Updated: September 10, 2021 05:13 PM GMT
Protesters demand accountability for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drugs war on July 22 in Quezon City during his third State of the Nation address. (Photo: AFP)
For the second time during the coronavirus pandemic, Catholics celebrated the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept. 8. St. Anne, mother of Mary, bestowed upon the world a precious gift in the mother of Jesus Christ.
In this global scourge, so relevant is the Blessed Virgin Mary, aptly described in her litany as the “Mother of Hope; Virgin Most Merciful; Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted …”
It has been a year and a half since the start of the pandemic. As of today, there have been more than 4.62 million recorded deaths and 224 million infections. These figures are no cold statistics. They speak of immense human suffering that knows no bounds.
Unfathomable is the reason why God has, in his immeasurable love, allowed this plague to continue without a let-up. In times like this, we invoke Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke: 22:42)
Catholics traditionally implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, particularly during global crises.
Columban Father John Leydon in the Philipines sees the Blessed Virgin Mary as the archetype of help in times of crisis. He said he was "always intrigued by apparitions at critical moments of history such as Our Lady of Guadalupe during the cultural extinction in Mexico, and Our Lady of Knock in the post-famine situation of Ireland.”
It is very painful to lose a person to whom you offered your life, dreams and sacrifices
Just as the Blessed Mother had to excruciatingly witness the pain of her son’s passion and death when Jesus was made to carry the cross until his crucifixion in Golgotha, so did the mothers, sisters, sons and daughters of victims of human rights violations in the context of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
Catholics seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin so that they too may see the realization of the much-cherished dream for a resurrection — a world without human rights violations.
One example is the family of Kian de los Santos, who was extrajudicially executed in the name of the war on drugs.
“It is very painful to lose a person to whom you offered your life, dreams and sacrifices," said his sister Krizzhia Loren de los Santos as she spoke about the Marian feast.
"Broken hopes and shattered dreams have to be endured by my mother, who lost my brother Kian in 2017, a young student who pleaded for his life but was mercilessly shot to death for a crime he never committed. It pains to bury a parent, but it was more hurtful for my mother to bury her son.
"It is my ardent prayer that mothers like mine will muster enough strength to continue to live and to dream."
Nanette Castillo, who lost her son Aldrin in November 2017 in the same war on drugs, humbly said: “I am nobody in comparison to Mama Mary. But in being a mother, perhaps, we felt the same. Motherhood is very noble yet very difficult. Like Mama Mary, I always supported my son in everything he did and in fulfilling all his dreams. As a mother, I was prepared to sacrifice and to give up everything, even life itself for the love for my son.
“During Christ’s time, there was Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands and allowed Jesus to be judged and crucified. In our present times, we also have a Pilate who is no one but Duterte. Like Pilate who violated the human rights of Mary and her son Jesus Christ, Duterte will face the judgment of our Father in heaven.”
Celebrating Mary’s birthday, we should not forget her Magnificat, which declares that the Lord “will put down the mighty from their thrones” and “exalt the lowly.”
Mary’s tears likewise reflect those of the countless people who lost their loved ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic
While exuding profound sorrow, in a purple gown, the image of Our Lady of Sorrows inspires women and men to turn their state of pain into a life of struggle against all forms of oppression and of hope for a better tomorrow. Her sorrow mirrors those of women whose husbands and sons were killed, of women half-widowed due to enforced disappearances, of orphaned children who lost their fathers.
Mary’s tears likewise reflect those of the countless people who lost their loved ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Humanity weeps. Never losing hope, many pray to the Blessed Virgin to intercede.
In this period of extreme obscurity, people are sick, hungry, dying, lonely, afraid, insecure and in profound grief. This dark night of the pandemic seems endless.
Concepcion Empeno, mother of Karen Empeno when requested for a message on the Virgin Mary’s birthday, prayed: “I beg you to please help us surface Karen and other disappeared people. I also pray that the world be healed from this dreadful pandemic.”
The birth of Mary is part of God’s design to fulfill his promised salvation, said Carmelite Father Christian Buenafe. “It brings joyful hope that calls for a celebration of God’s faithful and enduring love for us. In this pandemic, like Mary, let us be channels of goodness, kindness, generosity and charity as we respond to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.”
Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is president of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.