Muslim, and lumad communities have time and again manifested their aspirations for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
Let us all continue to engage in inter-religious dialogue and understanding to show our respect for the dignity of every human person – regardless of creed or culture.
On another front, we also pray that the ceasefire observed by the NPA and government forces be extended indefinitely, and that peace negotiations be resumed – for the greater common good of one developing nation.
3) A third major concern is the protection and conservation of our environment – in particular the river basin of Cagayan de Oro. Indeed, every tributary in the city and the province should have its watershed protected.
Disaster risk reduction practices have to be adopted to prevent another Sendong. And if the fury of super- Typhoon Yolanda is any indication, the adverse effects of Climate Change are already upon us.
We can adopt short-term as well as long-term measures to mitigate the dire effects of Climate Change. But the time for action is now.
It is with these three major challenges that we invoke the coming of the Prince of Peace in our hearts and our homes. Disaster relief, peace in Mindanao, and care for the environment can be the three gifts that we, like the Magi, can bring to the Child in the manger—and receive his response of Emmanuel: “God-is-with-us.”
+ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, SJ
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
December 21, 2013
A Pastoral Letter on the Year of the Laity and of Social Concerns
“Working together with Jesus: (2 Cor. 6:1)
AT the beginning of this year 2014, I offer good wishes and abundant blessings to each and all, for the grace of Mary’s motherhood.
As one family in the Diocese of Daet, I invite you to acknowledge our strong conviction that we all walk with Jesus, the real light in our journey in this New Year. With Jesus, we are assured that this year is a new beginning which is full of enthusiasm and hopes.
Mary’s Motherhood: Our Inspiration and Example
Together with Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary accompanies us as a mother. Mary’s total and generous cooperation with God in the work of redemption truly shines further as our inspiration and example as we begin the Year on the Laity and Social Concerns in the Diocese of Daet. This is so because Mary is the closest associate in Christ’s saving work: “cooperating in an utterly singular way by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the savior.” “Besides being the virgin mother of Jesus, Mary was given by Christ on the Cross to be the spiritual mother in grace of all his disciples (cf. Jn. 19:25-27).” As the Mother of God and of the Redeemer, Mary was the “obedient virgin through whom humanity receives its Savior” thereby becoming through obedience the “cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race.” As mother of the Church, Mary “embraces each and everyone in the Church and through the Church” “without interruption” so that no one who fled to her loving motherhood was left unaided. In both motherhood, however, she demonstrates the beauty of a life that is a total and lifetime yes to God and the nobility of a life that is in complete alignment with God’s plan.
Mary as Model of Lay Collaboration and Laity’s Vocation to Social Transformation
In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI explained that Mary can be truly an example in this regard because of “her proclamation of God’s vindicating the humble and the oppressed, her courageous stand in flight, exile, and persecution of her Son, and her support of the apostolic community.”
A very significant fresco found in the catacombs of St. Agnes depicts Mary situated between St. Peter and St. Paul with her arms outstretched to both. This fresco reflects, in the language of Christian frescoes, the earliest symbol of Mary as “Mother of the Church.” Mary’s prominent position between Saints Peter and Paul illustrates the recognition by the Apostolic Church of the maternal centrality of Mary in the primitive Church. More importantly, this proves that Mary truly supported the apostles in her capacity as a laywoman in building the early church.
Inspired by the examples of Mary, our celebrations this year in the Dicoese of Daet, hope to build a missionary community. I hope that this would happen within the diocese through the promotion of lay participation and co-responsibility and the development of a faith that is connected with social and moral life.
For our diocese to be truly vibrant, we must become a church built by the participation and involvement of all the members and not just centered on priests and selected few. I join Pope Francis in his belief that our “parishes are not outdated institutions. Our parishes possess great flexibility. Our parishes can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the Parish Priests and the community.” Thus, we ask ourselves: Do I involve myself in my parish? Is my parish vibrant with apostolic and missionary enthusiasm?
For our faith to grow, we must have a faith that can transform our society and not just a faith that is solely centered on devotional and liturgical practices nor of a faith that is divorced from moral life. Thus, we ask ourselves: Is my faith connected with my moral and social life? Is our faith one that possesses the mind and heart of Jesus? A faith that flows into daily life such that our private and public life demonstrate our being true disciples of the Lord?”
Highlights of the Year of the Laity and of Social Concerns
Among the activities lined up this year, the following are the highlights: Creation of New Vicariates, Pastoral Congress on Ecology and mining, Home Visitation, Poverty Reduction Program, Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of SPACFI, Seminar on the life and mission of St. Joseph, our Patron Saint in the Diocese, Strengthening of Parish Pastoral Councils and Ministries through Ongoing Formation, and the Launching of the 40th Foundation Anniversary of the Diocese of Daet.
Bishop’s New Year’s blessing
I end this New Year’s pastoral letter by imploring the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a mother for all peoples. As we give importance to our lay faithful and the pastoral concerns in the Province of Camarines Norte, I pray that our journey of faith this year be assured that we all work together with Jesus. With Mary, we advance confidently towards the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).
I bless you and your loved ones as I greet you all a Happy New Year!
+GILBERT ARMEA GARCERA
Bishop of Daet
Solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary
January 1, 2014