We are a people of dialogue. As such we have the moral obligation to search for the truth in freedom, the truth about God, about life, about ourselves, our country, our society, our world and the events around us.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Pedagogy of the Cross

In a previous column I wrote about the seeming absence of the Cross in our social, political, economic, cultural-even religious-life in this country. To this absence I attribute one strong reason why the process or has become ineffective. There is need therefore to begin reexamining this process.

One area to be given a through reexamination is the so-called holy reason of Lent. It is here where the values arising from the Cross abound. This period of forty days, popularly known as Cuaresma (Quadragesima in Latin), is designed to prepare Catholics for a meaningful and fruitful celebration of Semana Santa or Holy Week. It is the traditional teaching of the Church that the process of personal and social tradition happens or culminates during this week.

The correct meaning and fruitfulness of the Holy Week celebration basically focuses on the paschal mystery which is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. These divine mysteries are recalled in the sacred liturgy of the Holy Week. Because of its power to effect change in the individual person and consequently in the community, the Second Vatican Council defines Sacred Liturgy as the “source and summit of Christian life.”

In focusing then our reexamination on the Lenten observances, we should look into the four general activities which characterize this period. They are intense prayer, intense meditation/reflection on the Scriptures, fasting and abstinence, and charitable works. It might help us in this endeavor to review the ALAY KAPWA Evangelization Program which had been established and promoted nationwide since 1966 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines through the National Secretariat of Social Action, Justice and Peace under the leadership of Bishop Julio Labayen. Sadly, only the financial aspect remains while the evangelizing component of the program has been forgotten.

It is relevant and urgent that we reexamine the meaning of fasting and abstinence, the difference between fasting and hunger strike, between self-immolation and suicide bombing. In this age of social protests and terrorism the correct and clear understanding of these practices would surely benefit everyone even those not of our faith. I would add also the explanation of the difference between the Christian and Islamic teachings on fasting would certainly be of help, and between active and passive non-violence.

Another area to be looked into are the retreats, recollections, graduation Masses, and Commencement Exercises organized by our Catholic Schools, during this Lenten period. I have observed worry of these activities as not being inspired by the spirit of Lent. They are even contrary to what the Church expects of Catholic schools and institutions.

The reexamination I am explaining here is being recommended not only to my brother bishops but also to our theologians, catchiest, religious education teachers, educators, liturgists, formators, and campus ministers. I think it is possible to incorporate the values arising from the paschal mystery into the content of the educational, formative, and catechetical processes.

A pedagogy of the Cross is certainly needed, and urgently so, in our country today. This pedagogy should desire its inspiration from St. John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic, doctor of the Church, on expert in the process of conversion and union with God. The Spanish equivalent of the name Juan de la Cruz – has been used to portray the typical poor Filipino. The pedagogy of the Cross therefore should include a historical reference to the origin of the name and its deeper meaning and crucial challenge especially to the millions of Juan de la Cruz – and others who bear the name “Cruz”. Clearly understood in the light of faith and faithfully lived, this pedagogy would make a difference in any console and in those who experience excruciating pain and suffering. For, as I wrote in the previous column, nothing and no one matures to perfections without pain or something analogous to pain.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

September 4, 2005