Remembering a Great Jesuit: Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, S.J.

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Last week, I had a dream with Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, my former professor in Special Moral Theology and local superior while I was still a Jesuit scholastic in 1991. In that dream, we had a warm and serious talk. He listened to all my personal problems and frustrations in life and gave me some consoling advice on how to face them and follow Christ.

Life as a layperson after leaving a religious order can be very challenging and frustrating. I felt being suddenly deprived of all benefits and institutional security when I left the Jesuit and religious life. I felt alone in the world after I left the religious order in 1991.

During this lowest moment of my life, two Jesuits often entered into my mind–Fr. Thomas Green, S.J., my former spiritual director at San Jose Seminary, and Fr. Archie Intengan, S.J., my former Jesuit superior at the Loyola House of Studies. I really wanted to see them and share with them all my struggles in life after I left the congregation.

I did see Fr. Green for a spiritual direction two years after I left the religious order. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk with Fr. Archie before his death. I later knew that he was appointed the overall head or the Provincial of the Jesuits in the Philippines. Knowing the workload of a provincial, I didn’t pursue my plan to have an appointment with him, just to talk to him about my new life as a layman. I knew that he would always be there to listen and to provide me with some advice.

Yes, I was able to see him again with my own family, this time not to talk to him on how I found my vocation outside the religious order but to see him for the last time at the Loyola House of Studies chapel during his wake! Although we may not have met again in person, I always felt he was there, happy for what I have done for my family and for the Church as a layman.

Who is Father Archie?

Father Romeo “Archie” Intengan is a former Surgery Professor of University of the Philippines-General Hospital (UP-PGH), Moral Theologian and Professor of the Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Provincial or national leader of the Jesuit Order in the Philippines, chief ideologue of the Partido Demokratikong Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), and a spiritual father and friend to the many people who knew him.

It’s difficult to put Father Archie in one category as he is a person with many talents and abilities, performing various social roles while he was still alive. But to me, Fr. Archie is my spiritual father and true friend. He is also my former professor in Special Moral Theology and Juniorate superior at the Loyola House of Studies, Ateneo de Manila University, while I was still a Jesuit scholastic in 1990. Above all, he is my role model for scholarship, nationalism, and love for Christ.

As an Academic Scholar

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Fr. Archie managed to receive his licentiate in Moral Theology in Spain when he slipped out of the country to avoid an arrest that is ordered by the former President Ferdinand Marcos. After the EDSA Revolution in 1986 that ousted Pres. Marcos, Fr. Archie returned to the Philippines and started teaching Special Moral Theology II at the Loyola School of Theology (LST). I was fortunate to belong to the first batch of students he taught at the LST.

I could not have loved knowledge, research, and scholarship without the inspiration of some top Jesuit scholars led by Fr. Archie. Together with Fr. John Schumacher, S.J., and Fr. Joseph Smith, S.J., Fr. Archie is at the top of my list of role models for research and scholarship. I was always impressed by the degree of preparation, depth and high quality of his class notes and readings in our Special Moral Theology course. His conversational style of teaching was easy to understand. His lectures and class notes were very organized and comprehensive. These notes which were worthy of publication were all well-researched and complete with updated references despite his being a busy person. I knew that he always stayed late at night, doing his work as a scholar and teacher, aside from performing his duty as a local superior, medical doctor, and chief political strategist of his political party—the PDSP.

As a Nationalist

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The nationalism of Fr. Archie is par excellence. To me, he is the reincarnated Jose Rizal and Ninoy Aquino. He endangered his life by fighting the Marcos dictatorship and by trying to reform the country and serve the Catholic Church.

In his Special Moral Theology class, I learned that loving one’s country or patriotism is a sublime expression of loving one’s neighbor as commanded by Christ in the Bible.

 

As a Friend

Fr. Archie may be strong and firm in his beliefs and actions against political malaise and any form of abuse of power in the government, but he remained a gentle friend. He reached out to people and made them comfortable. If you’re sick, you can always knock on his door for a free medical check-up. He would never reject anyone who needs his help.

As a Man on a Mission

Fr. Archie is a man on a mission, a true Jesuit, and soldier of Christ. He knew that all his battles are all meant for the greater glory of God. And He knew that his life would end soon. I was informed that Fr. Archie went to his barber after sensing that his life is about to end.  Knowing him as a very systematic and meticulous person, he probably thought that he should face his relatives, friends, and the public in his wake with a good haircut and grooming. He may be a very busy person but he cares for others, making sure that his presence is always pleasant and loving to them.

Living saints and great followers of Christ live their life with a sole purpose of serving God and His Church through their chosen vocation. And Fr. Archie is one of them. I’m truly grateful to God for giving me the grace and the chance to see a living saint in Fr. Archie!

 

Photo Credits: Reverts to the owner/publisher of Fr. Archie’s photos.

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Life Requires Grounding in the Supernatural

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We only live once in this world. As rational beings, we are creators of meaning. What makes our life meaningful would depend on our ultimate goal we set for our self. This ultimate goal we envision for our life is what basically guides us in our daily living. Its achievement can ultimately make us happy. The quality of our happiness would depend on our ultimate goal in life.

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If our ultimate purpose is to seek wealth, then our happiness would consist of gaining profit in our investments, increasing savings, achieving dominance in the market, creating new breakthroughs in business innovation, etc.

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If our ultimate purpose is to chase pleasure in food, sex, alcohol, or other forms of addition, then our happiness will be enjoying and prolonging pleasure in our bodily senses.

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If our basic aim is to love for God by serving others, then happiness would be spiritual consolation and the joy of serving God’s poor and underprivileged. If our aim is to change society for the better by fighting oppressive social structures and regimes, then our ultimate happiness can consist of personal joy upon seeing that some of our reform efforts are realized in society. In short, the ultimate purpose we set for our life can determine the quality of our happiness in daily living.

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Almost all philosophers agree that to live a meaningful life requires grounding on something supernatural that transcends the self. It requires a deeper reflection and question on where we came from and where we’re going to in our life. Finding the ultimate meaning and purpose of our life is crucial in order to provide focus and happiness in our daily living. Drifting in life without a philosophy or sense of purpose that guides us in daily living is tragic. Without an ultimate goal and a sense of meaning of what we do everyday in life could not provide us with a true and lasting joy and happiness.

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We know that material happiness is fleeting and temporary. A person who love cars, for instance, would be happy to acquire a new one. But after a few days the feeling of excitement and pleasure of having a new car would surely evaporate that lead to another craving or desire for another fantastic car that he or she can boast of to friends and society.

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Or if one’s happiness is based on pleasure such as food, sex, drugs, or pornography, the material joy is indeed fleeting and endless. He or she may end up spending his/her entire life chasing the insatiable want of the human senses. This is hedonism and materialism: “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we will die!” Surely life is more than what we eat and consume! Thus, we need to search for higher spiritual values in life than mere pleasure seeking and material satisfaction.

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The need for grounding one’s life in something supernatural is supported by some research studies of social sciences and sociology on resilience. People who are religious with strong spirituality are more resilient or able to “bounce back” during disasters and tragedies in life than non-religious.

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They are also more able to withstand the vicissitudes of life and able to face serious problems with peace and humility since they have strong faith in a Supreme being and know that their ultimate destination is beyond the earthly life.

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Enjoy the little things in your life and be contented. Christ loves you!

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The Religiosity of the Filipino Catholic Christians

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Photo: St. Joseph Cathedral, Butuan City, Philippines (courtesy of the author)

Surveys on Filipino religiosity by the Social Weather Station (SWS) had consistently revealed a more privatized faith for the Filipino Christians, i.e., a Christian faith focusing only on private spirituality and lacking in social involvement. The results revealed that most Filipinos consider themselves very religious, with very strong beliefs in the existence of God and higher level of participation in religious activities.

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In particular, the Filipino youth (within ages 15 and 30) regarded themselves as religious (extremely religious 9%, very religious 29% and somewhat religious 49% or a total of 89%) in a 1996 SWS survey commissioned for the Philippine Youth Commission. This high level of religiosity is not, however, accompanied by a strong social involvement, particularly in organizational involvement. Only 12 percent of the Filipino youth are involved in church and religious organizations as well as in sports and recreational organizations. With regard to participation in charitable institutions, only 3% of the youth are involved.

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Photo credit: author

In general, most religiosity surveys revealed that the Filipino faith, although high in religious belief, lacked public character. Most of the popular Filipino religious practices are more oriented towards the individual and/or small circle of friends and relatives and lacking in structural dimension demanded by the CST.

Penitence

Photo: Filipino Christians doing in penitence during Holy Week in the Philippines (Source: http://thepinoywarrior.com)

The Filipino religious practice of penitensya (penitence) during Lent, for instance, encourages a pietistic and individualist orientation of faith. Though hugely popular, the devotion remains an individualist effort to atone one’s individual sin and lacking in social dimension. The popular devotion to the Black Nazarene in Quiapo is also devoid of liberational dimension. Many devotees participated in the devotion as a form of personal and familial gratitude due to some material favors they received from the Black Nazarene.

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Photo: The procession of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo (Source: http://theologasia.com)

Fernando Zialcita, a Filipino anthropologist, confirmed this pattern in his earlier study of the black Nazarene devotion. His informants revealed that the motivation in joining the Black Nazarene devotion is more materialist in nature, deviating from the Church’s official spiritual on devotion.  Filipinos rate themselves very high in religiosity and religious beliefs but they did not seem to relate them to social issues and problems as indicated by religiosity surveys and popular devotions in the country like the Black Nazarene.

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Photo credit: author

This finding is consistent with the study done by Dr. Ricardo Abad (2005) on the social capital of Filipinos: Filipinos tend to be affiliated more with their own smaller circles of relatives and friends and less in organizations and associations in the Church or in civil society. The Filipino Christianity is generally a privatized or personal one.

Sto. Nino

Photo: Sinulog procession in honor of the Sto. Nino in Cebu City, Philippines (Source:http://catholicleader.com.au)

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) says that most of the people’s faith today is centered on the practice of the rites of popular piety and not on community and of building up of the world into the image of the Kingdom (PCP #13), specifically on building up of a faith community and involvement in social issues (PCP II#17). For this reason PCP II recommended a rigorous catechism of the “unchurched” or “nominal” Catholics, that is, the vast majority of Catholics in the Philippines who greatly lack knowledge and formation in the Christian faith, particularly on the Church’s social doctrines. Thus, catechism and Christian formation of Filipino Catholics on the social doctrines of the Church are, therefore, urgently needed in order to develop their Christian social conscience and  spirituality of social transformation.

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One must remember that the Christian faith is neither all about social activism and pietism nor solely about saving the individual’s soul, but a fine blend of spiritual and social struggle for the total liberation of the individual and society from all forms of personal and social sins. The Second Vatican Council emphasized that the mission of the Church in the contemporary world is helping human being to discover God as the ultimate meaning of his/her existence (CSDC #576). The Church’s mission is the total salvation of the individual and society from spiritual and material slavery.

Photo credit (except those with source): author, Pexels.com free photos

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