Each year on November 1, thousands of Filipinos troop to cemeteries to remember their dearly departed. As the tradition in recent years has become commercialized–a national holiday that brings not just families to memorial parks across the country, but giant fast food chains and bazaars as well–
The Sunday Times Magazine in today’s issue looks back at the origins of the practice, which, as it turns out, is an “invitation from Christ for man to become holy.”
Of the living and the dead
“November 1 is All Saints’ Day. It is the day when we appreciate the triumphant church,” says Father Anton Cecilio Tuazon Pascual, Radio Veritas’ president and Caritas Manila executive director.
He further explains, “Saints are those who have witnessed in words and in deeds their faith and canonized officially by the Catholic Church. At the same time, [All Saints’ Day] helps us to appreciate the communion of saints—the communion of all that is holy according to our Catholic catechism.”
According to www.catholic.org, November 1, in Western Christian theology commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven as All Saints’ Day. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries.
Fr. Pascual adds, “We also have a belief that we cannot enter heaven if we are not saints so we have a purgatory where we are cleansed in order to be saints and enter heaven.”
Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven—the “church penitent” and the “church triumphant,” respectively, and the “church militant” who comprise the living.
Purgatory comes from the Latin word “purgare” meaning to make clean or to purify. According to Catholic teachings, purgatory is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.
As we go back to the true meaning of these Christian Holy Days, Fr. Pascual encourages everyone to take up the challenge to be holy by imitating the lives of our saints and in living the words of Jesus in the beatitudes (The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 verses 3 to 10).
Year 2014 is the Year of the Laity, says Fr. Pascual, where Catholics are challenged to stand up for their faith while giving thought as to how the Church has transformed cultures throughout history.
“As baptized Catholics, we are all called to lead holy lives and this is our mission—to become saints in our daily lives,” the priest explains.
“Everybody, even homosexuals, are called to be holy,” he adds. “They are also children of God and we believe that this challenge is for everyone.”
Shedding more light to the Catholic mission, the Radio Veritas head proposes, “If we have natural heroes like Jose Rizal or Andres Bonifacio, we also have spiritual heroes or models. They are ordinary people that lead extraordinary lives to the point of self-sacrifice for love of country.
“Like them, saints are ordinary people who cooperated with the grace of God and became Christian witnesses like Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope John Paul II among others, who are powerful icons of Christian life who can serve as our examples,” Fr. Pascual adds.
Road to sainthood
Meanwhile, in explaining the process toward sainthood, Fr. Pascual goes back to the Vatican standards, which he describes as “ancient, traditional and often mysterious.”
The road to sainthood begins with evidence to persuade Catholic Church officials that a person lived a virtuous life of faith, and had the support and help of God. The Church also looks at miracles as evidence that God is working through that person.
Recognizing a saint starts no earlier than five years after a person’s death. Usually, the pastor of that saint will present the case to his bishop, after which specific stages ensue.
As soon as a person is accepted for consideration, he is called a “Servant of God.”
After the Vatican Congregation of the Causes of Saints determines that the servant of God lived a life of heroic virtue, he is granted the title “Venerable.”
When Church establishes one miracle, the venerable person’s cause is presented to the Pope for “Beatification,” after the Holy Father deems him or her worthy of being called “Blessed.”
A second miracle is required for the Blessed person’s cause to be presented to the Pope again. At this point, the Holy Father determines whether the evidence is clear and that contrary reports if any are not credible. He may initiate the Canonization procedure once convinced, and the candidate will be publicly recognized as saint.
The actual act of canonization usually takes place at St. Peter’s Square or St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Sometimes, the Pope beatifies and canonizes the Blessed person in the country where he or she lived and died.
According to records, almost three-fourths of Filipino Blessed, Venerables, Servants of God and candidates whose lives are still under study were martyrs—proof of their love of God and His Church.
The first Filipino saint was a martyr named Saint Lorenzo Ruiz who died in Nagasaki, Japan, unwilling to renounce his faith. He was a layperson of the archdiocese of Manila and member of the Confraternity of the Rosary.
A married man with two sons, he was born in the 1600s in Binondo and was beatified in Manila on February 18, 1981—the first beatification ceremony held outside the Vatican when Pope John Paul II visited Manila. Pope John Paul II declared Lorenzo Ruiz Saint on October 18, 1987.
Pope Benedict XVI declared a young layperson of the archdiocese of Cebu, Saint Pedro Calungsod as the second Filipino saint on October 21, 2012.
At the age of 13 or 14, Calungsod joined a Jesuit priest named Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores on a mission to Guam. There, he became a catechist after learning Spanish and Latin.
Calungsod was slain by a native chieftain when rumors spread that the missionaries were adding poison to the water for baptism. He was 17 years old.
Calungsod was beatified by Pope John Paul II. A martyr of Micronesia, he died on April 2, 1672 in Tumon, Guam.
Blessed Jose Maria is Fr. Eugenio Sanz-Orosco Mortera of Manila. He is a Franciscan Capuchin priest from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin martyred during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War. He was born on September 5, 1880 in Manila. He died in Montana Barracks, Madrid Spain and was beatified by Cardinal Angelo Amato on October 13, 2013.
Venerable Mother Isabel Llarañaga Ramírez is the founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an organization dedicated to the Christian education of children and youth.
She was born on November 19, 1836 in Manila. When she was 18 years old, her family moved to Peru and later to Spain. Despite the political turmoil in Cuba in 1894, she began to send missionary nuns there. Later, she joined one of these missions.
Upon her death in Havana, Cuba on January 17, 1899, she left a thriving institution that now serves in Spain, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Peru and Chile. Pope John Paul II declared Ramirez as Venerable.
Venerable Ignacia del Espirito Santo was the founder of the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus now known as the Congregation of the Sisters of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), the first congregation for women in the Philippines. She was born on February 1, 1663 in Binondo, Manila and died on September 10, 1748.
She was declared Venerable on February 1, 2008 by Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales at the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz .
Servants of God
Servants of God Dionisia de Santa Maria Mitas Talangpaz and Cecilia Rosa de Jesús Talangpaz were born on March 12, 1691 and July 16, 1693 respectively, in Calumpit, Bulacan.
These sisters were born to half-Kapampangan parents. They established the Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang, which today is known as the Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Sisters.
They were bestowed with the title Servants of God on September 10, 1999.
Servant of God Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar, Bishop of Lucena and founder of the Missionary Catechists of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus was born on August 29, 1889 in Mataas na Lupa, Lipa City, Batangas.
The first auxiliary bishop of Lipa, he, together with Bishop Alfredo Verzosa, personally believed in the authenticity of the appatation of Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace in the Carmelite Convent of Lipa to Teresing Castillo, a Carmelite postulant.
After an unfavorable pronouncement on the apparitions by the Episcopal Heirarchy of that time, Monsignor Verzosa and Monsignor Obviar were relieved of their posts. Monsignor Verzosa was retired to Vigan, his birthplace while Monsignor Obviar was made Apostoloic Administrator of the newly created Diocese of Lucena. They humbly submitted to the orders of the Church and kept the seal of perpetual silence about the apparitions. He died on October 1, 1978, the feast of his patron saint Therese of the Child Jesus, patroness of the congregation he founded.
Bishop Obviar is the first Filipino cleric and bishop candidate for beatification. He became Servant of God on March 6, 2001.
Servant of God Francisca Fuentes was the first Prioress of the Beaterio de Santa Catalina de Sena, now known as the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena. Fuentes was born in 1647 in Manila. Before becoming a beata (a holy woman in religious habit) she was a childless widow whose husband died early in marriage.
Along with her religious sisters, she dedicated her life to the service of the poor and the sick in the city of Manila. She died on August 24, 1711 and became Servant of God on March 11, 2003.
Servant of God Maria Beatriz Del Rosario Arroyo is the founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines. With her inheritance from her wealthy parents, she established a free school for homeless girls. Some of her students later joined the congregation and dedicated themselves in the education of the youth.
The congregation now runs schools, colleges, and retreat houses in the Philippines, USA, East Africa and Italy.
Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884 in Molo, Iloilo and died on June 14, 1957. She became Servant of God on June 17, 2008.
Servant of God Teofilo Bastida Camomot was born on March 3, 1914 in Cagon, Carcar, Cebu. He was a Coadjutor Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, a Titular Archbishop of Marcianopolis, and a founder of Daughters of Saint Teresa.
He died on September 27, 1988 in San Fernando, Cebu, and became Servant of God on September 2010.
Servant of God Rhoel Gallardo, a Claretian missionary, was born on November 29, 1965 in Olongapo, Zambales. He became a modern-day martyr on May 3, 2000 when he was murdered by Islamic rebels in Punoh Mahadji, Basilan. He was 34.
Also slain with Father Gallardo were one male and two female teachers at the Claret School in Tumahubong where they had been captured on March 20 and held hostage for six weeks. The four had been tortured and forced to march barefoot through jungle paths.
Gallardo suffered three gunshot wounds in his head, shoulder and back, ang the nails of his index finger and on his toes had been pulled out two or three days before he was shot at close range.
Filipinos proposed for beatification
Other Filipinos who have been proposed for beatification have active groups supporting their causes during investigation by the Church.
Martha de San Bernardo (1633–1640) a professed religious of Poor Clares Nuns; Felipe Songsong (1611–1686), Martyr of Micronesia; Fausta Labrador (1858-1942), a layperson of the Diocese of Lucena and founder of the Colegio de Sagrado Corazon de Jesus; Rosalina Abejo (1922–1991), a professed religious of the Religious of the Virgin Mary; and Braulia Sta. Cruz (1856–1930), a professed religious of the Religious of the Virgin Mary and an educator and missionary to Mindanao.
There are also Filipino martyrs who have not been proposed for beatification but recorded in history.
Jose Apolonio Burgos y Garcia, Jacinto Zamora y del Rosario and Mariano Gomez y Guard, all priests of the Archdiocese of Manila; Consuelo Recio and Elizabeth Cagulanas, professed religious of Religious of the Virgin Mary, both beheaded in Antipolo; Juan de Guerra, the second Filipino martyr, who is a Kapampangan seaman from Betis and was beheaded in Japan in 1640; and last, Nicolas de Figueroa, one of the four Kapampangans in the mission to the Ladrones Islands in 1668, seized by an islander, dragged to the cliff and thrown off the edge.
COVER photos by MELYN ACOSTA PHOTOS FROM WWW.CATHOLIC.ORG