“Love overcomes. Love delights. O Jesus and Mary, let my entire consolation in this world be to love you and to suffer for sinners..”
These are beautiful quotes from St. Bernadette of Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant from a small town in Lourdes, France, to whom Mary appeared on February 11, 1858 at high noon. Bernadette saw a beautiful lady dressed in white with a blue sash and a yellow rose on each foot, a rosary hanging from her arm, as she stood in a small grotto on the rock. The Lady beckoned Bernadette to approach and they prayed the rosary together.
This Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes happened 165 years ago, a beautiful phenomenon that has evolved into popular faith and tradition among the devotees to our Lady of Lourdes and the faithful in general. This image of our Lady of Lourdes standing in a small grotto on the rock has also become a famous structure in homes everywhere.
The image of Our Lady of Lourdes is enshrined above the altar at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (NSOLL) on Kanlaon street corner N.S. Amoranto (formerly Retiro) in Quezon City. Every year on February 11, the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes is celebrated in this Shrine in Metro Manila, like in the rest of the world.
This year, it was Pope Francis’ representative to the Philippines, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Most Rev. Charles John Brown, D.D., who was the main presider in the 12 noon Apparition Mass at NSOLL, with Bishop of Cubao Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco, DD Capuchin, and diocesan priests led by the parish priest and Shrine rector Rev Fr. Jefferson Agustin, OFMCap, as concelebrants.
The Papal Nuncio imparted Pope Francis’ message on this World Day of the Sick to the big crowds at the Shrine: “Take care of him as a synodal exercise of healing through God’s style of acting with closeness, compassion and tenderness through the Blessed Mother who accompanied her elderly cousin Elizabeth in her difficult pregnancy. Mary is an image of the synodal church—joining the caravan from her hometown in Nazareth to go to Ein Kerem to take care of Elizabeth. We need to imitate Mary… don’t stay in your enclosed circles but go out to the peripheries..where the poor and the sick are..”
The concelebrated High Mass was participated by members of the Capuchin Fraternity who officiated in the whole-day fiesta Masses that started as early as 5 a.m. and ended at 10 a.m.: Rev Fr. Roque Aristotle Padama,OFMCap-—Rector, Lourdes School, QC; Rev Fr. Artemio Raymundo, OFMCap—Guardian NSOLL; Rev Fr. Ronald Allan Samson, OFMCap—Campus Minister, Lourdes School, Mandaluyong; Rev Fr. Edmundo Tiamson, OFMCap. —Guardian, Sungay/Tagaytay; Rev Fr. Jose Eduardo Mayo, OFMCap; Rev Fr. Michael Angelo Flores, OFMCap—Guardian/CRC; Rev Fr. Paul Vincent Perlado, OFMCap-—Guardian, Sta. Teresita Parish; Rev Fr. Edgar Martinez, OFMCap-—Provincial Minister, Capuchin Philippine Province of Our Lady of Lourdes; Rev Fr. Antonio Yapchiongco, OFMCap- Guardian, Baguio and Rev Fr. Jeffrey Torres, OFMCap-— Campus Minister, LSQC.
Joining the Apparition Mass were guest priests who presided in the nine-day novena Masses: Rev Fr Ariston Sison, Jr—parish priest, Saint John Paul II Parish, Vicariate of Perpetual Help; Most Rev Antonio Tobias, DD— Diocese of Novaliches; Most Rev. Bartolome Santos, Jr. DD Diocese of Iba; Rev Fr. Jose Fortunato Garces, parish priest, Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Vicariate of Holy Family; Most Rev Fr Dennis Villarojo, DD—Diocese of Malolos; Most Rev. Roberto Gaa, DD—Diocese of Novaliches; Most Rev. Leopoldo Jaucian, DD—Diocese of Bangued; Rev Fr. Ben Arceno, parish priest, Holy Family Parish—Vicar Forane, Vicariate of Sto Nino.
A solemn grand procession at sundown highlighted the 10-day fiesta activities with pastoral/ministry servant-leaders, parish workers, volunteers, local government units, including the nine barangays under the parish that hosted the Dalaw Patrona: Siena, Sto Domingo, Lourdes, St. Peter, Maharlika, N.S. Amoranto, Paang Bundok, Salvacion and San Isidro Labrador (SILab).
Other fiesta activities were a penitential procession on barefoot from Sta. Teresita Parish in Mayon to NSOLL/Retiro; memorial Mass for the deceased members of the ArchConfraterntiy; First Communion of students at Ramon Magsaysay Elementary School; social action work-medical mission and Red Cross mobile blood donation and triduum Masses at the Quezon City Hall.
Kura Paroko Father Jeff exclaimed: “ Words are not enough to express the joy .. for making this another milestone in the celebration of love for Our Lady of Lourdes. We celebrate this day of love with a grateful heart.”
At the conclusion of his homily at the fiesta Mass, Most Rev Brown urged the faithful: ‘’The Filipinos are the ‘Pueblo Amante de Maria’—the people who love Mary and who are loved by Mary.. so stay close to Our Lady but also imitate her in going out—in her closeness, compassion and tenderness to the sick and the poor.. also please pray for Pope Francis as he asks for prayers from a people whom he has great affection for and who has great faith in Mary who is our life, our sweetness and our hope.”
Mary is the image of the Synodal Church that inspires the people to communion, participation and mission as the Shrine continues to welcome pilgrims to its sanctuary, not only to visit but also to pray and be brought back in time by poring through the pages of a recently launched coffeetable book on the history of the devotion to our Lady of Lourdes, entitled A Ti, Virgen de Lourdes.
And so it is that the Filipino people, as one, continues to journey onwards with our Lady.
Viva La Virgen de Lourdes!