SAN JUAN City, March. 14, 2016 – Catholic pilgrims, especially those with a passion for history, are sure to enjoy their “Year of Mercy” experience at Santuario del Santo Cristo in San Juan City that comes with a guided educational tour of the 17th-century church.
“It was fun. I benefited a lot from the information I received,” said Jason E. Mamawal, who came all the way from Tarlac City, Tarlac to take part in a group pilgrimage on Sunday, March 13.
As one of the five pilgrimage destinations in the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) for the ongoing Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the sanctuary goes beyond treating visitors to the usual “Visita Iglesia”-type activities to include a “crash course” in the church’s history.
Upon reciting the Year of Mercy prayer, entering the “Porta Sancta” (Holy Door), and praying for the Pope’s intentions, pilgrims to Sto. Cristo are also requested to pray the special “Devotion to Sto. Cristo,” a copy of which is available for free at the church office.
Sto. Cristo History 101
A “tour guide” will then take them to the nearby conventual cemetery where they are expected to pray for the souls of the dead, and to listen to a brief historical backgrounder on the sanctuary.
Among the prominent personalities buried at the grounds alongside numerous Dominican men and women religious are no less than Felipe Agoncillo, the first Filipino diplomat, and his wife Marcela Agoncillo, one of the three women who sew the original Philippine flag.
Interested parties may also venerate the image of Santo Cristo—a focus of local devotion— which can be accessed through the stairs behind the main altar.
Pilgrims are encouraged to do a corporal work of mercy by leaving alms which will be turned over to Caritas Manila to help in its program for burying the poor dead.
The other pilgrim churches in RCAM are:
- Archdiocesan Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Maysilo Circle, Mandaluyong City
- National Shrine of the Sacred Heart, San Antonio Village, Makati City
- Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, F. B. Harrison, Pasay City
- Manila Metropolitan Basilica (Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception), Intramuros, Manila
Pilgrimage = Spiritual oasis
“Your pilgrimage is not an end in itself. It is merely a ‘pause’ or a ‘spiritual oasis’ as you journey towards your true destination, the Kingdom of God,” said Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle in an earlier CBCP News report.
“After visiting each Jubilee church you must be propelled to embark on a journey of mercy; doing the works of mercy, and imbuing your actions, attitude, lifestyle, and life with the purest quality of mercy that God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has so generously shown us and gifted us,” he added.
The first season of the Year of Mercy pilgrimage kicked off on Feb. 10 and will last until May 15, Pentecost Sunday.
Meanwhile, the second season is scheduled on Sept. 1 to Nov. 13, 2016, the closing of the Jubilee Door.
In his “Misercordiae Vultus” (the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy), Pope Francis notes that “the practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year because it represents the journey each of us makes in his life.”
He adds: “Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a ‘viator,’ a pilgrim traveling along the road, making his way to the desired destination.” (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)