Catholics throughout the globe are commemorating two very important feast/holy days on the first two days of November, namely: All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd). Nowadays, we almost celebrate everything for everyone. We have Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandmother's Day, and even Pet's Day! So, how could we forget the holy men and women who are now in Heaven and our departed loved ones who might still be in purgatory? As such, the Catholic church allotted the first two days of November for the Saints in Heaven and for the departed souls, respectively. Some of us may have reservations/contradictions about this dogma of the church but Catholics do believe in heaven, hell and another place after life called “purgatory”.
If you happen to take up theology classes, you may have encountered the three compositions of the Church: the church militant (the people who are still living here on earth), the church suffering (departed souls in purgatory) and the church triumphant (the saints, angels and every souls who have been raised up to heaven to be with God forever —Wow!). It takes a grain of faith to believe all these things and as we all know faith is a virtue, it's a grace which comes from God. As I always tell the kids in class, faith can not be found in malls, it can not be bought, they have to ask it from God!
Briefly, this article shall focus on the suffering souls in purgatory. The scope is quite limited based on my little knowledge, what I've learned in school, from my parents, and various literature of the Catholic church with imprimatur of an authorized catholic official and based on the canon laws of the church.
Purgatory is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven…”. As such, purgatory is the place where departed souls who have asked for and have received God's mercy and forgiveness through the sacraments of Confession, Annointing of the Sick or by simply uttering the needed sacred words before their last breath, are being temporary lodged prior to entering the gates of Heaven. I understand that even if the dead person has already been forgiven for a particular grievous sin, his/her soul may still not be eligible to enter heaven right away. The souls have to pass through the rigors (“purging fires”) of purgatory, and that he or she will have to pay the price for what he/she wrongly did on earth. It's like a temporary prison cell and that they can only be released once they have truly atoned for their sins and with the help from us, the living through prayers. As such, the dead souls will have to be purified and cleansed out of their sins first before they can be with God in Heaven forever.
As depicted in the painting below, the church triumphant (on top) are those that are already in heaven, next to it are the church militant (the living) while those below are composed of the church suffering. Church here is not the infrastructure that we see around, but it is being referred to as the community of believers or God's followers. As can further be gleaned from the said visual art, the “holy souls in purgatory” appear to be begging and pleading for our help primarily to shorten the duration of their stay in the said place maybe and so that their sufferings will be cut short. The souls in purgatory can no longer do something to rectify their wrongdoings because they're no longer alive. As such, they heavily rely on us, on our help. Note the phrase “holy souls in purgatory” because their sufferings in purgatory are merely temporary as all of them shall have the chance to see and join God in Heaven and share His eternal life and love. However, the probability of being raised up to Heaven would depend on the degree of the assistance accorded them and how they have been sorry for their sins. Absolutely, the souls in purgatory are very much far better than the souls in Hell who are agonizing from eternal damnation and could no longer be saved.
So, what can we do to help the souls in purgatory so they shall be released from the temporary sufferings at the soonest possible time? Oh, it only takes a little of our time, probably a minute or so and should be said everyday if possible. It won't even cost us a hundred bucks to do it!
Here are some simple tips to help our departed brothers and sisters who have gone ahead of us: (a) A simple mental or vocal prayer (perhaps with a lighted candle) offered for a particular soul or for all the souls in purgatory (b) A Holy Mass for the intention of a particular dead person or for all the souls in purgatory; (c) Recitation of the Holy Rosary, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; (d) Undertaking corporal works of mercy such as giving water to the thirsty, feeding the hungry, giving alms to the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and the like; and (e) Other good little things we do towards our neighbors or to ourselves, making some small sacrifices or the so-called “mortification” which we can offer to them silently in our hearts.
I understand the help spared to the holy souls in purgatory will be returned to us in three- folds. There are plenary indulgences that are expected to be gained from doing good works, however under certain conditions, e.g. going to mass, hearing confession and receiving the Holy Communion. Likewise, the holy souls in purgatory once they reached Heaven probably would be grateful for what we did for them. They may also be of help to us, by returning the favor, when we need and seek their help someday!
Please feel free to say your piece if you have other thoughts on this.
Some people go into a pilgrimage with the end view of uplifting and deepening their relationship with God. Each of us has our own way of doing this taking into account our religious faith, personal beliefs and traditions.
The Muslims for instance are required as much as possible and at least for once in their lifetime to make a Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, a place considered holy under Islam doctrine. The same is true with Buddhists and Hindus. The Hindus believe that the Ganges River is sacred and so they visit the said place at least once a year to join in a holy ritual with the pure intentions that they will be saved and forgiven of their sins and eventually go to heaven when they die. I had also the chance to see the Ganges River and observed the ritual when I was in India years back. I remember it was getting dark when we dropped by the place on our way to New Delhi and coming from Agra for the grandiose Taj Majal. There were chanting of prayers and songs and floating of candles and flowers on the river. Unfortunately, I was not camera conscious at that time yet and so I had no photos of my own of the said unique place and experience. (Sorry, next time maybe!)
The Buddhists have their own way of doing some sacrifices too. They engage in so-called walking pilgrimage, a backbreaking task as the said walk is not only for one day but most of the times could take months. I have read this article in one of the blogs I visited about Buddhist monks. It was very interesting as this particular monk in his twenties recounted the ordeals he had faced which he described it as one of the “most difficult things” he had done in his life. It was a 35-day walk from Nepal to India with only one bag carried on his back and detached from material possessions and other things which could probably provide ease to the muscle and joint pains or even foot sores due to severe walking. Most of the times these pilgrimages are arduous and the pilgrims do not only offer their sacrifices for themselves but also the intentions of their loved ones, friends and for all mankind.
For Catholics, October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The Holy Rosary is one of the vocal prayers in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During this time of year, some catholic pilgrims and devotees of the Blessed Mother would organize both local and international pilgrimages. Some would opt to visit nearby local churches named after Our Lady either on foot or by car and reciting the Holy Rosary meditating on the life, joys and miseries of the Blessed Mother and Jesus Christ while they were on Earth. For those who can afford to join in a foreign travel for a pilgrimage, they could participate in a group for a Marian Pilgrimage either to Holy Land or to any sacred places where the Blessed Mother is venerated and recognized as the Mother of God.
This month, our local parish community had a one-day Marian Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Washington, New Jersey. It is where the National Headquarters of the World Apostolate of Our Lady of Fatima is situated. The group was fortunate to have a priest (Fr. Richard M.) with them who served as the spiritual director. Having a spiritual guide is deemed important as he or she would be able to guide the group, keep them focused and walk-through them on the intent of the pilgrimage. While on the bus, the group recited and pondered on the Holy Rosary. Upon arrival, they did a meditative Way of the Cross on the hills of the Shrine and finally a Holy Mass was officiated for all the pilgrims.
( young couple who joined the pilgrimage)
Similarly, other groups organized a Rosary Congress and one of which was held this month in North Carolina. The said congress was attended not only by Marian devotees but also those who are interested to know about the Blessed Mother's role in the Catholic faith.
Local churches have likewise celebrated the feast of the Holy Rosary this month. In honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, some of them especially choir groups would wear their native costumes as they considered it a special day for Our Lady, and they even took a snapshot with Her. Cool guys!
As the month of the Holy Rosary has finally ended, I hope that each and everyone of us may have a change of heart, regardless of our beliefs, and be able to realize that little or big sacrifices through prayers, meditations and pilgrimages could help not only in uplifting our spiritual life but also in our relationship with God.
For Catholics worldwide, the month of October is dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It is one of the major Marian feast days particularly for devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary and believers of the significance and powers of the Holy Rosary.
The feast day of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag likewise falls in October and is consistently celebrated by Filipino migrants throughout the United States, particularly the natives of Manaoag, Pangasinan, a town which is about more than 100 miles north of Manila.
The original image of Our Lady of Manaoag is currently enshrined at the Church of Our Lady of Manaoag, where throngs of devotees and pilgrims visit every day.
It is reported that the image of Our Lady has performed miracles based on various testimonies inscribed at the said church’ murals and accounts by people who have received tremendous help and favors granted.
Almost all of the parishes in the United States where Filipinos are present and actively involved in the Apostolate would normally celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Manaoag. There were parishes like Our Lady of Pompei and the Immacualte Conception Church which commemorated the feast of Our Lady of Manaoag in the month of May.
However, at the Church of the Holy Child Jesus, the heads of the Filipino Apostolate decided to celebrate it last October 10, which coincides with the month of the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. A nine-day novena with the recitation of the Holy Rosary commenced the celebration.
A small replica of Our Lady of Manaoag , owned by Kuya Cesar and Ate Linda Quitalig, was present during the novena.
We were also privileged to be visited by the beautiful image of Our Lady of Manaoag dressed in “gold” robe during the day of the mass itself, courtesy of Mr. Michael Calicdan.
It was a special celebration as there was a coronation ceremony led by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Guerrero and flower offering which were made part of the liturgy. The Holy Child Jesus (HCJ) Fil.-choir in their native Filipina dress and barong Tagalog rendered the liturgical songs and showed their wonderful talents during the entire ceremony, with the Himig Heswita’s version of Ave Maria Gratia Plena, as one of the highlights.
HCJ's FilAm choir tenors and basses
version of Ave Maria Gratia Plena, as one of the highlights.
The celebration last October 24, 2010 at St. Lucy’s Church in Manhattan may be considered as the culminating activity for the feast day of Our Lady of Manaoag in NYC. The event was organized by the Our Lady of Manaoag Society of America, led by its President Nida Cortez.. Mr. and Mrs. Ernesto and Rixie Tagle were the current Hermano/Hermana Mayores, respectively. The sponsors were the Board of Directors of Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) and the community representatives.
OLM image photo taken at St. Lucy Church, different from the one crowned at HCJ(courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Apart from the holy mass which was officiated by Most Rev. Oscar Aquino,JCD, other highlights of the celebration included the Blessing of the Medals. Installation of the Hermano and Hermana and the Sponsors, with the Investiture of Medals and Installation of Sashes, and the Crowning Ceremony.
It was a remarkable celebration, not because the church was jam packed with devotees and parishioners, but because of the 4 musical groups that offered and shared their talents, not only from FilAms but by foreigners as well. There was this amazing rendition of the liturgical songs by the Himig at Alay Music Ministry led by our friend Philip
the interpretation of Mr. Bob Kennaway, an American tenor, of the song “How Great Thou Art”,
the sax instrumental version of Ave Maria by a Venezuelan guy and the communion song “Lead Me Lord” by a few of the members of San Lorenzo/St. Lucy Choir.
(Venuezuelan man in the background)
As a matter of fact, Msgr. Aquino related one of the songs about God’s greatness that He gave us Blessed Mary, who is just like us, to be the Mother of Jesus, the Savior of the World.
Just like any other gatherings, the two feast day celebrations which I’ve witnessed both concluded with the partaking of food donated by devotees, line dance and the merriment. I would say, all of these could serve as ways of Our Lady giving back her gratefulness to us too!
Dedicated volunteers during HCJ's Our Lady of Manaoag fellowship (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Line Dance activity during HCJ's OLM fellowship (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Line dance activity at St. Lucy's social hall (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Our Lady of Manaog is “canonically crowned image of our Lady of the Holy Rosary, duly recognized by the Vatican and enshrined in a church under the Dominican Order in the Philippines".
In the U.S. and in certain parts of the globe, Mother’s day is normally celebrated every 2nd Sunday of May each year. Thus, Mother’s day in 2010 falls on the 9th of May. However, in other countries, Mother’s day is commemorated at different times of the year. Some observe it as early as February, others in March and October, and would you believe others in December! While there may be reasons for celebrating various dates for Mother’s day, I could only surmise that this is probably because Mothers should be loved and appreciated not only for one day but each day of the year. Besides, motherhood is a 24/7 pro bono thankless job, it’s a lifetime responsibility!
Last March, I wrote an article on International Women’s Day wherein I mentioned in passing about my mother as an epitome of an ideal homemaker and an empowered woman in her own right. In fact, in some related write ups, I also noted certain factual events referring to my mother. That is how I would want to show to the whole wide world how our parents, especially my mother have molded us in our younger years to become better persons despite their absence when their children had to move out and stay in another place for higher studies and greener pastures. The shadow of our mother was always there to remind us of the do’s and don’ts even if she's not physically present to guide us in our daily chores.
Supposedly, I should be giving you some useful tips on how to celebrate Mother’s day, or I should have been providing you some practical tips to make Mothers happy on the said day or which awesome cool gifts Mothers would really love. Unfortunately, I won't do it this time. Rather, I would allot this space in recalling my Mom since childhood days whom I’ve truly loved and missed a lot. This is in honor of her relentless performance and wonderful achievements, being a wife and a mother. I have always been so sentimental when it comes to my Mom. As a matter of fact, while I was composing this blog, I couldn't help but cry, with tears kept flowing down my cheeks.
So, let me share with you my reminiscence of my mother, my siblings’ mother, how she fared as far as motherhood is concerned.
Basically, our mother was a beautiful woman with simple wants and needs. Coming from the countryside and far from the hustle and bustle of city life, she devoted most of her time rearing her 9 children, making us, her family, a priority even if she had other things to do on her own – her means of living and the like. She had served as the disciplinarian in the family in contrast to my father who was busy earning a living.. But mind you, my father was equally a loving and caring father –he played with us, joked with us, he was more of an extrovert type of person, so to speak. He was loved by people, by his comrades, by his lawn tennis mates, and oh yes, by his social drinking buddies! The truth is, I can write so many anecdotes and amazing experiences about my Dad. Sorry, Dad I had to mention this….I know you’ve loved us, even up to now, I can feel it in my heart.
Here are some of my recollections of my mother’s persona:
1.Our mother was selfless, very kind hearted generous woman yet tough and strict.
I remember when we're still kids, my mother would have to gather us to pray the Angelus every 6 pm each day and wouldn’t start the prayer if one is missing in the group. If someone is not around and is still playing outside with friends, she would go out of the door and had this amazing way of calling us. It sounded like a twit of a bird or a whistling sound which we knew that it was her, that it was time for us to be home. I’m not sure if my siblings would still remember these things. It’s sort of a bit funny or could be the sweetest sound but it was also of a concern because I knew there was an accompanying responsibility and at times a price we had to pay for not being at home on time! And believe me when we prayed, we couldn't just sit anywhere and participate in the praying, we had to be with the group and kneel down just what she did. Otherwise, we would get a word of caution or warning from her!
As a very kind hearted woman, she was so accommodating to anyone, especially the lowly and oppressed, knocking on our door begging for food and clothes. She would invite them inside, fed them and gave them out slightly used old clothes, sometimes with an extra small sum of money, making people leave our house with happy faces. She couldn’t bear the sight and the thought that poor people leave her house in sorrow. I remember another instance where we would welcome some people in our home on an honor-system basis, to the extent of allowing them to stay with us for years and treat them just like a member of a family. In fact, these people were sent to school and in exchange, they would do certain household chores, just like what we did at home – running household and/or personal errands.
2. Our mother was a self-reliant, independent and a hands on person.
She was very hard working woman, an all around, do-it yourself person- a very good cook wherein some of my favorites include the very tasteful home made cakes (torta) baked in an old style fire furnace, sweet and salted rice cakes (suman), cassava cakes, fish escabeche (originally a Spanish recipe), beef stew with tomato sauce and other ingredients, tapas, her own “adobo” recipe, green seaweed/sweet potato leaf salad added with vinegar and onions, steamed tarot and yams and so many more. She was our chef and we would be her assistants, preparing the ingredients but we’re more interested on the taste test side of it!
She was our hairstylist and continued to be when ever we’re home. In fact, she was the one who first cut our hairs and did our first curls. There were times that we would try to beat each other and fall in line for the hair cut during weekends. Trust me, she was very good at it, and she could truly style the hair the way we wanted it to be. Probably she was forced to learn it by herself because almost of her children are girls except for one boy. And oh yes, even our only brother got his first taste of a haircut from her!
3.Our mother was a businesswoman in her own right.
I recall when my older siblings had to go to college. She established a small variety store so as to augment the family’s earnings. I also learned and acquired from her my business acumen, the wholesale/retail consignment method and the pricing strategies. She may not be an MBA degree holder but it was great that my first informal business know-how emanated from her. She was intelligent and I’ve discovered that she was among the top of their class during her school days.
I have also first learned from her about the barter system. She may not be aware of the technical parlance, but yes she knew how to trade our things in exchange for commodities. An instance is when poor farmers would go to the city center to trade their crops in exchange for clothes, blankets and other things they needed in their respective homes, my mother would engage in said activities. In fact, even without the traded goods, she would end up giving the needed things to these poor men and women.
I mentioned in my previous blog that my mother knew how to fashion dresses for her young children, especially when she had her first sewing machine. If she finds time, instead of buying ready made clothes, she would do the measurements, sketched the dress and made a pattern on a piece of large paper before sewing it. She didn’t go to a formal fashion school, it was more of a self-taught learning skill. She did not only sew some of our dresses but also for some small projects like curtains, for small windows and pillow cases, for home use.
4. Our mother was a very patient, relentless and pious woman.
Ever since I was a child, I observed my mother would wake up in the wee hours (3 or 4 am) of the morning, kneel beside her bed and pray the Holy Rosary and other devotional prayers. This habit of hers continued up to her heydays. During her mid younger days , I would hear her murmurs, silently saying her intentions pleading to God for mercy and forgiveness. Except when she’s indisposed, she would hear mass every day and brought us bread or any food which she bought on her way home. To her, the day would not be complete without attending the Holy Mass and receiving the Holy Communion.
Married to a man who was fond of being with friends- with peers who were like a family to him, having drinking spree with them, and getting drunk at the end of the day, was an agony to my mother. Lifting up everything to God, served as an outlet to her worries, and oh yes, her prayers were granted – it worked after so many years! Our father’s drinking spree has diminished and they both have a very good time together.
She was so patient and persevering, especially in dealing with my father’s whims like food to prepare, office clothes to wear and so on and so forth. She would gladly do these things sans complaints even though she was already exhausted just so to avoid further arguments.
My mother was my first teacher and catechist. I first learned from her about God and everything about spiritual beliefs. She first taught us the basic prayers and the Angelus and later the Holy Rosary with the Litany. Even without deliberate memorization of the said prayers but because of the constant praying of the Holy Rosary, I was able to memorize the mysteries and would you believe the litany as well which up to now I recite it by heart! For us young kids and teens then, we didn’t grasp the full significance of the said prayers – it appeared said things were repetitious and were imposed on us! It was only when we were growing up that we’re able to recognize the beauty and the importance of praying, especially the Holy Rosary. Truth is, I am now applying the lessons learned from my mother in my class telling them how prayers are important in our lives. I almost forgot another very good trait which I’ve learned from our parents – that after praying, we approached them, kissed them and placed their hands on our foreheads for blessings and as a sign of respect. Thereafter, the younger siblings would then go to the older ones and do the same thing.
Our mother was involved in church related organizations. As a matter of fact, she became one of the sponsors or “hermanas” during feast day celebrations. This is the reason why majority of her children are now actively involved in civic and socio-related activities.
She was my first music teacher too. She loved to sing and had a sweet voice. Hmmm, my good voice must have come from her, kidding aside! Oh yes, she had this skill of doing second voice thru the so-called “owido” (playing it by ear) which I realized just now that I have also acquired it from her. And more oh yessessss, she danced gracefully too!
5. Our mother was our first faithful doctor/nurse, mentor, critic, and our best friend ever.
I recall when we were sick during our younger days, our mother was the one who was there awake all night by our side, caring for us, cooking and feeding us our favorite food, giving us the needed medicines to make us well and healthy. She was there to provide moral support whenever it was time for her children to give birth and taught them how to bathe and care their first babies. It was just so frustrating that I wasn’t there by her side when she needed me most. I know from the deepest of her heart, she would understand me, just what she had been – a very considerate person.
She was our critic even during her golden years. Whenever she saw us not in proper attire, if we're showing a little some of our skins, she would jokingly call our attention to change our dress. And if she liked it, she would just sit there in the corner quietly looking at us with a smile dancing upon her lips. I knew she was keeping her praises for us to herself. She was not really outspoken as far as flattering and pleasing people are concerned. As I said, she was more on the “critiquing” side!
She was our best friend ever. When our Dad first left to join Our Creator, our mother was wandering from one of her children’s place to another. Even in her older years, she tried as much as possible to travel and visit her children and be with them for a month or so. She would initiate the planning of a reunion for all of us and I can still vividly recall how she looked very happy, anxiously waiting for us at the gate whenever it was time for our flight arrivals. She had plans in mind with one of my sisters as her partner. We would go to a beach for a swim, visit tourist places, or just simply stay at home discussing various issues or even ending up in arguments! Oh yes, we’re normal creatures, especially in a female dominated place – we had misunderstandings- the so called siblings rivalry – and she would be the arbiter! But overall, it was a great feast for all of us with the delicious food served on the table just like the parable about the rich father who prepared nice things for his prodigal son to return to his home!
Our mother’s last birthday and final days of her life
On her birthday, we planned for a grand celebration for her. We offered gifts, flowers, and delivered our extemporaneous personal messages which she gladly accepted with a modest smile. We designed a program and had the presentations recorded on video, and oh yes there was even a banner greeting with her photo on it mounted on the wall of the hotel’s ball room. She was very excited about it, as if she was celebrating her 18th birthday. I recall we sang the song “Through the Years” with a twist and had it re-worded so as to suit the occasion. How I wish I could have written this before and delivered a well thought meaningful birthday message during that time. I am sure she would only smirk at it but would be proud of me silently at the same time! Actually, my mother was happy and contented just by seeing her children completed their studies, and have turned into successful adults.
When I last saw her, my mother was still feeling great. When I bade farewell to her, she kissed and hugged me tightly as if she wanted me not to go but I simply ignored it and set aside the emotions brewing at that time. Our communications then were limited and undertaken thru telephone calls and internet conveyed messages. There were always the friendly reminders from her – the love and care of a mother to her child, until the gloomy sad news that she followed and be with Dad and her Creator in Heaven, after a decade. I would have wanted to say my deepest sincere apologies to her for my shortcomings, for my limitations and weaknesses. I would have wanted to say a quadrillion thanks for all the love and sacrifices. I would have wanted to share with her more of my time and tell her how much her child deeply loved her, but she could no longer hear it, feel it! That time was the most difficult, unhappiest and terrible moment of my life, in fact till now. But when I think of my mother when she was alive, it gave me emotional and spiritual healing, because I know she will always be there to offer prayers for her children, to offer birthday masses for her children and to comfort them when in trouble and in despair, no matter what, against all odds!
To my Mom, my heartfelt Happy Mother’s day greeting to you!
I could have written a novel about my mother. But I have to end it here with the following quotes by E.Cook:
I miss thee my Mother! Thy image is still
The deepest impressed on my heart.
As the saying goes, life must go on. But having said all of the foregoing, I trust you have learned something from it. So to all of you out there, awesome cool mothers all over the world, I wish you all a happy and wonderful Mother’s day!
The Brief Useful Tips
Here are some helpful tips for you children and husbands out there:
1. Shower your mother/wife with lots and lots of love and affection – that’s what she’s waiting for!
2. Put together a bouquet of amazing surprises that you can deliver to your mother, including small things like being with her the whole day, offering to cook her favorite food, taking her out for shopping and simply re-assuring her of your unwavering love and support throughout the rest of her life, among others.
3. Arrange a surprise party for her , with the husband and the children participating and a lot more.
Incidentally, today is the birthday of my Dad. Happy , Happy Birthday Dad!
Please offer prayers for the repose of his soul, and my mom's too. Thank you