30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE CHURCH AS FIELD HOSPITAL

tacloban-18w
Redemptorist Church in Tacloban after supetyphoon Yolanda

“There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.”
― St. Augustine

In August 2013, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, conducted one of the earliest interviews of Pope Francis after he was elected as Pope.  The very first question Spadaro asked Pope Francis was,

“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” (Pope Francis’ real name)

After a few seconds of silence, Pope Francis answered,

“I do not know what might be the most fitting description …. I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

This humble admission of being a sinner is nothing new for Pope Francis. In his general audience at St Peter’s Square on 13 April, 2016, just a month after his election as pope, Pope Francis describes the church as not a

“a community of perfect people, but disciples on a path who follow the Lord because they recognise themselves as sinners and in need of his forgiveness,”

In the same interview with Spadaro, Pope Francis describes what the church needs be today. The church today demands that it need not be a magnificent building secure on itself but a field hospital after a battle.

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.

In the gospel of today’s 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus told a parable about two people who prayed in the temple in Jerusalem, one was  a religious person and the other a notorious sinner. In an unexpected twist of fate, the sinner went home from the temple justified rather than the religious person:

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus’ verdict favoring the tax collector must have been outrageous to his hearers. Jesus did not mean, however, that the Pharisee was wrong in his deeds of morality and piety, or that the tax collector was right in being a swindler and extortioner.

The Pharisee was quite right in performing his religious and moral duties. He was not like other people—extortioners, unjust, adulterers. He practiced strict observances of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and tithing. The tax collector, on the other hand, had nothing to commend him. He was no better than the rest of his kind. There was no question but that he was the “bad guy.”

But being “justified” means being in right relationship with God, faithful to the covenant relationships. Luke says pointedly that Jesus addressed this parable to those “who trusted in themselves” that they were righteous (or justified). In other words, the target of the story is those who foolishly thought their righteousness was based on their own action rather than the grace of God. They placed their faith more in themselves than in God, thereby undermining the foundation of their covenant connections with God and the community.

The greatest enemy of religious belief today are not the atheists or agnostics but self-righteous people from within a certain religion or church. They give religion or church a bad name.  They repel others from the church, especially those who are struggling to rectify their relationship with God and others, because they impose their moral compass which they think is above all others.

On the other hand, one cannot justify the statement, “Why go to church if the church are full of hypocrites and self-righteous people, anyway.” The reason we go to church is not because we are perfect but because we want to seek God’s mercy out of our imperfections.

Jesus’ parable today, as every parable, is Jesus’ way of teaching us about divine reversal. God’s ways and values are, more often than not, a reversal of the ways and values of the world. This is true in prayer, God hears not the rich and sufficient in themselves but the poor and the oppressed, as the first reading today from the book of Sirach says:

Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint …
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.

In prayer, we can discover in our failures and sinfulness, examples of divine reversals, a better plan, a more rewarding venture. What may initially look as a set-back can be an opportunity for course correction. Thus, Jesus parable today, as every parable, is an open-ended story. We’re supposed to end the parable in our own lives and apply what this parable means to us and make the changes that it demand from our lives today.

29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE DISCIPLINE OF PRAYER

devout-prayer

The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Paranaque, Philippines is the biggest shrine in the world dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Every Wednesday throughout the year, up to 150,000 devotees flock to the shrine. What draws thousands of people to the shrine?

Many who flock to the shrine are hungry, thirsty, alienated, depressed, excluded, abandoned and deprived in multiple ways and variety of experiences. Despite their poverty, they persistently turn to God and Our Mother of Perpetual Help. For many of them, the only strategy available is persistence in prayer. The plight of the poor devotees in Baclaran is, indeed, a present day retelling of the parable by Jesus in the gospel about the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).

Today’s readings for the 29th Sunday in ordinary time is about the “necessity of praying always without becoming weary.”

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable about a widow who kept badgering the judge to vindicate her cause. As Fr. Dennis Hamm, emeritus professor of the New Testament at Creighton University in Omaha, USA, explains, a widow in the Ancient Near East is without resources. Since the court of law was entirely a male realm, we are to picture her as a lone woman amidst a noisy crowd of men. An oft-quoted description of Near Eastern litigation describes a raucous crowd of clients competing for the attention of a judge, who is surrounded by an array of personal clerks. Some clients gain access to the judge by supplying “fees” (bribes) to a particular clerk. The rest simply clamor. The fact that the woman is alone suggests that there is no male available in her extended family to plead her case. She is very much alone in an intimidating situation.[1]

The judge is described as one who neither fears God nor is capable of shame before men. Presumably, he is moved only by bribery (the sort of judge implied by Amos 5:10-13), and this woman is either unwilling or unable to use that means. The only strategy available to her is persistence—which finally gets through to the irreverent and shameless judge.

The First Reading also talks about persistence in prayer but with the help and support of others. Moses stands on the top of a hill where he can see Israel battle it out with Amalek.  To inspire his general, Joshua,  Moses holds out “the staff of God” over the battle. He has to continue holding it out, straight-armed, until the combat is completely done because whenever he lowers his arms the enemy starts to win. This goes on for a long time and Moses’ arms do grow exceedingly weary. Moses was able to keep his hands raised (or “prayed constantly”) with the help of his companions, Aaron and Hur. They even found a rock for him to sit on.

St. Paul too, recommends persistence for Timothy—and us all—in our living and giving of the faith. Paul advises Timothy to “preach the word, to stay with the task whether convenient or inconvenient, correcting, reproving, appealing, constantly teaching and never losing patience.”

Persistence in prayer implies that prayer is a discipline. We tend to be most persistent about what is most important to us. For example, we are persistent in exercise routines, athletic training, musical practice. In the same way, we need to maintain discipline in prayer.

How can we maintain and sustain the discipline of prayer?

Regular

In the first reading, whenever Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight. In the same way, we need constantly to lift up our hands to God. This implies regularity in prayer. We do not just pray in times of need but also in times of joy. We do not only pray when we feel like praying but especially in times when we dont feel like praying. Prayer is an essential part of our daily life. This implies the necessity of forming the habit of prayer. We make prayer a habit, by setting aside a regular time for prayer in our daily routine.

Prayer with action and action with prayer

Moses prayed while Israel was engaged in battle. The persistent widow was banging at the gate of the corrupt judge while doing everything to get the justice she deserves. Indeed, prayer must be accompanied by action and action complemented by prayer. In fact, prayer and action should never be separate from each other.  As the saying goes, “When you pray for rain, take an umbrella.” We also have a Filipino saying which goes, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (Mercy is in God, action is in people). Action without prayer is shallow and prayer without action is empty.

Praying with others

When the devotee goes to the shrine, she/he joins the thousand others who has their own individual petitions. Each one is inspired to not only pray for his/her own but for and with the others. When one hear the thousands sing and pray the novena in unison one cannot help but experience courage and hope, which provide the strength to go on amidst the struggles in life.

We become more persistent in prayer when we pray with others. Prayer makes us stronger in solidarity with others not isolate ourselves from others. Prayer builds communities and communities become more united in prayer.

In our daily lives, we are at a battle. We need both collective action and prayer. Our success in battling the evils and confronting the challenges in our world today depend upon our unity in action and  prayer. Most importantly, through prayer we experience that God is ever near, God is with us in our struggles and aspirations. As Pope Francis said,

In our daily journey, especially in difficulties, in the fight against evil outside of ourselves and within us, the Lord is not far away, he is at our side; we fight, with him beside us, and our weapon is prayer, which makes us feel his presence alongside of us, his mercy, even his help.

Pope Francis, Angelus, October 20, 2013

 


 

[1] Dennis Hamm, SJ, “Let the Scriptures Speak” 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University, October 20, 2019, accessed at https://liturgy.slu.edu/29OrdC102019/theword_hamm.html

 

 

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

rosary_omph

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.

rosary_month

 

17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: PRAYER AS PERSISTENCE

persistence in prayer

I just came back from visiting our home in Bicol, Philippines for the celebration of 93rd birthday of my father.  It was just a simple family celebration to give thanks to God for having given my father such a long life. He doesn’t have any major illness but just general weakness and immobility due to old age.

During the mass in celebration for his birthday, we all shared about the legacy of our father. We all agreed that one of the lasting and greatest legacy he has left us is the value of persistent prayer. He taught us to pray daily the Rosary as a family together. He told us, as well as many people, to pray always. As a Legion of Mary diocesan leader, he would tag us along in going house to house exhorting the people to pray always.

Today’s readings of the 17th Sunday in ordinary time, teach us about persistence in prayer. Jesus in the gospel even tells us to be obstinate in asking God for all our needs.

Abraham in the First Reading continuously bargained and negotiated with God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorah from destruction for the sake of innocent people who lived there. For each of Abraham’s petition, God granted Abrahams prayer.

Jesus recommends the same attitude of persistence in prayer. In the Gospel he tells the famous parable about knocking on the door of a friend late at night to borrow some bread. The friend refuses because he and his family are all in bed. Jesus says, “If he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get out of bed to give him what he needs because of his persistence.”

These readings tell us that prayer is not just mere verbal supplication of our needs but more profoundly a positive and courageous attitude before God. As Pope Francis said, prayer is a courageous “knocking at the heart” of God with a strong unwavering faith that he will respond.

When we pray courageously, the Lord gives us the grace, but he also gives us himself in the grace: the Holy Spirit, that is, himself! Who comes to bring it to me. It’s him. Our prayer, if it is courageous, receives what it asks for, but also that which is more important: the Lord. …

Pope Francis, Vatican City, Oct 10, 2013

In the Baclaran shrine, this persistence in prayer attitude is shown through the letters that devotees write to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  From the thanksgiving letters we read every Wednesday, one important albeit hard insight that devotees learn is that in prayer they receive may not be the answer which they desire, but the answer which God in his wisdom and love knows to be best. In other words, not all petitions from the devotees were answered by God in the exact way and time that the devotees hoped for.

Even though their prayers were not answered in the way they expected it, Our Mother of Perpetual Help empowers and strengthens them as they continue to hope that God will respond to their prayers in the way that God knows what is best for them.  As the devotees pray in the novena, “Make us aware that God never ceases to love us; that He answers all our prayers in the way that is best for us.” Krystelline Jimenez testifies to this conviction in her thanksgiving letter February 3, 2016,

I have prayed the Novena every Wednesday morning for a couple of years now. Some of my petitions were answered with a “no”, some were “not yet” but most were “YES”. But more than the petitions, the Novena gives me a sense of security, a sense of peace, where nothing could ever go wrong. I thank the Lord and Mama Mary for taking care of me and my family despite my shortcomings. Thank you for my whole life, including the No and Not yets.

There are some devotees where many of their petitions were not even answered. Despite this, they continue to come to the shrine. For them, the warm presence and loving gaze of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is enough as it gives them inner peace and strength. This is the experience of Ritchie Limpin who wrote in July 08, 2014,

For a person who has many concerns like me—a single mom who brings up my children alone, it is only to Our Mother of Perpetual Help that I hold on to. I must admit, there are times that I started to ask myself, what do I get out of coming here besides the profound peace I feel whenever I come to this place? Are there any prayers that she has already heard and come true? Despite all of these, I continue to visit her even though sometimes there is nothing that I can think of anymore to pray for. I just remain sitting or kneeling there and praying the novena.

For the petitions answered, however, they are not just graces coming from God but supplemented by human efforts and cooperation. As the Filipino saying goes, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (Mercy is God’s, action is us) implies that prayer must be complemented by action and action must be supplemented by prayer.

7th Day of the Novena for the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Contemplating the Golden Background

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In preparation for the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27, we will not just be praying the Novena but also contemplate on the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help–the meaning of the whole Icon and its parts for nine days.

The contemplation of the icon can be done either before or after praying the novena. It would be most appropriate to have an Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or a copy of the icon in front of you. You can adorn it with candles and some flowers.

For the seventh day of the Novena we will contemplate on the golden background of the icon.

The color gold is the dominant color which occupies the whole icon. Gold is a color which is not normally found in nature. The color gold implies a place which this world cannot give; a place that is bright, peaceful, abundant and joyful. It is already here but we only see a glimpse of it because it is hidden. We will experience the fulfilment and full disclosure of this place at the end of our lives.

The golden background that occupies the whole icon, therefore, is a symbol of heaven, where Jesus and Mary and the saints now dwells. Gold in the icon evokes the life of joy and peace in eternity with God which we are all destined to be at the end of time.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help is the exemplar of the glory and joy that will happen to us at the end of times. Even as the completion of this glory will happen in the end, the icon invites us to open our hearts and mind to the glory of God already unfolding in our daily events—even in the gloomiest days of our lives.

The light of heaven which passes through the clothing of Mary and Jesus indicates the heavenly joy which Jesus and Mary bring to the hearts of all the faithful.  Looking through the icon, therefore, we are invited to see an “it-could-be-otherwise” world. The icon invites us to see behind and beyond their world—with all its sufferings, hardships, hopelessness, injustice, violence, enslavements – in anticipation of a possible world full of possibilities. The icon invites the devotees to contemplate the world in the light of God’s vision and fullness of redemption. “I have come to bring life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).”

As we contemplate the icon, we experience a creative tension between our present situation and the future life in eternity with God which the icon represents. The icon, therefore, is the encounter between heaven and earth, our present age and the fullness of time. Icons are doorway, a means of access into the age to come. It is a meeting point and a place of encounter with the communion of saints.

Mary calls us to participate in this mystery that is depicted in the icon. Therefore, more than an object, the icon is an event.  It is an event of proclamation and encounter. As an event it calls our active response.

Let us contemplate and gaze at the golden background in silence …

At the end of our contemplation, let us pray,

O Mother of Perpetual Help, you are the exemplar of the glory and joy which will happen to us at the end of times. May we open our hearts and mind always to the glory of God unfolding in the daily events—even in the most mundane and gloomy days of our lives. Amen.


 

To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of novena in English, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-english.pdf. To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of the novena in Tagalog, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-tagalog.pdf. For a guide on how to pray the novena at the shrine, click this link: https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-the-shrine/.  For a guide on how to pray the novena at home, click this link: .https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-home/.

For more information on how to contemplate and pray with an icon, click this link: https://aleteia.org/2018/09/12/how-to-pray-with-icons-a-brief-guide/.

5th Day of the Novena for the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Contemplating the Angels

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In preparation for the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27, we will not just be praying the Novena but also contemplate on the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help–the meaning of the whole Icon and its parts for nine days.

The contemplation of the icon can be done either before or after praying the novena. It would be most appropriate to have an Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or a copy of the icon in front of you. You can adorn it with candles and some flowers.

For the fifth day of the Novena we will contemplate on the Angels Gabriel and Michael.

The angel on the left of the icon is St. Michael who holds the spear and sponge of the bitter fluid; these instruments foretell the coming passion and death of Jesus.

The Greek letters OAM (O Arkanguelos Mikael) above the angel on the left means the Archangel St. Michael.

The angel on the right ride of the icon is St. Gabriel who holds the cross and the nails; these instruments foretell the coming passion and death of Jesus.

The Greek letters OAΓ (O Arkanguelos Gabriel) above the angel on the right means the Archangel St. Gabriel.

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The hands of the angels who hold the instruments of passion and death are covered with veil. This is similar to the veil that priest uses when they raise the Blessed Sacrament during benediction.  This implies that the instruments that the angels are holding are extremely sacred like the Blessed Sacrament during the benediction.

The instruments that the Angels hold, therefore, are instruments not of death and failure but of life and victory. The most sacred event of our salvation is the passion and the offering of Jesus’ life for our redemption.

Let us contemplate and gaze at the Angels in silence …

At the end of our contemplation, let us pray,

O Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us that we may experience Jesus’ presence and solidarity in the midst of our difficulties and trials in life. Pray for us that we may see the sacredness of his sacrifice and death on the cross for us. May we experience the glory of Jesus in our own pains and sufferings in this world through our sacrifice and giving of our lives for others.


 

To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of novena in English, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-english.pdf. To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of the novena in Tagalog, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-tagalog.pdf. For a guide on how to pray the novena at the shrine, click this link: https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-the-shrine/.  For a guide on how to pray the novena at home, click this link: .https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-home/.

For more information on how to contemplate and pray with an icon, click this link: https://aleteia.org/2018/09/12/how-to-pray-with-icons-a-brief-guide/.

Here is the schedule of the Novena and Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at the Shrine:

baclaran-fiesta-2019

4th Day of the Novena for the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Contemplating the Hands of Mary

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In preparation for the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27, we will not just be praying the Novena but also contemplate on the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help–the meaning of the whole Icon and its parts for nine days.

The contemplation of the icon can be done either before or after praying the novena. It would be most appropriate to have an Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or a copy of the icon in front of you. You can adorn it with candles and some flowers.

For the fourth day of the Novena we will contemplate on the Hands of Mary.

The right hand of Mary does not hold the hands of Jesus but points to Jesus which says: “Follow him: He is our Redeemer!”

The left hand of Mary holds Jesus in a loving and caring way. The left hand of Mary symbolizes the throne of Jesus where Jesus sits. Mary, therefore, is the seat of Wisdom who is Jesus.

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An important Marian archetypes that is significantly present in the icon of OMPH is the Marian archetype of HodegetriaHodegetria is a Greek word which literally means “She who shows the Way.” It depicts Mary as the guide. In this type, the Ever Virgin Mary is holding Christ and pointing toward Him, as a guide to God and salvation. It is interesting to note that Mary in the Eastern tradition does not give so much emphasis on Mary in her own right. In Byzantine icons, Mary is never depicted by herself, autonomously, separately but always depicted with her divine son—Jesus.

Mary’s right hand is, above all, the Hodegetria hand, that is to say, the hand of she who shows the path to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, as in the wedding feast at Cana, she appears to say to believers: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Let us contemplate and gaze at the hands of Mary in silence …

At the end of our contemplation, let us pray,

O Mother of Perpetual Help, your greatest aspiration for us is to follow the way of Jesus when you said, “Do whatever he tells you”. You are the first disciple of Jesus and you showed us the true meaning of discipleship. Pray for us that like you we may become true disciples of Jesus by being totally open and cooperative to God’s plan and word in our lives.

 


 

To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of novena in English, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-english.pdf. To download a copy of the newest 2016 Jubilee version of the novena in Tagalog, click this link: http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/revised-novena-tagalog.pdf. For a guide on how to pray the novena at the shrine, click this link: https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-the-shrine/.  For a guide on how to pray the novena at home, click this link: .https://baclaranphenomenon.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/how-to-pray-the-novena-at-home/.

For more information on how to contemplate and pray with an icon, click this link: https://aleteia.org/2018/09/12/how-to-pray-with-icons-a-brief-guide/.

Here is the schedule of the Novena and Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at the Shrine:

baclaran-fiesta-2019