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Pilgrimage: A journey of faith.

By Christina Hermoso

Around the world, pilgrimages are an age-old tradition stretching back through the history of almost every major religion.

Muslims go to Mecca and the Jews to Jerusalem. Buddhists journey to Tibet, and Hindus to Benares.

Fili-pino Catholic pilgrims visit numerous historic churches, minor basilicas, and shrines as well as sacred destinations, and places with religious significance.

In a predominantly Catholic nation like the Philippines, a pilgrimage - a journey of faith - forms an integral part of every Fili-pino's spiritual life.

For many pilgrims, the purpose was for religious or civil penance. For others, it has been the desire and longing to get close to divinity.

For some, the pilgrimage is part of a "panata" (vow) for petitions or in thanksgiving for answered prayers. Reaching the sacred destination is said to invoke healing, spiritual awakening and renewal, and strengthening of faith.

Origin of Pilgrimages

Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos said the practice of going on pilgrim-ages began in Rome, Italy as a pious custom during the first millennium to visit the four major basilicas: Saint Peter, Saint John Lateran, Saint Paul, and Saint Mary Major.

The visit used to be done within the same liturgi-cal day, that is, from evening prayer (vespers) to the evening prayer of the following day.

In the course of time, three other churches were added: Saint Laurence outside the walls, Santa Croce in Geru-salemme, and Saint Sebastian.

Thus, the number of churches to be visited on a single day was fixed to seven.

This set itinerary was called 'giro della sette Chiese' (tour of the seven churches), describing the ancient pious custom of visiting the famous 'seven churches,' said the Papal Bull 'egregia populi romani' of Pope Saint Pius V (1566-1572).

In the country, church leaders said the beginning of pilgrimages is an old tradition dating back to centuries ago.

The Filipinos' strong devotion to Mary, they said, must have a direct influence on the holding of spiritual journeys to the churches in towns placed under her patronage.

There are various pilgrim-age sites where each town has created its own versions of Mary under dif-ferent titles.

In Antipolo City for instance, which prides itself as the Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines, pilgrimages were be-lieved to be held since the Spanish era.

The revered Marian image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage or the Virgin of Antipolo, which was brought in from Mexico in 1626 and enshrined in the Antipolo Cathedral, has a continu-ous following among Filipino Catholics since the Spanish colonization period when pilgrims were said to visit the miraculous image.

To this day, a popular custom of pilgrims to the Virgin of Antipolo is the trek going to the shrine on Good Friday and on May 1, from various locations in Rizal Province and Metro Manila.

Some pilgrims would begin the trek from Quiapo Church in Manila following the procession of the image.

A number of Marian images with an established devotion have generally re-ceived a Canonical Coronation, with the icon's principal shrine being customarily elevated to the status of minor basilica and which had become favored pilgrim destinations for many Filipinos. Today, the Philippines already has 15 minor basilicas.

As a deeply religious nation, many Filipinos traditionally go on a pilgrim-age year-round to the countless pilgrim-age sites scattered around the country.

Pilgrimages heighten during the 40-day Lenten season, the Holy Week in par-ticular, which is known as the pilgrimage season, the time of the year when pilgrim tours are at their peak and the sites can get particularly crowded.


The Liturgical Com-mission of the Archdio-cese of Manila said the faithful can gain plenary indulgence by doing the traditional Catholic obser-vances during the Lenten season, particularly dur-ing the Holy Week.

"When the faithful ob-serve certain practices like the Visita Iglesia and participate in solemn processions devoutly in prayer, in sacrifice, pray-ing for the intentions of the Holy Father, he gains a plenary indulgence.

To gain a plenary indulgence, Catholics must also go to confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the Pope's intentions, and have a heart free of sin," the Manila archdiocese said.

According to the Cat-echism of the Catholic Church "an indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punish-ment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven."

The Norms and Grants in the official Manual of In-dulgences, fourth edition (1999), the latest and most up-to-date edition of the Manual, or Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, listed the following observances in the Grants in the Manual of Indulgences:

Holy Thursday - A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who piously recite the verses of the Tantum ergo after the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday during the solemn reposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Good Friday - A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who: 1) Devoutly assist at the adoration of the Cross in the solemn liturgical action of Good Friday; or 2) Personally make the pious Way of the Cross, or devoutly unite themselves to the Way of the Cross while it is being led by the Supreme Pontiff and broadcast live on television or radio.

On Holy Saturday, Easter Vigil a ple-nary indulgence is granted to the faithful who, at the celebration of the Easter Vigil renew their baptismal vows in any legitimately approved formula.

Early in the Holy Week, on Holy Mon-day, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday, go to Mass and receive Holy Communion.

"To gain a plenary indulgence, in addition to excluding all attachment to sin, even venial sin, it is necessary to perform the indulgenced work and fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful is in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed," the Manual of Indulgences said.

Way of the Pilgrims

Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos said the journey of a pilgrim is symbolic of earthly life.

"They are compelled by a noble and praiseworthy purpose: to visit the roots of their faith. It is a longing to walk where our Lord had trod, to witness how He lived His earthly life."

"Pilgrims pay respects and honor the places associated with Jesus, or with His saints. Their visit marks a sense of gratitude for the gift of faith, to pray and to manifest a spirit of repentance, or with humble supplication for graces and blessings for themselves and for their loved ones," Santos said.

The Church leader reminded the faithful to always travel light on their spiritual journey.

"Let us always be reminded of the Way of the Pilgrims, which is to travel light-unburdened by worldly cares and to journey in life with the unconditional and untainted visions of meeting God and willingly setting aside all worldly allurements.

We travel in this life. We are just pilgrims here on earth," the bishop said.

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Title Annotation:Feature Story
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Apr 13, 2019
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