First Regular Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines

Iloilo-Novena-1

Today, May 13 marks the first celebration of the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines. It was not in Baclaran, however. 74 years ago today, on May 13, 1946, just a year after World War II, the first novena was conducted at St. Clement’s Church in Ilo-ilo.

Former Redemptorist Provincial and author of the book, the Baclaran Story, Fr. Luis Hechanova recounts that in the year 1946, shortly after the end of the Second World War, American troops, some from the famous Battle of Guadalcanal, found themselves stationed in Iloilo. Among them were Irish-American Catholics from Boston who were delighted to find that St. Clement’s Church in La Paz, Iloilo City, was run by Irish Redemptorists. They were disappointed, however, that the Perpetual Novena then flourishing in the popular Mission Church of the Redemptorists in Boston was not part of church services. Their disappointment, however, was one of the motivations that led the Redemptorist at Ilo-ilo to start a regular novena.[1]

On May 13, 1946, the first Perpetual Help Novena in the Philippines was held in St. Clement’s Church, Iloilo, conducted by Fr. Patrick Nulty. On October 21 that same year, there were 500 people at the Novena. In August 18, 1947, the attendance was 1000 and there was a six year old boy attending by the name of Luis Hechanova.[2]

Ilo-ilo
St. Clement’s Church in Ilo-ilo

The Redemptorist in Lipa soon followed suit and began the novena in 1946. The Redemptorists in Cebu also started the first novena on Sept. 15, 1946. In these churches, the novena were translated from English to the local languages. They were all well attended by the local people.

News of these well-attended novena in these three churches must have reached the Redemptorists in Baclaran. Despite the popularity of the novena in the provinces, many of the members of the community were hesitant to start the novena in Baclaran. They were concerned that by starting a novena in Baclaran, their main ministry of giving missions to remote parishes in the Tagalog provinces will be severely jeopardized. Only when all the community agreed that the mission would go on despite the novena that the Redemptorists finally decided to start the novena in Baclaran.

When the Redemptorists finally started the novena in Baclaran in June 1948, they were wonderfully surprised at the amazing response and rapid influx of devotees to the novena. The phenomenon went way beyond their imagination. The rest is history!

 


 

[1] Luis Hechanova, Baclaran Story, (Redemptorist Manila, 1996), 2

[2] Hechanova recalls this day in his book: “I happen to be a personal witness as a six year old. One of my childhood memories is of our mother teaching us the novena hymns on the family pi­ano, the only thing saved when our ancestral house was burned down at the close of the war. I still remember the traffic jams due to the novena on the Jaro-Iloilo road on Wednesdays. In our family, we had to keep reminding each other to avoid that road on Wednesdays, unless of course we were going to make the novena.” Baclaran Story, 2.

 

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.

September 8: Celebrating Mary’s Birthday

“She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.
Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.””
—Saint Augustine

This Sunday, September 8, we commemorate the Birth of Mary, Mother of our Lord—a feast which Catholics have been celebrating since at least the sixth century. Since it is Sunday, however, the celebration of Mary’s birthday in the liturgy, gives way to the celebration of the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time. Indeed, this is what Mary would have intended; she considers herself as mere God’s instrument in the salvation that comes through her Son.

This would not prevent devotees in the Baclaran shrine, however, to celebrate the birthday of our blessed mother Mary.  Many devotees will flock to Baclaran and attend the Sunday mass, and at the same time express affection to Mary on her birthday.  I would not be surprise if after each Sunday mass, devotees will heartily sing “Happy Birthday” to Mary. Many will offer flowers to her icon and in the altar. Indeed, this day is a happy day for many devotees as they share in the joy of the birth of Mary who is their intercessor and companion in the journey of life full of trials and tribulations.

This year’s celebration of Mary’s birthday at the shrine will be special as the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was officially removed from the high altar on September 5, 2019 to give way for the Altar renovation. Today, September 7, 2019, Saturday, it will be displayed for public veneration and vigil after the 5:45 PM Mass until midnight. This is indeed a special opportunity for devotees as they can have a closer physical contact with the icon as they celebrate the birthday of Mary tomorrow.

Likewise, on September 10, Tuesday, after the 9:30 AM Mass there will be a touching of the icon until midnight. For the rest of the time, the Icon will be secured by the Redemptorists until the altar is ready for her return.

This is a very significant religious event for us, devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In this very rare occasion, we will have a life time chance to have a face to face encounter with the Icon.

May this experience helps us to reflect and be moved by our God who always goes down from heaven to meet us in the rough grounds of daily living.

removal of icon

 

The First Intervention of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines

1st Comm Opon 1907
First Redemptorist Community at Opon, 1907

On June 30, 1906, the first Redemptorist community in the Philippines arrived in Opon (now presently Lapu-lapu City), in the island of Cebu. Those appointed to the Foundation were Fr Leo (at the time Rector of Ballarat, Australia) as Superior, Creagh, O’Sullivan, O’Callaghan, Casin, and Bros. Casimir and Eunan (shown in the picture above).

The settling down in the parish did not go as smooth as the Redemptorists had hoped for. The first community found the parish Priest, Fr. Roa and his 12 houseboys still in possession of the convento. The Bishop of Cebu, Thomas Hendrik, did not make matters clear to Fr. Roa, so that when the Parish Priest finally left, some local lay leaders objected that the parish was being taken over by foreigners and had driven out the Parish Priest.

Indeed, the negative experiences from the Spanish friars were still fresh in the memory of the natives that the local people gave the pioneer Redemptorist from Ireland and Australia a very cold treatment.  Someone even organized a boycott against them and soon even the services in the church were boycotted. The convento had been a meeting place for the President of the Municipio (a classmate of Fr. Roa) and his cronies. The parish was a good one and the annual Fiesta was big business. The Municipio had a stake in this. Because of all of these, the pioneer Redemptorists were too disheartened to initiate anything in the parish.

Added to these woes was the fact that the new Community fresh from the cool air of Ireland found themselves crowded into two rooms and sleeping on the floor.  Their reactions to all this differed. Fr. Leo blamed Fr. Boylan for everything. Fr. Boylan was the Irish Provincial who arrived first in the Philippines to prepare for the establishment of the Foundation. He  joined the incumbent Parish Priest, Fr Roa, in residence in Opon on March 17, 1906. Despite all the pressures, Boylan took them well, putting on frequent celebrations for the community and appealing to holy hope.

Not all people, however, were inimical to the Redemptorists. The wife of the President of the Municipio defied the boycott from the beginning. Three sisters from a nearby barrio smuggled in food supplies, and another convinced her husband, who piloted a launch, to bring in supplies from Cebu. Also some of the priests were very supportive from the day of their arrival, especially the parish Priest of Mandawe Fr. Emiliano Mercado and Fr. Gregorio Reynes who was assigned as curate and language teacher. Filipino Hospitality won out in the end and after six months we read in the chronicles, the people are very friendly towards us.

But the most significant change was about to happen on July 24, 1906.  Fr. Patrick Leo, the superior of the community, erected the icon of our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) in the tribune looking into the Church. We read in the Chronicles of the time: “It is remarkable that on this day the people became notably more friendly towards us.”

Redemptorist historian Fr. Michael Bailey describes this providential event as perhaps the very first intervention of OMPH in the mission of the Redemptorists in the Philippines.[1]

We could just imagine the reaction of the people the first time they saw the picture of OMPH. It was not one of the usual Marian images that the locals were used to. Although they have painted images of the Virgin with Child, this seemed strange for them, as it did not portray the innocence of the Child Jesus like the one cradled by their own Virgen dela Regla.[2] They could have given the strange icon a cold treatment, in the same way that they treated the missionaries who brought them, but they gladly welcomed and embraced the icon in their parish.

With the people’s much needed approval through the maternal intervention of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Opon, the Redemptorists now had the peace of mind to promote devotion to OMPH. The first novena to OMPH in Opon was celebrated on March 17, 1907. The Redemptorists also brought the icon when they began to give missions to the barrios. This is in keeping with the Redemptorist tradition of bringing the icon wherever Redemptorists gave missions. In one of these missions, Bailey recounts the very significant event of the barrio mission that Redemptorists conducted in Compostela, Cebu in 1907 which showed Mary’s already special place in the early mission of the Redemptorists in the Philippines:

The most significant thing about this “missionette” was that the picture of OMPH was placed over the altar, and presided, as it were, over the work. So began the patronage of the Redemptorist apostolate in the Philippines by OMPH that was to bear much fruit in missions and retreats, and later, in the devotion of the Perpetual Novena.[3]

mission-omph

 


 

[1] Michael Baily, C.Ss.R., Small Net in a Big Sea, The Redemptorists in the Philippines, 1905-1929 (Cebu: San Carlos Publications), 19.

[2] Trizer Dale Mansueto, “Make her Known,” How the Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help Flourished in the Philippines, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon and the Philippines: Multidisciplinary Perspectives to a Perpetual Help Spirituality (Manila: Institute for Spirituality in Asia, 2017), 36.

[3] Baily, Small Net in a Big Sea, 20.