Friday, September 25, 2009

The Crusader Priest

Men of God are commited to undertake a crusade for love, brotherhood, and holiness. There are times, however, when people misinterpret and become insecure with the clergy's actions. Father Jose A. Burgos was one such misunderstood priest.

Father Burgos was born in Vigan Ilocos Sur, on February 9, 1837. His father was a spanish Lieutenant in the militia of Ilocos Sur and his mother was Florencia Garcia, a native girl from Viga.

Upn his father death, young Jose was sent to Manila to study. He enrolled at San Juan de Letran College and, as an orphan of a Spanish officer, he paid fees. Unable to endure the injustices he experienced while in school, he left Letran and enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas, becoming a pupil of Fr. Mariano Garcia. Even before he graduated with his doctorate degrees in Theology and in Canon Law, Father Burgos already held the post of director of the students and teacher of Latin in Letran in recognation of his exeptional intelligence.

He took his oath as a priest on December 17, 1864. He rose to important positions such as second corate of Manila Cathedral, magistrate and chief of Cathedral and fiscal of the Ecclesiastical Court. At the same time, the University of Santo Tomas gave him charge of its ceremonies.

The storm in the young priest's life began to brew when the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859 and the Filipino priests who were then holding the parishes in the archbishopric of Manila, were moved to give way to Jesuits. Father Burgos did not like it. He knew that the faith could not rest on the solid fpundation if the church did not have the helped of trained and competent native priests. He spearheaded a movement for greater paricipation of Filipino priests in spreading the world God.

Many petitions was sent to Spain urging that the parishes be given back to Filipinos. But there was no effect. On June 27, 1864, Burgos published a splendid defense of the Filipino clergy entitled, "Manifest to the Noble Spanish People" which the loyal Filipinos addressed in defense of their honor and loyalty that have been grievously offended by the newspaper, La Verdad, of Madrid. With Father Jacinto Zamora and Mariano Gomez, he became an active member of the "Comite Reformador" or Reformist Commitee.

The three priests were tried at Fort Santiago on February 15, 1872 by a military court who have intentions to prove their guilt. In fact, their lawyer, Jose Arrieta, pleaded for mercy rigth at the start of the trial .Fr. Burgos was so outraged that he stood up and protested that he and his companmions were asking not for mercy but for justice. Justice was denied of them, however.

On February 17, 1872 ,they were executed amiddt the tolling of church bells and against the wishes of Governor-General Izquierdo who wanted the three priests robes taken off. Archbishop Meliton Martinez was convienced that they were innocent, and he refused to remove their priestly clothes.

The death of three priests, however, left its mark on the Filipino people. Seed of Nationalism have been planted. These grew in the years tht follow and culminated in the birth of the Katipunan.