Pedro’s life story is not fully known to us. We do know only through the chronicles of the event which report the martyrdom of Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores. We do not know who were his parents, his exact place of origin and his real features. What is just factually confirmed is that he was a Visayan teenage catechist who accompanied the Jesuit Padre Diego. This unknown shade in the life of Pedro is but a meaningful rather than an uninteresting chapter. The suffering servant in the first reading from the book of Isaiah is an unknown person to us. Yes, we may be very quick to tag it as the “type” of Jesus so that we can “name” him and so associate with him. But in himself, in the real and particular authorship of Isaiah, he tried to hide the identity of the suffering servant. We only know that this servant has able to offer his life for the sake of others. Isaiah only wanted to point out what he had done for the sake of all; he is not anymore interested to name him because his identity is not the focus of his suffering. Rather, the focus of his suffering is the other, the many, the sinners (see Is. 53.11).
Pedro’s life which has been mostly veiled from us has even made us to focus on the heroic act that he did. We tried to make a full picture of it. By doing so, we contribute our own selves to it. We identify ourselves to it because we know that it is already impossible to retrieve the lost information of the rest of his life. His hidden identity is not a deprivation from us; it is his own way to share his greatest gift to us. He shares to us his gift of courage to share his life for the sake of the other. By imitating his Master, who is Jesus, he loses his “self” by identifying it to others who like him suffers. The letter to the Hebrews called Jesus a “sympathizer with our weakness” and indeed Pedro enabled to share this burden of his master by owning that martyrdom. We know in the story of his death that he could have escaped, agile and youthful as he was. But no, he chose to sympathize with the threat to the life of Padre Diego. He died with him; they died for the confession on which they really held fast (Heb. 4.14) until their last breath.
Leaving his identity aside as nothing and only offering us the example of his death, Pedro embodies true greatness which the gospel challenges us to take up. True greatness is really the losing of one’s identity, the losing of the self. The “I” is not important now – which embodies the ego that needs to feed with fleeting greatness and honor. Jesus tells us that the true way of greatness is not the seats of glory at the left and right. It is not our preoccupation to fill in: it is a Divine gift and God’s initiative. Our task is how to follow the way of “servanthood” which the two readings have framed out for us. Jesus tells us that the way to glory is the way of the cross, the way of suffering and how we able to integrate that same suffering for the sake of others and not to detach it for the sake of oneself. Thus, the true meaning of being great is the very opposite of going up. It is the going down that counts. It is the downward mobility – using Henri Nouwen’s term – that makes God sympathized with men’s weakness and identifying with others his sufferings. As Pedro embodies this character of true greatness, Jesus really tells us it is not impossible to follow the way of greatness.
In our grateful hearts for the gift of Pedro Calungsod as an example of the way of greatness, let us pray through his constant intercession that we could reached also the bottom of this downward mobility.
Gloria ad Deo per Sancto Petro Calungsod!