St. Gerard Majella, Patron of Pregnant Mothers and Children

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Today, October 16th is a special day for the shrine. We celebrate today the feast of St. Gerard Majella. All masses and novena today will remember the life and example of St. Gerard. There will also be a distribution of free medals of St. Gerard as well as the blessing of children, mothers and expectant mothers.

St. Gerard was an Italian lay brother of the Redemptorists. He was born in Muro Lucano, Basilicata, Italy in April 6, 1726. Despite being always frail in health, Gerard was very passionate in giving all his time and talents to the poor and in prayer to God.

St. Gerard Majella is the patron saint of pregnant mothers and children. He is popularly known as “the saint of mothers.” Many devotee couples who have not conceived for many years have testified that after they asked the intercession of St. Gerard they were blessed with the gift of a child.

The life of St. Gerard is one of the inspirations for the shrine to establish the St. Gerard Family Life Ministry. Another inspiration is the needs and issues that the devotees bring to the shrine regarding their family life. As the shrine has daily confession, many devotees take the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. But there are also times that the devotees share inside the confessional issues and problems in their family like marital infidelity, couple differences, parent-children gap, birth control, abortion, drug addiction, homosexuality, and many others. Because these are serious cases needing more time and attention beyond the confessional, we usually suggest counseling. From this experience, came the need for establishing a counseling center at the shrine. Thus, St. Gerard Family Life Ministry became an extension of Sacrament of Reconciliation thru consultation and counselling.

The shrine formally established St. Gerard Family Life Ministry on Oct 16, 1995, feast of St. Gerard. Through consultation, advisory, and referral services, St. Gerard Family Life Ministry seeks to assist families and individuals in strengthening their family and Christian life. St. Gerard Family Life Ministry offers FREE consultation services: Marriage and Family, Parenting, Human Relationships, Youth, Spirituality, Natural Family Planning, Same Sex Attraction (LGBT) Various Addictions (cyber, gambling, alcoholism, sex, pornography, etc.) Legal Matters, HIV, Migrants and OFWs concerns

Those who avail of the services of the center are church goers, devotees, walk-in clients and referrals from confession, by phone and face to face consultation/counselling. Many devotees who came to the center benefited from the center through the experience of comfort and compassion, healing of broken relationships, healing of broken homes, spiritual nourishment and enhancing of their faith and hope. The ten most common problems devotees bring to the center are:

1) Personal Concerns
2) Marital Problem
3) Family matters
4) Legal matters
5) Man/Woman relationship
6) Job/Financial
7) NFP/Pregnancy
8)Psychological
9) Same Sex Attraction (homosexuality)
10) Spiritual

At the beginning, 5 married couples were selected from volunteers to undergo a series of trainings and seminars to the family life commission archdiocese of manila, Pro-Life Phils, Simbahayan Commission and also which the Diocese of Paranaque. Most of the Mentors are Wounded Healers. Different life experienced stories. In order to enhance their capabilities in counselling, the shrine sponsor their training and study courses about family in UGAT foundation Ateneo de Manila and De la Salle University. There are also practicumers from CEFAM, one priest and one deacon

The  St. Gerard Family Life center also networks closely with the Social Services of the Social Mission of the Shrine, other Family Centers especially those located in Metro Manila, ProLife Phils, of which the center is one of its Pregnancy Crisis Intervention Centers, Government and non-governmental agencies for referral purposes. The center also sponsors from time to time seminars and/or symposia on topics related to family life.

Do you have any problems in the family, marriage, relationships and sexuality? Come to St. Gerard Family Life Center of the shrine and avail of its free services. The schedule of FREE consultation services of the center are from Mon-Tue-Thurs-Fri-Sat: 9am to 12noon / 2pm-5pm, Wed: 9am to 12noon 2pm-7pm, and Sunday: 9am to 12noon. Every 1st Monday of the month there is a novena mass of St.Gerard at 930am. After the mass a there is a blessing for all mothers and children especially for expectant mothers and pregnant woman.

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For more information please visit our website.

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28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: RETURN TO GRATITUDE

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Ever since the novena began in the Baclaran shrine, devotees have been writing letters of petitions and thanksgiving to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

On any given year, the letters of petitions outnumber the letters of thanksgiving by a huge margin. Of the total letters received every year, 85% to 90% are letters of petitions while 10% to 15% are letters of thanksgiving. In 2016, for example, 136,819 letters of petitions were received which represents 87.83% of the total letters received while only 18,954 letters of thanksgiving were received which represents 12.17% of the total letters received.

In the gospel of today’s 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 10 lepers petitioned Jesus to cure them and Jesus cured them all. Only one of them, however, returned to give thanks. He happened to be a Samaritan. When he prostrated himself before Jesus and thanked him, Jesus remarked on the absence of the other nine. 

“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

In our lives today, despite the many ills and difficulties we experience everyday, there are so many wonderful things that we we can give thanks for. But we do not.

Why? Because, giving thanks is like slowing down or taking a step back in order to appreciate the good things in our lives. Unfortunately, we can’t be bothered to pause from our hectic schedules. We are always busy with so many things. We are busy with, of course, the basic necessities of life–earning a living, doing our daily chores, fulfilling our role as parents, wife, husband, children, and the duties and responsibilities we hold at work, organizations, church and society. But we are also busy with getting rich, with saving money to get a brand new car, with getting to the top of the ladder, with getting an award, with advancing our career.

I am not saying that these aren’t worthy aspirations. But our attention has been drawn more and more to things that we should accomplish, we should earn, we should accumulate. We become preoccupied with success, accomplishments that sometimes we fail to smell the flowers as it were. More is better and there can never be a moment when it is enough. 

In a world driven by profit, there is a price tag for almost all good things. Even love, happiness and peace have become commodities that we have to earn or buy. The saying that “the best things in life are free!” seems to be just an illusion. 

This commodified mindset is also present in our spiritual lives, unfortunately. The nine lepers who were cured by Jesus were more concerned with fulfilling the religious rituals of cleansing rather than  giving thanks to God. In the same way, many of us are more concerned with fulfilling and doing our religious duties and obligations but fail to give thanks to unconditional love of God.

Ever wondered why despite the affluence and comfort, the suicide rate is very high in wealthy countries. Ever wondered why in first world countries many are suffering from depression and loneliness. It seemed that in today’s existential reality, there is a profound alienation from the original goodness and giftedness of life. This has led to seeing life and the meaning of one’s identity in a materialistic way; every aspect of life is attached to commodity.

Today’s gospel calls for radical change not just simply a call to give thanks and become more mindful of the virtue of gratitude. Today’s gospel call us to confront the social structures and system that has alienated us from the original giftedness of life and the original blessing of God’s creation. It is a calling to truly live out the saying, “the best things in life are free” and to add to this “because we were created in the free and gratuitous love of God.”

God has blessed us with a wonderful earth and filled it with a beautiful family of brothers and sisters. As Christians, we are called to have thankful worship of God, expressed in care for the lepers and blind people of our day—the poor, hungry, and homeless, the victims of war and oppression, the suffering and dying.

This is what we celebrate every Sunday in the eucharist.  Every eucharist is a call to return to gratitude. Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia, εὐχαριστία, which means thanksgiving. Eucharist is a celebration of thanksgiving to God for the original and gratuitous goodness that God has bestowed upon all life. In this way it is a counter-symbol to the prevalent culture of profit and greed which has led to the commodification of everyday life. The eucharist calls us to partake of the body and blood of Jesus by worshipping and returning to God and like Jesus, sharing our lives in service to others.

 

27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIMES: FAITH CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS

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Greta Thunberg Poster designed by machasgear, https://www.redbubble.com/people/machasgear/works/38452049-greta-thunberg?p=poster

One of the hottest figures on the news all around the globe during the past two weeks was not a head of state, nor a famous actor nor a sports star nor even an adult but a 16 year old girl by the name of Greta Thunberg. Greta is a Swedish environmental activist fighting for immediate action to address what she describes as the climate crisis.

A very tall order, indeed. After all, who would listen to a small high school autistic girl? Ordinarily, adults will just ignore such a seemingly childish babble coming from a girl who does not yet have much experience and knowledge about life and the world. And soon everything will be forgotten.

No, this didn’t happen to Greta. On the contrary, it was the adults who behaved like children babbling about her message and Greta behaving like an adult brushing aside every insult and bashing hurled upon her. After she addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York last September 23, conservatives and other critics attacked her demeanor, her looks, her mental health, and above all her autonomy, claiming she is “brainwashed” or a victim of child abuse. Some even compared her speeches to Nazi propaganda. Never mind if she had a valid and urgent message.

Yet Greta is not just a girl with a loud mouth; she has demonstrated concrete, even if small, actions to back her words. At home, she convinced her parents to adopt several lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint, including giving up air travel and not eating meat. She sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to New York in a 60 ft racing yacht equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines.

In May 2019, Greta published a collection of her climate action speeches which she titled, No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

In the Gospel of today’s 27th Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus said to his disciples,

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Jesus tells the disciples that even the tiniest faith can achieve great things. Indeed, faith is a tiny force, yet it can transform our lives and the world. We don’t need to have superpowers to change the world. We don’t need strong men like Trump or Duterte or Putin to solve our problem for us. As Greta have showed us, we only need to have faith in our small efforts and the will to act to tackle this impending disaster that we now call climate change.

This is the kind of faith that Jesus has imparted to us, as St. Paul in the second reading told Timothy. Paul reminded Timothy to constantly enflame the faith he has received from Jesus–a faith that is not a spirit of cowardice but of power and love.

Beloved:
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.

Indeed, faced with the insurmountable challenges of our lives in our world today, the temptation is to sulk into cowardice and summon an outside extra-ordinary force that will magically solve all our problems. Just like Habakkuk in the first reading who could no longer endure the violence, abuse and oppression in the world, became impatient with God and called upon God to intervene.

How long, O LORD?  I cry for help
but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin;
why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and clamorous discord.

Surprisingly, God answers, in a lengthy, encouraging but challenging reply.

For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

God assures Habakkuk that God will make things better, “For the vision still has its time.” But not yet, “if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.” Perhaps like Habakkuk, we have, at one time or another, screamed at God: “Why don’t you help me right now? Why are you delaying and letting us suffer more?”

Faith! When you go to the churches on Sunday, you see a lot of faith. Yet, still a lot of people today re-echo the apostles’ plea to Jesus: “Increase our faith!” Jesus tells us, it’s not the size of faith that matters, but the character of our faith.  True faith is borne not out of the quantity of religious work we do but out of a constant trust and faithfulness in the power and goodness of God over our lives and our world. Furthermore, the parable, which forms the second half of the gospel reading, warns the disciples against supposing that faith, and the obedient service of the Lord in which faith is expressed, establishes a claim for reward.

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

faith-can-move-mountains

I end with a prayer by Anne Osdieck [1]

Lord,
make us your true servants
trusting that whatever
faith you give us
will surely
be enough.

 


 

[1] Anne Osdieck, “Praying toward Sunday,”  The Sunday Website
at Saint Louis University,  27th Sunday of Ordinary Time C, October 6, 2019 accessed at https://liturgy.slu.edu/27OrdC100619/prayerpathmain.html

A Day for Animals at the Shrine

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Catholics all over the world celebrates October 4 as the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. The secular world celebrates October 4 as World Animal Day, an international day of action for animal rights and welfare.

The shrine celebrates both events. Every year on the 4th of October, devotees bring their pets to the shrine—dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, turtles and other animal pets—for the blessing of animals. It was On October 4th, 2005, that a blessing of animals was held for the first time in the shrine. This began a yearly tradition in the shrine.

Saint Francis is associated with the patronage of animals. Francis’ deep love of God overflowed into love for all God’s creatures—expressed not only in his tender care of lepers and his (unsuccessful) attempt to negotiate peace between Muslims and Christians during the fifth Crusade, but also in his prayers of thanksgiving for creation, his sermons preached to animals, and his insistence that all creatures are brothers and sisters under God.

Christians worldwide celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis not just with a blessing of animals but also with prayers for creation. Since 2014, the shrine has been observing the Season of creation. The season of Creation is celebrated during the four Sundays of September that precede the feast of St Francis. The season of Creation incorporates into the liturgy, prayers and visual elements celebrating God’s creation.

The shrine in recent years has become sanctuary to many animals. Stray dogs and cats  hang around the shrine and the convent every day not to mention the rats, bats, and the birds which has made the shrine their home ever since the shrine was built. The presence in the shrine of skinny and smelly dogs and cats abandoned by their human owners is a sad reminder of human’s cruelty to animals and of the abdication of our sacred duty as stewards of creation.

stray-cat

Outside the shrine, however, animals of various kinds enjoy the security and food that nature provides. The various hardwood and fruit trees in the shrine compound provide sanctuary for many birds, insects and other animals. Just recently new appearances of wildlife were sighted in the trees—squirrels, a migratory bird and a Philippine hawk (Lawin). Nobody knows how the squirrels (sometimes seen as two, other times alone) got inside the shrine grounds.  We just assumed that someone let loose these exotic animals in the shrine compound thinking that squirrels will be better off running free in the shrine compound rather than confined in cages.  The squirrels are very shy though; they spend most of the time hiding in the trees. Occasionally, however, one can see them hopping on tree branches.

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In November 2016, a migratory bird called Narcissus Flycatcher from China was spotted on the trees of the shrine compound.  The word spread fast and in no time, many bird photographers and researchers flocked to Baclaran and spent almost a week photographing the special visitor. The narcissus flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) is a passerine bird in the Old World flycatcher family. It is native to East Asia, from Sakhalin to the north, through Japan across through Korea, mainland China, and Taiwan, wintering in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Borneo.[1] It is highly migratory. The bird watchers surmised that the birds chose to stay at the shrine because they found lots of food in the many trees of the compound.

narcissus-flycatcher

On this feast of St. Francis, we are reminded that care for animals and the promotion of the integrity of creation is an essential expression of our devotion and faith.  In the 2016 Jubilee edition of the novena, the shrine incorporated into the novena a petition that expresses this:

That we may care and protect God’s creation, Loving Mother pray for us.


[1] Narcissus flycatcher, Wikipedia. Accessed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Narcissus_flycatcher.

The Rosary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

rosary of our mother of perpetual help

The rosary is one of the most popular and meaningful devotion of Catholics all over the world. It is a prayer that is based on scriptures centered on the great events of the Incarnation and Redemption.  The icon, on the other hand, represents the hundreds of years of church’s tradition, teaching and reflection on the role of Mary in God’s mission. Combining the rosary and the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, therefore, in our devotion and prayer is a very meaningful exercise that could further deepen our Christian faith.

As we meditate on the five decades of the Mysteries of the rosary, we focus on different sections of the Icon. By doing so, we draw on the richness of God speaking to us, to our lives, through this ‘Painted Word’. More than embracing this Icon, we allow the Icon to embrace us. Through Mary and Jesus, we allow ourselves to be strengthened by the enveloping experience of communion with the God of Love.

This Icon is indeed a window to the Divine. To meditate on the Icon is to open our hearts to the experience of God. All are welcome to this experience – so simple and yet so deep. No one should feel excluded, alienated or rejected; neither should those who feel unworthy to come before God because of their sin be left out. Even those of other faith traditions or religions are welcome to the experience.  A welcoming Mother and a gentle Child extend their loving compassion in whatever situation we may find ourselves in.

Before we begin the rosary, here are some important suggestions to a meaningful praying of the rosary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help:

  1. Place an Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or a copy of the icon at the altar of your home. Adorn it with candles and some flowers.
  2. Invite your whole family or mates at home in praying the rosary.
  3. Appoint a prayer leader to lead the prayers and hymns of the rosary.
  4. Give some time for silence to contemplate or gaze at the icon during the rosary.

 


 

The Rosary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

The Sign of the Cross: In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

The Apostles’ Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He arose again; He ascended into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen

The Our Father: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name: Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread: and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil. Amen.

The Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen (3x)

 Glory Be to the Father: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

First Mystery:  Our human heart longs for God (Ps. 42; Mt. 19:16-30)

In the lives of most people, there is always an empty space that needs to be filled, a pain that needs healing, a feeling of despair that cries for hope, a reality which seeks justice, encouragement, peace, reconciliation,  love. Each person finds himself / herself in front of a Mother who lovingly calls out to Her beloved child.

As we meditate on this first mystery, we recognize ourselves as an active part of the whole Icon and allow the life in it to touch our very heart, our mind and soul. We begin a spiritual journey where we enter into the depth of ourselves.

We look deeply into ourselves and ask these questions: How am I? How do I feel? How is my life? Where am I going and where is my life directed to? What do I have/possess and what do I do with it? What do I really need in my life? How is my personal relationship with God? How do I allow God to actually fill that emptiness in me?

rosary_omphSecond Mystery:  God send His angels (Luke 22:40-43)

God always wants us to be in union with Him that we may truly find happiness and meaning in our life. God respects the free will that He gives us. But He also helps us know what is best for each one of us by sending us His angels. In the Icon, we find the Archangels Gabriel and Michael announcing to Jesus His Father’s message. At the same time, the Archangels reassure Him of God’s constant presence, protection and guidance.

In this second mystery, we thank God for giving us angels as another expression of His great love for us. We also thank the Lord for the presence of angels in our life through the different persons who are sent or come to us. They help us recognize God’s will, experience God’s protection and guide us in our journey. We thank God for both the invisible and the visible angels in our life.

We pray that we, too, may serve as angels to other people as we radiate God’s presence in and through our words and deeds. This is best experienced when we help them desire to seek and do His holy will. (Luke 2:14; Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; John 20:12; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 13:49; Mark 13:32; Luke 20:34; Acts 12:7-11)

Third Mystery:  Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and the Redeemed (Lk.1:26-38; Jn.2:1-6; Jn. 19:25-27)

In this mystery, we allow ourselves to receive the loving, comforting and yet powerful gaze of Mary. At a young age, Mary said “Yes” to God in the Annunciation. She lived it all her life. For her generous and openhearted response to God’s plan, she became the Mother of the Redeemer.

Mary was ever conscious of God’s presence. She pondered on God’s saving action and treasured everything in her heart. Mary, as Mother, lovingly welcomed and embraced us as her children when Jesus said to His beloved disciple: “Here is your mother” and to her: “Here is your son”. Here we are, her children.  She is our Mother…She is the Mother of the Redeemed.

As we contemplate her in this icon, let us ask for the grace to be always open to attentively listen to the Word of her Son. Mary, our Mother, teach us to continually open our heart to the call of the Father, to the action of the Holy Spirit and to the Word of Jesus. Help us to always learn from you, our Mother, that we may also always respond to God: “Be it done unto me according to Your Word”.

Fourth Mystery:  Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, our Perpetual Help (Lk. 4:18-19)

We come to the very center of this Icon that we meditate: Jesus! It is on Him that the angels are focused.  It is to Him that Mary’s protective embrace is centered, that even as she looks at us, it is with the intention of making us aware of Her Son, our Lord and Redeemer. He is the only One who can give meaning to our life, the true Perpetual Help…for this reason we address her in this icon: Mother of Perpetual Help.

Christ has redeemed us and will always be our Redeemer. He is Emmanuel, our God-with-us. His unconditional love for the weak, suffering and poor brought him opposition – for which he suffered his Passion and Death. Such was the depth of his love. But death did not have the last word. He rose again in glory to give us new life. This then is Jesus, the Redeemer, who is humble and yet ever steadfast in giving us His abundant redemption.

In contemplating this mystery, let us be fully drawn by the immense love of the Redeemer and let us experience the Perpetual Help of Mary.

Fifth Mystery:  That we may be one!  Living in communion with God and one another (Jn. 19:27; Acts 1:14; Jn.17:21; Lumen Gentium #63). 

Communion! Isn’t it so beautiful when there is perfect sharing and oneness? Isn’t it wonderful, where despite diversity, we strive to live as one? In this part of the Icon, we see Jesus’ hands clasping Mary’s hand. We also see the hands of Mary pointing to Jesus. The gesture expresses the communion between the Mother and the Son. We see the total commitment of Mary to Jesus and His mission. Here, we recall that Mary holds us also in her hands as her children while Jesus lovingly accepts the mission from His Father to redeem us.

Mary, in this icon, says to us: “Do whatever He tells you”. We also need to hear Jesus’ words echoing in our hearts: “I am with you until the end of time”. In this contemplation of the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help, we are offered the experience of communion with the Redeemer, with the Mother of the Redeemer and with all the Redeemed in whatever situation each one of us may be.

In this decade, let us allow Jesus and His Mother to make us instruments of communion by generously and genuinely living to the full, the vocation we are called to, as Christians. Let us pray that we may truly live and spread in our midst – the peace, reconciliation, justice, joy and love that Jesus and Mary are radiating to us through this Icon of Communion.

Concluding Reflection:

These 5 points of contemplation in this Perpetual Help Rosary, give a sense of a spiral that invites us to go deeper within ourselves. It invites us to take a journey to our heart where we can encounter the Lord and the gentle protection of Mary. By going deeper and opening our hearts to the Icon, we are offered an experience of communion with God.

The spiral dynamic of contemplating the Icon reminds us that every event and the whole of creation have a place in the plan of God. The circular shape that this dynamic presents, symbolizes that we are all one. And as one, we are called to build the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated. It is a Kingdom, where at its very heart, we find the God who in and with His Love binds us together in Communion with all humanity and creation.

As we conclude this Rosary Prayer with the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help, let us recall that in the history of this Icon, it was held under the care of a merchant who was on a journey-. We, ourselves, are all travelers/pilgrims …each in a different way according to the kind of life which God has called us to. Sometimes, we make steady progress, sometimes we stumble with our struggles. For this, we need the Icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help to be our companion in our life journey…because the journey within every heart and the journey towards full communion goes on and on…

novena-englishHail Holy Queen

Petitions To Our Mother Of Perpetual Help (adapted from  http://www.baclaranovena.org)

Leader: Holy Mary

All: PRAY FOR US

Holy Virgin conceived without sin…

PRAY FOR US

Our Mother of Perpetual Help,

PRAY FOR US

That we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and become courageous witnesses of Christ’s love for all…………………………………………………………………………..                               *LOVING MOTHER, HELP US

That we may be more and more like our Divine Lord, as you were…*LOVING MOTHER, HELP US

That we may be meek and humble of heart like your Son, Jesus…*

That we may fear losing God’s friendship forever by unrepented sin…*

That we may seek Christ’s mercy and forgiveness constantly in the sacrament of Penance…*

That we may be aware of God speaking to us in the events of daily life…*

That we may pray daily with love and trust, especially in moments of temptation…*

That we may realize the value of worshipping God together in the Eucharist…*

That we may grow in the love of Christ and neighbor by frequent Communion…*

That we may reverence our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit…*

That we may strive to be true Christians by our loving concern for others…*

That we may accept our responsibility in the community in the spirit of genuine service…*

That we may proclaim the dignity of work by doing our own work conscientiously…*

That we may share our talents with others for the good of the community…*

That we may forgive from our heart those who have wronged us…*

That we may see the evil of seeking our own interest at the expense of others…*

That married couples and families in difficulty may seek reconciliation and forgiveness…*

That those struggling with addictions of alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling may recognize their weakness and be open to the grace to break free… *

That we may work for the just distribution of this world’s goods…*

That the voice of the poor and marginalized will not go unheeded…*

That individuals and groups will resist the temptation to turn to violence and hatred…*

That we may be aware of our dependence on God in the midst of human achievements…*

That the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen Pope Francis, the Bishops, the clergy and all in leadership…*

That our civil and political leaders  may work for a society that is just and avoids discrimination…*

That we may be blessed with an increase of priestly and religious vocations…*

That we may bring the knowledge of Christ to those who do not know Him…*

That the aged, sick and suffering may receive healing and comfort…*

That we may be ready at death to enter the home of our heavenly Father…*

That we may die at peace with Christ and our fellowmen and women…*

That we may be comforted at the death of our dear ones by our hope in the risen Lord…*

That our departed brothers and sisters quickly share in your Son’s resurrection…*

Leader: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God

All: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

150th_logoLet us pray:

O God who has willed that the Mother of Your only-begotten Son should  offer us her Perpetual Help, grant us grace to call on her with confidence in all our necessities of soul and body, so that assisted  through her protection and assistance, we may be brought to the everlasting vision of Your glory in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May almighty God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon us and remain with us forever.  Amen.

If you want a copy of the Tagalog version of the Rosary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, download here.

October – Rosary Month in the Shrine

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The shrine observes the whole month of October as Rosary month. During the whole month, the rosary is recited daily (except Wednesday and Sunday) by various church groups at the shrine. Within the rosary, there is a meditation on the life of Mary especially about the lessons that we can derive from her life for us today.

The Catholic church dedicates the month of October to the Most Holy Rosary. This is primarily due to the fact that the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated annually on October 7. The church instituted this feast to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection that she gives the Church in answer to the praying of the Rosary by the faithful.

The Rosary is one of the most popular prayer devotion of Catholics. Legend tells us that the Rosary as a form of prayer was given to St. Dominic (1170-1221) by Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. In the Middle Ages, it became a substitute for the Divine Office for the lay monks and devout lay persons who did not know how to read. Instead of the 150 psalms, they would pray 150 “Our Fathers” counting them on a ring of beads known as the crown or “corona.” Later, with the growth of popularity of Marian devotion in the twelfth century, the “Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary” developed now substituting 150 “Hail Marys” in place of the “Our Fathers.”

It is important to note that the Rosary is primarily a scriptural prayer. As Pope Pius XII (papacy: 1939-1958) stated, the Rosary is ” a compendium of the entire Gospel” (AAS 38 [1946] p. 419). The Rosary draws its mysteries from the New Testament and is centered on the great events of the Incarnation and Redemption.

At the end of October, the shrine culminates the rosary month with a special celebration. The shrine usually organizes a living rosary. The shrine assemble devotees mostly children and youth into the physical form of a Rosary, where each one represents one prayer bead, and the group recites the prayers together.

The Living Rosary reminds us that we are not alone in our prayers. Just like in the praying of novena, our individual prayer can become something much bigger when we join it with the prayers of others. The living rosary also reminds us that the rosary is not just something we pray but more importantly something we live as our partaking in the great redeeming mystery of the life of Jesus and Mary.

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St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus: 2nd Patroness of the Shrine

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Today, Catholics around the world honor the life of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus”, or simply “The Little Flower.” Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. Together with Saint Francis of Assisi, she is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church. Since her death, millions have been inspired by her ‘little way’ of loving God and neighbor.

Pope Pius XI, in 1927, declared St. Therese of Lisieux the Patroness of the missions. Despite never leaving the cloister, she was given this title alongside her co-patron the great St. Francis Xavier who traveled to many lands and converted much of Asia. Saint Thérèse was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997 – 100 years after her death at the age of 24.

Did you know that the Baclaran Church was originally dedicated to St Teresa of the Child Jesus. But as divine providence intervened, Mary Our Mother of Perpetual Help, would become the patron of the shrine.

How did St. Thérèse get relegated from primary patroness to secondary patroness of the shrine?

The original intention to dedicate Baclaran church to St. Thérése was engraved in the corner stone of the Monastery on Sept. 13th, 1931 at the beginning of its construction:

At the request of Most Rev. Fr. General Murray and with the approval of His Grace, the Monastery and Church are to be dedicated to St Teresa of the Child Jesus, the patroness of the missions. The secondary Patrons shall be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Mother of Perpetual Succor, St Joseph, St. Alphonsus, St. Clement and St. Gerard.

After the first Baclaran church was built, the Redemptorist asked for donations from the people in building and adorning the small wooden chapel. The Ynchausti family came, along with friends and benefactors, with the intention of donating a beautiful high altar to the congregation. They had one condition, however, that the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) ought to occupy the high altar. This would conflict with the intention of the pioneer Redemptorists, particularly Fr. Dennis Grogan, the main builder of the church, to have the chapel in honor of St. Thérèse.

Thus, a drama unfolded: Who would get the high altar, St. Thérèse or OMPH? Fr. Grogan unfolds this drama on an entry in the Chronicles dated Feb 1, 1932:

I am preparing the House and Church for the arrival of the Fathers and Brothers from Australia. The new high altar given by Sra. De Ynchausti arrived. It was designed and made by Mr. Maximo Vicente under the guidance of the donor. It became the high altar very providentially. Sta. Teresita being the Patroness should naturally have been there and for the first Mass celebrated in the church she was actually installed but when the donor offered her altar, she expressed the wish that it should be the high altar. I proposed her wish to Father Provincial (Byrne) with a good recommendation and he decided it should be so. The delay in communicating brought us near to the Opening Day and hearing nothing from Australia we gave orders that the plans should be changed and the altar made smaller to suit the aisle, but at that very moment, while the designer was in the house, the mail arrived from Australia and all was changed. Our Lady of Perpetual Succor (Help) was given the High Altar and Sta. Teresita on her right side, with St. Gerard on the left.

As history unfolds, the Redemptorists transferred St. Thérèse’s statue to the grounds in front of the convent. This seems a more fitting place as more people have been able to touch her. This also serves as a providential reminder that the saint once had a brief reign in the shrine, before it was finally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

 

26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE GREAT ABYSS BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR

Economic inequality, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, is one of the most tragic reality of our times. Despite globalization and the height of capitalism which increased the wealth of the world to unimaginable levels, the gap between the rich and the poor is worst today than ever before. Michael Hunt, in his book, The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present, stated that in 1820, the ratio between the income of the top and bottom 20 percent of the world’s population was three to one. By 1991, it was eighty-six to one.[1]

Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations founded in 1942 to focus on the alleviation of global poverty, reported that in 2017, 82% of global wealth generated went to the wealthiest 1%.[2] In 2019 ,Oxfam reported that the poorest half of the human population has been losing wealth (around 11%) at the same time that a billionaire is minted every two days. [3]

The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to rise in the years ahead just as the average temperature of the earth will keep rising over the next years. There is so much wealth in the world at the expense of 99% of the people and the degradation of mother nature.

The readings for today’s 26th Sunday in ordinary time also also talked about the “great abyss” between the rich and the poor.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos depicts the scandalous luxury of the rich at the expense of the poor, 500 years before Jesus’ times

Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;

In the gospel Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and a rich man. Jesus illustrates graphically the scandalous gap between the life of  Lazarus and the rich man.

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.

Ironically, the rich man goes nameless, whereas Jesus told us at the outset that the beggar is named Lazarus. The irony is that while it is a preoccupation of the “great ones” of this world to be remembered, it is one of the “nameless ones”—the beggar, who gets named in the story.

The huge gap between Lazarus and the rich man did not just happen on earth but continued in heaven.

Between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’

In heaven, however, the wheel of fortune are overturned.

When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.

Indeed the story illustrates Luke’s version of the Beatitudes and “Woes” proclaimed earlier in his gospel: “Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied (Lk 6:21). “But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry” (Lk 6:25).

The rich man’s problem in the gospel and the problem of the rich in Amos’ first reading is not their wealth but their complacency.  Amos proclaims the woe of the Lord upon the complacency of the rich: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Amos satirizes the self-indulgent wealthy who have become oblivious to the decline of their society (“the collapse of Joseph”). Like the “complacent in Zion” who “are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph,” the rich man in the Gospel can neither see nor hear: he does not see Lazarus in need at his door; he does not listen to Moses and the prophets who guide him in right ways. The rich man is not in “the netherworld, where he was in torment” simply because of the good he received during his lifetime, but because his self-contained, self-satisfied lifestyle was not faithful to the teaching and practice of the Mosaic covenant.

The Gospel and First Reading proclaims prophetic warning to the rich.  The letter to Timothy in the second reading adds its own wake-up call:

I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus, …
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis in his General Audience on May 18, 2016 says that Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor of all times and the contradictions of a world where vast wealth and resources are in the hands of few.

The problem of shocking inequality may tempt us, especially from 1st world countries, to shrug off any responsibility for our personal part in it. But we reap the fruits from the prosperity of the developed world that began with products that were looted from the colonies. This exploitation continues today. We get primary resources from developing countries for a relative pittance, like the tea and coffee we drink, or our year-long supply of fruit from tropical countries. We can buy clothes of quality brands because a woman in El Salvador makes clothes for 56 cents an hour. We can enjoy lots of chocolates at the expense of widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa.

Added to that, 1st world countries still look to poorer countries to accept their toxic waste. After feeding and clothing ourselves with their resources, we want to return our rubbish to them. Almost all of us are contributing to climate change, yet we don’t relish the lifestyle changes that must happen, to reverse those abuses.

We who live today have even a further revelation beyond Moses and the prophets: we are to hear and put into practice the truth of the Gospel affirmed by Jesus who rose from the dead.

We need to learn from the ultimate fates of Dives and Lazarus. Our world is too small to bear such inequalities as our greedy complacency allows to continue. Unless we share our surplus and care for our world, we will end up in a hell of our own making. By so doing, we choose now on which side of the chasm we will be in the next life.

 


 

[1] Hunt, Michael (2004). The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. p. 442.

[2] Elliott, Larry (January 21, 2018). “Inequality gap widens as 42 people hold same wealth as 3.7bn poorest”. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2018.

[3] Picchi, Aimee (January 20, 2019). “A new billionaire is minted every 2 days as the poor lose wealth”. CBS News. Retrieved January 21, 2019.

25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: OPPORTUNISTS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD

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Last Friday, we saw the biggest planetary gathering for climate change. Millions of mostly young people flooded the streets around the world Friday to take part in the Global Climate Strike and pressure world leaders to confront the ecological crisis. According to 350.org, over 4 million people took part in the collective demonstrations worldwide. In Australia alone, an estimated 400,000 gathered last Friday.

Children carried placards that read “There Is No Planet B” and “Make The Earth Great Again,” a twist on President Donald Trump’s rallying cry of “Make America Great Again.” Many of the young demonstrators expressed extreme urgency for taking drastic action to mitigate the effects of climate change.  Taking no action now will endanger if not destroy the future of the next generation.  But not just immediate action, they demanded wise solutions in finding a way out of this mess that we humans had created. Indeed, this alarming situation can be transformed into a productive one.

In today’s gospel of the 25th Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus through a parable, called his disciples to be cunning in order to find way out of any mess they find themselves in and to prepare for their ultimate future–a future in eternity with God.

The parable is known as “The Unjust Steward” which has puzzled many readers of the parables of Jesus. A way out of the puzzle, however, is to understand the economic system which forms the background behind the parable.

The background of the parable is an economic practice in Jesus’ times where a manager enjoying considerable autonomy lets out items of his master’s property for a commission or interest which includes some proportion for himself. As far as the master is concerned there is nothing particularly dishonest in this; he gets his interest. If the manager gets a cut as well, so be it. In the story as told by Jesus, it would seem that what the manager does after receiving notice about his dismissal is to strip away the portion of the interest accruing to himself. He cancels his own cut because he reckons that it will be more advantageous when he is out of work – and too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg – to have the goodwill of people who may be able to help him, welcoming him into their homes. He “buys” their goodwill in this way and the master wryly praises him for what he has done. By incurring some immediate loss to secure long-term interest, he has acted “sensibly”. He has not clung to his wealth but used it to win goodwill that will serve him in the hour of need that is coming his way.

The master is not condoning his dishonesty but praising his ability to figure his way out of a mess that he had created. The steward showed an ability to accurately assess his situation and turn it to his advantage.

Being astute about wealth is a particular theme in the gospel of Luke. We need to be clever opportunists, by using wealth in the ways that Jesus elsewhere advocates the use of resources—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, lending but asking nothing in return. Luke sums this up with Jesus’ saying that the only really useful thing about accumulating wealth is to give it away so that it will store up “treasure in heaven” (12:33).  With so much more at stake (eternal life), the wealthy would be well advised to strip themselves of their wealth now in order to win friends among the poor. When the poor have their privileged places in the kingdom, these same poor will welcome these benefactors into “eternal dwellings”.

The opposite of the example of the dishonest but cunning steward is articulated by Amos in the First Reading (Amos 8:4-7). The prophet Amos attacks the hypocrisy of rich land-owners who observed the law against trade on the new moon but secretly longed for the feast to be over so that they could resume their defrauding of the poor. In any case, the law (Lev 19:9-10) enjoined them to leave the “sweepings of the wheat” for the poor to harvest.

What about us? How able are we to figure out the spiritual life and to work towards its goals? How can we make use of our failures, mistakes and sins to our advantage.

The readings today challenges us to put transitory affairs in proper perspective. Christians should handle the affairs of temporal life with an eye toward eternal life. In the everyday humdrum of life, we rarely think about the ultimate future. Life itself pressures us into shortsighted choices for living. Discipleship, on the other hand, calls us to live in such a way that our daily choices form patterns of behavior that move us toward God’s promise of life eternal.

Our challenging times today demands that we become cunning and resourceful. We need to think of the fate of our future generation. Our present lifestyle is no longer sustainable. Drastic actions needs to be done. We can find innovative solutions that can turn this critical situation to our advantage.

But more than temporal wisdom, we need Christian astuteness. We need to do something more lasting: to use of the wealth to build something more lasting – friendships. This is the blessing that the dishonest steward showed us. He uses the present wealth to invest on future relationships.

Jesus calls us to take advantage of the mess, faults and failures we have made out of our selves and the world toward a future that is beyond this world. This is particularly true about money, as Jesus concludes,

“And so I tell you this:
use money,
tainted as it is,
to win you friends,
and thus make sure that when it fails you,
they will welcome you into eternal dwellings”

Jesus calls us today to be opportunists for the Kingdom of God.

24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: SHARING IN THE EXTRAVAGANT MERCY OF GOD

extravagant mercy of God

Once in a while, we rejoice and celebrate extravagantly. We throw out a party and provide abundant food and drinks. Some people think that these parties and celebrations are excessive and senseless. Think, for example, of a poor family who would extravagantly prepare a banquet during fiesta and feed the whole barrio when throughout the whole year they would just be eating mostly rice and dried fish.

When was the last time you celebrated extravagantly? Perhaps it was on a special event like wedding or birthdays, or when you got promoted or closed a business deal, or when you achieved a major milestone in your profession or when you found something of great value, which you have lost for a long time.

In the gospel for today’s 24th Sunday in ordinary time we hear about God’s extravagant rejoicing and celebration. We hear of God’s extravagance from Jesus in not just one but three parable stories–indeed, an extravagant way to teach about God’s extravagance.

In the first story, the parable of The Lost Sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the 99 sheep to search for the 1 lost sheep. When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices with friends and neighbors. The second story, about a poor woman who will not stop searching until she finds her lost coin. And when she find it she calls together her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her. In both stories, Jesus ends with the punch line:

I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”

Finally, the third parable story, the longest and most memorable parable in the Gospels, the story we have come to know as The Prodigal Son. Just as in The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin, this story (found only in Luke) is really about the seeker. The loving father is at the center of this parable. Even though his second son runs off with his father’s inheritance and squanders the money, the father waits for him, hoping for his return. Upon his son’s return, the father, “full of compassion,” runs out to embrace and forgive him before the son can utter one word of repentance. He orders the slaughtering of the fattened calf and celebrate with a feast.

Jesus portrays God’s extravagance in all three parables as God’s finding and celebrating the return of repentant sinners who are of greatest value to God. God’s joy is the return of the lost who have found or re-found their treasure in God.

In short, we can describe the extravagance of God in one word – mercy! Jesus’ portrayal of God’s extravagant mercy in all three parables was in response to the heaps of criticism he received from the Pharisees who saw him welcoming and eating with “tax collectors (social outcasts) and sinners”.  But God’s mercy goes against common sense. God is merciful to the extent that God would “foolishly” leave behind the 99 good ones to seek out the 1 lost and rebellious one. The “foolishness” of God represented by each of the main actors in the parables reflects in some way the supreme “foolishness” of God’s love demonstrated in the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25).

Heaven is the ultimate expression of God’s extravagance. God’s celebration of “these lost ones being being “found” or “re-found” by God is nothing other than a reflection on earth of a much greater celebration going on in heaven (v. 7; v.10; vv. 23-24; v. 32). Heavenly joy is the gathering and sharing in the banquet of God of all sinners, deserters and reckless ones who have rediscovered their original goodness and returned to the source of their goodness–God. Heaven is not the place for perfect people but for the crooked, transgressors and weaklings perfected by God’s grace.

The Second Reading is a narration of a personal experience about this “foolish” mercy of God. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, explains that he once was a persecutor of God’s people. He doesn’t gloss over his own evil then or make himself a moral idiot. But Paul says that he obtained mercy from God anyway, because God could see the man that Paul could become. For the sake of the man Paul could be in the future, God had mercy on him.

Today’s readings invites us to rejoice with God and share in his extravagant mercy and acceptance for the lost and sinners. This could begin with ourselves. The lost and repentant sinner could be you and me.  By experiencing God’s extravagant mercy we can be extravagantly merciful to our fellow sinners and lost ones.