The intense faith of a teenage Philippine catechist
By Pedro A. Moreno, O.P.
Director, Office of Hispanic Ministry
In the western Pacific Ocean, just south of the eastern Asian coastline, a group of more than 7,000 islands unite to form the sovereign island country of the Philippines.
These islands are divided into three sections or regions. In the north, you have Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines region. In the south, you have the second largest island in the Philippines, Mindanao. This island, and the smaller islands surrounding it, makeup the island group of the same name. The central section of the Philippines, the Visayan Islands, consists of several islands that are primarily surrounding the Visayan Sea.
Today’s saint, a teenager with a passion for Christ, was born in the Visayan Islands around the year 1654.
This region was being evangelized by many religious communities, including Jesuit missionaries. The Jesuit style of evangelization and catechesis is one influenced by the Ignatian Exercises.
The Jesuits always have had a unique way of not only communicating specific truths of the faith, but to assist the faithful in growing in friendship, and then to help this friendship develop into a profound intimate love with the person of Jesus Christ.
This focus centered on Christ, the source of and center of all truth and each doctrine, always has been especially effective with young hearts yearning for love and meaning to their lives and existence. Keep in mind that the apostles, and many of the early disciples, never had a copy of the New Testament or a catechism, but so many of them became martyrs simply because they were in love with Jesus Christ.
Our teenage model of Christian life became a catechist and with his zeal to share his deep faith in Jesus with others, he joined the Jesuit missionaries. He joined a team that was led by Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J., to the Marianas Islands. Their mission was to evangelize the Chamorro people living on that island.
This experience proved extremely difficult for many reasons. Lack of supplies, harsh environment, persecution and lies. But, our young missionary was on fire with the love of Christ and he embraced his cross and continued to proclaim the Good News despite it all.
This teenager was a great witness to others of true discipleship. He was filled with so much faith and love that as a catechist he was extremely effective. His words, united to his life, impacted those with whom he shared the Gospel message; converts were many and the numbers grew. He was winning souls for Christ each day.
On April 2, 1672, an enemy of the Gospel message silenced his voice when he was protecting a priest that was under attack. His final blessing was receiving absolution from the very priest he was defending. The priest also died moments later.
Sadly, this story has been repeating itself over and over again throughout the history of the Church. Even with one of our own priests from Okarche, Father Stanley Rother.
This teenage catechist from the Philippines is Saint Pedro Calungsod.
We remember and celebrate his love and commitment to Christ on April 2, the day he gave it all for Christ. We need more teenagers like him; teenagers profoundly in love with Christ.