On the Life of San Pedro Bautista and the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Archdiocese of Caceres
To be read in all Masses on the Solemnity of San Pedro Bautista
Titular Patron of the Archdiocese of Caceres, Sunday, February 9, 2020
My dear brothers and sisters,
Today we celebrate in the Archdiocese of Caceres the Solemnity of St. Peter Baptist, Titular Patron of our local Church in Bikol. I take this occasion as opportunity to bring to you my message of strengthening our way of being Church as envisioned in the Church in the Philippines: The Community of Disciples living in Communion participating in the mission of Christ as a priestly, prophetic and kingly people and as Church of the poor. (PCPII).
With this in sight, and in the light of the celebration of the year of Communion of Communities (2019), I wish to bring you to the reflection on the very life of St. Peter Baptist in connection with our vision towards a Church of communion.
The life of San Pedro Bautista
San Pedro Bautista is a model saint for us. He is a missionary who has stepped on our land and lived with our forefathers in the early communities in Bikol and the Philippine Islands.
He was born in San Esteban, Avila, Spain; he joined the Franciscan Order at the age of twenty in the Convent of San Andres del Monte de las Villas de Arena; he studied philosophy and theology in Salamanca, Spain and he gained fame as a preacher in the Cathedral of Toledo, Spain. He volunteered for an expedition to Mexico in 1581.
He was sent to the Philippines as Commisary Visitor for the Franciscans in the Island. He preached the word of God, taught music, and brought together the people, both children and adults, and formed them into Christian communities.
He was the spirit of the founding of the towns of San Bartolome de Bao (Baao), Buhi and Libmanan (in Camarines Sur today), and Cagsawa, Oas and Ligao (in Albay).
San Pedro Bautista, before his martyrdom in Japan, has already lived his life fully as a Franciscan missionary. But God’s God has greater plan for hi, when he was sent to Japan to be ambassador to the emperor who threatened to invade the Philippines. He succeed not only in forging a treaty of friendship and alliance with Japan, but more importantly, obtained permission for the friars to again teach their religion, build their churches and establish themselves comfortably. For three years, the friars laboured zealously spreading the faith with much success. But they soon aroused the envy of some locals who started misinforming the minds of the government officials against the Christians. San Pedro Bautista and the other missionaries (6 Franciscans, 3 Jesuits and 167 laymen) were sentenced to die on the cross.
It was on February 5, 1524, (423 years ago), when San Pedro Bautista won the crown of martyrdom in Japan at the age of 55. Together with the other witnesses of faith, he was last to be crucified after having seen the others die for their faith, in the mountain of Tatayema, now known as Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki.
The seed was the blood of Christians
“The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church” said Tertullian in defending Christianity (Apologeticus, Ch 50). Through the faithful witnessing of our first fathers we enjoy today the gift of our Faith. And the life of the Church is continuously propelled by the witnessing of those who faithfully follow Christ even to the point of shedding blood in witness to faith. San Pedro Bautista and the other martyrs present to us the kind of life that is so rich and found only in giving everything for the Kingdom of God.
Today when we strive to find for meaning of our life as Church, we look at the life of these martyrs who reflected the very life of Christ. These martyrs are witnesses of Faith. And as witnesses, they bear the truth of Christ in their lives. Like Jesus who offered His life for his friends, San Pedro Bautista and his companions, have sowed in our soil in Bikol the seeds of their sweat and blood, to make our Church alive today.
What a joy to know that the Church is founded on the sacrifices of those who witness to their Faith in Christ! What a joy it is to know the love of Christ Jesus, who offered his life as a ransom for us all! This is the Church, a community of love we can call our home.
Renewing our Way of Being Church
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has envisioned a Church that walks together at every level (Family Synod, 2015). It is a Church with everyone listening to each other, learning from each other, and taking responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel. (Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church). This kind of Church is a reflection of a Church of communion where we find the realisation of our relationship. It is personal as it springs from the very spirit of God where individuals find themselves in self-giving through the interpersonal relationship. It is participatory where each one finds its role in building up the People of God.
Our Church today tries to find its way to realise the way of Being Church with new attitude of communion. More than just a process of building and actual structures, we try to understand our community with this new attitude without which structures and processes are of no meaning.
Our Church in Bikol and the Philippines commit to this understanding that Church is a Church of Communion (PCPII, APCC 1 & 2). Part of this vision is the realisation of Basic Ecclesia Communities.
Thus, part of our renewal process as People of God in Caceres, we shall strengthen our efforts to form Basic Ecclesial Communities in our parishes. We look forward to the 500th year of evangelisation in 2021, to have a vibrant communities where we walk together witnessing to our Faith.
With this, I call upon the Education Ministry Cluster of the Archdiocese to device modules to promote the attitude of communion and spirituality and to determine the approaches to realise effectively the Basic Ecclesial Communities in the Archdiocese. I also call upon the Archdiocesan BEC Office to lead in the the direction by coordinating our ministries and commissions and offices.
And to our priests, I ask you to lead the faithful towards a zealous commitment to this effort. I enjoin you to form pastoral workers, establish basic ecclesial communities and journey with our people.
My dear faithful, I invite you to open your hearts and your homes to this call to renew our faith and for a greater participation in this endeavour.
Through the Intercession of our Patron, San Pedro Bautista, may we find the courage to live our life as Church in faithful witness to the very life of Christ.
+ROLANDO J. TRIA TIRONA, OCD Archbishop of Caceres