JC de los Reyes and the Ignatian Tradition: Politics as a vocation

JC de los Reyes before the image of the Divine Mercy

JC de los Reyes before the image of the Divine Mercy

Meet John Carlos (JC) de los Reyes, senatorial candidate of Ang Kapatiran Party.

JC studied in Ateneo de Manila Grade School of the Jesuit Fathers and then in De La Salle Santiago Zobel School of the La Salle Brothers. In college, he took up AB in Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  In 1999 he finished his post-graduate studies in Public Administration in University of the Philippines and in 2005 he finished his Law Degree in St. Louis University in Baguio City.

In this article, I shall focus only on JC’s Ignatian roots and his view of politics as a vocation.  (Hopefully, in another article, I shall write on JC’s Lasallian roots and his view on empowerment through entrepreneurship).  I shall frame the article as a response to a series of questions.

Introduction: Jesuit System of Education

Jesuit-run schools are outgrowths of the need to train the next generation of Jesuits.  Since many parents also want their children to receive the same training as the Jesuits, the parents enrolled their children in Jesuit universities, and the Society of Jesus adapted to this new apostolate.  That is why Ateneans in their early years are grounded in the Catechism and the recitation of the Rosary.  Mary is the model and all Ateneans are slowly transformed into soldiers who shall offer their sword–their time, talents, and treasures–to our Lady, as St. Ignatius did at Montserrat in March 1522.  Indeed, the Ateneo’s Alma Mater song is none other but the Song for Mary: “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!”

But to be a true soldier of Mary and companion of Christ, an Atenean must be intellectually prepared for such a task.  He must study as St. Ignatius studied in University of Paris–Grammar (Latin), Literature, Philosophy, and Theology.  Thus, an Atenean must be able to write lucid prose, dissect a poem, read original philosophical and theological texts, and discuss a thesis statements in oral exams.  It’s the rigor of thought sharpened by years of training.  Jesuit education is a system of education born out of decades of Jesuit experimentation on educational theory–what works and what doesn’t in the actual classroom with data from all Jesuit schools around the world.  The results of this experiments were distilled into the Ratio Studiorum of 1599, also known in full as the Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu (“The Official Plan for Jesuit Education”).  It is a guide for how a Jesuit school is run and how teachers should teach different subjects.  It is a guide that remains in force today, albeit with some modifications, in all Jesuit schools, including the Ateneo de Manila University.

Question 1: Is JC de los Reyes a true Atenean?

He is.  His elementary education in Ateneo de Manila Grade School with the Jesuits suffices.  As the Jesuits would say: “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man.”  So even if JC has not undergone college in Ateneo and trained by the Jesuits to read the classics from Aristotle to Aquinas to Kant, JC has studied the works of these authors more than the average Atenean: JC studied them when he took up his AB in Theology in the Franciscan University of Steubenville, one of the most Orthodox Catholic Universities in the US.  That’s Magis.  That’s more.

Question 2: What’s an Atenean like JC de los Reyes doing in a Franciscan University?

Oh, why is our Jesuit Pope named Francis? When St. Ignatius was recuperating after being hit by a cannonball, he read the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis and the lives of the saints, which made him wish to imitate the heroic lives of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi.  When St. Ignatius reached the Holy Land, hoping to settle there and convert the Muslims, the Franciscans sent him back to Europe.  And from this setback arose the Jesuit mission of Counter-Reformation and the establishment of Jesuit Schools throughout Europe.  By 1739, there were 669 Jesuit schools throughout the world.  The bond between Jesuits and Franciscans is deep.

JC de los Reyes (right) with his uncle, Cardinal Chito Tagle (left)

JC de los Reyes (right) with his uncle, Cardinal Chito Tagle (left)

Question 3: There is no doubt that JC de los Reyes would be a good philosopher or theologian.  But politics is a different thing.  To be a man and woman for others, you need competence.  Is JC de los Reyes competent to be a senator?  

For Plato, the ideal ruler is the Philosopher-King as stated in his book, The Republic.  Thus, to be a philosopher suffices to be a senator.  As Socrates said in Plato’s Republic:

Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State?

The Philosophers, of course.  And Socrates continued with his proposed definitions on what it is to be a philosopher:

 Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation and corruption….And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honorable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover and the man of ambition…. And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another quality which they should also possess?… Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their minds falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the truth….He whose desires are drawn toward knowledge in every form will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure–I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one….Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending, have no place in his character….Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered….Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously toward the true being of everything…. Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?…And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn–noble, gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?…And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education, and to these only you will entrust the State.

That’s JC de los Reyes: the philosopher who aspires to be a senator.  But JC never contented himself with the study of Philosophy or Theology.  He wishes to be a competent public servant.  That is why he studied Bachelor of Laws in the University of the Philippines and did post-graduate studies in Public Administration at St. Louis University in Baguio City.  That’s Magis.  That’s more.

Question 4: Does JC de los Reyes subscribe to Liberation Theology?

Yes, but only within the bounds set by Vatican, as defined by the Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” which was signed by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) when he was the head of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith.  The Instruction concludes:

The words of Paul VI in his “Profession of Faith”, express with full clarity the faith of the Church, from which one cannot deviate without provoking, besides spiritual disaster, new miseries and new types of slavery. “We profess our faith that the Kingdom of God, begun here below in the Church of Christ, is not of this world, whose form is passing away, and that its own growth cannot be confused with the progress of civilization, of science, and of human technology, but that it consists in knowing ever more deeply the unfathomable riches of Christ, to hope ever more strongly in things eternal, to respond ever more ardently to the love of God, to spread ever more widely grace and holiness among men. But it is this very same love which makes the Church constantly concerned for the true temporal good of mankind as well. Never ceasing to recall to her children that they have no lasting dwelling here on earth, she urges them also to contribute, each according to his own vocation and means, to the welfare of their earthly city, to promote justice, peace and brotherhood among men, to lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited. The intense concern of the Church, the bride of Christ, for the needs of mankind, their joys and their hopes, their pains and their struggles, is nothing other than the great desire to be present to them in order to enlighten them with the light of Christ, and join them all to Him, their only Savior. It can never mean that the Church is conforming to the things of this world, nor that she is lessening the earnestness with which she awaits her Lord and the eternal Kingdom.” (Emphasis mine.)

Ang Kapatiran Senatorial candidates.  From left to right: Marwil Llasos, JC de los Reyes, and Lito Yap David.

Ang Kapatiran Senatorial candidates. From left to right: Marwil Llasos, JC de los Reyes, and Lito Yap David.

Question 5.  Is this passage where Ang Kapatiran Party got its name?

Brotherhood among men.  That’s what the Ang Kapatiran Party is all about: the brotherhood who “lavish their assistance on their brothers, especially on the poor and the most dispirited.”  That’s why JC de los Reyes joined the Ang Kapatiran Party: in order to serve the poor, not within the framework of class struggle as espoused by the Marxist Left–many of whom are now occupying positions of power in Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s administration–but within the framework of Catholic Social Doctrine as expressed in papal documents such as “Mater et Magistra,” “Pacem in Terris,” “Populorum progressio,” “Evangelii nuntiandi,” “Octogesima adveniens”, “Redemptor hominis”, “Dives in misericordia”,  “Laborem exercens,” and Second Vatican Council’s “Gaudium et Spes.”

Whether Ang Kapatiran Party got its name from this passage of the Instruction is not known.  But the concept of brotherhood of men is as old as Christianity itself.  First, we are all brothers and sisters because our Faith teaches us that we all came from the same parents: Adam and Eve.  Second, all baptized Christians become adopted sons and daughters of God, so that we call Christ as our brother and God as “Abba” or Father.  That is why, during the Mass, we have the courage to pray the “Our Father”.

Question 6. There is a useful concept in Liberation Theology: structures of sin. What for JC de los Reyes and the Ang Kapatiran Party are the structures of sin in Philippine Politics?

As stated in Cardinal Ratzinger’s Instruction:

Structures, whether they are good or bad, are the result of man’s actions and so are consequences more than causes. The root of evil, then, lies in free and responsible persons who have to be converted by the grace of Jesus Christ in order to live and act as new creatures in the love of neighbor and in the effective search for justice, self-control, and the exercise of virtue.

It is the duty of the Church to convert each man to Christ.  For its part, it is the duty of political parties such as the Ang Kapatiran Party to work for the establishment of good structures in government by crafting sound laws and ensure their implementation.  The Ang Kapatiran Party believes that there are many sinful structures that needs to be eradicated: pork barrel system, political dynasties, nontransparency and nonaccountability in governance, proliferation of loose firearms, and the RH law.  Please visit the Ang Kapatiran Party website for more detailed discussions of these issues.

7.  Is not Politics dirty?  How can Politics be a Vocation?

Politics has been perennially associated with the word “dirty,” because it is in politics that one meets  political butterflies, balimbings, rumor-mongers, character assassins, vote-buyers, boot-lickers, mud-slingers, and plastic men.  It is in politics that one crosses paths with druglords, warlords, and church groups crying, “Praise the Lord!”  Politics, indeed, is a dirty world–but a dirty world in need of redemption.  As JC de los Reyes wrote:

Please don’t be too mesmerized with track record and political experience. In Philippine politics, decades in power and experience means political survival, immoral compromise and corruption (jueteng payola). Track record often times is financed by the infamous pork barrel fund. Then they say, “I did this, I did that…” The big question is, what did you do and what will you do to contribute to PRINCIPLED POLITICS, a term that has been gagged side-lined and waylaid by trapos and demagogues.

For JC de los Reyes, politics can be a vocation, a path to holiness, for it is in politics that one can practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on the scale of the barangay, the city, the province, and the country.  Most of the corporal works of mercy–feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbour the harbourless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, bury the dead–are handled by government and institutions such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).  On the other hand, most of the spiritual works of mercy–instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offences willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead–are primarily the duties of the Catholic Church; the instruction of the ignorant is primarily addressed by Catholic Schools and it was only after the Americans took over the Philippine colony that the State intervened in education through the Public School System and the establishment of state universities such as the University of the Philippines.

JC de los Reyes with a supporter

JC de los Reyes with a supporter

8. What is the end or the ultimate goal of Politics?

The ultimate goal of politics is the salvation of man, because as St. Irenaeus said, “the great glory of God is man fully alive.” And this is not only in the here and now with the Millenium Development Goals and Happiness Index, but also in the life hereafter–heaven.  St. Ignatius tells us in his Spiritual Exercises to always begin with the end in mind.  And for a Catholic politician like JC de los Reyes, the end is the Last Judgment.  This would be terrifying thought for a politician who has not exercised his duties to his neighbors during their lives on earth:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Mt 25:41-45)

With this end in mind, a Catholic politician like JC de los Reyes then performs his duties as demanded by his office, and prays the Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius:

Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen

As JC de los Reyes wrote:

The most profound victory not only for the Philippines but for humanity is if Ang Kapatiran Party can produce politicians or more aptly, political missionaries who have the purest of hearts and intentions, who do things not for votes but intensely out of love and compassion. Those who will ‘decrease, so He might increase,’ those who will ‘not let their right hand know what their left hand is doing,’ those who are ‘not lukewarm but cold or hot,’ those ‘who let their yes mean yes, and no mean no,’ and perhaps, those who will assume a faith journey whose victory is ‘now but not yet.’

That is why for JC de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran Party, politics is a vocation.

(Full disclosure: The author, Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr., is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University.  He finished his BS Physics (1997), MS Physics (1999), and Ph.D. in Physics (2010)  in Ateneo de Manila University.  Though he is not an official member of the Ang Kapatiran Party, Dr. Sugon campaigns online for the Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidates JC de los Reyes, Lito Yap David, and Marwil Llasos.)

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Fr. Jose T. Villarin, S.J.’s joke about Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits

Years ago, the Physics department had a Planning Session in one of the hotels in Marikina.  Along the way, we stopped in a restaurant and ordered some coffee and snacks.  Fr. Jose T. Villarin, S.J. and I was seated in the same table.  Fr. Jett told me a little joke:

There are three impossible things in the world: a Franciscan who is poor, a Dominican who can preach, and a Jesuit who believes in God.

I laughed.  But thinking about it now, this little joke may provide an insight on why the religious orders are dwindling today: they abandoned their original charism.  So maybe the only way for the old religious orders to increase their numbers is to return to their original charism.

The Franciscans’ charism is evangelical poverty.  St. Francis of Assisi gave up his wealth and followed Christ in poverty.  “Look at the birds in the air, they neither saw nor reap yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  The Franciscans of the Immaculate lived this Franciscan ideal.  They begged for food and their necessities.  They use the money given to them for propagating the word of God and the devotion to the Immaculata through their magazines and websites.  They weir their mendicant habit.  And their numbers increase.

The Dominicans’ charism is preaching the Gospel.  St. Dominic preached against the heresy of the Cathars.  These are not ignorant fanatics but well-trained and cultured men.  Dominic said:

It is not by the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, and richly-houseled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but by seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth.(Wikepedia)

In the Philippines today, we have all these sects winning new converts among Catholics: Iglesia ni Cristo, Ang Dating Daan, Born Again, Mormons, etc. It is time for the Dominicans to dust off St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, gird themselves with the rosary, set off the streets, and wage war with heretics.

The Jesuit’s charism obedience–obedience to the Holy Father, to be more precise.  No other religious order makes a special vow of obedience to the Pope, to go where the Pope wishes them to go.  Whenever a new Jesuit superior general is elected, it is customary that he renewed in writing his obedience to the Pope, as done in 2008 by Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. to Pope Benedict XVI (Zenit).  Pope Benedict told the Jesuits what he wants them to do:

It could prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example, the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons. (Zenit)

Let us pray that the Jesuits obey.

“Tumbukin Natin” blog: Catholic apologist Cenon Bibe answers questions from Balik Islam

As I thought before, the debate of the Catholic apologist Cenon Bibe and the members of Balik Islam will never push through. But Cenon has been receiving text messages on his mobile phone from those who claim to be members of the Balik Islam (Return to Islam) movement, a movement of former Christians who became Muslims.   (He also receives questions from Protestants.)  These questions he posts in his blog, “Tumbukin Natin” in the hope of converting the Balik Islam members back to Christianity.  So in this sense, he is starting the Balik-Kristiyano movement.   This is apt, since Christianity (AD 33) came first before Islam (AD 632), and many countries in Asia and Northern Africa–the provinces of the Old Roman Empire–were formerly Christian before the Islamic conquest.  The only problem, though, is that his blog is in Filipino. I hope he adds a Google translation widget, so that his blog would be read by more people all over the world.

Cenon has a fancy for sprinkling his writing with words in all caps. Some people may take offense at this, for all caps means shouting. Here, for example, is his mission statement, which I translated into English, with the words in all caps intact:

CATHOLICS and the CATHOLIC FAITH are being ATTACKED.  The ATTACKS are usually STRONG and FEROCIOUS.  The SAD thing is that their CRITICISMS  are ALL WRONG.

We launch this blog to help EXPLAIN CATHOLIC TEACHINGS and to CORRECT the WRONG THINGS said AGAINST CATHOLICISM.

You can HELP in DEFENDING THE TRUTH and in SPREADING the CORRECT TEACHING by INTRODUCING this BLOG to people you KNOW.

PRAISE be the LORD! PRAISE be JESUS CHRIST!

Here is a sample of questions or thesis statements  from Balik Islam that he answered:

  1. The bible has been corrupted because there are other scriptures that are not found in the bible such as  Gospel of Barnabas.  [here]
  2. Is the Bible confirmed by the Koran? [here]
  3. Jesus Christ is uncircumcised. [here]

Cenon is the only Catholic apologist studying Islam.  May he walk in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, the man of peace who went to the Sultan in Egypt to try to convert him.  Here is a Wikipedia entry:

In 1219 Francis left, together with a few companions, on a pilgrimage of non-violence to Egypt. Crossing the lines between the sultan and the Crusaders in Damietta, he was received by the sultan Melek-el-Kamel.[1][14] Francis challenged the Muslim scholars to a test of true religion by fire; but they retreated.[1] When Francis proposed to enter the fire first, under the condition that if he left the fire unharmed, the sultan would have to recognize Christ as the true God, the sultan was so impressed that he allowed Francis to preach to his subjects.[1][15] Though Francis did not succeed in converting the sultan, the last words of the sultan to Francis of Assisi were, according to Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre, in his book “Historia occidentalis, De Ordine et praedicatione Fratrum Minorum (1221)” : “Pray for me that God may deign to reveal to me that law and faith which is most pleasing to him.”.[16]

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.