Juan L. Mercado

Beyond our pork, stars

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A Manileño priest is among the Capuchin martyrs who will be beatified on Oct. 13. The Congregation for Causes of Saints prefect will represent Pope Francis at the rites in Spain. Fr. Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera will be known as “Blessed Jose Maria de Manila,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines stated.

 

He’d then be a step behind Lorenzo Ruiz of Tondo and Pedro Calungsod of the Visayas in the roster of saints. They were “bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh.” Yet, they saw beyond our pork to “reach for unreachable stars.”

Jose Maria was born on Sept. 5, 1880, and his father was the last Spanish mayor of Manila. He studied at Ateneo, San Juan de Letran and University of Santo Tomas. At 16, he went to Spain for further studies. Overriding parental objections, he joined the Franciscans. Along with 19 other priests and 12 lay brothers, he was executed in Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña in the mid-1930s persecutions.

Ruiz and Calungsod were laymen. In 21st-century jargon, they were overseas Filipino workers. Today, over 3,000 leave the country daily. Most are young and OFWs make up 41 percent of this outflow, the World Bank estimates. Women OFWs outnumber men, while household service workers dwarf professionals. Their “padala” or remittances bolted from $7.5 billion in 2003 and crested at $23.8 billion in 2012.

These migration waves are likely to persist into the 2030s. Ruiz and Calungsod, and now Jose Maria de Manila, will be relevant to often homesick OFWs with few options. “Not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing it,” the Galilean said.

Ruiz’s father was Chinese and his mother Filipino. He worked as a clerk at Binondo Church. In 1636, he joined Dominican missionaries to Japan. Despite torture, he refused to renounce his faith and was executed. He was canonized in 1987.

A “Bisayo,” Calungsod sailed from Mactan Island with Jesuit missionaries to Guam. Agitated by false charges, Chamorro natives cut down Fr. Diego de San Vitores and Calungsod in 1672. He was enrolled among the saints in 2012.

Ruiz and Calungsod were catechists. And last Sunday, Pope Francis marked the International Day for Catechists by stressing: “Catechists are people who keep the memory of God alive in themselves and in others. A catechist puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation… What is catechism itself if not the memory of God?”

The pipeline for future saints has a number of Filipinos. Some are known more than others in the four-tier scrutiny of those who can be canonized.

“Other Open Causes” is the first step in documenting the lives of the nominees, among them De La Salle  brothers massacred during World War II, Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano who was salvaged during martial law, Oblate Bishop Benjamin de Jesus of Jolo, and Fr. James Reuter, SJ.

A step up are the “Servants of God.” They include Dionisia Mitas Talangpaz of Calumpit, Bulacan, who cofounded the 17th-century Augustinian Recollect Sisters; martyr in Mindoro Fr. William Finnemann, SVD; Bishop of Lucena Alfredo Obviar; and Bishop of Cebu Teofilo Camomot.

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A commission has completed the preliminary examination of Camomot’s life. “Monsignor Lolong” often hocked his bishop’s cross, even shoes, to help the poor. But did he engage in bilocation, as did Saint Pio of Pietrelcina?

Camomot attended a Cebu City meeting presided over by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal on Sept. 27, 1985. On his return to Carcar town 40 kilometers away, he was thanked by a woman for administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick. “After your visit today, Tatay was able to get up,” she said. Camomot’s secretary, puzzled, asked him: “How could you have gone

[to Bolinawan]? From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. we were in Cebu.” He laughed and told her: “Just keep that to yourself.”

The bishop died in a car accident in 1988. Daughters of St. Teresa nuns jettisoned the urn when his body was found intact on exhumation 21 years later. Camomot’s new coffin and grave were sealed after Cardinal Vidal examined and certified their contents.

Behind Blessed Jose Maria de Manila are the “Venerables.” Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo set up the Religious of Virgin Mary congregation in 1684; Benedict XVI named her “Venerable” in 2007. Isabel Larrañaga Ramirez founded the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart in the early 17th century. She was named “Venerable” in 1999 by John Paul II.

Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized on April 27, 2014, Pope Francis announced at a public consistory last week. “This highly unusual move [is] an effort to promote unity,” the New York Times noted. “The two have disparate followings among reformers and conservatives.”

“Santo subito (Saint now)!” the crowd roared at the April 2005 funeral Mass for John Paul II. Time magazine noted: “Something happened in Rome that hadn’t happened for over 1,400 years… The people made their judgment that Karol Wojtyla displayed heroic virtue. The Church’s leadership has now caught up with, and ratified, that witness.”

Angelo Roncalli’s sharecropper parents could not afford the fare to attend his ordination as priest. Elected as a transition pope, John XXIII called out, “Apertura la sinistra (Open the windows and let fresh air in),” and convened the Vatican II Council. Pope Francis is implementing its stalled reforms with unforeseen vigor.

John Paul II and John XXIII share with Lorenzo Ruiz, Pedro Calungsod and Jose Maria de Manila lives of service for others. “The maddest of all things is to see life as it is, and not as it should be,” Don Quijote de la Mancha warned. Then, one would not strive “with his last ounce of courage/To reach the unreachable star.”

 

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