CEBU CITY—Before the o cial opening of the 7th Provincial Chapter, the delegates, with spiritual insights of Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, DD, prepared themselves spiritually. The Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan shared with the capitulars the re ections of Pope Francis as possible guide in their chapter deliberations. Archbishop Soc focused on these three words—Encounter, Accompaniment, and Discernment—and connected them to the triple functions of the Church, the priestly, prophetic, and kingly o ces of Christ.
Ministry of Encounter and the Priestly Office
“God presented Himself as a great God, the Creator. And in the incarnation of God, he presented himself as a ‘small God,’ a baby,” Archbishop Soc reflected. Christmas, then, is a feast of de ance because God de ed human hatred and sin. He continued to love us despite our rejection of him. He remembered one of his experiences during a Christmas activity in a home for the abandoned children in Marikina City. While giving gifts of candies and chocolates, he noticed that one of the children was not eating what he gave. Asking the child why, the boy just responded, “Kalungin mo ako.” (Please carry me). And Archbishop Soc obliged. God sent his only begotten Son as a small child so that man can easily embrace and carry him. This was an encounter, which is essentially defiant, that God has initiated because he is the one who searches for us.
The priestly o ce of Christ that the ordained ministers of God share with Him is not a mere ritualistic function. It is an avenue for the priests to have an encounter with his ock. Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the shepherd should smell like his sheep. While
it is true that the shepherd should also smell like his sheep, the shepherd, too, should also contaminate the sheep with the fragrance of his anointing as a priest. The life of holiness of the priest should also be felt and lived by the people entrusted to his care. Priests should avoid the “swivel chair” type of shepherding the people of God; they should go and meet them, just as Jesus did, in the dusty places, in the marketplace, and in the peripheries.
Ministry of Accompaniment and the Prophetic Office
To be with the last, the least, the lost, and the left alone in the society; those who experience inhumane treatment from their fellow human beings; and those who have fallen away are the focus of the ministry of accompaniment. According to Archbishop Soc, there are three steps in this ministry:
First, it is essentially confrontational. Accompaniment does not tolerate what is wrong; does not say yes to evil; and calls good as good, and evil as evil. This prophetic ministry of religious and priestly life leads the ock to the second step, conversion. After confronting evil, conversion should not lead people to despair, but to have hope in God. Archbishop Soc stresses to recognize
the goodness in each person even if we confront the evil we have done. The nal step to accompaniment is contemplation. True accompaniment leads people to be contemplatives. Contemplative life should not be limited to the religious alone. The goals of the ministry of accompaniment are to confront and challenge; to convert and console; and to lead others to contemplation, which is silence. Archbishop Soc reminisces what he said to his students, “The language of God is not Latin, English, Spanish, nor Italian, but silence.”
Ministry of Discernment and the Kingly Office
The kingly office of the Church is the one that serves God and his people, and this entails a lot of discernment. When the choice between good and evil, it is not discernment; it is a moral choice. Discernment is choosing between two good things.
To have a better understanding of what is discernment, in Ignatian spirituality; Archbishop Soc enumerated the following steps. First, he talked about humility. Humility is essential in our life, but we should not brag about it. The moment we talk about our humility, we lose it and do the opposite. He also shared with the capitulars this quote on humility, “Hearts like doors will open with ease. With very very little keys, but the two very important keys are these, thank you sir and would you please.” By increasing the quota of saying “please” and “thank you,” it helps man to be humble and accept his littleness.
Second is learning to let go. Allow little ones to teach the proud; let go of the biases and prejudices that hinder us to leave behind each one’s attachment; and discern with the hope of becoming a listening church.
Lastly, man should never forget that sense of wonder, that sense of mystery. Archbishop Soc challenged the capitulars to be men of mystery, and not to be mysterious men. That sense of mystery would also lead us to see and go beyond problems and achievements.
“Lord change me, even if I am not ready” was the mantra that Archbishop Soc used to
close his talk and to let the capitulars prepare themselves for the noble tasks of the provincial chapter. During deliberations, many things may happen. However, this recollection prior to the formal opening of the 7th Provincial
Chapter was a privileged time to pray, to re ect, and to discern the will of God for the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.