National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Shrine of Devotion, Shrine of Mission

Redemptorist

Baclaran, Philippines

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Articles on the Shrine

The Church that Never Closes by Fr. Caloy Ronquillo, CSsR & Bro. Mark Chia, CSsR

Serving the People by Fr. Caloy Ronquillo, CSsR & Bro. Mark Chia, CSsR

From Devotion to Mission by Fr. Caloy Ronquillo, CSsR & Bro. Mark Chia, CSsR

A Shrine not a Parish

 

 

“Shrines are not only human achievements,

but also visible signs of the presence

of the invisible God.”

 

One of the common misconceptions about Baclaran church, not just among the devotees but even among the clergy, is that it is a parish church. Baclaran church has never been a parish. It has always been a shrine, or better still, a pilgrimage shrine. When the early Redemptorists settled at Baclaran they insisted that the church besides their convent will not become a parish but a mission station in order to free them from sacramental work, except for the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  Redemptorists chose this arrangement in order to concentrate on fostering devotion to OMPH, the administering of sacrament of reconciliation and the giving of missions particularly to the poor in Manila and Tagalog region.

 

The Canon Law of the Catholic Church defines a shrine as “a church or other sacred place which, with the approval of the local Ordinary, is by reason of special devotion frequented by the faithful as pilgrims (Can. 1230). Canon Law explains the implications of being a shrine: “As shrines the means of salvation are to be more abundantly made available to the faithful:  by sedulous proclamation of the word of God, by suitable encouragement of liturgical life, especially by the celebration of the Eucharist and penance, and by the fostering of approved forms of popular devotion” (Can 1234 §1). “In shrines or in places adjacent to them, votive offerings of popular art and devotion are to be displayed and carefully safeguarded” (Can 1234 §2).

 

Shrines hold an attraction and utility that ordinary pastoral ministry does not normally hold. Ever ancient, ever new, shrines retain that attraction for people that bureaucratic ecclesial formations can never attract. Not being a parish, Baclaran shrine does not have the ordinary parish structures and bureaucracy like parish pastoral council, mandated church organizations and ministries. The shrine also does not have parishioners who live in a territorial boundary. Having no parochial boundaries, the shrine does not serve the people of Baclaran or Paranaque only but all the people who come to the shrine which are from the different provinces around and outside of Manila. Furthermore, the head of the shrine is called a rector not parish priest. When I was rector of the shrine, many times I have been called the parish priest of the shrine not just by the devotees but also by fellow priests from the diocesan clergy.

 

As the shrine became solely devoted for prayer, devotion and sacrament of reconciliation, unhampered by parochial activity, it has become, through all these years, a true pilgrimage center.  Imagine if there were weddings, baptisms, confirmations, funerals and other parish activities in the shrine, many devotees perhaps will be distracted and could not fully concentrate on their devotional deeds in the shrine.

 

This scheme is, however, not always clear to the people, perhaps having been used to the mentality that every church is a parish. We continue to receive many inquiries about baptism, confirmation, wedding and funerals. The shrine is a favorite particularly for those who wish to get married as the shrine has a very long central aisle, perfect for long entourage procession in weddings.

Freed from the institutional and parochial obligations, the Baclaran shrine has become a permanent full-time pilgrimage center. As a pilgrimage center 24/7, the shrine welcomes every day thousands of people from Metro Manila and even the far-flung provinces who visit the shrine to pray and express their devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.  Some devotees come as far as Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon. In recent years, those coming from the further suburbs of Manila and the provinces have dwindled perhaps because of the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila. In recent years, to avoid the Wednesday traffic, many come on Tuesday evenings or late Wednesday night and make their own private devotions.

Many come in jeeps and vans; they travel as families, neighborhood communities, friends and organizations. Some bring food and eat on church grounds or under the trees after the novena and masses.

The huge challenge of being a 24/7 pilgrimage shrine is how to become more ministers of mercy and hospitality in welcoming the pilgrims. “This experience of Church must be particularly fostered through the fitting welcome given to pilgrims to the shrine. This should take into consideration the specific characteristics of each group and each individual, the yearnings of their hearts and their authentic spiritual needs.” The challenge of hospitality goes beyond practical matters. It demands more so spiritually.  Many pilgrims feel burdened by the weight of their sins and the consequences of injustice, violence and social marginalization.

The Redemptorist are honored to be given the privilege of being the stewards of the shrine. They see it as a fruit of their efforts at fulfilling the mandate given by Pope Pius IX in 1866 to make known OMPH throughout the world. This honor, however, comes with the recognition that at the beginning they never imagined that a great shrine will someday stand in this small village of Baclaran. The shrine was born mainly out of the love story between OMPH and the Filipino people.

This reveals the profound belief that the Baclaran phenomenon, first and foremost, is a theological and spiritual phenomenon. The phenomenon is of divine origin. The shrine is primarily God’s initiative to communicate Godself to the people.  This is the major belief presented by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, “The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God.”  The document declares: “Shrines are not only human achievements, but also visible signs of the presence of the invisible God.”

In the Biblical tradition, the shrine is not merely the work of human hands, filled with cosmological or anthropological symbolism, but a witness to God’s initiative in revealing himself to human persons and making his covenant of salvation with them.

The shrine, then, was not built because Israel wanted to capture the presence of the Eternal, but just the opposite, because the living God, who entered history, who journeyed with his people in the cloud by day and in the fire by night (cf. Ex 13:21), wanted to give a sign of his fidelity and his continual active presence in the midst of His people.

It is a permanent reminder of the fact that God’s people is born not of flesh or blood (cf. Jn 1:13), but that the life of faith is born of the wondrous initiative of God, who entered history to unite us to himself and to change our hearts and our lives. The shrine is the efficacious memorial of God’s work, the visible sign proclaiming to all generations how great is his love and testifying that he first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:19) and wishes to be the Lord and Saviour of His people.

Seen in this way, a certain sense of sacredness and mystery permeates shrines, which implies that shrines are beyond human accomplishment. Thus, shrines “One approaches the mystery with an attitude of awe and adoration, with a sense of wonder before the gift of God; for this reason, one enters a shrine with a spirit of adoration.”

The document proposes a theology of the temple to better understand the significance of the shrine. “[W]e can come to a deeper understanding of the ‘mystery of the Temple’ in three ways, which correspond to the three dimensions of time and which serve as the supporting arches of a theology of the shrine, namely, memory, presence and prophecy of the God who is with us.

A theology of the temple proposes three theological dimensions of the shrine: memory, presence and prophecy.

As a memory of our origin, the shrine calls to mind God’s initiative and helps pilgrims to recognize it with a sense of awe, gratitude and commitment. As a place of the divine presence, it bear witness to God’s faithfulness and his constant activity in the midst of His people, through his Word and the sacraments. As a prophecy, or a reminder of our heavenly homeland, it makes us remember that everything is not finished, but must be accomplished fully in accordance with God’s promise which is our goal.

In relation to the unique and definitive past of the event of our salvation, the shrine appears as a memory of our origin with the Lord of heaven and earth. In relation to the present of the community of the redeemed, gathered in the time between the first and the final coming of the Lord, the shrine appears as a sign of the divine Presence, the place of the covenant, where the community of the covenant constantly expresses and renews itself. In relation to the future fulfillment of the promise of God, that “not yet” which is the object of our greatest hope, the shrine is set as a prophecy of God’s tomorrow in the today of the present world.

Joey Echano, CSsR

National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Redemptorist Road,

Baclaran, Parañaque City 1700

Redemptorist Baclaran, 2017

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Tel: +63 2  8321150

Fax: +63 2 551175

Email: [email protected]

National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Shrine of Devotion, Shrine of Mission

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Redemptorist Baclaran, 2017

National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Redemptorist

Baclaran, Philippines

Shrine of Devotion, Shrine of Mission

Redemptorist Baclaran, 2017

C

National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

C

National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Redemptorist Road,

Baclaran, Parañaque City 1700

Tel: +63 2  8321150

Fax: +63 2 551175

Email: [email protected]

Redemptorist Baclaran, 2017

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