FULL TEXT | Homily delivered by Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula during Mass for the Solemnity of St. Charles Borromeo at San Carlos Seminary on Nov. 4, 2021.

Father Joey Martin, Rector of San Carlo Seminary, seminary fathers, seminary faculty and personnel, dear seminarians and all Karlistas, the alumni of our beloved seminary who are joining us from different parts of the country and the world, happy feast day to all of you!

I am pleased to be with you this morning to celebrate my first Mass here in our seminary chapel as Archbishop of Manila. I am sure, San Carlos Borromeo, our dear patron saint is also very happy to see me, the bishop visiting the seminary and the seminarians. For San Carlos, the bishop should not be allured, hiding in his palace, but a true pastor who visits his flock and immerses with them. For San Carlos, a shepherd should not lead from a distance, but one who mingles with their sheep and is never afraid to be with them.

My dear Karlistas, the church, the back of Peter led by our Holy Father Pope Francis is leading us into the direction of synodality. Local churches worldwide including our archdiocese have already embarked on this synodal journey. The seminary, as the heart of the archdiocese, should be part of this. I asked the whole seminary community to be part of this synodal process because San Carlos Seminary is rooted in synodality. Our patron, San Carlos Borromeo is one of the fathers of synodality.

We all know that San Carlos Borromeo played an essential role at the Council of Trent. His contribution lies not only in the doctrinal formulations of the council but more importantly, in translating the teachings of the council into concrete actions, into acts and decrees that would bring about reforms in the church. After the Council of Trent, San Carlos immediately called for provincial councils in his Metropolitan See, so, the bishops in his ecclesiastical province could plan how to implement the Tridentine reforms in their respective local churches. He also called for several synods in his archdiocese in Milan to carry out the reforms of Trent.

My dear friends, a synod is not simply a meeting or a gathering. It is about walking together. Our first reading today beautifully proclaims how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings. Pope Francis points out that the words “communion” and “mission” can risk remaining abstract unless synodality is concretely expressed at every step of the synodal journey and activity encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all. San Carlos, in his pastoral ministry, showed us that synodality is walking together and acting together.

One of the significant contributions of San Carlos at the Council of Trent was the idea of instituting seminaries for a systematic formation and solid training of future priests. Following this inspiration from the council, the King of Spain established San Carlos Seminary in Manila in 1702. That is the reason why our seminary is called a conciliar seminary. San Carlos Seminary is a product of the Council of Trent. San Carlos Seminary is indeed a fruit of synodality.

San Carlos Seminary was the first diocesan seminary established in the Philippines dedicated to the training of the native clergy. At the time when Filipinos were looked down upon as not fit for the priesthood, some people in the church saw the giftedness of Filipinos and their potential in becoming collaborators in the work of mission. In fact, at that time, there was a revolutionary idea of making San Carlos Seminary a regional seminary for Asia where candidates for the priesthood from nearby Asian countries could be trained. This reveals that the notion of synodality at the continental level was already present in the vision of San Carlos Seminary as early as the eighteenth century. Although the seminary was still in its infancy and was quiet and stable, it never wavered and continued with its mission.

In the words of St. Paul in our second reading today, we are not discouraged because this ministry is not from us but from God who allows his light to shine forth even through earthen vessels like the early Karlistas who heroically responded to God’s call.

San Carlos Borromeo is also close to my heart because my first diocese as a bishop was the Diocese of San Carlos in Negros. I chose my episcopal motto, Audiam – “I will listen.” Because it daunts upon me that the first obligation of a pastor is to listen. If I am to be a shepherd like Jesus, I must know how to listen.

Our gospel today speaks of the shepherd whose first duty is to know the sheep. Jesus, our good shepherd said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me. I must lead them and they will hear my voice.” Knowing entails listening and listening is necessary in journeying together. In synodality, everyone has a voice and everyone must be heard.

It was in the Diocese of San Carlos where the inspiration of creating mission stations was first realized. The mission stations were the church’s way of coming close to the people, to live with them, to listen to them and to journey with them. We did not simply wait for the people to come to us, the church and the shepherds went to them.

After more than ten years as Bishop of the Diocese of San Carlos, we were able to establish several mission stations, mission schools and other institutions that brought the church near to those in the peripheries. We were truly inspired by the synodal spirit of San Carlos Borromeo who was a listening shepherd. He journeyed with his flock. He was not an absentee bishop. At a time when bishops who did not reside in their dioceses were a common practice, San Carlos did something revolutionary by choosing to live in Milan. He made several parish visitations despite the difficulties of travel. All because he wanted to stay close to his people.

My dear Karlistas, let us heed the call of Pope Francis. Let us journey together. No one should walk ahead. And no one should be left behind. Let us live synodality because San Carlos Seminary is rooted in synodality. Our patron is a bishop who fostered synodality. We were established because of synodality and we were envisioned to become a synodal seminary. Synodality, therefore, runs in the blood of every Karlista. With the inspiration of our patron, San Carlos Borromeo, may every Karlista lead and live the synodal way. Amen. (RCAM-AOC | Photo from San Carlos Seminary Facebook Page) 


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