For the more than six years of my stay in the Diocese of Tagbilaran as its bishop I have always been dazzled if not puzzled by the depth of the faith of the Bol-anon, the faith that has served them well even within our contemporary history of globalization characterized by technological progress and globalization with the concomitant problems of easy life, materialism, and heightened love of self. What might be its secret or is the Bol-anon soul simply privileged by Divine design? I have waited for a satisfactory response. Then it happened while I was attending a meeting of priests and responsible lay faithful. In that meeting a soul searching inquiry popped up, to wit: what makes the Bol-anon unique as a community of people? What specific trait differentiates the Bol-anon soul from that of other Filipinos? Then the participants came up with this answer: “The bol-anon family is unique in that it is a source of faith and the cradle of vocation. “ With that initial revelation I started to discover more the delicate role and the intricate ways of the Bol-anon family in cherishing the Christian faith they have received.
After all God can hardly be experienced outside the family experience. The person of Jesus cannot be savored and lived, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the love of the Father expressed in His Son’s birth into this earth through the action of the Holy Spirit, would remain a beautiful thought, lurking in the realm of ideas and spiritual models. To bring down the catechism into flesh and blood realities, we need the Bol-anon family whose track-record on spiritual matters, faith and moral, is very well known. In fact, through the years, studies have shown that the Bol-anon family is considered a cradle of faith and the fount of priestly and religious vocations. It is along this line that we revisit the Bol-anon family and draw some important conclusions needed to bring down the abstracts of our faith contained in our catechism books into concrete realities of the here and now. In so doing we face the modern challenges of our faith that attack not only the doctrine and teaching of the Catholic Faith, but more so the traditional mores and time-tested way of living among the Bol-anons.
Creation is God’s love for man, giving him a life that is a copy to His nature. But for man to express that divine fire of love lodged deeply in his soul needs an entity like himself. “It is not good for a man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him” (Gen 2: 18). In time God created the woman and presented him to man as a partner and a wife. Man accepted her with these words: “This one at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ‘woman’ for out of her man this one has been taken” (2: 24). This was the first marriage covenant that sets up the family and the model of all other families that come after it. In a simple commentary on this marriage the Bible states: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (2: 24). God’s love is the origin of marriage and the family of man. It is at the same time the way how the love of God is shared with the husband and wife, the instrument that opens the shared- love of husband and wife with a new life, the child that is born, the tool whereby God is preached to the members of the family.
It is true that faith comes from hearing the words preached by the one commissioned to do so. But faith too is handed over by generation through the instrumentality of the family. The faith of Abraham, the father of faith, has been handed down to his children and to those who later believed in his God. Moses saw to it that the experience of faith will happen in the family. The Paschal Seder, the center of the Israelites’ worship and the celebration of their deliverance from the slavery in Egypt, is commemorated in the family. It is here that faith is handed over by the head of the family to all his members (Exodus 12: 1-30). Here, the parents were the teachers of the children reminding them that without God they would never be born, never see the light of day, or get killed by the angel of death who patrolled that night to kill the first born child whose house was not marked by the blood of the lamb . This is the Exodus account of how the parents catechized their children: “When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ You shall reply, ‘This is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he spared our houses’” (26-27).
But the family only acquires its proper dignity and splendor when the Son of God Himself chose to dwell in the family of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth. Here we learn what a family really is. As expressed by Paul VI: “May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings; in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute” (Nazareth, January 5, 1964).
The Holy Family of Nazareth has become through the years the model of the Bol-anon family. It is here that God’s love and providence is relished as the husband and wife faced the harsh realities of founding a home of their own; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is experienced as the parents and the children take on the variegated problems of poverty, misunderstandings of the parents and their growing teen-agers, squabbles and rivalries among the siblings. Rooted on prayers and the constancy of the faith of the parents, the Bol-anon family has seen the real face of Christ. He is its Lord and Master. In its midst is conspicuously displayed the Cross, the symbol of the Bol-anon faith. What is being taught here in the Bol-anon family is not a holy Book nor a doctrine nor a grand idea nor an ideology. Here proclaimed is the center of our faith, that is, “a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990, 18).
Talking of the new way of Evangelization, the Bol-anon family stands as an option of the spreading of the Good News of salvation, the setting where catechism is not only taught but experienced.
Sa kanunay panalanginan sa Dios ang Bol-anong Banay.
+Leonardo Y. Medroso, DD
Bishop of Tagbilaran