(Article published in the Apr 21,2003 issue of TODAY, Business Section)
wishing to prevent, or at least delay until their next recollection, the
thorns of daily life from chocking the good seed they heard from Easter
Triduum talks, as well as those who wish to add a bit of sanctification to
the mortification they endured when they hied off last week to the Baguios
and Punta Fuegos of our blessed isles, would do well to get for themselves
and their friends Bishop Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle’s “It
is the Lord!”
Chito Tagle grew up in Imus, Cavite, went to St. Andrew’s parochial
school in Parañaque, and was already a major seminarian at San Jose
Seminary when he entered Ateneo De Manila University where he got his AB
in 1977 and his masters, with the highest honors at the Loyola School of
Theology, in 1982. After he
was ordained a priest, his bishop appointed him rector of the Imus
Seminary –Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol – at Tagaytay. Three years later, he went to the Catholic University of
America in Washington, D.C. for his graduate studies which he finished in
1997 he was appointed one of the two representatives of the Churches in
Asia to the 30-theologian member Holy See’s International Theological
Commission. He served as
resource person to important meetings of his peers, such as the Federation
of Asian Bishop’s Conferences and the Synod of Asian Bishops in Rome in
1998. He was among those who
prepared the materials from that synod that provided inputs to the Holy
Father’s apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia, in 1999.
is a long-time professor of Systematic Theology at the Loyola School of
Theology and has lectured practically at every major theological institute
in the Philippines. He gives talks and retreats to every kind of audience,
from school children to bishops, in the Philippines and in the United
is presently bishop of Imus, Cavite, his first posting after his
ordination to the episcopal office on December 12, 2001.
is the Lord!” – a collection of 11, out of many, talks given
by Bishop Tagle from June 26, 1992 to March 30, 2002—is the first
offering of the Loyola School of Theology under its Landas
Lectures series. The eleven pieces were not meant to form an integral
whole; but while this results in visibly separable material, it makes the
volume convenient reading. Though
grouped under three major headings, the lectures can be read and
appreciated one at a time, in no particular order, when and as the spirit
moves the reader.
first part deals with some theological issues about God, Jesus Christ and
the Spirit. Chapter One is
Bishop Tagle’s ite et docete
to the graduating class of the Loyola School of Theology in 2002.
He develops his address from a quote of the Canadian Dominican
Jacques Lison who maintained that “the essential concern of theology is
to say `God’”. (It seems that after Vatican II, the Black Pope had
instructed his Jesuits and their students to read all relevant material,
even those from the Order of Preachers).
It is risky nowadays, Bishop Tagle observes, to say “God”,
particularly in the face of what he names as “elite globalization”, an
ideology that promotes growth without a heart and, in the process, results
in forgetting neighbor and God, all in the name of profit and competition.
Drawing from his own experience as well as his readings, Bishop
Tagle exhorts the graduates to continue saying “God” beyond the
portals of the school, “with all the joys and pains and risks it
involves…with all the praise and lament it invites…with all the
silence that mystery creates and evokes” lest the world believe that God
Bishop Tagle: The place of the dead, in the mind of the Jew, is a place of
complete isolation, one “where communion stops, where communion is
disrupted—communion among the dead, but worst of all, communion with
God”. When the Son of
God went to the place of the dead, i.e. Himself dying freely, He
established communication with the dead and the dying that was not
theretofore possible. Man is thus never again to be alone, even in death,
for Jesus was and will be there with the dying holding their hand as they
walk through its corridors. Death, its desolation and isolation, has
thereby lost its sting.
Three is about the Asian face of Jesus. It was a surprise to me, and I
suppose to my generation that had very little, if at all any, knowledge of
the geography of Jesus’s time, to hear that, in Ecclesia
in Asia, that Jesus was said to have been born in Asian soil.
That Jesus came from the same place is itself comforting, isn’t
it. Do we not, when seeing a Filipino abroad, often ask, “taga
saan, ka?” But the
Asian face of Jesus, Bishop Tagle, reminds us, goes beyond local affinity.
Together with the Holy Father, he takes Asia “not as a geographic
space, but as a people with deep thirst and hunger and yearning for
life.” In this level of
thought, Jesus is obviously “incarnated” today in this our own world,
in the faces of the poor, victimized
in myriad Asian ways, from being in the wrong end of an oppressor’s gun
to being at the most expendable slot in the production line.
Two deals with the Church. Chapter Four, Bishop Tagle’s address
delivered at the General Convocation of the Loyola School of Theology on
June 26, 1992, is an exposition of how, in Vatican II, the doctrine and
practice of Episcopal collegiality are still a work-in-process.
He obviously knows whereof he speaks.
At the Catholic University of America, where he was under the
tutelage of Father Joseph A. Komonchak, who according to Fr. Catalino
Arevalo, S.J. is the most highly-regarded ecclesiologist in the North
American theological community, the then bishop-to-be’s doctoral
dissertation on the teaching of Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican
Council on Episcopal collegiality received high commendation.
gatherings of bishops were the subject of Chapter Five, which is about the
Synod held from April 19 to May 14, 1998 of bishops from 22 episcopal
conferences and Oriental Churches in Asia, and of Chapter Six, in turn,
addressed to the Seventh Plenary Assembly
of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences held on January
4, 2002 in Thailand. In both,
Bishop Tagle shows how the Church is grappling with the issues of
proclaiming the Word in Asia.
far the most compelling discussion of Church issues, at least from my
point of view at the last Church pew, is Chapter Seven, which asks “What
have we become, ten years after the Second Plenary Council of the
Philippines?” (Does anybody
remember what that was? Please tell me.)
Tagle himself gives the answer, not in an j’accuse
but by way of a confiteor.:
“We are still in the process of receiving and we must pray that we may
have the courage to receive PCP II fully.
It would require a lot of dying to self.
Is the Church in the Philippines willing to die in order to receive
the new life that is being offered?...We may be interpreting texts and we
may be producing wonderful letters and decrees but, in terms of movement,
we will still be inert if we are unwilling to die to self.”
III focuses on mission. Certain
elements of the theology of mission are examined in Chapter Eight which
entitled “Transformed into an Apostle”, and Chapter Nine zeroes in on
the Church’s mission toward minorities.
Tagle takes not in its numerical sense but qualitatively, i.e. as
referring to those like the “Third World people” who live (whether in
the North or in the South) in poverty imposed on the weak by those in
power, the migrants who have been displaced from their homes due to ethnic
conflicts, economic difficulties, international politics, and women.
With them, Bishop Tagle insists, the Church must identify itself,
and seek to transform the “alienating otherness” of their being
“minority” into a form of “blessed otherness” modeled after the
tenth chapter is Bishop Tagle’s exhortation to his fellow alumni at the
Loyola School of Theology during their 2nd Homecoming held on
November 21, 2001. Using as
starting point Loyola School of Theology’s own wandering from place to
place for a period just two years short of Moses’ own at the desert, he
asks the alumni, both as a body and individually, to themselves
continually wander, acting as agents of hope and “beacons of fidelity to
God in this ambiguous and uncertain world”, looking for change to bring
closer the reign of God to everywhere and everyone.
highest point of “It is the Lord!” is its last Chapter which deals with what, I
might call, the First Chapter. Here Bishop Tagle reflects about Easter and
examines how the resurrection of Jesus has created new histories in the
lives of many people, radically transforming their lives, thereby
confirming our faith that the Resurrection, though with not a single eye
witness, did occur. We are all familiar with the Bible’s Easter
appearances; to these Bishop Tagle adds the moving Easter experiences of
ordinary people, like that of a mama
san (a prostitute who turned to recruiting prostitutes when her own
marketability declined on account of age) and of a young man whose sister
had been raped during one of those exposure trips required by the training
she was undergoing.
He then ends with the story of his own, of how he was told of his
appointment as bishop.
No summary can do that story justice, it must be read first hand.