Sunday, January 18, 2015

Papal Visit: The Eucharistic Celebration of Pope Francis at the Quirino Grandstand

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Millions of Filipinos flock to hear Pope Francis' offers of hope and consolation to the poor at the concluding mass. People have stood since midnight and through the rain to see @Pontifex in Manila. A strong sign of faith and belief in a higher power. People can be seen holding up images of Sto. Nino chanting "Pit Señor" and "Papa Francisco." Present also is President Benigno Simeon Aquino II or otherwise known as PNoy or Noynoy has arrived wearing a baseball cap to attend the Mass. The Presidentiable family, including Kris Aquino wearing a yellow raincoat, is also here. PNoy and his coterie are surprisingly in blue (or was it black) jackets while the mass choir sings in various Filipino languages.

The Pope arrives and incenses the altar to begin the Mass in where we most commonly refer to as Luneta or Rizal Park where the monument of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal is erected. He also blesses a statue of Sto. Niño.PH celebrates the Feast of Sto. Niño to honor the Infant Jesus. Pope Francis speaks in Latin to deliver his message and as he consecrates the bread and wine, and blesses the Eucharist.

Before the mass, @Pontifex met with the Catholic volunteer Kristel Padasas' father and cousin sharing grief and condolences over her tragic death at Tacloban. It is unfortunate that the Pope is unlike Jesus Christ who is able to bring the dead back to life but I have an uncanny feeling that there is now an angel guarding the family of the deceased.

Providing musical accompaniment for "Gloria" (Glory to God) following after "Kyrie" (Lord have mercy) is a 1,000-strong choir and 200-piece orchestra performing for the concluding mass of Pope Francis at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila attended by an estimated 6 Million people all wanting to see and hear the Pope and his message to the Filipinos. The EDSA Shrine Rector Fr. Nilo Mangussads lead the orchestra.

"It is a joy for me to celebrate Sto. Niño Sunday with you." says Pope Francis. He says, the Sto. Niño reminds us that all of us are God's children. St Paul told us that in Christ we have become God’s adopted children, Daughters and sisters in Christ. This is who we are. This is our identity. He continues to remind us of the link between God’s Kingdom and the mystery of spiritual childhood."I have listened to you sing the song, "We Are All God's Children." That is what the Sto. Nino tells us."

The Christ Child is the protector of this great country. The Sto. Niño had an Earthly family that reminds us of importance of protecting our families. The Sto. Nino reminds us to spread the reign of God throughout the world. The image of the Holy Child Jesus accompanied the spread of the Gospel in this country from the beginning. It was a frail child, in need of protection, who brought God’s goodness, mercy and justice into the world.

The Bible also tells us that the great threat to God’s plan for us is, and always has been, the lie. The devil is the father of lies. Often he hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication. “He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes.” Jesus resisted the dishonesty and corruption which are the legacy of sin, and He triumphed over them by the power of His cross. "At end of the Philippine visit, I ask you to follow Jesus who came among us as child. May He protect people of this country."

Sadly, in our day, the family often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs. The Pope says the "Message of Sto Niño so important, speaks powerfully, reminds us of our deepest identity in God’s family. He reminds us of the importance of protecting our families & those larger families: Church, God’s family & the world, our human family." Jesus himself needed to be protected. He had an earthly protector: St. Joseph; an earthly family, the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Sometimes, when we see the troubles, difficulties and wrongs all around us, we are tempted to give up. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter...which perpetuates poverty, ignorance and corruption. He chose us to be witnesses of truth and justice in this world. He created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it. Through sin, man has disfigured that natural beauty. Through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family. We squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets, we squander our money on gambling and drinking.

Jesus welcomes children in Gospel. We need to protect and encourage our young people to be the society worthy of heritage. We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. We need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets. It is also a vocation. The Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of faith in Asia.

Pope Francis also asked the Filipinos to pray for him."Please don't forget to pray for me. God bless you all." and then "Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to Him, to Jesus who came among us as a child." May the Sto. Niño continue to bless the Philippines and to sustain the Christians of this great nation. May He enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another.... beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace."

Prayers of the Faithful said in different languages were then heard plus a multitude of songs and praises for our Lord. Prayer of the Faithful were in Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Ilokano, Cebuano, Binisaya and Bikolano. The Lord's Prayer was sang in Filipino. Pilgrims held hand as they sing Our Father. Millions singing the 'Ama Namin' in Luneta is such a glorious sight to behold.

Thousands received communion (many with outstrecthed hands trying to reach amidst the crowd) as the choir sings stirring 'Iesu, Pianis Vitae' (Tinapay ng Buhay). The crowd passed the host to those who cannot be reached. Church leaders received communion from Pope Francis assisted by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. For your added information, the Philippines has 4 cardinals – Manila's Tagle and Rosales, Cebu's Vidal, Cotabato's Quevedo. I am just not sure if the other two are here right now in Manila joining the Papal Visit. Meanwhile, members of the media received Communion at the International Media Center.

There are more people here in Manila than anywhere else I've ever seen in my whole life. More than the Papal trips to Korea, Middle East, the canonizations, etc.

With the presence of the Pope, the almighty God has blessed the Philippines: “the foremost Catholic country in Asia – this itself is a special gift, a blessing of God." We should be the light of Jesus for Asia and the world.

Archbishop Soc Villegas message of gratitude relates that Pope Francis' love for the Filipino people is mightier and stronger than all typhoons. His love is Typhoon-proof. He is our raincoat in the rain. He is our sunshine when it is cloudy. He brought us many sunshines to last a lifetime. He has brought us joy, hope, warmth. He has brought us Jesus. He taught us that love casts all fears. Thank you for being a child of God with us. We will also pray for him.

Cardinal Chito Tagle states that "You say ‘I ask you to pray for me.’ We Filipinos promise, we will pray for you" because "every Filipino wants to go with bring the light of Christ" to every sector." “We unite with Jesus in praying for you" "We will go where the light of Jesus is needed. Every Filipino wants to go with you, not to Rome, but the peripheries. We want to go with you to the shanties, prison cells, hospitals, world of politics, finance, arts, sciences, culture, education, etc.We will go to those worlds with you to bring the light of Christ." Send us as your missionaries of light. Send us to spread light of Jesus, wherever you see light of Jesus, remember the Filipinos are with you.

Your Holiness, how blessed you are. Jesus prays for you. Filipinos unite with Him in praying for you. "I know many people who want to say thank you to you: street children, orphans, widows, homeless, informal settlers...The victims of trafficking, Filipino migrant workers, armed conflict, calamity survivors want to say thank you. The sick, abandoned, elderly, families of missing persons, victims of discrimination want to say thank you."

The crowd then sang "Tell the World of His Love," while holding up their candles. Singing voices and lights fill the Luneta and Quirino grandstand. Even in the shivering cold, Filipinos' fire continue to burn bright. Our love for the Holy Father may be waterproof, typhoon-proof but my eyes aren't tear-proof. I'm now bawling like a child. I have never felt so blessed as a Filipino.I have shed so many tears of joy over the past days since the Pope arrived.

The final blessing has been given. The mass has ended, but there was an announcement that the Pope will still roam around the area to interact with and bless more Filipinos, while the song "Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa't isa" was sang. Pilgrims cheer and wave their white towels upon hearing the news. Luneta was filled with shouts of 'Papa Francisco, mahal ng Pilipino' which somehow made the event a little offbeat due to the emcee chanting like its a political rally instead of a solemn event. "Pope Francis wave"? Oh, come on! He sounds really tacky and annoying. Who is the emcee? He will go down in Vatican history... but not sure if in good or bad terms. Now the world understands why Filipinos are so unique.

Pope Francis, back in the jeepney-inspired popemobile wearing the same yellow raincoat, roamed around Luneta and occasionally stopping to reach out to some people in the crowd.

Kudos to all those who braved the cold rains, the hours of hunger and the multitude of people, to personally see Pope Francis. It is truly a labor of love. For most in attendance and tuned in to the celebration and euphoria, this is the best time to be alive.

Now that the Pope has returned to the Apostolic Nunciature, we pray that he gets a good sleep after several days of grueling and rushed activities in the country.

Mabuhay, Santo Papa! Let the light of Christ shine! "I once again say to you: muchísimas gracias!"

Contributed by Wilma Del Rosario

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