Francis X. Hezel, SJ


I listened to our Micronesian Jesuit at Charley›s Cabaret Tuesday night relate the beginnings of the Church in the Marianas. My Protestant colleagues will, of course, argue that the Jesuit father was referring to the Roman Catholic Church, which to them is hardly «church.» Won›t get into that debate. Ecclesia, the household of God, is a very comprehensive category, not limited to the Christian understanding.

In fact, the Pinoy “bahala na” that fits the Spanish sense of que sera sera (what will be will be) was originally derived from a providential reliance on “Bathala na” akin to the Islamic Anshallah, and my evangelical friends’ “God will provide.”

Pagan in Myanmar, and Pagan in the Rafaluwasch Northern Islands, are probably from the same language stream, made a geographical term before our European colonizers turned them into hostile or non-conversant infidels in the Christian belief system. This is not unlike the word “Asia,” its etymology derived from Europe’s designation of the area beyond them to mean, “that which is not Europe,” the landmass from Asia Minor to the Urals of the tsar and east to the Pacific.

We appreciated the Father’s historical sense of balancing the “violent conversion” (e.g., Hispanic Quiroga on the recalcitrant locals) on the one hand, and the opposite notion that a stranded Choco (whose ancestry might have traded with the islanders before Spain came) fanned the rumor that the padres murdered children with their rites of baptism using water that was allegedly poisonous.

Our Padre Hezel’s historical sense walked us through the Spanish mission’s original intent to be a blessing more than a curse, and the observation that the military would do more harm than good. The tragic consequences of the gentle Fr. Vittores and 31 volunteers who intended to bring the Christian mission in the manner that Europe understood pagan islanders of the Pacific, prompted the “Spanish-Chamorro 30-year Culture War” in historical accounts, two months after Padre Vittores made landing. Fr. Fran suggests that neither protagonist side was singularly homogenous.

A culture clash, written in a tract that revisits the “Spanish Chamorro Wars,” is covered in the 700-plus pages tome that Don Farrell produced for PSS to update the text we used in 6th grade class at SVES. Don was in the audience, along with former members of the sponsoring Humanities Council board who served when I was a member, including Refaluwasch Lino Olopai, legal luminary Robert Torres, NMC regent Elizabeth Rechebei, and the ever-vivacious Lynn Tenorio. Current NMHC executive director Scott Russell introduced Fr. Fran and Honora Tenoria staffed the registration table.

Fr. Hezel met the faithful of the CK RC Wednesday. He explored with the faithful the theological significance of the start of the mission, a direction I might have pushed further had I the chance to ask Fr. Hezel to speak more as a creature of 2015 rather than the distinguished MicroSem scholar poring over ancient documents. In fact, our reflection title is on the being of the man rather of the roles he played and the litany of accomplishments in his name.

To ground us on the personal level, I met Fr. Fran in Truk (now Chuuk) more than 30 years ago when I was a member of the brief development “blue shirts” in the Marshalls, at Xavier High School, and had watched his scholarship unfold.

As creatures of 2015, we partook of what has since been dubbed as the “earthrise consciousness,” a consequence of the 1968 Apollo photo of the Earth rising on the lunar horizon, which addressed our separate national and colonial identities into the unity of a global citizenship. An “earthbound commitment” followed the consciousness that fueled such preoccupations as the health of the planet in light of climate change, the balancing of the social process as economic corporations make the political and cultural subservient to monetary allegiances, and profound humanness a willful option to everyone.

Theology is clothed in the metaphor of the eternal realm and Ptolemaic storied cosmology rather than the sociological reality of shrine-like functions of skulls in many Austro-Polynesian homes, to wit, it points to the symbolic power of our innate human profundity, an other world in the midst of this world, rather speculations of a world beyond this one from which we escape with the help of a savior like Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and the papal Laudato Si’.

We had previous eras of giants; it is time to praise the ordinary. Fran Hezel is on my list!

Thus, my push for profound humanness for those who deign to choose, and not revert to the automatic mode of bahala na, the previous era’s metaphors of transcendence, immanence, and piety notwithstanding.

OK, we’ve gone a little abstract here, and that’s why the physicality of a sandal-thong memory-challenged Jesuit before a Charley Cabaret audience resonated authenticity more than all the angels in heaven, IMHO.

Jaime R. Vergara
Fina Sisu, Saipan

Jaime R. Vergara

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