Who is the Filipino Catholic?

by CBCP (Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines)
Catechism for Filipino Catholics Chapter 1 Who is the Filipino Catholic? Opening Context Exposition A. Self-Identity B. Meaning in Life C. Suffering in Life D. Life-Commitment E. World View F. The Filipino Way G. The Filipino Catholic Integration Questions and Answers << Table of Contents The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of an only Son, coming from the Father, filled with enduring love. (Jn 1:14) We Filipinos are followers of Christ, his disciples. To trace his footsteps in our times means to utter his word to others, to love with his love, to live with his life; . . . To cease following him is to betray our very identity. (PCP II 34) opening OPENING 28. This is a book about life in Christ, life lived according to the Gospel. The “Good News” is that God has become man in Jesus Christ our Lord, who came to save us from sin and bring us to fullness of life. This is the Gospel which we Filipinos have accepted. As PCP II proudly declares: “For us Filipinos, the first century of the coming millennium will mark the 500th year since we as a people accepted the Faith” (PCP II 3). It makes us the only Christian nation among our Asian brethren. There are deep affinities between Christ's message and the Filipino's inmost ways of thinking and acting. “Much of the Gospel has become part of us __ compassion, forgiveness, caring, piety __ and makes of us a basically decent people (PCP II 15). Through the past centuries, right up to our present critical times, growing more mature in the following of Christ has meant becoming more truly and authentically Filipino. 29. Vatican II teaches that Catholics “must give expression to this newness of [Christian] life in their own society and culture and in a manner that is in keeping with the traditions of their own land.” As addressed to us Filipino Catholics, therefore, the Council declares that we must be familiar with our culture, we must purify and guard it, develop it in accordance with present-day conditions. We must perfect it in Christ so that the faith of Christ and the life of the Church will not be something foreign to the society in which we live, but will begin to transform and permeate it. (AG 21) 30. PCP II insisted on the mutual interaction between Christian Faith and Filipino culture. “Hence we must take a closer look at how the values that we have from our Christian Faith can strengthen the good in our cultural values and correct what is excessive in them and supply for their deficiencies” (PCP II 22). Likewise, for Faith to mature in love, it must be interiorized. Church teachings and practices must be personally appreciated and appropriated by us, as a people with our own particular culture, with our own ways of thinking and valuing. Faith must take root in the matrix of our Filipino being so that we may truly believe and love as Filipinos (PCP II 72). context CONTEXT 31. We Filipinos have had a long history of very sharp and colorful religious experiences: From our pre-Christian times, through the centuries of Spanish Christian evangelization, to the American Protestant influx in the Commonwealth era, and the Japanese occupation during World War II, right up past Vatican II's “Second Pentecost,” to “People Power” and today's “Basic Christian Communities,” and the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines [PCP II]. Our understanding and love of Jesus Christ has been colored by our personal and national historical experiences of pain and struggle, of victory and celebration. Our faith in Jesus is marked by our deep devotion to Mary, his Mother, and our Mother and Model. All these experiences have somehow defined and clarified our unique identity as persons, as Christians, as Filipinos, as a nation. 32. PCP II was held “to take stock of where we are; to look where we are going; to reanimate our life in Christ; to unite all things in Him (PCP II 7). Our Catholic Faith, therefore, must be “inculturated” within our specific and unique Filipino character which has in part shaped our faith-experiences through the years. This Catechism represents a serious effort at just such an inculturated presentation of the essentials of the Faith to the Catholic Filipino of today. expo EXPOSITION 33. To identify what it means to be a “Filipino Catholic” we ask: From whom do we naturally draw our self-identity? Where do we find the deepest meaning in our lives? How do we react to suffering? How do we commit ourselves to our ideals in life? What is our view of the world in all its depth and hidden reality? Brief answers to these questions can be sketched by selecting a series of five predominant Filipino characteristics, together with five essential traits of Jesus Christ, both assumed within the typical “Filipino way” to Jesus. This will at once define the Filipino Catholic as well as show that in our country, to become more deeply Christian is to become more truly and authentically Filipino. A. Self-identity 34. First, we Filipinos are family-oriented. The anak-magulang relationship is of primary importance to us Filipinos. Ama, ina, and anak are culturally and emotionally significant to us Filipinos who cherish our filial attachment not only to our immediate family, but also to our extended family (ninongs, ninangs, etc.). This family-centeredness supplies a basic sense of belonging, stability and security. It is from our families that we Filipinos naturally draw our sense of self-identity. 35. Jesus as both the Son of God (Anak ng Amang Diyos) and the Son of Man (Anak ng Tao) endears himself naturally to us family-oriented Filipinos. As Son of Man, Jesus leads us to his Mother Mary (Ina ng Diyos) whom he shares with us (cf. Jn 19:26-27). He thus welcomes us into his own household, offers himself as our brother (kapatid), and draws us through the Sacrament of Baptism to a new identity and into the family life of his heavenly Father (cf. Jn 3:5-7). 36. What can better remind us Filipinos of our early childhood, or respond more directly to our traditional love for children, than Jesus, the Sto. Niño? At twelve, Jesus was a discerning and daring child, who nonetheless remained obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:41-51). In his public life, Jesus embraced little children and admonished his disciples to become child-like in openness and simplicity (cf. Mt 18:2-4). In our family-orientedness, then, we Filipinos are naturally attracted to Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Man. Thus, PCP II 46-48 stress the exceptional importance of our Filipino family as both subject and object of evangelization. B. Meaning in Life 37. Second, we Filipinos are meal-oriented (salu-salo, kainan). Because Filipinos consider almost everyone as part of their family (parang pamilya), we are known for being gracious hosts and grateful guests. Serving our guests with the best we have is an inborn value to Filipinos, rich and poor alike. We love to celebrate any and all events with a special meal. Even with unexpected guests, we Filipinos try our best to offer something, meager as it may be, with the traditional greeting: “Come and eat with us.” (Tuloy po kayo at kumain muna tayo.) 38. Jesus as Eucharist is not only the host of the new Paschal Meal (cf. 1 Cor 11:23-26), and the food, the bread of life (cf. Jn 6:48-58), but even the guest in every gathering (cf. Mt 18:20; Rev 3:20). The New Testament refers more than twenty-five times to eating (kainan). Eating together in table fellowship with the presence of the risen Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:17), “Communion,” in other words, constitutes the core-witness of the early Church as a Eucharistic community. So we Filipinos feel naturally “at home” in breaking bread together with Jesus. PCP II's “spirituality of social transformation finds in the Eucharist not only its full nourishment but also its total prayerful communion with the Lord of salvation and liberation” (PCP II 281). C. Sufferings in Life 39. Third, we Filipinos are kundiman-oriented. The kundiman is a sad Filipino song about wounded love. Filipinos are naturally attracted to heroes sacrificing everything for love. We are patient and forgiving to a fault (“magpapaka-alipin ako nang dahil sa iyo”). This acceptance of suffering manifests a deep, positive spiritual value of Filipinos' kalooban. 40. Jesus, the Suffering Servant of the prophet Isaiah, is portrayed through our favorite Filipino images of Padre Hesus Nazareno, the Santo Entierro or the Sacred Heart. Through these images, Jesus appears as one of “the least of our brethren”: the hungry and thirsty, the naked, the sick, the lonely stranger and the prisoner (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Jesus the Suffering Servant can thus reach out to us Filipinos as a healing and forgiving Savior who understands our weaknesses, our failures, our feelings of depression, fear and loneliness. He has been through it all himself! To us Filipinos who can even celebrate the sufferings and hardships of life in song, Jesus Christ calls: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” (Mt 11:28). D. Life-Commitment 41. Fourth, we Filipinos are bayani-oriented. A bayani is a hero. We Filipinos are natural hero-followers. For all our patience and tolerance, we will not accept ultimate failure and defeat. We tend instinctively to always personalize any good cause in terms of a leader, especially when its object is to defend the weak and the oppressed. To protect this innate sense of human dignity, Filipinos are prepared to lay down even their lives. 42. Jesus as Christ the King (Cristo Rey) responds well to the bayani-oriented Filipino. As born social critics, organizers and martyrs, we Filipinos see Jesus Christ as the Conqueror of the world by his mission as prophet, king and priest (cf. PCP II 57-61). Jesus came as one sent by the Father, to do the Father's will (cf. Jn 5:30). He was “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners” (Lk 4:18). Although a “sign of contradiction” himself (Lk 2:34), Jesus made the Kingdom of God present among his people by his teaching (cf. Mt 7:29) and signs. “The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them” (Lk 7:22). So as bayani-oriented, we Filipinos enthrone our image of Cristo Rey. He assures us that everything will be alright in the end. Christ the King has won the ultimate victory over evil. E. World View 43. Fifth, we Filipinos are spirit-oriented. We are often said to be naturally psychic. We have a deep-seated belief in the supernatural and in all kinds of spirits dwelling in individual persons, places and things. Even in today's world of science and technology, Filipinos continue to invoke the spirits in various undertakings, especially in faith-healings and exorcisms. 44. Jesus the “miracle-worker” who promised to send his Spirit to his disciples to give them new life (cf. Jn 15:26; 16:7; 13-14), is thus very appealing to us Filipinos. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Risen Christ, draws us Filipinos into a community wherein superstition and enslaving magic are overcome by authentic worship of the Father “in spirit and truth” (cf. Jn 4:23). In Christ's community, the Church, “to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). This same Spirit, which empowered Jesus the miracle worker, is active in his disciples, uniting them in the teaching of the apostles, and in community fellowship of the breaking of bread and prayer through Christ their Lord (LG 13). F. The Filipino Way 45. But accepting Jesus Christ as responding to these essential Filipino traits has historically come about and continued in a typical “Filipino” manner. The outstanding characteristic of the Church in the Philippines is to be a “pueblo amante de Maria” __ a people in love with Mary. Even before the coming of the Spanish missionaries, there was a small dark image of the Blessed Virgin, known only as coming “from the sea,” venerated on the shores of Manila Bay. Thus originated the devotion to Nuestra Señora de Guia, Our Lady, Guide of the Way, the oldest extant image of Mary in the Philippines (PCP II 153). 46. The typically “Filipino” approach to Christ, therefore, is with and through Mary. Devotion to Mary has always been intimately intertwined with Christ. The two central mysteries of our Faith in Christ: the mystery of the Incarnation celebrated at Christmas, and of Redemption celebrated during Holy Week, are deeply marked by the veneration of Mary. This is portrayed graphically in the Simbang Gabi (Misa de Gallo or de Aguinaldo) and the panunuluyan at Christmas time, and the Salubong in Easter Sunday morning (NCDP 242). 47. Marian devotion and piety seem co-natural to us Filipinos. Mary is deeply involved in each of the five Filipino characteristics leading us to Christ. The “family altar” in so many Filipino homes witnesses to Mary as mother of Jesus and our spiritual mother. Thus she is at the center of our family-orientedness. As celebration and meal-oriented, Mary's month of May is noted for the fiestas in her honor and pilgrimages to her shrines. For suffering in life, Mary is venerated as the Mater Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother, whose “Perpetual Help,” compassion and love is sought through popular novenas and devotions. As bayani-oriented, we have Mary as our Queen, the loving mother of Christ our King. Moreover, she is the young maiden whose life commitment: “Be it done to me according to your word,” is repeated thrice everyday in the Angelus. Finally, as spirit-oriented, Mary is venerated precisely as the woman upon whom the Holy Spirit came, that her offspring would be called Son of God (cf. Lk 1:35). The many Lourdes “grottos” throughout our country testify to our Filipino attraction to her many apparitions. 48. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ang Mahal na Birhen, has greatly helped many simple Filipinos to remain Catholics. Their deep devotion to the Mother of God has been the strongest force keeping their faith alive (cf. AMB 67). Mary has been and remains the central inspiring force in bringing about a deeper evangelization of the masses of our people, “the safeguard for the preservation of our Catholic Faith, and the principle of deeper and fuller evangelization” (AMB 72-73). G. The Filipino Catholic 49. From this Marian approach to the series of five Filipino characteristics inter-related with essential traits of Jesus Christ, a rough sketch of us Filipino Catholics can be drawn. We are first of all family-centered Filipinos who can easily talk to God the Father through His only begotten Son-made-man, our Lord Jesus Christ. Our devotion to the Sto. Niño and the Mahal na Birhen reveals fundamental depths of our own self-identity. Secondly, we find meaning in our lives and learn to face the hunger and poverty around us in encountering Jesus as Eucharist in our parish community. “Around the table of the Lord,” we Filipino Catholics are drawn by prayer to share our time, energy and very lives, for the service of our needy brethren and for the building-up of truly Christian communities of justice, love and healing. 50. Third, as Filipino Catholics, because we have met Christ the Suffering Servant in his Passion, we can pray about sin and forgiveness, about justice and reconciliation, about the suffering and Passion of our own Filipino people today. We have the strength to offer ourselves as “bread broken for the world,” together with Jesus, because we believe with unshakeable hope that the Crucified One is Risen from the dead, victorious over sin, death and the world. 51. Fourth, we Catholic Filipinos, resilient as the bamboo (kawayan) and sturdy as the narra, commit ourselves to Christ, our hero-king, in deep gratitude for the gift of faith and for being Filipino. Lastly, our world vision as Catholic Filipinos is gradually transformed by Christ's Spirit-in-the-world in our Church community. In the depths of the Filipino spirit is a longing for kaayusan, for order out of chaos, a longing for the life that the creative Spirit of Jesus gives as a gift, a gift which is likewise a challenge (cf. PCP II 257). Through sacramental encounters with the Risen Lord, we experience his Spirit's healing and strengthening power. In Christ's Spirit, we Catholic Filipinos, inspired by Mary, the Holy Virgin, our Mother, are confirmed in our witness to Jesus by our service of our brethren, and our persevering prayer for our beloved dead. 52. Who, then, are Filipino Catholics? We are a people who have experienced in one way or another that our Filipino identity, meaning, suffering, commitment and world-view are all tied to Jesus Christ. Like a diamond with a thousand facets, Christ is able to reveal to every person and nation, their very own unity, truth and value. Thus we Filipino Catholics are people who: • as baptized into discipleship of Jesus Christ, discover our identity as adopted children of our Father and as members of Christ's Body, the Church, inspired by Mary our Mother; • in the breaking of bread around the table of the Lord, find meaning in sharing ecclesial fellowship with one another and with Christ, their Priest and Eucharist; • in meeting the Crucified Savior are sustained in the sufferings and hardships of life, and receive forgiveness for their sins through his Sacraments; • commit ourselves to our Risen Lord and his mission through the gift of Faith, celebrated in great Hope in the Sacraments, and lived out in Love and service of their fellowmen; • form our world-vision led by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, experienced in the Christian community, the Church, which sustains us in our pilgrimage of life-in-Christ; and • approach and live out this Christian life within the powerful inspiring presence of Mary, our Mother and Model. integration INTEGRATION 53. This “doctrine” about the identity, meaning, suffering, commitment and world view of Filipino Catholics is lived out according to Christian morality, especially Christ's basic commandment of love. We Filipinos are by nature person-centered, spontaneously giving priority to personal feelings, emotions, relationships, beyond any legal demands or impersonal tasks. Christ's message and Spirit continue to purify this natural personalism of undue family-centeredness and elitist tendencies. For while our natural environment as Filipinos is always the family, the barkada, relatives and friends, Christian social morality leads us beyond these limited groups to the larger community's common good. 54. Even more striking is our love for celebrating. Our Christian identity as Filipinos is naturally bound up with Christian worship in our celebration of Christmas, Holy Week, fiestas and Marian Feasts __ each in a very special Filipino manner. Again, Christ's Spirit works from within to purify the warm piety of Catholic Filipino devotions from all superstitious practices and magical faith-healers. Authentic Spirit-inspired Christian prayer helps direct these simple expressions of heartfelt love through Christ to the Father. Of particular importance are the traditional Filipino Marian devotions which draw on and express the deep yearnings of the Catholic Filipino. qa QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS 55. Who are Christians? Christians are men and women who are baptized in the faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became man to be Savior of all. United in the Church as Christ's “people of God,” they live out this faith in personal conviction, committed witness, and Spirit-inspired worship of God their Father. 56. How can we become more truly Filipino by becoming more truly Christian? By discovering and proclaiming Jesus Christ in our personal and national Filipino culture, we Filipino Catholics invite Christ to purify and heal us, and enrich us with fuller life in his Spirit in the Church. 57. How does the Church relate “being Christian” with our Filipino culture? There is a mutual relationship: • “being Christian” is part of our Filipino identity, • maturing in Christian Faith comes only from personally interiorizing Jesus' message in our Filipino ways of thinking, loving and valuing. The Church teaches that we Filipino Christians must know our own culture, and by our Christian Faith in Christ, purify, guard, develop, and perfect it. Likewise, we must “inculturate” our Catholic Faith into our Filipino ways. (Cf. AG 21; PCP II 202-11.) 58. What are some of the basic characteristics of the Filipino? Filipinos are family-oriented, meal-oriented, patient and long-suffering, hero-followers, and firm believers in the spiritual world. 59. How does Jesus Christ as presented in Catholic teaching correspond to Filipino character traits? Jesus Christ as Son of God and Son of Man: • brings us into the family of God our Father; • nourishes us as Eucharist; • redeems us as Suffering Servant; • calls us to personal commitment to Him as our Risen Hero-King; • is experienced in his community, the Church; • gives us his Mother Mary to be our Mother in grace. 60. What is our vocation as Catholic Filipinos in Asia? We are called both personally, as individual believers, and ecclesially, as members of the Church, to share Jesus Christ with our Asian brethren by word and witness, through active commitment to truth, justice, freedom and universal Christian love. This means “going forth in-spirited to renew the face of the world ― the wider world of Asia and beyond, giving of ourselves unto the renewal and unity of God's whole creation” (PCP II 7). Our vocation is to move from being truly “Church of the Poor,” through “Renewed Integral Evangelization,” toward becoming a real “Community of Disciples of Christ” before the world (cf. NPP).