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Migrant workers acknowledged as true missionaries

MANILA (Mabuhay) : “With their presence in almost every corner of the world, overseas Filipino workers can be effective in the mission to spread the word of God, if they live faithfully the tenets of their faith,” Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, from San Fernando in Pampanga, said on Easter Saturday, March 30.

Speaking to CBCP Online Radio on an appropriate day to reflect on the mission of migrant workers, as it is the day the Church observes the time Jesus spent in the tomb, or a limbo away from home, Archbishop Aniceto described their challenge as deepening, living and proclaiming their faith in a highly secularised world.

The witness to the Catholic faith given by Filipino migrant workers can be a powerful missionary presence for the Church, as they live out their faith not from a position of power, but in most cases in their role as servants, or people working at the bottom of the economic pile in the many places where they are present in great numbers.

It could well be argued that in Hong Kong, migrant workers are the most viable missionary presence, as not only do they live in the homes of non-Christians in the role of domestic service, they witness from a position of powerlessness and have close contact with people, especially children, which means that their faith is on show 24-hours a day.

“Your greatest treasure, wherever you are, is your faith, if you continue being faithful and let our Lord remain your strength,” the archbishop from Pampanga commented.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Socretes Villegas stressed the value of service in giving witness to the faith.

Speaking at the Chrism Mass in Lingayen-Dagupan he called for a greater humility and simplicity in giving witness to the faith.

He told the priests of his diocese that some of them have hurt the Church because of their arrogance and lifestyle, which he said is in direct contrast to their call as ministers of the word of God.

The archbishop told the priests that their ears and eyes have been put in their heads, as they reflect the challenge to listen and watch with love and care. He called this the beginning of service.

He added that the mouth has been placed below the eyes and ears, because it performs the least important function in giving witness to the faith.

“If we have lost the capacity to watch lovingly and listen tenderly, to keep quiet respectfully, to stop senseless murmurings trying to sound funny, and to resist chatter, we have a beheaded body,” Archbishop Villegas, who is affectionately known as Bishop Soc, stressed.

“The head must learn how to bow. The head must learn how to kneel,” he continued, adding that it is only when we come as servants that we can be ministers of the word of God.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David stressed the need for respectful listening when reflecting on the fanaticism expressed in the almost literal reproduction of the scourging at the pillar and the crucifixion that has become a big tourist attraction at Barangay Cutud, in his diocese of San Fernando.

He said that as a leader in the Church, his first inclination is to condemn the practice, but added, “We do understand that folk Catholicism goes with a native culture and spirituality that does not always blend with mainstream theology, faith and morals.”

He pointed out that the reproduction of the crucifixion has been going on for 28 years and attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists, adding that it must touch a religious sentiment in people.

The auxiliary bishop of San Fernando pointed out that Pope Francis has been advocating for a more humble, less controlling, more respectful and compassionate Church than it is at present, not just in the centre, but also on the periphery.

“Folk Catholicism in our country is built on such a culture and native faith,” he added. “They are a way of expressing atonement by chanting the passion of Christ (Pasyon) like a dirge and through exaggerated forms of penance and vows.”

The Philippine delegation at the Sixteenth Asia Liturgy Forum, held in Miri, Sarawak, in East Malaysia, beginning on October 16 last year, commented that the language of the liturgy can be an alienating thing for the people, as they really do long for a real Philippine liturgy that profoundly resonates with Philippine culture.

It explained that because of the particular history of The Philippines, religiosity plays a large part in the expression of faith and because people feel right at home in its popular expressions, the delegation believes that it has a lot to give to the liturgy in terms of what is truly Filipino.

It left the forum with the question of what can be learned from popular religiosity that can give a deeper Filipino resonance to religious expression.

Meanwhile, in Antipolo, Father Jun Meneses called on people to take their faith past Good Friday and the passion and death of the saviour.

He observed that his church is packed on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but the people miraculously evaporate by the time the Easter Vigil comes around and the resurrection is celebrated.

“We are not saved because Jesus died,” he told CBCP News. “We are redeemed because Jesus suffered, died and rose again.”

He added that it is the darkness of sin that is taken away in the light of Easter. “Easter brings light, hope and love,” he concluded.