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Fr Jun Sescon Remembers Cardinal Sin, the Dreamer

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

by Fr. Jun Sescon

Today, August 31, we remember Cardinal Sin on what would have been his 92d birthday. We remember his pivotal role in launching the People Power Revolution, honor the hero that he was, as he fought against the Marcos dictatorship and for human rights, and thank him for the gift of our rekindled freedom as we ask for his intercession for our nation's healing once again today. - Ed.

Cardinal Sin was a dreamer because his name is Jacob. Jacobus is the Latin name of Jaime. He was like Jacob the dreamer, dreaming high and mighty dreams, dreaming when others despair, dreaming when others scoff at him.

Like Jacob, Jaime was a great dreamer because he dreamed of God and he dreamed with God!

He is also a dreamer of Mary because his name is Santiago (the Spanish form of Jaime). Like Santiago de Galicia who saw Mary on top of a pillar, Jaime was always confident that the Blessed Mother was on top of every crucial situation like EDSA 1 and 2.

Cardinal Sin writes a letter to the Blessed Mother

One is reminded of the prophecy of Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 3:1).

Indeed, Jaime Cardinal Sin is Jacobus and Santiago. He is the great dreamer!

But Jaime is not only a remarkable dreamer. He is also a wrestler, a struggler!

Again like his namesake in the Old Testament who wrestled with the divine (Genesis 32:25-31), His Eminence’s life was full of struggles.

At an early age, he struggled against the death of his mother to move on with life. He struggled against asthma to pursue his priestly vocation. He struggled against the harsh conditions of the mountains to become a missionary and build the diocesan seminary of Capiz. He struggled against great odds to save the Archdiocese of Jaro from an impending financial crisis.

And when he came to Manila in 1974, he continued to face formidable struggles – he struggled against an oppressive dictatorship, against godless ideologies, growing secularism, materialism and relativism. He struggled against corrupt and immoral leaders.

I am sure as our archbishop, he also struggled with us, his priests, especially when we become disobedient to him, quarrelsome with one another and errant with certain teachings. He struggled with parishioners who kept on complaining and bickering. And in the final years of his life, he struggled with illness and weakness.

He fought doubt and fear, struggling, it seemed, to continue to believe and trust what he had believed in and trusted in his whole life. Oh how he experienced pain and loneliness, especially during retirement!

Unknown to most of you, His Eminence also felt sadness and sorrow. He struggled with patience and equanimity - no more long line of visitors, friends became scarce, some people grandstand as if he did nothing good during his term. And now that his body is too frail, he could not even do what he used to do.

For a young priest like me, expecting that someone like him of such deep faith must die serenely and without fear, these scenes were very disconcerting.

I would prayerfully ask: "Why would God do this? Why would someone of such deep faith seemingly struggle so greatly or even badly just before his death?" The answer eventually dawned on me: All his life, Cardinal Sin had prayed to be like Jesus, to live like Jesus and to die like Jesus. Shouldn't it make sense then that he should die like Jesus, struggling mightily with doubt and darkness, having even to utter in the deepest recesses of his heart, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Jesus did not die serenely, but struggling with doubt. Shouldn't his most committed followers expect a similar struggle? No disciple is greater than his master!

Cardinal Sin beside Pope John Paul I in conclave

Letter of Jaime Cardinal Sin to his brother Ramon sharing that his room was adjacent to Cardinal Albino Luciano, who would be elected at that conclave to became Pope John Paul I

Perhaps this struggle is what we call “the dark night of faith” an experience within which God purifies us by seemingly withdrawing all sense of his presence so that our thoughts and feelings run dry and we can no longer imagine God’s existence. It is darkness, chaos, and fear overwhelming us and we stand, literally, on the brink of nothingness, of non-existence, sensing our finitude, littleness, and loneliness in a way we never sensed them before. It is divine absence in the highest degree! And it is one of the worst pains possible a person could encounter in life.

While nobody is immune from this kind of trial, the great spiritual doctors tell us that it is generally experienced in so radical a way only by those who are most mature in the faith and thus more ready to be purified by its particular fire.

It is not surprising then that struggles were experienced so strongly by people like Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Jaime Cardinal Sin.

(L-R) Bishop Soc Villegas, Cardinal Sin, Pope John Paul II, Fr Jun Sescon

Yes, Jaime was a mighty struggler because his name is Jacob! At the last stage of his life, the Cardinal gave us his greatest spiritual teaching - we can only follow Christ if we learn to patiently and courageously face struggles. God’s ultimate blessings come after wrestling with him. Such a teaching is very relevant for us Filipinos who continue to struggle. We are a nation not bereft of struggles - with leaders who betray public trust, with modern trends which alienate God and obliterate righteousness in society. We are tempted to despair and give up the fight but great warriors like Cardinal Sin provide us with a beacon of hope.

Before he breathed his last, Cardinal Sin kept telling us “Vamos!” He wanted to go. He was confident the battle was over. He sensed that his struggles had come to an end. He has won! God has won! Now it is time to journey toward the Father’s house! Now it is time to receive the reward in store for God’s faithful strugglers!

*First published in the book Remember, I Love You All Very Dearly / Jaime L Cardinal Sin The Final Journey

Fr Jun Sescon was the private secretary of Jaime Cardinal Sin. He is currently the chaplain of the Sto Nino de Paz (Greenbelt) Chapel and the Mary Mother of Hope (Landmark) Chapel.


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