“Quiapo” was the sanctity of my heart, growing up Catholic. It was a church, where my mother often pleaded. We often go there, on a weekend, after mother’s payday – to the church, shopping and some ham. And of course, we always lined up and kissed the Black Nazarene on the corner, whose looks scared me (I was a playful child). I remember his clothes was dolorous, but it showed sacredness in it. The line was long and I tried to be very quiet because everyone was solemn in their prayers. As a child I would not understand what his blood meant, what his crown of thorns meant, why he died on the cross. All my small brain could understand was he suffered and was crucified because he loved me and everyone a lot, as was taught by family and school. And then, they said, as in the Apostles Creed, that on the third day, he arose again because he is one most powerful God. “With him is the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!” Wow, that’s Jesus!
And so my little hands slowly reached out touching his maroon velvet clothes, sometimes under it, sometimes just his knees, his hands or his body, his cross, one kiss or two kisses, then I kept my handkerchief for the blessing. I want us to finish soon. Of course, I avoided touching the thorns and his forehead that looked sad. On the other hand, those people, who walked on their knees around, amazed me. I wondered about their huge faith. As a child, they inspired me.
Over the years, I still visited Quiapo. It was close to the bus stop where I got my ride home. I walked in and out that church for four years, while in college, sometimes with classmates, but often, unaccompanied. How about the kissing of the Black Nazarene this time? The kissing became more intimate with me, after my father’s death. I thought God would be my real father so I pleaded, seriously and without shame, just like when I asked my Dad. So Quiapo became my haven.
Recently, in my visit to the church (this time I’m older, a mother, a young grandmother, yet not a senior) on a Friday morning, I felt that same solemnity of hearts again. Holiness was around each heart tight with pleading. There were families, students, workers, an old woman, and a toddler, beside me. All prayed without pushing, some with hands up or heads bowed, or eyes closed. We gathered in one prayer for love, peace and joy; and all those good intentions for all of God’s people.
For this bequest of prayers and Quiapo, I thank my mother, my Filipino heritage, my Catholic church, my non catholic brothers and all those who pray with me in different tongues, we pray colossal to One God.
Here’s my prayer for us:
“Neustro Padre Jesus Nazareno,” gather us in your Cross of love. Strengthen us with your Holy Spirit to face burdens. Make us brave, solemn and one in the Father’s promises of the Cross. Amen.