The Blessed Virgin Mary has a special place in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. As the mother of the redeemer, she is called by many names and titles – Mother of God, (Blessed Mother, Madonna, Our Lady), epithets (Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, Cause of Our Joy), invocations (Panagia, Mother of Mercy) and names associated with places, (Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
The Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic country, has also assigned a few names for her – Lady of Penafrancia the patroness of Bicol Region, Nuestra Senora the Salvacion, patroness of Albay, Our Lady of Piat in Cagayan Valley, the Virgin of Antipolo, and a few dozen more.
My favorite titles of Our Lady are: Mary, Queen of Victories, because of her connection to Saint Therese of Lisieux and because with Notre Dame de Paris, it is my favorite church in Paris; Notre Dame De Vie (Our Lady of Life) because of my many friends in the institute that bears its name; Mary, the Queen as that is the parish that hosts our Neocatechumenal community in Manila; and Our Lady of the Philippines, to whom I have gotten close to in many retreats I have done in the Trappist Abbey in Guimaras Island.
To be sure, it is to just one and the same Mary that I am devoted to; and for sure, I know she is not God and have no confusion about her role in our redemption.
As the Scripture says, Mary was born immaculate, that is, she was born not tainted by the original sin from the moment of conception unlike all of us. As the mother of Christ of Theotokos, she nurtured her son, accompanied him in his sufferings on the cross.
Mary has intervened and continues to intervene on many occasions and events throughout human history. Some of these interventions, popularly referred to as Marian apparitions, have been endorsed by the Catholic Church. These include the ones that occurred in Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes. Others have been more controversial and have not been given the stamp of approval.
Today, August 15 is the feast of the Assumption, a belief that at the end of her earthly life, Mary did not die but was assumed into heaven. This doctrine was defined as a dogma by Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, in 1950 in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. As we celebrate this feast, let us once again seek her help and intercession so that God, in his mercy, will give us comfort and relief from the pain and suffering of this pandemic and all the ills of our land.
In this connection, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is urging the faithful to participate in a collective prayer for the “healing” of the nation amid the pandemic. In a pastoral letter issued earlier this week, the Bishops invited all to a collective prayer action to lift the lockdowns and help heal the nation. According to them:
“God always listens and nothing is impossible with Him. Pope Francis said in March “We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”
We appeal for a massive and nationwide campaign for 10 Hail Marys daily, in our schools and seminaries, parishes and communities, starting August 15 the Solemnity of the Assumption until September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to be prayed at 12:00 noon wherever you may be.
The long shadows of death have fallen upon our country. The summary execution of the defenseless poor, the violence against women and children at home and in public life, the reckless tampering of our nation’s ecological balance, the puzzling unabated increase of illegal drugs, the unsolved plunder of public funds, the glorification of contraception and abortion, the growing number of jobless and hungry families, the erosion of basic courtesy and respect and the numbness to the vulgar —the long shadow of death is cast upon our land. This is a regime of death and darkness seems to be enjoying its fine hour.
Refuse to get discouraged. Rise up to hope in the Lord. With firm faith we declare “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”
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