Thursday, January 22, 2015

Spiritual Encounter with Pope Francis

I wasn’t able to touch or get closer to the Holy Father. It’s very difficult to dash near the line where the pope mobile would pass because of the thick crowd. But attending the Mass he presided was enough for me, which alone, provided me enough inspiration and different spiritual encounter. Someday, I know I can touch the Pope’s hand, I will just continue hoping and praying for this wish to come true.

According to an official statement from the Presidential staff, President Noynoy Aquino was personally told by Pope Francis before he left Manila that he is very much happy and moved with the unique enthusiasm and warmth that the Filipinos bestowed on him while in the country.  Yes and he deserved the unique treatment and love!

His Holiness, Pope Francis wearing a yellow poncho over his white cassock
on his arrival in Luneta where he celebrated the Papal Mass last January 18, 2015, it drew 6 million people, making it the biggest papal crowd 
in the History of Papacy.

To date, attending the Papal Mass is the highlight of my spiritual encounter with my faith. I cannot see Jesus but I can feel his presence through other people and on all the goodness in this world and Pope Francis is one of the personifications of this divine gift. As a Vicar of Jesus Christ through the views of the Roman Catholic Church, a Pope epitomizes holiness due to the Catholic teaching’s belief that its election to the Papacy is always guided by the Holy Spirit. St. Peter himself, considered in the Universal Church as the first Pope, was personally chosen by Jesus to lead his flock. It has a biblical foundation, when Jesus told Peter “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.Matthew 16:18

Attending the Papal Mass on a very cold weather with pouring rain







Bible interpretations present that the “rock” refers to Jesus and the “church” refers to His followers, thus, a Pope, in a more sensible explanation on the view of Roman Catholics, is always Christ’s representative to the world, to speak on behalf of Him, to lead His people and to entrust His ministry. This might not acceptable to other Christian denominations and religions but we have individual church’s teachings and doctrines to believe on, that must be respected.

So how’s the aftermath of my experience attending the Papal Mass? I am still floating in the air, figuratively, because I never thought this dream would happen soon. I thought I need to go to Rome first to visit Vatican and hear mass at St. Peter’s square. But it happened!

Not long ago (hehe!) when I was still around ten years old, the first magazine I saw in my father’s desk was “Columbia”, a free Catholic magazine published in New York city circulated to all members of the Knight of Columbus (A Catholic fraternal service founded in 1882 by an Irish priest, it aims to defend Catholic education and the Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II called it the strong right arm of the Catholic Church. Most notable members were President John Kennedy and his brother, Senator Ted Kennedy) all over the world. My father is a member of this organization until it became inactive in our province in the middle of 1990s (however, my father continued to serve the Catholic parish church as a Eucharistic minister up to now), so he had a copy of this magazine every month.
The magazine had a very glossy cover and pages and one of the unforgettable images I often saw on it was Pope John Paul II. He then became part of my childhood memories and one of the most enduring images of an individual that stored in my imagination. I also grew up hearing his name during the Celebration of the Holy Mass.

One day, when I was about 11 years old, I asked my mother about Pope John Paul II (though I could not recall exactly if it was my father whom I asked) if he was Jesus, the answer I got was, he was not Jesus but he represented Jesus on earth.

Weew! Since then I dreamed to see John Paul II. But when he visited Manila in 1995 during the 10th World Youth Day celebration, I was in Mindanao and so disappointed that I could not see him in person nor attend the Papal Mass, until he died, my dream remained a dream, when Pope Benedict XVI assumed the Papacy, I dreamed to see a glimpse of him too, but he resigned before this wish could be granted. Then another dream created, to see Pope Francis or even attend a Papal mass, which seems quite impossible unless I would travel to Italy.

Then I decided to move to Manila for other reasons, honestly, to see the Pope in Manila was not part of this plan. Circumstances after circumstances rolled in, pushing me to the realization of my childhood dreams. Until it was announced in the media that the new Roman Pontiff will be visiting the country to comfort the survivors of the typhoon, Yolanda, Goosebumps big time!!! Now I know why God allowed me to relocate here in Manila - to attend the Papal Mass and became part of History!

THE POPE’S MESSAGES

TACLOBAN

The theme of this Papal visit is “Mercy and Compassion” and the main purpose of the Pope’s holy sojourn in the Philippines is to visit the people of Leyte, particularly Tacloban, which had been largely devastated by the typhoon Yolanda in 2013. The Pope wanted to comfort them and let them know that God did not forsake them.

But just as the Pope left Manila, a storm has been forecasted to land again in Leyte, however, the Pope decided to proceed with the itinerary because it was his main goal of visiting the Philippines.

He arrived in Tacloban earlier than expected and held an outdoor mass near the airport, it was reportedly attended by 300,000 faithful despite the storm. The video footage where the Pope celebrated the mass amidst the storm and saw people crying would really stir one’s heart. It was so emotional!

According to reports, the Pope had prepared his homily in English, but when he saw people in the mass, he discarded it and spoke spontaneously in Spanish, an interpreter translated it into English, “So many of you in Tacloban have lost everything. I don't know what to say - but the Lord does… He underwent so many of the trials that you do”.

Due to the approaching storm, the Pope cut short his trip in Tacloban after spending lunch with some of the survivors and returned to Manila. However, during the mass, a tragedy happened, one volunteer died when the scaffold gave in, she was brought to the hospital but did not survive. Pope Francis was informed and he met the woman’s father at the Apostolic Nunciature, they spoke for 20 minutes.

University of Sto. Tomas

Before the Papal Mass, Pope Francis met the youth and other religious leaders at the University of Sto. Tomas concluding it with a Holy Mass. We viewed this live on screen at the Luneta.

The Pope delivered his homily in Spanish, with his interpreter translated it into English. He was deeply touched with one of the stories presented by a 12-year-old girl who lived in the street before she was rescued by a Church-run shelter. She questioned why God allowed children to be abandoned, lived in the street and became victims of crimes. Why God let them suffered.

Pope Francis stood up and hugged the girl who broke into tears before she could finish her story. The Pope, known with his deep compassion to the poorest of the poor, responded, "Only when we are able to cry are we able to come close to responding to your question…Those on the margins cry. Those who have fallen by the wayside cry. Those who are discarded cry. But those who are living a life that is more or less without need, we don't know how to cry…I invite each one of you to ask yourselves: Have I learned how to weep, when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave'?".

The Pope also emphasized that the world needed to learn how to cry with those in need. He also spoke about the need to deepen one’s sense of compassion, to go beyond simply giving to the poor by understanding their plight.

LUNETA

In his homily, which he delivered in English, the pope called on social restructuring, urging every Filipino to reject social structures that hamper development and spiritual growth. He added that God “created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it, through sin, man has disfigured that natural beauty. Through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures that perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption.”





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