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Former Senator Ambrosio Padilla is dead. Would you consider him a holy man? Is he an example of piety and sanctity that we can emulate?

If by holiness, we mean staying in church for long hours and attending pious rituals; then he is not holy. If by piety, we mean soaring the heights of contemplative prayer and staying untroubled and unaffected by mundane matters and secular issues, then he is far from pious. If by piety we mean getting your shoes and shirts dirty by immersion in squatter colonies and living poorly in shanties in the spirit of Christian witnessing, then-Senator Padilla is not a holy man. If by religious piety we mean engaging in full-time catechetical or evangelizing ministry, then he is not holy.

But I believe Senator Padilla is a holy and pious man. He has a different kind of holiness. He exercised his piety and sanctity while walking through the corridors of political power and speaking in the august halls of Malacañang and the Senate. He bore witness to the Holy One as he trained Filipino athletes for international competitions. He lived by his motto: integrity in public life and morality in private life.

In a genuine sense, he was a Christian ahead of his time. Long before our leaders in Church called for a transformation of human society by the laity, he was already at the forefront of Philippine sports and politics, lending to these secular fields the Christian flavor. He served God and glorified His holy name by being an upright senator and solicitor general, by being a businessman oriented for others, and by being a sportsman who was dreaming not only for the athletic gold but even more for the pearl of great price.

“Public affairs” is a ministry in the Church that we cannot just relegate to corrupt politicos with no grounding in Christ. Serving the poor, praying for the Church, and teaching the Christian faith are ministries indeed, but so are politics and economics, and sports.

When politics are exercised without Christ, they can be oppressive, abusive, and self-oriented. When athletes are trained without Christ, sports can become a proud, selfish, and obsessive pursuit for the Olympic gold, but what does it profit a man if he gains the gold medal but suffers the loss of his priceless soul?

Senator Padilla died while the Second Provincial Council of Manila was in session. His son, Frank, was called forth by the Archbishop of Manila himself to contribute his spiritual, intellectual, and experiential resources to the Council. The theme of this Church meeting is “the ministries and apostolate of the laity.” Frank brought with him to the Council the unique experience of his fellow laity in their unprecedented missionary outreaches worldwide. During the same Church meeting, the Catholic laity was called upon to allow themselves to be tools for the transformation of Philippine society. Politics and economics are human realms that properly belong to the laity. Senator Padilla was a true minister of the Lord and of the Church. Politics was the stage on which he played that significant role.

His passing away during the Second Provincial Council of Manila carries a striking message for the Church in the Philippines. It is a call for more laymen and women to restore politics to Christ. Politicians can be saints, not in spite of politics but because of politics. Senator Padilla’s life proves this to us. The Church is challenging the Catholic laity to be like him.

Politicians can be saints.

Jesus Our Light

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