MANILA, Philippines – “Please talk to my teenage daughter,” a worried father once told Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Tagle replied, “Bakit?” (Why?)
The father said his daughter “has been withdrawing from the family, showing disinterest in prayer and family activities.”
“Parang rebelde,” he said. (She’s like a rebel).
Tagle, a bishop known for his hands-on approach to parishioners, agreed to talk to the girl.
When Tagle and the teenager met, he asked her: “What’s bothering you? Your parents are concerned that you are becoming a recluse, and you look like a rebel to them.”
The girl let loose her emotions.
She told Tagle: “Mommy teaches me to be thrifty, to save money, but she splurges on weekends. Daddy warns me against smoking, but he is a chain smoker. They are fake! You, bishop, are fake!”
Tagle recounted this story on Friday, October 18, the last day of the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE), a 3-day event that aimed to rekindle the Catholic faith. (READ/WATCH: Tagle, faith, and ruins from the quake.)
It was part of his homily that explained Jesus’ words in the Gospel: “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”
Tagle joked it was tempting to reply to the girl, “How dare you!” But then, he asked, “Is this a wolf?”
Tagle: ‘Tame the wolf’
“Listen to her,” the cardinal told up to 5,000 PCNE delegates who came from different dioceses in the Philippines and other Asian countries. (Watch more in the video below.)
Ano ang hinahanap niya? Hinahanap niya, integrity. Hinahanap niya, authenticity. Hinahanap niya, consistency. Hindi siya kaaway. Kaibigan natin ang mabangis na hayop na ito. Talagang sa puso niya, siya ay tupa,” Tagle said.
(What is she looking for? She is looking for integrity. She is looking for authenticity. She is looking for consistency. She is not an enemy. This seemingly wild beast is our friend. In her heart, she is really a lamb.)
“We have to listen,” the cardinal stressed. “We have to understand. Maybe the message is being conveyed to us in a manner that we are not used to. But it is the Lord who speaks. It is the Lord who wants us to count these people as part of the rich harvest.”
In his homily, Tagle also recalled the words of a young Japanese to the bishops of Asia, during a meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. “He said, ‘Whenever the Church talks about the youth, you always say we are a problem. He said, ‘We are not a problem. We are human beings. We are a blessing.’”
His words resonated with the appeal of a youth spokesperson during the PCNE, as quoted by Tagle. “Listen to us, understand us, trust in us, take care of us,” a young man named Michael said. “Many of us come from broken homes. We need fathers among the priests. We need mothers, brothers, and sisters among the other parishioners.”
Tagle said, “The world that the new evangelization faces is like a wolf. There are some aspects of the contemporary world that might look hostile to us.”
“But dear brothers and sisters,” he explained, “one inspiration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization is to say to us that the world that is sinful, that is wounded, that would even be hostile, remains God’s world. God is there. It remains God’s creation, and so let us not completely condemn the world as a wolf, as a total wolf.”
“Maybe the lamb in the world is just waiting to come out. Tame the wolf, and let it become a lamb,” the cardinal said.
‘Experience before doctrine’
Rene Salvador San Andres, associate dean for student affairs at the Ateneo de Manila University, echoed similar thoughts during the PCNE. He delivered a talk on trends affecting the youth, a day before Tagle’s homily.
In an interview with Rappler, San Andres said the Church should learn to listen to young people.
“Sometimes we’re still too much in our traditional power-oriented style of faith: ‘You have to obey, you have to comply.’ The faith is not about compliance; the faith is about developing a personal relationship with God,” said San Andres, a former philosophy teacher who composed the popular religious song “Paghahandog.”
He said priests and nuns should focus on “being more dialogical and listening more, rather than insisting on the doctrines.”
“It’s not breaking doctrine,” he explained. “It’s not insisting on doctrine alone. Begin with the experience, before you insist on the doctrine.”
For Pope Francis, it’s all about mercy. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)
In a homily in March, Francis warned against condemning others to uphold one’s righteousness.
The Pope said: “I think we too are the people who, on the one hand want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think – and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.” – Rappler.com