Pope calls Catholics to be a dedicated follower


By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago


  As I write this article, I am in the Metro Manila area enjoying the warmer climate of the Philippines. It is the Feast of the Black Nazareno of Quiapo and a week away the nation is preparing for the long anticipated Papal visit of His Holiness Pope Francis. To add to the festive spirit, on the last day of the Pope's visit will also be the Feast of the Santo Nino in Cebu. All of these events seem to proclaim a message that flows one from another.

First, there are the Feasts of the Black Nazareno and the Santo Nino. If you see the crowds gathered just for the procession of the Black Nazareno to the Quiapo church, you can be once again amazed at the throngs of people who pack the narrow streets of Manila just to get a glimpse of the holy image of Jesus carrying his cross. Even more than this are the thousands upon thousands of people who want not only to see the image but also touch the carriage upon which it is carried. There are those who will literally fight over pieces of the ropes that are used to pull the image through the streets.

The Feast of the Santo Nino is also a huge deal as many of us Filipinos know. The image of the God who became a human infant and still remains a king was the catalyst that motivated an entire people to convert to the Christian faith. To this day, the festival draws even more thousands of devotees who make it a point to take part in the traditional "sinulog" dance.

This calls to mind the truth that for Filipino Catholics, the devotional life is still alive and well and thriving. However, it seems to be a very good coincidence that these two major festivals near and dear to the hearts of Filipino Catholics should coincide with the visit of Pope Francis.

In truth, many Filipino Catholics can still tend to lean more on the side of fulfilling one's "panata" but forget the essential call of being a Christian. There are so many who will make it a point to complete one's promises to a sacred image but, unfortunately, when it comes to the other duties of the Christian life, are weak or neglect them all together. The visit of Pope Francis in this regard is very timely.

Pope Francis is already very well known for calling Catholics to a life of compassion, mercy, charity, and forgiveness. While there is nothing essentially wrong with the practice of "panata," no one who claims to be a follower of Christ must ever forget to fulfill the essential duties of what it means to be a servant of Jesus. In other words, no one can be faithful to Jesus unless he or she proves oneself to be a dedicated follower in every circumstance.

This is the message that Pope Francis has been proclaiming to all the world since he was elected to the papacy. May this be the message that every believer in Christ now take to heart.

On a different note, I am very happy to announce that I was given the special privilege of being one of the concelebrating priests at the Pope's final Mass at the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park on January 18th. Please know that all the readers of PINOY Newsmagazine and its staff were in my prayers as I joined His Holiness in praying for the Church in the Philippines and throughout the world.


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