1949 Marian message, 2015 ‘oratio imperata’
“SECRET MESSAGE—told to me [on] Oct. 17, 1949, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. ‘Pray hard for China’s dream to invade the whole world. The Philippines is one of its favorites. Money is the evil force that will lead the people of the world to destruction. Prayers, sacrifices, self-denials and the daily recitation of rosary will soften the heart of my Son as I said before.’”
It was two weeks after Mao Zedong proclaimed on Oct. 1, 1949, the establishment of the communist-led People’s Republic of China that Teresita Castillo, then a postulant in the Carmelite monastery in Lipa, Batangas, received that message. It was only one of the messages that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her.
Those who had closely followed the so-called Marian apparitions and the miraculous shower of rose petals in the Lipa monastery that began in 1948 would know the story of Castillo, whose nickname “Teresing” became synonymous with the reported Marian phenomenon that became grist for news and speculations during that era.
As Castillo herself narrated in her account of the Marian phenomenon (“I am Mary Mediatrix of All Grace,” published in 2008), she was barely out of college and was supposed to be preparing for her grand piano recital, a requirement for her music degree, when she dropped all of that to pursue a life as a Carmelite contemplative. Nixing her parents’ gift of a grand piano from Germany, Castillo, the youngest of six children, proceeded to follow the call despite her family’s objections.
To make that long story short, the patriarchal authorities of the Catholic Church at that time suppressed and oppressed the long-suffering nuns and made them go through some kind of inquisition. A so-called “cord of silence” was imposed. Even the bishop who believed in the apparitions became something like a pariah. The apparitions and petal showers were declared fake. It was a letdown for journalists who covered the event. Castillo was made to leave the monastery on orders from Church authorities. (She remains close to the nuns until today.)
It was only in recent decades that the phenomenon, long covered up and unresolved, was surfaced for reexamination. Some Carmelites who had witnessed the shower of petals were by then no longer alive. Those who silently believed must have felt vindicated when then Lipa Archbishop Mariano Gaviola allowed the Mediatrix’s long-hidden image to be publicly displayed for veneration. The late Edsa heroine and Marian devotee June Keithley had made an investigative documentary on what exactly happened.
Castillo’s published account has the imprimatur of a Filipino cardinal and the foreword of the archbishop who was just a child when the apparitions occurred.
The Carmelite Monastery in Lipa is now frequently visited by pilgrims. A viewing deck has been built so that pilgrims can see the apparition site, a well maintained garden with the statue of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace (how Mary had introduced herself to Castillo) and beside it, the vine on top of which Mary had supposedly appeared more than 60 years ago.
As a journalist, I refrain from airing a judgement in my articles that have to do with matters of faith. As a feature writer, I have had varied and colorful assignments including coverage of religious phenomena and occurrences, interviewing visionaries, spiritual healers, etc. (not to mention members of a death squad, prostituted women, fugitives, convicted assassins and politicians).
So just a few days ago, I was trying to seek out Teresing Castillo, now 86, to ask her about the 1949 Marian message on China looking with beady eyes at Philippine territory and because of China’s recent continuous intrusions into Philippine waters and the disputed Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. And of course, the filing of the Philippines’ case at the United Nations arbitral court in The Hague, whose jurisdiction over the case it is first seeking.
Alas, my contacts in two Carmelite monasteries told me that Castillo is not well. (If Castillo’s next of kin think she is well enough for an interview, I’d be so happy to speak and listen to her. My editor in chief bids me, Go, find her.) A Carmelite sent me a text message describing Castillo’s health condition. She added: “We’ve known about [China] for a long time. Carmel’s been praying for China.” These women have not shut out the world.
I am interested to know how a headstrong young woman who was into music and was bent on pursuing a life of prayer and contemplation at that time, would have China on her non-geopolitical radar in 1949. It couldn’t have been a product of autosuggestion. So how did that message come about?
Today, July 16, is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Which brings me to the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for prayers for the protection of the Philippines and for a peaceful resolution of its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. The bishops have called for an “oratio imperata” (or obligatory prayer) while the Philippines’ case is being heard in The Hague.
Last Monday, the reelected CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, called for prayers so that the “tension may ease, and justice, equality and prosperity may be served.” Prayers will be recited at all Masses.
“We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people’s rights … that no harm be done to our marine creatures and habitat … that our fellow Filipinos protecting our islands and seas be kept safe from natural and manmade disasters… [S]end your Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding to our leaders that they resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue…”
Mary, Star of the Sea….
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