Holy Mass on the Fifth Day
of the Novena
in Honour of Our Lady of La Naval
Homily by Most Rev. Precioso Cantillas, SDB, DD
Bishop of Maasin
Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City
8 October 2019
Brother Priests and Devotees La Naval de Manila, brothers and Sisters in Christ, so thankful to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary for this opportunity of celebrating the Eucharist here, on the 5th day of the Novena to the great Celebration of La Naval de Manila here in this Church, Sto. Domingo where forty years ago, I was ordained a Priest together with my eight Salesian confreres and four others, twelve of us by a Legate of the Pope, Papal Legate because that year 1979, December 7th there was a celebration of the international Mission Congress here in the Philippines and one of the major events was the ordination to the Diaconate and to the Priesthood, I was lucky to be one of them.
And forty years after, today, I have this opportunity to visit the place where I received the great gift of the Priesthood together with eleven others. and so, I’m thankful really to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary and on the forty years of being priest, twenty-four which I served as the Bishop and I have shared the gift of the Priesthood through ordination to number of Priest, among them is the one who read the Gospel, Fr. Vincent Salang, you may know is very active in this devotion of La Naval and who has made arrangement for my Mass this evening and today is his first anniversary of Priesthood, I ordained him last year on this very day.
And I’m happy to see my classmate at UST, one seated on the left of Fr. Vincent, Fr. Campillo. And looking at him and remembering the forty years makes me feel a bit old but we need to be young and especially so because this year 2019, the Philippine Church has focused her attention on the youth and in fact, this year’s fiesta or celebration of La Naval invites us to meditate, to look at the Blessed Virgin Mary, the young Virgin as “Kaagapay sa Kabataan sa Paglalakbay.” Companion of the youth, of the young people in the journey of life.
And it is very important for the church, especially we talk about La Naval, the Virgin protecting the Church from being destroyed by the enemies of the Church and focusing on the young people whom the Holy Father reminds us, Pope Francis, especially in his Encyclical after the Synod of Bishops for Young People or for the Youth that the Church is made up mostly, the great majority of the young people, even the society itself, a great majority is the youth and therefore if we want to keep the church alive or even to protect the Church from being destroyed, we need to look after the young, to minister to them, to take care of them in their journey of life and especially in their journey of faith.
And this certainly, we’ll ask all of us as the Holy Father is asking all of us, not just the Bishops, the Priests but all the faithful too, to keep special in particular attention for young people and even just at this moment I realise that there are number of young people around although we realise that there are still a lot of them elsewhere, and if we are really interested in keeping this devotion, not just this devotion but our Catholic Faith which by the way, I am the Bishop of the Diocese of Maasin in Southern Leyte and at the Southern tip of that island, Leyte is Limasawa where 500 years ago the first Easter Mass was celebrated and that is why the Philippine Church looks forward to 2021 to commemorate, to celebrate the 500 years of Christianity and that therefore we need to keep not only the Faith and essential and fundamental in our Catholic Faith is our Love and Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and we want this devotion to be strengthen and to go on forever then certainly we who are young once upon a time need to really look into strengthening our young people of today because they are the ones who have to carry on this journey of Faith and this journey of our love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But of course, the Pope in his encyclical or letter of exhortation Christus Vivit, the message for young people and for all of us and certainly the Pope wants all of us, even those as I said may feel and considers themselves young once upon a time, that we need to be ourselves young as Jesus is forever young. and if we are disciples of Jesus no matter how old or how young is our age and how we feel even physically, we feel young or we feel old, we need to focus on Jesus who is forever young and in this particular situation when we are focusing our attention on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father also presents in that letter, Mary the young Virgin who had shown in her Fiat or in her yes to the Lord, strength, hope and determination, which I believe we should pray, we should ask for such a grace, to transform ourselves and especially the young people to be strengthen in their faith and in their perspective of life as they go forward in life, to have Faith as their strength and at the same time that determination to follow more closely, Jesus.
The Gospel we have read reminded of the first miracle of Jesus, when he changed water into wine upon the intercession or on the supplication of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first miracle. Transforming water into wine, for me just look at this aspect that Mary, whom we are looking dearly at this devotion and certainly each one of us as our own individual and personal grace or graces to ask God through the intercession of La Naval, Birhen sa La Naval, I would invite each one of us as a Church to ask the intercession of La Naval to transform the miracle, to transform us especially the young people into strong and courageous believers in Jesus.
When we talk about the young people, we would have the image of persons who are really enthusiastic, determined to follow, to get what they have in mind for their future and so we ask the Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary or we plead with our Mother “Mary please ask or tell Jesus to make the miracle among our young people” not only for the society but also for the Church that through them, the young people, we experience a renewal in our journey of being disciples in the Church and subsequently, certainly in the society to transform the young who are like waters so to say into wine that gives joy, that gives happiness, that gives life in this world and in the church.
This is a miracle and a grace that I believe its good to ask in our celebrating the Feast of La Naval, I know that many of us, if not all of us here present has experience the many miraculous or great favour that we have received from God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And many would still continue to ask a lot especially things or events or situations in our individual life or in the life of our families or our communities or whatever we have considers as a need but that being strong, determined in our faith in Jesus and being strong and determined in following and living the Gospel values, this grace is something we need to ask the Lord also through the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary.
And certainly, from the side of our Blessed Mother we know very well as a mother, she has nothing in mind but to assist us, to be ready to come to us and she invites us many times, in fact all the time, to come into herself. In the Diocese, I like to share, I have written a circular some 3 months ago, to directed all the Priest and Faithful that on the first Saturdays of the month, each Parish, every Parish or Chapel would have to spend an hour of Cenacle Prayer. This is one activity that the Marian movement or priests is promoting. An hour of prayer with Mary, where we consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart, where the Blessed Virgin Mary is calling everyone and especially the young people to enter into her Immaculate Heart where she will form us, she will shield us from all evils and will form us, will make us love Jesus more and more. The problem is therefore us and all young people to go, to enter into her Immaculate Heart.
And this celebrations, a lot of celebrations of the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary are opportunities, are occasions where she is asking us and especially young people “Come, come to me, look at me, stay with me so that I will transform you from being water into wine that would give meaning and life to your journey of life here on earth and our journey of faith.” And the Blessed Virgin Mary is just too eager and willing to do that, she appears in many many instances whether of course whether its approved by the Church of not but certainly from the experience of somany of our brothers and sisters, they feel that the Blessed Virgin Mary is appealing to all peoples, to come back to the Lord, to turn back to the Lord and turn away from the world, turn to him in prayer in believing, in hoping so that we will forever taste and enjoy the wine in heaven.
This my dear brothers and sisters for me is a very important moment in the life of the church that we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to transform us and the young people that miracle of being determined and being strong In the faith and therefore we also would have to consider how as pilgrims, how as devotees, how are we going to take part in that role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in transforming the young people. Of course its so beautiful that all of us here are so devoted and we spent time and money and energy to make her festivities really grand but we need also to ask ourselves “what am I doing to make myself an instrument of Mary to make that miracle of transforming the young people from water into wine.”
How much have I been part in ministries or in programs for young people for them to grow in faith. at home being parents, how much have you thought, how much have you formed or how have you created the environment in your home where your young children or young people will absorbed the spirit of Christ, the values of Christ or they are young, they are on their own, its our responsibility, if we love the Blessed Virgin Mary, we would share her desire as a mother to gather the young people, to form them, to instruct them to make Jesus become alive in their lives.
So as devotes, as pilgrims, what are we doing? How much time, energy and/or money have we given to youth ministry in our school where we send our children or in the parishes where we belong. You know in my 21 years as the Bishop, and every year we would organise activities for young people and every year we would ask the young people what are some difficulties and every year, every gathering of young people they would always surface one problem or one of the problems; lack of support [of] other community, of the priest and/or of the Parish for their activities.
So, I believe if we are to make this Fiesta of La Naval this year, where we are making our Holy Mother as kaagapay sa mga kabataan sa kanilang paglalakbay, ang tanong ikaw, anong ginagawa mo para maging kaagapay sa mga kabataan sa kanilang paglalakbay? First, one thing we can do is to pray, to ask, but there is something more than just praying for this intentions, you yourselves can find out in what little ways you can be like the Blessed Virgin Mary or share or be one with the desire of the Mother to keep the young children safe and be formed into becoming like Jesus, her beloved Son.
And so we continue this celebration with a prayer, with a desire, we raise it to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she may intercede with her son Jesus to transform ourselves and the young people from being just ordinary water in our Christian life into becoming sweet wine that gives life and meaning in the life of the Church and Society. Amen.