FR. CATALINO AREVALO
JAN 22, 2023
On behalf of Fr. Provincial, Fr. Jun Viray, Fr. Socius, Fr. Peter Pojol, requested me to deliver the homily during the funeral of Fr. Catalino Arevalo. I could not say no, because Fr. Revs is also Lolo Revs to me, my granduncle on the Ocampo side. He narrated to me that before the war, my great grandfather, Lolo Simplicio, Lolo Picio for short, after whom I was named—Manuel Simplicio—would take the bus from Cabanatuan and join the Arevalos for lunch in Manila on Sundays. And that he and my Lola Leonarda would spend the month of April in Baguio during their growing-up years.
As granduncle and mentor, he vested me during my ordination in 1997 and delivered the homily during my thanksgiving Mass as a newly-ordained Jesuit priest.
A few reflections about Fr Catalino Arevalo.
- Servant of the Church
The Catholic Church produced several great theologians during the latter half of the 20th c.— Rahner, Schillebeeckx, von Balthasar, Congar, Bonhoeffer, de Lubac, de Chardin, Gutierrez, to name a few. Why did Fr. Revs who possessed an equally brilliant mind not publish much, people ask? That is because he spent his entire career teaching. He taught generations of priests, religious and lay people various courses in systematic theology—the Eucharist, Holy Order, Christology, Ecclesiology, Mariology, Soteriology, and Ignatian Spirituality—here in Loyola School of Theology.
Our batch was fortunate to have had him as our Christology professor and ordination retreat facilitator. In class, someone raised a question. Fr. Revs’ reply? “Are you a heretic?” That ended further discussions in class.
We have the honor of being lambasted by Fr. Revs, “This is the worst class I have ever had.” Our only consolation was that he called every succeeding batch his worst class—ever!
He only penned a few theological essays and published a collection of homilies, because most of what he wrote, he did so on behalf of local church leaders, Jaime Cardinal Sin particularly, and ecclesiastical institutions, such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC).
He was the first Asian member of the International Theological Commission and founding member of FABC. According to journalist Jose Torres, he drafted the landmark, “Evangelizing in Modern Day Asia” which remains the “most influential articulation of the local churches in Asia.” FABC has acknowledged Fr. Revs who served as its main theological adviser, as the “Father of Asian Theology.”
In one of our conversations prior to the pandemic, I tried to persuade him to write and publish. He replied, “Books are now useless in our world of social media. No one reads anymore.” Yet his influence as a professor and mentor on church leaders and thousands of clerics, religious and lay people will remain indelible. CPCP President, Bp Pablo Virgilio David, commented that Fr. Arevalo was “a great teacher to whom we owe our love for theological learning and the spiritual discipline of discernment.”
And so, the irony is that while Fr. Revs did not publish much, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin in 1997 hailed him as the “Dean of all Filipino Theologians and Godfather of hundreds of priests.” Fr. Revs spent his entire theological career in the service of the Church.
- Son of Mary
Fr. Revs always kept a rosary in the pocket of his trousers, a sign of his filial affection for our Blessed Mother. Prior to his transfer to the Wellness Center, he would spend extended moments in silence before the image of Our Lady of Mediatrix in the LHS Chapel.
In his collection of reflections and homilies, And They Shall Name Him Emmanuel, which Fr. Mon Bautista quoted last Thursday evening, he recalls spending the month of May with his family in Antipolo, going to Mass in the basilica and “praying to the dark Lady standing atop the little tree.” He goes on to write, “Even today, whenever I return to Antipolo and look at that curiously inexpressive dark face of Our Lady, it is almost always the first thought that strikes me… the priesthood, the priesthood of her Son. And so I believe … the priesthood is a gift, and it was her prayer that won it for me, and her prayer that keeps me from losing it in spite of my sinfulness and inconstancy.”
As Mary has protected him under her mantle of maternal love and care, so has she our people. For Fr. Revs, EDSA I was the fulfillment of Mary’s prophetic Magnificat. The mighty and haughty were brought down from their thrones and the lowly lifted up. A dictator was deposed and a simple housewife raised. An autocrat was spirited away and a people set free.
The EDSA I Peaceful Revolution. How did Fr. Revs end up in Santolan the night the protesters were tear-gassed? Fr. Danny Huang was a scholastic and I a novice then when a stranger informed us that the marines were marching towards EDSA from the East and that we ought to mobilize some of the people gathered along Edsa-Ortigas to transfer to Santolan. To prove his claim, he took Danny and me to somewhere in the hills of Tanay that evening. As Danny and I anxiously and silently glanced at each other, fearing we would be salvaged, we saw in the distance hundreds of marines marching in two lines toward the metropolis. We hurried back to the Edsa-Ortigas intersection and instructed the Ateneo contingent to transfer to Santolan.
In the middle of the night, the marines arrived in Santolan and attempted to disperse the crowds that had barricaded the eastern entry point to Edsa-Ortigas. The marines hurled teargas at the crowd, among whom were Fr. Hontiveros and Fr. Arevalo. Due to the sting in their eyes, they did disperse and washed their faces with water. However, Fr. Revs related that as their human barricade disbanded, the wind shifted and blew the teargas toward the marines, who then scampered. “It was Our Lady’s Magnificat being fulfilled,” Fr. Revs would narrate years later.
As a Jesuit theologian, he was given a special mission, I believe by Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother—to accompany President Corazon Aquino spiritually. They met not by chance, but by providence, in Boston on August 21, 1983.
While waiting for further news about Ninoy’s assassination on the tarmac of the old Manila International Airport, Cory, in her memoirs collected by Rapa Lopa, recalls: “I remember that in my prayer I was saying, “Dear Lord, I hope you can send me a Filipino priest. The American priests have been very sympathetic, but I think I’ll feel better if I can talk with a Filipino priest.”
The Lord heard her prayer. Ballsy narrates that while they heard the 6 am Mass in Boston College, her mom repeatedly said, “Sana may pari. Sana may pari.” After Mass they returned to their home right across Boston College. Ballsy continues, “Then the doorbell rang and Noy opened the door and it was Fr Revs. He introduced himself, said he was staying in Boston College and told Noy that the American priests told him the Aquinos just live across the street. He offered to say Mass, patiently sat on a chair till we were ready.”
They had not known each other personally until the day of Ninoy’s assassination when Fr. Revs visited their home in Boston. They would become constant companions from Ninoy’s burial in Paranaque to the yellow confetti parades in Makati, from the Snap elections to Cory’s oath-taking as the 11th President of the Philippine Republic, from her tenure in Malacanang to her remaining years as a stateswoman. I believe it was Our Lady that allowed their paths to cross, as both would play important roles—political and ecclesial—in the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.
When Rapa, Jim, Jamike, Mayi Lopa and I last visited him before Christmas last year, he was jovial and conversant. He said on his side table beside his bed was a photo of Tita Cory and PNoy. “When I get up in the morning, they are the first ones I see. I love them both dearly.”
- Friend of Jesus
Fr. Revs had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the biblical image of which is most eloquently expressed in the Crucified Christ.
In his book, And They shall Name Him Emmanuel, he writes, “God who flung the stars and planets into the universe of his making, really suffered for us, really died for us on the Cross. So we might know he has chosen to share everything in our human lives, out of love…. In Jesus, God out of love made our human pain his own. So that having taken on what is ours, we might take on ourselves what is his.”
How he longed to see Jesus, his beloved friend, our crucified savior.
Prior to the pandemic, every now and then, he would drop by my office in LST, sit on my sofa, and complain, “The Lord has forgotten me. He has taken my contemporaries but has forgotten me.”
In another conversation he lamented that he knew that he knew much before that he no longer could remember. And this caused him to panic and despair. “My life is useless.” “But Fr Revs, your presence is a blessing to us.” “O, that is easy for you to say. But I am not like Honti who had many friends and was liked by everyone. My life has no more meaning.” There was nothing more I could say.
“You will never understand what it is like to be in your 90s. It is a totally different experience. Unsettled and perturbed, he turned down invitations to meet friends outside the campus. “Fr. Revs, we are celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in Times Street with PNoy and his siblings.” “Kayo na lang. I don’t know how to be with people anymore. I wouldn’t know what to say.”
Because he was hesitant to mingle with friends outside the campus, they visited him at the Wellness Center; that is, if his disposition that very moment would welcome visitors. As he more and more kept to himself, he must have found solace more and more in the company of the Sacred Heart, Jesus his friend and savior. In the end, he found his deepest consolation in the presence of his dearest friend, Jesus whom he loved with all his heart and yearned to be with.
In one of his homilies written a few decades ago, he writes, “No longer am I crushed or brought low by my suffering. I can even meet death with hope…. Suffering may become a way of oneness with Christ in his own suffering, and thus a way to the hard-won glory of sharing in God’s own life.
Thank you, Lord, for granting Fr. Revs his deepest desire—to be united with you and our Blessed Mother forever more. As our Psalm today proclaims:
“One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple” (Ps.27).
Thank you, Lord, for the gift that Fr. Revs has been to his family and friends, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, the Philippine Church, and the Church of Asia. We beseech you, Lord, to grant him, your weary servant and faithful friend, eternal rest, eternal peace, eternal happiness. Amen.