Fr. James Phalan, CSC is the director of Family Rosary International, one of the many ministries of the Holy Cross order. His ministry takes him around the world visiting Catholic communities of all shapes, sizes, and demographics. This past week he was in the Philippines and wrote this piece for the Family Rosary blog "World at Prayer."
“The Filipinos’ faith has been tested by many crosses and trials in a way that seems to strengthen them and their devotion to Mary such that even their overseas workers are first rate evangelizers! They know the cross of hope!” (Fr. Roque D’Costa CSC)
In the last century more than twice as many natural disasters occurred in the Philippines than anywhere else in the world! With typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods, catastrophes accumulate yearly in the archipelago of 7,000 islands. After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, masked homeless people tried to keep the fine lahar dust from contaminating their lungs. One Church looked rather normal at first but was literally half full of the volcanic dust, which had hardened into what looked like a new cement floor. The Filipinos had dug down and raised up the altar with its reredos and provided new pews. The window in the choir loft was converted to a door and the Filipinos continued to pray as always, except now they were in the upper half of the original Church. What faith, strengthened by the cross! What resilience!
Holy Cross men and women had survived imprisonment all during World War II there, relying on their prayer life to see them through the crisis. This was a people in love with Our Lady. It seemed that with every new calamity, the Filipinos renewed their confidence in “Mama Mary” and their complete dependence upon God. They came to love the “Rosary priest,” Father Patrick Peyton, and encouraged him to hold Rosary rallies for families attended by millions and to deepen their faith and devotion through media. Today Family Rosary Crusade units are common in Filipino parishes. Essentially Rosary prayer groups, they also reach out in service to the needy, motivated by their prayer and encouraged by Family Rosary television programs.
Holy Cross men and women are in Manila for training at pastoral institutes, and to earn higher degrees at its excellent Catholic universities. The first religious house for Holy Cross members was recently established in the hopes of consolidating the Holy Cross charism throughout the country. A Marian prayerful devotion that leads to action on behalf of justice is at its core. “The cross, our only hope” is a theme lived out prayerfully in the Philippines.
Photo courtesy CNS/Reuters