Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Road to Damascus

THIS year marks the bi-millennium birth anniversary of St. Paul. Before, he was Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians until his travel towards Damascus that God's grace made him Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In Rome now, they have opened a special "Jubilee Door" at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. We had the opportunity to celebrate Mass there just very recently at the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. In that Chapel is the Crucifix in front of which St. Bridget received the Fifteen Prayers in honor of the wounds of the Lord.

The figure of St. Paul reminds us that no matter how we led our lives in the past, we can always atone for them, and more so, live a life that is meant for us by the Lord. Paul had that utter change. God worked in him. And to culminate his earthly life, he died a martyr's death.

Well, we actually began our Marian Pilgrimage by visiting Avila in Spain. It was my first time in Avila and I was deeply moved in being in the place where Teresa begun reforming Carmel, and in the end, reforming the Church members as well, as the Church is perfectly holy in her Head who is Christ and ever needing sanctification in her members.

We were able to offer Mass at the birth place of Teresa and her words echoed through mind and heart:

Nada te turbe
Nada te spante
Todo se pasa
Dios no se muda
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada te falta
Solo Dios basta.
Solo Dios basta.

In the ever fleeting concerns that we are offered, Teresa reminds us, Solo Dios basta. Since we often forget that struggle for sanctity is a joyful one, I remember as well those words of hers: Spare us O Lord from gloomy saints!

From Avila, we proceeded to Fatima, which appropriately enough was the 13th of October. Although I have been there in the past, it is always a new and renewing experience. The evening procession was impressive. The group was also graced to have led in Tagalog part of a decade of the Rosary.

Early morning of October 14 we offered Mass at the Chapel of the Apparitions at the Cova d'Iria. And in our hearts, and me in my poor and sinful heart, begged Our Lady to safeguard the Filipino Family and enlighten our legislators. We cannot give up in our legislators. If Saul the persecutor of Christians, by God's grace, was transformed into Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, any and all our legislators can be transformed as well into true Christian leaders. With God, there is nothing impossible.

At Fatima, Our Lady asked for prayer and penance especially for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins. There at the small poor village, Our Lady told the world that many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them. We pray for one another, for our own true conversion.

The three children who were blessed with the apparitions of Our Lady are now all in heaven. Francisco, who could only see but neither hear nor speak with Our Lady, died the earliest. He spent many hours in prayer to console the Lord. Together with his sister, Jacinta, was declared Blessed by the Servant of Go, John Paul II, in May 2000.

Jacinta—who could see and hear Our Lady but not speak with Her—died alone in a hospital, as foretold by Our Lady, but she was never left alone by Our Lady. She spent her life offering prayers and sacrifices for the Holy Father.
Lucia—who could see, hear, and speak with Our Lady—eventually entered the Carmel in Coimbra, some hours away from Fatima. Our Lady told her she would live longer than her two cousins since through Lucia, "God wanted to establish devotion to her (Mary's) Immaculate Heart." She lived until 13 February 2005.

In these three children, we see not only the innocence of the little ones but their simplicity and conviction to fulfill God's Will. We may have already lost our own innocence, but we could still be simple and convinced in fulfilling His Will.

May this month of the Holy Rosary inspire us all the more to pray, act, and lead lives that are totally consecrated to Mary. And may we take up again the daily and regular praying of the Rosary. Ave Maria! Ad Jesum per Mariam.

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