The true significance of Christian pilgrimages
This is in reaction to Carlos Isles’ letter titled “Pilgrimage to Manaoag a disappointment” (Opinion, 4/24/14). Perhaps the 7-hour trip to the Manaoag shrine colored his perception, but his disappointment perhaps reflects a lack of real understanding of the custom and tradition behind pilgrimages.
Christian pilgrimages started with visits to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; then to Rome and other sites associated with the apostles, saints, Christian martyrs and apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
A pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a holy purpose. Every step along the way has meaning. The pilgrim knows that challenges will emerge, similar to how it is in real life. A pilgrimage is not an outing or a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant changes can take place, if the pilgrim has the spirit of prayer and the humble dispositions of sacrifice and self-giving. When the pilgrimage is made to a shrine of the Blessed Virgin, it is a manifestation of our love and devotion to our Mother Mary and to the Christ Child she holds in her arms.
Regardless of the throng of people around us, we try our best to pray well. We cheerfully accept the slight discomforts of the journey or the inclement weather. These are little things that really show the spirit of penance that inspires us, the spirit recommended by the Blessed Virgin so insistently at Fatima and Lourdes. Thus, new insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. For some, nothing will ever be quite the same again.
The references made by Isles to Archbishops Oscar Cruz and Socrates Villegas are totally uncalled for. It would not be fitting for any child to speak badly of his mother and family. A Catholic has the Catholic Church for a mother and his fellow Catholics, priests and laymen as his brothers and sisters in the faith. When a Catholic openly and verbally criticizes the Catholic Church and the pope, bishops and priests, he acts not as a member of the family of God, the Catholic Church; in fact he effectively turns himself into a stranger and an enemy of this Christian family.
Likewise, the reference about the Reproductive Health Law was out of place. In any case, let me assure Isles that when the prolifers make their pilgrimage to Marian shrines this May, we will go with an attitude of gratitude and joy that once more, through her powerful maternal intercession, our Blessed Mother delivered the Filipino nation and people from the attacks of the prochoice advocates against the dignity of human life from conception, and the attempts to undermine the sanctity of marriage and the family.
Following the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, it is indeed time for both prolife and prochoice camps to get moving toward unity and nation-building.
—DR. MARIA C. MANALO, MSc
consultant and faculty,
FEU-NRMF Medical Center,
Fairview, Quezon City,
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