THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
IN THE PHILIPPINE SETTING
CELEBRATING 500 YEARS
IN THE PHILIPPINES
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Table of Contents
The Current Situation
Re-Evangelizing the Nation
3 The New Evangelization
4 Major Aspects of the Plan
5 Foundational Aspects of Evangelistic Spirituality
6 Looking to the Fruit
A Preparing a Nation
B Defining a Nation’s Role
C Episcopal Commission on New Evangelization
D The Programs
E Christian Life Seminar (CLS)
F Decade of Re-Evangelization
G Evangelistic Spirituality
H Fr Cantalamessa on Charismatic Spirituality
I Book Resources
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Everything starts with God’s plan. What is God’s plan for the Philippines?
Our nation received its Christian faith from Spain. Ironically, that nation, plus all the other Christian nations that God used to spread the faith throughout the world, are becoming more and more secular and humanist. The world is in a downward spiral. The foundational aspects crucial to faith, that of family and life, are severely threatened. Where will it all end? Will Jesus find faith when he returns?
The Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia prior to the emergence of Timor Leste. As such, the Philippines has always had a prophetic role as God’s light in Asia. Further, with a Filipino diaspora of over 10 million, Filipinos have also become God’s light to the world. These Filipinos are mainly the ones animating, and keeping alive, the parishes in the developed western world, most notably in Europe, but also in America and in many other countries.
On 2021, we Filipinos face a momentous event. It will be the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.
How would the Church in the Philippines look at that time? What would we be able to offer to God? How radiant would the bride of Christ be? How robust would our spiritual lives be? Would the number of Catholics as a percentage of total population ten years from now be larger or smaller?
Very dark clouds have gathered over the nation. The very life and vibrancy of the Church is threatened. But God does have a great and wonderful plan for us. God does act in order to accomplish His purpose for the life not only of our nation but for that of the world. We are very much a part of that plan. God gives us the opportunity, but we need to act.
As a nation and as Christ’s Church, we face a crossroad. What we decide to do will impact not only on our nation, but on the whole world. We can be overwhelmed by the tsunami of evil that is right now at our shores, or we can not only survive but thrive. We can attain to the glorious destiny of truly being God’s light to the world.
This paper is a proposal for the re-evangelization of the Philippines, as we look to the 500th year of Christianity in 2021. God is giving the Catholic Church a decade of special grace (2011-2021), and of course beyond, with which to do the work of re-evangelization.
We need to prepare to fulfill our destiny as God’s light to the world.
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The Philippines, even though still considered a strongly religious nation, is threatened by the dark forces that are engulfing the world. While our churches are packed, only 15-20% of all Catholics regularly go to Church on Sundays. While divorce and abortion are not legal, more and more Catholics are separating, aborting and contracepting. While society is still fairly conservative, premarital and extramarital sex are becoming widespread, and there is increasing homosexual activity.
Today the dark forces are marshaling their strength globally for a final push against the culture of life and against the Catholic Church. These are powerful forces, such as the European Union, the US government under President Obama, elements of the United Nations, billionaire philanthropists, international liberal media, giant abortion providers, homosexualist and radical feminist forces. Given the position of our nation as still a bastion of Christianity, of traditional family and of the culture of life, the Philippines is a major target.
This is especially so because nation after nation have succumbed to the relentless onslaught of the culture of death. The Philippines is in effect the last nation standing. Thus we can expect the enemy forces to concentrate their firepower on us. Satan rages that the light of Christ still shines in Asia.
Can we withstand the onslaught? As it is, we cannot.
Many good things are already happening in the Church today. There is much activity. There are many effective programs. However, we do see that Church attendance is low, and even those who are regularly attending Church are not necessarily growing in lives of holiness. This includes the clergy.
Let us examine our situation.
* How many percent of Catholics attend church regularly? How can this be increased to a much higher percentage?
* How many Catholics live out their faith when in government or private business?
* How many Catholics are still living without benefit of marriage, especially among the poor?
* How many Catholics who have more in life actually share their resources with the poor?
* How many clerics are true men of God and are true pastors?
The Philippines is still recognized as a strongly Catholic nation. Churches are still full on Sundays. But what is the reality?
* Only 15-20% of all Catholics attend Mass regularly every week.
* Many corrupt government officials, tax-evading businessmen, and miscreants of all kinds are Catholics.
* Many Catholic women use contraceptives, and many Catholics favor the reproductive health bill.
* Many Catholic couples among the poor are not married in Church.
* Many Catholics are being lost to fundamentalist sects and cults.
* Not many Catholics go to regular confession.
Of the Catholics who are basically good people who still go to church, many are not striving to live lives of holiness. And most do not participate at all in the mission of the Church.
So there is much that is happening in the Church. However, most of today’s programs and activities are addressed to those who are already churchgoers. They “preach to the choir.” Granted that it is needed to deepen the faith of Catholics. However, the great majority (over 80%) who are not regular churchgoers are not being deliberately and systematically reached. There may be an effort here and there, but not on a massive scale.
The Philippines, according to God’s plan, has a prophetic role to be His light in Asia and to the world. But unless something is done, the Philippines may go the way of all other Catholic nations where the faith has greatly diminished.
We need to prepare for the onslaught of evil upon our land. This is especially critical since the enemy is already within the Church, whether these are dissident theologians, increasingly liberal Catholic educational institutions, feminist nuns, Catholic politicians promoting reproductive health, etc. But more importantly, we need to prepare to fulfill our destiny as God’s light to the world.
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THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI call the Catholic Church to promote the New Evangelization. Though this might be more focused on Europe, where faith has practically died, it is also important, as we face the challenges of this third millennium, to look at how the call might have relevance for the Philippines.
There is no one simple way of defining the New Evangelization. Right off, the Church says that it is something that is urgent, prophetic and revolutionary. It calls on re-focusing and re-directing the Church’s priorities, to committing all of the Church’s energies. It would involve new ardor, methods and expressions.
The New Evangelization has to do with the realization that we are in the end times. There has to be a concerted effort to prepare the bride of Christ for his imminent coming.
Evangelization of course is as old as two millennia, since Jesus called his disciples and sent them off to proclaim the good news of salvation in him to the whole world. That call has always been the call of God for His Church. Our Catholic Church is a missionary Church.
But the world has changed rapidly. We need to adapt to the times. Further, we look to current world technologies by which the gospel may be propagated more widely and effectively.
Further, we see that the missionary dimension of the Church is not being lived out in the lives of a great majority of Catholics, clerics included. Thus, we can look at the New Evangelization as the old unchanging message but coupled with an attempt to do what should be done but is not being done.
So we look at the appropriate focus for the New Evangelization.
First, New Evangelization is centered on Christ. It is about meeting, living and sharing Christ. Many Catholics have not truly met Christ, are not living their lives in Christ, and are not evangelizing or sharing the faith with others.
Second, New Evangelization is about strengthening the Church of which we are a part. It involves not just continuing formation for those already active in the Church, but more importantly, a focus on bringing in the many lapsed and nominal Catholics who are outside the Church.
It necessitates harnessing the laity, the sleeping giant of the Church. As it is, most of the laity have nothing to do with the life and mission of the Church. It necessitates fostering intense collaboration of clergy and laity in a single-minded focus on re-evangelization.
An evangelistic lifestyle and a missionary spirit have to become a part of normal life as a Catholic. New Evangelization is mainstreaming Catholic lay evangelization.
Third, New Evangelization is about empowerment by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the under-appreciated third Person of the Trinity, whose role is precisely crucial for these times. For living Christ (holiness) and sharing Christ (evangelization and mission), we need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to be witnesses and to do a worldwide work of evangelization (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to love (Rom 5:5) and to resist the flesh (Gal 5:16). It is the Holy Spirit who guides, directs and strengthens us for mission.
Fourth, New Evangelization needs to be founded on family renewal. The family is the basic unit of the Church as well as of society. The family is the prime target of the enemy, knowing that the weakening or destruction of families undermines the life of faith of Christians. Then renewed families need pastoral care and support, which is found in vibrant communities and parishes, which become a family of families.
Fifth, New Evangelization is about transforming the world. Christians are to be light and leaven. We are in the world but not of it. We animate our environments–social, political, economic, environmental. Every Catholic needs to do his share, no matter how small it is. Every Catholic needs to be pro-God, pro-life, pro-family, pro-poor.
Sixth, New Evangelization has a particular focus on Mary, who is the Star of the New Evangelization. She is Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix (these are currently contentious issues, but it is just to emphasize her importance in the work of evangelization and family renewal).
Seventh, New Evangelization involves exploring new models of being Church. The new ecclesial movements are the Spirit’s work for this third millennium. One challenge is how to integrate the charismatic movements with the institutional dimension of the Church. Another is how to integrate the life and mission of the domestic church, the local church, the particular Church and the universal Church (the family, the parish, the diocese and the worldwide Catholic Church).
As the holy Roman Catholic Church is the only “institution” standing in the way of the enemy, whose dominion is over the whole world, we look to greater unity of heart and purpose in pursuing her work.
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MAJOR ASPECTS OF THE PLAN
While there are many things that should be looked at in order to strengthen the Church and prepare her for the ongoing struggles of this third millennium, we should focus on the most important fundamentals. These are the following:
(1) Re-evangelization. Living transformed lives in Christ.
(2) Family renewal. Strengthening the nuclear family.
(3) Defending the culture of life. Engaging in pro-life advocacy.
(4) Building the Church of the Poor. Working at social justice.
Re-evangelization is crucial. Nothing much else can be done unless our people are renewed in Christ and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is for both laity and clergy alike. To be God’s light in the world, we must grow in the very holiness of God.
Family renewal is crucial. The family is the basic unit of society, and as Pope John Paul II has said, the future of humanity passes by way of the family. The enemy, knowing this, seeks to destroy the family. The family is the most basic ecclesial community and is the mission base for doing evangelistic work outside the home.
Defending the culture of life is crucial. This is the fight of the third millennium. The evil forces are concentrated on promoting the culture of death, and are committed to spread its errors throughout the whole world. The US government is leading the charge, with a strong commitment to having abortion as a universal human right.
Working against poverty and social injustice is crucial. The very mission of Jesus is to bring good news to the poor—spiritual, material, emotional, societal. Building the Church of the Poor is the only way true peace and even prosperity in the land can be achieved.
There should be a program that is effective in bringing people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The program should be replicable throughout the parishes, to be conducted by laypeople under the guidance of the clergy. The program should provide for an ongoing support environment, so that the initial transformation in Christ will deepen.
It should be a program that has proven effective in bringing people to Christ in every situation and with people of different backgrounds. Such a program is the Christian Life Seminar (CLS). This consists of 9 different sessions. With simple training, mature parish leaders can handle this program. The CLS effectively leads people to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and to look to living their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. It promotes a charismatic spirituality, which is the spirituality of the early Church.
After the CLS, the graduates find their support group in the many different groups or associations within the parish. These groups or associations have many different formation programs, which can serve to deepen the faith of their members.
While the program starts with individual renewal, since each individual needs to personally experience transformation in Christ, it must move on to renewing marriage and family life. Family is crucial to the well-being of individuals and of the whole nation. Family is also the most basic educational institution for raising God-fearing men and women.
Crucial to the evangelization of the family is the role of the men. Traditionally many of those who are active in the Church are the women. But family renewal cannot happen unless the men assume their proper role as head of the home according to the plan of God.
Here there should be marriage enrichment seminars and retreats, as well as youth and family formation courses. Further, there should be smaller cell groups to which couples and other individuals can belong to, where they relate to their peers and support each other in the Christian life.
The culture of life
There should be intensive pro-life formation. The different pro-life groups already have all the material. What is needed is to have a deliberate and sustained pro-life teaching and training, conducted by laypeople but supported and even pushed by the parish priests.
Pro-life groups should also form an effective coalition (not necessarily formal) where there is united effort whenever needed, where there is a sharing of resources, and where functions would not have to unnecessarily overlap.
Work with the poor
This should be a program that effectively works at poverty eradication, while providing the poor with spiritual inputs. It should be concerted and replicable, and able to be done by parishioners on an ongoing basis.
One such program is a holistic work of poverty alleviation that involves values formation, building homes, and providing soft programs for education, health, livelihood and environment. It builds physical communities among the poor, which communities would be perfect as Basic Ecclesial Communities.
Under the leadership of the parish priest, this work would involve all parishioners and all parish organizations. Funding will come not only from parishioners but also from the national and international organizations of the parish groups, from Filipino associations abroad (connecting provincial and regional associations with their own provinces and towns), and even from sister parishes in the First World.
This program, if supported by all the parishes, can rapidly work at poverty reduction, without necessarily straining the resources of particular individuals or groups. At the same time it strengthens the faith, the family and the culture of life.
How are these programs different from existing ones?
There are already many pastoral programs and activities in the Church. Do we need another one? It is precisely that there are many programs and activities, but still there is that downward direction, that we need another fresh approach, one that hopefully would truly be Spirit-inspired.
What distinguishes this approach from others? There would be a number of distinct elements:
* It would be a concerted effort of the whole Church, mandated by the hierarchy and pushed by the bishops.
* It would focus not on the “choir” but on the over 80% that are not regular churchgoers.
* It would target the critical basic areas that are needed for revival, and those are: re-evangelization, family renewal, defense of life, and work with the poor.
* It would mobilize the laity through means that enable massive implementation from the top down, all the way to each and every Catholic throughout the whole nation. This includes the culture of person-to-person evangelization.
* It would utilize proven programs and approaches.
What is needed is a concerted, deliberate, insistent, persistent, committed program of action, supported at the very top and by all the clergy.
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FOUNDATIONAL ASPECTS OF
There are five very important, if not crucial, foundational aspects of evangelistic spirituality to be considered, if this decade-long evangelization program (and beyond) will be effective, and result in revival in the Philippines.
By and large, these five aspects are not emphasized in current official Church programs. For purposes of this paper, we do not include in this list other all-important aspects such as the Eucharist and the Bible, the critical importance of which is presupposed.
(1) Receiving the power of the Holy Spirit
This is what is known in charismatic renewal as “baptism in the Spirit.” It is intended for growth in holiness and worldwide evangelization. Jesus himself said, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). It is the baptism in the Spirit that will enable us to become witnesses (to be so, we need to grow in holiness) and to be empowered to effectively proclaim the gospel to the whole world.
Baptism in the Spirit happens in the sacrament of Baptism, and then is reinforced in the sacrament of Confirmation. But many baptized and confirmed Catholics are not living Christian lives, not growing in holiness, not evangelizing. What is needed is a renewed infilling of the Spirit, that will result in a renewed outpouring of the Spirit. The CLS is designed to start that process.
Baptism in the Spirit confers spiritual gifts. There are two kinds—the sanctifying gifts and the charismatic gifts. The former help us grow in holiness. The latter help us serve and do the work of evangelization. Both are crucial. There are seven sanctifying gifts (Isaiah 11:2-3a). There are 9 basic charismatic gifts (1 Cor 12:4-10). There are additional charismatic gifts (1 Cor 12:28, Rom 12:6-8, Eph 4:11, 1 Pt 4:9-11).
In the Church the sanctifying gifts are often spoken of. The charismatic gifts are less so. But for the work of massive evangelization, the charismatic gifts are crucial.
Baptism in the Spirit results in a so-called charismatic spirituality. Such is very important for growing in holiness, for vibrant worship, for building community, for service to the Church.
Consider that charismatics in the Catholic Church and Pentecostals in the other churches are the fastest growing segments of the Christian churches in the world. In the Philippines, consider that the largest religious groups are charismatic in their spirituality—the Catholic El Shaddai, the evangelical Jesus is Lord, even the cult Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Consider that the spirituality of the early Christians, reflected in their worship, was charismatic. Even our ancestors in the faith, as reflected in the book of Psalms, were charismatic in their worship.
No one of course is forced to become a charismatic. Other types of spirituality are valid and desirable in the Church. But the evidence in the experience of many Christians is that more are prone to grow in holiness and to become evangelizers if they experience charismatic spirituality.
(2) Growth in holiness
Holiness is hardly talked about—whether in homilies, teachings, even recollections and retreats. But holiness is the one key aspect that is necessary if a Christian is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
Many Catholics are unrepentant sinners who need to repent. But it is not just a question of turning away from serious sin. It is not just being a good person. The call is to be like Christ, to be holy as God is holy (1 Pt 1:15-16), to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). The call is to deny self, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus (Mt 16:24). The call is to a life of integrity, of living the truth, of self-sacrificial love.
This is not about theology, or catechism, or fulfilling Church obligations, which are of course all important, but it is a matter of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. It is about putting on the mind of Christ. It is being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is leaving all and living all for God.
The Philippines can only become a light to the world if Catholics grow in holiness. It is only then that the very light of Christ will shine in and through us.
(3) A covenant
Christians have a covenant with God, by which God reveals to us that He is our God and we are His people. If we live the life He has prescribed for us, we will experience peace and prosperity.
It would be helpful to have an actual written covenant that we would voluntarily enter into that would describe important aspects of our relationship with God and commitments that we make to Him. Those who finish the CLS and wish to participate in the decade-long evangelization program would then be like “card-carrying members.” We would have a concrete and constant reminder of God’s call to us. It will be a tool for growing in holiness.
The covenant could be something like this:
Trusting in the Lord’s help and guidance:
1. I shall live as a follower of Christ.
* Pray and read the Bible daily.
* Strive for holiness and Christian perfection.
2. I dedicate myself to the task of building a strong family for Christ.
* Invest myself in time and effort for home and family.
* Live out and defend the culture of life.
3. I shall be a committed and active member of my parish community.
* Love and serve my parish.
* Relate in love, loyalty and respect with all parishioners.
* Actively participate in parish events.
* Support the parish with my time and finances.
4. I shall be a witness to the world of God’s love.
* Actively evangelize and do mission.
* Love and care for the poor.
May the Lord Jesus Christ, with the intercession of our blessed Mother Mary, help me to faithfully live this covenant, for His greater honor and glory and for the good of my brothers and sisters.
(4) Evangelization and mission
Most Catholics have no idea about being evangelizers or missionaries. But this is a fundamental call to all Christians. In fact, if we are aware of the Great Commission and do not do it, then we are committing a sin of omission. It is a serious matter, as the salvation won by Jesus on the cross can be experienced by people only through the work of proclaimers of the gospel (Rom 10:13-17).
The program of re-evangelization can only reach every Catholic Filipino in a decade or beyond if those who are evangelized become evangelizers themselves. Everyone can participate because we will promote person-to-person evangelization in the normal day-to-day environments of our lives. We reach out to those whom we interact with on a regular basis—relatives, friends, co-workers, schoolmates, neighbors, parishioners.
Becoming evangelizers also moves us into holiness, as we more and more think and speak about Christ, and deliberately amend our lives to become more effective witnesses.
(5) Lay empowerment
The laity need to be empowered. The whole Philippines cannot be re-evangelized unless the laity take their proper place and role in the mission of the Church.
The laity need to know their inherent dignity as Christians, and the attendant privileges and responsibilities. They participate in the life and mission of the Church not as a concession given by the Church hierarchy. They are not extensions of the parish priest, but of Jesus himself.
For good order, the bishops, and through them the clergy, exercise overall responsibility and authority over the Church (each bishop in his diocese).
In this decade of re-evangelization, much of the actual work will be done by the laity. The clergy are already burdened with what they are doing, and so will just basically oversee and provide guidance to the work of the laity.
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LOOKING TO THE FRUIT
Much is missing from the spiritual life of the Filipino Catholic. When we look at the parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin, we see the important point: God is concerned about the lost and will go all out to bring that person back. Further, there will be great rejoicing in heaven whenever that lost person is found and brought back.
Fine. But how wonderful it would be if there were indeed 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance and only one sinner who needs to repent (Lk 15:7). God would still search for that one who is lost, and the angels of God in heaven will still rejoice over his repentance, but the fact that only 1% would be lost and in need of repentance would be cause for the greatest rejoicing.
Unfortunately that is not the case. In fact, it is the reverse! Of all so-called Christians in the world (over 2 billion of them), perhaps only 1% are true Christians, in the full sense of the word, and 99% are in need of repentance. Though all are sinners falling short of the glory of God, the 1% may be said to be in right relationship with God, the way God intends it to be.
Though there are no statistics to support this (an in-depth study or survey, if that is possible, would have to be undertaken), it would not be far from the truth to view the situation of Filipino Christians today as follows:
50% are nominal and secular, many of them in serious sin. They do not live out their professed faith.
25% are fairly good people, but their faith is something separate from their secular lives.
15% are Church-goers, but still live according to their own priorities, agenda and personal desires. They do not know of nor live out the two greatest commandments.
9% are good Christians, but are not actively striving for holiness, living out discipleship, or doing evangelization. As such, they still fall short of the fullness of what it means to be a true Christian.
1% are true Christians who have no need for repentance (again, everyone is a sinner and still needs to repent, even of venial sin). They live righteous lives.
Given such a situation, there actually is grieving among the angels of God in heaven! Even among so-called Christians, the lost (not having found the fullness of life in Christ) are not only 1% but are the 99%!
What then do we intend to achieve with our plan? Looking at what are not evident in the lives of many Catholics today, the following would be our goals:
* Having a deep personal relationship with Jesus.
* Looking to grow in holiness of life.
* Having a well-established prayer life.
* Knowing and living the Bible.
* Fidelity in promises/vows made, be it marriage, priesthood or the religious-consecrated life.
* Vibrancy in Christian family living.
* Purity among the youth.
* Couples adhering to NFP and not using contraceptives.
* Laypeople sharing their faith and evangelizing.
* Servant leadership.
* Honest citizenship.
* Financial stewardship and transparency in government/Church finances.
* Caring for and empowering the poor.
Here is an important point: If we can say that the above are already happening in the lives of Filipino Catholics today (or if we are even anywhere near it), then let us just go on with what we already have and are doing. But the reality is that the above are more of the exception rather than the rule. Many Catholics are in fact not really living Christian lives.
Thus there is much for the Church to do.
Can we accomplish the above? Well, God wants it. And so God gives us a decade of special grace (and grace as needed beyond this decade). But God needs our cooperation. We do our part, and God does the rest.
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PREPARING A NATION
According to God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world, God makes use of instruments to accomplish His purposes. He calls and raises individuals, certainly. He also establishes and anoints groups and movements. God also builds up and empowers whole nations to be an instrument of His will.
Now the witness of a whole nation is powerful. While an individual or a group can manifest the love of God and point to His purposes in the world, nothing can beat a whole nation doing so. While there are many individuals in all the countries throughout the world who are God-fearing and righteous, while there are many movements of renewal in different countries and of different nationalities bringing the good news into the lives of others, there are not that many nations that the world can recognize as truly God’s own. Not many nations have the privilege of having a covenant with God that is truly lived out, where He is their God and they are His people. While people are impressed with the life of a true disciple of God, while many lives are changed through the work of a vibrant group or movement, the impact on the world of a whole nation that is one under God would be tremendous.
In fact, it would be nothing short of earthshaking!
Now God does want to shake up the earth, from out of its sinfulness and slide to self-destruction. And this is why God raises up nations for His purposes.
God raised up Israel, from which nation His own Son came into being. God raised up Spain, to spread Christianity across the seas to many distant lands. God raised up Ireland, to send out missionaries throughout the world and spread the faith.
Is it now the turn of the Philippines?
Consider what God has done and what God has allowed to happen to prepare the Philippines.
The Philippines was under Spanish rule for almost four centuries, from the mid-1500 to 1898. Spain brought and propagated Christianity in the country. Thus the Philippines today is a Christian nation, with about 86% of the population being Christians. Until predominantly Christian Timor Leste gained its independence in 2002, the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Asia, where the majority of the world’s population lives.
In 1898, the United States took over from Spain. The Americans brought the English language and fostered a high degree of literacy. English is now the dominant language in the world. After the USA and the United Kingdom, the Philippines is the third largest English-speaking population in the world.
Then World War II came, and Japan ruled the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. This devastating war taught Filipinos the horrors of war and the need for peace in the world. Affliction and extreme suffering have also brought purification and an appreciation of the cross.
In 1972 Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. From this time until 1986 when he was driven out by a People Power revolution (EDSA I), the Filipinos suffered, due to military abuses, political repression, economic stagnation and massive corruption. This taught Filipinos the horrors of injustice, oppression and corruption. Filipinos also learned to be watchful of the enemy from within.
Having so many islands provides an extensive coastline (23,175 kilometers long) and some of the best beaches in the world. This provides abundant fishery resources and a vast potential for eco-tourism.
Much of the country has fertile soil. This provides a great potential for agricultural production and food self-sufficiency.
There is abundant fresh water, provided by many rivers and lakes, and even aquifers. There is a regular rainy season from June to November. This provides an important resource, especially at this time when ecologists are warning about a looming “water crunch” due to global warming, growing populations and pollution. Some are even speculating that the next world war will be fought over water resources.
The Philippines is strategically located. Right above and below it are two of the four countries with the largest populations, China to the north and Indonesia to the south. China is a growing superpower, and the only country at the moment capable of challenging the USA for regional hegemony. Indonesia is the nation with the biggest number of Muslims in the world.
In addition, the South China Sea possibly holds the last unexplored tracts of vast oil and gas resources, concentrated around the Spratly and Paracel Islands, to which many nations including the Philippines lay claim. Thus, given present US world dominance, given the growing political and military strength of China, given current Muslim fundamentalism and its confrontation with the West especially the US, given the scramble for rich resources, given its traditional alignment with the US, given its strategic location, the Philippines finds itself in the midst of growing geo-political power plays.
There is a vast potential for evangelization in Asia, where the Church is present in only 3% of the population. However, in Asia reside and work 14% of the bishops, 10% of diocesan priests, 25% of women religious and 33% of men and women novices. In fact, Pope John Paul II has said that the 21st century will be the century for the evangelization of Asia.
Filipinos are of a mixed race and ancestry, a melting pot. Filipinos have Malay, Chinese, Spanish, American and European blood. While very Asian, the Philippines is also highly westernized. This makes the Filipino a citizen of the world, better suited to appreciate both the eastern and western minds, and more open to accepting other races and cultures.
Filipinos are generally peaceable, gentle and friendly. They are patient, persevering and forbearing. In the midst of their sorrows they can still laugh and party. They are survivors. They can adapt well to different circumstances. Though somewhat unruly in their own country, they can become very law-abiding when living in other countries.
Most Filipinos are poor. This helps them appreciate the scourge of poverty and the injustice that breeds poverty. Due mainly to poverty, over ten million Filipinos have left the country and are working in other countries, and this exodus continues. This provides a Filipino diaspora that can participate in the worldwide evangelization work.
The Philippines has a large population. All of 95 million people. It currently is the 12th largest country in population. Now let us realize one important truth: population is power!
Just look at China, the most populous nation on earth, with 1.3 billion Chinese. It was not too long ago that China was backward, and Chinese goods were equated with cheap low-quality products. But now China is a powerhouse economically, politically and militarily. China is the only nation that can and will threaten the United States’ standing as the only superpower in the world. Even with a decadent Communist system, and a late and chaotic entry into the world of capitalism, China is now suddenly thrust to center stage. And what can explain such phenomenal growth? One aspect is simply population!
It is the same thing with India, the only other billion-person country in the world. With its current population of 1.2 billion, but with a growth rate much larger than China’s (at current rates, India will overtake China in 2050 with a population of 1.6 billion), it has the potential for power that can be mind-boggling.
This is what makes the developed Western nations fearful. Their hold on global power and dominance is threatened. Their continued exploitation of the world’s resources is threatened. This is why the countries of North America and Europe are so keen on limiting the populations of developing countries.
They are expending tremendous resources in promoting abortion, contraception and sterilization, in the guise of health care for women and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Millions of women in developing nations suffer death or serious injury from treatable and avoidable complications surrounding childbirth, and yet many Western nations and medical organizations have shown far more interest in contraception and abortion than in saving and improving the lives of mothers. The mortality rate for expectant mothers in Africa is as high as 1 in 16, and yet almost all the Western aid money for “reproductive health” is spent on contraceptives and abortion.
The population controllers present as their argument the specter of global hunger and poverty, due to dwindling resources in the world with which to feed and care for a bigger world population. But this is just a bogey. The truth is that there are more than enough resources in the world with which to feed and care for even double the current world population. The problem is not a lack of resources, but a lack of caring and sharing. And so in considering the so-called “population problem,” it is not the big populations of the developing world that are the culprits, but it is rather the populations of the developed Western world, which are consuming so much more than their fair and just share of world resources.
Population is power. And it is in accordance with the prophetic role of the Philippines to continue to have a strong and vibrant growth rate. This is not to say that Filipinos are to become irresponsible in bringing children into the world. They should practice responsible parenthood and have only those children that they can properly care for. In considering this however, generosity and even sacrifice are called for. Filipinos are not to go the way of other countries whose people think only of themselves, of their careers and personal well-being, to the point of not wanting the responsibility and “burden” of children. Given that the Philippines is rich in resources, and if her citizens take on a relative simplicity of lifestyle and practice community sharing, the nation can support a bigger population.
In the meantime that the Philippines cannot fully care for its growing population, due not to lack of resources but to injustice and lack of sharing in its own land, its population can continue to be exported to reinforce the Filipino diaspora that is making its presence felt in the countries of the world. This might seem like a terrible thing to propose, but we need to see this with spiritual eyes. Spreading the army throughout the battlefield of the world is in accordance with the plan of God for the Philippines! This would be especially desirable if whole families are “exported” so as not to break up the family.
By the way, the Philippines also has a young population. Half are below 21 years old. Those up to 14 years old comprise 37% of the population. Such youth provides vibrancy, strength and idealism. It also assures continuity for whatever God starts.
Further, Manila (or Metro Manila), the capital of the Philippines, is a megacity of 20.3 million people. It is the tenth largest of 21 megacities in the world as of 2011. As such, Manila has the critical mass and infrastructure with which to build a strong base for worldwide mission. Being a modern city and one manifesting the marked contrasts between the rich and the poor, Manila is an ideal laboratory for testing, implementing and refining the elements of Christian mission, and serving as a model and base for the work in other countries.
Population is power. But that is just a corollary. What population truly is is God’s blessing. From the very beginning, God blessed the first couple, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28). Don’t miss what God said. With His blessing came the instruction to multiply and fill the earth! Then in His instructions to His chosen people as He prepared to bring them into the promised land, God said: “I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you.” (Lev 26:9). Population was a mark of favor upon His people, and a manifestation of the living out of His covenant with them.
The nations of the Western world have cut their population growth rates through the abominable acts of abortion, contraception and sterilization. Some nations have gone too far, incurring a negative growth rate. Now their societies are aging, social security within their economies is threatened, and eventual extinction of their race is a dire possibility. They have chosen the path of the culture of death. They are committing demographic suicide. Unfortunately they seek to impose this diabolical culture on the developing world.
That is not God’s way for the Philippines. In this land God’s people are to live out a culture of life.
Marriage and family
The Philippines is the only Christian country left that has not legalized divorce. Though there are many Filipino couples who have separated or who have gotten divorces outside the country, by and large marriage is still considered an important institution. Though there is continuing pressure from certain legislators prodded by global anti-family forces to legalize divorce, and legislation to this effect has been introduced from time to time, such initiatives have so far not been successful.
Family ties are strong in the Philippines. Extended family living is common, where a surviving parent would live with his/her married child’s family. Clans often maintain close ties, with regular family get-togethers. Financial help is readily given to relatives in need. The Philippine economy is propped up by the remittance of billions of dollars by overseas Filipino workers to their families. By and large, children still give their parents the honor and respect due them.
This gives Filipinos an edge, in connection with a promise of God made long ago. This is about the fourth commandment given at Sinai: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Dt 5:16). Desiring a long life and prosperity in the land? Then honor your parents. This promise connected with the commandment was reiterated by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.’” (Eph 6:2-3).
There is every reason to believe that such a promise is still operative in this day and age. Family relationships that are in place is at the heart of the well-being of a nation.
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DEFINING A NATION’S ROLE
The Philippines has a prophetic role as God’s light in Asia, and to the world. Only God knows why this is so. The Philippines has nothing to commend itself. It is poor, riddled by crime and corruption, has the scourge of illegal drugs, is politically unstable, and has over 10% of its people opting to live outside the country. The fact that it is a Catholic nation makes such a situation more indefensible. Even with no divorce, there are very many separations. Even with churches full on Sundays, there is much social injustice.
But having nothing to commend itself is the very criterion of God. God already once chose such a nation, Israel. But God told them clearly through Moses: “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” (Dt 7:7). Talk about deflating the national ego!
The inscrutable ways of God
The ways of God are indeed strange to the human mind. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor 1:25a). Thus it is that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor 1:27-28). And for what? “So that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:29). There you have it. God chose the Philippines, a country that is weak and poor, because it fits His criteria! Also, God chose the Philippines so that it might be clear to all that whatever is accomplished is done by the power of God and not by man. “For great is the power of God; by the humble he is glorified.” (Sir 3:19).
And so the Philippines has become the only significant Christian nation in Asia (the only other Christian nation in Asia is Timor Leste). It is a bastion of Christianity in a sea of pagan religions and atheism. Thus it has been designated a prophetic role as the light in Asia. But how will that happen? With missionary priests and nuns? Filipino priests and nuns have been serving for decades all over the world, but we have not seen any significant conversions. Would it happen through the Filipino diaspora, 10 million strong throughout the world? Though there are heart-warming stories about Filipina domestic helpers spreading the faith, these are few and far between.
How then would the Philippines become a light to Asia, and even to the whole world?
This will come about in many ways. It will happen as we build the Church of the Poor. It will happen when Filipinos experience justice and peace and prosperity in the land. When there is no one in the whole country in need. When the poor will have their dignity restored and take their place as a foremost force in the renewal of society. When crime and corruption is minimized and even eradicated altogether. When the insurgencies of the Communists and the Muslims have been settled peacefully, and all Filipinos live and work in unity. When there is respect for the environment, and the air over Manila is clean. When dead, polluted rivers and streams are brought back to life and once again teem with fish. When the beauty of the country will become a showcase to the world of God’s wonderful creation. When there is great happiness and contentment in the lives of people. When the light of Christ shines forth in Filipino hearts and in Filipino homes.
It will happen when the Philippines reflects very much more the beauty and blessings that are appropriate for the kingdom of God that is in its midst.
It will be then when other countries, that themselves experience problems of poverty and oppression and pollution with no solutions in sight, will look upon the Philippines in wonder and amazement. And they will desire to know the key to the nation’s peace and prosperity. And that is when Filipinos can say it is because they have a God who blesses them.
The countries of the world will want to know such a God.
The call to Israel
In fact God did raise up a people many centuries ago, and intended them to be His showcase to the world. He entered into covenant with them, and promised them blessings as a reward for their obedience.
“If you live in accordance with my precepts and are careful to observe my commandments, I will give you rain in due season, so that the land will bear its crops, and the trees their fruit; your threshing will last till vintage time, and your vintage till the time for sowing, and you will have food to eat in abundance, so that you may dwell securely in your land. I will establish peace in the land, that you may lie down to rest without anxiety. I will rid the country of ravenous beasts, and keep the sword of war from sweeping across your land. You will rout your enemies and lay them low with your sword. Five of you will put a hundred of your foes to flight, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand of them, till they are cut down by your sword. I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you. So much of the old crops will you have stored up for food that you will have to discard them to make room for the new. I will set my Dwelling among you, and will not disdain you. Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev 26:3-12)
What awesome blessings upon a country! Food in abundance, peace and security in the land. No worries or anxieties, no ravenous beasts (include murderers and rapists in that). Most of all, the abiding presence of God in their midst.
The Israelites did experience such blessings, with the high point being the reign of Solomon. He “surpassed in riches and wisdom all the kings of the earth” (1 Kgs 10:23). And get this: “the whole world sought audience with Solomon” (1 Kgs 10:24)! What God did to and for the Israelites attracted the whole world!
Unfortunately, Solomon proved unfaithful, the Israelites proved unfaithful, and they lost it all.
But wouldn’t God still look to raising a people with whom He would establish His covenant, and bless abundantly as a sign for all the nations, in order to be able to draw all other nations to Himself? I believe He would. I believe He has.
Through the centuries, God has blessed countries in special ways. Ireland was one such. They sent out very many missionaries. But today Ireland is quite secular, even anti-Catholic Church.
Is it then the turn of the Philippines? Why has this country been situated such that it must be given the prophetic role to be God’s light in Asia? And beyond that to the whole world?
The call to the Philippines
As Filipinos witness to the power of God in their country, as they stand in the place of Jesus in carrying on his mission, as true liberation comes upon the land, the countries of the world will see Jesus in this country. And the impact will be as the time when Jesus himself walked the earth. What happened as Jesus healed people then?
“Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Mt 15:30-31)
Allow me, with great license, to rearrange and paraphrase the above passage.
The nations were amazed when they saw the poor uplifted, the economy booming, the food abundant, the air clean, and they glorified the God of the Philippines. Great delegations came to the country, bearing with them their problems of economic malaise, lack of vision for their country, political oppression, and many more. They presented these for counsel, and God provided the solution.
In the case of Solomon, the whole world sought audience with him, to hear from him the wisdom that God had put in his heart (1 Kgs 10:24). When the queen of Sheba witnessed his great wisdom and the magnificence of his surroundings and the happiness of his people, “she was breathless” (1 Kgs 10:4-5). So too will the whole world be amazed at what God can do for a people, and when they come to witness things firsthand, their experience of God’s blessings will take their breath away!
And just like the queen of Sheba, their response can only be to say “Blessed be the Lord, your God” (1 Kgs 10:9). The key to the evangelization of Asia and the world is the bountiful unimaginable blessings God will pour out upon His chosen nation, the Philippines.
Filipinos who take to this prophetic vision can easily stand accused of having a messiah complex, of thinking that they will save the world. But we know that it is the messiah who saves the world. But we also know that God uses instruments to accomplish His will.
“So too, all men are of clay, for from earth man was formed; yet with his great knowledge the Lord makes men unlike; in different paths he has them walk. Some he blesses and makes great, some he sanctifies and draws to himself. Others he curses and brings low, and expels them from their place. Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, so are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by him their function.” (Sir 33:10-13)
Knowing that one is simply an instrument is cause not for pride but for humility. The bright colored clay pot that glows with eye-catching beauty cannot claim any credit, for it is merely a product of the skilled potter and painter. The Stradivarius from which issues beautiful music cannot claim any credit, for it is merely an instrument in the hands of a skilled violinist. If the clay pot is dropped and shattered, it suddenly becomes totally useless. If the Stradivarius is left in the closet, it will cease to give joy to lovers of music.
In the case of Filipinos, they are not just instruments, but they are not even a great or beautiful instrument. In fact, whatever God can accomplish in and through Filipinos will be done in spite of them! Through the years, they have shown that they are often the obstacle to God’s accomplishing His purposes for them.
And so God uses instruments, and often such instruments are those who count for nothing in the world. That is what Filipinos are—nothing who will be able to accomplish something great, simply by the power of God.
It seems that nothingness and greatness go together. Our nothingness and God’s greatness are a great combination. In fact, it is dynamite!
Take a look at Mary. She was a young maiden in a town of Galilee called Nazareth. She was not rich, nor of noble birth, nor of any social prominence. But God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. What she said about herself in her canticle, the Magnificat, speaks for itself. “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:48-49). We recognize our nothingness, but we also recognize the great work God is able to do in and through us. And we give the glory to God.
In fact, take a look at Jesus himself. He was born in the small town of Bethlehem in one of the smaller colonies of the far-flung Roman empire. He was born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling clothes. He grew up as a carpenter. He became an itinerant preacher in an underdeveloped region in the world. And finally he died as a criminal and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
This is how God works.
And so God called a people, Israel. They were the smallest among the nations. They had nothing to commend themselves. But God entered into covenant with them and built them up, making them great among the nations.
Now God calls the Philippines. Filipinos are indeed an unlikely choice. They are poor, crime-prone, disunited. They are the basket case of Asia. They suffer under corrupt governments. There is widespread injustice. The country has long-running Communist and Muslim insurgencies. But even with all these negatives, God has a purpose. Just like in His call to the Israelites, who had to wander in the desert for 40 years. And what was that purpose? “To test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments” (Dt 8:2). God wants to know if we are with Him only because He blesses us. God wants to know if we will still be there for Him even when the blessings seem not to be forthcoming. God wants to know if we will obey Him only when we get goodies from Him, or if we will obey Him, period! So in spite of all the hardships and trials, if we do not turn away from God, if we in fact cling more to Him and trust in Him, then we would have passed the test.
In fact, Christians are exhorted to “endure (their) trials as ‘discipline’ ” (Heb 12:7), which God sends our way “for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). To do God’s work, we need to be His holy people. And to do God’s work that involves us in spiritual warfare, we need to be a trained army. Thus Paul exhorts us to “bear (our) share of hardship along with (him) like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3). So the trials endured by Filipinos are both a test and training. They are to be seen as part of the preparation for the work in Asia and the world.
And when the time comes for their vindication, when their misfortunes are finally overturned, when they become prosperous in the end, Filipinos will not forget their proper place. “Otherwise, you might say to yourselves, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth.’ Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers.” (Dt 8:17-18).
The Israelites experienced the blessings promised by God as part of their covenant, but they forgot their proper place. They turned away from their covenant. The consequences were tragic. They lost everything. May it not be the case with the Philippines.
So God has called the Philippines and prepared the Filipinos. They need only respond and be faithful, and be amazed at how God can form them and empower them and use them. And of course if they do not respond, then they will lose the anointing.
If that happens, perhaps God will look to an even poorer and more devastated nation, Timor Leste, which is now the second Christian nation in Asia.
The role of other nations
What does such a preferential call for the Philippines imply about other nations? Are they then destined to be second-class in the eyes of God? Certainly not. This is just how God works.
God chose a poor maiden in a remote corner of the world to be the mother of God. God chose an ordinary fisherman to be the head of His Church. And through the years, God continues to confound the wisdom of the world. Indeed God Himself tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8). It is not our place to question His ways.
And so God raises a people whom He would use.
Even Jesus focused his mission on the people God had called. To the Canaanite woman asking for deliverance for her daughter, he said “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mt 15:24). Did that mean Jesus loved her less? Certainly not. Jesus’ actions were only in accordance with the inscrutable wisdom of God, who though always having the salvation of the whole world at heart, had a particular plan of action.
In accordance with God’s plan, other nations benefited as they embraced the God of Israel. This is what happened to the Canaanite woman.
And of course, after his public ministry that was focused on the Jewish people, Jesus instructed his Jewish core group to bring the good news to the whole world and to make disciples of all the nations. And from that day of Pentecost, the gospel spread quickly, starting in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth.
To other nations, humility is called for. The nations of the world are to subordinate their national pride to the sovereign will of God, whose ways are inscrutable. Indeed we are all citizens of the same heavenly kingdom. And so if God is truly calling and intending to use the Philippines, the other nations should accept that God is indeed working in and through Filipinos, and joyfully accept that reality as God’s plan for their own salvation.
But this prophetic role for the Philippines does not mean that the other nations will sit idly by while Filipinos evangelize the world. On the contrary, God is raising a multinational army, composed of soldiers from all nationalities. God certainly looks to the Indians, Vietnamese and Nigerians, for example, who have many warm bodies to contribute to the mission, and who are themselves already dispersed throughout the world.
Unlike the Jews who scattered from Jerusalem due to persecution, Filipinos are already scattered due to economic need. There are over 10 million Filipinos in practically all countries in the world, many of them in menial service. The nobodies of the world are already in place. The Filipinos just need to be conscious of their true calling.
Rise up, Philippines, and fulfill your destiny.
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ON NEW EVANGELIZATION
In order to more deliberately move forward the re-evangelization of the nation, especially in the decade of special grace, the Church hierarchy can look to establishing an Episcopal Commission on New Evangelization (ECNE).
We review the situation of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, and reiterate the following premises:
(1) It is the destiny of the Philippines to be God’s light in Asia and to the world (with our Filipino diaspora of over 10 million).
(2) However, over 80% of Filipino Catholics do not even go regularly to Sunday Mass. There is no massive organized and effective work of bringing in these Catholics into the mainstream of Catholic life.
(3) Further, our nation, being the last nation standing for faith, family and life, is about to be swamped by a tsunami of evil, relentlessly pushed by anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist forces.
(4) In order to withstand the onslaught of evil, and to attain to our eternal destiny, there has to be a work of massive re-evangelization.
(5) As we look to the 500th year of Christianity in our nation in 2021, God is giving us a decade of special grace (from 2011 to 2021). There is great urgency in seizing this opportunity.
The intent is to move the whole Catholic Church, from the top hierarchy to the grassroots, to participate in the work of rapid and massive re-evangelization of the nation. For this to happen, the ECNE should be established, to move and oversee the whole process.
What would be the goals of the ECNE?
(1) To reach as many lapsed and nominal Filipino Catholics and bring them to an active life in the Church. For every Filipino Catholic to meet Christ, live Christ, and share Christ.
(2) To mainstream Catholic lay evangelization. To enlist an army of lay evangelizers who will do persistent, insistent, committed evangelization, especially in this decade of special grace.
(3) To bring clergy into deeper renewal in the Spirit. To bring about greater collaboration between clergy and laity for the one work of re-evangelization.
Why not just utilize existing commissions (like the ECLA) for this purpose?
(1) The various episcopal commissions are busy enough as it is, with their particular focus. ECLA is busy caring for laypersons and lay groups already active in the Church. This of course needs to be continued as it is crucial for the faith to be deepened in every Catholic.
(2) There is a need for a singular focus on re-evangelizing lapsed and nominal Catholics, not just making this task as one of many activities of an established commission.
(3) The establishment of ECNE signals to all Filipinos, including those abroad, the critical importance and priority of the work of re-evangelization.
What would be the specific work of ECNE?
(1) To formulate the programs and activities that will help achieve its objectives.
(2) To help ensure the strong and ongoing support of all bishops to this all-important work. ECNE will keep the work on track, especially in the decade of special grace (but also beyond).
(3) To work for the renewal of priests and build up a strong army of holy clerics.
(4) To coordinate the contribution to and participation in the evangelization work by the Episcopal Commissions on the Laity, Family and Life, Youth, Catechesis, Biblical Apostolate, and others as needed.
(5) To look to the integration of the work of re-evangelization in the BEC, social apostolate, and mission to the Filipino diaspora.
(6) To help recover Catholic educational institutions to orthodoxy of faith and obedience to the Magisterium.
(7) To help prepare for the celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.
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The very first is the Christian Life Seminar (CLS). It is designed to bring participants to conversion, transformation and renewal in Christ. It is the process by which one meets Christ, and starts living Christ. It consists of 9 separate sessions, which can be given in nine consecutive weeks, or in a shorter compressed way (e.g., three weekends, or even in one weekend if necessary). The CLS is a proven way of bringing lapsed or inactive Catholics back to the Church, transforming nominal Catholics to a vibrant and committed life in Christ, and deepening the faith of those who are already active.
After the CLS, for continuing support and formation, there will be a monthly prayer assembly in the parish (or a diocesan facility). Here there will be worship, personal testimonies, teachings, and fellowship.
Many follow-up formation programs will be made available. Among others:
* For married couples — Marriage Enrichment Retreat
* For youth — Youth Camps and various youth formation modules
* For Bible appreciation — Liturgical Bible Study
* For pro-life — SAFE and other pro-life modules
* For work with the poor — Church of the Poor Retreat
* For servant leadership — various leadership modules
* Family catechesis
The dynamics of the program for re-evangelization
Everyone goes through the CLS, hopefully including the clergy. For the clergy this is desirable for the following reasons:
* So that every Filipino Catholic will be on the same page on this common journey to the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the nation;
* So the clergy, especially the parish priests, can be fully knowledgeable about the CLS and thus be able to better promote and support it; and
* So that their own spirituality can be further enhanced.
The CLS, in Manila as well as in the various ecclesiastical provinces, is first mounted for lay leaders already involved in the dioceses/parishes and in the various religious groups and lay movements. This is so that they can then be trained to mount the same program for people down the line.
From the initial batches, participation in the CLS is fueled by the person-to-person evangelization of those who have already gone through it. This is actually important for the evangelizers themselves because such a lifestyle of evangelization goes a long way to deepening one’s spirituality. Further, it is the only way to eventually reach everyone.
The dynamics of the program for the poor
There are many ways to serve the poor. Many of these ways are already happening, and of course should continue. But we propose a particular program that should be more effective, for the following reasons:
* It is a holistic approach to addressing all the important needs of the poor—shelter, health, education, livelihood, values formation;
* It is replicable throughout the nation, and so can be done on a massive scale;
* It will not unduly burden individuals and groups in serving the poor, as the work and financial requirements will be widely shared;
* It gives parishioners a live situation where they can truly care for the needs of the parish’s poor on an ongoing way; it is Church of the Poor in action;
* It will be a vibrant model for BEC.
The first step is to explain the program (which we will call work with the poor or WWP) to the parish priest and to the Parish Pastoral Council, perhaps together with leaders of the parish organizations. Hopefully they will take on the vision.
Next is to solicit a piece of land, good for perhaps 30 to 100 homes, with each home lot perhaps 50 square meters. This is not difficult in the provinces, where we can usually find a land-owning Catholic willing to make such a donation. There should also be space for a multi-purpose hall cum chapel, a pre-school, a courtyard, and perhaps space for agricultural purposes, such as vegetable patches, etc.
A team then trains the parish team.
Beneficiaries are selected, and given values formation. The different parish groups can be allocated a certain number of beneficiaries, for whom they will find the funds for the house, and help build the house.
The support programs of health, education and livelihood follow. In these, the expertise and resources of the different parish groups will be tapped—doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.
The WWP can be implemented first by having a pilot site in each of the ecclesiastical provinces. Then it moves on to a site in each of the dioceses. Then it goes to a site in each of the parishes. The parish adds more sites until there is no more homeless Filipino family.
The trainors for the expanding work will come from the dioceses/parishes that have the initial sites, which sites will also become model villages.
Additional funding can later be secured abroad. These can be from charitable foundations, from Filipino associations, from sister parishes in the First World.
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CHRISTIAN LIFE SEMINAR (CLS)
The CLS is an integrated course intended to lead seminar participants into a renewed understanding of God’s call to them as Christians. It runs for a total of 9 separate sessions, usually held once a week. Most sessions consist of three basic ingredients: a teaching, a group discussion, and a time for fellowship. Each session would normally last for about 2-1/2 hours.
The CLS has one basic purpose: bringing participants to a personal relationship with Jesus, and getting them started on living a truly Spirit-filled Christian life. It is about transformation in Christ and renewal in the Spirit.
What is the content of the CLS?
The CLS is divided into 3 modules of 3 sessions each. The topics of the 9 sessions are as follows:
Module #1: MEETING CHRIST
1) God’s Love
2) What it Means to be a Christian
3) Repentance and Faith
Module #2: LIVING CHRIST
4) The Christian Ideal: Loving God
5) Loving Your Neighbor
6) Life in the Holy Spirit
Module #3: SHARING CHRIST
7) Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit
8) Growing in the Spirit
9) The Live Christ, Share Christ Movement
What is each talk about?
God’s Love speaks about God’s wanting to bring us out of the confusion and disorder that is being experienced in the modern world, and to bring us all back to Himself, to restore our fellowship and intimacy with Him. There is something seriously wrong with the situation in the world today, and behind most of the disorder and evil is Satan. Only God can bring us out of this, and He has done it by sending His own Son Jesus into the world to suffer and die for us. In Jesus we have our salvation.
Since Jesus then is central to God’s plan for us and since we as Christians carry his name, we need to understand What It Means to be a Christian. This talk first dispels misconceptions or wrong notions about Christianity. It points out what it is not. Then it shows that the essence of Christianity is union with God, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. What makes us Christian is our loving, personal relationship with God, and our whole life becomes an expression of this relationship.
God has loved us. God sent His own Son to die for us. God has gathered us unto Himself as His people. Christianity is something that God has initiated, unilaterally and unreservedly. In the light of all these, our proper response is Repentance and Faith. This is a double-action response. Repentance and faith go together. Repentance involves a turning away from sin, wrongdoing and running our own lives, and a turning to a life of obedience to God. Faith, in turn, is belief in Jesus as our personal Savior.
The above 3 talks form the first module of the CLS, and has presented the absolute basics of our Christian faith. The next module, consisting of another 3 sessions, presents the kind of life that God calls us to. It spells out the personal response involved in receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, and helps participants to make a reorientation of their lives around Jesus.
The second module starts out with a talk on The Christian Ideal: Loving God. It is an explanation of the first and greatest commandment. It explains in detail what it really means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
The next talk deals with Loving Your Neighbor, which, together with loving God, forms the core of the Christian life. The talk contrasts God’s love with the world’s idea of love. Love is not only having positive feelings, not always saying “yes,” not defensive, not self-seeking or manipulative. Rather, Christian love is connected with keeping God’s commandments and means a self-sacrificial love, best exemplified by Jesus himself. On the practical level, Christian love means committed service to our fellow men.
After learning what this new life that we are called to really means, we look at the one ingredient that makes it all possible. This is the power from above that enables us to live a Life in the Holy Spirit. True Christian living is not just a matter of human willpower but a new heart, a new life from God. The Holy Spirit enables us to experience God, a living relationship with Him, and His action in our lives. With the Holy Spirit, we again experience union with God and gain a new nature, spiritual power, and the power to serve.
The third and final module helps participants to commit their lives in a serious way to Jesus, and to prepare them to share the gospel. First, this involves Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit. This first session of the third module is essentially a prayer session where the participants are prayed with for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Some would term this the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”
Then, recognizing that the baptism in the Spirit is only a beginning, there is a need to learn more about how to grow in the life of the Spirit. Thus the participants are taught the basic means of Growing in the Spirit. The five basic tools to growth are prayer, study, service, fellowship and the sacraments.
Finally, as the last session of the CLS, we look to the need to walk together with other committed Christians for mutual support, and to carry out our Christian mission, as we continue along the path of holiness and discipleship. As Catholics in a parish we are invited to be part of the Live Christ, Share Christ movement. The CLS is just the start of our life-long walk with Jesus, as we look to ongoing transformation in Christ. Though the CLS has come to an end, the new life is just beginning. In order to grow, much more is needed—learning more about the Christian life, the strength and support of others, having an environment where one can serve God, being leaven in the parish. The participants are invited to continue their journey, and they make a commitment to the Live Christ, Share Christ movement through a covenant.
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DECADE OF RE-EVANGELIZATION
It starts with a decision of the Catholic hierarchy (through the CBCP) to embark on this 10-year program of re-evangelization.
Then a central committee is formed to do the planning. This will be a two-month planning, from February to March 2011. The committee will regularly report to the CBCP on its progress. After this time, people will undergo training on the different programs of formation as needed.
March 2011 will be the formal launch of the program, with a Eucharistic celebration on Limasawa Island in Leyte (officially declared as the authentic site by the Historical Commission), at the site where the first Mass was celebrated by the Spaniards.
Some practical elements
There will be annual conferences — one national and several echo conferences regionally on the level of the ecclesiastical provinces.
Themes for the annual conferences for the decade:
2011-2012 Proclaiming Christ (evangelization)
2012-2013 Renewing the family
2013-2014 Uplifting the culture of life
2014-2015 Servant leadership
2015-2016 Building the Church of the Poor
2016-2017 The Filipino diaspora in the service of the nations
2017-2018 The Christian in society, politics, economics and the environment
2018-2019 Serving Christ and his Church
2019-2020 The Blessed Virgin Mary in evangelization and family renewal
2020-2021 The Philippines as God’s light to the world
* Underlying all the above would be the call to holiness.
There should be a logo, song and prayer for the decade.
There will be an annual day of fasting for this intention.
February 2011 – March 2011 (Preparatory stage)
Approval in principle by the CBCP.
Appointment of a working or central committee. Working out the whole framework of programs and activities for the decade.
Coming up with the logo, song and prayer for the decade.
Launch of the decade of re-evangelization of the Philippines, with a Eucharistic celebration on Limasawa Island.
Continuous training of lay implementors, with the attendant clerics, in Manila as well as regionally in each ecclesiastical province. Training means they actually go through the programs, and are given inputs on how to then mount the programs themselves.
From the ecclesiastical provinces, the training and programs can move down to the dioceses, and from there down to every parish.
The programs are implemented as trained laypeople are able to conduct them. These programs are ongoing throughout the decade.
Eucharistic celebration by the Holy Father in Manila.
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The spirituality for evangelization and mission is charismatic spirituality. While there are many different spiritualities in the Church (for example, contemplative), and all are valid and important, charismatic spirituality is intended by God for the work of evangelization.
How is this so?
First, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of empowerment by the Spirit for worldwide mission.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, after having commissioned his disciples to preach the good news to all the nations, he told them to wait for the promise of the Father, by which they would be “clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49). Jesus told them that they would “be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5). Jesus further said, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This baptism in the Holy Spirit is empowerment for worldwide mission.
As Catholics we of course have received the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. In charismatic renewal, people are prayed with for the so-called baptism in the Spirit, in order that there be a renewed infilling or outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and so that they would become witnesses to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus to many others.
Second, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of Pentecost, when the Church was born.
Jesus had told them to wait, and the disciples did as they were told. They waited in Jerusalem, praying in the upper room. Then, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The manifestation of this infilling by the Holy Spirit was that the disciples “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:4). They praised God and proclaimed “the mighty acts of God” in a loud voice. Some people thought they were drunk (Acts 2:15).
Peter was emboldened and empowered to preach one sermon where 3,000 persons were converted. He explained that what was happening was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. God pours out a portion of His spirit upon all flesh, and people prophesy, see visions and dream dreams (Acts 2:17). Then God will work wonders and signs (Acts 2:19), so that those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, before the second coming of Jesus (Acts 2:20-21).
Third, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of the early Church.
The early Church was a charismatic Church. The baptism in the Spirit was an integral part of mission. Peter and John prayed for Jews in Samaria to receive the Holy Spirit; “they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:17). Through Peter, the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles, and they spoke in tongues and glorified God (Acts 10:45-46). Paul went to Ephesus and baptized some disciples in the name of Jesus. “And when Paul laid his hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.” (Acts 19:6).
As the Church grew and became institutionalized, the charismatic dimension was diminished, and even lost. God sought to bring back this essential dimension of Church life and mission, and so the Catholic Charismatic Renewal started in the mid-1970s.
Fourth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of our ancestors-in-faith, the Israelites.
God intended Israel to be His light to a pagan world. The people whom God formed as a people, whom He entered into covenant with, whom He taught about worship, were charismatic. Charismatic worship was the norm.
This is evident from their “songbook,” the Book of Psalms. They were exhorted to praise out loud, to shout, play musical instruments (loud ones like horns and cymbals), to lift their hands, to dance.
Even King David, out of joy at the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, led the people in procession amid great festivities. David stripped down to a linen apron and danced with abandon, while all Israel gave out shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn (2 Sm 6:14-15).
Christians today are the new Israel. We inherit the promises of God to His chosen people. But what God intended for Israel, in raising them to be His light to the world, is also for us Christians today. This includes our spirituality. We would do well to live out such a spirituality. Even if those close to us become ashamed of us (2 Sm 6:20). Even if people think that we are drunk (Acts 2:15).
Fifth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that more readily brings people, especially nominal Christians, to personal conversion and transformation in Christ.
It touches not just the minds but especially the hearts of people. When Peter preached his sermon on Pentecost, those who heard “were cut to the heart” and were led to repentance (Acts 2:37-38).
From repentance, people continue on their journey, looking to the holiness to which they are called. This is how they become effective witnesses to the faith.
Sixth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that provides spiritual gifts that are essential for mission.
When the Church speaks about spiritual gifts, what is often thought of are the seven gifts in Isaiah: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord (Is 11:2-3a). These are sanctifying gifts, essential for us to grow in holiness. On the other hand, there are charismatic gifts, intended for service. The main list of such gifts is in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (there are other gifts in other passages). Sanctifying gifts are for the internal dimension of our individual Christian life, while charismatic gifts are for the external dimension of service, including building up the body.
Many of these gifts are no longer appreciated or even known. But they are crucial to evangelization and mission. For example, faith refers to the faith that moves mountains (or demolishes strongholds). Miraculous healings and mighty deeds are manifestations of the power of the Spirit. Tongues is important for prayer (1 Cor 14:2) and for connecting to the spirit of God (1 Cor 14:14).
Seventh, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality that builds Christian community.
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples resulted in Christian community, in the establishment of the Church. The disciples began to live a communal life, characterized by formation, prayers and worship, the Eucharist, sharing of resources, meetings and fellowship, effective witness, massive evangelization (Acts 2:42-47). They even solved the problem of poverty, such that there was no one in need (Acts 4:32-35).
Everyone receives a charismatic gift (1 Cor 12:7,11). These gifts are used to build community (1 Cor 12:12,27-30), to prepare the body for service to the larger society. The work of evangelization is the work of the whole Church and not just separate individuals.
Eighth, charismatic spirituality is the spirituality of worship in heaven.
We all want to get to heaven. Now according to the vision of John, worship in heaven will be charismatic. The angels and saints praise and cry out to God in a loud voice (Rev 7:10,19:1). It will be “like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder” (Rev 19:6).
It would be good to get used to it while we are still on earth.
One problem in the Church today is that Catholics do not really know the Holy Spirit. They know the Father, who is Creator. They know the Son, who is Savior. But they miss out on the Holy Spirit, who is Sanctifier and who empowers for mission. It may well be that most Catholics today, when asked, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” (Acts 19:2), would answer, “We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2).
Catholics first receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Baptism. Baptism cleanses us of original sin and makes us children of God. It is “a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” (Acts 19:4). Then, when we have been instructed in the faith and are mature enough to think and decide for ourselves, we receive the sacrament of Confirmation. This makes us soldiers of Christ, tasked to proclaim him to the world.
But how come many baptized and confirmed Catholics are so sinful, lethargic in their faith, not aware at all of the call to evangelize? This is where a renewed infilling or outpouring of the Holy Spirit is needed. This is accomplished through the so-called baptism in the Holy Spirit and entrance into the charismatic dimension of faith.
The Catholic Church is in essence a missionary Church. But how can she accomplish her mission without the active work of the Holy Spirit?
Do all Catholics have to be charismatics, or be part of charismatic renewal? No. But if the Catholic Church is to live up to its essence as a missionary Church, charismatic spirituality is very helpful. We might even say crucial.
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on Charismatic Spirituality
Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household, said the following about Charismatic Renewal in his third Advent sermon on December 2011.
“In one of his documents, John Paul II said that the proliferation of sects forced us to ask why, to ask what is lacking in our pastoral methods. My own conviction, based on experience — and not only in Latin American countries — is as follows. What is attractive outside the Church are not certain alternative forms of popular piety, which the majority of other churches and sects reject and fight against. It is a proclamation, partial perhaps, but powerful, of the grace of God, the possibility of experiencing Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Saviour, belonging to a group of people who personally take care of your needs, who pray over you when medicine has nothing more to say.
If on the one hand we can rejoice that these people have found Christ and have been converted, it is sad that in order to do so they felt they had to leave their Church. In the majority of churches where these brothers and sisters end up, everything revolves around first conversion and the acceptance of Jesus as Lord. In the Catholic Church, thanks to the sacraments, the magisterium, and the wealth of spirituality, there is the advantage of not stopping at that initial stage, but one can reach the fullness and perfection of the Christian life. The saints are proof of this. But it is necessary to take that conscious and personal initial step, and this is precisely where we are challenged and stimulated by the evangelical and Pentecostal communities.
In this respect, the Charismatic Renewal has proved to be, in the words of Paul VI, “a chance for the Church.” In Latin America, the pastors of the Church are realising that the Charismatic Renewal is not (as some believed at the beginning) “part of the problem” of the exodus of Catholics from the Church, but is rather part of the solution to the problem. Statistics will never show how many people have remained faithful to the Church because of it, because they found within its ranks what others were looking for elsewhere. The numerous communities that have sprung up from within the Charismatic Movement, albeit with the limitations and at times the drifting that one finds in any human venture, are at the front line of service to the Church and of evangelization.”
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A Future Full of Hope
Amazing Truths that will Change your Life
Focused on Christ
Showing His Power and Majesty
Fishers of Men
Renewing the Face of the Earth
Families in the Holy Spirit
Females are Fabulous
Building the Church of the Poor
Bringing Glad Tidings to the Poor
Forty Days with the Poor
Freeing the Captives
Forty Days with Mary
Forty More Days with Mary
Mary in the Work of Evangelization and Family Renewal
 The likes of Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, Bill Gates.
 When Malta legalized divorce, only 2 states were left without divorce–the Philippines and Vatican City. But there are no married couples in the Vatican! The Philippines is the last nation standing.
 For the lapsed or nominal Catholics, they have to be brought back to the Church first.
 The culture of life is of course much wider than what we understand to be pro-life issues, such as abortion, contraception, divorce, same-sex unions, etc. It is about fullness of life as God intends.
 An important aspect of formation is the Biblical apostolate, with a program such as the Liturgical Bible Study (LBS) that builds capability to proclaim/share the Good News to neighborhood groupings such as the BEC model of being Church.
 This is basically the pastoral approach of CFC (CFC-FFL). CFC grew in 20 years to over one million members, eventually brought its ministry in 25 years to 160 countries, and was recognized by the Holy See as one of the new lay ecclesial movements (the only one that originated in Asia). With the support of the hierarchy, its work can be easily replicated and become even more massive. This work will be done on behalf and in the name of the Church, without recruitment into CFC.
 There are in fact many dissident theologians.
 Head knowledge will have to be applied to day-to-day Christian living.
 Many Mass goers do not live Christian lives the rest of the week.
 This is for both laity and clergy.
 This is for every member of a family, whether married or single. Everyone belongs to a family. For clergy, they have their spiritual families.
 Except for those in religious communities, though they are welcome to participate in the parish also.
 At low tide.
 However, the claim of China to the whole South China Sea is a serious infringement on our territory and a threat to regional or even global peace.
 Though there are 26 cities that have populations of 10M or more, qualifying them to be considered megacities.
 Not counting Vatican state.
 There is a current reproductive health bill that is being pushed by the President himself.
 This is not an exhaustive list.
 Subtle Attacks against the Faith Explained.
 Especially the lapsed or nominal Catholics who cannot be reached by the parish priest or by parish groups.
 CFC-FFL is currently building Restoration Villages. The name is appropriate, to signify the restoration of the dignity of the poor through decent housing and community living.
 The house itself is 20 square meters.
 They can choose from among their poor, homeless members.
 The groups can tap on to their national and even international organizations.
 The bayanihan style will help bond rich and poor in the parish.
 These can of course also be simultaneous if warranted.
 Regional and provincial Filipino associations abroad will be encouraged to build villages in their home provinces or hometowns.
 The original proposal, as presented to the CBCP Permanent Committee last January 27, 2011, was formulated December of 2010. It is retained here as is. The basic proposal has been approved in principle.
 This did not happen, so perhaps the formal launch can now be October 2012, as the Church starts the Year of Faith (from Oct 11, 2012 to Nov 24, 2013).
 For both laity and clergy.
 Including life and service in the parish, and BECs.