Monday, December 22, 2014


Father José Tardio, the Jesuit missionary in Saipan (pictured above in black), kept up a regular correspondence with his fellow Spanish missionaries on Guam.

In January of 1933, he wrote to a Spanish Capuchin on Guam to wish him a Happy New Year, to send him some extra calendars and to share some information about the religious condition of the Saipanese, both Chamorro and Carolinian.

Here's what he says. This is my translation of the Spanish original :

"Over here, everything goes as normal. This year has been one of blessings in terms of the deaths among the natives. Only 85 have died during the year. Among them, 80 were completely prepared and five deaths were doubtful. Three were lost at sea and could not receive the sacraments. Two were given the Last Rites at the last hour under condition; both were drunkards and were somewhat sluggish when they called on the priest. Baptisms were 151; confirmations 181; marriages 36; 25,846 confessions heard by me; 66,007 communions distributed.  Thanks be to God, faith and piety reign among the majority of these faithful."

An explanation is in order concerning his information on the deaths.

Traditional Catholicism is very concerned about a person's spiritual state at death since, the very worst can repent and the very best can lose faith, up to the last moment of one's life. So, spiritually preparing for death was a great concern.

Priests tried their very best to assist the dying with the sacraments. To die without the consolation of the Last Rites was something to avoid. Thus, Father Tardio speaks about 80 out of 85 deaths that were "complete," meaning "completely prepared." These 80 dying people had the Last Rites. The three lost at sea obviously could not be reached by a priest.

The two drunkards (Father Tardio actually uses the Chamorro word bulachero) were given the Last Rites under condition because of the sluggish state they were in when they called the priest. Not being in full awareness or consciousness, or in full grasp of their free will, there is some uncertainty about their true spiritual condition. Still, they were anointed, presuming that, had they been completely sober, they would have sincerely wanted to repent and make their peace with God.

Father Tardio closes by saying how faith and piety reign on Saipan among the majority. This was certainly the reputation of Saipan's Chamorros. Even after the war, when the American Capuchins came in to take over the work, they remarked how devoutly Catholic the majority of Saipanese were.

One statistic alone makes this clear. If one priest (Tardio) heard 25,846 confessions in one year, or 365 days, that means he heard, on average, 70 confessions a day. Of course, right before Easter or Christmas there would have been many more than 70 confessions those days, and less on other days throughout the year. But that is quite a number, compared to today.

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