Monday, January 26, 2015

Blurred Shots and Papal Memories

It was the early morning of January 16, 2015, roughly a week after I was declared healed from my sickness. Despite a very stern warning not to sleep less than 6 hours, I woke up early for a very important encounter with someone dear to me and millions of Catholics. He's no-less than the Holy Father, Pope Francis. He will say Mass at the Manila Cathedral, for bishops, priests and religious in our country.

The Holy Father arrived at Manila last night, for a state and pastoral visit to our country. For most of us who can't go to Rome to see him, this is a very wonderful opportunity to be close to our leader and father. As Vicar (representative) of Christ in this world, we are always assured that we will see Jesus himself when he visits us, and true enough, this is what we felt.

Everyone prepared their gadgets and things inside their transparent bags (as prescribed by the government for security reasons), all ready for their own encounter with the Holy Father. As my mom came home from Divisoria with transparent bags, I placed my important things inside: my camera, some bottled water, towel, and rosaries. I also brought with me an image of Mary, Undoer of Knots, of which Pope Francis is a devotee. 

Leaving at a very early time, I noticed groups of people gathered for the same purpose. I am already aware that I'm not alone when I thought that I should be at Intramuros earlier, since they announced that they will only accommodate 3,000 people in front of the Cathedral. I thought of only seeing Pope Francis at this event, considering my health status.

I arrived at Intramuros a few minutes before 4:00 AM, seeing hundreds of people waiting patiently for the gates to open. Thousands more came after me and Rafael (a good friend who joined me in waiting), and after a few hours, the crowd became a little unruly. Some were waiting on the sidewalk, snatching for a chance to come in alongside those who waited patiently all night long. Though there was a little commotion, the police did everything they can to secure the place and maintain discipline in the area.

We were assigned at the back area of Plaza Roma (the plaza fronting Manila Cathedral), thus making the view a little uncomfortable. But after little turns and nifty considerations, I was able to make my way towards the barricades, which was the area for Senior Citizens and Religious, leaving Mama Mary's image and my bag with Rafael at the back. There, I was able to get company with total strangers, a little aloft at first, yet getting bonded with along the way. We were patiently waiting for Pope Francis, getting updates from cellphones with TV feed. It was an incredible experience

At last, after hours of standing in patient wait, with no food or anything, the Papal Motorcade arrived from MalacaƱang. The people's emotions were just ecstatic as ever. The Holy Father's here! everyone got their handkerchiefs and gadgets ready, eager to take a little glimpse or a shot of the Pope passing in front of them. I can't literally hear myself because the cries of the people around me were a lot louder than mine.

I was totally speechless when I saw the Pope standing inside his Popemobile, waving his hands towards the people, blessing them from a distance. It was one of those moments when I fell silent before the holy unction of the place and the event. Though my camera was prepared, I was able to take some blurred shots of the Pope as he comes my way. 

But what made his presence more felt was his homily, addressed to the Philippine Hierarchy, Clergy and Religious. It focused on the pastoral work of priests, bishops and religious as something borne out of love. All ordained and consecrated persons are called to proclaim a reconciling love, flowing from the heart of our crucified savior. They are called to live lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, ministering to the poor which is the center of the Gospel. They are called to share the joy and enthusiasm of the love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers. 

As I was reflecting on these points of the Holy Father's homily, I can't help but look at the Cross on the top of the Cathedral. I came to realize that at the foot of the Cross, God proclaimed his undying love, his great love for all of us, that can withstand the trials of time, the typhoons and earthquakes of the generations. As Cardinal Tagle said in his message, This cathedral has been razed to the ground many times but it refuses to disappear. It boldly rises from the ruins just like the Filipino people.

Upon going home, I can't help but share the joy of seeing the Holy Father with the people around me. Of course, they have their own stories to tell, but in all, they show one sentiment, that is, of seeing the Pope, being close to him, and listening to him. For all of us, it was indeed a blessing. You just can't help but cry. :)

My shots may be blurred, but the story is as clear - and memorable - as daylight. It shall remain in our hearts always, as one generation blessed by the Holy Father's presence. We saw and contemplated Jesus in him, may we always bring His holy presence forever!

Tired yet fulfilled... 

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