My Holy Week last year would most probably be the holiest Holy Week I will ever have, it is because I got to spend it right where the holy Holy Week happened, in Jerusalem, Israel. This year I am in San Francisco USA. And though it is definitely less divine compared to last year, I nevertheless got to observe Holy Week here.
I got to attend and celebrate Holy Mass at Grace Cathedral last Palm Sunday. I actually arrived 30 minutes before the mass started that is why I got the opportunity to take photos and go around the holy church.
One funny thing happened though. As I was about to leave the church after dipping my fingers into the Holy Water to make the sign of the cross, a lady approached me with the biggest smile. She expressed that she was so glad to see such a young man like me attending a Holy Mass on a Palm Sunday. She further expressed in a very gentle voice that new generation whom according to her I belong no longer attends a Holy Mass. She then uttered “God Bless you young man!”
I did not say anything. I just stood there. Listened to her and smiled. If she only knew how old I am and that I may actually older than her. I decided not to correct nor rectify her statements. Besides, I don’t want to ruin her beautiful morning. I just left the church smiling and thinking how much love I have for my anti-ageing cream….
Lumelebel… o baka naman malabo lang ang mata ni Inday.
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!
Just like missing prayers before a meal or going to sleep I missed writing about the Church of Pater Noster. Also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona, Pater Noster church is located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
Being a Catholic, my not writing about this place felt like heresy of some sort. It is because this special spot, where I and my sister visited when we were in Israel, is where Lord Jesus believed to have taught the Lord’s Prayer.
Not all Catholics were blessed enough of being able to see and experience what it was to be like in such a special place. Honestly, I consider Pater Noster to be one of the highlights of me and my sister’s tour of the Mount of Olives.
This 4th century Byzantine church is serene and beautiful. And underneath this massive structure is a cave which I think is considered the holiest spot of the area for it is believed to be where Lord Jesus taught his disciples the ‘Ama Namin’ (translation: Our Father) prayer.
The walls of the structure are placed with multilingual plaques bearing the Lord’s Prayer in different languages. Feeling proud Pinoys, I and my sister failed to locate the plaque in Filipino-Tagalog language. We nevertheless was successful in locating the English and the Filipino-Ilonggo prayer versions.
Saying the Our Father has always been part of my prayer, in whatever form or state of mind I am. And I may miss saying prayers before meals and before sleep but I will forever be so thankful that the stars has aligned for me to see and experience this holy place where the prayer for life started.
One common yet unofficial belief of religious and unreligious Catholics is that they can make a wish every time they enter a Catholic Church for the first time. Others, may they have a religion or none, would take the opportunity to make a wish every time they came across a wishing well.
I love churches and wishing wells, these spots gives me the feelings of positivity, optimism and upbeat emotional strength. Both feels like they have strange and mysterious healing powers!
Almost all people, I guess, after making a wish in these places would either forget about it or let fate and providence be the arbiter if such longing will be granted or not. No one I guess ever thought or dared of going back to the church or wishing well to follow up his or her wish. Relaying a reminder for the granting of a yearning is not part of the tradition or the custom of making wishes. This is definitely something rare and uncommon.
And since I am rare and uncommon, I did the rare and the uncommon. I followed-up.
Last Thursday, after touring a very interesting meat processing plant in Malvar, Batangas, me and my colleagues decided to go for a side trip. We went to the old heritage town of Taal, Batangas. For a very brief exploration, we went to 2 old churches and one mystical wishing well in Taal.
We went to the St. Martin De Tours Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in Asia and at the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, one of the few churches in the world that was given the special privilege by the Vatican for plenary indulgence. To cap our short Taal trip, we went to the old spring-fed wells of Sta. Lucia, a miraculous wishing well.
Since I have been to all these three spots just a couple of weeks ago, this means, I would not have the opportunity to make a wish. Thus, to make this trip a more fruitful one, I simply expressed a reminder for the granting of my wish. The same request I made the first time I went there.
At the miraculous Sta. Lucia wishing well, people are obliged to return to this site when their wishes has already been granted. Grantees return so as to offer white or violet-colored flowers and to pray their deepest thanks. Since my wish has yet to be granted, I did not bring with me any flower but nevertheless say a short prayer of thanks for being well and alive.
Still at the miraculous Sta. Lucia wishing well, while dampening my face, my neck, my arms and my hair with the banal na tubig (sacred water) fetched from the well I was literally uttering in a sweet gentle tone, “Follow-up lang po… follow-up lang po…”.
Everyone was laughing when they heard me say this. Maybe it’s because it’s unusual to follow-up. My colleagues knew that I was just there few days ago, that is why they were giggling when I was making a follow-up.
So, to make my wish become more potent, I called for reinforcements! I requested my colleagues’ that part of their wishes is that they wish that my wish be granted!
Last week before spending a short weekend escape in Baguio, I and my friends stopped over and heard a Holy Mass in the Shrine Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan. And during this very Holy Mass only did I realize that every time the Offertory is about to begin the person that enters my mind is my father.
Offertory would always remind me of my childhood, my father and the numerous episodes of my family hearing Mass in Baclaran Church. When the choir starts singing to indicate the start of the Offertory, my father would automatically dig his hand in his pocket and would hand me and my siblings a couple of coins. These are the same coins that we would naively put inside the collection bag being reached out and brought around the church to collect cash donations.
This simple episode that constantly reactivates in my memory every offertory, I guess is the modest and humble symbolism that reminds me about my father being the family’s able provider and role model. This simple act (I guess) is the symbol which in a way developed in me the concept of charity, kindness and sharing.
Aside from enriching my soul and taking the opportunity to thank the Heavenly Father for all the blessings he showers me, attending the Holy Mass is also an avenue to remind myself that I actually had a “good” father.
Feeling the vibrant charge of New York, I navigated my way to the World Trade Center located in Greenwich Street. The first thing I had in mind was to immediately have a selfie to prove, seal and record that I have actually been to the 9/11 Memorial thirteen years after the extremely tragic and deadly attack.
But as soon as I stepped into the memorial plaza, my effervescent bubbly feeling vanished. I was suddenly charged with gloom-ness and melancholy. The place was beautiful but it seems that grief and misery still fills the air. It was just too powerful not to feel it. Maybe it is because of the amount of tears that has been shed and intensity of sadness that has been vented out in the area that made me shut up, pause and contemplate.
I realized that smiling at a camera and shooting a selfie in the area seem disrespectful to the victims as well as the families affected by the tragedy. What I simply did was took a couple of photos and say a little prayer.
Like any other normal human being, I prayed that there would not be another World Trade Center Memorial…