On the quadricentennial anniversary of the arrival of the image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel to Philippine shores, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila reminded the Filipinos that if they want to have lasting and true peace, they should return to Carmel.
Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, though absent, left this message which was read emphatically by the Augustinian Recollect Prior Provincial, Rev. Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR, during the pontifical high mass commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Filipinos’ devotion to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the Quirino Grandstand last May 4.
“Sa mundong maingay at ayaw makinig sa hikbi ng tao, lalo na ng dukha, ibalik ang Carmel. Sa mundong sumasamba sa mga huwad na diyos, bumalik tayo sa Carmel,” the cardinal said in his message.
(In a noisy world unwilling to listen to the cries of the poor, bring back Carmel. In a world that worships false gods, let us return to Carmel.)
“Sana tumahimik ang mga baril at pagtangis at mapalitan ng katahimikang dulot ng tunay na kapayapaan. Sa mundong sinisira ng mga huwad na diyos, likhain nawa tayo ng Diyos na nagbibighay buhay,” he added.
(We hope that guns and wailing be silenced and that they be replaced by the quiet that comes from true peace. In a world destroyed by false gods, may the God who gives life create us.)
CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles officiates over the pontifical high mass concelebrated by 11 other bishops and priests and attended by thousands of devotees.
The archbishop also led the solemn consecration of the entire country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In his homily, Archbishop Valles emphasized the Filipinos’ natural fondness and affection for mothers which brings stability amidst pain and suffering in life.
Marian devotion and longing for peace
“Our Blessed Mother always brings us to Jesus, and with Mary, our trust and confidence in the love of God is always strengthened,” he said.
The prelate then narrated a story he witnessed during the September 2013 Siege of Zamboanga City by about 200 rebels of the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which killed almost 300 people, razed 10,000 homes, and reduced 40 hectares of once-thriving communities to rubble.
The archbishop was prelate of Zamboanga, a first class city 1,333.6 km south of Manila, since November 2006, but had been transferred to Davao one year before the standoff between government forces and the rebels.
He returned to Zamboanga, he said, and there he found something astonishing:
“I was struck with the image of a woman hanging the image of the Our Lady of the Pillar in an evacuation center,” he said.
The archbishop added that the image was the only thing the woman was able to recover from her home as she and her family were retreating in haste.
“But she confided that she felt secure, felt comforted, felt safe in the midst of the miserable situation because she felt that the Blessed Mother was with her,” he said. “Indeed, our faith is always made strong, is always inspired by the presence of the Blessed Mother.”
Queen of Quiapo
Along with the arrival of the image in the country in 1618 was also the quick spreading of the practice of wearing the Brown Scapular of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Initially, the image was housed at the Recollects’ first convent of San Juan de Bautista de Bagumbayan Church at the present-day Luneta. Three years later, however, it was enthroned at their brick-and-stone San Sebastian Church in Quiapo.
For the next 200 years, the San Sebastian Church would become the only shrine and center of Carmelite devotion in the country.
San Sebastian suffered fires, pillages and three strong earthquakes in 1645, 1863, and 1880 while housing the image. This prompted the Recollect Fathers to construct an earthquake-proof structure that would be a fitting shrine of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Hence, they erected what we know today as Asia’s first all-steel, earthquake-proof church of San Sebastian, which was later on raised into the status of a Basilica by Pope Leo XIII in 1890.
Canonically crowned in 1991 by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin under the authority of Saint John Paul II, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel remains the Queen of San Sebastian Basilica — and of Quiapo — a fitting compliment to the Black Nazarene, widely considered King of Quiapo, a statue of the cross-carrying Lord which was also brought to the country and introduced to the Filipinos by the 17th-century Recollect missionaries.