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Exploiting Jose Rizal January 1, 2011

Posted by Maddog in Catholicism, Religion and Social Issues.
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It is a well-known fact that on the night before his execution, Jose Rizal retracted his erroneous religious beliefs which were contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Even to this day, however, despite all the documented historical evidence attesting to it, there are still those who, for their own reasons, still try to deny that the retraction ever took place.

Sadly, not all of these reasons are noble.

Many atheists and those with an ax to grind against the Catholic Church, for example have taken a liking to Rizal because they perceive him to be a model of rebellion against the Church and religion in general. They are also presumably well aware that Rizal is a popular figure that they can exploit to gain sympathy for their cause, as well as foment resentment against the Church.

I would like to draw attention to the article, Hard Facts About Rizal’s Conversion (Sinagtala, 1988), by the late Fr. Marciano Guzman. It deals with the facts of Rizal retraction and related issues. Fr. Guzman writes:

These attempts to deny our national hero’s conversion and retraction are made without conclusive and documented evidence. They normally do not transcend the psychological arguments devised by the blatant disbelief and stubbornness of some members of masonic lodges.

Typical of such reaction was a statement made in 1908 by a Venerable Master of the Grand Regional Lodge of the Philippines. It was pronounced in a meeting called to counteract the effects of Wenceslao Retana’s personal conviction about Rizal’s retraction, expressed in the book Vida y escritos del Dr. Jose Rizal. “If Rizal did retract,” the high-ranking Filipino Mason said, “he might have done it through altruism and not for personal interest. But still I have not believed and remain disbelieving in his retraction, notwithstanding so many things said about it, and in spite of the assurances of Jesuits and Retana… the idol of the Philippines has never changed his ideas, in a word, he has never retracted.”

A similar type of argument could be found in Rafael Palma’s The Pride of the Malay Race. “Rizal was a man of character,” wrote Palma in his book, “and he had demonstrated it in many circumstances of his life. He was not likely to yield his ideas because his former preceptors and teachers talked to him. They did it in Dapitan and did not obtain any result. Why would he renounce his religious ideas for a few hours more of life?”

Those who wish to deny Rizal’s conversion in the last hours of his life go against solid historical evidence.

To those who would deny Rizal’s retraction, Guzman points out the following historical facts (highlights mine).

The most formidable proof is the document of Rizal’s retraction of errors and profession of faith, duly signed and drawn in his own handwriting from beginning to end.

J.M. Cavanna, CM, in his book Rizal and the Philippines of His Days, summarized the hard facts connected with this document. Several eyewitnesses were present when Rizal wrote this holograph. They included three Jesuit priests, four lieutenants of the army, three soldiers of the artillery corps, and a colonel of the Manila Garrison who acted as Judge Advocate in Rizal’s trial.

Moreover, on the day of the hero’s execution, his retraction holograph was presented to and examined by the Archbishop of Manila, the Vicar General, the Secretary of the Chancery, the Provincial Superior and two priests of the Society of Jesus, the Fiscal of the Audiencia, one newspaper editorial staff, a layman administrator of a pious confraternity, and most probably other people in the Ateneo and in the Archbishop’s residence where the document was brought.

On the day of Rizal’s death, the full text of the retraction document was published in four leading Manila papers of the widest circulation in the country. On the following days, another Manila newspaper and three Madrid papers with direct correspondents in Manila, together with at least six other Madrid dailies, four Spanish magazines and one Portuguese periodical in Hong Kong published the text of the document with many details about how it was written and signed by the national hero. One of these correspondents declared that “a sister of Dr. Jose Rizal gave him the news about the conversion and retraction of the glorious convict.”

Besides, as a proof of his unconditional acceptance of the Catholic faith, Rizal, on his own initiative, signed a Catholic prayer-book with a long, detailed, and explicit profession of faith. He did this after reciting publicly, on his knees before the altar, and in the presence of all the witnesses of his retraction, an act of faith followed by two other prayers of Christian hope and charity. Four eyewitnesses corroborated this fact, and 3 qualified witnesses, 4 newspapers of Manila and Madrid at that time, and 4 historians and writers confirmed their testimony.

It is on record that the national hero received the sacrament of Penance 4 times and received Holy Communion fervently during a Mass, before proceeding to Bagumbayan for the execution. At Bagumbayan, moments before his death, in the presence of a “compact multitude which filled Luneta’s esplanade,” Rizal, renewing his contrition for sins already confessed and for whatever he might have forgotten, again asked for forgiveness, kissing the crucifix presented to him by the priest, and for the last time received sacramental absolution.

The last absolution he received was recorded in an official document of the government. His previous four confessions in his prison cell were certified by 5 eyewitnesses, 10 qualified witnesses, 7 newspapers of Manila, Madrid and Hong Kong at that time, and 12 historians and writers including Aglipayan bishops, Masons and anti-clericals.

Moreover, Rizal’s conversion is highlighted by his Catholic marriage with Josephine Bracken, solemnized before the altar by a priest with sacred vestments, pronouncing the sacramental blessing according to the Roman Ritual. This solemn canonical marriage, which could not have taken place without Rizal’s previous conversion, was witnessed and attested to by many people.

Furthermore, the conversion of the national hero is supported by the many acts of Catholic piety—such as kneeling before the altar, praying the Rosary, putting on the blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception—which he spontaneously and publicly performed during his last hours.

Given all the documented evidence of the events, and the presence of eyewitness that confirm them, the fact there are those who can still find room for doubt about the retraction seems to reveal an overwhelming — and irresponsible — partisan nature on the part of the skeptics.

Passion for the truth

Jose Rizal himself had a passion for the truth. Happily, there are authors such as Fr. Guzman who have that same passion. One cannot say if such traits are passed on to one’s descendants, but if they are, then Fr. Guzman benefited from it. The Wikipedia entry on him notes that he was “the great grandnephew of the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, because the mother of his maternal grandmother was Soledad, a sister of Rizal.”

We should emulate Rizal and his direct descendant, Fr. Guzman. The historical facts speaks for themselves, despite efforts by certain quarters to distort the memory of our national hero for their own selfish interests.

What will we listen to: the historical evidence or the personal prejudice of vested partisan interests?

Note:

Fr. Guzman’s article can also be found at Monk’s Hobbit, a blog. It is at: http://monkshobbit.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/fr-marciano-m-guzman-on-the-retraction-and-conversion-of-jose-rizal/

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