of martyrs and missionaries

The canonization of the second Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod, has been in the news lately. I was fine with it; I was even fine with Filipinos being proud simply because a Filipino was sainted. Until I read this news item:

“Details of Calungsod’s life are scarce, but according to available Church records, when he and the mission superior, the Rev. Diego Luis de San Vitores, tried to baptize a baby in Tumhon village in Guam on April 2, 1672, the child’s father angrily refused and, with the help of other natives, hacked them both to death and threw their bodies into the ocean.”

To auto-plagiarize my FB reaction:

obviously the child’s daddy had issues, and the zealots — however intrusive and overbearing they were — did not deserve to be hacked to pieces and discarded in the ocean.

but from the point of view of the Guam native, we have these interlopers coming in with their unwanted strange religion and forcing their beliefs on a defenseless baby. a baby they were involving in some mysterious rite, without getting the consent of his parents.

and i’m supposed to say: “well, alright, the church thinks he’s saintly for fighting the good catholic fight.”

i’m sorry. i can’t admire calungsod. yes, he was courageous. yes, he was well-intentioned. yes, he was faithful. but he was also blind to everything but his own beliefs. it’s all well and good to “stand firm and be steadfast” in your faith, but don’t go forcing your beliefs down people’s throats. that’s a violation.

Don’t get me wrong. I admire saints. As a child growing up, I wanted to be one. I read the story of St. Agnes, who refused a life of privilege and the suit of a Roman noble, because of her faith — and was killed for it. I thought she was so fine and brave and full of conviction. Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco and their vision at Fatima. The mystical Therese of Lisieux and her roses and her bloody stigmata. And just imagine it, a kid hearing of San Lorenzo Ruiz, who was tortured but never recanted his faith. Told that they had hung him upside down and stuck needles into his fingertips.

It was better than The Brothers Grimm.

However, all these saints I read about, most of them stuck to their guns, at great cost to themselves, despite provocation and opposition and derision — that was what I admired. The propaganda of the Church worked there.

So now Calungsod is chosen, and joins the ranks of the missionaries who boldly went where they were not wanted to try to convince people to their way of thinking. The poor beleaguered Church seems to want martyrs that fearlessly (forcibly?) preach to people who do not want to hear it. They want Catholics who continue to evangelize despite hostility. That’s their business.

I’d rather have the saints who quietly go about their business, helping where they can, leading by example, and wooing new believers simply because of how good and fine and innately strong they are. That, to me, is inspiring.


  1. right on!

  2. the thing is, some of the stories of the saints are fantastic. the farther you get from this century, the more miraculous.

    the biblical fall from grace is more believable. even great men make mistakes. moses, david, solomon… oh well.

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