20 May 2017
The fateful day finally arrived. I was so excited. I have reached St. Mary’s Church an hour earlier. The program was scheduled to begin at 1700 hours. I was then instructed to proceed to the Mini Hall. I was taken aback by the size of the crowd that greeted me.
Everyone was actively engaged. The organizers were wholeheartedly managing the event. The kids were looking so cute with their immaculate attires. They were chatting animatedly with their fellow participants. Their eyes sparkled with excitement. The beating of my heart changed to sadness and was filled with longing as I imagined my own kid mingling with the other children. Uh- huh, I need to stop this negative thought before I become melancholic.
Okay, back to task at hand. I checked out the reactions of the parents. Their faces showed a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and happiness. If only my son would be alive today, I might wear the same face, or even more. Argh, enough!
Before I lose my cool, I decided to step out of the hall. I went to the church compound and continued my observation. I saw quite a number of different floral arches and banners. Butterflies began to flutter inside my stomach. As far as I could recall, I was never invited to participate to any religious procession, let alone the Santacruzan. So I was excited to see the parade, the muses and of course, the gowns! LOL!
The most elaborate arch belonged to Empress Helena. Who is she? I mused.
St. Helena (Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta, c 250 – c 330), also called as Empress Helena was the consort of Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus (reigned 293–306) and she was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306–337). She was appointed as Augusta Imperatrix and was given unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition.
In the latter years of her life, she made a religious tour during which she allegedly discovered the True Cross of Our Redeemer.
As per history, it was noted that she had found three wooden crosses. And in order to confirm which one was that of Jesus Christ’s, she asked the help of a woman who was already nearing death. The woman then felt the first two crosses but her condition did not change. However, when she touched the third cross she suddenly recovered. Thus, the empress proved and declared that the third was the True Cross of Jesus Christ.
Aside from that, she purportedly found Jesus Christ’s tunic, the rope used to tie Him on the cross and the nails of the crucifixion as well. She was also responsible for the construction of some churches. The Churches of Nativity, Bethlehem and of Eleona are to name a few.
In the Philippines, the discovery of the True Cross is commemorated yearly and is usually held on the last day of the Flores de Mayo.
Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) is a month-long Catholic festival which shows the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The highlight of the feast is the ritual pageant called Santacruzan. This is a parade of the important biblical figures.
Time check: 1800 hours. The Filipino Community of St. Mary’s Church opened the festivity with kids lined up and formed the rosary.
The Living Rosary was led by the children. They were sincerely praying and it was such a humbling sight to witness. I have sensed innocence from each word they uttered.
After the Living Rosary, the religious procession- the Santacruzan was next in the program. The important biblical characters were impersonated. The different images of the Blessed Virgin Mary were also portrayed.
All participants showed their best. It was evident that each character was meticulously chosen and prepared.
The last part and climax of the event was the Holy Mass. It was presided by Fr. Chito B. Bartolo, OFM Cap. His homily was about the Blessed Virgin Mary as the role model of Christians and the importance of praying the Rosary.
I went home after I received the final blessing. While on my way, I began contemplating the homily.
We are not worshiping Mama Mary. When we pray the rosary, we pray to God through Mama Mary.
This message struck me the most.
While growing up, I witnessed my mom spending about an hour a day to pray the Holy Rosary. She used to recite the Joyful Mysteries in the morning, Sorrow Mysteries after lunch and Glorious Mysteries by evening.
My younger brother and I used to tease her by saying: Mommy, sa sobra mong madasalin baka lumagpas ka na ng langit nyan (Mommy, your exceptional devotion might bring you further and farther than heaven)! And then she would just smile sheepishly and tickle us till we plead her to stop.
However, there was one moment when she did not react at all. She was quietly sitting and staring at us. After some time, she brought and made us kneel in front of the altar and said,
She is Mama Mary. She is the Mother of God, Jesus. She is our Mother. Whoever belongs with her, also belongs with Jesus. You want to be with Him in Heaven, right? So you need to talk to her; tell her your feelings, your dreams, your hopes, your thoughts, your frustrations- everything. She will help you to be closer to her Son.
Do you know how to do that? Simple. Always pray the Holy Rosary.
Treat her like how you treat me, but with more respect, more love, more adoration. Treat her more. Much, much more. Because she is the Mother of God.
Offer her flowers everyday. Each rosary bead represents a flower.
Mama Mary is the Flower of May for us, Christians.
Her unexpected advice was such an eye opener. It greatly influenced our life…
From then on, I prayed just how my mom used to do.
Unfortunately, my Lord’s hour- my prayer time became less and less as time passed by. I was too busy earning money to support my family. And then things began to shake. Storms came one by one.
One evening, I called my parents to inform them that my son did not survive.
I know you are busy. I know you are hurting because of what you have been through, but are you still praying the rosary? My mom asked.
I was kicked in the gut. I was not able to answer my mom’s question. Guilt flowed like lava through my veins. It ate my whole being.
When I’m gone, you must develop your relationship with Mama Mary more. She added.
I asked her, why are you saying such thing?
My time has come. She replied.
My mom was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Since I was struggling to keep my pregnancy, she decided to keep it a secret from me.
And she only had few months left to live.
I then began to pray again.
On my knees.
Four months after my son’s death, my mom died.
After the interment, I looked up… I saw the clear blue sky.
I called Mama Mary and asked her,
Since my mommy is no longer here, can you be my mommy from now on?
A gentle breeze embraced me. I was comforted… It felt like someone hugged me and whispered to my ear…
I am here for you.