Jose Rizal as a student in Ateneo de Manila and prefect of the Sodality of Our Lady

by Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.

When the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859, their mission was to work in Mindanao.  They were persuaded by the City of Manila to run the Escuela Municipal de Manila, a public primary school.  The school was renamed Ateneo when it began offering secondary education in 1865. Incidentally, they also started a second school, the Escuela Normal, to train teachers for the public schools.

In the beginning, the Ateneo accepted only Filipinos (Spaniards born in the Philippines).  Later they accepted also Indios.  One such was Jose Protacio Mercado.  But he enrolled under the name Jose Protacio Rizal, at the advice of his family.  He had to dissociate himself from his brother, Paciano Mercado, who had gained notoriety with the authorities with his links to priests who had been sentence to death as subversives.

1872, the year Jose Rizal enrolled when he was 11, was a fateful year.  That year Frs. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed for complicity in the Cavite mutiny.  It so affected him that later he said, “I would have been a Jesuit today, if I had not vowed to continue the fight of those priests.”

He was quite affected that he, an Indio, 11 years old was addressed
Usted (thou), and not tu (you), by older Spanish Jesuits. He and his elders had always been addressed by the degrading tu, In Tagalog, Ikaw (you singular). Ustedwas equivalent to kayo (you plural) or even siya or sila (he or they).  No wonder he loved them. Today’s Filipino Jesuits do not know usted but they never time of praising Ateneans.  And the poor boys believe them!  Who can blame them?  A little girl carried by her mother, on hearing a visitor say, ”What a beautiful girl.” beamed, “More. More.”

At first, he boarded in the houses in Intramuros or with relatives on his
mother’s side.  He was free to do what he wanted, socializing etc.  But he
decided to enroll as a boarder, knowing what this meant.  A restricted life, regulated by bells, telling when to eat, when to rest, when to study.  In the study room, he could get free help and individual tutoring from Jesuits prefects.  He learned how to concentrate, to compete against himself.

Because knew how to utilize ad lib (free) time, he did not waste time.  By
being bound, he became free, free of laziness, of bad habits.  He became the Filipino he expected others to be before demanding independence. He lived it.  By this he became free to free others.  By living a disciplined life, he could do many things.  He enrolled in two schools, even three schools in Spain, at one time and excelled in them.

As a sodalist he was expected to do mental prayer at least fifteen minute each day.  Prayer was not just an exercise.  It meant contact with the divine.  It meant knowing Jesus and imitating him.  It meant being challenged to fight for the King and not to count the cost.  By his performance, he became a Prefect of the Sodality.

Jesuit pedagogy was pauca praecepta, multa exempla, plurima exercitation  (few rules, many examples, numberless exercise).  And cura personalis(individualized attention).

In liberal education, he met the best thinkers and was inspired to be like
them and even to be better them.  That is the purpose of the classics.  Not good speech and writing and oratory.  The curriculum was graduated, step by step, according to the ability of the student.  The Jesuits did not neglect competition, prizes and punishments (jug, the cane, etc).


Liberal education vs liberal Faith: What is the true essence of Ateneo education?

There is a distinction between liberal education and liberal Faith. Liberal education of Ateneo simply means that students become well rounded individuals: they study languages, humanities, arts, and sciences, regardless of their chosen course. The core curriculum is the essence of Ateneo’s liberal education.

On the other hand, to have a liberal Faith is antithesis of being Catholic. To be liberal in Faith is to choose only the doctrines and teachings that you feel like obeying and discard the rest. Pope Benedict XVI calls this the Cafeteria Catholicism. The words of Dr. Clamor are only partly true. There are things in Catholicism that if one does not believe them, you do not cease to be Catholic. An example would be some Marian apparitions and other private revelations to the saints. But there are things called dogmas that are non-negotiables: if you don’t believe them, you cease to be Catholic. You become a heretic. An example would be the Dogma of the Trinity.

Membership in the Church is not a subjective feeling or being conscious about it. If you are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, you become the member of the Catholic Church. Outside the Church there is no salvation. If you are cut off from the Church, you wither and die, because the Church is the Body of Christ (c.f parable of the vine and branches).

One cannot support the Reproductive Health Bill in good conscience, because a good conscience is formed by obedience to the teachings of the Church. Support for the Reproductive Health Bill can only be a result of malformed conscience. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae has explicitly condemned the use of contraceptives in married life as instrinsically wrong. Your Th 121 can have his/her opinions on what should the Catholic Church do regarding homosexual couples, but he does not have the Magisterium (Teaching Authority) of Bishops and Popes. Your teacher can say his opinions and we can debate forever. But when the Pope speaks ex Cathedra as successor of Peter, the case is closed.

In the time of Jose Rizal, to be an Atenean is to have a liberal education. Jose Rizal studied Latin and Greek and learned the arts and sciences. A true Atenean is a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Jose Rizal carved the Statue of the Sacred Heart in wood with a penknife. A true Atenean is a devotee of Our Lady. Jose Rizal prays the rosary. This is the reason why the Ateneo Basketball Team was once known as the Hail Mary Squad because they always pray the rosary before each game. And this is also why we sing our Alma Mater Song:

“Mary for you! For your white and blue! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, constantly true! We pray you’ll keep us, Mary, faithful to you!”

As an agnostic, you have to be careful when you sing this song. Mama Mary can convert even the most hardened sinners. The Campus Ministry in Ateneo never cease to give the Miraculous Medal every year. It is not called Miraculous Medal for nothing. If you receive that medal and pray a Hail Mary a day devoutly for a month, you will be converted. If you are incredulous, try it.

When Rizal gone astray into masonry, did his Jesuit teachers approve of his views? No. This led to the series of letters between Rizal and Fr. Pastells, SJ. Rizal’s physics teacher, Fr. Federico Faura, SJ, the man who first forcasted Philippine storms, rebuked Rizal for his insolence. But when Rizal was shown the statue of the Sacred Heart that He carved in his youth, Rizal converted. Fr. Faura heard his confession and he died in Luneta as a true Atenean and Catholic.