I am a Catholic. Finding and visiting a Catholic church during the duration of my travel has always been like something automatic. It’s like an involuntary response of saying Thank You every time I am heftily rewarded.
And now that I am in New York, I made sure that the Catholic church that I would visit to say my sincerest gratitude to the Holy Heavens would not just be any other ordinary church. I made sure to enter and visit the largest neo-gothic cathedral in the United States, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
St. Patrick’c Cathedral is as magnificent as it is massive. What is so unique with St. Patrick’s Cathedral is that it is a European-style of a church that is centrally located at America’s ode to consumerism and one of the most expensive shopping district, the 5th Avenue, no less.
It comes not as a big surprise then that St. Patrick is the patron saint of a local Catholic New Yorker. And despite its being located in the busy street of 5th Avenue, as you walk in and gaze heavenward, achieving the sense of peace and solemnity seem easy to achieve. Thus, saying a deep prayer and thanks was something uncomplicated and effortless to do inside.
And just like any other Catholic church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral definitely completed my NY adventure.
One opposite of living a normal life in a Catholic country like the Philippines is not having a Catholic priest as a friend. In this particular aspect, I have long considered myself as abnormal, a nonstandard and an aberration.
Yeah, I guess I am one of those self-promoting folks in Manila who lacks a saintly priest as a friend. Dealing with a Catholic priest on a regular basis is an unchartered territory for me.
Maybe one of the reasons why I don’t have a Catholic priest friend is because I am seldom impressed by their delivered Homilies during a Holy Mass. Commonly, priests in their Homilies would often talk too vague and too imprecise and they would move from one topic to another in a nonsensical fashion. Their line of thinking often times is so ambiguous and so formless I would often suspect that priest’s common mental illness is schizophrenia.
But the priest I heard last Monday during a Holy Mass in Greenbelt Chapel to commemorate the death of my boss (Sir Larry Cruz) eleven years ago was somebody who was impressively different. He was specific and was exact. He was coherent and was so cohesive in his Homily. His talk was well research. It was actually enjoyable, charming and was very inspiring.
He talked about the man whom the Holy Mass was for and successfully correlate my amiable boss’s vocation and persona to his homily. He was inspiring when he said that it is not about the years in your life that counts, but it is the life in your years that matter. And what struck me most about this priest’s Homily was his wisdom about: “people will forget what you said”and “people will forget what you did”but “people will never forget what you made them feel”.
If I am to make friends with a priest that Greenbelt Chapel priest would be the first dude in line!
Hay salamat at sa wakas, naka-intindi rin ng sermon!
Last year on my birthday, I went to the Love Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, and surprisingly met an angel in disguise. This year on my birthday, I went to Mexico City and saw the cloak of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
My birthday this year was really special because I got to visit the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe! The basilica that houses the very popular cloak in which the image of our Lady of Guadalupe has been miraculously been impressed and printed so as to authenticate Virgin Mary’s apparitions in the area.
My birthday this year fell on a Saturday yet there was a Holy Mass service held in the basilica when I arrived. This gave me the opportunity to hear a Mexican Holy Mass and say humongous thanks to the Lady of Guadalupe for the rare travel gift of experiencing the amazing city of Mexico.
The modern Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is vast and massive complex. It is the most visited Marian shrine in Mexico because it houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is interesting to know that the new basilica was only completed in 1974. The old basilica (finished in 1709) on the other hand is just adjacent to it but is already sinking. Its floor has got some deep slope and its façade has evidently tilted. It looks like it will dangerously fall and crumble anytime.
My prayer to the Lady of Guadalupe was all about my being thankful that I got to experience Mexico. I did not asked for any miracle because my seeing and marveling over the beauty and holiness of the cloak during my birthday has been one major miracle for me already.
When my elder sister (Gaying) and Nengkoy recently had some pieces of their jewelries commissioned for cleaning and polishing, they were given some giveaways by the jewelry shop. Nengkoy kept the photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe while my sister handed over the giveaway book to her son, my nephew Luis. I however snatched the book from Luis telling him to let me be the one to read it first and will just hand it to him after I’m done. Luis joked that I might develop itchiness and skin rashes while reading it because the book was written by a Catholic nun.
The book laid on my dining table for some considerable weeks already. Still, quiet and unmoved. Two reasons why it took me some time to start reading it. First, it was written by a Catholic nun and I was not ready to be preached about some Catholic dogma. Second, it was written by a Catholic nun, therefore it’s going to be so boring.
But as soon as I decided to scan and read the initial pages of Life On A Mission by Sr. Isabel Villacarlos, I no longer stopped and dropped it until I finished the very end part.
When asked how she survived all the challenges of her mission,
Sr. Isabel answered, “one must have a major in Faith,
a master’s in Hope and a doctorate in Love.”
Life on a Mission chronicles the adventures, quests and journeys of a Catholic nun in north western portions of Africa. Sister Isabel can be considered one extra ordinary nun. She learned to ride a camel, dealt with poisonous snakes, drove a truck, fell onto a bridge while driving a car, assisted in delivering babies and battled a storm are some of the highlighted adventures of Sr. Isabel in the book.
I guess being a travel addict myself made me stick to reading this book. But the beauty about the experience of Sr. Isabel in Africa was that she was able to reveal and uncover the presence, manifestations and attendance of God in her adventures, which for me is such a cool thing!
Life On A Mission may not be a bestseller, but it is one remarkable book that definitely deserves more!
Let me start featuring my Turkey solo journey posts not based on chronology of events. Instead, let me commence by featuring one of the holiest spot in Turkey for the Christian Catholics like me.
I have been to the holy house of Mother Mary.
When the tour guide of the tour group I joined announced that the first site to be visited was the Holy House of Mother Mary, I got a bit worried. I became so nervous and anxious because the guards of this pilgrimage site may see my invisible wicked horns and would not allow me in. Hahaha!
Anyway, the time of my specific visit to the House of Mother Mary according to our Tour Guide was something bizarre. According to him, this Catholic pilgrimage site is often visited by hordes of tourists and pilgrims. But on the particular instance that we visited, only me and my tour mates (a Singaporean couple, a Vienna-based Korean solo traveler and a Chilean lady physicist) were the only people at the site.
The Tour Guide who can’t seem to fathom that there was no people around justified that we must be some very special visitors of the house. He mentioned that this must be some sort of a gift from the heavens so that our group would be able to deeply marvel and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of the holy site.
Except for the Chilean lady physicist everyone in the group were non-practicing Christians. But I was the only Catholic and was the only one who took the rare opportunity of lighting a candle and writing a note and tied it along with the bunch of other written wishes and prayer intentions on the humongous wall of notes.
When we left, the Tour Guide asked the group if someone wrote on a piece of paper and tied it on the wall of notes. The Vienna-based Korean pointed at me. The Tour Guide then told me not to divulge to the group the wish and prayer intentions that I have written on my note so that its realization would not be spoiled. I then zipped my mouth and kept quiet.
But let me reveal what I have written.
I actually did not wrote any request or any appeal. I simply wrote a thank you note gor I consider my Turkey journey a gift from the heavens. I did not wrote any desired intentions anymore because my being at the House of Mary and in Turkey (for that matter) is already a realization of a ginormous wish.
One of the highlights of Nengkoy’s birthday celebration last week was my whole family’s visit to the National Shrine of Padre Pio located in Sto. Tomas Batangas (80 km south of Manila). Except for my younger sister Joie, it was everybody’s first time in the church.
Before proceeding to the main church area all of us took time to roam and check out the grounds of the holy national shrine. We even lighted a number of votive candles to give thanks and pray for some groovy and awesome intercession.
We failed to attend and listen to a Holy Mass but we were nevertheless lucky and were at the perfect time to have attended an awesome Healing Liturgy. And part of the blessed ceremony is that people got to kiss a sacred relic of St. Padre Pio followed by an anointment of a fragrant oil on both palms and the forehead.
Though it initially freaked me out, because I thought my lips are gonna burn (hahaha!) when it touches the relic, the experience was something serene, calm and divine. I definitely felt God’s blessings and Padre Pio’s embrace.
Visiting Padre Pio church in Batangas was one beautiful experience. It was one blessed experience!
It has always been my belief that entering a house of prayer or a religious temple for the first time goes with a lot of perks. I am with the faithful belief that you can ask for three wishes if it is your first time to enter a church. This of course is aside from the opulent opportunity to pray for your loved ones, express your heartfelt gratitude, catch-up with God and in a way save your soul.
But my first time visit to the church of Our Lady of Caysasay in Barangay Labac, Taal has more than what I expected. I only knew through a brochure write-up of the hotel were we stayed in Taal that pilgrims and visitors of this church as decreed by Vatican may actually receive the rare and priceless plenary indulgence. This means, if you visit and pray at Caysasay Shrine all your sins, wickedness and impiety will be washed away. Upon knowing this, and since my wickedness is already up to the brim, I made sure that I and my friends must go there.
Aside from washing away all my evilness, I also got to meet one remarkable kid in Taal. His name is Mark Vincent. I actually met him right inside the church. After saying a solemn prayer, this kid approached me and asked if I wanted to personally hold the image of Our Lady of Caysasay. I of course agreed. He then told me to follow him outside, led me to the back of the church and asked me to go up the stairs which leads me to the back of the high altar.
When I reached the top floor, the main backdoor of the church was locked. Mark Vincent noticed that I could not get in so he hurried downstairs and told the church’s personnel to open the door for me and my friends. This is where the amazing and rare opportunity of touching the miraculous image, her vestment and even the hair of Our Lady of Caysasay happened. This beautiful experience was indeed sublime and mystifying.
When I told Mark Vincent that he is supposed to be in school that Wednesday morning, he told us that his teacher ordered them to report halfday after lunch because it’s the feast day of St John the Baptist. In Batangas province, part of its local tradition is to splash water to people passing by the streets from morning ‘til noontime during San Juan day. The teacher then, as I supposed, must not want her students reporting at school in the morning all drenched wet.
I was expecting Marc Vincent to ask money from us upon making sure we experience what we experienced. Usual Pinoy cunning and scheming kids would charge or ask tourists for money for the service they believe they’ve rendered. But what is so remarkable about this kid is that he never asked anything from us. He simply wanted us to have a deeper encounter with the Lady of Caysasay. This is the point when I surmised that Mark Vincent, the genteel and well-mannered kid, must be some angel sent by heaven. (I will write further about my encounter with this remarkable kid in the days to come…)
Sa wakas nahuhasan din. Grabe. Ang linis linis ko. Hahaha!