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Opinion

A saintly Filipino in Spain

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
In the mid 1970s I visited the beautiful city of Arrequipa in the highlands of Peru. One of the Jesuit priests working there was a Spaniard who asked me if I had known Apolonio Baluyut. Yes, I told him, I knew him well. He said to me, "Come to my room, I will show you something."

What he showed me was a folder in which he kept mementos of the late Apolonio Baluyut. "We were with him in Barcelona when he died," he said, "and we all consider him a saint."

Apolonio Baluyut – as his surname indicates – came from Pampanga, but from a poorer branch of that prominent family. As a young man he entered the Jesuit novitiate, which at the time (in the 1920s) was at Padre Faura in Ermita, Manila. There he finished his two-year novitiate, the two additional years of classical studies (Latin and Greek), and was beginning the study of philosophy when, in 1932, the Ateneo in Intramuros burnt down and a general relocation of Jesuit communities had to be made. The Ateneo reopened at Padre Faura and the novitiate-juniorate-and-philosophate moved, first to Santa Ana, then to the new building in Novaliches.

After his 3-year course in philosophy, Baluyut was assigned as a teacher in San José Seminary where he taught for three years.

When his 3-year stint of teaching was over, he was due to begin the 4-year course in theology leading to priestly ordination. Normally at that time he would have been sent to one of the theological schools in the United States, but Baluyut requested to be sent to Spain instead. He was sent to Sarriá in Barcelona. And there he died.

It all sounds very ordinary, nothing spectacular, nothing outstanding, very routine. And yet when he died, everyone in the house in Barcelona considered him a saint. Why?

Baluyut was an example of how an ordinary person with ordinary talents and abilities living an ordinary life can be extraordinarily holy.

Three centuries before, a young Belgian Jesuit scholastic died in Rome. He had been an ordinary person with ordinary talents who had lived an ordinary life. But he is now canonized as Saint John Berchmans. While his Cause was being examined, the Devil’s Advocate had objected, "What’s unusual about Berchmans? He was an ordinary person living an ordinary life."

Precisely. He had lived an ordinary life extraordinarily well. His motto was, "Maximi facere minima": To make the most of even the smallest thing.

That was also the case with Baluyut. He was no different from the rest of us, but he lived his life better than we did.

There was however one unusual thing about him: given a choice between comfort and discomfort, he chose discomfort. He could have studied in the United States where life was moderately comfortable. He chose to go to Spain where at that time life was spartan, the regime very strict, the food meager, the houses not heated in winter and the only way to stand the cold was to wear an overcoat even in your room. In the midst of this spartan regime, Baluyut must have had an intense interior life of constant communion with God and the saints, to bear cheerfully that kind of hard life.

APOLONIO BALUYUT

ATENEO

BALUYUT

BELGIAN JESUIT

LATIN AND GREEK

LIFE

ONE OF THE JESUIT

ORDINARY

PADRE FAURA

UNITED STATES

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