The Opening of the Laity Week was ushered in by a literal drumroll as 1,080 leaders of Catholic lay organizations, catechists and family representatives from various Dioceses of Luzon flocked to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan City. It started with a Eucharistic celebration celebrated by Archbishop Socrates Villegas with Bishop Jacinto Jose of Urdaneta.
In his homily, Archbishop Villegas welcomed with joy the delegates mentioning that the name Dagupan means “Assembly Point”, and that at this time Dagupan becomes the assembly point of the gathering of the Catholic laity, which is a special reason to rejoice.
The good Archbishop reminded the Catholic laity that amidst the joyful celebration, there are places and people who are in less than joyful circumstances due to the cries of those whose family members and loved ones have passed away; in Legazpi they have no water while in Batanes they are devastated by the recent typhoon. He reminded everyone present that they could not pretend to be blind to the plight of our countrymen.
He gave the assembly three words to reflect on: Contemplation, Communication, and Compassion.
Contemplation, he said is not just praying in front of images or touching the gown of the image of the Blessed Mother. We should seek the face of Jesus in the face of our fellowmen. If we do not see the face of Jesus, then our prayers have no meaning. Through our baptism all of us have been called to be contemplatives- to seek the face of Christ in every person. Genuine prayer does not end in front of God (while we are facing Him). The real face of God is the face of our suffering neighbour.
Communication: He said every Catholic Laity must be a good communicator, not necessarily a proclaimer. In order to communicate, we need to listen and speak in the way that God does; to listen and speak the way Jesus would. So that our ears and voice will be the ears and voice of God.
In order to be the voice of God, we need to listen first. Nowadays there too many voices, voices that are overwhelming so that there is only noise. In our confusion we are no longer the voice of God. Let us learn to listen. In the words of Saint Francis of Assissi, “Go and preach the Gospel. Speak if necessary. Go and teach the good news. Use words if necessary”.
The most important component of communication is not the voice but the person. He emphasized, that through our lives Jesus visits our neighbour.
Compassion is the third word: – Be the love of Jesus for our fellowman. Compassion is not a feeling. It means serving like Jesus and sacrificing like Jesus.
He affirms that we celebrate because we want to celebrate the Baptism that we received. However, he reminded the laity that bishops, priests and religious had to be part of the laity before they are ordained. He calls attention to this fact because this is how important being lay is. Just as important is the mission of every lay person a person baptized to transform the world. The church would not have expanded as rapidly as it did were it not for the lay people that were encountered by Saints Peter and Paul in their journeys.
Finally, he challenged the Catholic Laity to “be the best contemplatives; be the best communicators; and be the best ministers of compassion” by seeking the face of Jesus in the face of our fellowmen; by being the voice and ears of Jesus for those who are in need; and by being the love of Jesus for everyone.
The National Laity Week is a yearly event observed by the Filipino Catholic Church. This year’s celebration was observed with a Lay Leader’s Caucus for Luzon hosted by the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, with the theme “Masayang Pamilya… Naglilingkod sa Sambahayan, Sa Sambayanan”. The closing of the week will be on the 1st of October 2016 in Dumaguete City.