Lingayen-Dagupan prelate to CM Philippines Community: Be mystic missionaries, ignorant professors, rich enough to tend to the poor

Date Posted: December 17, 2021 at 11:35 AM

Archbishop Socrates Villegas challenged the Congregation of the Mission to continue the development of their ministry during the Eucharistic celebration for their 150th Jubilee Anniversary held last December 13 at the Santuario de San Vicente de Paul.

The Lingayen-Dagupan prelate, in his homily, asked the CM Philippines community to be reminded of the charism of Saint Vincent de Paul and adapt it to the changing times.

“[A]s we look forward to the next 150 years, I say three questions: are you mystic enough to be a missionary? Are you ignorant enough to be a professor? Are you rich enough to be an apostle to the poor?” he said.

Reaching to his own Vincentian background, Abp. Villegas revealed although he did not have direct associations with the Congregation or has he been under a formal Vincentian education, he was formed inside the walls of San Carlos Seminary, which was built by Vincentians. He also mentioned his closeness of his mentor, former Manila prelate Jaime Cardinal Sin who is a renowned Vincentian.

 “[T]here is some Vincentian blood in my veins, at least by osmosis from my Archbishop,” he said jokingly.

He then encouraged the community to review the community’s achievements to find potential opportunities.

“Fruits need roots, and we are tasked to be fruit-bearing for the next 150 years of Vincentians in the Philippines. So, we look back at our roots, so that we can bear better fruits for the future,” he said. 

Mystic Missionaries

The Archbishop then encouraged the CM community to “be mystics” and not activists, as the true mission “comes from an intimate, contemplative, mystical encounter with the Lord — listening to the beating of that heart.”

“You carry in your name the word mission. You are by vocation, by origin, by conception, missionaries... For the next 150 years, I say my dear brother Vincentians, we need mystic missionaries; we need contemplative missionaries,” he said.

“150 years from now, when the Vincentians celebrate 300 years of the Philippine Province, I hope they will be able to say of us; that we have been contemplative missionaries — missionaries who came from mysticism; missionaries looking into the world, looking through the door wanting to proclaim Christ in society, with head listening to the beating of the Lord’s heart,” he furthered.

With this, he urged the priests to have eyes looking into the world, eager to bring the gospel of Jesus, and ears that are always sensitive to the whisperings God’s heart.

Ignorant Professors

Abp. Villegas also mentioned the initial role of the Vincentian Fathers when they first arrived in the country – to be formators of the clergy.

“You were invited to the Philippines 160 years ago, 10 years later to become a Philippine province, mainly for the task of forming priests – seminary formation, professors in the seminaries – that was the original vision, and that continues to be our vocation,” he said.

He, however, asked his brother priest-professors to emulate the humility of Saint Vincent as they educate the new breed of pastors of the Catholic Church.

“The great disease of seminary formation of our time is the culture of entitlement -- the culture of entitlement, the culture of being privileged, the culture of considering ourselves gifted, and therefore deserving of more than what the others receive,” he argued.

“[I]t is ignorance of the things in the world, it is ignorance in the things about sin – it is [a] deep humility to understand that everything that I do in seminary formation, I do in the name of the Lord. To him be glory, not to me.”

The former Bishop of the Diocese of Balanga then mentioned a reminder – that everyone, in their lifetime, are perpetual students of God.

Apostle to the Poor

Now going to the roots of the Vincentian charism, Abp. Villegas told the community to emulate what Jesus Christ did in his 33-year lifetime – give himself, the true wealth of giving.

“[W]e have been reminded that we are poor apostles to the poor. Yes, we must live the evangelical poverty; yes, we must live in simplicity; because we can only preach them stomachs if the stomach of the Vincentian is as empty as the stomachs of the poor,” he said.

He then pivots in his statement asking the CM priests, “Are you rich enough to be an apostle to the poor?” pointing out that richness is not always about money, food or scholarship but in the things of God.

“We were called to reach out to the poor, must be those visionaries. We might not be able to feed all the hungry; we might not be able to set all captives free; we might not be able to clothe all the naked; we might not be able to give drink to the thirsty, but we can give Jesus all the time,” he asserted

“That is our only vocation – to give Jesus, always Jesus, only Jesus.”