THERE is no mistaking that the 2nd National Congress of the Clergy was a phenomenal success. The sight of more than Five Thousand priests robed in white was spectacular—during liturgical celebrations especially at confessions, and on the 1.2-kilometer procession towards Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
But numbers alone do not a success make—except from the mobilization point of view. And neither is the shedding of tears no matter how profuse, as some comments tended—implying, consciously or otherwise, that priests were really in deep renewal because some of them were seen teary-eyed at one session or two. But measuring up goodness by the number of wet hankies is very tentative and reminiscent of the heydays of the Cursillo when one had to elicit a tearful sentiment to the satisfaction of the “rollesta”.
Transformation in human nature—and so with the clergy—is an itinerary. Or, better, perhaps, a gestation. Even Paul of Tarsus was nary an exception. He had to become recluse in Damascus for some days before the miracle of change thumped the streets. But, of course, human transformation maybe understood better in the macro context of the economy of salvation—which really saying too much.
It maybe safe and realistic to say that the effect of the national clergy congress, which was actually a retreat, will be felt after some time, if ever. But definitely, it will neither be quantifiable nor even be verifiable in, say, social surveys. To think otherwise would be cornering enough the power of the Holy Spirit—and, one hastens to add, the gift of Holy Orders. It would suffice for now to tell that a great number of priests gathered, reflected and prayed.
In the meantime, the demands of evangelization hung like a Jewish zikaron or even perhaps as a sword of Damocles in the very core of the fast-changing lifestyles of priests. Of late, the laity that is developing to be not as timid as before has demanded of the clergy “to hold high the moral compass that will light our way, and…to provide the prophetic pastoral accompaniment that will strengthen us in fulfilling our role and mission as sons and daughters of God.”
The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines already said this in some other words nineteen years ago this year. But then again, even the implementation of plenary councils is also a journey.