Sunday, 7 June 2015

Corpus Christi lesson II: The evil of human respect

The First National Eucharistic Congress of the Philippines was held from 11 to 16 December 1929. The sessions officially began on 12 December. The first day of the sessions, 12 December, was appointed as the día de las mujeres or the Women’s Day. The day began at 6.30, with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered in the cathedral by the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Santiago Sancho, bishop of Nueva Segovia, for the archconfraternities, confraternities, and pious associations of the archdiocese. Singing at Mass were students of the Sisters of Charity.

The day was especially dedicated to women. However, we will still follow here, in continuity with what we have shared here, the youth with the Young Men’s Session. At 7.30, after Mass, the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament commenced. The vigil was divided amongst different groups. [The vigil would end at 6.00 in the evening, with the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 5.30.] At 9.00, after the start of the Exposition, each section proceeded to their respective venues. The Young Men’s Section proceeded to the Saint Rita’s Hall along Taft Avenue. The presiding prelate in the session was the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend James McClosky, bishop of Jaro. In charge of the open forum was Padre José Pamintuan of Tanay, Rizal, with Mr Teodoro Evangelista of the University of the Philippines as chairman.

The first topic discussed was: The Holy Eucharist and the Filipino Youth. Below we reproduce the speech delivered by the first speaker, Mr Amando Ocampo of De La Salle College (now De La Salle University).

12 DECEMBER 1929 

De La Salle College

“As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me.”
Your Lordship, Rev. Fathers, Esteemed Professors and Fellow Students:
In this passage from St. John’s Gospel is summarised all our duties to the Holy Eucharist, and the effect of that Sacrament on our lives: “He that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me.”
In season and out of season the Church has preached the necessity of the Holy Eucharist if we would live according to the moral law. This she has proclaimed to all Catholics: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you shall not have life in you.” That is, unless we are devout towards the Holy Eucharist we shall not be able to resist the allurements to mortal sin; we shall lose the grace of God, and perish eternally, body and soul.
Fellow students, it is not necessary to dilate further on the necessity of making this great Sacrament the be-all and the end-all of our lives, the centrepiece of all our worship and devotion. We, who have the privilege and the happiness of being brought up in a Catholic atmosphere, in Catholic schools and Colleges, we understand all this. But understanding it is not enough. We must practice the Faith that is in us, and this first for our own sakes, and secondly, for the sake of our own Filipino people.
In this country, we are now beginning to see the evil being wrought by the irreligious system of education which has been thrust upon us. Hundreds of thousands of our youth are being raised in an atmosphere of religious indifference. Ignorance concerning the Sacraments and prayer is rampant. If a remnant of our people is to be saved, it is for us the Catholic educated youth to hold out a helping hand. But to do this we must first see to ourselves. We must strengthen ourselves at the altar of God by frequently receiving the life-giving nourishment of our souls: the Body and Blood of Our Eucharistic Lord and King. The influence we shall then be able to wield over our countrymen, and especially over our unfortunate fellow youths, victims of state-school godlessness, will in some measure stay the downward rush of this fair land into the abyss of utter materialism.
In this country, [the] youth is exposed to all sorts of temptation. Many of our young people have not the good example of Catholic-living parents. There is an appalling, an almost disheartening ignorance of religion. Heretics, false teachers, have come amongst us to deprive us of our most sacred possession. The Protestant YMCA holds out all sorts of allurements to entrap and lead astray the ignorant and the unwary. Our very climate drags us down and encourages us to sin. How are we, the Filipino youth, to stand strong against all this drag and opposition? No matter what we do in other directions, let us be assured that all will be of little avail unless we go frequently to the Blessed Sacrament, there to eat the Bread of the strong. If we do so, we shall have life in us, but if we do not, we are beating the air, and shall ourselves be swirled into the vortex of evil, there to perish in misery.
Fellow students and friends, we are fully aware of a certain sinister spirit existing in this city and in this country, a spirit which prevents many from receiving Holy Communion when they should. I allude to that demon called human respect. Thousands of our young men and women abstain from approaching the Holy Eucharist because it is not the custom in the place where they are, because others do not go, or because people might whisper that we are pious and saintly. This spirit is from Hell, and is used by the Devil to prevent good being done. Such a spirit grieves the Heart of our Loving Lord Who is ever pleading from the tabernacle, “Come to Me. Come to Me.” It is for us, the Catholic youth, with the true Catholic spirit and grit, it is for us to fight against this nefarious state of affairs. It is for us to give comfort to the Prisoner of our altars by proclaiming that even though the number of Eucharistic worshippers be few, we will be of that few.
Fellow students, and Filipino youths, how often should we receive Holy Communion? The desire of the Church is that we do so every time we assist at Holy Mass. We all hear Mass every Sunday. In the name of our Holy Religion, let us then endeavour to approach the altar at least once a week. Once a month is surely good; but the Church asks us for more. On an occasion like this, we ought to resolve to renew the Faith amongst our countrymen. If we receive Holy Communion once a week, even though we think we are doing little else [besides], let us be convinced, fellow students, that we are doing much, very much for Faith and Fatherland. We are proving that we deserve well of the Catholic schools to which we largely owe our religious training. We shall draw down God’s blessings on ourselves and our parents and relatives. We shall set the example to that section of Filipino youth which has been brought up in indifference. The majority of our people have the Faith. But it is lethargic. It is for us to stimulate that Faith. This once more, fellow students, will be affected by frequent Holy Communion. If the Catholic youth attending our Catholic colleges and schools should go away from this gathering with the resolve to receive Holy Communion at least weekly, then dear fellow students, we may truly say that we have done much for our Sacramental Lord, and that the Eucharistic Congress has not been held in vain; that the effort and expense of organising the Congress has not been wasted. Let us labour, by renewed devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, that God’s cause may be advanced, that the people of these Islands may be better after this Eucharistic Congress than before; and above all, that we, the Filipino youth, will do our part, not languidly and niggardly, bur with our whole heart and with our whole soul.
A very stirring speech, this would probably remain unrivalled, considering the current atmosphere engulfing our Catholic schools today.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

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