“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
— Jesus Christ in The Gospel of Saint Luke 24:46-48
Apropos to today’s Gospel reading at Sunday mass, we share below a letter from Catholic convert and preacher Steve Ray, dated October 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun, performed by Our Lady of Fatima on the last of her six monthly apparitions to three shepherd children in rural Portugal from May to October 1917.
A former Baptist Christian who hosts the Defenders of the Catholic Faith website, Ray asks his online readers: “If you know someone from the Philippines, please share this letter with them.” So, may we share “My Open Letter to Filipinos” by Steve Ray, available on < http://www.catholicconvert.com/blog/category/philippines/ >.
My Open Letter to Filipinos:
“We stepped into the church and it was old and a bit dark. Mass had just begun and we sat toward the front. We didn’t know what to expect here in Istanbul, Turkey. I guess we expected it to be a somber Mass, but quiet and somber it was not — I thought I heard angels joyously singing behind me. The voices were rich, melodic and beautiful.
What I discovered as I spun around to look did not surprise me, because I had seen and heard the same thing in other churches around the world. It was not a choir of angels with feathered wings and halos, but a group of delightful Filipino Catholics with smiles of delight and joy on their faces as they worshipped God and sang his praises.
I had seen this many times before in Rome, in Israel, in the United States and other countries. Filipinos have special traits and they are beautifully expressed as I gazed at the happy throng giving thanks to God. What are the special traits, which characterize these happy people? I will share a few that I have noticed — personal observations — as I have traveled around the world, including visits to the Philippines.
First, there is a sense of community, of family. These Filipino Christians did not sit apart from each other in different isles. They sat together, closely. They didn’t just sing quietly, mumbling, or simply mouthing the words.
No, they raised their voices in harmony together as though they enjoyed the sense of unity and communion among them. They are family even if they are not related.
Second, they have an inner peace and joy, which is rare in the world today. When most of the world’s citizens are worried and fretful, I have found Filipinos to have joy and peace — a deep sense of God’s love that overshadows them. They have problems too, and many in the Philippines have less material goods than others in the world, yet there is still a sense of happy trust in God and love of neighbor.
Third, there is a love for God and for his Son Jesus that is almost synonymous with the word Filipino. There is also something that Filipinos are famous for around the world — their love for the Blessed Mother. Among the many Filipinos I have met the affectionate title for Mary I always hear from their lips is ‘Mama Mary’ For these gentle folks Mary is not just a theological idea, a historical person, or a statue in a church — Mary is the mother of their Lord and their mother as well, their ‘mama.’
The Philippines is a Catholic nation — the only such nation in Asia — and this wonderful country exports missionaries around the world. They are not hired to be missionaries, not official workers of the church.
No, they are workers and educators, doctors, nurses and housekeepers who go to other lands and travel to the far reaches of the earth, and everywhere they go they take the joyous gospel of Jesus with them. They make a somber Mass joyful when they burst into song. They convict the pagan of sin as they always keep the love of Jesus and the Eucharist central in their lives.
My hope and prayer, while I am here in the Philippines sharing my conversion story from Baptist Protestant to Roman Catholic, is that the Filipino people will continue to keep these precious qualities. I pray that they will continue loving their families, loving the Catholic Church, reading the Bible, loving Jesus, his Mother, and the Eucharist.
As many other religions and sects try to persuade them to leave the Church, may God give the wisdom to defend the Catholic faith.
As the world tempts them to sin and seek only money and fame and power, may God grant them the serenity to always remember that obedience to Christ and love for God is far more important than all the riches the world can offer.
May the wonderful Filipino people continue to be a light of the Gospel to the whole world!”
From Rome and Dublin to Manila
Speaking at the Divine Word Seminary’s 50th Anniversary in March 2014, leading Vatican reporter John Allen Jr. also extolled the Filipinos’ probably God-driven role of reviving and spreading fervor for the faith across the globe.
Indeed, in countless parishes worldwide, Filipinos form the active core of congregations. Allen further noted that the majority of priestly and religious vocations now come from the Philippines and some African countries.
Thus, in this Year of Clergy and Consecrated Persons in the Philippine Church, as declared by the bishops, Filipinos now fill the ranks of religious in the Church, populated mainly by Italians and Irish in the last two centuries.
Both Allen and Los Angeles Bishop Robert Barron, the most popular religious figure online after Pope Francis, recounted that through history, God chooses particular nations to bear His message: the Jews in biblical times, Europeans during Christendom, and now, all over earth, Filipinos. Amen.