A letter home
Dear Reverend Father,
It is with filial devotion and a great deal of trepidation that I set about the task which you have laid upon my shoulders.
I do not feel up to the task, as the years spent so far from your loving presence have taken their toll on my health. Yet,
you have asked me to recount for you our early days among the people of these islands and how they came to know Jesus Christ
and so I shall.
As you know Fr. Sanvitores and those of us who shared in his mission spent several years in the Philippines preparing for
our encounter with the Chamorro people. Among our priorities was to learn their language and customs as best we could. To
this end, two Filipino gentlemen who spent almost twenty years in the Mariana Islands and were proficient in the language
assisted us. They were sufficiently knowledgeable of the customs of the people that we were not overly surprised by those
habits we found among the people when we arrived in the islands. The language study was most helpful, as it allowed us to
communicate directly with the Chamorro people and to effect our mission with much greater speed than would have been possible
Since Fr. Sanvitores is a beloved friend of Most Reverend Father, you are aware of his zeal for this mission and the intensity
with which he undertook any task that might further his mission. It was with such zeal and intensity that Fr. Sanvitores studied
the Chamorro language, so that by the time we left Manila Harbor for the Mariana Islands he was nearly as fluent in the language
as were his teachers. He drove the rest of his company to study with similar intensity but alas, I lacked both his native
intelligence and his single minded intensity. I find languages a struggle. I learn them as need be, as I am proficient in
Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, and Greek, yet each new language is the product of much labor. On the other hand, dear Diego drank
in this new language like a thirsty man might attack a cold draft of spring waterwith relish and joy.
I would be deficient in my duty if I did not report to you the profound discipline and burning devotion with which Fr.
Sanvitores undertook his spiritual obligations. Prayer, meditation, sacred reading and pastoral ministry to the Philippine
people filled the hours and days while awaiting the necessary convergence of resources and events that would allow the final
leg of our journey to the Marianas. You must remember the success with which he preached missions throughout the dioceses
of Spain, while the oils of priesthood were still wet upon his fingers. His preaching and pastoral care has only matured and
deepened in the years since those first parish missions. The people flocked to hear him preach. Indeed, I found much benefit
in his words as well.
Eventually, he received word from the military governor of Manila that a ship was available to take his party to the Mariana
Islands. The party of missioners would include six Jesuits. The Jesuits were Fr. Sanvitores, Fr. Luis de Medina, Fr. Pedro
Casanova, Fr. Luis de Morales, and the Scholastic, Seņor Lorenzo Bustillos. Of course, I must include myself, Fr. Tomas de
Cardenoso. Three lay Filipino catechists accompanied us. The catechists were Seņor Hypolito Campo, Seņor Pedro Calansor and
Seņor Augustin de la Cruz . In addition to our party a small garrison of soldiers accompanied us.
The governor explained that the soldiers were for our protection. However, Fr. Sanvitores was not fooled by that explanation.
He realized that the government wanted to secure an island in the Marianas as a final supply port for the long trans-Pacific
journey from Mexico. The soldiers were a practical concession if we were to make the journey. This was clearly a missionary
journey and Fr. Sanvitores was the person in charge, except when military considerations intervened.
There is no need to speak of the journey in any detail. It was much as other sea journeys, a matter of endurance. One struggles
with boredom much of the time. The remaining time is given over to seasickness or one of the many discomforts to which human
flesh is heir. Suffice it to say that after a seemingly endless journey from Manila, our spirits were buoyed when land appeared
on the horizon one morning. The first mate explained that the green hills and sandy beaches visible in the distance were the
Island of Guahan, as it was called by its inhabitants. The Spanish navigational maps listed it as one of the Islas
de Ladrones. Thus, we had achieved our goal.
Fr. Sanvitores joined us on deck as we sailed toward the island and lead us in a prayer of thanksgiving. He was so caught
up in the spirit of the moment that he announced the island was to be dedicated henceforth to the Apostle Saint John. Not
only would the Good News of salvation and the grace of baptism transform the people but also the land itself would be made
By the time we sailed into the harbor it was too late in the day to consider anything other that a small landing party
lead by the First Mate. They would inform the village leaders of our arrival and arrange for our safe conduct while in the
harbor. The landing party returned to the ship shortly after dark, aided by a full moon and torches to guide their way. We
were welcome to rest that night aboard ship and then be greeted properly by the elders of the community come morning.
I was up early the next morning. I found Fr. Sanvitores on deck and joined him in Morning Prayer. After our recital of
the psalms, we spent quite a while silently offering our prayers to the Lord, as we beheld the Eden to which Christ brought
There were few sights as beautiful as the one that lay before us. The dark, deep water of the open ocean gave way to an
intense light blue of the shallow lagoon of Guahan. Coral heads still were visible in the quickly rising tide, offering
an artists gallery of strange but beautifully sculpted shapes. The sand of the beach was so white in the morning sunlight
that it hurt my eyes to look at it for more than a moment. Coconut palms waved in the morning breeze. The hills in the distance
looked green and inviting. I thought for a moment that I was staring at the Garden of Eden once again come to Earth.
Before long children could be seen emerging from paths that must have lead to nearby villages. The children spilled over
the beach and pointed to our ship with excitement and eager anticipation of the novelty of these strange visitors.
The heat of the sun was already beginning to warm the air to an uncomfortable degree, tempered only by the steady, cooling
trade winds. We would soon need to prepare for our arrival on the beach later that morning, as the captain didnt want us exerting
ourselves during the heat of mid-day. So, Diego suggested that we finish packing and prepare for the landing.
I had been prepared for this day almost since leaving Manila Harbor. My few possessions were packed and ready to be loaded
on the dingy. Indeed, I never unpacked them, except for necessary changes of clothing. So, I was below deck only moments before
bringing my trunk on deck and returning to my viewing post on the port side of the ship. This was the greatest adventure of
my life and this day was one that I would never forget. I knew that and bristled with excitement. My emotions soared with
the joy I felt at being graced with the opportunity to bring Gods word to a new people. Of the many Christians who lived over
the centuries from the time of Christs journey among us, I was one of the few privileged to undertake a true apostolic mission
of evangelization. The honor and the responsibility nearly overwhelmed me. I offered a silent prayer of commitment to the
mission and thanksgiving for this grace.
Soon the other members of our little company joined me on deck. Fr. Sanvitores led us in prayer several minutes for the
success of our mission. As we prayed the crew deposited our possessions in dinghy. Then we climbed down the rope ladder slung
over the side of the ship and settled into the little dinghy that bobbed precariously at the end of the ladder. Moments later
we were off, working our way toward the beach. The sailors strained to enter the lagoon at a safe distance from the coral
reef that placed a dangerous barrier between the beach and us. However, the tide was in our favor and our passage was without
Once on the shore we scrambled from the dinghy and the sailors quickly deposited our trunks and bags on the sand sufficiently
far to remain dry as the waves moved back and forth along the waters edge. We were greeted by dozens of excited children,
who were astonished when we returned their greetings in passable Chamorro. A group of about twenty young warriors greeted
us within moments of our arrival. They seemed peaceful in their intent but armed nonetheless. The captain spoke with the elders
the previous afternoon, so we were anticipated guests. The warriors seemed to be an honor guard more than a defensive force.
Though the young men were larger by head and shoulders than most of the Spanish and Filipino crew of our ship. Their mere
presence was intimidating to say the least.
Diego wanted to assure the islanders of our peaceful intentions. He insisted that only the company of missionaries would
be in the first dinghy. Once it seemed wise, the small garrison of soldiers would be allowed on short. Both the ships captain
and the captain of the garrison were unhappy with this plan but our Superior was insistent. I need not tell you that when
Diego insisted on something he could be a most formidable opponent himself.
The Chamorro warriors invited us to accompany them inland. We did so, leaving our possessions on the beach with a guard
of sailors from our ship. Within moments we were in the cool shade of a grove of coconut trees through which our path lead.
Off to the side we could see a variety of other plants, many of which were similar to the edible flora of the Philippines.
As we moved inland, I could see more and more breadfruit trees and guava. The land was lush and indescribably beautiful.
We had not walked a great distance when we came to a shelter. The structure had an impressive thatch roof. There were no
walls but the beams were decorated with abundant carvings and painted in rich natural colors. Woven mats made from palm leaves
covered much of the floor. We removed our shoes, as we knew that to be customary throughout the Pacific Islands and settled
on the mats for a few moments.
We did not have long to wait, as several tall and robust Chamorro men of apparent middle-age joined us on the mats. It
was assumed that they were village elders. They conferred with the leader of the young men who accompanied us from the beach
and then began to speak to us. They seem to have been informed that we were somewhat familiar with their language, as they
spoke directly expecting that we would hold up our end of the conversation. They welcomed us in a somewhat guarded way and
inquired why we visited their island.
Fr. Sanvitores responded in a halting but understandable Chamorro that he had visited the island years before and decided
then that he wanted to share with the Chamorro people the most important gift of which he knewthe Good News of salvation.
There were more questions. The elders inquired about our homeland and from where we had set sail on our journey to this
island. They also inquired about weapons or soldiers on the ship, as it was apparent that all the passengers had not disembarked
from the ship. There were also questions on what materials we brought to trade with the islanders.
Fr. Sanvitores was honest in describing the garrison that remained on the ship, as well as the various ports on the journey
that brought us from Spain to Guahan. He spoke of the pots, nails, and other metal implements that we brought with
us as gifts for the islanders. We brought metal objects as gifts since metal was much valued in the islands. A bag of nails
and a variety of metal cooking implements we brought from the beach in anticipation of such a meeting were handed to the elders
as a token of our appreciation for their kindness.
The senior elder introduced himself as Kepuha, the magalahi of Hagatna. He welcomed us in what appeared
to be a formal flourish of poetic language, little of which we could make sense of given our rudimentary fluency in the language.
He then laid down the law. We were his welcome guests and protected by the demands of island hospitality. We could stay in
the guesthouse to which we would be taken shortly. Since we were under his personal protection, we had no need of weapons
and the soldiers were to stay on the ship for the time being. We would meet with him and other island elders the next day
and discuss matters in more detail. That said, he signaled to the leader of the young warriors and he disappeared for a moment
down the path. Quickly there was a stream of women and men bringing containers laden with food of every sort, which was deposited
before us. As soon as the stream of people ended, Kepuha began eating and motioned for us to join him in the meal. It had
been some time since any of us had eaten fresh fruits and vegetables and we dug into the food before us with relish. There
was also an abundance of seafood to balance the meal. It was delicious!
By mid-afternoon we were filled to the point of gluttony and quite relaxed. Indeed, we all felt the need for an extended
nap after the meal we had just eaten. Kepuha realized our need and suggested that we accompany the young men who would
take us to the guesthouse where we could get settled and relax in greater comfort.
The terms of battle
Mass was offered before dawn the following morning. This was to be a critical day in our mission to the Chamorro people.
Yesterday we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts. Today the real work would begin. Fr. Sanvitores had to convince Kepuha
and the other elders to allow us to stay, to afford us some base of operations and tolerate, if not support our ministry to
the Chamorro people. We all prayed intently for Our Lord to bless Diego with wisdom and Gods own words. So much depended on
the success of todays meeting.
Around mid-morning one of the young warriors approached our house and informed Diego that the elders were awaiting his
gracious presence at the meetinghouse. The young man offered to accompany Diego and his companions to the elders. Fr. Sanvitores
quickly signaled for Fr. Medina and myself to accompany him.
The village was impressively clean, compared to any village of similar size I have visited in Europe. The paths between
the buildings were paved in grass and trimmed neatly. Meeting areas and public facilities were paved with smooth flat stones
that appeared to have been quarried someplace on the island, as they were not beach stones. The refuse that so congested the
streets of European cities and towns was entirely absent. Fishing gear and household implements were stored with organization
The meetinghouse was an impressive A-frame structure constructed on stone pillars the size of a man. The Chamorros called
these pillars lattes. The pillars kept a constant flow of cooling air surrounding the building, as well as limiting
the access of vermin to the building itself.
A framework was constructed on top of these pillars, with floorboards attached to the framework. This floor was then covered
with mats woven from palm fronds. The weave was tight and beautiful designs were woven into the mats. A high level of skill
The walls of the meetinghouse were at a steep angle, allowing adequate room for the tall Chamorro men to stand and move
The walls were made of thatch. There was a framework upon which were attached more mats, though of a looser weave than
the floor mats. Over the mats was a layer of thick grass and palm fronds. The overall result was a building that shielded
one from the heat of the sun or inclement weather, while providing a natural breeze to cool anyone using the structure.
A variety of sculpted images decorated the interior of the meetinghouse. The workmanship was quite good. I learned later
that the images represented various ancestors of the village members.
Upon entering the meetinghouse we were invited to in a place of honor, next to Kepuha and his advisors. They began
by offering us betel nut as a sign of welcome and to underscore the sacred nature of our meeting. We understood this from
our language instructors. We were also familiar with the esteem with which betel nut was held by many Pacific people. During
our years in the Philippines we gained some familiarity with the strange nut and the various customs for preparing and chewing
it. We also developed some immunity to its intoxicating effect on the uninitiated. So, when offered the purse in which the
nuts were held we appreciated the honor and knew how to respond appropriately. I must admit, these were powerful nuts. I was
glad that Fr. Sanvitores would do the speaking instead of me.
After all of the preliminaries had been disposed of, Kepuha sat upright, assuming a position that conveyed authority
and began his oration.
"We greet you, Padre Maagas and your companions. I say this for our ancestors and for all of our elders, and nobles.
Your visit honors us.
"Many generations past our ancestors knew only this island and its neighbors. The Chamorro were the only people. Our ways
were the only way. Then in the days of my grandfathers grandfather strangers came. Like you, they came from distant lands.
They visited and were gone. These strangers called themselves Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, even Chinese. We learned that the
world was much larger than we had thought. Not only was the world home for the Chamorro but these others called it home as
well, each in his proper place.
"We welcomed our visitors. We would share with them our water, food, and trees. We allowed them to fish in our sacred waters.
When they were hurt or in need, we cared for them. If they were sick, we found the best medicine to restore their health.
"Our visitors respected the hospitality we offered. They have shared with us their metals and tools. They have given us
material for sails. Pots for cooking have been given.
"It has been good to learn of our neighbors and to build ties of friendship. In this spirit we welcome you as our brothers
and open to you our home."
Having completed his opening statement, Kepuha relaxed. Everyones attention turned to Diego, as he would be the
next to speak.
"Great Kepuha, though I am only an unworthy servant, I greet you in the name of Philip, King of Spain, and in the
name of our Most Holy Father, Clement, Vicar of Christ.
"He have heard great things of the Chamorro people. We have heard of their strength and courage. We have heard of their
compassion and kindness rendered to the shipwrecked. The hospitality of the Chamorro people toward those who visit them is
legend. Indeed, the hospitality we have enjoyed since arriving on these shores is greater than we ever expected or hoped.
"We are ashamed. You and your people have always been so gracious to those who visit you. We enjoy the abundance that you
share with us, yet we have so little to offer in return. We show our appreciation with metal and tools. We show our appreciation
with cloth and cooking pots. These are nothing of real value when compared to the great hospitality and kindness that we enjoy
"Many years ago I visited these islands briefly, long enough to enjoy your hospitality and to feel shame at the poverty
with which we honor your hospitality. I felt shame then, as I do now before the kindness with which you greet us. I decided
then that should I return to these islands that I would share with you the only thing of true value that my people possess.
I decided that I would share with you the Good News of salvation.
"It is for this reason that I have come back to Guahan with my companions. I wish to share with you this Good News
and to teach it to your people. Of all the many tools and possessions that we enjoy in the land of my birth, the Good News
of salvation is the most valuable. Perhaps by sharing this gift with you, your kindness might be honored in some small way.
Kepuha looked thoughtful as he listened to Diego. Though I could tell that he had trouble following Diegos meaning.
The Chamorro language dealt with the practical realities of living on a tropical island and simply didnt have the words to
express the abstractions that Diego was trying to communicate. Even I found his speech labored.
Kepuha asked Diego if the "goodnewsofsalvation" was still aboard ship? If he needed help in bringing it ashore, he
would assign as many young men as needed to help with the work.
Diego explained that the Good News of salvation was knowledge, not a thing of metal or stone. It was this sacred knowledge
that Diego wished to share with Kepuha and the others.
Sacred knowledge was readily understandable by Kepuha as such knowledge played an important role in the Chamorro
community. The navigators possessed sacred knowledge that allowed them to sail beyond the horizon and visit distant islands.
Such knowledge revealed the best waters for fishing at a particular time of the year. Such knowledge allowed the kakanas
to make medicine for the ill and to seek advice from the ancestors. If this Spaniard held the "goodnewsofsalvation" in such
esteem, it might be powerful knowledge and of great use to his people. He spoke.
"Honored Padre Maagas, I thank you for offering to share the sacred knowledge you possess with me. I accept your
offer. Be our guests and enjoy our hospitality. You are most welcome. Let us gather every few days that you may teach my companions
and I of this sacred knowledge. We shall meet again the day after tomorrow. I shall send for you. In the meantime, please
join us at the celebration we have planned for you and your companions this evening. It will be a great feast with delicious
food, good stories, dancing and many songs.
Diego thanked Kepuha for meeting and for accepting the gift of sacred knowledge which he offered. He looked forward
both to the next meeting and to the celebration that evening. After these closing pleasantries, we returned to the guesthouse
and shared the news of our success with the others. They had been deep in prayer throughout our meeting with Kepuha
and seemed satisfied that their intercessions had effected a tangible benefitthe next meeting.
The feast was held that evening in the clearing next to the meetinghouse. The clearing and meeting house appeared to be
part of a central commons in the village, set aside for community activities. It began before the sunset, as soon as the heat
of the day began to dissipate. There was a mountain of food spread across several tables in even greater variety than they
enjoyed the previous day. As the daylight faded rows of torches were lit and the festivities continued late into the night.
After the main meal, the young men put on a exhibition of strength that was almost miraculous. These youth carried great
boulders, lifting to the top of pillars as caps for the lattes that were so common on the island. They pitted themselves
against one another in wrestling matches that shook the ground and reminded me of giants in combat.
Afterward, the women gathered to offer their entertainment for the guests and community. They were decorated tortoise shell
belts, strings of pearls and in sweet smelling flowers. They sat in rows and began to sing with such beauty that I thought
I was at the Cathedral in Madrid listening to the great choir. Before long they began to sway with the music and move their
hands and arms in unison, as if telling a story with their gestures as well as with their words. There were a variety of songs
before that portion of the entertainment ended with much cheering and encouragement for the women.
It was already late by the time the women finished but the night was far from over. Now the men did their part, telling
stories that were illustrated with song and dance. The stories were informative, as well as entertaining, allowing us a closer
look at the beliefs of these people.
The first story was of Gadao Magalahi.
Gadao was magalahi in the village of Inalahan. He was a big man, honored by many for his strength. One
day Gadao was fishing with his friends when a huge shark headed for the group. He grabbed his spear and threw it at
the shark with such force that it went clean through the shark, killing it instantly.
Now, the council of elders was looking for a new leader. The great elder must be a warrior of legendary strength, courage
and wisdom. Several among the council members suggested that Gadao would be the best choice. Not all were in agreement,
so it was decided that Gadao would be offered the honor if he could complete three tasks of heroic proportions. The
first task would be to swim the entire island fifty times without stopping. The second would be to crack a coconut to pieces
with his bare hands. Finally, he must level the tallest mountain on Guahan. Well, Gadao was honored by the challenge
He ran to the ocean and for the next five days and nights he swam around the island until he had completed fifty circuits
of the island. He was so thirsty and hungry when he finished that he took a coconut from a nearby tree and crushed it with
his hand as he drank its water and ate its meat. Thus, he completed two of the three tasks. Next, he went to the great mountain
and began to tear at it tossing large chunks of stone into the water. Before long the mountain was only a gentle hill and
the waters around Guahan were littered with stones and boulders, some the size of small islands.
The council of elders applauded Gadao for his great feats and as one named him their leader. Gadao remained
the great elder of Guahan for many years and brought great honor to his people.
There were many other stories shared that evening, though I particularly enjoyed the tale of Gadao, as it was acted
out with great humor. I laughed so much that tears ran down my cheeks. Diego seemed to be enjoying himself as well, though
I sensed that he was distractedalready rehearsing his talk for the next meeting with Kepuha.
Everyone slept late the following morning. Neither European nor Chamorro did much work that day. The leftovers from the
prior evenings feast were divided among the families and quickly disappeared among the houses in the village. Some young men
continued to tell stories and celebrate, even though the official feast was long over. Those of us who stayed in the guest
house tried to organize ourselves a bit, a few of us returning to the ship to make sure that all of our trunks and possessions
were safely on shore.
Fr. Medina was in charge of the group that returned to the ship. Aside from claiming the last of our baggage, he had a
message for Sergeant Fernandez, officer for the party of soldiers assigned to provide for our safety. Fr. Sanvitores sent
a message asking that Sergeant Fernandez keep his soldiers on the ship for the time being. Negotiations were still at too
delicate a juncture to allow anyone but the mission group on island. If there was need for armed assistance, he would get
word to the ship.
The sergeant was not pleased with the priests instructions. His men were going stir-crazy aboard ship. Nor did he trust
the young Chamorro warriors. He wanted to be on the island, where he could keep his eye on both the missionaries and the islanders.
Nor did he appreciate taking orders from a bunch of black robed priests, even if they were Jesuits. He realized that now was
not the time to argue with the priests over tactics. He would listen to the priest until he thought better of it.
After returning from the ship, Fr. Medina found Diego attempting to read the evening Office on the beach. Diego seemed
distracted and unable to concentrate on the readings. However, this was nothing new. He had seen Diego like this many times.
Whenever he was preparing to preach an important parish mission, Diego would always get worked up. It seemed his mind was
off in a different world editing and reshaping the talk he was to give until it was perfect.
Luis usually calmed him down with a few encouraging words after listening to Diegos worries. They were good friends from
their days in the novitiate. Each seemed to know what the other needed and provided encouragement and support to the other.
Indeed, when Diego knew that the mission to the Marianas was to be a reality, the first companion he asked to accompany him
Once he got Diegos attention, Luis reported on the trip and his discussion with Sergeant Fernandez. He estimated that the
sergeant might be able to keep his men on the ship for a few more days but they would have to come ashore soon. Diego listened
to Luis and agreed that something must be done soon. However, he left that decision for another day. Right now, his thoughts
were on the meeting with Kepuha. He needed to prepare.
Having spent much of their first two days on Guahan overeating and celebrating late into the night, the missionaries
went to sleep early that evening.
As expected, mid-morning the next day a young Chamorro greeted Diego and informed him that Kepuha and the others
were waiting for him at the meetinghouse. Luis and I again accompanied Diego to the meetinghouse. We were not expected to
speak but Diego wanted us there to assess the reaction of the Chamorro elders to his words. I think he also enjoyed what moral
support we offered.
While our first meeting was something of a ritual greeting in which the leaders of each group exchanged words of appreciation
for one another, this second meeting was much more utilitarian. Diego had promised to teach the elders sacred knowledge. They
were in the meetinghouse to learn. Almost as soon as Diego was seated, Kepuha said a few brief words of greeting and
left the show in Diegos hands. He began to talk.
"Many wonderful stories were shared with us the other evening. I remember the story of Puntan, from whose flesh
was made the sun, moon and stars, as well as the land and the sea. I remember as well a story of Chaifi who created
men in his workshop and baked them in his oven until done. These tales of great beings are similar to the tales told among
my own people many years ago of great and powerful beings that shaped the world we know and performed many wondrous deeds.
"Then many years ago our ancestors learned that these heroes may have performed wondrous deeds but that they were only
children compared to the great Spirit who set the world in motion, created all the teeming life upon it, and brought human
beings into existence. Before the land and sea existed, the Spirit was. Before the earliest of the ancient heroes undertook
any great task, the Spirit always was. This Spirit saw in his dreams a creature that was both a physical being and a spirit
as well. The Spirit was pleased with the idea of this creature and created humanityfor we are such creatures.
"As you know, all children are foolish in their lack of experience. They do things that place them in danger. A parent
must place limits and watch his child carefully, if the child is to survive into adulthood. So the Creator Spirit placed our
ancestors in a beautiful garden, surrounded on each side by flowing water. This kept danger out and our ancestors safe in
the garden. Even the garden had its dangers. There were two trees forbidden to our ancestors for the fruit was deadly to humans.
"Even though the Creator Spirit placed all these barriers around the garden and forbade the poison trees to his children,
all did not go well. A serpent found its way into the garden and tricked the mother of my people to eat of the poison fruit.
Once she ate of the poison fruit she convinced the father of my people to eat of the same fruit. This brought death to my
people. The disobedience of the first mother and father poisoned their hearts and the hearts of their children. Not only were
we condemned to die because of the poison in our bodies but our spirits were corrupted as well. It is from this corruption
that all of the sorrow and cruelty in the world flows.
"Now, the Creator Spirit was filled with sorrow for its children. So, the Creator Spirit promised that one day his son
would become a human being and save us from the evil that has afflicted us. We would be restored through the son of the Creator
"After many years the son of the Creator Spirit was sent to restore humanity to the love of the Creator Spirit and to give
us eternal life. This happened many generations ago.
"The son of the Creator Spirit is named Jesus. Jesus was born of woman and grew in grace and wisdom as he changed from
child, to youth, to adult. While he was among our ancestors, he taught them sacred knowledge. Then when his time reached fullness,
he allowed himself to be delivered over to those who opposed him. He was killed in a shameful and terrible manner. Yet, he
was the son of the Creator Spirit, so after he was three days in the grave he returned to life. He rose from the dead. He
promised those who believed in him that they too would defeat death. That is the Good News of Salvation, that the Creator
Spirit has sent Jesus to defeat death."
I observed that even though he spoke in Chamorro the elders had a difficult time following his argument. He tried to convey
abstract concepts in the practical language of the Chamorros, especially concepts that seemed to have no reference to the
Chamorro culture or belief. The talk did not go well.
Diego rested after his explanation of the Good News. There was silence for awhile and then Kepuha spoke.
"Thank you, Padre Maagas, for sharing the stories of your people with us. These are powerful stories and speak of
first things. Such knowledge is sacred. We are honored.
"You speak of the son of the Creator Spirit defeating death. This is powerful knowledge indeed. Is it possible to meet
Jesus and to learn from him the secret of rising from the dead? Do you know this secret?"
"I know that we who believe in Jesus share in the promise of eternal life through faith in him and doing his will." Responded
Fr. Sanvitores. "It is not possible to speak with Jesus as you would speak with another man, such as we now do. After rising
from the dead and teaching his disciples for a time, Jesus returned to the Creator Spirit."
Kepuha continued. "Among our people death is a separation but is not an end. If one did not die, he could not become
one of the ancestors. If one did not die, he could not enjoy the pleasures of the next world."
A New Friend
Early the next morning Diego went looking for the young man whose task it was to be our means of communication with Kepuha.
He asked for the opportunity to speak with Kepuha briefly about a practical matter. He had promised to bring the matter of
the garrison to Kepuhas attention and he kept his promises.
I decided to do a little exploring on my own that day. Not long after Diego set out on his task, I began a leisurely stroll
through the village. It was a beautiful day, as usual. Younger children were running around the village playing their games.
The older children were busy with domestic tasks, hauling firewood or bringing containers of drinking water from the river
at the far edge of the village. As I walked past the beach I noticed an older man instructing a group of youth on the proper
care and handling of the proas used by the Chamorro for sailing and fishing.
Walking back toward the village I passed a fairly large domestic compound. It appeared to be a group of several houses
serving a large extended family. I was almost past the compound when I heard a greeting from within the shade of the compound.
It was a womans voice but the deeper voice of an older woman. I looked closely she seemed to be in her mid-fifties. There
was gray mixed with her black hair. She was a large woman, as were many of the Chamorro women, and quite fit. Given her apparent
age and the nobility with which she carried herself, I assumed her to be the matriarch of this family. I responded to her
with as much respect as I could convey in my shaky use of the language.
"Good woman, thank you for your greeting. I am honored by your kindness."
Her response was easy to understand. "Come out of the sun, you will cook your innards walking unprotected on a day like
this. Come, drink water and talk with me."
I tried again. "Thank you. Water and talk would be nice."
I followed the voice and found the woman under a thatch structure I later learned was called a palapala. She motioned
for me to sit on some mats that were placed about the ground. She asked my name. I responded that I was called Tomas. She
then offered that her name was Fuuna. She asked me about my family in Spain and my experience growing up in that distant
land. We spoke of the differences between Spain and Guahan. I was careful not to speak too proudly of the wonders of
Spain, for I realized that Guahan was a land of great beauty and had much to offer. In turn I asked about life on the
island and the various customs of the people. We spoke for quite some time and had a most enjoyable conversation. I learned
a great deal about the life of the Chamorro people and I hope Fuuna learned something of the people of my homeland.
She invited me to visit again, so that we might continue our conversation and learn more of each others people.
Aside from a pleasant memory and the intention to visit with her again, I thought little of the episode.
By the time I returned from my mornings adventure Diego had returned from visiting with Kepuha. The nineteen Filipino
soldiers and their Spanish commander were given permission to come ashore and stay in the guesthouse next to the one in which
we stayed. They had to remain unarmed while ashore. The possession of weapons would be taken as a sign of treachery and the
soldiers would be killed. If that happened our own credibility would be in question and our survival doubtful. The information
was conveyed to Sergeant Fernandez. We assumed that the garrison soldiers would be ashore by the end of the day.
The next morning, after prayer and a substantial breakfast of fish and breadfruit, Diego, Luis and I were off to the meetinghouse
for our next formal meeting with Kepuha and his advisors.
Kepuha was anxious to begin the discussion that morning as he had questions he wanted answered.
"Padre Maagas, there has lived among my people for many years a man from China. He has offered wise counsel in the
past and traded with our people, bringing much iron and new tools for our people. This man claims that he knows Christians
and does not trust them. They speak of peace in the Church but will kill or rob you with little thought outside of the Church.
Christians are ignorant of Scripture and rely on those little better educated than themselves to teach them what it means
to be a Christian."
Diego seemed taken aback by the question. It was not what he expected or what he prepared for but he went on and tried
to answer Kepuha.
"I am ashamed but your Chinese friend is not far from the truth. Many people claim to be Christians yet are ignorant of
Scripture. They know only what they pick up from their neighbors and their attitudes are far from Christian. Christ called
us to service and to love, to patience and to respect. Yet, these souls want nothing with patience, love or service. The only
respect with which they are concerned is that which others render to them.
"While I was still in Spain it was my duty to go around Spain and preach to the people. I would remind them of the high
estate to which they are called and their duty as brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus. I hope that as a result of my efforts
at least a few souls more clearly perceived what it means to be a Christian and acted as Jesus calls them to act in Scripture.
"That the clergy are ignorant of Scripture has been a problem of concern for many years. Slowly improvement is being made.
Men from my order, the Society of Jesus, are well educated, true scholars and very knowledgeable in scripture. The Church
leaders are demanding major changes in the way new clergy are prepared and this is proving successful in raising the quality
of our religious leaders.
"So, while I admit that your Chinese friend has shared some truths, it is not the complete truth. It is in the silence
between the mans half-truths that you will find wisdom."
Kepuha listened to Diegos response. He was silent for a few moments after Diego spoke and then presented him with a more
"All communities have their fools and traitors. You speak wisely in admitting to the fools and traitors among those you
call your brothers. Yet, the China man told one other tale that troubles me. Perhaps you can speak to this story as well.
The China man told me that the Spanish crossed the sea years ago and found many great nations living in peace. These nations
were close to their ancestors and honored the ancient ways. Their leaders were wise. The villages in which these people lived
were as great or greater than any village in Spain. In every way these people were noble, honorable and great. Yet, when the
Spanish came among them they were like a poison that sapped the life of these people. The Spanish soldiers fought these people
using a terrible weapon and were merciless. These great nations were reduced to slaves to work for Spanish masters. Their
leaders were killed. The Spanish soldiers stole the wealth of these people. Their great villages reduced to burnt rubble.
I ask you then Padre Maagas, are these stories also true?"
"Eight generations ago my ancestors discovered a great land far from Spain. That great land stands between Spain and these
islands. They called that land New Spain. It had the beauty and strength of Spain but it was filled with forests, rivers,
the ores from which we make iron and other metals. They thought that New Spain was the hope for a world that was split by
conflicts and fear.
"Of course, New Spain was not an empty land. There were many people who lived there. Some formed great nations with wisdom
and abilities to rival the greatest in Spain or Europe. The people in New Spain were a great variety including small tribes
of wanderers, as well as great nations with many people and great buildings.
"My ancestors and the people of New Spain were on equal footing, each exhibiting wisdom, courage and strength. There was
only one advantage that was enjoyed by the people of Europe. Not many years earlier travelers to china learned that the people
of that land discovered a powder that burst into a great flame when touched by a spark. The Chinese used this powder for decorative
rockets. They would fill tubes with this powder and set it aflame to watch the pretty sparks that were made.
"When the Europeans saw this powder they had other ideas. Before long the powder was placed in the bottom of a metal tube
with small pieces of metal. When the powder was sparked it exploded and forced the metal out the other end of the tube at
great speed. If the metal hit anyone it could severely hurt him or hereven kill them. Where Chinese saw beauty, my ancestors
saw a weapon. When my ancestors went to New Spain they brought these weapons with them. In battle these weapons were devastating.
They could kill at a distance and made a terrible noise that was frightening.
"Some of the people of New Spain were killed or made into slaves. Others migrated away from the Spanish, who settled and
took the abandoned lands. Some died of illness common among Europeans but new to the people of New Spain. Many stayed and
married with those who came from Spain forming a new people with ties both to New Spain and to Europe.
"The priests of the Church accompanied the Spanish soldiers and explorers to New Spain. They came to bring the people of
New Spain the Good News of salvation. The gods of some of the people encountered were bloodthirsty and demanded the hearts
and livers of human sacrifices. The Christian priests saw this endless flow of death as an abomination before God and opposed
it. Their countrymen also hard pressed the priests as well. Once the richness of the land was perceived and the abundance
of precious minerals and metal, there was a rush to grab land. Those who got in the way were killed. The priests opposed their
countrymens lust of land that belonged to the native people of New Spain. Indeed, they were able to convince the Pope and
other Church leaders to declare the people of New Spain to be true human beings and subject to the grace of salvation. This
limited the ability of the soldiers to slaughter the people and reduce them to slavery. It was an era of history that I look
back on with shame because of the way some of my countrymen acted. However, the Church was honest and fought for justice and
the salvation of the people of New Spain.
"You ask this question for fear that we will deceive you and destroy your people or reduce them to slavery. The greed of
generations before us is a matter of the distant past. We are here not to take land or possessions but to bring you the gift
of Gods grace. We wish to share with you not only the spiritual blessings of our Faith but what tools and material benefit
we are able to share with you."
Kepuha continued his interrogation for a while longer. Each time he asked a pointed question that threw Diego off balance.
The magalahi was a knowledgeable and subtle man who was not going to let these strangers get away with anything. He
made it clear that he had a solid working knowledge of the history of Chamorro and Spanish diplomatic relationships and the
priest would not be able to pull the wool over his eyes. By the end of the conversation that morning Kepuha seemed
comfortable with the responses offered by Diego and the honest of those responses.
The meeting ended that morning with an invitation to continue the dialogue a few days later and a general feeling that
both groups got to know each other a little better.
After the meeting with Kepuha ended for that day, I tended to the practical demands of life. I spent the rest of
the day washing clothes and preparing diner in the Spanish style from among the supplies brought with us from Manila. We all
enjoyed the small indulgence of satisfying our palates with food from our homeland.
The strain of the contest was showing on Diego. He tended to be harder on himself than was necessary, as if he was trying
to prove something. In his conversation at diner Diego kept saying that it was not going well. Both Luis and I tried to convince
him that all was going very well. Todays developments showed an interest in what Diego was saying on the part of Kepuha.
Harao had marshaled his best arguments against the priests and Diego had addressed each argument directly and skillfully.
Luis and I were sure that Diego had gotten the best of the mornings meeting. Intensity of interest is much preferable to indifference.
Even St. Paul could not convince everyone and many came to faith only after a long process of evangelization. If St. Paul
had such difficulties, we should not worry over our little trials. At least we had the interested ear of Kepuha and
his advisors. That provided much over which to rejoice.
Since the following day was free, I again made the circuit of Hagatna village. Not only did I enjoy the quiet reflection
possible on my wanderings through the village, but the exercise it afforded was a blessing to my body. As on my first stroll
through the village, Fuuna caught sight of me and invited me in out of the sun. The woman seemed to have a dislike
of the sun, protecting both herself and everyone with whom she came into contact from its burning clutches. This time not
only did she offer me drink to refresh myself after walking in the sunlight but she also offered a delicious candy. She explained
that the candy was made from coconut and tapioca. It was wrapped in the banana leaves in which it had been cooked. I must
confess that I found the candy almost irresistible. As I ate, we talked.
She asked me if I was kakana among my people. I wasnt sure how to answer the question. I understood the kakana
to be something of spiritual leaders among the Chamorro people. If that was the extent of her use of the term, then Kakana
was probably a good term for my role. However, kakana were also healers, or so I was told, and in that sense I was
not kakana. I tried to explain these differences to Fuuna. She seemed to understand the distinction after a
brief explanation. Then our conversation moved on.
She was curious why I left my home and traveled a great distance to tell her people about Jesus Christ. I explained to
her how I gained my faith at my mothers knee. As I grew I was inspired by the lives of the priests and sisters I knew and
wanted to be like them. I explained how over time there emerged in me a deep love of Jesus. This love was my response to the
love of Christ that I had experienced in my service to others and in prayer. Eventually I became a Jesuit priest to dedicate
my life entirely to Jesus Christ. As a Jesuit I was asked to come to the Philippines. While in the Philippines, Fr. Sanvitores
convinced me of the importance of sharing Christ with the Chamorro people. So, there I was. I might have been talking in Greek
to Fuuna, as my explanation was practically meaningless to her. However, she understood my sincerity, as well as my
dedication to Christ and this mission. That seemed to satisfy her.
She asked why the Christian kakana pour water over those who choose to believe in Jesus. I explained that this is
called baptism and Jesus instructed us to baptize. By baptism any offense an adult may have done to offend God is forgivenwashed
away. Baptism is also the way by which we are born into the body of Christ and made a member of the Church. Baptism is a good
thing and we have always wanted to share this good with others as soon as possible, especially with our children. For that
reason most people are baptized as infants.
She then asked me to tell her about Jesus. What were his stories? So, I began with an outline of his birth from the Gospel
of Luke. I told her of the wedding feast of Cana, the temptation by Satan in the desert, his visitation is Nazareth, healing
of the sick and his Sermon on the Mount. She seemed taken by the stories from the Gospel and enjoyed hearing of Jesus.
By the time I reached the Transfiguration, it was already late in the afternoon and we had been talking for hours. She
had one of the young ladies pack more of the candy for me to take back to the guesthouse and share with the others. Package
in hand I thanked her for her hospitality, bid her good day and promised to return soon.
Upon returning home I offered the candy to the others. They all experimented with the treat and spoke well of it. However,
Luis Medina seemed as instantly addicted to the confection as was I. Between the two of us, by diner little of the candy was
The next day Diego had another of his dialogues with Kepuha. I will not recount it in detail, other than to note
that he began with a discussion of human sinfulness and our need for God. Again it seemed as if Diego and Kepuha were
talking but not understanding each other. The idea of sin seemed strange to Kepuha. The closest he could come was the
idea of taboo, yet taboo referred more to social offenses than to great moral or spiritual failures. Kepuha didnt see
how moral and spiritual issues were necessarily related. Moral issues dealt with honor. Spiritual issues dealt with the spirit
world. He explained that when Chamorros die their spirits may go to a wonderful garden were the colors are rich and the land
lush. Fruit is available in abundance and the water is sweet to drink. It is also possible to die and find oneself in a state
of suffering, greyness and disorientation. The difference between the two ends is not in the quality of one virtue. Rather,
those who die by violence tend to the second condition.
Diego wanted to get Kepuha to understand our need for Christ, so that he would appreciate the value in turning to
Christ in faith. That is the traditional approach to evangelization. Begin with the idea of sin. Thus, Diego returned again
and again to human sinfulness. When asked for examples, he drew from the Ten Commandments, though even here there was little
understanding. Theft was not a sin for these people, as everything was sharedat least with those in your family and social
class. Kepuha was more horrified by the thought that anyone would grow angry because a person took something needful.
Similar reactions of incredulity were evoked when discussing lying, sins of the flesh, and covetousness.
Harao seemed pleased that day. The meeting had not gone well for Diego and neither Luis nor I made any attempt to try
and convince Diego otherwise.
Nothing was scheduled for the following day. It was Sunday by our reckoning. Luis celebrated Mass for the inhabitants of
the two guesthouses and we ate well of fruit, fish, and a variety of local greens made into a salad.
After lunch I went for a walk toward Fuunas family compound we had fallen into the habit of visiting every other
day. This was our day to visit. Even though it was afternoon, I thought it worthwhile to walk by her home and see if she called
out. Otherwise, I would call on Fuuna tomorrow at my usual time.
I was not surprised to find Fuuna busy with grating coconut for some gourmet delight. Based on the last such treat
I enjoyed, I was hoping for an opportunity to taste the final product of her efforts. She was using a wooden stool with a
small iron comb attached. She was making quick work of the coconuts. She seemed particularly pleased with the iron comb, as
it made the work of grating coconuts much easier than it had been using shells.
I offered to help her with the grating. Though, after two minutes of laughing at my pathetic efforts she decided that it
would go much better if she did the work herself. She had me sit down, so we could talk as she worked.
After a few minutes she asked me to continue with the Jesus stories. She enjoyed them and wanted to hear more. I hoped
that she would ask me to continue with the stories and so continued the story of Jesus that I began on my last visit. I focused
on the parables of Jesus that day, since they presented the heart of Christs teaching.
She seemed particularly receptive to many of the parables and saw them in a way that previously eluded me. For example,
I offered the Prodigal Son as a tale of repentance and forgiveness. She commented on the strangeness of the Fathers behavior,
certainly not a way that any magalahen she knew would act. Yet, she appreciated the greatness of the Fathers love for
his children that he ignored looking foolish before his friends so as to reach out to his children in their need.
The story of the Good Samaritan presented a real problem as it was difficult to explain the relationship between the Jews
and Samaritans in a way that might find local correlates. I ended up using the example of Chamorros from Guahan and
Later I turned to a description of Christs journey to Jerusalem, the last weeks of His ministry, His Passion and death.
As I described how the people were beginning to turn against Jesus and plots were being hatched to eliminate him, a worried
expression appeared on her face. She could see the direction that the story was taking and didnt like it. I tried to give
her a real sense of what Christ went through in his suffering and provided lavish detail and a dramatic flourish. I could
see tears fall from her cheeks as I spoke of Christs death on the cross. I allowed her to mourn for our Crucified Savior for
a few minutes, as her tender heart understood the depth of our loss and was pained at what might have been.
Then I began to tell of Magdalene and the other women walking to the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint the body of Jesus
and not finding him there. I spoke of the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Finally, I spoke of the appearance
to the eleven in the upper room. At first she thought my tales had descended to gibberish and couldnt comprehend what I was
saying. She was utterly confused by the inference that anyone might rise from the dead. Dead people dont rise to new life.
They rot! Yet, here was Jesus truly risen and alive. I explained to her that Jesus is the first fruit of the dead and since
he rose from the dead, we also will rise.
It wasnt the result of a slow process of rational thought. One moment Fuuna seemed confused and unable to comprehend
what I was saying. The next moment everything seemed to fall into place and the enormity of Jesus resurrection from the dead
hit her almost physically. Her expression changed from confusion to joy. She began to cry in wrenching sobs that seemed to
be tinged with some deep sorrow but were primarily an overflow of joy so great that she could not contain it.
I sat silently waiting for Fuuna before I attempted to continue on with the story. Before I could say anything she
began to tell me of her second child. The child was a beautiful little girl whom Fuuna loved dearly. The child came
down with some fever, lingered for a few weeks while she wasted away and then died. The death of that child was one of lifes
greatest sorrows for Fuuna. She asked if I knew if she and her daughter would be united when we all rose from the dead,
as did Jesus.
I told her that there was a good possibility that they would be united in the resurrection but that is not the real issue.
When we rise we will either be given access to Gods heaven or suffer the pain of hell. Jesus Christ is the road to eternal
life in heaven. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are united with Christ, part of his body in the world today. If we are united
with Christ now, we will not be separated from him in the resurrection.
My explanation was probably too abstract but she understood that in Christ she and her daughter are united now and for
eternity. This is what she wanted and needed to hear.
She asked me how one becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. I explained that one must believe that Jesus Christ is God made
flesh one should also be baptized. Jesus told his disciples to baptize people throughout the world. I was on Guahan
to tell the story of Jesus and to baptize because of Christs command. I explained to her what baptism was and how it was performed.
She then asked me to baptize her. She wanted to be one with Jesus Christ.
I wasnt sure what to do at that point. I realized that she didnt understand half the teaching of Scriptures or any of the
Church teachings that a convert was expected to comprehend. I also realized that the Holy Spirit touched her heart in a powerful
way. Like St. Peter when confronted with the evidence of the Holy Spirit in Cornelius, I was unable to resist. I took water
from the container near where she had been cooking and poured it on her head as I prayed. "I baptize you, Fuuna Marie,
in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Diego turned white later that evening, when I told him of my experience with Fuuna. Luis could see the color disappear
from Diego and forestalled any criticism with words of praise. He reminded us that this is exactly why we came to the islands,
to bring souls to Christ. Fuuna being received into the Body of Christ was a great event and the first Chamorro to
come to Christ as a result of our mission. What frightened Diego however, was the possible reaction of Kepuha to news
that one of his subjects was baptized without him first giving permission. He worried that offending Kepuha might result
in the end of the entire mission before it got off the ground.
In the end we decided that the entire mission was in Gods hands. We would trust in God and see what happened.
We didnt have long to wait. The next morning our usual escort appeared at the door and invited us to accompany him to the
meetinghouse. Diego seemed calm as we approached the meetinghouse, as did Luis. I dont know what I looked like but my heart
was beating rapidly and I felt faint. Images of dire consequences ran through my imagination. When we reached the meetinghouses
entrance, I nearly missed the step. In the dim light of the interior I could see Fuuna sitting at a respectful distance
from Kepuha and his companions.
Kepuha motioned for us to be seated. Once we were seated, he spoke.
"Among our people the greatest wisdom is hidden in stories which are taught to our children. As they consider the stories
throughout their lives, they find instruction, solace and guidance in these stories. These stories give flesh to the spirit
of our people.
"As you have spoken these few times I came to the conclusion that your people are without spirit. You talk and argue over
small matters but lack wisdom. I have heard nothing of what spirit stories your people may possess. I decided to send you
back to your own home, for you lacked anything of value to offer us.
"Then, my wife told me that one of you revealed to her the spirit stories of your people. The stories have great power
and beauty according to her. She wants me to hear these stories before I send you away.
"I have promised her that I will listen. So, Padre Maagas, if you wish to stay among the Chamorro people tell us
your spirit stories. Tell us of Jesus Christ."
Diego looked like an unprepared schoolboy who has been called by the teacher. He understood how close he was to loosing
the mission and all the work that brought us to this point. He also understood that in large part it was his fault.
"Forgive me, Kepuha, for not sharing with you first our sacred stories. The error is entirely mine. Where I grew
up almost everyone drank in the stories of Jesus with their mothers milk. As a result, when we taught about Christ we began
with explanations and discussions, assuming everyone knew the stories. I will make things right. Today we shall speak only
of the sacred stories."
With this brief apology and introduction, Diego began to share the Gospel story with Kepuha and his companions.
Before becoming a missionary to foreign lands, Diego conducted parish missions throughout our home province in Spain. He
was a popular mission director because he was a powerful preacher. He had a good voice. There was a dramatic flair to the
stories he told during missions. Once he began preaching the congregation was focused entirely on his words. That morning
Diego was at his best. He made the Gospel stories come alive. He did this as well in a language that was not his own. More
than once I saw him struggle for words to express in Chamorro ideas foreign to the islands. Yet, he spoke with amazing fluency.
His audience was respectful, even entrancedexcept for Harao.
Diego spoke throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon before he ended the story. He began with the emergence
of a popular teacher in Israel and the growing number of followers that he attracted. Then, to explain Jesus popularity and
the hopes that people had in him, Diego touched on several Old Testament stories to explain the fall of humanity and the hope
for a savior both to undo the damage caused by Adams sin and to overcome the oppression of the Roman conquerors. He described
the nativity story drawing elements from both Matthew and Luke. Finally, he returned to Jesus ministry where he spoke of the
miracles, his teaching, and his compassion for others. As I had done for Fuuna, Diego retold several of the parables.
Diego then turned to the final weeks of the life of Jesus and spoke of the Lords passion, death and resurrection. He ended
the story with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the beginning of the apostolic ministry.
Kepuha was not easy to read. He enjoyed the telling of the story, for Diego was at his best and listening to stories
is one of the great pleasures of Chamorro culture. It was Kepuhas reaction to the stories that I couldnt grasp. He
took it all in but kept his emotions hidden, positive or negative.
When Diego finished, Kepuha thanked him for sharing the sacred stories of his people with the Chamorro people. We
were then sent away with no explanation.
Diego was unsure of where we stood. The fate of our mission, perhaps even whether we lived or died, was being discussed
now in the meetinghouse. There was nothing else we could do but pray and leave the situation to God. So, for the next hour
or so we prayed. Eventually, we had a late mid-day meal and then wandered off, each following his own concerns.
I went for a walk, following my usual route in the hope of finding Fuuna. Perhaps she would share enough information
with me to allow some sense of our fate. There was no sign of her hear her family compound. I assumed that she was still with
her husband and his advisors.
Imagine, my friend was the wife of Kepuha! Gods works in mysterious ways!
I found Diego sitting under a tree near the beach. I considered an attempt to encourage him. He seemed lost in thought
or prayer, so I left him to his thoughts. Perhaps later I could share the encouragement I took from the fact that Fuuna
was Kepuhas wife.
Our evening meal was simple, fish and boiled tapioca root. We ate in silence. There was very little conversation that evening.
Late the following morning our usual escort appeared at our doorway and asked us to accompany him. I was surprised when
instead of turning toward the meetinghouse the young man turned toward the beach. My heart started to pound again. Any change
from routine was a bad omen, as far as I was concerned. Where we being taken to the beach to be killed? Our escort said nothing
and betrayed nothing out of the ordinary, apart from the direction in which he walked.
Eventually, we found ourselves approaching the shelter near the beach at which we ate the welcoming meal the day of our
landing. Kepuha sat among a group of about thirty men. All were dressed in paints, shells and other decoration, suggesting
the meeting was formal and an important occasion. My heart raced even faster as I quickly asked the Lord that what ever was
to happen would be mercifully quick. I feared a slow death.
When he saw us approaching, Kepuha gestured for us to sit on a mat near him. He didnt seem angry, so that was a
good sign. Though I had never seen him particularly joyful either. Once we were seated, he spoke.
"Padre Maagas, we have considered the sacred stories of your people. They are indeed stories of power and great
beauty. We now understand why you worship Jesus Christ and that the Spirit of all lived among us in Jesus. We realize that
the Spirit sent you to us, as the spirit sent out the apostles to all the people of the world. I want the Holy Spirit. I want
to be a disciple of Jesus also. Fuuna tells me that I must be baptized to be a disciple. I want this special washing. I want
to be baptized. The men who are with us are the elders of Hagatna. They also want baptism. We shall be disciples."
This was not what I was expecting but I did not complain. What Kepuha told us was beyond all of our hopes! I was
concerned that Kepuha was not adequately prepared for baptism and the village elders were even less prepared. However, given
the circumstances, wisdom suggested they be baptized and then a more careful spiritual formation could follow. It wasnt the
best approach but it seemed to be what the circumstances demanded.
Diego arrived at the same conclusion as I, for he invited Kepuha to accompany him into the waves. He then baptized Kepuha
with great solemnity. That task accomplished, Diego called Luis and I to join him in the water. Between the three of us, we
baptized the elders of Hagatna in short order.
A short time later we were again seated on mats in the shelter. Kepuha picked up his oration where he left it earlier.
"It is our decision that you and your companions may continue to live among us, so that you may teach your sacred stories
to all our people. May your sacred stories become sacred to my people as well.
"It is our decision to give the land and the houses in which you now dwell to you as a gift, that you may have a place
to stay as you live among us.
"It is our decision to give you certain land which we shall determine, that the needs of your people may be met while you
live among us.
"It is our decision to allow you to teach your sacred stories to all the people of Guahan. You have our safe passage
and support in this task.
"It is our decision that you may share your stories with the people of our neighboring islands. Though I can not offer
safe passage for the people of those islands do not always respect our leadership."
It was a miracle. From deepest despair, we now soared in the heights. Our mission was secured and off to an unbelievable
start. We already baptized the leadership of Hagatna and had permission to evangelize the entire island!
In the midst of my great joy a disquieting thought moved in the back of my consciousness. I didnt see Harao. Why
wasnt he present at the celebration?
Glory upon glory
Within a week we had another large-scale baptism when the wives and children of the men we baptized that first day were
also brought into the Church. Most of the families living near Hagatna were at least nominally Catholic within a month.
This created something of a stir in the other villages. Their elders sent requests to Kepuha that we be permitted to
tell the stories in their villages and baptize their people. So we prepared to journey to the other villages in order to win
more souls for Christ.
Each of us was used to walking, as ministry in the Philippines demanded a great deal of walking from one village to another,
even in the Manila area. The relative inactivity of our ocean voyage and weeks in Hagatna left all of us feeling the
pain of a journey on foot around Guahan. I headed north with a guide to take me to the villages in that direction.
Diego went along the coast southward. Luis and Segundo, that is, Fr. Luis Morales, went to the central part of the island
to visit the villages located there and preach the Gospel. While we suffered our share of hardships on our journeys around
the island, they were of little consequence. By the time we returned to Hagatna two months later all of the main villages
on Guahan had heard the Gospel preached to its inhabitants.
We estimated that about five thousand souls were baptized as a result of the mission. The number was miraculously large,
way beyond our fondest dreams for the success of the mission. He had serious concerns however, that if we didnt begin to form
these people in the Faith quickly their initial fervor would dissipate. So, almost as soon as we were all back in Hagatna
plans were underway for members of the mission to be dispersed throughout the island. They would focus on deepening the knowledge
and practice of the Faith among our new believers. Once the people were secure in their new faith then we could expand our
evangelization efforts outward building upon this foundation. Our Jesuit brothers went into the villages along with our the
Filipino catechists. Diego, Luis and I remained near Hagatna, though we regularly visited the nearby villages.
Diego wanted the three of us to remain near Hagatna because he had several projects in mind for which our help would
His first project was to build a chapel. Kepuha gave the mission a nice coconut grove between the river and the
beach. His reason for this donation of land was to provide us with the resources we needed to garden and provide for our material
needs. The land was more than adequate for this purpose. Diego wanted to dedicate some of this land for a chapel and school.
The chapel would be dedicated to our Blessed Mother. He wanted to have a fitting place to celebrate Mass.
Luis and I had mixed feelings about building a chapel so soon. We were celebrating Mass for the people at the meetinghouse
of most villages. This seemed to work fairly well. The people knew that the meetinghouse was for important business and celebration
of the Mass was the most important business. I liked using structures that were part of the village, reminding Diego that
the early Christians used pagan meetinghouses for their gatherings and eventually converted pagan temples into places of Christian
worship. Luis was worried that building a chapel in Hagatna too soon would align us too strongly with the one village
and hurt our evangelization efforts on other parts of the island. In the end, nothing would deflect Diego from building the
chapel. His mind was made up. Being Jesuits, we obeyed.
The other project Diego had in mind was preparation for the eventual evangelization of the entire chain of the Mariana
Islands. He wanted us to visit each of the islands to gain a better understanding of the scope of the task. After the Faith
was solidly established on Guahan, we would establish a presence on another island. Luis liked this idea, as he wanted
to be one of those who evangelized the northern islands.
The ship that brought us to Guahan left for the Philippines shortly after our safety was secured by the baptism
of Kepuha. It was planned that a ship would visit Guahan every few months at best but at least annually. The
actual frequency of visitation depended on the shipping schedules. The availability of a ship was a major influence on our
plans. We would not be able to visit the other islands until a ship was available, which could be as long as a year away.
So, we focused on cultivating the land we had been given and building the chapel. While a soldier each accompanied the other
Jesuits and catechists, enough of the soldiers were left in Hagatna to provide a construction team. We were also able
to enlist a few young Chamorro men to help out. As a result, the chapel was constructed quickly. The chapel was not very large.
It could only hold about forty people. However, the doors opened wide and worshipers standing outside had a good view of the
inside. A chapel also provided a place where the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved for prayer. Holy oils and water was maintained
for sacramental purposes as well. The chapel was dedicated to The Sweet Name of Mary and became the focal point of
worship in our young Christian community.
It was almost a year before the next ship arrived. The soldiers were pleased, as a complement of new soldiers was on board,
allowing the first group to return to Manila and their families. There was a large cache of supplies to replenish our diminished
stores of food and to support the worship of our new Christian communities. Diego wrote several long reports. I know that
you received one, another was sent to the Governor of Manila and the third went to the Queen. He was extremely pleased to
report that nearly 30,000 souls had been baptized since our mission arrived only a year earlier. Not only were people being
evangelized but also the catechetical efforts were going well. Not only were the Gospel stories being learned by the people
but they were beginning to comprehend what demands these stories made on our lives.
Once the supplies were unloaded from the ship, Diego obtained permission from Kepuha to visit the other islands.
Matapang accompanied us on this journey, as an emissary of Kepuha. Luis and Diego made the trip northward. I
remained as acting superior for the mission in the absence of Diego. They were gone for almost two weeks, having a pleasant
tour of the islands. Diego viewed each island and christened them giving them the holy names of martyrs and saints. He was
also able to get a sense of the number of people living on the larger islands and the distribution of villages. They didnt
attempt any missionary activities, other than introduce themselves to the island leadership and describe their work on Guahan.
However, they obtained information important to any evangelization efforts that followed.
The first year of our mission to the Mariana Islands came to an end quietly, with only the celebration of Mass to mark
its passing. Looking back, the first year was a miraculous time when everything seemed to be caused by the invisible hand
of grace. Early in the second year of the mission we began to get hints that all was not as well as we believed.
Shortly after Diego returned from visiting the northern islands and the ship set sail for Manila, he was visited by the
young man who had served as messenger for Kepuha during the first days of our stay on Guahan. He respectfully
informed Diego that the Magalahi wished that Padre Maagas would visit him.. Even though he had spoken with Kepuha
only the day before after Mass, Diego followed dutifully. This was obviously not just a social visit.
He returned more than an hour later and seemed quite concerned about something. Only Luis Medina and I were in Hagatna
at the time, so he called a meeting of the three of us to discuss his concerns.
Before saying any more it must be explained that Chamorro culture has a caste system. Kepuha and the other island
leaders were nobles. There was also a class of slaves. The slaves had no power and little value aside from the labor they
provided to their masters. The institution of slavery is found many places in the world. As you know, slaves do much of the
mining of gold and silver in the mines of Mexico. Though I must confess that I had been blind to the presence of this institution
among the Chamorros until Diego informed me of it.
Kepuha was concerned because many of the nobility were complaining that we were baptizing slaves. That was unacceptable.
Slaves were not permitted contact with the sacred. Sacred power was the realm of nobility only.
Diego felt that it was our spiritual and moral obligation to bring all souls to Christ, regardless of their social caste.
As we discussed the situation its complexity became clear. It was a common belief throughout the islands that an essential
difference between the upper class and slave class was the presence of mana in the leadership. Mana was spiritual
power that flowed like electricity through the nobility. The higher in the social structure, the greater the mana.
Many of the taboos among island people existed to prevent the loss of mana. Basically, mana was lost through
inappropriate contact with the lower class.
Baptizing the slaves gave them the same mana as that possessed by a baptized noble. This confused the spiritual
standing of the slave in the eyes of the Chamorros. It could eventually wreck havoc with the social structure as well. This
confusion was not good. It introduced a dangerous element of instability to island society. The nobility were having second
thoughts as well about Christianity. How could it be sacred, if slaves were treated the same as nobles?
Slavery from the European perspective was a matter of economic and military power. There was nothing sacred about it. Treating
slaves as less than human because of a spiritual difference between masters and slaves was not acceptable. The Fifth Lateran
Council settled the issue more than a century ago.
It was decided to focus our evangelization efforts on the nobility but not to turn away any slave who sincerely approached
the waters of baptism. Our evangelization of the slave caste would continue. Yet, we needed to work out an effective means
to accomplish it without destroying the progress already made.
Kepuha seemed satisfied having expressed the concerns of his nobles to Diego and didnt raise it as an issue again.
Matapang was among the first group of elders to receive baptism. In the months following his baptism he spent a good
deal of time in Hagatna, much of it with Diego, Luis or myself. He was intent on learning as much as he could about
the sacred stories and what impact these stories had on the lives of Christians. He was very helpful. When we first visited
the other villages of Guahan, he accompanied us. He accompanied Diego and Luis to the northern islands and was a big
help in making contact with the island leaders there. He frequently attended Mass. He was always asking questions.
One afternoon I was at the chapel cleaning it and preparing it for Mass the following day. As I worked, he came in the
chapel, greeted me and almost immediately asked his question.
" Padre Tomas, why do you keep that container of water in the chapel? Do you fear fire?"
"Matapang, my friend," I responded, only half paying attention to the conversation. "That is holy water, it is kept
in the chapel so we have it for baptism and blessings."
"I do not understand. Does the water have a spirit living in it?" He asked.
"The water is set aside for a sacred purpose. In that sense, it is holy. On the evening of the day in which we celebrate
the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, water is dedicated for the purpose of baptism and a special prayer is said over the
water. If any spirit is in the water, it is the Holy Spiritthe spirit of God."
Matapang was not about to let the matter rest, so he continued with his questioning.
"Why do you use water to baptize?"
"Jesus told us to baptize with water and the Holy Spirit, so that is what we do. However, baptism is a cleansing from sin.
It is the water of baptism that washes away our sin. Baptism brings new life. The waters of baptism are the water of life."
"The kakana have said that the water you use for baptism is impure. It comes from a spring where an evil spirit
dwells. That spirit is one of disease. Those who are baptized in this water will grow sick and die."
The real worry now revealed I tried to calm Matapang and reassure him.
"The water we use for baptism is taken from many places. Surely, not all of these places have evil spirits. If we are in
Hagatna, we use the holy water. The holy water came from the small river at the edge of the village. If we are in Tumon,
then we use water from the streams of that village. If we are near the beach, then we go into the lagoon and use ocean water.
You have seen many people baptized this past year. Are they getting sick or are they possessed by an evil spirit?"
He seemed calmed after our discussion, though I am sure that he was still struggling to reconcile the strange new faith
we brought to the island with the pronouncements of the Kakana.
As fate would have it, one of the soldiers who joined the local garrison with the last ship was sick, suffering from a
fever. He was quite ill for several days but recovered quickly enough. However, one of the young Chamorro men with whom he
regularly went fishing came down with the fever not long afterward. He was quite sick and did not recover. Before this disease
ran its course ten Chamorros died and dozens more were seriously ill. There were no overt repercussions from this incident.
Yet, suggestions circulated that the kakana may be right. Matapang came around less often than before. When
he did come around, he seemed wary.
Diego called for a meeting of all mission personnel. We gathered at the chapel for several days of spiritual retreat and
then a daylong business meeting. He wanted to get a better sense of how everyone felt the mission was developing.
While much of the news was encouraging, it became clear that there was sizable resistance to our evangelization efforts.
The resistance leadership were of two types. One were the kakana who viewed us and our stories as competitors and a
threat to their hold over the people. The other source of resistance was from Harao and his supporters. They viewed
us as outsiders who were trying to take over their culture and their land.
Haraos clique was potentially dangerous, as its members were a powerful "old guard" in the community. However, these
were all responsible men and would do nothing rash.
The kakana were another matter. They seemed to feel that they were in direct conflict with us. They wouldnt attack
us directly but through their whispering campaigns they were doing a lot of damage. They undermined the confidence of the
new converts and confused them. Matapang was a good example. Once a staunch supporter of Jesus and the mission, he
was rarely seen around the mission. When he did come around he usually had more questions and kakana induced confusion
with which to deal.
The epistle reading that day was from the book of Kings, where Elijah confronts the priests of Baal and defeats them. It
seemed to be providential, as the reading addressed our situation. Sooner or later we would need to confront the kakana.
Otherwise they would continually undermine our efforts. The question was how would we draw the kakana out into the
open and challenge them? We would look for an opportunity.
We didnt have to wait very long.
Segundo stayed in Umatacperhaps I should explain. We gave Fr. Luis De Morales the name Segundo because that was
the easiest way to keep him separate from Luis Medina. Even Fr. Sanvitores had the name Luis! So Fr. Sanvitores was Diego.
Fr. Medina was Luis and Fr. De Morales was Segundo.
The kakana in Umatac was very open about his practice of island magic. He was also open in his opposition
to us. One day there was some commotion not far from the house where Segundo stayed. When he went to investigate he discovered
the kakana surrounded by the skulls of Chamorro ancestors. The man seemed possessed. He was spitting out obscenity
and anger at Fr. De Morales in a steady flow. Segundo ran back to the house, grabbed a cane and a bottle of holy water. Arriving
back at the scene, he soaked the kakana in holy water and used the cane to smash as many of the skulls as he could.
This broke the spirit possession of the kakana but did not go over well. It was a terrible insult to the village
ancestors. Whatever support Segundo had among the people was gone. He left Umatac immediately and over the next couple of
days made his way along the coast and then overland until he reached the mission.
Segundo had been direct in challenging the kakana but had not thought out what he was doing. The result was not
A few weeks later we awoke early one morning to the scent of smoke and the sight of the chapel in flames. We struggled
to save the building but it was too late. It was burned to the ground and almost nothing was left by the first light of day.
It was rumored that a few of Haraos faction had been seen around Hagatna the day before and that they were
responsible for the fire. It seemed a reasonable conclusion. The ancestors had been insulted and some revenge needed to be
taken. Burning down the chapel was an equivalent activity. Since we destroyed some of their sacred objects, they would destroy
our sacred object.
Diego figured that a rough balance had been restored. He doubted if any violence would follow, as long as we didnt do anything
to cause problems. For the next few weeks Diegos attention turned to rebuilding the chapel. He wanted to make it larger, in
order to hold more people for Sunday Mass. He also wanted to make it secure, so it could serve as a sanctuary should the situation
He approached Kepuha about releasing their weapons to the garrison. If we were going to be attacked, we needed the
means to protect ourselves. Diego was reminded that the mission houses in the village were not attacked. The only target was
the chapel. Frankly, after Fr. De Morales smashed the skulls of the Chamorro ancestors in Umatac, Kepuha was
not very sympathetic. He promised to protect us and he would keep his promise. He considered himself a Christian and held
the Jesus story as a sacred story. However, he was very disappointed in the men who had come to bring the Jesus story to the
Chamorro people. There was no worse offense to the Chamorro people than showing insult to the ancestors. By destroying the
skulls Segundo had insulted the ancestors and challenged the kakana of Guahan. There was danger in the air.
Such behavior didnt make things easier for Kepuha, who was trying to protect us, as well as lead his people through
the difficulties we created.
I was appalled at Segundos reaction to the situation in Umatac as well. Years before I had visited the town of Assisi
and seen the Franciscan church of the bones. The church is filled with the skulls and bones of dead Franciscans. I could imagine
the consequences if some frightened Jesuit were to begin smashing the Franciscan skulls with a cane. It was a stupid action
that arose from Segundos fear and panic.
Everyone was recalled to the mission. After the problem in Umatac, Diego felt uncomfortable with so many of the
mission personnel spread out on Guahan and defenseless during such a dangerous period. For the time being we would work out
of the mission and visit the outlying villages in small groups.
In any case, many of the villages had established local prayer leaders to tell the stories and lead the prayers. They could
keep the Christians organized for the time being.
The relatively large number of men working out of the mission made it possible to get the new chapel up and in operation
quicker than planned. It was almost twice the size of the first chapel. It was something of a fortress as well. With the shutters
closed and the door barred, the building was secure from any attack.
The recall of the missionaries to Hagatna and the imposing construction of the new chapel might give the impression
that we were depressed and under a siege mentality. That was not the case. Diego did these things because he felt they were
necessary for our safety. However, his hopes were still confidently set on the salvation of souls and the building up of the
Church in these islands.
Since the situation on Guahan was in the doldrums, Diego felt that it was a good time to concentrate on the northern
islands. A series of pastoral visits to the inhabited northern islands were planned, along with establishing a permanent mission
presence on Saipan and Tinian. Kepuha agreed to provide us transport to the northern islands in the canoes
his people used for open water fishing and transportation. I think Kepuha was glad to see us go.
Beginning in January 1670 we began serious efforts to evangelize the northern islands. Diego and Fr. Casanova established
a mission on Tinian and Luis, along with the two lay catechists, did the same on Saipan.
As you know, we decided early in the mission to baptize any person that requested the sacred waters of new life on the
assumption that they would be deepened in the faith later. This is essentially the same logic that justifies the baptism of
infants and represents an ancient practice in the Church. Indeed, the initial evangelization of Europe proceeded in much the
Living among the Chamorros, we grew concerned for the children and this caused us to modify our use of baptism. While the
Chamorros are a strong and healthy people with quite effective local medicines, they still loose many of their children to
death each year. This is no different than any place in the world, as the number of children who die in Spain each year is
not much differentit may even be higher! However, if our children die they do so with the benefit of baptism and enjoy the
delights of heaven without the slightest trace of sin on their souls.
We were determined not to allow these innocent Chamorro children to suffer the loss of eternal, heavenly delight because
they had not been washed clean of the stain of original sin through the waters of baptism. While they may have enjoyed the
limited natural joys of Limbo, we wanted more for them. As a result, it became our practice to actively seek to baptize children.
If their parents were around we would seek their permission. However, if the parents were not around, we presumed that
they wanted only what was best for their children and baptized them as long as the children were willing. Many souls were
saved as a result of this decision. This decision had a very high price.
Christians were already living on the northern islands. Some were brought to Christ as a result of exposure to the Faith
on Guahan. Diego baptized others during one of the earlier visits. So, when they approached the islands on this trip
they did not come as strangers but as old friends, at least for some of the inhabitants.
Diegos mission to Tinian lasted about four months, when he left it in the hands of Fr. Casanova. It seems that Diego arrived
there just about the time two groups of feuding Chamorros were at the point of allowing their anger spill over into bloodshed.
He was able to mediate between the two groups and keep the destruction to a minimum. While everyone on Tinian did not appreciate
him, he was respected and received with typical island hospitality. Many souls eventually came to Christ as a result of Diegos
intervention on Tinian.
Fr. Medina was greeted warmly by the Christians living on Saipan. He was taken to the home of one the Christians who offered
to be his guide on Saipan. He immediately began to instruct his host and the others on the Gospel message, to help
deepen their faith. The instruction was warmly received. Early the next morning Luis walked around the village where his host
lived. There were many children playing and he engaged them in pleasing conversation and told them of Jesus. After doing so,
he baptized all of the children who were willing.
Later in the morning Fr. Medina and his host set out for some of the other villages where he was received with an unexpected
hostile reaction. That evening Luis and his companions stayed in the village of Raurau where he was warned that danger
lie ahead. Some men were out to get him. I do not know how seriously he took the warning but early the next morning he set
out for Cao (ed. note: near contemporary San Vicente) with his guide and lay companions.
It must be noted before I go further, that baptism had been a sore spot with the kakana from the earliest days of
our mission. These workers of magic and superstition spread the belief among the people that holy water was poisonous. Indeed,
holy water was poisonous to the evil spirits who tried to control the people but for the person baptized through its application,
it was life and freedom. When children on the brink of death were baptized in order that they might have eternal life, the
kakana would say that they died because of the holy water. We would protest that the child was on the brink of death.
Those who were with us would testify to our innocence but word spread quickly. The islanders saw magic and spirits at work
everywhere and were most willing to believe the worse when it came to the waters of baptism.
We knew of this concern among the people and tried to reassure them that the waters of baptism were not dangerous but life
giving. The more we tried to reassure the people and deepen their faith, so that they understood the importance of baptismal
water, the more the kakana spoke against us and frightened the people. Our error was in not appreciating the extent
of the fear caused by the kakana regarding baptismal water. Not appreciating the deep fear of the people, we pushed
ahead with our policy to baptize children if they were willing without reference to their elders. This turned the fear of
the islanders dangerous. They perceived us poisoning their children with the baptismal water, when in fact we were saving
them. They reacted then as parents trying to protect their children from a dangerous predator.
The people of Cao were in this state of mind when Fr. Medina, his guide, and the two lay catechists approached their
village. They believed that these outsiders had come to bring death to them and their children. Rather than allow their children
to be poisoned they determined to eliminate the danger by killing those who brought it.
As Fr. Medina walk along the trail to Cao with his companions lined up behind him on the path, a spear shot past
Augustin, one of our catechists, and buried itself in the ground. Several more spears soon joined the first. Hearing the noise
from behind him, Hypolito, the other lay catechist, turned to find the small group under attack. He carried a musket, as a
concession to Sergeant Fernandez. Since we were no longer on Guahan Kepuhas prohibition on weapons did not apply.
Seeing that they were under attack he prepared to fire in defense, when a spear pierced his arm. He screamed in pain and fell
to the ground. At that moment, shaken from his thoughts, Fr. Medina turned to see the cause of Hypolitos scream. He started
toward the wounded catechist, when a spear pierced his chest near the shoulder. It must have severed a major artery, since
he was only able to utter the name "Jesus" twice before passing out. Several warriors emerged from their places of ambush.
They took the musket from Hypolito and proceeded to beat him to death. Making sure that the two martyrs were dead, they buried
the bodies not far from the path in a shallow grave.
During the confusion Augustin crawled into the bushes and hid for fear of his life. He stayed in hiding for two days. Eventually
he grew desperate and this gave him courage. He came out of his hiding place figuring that he would have to face death eventually.
The Christian host guiding the group must have gotten to the elder of the village. When Augustin made his appearance in Cao
he was taken to the home of the elder and greeted with great kindness.
According to the magalahi, those who attacked Fr. Medina were acting from fear and under the influence of the kakana.
They did not represent the sentiment of the village elders nor of many of the people. The magalahi spoke again and
again of the horror that the people of the village felt at what happened.
The next day the magalahi arranged for Augustin to be taken to Tinian. Once there he relayed the sad tale to Diego
and Fr. Casanova. Both were overcome with grief at the death of so compassionate and greathearted a priest as Fr. Medina.
Since he was already dead and buried, there was no urgency in returning to Saipan, especially as the situation on Tinian was
difficult and demanded that Fr. Sanvitores remains. It was three months before anyone was able to get to Saipan and
claim the remains of Fr. Medina and Hypolito Campo.
The magalahi of Cao seems to have spoken honestly of his sorrow over the killings. Three months later he
turned the murders over to Fr. Sanvitores when he went to claim the bodies of our fallen brothers. Diego had only eight or
nine of the garrison soldiers with him and there were over two hundred armed Chamorro men who could have easily overtaken
this small group. They made no attempt to harm Diego and his companions. The killers were taken to Tinian and placed in irons.
They tried to escape not long afterward and almost killed some of our people in the process. As a result, they were punished
for their crime and put to death.
The death of Fr. Medina was a terrible burden for Diego throughout the remainder of his short life. We all rejoiced that
Luis had been graced by God to be the first martyr among our band and the proto-martyr for the Mariana Islands. Yet, against
the brilliant spiritual glory of Fr. Medinas death, there was always the painful human reality that we lost a dear friend
and companion. This was especially painful for Diego, as Luis was a good friend from the time of their youth in Spain. He
also felt responsible for sending Luis to Saipan and to his death.
Diego threw himself into the work with greater fervor that ever before. He was not going to allow Luis death to be in vain.
There were additional mission visits to Saipan with large numbers of Chamorros being baptized. The death of Luis seemed
to open the door to that island. The Holy Spirit walked in through the open door, with us in His wake. The mission on Tinian
continued to go well, apart from a few incidents caused by Haraos faction. Diego visited these islands as frequently
as he was able to arrange transportation. He also visited several of the islands further to the north and evangelized the
small populations resident on those islands.
His greatest effort however was reserved for the island of Guahan. The surviving missionaries were dispersed among
the villages to proclaim Gods word, trusting in the Lords mercy and protection. It seemed that Diego had nothing to loose
after Fr. Medinas death. He seemed to envy Luis the grace of martyrdom. He believed at that point that only the blood of martyrs
would bring the newly planted seeds of faith to full growth and fruition. If death were necessary, then he would do nothing
to hide from it. Following his example the rest of our band adopted this attitude.
Thus, a great deal of progress was made over the next year with thousands of new baptisms and local Christian leaders beginning
to emerge in each of the villages. Many of the baptized took part in the doktrina classes the missionaries taught,
so that the faith seemed to really be taking root in the community.
Diego went from village to village in constant motion. He would teach a class here and celebrate the sacraments in another
village. If any of the band of missionaries were in need of encouragement or advice, he was there before the matter was serious.
He walked the island of Guahan countless times. Diego was never a large man but the brutal pace he kept wore him down
as the months passed. He fasted often as penance. This devotion combined with his ceaseless walking wore him down. There was
no fat on his bones. He became gaunt. I feared for his health but he seemed to avoid the sick bed. If I were the superior
of our little band, I would have ordered him under holy obedience to moderate the extremity of his penance, to rest more and
to eat enough to stay healthy. I told him of my concerns. He seemed to consider them for awhile but there was no change in
his behavior. He continued to push himself beyond the normal limits of human endurance.
While the work of evangelization went well, other problems brewed in the background.
The Spanish Garrison received a new commander, Captain Juan de Santa Cruz, and many of the soldiers completed their tour
of duty and were replaced. The size of the garrison was increased once news of Fr. Medinas death made its way back to Manila.
The new commander was an officer and was not willing to give Fr. Sanvitores de facto leadership of the military aspect
of the Spanish presence on Guahan. This resulted in a less tolerant attitude toward expressions of Chamorro disquiet
with the Spanish presence. There always seemed to be one incident or another.
When Kepuha died the tension only grew worse. His calming and mediating influence was gone. The cause of the death
is not clear but no obvious foul play seemed to be involved. He grew weak very quickly and in a few days was gone. Some suggested
that the island spirits were angry with Kepuha for replacing them with the foreigners deity. Others argued that the
kakana were working evil magic on Kepuha for his role in our presence on Guahan. We werent particularly
upset by the talk of evil magic or angry spirits, as we were assured that the Holy Spirit would provide legions of angels
to protect us from any supernatural attack. Our greatest concern was with the power in Hagatna that was created by
Kepuhas death. He was our patron and his authority assured the safety of the mission. While his family and many of
the villagers were Christian, there was no assurance that his successor would continue to protect the mission.
Kepuha wasnt the only one to die. An epidemic swept through the island population after the arrival of the supply ship
on which the new commander of the Spanish garrison arrived. Several hundred Chamorros died from this epidemic, this was taken
as a dire omen.
Harao was emboldened by Kepuhas death and his faction became more open in their opposition to the Spanish presence
on Guahan. Harao frequently spoke against the Spanish and our missionary presence at village councils throughout
the island. Unknown assailants would vandalize chapels and other buildings related to the mission in numerous villages. Harao
or some of his faction were the obvious perpetrators. The pressure increased as Christian islanders were beaten in several
villages. The Spanish commander seemed to think of himself as the official policeman for the island and attempted to arrest
the perpetrators of the more heinous offenses against public order. This only added to the problem, as everyone wanted the
Spanish to mind their own business and leave local problems with the local community. It seemed that eventually Diego spent
half of his time mediating between the commander of the garrison and the various island leaders who succeed Kepuha.
It was a mess. The island was a tinderbox.
If the situation wasnt bad enough, the weather made the situation worse. One evening the wind picked up. The direction
and strength of the wind upset the islanders. Fr. Sanvitores was told that a typhoon was on the way. It would probably hit
by the morning. Most of the night was spent moving all the breakables into the church and garrisons stockade. These were the
only two buildings that were solid enough to withstand typhoon strength winds. By the time the typhoon hit with full force
most of the villagers joined the Spanish in the church or ran to the hills where they knew of caves that would provide shelter
form the storm. While the priests were not strangers to tropical storms, the typhoon was devastating and much more destructive
than anything they had seen. Little was left of the village of Hagatna, or of any of the other island villages, except
for our recent constructions. Though surprisingly only a few people were killed by the storm. They had been out in the storm
and did not reach shelter in time. The Spaniards put their backs into helping the islanders rebuild after the storm and played
an important role in the quick recovery from the typhoon. This was appreciated by the islanders and helped ease tensions for
awhile. Though there was talk among some islanders that the typhoon wind and rain were the tears and cries of the ancient
spirits over what the Spanish were doing to their island.
I come to the heart of my report to you, dear brother in Christ. I must relate to you the martyrdom of my good friend and
companion in difficulty, Diego Sanvitores. This is not an easy task. My heart is filled with emotion as I reflect on his passing
from this world. It is difficult to find the words with which to tell this tale. It is not only lack of words which hamper
me but the lack of a clear understanding of what actually happened. The stories are not consistent and there are many elements
that do not make sense. However, I shall do my best to report what I know.
Matapang was the instrument of Diegos martyrdom. This is surprising to many of us who knew Matapang. He was
among the first to embrace Christianity and greatly facilitated our early efforts at evangelization. Frequently he accompanied
me or one of the other Jesuits on our travels through the villages of Guahan. When we spent time in Tumon, he
was a most gracious host. Many in his village came to faith as a result of his example. Indeed, after Kepuha it was
Matapang who was our patron and protector among the islanders, at least at first.
As opposition to the missionaries arose among the kakana, it seemed that Matapangs ardor cooled. He distrusted
the baptismal water, believing the tale that it was a means of spreading disease. He was scandalized when Segundo broke the
skulls of the ancestors in Umatac. He listened to Harao when his neighbor would rage at the encroaching political
and military power on Guahan of the Spanish. Captain Santa Cruz didnt help the situation with his belief that Guahan
was now Spanish territory and the Chamorros only barely tolerated nuisances. Matapang was grief stricken at the death
of Fr. Medina and helped us with labor and material to build the chapel in Hagatna.
Tumon is less than a half-day walk from Hagatna. The path is well maintained and much used. It was common
enough for Fr. Sanvitores, as well as the rest of us, to visit Tumon. Not only did Tumon possess a sizable Christian
community that needed our services but the village had beautiful sandy beaches that were a welcome break from our many responsibilities.
I believe that Fr. Sanvitores went to Tumon early on the morning of April 2nd (1672) with the catechist
Pedro Calansor in order to meet with the village elders over some relatively minor issue. Diego could have asked one of the
other priests to go but it was important to show respect to the village leaders, so he went himself. Pedro went because Diego
required us to travel in pairs and he was not about to violate his own rule. Fr. Sanvitores also enjoyed the quiet walk in
the jungle between the villages. It soothed his worries to simply walk and take in the beauty that surrounded him.
Upon arriving in Tumon the two went to the home of Matapang to pay their respects. The magalahi wasnt home.
However, his wife was home along with their small daughter. The toddler was ill with fever. From what I have been able to
piece together, Diego was concerned that the girl might die. The fever was not pernicious but one can never be sure that it
might not flare up in a few hours and take the child. So, Diego suggested that he baptize the child. He was aware that many
islanders, Matapang included, feared baptism would offend the spirits of the ancestors and tended to avoid the practice
in recent months. He was also aware that if the fever should worsen and take the child at least one innocent soul would be
lost unnecessarily. He could not have that.
Diego asked Matapangs wife for permission to baptize the child. She agreed. So, Diego proceeded to baptize the girl. Afterward,
he offered his best wishes to his host and headed to the meeting. Later that afternoon, Diego and Pedro were headed along
the beach toward the path to Hagatna when Matapang came running toward him. He was with a companion. Some say
that the companion was Harao but neither Matapang nor Harao ever confirmed the truth of this tale. As
the two men approached, Diego stopped walking, so as to greet the two men and speak with them. He was shocked when Matapang
took up the lance he was carrying and hurled it at the priest, piercing him just below the heart and piercing him all the
way through. Fr. Sanvitores collapsed to the ground and was loosing consciousness as Matapangs companion delivered
the coup dgrace with a Spanish cutlass. Pedro turned to run but was quickly cut down by the man with the cutlass.
That is the story I have been able to piece together after talking with Matapang and his wife. What confuses me
is that island custom demands that the woman make the final judgment in all matters concerning the children and the household.
Matapangs wife asserts that she gave permission to Fr. Sanvitores to baptize their daughter. However, no Chamorro man
in his right mind would act, as did Matapang, if permission had been given. Perhaps, his fear of the baptismal water
was such that upon learning that it had been used on his daughter, his rage turned him blind to anything another might say.
I am sure that Diego would not have baptized the child if his mother withheld permission.
Christian elders in Tumon found the body and brought it to Hagatna where we mourned Fr. Sanvitores
The killing incensed Captain Santa Cruz. He investigated the death and attempted to take Matapang into custody,
which was strongly resisted by the magalahi. If he were to die, it would be in battle and not humiliated by a foreign
thug. This resulted in a series of armed encounters in which the followers of Harao and Matapang clashed with
the Spanish garrison. The result has been a worsening slaughter of Chamorros.
Since then the garrison has grown in size. With each new ship that arrives some strange disease spreads among the Chamorros
and hundreds more succumb to death. I fear that between the fighting and disease the Chamorro people will be little more than
a memory in a few years.
The report to the Provincial Superior ends here.
European missionaries traveled the world proclaiming the good news of salvation to people for at least five hundred years.
They did this from the purest motives, for the most part. Yet, in their wake followed slavery, wars, disease, genocide and
various forms of European political imperialism.
Fr. Sanvitores came to Guam to proclaim the Gospel. He had no agenda but the salvation of souls. Yet, the filter through
which he taught and practiced Christianity was that of the Spanish culture and 1600 years of Catholic European experience.
He could not help but bring Spanish culture along with the faith that has so shaped that culture. Fr. Sanvitores and many
other missionaries could not tell them apart.
The lesson of history is that when two cultures clash it doesnt matter which culture has the best literature, the richest
philosophy, the most sophisticated mathematics or the most humane political system. The only thing that matters is which community
has the best weapons.
This was proven again and again throughout the Americas, as the Mayan, Inca and Aztec civilizations fell before the conquistadors.
In the North the Iroquois Confederacy, with its sophisticated democratic political structure, fell before the European onslaught,
as did most other Native American cultures and communities.
While we can look back in horror at the harm done to Chamorro culture, we can not undo the past. The events that occurred
over three hundred years ago have shaped the Chamorro and Carolinian people of today. The island community of today has the
blood of the ancient Chamorros in its veins, as well as Spanish, Filipino, German, Japanese and American blood.
I am a crazy mix of ancestry. On my mothers side there is large amounts of Polish ancestry. On my fathers side there is
German, English, Irish, Dutch and possibly some Native American. Further, the Shewman family first shows up in American in
1752 when my ancestor came over from Germany. After living and working in the New York area for over 20 years, he left with
his family for Canada. He was a British Loyalist and opposed the American Revolution. His descendants remained in Canada to
this day, except for one line that returned to upstate New York in 1863. Im descended from that line. I might want to forget
my German ancestry when Im with my Polish relatives, as the two nationalities do not get along that well. We all know the
traditional conflicts between the English and the Irish, yet both are represented in my ancestry. Of course, as an American
at times it is a bit uncomfortable to remember that my ancestor fought against the American Revolution.
The point is that all of us are the product of a complex heritage. We can not accept one part because it is more attractive
at the moment and reject another part. To do so is to reject part of who you are. If you do that, you are living a lie.
Nor can we imagine that it is possible for any culture to retain its pristine purity for all time. Cultures are dynamic.
They are the way a group of people understand and interact with the world. As the conditions in which the people live undergo
change, so does their culture. A culture that does not change to some degree over time is a dying culture, as a culture must
adapt to changing conditions or die.
We can not look to the past and say that the culture of Kepuha and company is the only true Chamorro culture. It
was the Chamorro culture three hundred years ago. The culture that is lived in the Mariana Islands today is just as much the
true Chamorro culture, as was the cultural experience of Kepuha. Both represent how the Chamorro people live and adapt
to their circumstances at a particular point in time.
Nevertheless, there was a rich cultural tradition that evolved over thousands of years and can be traced through migrations
from the South Asian mainland to which Kepuha was heir. Much of that tradition was lost in the wars, disease and devastation
that followed the Spanish colonization of the Mariana Islandsnot to mention the experience of life under the German, Japanese
and American heirs of the Spanish. We are all impoverished by that loss.
Does evangelization necessarily result in the destruction of the receiving culture? Can the Gospel be separated from the
culture of the people who share it with another people?
It must be remembered that the Gospel is not western. It was written in the Middle East and came out of the same cultural
matrix that produced the Quran and Islam. The Gospel took root in many different cultures and flowered differently in each
culture. The Christianity to which we are heirs is the product of the interaction of the Gospel with the pagan traditions
of the European tribes, as well as the history of that people following the introduction of the Gospel.
Evangelization requires change. Christ constantly calls the people to repentance and to turn away from evil. To the extent
that cultural institutions are contrary to the Gospel, a goal of evangelization is to bring about change in the receiving
culture. Yet, the standard of change is the gospel, not the culture of the evangelizer. The Gospel is divine revelation and
it is a standard that supercedes the institutions of any culture. The difficulty is in separating divine revelation from its
cultural interpretations. The Gospel itself must take root in a new culture and develop within the context of that culture.
I tried to write this tale of Fr. Sanvitores wish sympathy for both the ancient Chamorros and the band of missionaries
who sought to evangelize them. I respect the motives of Fr. Sanvitores and his missionary companions. I mourn the loss of
much of the wisdom and cultural heritage of the Chamorro people, which was one of the long term negative results of that contact.
It doesnt have to be this way, at least today. People from different cultures have much to learn from each other. It is
a two way street. The Gospel can spiritually nourish people of many cultures without remaking those cultures into European
clones. As evangelizers we must allow the Gospel to speak to other cultures, without our interpretation substituting for divine
revelation. As followers of Christ we must always listen to Him in the Gospels and discern where our own culture has turned
against the Gospel message. It is a two way street.