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Photo: Felix Carroll
The Faith of Filipinos
Beautiful music was provided by the Divine Mercy and Fatima Prayer Group of Woodbridge, N.J.
The Rev. Fr. Ed Jocson delivers the homily calling on all to draw inspiration from the examples of Saints Peter and Paul.
Filipino pilgrims pose for photos beside the Twelfth Station of the Cross.
By Felix Carroll (Jun 29, 2013)
Everything for which Filipinos have come to be known throughout the world was on display at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Saturday, June 29.
Their faith and trust in Jesus, The Divine Mercy.
Their love of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Their devotion to family.
Their fondness for food and song.
Their predisposition to share.
The National Shrine's seventh annual Filipino Heritage Day drew several hundred pilgrims from throughout the Northeast and Canada. They disembarked from tour buses and cars laden with homemade food to share, musical instruments to play, banners, and the flag of the Philippines.
In no uncertain terms, it was a party — to celebrate a common culture and a shared spirituality with a center point in the message of The Divine Mercy.
"Divine Mercy is a tradition of the Filipino people," said Dwight Malapit, president of the Filipino Apostolate of Union County, N.J., which filled four tour buses for its Shrine pilgrimage. "Divine Mercy helps us Filipinos in our journey because we are immigrants. It gives us hope [when we settle in foreign lands]. We want to hand this hope off to our children and our children's children."
The reason Divine Mercy gives such hope was elucidated well by the Rev. Fr. Ed Jocson, the spiritual advisor to the apostolate and main celebrant of the 2 p.m. Mass at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine.
It being the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul, Fr. Jocson noted both great saints were much like most of people today in many ways. Before they gave their lives completely to Christ, they could be impetuous, unreliable, and in St. Paul's case, even vicious to those with whom he disagreed. Their lives can serve as inspiration for us, said Fr. Jocson, because of how flawed they were before they became convinced that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and that He suffered and died for our salvation.
"As we come to this Shrine today," Fr. Jocson said, "a Shrine put here to assure us of the love of God and the mercy of God for all of us — in spite of all the misgivings and all our faults, all the not-so-charitable things we say to one another, or maybe all of those things that we wished we had done for one another but we haven't done yet — in this place we are assured that if we can put our faith and trust in the Lord, allowing God to be the Source of our strength and believing in Him and Him alone and not trusting in our own capacities but rather in God's, we know that we, too, will have the grace similar to that of Peter and Paul to offer our lives to the belief in the love and mercy of God."
Father Jocson called on the worshippers to "have the strength to recognize our sins and trust in the Lord and the Father's will in the way we live, in the words we speak, and in the way we treat one another."
Filipinos around the world have long been beacons to help guide people to Jesus. Indeed, many of the values of Filipino culture are in accordance with the message of Divine Mercy, like respect for life, the sanctity of marriage, the importance of the family, love for elders, and compassion for the poor.
"Every culture has its problems, of course," said Pauline Ramos, who emigrated from the Philippines as a teenager back in the early 1980s. A great many Filipinos, she said, have endured poverty, political upheaval, and natural disasters, "but we know that only God can carry us through these things, and we pray that we can witness our joy in God to people who are enduring hardships alone, without faith. We hope we can witness how God works in our lives when we turn to Him in prayer [and repentance]."
Indeed, Filipinos seem to exhibit trust in Jesus almost habitually.
"We surrender everything to Him," Pauline said.
Filipino Heritage Day began around noon as people disembarked from busses and cars then began to filter through the grounds, many walking Eden Hill's new life-size Stations of the Cross. Some brought out picnic baskets and shared food. Others entered the National Shrine for a moment of prayer.
Cultural programs included live music provided by the Divine Mercy and Fatima Prayer Group of Woodbridge, N.J.
Prior to Holy Mass, there were opportunities for confession and a group Rosary at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. Then, following Mass, the pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Not all the pilgrims on Saturday were Filipino. Bob and Norma Martin were visiting the Shrine from western New York.
"We do know and are impressed with the faith of many Filipinos," said Bob. "It's nice to come here and pray with them. I think the Shrine kind of charges all of us up, spiritually."