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Devotion to Mary offers hope to Filipinos

Cancer victim says recovery was a blessing from God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother

Devotion to Mary offers hope to Filipinos

Filipino devotees join a procession of an image of the Blessed Mother during the celebration of the 99th anniversary of her appearance before three children in Fatima, Portugal. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Mark Saludes, Manila
Philippines

October 19, 2016

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Jilson Tio grew up in a traditional Catholic Filipino family with a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. One day in 2014, however, the 34-year-old teacher's faith was put to test.

He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia but his reaction was to deny his situation despite the fever that came every evening and the changing color of his skin that turned paler by the day.

"At first I wanted to deny that I was sick," Tio said. But it was only for a while. After a few weeks, he turned to prayer.

"You have given this trial to me and to my family for a reason, and it will not be easy for me," Tio told God in his prayers. "I believe you would not give me a cross that I could not bear," he said.

During the first cycle of chemotherapy treatment, Tio had to stay in the hospital for almost a month. His family welcomed the New Year for 2015 inside a hospital room. He celebrated his birthday while undergoing a blood transfusion.

After a few weeks, the doctors placed Tio in the hospital's intensive care unit. "I was about to give up," he said. By his bedside, the young patient only had a rosary and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Tio prayed to the Blessed Mother not to leave him alone. He was too weak to say the rosary. "Lord have mercy," he would pray in silence.

One day, a new doctor assigned to look after him introduced herself as Marian de Jesus. "I believe it was Mama Mary’s way of making her presence felt," said Tio. "Her name gave me comfort," he added.

It was a long battle for Tio, but he never gave up "because right from the start, Mama Mary was with me." He later said that his devotion to the Virgin Mother even became stronger.

In November 2015, Tio's doctors declared him free from leukemia. He claimed that his recovery was "a blessing from God through Our Lady."

 

 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila urges Filipinos to follow the example of the Virgin Mary and work for the poor. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

'Mother of Mercy'

Filipinos have dedicated the month of October to the Blessed Mother and to the Holy Rosary.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said the Blessed Mother has always shown mercy to Filipinos, especially in the middle of challenges because "Mary had gone through all that."

During the celebration of the 99th year of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three children in Fatima in Portugal, Cardinal Tagle said Catholics should call upon Mary during times of need.

"If you don’t know where to go, if you are not sure if there is someone who will accept you, turn to Mary,” the prelate told thousands of devotees who gathered at the Manila Cathedral on Oct. 7.

"She understands you because she experienced being ignored and was left alone."

Cardinal Tagle reminded the faithful how Mary and the young Jesus escaped persecution. "Mary understands the lives of millions of refugees around the world because she was once a refugee," he said.

The prelate said, however, that devotion must be put to action. "We must become channels of mercy," he said, adding that Catholics need "to pray and work, and think of others."

 

Bringing Mary to others

For Tio, his healing became the beginning of "a deeper understanding of what devotion is."

"Devotion to Mary points to Jesus Christ," he said. "Devotion strengthens us in the midst of struggles, and that devotion leads us to serving the poor, the sick, and the abandoned," the young man added.

But Tio said that understanding faith and devotion should not only come in times of sickness but "in all chapters of a person’s life."

"If we know Mary, and we understand our devotion to her, we will not be afraid even if we are on the edge of death," he said.

After he recovered from his illness, Tio went back to a life of teaching, and serving the Catholic community in his hometown in Valenzuela, a suburb of Manila.

He became involved in the preparation for the centennial celebration of the apparitions of the Lady of Fatima and led in bringing an image of the Blessed Mother to different parishes.

Tio appealed to local churches to initiate programs for the poor "to make them feel that the church values them."

 

Lady of Fatima

Jesuit Father Catalino Arevalo believes that the message of the Blessed Mother goes beyond Catholics. He cited the apparitions experienced by the three shepherd children at Fatima as an example.

Father Arevalo said the apparitions should be seen as "bringing Christ to the world," and that through the Blessed Mother, God’s mercy must be brought to all humanity.

"Our Lady of Fatima is not trying to convert the converted. Her message is for the whole world, for all the people of the world," he said, adding that majority of Asia’s people have not heard the Gospel.

Father Arevalo said every Christian should be a missionary. He said the message of the apparitions in Fatima has a "special relevance and special urgency" in this part of the world.

Traditionally, Catholics associate October with Our Lady of the Rosary.

 

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