Cotabato diocese goes ‘all out’ for saints

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Cotabato's kids come dressed as their favorite saints on the eve of and on the Solemnity of All Saints. (Photo: Fr. Dennis Gui, OMI)

COTABATO City, Nov. 2, 2015 – More than 20 parishes, including a missionary parish in Maguindanao and a dozen more Catholic schools participated in the annual March of the Saints in the Archdiocese of Cotabato held on the eve of and on the Solemnity of All Saints.

Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Most Rev. Jose Colin Bagaforo, DD, by the authority of Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, DD, Archbishop of Cotabato, issued a memorandum exhorting all the parishes, including all Catholic schools of the Archdiocese to conduct their own March of the Saints as a way to celebrate and observe All Saint’s Day.

“We issued the memorandum as far back as July to give time to the parishes to prepare,” he said.

Evangelizing the youth

Bagaforo revealed the archdiocese has been conducting the March of the Saints as far back as 2012 in order to take the occasion to catechize the lay faithful about the saints and their heroic deeds.

“If we commemorate and celebrate our heroes like Jose Rizal and General Antonio Luna who offered their lives for our country, we must also commemorate and celebrate the saints who offered their lives for God and the Church.”

The prelate celebrated Holy Mass after the March of the Saints at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Immediately after the Mass, each “little saint” came forward and recited a famous quote of the saint they are imitating. The little St. Padre Pio said “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”

“This is how we evangelize the youth and we will continue doing this every year,” explained Bagaforo.

Meanwhile, 57 kilometers away from Cotabato City, parishioners of Our Lady of Salvation Parish in Timanan, South Upi, Maguindanao staged their own March of the Saints.

The event was participated by 40 children, not older than 11 years, from the seven chapels of the parish which covers 57,000 hectares of vast plains and rolling mountains.

Only 22% of Timanan residents are Catholics, the others are mostly Muslim or Teduray, the native inhabitants or Lumad.

Sto. Niño not a saint

Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Dennis Gui, parish priest of Timanan, said some parents wanted to dress their kids as the Sto. Niño but he discouraged them, teaching that the Baby Jesus is not a saint.

“There were a few who came dressed as the Holy Child, one of them is a baby. I used the moment to teach them that the Sto. Niño is Jesus. He is God. Jesus is not a saint even though he is called “santo” which in this case means “holy”, explained Fr. Gui in an interview with CBCP News. He serves the parish with fellow Oblate missionary priest Fr. Jurambel John Sacil, OMI.

Each of the children were given a crucifix pendant to remind them to live holy lives like the saints they are imitating who imitated Christ Crucified.

Bagaforo said it is imperative that Catholics and Christians regain the Christian character of Halloween which is about all the saints and not about evil creatures.

“The March of the Saints is an excellent opportunity to teach our children the teachings and examples of the Saints. We have to keep educating our children about the contributions these great men and women of the Church, expecially on how to be faithful to the Church and to the will of God.”

Bagaforo added that ever since the archdiocese started the March, private companies that held Halloween “scare” parties started dressing up their employees as angels and saints.

Inviting evil spirits

Aside from the catechetical nature of the March, dressing up as angels and saints is one way to avoid any evil spirit infesting a person or place. Exorcists have repeatedly warned people about dressing up houses with images of demonic creatures as if inviting evil spirits inside.

“It’s because of what people are doing, not because of what the devil is doing. Perhaps by the way they’re celebrating that day, they’re actually inviting more evil into our lives,” said Fr. Vincent Lampert, a Vatican-trained exorcist and a parish priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in an interview with Catholic News Agency.

Former Satanist, David Arias, in an interview with the National Catholic Register, agreed and warned parents about dressing up their kids in these costumes, even seemingly “innocent” looking ones.

“You know those Halloween stores that pop up every fall? We would curse the costumes children would get from them — even the costumes that weren’t grotesque. Parents thought all was well, but we knew they were paying to have their children step into a world of darkness.”

“People make their homes look like haunted cemeteries. … This invites evil spirits inside. It’s really simple: If you want to attract evil, you put up depictions of evil. If you want to attract good, you put up depictions of good. Every Catholic, then, should have Catholic art in his home,” he said. (Rommel Lopez / CBCP News)

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