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Time flies extremely fast these days. During the past weeks, I saw my nephews and nieces graduate from school. Even my own daughter Margarita finally got her diploma from Enderun this month. Then, before we know it, it is already Good Friday tomorrow.
Holy Week is a time for everyone to reflect, an activity which some of us usually take for granted because of our busy schedule. As Catholics, we follow our own set of traditions during the Lenten season. One of these is the Bisita Iglesia, where people visit seven churches to say their prayers there. My wife and some of her friends went to Batangas last Monday to do it, while there are still few people around. She takes Holy Week quite seriously, as most devout Catholics do. This year they visited seven churches, where they did two stations of the Way of the Cross in each church. Basically, the Way of the Cross is being done by Catholics to receive plenary indulgence as a way to receive Godâ€™s grace. Among the places that they have visited were the Nuestra Senora de Candelaria Parish, The Convent of the Divine Mercy (more popularly known as Pink Sisters), Angels Hills Retreat and Formation Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Our Lady of Caysasay Church, St. Benedict Church, and the Basilica de San Martin de Tours in Lemery. Marissa and her friends were amused because during their visits, they witnessed graduation rites being held right inside two of these churches! I am not so sure myself why is that, but maybe it is the schoolsâ€™ way to offer the occasion and the success of their students to God.
Anyway, let me share the history behind two of the most significant churches that they have been to this year. The first one is the Church of Our Lady of Caysasay, which was built in the 1600s following the discovery of the image of the Immaculate Concepcion by a fisherman named Juan Maningkad. My wife was able to touch the original image while she were there, and afterwards she was led towards the Balon ng Sta. Lucia and its adjourning stream, which was known to have miraculous healing qualities. The caretakers fetched a bucket of holy water for her to bathe her hands in. The other interesting church that Marissa and her friends visited was the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours. Apparently, this is the largest Catholic Church in the country. Built by the Augustinian missionaries in 1575, the basilica was surrounded by some of the old houses in Taal, which gave the whole church plaza a lot of character. Aside from being the biggest church, it is also home to one of the largest bells in the country. An earthquake in 1942 damaged and permanently silenced that bell, but the church officials decided to hang it back in its previous place.
Another tradition that we all observe is going to confession. I remember that when we were still young, my mom used to not let us go off without confessing our sins. I find it quite funny and sad that despite asking for His forgiveness, most of us confess the same sins year on year. It is also important that aside from going to confession, one must also take the Holy Communion. This is a symbol for Catholics to receive Christ and to be one with him, especially in his suffering.
But the most important tradition is to reflect on Godâ€™s love for us. I downloaded the mini-TV series â€œThe Bibleâ€ from iTunes, and hopefully I could finish watching it this week. I highly recommend watching this series because it is excellent and it shows valuable lessons, such as how power can corrupt. It also shows how God had a direct relationship with His anointed ones: from Abraham, to Moses, and up to the kings, as well as the role that Jews played in the formation of our faith. Others watch live re-enactments of the life and death of Jesus through senakulos. Some of the most extreme ones even have themselves whipped on their backs and nailed on a cross in repentance for their sins. But I find it not necessary; aside from the fact that it is not safe, a person should change his ways and try to be better by doing good deeds and not resorting to self-punishment.
These traditions are being observed by the faithful because of our deep faith and gratitude in God. Time flies so fast that we feel the need to prepare today for our future, and the Lenten season somehow prepares us for the next life as we look back and ponder upon whether we have been good sons and daughters of God. The most important lesson that God wants us to learn is to love one another, as how He loved us by enduring the greatest sacrifice of offering the life of His son for our sins. We may not surpass His love, but we can try by looking out for each other and following His will.
May we all have a blessed Holy Week.