St Pedro Calungsod: The Catechist
St Pedro Calungsod : The Catechist
Pedro Calungsod, a Visayan native, was born in 1655 Philippines. During his boyhood Pedro was trained as a catechist in a boarding school run by the Jesuits in the Visayas. He was skilled in the arts – carpentry, drawing, painting, acting, singing and oratory, delivering discourses in Visayan, Spanish and Chamorro. He was an excellent and brilliant young man.
In 1668 young Pedro was chosen to accompany Fr. Diego de San Vitores and other Jesuit missionaries from the Philippines to the Ladores Islands to evangelize the native Chamorros. Despite devastating typhoons, difficult terrain and scarce provisions for the Mission, the missionaries persevered. The Ladores Islands were later renamed Mariannas Islands by the missionaries in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and María Ana, the Queen Regent of Spain, who was the benefactress of that Mission.
The missionaries, blessed with many conversions among the Chamorros, caused envy and rivalry with medicine men. In particular a Chinese quack named Choco spread rumors of infants dying due to the poison in the baptismal water because some sickly Chamorro infants died after baptism. Many Chamorros believed the calumniator and eventually apostatized. The apostates together with the Macanjas (sorcerers) and the Urritaos (young male prostitutes) began persecuting the missionaries.
On Saturday morning, April 2, 1672, just before the Passion Sunday of that year, 17 year-old Pedro and Fr. Diego went to the village of Tumon to baptize a newborn baby girl.
The baby’s father Matapang, who was a Christian and friend of the missionaries, having apostatized angrily refused to have his infant daughter baptized. While Matapang was enlisting and cajoling a non-Christian villager named Hirao to kill Pedro and Fr. Diego, Matapang’s Christian wife consented to the baptism. Upon hearing of the baptism, Matapang became aggressive, violently throwing his spears to Pedro and Fr. Diego. After shunning some spears, Pedro was hit on the chest and fell to the ground. Hirao vigorously attacked Pedro and finished him with a blow of a cutlass on the head. Fr. Diego was also killed. After the murder, Matapang took Fr. Diegos’ crucifix pounded it with a stone while blaspheming God. Matapang and Hirao denuded and dragged the bodies of Pedro and Fr. Diego to the edge of the shore, where they tied large stones to the feet of the corpses. Thereafter, they took the bodies on a proa and threw them into the deep. The bodies of Pedro and Fr. Diego were never found.
The missionaries remembered Pedro as a young boy with very good dispositions. They recalled that Pedro was a virtuous catechist and a faithful assistant to Fr. Diego and the Mission. They described Pedro to be a good Catholic whose perseverance in the Faith even to the point of martyrdom proved him to be a good soldier of Christ (cf. II Tim 2:3). The missionaries declared that Pedro was a fortunate youth, persevering in his service to God in the mission and the precursor of their superior Fr. Diego in heaven.
On October 6, 1985, Fr. Diego Luís de San Vitores was beatified. His beatification paved the way for young Pedro Calungsod and on March 5, 2000, Pedro was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
(Compiled by the Filipino Ministry – DSB, May 2008)
The Vatican announced that Blessed Pedro Calungsod will be canonized on October 21, 2012. He will be the second Filipino saint.
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