Many parts in the archipelago are under a very inclement weather since last week. Inundations are becoming common, as evidenced below by photographs of the interior and exterior vicinity of the Cathedral of Balanga in Bataan.
If you have the time, please recite the prayers prescribed by our ritual books against meteorological inclemencies. The prayers are in the form of rogational supplications (download the file here), and require the ringing of church bells. Let us pray that everyone, those at home and at work may be spared from these diverse meteorological manifestations.
Today, however, we turn our attention to a similar feast that celebrates a victory in war, in a coetaneous Crusade that was fought in the Iberian peninsula, a historical milestone now commonly referred to as the Reconquista. To situate our minds on this feast which is still celebrated in some places in the archipelago, a few readings are in order. Here is a piece published today by Canticum Salomonis. Here is a description of the feast, its propers, and its celebration in the Philippines from Dei praesidio fultus. And, lest we forget, a direct offshoot of these Crusades are the so-called bulas de la Santa Cruzada, which granted dietary privileges during times of fasting and abstinence. Read more about this here.
There are two features of this feast that might resonate with the modern Filipino ear. First, the most obvious, the archbishop of Toledo is named Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, therefore, a namesake of the highest civil power of the country, who was probably named after San Rodrigo de Córdoba, a priest who, steadfast and unwavering in his profession of the Catholic faith, was beheaded under Sharia law under apostasy charges (after his Muslim brother, whose fight with their other areligious brother Rodrigo attempted to break, reported to Muslim authorities that Rodrigo had converted to Islam). His feast day is 13 March, but we all know that compilers of almanaques, from which parents of a bygone age used to choose the names of their children, habitually transferred some saints to other days.
Second, the archbishop of Toledo assiduously and jealously upheld the primacy of the see of Toledo against the pretensions of the sees of Braga and of Tarragona, to such a point that whenever he went to battle, he had the primatial cross processed before him. In fact, one of the many miracles inventoried in the aftermath of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which was victory for the Christians, was the fact that, despite the fight to the death, the archbishop’s crucifer, Don Domingo Pascasio, a canon of the cathedral of Toledo, who carried the aforementioned double-barred ferula before the archbishop, sustained no harm. One can contrast this against the limp-wristed stance this government has taken against maritime encroachments into our territorial waters.
Just wars are seldom fought by arms alone. They are fought as well with prayers. Let this feast be a reminder to us that God visits his ire upon those who dishonour His Holy Name.
Nowadays, 16 July is almost always associated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a feast that was earmarked for removal by the Commission for the General Reform of the Liturgy because its members felt the faithful focused on the privilege attached to the devotion and neglected other Marian feasts. After an onslaught of blasphemous diatribes—conveniently explained away either as a legitimate exercise of the freedom of speech, or an explosion of unresolved anger against an institution that coddled child abusers—from the highest civil power of the land, the bishops of the Philippines invited the faithful to pray and fast for those who blaspheme the Holy and Terrible Name of God. This reparatory triduum starts today.
While we pray and fast today in reparation for the outrages and calumnies spoken against the Name of God, let us also remember those milestones that, in the supreme and infinite goodness of God, lodged on this auspicious date in our calendar.
16 July A. D. 1935 Rome at Saint Peter’s
Having received the request of the metropolitan archbishop of Manila, on behalf of the clergy and faithful of the entire archipelago, as well as the relation of the apostolic delegate, Pope Pius XI promulgates the bull Romani Pontiﬁces to the Philippine Islands, declaring the Virgin of Guadalupe as the Heavenly Patroness of the Philippine Islands (in Latin, Cœlestis Patrona Insularum Philippinarum). Many would, afterwards, pit this title of the Deipara against her Immaculate Conception when, almost seven years later, on 12 September 1942, Pope Pius XII, with the bull Impositi Nobis, would declare the latter as the Principal and Universal Patroness of the Philippine Islands (in Latin, Primaria Universalisque Patrona Insularum Philippinarum).
Note: By the end of Spanish rule, the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe was kept as a double major, while the feast of the Immaculate Conception, being patroness of the Spanish Indies and titular of the metropolitan cathedral of Manila, was celebrated as a double of the ﬁrst class with octave.
16 July A. D. 1902 Ciudad del Santísimo Nombre de Jesús
A cholera epidemic breaks out in the city of Cebú. The ordinary of the see, the Franciscan Fray Martín García y Alcocer, causes the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Holy Cross to be carried in procession through the main streets of the city to invoke the heavenly aid of the Blessed Mother of God against the epidemic. Since then, the city celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 16 July, in commemoration of its deliverance from the epidemic.
Note: There are two Virgins of Guadalupe venerated in the archipelago: the ﬁrst is the image from Mexico in what was formerly known as New Spain; the second is the image from Cáceres in the province of Extremadura in Spain. These two are unrelated devotions, the latter antedating the Mexican image for almoﬆ four centuries. Of these two, the Mexican image is more widespread and more known. The Extremaduran image, however, is venerated in many parts of Bohol—Loboc, in particular. They are celebrated with their own proper Masses. The Virgin of Guadalupe in Cebu follows the Mexican archetype.
16 July A. D. 1251 Aylesford or Cambridge
The Blessed Virgin Mary appears in a vision to Saint Simon Stock, Prior General of the Order of the Carmelites, holding a brown scapular, and saying, “This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.” The brown scapular eventually spreads amongst the people who wish to be aﬃliated with the Carmelites. Though the historicity of this vision and that of the sabbatine privilege has been seriously questioned in the last century, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin still remains strong with the brown scapular.
16 July A. D. 1212 Las Navas de Tolosa
Alphonsus VIII of Castile, Sanctius VII of Navarre, and Peter II of Aragon obtain victory over the Muslims of Iberia. The Cross appears in the sky as the outnumbered Christians press against the Muslims, while the primatial Cross of Toledo penetrates the battle lines, amid the banners bearing the image of the Blessed Virgin, eventually putting to ﬂight the Almohad caliph Muhammad an-Nasir. The Crusade has been organised by Alphonsus VIII; Roderic, metropolitan of Toledo; and Pope Innocent XIII, who mandated a special rogation in Rome a year before.
In former times, the Triumph of the Holy Cross was originally kept on 16 July in the calendar of the Philippines, with Our Lady of Mount Carmel transferred to 21 July. Eventually, the feast days were switched, until finally Our Lady of Mount Carmel was fixed on 16 July and the Triumph of the Holy Cross was moved a day later. However, in some places in the Philippines, such as Carigara in Leyte, the Triumph of the Holy Cross is still kept today.
Saint Bernardine of Siena observes: “No other sin compasses in itself so much wickedness as blasphemy does”. Saint Jerome agrees: “All other sins, therefore, are light compared to blasphemy.” Saint John Chrysostom then commands: “Strike the blasphemer, crush his mouth!” Blasphemy is a grave sin. There is no doubt about it. We must make reparation for these indecencies so carelessly and whimsically thrown to the air, lest the wrath of God descend upon our nation.
Converte nos, Deus, salutaris noster, et averte iram tuam a nobis.
On this feast of the Most Precious Blood of the Lord, which could not have occurred at a more opportune time when persecution is imminent, when the elected ditionis dux entertains no qualms not only in maligning our shepherds, but also in blaspheming God, let us remember the words of one Filipino bishop whose cause for sainthood has been opened. On 25 January 1953, at the opening of the second session of the First Plenary Council of the Philippines, D. Alfredo M.ª Obviar, then administrator of the Diocese of Lucena, delivered a solemn speech on importance of that Council of the Philippine Church, linking it to the Universal Church and Her journey throughout history.
Thus the Church accomplisheth the divine message. It is true that She, in spreading throughout the world to bring the light of the Faith to those who are seated in the shadow of death, had along her steps encountered relentless enemies, who swore Her extermination. There the same in Judea, in Rome, in Asia, in Greece, in Macedonia, as in other parts even unto our present times, Her enemies spare no means to sate their vengeance. There the persecutions are which the Roman emperors promoted against Her. But the Church obtained greater beauty and worth when she bathed in Her own blood.
For Her, the imprisonments, the flagellations, the white-hot sheets, the fire, the cold water, the sword, the racks, the iron hooks, the wheels studded with steel spikes, the teeth and the jaws of the wild beasts, which the hatred of man did know to invent in its mad frenzy, served only, as did other new incentives, to rouse in Her the most intense desire to die for the Faith and for Christ.
She knoweth how to witness with equanimity and serenity in Her visage the slaughter of Her martyrs, who marched unto the arena of the circus to fight against their executioners and against other wild beasts. By the steadfastness of Her children in the Faith, beneath the sickle of persecution, children, adults, the rich and the poor, men and women, popes and bishops, priests and deacons have fallen, with a smile upon their lips, praising Christ and forgiving their executioners.
Así cumple la Iglesia el mensaje divino. Es verdad que ella, al extenderse por todo el orbe para llevar la luz de la fe a los que estaban sentados en la sombra de la muerte, había encontrado a su paso enemigos implacables, que juraron su exterminio. Allí mismo en Judea, en Roma, en Asia, en Grecia, en Macedonia, como en otras partes hasta en los actuales tiempos, sus enemigos no perdonaron medios para saciar su venganza. Allí están las persecuciones que los emperadores romanos promovieron contra ella. Sin embargo la Iglesia cobraba más hermosura y valor cuando se bañaba en su misma sangre.
Para ella las prisiones, la flagelación, las láminas candentes, el fuego, el agua helada, la espada, los potros, las uñas de hierro, las ruedas erizadas de aceradas púas, los dientes y las garras de las bestias feroces, que el odio humano supo inventar en su loco frenesí, sirvieron únicamente como otros nuevos incentivos para despertar en ella el más vivo deseo de morir por la fe y por Cristo.
Ella sabe presenciar con ecuanimidad y serenidad en el semblante la hecatombe de sus mártires, que marchaban a la arena del circo para lidiar contra sus verdugos o contra las fieras. Por la firmeza de sus hijos en la fe, cayeron bajo la hoz de la persecución niños, adultos, ricos y pobres, hombres y mujeres, papas y obispos, sacerdotes y diáconos, con la sonrisa en los labios, alabando a Cristo y perdonando a sus verdugos.
Persecution brings out the best in the Church. Her illustrious sons rise to defend Her. We fly ever more to the Sacraments. “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts,” said Saint Peter, “being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” Parallels in history become quite alarming, especially at a time when everything that the Church steadfastly holds is conveniently explained away as hypocrisy. In the meantime, when freedom has not yet been deprived from us, let us not forget the call made by Saint John XXIII when he approved the Litany of the Precious Blood on 24 February 1960, when he issued the bull Inde a primis:recite or sing the Litany everyday for the whole month of July!