06 August 2009

Saint Cory Aquino?

Listening to and watching Father Catalino Arevalo SJ giving the homily at the funeral Mass of Cory Aquino yesterday I realized that he was speaking about a person whom he really knew, as he had been her spiritual adviser and that of the Aquino family for many years. It was clear that he saw her as a person who followed Jesus Christ closely and willingly, especially in her suffering.
Yet he never referred to her as a saint. Sometimes homilies at funerals become eulogies that paint individuals as saintly when everyone knows that they weren't. Father Arevalo wasn't 'canonizing' Cory but showing us how she had tried to live the Christian life in her private life and, especially, in her public life, how she saw herself as one called to truly serve the people of the Philippines. If I recall, he spoke of her 'vocation' to be a public servant. He was really reminding all of us what we are called to be.

There is so much cynicism about politicians, much of it deserved, and there is a stench of corruption in the Philippines today that is even worse than it was during the Marcos years. Mrs Aquino brought a rare integrity to public life.

Father Arevalo recalled a meeting between Cory and the late Cardinal Stephen Kim of Seoul, Korea, a revered figure who died earlier this year and who is featured in the current Misyon:

Fr. Arevalo recalled the meeting between President Aquino and South Korea’s
Stephen Cardinal Kim and Manila Archbishop Jaime L. Cardinal Sin which lasted for 45 minutes.

“When we on our way back, Cardinal Kim said ‘I know why the Lord trusted her
with power at this most difficult time because she is pure of heart,” Fr.
Arevalo said quoting the Korean prelate.

He said Cardinal Kim said “He has no desire for power even now she
reluctantly took it on.”

“She truly moves me by the purity of her spirit. God has given a great gift
to your people,” Fr. Arevalo quoted Korean Cardinal Kim. (
Melo M. Acuna).

In today's Philippine Daily Inquirer Ma. Ceres P. Doyo writes her Human Face column under the title 'Sainthood for Cory'. She put into words some of my own thoughts as I listened to Father Arevalo. She mentions one former president - of Tanzania, not the Philippines - whose cause for canonization is being pushed by the bishops of his country, Julius Nyerere. Like Cory, he left behind a mixed political legacy but his simplicity and integrity were very clear.

There are other 20th century politicians whose cause for beatification has been introduced, Alcide De Gasperi of Italy and Robert Schuman of France who, along with Konrad Adenauer of Germany established the European Economic Community of six nations which has grown into the 25-nation European Union. Schuman had a very personal connection with three of the original six members: he was born a German citizen in Luxwmoburg and alter became prime minister of France. he greatlyadmired St Columban. After World War II they never wanted to see war again in Europe. Each was driven by his Catholic faith, as Cory and Julius Nyerere were. Indeed there were others.

St Thomas More, the English martyr, is the patron saint of politicians, statesmen and lawyers.

This is not really the time to be asking whether or not Cory Aquino should ever be formally recognised as a saint. The Church very wisely asks us to wait at least five years. But there is no doubt whatever that Cory Aquino's illness and death have brought to our attention a true person of faith, a person who lived her faith in Jesus Christ both in her private life and in her public life and who endured great suffering in both.

Every Filipino and everyone living in the Philippines with eyes to see and ears to hear can adapt and make Cardinal Kim's words their own: 'She truly moved me by the purity of her spirit. God has given a great gift to our people'.

1 comment:

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Nina, a Filipina who emigrated three or four years ago with her husband and children from the Philippines to Australia emailed:

Dear Father, I followed the events of Cory Aquino's health, death and burial. I heard the eulogy of the priest and there I saw Cory in the eyes of one who knew her better. She was an inspiring leader who walked the talk. I still remember her face that was captured on camera the time when her daughter Kris had a well publicized breakup with an movie actor and politician. What struck me was her unconditional love for her daughter.

Thank you for your sharing, Father.