November 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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VISITA IGLESIA: Bulacan’s historic churches

PHOTOS BY RHOY COBILLA

Historical, colonial era churches in Bulacan are often visited by devotees during Holy Week for the Visita Iglesia – a form of pilgrimage for meditation and penance for one’s sins.

Fr. Prospero Tenorio, rector and parish priest of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy and secretary general of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy-Asia, said Lent is a call that reminds Catholics of the love of God and neighbors through the cross, enlightenment of faith,sacrifice and preparation for Easter.

Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. During this period, Catholics are urged to pray, fast, give alms, repent and sacrifice.

Tenorio said Filipinos commemorate lent through pabasa, salubong, Stations of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, penitensiya, senaculo and procession. “Lent is a time for reflection on Christ’s suffering, passion, faith, reconciliation for the salvation of souls,” he said.

He urged the Catholics to “pause, pray and reflect to understand the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, to make us clean and pleasing before God, and have the desire to do God’s WILL – Walk with the Lord, Invest in the Lord (time, talents, treasures), Look to the Lord and Love as the Lord.”

People need the elements of reconciliation – remembrance, acceptance, repentance and amendment – and should not be afraid to suffer but instead be willing to bear the burden of others, Tenorio said.

“In the bible, the text ‘be not afraid’ appeared 365 times, which means it is a constant reminder from God not to be afraid,” he added.

Tenorio noted the son of God must suffer (Matthew 17:12) and Christ had to suffer and rise again (Luke 24:46). “Suffering is part of man’s life,” he said, citing the three elements of discipleship – deny oneself, take up one’s cross and follow Christ.

As part of the observance of Lent, Tenorio encouraged Catholics to do the Visita Iglesia. 

This Lenten tradition, called the Seven Churches Walk, was started by St. Phillip Neri in 1553.

“Ancient pious Roman Catholic Lenten tradition calls parishioners to visit the seven churches in Rome in the evening of Holy Thursday as penance. The seven churches were St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Paul outside Rome, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, St. Lawrence, Holy Cross and Sanctuary of the Divine Love,” Tenorio said.

Visita Iglesia, he said, is an occasion for Catholics to “encounter the Lord in such pilgrimage, evangelization, reconciliation, devotion and prayer, and blessing.”

“It is expected that after Visita Iglesia, all of us will be able to translate ora (prayer) into labora (action). It is now imperative to live and show the corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy,” he added. 

In the message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2017, he said this period marks “a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion.”

“Christians are asked to return to God ‘with all their hearts,’ to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord,” he said. 

Lent, he added, is the favorable season for renewing one’s encounter with Christ, living in His word, in the sacraments and in one’s neighbor. 

“I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter,” said Pope Francis.

For this year’s Visita Iglesia, here are some of the historical churches around Bulacan:

National Shrine and Parish of the Divine Mercy (Marilao).  This is home to the world’s biggest 100-foot statue of the Divine Mercy which stands atop a four storey multi-purpose building. Located in Marilao, the fourth day of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy was held here. 

La Purisima Concepcion Parish (Sta. Maria).  This church in Sta. Maria town is dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion. It was skillfully built with its attractive cross-shaped layout. The parish house is also solid and comfortable with beautiful views and good ventilation.

St. Martin of Tours Parish (Bocaue).  The parish, located in Bocaue, is flocked by thousands of faithful during special feasts like the legendary fluvial parade of the Holy Cross of Wawa. On its 430th founding anniversary, the parish was declared as the Diocesan Shrine of the Mahal na Poon ng Krus sa Wawa in recognition of the very special devotion of the faithful on the legendary black cross that was allegedly found floating at the Wawa river on the first Sunday of July 1850. 

Parish of St. Ildephonsus (Guiguinto). This Augustinian church in Guiguinto celebrated its four hundred years last Jan. 21, 2007, dedicated by His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, D.D., archbishop of the Archdiocese of Manila. 

Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish/Barasoain Church (Malolos).  The Barasoain Church in Malolos figured inthree important historical events: the convening of the First Philippine Congress, drafting of the Malolos Constitution and inauguration of the First Philippine Republic. Historical accounts showed it began as a chapel built by Augustinian missionaries in 1859 made from nipa and bamboo. In 1862, construction began to build a church made of stone 

National Shrine and Parish of Saint Anne (Hagonoy).  Commonly known as the Santa Ana Shrine or Hagonoy Church, this is an 18th century Baroque church and was declared a National Shrine in 1991. It is the only one in the Philippines where the relics of Saints Anne and Joaquim, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are venerated.

St. Peter Parish Church (Apalit, Pampanga))

The historical marker at the facade of the Catholic Church of Apalit states that the Catholic community of Apalit dates from 1590 or 35 years after the Spaniards occupied Manila. While the date of the construction of the first church built in Apalit, Pampanga – the northern boundary of Bulacan – cannot be ascertained, the foundation of the present church was laid down in January 1876 and was completed in 1883.
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