Wanted: Wild Horses

[Homily: University Celebration of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 30 July 2014)

When I was a young Jesuit, I used to belong to a group called Jesuit Contacts. I think we were the first group of scholastics in the Philippine Province entrusted with the task of vocations promotions. We had a calling card. It was cool. It had a picture of Charlie Brown on it.

Our Provincial then was Fr. Benigno Mayo. When I was in high school, we used to fear Fr. Mayo.  He had dark skin and large ears.  We used to call him daga. He was our prefect of discipline. We were afraid of him. For our misdemeanors at that time we would get jug, or wackwack, or post, or get kicked out of the school. Fr. Mayo was in charge of that.

But when I became a Jesuit, he became the Provincial superior. He had a good heart and was a good Provincial. He had a passion for the poor. Working with our vocations promotions group, he used to tell us: “If you’re looking for future Jesuits, look for the wild horses.” Wild horses! To our puzzled faces, he explained: “Wild horses. For with wild horses, all you have to do is tame them. If you get lethargic lazy idle horses, you have to push them from behind to get them to move. When you do, they kick you.” His message was clear.   Our calling card should not have had the picture of Charlie Brown on it. It should have had the picture of a wild horse on it – like the growling face of Bro. Jeff Pioquinto!

Ignatius was a wild horse. In the defense of Pamplona against the French, a more conventional soldier would have given up the battle against the superior French forces much earlier. But the insuperable determination of Iñigo would not consider anything like surrender. He rallied his men in a spirited defense of the castle and the honor of Spain, until he was hit by a canon ball. It shattered one leg, and broke the other. With Ignatius down, the battle ended. He could have been thrown into prison. But in recognition of his valor, the French victors allowed him to be carried from the battle field to recuperate in his own home.

That was the beginning of this wild horse’s taming. When they needed to operate on his leg without anesthesia, when on his recovery bed he was given the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints, when he began to think, “If the saints can be heroic for Christ, so might I,” when in the cave of Manresa, he wrestled with the spirits within, God was taming him. Experiencing at times great consolation, inner joy, general elation and closeness to God, and at other times, agonizing desolation, apparent abandonment by God, depression, and sadness, he discovered that through such interior movements, God was communicating with him. He was the wild horse, and God was his tamer.

Under God’s tutelage, this wild horse hazarded the prospect that he was called to serve God and the Church as a priest. For that he needed to study. So at 33 years of age he was led to the University of Paris, where he met other wild horses: Francis Xavier and Peter Faber and six other “first companions.” They resolved first to go to the Holy Land; but because the ongoing conflict between Christians and Muslims made that impossible, they put themselves at the service of the Pope for whatever he wanted them to do. In 1540, Pope Paul III recognized the Compañia de Jesus as a new order. Among the wild horses who became Jesuits and were tamed by God to became great servants of the Church and saints were Francis Xavier, Aloysius Gonzaga, Peter Canisius, Stanislaus Kostka, St. James Kisai, St. Paul Miki, St. Albert Hurtado and many others.

In 1773, the Society of Jesus was suppressed.   The Jesuits had put up many schools and had become very influential. Their influence with royal rulers and with the Popes had created many enemies. Pressured by the enemies of the Jesuits, Pope Clement XIV abolished them. Some four decades later, in 1814, political circumstances having changed, Pope Piux VII restored them.

 

This year we celebrate the restoration of the Society of Jesus two-hundred years ago. It was that restoration that allowed the Jesuits to return to the Philippines. It was that restoration that allowed the Jesuit wild horses tamed by the Spirit to be sent in the Philippines primarily to Mindanao. [i] The Jesuits began here in the 1860s by ministering to “the so-called ‘old Christians,'” descendants of Boholanos, Cebuanos, and other Visayan peoples who had settled in the northern coastal areas of the island in earlier times.  “The new frontier [then] however was in the more interior places and highlands, along rivers and in valleys ringed by heavily forested mountains and hills.  The Jesuits would seek to evangelize the Tirurays, Manobos, Mandayas, Tagacaolos, Mamanuas, Bagobos, Subanons, and Bukidnons…  They also tried to attract to the faith the riverine Maguindanaos, the coastal Ilanuns and the sea-faring peoples of Basilan and the Sulu archipelago: Samals, Yacans and even the Taosugs.”[ii]. … In pre-Philippine-revolution times, 36 years after they started the mission of Tamontaca, Jesuits worked in at least 43 missions in Mindanao. Some of the these towns:

Tamontaca (1861), Pollok (1861), Isabela de Basilan (1862), Tetuán (1862), Zamboanga (1865), Mercedes (1867), Ayala (1870), Bolong (1896), Davao (1868), Sigaboy (1870), Samal (1870), Sarangani (1875), Mati (1886), Peña-Plata (1896), Manay (1897), Dapitan (1870), and from Dapitan, Dipolog and Lubungan, Bislig (1874), Gigáquit (1874), Dinagat (1877), Taganaán (1877), Cantilan (1879), Caraga (1881), Cabuntog (1883), Numancia (1883), Tandag (1884), Lianga (1884), Baganga (1884), Butuan (1875), Bunauan (1878), Talacogon (1878), Játiva (1887), Veruela (1895), Esperanza (1897), Prosperidad (1897), Tolosa (1897), Alubijid (1878), El Salvador (1879), Tagoloan (1887), Balingasag (1887), Jasaan (1887), Gingoog (1887), Sumilao (1889), Linabo (1889), Sevilla (1893), Oroquieta, and Jolo (1878), Cagayan de Oro (1905), Cabadbaran (1913).[iii]

Over time, the Jesuit parishes were concentrated in the mission districts of Ipil, Zamboanga and of Malaybalay, Bukidnon. In 1985, the Jesuits accepted to run St John Vianney Theological Seminary, serving mainly the northern dioceses of Mindanao.

Just over a century ago, in 1912, the Jesuits established the Ateneo de Zamboanga; in 1933, the Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro, which became Xavier University, the first of the Jesuit universities in the Philippines. In 1946, the wildest of them all: the Ateneo de Davao.

Today the Jesuits are still looking for wild horses not just to fill the shoes of Jesuits who are aging and taking off for their heavenly reward, but wild horses whom the Lord might tame to collaborate in the apostolate of the Jesuits in Mindanao. Last Dec. 26-28, after the Zamboanga siege, but also in the context of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Restoration of the Jesuits, the Jesuits of the Philippine Province met in Davao to deliberate on how it might better serve Mindanao. The results included “action points” whose implementation needs not only Jesuits but co-workers coming from Christian, Muslim and IP communities. Among these action points: the formation of leaders for Mindanao and the common good (like the formation of our ADDU leaders sui generis); the use of our Jesuit universities and institutions as convenors and consensus builders; dialoging for peace through inter-faith and intra-faith initiatives; rejecting an economy that excludes and developing initiatives for the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution to Mindanawons; appropriating and integrating Ignatian spirituality for social transformation; supporting social movements and advocacies for social justice and the common good; advocating cultural transformation-and-regeneration in Mindanao. This actually entails the development of a new economy which has the development of Mindanao as its focus, and the vigorous defense and preservation of the environment.

Many of the earlier Jesuit works have been turned over to others. The Spanish Jesuits were replaced by the American Jesuits; the American Jesuits by the Filipino. But for what we continue to do in Mindanao, we still need wild horses – willing to be tamed by God – to pursue social justice in the service of the common good in Mindanao. Wild horses willing to fight valiantly and tenaciously for justice and peace in the context of Mindanao history, beginning with a spiritual struggle for interior conversion and peace under the tutelage of the Spirit. We need wild horses willing to tell and re-tell the story of what happened in Mindanao, the story of conquest, subjugation, oppression and evangelization parallel to powerful narratives of resistance, independence and religious freedom. We need wild horses willing under God’s guidance to destroy old paradigms of bigotry, intolerance, and fundamentalism, to create working cultural frameworks of shared humanity in diversity, inter-cultural respect, and recognized religious freedom. This has to be true with any formation in religion and any parallel formation in rationality today within the context of a shared common good. This has to be true with any concept of being Filipino or being Bangsamoro today, including a living recognition of our ever-evolving unity in our ever-deepening diversity. We need wild horses fired up with God’s energy to deliver us from yesterday’s injustice and wars to tomorrow’s justice, and peace and prosperity – not only in Mindanao, Sulu and Jolo, but in the entire Philippines.

 

I am no longer a young Jesuit. But I guess I still belong to Jesuit Contacts. I have a calling card, no longer with a picture of an innocent Charlie Brown, but with a wild selfie of… Bro. Jeff. Remembering the advice of the good Fr. Mayo, as we celebrate the memory of the wild warring Ignatius defending Loyola, I am still looking for wild horses who can be tamed for the Kingdom of God. Those wild horses called to be Jesuits (preferably, male!), please see Bro. Jeff. There is a special vocsem on Sunday in the JR of the Community Center for you. Those wild horses attracted to the service of Mindanao as co-laborers of our Jesuits – wild Catholics, married or celibate, closet Christians, and devout Muslims – please see Elvi Tamayo, who will support your taming by God in the St. Ignatius Spirituality Center of Samal under the gentle care of Ms. Sally Pabres. They will work with you through special exercises to free you from crippling fetters, inordinate attachments, the disordered life, so that you shall be able to surge ahead towards the building a community of justice, peace and prosperity in Mindanao. Those who are not wild horses, but need to be pushed from behind to move forward, please do not kick us too hard!

Happy celebration of our founder, St. Ignatius! We celebrate him gratefully in this Eucharist! In his spirit, which we fervently hope is resonant with the Spirit of God, let us continue to move forward together in the service of our people – ad majorem Dei gloriam!

 

 

 

_________

[i] For a brief history of the Society of Jesus in Mindanao, cf. the presentation of Fr. Antonio de Castro, S.J. “Mindanao as Jesuit Frontier: Lessons from History”: http://jbecph.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/mindanao-as-jesuit-frontier-lessons-from-history-keynote-address-1/

[ii] ibid.

[iii] ibid

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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