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A CHURCH OF HEROES AND SAINTS

by Bishop Socrates B. Villegas

 

The history of Bataan is a story of heroic courage and valor. The blood of the 400 martyrs of Abucay who died in the hands of the Dutch invaders rather than how dawn to colonizers sanctified our hallowed land almost three centuries ago. Bataan is home to the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Cayetano Areflano, hometown of the first Filipino printer Tomas Pinpin and birthplace of Tagalog poet Francisco Baltazar. Bataan is one of the first eight provinces that revolted against Spain in 1898. One of the eight rays of the sun in the Philippine flag symbolizes Bataan! The Death March and the battle of Bataan and Corregidor are immortalized in the war memorial at Mt. Samat . This is a land of heroes. Dambana ng kagitingan itong ating lalawigan.

On the other hand, my priesthood has been shaped by the heroism and courage of EDSA people power, I have seen two bloodless revolts for peaceful change. By the grace of God, I have spent the past eighteen years of my priesthood living for the spirit of EDSA -- peace, prayer and freedom.

Today I come to the hallowed ground of Bataan, coming from the holy ground of EDSA. Inspired by Bataan and nurtured by EDSA, I pray: Let there be peace! Peace!

My brother priests, Peace be with you. Let us pursue peace together by striving to be holy priests together. The pursuit of holiness is a pastoral priority, far superior to any other. Holiness in the priesthood is our most important pastoral concern. You and I have dark secret sins and skeletons in our closets unknown to human hearts but certainly known by God, Let not the fear of the past paralyze you, Let not the guilt of our history of sin dampen the fire of love for holiness. Do not be afraid to be holy. Dare to be saints. Let us be good priests together.

Mga minamahal kong layko ng Bataan, lahat nawa kayo ay maging laykong banal, ako nawa ay maging banal kapiling ninyo. Maging banal nawa tayo sa pamamagitan ng pagbabalik loob sa Ama ng awa at habag. Makipagkasundo nawa tayo sa simbahang nakasakit, sa ating kalooban. Makipagkasundo nawa tayo sa kagubatang kinalbo natin at sa karagatang nilason ng ating karumihan. Layko ng Bataan, magpakabanal nawa kayo. Ang banal na layko ay hindi magaganap kung walang banal na kaparian. Kung walang paring banal, lahat sa diyosesis na ito ay malalanta at mamamatay. lpagdasal ninyo kaming kaparian. Hingin ninyo ang kabanalan ng kaparian. Ito ay inyong karapatan. Ito naman ay aming pananagutan. Sa ating banal na Iglesiya, ang lahat ay dapat na bayani at banal.

My dear religious sisters and brothers, you have left everything to follow the Lord. Teach us generosity because the secret of holiness is in giving, giving without expecting any reward. Be happy givers. Be ''happy religious. Let us serve the Lord in holiness with joy.

My dear government officials, you can count on my fullest support as you endeavor to bring morality and spirituality in government service. I will be your enemy if you will not do anything about graft and corruption. We can only live out our yes to holiness if we say "NO TO SIN!" If you will cooperate with Mediocrity and haphazard public service, you will see me in combat against you. If all government workers will aspire for holiness, Bataan will regain its nobility and greatness.

Putting holiness as a pastoral priority is an inspiration that I received from the Lord through the holy and pious people I have met in my life. I thank Pope John Paul II for being the great source of courage and inspiration for holiness for our time.

I thank the wounded yet beautiful memory that my late Tatay bequeathed to me. I thank Nanay for her example of humility and patience. I thank my Ate and Kuya for their fidelity to matrimony inspiring me to be faithful to the priesthood. I thank my kababayans from Pateros and my classmates from Letran for forming me in the love of God. I thank the Apostolic Nuncio and the Philippine bishops especially His Eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Archbishop Fernando Capalla for their steadfast support I thank the clergy of Manila, the alumni of San Carlos Seminary and the priests of the new dioceses in Metro Manila especially Cubao, for being brothers to me all these years.

I thank the EDSA Shrine, my first love, my firstborn. I am moving on. Nurture and protect the spirituality of EDSA that we have worked on together. EDSA Shrine, I love you.

Thank you Cardinal Sin. I was ready to grow old taking care of you for life but the Lord has other plans and I obey. You will never know how grateful I am to you, how much I love you, Cardinal Sin.

Bayan ng Diyos sa Bataan, narito po ako, si Fr. Soc, kaibigan at kapatid, pastol at lingkod. Handa na po akong sa inyo ay manahan. Handa na po akong kayo ay paglingkuran.

Bantayog ng kagitingan

Itong aming lalawigan

Pinabanal at dinakila

Bayang magiliw, pinagpala!

Tapos na ang digmaan

Narito na ang kapayapaan

Tuloy pa rin ang paglaban

Sa tukso at kasalanan.

Bataan, Bataan

Peninsulang minamahal

Tinawag maging banal

Ng Panginoong sa iyo’y humirang

Kabanalan ng Kaparian

Kabanalan ng simbahan

Kabanalan at kabayanihan

Hamon sa iyo, Bataan !

 

   

+SOCRATES VILLEGAS

July 3, 2004

St. Joseph Cathedral

Balanga City

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The Roman Catholic
Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)