Bernardo M. Villegas
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Christianization of Every Honest Profession

           Every Christian has to be convinced that Christ wants to be on top of every honest profession or occupation, using the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei.  This can be achieved if every baptized person practices what St. Josemaria called "Christian materialism" or the passionate love for the world, for everything in this world is good, having been created by God.  The only evil thing in the world is the sin of man.  It follows from this that the ones who have to carry out this task of the christianization of every honest profession are the laity, with the doctrinal and spiritual guidance of the clergy.  The laity are the ones totally immersed in the world:  in their family life, work place and social relations.  As the "Decree on the Lay Apostolate" of the Second Vatican Council declared:  "The individual apostolate, flowing generously from its source in a truly Christian life...is the origin and condition of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, and it admits of no substitute.  Regardless of status, all lay persons (including those who have no opportunity or possibility for collaboration in associations) are called to this type of apostolate and obliged to engage in it.  This type of apostolate is useful at all times and places, but in certain circumstances it is the only one appropriate and feasible."

          Individual apostolates are especially indispensable in those areas that have great social impact but where there are certain beliefs and customs that are increasingly incompatible with the Christian faith.  Among them are education, media, politics, fashion, culture and legislation.  In my work of trying to upgrade the level of economics education at the high school level, I have encountered outstanding examples of public school teachers, who through the example of their lives as practising Catholics, have done much to christianize the environment of many a public school, especially in some of the most remote rural areas.  These silent apostles show by the example of their lives of piety and fidelity to the teaching authority of the Church what it means to respond to the universal calling to sanctity in their work as public school mentors.  I have also seen how government officials, in such challenging environments as the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Bureau of Internal Revenue go against the current by demonstrating that it is possible to resist bribes and other forms of corruption.  It goes without saying that a clean and honest life of a professional in these environments can be the "lighted candle" of which Christ spoke in the Gospels.  They may still be a minority but the government officials, especially at the LGU level, who are following the example of the late Jess Robredo, can do much more to christianize public service than all the sermons given by well-intentioned parish priests.

          Take another case of a profession with tremendous repercussions on public customs and morals:  the fashion designer and fashion enterprise.  The refusal of a professional in this field to kowtow to the demand of some sectors to exhibit sex and pornography in the marketing of fashion goods, especially those geared towards women, can counteract the increasing tendency in the fashion world to increase profits by literally trafficking on the human body.  The individual apostolates of digital natives who come out with morally sound but entertaining products in the internet can christianize this most important industry of the twenty first century.  The same can be said about the other professions at the vanguard of this century such as biomedicine and communications technology.  The medical doctor who focuses his research on the use of adult stem cells for the cure of diseases, vigorously defending life by refusing to use human fetus, is doing an individual apostolate of immense value.  The practitioner of integrated marketing communications who injects Christian and human values into his or her advertising or marketing messages is helping to spread these values, a true apostolate of doctrine.

          Those members of the Legislature, both in the lower and upper chambers, who patiently tried to explain to their colleagues both the scientific and moral arguments against certain provisions of the RH Bill, were more effective than Bishops and priests who, unfortunately have little moral sway on a good number of the Catholic faithful.  Although the persevering work of preaching the doctrine of the Church must be undertaken by the clergy, a completely indispensable role, the final work of christianizing our laws must be in the hands of the legislators who have both the right doctrine and the moral strength to defend the laws of morality in their respective chambers. This will be especially crucial if bills on divorce or same-sex marriage will be introduced in the near future.  We must encourage more well-formed Catholic lay people to run for Congress so that our laws will always be in conformity with the natural law, which is the basis of moral laws promulgated by the Catholic Church.  Finally, it is mainly through the individual apostolates of Christian parents that the many beautiful customs which are part of Filipino culture--e.g. Christmas and Easter celebrations, town fiestas, the reception of the Sacraments, flores de mayo, etc.--will be preserved and protected against the waves of secularization that have gripped other parts of the world where people are prevented to display the Christmas crib or the Crucifix in public.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia