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Photo: Felix Carroll

Before Holy Mass on Saturday, Filipino pilgrims gathered to give praise in song to Jesus, The Divine Mercy.

Filipinos Flock to a Special Day

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Before Holy Mass, Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich introduced himself to the pilgrims. "I'm not Filipino. But I will try to be as Filipino as possible today, with your help," he joked.

More than 400 Filipino pilgrims came to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Saturday, June 30, for the Shrine's annual Filipino Day celebration.

Amidst prayers, song, confession, and Holy Mass on a beautiful, cool summer day, the pilgrims shared their special love and devotion to The Divine Mercy for which Filipinos have become renowned.

"In the Philippines, at the 3 o'clock hour, everyone stops what they're doing to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy," explained Juliet Sibug, a Filipino immigrant who traveled to the Shrine from New York City. "In the Philippines, probably more than in any nation in the world, including Poland, the people make Divine Mercy a central part of the culture."

"I believe that my soul will be saved through my devotion to The Divine Mercy," said Tony Munoz, who traveled to the Shrine from Union, N.J. He said the reason he made the four-hour trip to the Shrine was to show the Lord how much he loves Him.

"For instance," he said, "You can tell your wife you love her, but you also have to show you love her through actions. It's the same with my love for Jesus. Actions speak louder than words."

"We had an opportunity to come here through a bus group, so we grabbed it," explained Jose Ramon Gonzales, from Old Bridge, N.J. "It's a holy place."

Juliet explained one reason why so many Filipinos have such a love for The Divine Mercy. Under the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the faithful of the Philippines would often pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy to bring freedom to the island nation, she said. Marcos was deposed in 1986, "and our prayers were answered," she said.

"It seemed like an impossible thing to achieve — toppling Marcos and his friends," she said. "But it happened through the power of prayer — that brought it to reality. The Filipinos never forget, and that's why the Divine Mercy devotion will be there forever."

Before Holy Mass, Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich introduced himself to the pilgrims. "I'm not Filipino. But I will try to be as Filipino as possible today, with your help," he joked.

He did just fine.

As the main celebrant for the Mass, held under a tent at the Shrine's south lawn, Fr. Anthony processed with a statue of Our Lady of the Rule. The statue, he said, was given to him by a Filipino friend.

"I'm a Marian priest," he said. "We Marians always have Mary in our hearts. Mary is always presenting us Jesus Christ and leading us to the rays of His Divine Mercy."

During his homily, Fr. Anthony imagined how wonderful it would be if the people of the United States had as strong of a devotion to The Divine Mercy as the people of the Philippines.

"Can you imagine if at 3 o'clock all the businesses and all the schools stopped what they were doing to pray for a few moments to Jesus Christ?" he said. Such a dream seems unfathomable. Yet, Fr. Anthony said, "God wants Divine Mercy for this time and this age."

Indeed, he said, the message is spreading rapidly.

"I can't tell you how many confessions we hear here at the Shrine — people who are coming back to God, back to the sacraments," said Fr. Anthony. "We hear people tell us, 'I stepped into the Shrine and felt God's presence, and it's changed my life.'

"Divine Mercy is the answer to all of the world's problems," Fr. Anthony said.

He shared a story that gave testimony to Filipinos' legendary love for The Divine Mercy. On Thanksgiving Day three years ago, a snowstorm hit Stockbridge that dumped eight inches of snow. The Marians, he said, decided to have their Thanksgiving Day feast at 12:30 p.m., which gave Fr. Anthony only a brief time to eat before he was due in the confessional at 1 p.m.

"I thought, 'Eight inches of snow. Who's going to come here now?' " Fr. Anthony said. Lo and behold, an SUV pulled up at 1 p.m. filled with a Filipino family from New York City.

"They drove four hours in eight inches of snow to be here," Fr. Anthony said. "I just said, 'Wow, what devotion!' Eight inches of snow couldn't keep them away."

He urged the Filipinos in attendance to "have that hunger, have that thirst for Divine Mercy. Be willing to sacrifice yourself like those pilgrims did that day. Thirst for Divine Mercy every moment of your lives."

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