[Commentary] Capital S or small s?


Here comes everybody’s feast,”  author James Joyce wrote of Sunday’s festival. . “All Saints’ Day”.  Our forebears called that   “Todos los Santos”

There  are the capital “S” saints. Their names ring out, whenever  the Litany of Saints is chanted. Mary, mother of Christ with Joseph; Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Therese of Lisieux; Lorenzo Ruiz of Tondo, Manila  and Pedro Calungsod the Visayas’ Pedro Calungsod.

There are, also small letter “S” saints   maids, teachers, barbers to priests and market vendors. Despite their flaws, these obscure men and women serve God in neighbors.

And  perhaps, the Capital S list may soon  include  late Bishop Teofilo  Camomot  of  Cebu?  He often  hocked his bishop’s ring  to bail out the needy.  Dawns, he’d wait  for penitents in the confessional.  He served as  auxiliary bishop of Jaro (1955) and Cagayan de Oro (1958). Poor health compelled his return to Cebu.

“Msgr. Lolong’s ring is here again, pawnshops would call,” Gunmen held up Camomot in Bukidnon after a  confirmation rite. All Camomot had was P20. He had given away his money needy parish priests. The bishop called back the frustrated gunmen and gave them his ring. A Cagayan de Oro pawnshop returned it.

Camomot died in a 1988 car accident, clad in simple worn out clothes. Twenty-one years later, Daughters of St. Teresa nuns exhumed Camomot’s coffin. They jettisoned the urn when Camomot’s body, was found  intact. It was resealed in a hurriedly procured new coffin  after Cardinal Ricardo Vidal “Vidal identified the remains,” Sun Star reported.

Now, the process for Camomot’s  beatification has started On  Sept. 27, 1985,   Camomot and priest-secretary were boarding their car  to Cebu City 40 kilometers away for a meeting. A   woman said her father was critically ill in the mountain barangay of Bolinawan. Could Msgr Lolong  bishop administer anointing of the Sick?  He promised to visit.

On return, Camomot and secretary found the woman waiting. “After your visit earlier today, Tatay was able to get up,” she said. “How could you have gone,” the puzzled secretary asked. “From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. we were in Cebu.” Camomot laughed: “Just keep that to yourself .”

One of  the two thieves crucified with Christ seemed the least likely to be a   A  Capital S  member Scholars note the  Greek word for them  was kakapuorgos, or one who commits gross crimes. Other gospel writers use the term  lestes.  That translates to meant,  bandit or highwayman.

“Don’t you fear God,” he screamed at the other thief who was mocking the Crucified Christ. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

“Pope Gregory IV, in 837 A.D., broadened this to honor, not only to Capital S  members  but all who’ve passed on in grace, whether known or forgotten  The  basic message of  “Todos Los Santos” message  persists: A community of believers share, across the divide of death, grace that surges into eternal life.

Often, we overlook them. These include lay people who spend time, without fuss, in a  parish  charity clinic to serve the poor. There are  housemaids or servants who do their duties. And some take the “road less traveled” challenging an unjust  social order where  cash means right.

Back in July 11,1985, a white Cortina sporting a government license plate, blocked  Redemptorist Father  Rudy  Romano. Armed men on two other motorcycles swerved in. They bundled the priest inside the car, then sped away.

There has been no trace of Father Romano since, like most other of the “disappeared”. None has been convicted. Filipino communists  also  shrug aside pleas from relatives of victims in their pogroms.

Other desaparecidos or “disappeared”  include activist Jonas Burgos, Benedictine deacon Carlos Tayag, UP students Erlinda Capdapan, and Concepcion Empeno Levi Ybañez, among others.

What does this all mean in 2014 “All Saints Day”?                         

“A nation in search of Father Rudy, is a nation in search of itself,” Mary Aileen Bacalso of the Asian Federation Against Disappearances wrote earlier. Over 1,716 similar cases, spanning five administrations…is a wounding reminder of our callousness.”

Forgiveness, does not extinguish accountability. “Men are unable to forgive what they can not punish,” Hannah Arendt stresses in her essay on Nazi terror.

Unveiled in November 1992, “Bantayog ng mga Bayani” ( “Monument to the Heroes.” Honors victimsof martial lawCambodia’s Choeung Ek contains the graves of 8,895 in what were once its killing fields. “Nations are constructed on the basis of great rememberings and great forgettings,” Ernest Renan wrote.

The Redemptorists have forgiven Fr. Romano’s abductors. So has Edith Burgos, whose son Jonas is still missing.“The weak can never forgive,” Asian statesman Mahatma Ghandi said. “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong…(Even when violence appears) to do good, the good is only temporary. The evil it does is permanent…”

A culture of impunity  does not emerge full-blown overnight. It builds up incrementally, stoked by official support, tolerance, and silence. “A man begins to die the moment he remains silent about things that matter,” Martin Luther King warned.

The Protestant National Council of Churches titles  its 83-page report  that  documents 836 politically motivated killings:  “Let The Stones Cry Out.”