JOINT PASTORAL LETTER OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF THE PHILIPPINES ON PRAYER AND THE INTERIOR LIFE
Grace and peace be yours from the Lord.
Many perhaps would expect from Us once more a new declaration of the Church’s stand on the most grievous social and political problems that affect our whole country in these stormy times of widespread unrest and contestations. We have done this repeatedly in the past and shall continue to raise our voice whenever pastoral duties demand it. We shall “not be reduced to silence for fear of criticism.”1
However, our apostolic office, above all, “concerns the salvation of souls.” This time, therefore, we want to remind the People of God entrusted to our pastoral care of the words of the Psalmist: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 126, 1).
“Bureaucratic socialism, technocratic capitalism and authoritarian democracy are showing how difficult it is to solve the great human problem of living together in justice and equality.”2 We need help from above for such a tremendous task; otherwise, our voice will be lost in the wilderness; our effort shall remain barren. And there is an infallible way to obtain that help: it is prayer which has the guaranty of the divine promise: “Ask and it will be given you,” (Mt 7,7) specially if to prayer we join a true spirit of penance. 3
We echo with grief the concern of our Holy Father over the decreasing spirit of prayer in our times.
“We have the impression nowadays that the good and the faithful even those who are consecrated to the Lord, pray less than was once usual.”4 As pastors of souls, we have to uphold the primacy of prayer in the life of a Christian. As our Holy Father says, “we cannot remain Christians unless we have our own deep, continued inward life of prayer, of faith, of charity; without that we cannot participate usefully and wisely in the rebirth and reflowering of the liturgy, we cannot give evidence of that Christian authenticity about which we hear so much, we cannot think, breathe, act, suffer and fully hope with the living pilgrim Church. We must pray.”5
We are one with the Holy Father in his feeling that it is the lack of prayer that is the cause of many of our crises. “It is our belief that many of the sad, spiritual and moral crises of educated persons belonging to various levels of the ecclesiastical organism are due to languor and perhaps, to lack of a regular and intense life of prayer, such as was borne up until yesterday by wise external habits.”6
Of course we realize the difficulties of a prayer life in the context of our modern living. As the Holy Father observes: “The life of prayer (is) less intense and less easy for people of our time… (because) we are brought up and educated to live exterior lives. The exterior life has developed marvelous and fascinating things, but we do not get equal training in the interior life, and few know its laws and satisfactions. Our thoughts are chiefly concerned with the visible realm; (we hear talk nowadays of the ‘civilization of images’: radio, television, and so on).”
Moreover, the cult of permissiveness, the creeping poison of pornography in movies, magazines and the other media of social communication, which erode morality and create an atmosphere of sensuality, has contributed to the decline of the interior life.
We also note with grief the rampant addiction to drugs especially among our youth. We shudder to think of the consequences of this evil which can destroy not only physical life but above all the moral and spiritual.
Since it is “one of the major concerns of our ministry… to awaken (the) religious sense in the souls of people of our time,” as the Holy Father reminds us, we now call upon our people to intensify their interior life through a more meaningful devotion to the Sacraments.
We exhort them to reenkindle in their hearts the love and practice of the age-old devotions of the Church which were designed to be expressions of internal piety and at the same time its aid for intensification.
We mention here with particular emphasis the devotion to Our Blessed Mother. She is the Mother of the Church. She is the Patroness of our country. She is the model of the interior life.
May the love and life of God dwell always in our hearts and bear abundant fruit.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
Bishops’ Semi-Annual Meeting
July 8, 1971
Searsolin, Xavier University
Cagayan de Oro City
1 Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. on 5th Anniv. of the Close of II Vat.Council, 8 Dec. 70: ap.: L’Oss. Rom.English ed.14 Jan 71. 2 Paul Vi, Apost. Letter on 80th anniv. on Rerum Novarum; 14 May 71. 3 cf. Reg. 8, 35; 2 par. 6, 37. 4 Paul VI, L’Oss. Rom. Aug. 28, 1969. 5 Paul VI, L’Oss. Rom. Aug. 28, 1969. 6 idem.