MANILA, Oct. 11, 2012?Pope Benedict XVI’s proclamation of a ‘Year of Faith’ from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 will not just be a world-wide celebration observed by a billion-strong Catholics around the globe, but will herald a 9-year preparation for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country.
Even as the Philippine Church is just one of many across continents welcoming the Year of Faith, the celebration takes on a distinct meaning with the coming festivities for 2021, when the Church commemorates the arrival of the Catholic faith in the country.
In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI pointed to a need to “rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.”
For the Philippines, this rediscovery of faith will go way back to 1521 with the baptism of the first converts—Rajah Humabon, Rajah Kolambu, and 400 other Filipino locals.
Notwithstanding disputes over its exact location, the first mass in the Philippines was verified to be celebrated in 1521 as well.
Gift of faith
Despite the passing of half a millennium, the call to the Filipino faithful is to keep the faith vibrant and ever new.
In a pastoral letter dated September 28, Feast day of San Lorenzo Ruiz, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle called on the Church “to celebrate the precious gift of faith, to receive it again and to transmit it joyfully.”
During an orientation on the Year of Faith for the Archdiocese of Manila last September 24, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Church will focus on a pastoral priority every year until 2021, with the Year of Faith focusing on “Integral Faith Formation.”
Speaking to lay leaders, heads of congregations and religious leaders from the Archdiocese of Manila, Tagle stressed how the Year of Faith will aim to intensify the Church’s Biblical apostolate program, while revisiting the wisdom and spirit of Vatican II; and milestones in Philippine Church history like the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines and the Second Provincial Council of Manila.
He said the Church’s own journey of faith is a testament to a dynamism inspired by the Holy Spirit itself.
What we believe in
Tagle said one of the components of the Year of Faith is to call for “a renewed appreciation and celebration of the mystery of the faith in sacrament, liturgy and prayer.”
During his talk, he told anecdotes about how the very Filipino tradition of the fiesta has devolved into a simple matter of “lasingan” (getting drunk) and “bugbugan” (beating up each other); and how people have lost touch with the reason behind sacraments like baptism.
“We have to be in a way critical of the connection between the content of faith and the way we pray, individually and as a community,” he added.
Another component of the celebration would be to promote “a joyful living of the faith expressed especially through conversion, a moral life governed by justice and charity, solidarity with and service of the poor.”
Tagle talked about how the faithful should live out their faith with joy and authentic witnessing to the Gospel values in everyday life.
He told a story about an American friend of his who admired the faith of Filipinos so much seeing the throngs of people praying during the EDSA Revolution, but who eventually asked why corruption could still continue in the country despite the people’s obvious “faith.”
Sent to serve
The Year of Faith will also be “a rediscovery of ecclesial communion where the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit are offered and developed to strengthen the Church and serve its mission here and even abroad.”
Mentioning soon-to-be canonized Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Tagle said Filipinos should go out into the world eager to share and be of service.
He specifically called on the men to step up and take on the role of transmitting the faith, since there seems to be more women catechists than male.
The Year of Faith aptly sets the stage for the Philippine Church, which looks towards the next 500 years of faith in the country.
The other pastoral priorities outlined by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for the next 9 years are: Integral faith formation (2013); Renewal of the laity (2014); Active participation of the poor in evangelization and social formation (2015); the Eucharist and the family (2016); Transforming the parish as a communion of communities (2017); Renewal of the clergy and religious (2018); Active participation of the youth (2019); Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue (2020); and Missio ad gentes (2021). (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz)