My first pet. My first doll. My first trip to the beach. I remember those phrases as imposed subjects cum title of the essays given during grade school. Those words sounds child-like to me and are very apt to what I experienced for the first time last week – my first pilgrimage.
I’ve been to few churches – sometimes as a side trip to a city tour or because I had to attend a baptism or a friend’s wedding. But being a pilgrim is a first time to me. The difference, I think, lies on the purpose of visit. Pilgrimage, I discovered, is definitely more than just sightseeing of structures or shrines, or knocking on church doors followed by wishing just because it is a first time. For me, it was taking baby steps in deepening one’s faith.We are on earth but we are not of this world and so we are always in search of something. There’s always ideas we can not understand and maybe some ancient walls, sculptures and paintings, or falling bricks and dusted windows can provide clarity or validation somehow.
SAINT PIO CHAPEL
We started early morning, around 3AM was our assembly time in front of Malolos Cathedral. Our group, the Ministry of Lectors and Commentators of Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Malolos Basilica Minore occupied one whole bus. We departed after 4AM and started the trip by praying the rosary. Before 6AM, we were on our first stop – Saint Pio Chapel in Libis, Quezon City.
How ignorant am I when it comes to religion? I didn’t know who St. Pio was before this pilgrimage. Well, I did some research the day before and here are what I fount out which struck me most:
- His body remains incorruptible despite his death on 1958.
- He was quoted saying that he won’t enter paradise until the last of his spiritual children enters. Wow!
The shrine houses a garden of rosary. Rosaries of answered prayers through his intercession.
The chapel is a silent chapel – no loud prayers aloud. We arrived very early even before the shrine opened so there were still few people aside from our group. As a general rule and as posted on signage, you can line up to touch the image of St. Pio and utter your prayer for 15 seconds each only. This is to give equal chance to all. One may leave written prayer to be deposited in a clear box in front of the image.
In every church we visit, we pray from the book of “Ang Tatlong Araw na Pagdiriwang ng Pagpapakasakit, Kamatayan at Pagkabuhay ng Panginoon”.
Mass schedules can be found in this link: http://www.mass-schedules.com/catholic-church/877/saint-pio-of-pietrelcina-chapel.html
OUR LADY OF PEACE AND GOOD VOYAGE
We headed next to Antipolo, Rizal for Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage National Shrine or simply Antipolo Cathedral. It wasn’t my first time here since I worked in Rizal for almost three years. The mass officiated by the Bishop was just starting when we entered around 7AM but we had an itinerary to follow. We’ll attend mass in another church.
We said our station prayers after marveling at the cathedral’s structure. Once again, loud prayers are not allowed especially inside the adoration chapel.
Somehow, trips would not be complete without “pasalubong” and here in Antipolo, it’s gotta be “kasuy and suman”. There is a store which was strongly recommended by our tour guide where most of us bought food. They give rosary bracelets as free treat. The place surrounding Antipolo Cathedral is greatly commercialized. Every where you turn, there’s always someone who wants to sell you something. It’s a bit hard to solemnize your experience in a place like that. Good thing, it’s different inside the church itself.
The place is as wide as the statue of Our Lady is tremendously high. Real, live sheep roam around the hills below the 71-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, creating a somewhat biblical scene right before your eyes or as a magnificent selfie backdrop.
RICA is a word that means rich and it also stands for Rosarii Institute Contemplation in Asia. Regina RICA is still so new being dedicated for only two years now. We waited for the Holy Mass to start but after thirty minutes, a nun, took hold of the mic and asked if there is a priest in the crowd who could preside over the Mass. There was some miscommunication regarding mass schedules. Unfortunately, there was none so to make use of the idle time, the nun gave a lot of information regarding Regina RICA. She discussed the parts of the shrine and the materials and paintings that made the chapel, its MOM (Mary’s One Million) Project, the statues and other trivia and histories regarding the place.
After an hour of waiting, Mass started and it was well worth the wait. After the Mass, all those who wanted to have their religious items blessed just have to raise them up and the priest went around to bless every pew with holy water. I didn’t have any religious item with me. I left my rosary inside the bus but I still raised my right hand thinking that I might as well be the religious item myself. When we visited St. Pio, I asked to be considered as one of his spiritual children. Here in Regina RICA, I prayed to be blessed as a Lector and as a writer for the Social Communications Commission.
Anointing of healing oil followed. RICA is starting to be known for healing even cancer so once again, people lined up for their heads and both palms to be anointed one by one. I guess, people without physical sickness lined up, too, including all of us in the ministry. We all needed spiritual healing after all. By the time our group started our station prayers at around 2PM, all of us were starving or dizzy already.
I could not agree more that RICA is a place for contemplation. The place still has a lot of plans for development and I’m excited to come back with my mother maybe next year. I got an extra prayer booklet for healing for my godmother.
Find out the rest of the churches we visited on My First Pilgrimage (Part 2).