La Salud Feast 2020: A Celebration a Queen Deserves
QUEZON CITY—It is a sight to behold when the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with the public was permitted and a good number of faithful attended. On November 17, 2020, the church of San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish in Quezon City was once again flocked by the devotees, while observing health protocols, as the feast of Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health) was celebrated in a simple yet solemn way our Lady deserves. The celebration of the Mass commenced at 6:00 in the evening with the Prior Provincial, Fray Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, as the main celebrant with the religious priests of the Provincial Curia as concelebrants and Fray Rommel Rubia, OAR as the homilist.
Prior to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, devotional activities were held. At 4:30 in the afternoon a meditative rosary was recited. It was led by the members of the Recollect Augustinian Youth Provincialate Chapter. At 5:30, the traditional giving of ex-votos during the fiesta of the La Salud was witnessed by the faithful.
The tradition of giving the Lady some items of precious stones and metals and other special items is closely linked to the devotion to the Lady as recorded in the documents. Moreover, record shows that the altar chapel of Nuestra Señora de la Salud in Bagumbayan and later on in San Nicolas Church in Intramuros (both churches are not anymore existing) was filled with ex votos. This tradition is an external manifestation from the devotees in thanking God for the grace of health received, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Since the revival of this devotion in 2016, many devotees offered gifts to the Blessed Virgin, now displayed in her shrine, as an act of gratitude. This year’s donor for the jewelry worn by the Blessed Mother is from a family who was spared from the virus when one of its members, a medical front-liner, got infected by COVID-19 and has stayed together in the family for a couple of days before being transferred to a facility. The ex voto is a gold and silver pendant incrusted with pave rose cut diamonds with a total weight of 4.15 carats and with a 3.80 carat emerald at the center. The pendant hangs on a stringed tiny sea-water pearls. The second ex voto, an embroidered barong veil for the use of the La Salud, is from the Mr. and Mrs. Paciano Bunyi and family from Batangas who themselves are devotees of the La Salud.
Fray Selma, OAR, during the introductory rite of the Holy Mass, said that “man, nowadays, are more concerned with their health. It is for this reason that most of them are enrolled in different fitness and wellness programs. However, the concern of the Beloved Mother is not only the physical but the totality of the person- physical, emotional, psychological, moral and spiritual.” Because of this, he invited the faithful, just as Mary said to the servers in the wedding at Cana, to “do whatever Jesus tells you.”
Fray Rubia, OAR, in his emotion filled homily, said that this year’s fiesta of Nuestra Señora de la Salud is a very significant one because of the pandemic. According to him, because of the effects of the pandemic, all of us are wounded physically, emotionally, spiritually. Thus, all of us, without exemption, need healing. Citing the of Gospel narrative on the wedding at Cana, Fray Rubia, OAR, exhorted the faithful to approach the Mother of Jesus, like what the servants did, and tell her “we have no more wine. We are already tired. Heal us.” He, however insisted that it is not the Blessed Virgin who heals us but his Son Jesus. Mary, on her part, gives the right and most effective medicine. This is her role. And so, he challenged everyone to go to Jesus for He alone can heal all our infirmities.
After the celebration of the Holy Mass, Fray Emmanuel Bolilia, OAR, Head of the Province’s Section for Spirituality, read to the public the testimonies of healing of some devotees who contracted different illnesses but received healing because of their devotion to the Lady of La Salud. After this, some of the faithful offered ex votos to Nuestra Señora de la Salud. Some offered pendants, earrings, and rings of gold and silver with precious stones. One offered his achievements by offering his gold medal while others offered rosaries made of pearls and precious metals. All these will be displayed in Her shrine adjacent to the church.