The Shrine and the True Meaning of Love

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As we come close to Valentine’s Day, lots of signs of love are all around us. Shopping malls conspicuously display hearts of all sizes and designs in their mad scramble to attract consumers. Roses and chocolates are particularly hot commodities. The post office and the internet are flooded with love letters and memes of love and devotion for one’s beloved.

Here at the shrine, lovers and couples have made the shrine a favorite meeting place. It is so lovely to see lovers and couples not just meeting but praying together. Our Mother of Perpetual has perhaps witnessed the expressions of love and devotion between thousands of lovers in the hallowed sanctuary of the shrine. The shrine may have easily fit the setting of an old popular sentimental Tagalog kundiman (love song), Sa Lumang Simbahan,

Sa lumang simbahan (In the old church)
Aking napagmasdan (I witnessed)
Dalaga’t binata (Young men and women)
Ay nagsusumpaan (Promising to each other)
sila’y nakaluhod (They knelt)
Sa harap ng altar (In front of the altar)

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Many relationships began and developed at the shrine. Like the story of Jess and Gemma Granadosin. Gemma has, for a long time, prayed to meet the man who will love her forever. Gemma met Jessie in Baclaran. It was love at first sight for Jess. They fell in love. The shrine became their constant meeting place. Now both of them are happily married. Not only that their love life grew but also their spiritual life. When Gemma became an usher of the shrine, Jess joined her too. Both of them served Our Mother of Perpetual Help as ushers of the shrine.

However, the shrine and its environs have also been covertly taken advantage by unscrupulous individuals for activities that defile the very meaning of love. Some notorious individuals have taken advantage of the large gathering of devotees in the compound of the shrine to do their flesh trade. Outside the shrine, there are abortifacients being sold openly on the streets.

Time and again, we have strongly condemned these abuses in the name of love. Indeed, love has become one of the most abused words. So often, we can easily say I love you to the other but fail miserably in proving that love in action. Learning the art of loving entails constant commitment; indeed, it is a lifetime mission.

We cannot, however, truly learn to love unless we go back to the very author of love—God. It is God who loved us first. God loved us because God is love. Before God loved us, God has lived that love first in Godself–three divine persons yet one God. We see in the one God, three persons that God’s love is completely selfless and focused on the other. It is because of this love that God sent his son to share God’s love to us and give us abundant life.

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Valentine’s day is not just a day for lovers. It is a day for all of us who are called to participate and partake of God’s love. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, may we truly learn and live the love that God has shown us. May we learn from Mary, our Mother of Perpetual Help, who is our model in loving God and others.

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The Shrine and the Sick

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, February 11, we celebrate World Day of the Sick. Today is also the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, a name given to the Virgin Mary who appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. The church calls people around the world today to take the time to pray for the sick and for those who work very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the sick. Pope John Paul II initiated this celebration in 1992.

The shrine has responded to the needs of the sick since its beginning. Many sick devotees have asked the shrine for help in their sickness, whether spiritual and material. Since the beginning of the novena, there was a prayer for the sick. The shrine has also celebrated many healing masses with praying over and anointing of oil for the sick, through the years.

To give a more concrete and organized response to the needs of the sick, however, the shrine established the Redemptorist Medical & Dental Health Program. The clamor of people for health services because of the unavailability of health services to the poor, the high cost of medicines, medical services and consultations which the poor cannot afford were some of the concrete needs that led to the establishment of Medical/Dental services of the shrine. Established in 1991, the Redemptorist Medical & Dental Health Program aims to respond to the health needs and formation of its beneficiaries and extend assistance to calamity stricken areas.

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At the center of the Redemptorist Medical & Dental Health Program is the shrine’s clinic. It is an outpatient clinic that offers primary health care services like maternal and child care, control and prevention of communicable diseases, health education, minor surgical procedures, environmental sanitation, Natural Family Planning Method and basic dental procedures.  The clinic is open two days a week at Wednesday 8:00am – 7pm and Sunday – 8:00 am– 5:00 pm. The clinic is operated by a full time clinic staff, and medical/dental health practitioners and volunteers.  Those who avail of the services are churchgoers, indigent walk-in patients with referrals from NGO’s within Parañaque, shrine volunteers and staff, beneficiaries of the Social Mission programs of the shrine and adopted Community/Mission Areas.

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The second primary program of the Medical and Dental Services of the shrine is an outreach program. It aims to provide immediate health services to calamity stricken areas, nission areas of the Redemptorist Community from the Vice Province of Manila, organized communities of People’s Organizations, communities with poor health statistics, limited or has no access to or low quality health services and low socioeconomic status.

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The Redemptorist Medical & Dental Health Program also implements advocacy and networking. This extends current services by collaborating with governments and local organizations, church, other private institutions. It also establishes networking and referral to hospitals, institutions and other health agencies to help the beneficiaries in their health needs.

The program also have a regular education and training program for the Baclaran clinic staff and volunteers, beneficiaries from  Mission Areas, Health Committee members, and regular beneficiaries. There is an effort to support the development of appropriate indigenous health care like acupuncture, herbal medicines, etc.

On this World Day of the Sick let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who are in need of God’s healing, whether in body or in spirit. Let us also pray for all the carers of the sick–the Doctors, Nurses, caregivers, and others. Let us pray the prayer for the sick at the Novena:

Lord Jesus Christ * you bore our sufferings and carried our sorrows * in order to show us clearly * the value of human weakness and patience; * graciously hear our prayer for the sick especially ___________________________ (pause and remember your sick loved ones). Grant that they who are weighed down * with pain and other affliction of illness * may experience God’s healing power and comfort*. Restore them to health* in body and soul* so that they can continue to serve you* and their brothers and sisters.
Amen.