Cardinal Jose Advincula, archbishop of Manila, was conferred Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Theology, honoris causa, by the De La Salle University (DLSU) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on June 3, 2023.
Below is the full text of the cardinal’s commencement address:
Reverend Brother Bernard S. Oca, FSC, President of De La Salle University; beloved members of the Religious Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools; distinguished university officials, faculty members, staff, and honored guests; dear graduates and your proud families; fellow Lasallians:
I am deeply humbled, blessed and honored to stand before you today, and to speak to you as a fellow Lasallian. In the spirit of synodality, I humbly accept this Honorary Doctorate in the name of the People of God in the Archdiocese of Manila, whom I joyfully minister to as their shepherd and servant.
My address will have two parts: First, I will offer some thoughts on the experience of religiosity. Then, I will speak about some possible pathways towards holiness and evangelization in today’s age.
The Experience of Religiosity
Let me now speak about the experience of religiosity. Many studies in psychology, anthropology, and even biology have demonstrated that we humans are naturally “hard wired” for religiosity, transcendental realities, and supreme transcendent being.
Prior to modern science and technology, religiosity helped our ancestors face calamities, illnesses, and other threats and tasks. To manage their helplessness about experiences beyond their understanding and control, they celebrated, and related with the supernatural. Rituals, lore, temples, feasts, and superstitions gave them some semblance of assurance of skills and resources for individual safety and productivity, as well as communal survival and flourishing.
People have formed different modes of coming to terms with the natural and the supernatural, for their protection and prosperity. Some worshipped natural elements like mountains and rocks, oceans and rivers, heavenly bodies, etc. Some others even deified human persons like their rulers, heroes, and sages. Many others projected their interior energies and enshrined them as gods, goddesses, and spirits in their myths, and symbols.
This kind of religiosity is based on fear. The unknown and the uncontrollable aspects of life are inevitable human experiences, even in our world now, when science and technology have already provided us with so much comforts and advancements. When faced with uncertainties and difficulties, we experience some form of existential anguish, and we would try to calm and overcome it by believing in the supernatural.
This kind of religiosity is not bad in itself, because it is a phase that we all go through in the journey towards maturity in faith. This is a scaffolding. We should not be stuck in it, when the building, that is, faith has been established. A religiosity that is based purely on fear has a temporary effect, like opium that just numbs us from our emotional upheavals. Since, it only masks our fear, natural religiosity does not eradicate fear, it even sows more fear in ourselves and others. In its worst form, this kind of religiosity leads to scrupulosity, terrorism, violence, rage, and shame.
Mature faith, on the other hand, is beyond fear. It is deeper than just understanding lofty ideas, attending ceremonies, saying prayers, or following rules. It is a life-changing encounter, a deep friendship, and a constant intimacy with Love-Incarnate himself: Jesus Christ! His grace offers us a definitive experience of freedom, hope, and joy, and empowers us to work for the reign of truth, justice, peace, and integrity. This mature faith is based on love (cf. 1 Jn 14:18).
Mature faith is not coming from human nature. It is a supernatural grace from God, a movement of the Holy Spirit within, among, and around us. I cannot tell you how to achieve it, because it cannot be manufactured by human effort or skill. It cannot be grasped by human intellect. God’s grace of faith is simply a mystery to be believed, a gift to be asked for and to be received. We must dispose ourselves for it.
My dear fellow Lasallians, I hope your stay at De La Salle University has brought you to faith experience, as it did to me more than forty years ago. I hope you experienced God’s gift of faith not only through your theology classes or retreats, but also through the friendships you forged with schoolmates and mentors, classroom lessons and immersions, the care you received from professors and parents, the services you received from staff and administrators, and the blessings you obtained from God through your stay at De La Salle University. All of these have been loving encounters with Jesus, if you were keen to sense his presence, movements, and invitations.
Pathways to Holiness and Evangelization
Let me now proceed to my second point: How can we now foster authenticity and depth of faith? How can we become better disposed to believe, receive, and witness to this supernatural grace of faith in Jesus? Allow me to share three pathways to holiness and evangelization that we are striving to do in the Archdiocese of Manila: personal encounters, sense of beauty, and listening.
First is by fostering a culture of encounter. We cannot personally encounter God, if we do not know how to encounter persons. We live in a world where much of our actions and interactions are being mediated, if not replaced, by robots and algorithms. Almost everything now is online and digital: classroom instructions, medical consultations, counseling sessions, bank transactions, and even dating and befriending!
Nowadays, it is easy to find a scientific article using Research Gate and Google Scholar; but in our time, we had to go to the library and meet with a librarian. You can now enroll using Animo.Sys, My La Salle, or Google Forms. In our time, we had to physically see the department chair, the program adviser, department personnel, the registrar, and the cashier so we can be officially enrolled.
Nothing can replace the value of personal encounters. Technological mediations are not bad in themselves, because they create convenience, connect distances, and accelerate productivity, but we should be careful not to lose touch with persons. The technical, the digital, and the professional must not replace the personal. They must protect and foster such personal encounters. Whenever we encounter each other as human persons, we grow in respect, friendship, empathy, self-awareness, and communication. These encounters help us become better disposed to respond to the presence and movement of the Divine in our daily lives. Through various encounters, we grow in faith, hope, and love.
In our commitment to promote different avenues of encounters in the Archdiocese of Manila, we now have mission stations with priests in areas where parish priests could hardly reach and even in malls. We are also finalizing the “roadmap” of the Archdiocese of Manila to make our organizational structures more efficient, effective and relevant to our changing times and to promote better encounters among sisters and brothers in faith and with God. The challenge to be relevant is for all of us followers of Christ — institutions and individuals alike.
Second is by promoting a culture of appreciation for beauty. Fostering mature faith also welcomes and harnesses the power of art, literature, theater, music, dance, and sports, which appeal to our mystical longings and lead us to a deeper experience of the Word-made-flesh. They bring us into contact with our deepest selves and draw us out of ourselves, beyond ourselves, to fall in love with a greater purpose, a greater reality, a greater meaning in life. Beauty protects us from being self-absorbed and narcissistic.
Beauty helps us see reality with fresher lenses, greater depths, and wider horizons. Appreciation for beauty makes us sensitive to that space in our hearts which only God can satisfy. It helps us remain in love with the Divine, the source of sublime beauty. St. Augustine expressed it aptly, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty even ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.”
I am happy to see how De La Salle University has promoted a culture of appreciation for beauty in the community, the country and the world. It has produced researchers, artists, performers, and athletes. They are signs that our school is not merely imparting lessons but making disciples. We are not merely educating but indeed evangelizing.
The third is the promotion of the culture of listening. When I studied psychology and counseling here at De La Salle University, I became more aware of the strong yearning of our people for a listening Church. It is for this reason that I chose “Audiam” for my motto as bishop. In Latin, “audiam” means “I will listen.” “Makikinig ako.” Listening is my pastoral priority. It defines my pastoral identity and mission.
My dear friends, especially our young people, we hear you and we love you. I am deeply aware that many of you would describe themselves as more spiritual than religious. You may even doubt the credibility of the Church. We do not rebuke you, but indeed hear you and thank you for your sentiments and contributions. They are signs of your burning desire to see your Church walking the talk, and practicing what we preach: a Church that lives out the joy of the Gospel, a Church that strives to embody Christ’s vision, a Church that has confidence in you, and ensures that you are not marginalized but welcomed and valued.
I am inviting you to become agents of listening. Much of our world’s difficulties can be solved or surpassed if we listen. Please, listen to God and listen to the signs of the times. Let your DLSU training help you become attentive and responsive to the grumbling of the hungry and the thirsty, the shivering of the naked and the homeless, the groaning of the sick and the abandoned, the longings of separated and migrant families, the stirrings of the Spirit of the Jesus in your heart.
Personal encounters, sense of beauty, and culture of listening: these are pathways to holiness and evangelization in our time. Saints and evangelizers are not only those who wear frocks and veils, locked up in monasteries and convents. Saints can also wear jeans and sneakers, watch movies, hang out with friends, surf the internet, hit the dance floor, grab some pizza, and even have some beer. They are fully present to the world, having conquered their fears through the power of God’s love and truth in their hearts. Fellow Lasallians, be the saints and evangelizers in today’s world. Witness to the joy of the Gospel, wherever you go.
Let me end with words of gratitude. I particularly thank the Brothers of Christian Schools for all your missionary work of evangelization, catechesis, and education for the Church and society not only in the Philippines but all over the world.
I thank De La Salle University for training me to become a better person and a better priest. I am a proud Lasallian, talagang masarap maging Lasalista. Thank you for honoring the People of God in the Archdiocese of Manila by conferring upon me this honorary degree. I also honor you for your countless contributions to scientific research, integral human development, and the proclamation of the Gospel.
To you, dear graduates, and your proud families: thank you for all your hard work, diligence, and perseverance. Lagi nawang mabuhay si Hesus sa inyong mga puso. May your endeavors beyond the DLSU premises be always for the love of God. May He bless all your efforts, and make them bear fruits for yourselves, for your loved ones, and for the persons He entrusts to your care and service and for the common good.
Together, let us say: Live Jesus in our hearts… forever! Maraming salamat po.