28 December 2013

'An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream . . .' Sunday Reflections. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

My child, help your father in his old age,
    and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
13 even if his mind fails, be patient with him;
    because you have all your faculties do not despise him.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
    and will be credited to you against your sins;
15 in the day of your distress it will be remembered in your favor. (From today's First Reading, NRSVCE).

It is significant that the First Reading in today's Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us of the old and how we should love them, especially our fathers. The most powerful image during the Christmas Season is that of the Infant Jesus and his helplessness, something that today's gospel emphasises. Without the protection of St Joseph, the Husband of his Mother, Jesus would have been killed.

But the First Reading reminds us of the helplessness of many old people, especially those with various forms of dementia. St Luke in his  description of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple shows us an old man, Simeon, recognising and taking the Child Jesus in his arms and praising God, and Anna, a widow aged 84, also praising God and speaking about him. The lives of the very young and the old are intertwined, as this scene shows. But there is a special link when the old become, like the very young, dependent on others and sometimes need the kind of personal care they needed in their first year of life. 

A friend of mine in England, Mrs Frances Molloy, founded the Pastoral Care Project, located in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the purpose of which is stated below.

Frances sent me this:  

‘Like a weaned child on its mother’s breast.’ Ps 130. 

In the course of my work with the Pastoral Care Project I have been privileged to meet many frail elderly people, many of whom are bearing the illness of dementia. Being with them deepens my awareness of how God reveals his love through them. When these experiences are reflected upon they become a moment of truth and a source of inspiration. I wish to share one such experience with you. 

On one occasion, when I was preparing to lead a time of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in a Care Home, I noticed a resident as she was being accompanied to her seat by a member of staff, the lady seemed slightly agitated, and I noticed she was holding a bundle of clothes under her arm. It is not unusual in itself to see someone with dementia carrying personal items with them. 

However, she seemed less agitated when my co-leader began playing the guitar and singing the first hymn. As I stood to read, I noticed the lady’s eyes were fixed on me. I had chosen a verse from the gospel of the day John 15:9. As I read, ‘As the Father has loved me so I have loved you,’ the lady repeated those words - her eyes still fixed on me; still holding the bundle of clothes under her arm. Sometimes a person with dementia will repeat what the person before them is saying. 

The musician followed with the next hymn, the Hail Mary. During the hymn I looked around at the people present as they joined in the singing, but my eyes were drawn back to the lady with the bundle of clothes as  she began to unfold them in harmony with the music. She was no longer agitated, she was careful in the way she was handling the clothes; reshaping them and then she then held them close to her, and began rocking as if comforting a child. The shape she had made out of the clothes actually looked like an infant wrapped in a blanket. What was once a bundle of clothes under her arm now resembled an infant being cradled. She sat contented and when the service was over she rose and walked away with confidence saying ‘thank you’ to me, with a wonderful smile – a stark contrast to when she first sat down.

The lady was clearly touched by the whole prayer experience. the co-leader and myself were quite overwhelmed at the time and reflected on it afterwards and in the days which followed. It is a reminder that affording people the time and space to engage with all the senses will help them to remember and participate in their faith. This is very important, even more so for anyone who is living with dementia and unable to ask to join in the community worship. For me this experience is something I cherish and each time I think about it I am still deeply touched, which is why I wish to share it with you. For me I often wonder about what was happening deep within her, was she holding her child, a grandchild or was it totally spiritual; did she feel she was being held by the loving, living God?

I would like to invite you to read and ponder the reflection; the Scripture, sing or pray the Hail Mary, and imagine the lady with dementia holding her bundle of clothes.

There are moments when people with dementia are transformed especially when they are singing or receiving Holy Communion. I hope by sharing this story it will be a source of encouragement for families and those who are apprehensive about pastoral visiting or taking Holy Communion to the sick

Please do write or email me if you have a story or reflection you would like to share. Sharing enables a better understanding of the person with dementia so that we may see God’s beauty in them.

Best wishes 
Frances Molloy 

Project Manager Pastoral Care Project, St Gerard’s, Coventry Road, Coleshill, B46 3ED, England, UK 
 Registered Charity 1094766 

Sometimes adult children, and religious superiors, have to make very difficult decisions in order to take care of aged parents or members, decisions that aren't always accepted by the older person. But as the angel prompted St Joseph through a dream as to what he should do in order to take care of Mary and Jesus so will God prompt us when we are faced with the difficulties of caring for fragile older persons, some with dementia. The Holy Spirit prompts us in today's First Reading: 
For kindness to a father (or to any old person in need) will not be forgotten,
    and will be credited to you against your sins;
in the day of your distress it will be remembered in your favor. 

We may hope that in our final moments we will have the same companions as St Joseph had.

Death of St Joseph, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, c.1712 [Web Gallery of Art]

Céad Míle Fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa  
A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, Jesus

This Irish hymn is sung both as a Christmas carol and as a Communion hymn. The English translation below is not meant to be sung to the melody.


Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa.

Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Shlánaitheoir,
Glóir, moladh agus buíochas duit, a Íosa, a Íosa.

Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir,
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa.


A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus.

Glory and praise to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Saviour,
Glory, praise and thanks to you, o Jesus, o Jesus.

A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus.

The Holy Family, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1659 [Web Gallery of Art]

24 December 2013

'And the Word became flesh and lived among us.'

The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to John (John 1:1-18, read at the Mass during the Day, Christmas Day; New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Newborn Christ, Georges de la Tour, c.1645-48 [Wikipedia]

There is nothing further for God to say

When God gave us, as he did, his Son, who is his one Word, he spoke everything to us, once and for all in that one Word. There is nothing further for him to say. (From The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St John of the Cross; Office of Readings, Advent, Week 2, Monday.)

Del Verbo Divino
San Juan de la Cruz

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino :
¡ si les dais posada !

Concerning the Divine Word
St John of the Cross

With the divinest Word, the Virgin
Made pregnant, down the road
Comes walking, if you'll grant her
A room in your abode 

Translation by Roy Campbell

20 December 2013

'You are to name him Jesus.' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Advent Year A

The Dream of St JosephGeorges de la Tour, c.1640 [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 1:18-24 (New RevisedStandard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

Responsorial Psalm (NBA Lectionary)

In December 2002 I met a man in Manila, Mang Pepe, and his daughter Ligaya whose story reminded me so much of that of Joseph and Jesus in today's gospel. The story of Mang Pepe and Ligaya is told here by a Columban lay missionary from Korea, Columba Chang, who worked for many years in the Manila area and whose ministry at the time she wrote this story was to families affected by HIV/AIDS. The names used aren't their real names. 'Pepe' is a nickname for a man named Jose or Joseph. 'Mang' is a Tagalog term of respect for a man older than oneself. 'Aling' is the equivalent term for a woman. The name 'Ligaya' means 'Joy'. The story was first published, as I recall, in a newsletter of Caritas Manila and I used it in the November-December 2003 issue of MISYON, the Columban magazine in the Philippines that I edit. Columba is now based in Hong Kong as a member of the leadership team of the Columban Lay Missionaries. I have updated the introduction.

by Columba Chang

According to official Philippine government figures there were more than ten million Filipinos, about ten percent of the population, overseas as of December 2012, more than half of them temporary or irregular in the countries where they are staying. These temporary and irregular residents are mostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). They greatly help our country’s economy by the money they send home.  However sometimes we seem to take them for granted, thinking that they have an easy life abroad.  Read Aling Maria’s story  and find out the dangers our OFWs face and the abuses they experience.  We thank ‘Mang Pepe’ for his help in writing this article in which we’ve changed the names.
I met Mang Pepe and his daughter Ligaya through my work with Caritas Manila.  I visit the family regularly.  They live in a poor part of the city and Mang Pepe makes a living by doing odd jobs.  My work takes me to families affected by HIV/AIDS.  I knew Mang Pepe’s story before he shared it with the congregation at the Saturday evening Mass in Baclaran Church on 7 December 2002 at the end of a celebration organized by Caritas Manila for World AIDS Day. (Baclaran Church is the huge Redemptorist church in Parañaque city, Metro Manila, filled to capacity all during the day every Wednesday when the perpetual novena to the Mother of Perpetual Help is celebrated.)
Columba Chang (inset)
A Greener Pasture
Mang Pepe and his wife Aling Maria were having difficulties putting their five children through school.  This sometimes led to arguments.  Eventually Aling Maria decided to work in the Middle East.  She felt happy when accepted as a nursing aide with a two-year contract in the UAE.  She prepared her documents.  She and Pepe sold their house and lot for her fare and placement fee.  She flew out on 5 February 1989, full of hope for her family’s future financial stability.
Aling Maria soon discovered that her contract as a nursing aid was terminated just a few months after she arrived, without any hope of renewal.  But she didn’t want to go back to the Philippines with an empty pocket.  She decided to take the ‘TNT’ ('Tago ng tago', a Tagalog expression meaning to be an illegal immigrant worker) route.  She managed to find a series of jobs as a saleslady, cashier and office worker.
Hope turns into a nightmare
As an illegal worker, she was often subjected to different abuses like underpayment, long hours of working without a day off and so on. But the worst thing was when one of Aling Maria’s employers took advantage of her and made her pregnant.  When she came home to the Philippines in October 1993 Mang Pepe and the family were very shocked to learn that Aling Maria carried a child in her womb.  She hadn’t mentioned anything about this before.  However, despite this they still welcomed her and the child with joy . . . but deep in their hearts there was a shadow of sadness, fear and uncertainty.
After a few days the tabloids reported that three Filipino overseas workers had been sent home because of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS – and that one of them was Aling Maria.  These stories, and the rumors they spawned, continued for a month.  Some relatives, neighbors and friends rejected Aling Maria.  The children of Mang Pepe and Aling Maria were torn apart.  Some wanted to quit school and leave the area.  The family suffered greatly because of the stigma.
Confirmed HIV
Aling Maria and Mang Pepe went to the Department of Health (DOH) for a series of blood tests.  The tests confirmed what Aling Maria knew already, that she and her ‘little mercy child,’ as Mang Pepe called his wife’s daughter had HIV.  The doctor gave them counseling and advice and information about HIV/AIDS.
Ligaya is born
Aling Maria decided not to say in the hospital and continued to work as a pension plan insurance agent.  In time she gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Ligaya.  Gradually, however, Mang Pepe saw his dear wife turning into a picture of misery as she suffered from constant headaches and flu.  Aling Maria was hoping for a miracle that would ease her agony.  It was not to be.  The HIV developed into full-blown AIDS.  Her appetite disappeared until she couldn’t eat anymore.  Mang Pepe and the children saw Aling Maria slowly dying.  He prepared the family to accept her death as the will of God.  She died on 15 December 1997, aged 46.
Like everyone else in Baclaran Church, I was deeply touched by Mang Pepe’s story, even though he had told it to me many times.  I was touched by the great love of this simple man who accepted as his own a daughter who was the fruit of the brutal violation of his wife.  Mang Pepe is ‘Tatay’ to Ligaya.  Her schoolmates sometimes tease her because her features clearly show her Middle Eastern origins.  But her Tatay stands by her, as do her brothers and sisters.
Proud to be her Tatay
Tatay Pepe is proud of Ligaya’s singing ability and smiled as she sang at the celebration in Baclaran.  Ligaya is very proud of her Tatay and knows the depth of his love as a father.  She has very uncertain health and is often in the hospital.  The shadow of AIDS hangs over her.
St Joseph named Jesus, the Son of Mary, and thereby became his legal father.  He loved Mary, his wife, and raised Jesus as his own son.  Mang Pepe has gone through the agony of knowing that his wife was violated overseas, after dishonest employers had taken advantage of her in other ways.  When she brought home a child who was not his, he made her his own.  This latter-day St Joseph in Manila has given much joy to his daughter Ligaya as she has given much joy to him and others, like myself, who have come to know and love her.


Ligaya died about nine months after I met her. I was able to speak to her once or twice through Columba's mobile phone.

The late American Scripture scholar Fr Raymond E. Brown SS points out that St Joseph, by taking Mary as his wife and by naming her Son, as the angel in today's gospel told him to do, in Jewish law, became the legal father of Jesus, something more than being his foster-father, as he is often described. And because St Joseph was of the line of David, so was Jesus, as the Messiah was foretold to be.

The Church honours St Joseph above all as the Husband (or Spouse) of Mary. Pope Francis has underlined this by adding the words 'and blessed Joseph her spouse' to Eucharistic Prayers I, II and III, as they were added to the Roman Canon (now also known as 'Eucharistic Prayer I') by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

Mang Pepe totally welcomed Aling Maria back from the Middle East as his wife whom he loved, despite his initial shock at what had happened to her. And he totally welcomed her daughter Ligaya as his own, as St Joseph welcomed the Son of Mary as his own.

Today's Gospel reminds us of the fact that the basic vocation, ie, call from God, of every married couple is to be spouses, not to be parents. Being parents is a consequence of their being spouses. I'm well aware that there are single parents, many of whom have never been married, who are heroically raising their children, often in very difficult circumstances. But it is God's will that children be born within marriage.

St Joseph was a loving husband to Mary and a loving father to her Son Jesus, God who became Man. Mang Pepe continued to be a loving husband to Aling Maria until she died and was a proud and loving father to her daughter Ligaya, as I could see so clearly.

Today's Gospel shows us something of the wonder of being called to be a husband and father and of the immense responsibility that goes with that. St Joseph as husband and father enabled Mary and Jesus to carry out the mission that God the Father had given them.

What applies to husbands/fathers applies equally to wives/mothers. 

And the Gospel reminds us very clearly that in God's plan the foundation of the family is marriage, that is, of husband and wife, of man and woman. It can never be anything else.

A setting of today's Entrance Antiphon by German composer Heinrich Schütz (1585 -1672)

Antiphona ad introitum (Cf. Isaiah 45:8)

Rorate, caeli, desuper,
et nubes pluant iustum;
aperiatur terra
et germinet Salvatorem.

Entrance Antiphon (Cf. Isaiah 45:8)

Drop down dew from above, you heavens,
and let the clouds rain down the Just One;
let the earth be opened
and bring forth a Saviour.

14 December 2013

'Go and tell John what you hear and see . . . the deaf hear . . .' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A

St John the Baptist in Prison, Juan Fernandéz de Navarrete, 1565-70 [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: Canada)

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary)

Father Joseph Coyle was a Columban priest from Derry, Northern Ireland. He died in the Philippines on 18 December 1991, aged 54, and is buried in a Catholic cemetery here in Bacolod City where I live. Father Joe and I weren't related - my Coyle ancestors moved centuries ago from the north-west of Ireland, where the surname originated, to Rush, a fishing village north of Dublin city - but we felt a sense of kinship. He was ordained on 21 December 1961 during my first year in the Columban seminary in Ireland.

Father Joe spent most of his life as a priest in the island of Negros. He gradually became aware of persons with disabilities and of how their needs weren't being met. He was able to obtain artificial limbs for some. But he noticed that there was one group in every community that was almost totally isolated, because they didn't share a common language with those around them, not even with their own families. This group was people who are profoundly deaf.

More and more Father Joe became involved with deaf people, celebrating Mass in Sign Language in a number of places. In the late 1980s he established Welcome Home in Bacolod City as a residence for out-of-town deaf students so that they could attend special schools here in the city. Special Education has spread now to many towns and that particular need is no longer urgent. But Welcome Home continues, with a small number of residents, a school for young children, deaf and hearing, catechetical programmes in public schools with both deaf and hearing catechists, and other activities.

Father Joe's death was devastating initially to the young deaf people with whom he had worked. But his vision was continued and developed by others, most noticeably by Mrs Salvacion V. Tinsay who died in 2008.

Fr Mike Depcik OSFS is an Oblate of St Francis de Sales, one of very few profoundly deaf priests in the world. He has his own vlog, Fr. MD's Kitchen Table, where, among other things, he posts videos of homilies for Sunday Masses in American Sign Language, such as that above for this Sunday's Mass.

John the Baptist sends his followers to ask Jesus,  Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another? Jesus replies, Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 

For Catholics who are profoundly deaf priests such as Fr Mike Depcik, deaf from birth, and Fr Joe Coyle, who became aware of the isolation of the profoundly deaf, especially within their own families, are included in the response of Jesus to his cousin St John the Baptist: the deaf hear. The deaf aren't isolated to the same degree as before, though I have known of priests and people who consider a signing interpreter at Mass as a 'distraction'. 

And the ministry of priests such as Fr Depcik and Fr Coyle isn't limited to the deaf. Indeed, part of their ministry, and of those who work with them, whether deaf or hearing, is to bring about the change of heart that is central to Advent, not only a turning away from sin but a recognition of the needs of others that we weren't aware of before. It was through having friends deaf in varying degrees from birth and through knowing Father Joe that I became aware of the isolation of the deaf within the Church an in society at large. The same can be said to some extent of persons with other disabilities. But profound deafness is the only physical disability that of its nature can totally isolate a person from the community.

There will always be some, for whatever reason, on the margins. Pope Francis has on a number of occasions very strikingly shown his respect and love - the respect and love of Jesus himself - for such persons. The gradual inclusion of those who are profoundly deaf in all activities of the Church and of wider society, shown, for example, in the use of signing interpreters at public functions and on television, is one of the signs that Jesus spoke about to assure St John the Baptist that he truly was the one who is to come.

Advent wreath, with three violet and one rose candles [Wikipedia]

Today is known as 'Gaudete Sunday' from the the opening word of the Entrance Antiphon, 'Gaudete', Latin for 'Rejoice'. Below are a carol and a hymn that use the Latin word, the first in its plural form 'Gaudete', the second in its singular form 'Gaude'. The priest may wear rose-coloured vestments and the candle in the Advent wreath for today is of that colour.

The Christmas carol Gaudete goes back at least to the 16th century, maybe earlier. Here it is sung by The King's Singers. Last year I posted the version of Libera.

The complete text of Gaudete, including the refrain:
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
(Out) Of the Virgin Mary — rejoice!
Tempus adest gratiæ
Hoc quod optabamus,
Carmina lætitiæ
Devote reddamus.
The time of grace has come—
what we have wished for,
songs of joy
Let us give back faithfully.
Deus homo factus est
Natura mirante,
Mundus renovatus est
A Christo regnante.
God has become man,
To the wonderment of Nature,
The world has been renewed
By the reigning Christ.
Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur,
Unde lux est orta
Salus invenitur.
The closed gate of Ezekiel
Is passed through,
Whence the light is born,
Salvation is found.
Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro;
Benedicat Domino:
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.
Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, O come, o come, Emmanuel, is an Advent hymn. The music may well go back to the 12th century. The lyrics are based on what are known as the 'O Antiphons' sung in the Church's Vespers (Evening Prayer) before and after the Magnificat (Canticle of Mary) from 17 to 24 December. The refrain contains the word 'Gaude': 

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, 
Nascetur pro te Israel! 

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
To thee shall come Emmanuel!

12 December 2013

'A Visit to Tepeyac' on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under that title Mary is a Secondary Patroness of the Philippines. Ten years after Ferdinand Magellan, the Portugues explorer, landed in the Philippines - 1521 - Our Blessed Mother appeared to San Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City. (I think it is now part of the city). At the time the Church in the Philippines was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Mexico, which was set up in 1530. The Diocese of Manila, the first in the Philippines, wasn't erected until 1579, as a suffragan of the by now Archdiocese of Mexico. So there are long, historical links between the Church in the Philippines and the Church in Mexico.
The official website of the shrine, in Spanish, is here.
Below is an article we published in the May-June 2013 issue of Misyon, the Columban online magazine I edit here in the Philippines. The author lives and works in Metro Manila.

By Vissia Hernandez
We celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the secondary Patroness of the Philippines and Protectress of Unborn Children, on December 12. Tepeyac, or the Hill of Tepeyac, Mexico, is where the Blessed Virgin appeared to San Juan Diego in 1531. The shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe, is one of the most visited in the world. Vissia Hernandez has written previously for Misyon.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Detail of the face
‘It’s like Baclaran’,was my first impression, as I got off the city bus. Stores and stalls selling everything from recuerdos y zapatos (souvenirs and shoes) to comidas y bebidas (food and drink) line both sides of a pedestrian area leading to La Villa(‘the town’, referring to the Basilica compound). A brisk five-minute walk away, behind a tall fence, towers an ancient brick church – the old Basilica, with its imposing yellow dome, twin bell-towers and ornate facade.
As more and more people were streaming towards the gates, I qualified my first impression, ‘It’s like Baclaran on a first Wednesday!’ Excitement mounted with each step until I finally reached the gates of La Villa. Inside, folk dancers with tall headdresses and fierce masks were performing a ritual dance. As I surveyed the wide expanse of Plaza Mariana with its many churches and chapels, a baptistery and a small hill, I was reminded of the Marian shrine complexes in Lourdes and Fatima, only this time, the hordes of pilgrims were predominantly Mexican, and the atmosphere familiarly ‘fiesta’. People were carrying around big and small images, even altars and carrozas of their beloved patroness, reminiscent of Filipino devotees cradling treasured Sto Niños in their arms during the January processions. Instantly, I felt at home!

Plaza Mariana with the New Basilica, the Old Basilica and the Temple of the Capuchin Nuns

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Main entrance to the New Basilica
Our Lady of Guadalupe
The original tilma, above the altar in the New Basilica
As I turned around, there it was, the new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe! My eyes were immediately drawn to the large Spanish inscription above the main door ‘No Estoy Yo Aqui, Que Soy tu Madre?’ (Am I, who is your Mother, not here?)
Misty-eyed, I whispered in gratitude, ‘Mama Maria, yourperegrina (pilgrim) is finally here, a week late, but as promised, estoy aqui!’ I hurried into the ‘new’ Basilica shaped like a ‘giant'ssalakot [2], and was astounded for inside it was huge, cavernous, yet packed to its ‘SRO’ capacity of about 10,000. In a prominent place of honor above the altar, hangs San Juan Diego’s famous tilma (mantle) miraculously preserved through the centuries with its imprint of the Blessed Mother’s image (her only known photograph – developed in color in some celestial darkroom).
Thanks to my phone’s missal app, and remnants of college Spanish, I managed to participate in the lauds and Masses, and even joined in the rousing cheers of ‘Viva El Cristo Rey, Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Viva!’ which reverberated throughout La Villa that day. It was the Feast of Christ the King. I later learned that this very Feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, to fight anticlericalism in Mexico which soon escalated to outright anti-Catholicism triggering the massive rebellion led by theCristeros.. From 1926-1929, tens of thousands were tortured and killed for the Faith, including the 25 Mexican Martyrs canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. ‘Viva El Cristo Rey, Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe!’ was their battle cry, then and now, fiery and full-bodied like their tequila. How providential that I was delayed for a week, or I would have missed all this.
Las Manañitas a La Virgen , 12 December 2007, sung in the Basilica after the early morning Mass. Las Mañanitas is a traditional Mexican birthday song, also known in the Philippines, sung to the celebrant very early in the morning.

I spent the rest of the day praying and meditating in the many churches and chapels ofLa Villa de Guadalupe, gazing awestruck at the beloved image on the tilma while standing on walkalators hidden beneath the new Basilica’s sanctuary, and on the side, shopping for recuerdos, taking gigabytes of pictures, and finally, huffing and puffing my way to the top of Tepeyac Hill where a small church stands where the Blessed Virgin first appeared in 1531 to the peasant, Juan Diego. By sundown, while taking in the magnificent view of the Basilicas of Guadalupe, this tired yet extremely blissfulperegrina couldn’t thank her gracious Hosts enough for the sense of peace, joy and love which had enfolded her like a tilma throughout her pilgrimage. ¡Gracias, El Cristo Rey. Gracias, Madre mía de Guadalupe!
‘Hear me and understand well that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.’
Message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Himno a la Humildad, sung by Marco Antonio Solís:
Con que gusto venimos con gran emoción
a decirte lo que hay en nuestro corazón;
hoy es dia de fiesta hasta en el mas pequeño rincon;
hoy se muere el rancor y florece el perdon.
How we love to come with great feeling
to tell you what is in our heart;
today is a festive day even in the most remote corner;
today hatred dies and forgiveness blossoms.

Virgencita . . . milagrosa,
eres tú la estrella mas hermosa de la creación.
Beloved Virgin . . . miraculous,
you are the most beautiful star in all creation.

Virgen morena, Reyna de la esperanza,
hoy te cantamos el himno a la humildad.
Eres la tierra donde la fe sembramos
y cosechamos siempre de tu bondad.
Dark Virgin, Queen of hope,
Today we sing to you a hymn to humility.
You are the soil where we sow faith
and always harvest from your kindness.

(Hablado) Aqui venimos, madrecita, con nuestros cuerpos mas cansados que la ultima ocasión, 

pero con un amor tan grande para ti que no nos cabe en el corazon, 
por que eres consuelo divino, luz de todos los caminos. 
Gracias por quedarte siempre con tus fieles peregrines.
(Spoken) We come here, beloved Mother, with our bodies more tired that the last time,
but with a great love for you that our hearts can’t contain,
for you are the divine consolation, the light of all roads.
Thank you for always being with your faithful pilgrims.
Virgencita adorada, no me puedo ir
sin decirte mil gracias, tu sabes por que,
y teniendo el momento, te quiero pedir
por los que por justicia se mueren de sed.
Dear Blessed Virgin, I cannot leave
without thanking you a thousand times, you know what for,
and taking this opportunity, I want to petition you
on behalf of those who have given their lives in the cause of justice.

Virgen morena, Reyna de la speeranza,
hoy te cantamos el himno a la humildad;
eres la tierra donde la fe sembramos
y cosechamos siempre de tu bondad.
Dark Virgin, Queen of hope,
Today we sing to you a hymn to humility.
You are the soil where we sow faith
and always harvest from your kindness.
[Thanks to Fr Jovito Dales for help with the translation.]