Residents commute to work on bicycles in Manila on Sept. 28. Many Filipino families are praying the rosary on a daily basis amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: AFP)
Barely a month after the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes the month of the rosary. The memorial of Our Lady of Rosary is celebrated every Oct. 7
Tracing history, in the 16th century the Islamic Ottoman empire presented a serious military threat to Western Europe and sent a fleet of ships to attack Christian defenses in Southern Europe. Pope Pius V organized a fleet, called the Holy League, to confront the navy of the Ottoman Turks.
On Oct. 7, 1571, the two navies engaged in a pivotal battle to determine control of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. In the largest naval battle in Western history, which involved 400 warships, the fate of Western Europe was dependent on the Christians.
Knowing that military might was inadequate to defend Christian Europe, the pope summoned the faithful to seek the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession by praying the rosary. The battle was concluded with the victory of the Holy League.
A year later, Pope Pius V established the feast of Our Lady of Victory in honor of the Blessed Mother, which centuries later was renamed the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
More than 400 years later, the power of the rosary is all the more emphasized by Pope Francis during this coronavirus pandemic. In a letter dated April 25, he said: “Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary, our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.” The pontiff encouraged Catholics to pray the rosary during the whole month of May.
At no other time than now, when humanity is confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, many Filipino families are praying the rosary not just during the month of May but on a daily basis. The horrors of pandemic-related deaths, the daily cases of infections, the pandemic’s devastating multiple effects, especially on the poor, and the uncertainty of what the future may bring — all these have united the faithful in supplication for the Blessed Mother’s intervention.
October brings nostalgia for the dawn procession which, as a child, I attended with my mother. The rosary is an offering of roses to the Blessed Mother. On one hand, the rose has its innate beauty and fragrance. On the other, it has thorns. Its attributes symbolize “sorrow, joy, light and glory of Jesus and Mary,” which are vividly remembered in the mysteries of the rosary.
The sorrowful mystery is most pronounced in this dark night of the pandemic, where illnesses and deaths, exacerbated by violations of human rights, are a daily occurrence and where the long-awaited death of the virus is far from sight.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." This prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane manifested a pain so excruciating that, as a human being, he appealed to his Father to be spared from it. Yet his obedience to God’s will overcame his pain. So does humanity appeal for the long-awaited end to the scourge of the coronavirus.
Transcending the sorrowful mystery seems to be an impossible dream in the Philippines, which remains the country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia, where a huge number suffer the pangs of economic dislocation, where the government response is poor and without direction, and where human rights are trampled upon during this supposedly crucial period of saving lives.
The luminous mystery finds its relevance during this pandemic when everything seems obscure; when the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel seems impossible; and when the future seems nowhere to be found.
Filipinos need to work and pray harder for the much-needed light — clear governance, good leadership, a viable plan on how to surpass this seemingly insurmountable crisis that the poor bear the brunt of. As scientists burn their candles to find the elusive cure and vaccine accessible to the majority not only in the Philippines but in the rest of the world, our collective prayer is imperative.
Lest we forget, the stories of hope elucidated in the selflessness of medical experts and health workers, the miracles of recoveries from the nightmares of the sick and the dying, the manifestations of kindness through corporal works of mercy by churches, congregations, organizations and individuals — all these have revived our faith in our humanity.
In the Philippine context, heartening are the initiatives of religious and civic organizations to help the most needy. These include acts of feeding the hungry, offering drinks to the thirsty, giving shelter to the stranded, offering buildings as places of quarantine to the sick and sanctuary to the homeless. All these compounded will sooner rather than later bring us closer to our dream for the end of this seemingly endless nightmare.
In this month of the rosary, in unison, let us say the prayer that Pope Francis teaches us: “To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.” Our collective and ardent prayer, accompanied by concrete actions, will bring us closer to the reality of the Resurrection.
Then and only then can we overcome the sorrowful mystery and see the light in this long night of the pandemic. In God’s perfect time, let us collectively cherish the eventual concretization of the glorious and joyful mysteries.
Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is president of the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.