Vocation stories of Philippine Jesuits by Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ

by Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ

1.  Fr. Alfeo Nudas, SJ

Al recalls an unusual sight.

Alfeo Nudas lost his father when he was young.  The Nudas were poor farmers
in the small mountainous town of Naguilian. Al recalls his mother in a
deadly tug-of-war with a group of Japanese soldiers over her only carabao,
her work carabao.  His eldest brother, Hilario, abandoned his studies and
marriage plans to support his siblings.  In this atmosphere Al developed the
spirit of caring for others.  The seed of a vocation fell on fertile ground.
How he learned of the Jesuits, I do not know.

A year before he died, he lost his mind.  He was helpless.  At meals, Al
asked for fish. I heard him say, “I want a fish.  This is not a fish.”
Caretakers had given him fish fillet, without head and tail.  How Jesus must have smiled at At.

Behold Jesus beholding Al.  Smiling.

God wants us to know that he is glorified by our illness and uselessness,
no less than by magnificent achievements.

2. Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ

De la Costa made a retreat in SHN to discern his career.  He saw he was to
serve God as a writer.  But he was told later that he could be a Jesuit and
a writer.

3.  Fr. Romeo Intengan, SJ

Dr Romeo Intengan organized religious activities for the staff and patients
of PGH.  His companions called him Archbishop which was shortened to Archie. He was inspired to be a Jesuit from meeting the Jesuit chaplains.

4.  Fr. Guido, SJ

Guido had one foot in the novitiate since he had some lingering doubts.  One
day he watched the movie “The Little Women,” then in town. In one scene, Jo
sells her long hair to buy a birthday gift for her mother.  Meg, her sister,
saw her shorn of her beautiful air and exclaimed, “Jo. What a mess.” Guido
reflected that her mother saw how beautiful Jo was..   He felt a warm
sensation and all his doubt vaporized.  The scene had no connection with his
doubt.  But in the warm glow of consolation, every  thing was seen in the
light of God with eyes of God.  When the sun is up all are seen.  When water
rises all boats float.

5.  Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ

Karel San Juan delayed being a Jesuit to be a lay apostle.  After
graduation he gave of his time and even volunteered for Cambodia. There he
heard of what Richie Fernando did. That inspired him to delay no more his
entrance to tbe Jesuit novitiate.

6.  Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ

I entered the novitiate to do my part about the shortage of
priests in the Philippines. I thought I was doing the church a favor, to do
a job that needed doing, that I was doing something noble.  I did not know
Jesus was seducing me to loving him.

7.  Fr. Jim Hennessey, SJ

Jim Hennessey visiting our Lord in the Georgetown University chapel , saw
in the dim light, a sight that warmed his heart, a Filipino Jesuit kneeling
some distance in front.  It could not be anyone else but Sammy Dizon, by the
circular bare skin at the back of his head.  Sammy was predestined to be a
priest.  He was born with a tonsure.

8.  Fr. Hilario Belardo, SJ

Hilario Belardo used to go to Baclaran church to get pamphlets for his
brother who was interested in becoming a Redemptorist.  He too became
interested.  But he dillydallied.  While boating with friends, his girl
friend dropped her fan.  He jumped into the bay to recover it.  Then the
boat’s motor failed and the boat drifted away. H He vowed to be a priest if
he were saved.

9. Fr. Tony Olaguer, SJ

The father of Tony Olaguer traveled all the way from Bicol to Manila to see
off his sons Valdemar and Antonio off to America where they had
scholarships. The ship sailed off without Tony appearing.  He had entered
the novitiate without telling anyone.  When his mother was a student, she
and two friends prayed that their first son would be a priest.  Toti’s
mother married a widower with several sons. Toti was her first.

10.  Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ

Ben Nebres studied in the Vigan Seminary when it was run by the SVD
fathers.  Earlier it had been the Jesuits.  When these left, they left
behind books, some of which was the Tom Playfair series for boys.  In
reading this series, Ben was influenced to join the Jesuits.*

11.  Fr. Francisco Perez, SJ

Francisco Perez was a spy who reported Japanese movements during the
war.  This resulted in his being alone in the mountains often and he enjoyed
contemplating God in nature.  After the war he joined the Philippine Air
Force.  In Fernando Air Base in Lipa, he read a pictorial supplement in the
Manila Times about the Jesuits. He said, “That is what I want to be.”  He
took the bus and reached Novaliches in his uniform.  Fr Master Lynch gave
the hungry man lunch before  showing him around. He told Cisco to apply at
Sta Ana.

12. Fr. Francisco Arago, SJ.

It was in Sta Ana that Francisco Arago met his first Jesuit in Fr Cullum
who interviewed him and accepted him.  He was the helped of the parish
priest in Samar and had read about the Jesuits in a magazine.  Many
vocations are developed in men in close contact with our Lord in service the
parish priest.

13.  Fr. Rudy Fernandez, SJ

During the Jap occupation, Japanese killed Rudy Fernandez’s, father.   When
he became a Jesuit, he volunteered to be a missionary to Japan,  to repay
the Japanese with goodness.

In Japan, one morning he overslept and hurried not to keep the sisters
waiting for mass.  He entered a single lane road where the rule was first
come first served.  He reached the road ahead of a car headed in the
opposite direction.  But that car did not give way. Rudy let the other
ahead.  When they were abreast, he greeted the driver “Ocage sawa,” which
means “I am in your shadow”. He made a friend.

14.  Fr. Roberto Gana, SJ

After graduation from the Ateneo law school, Roberto Gana and some batch
mates made a retreat in SHN.  There he saw Manny utterly helpless. He
reflected that he, Gana, was utterly dependent on God for existence itself.
He decided to devote the rest of his life to provide law services to those
who could not afford it. He founded the Gana Foundation, recruited, inspired
and formed young law gradates.  When he died, the apostolate did not die
with him.  Manny was God’s instrument.*

* ** *

Xavier  an ambitious man, with world at his feet, was pestered by Ignatius:
what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul.
Dying on on Sancian Island at the doorstep to China, Jesus told him that had
gained a world greater than the world he had surrendered.*

* *
blog:  pedrocalungsod.blogspot.com
God bless you and all your efforts.  Victor Badillo SJ

Four Jesuit priests in Jose Rizal’s life: Faura, Pastells, Balaguer, and Sanchez

Horacio de la Costa, SJ

Homily delivered at the Ateneo Alumni Mass on Rizal’s birthday, June 19, 1952


Alumnus Jose Rizal kept in touch with the Ateneo mainly through four men. There was Father Faura, who prophesied that he would end up on a scaffold. There was Father Pastells, who sought to restore his Catholic Faith by patient argument.  There was Father Balaguer, who reconciled him to the Church before he died.  And there was Father Sanchez, who was his friend.

I think it can be said that these four men, each in his own fashion,
express what the Ateneo should mean, and would like to mean, to all its alumni.  The Ateneo is a school; first and foremost, it is a body of teachers; and the essential duty of a teacher is to speak the truth.  The truth is often unpleasant, often unpopular; but the teacher, if he wishes to be faithful to his profession, cannot afford to dilute or debase it.  He must speak the truth as he sees it, no matter how much it hurts.

Rizal had worked out during his sojourn in Spain a thoroughgoing plan ofcolonial reform.  Whatever Father Faura thought of that plan, he saw at least one thing clearly – that the Spanish government would never stand for it.  Sooner or later it would try to crush both the plan and its author. That was what he meant when he said that Rizal would end up on a scaffold.

We could wish that Father Faura could have put it a little less bluntly, a little more diplomatically.  He might have spared Rizal’s feelings.  But there are times when to spare a man’s feelings is to betray his friendship. What Father Faura said was shocking; he meant it to be.  He wanted to shock Rizal into seeing that he was faced with a choice, and that his very life depended upon what he chose.  He did not tell him what to choose. Rizal was not a boy any longer but a man, and it was a man’s privilege to choose; but it was also a man’s privilege to be told the consequences of his choice.

Rizal saw and chose; and the fact that he chose with his eyes open, with the scaffold at the end of the road having been pointed out to him, is his claim to be our greatest alumnus.

All of us, at some time or other in our lives, will be faced with the
necessity of making a similar decision. Beset by fears and forebodings, we shall go to seek strength and comfort from those we miss.  I do not think we shall ever lack friends who will try to soothe us with ambiguities, who will blur alternatives, dull the horns of a dilemma on the mistaken principle that what we don’t know won’t burn us, on the childish principle that medicine doesn’t taste half as bad if taken with eyes shut.

But rare indeed is the friend who will tell us the truth; who will pay us the supreme compliment of assuming that we are not afraid to act on our principles.  It is our hope as alumni that we shall always find such a friend where Rizal found him – at the Ateneo.

However, it is equally important to remember that respect for the truth must go hand in hand with respect for the individual conscience.  To force the truth on the people’s minds, to ram the truth down people’s throats, is not only unjust: it is unwise.  Nothing breeds error so quickly as truth accepted under constraint.  It was to be regretted that Rizal lost the priceless heritage of the Faith; but granted the fact that he lost it, there was only one way of restoring it to him: by convincing him, by convincing his mind, that he had erred.  There were easier ways; threats, cajolery, flattery, the emotional argument; but Father Pastells used none of these. He chose the hard way; he appealed to that in Rizal which was hardest, diamond-hard–his mind.  For he knew that a faith based on anything else but conviction would be of no use to this man who lived solely by his convictions, and who would not hesitate to die for them.

Jesuits believe that their system of education is fashioned to produce men of this calibre, rational men, men whose faith, while fully supernatural, is based on reason.  Whether that system actually does so or not, is not for them to say.  But this certainly can be said: that if the schools of the free world do not produce such men in greater numbers than hitherto, that world is doomed.

We must have men of conviction, but they must also be men of faith.  Reason can go far, but there is a point beyond which it cannot go; the deepest questions that reason can ask, only faith can answer.  It was Father Pastells who raised these questions in the mind of Rizal, but it was Father Balaguer who answered them.  To the death cell in Fort Santiago came this simple man, came, not with subtle argument, not with the persuasive words of human wisdom, but with the word of God, sharp as a drawn sword, cutting deep, even to the marrow of the spirit, cutting and healing, slaying and giving life.  And the work that the learned Father Pastells began, this simple priest finished.  Yet not he, for what are these but men?  Poor, brittle instruments, of what avail are they, of themselves, in the titanic struggle of good and evil for the immortal soul?

No, not they, but God, in that lonely hour between dusk and dawn, between life and death, when Rizal sank to his knees at last with a strong cry and tears, in that lonely hour he was alone with the Alone, the man about to die with the God who died, and lives.

What folly even to think that such a man, at such an hour, could have been tricked into repentance!  If there was trickery in the business, God was the trickster; let them complain to God.  If there was trickery in the business, it was prayer that did the trick.

There was one man at least whose prayers were with Rizal continually,
through all the years of doubt, all the years of agony, all the years of exile; that man was Father Sanchez.  Perhaps he was to blame for Rizal’s conversion.  At any rate, he was the most subtle Jesuit of them all, for he used against Rizal’s infidelity the one irresistible weapon; the power against which nothing is proof; the power of prayer.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”; and we like to think that among these good things is that fellowship of Ateneans with the Ateneo and of Ateneans among themselves, which not even death can break. For even in maturity, even when we are old, the mother of our youth yet has something to offer us; yes, four things, to all her alumni as to her greatest alumnus:  the plain truth, the path of reason, the light of faith, the love of friends.

(Text of the homily courtesy of Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.)

A feisty Jesuit priest: Howie Severino’s biographical essay on Fr. James Reuter, S.J.

Born on May 21, 1916 to a young German-Irish couple, Reuter had spent most of his life in New Jersey when he volunteered to be a Jesuit missionary in America’s only colony in Asia in 1938.

The eldest of five children, Reuter’s choice of vocation came early, inspired by his own Jesuit mentor, Ernest Hartnett, at his Catholic High School in New Jersey, Saint Peter’s Prep. A few months after graduating valedictorian while playing varsity athletics, he entered the Society of Jesus and started his novitiate training in Pennsylvania. By age 20, Reuter had taken his first holy vows, and arrived in Manila at age 22 as a Jesuit scholastic, or a priest-in-training. He had known about the archipelago since high school, when he had argued in favor of independence in the intense debates going on then in the United States over the fate of the Philippine islands.

After several years of study, including two years in the Philippine summer capital of Baguio up north, he was assigned to teach at the Ateneo de Manila in mid-1941. At the same time, he began his radio career when he was also tasked to help produce the Catholic Church’s popular Sunday-night radio drama show, “The Commonweal Hour.”

This was the start of Reuter’s long career in Philippine media. But it may have also marked the dawn of his extraordinary impact on the would-be republic’s public life. The radio program reached many listeners, and featured actors from the Ateneo who would later distinguish themselves in the public sphere: Leon Ma. Guerrero, Raul Manglapus, Ricardo Puno, and Francisco ‘Soc’ Rodrigo, to name a few. The show’s chief writer was a precocious young Jesuit named Horacio de la Costa, later the superior of the Jesuit province and one of the country’s pre-eminent historians. (Back then, de la Costa wrote witty radio plays for the masses, including the series “Kuwentong Kutsero,” which became so popular it eventually crossed over into television and also became a hit.)

The reverie of Reuter’s early years in the Philippines was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and the start of World War II. As an American, the priest was interned in Los Baños, south of Manila, where he was assigned the duty of burying dead inmates. In early 1945, while the Japanese guards were doing their daily calisthenics, U.S. paratroops sprung a surprise assault and quickly took over the Los Baños camp. As he was liberated, Reuter was overcome by patriotic emotion and vowed then that he would never give up his U.S. citizenship. He would recall four decades later, “Coming into Manila in a military jeep, in the bright morning sunlight, with my hair blowing in the wind, I was in real ecstasy. We were free! We were really free!”

Reuter returned to the United States for more studies after the war and was ordained in 1946. In addition to theology, he enrolled for a summer at Fordham University to study a new course in radio and television, which was then a new medium that many radio professionals were skeptical about. Located in New York, Fordham exposed the Jesuit communicator to the media industry’s cutting edge.

In 1948, he returned to the Philippines where he was assigned to teach at the Ateneo de Naga, in the Bicol region, where he began to blossom as the prototypical Jesuit Renaissance man. He taught English and religion, but after class he was in charge of five extracurricular activities: the school’s monthly magazine and yearbook, the glee club, the debate team, dramatics, and the varsity basketball team.

He was reassigned to the Ateneo de Manila in 1952, where his versatility was put to full use. His theatrical talents were already well-known. But soon after his return to Manila, he revived the Ateneo glee club, which “quickly became something of a national phenomenon,” according to one account of those years.

Read more: A Feisty Jesuit Priest

Book Review: “The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence” by Fr. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J.

The Hitherto Unpublished Letters of Jose Rizal and Portions of Fr. Pablo Pastell’s Fourth Letter and Translation of the Correspondence, together with a Historical Background and Theological Critique (Ateneo de Manila University Press, Bellarmine Hall, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, P.O. Box 154, 1099 Manila, Philippines)

This book tells the story of two brilliant men.

The first is the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.  He was the distinguished poet in the Spanish tongue, the master of Philippine dialects and European languages, the humble devotee of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who later became a leader of the Propaganda Movement, the writer of the subversive novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and a member of Freemasonry in London.  In short, Jose Rizal was the Spanish poet who became anti-Spain,  the Catholic who became anti-Catholic, the student of the Jesuits who made a “shipwreck of Faith.”  In 1896 in Bagumbayan in Manila, Jose Rizal was executed for treason against Spain by firing squad.  He was thirty-five.

The second is Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J.  He was  the student in the Jesuit-run Seminario Conciliar in Barcelona, a refugee in France after the fourth suppression of Jesuits in Spain in 1868, a man in lay clothes running from anticlerical elements after the defeat of Napoleon in the Franco-Prussian war, the priest who organized circulos or worker groups in Europe to the anger of Anarchists.  Pastells arrived in the Philippines in 1875.  In the middle of the following year he was sent to Ateneo de Manila and became the director of the Sodality of Our Lady.  In this capacity and as a prefect of the boarders, he came to know the fourteen year old Rizal.  He travelled as a missionary in the Visayan and Mindanao Islands to study the language of the natives.  He was  appointed Superior of the of the Philippine Mission in 1888, and it was at the end of his term of office that his correspondence with Rizal began.  Pastells was sent back again to Spain in 1893 to write about the Spanish Jesuit’s overseas work, resulting to a three-volume history book (1916-1917), and another nine-volume work on the History of the Philippines (1925-1934).  In 1932, he died at the age of eighty-six.

* * *

The book is divided into two parts.  The first part is an Introduction by Fr. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J., which consists of a historical background and a theological critique.

The historical background is well written and researched, with long footnotes.  When Rizal was exiled in Dapitan in Mindanao, Rizal told Fr. Sanchez who tried to bring him back to the Catholic Faith:

It is useless, Father, you do not convince me.  I do not believe in the Eucharist or in the rites of the Catholic religion.

But to his mother Rizal wrote (which Fr. Sanchez confirmed):

We heard mass at midnight, for you ought to know that here I hear Mass every Sunday.  (Underlining by Rizal.)

I expected these things.  But for a physicist, here is a surprising trivia: From Rizal’s friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, Fr. Federico Faura, S.J., the founder of the Manila Observatory, learned of Blumentritt’s fear that Rizal became a Mason.  And Fr. Bonoan continues:

When Fr. Ramon, the rector, and Faura in conversation with their guest raised the question of his religious beliefs, Rizal made protestations of loyalty to Spain but said it was useless to discuss religious matters inasmuch as he had long lost the faith.  Whereupon, Faura sternly warned him never again to step into the corridors of the Ateneo if he should persist in his erroneous beliefs, for the Jesuit fathers were breaking all contact with him, and advised him to leave the Philippines for good lest he end up on the scaffold.  Rizal remained unmoved.

Fr. Faura correctly predicted the last storm: Rizal was executed, and his death ushered the Philippine Revolution.

Fr. Bonoan’s theological critique of Rizal and Fr. Pastells is also well-written.  But reading through his critique, Fr. Bonoan showed more sympathy for Rizal than for Pastells:  He upheld Rizal’s primacy of conscience and contrasted Pastell’s Vatican I mindset with the teachings of Vatican II.  If you want to know the details, read the book.

But my sympathies are for Pastells.  And to him we can quote Fr. Horacio de la Costa’s words:

But look at it another way.   Look at it through the eyes of a Spanish friar who found himself a prisoner of the Army of the Revolution.  He was the last of a long line of missionaries, stretching back to that great defender of Rights, Fray Domingo de Salazar.  They had brought this whole people from primitive tribalism to civilization.  They had raised from stones children of Abraham.  And in the end, the children had turned on their fathers.

It was not only tragic; it was the very essence of tragedy

–Fr. Horacio de la Costa, “The Priest in the Philippine Life and Society: An Historical View,” in Church and Sacraments, ed. by Ma. Victoria B. Parco (Office of Research and Publications, Ateneo de Manila University, 1990), pp. 192-200.


References to the Correspondence

Part 1. Introduction

Preliminary Notes

Two Separate Paths: Historical Background

  1. The Young Rizal and the Jesuits
  2. The European Experiment
  3. The Shipwreck of Faith
  4. Pastells and the Spanish Jesuits
  5. Arrest and Exile

The Clash of Cultures: Theological Critique

  1. The Enlightenment and the Catholic Response
  2. Private Judgment
  3. The Problem of God
  4. Revelation
  5. Conclusion

Part 2.  The Spanish Text of Rizal’s Letters and the Missing Portions of Pastell’s Fourth Letter

The First Letter of Rizal
The Second Letter of Rizal
The Third Letter of Rizal
The Fourth Letter of Rizal
The Fifth Letter of Rizal
Portions of the Pastell’s Fourth Letter Missing in the Epislorio Rizalino

Part 3.  Translations of the Correspondence

The First Letter of Rizal
The First Letter of Pastells
The Second Letter of Rizal
The Second Letter of Pastells
The Third Letter of Rizal
The Third Letter of Pastells
The Fourth Letter of Rizal
The Fourth Letter of Pastells
The Fifth Letter of Rizal


Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J.: The Priests Who Brought Christianity to the Philippines Belonged to the Church of the Counter-Reformation

The lowland peoples of the Philippines were converted to Roman Catholic Christianity by priests and brothers of the missionary religious orders which had establishments in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  They were, in the order of their first arrival in the islands, the Augustinians (1565), the Franciscans (1578), the Jesuits (1581), the Dominicans (1587), and the Augustinian Recollects (1606).

Very few secular priests came to the Philippines during the period of Spanish rule.  Those that did serve mostly as cathedral clergy in Manila and Cebu.

In the beginning, the Philippine missonaries were almost all Spaniards born in Spain itself (peninsulares).  In the course o the Seventeenth Century they were joined by Spaniard[s] born in the colonies (criollos), andlater still by other Europeans, mostly from the Hapsburg dominions.  However, penisular Spaniards constituted the preponderant majority of the Philippine clergy until the very end of Spanish rule.

Thus, the priest who brought Christianity to the Philippines were men who belonged, spiritually, to the church of the Counter-Reformation, intellectually, to the Age of the Baroque.

They were men of the Counter-Reformation Church, the Church that was closing ranks against the novatores, the innovating Protestants of the northern European countries who were challenging the traditional beliefs of Catholics.  They were deeply concerned about preserving the ”purity of faith,” by which they meant scripture and tradition as interpreted by medieval scholastics, of whom Saint Thomas Aquinas was prince; the faith as most recently defined by the Council of Trent, and as authoritatively regulated and enforced by the Holy See and the Spanish Inquisition. This was the faith that they meant to preserve intact, and to transmit to those who did not yet have it.

This faith was not only the truth, but the whole truth regarding man’s condition and his ordination to God his Creator.  All men are to be persuaded to accept this truth in its totality.  If they cannot be persuaded, they they must be compelled—the ”compelle intrare” of the gospel—for otherwise they cannot be saved.  Extra ecclesiam nulla salus—there is no salvation outside the church.

This may serve to explain the extreme caution—one might almost say the intransigence—with which the Spanish missionaries who founded our Philippine Christinaity regarded any departure from the religous practices they were used to.  Nil innoventur nisi quod traditum est—let there be no innovations, except those handed down by tradition.  We may consider this an impracticable, even an inconsisten principle.  We must nevertheless try to understand, and to symphatize with it as a principle sincerely held.

The adaptation of Christianity to anon-European culture was not antecedently and entirely excluded.  But it was a very limited form of adaptation, whose object seemed to be simply to make Christian belief and practice more palatable to the people being evangelized.  There was no real attempt to learn from the alien culture; to seek elements in it which might possibly enrich Christian belief or make Christian worship more meaningful.  This was not possible to men of the Counter-Reformation.  How could it be?  Their reaction to the Protestant revolt was to defend the Roman Catholic tradition in its entirety; to preserve it intact and to transmit it intact, because it was the whole truth about man and God.  Any departure from it by a Christian was simply heresy, and whatever pagans believed in was simply error, the vain imaginings of people who ”sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”


Horacio de la Costa, “The priest in the Philippine life and society: an historical view,” in Church and Sacraments, ed. by Ma. Victoria B. Parco, (Department of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University), pp.  192-200.  The posted excerpt is pp. 192-193.  The original article is from Loyola Papers no. 12 (Manila: Ateneo, CBI, 1980), pp. 4-15.

About the Author:

Reverend Father Horacio de la Costa, S.J. (1916-1970) was the first Filipino Provincial General of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines, and a recognized authority in Philippine and Asian culture and history. (Wikipedia)

The Ateneo de Manila Website has his picture, early writings, and biography).