Tradition seems to have won out over Church teachings in the observance of Holy Week in the Philippines.
Church leaders repeatedly advised the faithful against the traditional corporal punishment and crucifixion re-enactments that mark the occassion. But thousands of Filipinos refused to listen and whipped themselves on the streets of villages around the country.
Some carry wooden crosses, others whipped themselves with lashes including blades. inflicting wounds to their backs under the scorching summer sun. Others even crawled through the streets while being kicked and whipped by friends.
Alexie Dionisio, 33, and Amparo “Mother Paring” Santos, 70, both said the annual crucifixion rites is the “will of God.”
Dionisio, who was first nailed on the cross when he was 15, said he received “divine messages” telling him to be crucified and to deliver the message of “God the Father.”
Mother Paring, meanwhile, said: “It was not my will, it was God’s will.” She also claimed to have received “divine messages” while hanging on the cross.
Church leaders, however, are not convinced.
Church officials have advised the faithful to go to confession, pray, and meditate on Jesus Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro discouraged self-flagellation and crucifixions, saying that the practices are an “imperfect imitation with doubtful theological and social significance.”
He said there is only one crucifixion – that of Christ – that saved mankind.
Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Pampanga said lack of catechesis might have contributed to the practice of folk religiosity.
“We have to admit humbly that we have not catechized our people enough,” said Bishop David, who also heads the CBCP Commission on Biblical Apostolate.
He said most of those who get themselves crucified or those who hurt themselves are the “unchurched” or “the type who are baptized but would rarely come to church.”
Meanwhile, as thousands flocked to the provinces for the long Easter break which began on Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III reminded Filipinos to reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection and “to repay this through charitable work, and by helping in bearing the cross of the poor.”
In his Lenten message, the president said his administration is making sacrifices to implement much needed reforms, and no “Herod” can stop the administration from treading the right path.
“As long as we match our prayers with hard work, as long as we are united in sharing the burden of the nation, as long as we are focused on the welfare of the majority and not of self, no hardship, no Herod can stop us from pursuing our envisioned reforms,” President Aquino said.
In Baclaran district in Manila, some 100 Philippine Airlines workers staged their own “calvary” outside the Redemptorist church in Baclaran district.
“The threat of mass layoff and labor contractualization are heavy crosses for employees to bear,” said Gerry Rivera, president of the airline union.
Some workers carried makeshift crosses while being whipped by colleagues who were wearing masks of government and airline officials.
The workers later joined members of families of missing activists who were calling on the government for help to locate their loved ones.
Meanwhile, the CBCP’s online “Visita Iglesia” or church visit has become a big hit with nearly 60,000 visits on Maundy Thursday.
Traffic to the site climbed on Good Friday and Saturday and was expected even to increase on Easter Sunday.
Last year’s version crashed several times during the Holy Week due to the large number of visitors.
The CBCP launched this year’s “Visita Iglesia” site on April 1 for overseas Filipino workers who could not make it home and for Catholics who cannot physically make the traditional church visit.
CCCB REPORT: For many of us, our yearly Lenten journey has been shaped by its beginning and end. We started with the temptations of Jesus and then the vision of his transfiguration. We end by entering with him into Jerusalem, where we share with him in his suffering, death and resurrection. But what has this really meant for us, and what happened to us on the way?
Sometimes we forget what the journey is really about, and fail to see what should be noticed along the route. In case you may have missed it, the three intervening Sundays of Lent told us a great deal about the Lenten journey and our entry into the Easter celebration. The readings of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent invited the catechumens, as candidates for Baptism, to think over and even “test” their motives about why they want to be initiated into the community of faith. The same readings also invited the rest of the Christian community to examine its own faith journey. Three major points came forward in this year’s readings: What do we most yearn and thirst for in life (the Gospel reading of the woman at the well)? How can we see what life is really about – not only to have sight, but insight and vision (the healing of the blind man at the pool of Siloe)? How can we embrace life and stand with courage, strength and inspiration among those truly alive (the Gospel reading of the resurrection of Lazarus)?
Often we simply plod along the road of faith – moving as if in some shadowy, superficial existence, not really aware. We frequently stumble on, half-hearted, hazy eyed, hesitatingly. Not fully alive, and not even aware of the deepest yearnings in our hearts, or in the hearts of our brothers and sisters.
Perhaps this is why we are easily distracted along the way. There is so much talk and chatter in contemporary life. Our daily lives are filled up with the glaring sounds of radio and television, the fleeting words of text messages and websites, and the frequently disturbing and cruel remarks from blogs and social media.
The Paschal Mystery is the road on which we are called to discover our deepest yearnings and most authentic needs. It gives us the light that enables us to see Light. It opens the way to life and to the truth about life. It is Life itself.
The 50 days of Easter are an invitation for us to rediscover the depths of our own lives. Through the Resurrection of Christ, we see the creative and transforming strength of God’s love for us and our world. This journey in faith is the journey to eternal life. To borrow from the words of Saint Paul, God our Father who raised Christ from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies also through his Spirit that is dwelling in us (Romans, 8.11).
Christ is risen! Yes, Christ is risen indeed!
ALL AFRICA REPORT: The Christian community of the city of Saurimo, capital of the north-eastern Lunda Sul province, is redoubling this Friday the cycle of prayers to observe the Good Friday, which marks the great mystery of faith that is the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to priest Manuel Muliúle, of the Catholic Church, the programme began on Palm Sunday and on Tuesday with confirmation mass, where the bishop blesses the holy eyes and all priests renew their divine commitments.
The holy week programme, within the Catholic Church, includes the holding, on Saturday, of a watch as the last period of the Eastern festivities.
THENEWS.COM.AU REPORT: THESE WA twins, born 16 hours apart after their mother Leanne Stokes endured a 12-day labour, will fly to Esperance today for their first Easter at home as a family.
Esther and Isaac Hoddy were born so long apart after a medical mystery interrupted the birth.
On a trip to Perth in February, Ms Stokes' waters broke eight weeks early and she was taken to King Edward Memorial Hospital.To give the babies the best chance of survival, doctors held off the birth for 12 days, with 41-year-old Ms Stokes in and out of labour until the twins could wait no more.
"Eventually, they couldn't stop the labour," said Ms Stokes, who is also a grandmother. "Esther was born naturally, but then the cervix just shut up and the doctors were baffled.
"There was no explanation, and they're now writing a medical article about it.
"Everything went quiet and that's when I knew something was wrong. The next thing they were whipping me up to theatre and that's when I fell apart."
Surgeons performed a caesarean to rescue Isaac, who was trapped in the womb.
The operation was difficult, but successful, and Isaac joined his twin sister in intensive care.
After battling breathing difficulties for the first weeks of their lives, the twins have recovered and are flying home to Esperance today.
Feast: April 23
St George is honoured in the Catholic Church as one of the most illustrious martyrs of Christ. The Greeks have long distinguished him by the title of The Great Martyr, and keep his festival a holiday of obligation. There stood formerly in Constantinople five or six churches dedicated in his honour, the oldest of which was always said to have been built by Constantine the Great, who seems also to have been the founder of the church of St. George, which stood over his tomb in Palestine. Both these churches were certainly built under the first Christian emperors. In the middle of the sixth age, the Emperor Justinian erected a new church in honour of this saint at Bizanes, in Lesser Armenia: the Emperor Mauritius founded one in Constantinople. It is related in the life of St. Theodorus of Siceon that he served God a long while in a chapel which bore the name of St. George, had a particular devotion to this glorious martyr, and strongly recommended the same to Mauritius when he foretold him the empire. One of the churches of St. George in Constantinople, called Manganes, with a monastery adjoining, gave to the Hellespont the name of the Arm of St. George. To this day is St. George honoured as principal patron, or tutelar saint, by several Eastern nations, particularly the Georgians. The Byzantine historians relate several battles to have been gained, and other miracles wrought, through his intercession. From frequent pilgrimages to his church and tomb in Palestine, performed by those who visited the Holy Land, his veneration was much propagated over the West. St. Gregory of Tours mentions him as highly celebrated in France in the sixth century. St. Gregory the Great ordered an old church of St. George, which was fallen to decay, to be repaired. His office is found in the sacramentary of that pope and many others. St. Clotildis, wife of Clovis, the first Christian king of France, erected altars under his name; and the church of Chelles, built by her, was originally dedicated in his honour. The ancient life of Droctovaeus mentions, that certain relics of St. George were placed in the church of St. Vincent, now called St. Germaris, in Paris, when it was first consecrated. Fortunatus of Poitiers wrote an epigram on a church of St. George, in Mentz. The intercession of this saint was implored especially in battles and by warriors, as appears by several instances in the Byzantine history, and he is said to have been himself a great soldier. He is, at this day, the tutelar saint of the republic of Genoa; and was chosen by our ancestors in the same quality under our first Norman kings. The great national council, held at Oxford in 1222, commanded his feast to be kept a holiday of the lesser rank throughout all England. Under his name and ensign was instituted by our victorious king, Edward III, in 1330, the most noble Order of knighthood in Europe, consisting of twenty-five knights besides the sovereign. Its establishment is dated fifty years before the knights of St. Michael were instituted in France by Louis XI; eighty years before the Order of the Golden Fleece, established by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy; and one hundred and ninety years before the Order of St. Andrew was set up in Scotland by James V. The emperor Frederic IV instituted, in 1470, an Order of knights in honour of St. George; and an honourable military Order in Venice bears his name.
The extraordinary devotion of all Christendom to this saint is an authentic proof how glorious his triumph and name have always been in the church. All his acts relate that he suffered under Diocletian at Nicomedia. Joseph Assemani shows, from the unanimous consent of all churches, that he was crowned on the 23rd of April. According to the account given us by Metaphrastes, he was born in Cappadocia, of noble Christian parents. After the death of his father he went with his mother into Palestine, she being a native of that country, and having there a considerable estate, which fell to her son George. He was strong and robust in body, and having embraced the profession of a soldier, was made a tribune, or colonel, in the army. By his courage and conduct he was soon preferred to higher stations by the Emperor Diocletian. When that prince waged war against the Christian religion, St. George laid aside the marks of his dignity, threw up his commission and posts, and complained to the emperor himself of his severities and bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and tried, first by promises, and afterwards put to the question and tortured with great cruelty; but nothing could shake his constancy. The next day he was led through the city and beheaded. Some think him to have been the same illustrious young man who tore down the edicts when they were first fixed up at Nicomedia, as Lactantius relates in his book, On the Death of the Persecutors, and Eusebius in his history. The reason why St. George has been regarded as the patron of military men is partly upon the score of his profession, and partly upon the credit of a relation of his appearing to the Christian army in the holy war, before the battle of Antioch. The success of this battle proving fortunate to the Christians, under Godfrey of Bouillon, made the name of St. George more famous in Europe and disposed the military men to implore more particularly his intercession. This devotion was confirmed, as it is said, by an apparition of St. George to our king, Richard I, in his expedition against the Saracens; which vision being declared to the troops, was to them a great encouragement, and they soon after defeated the enemy. St. George is usually painted on horseback and tilting at a dragon under his feet; but this representation is no more than an emblematical figure, purporting that by his faith and Christian fortitude he conquered the devil, called the dragon in the Apocalypse.
St. Adalbert of Prague
BISHOP AND MARTYR
Feast: April 23
Born 939 of a noble Bohemian family; died 997. He assumed the name of the Archbishop Adalbert (his name had been Wojtech), under whom he studied at Magdeburg. He became Bishop of Prague, whence he was obliged to flee on account of the enmity he had aroused by his efforts to reform the clergy of his diocese. He betook himself to Rome, and when released by Pope John XV from his episcopal obligations, withdrew to a monastery and occupied himself in the most humble duties of the house. Recalled by his people, who received him with great demonstrations of joy, he was nevertheless expelled a second time and returned to Rome. The people of Hungary were just then turning towards Christianity. Adalbert went among them as a missionary, and probably baptized King Geysa and his family, and King Stephen. He afterwards evangelized the Poles, and was made Archbishop of Gnesen. But he again relinquished his see, and set out to preach to the idolatrous inhabitants of what is now the Kingdom of Prussia. Success attended his efforts at first, but his imperious manner in commanding them to abandon paganism irritated them, and at the instigation of one of the pagan priests he was killed. This was in the year 997. His feast is celebrated 23 April, and he is called the Apostle of Prussia. Boleslas I, Prince of Poland, is said to have ransomed his body for an equivalent weight of gold. He is thought to be the author of the war-song, "Boga-Rodzica", which the Poles used to sing when going to battle.