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Hearing Mass by the Holy Father

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

I felt very privileged to witness the Holy Mass offered  by His Holiness, Pope Francis, in celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines last Monday. The date has been fixed in my mind ever since I was a student, because Philippine history classes always emphasized how Magellan discovered the Philippines and introduced the faith to our people on March 16, 1521. Imagine, 500 years have passed since that event, and how it has changed the lives of our people!

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What if we had been discovered by  adventurers from other countries that did not belong to the Christian faith? What kind of religion would we be worshipping under now? And Pope Francis was just the right head of the church when this anniversary of our 500th year came. The Holy Mass he celebrated was so solemn, meaningful and touching, that I am sure the few lucky Filipinos who were able to attend it in person, must have felt themselves doubly blessed and privileged. Imagine being present at a ceremony where not only the founding of your country was celebrated, but also the 500th year of Christianity in our country!

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Even if the Holy Father celebrated the mass in another language, the choir kept reminding us that it was being offered for our country and people by the hymns they sang. And you could feel the appreciation of the Holy Father for the Filipino people who had accepted Christianity wholeheartedly and have been a model to other countries in their observance of the Catholic faith and practices. Indeed, it was the anniversary, the 500th year of our faith because it was on March 16, 1521 when Christianity was introduced to this country through the arrival of Magellan who, with his crew, was diverted to our land by the Lord Himself.

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The choir was a Filipino one, but translation of the lyrics were available, and even of the prayers and the homily. It was a very solemn and touching ceremony, and the Holy Father’s message, I felt, must have touched the hearts of all Filipinos who were listening, even if only via television or radio. Of course the date of the arrival of Christianity is memorable to everyone who has gone to school, because that had been emphasized in every grade of our studies. And Ferdinand Magellan, who must have landed in our country accidentally, can now be credited, not only for discovering it, but for bringing the faith here.

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The Mass was celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica, giving a chance for those who have not travelled to the Holy City, a wonderful chance to be familiar with its interiors, and especially the Chapel where the Holy Father celebrated that mass. I regret so much that, with all the countries I have had the opportunity to visit, plans to go to Rome had been made several times, but never materialized. Anyway, that Mass celebrated by Pope Francis himself gave me a chance to be familiar with some parts of it. And for that I am thankful.

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It must have been a privilege for Filipinos attending that the readings were in Tagalog, but there was a translator who very competently accompanied them with the English version. Isn’t it ironic, though, that many, perhaps even more, Filipinos, understand English than Tagalog? I admit that if it were not for my having worked in Manila for six years, I probably would still be speaking pidgin Tagalog! I think some Pinoys got to understanding it because of the movies and radio or TV, but a lot of them still cannot speak or understand it. I am sure my grandparents never did to the days they died.

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The Holy Father had very good words for the women of the Philippines. He did not mention anything about the men, though, but I am sure they were just included among the “People of the Philippines” that he often addressed. There were only about a hundred mass goers and they all observed “social distancing”, so that must be the reason why attendance was limited. But since the ceremony was covered by TV, millions must have “attended” it all over the world. How I envied those  who were there in person. What a great  privilege they had beengiven!

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I am sure the Pinoys present at that mass or watching it on TV, must have been ecstatic to hear Pope Francis say that Christianity was “a gift given to the Philippines 500 years ago”. At the end of the Holy Mass, the Holy Father blessed the congregation and at that instance, a silly thought came to my mind. Had he been in the Philippines, mass goers would have run after him pleading for “Picture, picture!” But the privileged few who were there just walked off, most, I imagine, had beatific looks on their faces!*

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