Celebrating Mother Mary

The organizers: Minda, Irene, Donna Fernando, Justiniani, me, Cecille, Evie and Sandra

Every culture has religious traditions that get passed down to their children. About two weeks ago I was invited to Alay Kay Maria (offering for Mary), a Filipino service at St. Norbert. This was my first knowledge and experience of this sacred ceremony.

St. Norbert is diverse with many different cultures: we have a large group of Spanish-speaking parishioners, plus Vietnamese, Italians and Filipinos. Since a large majority of our parish is Hispanic, I have attended many traditional services that my culture is teaching children. La Posada, the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, are two of several Mexican religious customs.

Keeping Traditions Alive

To grow as a community we must appreciate what other Catholic members bring from their motherland. Our children must be taught how our faith is a firm foundation, partly because we practice our traditions. Both Spanish and Filipino congregants have a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. We can thank the Spaniards for introducing the Catholic faith to both cultures.

Flores de Mayo is a tradition that is celebrated by Filipinos throughout the world. Traditionally the children dress as angels to present flowers to Our Blessed Mother. At St. Norbert’s the children took turns reciting the Rosary before the Mass that was officiated by Fr. Moneypenny. We were blessed to have bilingual singers in the choir. To hear music sung in Tagalog for the first time was soothing to the soul and an illustration  of how other communities pay homage to Mary. These Christians are deeply rooted in their culture and are devout Catholics.

Filipino Catholics

Although Ferdinand Magellan was Portuguese, he sailed under the flag of King Charles I of Spain. Spain’s colonization of the Philippines began in 1521. History records all that goes on when a country is colonized; its motive is to convert the natives. In the case of the Filipinos, the dynamics of greed superseded religion. But in all cases when the Christian God is introduced, the truth stands firm and our Lord always prevails.

We do not look back on the harsh history of colonialism to blame those who caused pain; if we did this, our spirits would be controlled by anger and a demand for justice. Today we rejoice that our ancestors endured all the hardships to keep our perpetual Catholic Church standing. Forgiveness sets the world free! We know that in the end God will judge those who caused the persecution and deaths of any innocent people.

The Spaniards came with the idea of consecrating the land to God; we know this because Magellan held a Mass shortly after he landed. What happened in the years that followed was done out of malice and greed, but this did not stop the faithful Filipinos from serving God.

Hernan Cortes shared the same attitude: God, money and fame. Yet in spite of all the persecution of the indigenous peoples, it strengthened their Catholic faith.

Why Mother Mary?

Why do Catholics venerate our Blessed Mother so much? Because she is the person closest to Jesus; she prays to Him on our behalf. Our Blessed Mother never brings any attention to herself. Remember, she was the one who initiated Jesus’ ministry by asking Him to turn the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. This was Jesus’ first miracle;  He did it because His mother asked this of Him.

As I enjoyed my lunch with a group of women who helped organize this event, Elizabeth, who was visiting from the Philippines, shared a tradition practiced in her country. She said that every Monday a statue of Our Lady of Fatima is the centerpiece of a “Block Rosary.” They sing, pray and for seven days the statue of Mary remains in the home of the guest family. They include the Divine Mercy Chaplet and devotion to the Sacred Heart.  After seven days the statue of Mary is moved to another family’s home. This is done all year long!

Children representing St. Norbert

Even during my 15-year hiatus from the Catholic Church, I never spoke ill of our Blessed Mother because I understood the importance of her role. Understanding her loving spirit has helped me during difficult times in my relationship with my own mother. I praise God that with the help of Mary our relationship was made whole.

Catholic To the Core

According to an article written by Elfren S. Cruz, of the Philippines Star, an estimated 85% of Filipinos are Catholic. From this same article came an eye-opening fact: divorce is illegal in this country. There are only two countries in the world where divorce is illegal: the Philippines and Vatican City.

Being a Eucharistic Minister and attending daily Mass has given me the opportunity to get to know Donna, one of the organizers of this Filipino group. When they visit their families in the Philippines they are gone for at least a month. This is where they get recharged and come back with more fire to serve the Lord.

I also spoke to Irene and Sandra, who are part of the Federation of Filipino Rosary Group of Orange County. This organization is composed of 28 Rosary groups consisting of 52 families! They are true to their beliefs and are conservative because they understand and respect the strong stance the Catholic church has against abortions. They also believe in the sanctity of marriage. They vote with a Catholic conscience!

Celebration in the Philippines
Celebration at St. Columba Catholic Church in New Zealand

This is an excerpt from the web of page the Federation of Filipino Rosary Group of Orange County: “It is believed that the way to Jesus Christ’s heart is through His mother and He will not turn down any request made of her, if it is in accordance with the will of God the Father.” I could not agree more!

Lesson in Praying the Rosary

Twice I roomed with Carmelita, a beautiful Filipina. On two missionary trips I learned how to bargain and how to pray. As missionaries our days were filled with ministry, so many days by the time we returned to our hotel it was late. Just when I was about to go into a deep sleep, I’d hear, “Lynda, Lynda, are you awake? We need to pray the Rosary.” I’d try not to move  so Carmelita would think I was fast asleep, but to no avail. “Lynda, Lynda, we must pray!” Because of her persistence, I now go to bed praying the Rosary.

Carmelita knew where to get the best deals for religious articles in Rome. “Come on! We need to go to Casa de Rosarios to buy our rosaries!” Casa de Rosarios is located across the street from the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major. As many times as I have been to Rome, I have yet to visit this beautiful cathedral because I’m at Casa de Rosarios shopping for rosaries with Carmelita!

My Prayer

Dear Lord, I thank You for allowing me to be part of this beautiful celebration with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord, continue to move mightily in the lives of Filipinos throughout the world. Their gentle spirits  are making a difference in the world. May our Blessed Mother Mary continue to intercede on behalf of us all. Amen.


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