VICE President Kamala Harris of the United States made history last week as the first US national leader to visit Palawan. There she repeated Washington's pledge to defend the Philippines if we are attacked.
Sure to make nil headlines, however, is another Palawan event involving a woman with far greater power, at least for devout Catholics. Big news or not, the November 26-27 Eucharistic Marian Prayer Event on the island and its waters cannot be more timely and necessary for divine peace and protection with war intensifying in Europe and possibly sparking conflict in Asia.
With prayers from Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula and endorsed by Bishop Oscar Florencio of the Military Ordinariate serving Catholics in our uniformed services, the weekend of Holy Mass and Rosary, Eucharistic adoration, seaside procession, marine regatta and spiritual talks at the Pakpak Lawin Beach Resort and the WPS it faces will pray to our Lord and our Blessed Mother for our people, our lands, seas and skies, and all Asia.
Spearheading the religious outpouring is multi-awarded filmmaker and TV director-producer Baby Nebrida, who recounts being instructed by Our Lady of Guadalupe as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament on September 8, Mary's birthday, at her parish church in Eastwood. Nebrida had mounted similar devotions in cities and rivers in the 1990s, including Manila, Naga and even New York's East River and Battery Park on Sept. 11, 1999, to mitigate 9/11 attacks in 2001 (https://celebration99.tripod.com).
The Palawan event organizers also thank selected national leaders, our security forces and corporate and personal donors for valuable support. They have also invited top officials to attend or send prayer videos to the undertaking, which would bring special graces and protection for the defenders of our citizenry, sovereignty and territory at this time of mounting geopolitical frictions and security challenges.
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Can prayer stop war?
Two questions probably come to mind among many readers: How grave is the danger of war in Asia? And will prayer help stop it?
On the second question, the best reply is the testimony of history, particularly papal consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1942 and 1952 by Pius 12th and 1981, 1982 and 1984 by St. John Paul 2nd which stopped world war. ("The Cold War is getting hot. Pray it won't go global" https://tinyurl.com/4khxu5x3).
The 1942 prayer preceded the series of Allied victories which eventually defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, while the 1952 consecration halted Soviet despot Josef Stalin's plan to invade Europe (he died of brain hemorrhage before he could attack).
Spurred by his near-fatal shooting on the May 13, 1980 feast of Fatima, St. John Paul 2nd's consecrations also came when Russia was planning war in 1984 to take out US nuclear missiles in Europe, which could nuke Moscow with no time to retaliate. The war plan ended when massive explosions on the May 13, 1984, the feast of Fatima, destroyed the bulk of Russia's naval armaments at its main base in Severomorsk.
Plus: the Holy Mass and Rosary south of the 38th Parallel dividing North and South Korea with the International Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima in 2017, the centenary of her apparitions in Portugal.
At the June event in a building near the Demilitarized Zone, the white-clad, gold-crowned statue was turned in blessing to the North, which was then locked in war threats with the US over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.
The following April 2018, the unthinkable happened: North and South leaders met at the border and concluded a peace deal. Two months later on June 12, 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with then US President Donald Trump in Singapore, defusing the threat of devastating, possible nuclear war.
Danger of devastating conflict
On the danger of a graver war in Europe, US Armed Forces Chief Mark Milley has urged Ukraine to negotiate with Moscow after recent battlefield gains. That suggests concern that Ukraine may face setbacks ahead. A Russian offensive is feared in the winter, backed by 300,000 fresh troops even as Ukraine may have to also call up reserves after huge casualties in nine months of fighting.
If Ukraine suffers massive losses, the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) may ramp up its already immense weapons shipments for the Ukrainian army to avoid defeat. And that increased NATO involvement may lead Russia to escalate its offensive, including possibly using atomic weapons, as President Vladimir Putin had threatened.
What about Asia? Despite tough talk in recent months, especially over Taiwan, America and China do not want hostilities. Its defense chiefs recently discussed ways to avoid conflict during ministerial meetings in Bangkok.
Still, Chinese and US forces are gearing up. Beijing has beefed up armaments and military facilities in reclaimed island bases in the Spratlys. And Washington is working with the Philippine military to upgrade 10 bases for increased US deployment in the country nearest Taiwan.
If a wider war could or does happen in Europe, America would try to avoid one in Asia. But if US forces look set to massively escalate in Asia, especially the Philippines, China may not wait till its potential adversary has reached full strength in the region.
All this calls for constant prayer, not just in Palawan but across the country. Whether one joins the weekend devotion, let us say the Fatima prayer for peace every day. We need it:
O God, All-Holy Father, Who gave us Your peace through Jesus and through Him You wished to lead us to Your Heart — in the place where the Virgin Mary invites us to pray for peace in the world and where the Angel of Peace exhorts us to adore God alone — grant us, we pray, that peace may reign among all peoples; that the leaders of nations find ways towards justice, that we may all reach the peace of heart and that through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, we may become builders of a more charitable world. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.