The First Redemptorist Community of Baclaran

This month of February marks the 87th year of the Redemptorist missionaries at Baclaran. When the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran, the land area was a grassland near the shore of Manila Bay. Let us look back into the events of 1932, the year when the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran.

1st comm 1932
First Redemptorist Community in Baclaran, 1932

The Redemptorists had already been in Malate parish since 1912 but found that the work in the Parish made it impossible for them to give Missions, the work for which they were principally founded. As a result of this they handed over the parish of Malate to the Columban Fathers on March 9th, 1929. Eventually they all withdrew to Cebu.

When the Archbishop of Manila Very Rev. Michael O’Doherty generously gave the perpetual use of three hectares of land in Baclaran, to the Redemptorists in 1930, Fr Grogan was chosen to return to Manila and take charge of building a Monastery and Church. He returned to Malate as a guest on Nov 6th, 1930 and was warmly welcomed by the Fathers. He wasted no time in getting to work on the job that had been assigned to him.

This was not easy. The land had no fence and had not even been surveyed. Worse, there was a Public Artesian Well in the middle of the property. All he could do was to start working and leave everything in the hands of his patron saint, Sta. Teresita of the Child Jesus. This apparently worked for by June 1931, he was able to sign a Contract for the building of a Monastery and another for the Church by October 17th, of the same year. Both were to be finished by February of 1932.

The new Community arrived on Feb 15th, 1932. They were Frs. Gallagher, Frean, Cosgrave, Taylor and Bros. Paschal, Adrian and Albert. They had supper in Malate and then proceeded to Baclaran to check out their new home. We read in the Chronicles of the day:

All were delighted with their new home but the romantic was not wanting. They discovered late in the evening that the gas for the stove had not been connected and breakfast next morning, the first meal, was cooked in true camp style by boiling the billy in the open.

The blessing of the Church took place on the 21st, of February. The blessing was done by Very Rev. Michael Doherty, assisted by Fr. Clementine Rodriguez, Parish Priest of Sta Rita, Baclaran, James Hayes S.J., Provincial of the Jesuits and Canon Jose Jovelanos.

Fr. Grogan left for Australia by boat on March 21st. He had finished his work and left to the new Community a home where they could live as Religious and get on with their principal work of learning Tagalog to give Missions to the Filipino People.

On Sunday July 3rd Fr. Taylor preached the first Tagalog sermon in Baclaran Church. On July 18th, Fr Gallagher opened a retreat to the girls of the Good Shepherd Convent in Sta. Ana. This finished on 22nd, and the whole was preached in Tagalog. The next month they hired a translator, Juan Santos to help speed up the Translation of their sermons. Within the first year the community had succeeded in learning sufficient Tagalog to give Missions and had begun to do so.

Fr. John Maguire, CSsR,

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Pueblo Amante de Maria: A People in Love with Our Mother of Perpetual Help

 [T]he church of the Philippines, as pueblo amante de Maria, “a people in love with Mary,” will always continue to seek her intercession and learn from her way of life what we need to be as a community of disciples. She is truly what her oldest image in the Philippines call her: Nuestra Senora de Guia, Our Lady who guides our way.[2]                  

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The wonderful phenomenon in Baclaran could not have happened without the warm affection of Filipino devotees to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Baclaran is the quintessential expression of the phrase, pueblo amante de Maria, “bayang sumisinta kay Maria,” a people in love with Mary. This is shown by the fact that more than a hundred thousand devotees flock to Baclaran every Wednesday. Numbers alone, however, could not fully define the devotion to Mary of Baclaran. As Fr. Sam Boland affirms,

“Numbers have long since ceased to have much significance in Baclaran. The church belongs to the people, and they are there to be seen and to provide inspiration by a piety that is so visible and so obviously genuine.”[3]

In my almost ten years of ministry at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran I have been privileged to witness the outpouring of affection of the Filipinos to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. On any given Wednesday at Baclaran I am always amazed at the sheer faith and resilient hope of the thousands of devotees who flock to the Shrine. Enduring the heat and rain, the traffic, the pollution, the vendors, they make their way to the shrine to pray the novena and celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist and reconciliation.

Filipinos have taken Our Mother of Perpetual Help into their homes and communities. Devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help has become an important part of the heritage of the nation and identity of the people. It has shaped the Filipino identity and the Filipino culture has shaped devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. A slogan popularized by the shrine captures this special devotion: “Filipino ako, Deboto ng Ina ng Laging Saklolo” (I am a Filipino, Devotee of Our Mother of Perpetual Help). Filipinos are proud to profess it wherever they go, whether here or abroad. It’s almost like being a devotee of Our Mother of Perpetual Help comes with being a Filipino.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help is no longer a Redemptorist franchise. Our Mother of Perpetual Help has become an essential aspect of the ecclesial life of the Philippine church. Almost every parish in the whole country, pray the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help every Wednesday. Many religious and clergy are devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Indeed, the Philippines is a Marian country.

Philippines: A Marian Country

 The pastoral letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 1975, Ang Mahal na Birhen, declares the very special place of the Mother of Christ in the life of the Filipino people.[4] The letter particularly notes the deeply rooted veneration to Mary in the socio-religious structure of the Filipino Christian family: “A familiar sight in many homes, even of modest income, is what can be called the ‘family altar.’  In most families the image venerated is the image of the Virgin Mary under one of her familiar invocations.”[5] Mary’s special place amongst the Filipinos is also expressed in the patronage of Mary in many local churches all over the country:

“[A] very large number of parishes are dedicated to the Mother of God under one of her many invocations.  Four hundred sixty-three, or over one-fourth of all parishes, have the Virgin Mary as their titular patron without counting innumerable barrio chapels, religious oratories or private shrines dedicated to her.”[6]

Over 100 of the parishes honor the Immaculate Conception, over 60 are dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, while others carry various titles like the Assumption, Our Lady of Carmel, Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc.[7]  The various manifestations of popular piety towards the Mother of God appear not only in the number of churches, chapels, or shrines consecrated to her, but in many other forms, ranging from the liturgical celebration of her feasts throughout the year to religious calendars with the holy picture of Mary — not always of the most artistic nature, it must be acknowledged — in the most humble nipa huts or in the slums of the cities, to her picture in public vehicles, buses or jeepneys.  Grottoes dedicated to the Immaculate Conception under the invocation of Lourdes are found in private gardens or in various public places, along the roads or in corners of modest dwellings.[8] The endless symphony of Marian names in the baptismal records of our parishes … It may be safely said that of the names of saintly women imposed in Baptism, none is more frequently found than the name of Mary either expressly or in one of her many titles.[9]

But what is behind the Filipinos as “pueblo amante de Maria”?  What is behind the Filipino people’s exuberant zeal for Mary?

Drinking from their Own Well: Wellspring of Filipinos’ Love for Mary 

Religiosity is deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche.  Filipinos are deeply spiritual and religious people even before the Spanish Friars came to transplant Christianity to the country. According to V.G. Enriquez, Filipinos had their own native religion before Islam and Christianity came to their land. This was a monotheistic religion based on the belief on a Supreme Being.[10] While Z. Salazar states that the faith of the early Filipinos was based on the belief in anito which is considered as pure soul, pure spirit and God.[11] Likewise, J.C. Sevilla asserts that the native Filipinos have many religious rituals like devotion before the Spanish missionaries came.[12]  The subterranean religiosity and animistic belief did not disappear even after 400 years of Christianity as Leonado Mercado declares, “The Filipinos are animists in their heart despite the 400 years of Roman Catholicism.” [13]

The rich pre-Spanish religiosity of the Filipinos presents a very important premise. As with every culture and people, the indigenous Filipinos were not tabula rasa in terms of worldview and belief before the Spanish colonizers and missionaries came. Filipinos received Catholicism in the milieu of their indigenous religion and culture which they never relinquished even up to now.  Ironically, the indigenous religion of the natives, the very stamp which the Spanish missionaries have fought so hard to eradicate, became the source of hospitality for the natives in receiving the new faith. Hospitality of the Filipinos, therefore, was not just the welcoming of the foreign but also making the foreign religion their own in the context of their indigenous beliefs and religiosity.

The Christian proselytization of the Philippines was therefore not based on an unequal negotiation where only one has the goods while the other has nothing to offer. This belies the notion that the Spanish missionaries brought Christianity to a waiting Filipino natives who had nothing to offer to the missionaries in return.  In other words, it was not merely a giver-receiver relationship. Native Filipinos had their native religion and culture while Spanish missionaries had their Spanish culture and Catholic religion. Christianity as represented by the Spanish missionaries and indigenous religion as represented by the Filipino natives benefited from a process of mutual conversion during the beginnings of Spanish colonial era in the Philippines.  Thus, the Christian evangelization in the Philippines was a two way process.  The Spanish colonizers brought Christianity to the islands to transform the indigenous religion of the natives but in the process the indigenous religion also transformed Christianity. This mutual conversion became the unique stamp of Christianity of the Philippines today.

The above premise is essential in understanding the early Filipinos’ embrace of Mary. The Filipino natives attributed to Mary some of their ancient beliefs and rituals. Karl Gaspar, for example, contends that the Filipinos’ penchant for Mary can be rooted to indigenous Filipinos’ worship of indigenous goddesses. The matriarchal belief system that arose since the beginning of cultures privileged not just the notion of a female deity but a most highly revered Mother Goddess.[14] Gaspar argues that this expression of the “feminine principle” is integral to the pre-conquest ancestors’ indigenous belief system.  Like many other traditional societies, the feminine principle within indigenous Filipino’s belief system is manifested in the matriarchal elements in their culture.  Manuel Victor Sapitula also argues that the “feminine principle” strongly resonates with the devotion to the Virgin Mary.[15] Comparing among religious traditions, the figure of the Virgin Mary is analogous to a number of female divine figures and deities.[16]

The feminine principle of Filipino indigenous spirituality is further manifested through the work of indigenous priestesses called babaylans. Babaylan is a Visayan term identifying an indigenous Filipino religious leader, who functions as a healer, a shaman, a seer and a community “miracle-worker” (or a combination of any of those).[17] The Northern Tagalog Region equivalent of babaylan is katalonan. The word “katalo” means “in good terms with.” The babaylan were predominantly female. Gaspar claims that there are males who appropriated this role but they had to speak, dress up and gesticulate like women.[18]

Spanish Times: Marianization of Filipino Religiosity or Filipinization of Marian Spirituality?

When the Spanish missionaries came in the 16th century, the Filipino’s embrace of Mary was one of the key factors to the widespread and surprisingly peaceful Christianization of the islands. This position is the main thesis of Pedro Vasquez Zafe’s dissertation on the role of Marian devotion during the Spanish evangelization of the Philippines:

“The early missionaries who came to the Philippines from Spain from the very beginning found that the devotion to the Blessed Mother was so readily received by the natives, that they increasingly made it a significant part of their evangelizing work.”[19]

The Filipino Catholic faith would not be like as it is today if not for the Filipino’s warm devotion to Mary, Zafe argues.

“[T]he Philippines would not be what it is now-the only Catholic nation in the Orient-were it not, as history testifies, [due] to the many interventions of Mary in answer to the tender and filial devotion which the Filipino people professed towards her.”[20]

Zafe describes further how the Spanish missionaries were so pleased about the natives’ very eager reception to the devotion to the Mother of God everywhere in the islands.  Filipinos were taught and with great readiness adopted practices of Marian devotion: prayed the Rosary specially, joined Marian associations the missionaries organized, venerated Marian images, and those who had acquired reading and writing skills, read devotional treatises and other books on the Blessed Virgin Mary.[21] Marian shrines were built and multiplied rapidly throughout the islands. Marian images were venerated from the earliest period of evangelization; each image “had its own story to tell”: stories of faith and its rewards, stories of devotion and love and its blessings, stories of prayers offered and wonders wrought-miracles duly recorded, investigated and given credence by church authorities, all received through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, revered in so many of her images, invoked under her different names.[22]

Catalino Arevalo also commented about how visitors from Europe going through the city of Manila, and through many other towns in the evenings during the Spanish times, were amazed upon hearing the rosary recited in every house they passed. On barges and in boats bringing people from place to place, travelers would sing hymns to Our Lady, and pray the Hail Mary’s of the rosary through much of the journey.[23] At daybreak, the town’s leaders and its students would gather at the church for the Angelus and rosary, and on given days, the Mass. In the afternoons, as the day was ending, once again, the Angelus and the rosary, with practically everyone among the townsfolk participating. Before the families slept at their homes for the night, before the church doors shut for the day, there would be devotions once again, ending (as the canonical hours do) with hymns to the Mother of God, the Salve Regina above all.[24]

Ang Mahal na Birhen also affirms the early Filipinos’ warm reception to Mary.  The Filipinos’ warm reception to Mary during the Spanish times was shown through the establishment of many religious and lay orders and sodalities dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the mid-eighteenth century:

“[T]he first Filipino congregation for religious women, dedicated from its beginning to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Philippines, popularly known as Religious of the Virgin Mary … the Barangay Sang Birhen, the Sodality of Our Lady, the Legion of Mary, the Association of the Children of Mary Immaculate, are [all] fruits of the same devotion and have contributed in their own way to the development of Christian life in the Archipelago.”[25]

While Zafe and Arevalo positively described Filipino’s warm reception to Mary during the Spanish times, however, they never linked it with the Filipino’s inchoate religiosity and archetypal worship of mother goddess. Could it be that the feminine principle of Filipino indigenous spirituality prepared them for the warm acceptance of Mary during the Spanish evangelization? Zafe and Arevalo are silent about this.

Gaspar, on the other hand, asserts that the native’s indigenous worship of a Mother Goddess transferred to a Marian devotion during the Spanish times, like the case of Nuestra Seňora de Peňafrancia, known as Ina throughout the Bicol region.[26]  Sapitula concurs with Gaspar by asserting that the story of the devotion of Bicolanos to Nuestra Seňora de Peňafrancia shows how the local population re-appropriated conventional Marian symbols within their own cultural notions, despite attempts by Spanish missionaries to “domesticate” her according to their own categories of passivity (see Brewer 2001).[27]

Sapitula further expounds that the veneration of images of Christ, Mary and the saints became the replacement for the pre-conquest practice of worshipping larawans (animist images). The predisposition toward iconic representations of divine power enabled the local population to identify with Christian images as replacements of their pre-conquest divinities, as these were absorbed into their existing indigenous sacral iconography (Mojares 2002).[28] Similarly, the Spanish missionaries found great potential in the work of babaylans in propagating devotion to Mary. The missionaries effectively attributed the work of Babaylan the meaning of Marian beliefs. They substituted pagan practices done by babaylans with devotion to the Virgin May but serving the same function.  An example of this is recounted by the Jesuit missionary chronicler Pedro Chirino:

A plague of locusts had been doing great damage in the island for two years.  In order to obtain from God a remedy for this evil, they chose the most holy Virgin Mary as their intercessor, and made a vow to celebrate the feast of her most pure Conception, and to give on that occasion liberal alms as aid for the marriages of the poor and the orphans.  They fulfilled their promises, and our Lord received their humble service, showing them that He was well pleased by turning aside the locusts from their crops, and giving them that year very abundant harvests.  All the people of the village have now directed to the Church that recourse and dependence which they formerly had on the ministers of the devil.[29]

When the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help arrived in the Philippines in 1906, profound affection to Mary was already deeply ingrained in the Filipino consciousness. Filipino’s affection to Mary during the Spanish times rooted in their inchoate religiosity and archetypal worship of mother goddess made easier for the formation of devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Despite that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is different from the images and statues of Mary they venerated during the Spanish times, Filipinos embraced the icon as it appealed to them as the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Filipinos’ devotion to Mary has contributed greatly to sustaining the Catholic faith in the Philippines. Ang Mahal na Birhen recognizes this important reality. Mary has been, and remains, a central inspiring force among the masses of our people in “the preservation of our Catholic Faith, and the principle of deeper and fuller evangelization”[30]

I have personally witnessed this many times when I gave missions to the people living in far flung areas. Attending mass was practically impossible for them. The only means that sustain their spiritual hunger is their devotion to Mary through the rosary, processions and the novena. Even where religious instruction among Catholics is inadequate, the Filipino always holds on to the devotion to Mary as a source of inspiration and an aid to salvation.  This devotion, even in an imperfect form is a positive asset that we pray will always be ours.[31]

Conclusion

There is a profound source for the warm affection of the Filipinos to Mary. The wellspring of Filipinos’ affection for Mary is rooted from their indigenous culture and religiosity.  God has planted in the hearts of the Filipino the love and affection for Mary even before the Redemptorist arrived in the Philippines in 1906; even before the icon was brought to their homes and even before the novena was prayed in the churches of Redemptorist and all the churches in the Philippines.

Today devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is the most popular Marian devotion in the Philippines.

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[1] The expression, “Pueblo amante de Maria” were originally words found in a Eucharistic hymn (written in 1937) often sung in the Philippines when Spanish was more understood than it is at present: “a people devoted to Mary, a people who love Mary.” See Catalino G. Arevalo, S.J., Mary in Philippine Catholic Life, Landas 14 (2000): 106-116, 106.

[2] PCP-II, #153.

[3] Fr. Sam Boland, CSsR, Redemptorist in Luzon

[4] Ang Mahal na Birhen: Mary in Philippine Life Today, A Pastoral Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary,

Manila: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, 1975, #3.

[5] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #13

[6] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #6

[7] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #7.

[8] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #14

[9] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #15

[10] Enriquez, V.G.  (1994).  Indigenous psychology and culture.  Nasa:  Pagbabagong dangal :  Indigenous

psychology and cultural movement.  Quezon City :  Akademya ng kultura at sikolohiyang Pilipino.

[11] Yabut, “Apung Mamacalulu,” 2-3.

[12] Sevilla, J.C. (1982). Filipino religious psychology: A commentary. Nasa R. Pe-Pua (pat.), Sikolohiyang

Pilipino: Teorya, Metodo at Gamit. [pp. 306-314]. Lungsod Quezon: University of the Philippines

Press.

[13] Mercado, L. (1977) Retrospect:  Some comments on Filipino religious psychology.    Nasa L. Mercado (pat).  Filipino Religious Psychology:  Kumprensyang Rehiyonal sa Sikolohiyang Pilipino (pp180-188).  Tacloban City:  Divine Word University Publications.

[14] Karl Gaspar, Embracing the Mother’s Perpetual Compassion: The Specific Place of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon-Novena in the Philippines’ Varied Marian Devotions,6.

[15] Sapitula, 97.

[16] Sapitula, 98.

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babaylan

[18] Gaspar, Embracing the Mother’s Perpetual Compassion, 11.

[19] Zafe, Marian Devotion: Its Role in the Evangelization of the Philippines, 150.

[20] Pedro Vasquez Zafe, Marian Devotion: Its Role in the Evangelization of the Philippines [Dissertation presented to the Faculty of Sacred Theology]. Rome: Pontifical University of Saint Thomas, 1968, 154.

[21] Zafe, Marian Devotion: Its Role in the Evangelization of the Philippines, 105-17.

[22] Zafe, Marian Devotion: Its Role in the Evangelization of the Philippines, 105-17.

[23] Arevalo, S.J., “Mary in Philippine Catholic Life,” 110.

[24] Arevalo, S.J., “Mary in Philippine Catholic Life,” 109.

[25] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #21

[26] Gaspar, Embracing the Mother’s Perpetual Compassion, 14.

[27] Sapitula, 110.

[28] Sapitula, 103-104.

[29] Pedro Chirino, SJ., Relaciόn de las Islas Filipinas y de lo que en ellas han trabajado los Padres de la Compaňia de Jesŭs (2nd ed.; Manila, 1890), 74 – 78.  Taken from John Shumacher, SJ., Readings in Philippine History, Quezon: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979, 76, #43

[30] Ang Mahal na Birhen, 72-73.

[31] Ang Mahal na Birhen, #63.

(This article is an excerpt from the book Mary of Baclaran: Our Mother of Perpetual Help and Mission Today by Joey Echano, soon to be published)

 

How to Consecrate the Whole Family to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

family-consecration

Consecrating the whole family to Our Mother of Perpetual Help before praying the novena regularly as a family is always a good thing. It ensures that the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is not only private and individual but by the whole family. It also strengthens the unity of the family as it gathers the family through prayer. As the saying goes, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

Here are some helpful tips for the family in preparing for it’s consecration to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

  1. Decide a time where as much as possible all members of the family can get together for the consecration.
  2. Prepare an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help or a copy of the icon and place it on the family altar. Adorn it with candles and some fresh flowers.
  3. Prepare Holy Water. You can get Holy Water from the shrine or from your local parish.
  4. Provide a copy of the rite of consecration to each member of the family.
  5. You can invite your neighbors or friends to witness the consecration. This is optional. The most important is that the whole family is present.
  6. You can invite a priest to lead the consecration. But if there is no priest available, a lay minister or the head of the family can lead the consecration.
  7. After the consecration, have a simple and joyous meal together as a family. 

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Here is the rite for the consecration:

BLESSING OF A FAMILY AND
CONSECRATION TO 
OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP

ORDER OF BLESSING

INTRODUCTORY RITES

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Priest:      The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

All: And also with you.

Or

(If Lay Minister):   The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and for ever.

  1.   Amen.

Leader:    My dear friends, from the sacrament of marriage the family has received newness of life and the grace of Christ. The family is specially important to the Church and to civil society, for it is the primary life-giving community.

In our celebration today we call down the Lord’s blessing upon you, so that you may continually be instruments of God’s grace to one another and witnesses to faith in all the circumstances of life.

With God as your help you will fulfill your mission by conforming your entire life to the Gospel and so witness to Christ before the world.

READING OF THE WORD OF GOD

Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians12:12-14

We are all one body.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many.

The Word of the Lord.

Or:

Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians 4:1-6

Bear with one another lovingly.

I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 128

  1. Happy are those who fear the Lord.

Happy are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; happy shall you be, and favored. R.

Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion: may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life; May you see your children’s children. R.

INTERCESSIONS

L:    Christ the Lord, the Word coeternal with the Father, lived among us and chose to be part of a family and to enrich it with his blessings. Let us humbly ask for his favor and protection on this family.

  1.   Lord, keep our family in your peace.

L:    Through your own obedience to Mary and Joseph you consecrated family life; make this family holy by your presence. (For this we pray:) R.

L:    Your heart was set on the concerns of your Father; make every home a place where he is worshiped with reverence. (For this we pray:) R.

L:    You made your own family the model of prayer, of love, and of obedience to your Father’s will; by your grace make this family holy and make it rich with your gifts. (For this we pray:) R.

L:    You loved those who were close to you and they returned your love; bind all families together in the bonds of peace and of love for each other. (For this we pray:) R.

L:    At Cana in Galilee, when a new family was beginning, you gladdened it with your first miracle, changing water into wine; alleviate the sorrows and worries of this family and change them into joy. (For this we pray:) R.

L:    In your concern for the integrity of your family you said: “Let no one separate those whom God has bound together”; bind this husband and wife ever more closely together in the bond of your own love. (For this we pray:) R.

Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior taught us:

All: Our Father…

PRAYER OF BLESSING

L:    O God, you have created us in love and saved us in mercy, and through the bond of marriage you have established the family and willed that it should become a sign of Christ’s love for his Church.

Shower your blessings on this family gathered here in your name. Enable those who are joined by one love to support one another by their fervor of spirit and devotion to prayer. Make them responsive to the needs of others and witnesses to the faith in all they say or do.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

  1.   Amen.

Or:

L:    We bless your name, O Lord, for sending your own incarnate Son to become part of a family, so that, as he lived its life, he would experience its worries and its joys.

We ask you, Lord, to protect and watch over this family, so that in the strength of your grace its members may enjoy prosperity, possess the priceless gift of your peace, and, as the Church alive in the home, bear witness in this world to your glory.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

  1.   Amen.

Sprinkle the family with holy water.

CONCLUDING RITE

Act of Consecration to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

(To be prayed by all the members of the family)

Immaculate Virgin Mary, * Mother of God and Mother of the Church, * you are also our Mother ever ready to help us. * With hearts full of love for you * we consecrate ourselves to your Immaculate Heart * so that we may be your devoted children. * Obtain for us true sorrow for sins * and fidelity to the promises of our Baptism.

We consecrate our minds and hearts to you * that we always do the Will of our heavenly Father. * We consecrate our lives to you * that we may love God better * and live not for ourselves * but for Christ, your Son * and that we may see Him * and serve Him in others.

By this humble act of consecration, * dear Mother of Perpetual Help, * we pledge to model our lives on you, * the perfect Christian, * so that, consecrated to you in life and in death * we may belong to your Divine Son for all eternity. Amen.

L:    May the Lord Jesus, who lived with his holy family in Nazareth, dwell also with your family, keep it from evil, and make all of you one in heart and mind.

  1.   Amen.

Priest:      And may almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit.

  1.             Amen.

You can print a copy of this rite of consecration in Tagalog @ http://www.baclaranchurch.org/assets/pagtatalaga-ng-pamilya-sa-omph.pdf

family_shrine

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

The Heavenly Sounds of Carillon Bells

carillon_bells2

In the midst of so much noise from cars, airplanes, vendors and people on the streets, a new kind of sound could be heard emanating in Baclaran today.  This sound comes from the carillon bells of the newly constructed bell tower of the shrine. The bells’ exquisite sounds evoke a sacred aura that could be heard as far as one kilometer. One can hear these sounds at certain times of the day.

This is the first time the Shrine has had a bell tower since it was built. Built in 2015, devotees and pilgrims helped fund the carillon bell tower. The shrine has opened the bell tower to all devotees and guests every day. It is becoming one of the most popular spots in the shrine today.

 “Carillon” is a set of stationary bells normally placed in a tower or high outdoor frame which when rung together can play a song or music. There are 25 carillon bells in this tower. They were all casted by Grassmayr, a European leading bell casting company from Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria.

The carillon bells do not need a human bell ringer. They are automatically programmed to ring at 6 am, 12 pm and 6 pm for the angelus. It also rings at 8 pm in honor of the dead and at 3 pm in commemoration of the death of Jesus on the cross. It also rings 15 minutes before every Mass or Novena service. There are 55 carillon bell “songs” to choose from, which include Novena songs, Christmas songs and religious songs. In special occasions of the shrine, like the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, they are used to signify to people about an important part of a liturgical service like the consecration in the Eucharist.

carillon_bellTowerThe bell tower also features 4 mosaics of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on each side of the tower. The four mosaic panels were created by VitreArtus Liturgical Arts Company owned by Mr Robert Cruz. According to Cruz, VitreArtus used imported glass tesserae which are homogeneously colored stones that will never fade.

Another interesting feature of the Carillon bell tower is the Sinirangan coffee shop at its ground floor. The Sinirangan Coffee Shops is another spot which is becoming increasingly popular.  If you have the chance to climb the tower you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the surroundings of the Baclaran National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

It is indeed refreshing to hear the sounds from this bell tower. In this technological age, the carillon bells help to remind us of a time when bells were used to call worshippers to the church for a communal service, and to announce times of daily prayer, especially the angelus. It helps us to pause and ponder the sense of mystery amidst the frenzied and materialistic rhythm of our daily existence.

sinirangan2

Top 10 to do list after Attending the Novena and Mass at the Shrine

 

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  1. Light a candle at the candle chapel.
  2. Write a letter of petition or thanksgiving
  3. Buy an icon or a novena booklet of OMPH and let it touch the original icon
  4. Attend the blessing of religious articles at the outside corridor on the top left side of the shrine during Wednesdays and Sundays. Bring your icon, rosaries, novena booklets, crucifix, statue and other religious objects to be blessed. You can also ask blessing for yourself.
  5. Offer masses for your petitions and thanksgiving.  All your intentions are offered in the masses celebrated at the shrine and in many dioceses and parishes all over the Philippines.
  6. Relax and enjoy the fresh air at the shrine surroundings. Sit and admire the trees and plants at the garden. Bring your own food and have a picnic underneath the trees.
  7. Visit and appreciate the wall art on the southern wall of the shrine near the candle chapel. It is the longest wall art in a church composed of murals, mosaic and mixed media art.
  8. Make a wish and drop a coin at our wells and fountains around the shrine. All coins and notes dropped at our fountains and wells goes to the box for the poor which funds many projects benefitting the poor all over the Philippines.
  9. Drink coffee at Sinirangan coffee shop. You can enjoy hot or cold coffee, chocolate and smoothies while at the same time helping the poor farmers of Eastern Samar.
  10. Climb to the top of the Carillon Bell Tower. It is a good exercise and you will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Baclaran, MOA and the bayside reclamation area. You can even bring your coffee at the top, or better still, ask the Sinirangan staff to bring your order at the top. What else can outshine an experience of drinking coffee while watching the famous sunset of Manila Bay?

Redemptorists: Stewards of the Icon at Baclaran

redemptorist brought the icon to the Philippines

The official name of the shrine of Baclaran is National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Most, however, refer to it as the Redemptorist Church. This implies a deeper recognition that a significant factor of the Baclaran phenomenon is the Redemptorist tradition.

The Re­demptorist missionaries are the honored stewards of the shrine.  What does the Redemptorists bring into the Baclaran phenomenon? In this blog, I will show that the Redemptorists’ main contribution to the Baclaran phenomenon is its missionary charism and Marian tradition.

Mission

The Redemptorist is a missionary congregation founded by St. Alphonsus de Liguori in 1732 in Scala, Italy. Alphonsus founded the Redemptorist to give mission to the poor and the most abandoned. This is encapsulated in the constitution of the congregation: The raison d’ etre of the Redemptorist congregation is the mission of preaching the Good News to the poor, to “follow the example of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, by preaching the word of God to the poor …”[1] Therefore, the main charism of the Redemptorist is preaching and evangelization: “Indeed Redemptorists have as their special mission in the Church the explicit proclamation of the word of God to bring about fundamental conversion.[2]

The Redemptorists came to the Philippines in 1906 to do exactly what their founder and tradition instructed them to do. In spite of the many challenges that the Redemptorist encountered at the beginning—a hostile people due to the negative experience from the Spanish missionaries, a different culture, a hot climate, internal squabbles—the Redemptorist immediately buckled to do what they know best—doing missions in the barrios. Along with proclaiming the abundant redemption in Christ, the Redemptorist set out to propagate the maternal care and guidance of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In so doing, the Redemptorists missions in the barrios coupled with the enthusiastic response of the people, sowed the seeds of devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help deep into the country.

The Baclaran phenomenon was not an abrupt phenomenon; it slowly grew from the numerous missions, which the Redemptorists conducted in the barrios throughout the country. The Redemptorists’ effort was, however, generously complemented by the efforts of local people from the mission areas, as they themselves became co-missionaries in spreading the icon and the novena. The local churches led by their pastor was also enthusiastic to make the novena a permanent feature of their parish life.

The Redemptorist Mission laid the groundwork for the spread of the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. On the other hand, the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help by the people sustained the mission even after the missionaries have left. Redemptorist mission helped in the evangelization of the Filipinos through the Our Mother of Perpetual Help. If there are crowning glories of the Redemptorist mission in the Philippines, then Baclaran phenomenon can easily be considered as one of them.

This is, at least, what the late Fr. John Maguire believes—that the novena was just a fruit of the missions:

I believe that the Baclaran Novena is one of the greatest forces for good in the world but it is just one of the fruits of the continuing struggle of the Redemptorists to give Missions to the people wherever they are needed.[3]

Maguire emphasized further that despite the novena in Baclaran, missions were being simultaneously done in the nearby provinces.  Even as the Redemptorist were kept more and more occupied with the teeming number of devotees flocking to the shrine, they never abandoned their original charism.  Thus, throughout these years the shrine have been going around the parishes doing parish missions, assisting them in Christian community building in line with the thrust of the Philippine Church and our local church. This is not so much known fact about Baclaran but has been going on for years.

The impact of the Redemptorist missions on the Church and its evangelizing work among the people cannot be underestimated. Bishop Lino Gonzaga of the Diocese of Palo writing for the souvenir program in celebration of the 50 years of Redemptorists in the Philippines in 1956, said:

When the history of the church of the Philippines shall be written, it will surely contain a chapter on the work of the Redemptorist missionaries. But even as the chapters in any history book, it will only give an account of the events ‘in their cold external garment’.  No history book can picture sufficiently the flame of apostolic zeal; no chapter can do full justice to the effects of God’s grace in a mission. Only when the Lord ‘brings to light what is hidden in darkness and reveals the secrets of men’s hearts’, only then shall we know the real worth and magnitude of the apostolate of the Redemptorist missionaries in our country.

All these show that from the very beginning, mission and devotion was not separate. Devotion grew out of mission and mission sustained because of devotion. The mutual enrichment of mission and devotion culminated in the Baclaran phenomenon. As Manuel Victor Sapitula, in his dissertation on Baclaran, affirms, “Because of its missionary charism, the Redemptorists were able to expand the reach of the devotion’s significance in ways that resonated with structural changes in postwar Philippine society.”[4]

Marian Tradition

Marian theology and spirituality run deep in the Redemptorist tradition inherited from its founder, St. Alphonus.

I remember when I was a child, I used to see the book Glories of Mary on the table of my father. My father used to read it a lot and loved it so much. When I entered the Redemptorist seminary it was only then that I found out that the author of Glories of Mary is St. Alphonsus de Ligouri, the founder of the Redemptorists.

Many consider St. Alphonsus as one of the most prolific Marian saints; his devotion to Mary is profound and profuse. Evidence of this is his numerous books, paintings, and hymns, let alone all the prayers, dedicated to Mary. Among his most popular works about Mary are:[5] Prayers to the Blessed Virgin for every day of the week, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Glories of Mary. Alphonsus also wrote many other smaller treatises, sermons, letters, and articles in larger works. Likewise, he often writes a thought about Mary or a prayer to her in his works such as the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ.

Mary has always been at the heart of Redemptorist life. From the foundation of the Redemptorists, there have been many popular images of Mary, each one significant at a particular time. In sequence, they were:[6] Our Lady of Ransom – at whose shrine Alphonsus dedicated his life, Our Lady of Good Counsel- whose picture Alphonsus kept on his desk and the Immaculate Conception – patroness of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Because of this Marian tradition, an essential part of the Redemptorist mission is the propagation of the devotion to Mary. This was given a significant boost when in April 1866, Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists, for public veneration with the command to “make her known” throughout the world.

When the Redemptorists came to the Philippines, they brought the Icon wherever they gave missions. Michael Bailey recounts the very first mission of this kind that was conducted in Compostela, Cebu in 1907:

The most significant thing about this “missionette” was that the picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Help 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 Our Mother of Perpetual Help that was to bear much fruit in missions and retreats, and later, in the devotion of the Perpetual Novena.[7]

More than mere patronage, Campos implies Mary as the primary missionary with the Redemptorists.  Campos elaborates, “Mary arrives with the missionaries and her icon assumes a principal place … She is the missionary who discerns and speaks in the interior of each heart, suggesting the responses of faith.”[8] Thus, fields evangelized by the Redemptorists are also fields evangelized by the virgin of Perpetual Help.[9]

After every mission, Redemptorists usually leave behind to the people two things: 1. The mission cross, 2. The icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  Through this, even after the missionaries have left, Mary continues to missionize the people and the mission is sustained through the devotion of the people. This mission strategy achieves three purposes: First, these symbols remind the people about the mission and this memory helped to sustain the spirit of mission. Secondly, the people were inspired to become themselves missionaries by helping spread the lessons learned from the mission and the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It is not farfetched to say, therefore, that the devotion to OMPH in the early twentieth century in the Philippines was spread not only by the Redemptorists but also by the people themselves. The people, who have been missionized, have become themselves co-missionaries of the Redemptorists in spreading the devotion throughout the land.

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150th Jubilee

In 2016, Redemptorists all over the world celebrated the 150th Jubilee of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The Jubilee recalls that Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon to the Redemptorist in 1866 with the command, “make her known.” 150 years later, the icon is the most beloved and well-known icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the world. As Italian Redemptorist Fr. Serafino Fiore proclaimed: Yes, we can say with pride that ours is a global Madonna. We can be proud to have complied with the command of Pius IX: “make her known all over the world!”[10]

Fiore pays tribute to the many Redemptorists who made known the icon in the past 150 years:

[W]e think of so many Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers, students and novices in formation and lay people who have made this “miracle” possible. We think of the many channels the Redemptorists have used: the popular missions, the perpetual novena, the folkloristic traditions, music, painting, pilgrimages, and more recently, social networks and web pages. We also think of the splendid basilicas, sanctuaries/shrines and welcome centers erected in honor of the Lady of Perpetual Help.[11]

Fiore further points to the expanding and continuing influence of the icon today, even beyond the church herself:

Yes, ours is a global Madonna, and today we have confirmation in a fact: above all in Asia, it happens that before this Icon people stop, not only Christians, but also Hindus and Muslims. I dare to think that through the message of this Icon even atheists and agnostics are put to questioning.[12]

The Challenge of the Jubilee

After 150 years, the icon has continued to grow in certain areas, but it has diminished in other areas. The devotion to the icon has moved from north to south, from west to east. The biggest devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help is now found in Asia and Latin America. Indeed, the mandate given to the Redemptorist to make the icon known throughout the whole world has become today more apparent outside of Italy, where the command originated.

What does “make her known” means to us today, 150 years after?

First of all, the jubilee gives the Redemptorists the opportunity to experience the meaning, message and spirit of jubilee among themselves. The jubilee is an important opportunity to examine their lives vis-à-vis their own living of the devotion and spirituality of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It is an opportunity for renewal of their community life and missions as well as the very essential ministry at their shrines.

Thus, the first recipients of the command “make her known” is the Redemptorists.  The command “make her known” is addressed to them. They are the first beneficiary.  Perhaps they can discover, for example, that they do not yet fully know the icon; there is still so much that they can know and learn about the icon.

Alternatively, perhaps, they also have much to learn from the devotees, that the devotees can also evangelize them. The icon and the shrine was a noble gift given to the Redemptorist, which comes with a heavy responsi­bility. The command “make her known” is a responsibility for the Redemptorists to nurture the devotion and religiosity of the people. Every Wednesday as they lead the thousands of devotees in the novena and liturgies they cannot help but be strengthened by the sheer faith of the people. This phenomenon continues to astound them.  This challenges Redemptorists to examine themselves: How have they nurtured the devotion of the 150,000 devotees that come to the shrine every week? How have they honored the devotees? How have they recognized and appreciated the power of the icon among the devotees?

Renewal of the mandate

The jubilee is an invitation for us all to a renewal of the commitment to “making her known.” The call for us is how to (re)make her known amidst today’s challenges. The greater awareness and appreciation of icon spirituality can help us in this renewal of the mandate.

It may no longer be feasible to talk of the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help as mere devotional works of piety. Devotion flows into life and gives strength and hope to act, to confront the situation, the issues in our world today. Devotion can be a powerful tool for change not just in individuals but also for society. This implies a remodelling of devotion; for this, we need new metaphors for devotion: missionary, disciple, pilgrim, perhaps.

Our brief examination of the Redemptorist factor in the development of the Baclaran phenomenon showed us the importance of the integration of devotion and mission. Mission and devotion went hand in hand in the spread of the devotion and the icon— mission and devotion, indeed, are inseparable. This challenges us to discover the continuing place and significance of Mary amidst the burning issues of our day: the continuous poverty of our people, violence and killings of the innocent, widening gap between the rich and poor, digital revolution, environmental degradation, and others.  Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help is an essential partner in mission in the twenty-first century.

Standing on this vantage point of history, 150 years of making known the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we are privileged recipients of a rich heritage and tradition.  At the same time this passes on to us a big responsibility to continue to creatively and boldly preach the Good News of perpetual help in Christ anew, together with Our Mother of Perpetual Help, our Hodegetria—she who shows the way.

More than making her known, perhaps, today is more about making Our Mother of Perpetual live in our hearts, making her the model of our lives, to challenge our thinking and doing, and making her an inspiration and guide to our daily living. This goes beyond just novena and popular devotion. This calls for a more mature embrace and living out of the charism and spirituality of Mary.

 


 

[1] The Apostolic Life of the Redemptorists, Constitutions & Statutes, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Rome 2002, no. 1.

[2] Constitutions, no. 10

[3] Maguire, To Give Missions to the Filipino people, 12.

[4] Sapitula, Marian Piety and Modernity, 105.

[5] Fr. Michael Brehl CSsR, St. Alphonsus and Mary, the Mother of God, Scala News, February 14, 2017, http://www.cssr.news/2017/02/st-alphonsus-and-mary-the-mother-of-god/.

[6] Redemptorist and Mary, http://www.cssr.org.au/about_us/dsp-default.cfm?loadref=101

[7] Michael Baily, C.Ss.R., Small Net in a Big Sea, The Redemptorists in the Philippines, 1905-1929,  San Carlos Publications, University of San Carlos, Cebu, 20.

[8] Campos, 239.

[9] Campos, 240.

[10] Fiore, “The spiritual, pastoral and missionary message of the Icon,”21.

[11] Fiore, “The spiritual, pastoral and missionary message of the Icon,”21-22.

[12] Fiore, “The spiritual, pastoral and missionary message of the Icon,”22.

 

Icon of Compassion: Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the 21st Century

International Congress at the Shrine

intl_congress

The Philippine Redemptorists of the Province of Cebu and the Vice Province of Manila will hold an International Pilgrimage-Congress at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Paranaque on April 24 – 27, 2017. This is celebration of the 150th Jubilee of the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH). In 1866, Blessed Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer with the commission to make her known throughout the world.

Invoking the theme “Icon of Compassion: Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the 21st Century”, the international event welcomes hundreds of pilgrim-participants from all over the world to a four-day series of discussion and sharing that will highlight the devotions and the missions inspired by Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

The international congress is a golden opportunity to renew the mandate given by Pope Piux IX more than 150 years ago. How can this jubilee lead to renewal of our commitment to “making her known” today? The call of the Jubilee for us is how to (re)make her known in the realities of the 21st century. The greater appreciation of icon spirituality can help us to respond to this call.

The continuous challenge of the Jubilee is a fresh dynamism in mission and evangelization for the Redemptorists and devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help by creatively and courageously going to the most abandoned and preaching God’s perpetual Help with Mary our Hodegetria – she who shows the way.

Intl Congress Program1

Intl Congress Program2

We shall follow the congress here. I shall post some live updates during the actual Congress. So watch out for this blog.