by Msgr. Ildebrando Jesus Aliño Leyson
35. What is meant by “canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod”? The Canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod is the solemn act by which the Pope, with definitive sentence, inscribes in the catalogue (canon) of saints Blessed Pedro. By this act, the Pope declares that Blessed Pedro now reigns in eternal glory and decrees that the Universal Church show him the honor due to a saint. Thus, Blessed Pedro will henceforth be addressed as Saint Pedro Calungsod or San Pedro Calungsod. The solemn canonization is an infallible and irrevocable decision of the Pope. “By canonizing some of the faithful, that is, by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history. Indeed, holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 828.
36. What was required for the canonization process of Blessed Pedro? For the Pope to decide for the canonization, he needs a divine sign of approval which we call a miracle. A miracle may be defined as an extraordinary religious occurrence that came about through a special and gratuitous intervention of God. It is contemporaneously a sign or a manifestation of a divine message to man and a call to conversion. A miracle is a supernatural occurrence, and so, it cannot be explained naturally or scientifically. A major miracle is required for the canonization.
37. Were there supernatural occurrences upon the invocation of Blessed Pedro’s help? After the beatification of Pedro Calungsod on March 5, 2000, many different divine favors were reported by people who asked for his intercessory aid. Choosing a major miracle from among these favors was not an easy task. There had to be sufficient objective documentation. Such a criterion was met in a medical case that happened on March 26, 2003 at a hospital in Cebu City. The supernatural occurrence was reported by the doctor himself who was the one who invoked Blessed Pedro.
38. What was the major miracle that God performed through the intercession of Blessed Pedro? The presumed miracle is about the rapid recovery of a 49-year-old patient from Glasgow Coma Scale score 3 and the absence of motor and sensory deficits thereof.
39. What is meant by “coma”? Coma (from Greek “koma” = deep sleep) is a deep state of unconsciousness in which individuals do not consciously respond to stimuli in their environment. The Glasgow Coma Scale is used to measure the depth of coma based upon observations of eye opening, speech, and movement. When we say that the Glasgow Coma Scale score is 3, it means that the patient is in the deepest level of coma. The patient does not respond with any body movement to pain, does not have any speech, and does not open his eyes.
40. What caused the coma of the patient concerned? It was caused by hypoxic encephalopathy which means a lack of oxygen supply to the brain (hypo = less + oxia = oxygen; encephalo = brain + pathy = disorder). In turn, the patient’s hypoxic encephalopathy was caused by a cardiac arrest which happened on March 24. The heart stopped pumping blood that carries oxygen to the brain. Three days earlier, on March 21, the patient underwent a heart surgery which was a mitral valve replacement and coronary artery bypass grafting. Both procedures went remarkably well. But, three days later the patient became so restless and had a hard time breathing that led to the cardiac arrest and, eventually, to hypoxic encephalopathy.
41. How serious was the situation of the patient? Brain cells are extremely sensitive to oxygen deprivation. Some brain cells actually start dying less than five minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, hypoxic encephalopathy can rapidly cause death or severe brain damage. The longer the patient is unconscious, the higher risk for death or brain death, and the lower chances for a meaningful recovery. Complications of hypoxic encephalopathy include prolonged vegetative state – basic life functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sleep-wake cycle, and eye opening may be preserved, but the patient is not alert and does not respond to his surroundings. Such a patient usually dies within a year, although some may survive longer while having neurological deficits.
42. How was the intercession of Blessed Pedro invoked? On March 26, knowing that the patient could die any moment, the attending physician, who is an internist and cardiologist at the same time, invoked the aid of the Visayan teenage martyr saying, “Blessed Pedro Calungsod, please save the life of this patient! Perform a miracle!”
43. What happened after Blessed Pedro was invoked? At 2:00 PM of the same day, the patient was subjected to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures and records brain waves representing electrical activity in the brain. It was done to find out if the patient in coma was brain dead or not. The EEG result was bad. Nevertheless, at around 6:00 PM, just four hours after the EEG test, the patient started to gain consciousness. In his testimony, the attending physician said, “It was rather a rapid recovery. Patients in such a situation would normally recover only after some weeks, if they ever recover; but, in the case of this patient, it was in less than 48 hours. It was a definitive recovery from Glasgow Coma score 3 to normal mental status and no motor and sensory deficits upon discharge. The patient survived and is still alive today.”
44. What was done to verify the supernatural incident? Finding out that there could have been a supernatural occurrence, the attending physician reported the case to the postulator of the Cause for the Canonization of Blessed Pedro in Cebu. Subsequently, an Archdiocesan Canonical Process which involved physicians was instituted in Cebu to verify the presumed supernatural occurrence. The Process went through nine sessions from December 15, 2004 until June 6, 2005. Its positive result was presented to the Vatican which in turn recognized the validity of the Process on November 25, 2005. The Positio Super Miro which is a systematic presentation of documents and arguments on the presumed miracle was then prepared and submitted to the Vatican on May 18, 2006.
45. What was the process done at the Vatican regarding the reported supernatural occurrence? During the following years, the Vatican made a series of clarifications to which the postulator in Cebu also made precise and exhaustive responses. Six Vatican consultor physicians had to gather three times to discuss and clarify some details of the reported case, first on May 29, 2008, then, on September 30, 2010, and finally on March 24, 2011 when they unanimously pronounced that the reported case was beyond natural or scientific explanation. On July 2, 2011, six Vatican consultor theologians authenticated that the supernatural healing was due solely to the intercession of Blessed Pedro. Then, on the following October 11, fifteen Vatican consultors, among which were 7 cardinals, 5 archbishops and 3 bishops, unanimously affirmed that what the consultor physicians and theologians declared could point to an authentic major miracle and that it is opportune to declare Blessed Pedro a saint. A Decree on the authentic major miracle was then drawn up by the Vatican. On December 19, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI received in audience His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorized the promulgation of the Decree concerning the miracle attributed to Blessed Pedro. By that decree, the Pope has made known to everyone that there is indeed an authentic major miracle performed by God through the intercession of Blessed Pedro. On February 18, during the Ordinary Public Consistory, the Pope received the unanimous vote of all the cardinals for the canonization of Blessed Pedro and indicated October 21, 2012 as the date of the canonization.
46. Is there any significance of the date of the canonization in the life of Blessed Pedro? The “Great War” in Guam, which started on September 11, 1671 (9/11!) between the missionaries and the pagan natives who wanted to stop the mission, ended with the victory of the missionaries, the establishment of peace and the resumption of the mission on October 21, 1671. Blessed Pedro was martyred and his body was thrown into the ocean in 1672 to stop his mission and to erase any trace of him on this earth; but his 340 long years of oblivion will now be ended by his triumphant canonization on October 21, 2012 when the whole Universal Church – including the inhabitants of Guam – will begin to invoke him as a saint.
47. What is the official title given by the Vatican by which we may call Blessed Pedro when he will have been declared a saint? He will be called Saint Pedro Calungsod, Lay Catechist and Martyr (in English); San Pedro Calungsod, Katekistang Layko ug Martir (in Cebuano); San Pedro Calungsod, Katekistang Layko at Martir.
48. What is a lay catechist? A lay person is a baptized member of the people of God who has neither received the Sacrament of Holy Orders nor become a member of a religious order. A catechist is one who engages in the instruction and formation in the Catholic Faith, both for those who are preparing to be baptized and for those who are already baptized but in need of continuing instruction and formation in the Christian life. The catechist uses the catechism which is a summary or manual containing the basics of Christian doctrine. The work of the catechist is called catechesis, a term derived from Ancient Greek: κατηχισμός from kata = "down" + echein = "to sound", literally "to sound down" (into the ears), that is, to indoctrinate. True catechesis is much more than merely instruction about Catholic Christian beliefs, values and practices. It is instruction of others plus a personal sharing of faith by committed Christians so that the entire people of God may be continually converted to a fully Christian life, that is, a life turned away from sinfulness, centered on the risen Jesus and living in hope for the everlasting reign of God.
49. What is a martyr? The term “martyr” comes from the Greek μάρτυς, mártys, meaning “witness”. The stem of the word is μάρτυρ-, mártyr-. A martyr is somebody who voluntarily suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious. In its original meaning, the word “martyr” was used in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible. The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) and from the New Testament that witnesses often died for their testimonies. During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and/or death. The term, in this latter sense, entered the English language as a loanword. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called “martyrdom”. Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. The early Christians who first began to use the term “martyr” in its new sense saw Jesus as the first and greatest martyr, on account of his crucifixion. The early Christians appear to have seen Jesus as the archetypical martyr.
50. Why was Blessed Pedro a good catechist? There are four main reasons why Blessed Pedro proved to be a good catechist. First, he knew very well at least the basic teachings of the Catholic Faith. As Saint Peter the Apostle admonishes all Christians, “always have your answers ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have.” (1 Peter 3:15). Second, he lived the Faith. “It is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified.” (James 2:24). Third, he shared the Faith to others. This is the mandate of Christ to his disciples: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). Fourth, he died for the Faith. As Jesus says, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12) “The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God […] In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die […] but they are in peace.” (Wisdom 3:1-3). Blessed John Paul II himself said in his homily to catechists on December 10, 2000, “Your work, dear catechists and religion teachers, is more necessary than ever and requires on your part constant fidelity to Christ and to the Church. For all the faithful have a right to receive from those who, by office or mandate, are responsible for catechesis and preaching answers that are not subjective, but correspond with the Church's constant Magisterium, with the faith that has always been taught authoritatively by those appointed teachers and lived exemplarily by the saints. […] An intellectual knowledge of Christ and his Gospel is not enough. For believing in him means following him. Therefore we must learn from the Apostles, from the confessors of the faith, from the saints of every age who helped to spread Christ's name and to make it loved by the witness of a life generously and joyously spent for him and for their brethren.” Pope Benedict XVI says that “the secret of a good catechist is to live what you preach. […] Unite the transmission of right doctrine with personal testimony, with the firm commitment to live according to the commandments of the Lord and with the lived experience of being faithful and active members of the Church. This example of life is necessary so that your instruction does not stay in a mere transmission of theoretical knowledge about the mysteries of God, but that it leads to embracing a Christian way of life." (Benedict XVI, To the Bishops of Costa Rica, February 8, 2008)
51. Why is Blessed Pedro a martyr? Blessed Pedro is a martyr because he gave witness to the Christian faith in word and deed as a teenage lay catechist in the Mariana Mission. He gave his life over to a cruel death because of his faith and the reason why he was killed was because he was a Christian and a catechist.
52. What is the official portrait of Blessed Pedro approved by the Vatican? The official portrait of Blessed Pedro is the one painted by Rafael del Casal in 1999 and which is venerated at the main altar of the Cebu Archdiocesan Shrine of Blessed Pedro Calungsod in the Archbishop’s Compound. An enlarged photograph version of it was unveiled at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome during Blessed Pedro’s beatification on March 5, 2000. According to the painter, he made the portrait out of inspiration and that he did not use a model for the work.
53. Why is Blessed Pedro depicted in the portrait wearing white and holding a palm branch? The white vesture and the palm branch is the biblical symbol of martyrs. “I saw a huge number of people […] dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. […] These are the people who have been through the great persecution […] they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, 14). It is also the symbol of victory. “Those who prove victorious will be dressed in white robes.” (Revelation 3:5)
54. Are there other symbols that may be depicted in the image of Blessed Pedro? The image of Blessed Pedro may also hold a copy of the catechism because he was a catechist, and rosary beads because of the strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary among the Mariana missionaries.
55. Is there a comprehensive manual about Blessed Pedro? A more detailed account on Blessed Pedro Calungsod is provided in the manual I. Leyson, Pedro Calonsor Bissaya: Prospects of a Teenage Filipino, The Archdiocese of Cebu, 2000.
56. Let us now ponder on the virtues of Blessed Pedro and ask for his help so that we may also be able to live such virtues and be counted among the blessed ones in heaven. Striving to live the virtues of Blessed Pedro is how we can prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming Canonization and the best way of celebrating that great event.
Petitions to Blessed Pedro Calungsod
We, your fellow citizens of this earth, call upon you: O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may learn to love God and our neighbor, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be eager to know and defend the truths of our Catholic Faith taught to us by Holy Mother Church, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also strive to faithfully live the faith we have received at Baptism: O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be zealous to share our Christian Faith to others, O Blessed Pedro help us!
That, like you, we may also be willing to offer our lives and talents in loving service to the Church, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also endeavor to develop our abilities so as to serve our society better, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be poor in spirit by overcoming our attachment to worldly things and by being generous to others, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also gladly endure the daily trials of life for the love of God, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be constant in prayer in order not to be overcome by temptation, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also keep our hearts and bodies chaste to be worthy temples of the Holy Spirit, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be truly sorry for our sins and receive the Sacrament of Confession regularly and frequently, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also learn to forgive those who have hurt us, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also become instruments of God's peace among people, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be true to our friends, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be deeply devoted to Our Blessed Mother Mary, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also love and adore our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also learn to accept and do the will of God our Father, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also be ready to die for our Christian Faith, O Blessed Pedro, help us!
That, like you, we may also become fellow citizens of the Saints in heaven. O Blessed Pedro, help us!
Pray for us, O Blessed Pedro Calungsod, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ!
Let us pray:
Almighty and ever-living God, * you are glorified in your saints. * Graciously hear the prayers we offer * through the intercession of your holy martyr * Blessed Pedro Calungsod. * Guide and protect your pilgrim Church on earth. * Grant your peace to our nation * and to the whole world. * Fill all our families with your grace. * Preserve us in love and unity. * Bless and guide our young people * so that they will not be led astray. * Help them to grow in faith, * hope * and charity. * Convert those whose hearts are far from you. *Comfort the sick and the lonely. * Protect the poor and the oppressed. * Welcome into your Kingdom * our departed brothers and sisters.* We thank you for the graces you have granted us * through the intercession of Blessed Pedro Calungsod. * We hope * that after our mortal bodies will have slept in death, * you will raise us up to new life on the last day as your saints * and join Blessed Pedro * in praising your Name forever in heaven. * Amen.