Pedro Calungsod, the second Filipino to be canonized in Rome today, is called “the almost forgotten saint.” The main reason is that it took a very long time, about 300 years, before the 14-year-old youth was beatified and finally canonized.
After the beatification of Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores in 1985, interest in the beatification of Pedro Calungsod started to grow. It was because his death was mentioned in more than half of the documents related to Padre Diego.
WHO IS PEDRO CALUNGSOD? Pedro Calungsod (maybe 14 years old) went with Fr. Diego de San Vitores in 1668 to the Ladrones Islands (now Marianas) to evangelize the Chamorros. At that time, the Ladrones Islands were part of the diocese of Cebu and missionary frontier under the Jesuits.
On April 2, 1672, he was killed by an influential leader Matapang who was enraged when Padre Diego baptized his baby girl while he was away although the Christian wife permitted it.
Matapang together with a non-Christian ally Hirao attacked the missionaries with spears. He first went after Pedro who tried to defend the priest but was hit fatally by a spear. Hirao immediately charged towards him and finished him off with a blow of a cut lass to the head. Pedro had all the chances to escape because he was very agile, but he refused to leave Padre Diego alone.
Matapang took the crucifix of Padre Diego and crushed it with a stone while blaspheming God. Then, both assassins dragged them to the shore, tied large stones to their feet, brought their bodies out to sea, and threw them into the deep. The remains of the martyrs were never found.
LESSONS FROM CALUNGSOD. Pedro Calungsod’s martyrdom certainly teaches heroic faith and unswerving loyalty to God at the cost of dear life. Nowadays there are virtually no more bloody deaths for one’s faith similar to that of Calungsod.
However, there are DAILY martyrdoms one may encounter. To mention some: The difficulties of an honest worker struggling to support his family; persecutions one encounters from cynical and hostile co-workers; coping with an incurable sickness saddled with daily financial problems.
A spiritual writer once said that a daily martyrdom is even more heroic since a martyr’s death is swift, whereas the martyrdom of ordinary people is daily and long-drawn. (Somebody joked, that’s very true with the “martyrdom” of harsh, incompatible married spouses!)
The canonization of Pedro Calungsod likewise REMINDS us that our ultimate goal in life is to become a saint. When you tell someone “to becomea saint,” he or she probablywill snicker and say, “That’s not for me. I’m too worldly to become one.” But whether you like it or not, that is our destiny.
That’s why the French novelist Leon Bloy rightly said: “The only tragedy in life is not to be a saint.” When you die, would you like to go to heaven or hell? To the eternal smoking area or the non-smoking? Of course, to be with the Lord in His glory. And that’s what St. Pedro Calungsod did.
If you don’t want God, there’s no other choice than go with the devil. Would you like that?
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD