Saint Pedro Calungsud: A Saint for the Chiro

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was happy to see on TV last Sunday how young people clad in casual jeans and tees through their “rap” number told the viewers the life story of Saint Pedro Calungsud. It was a successful attempt to popularize the life of our new Saint through a medium that is loved by the youth. They were talking about our teenage saint who left family and all that was familiar to him and went on an adventure, travelling by ship to the island of Guam to teach catechism and assist Spanish Jesuits in converting the native Chamorros to Christianity. He was known for his skills in drawing, painting, singing, acting and carpentry. He was only fourteen when he was chosen to join the Jesuits in their mission. He endured vast jungles and had to cross mountains and live from the meager provisions of the mission. The missionaries were maligned and harassed by some local chieftains who spread the deceptive rumor that the water used for Baptism was poisonous. They had to run for their life! Pedro could have escaped if he wanted, but he preferred to stay with the much older Fr. Diego San Vitores, his mentor and director and to protect him. A brave sign of loyalty for a young man! Both of them were captured, killed and their bodies thrown into the sea.

Nobody knows precisely what drove San Pedro to join this Jesuit mission. Was it a sense of adventure and daring, his willingness to abandon his family and home to explore life outside the country? A trait that is very familiar to today’s young Filipino’s who, with the world of good employment at their fingertips through the Internet, also dream of seeking work abroad, wherever that may be. Was it out of missionary zeal and the eagerness to spread God’s love not only in words but in an heroic act of selfless love to shield a Spanish Missionary from a group of persecutors? We could only guess. but his death gave his life and commitment the extra dimension of martyrdom, witnessing and brave loyalty.

When we proclaim our Chiro Creed before our weekly meetings, we profess almost the same values for which Saint Pedro Calungsud gave his life. We speak of being “confirmed to God’s service, our courage and fidelity to do His will, our radiance to witness of His love”. Of course, we are not preparing ourselves to become martyrs not even catechists, but simply Chiro boys and girls. But our Creed implies a commitment to help in the realization not of our dreams and future plans but God’s dream for all people. Some do this through teaching and catechizing, others are content by setting an example of Christian life by doing, being and forming community with one another. The Church describes all these activities as “witnessing” to the faith. How then do we witness to our faith as “young Filipino Christians, baptized to God’s nobility”?

I believe that the work of Evangelization continues even long after the age of colonization and the “civilizing missions” of the early missionaries. Even if in our age of cyber-communications and social media, there is no longer any need for saints or martyrs, we feel that we are called in Chiro to share God’s nobility, whatever form that may take. The young Pedro Calungsud who chose to link his life with that of missionaries whom he protected gave me the idea that sainthood is not just a matter of long prayers or heroic acts of love but providing joy, courage and radiance by building the Chiro spirit of community and camaraderie in our Parishes. Saint Pedro Calungsud certainly shared already this Chiro Spirit in the Jesuit Mission even before the Chiro was born.
He is the real Patron of Chiro Philippines.

Rev. Fr. Gerry Bouckaert CICM,
National Chaplain

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