A mother struggles to kneel at a pew as she cradles her sleeping infant. An old woman in a wheelchair wipes away a tear. A family strikes a pose in front of a relic, while another takes a picture of a papal chair. A Buddhist accompanies a Catholic friend reading one spirit-filled message after another.
These touching scenes of faith are not happening on traditional hallowed ground or in a church but in the center of busy Gateway Mall in Cubao.
Since relics and photos of newly Blessed John Paul II have been put on display in the exhibit “Beatus: Embracing the Holiness of John Paul II,” throngs of Filipino faithful as well as the curious have been pouring in.
For Pinky, 47, going to the exhibit was a personal devotion to the late Pontiff. “I was pregnant with my only child when he came in 1995. I was determined to get a glimpse of him even if the organizers kept changing the published route for security purposes. But, thank God, I did get to see him as his convoy passed by. I felt so blessed and now my 16-year-old daughter is just as blessed.”
Catholic or not
Epitacio, 25, is a Buddhist who accompanied a Catholic friend to the exhibit and inquired from the Araneta Center organizers for tickets to the liturgical concert “Blessed: A Call to Holiness” on Oct. 29. Though admission is free, he is worried he might not be able to get in because he is not affiliated with any parish or religious organization.
“Gusto ko lang din makilala si (I want to get to know the) Pope, puede kaya manood kahit hindi Katoliko(can I come even if I’m not Catholic)?” he asked. He was assured the event is for everyone, Catholic or not.
Maria, 50, will never forget the time she braved the sea of humanity at the Luneta to see John Paul when he addressed the youth in 1995. A solo parent of two, she carried her toddler daughter in her arms and hoisted her elder son on her shoulders, as they eagerly awaited the Popemobile.
“Feeling ko noon pasan ko ang daigdig, (the world was a burden) literally and figuratively. Times were hard and I had two kids to raise. Pero noon nakita ko si (but when I saw the) Pope na dumaan (pass by), I felt that he gave me a reassuring look,” Maria reminisces.
“Today, by the grace of God and intercession from John Paul II, both my kids are gainfully employed abroad.”
Pope John Paul, who introduced himself more than 30 years ago as coming from a “distant country,” has endeared himself forever to the Filipino faithful, especially after his pastoral visits to the Philippines in 1981 and 1995.
His numerous international journeys made him a familiar figure throughout the world. His impressive teachings, rooted in love of Christ and in defense of the human being, reverberate beyond his death.
First feast day
In May 2011, he was beatified, declared newly Blessed, and on Oct. 22 the Catholic Church will celebrate his first feast day.
The exhibit “Beatus: Embracing the Holiness of John Paul II” is a precursor to a bigger celebration to be mounted by the Araneta Center in coordination with the Diocese of Cubao to honor Blessed John Paul II.
It was at the historic Big Dome that the Pope exhorted professionals to use their expertise in the propagation of the faith on Feb. 18, 1981.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, this scene will be replicated as thousands are expected to gather to watch the musical concert “Blessed: A Call to Holiness,” at the same place that John Paul himself declared “the colosseo of papal audiences.”
Resonating with songs and testimonials of faith will be various performers from the metro dioceses—the Las Piñas Boys Choir, Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir, Kilyawan Consortium of Voices, Holy Family Parish of Pasig Youth Ministry, Anima Quartet with Michael Shimamoto and Kadang Dominiko Hand Mime Group from the Archdiocese of Manila.
Former Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta de Villa, Fr. Francis Gustilo, SDG, member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, and Jo Grafil, former executive director of World Youth Day, will share their personal experiences with the late pontiff.
The Beatus exhibit runs at Gateway Mall until Oct. 21. Tickets to the musical concert “Blessed: A Call to Holiness” will be distributed to local parishes. Further inquiries about tickets may be made to the Diocese of Cubao at tel. 7235114 and 7216225.