By Isabella Piro
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, in the Philippines, has called for 21 days of prayer, which will be dedicated to the "national healing" of the country, overwhelmed by many challenges, including that of the coronavirus pandemic. It will run from Thursday, July 16, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, to Wednesday, August 5, the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
In a letter to the parish priests of the Archdiocese – according to the website of the Philippine Episcopal Conference - Archbishop Villegas stresses the sense of "helplessness and discouragement" that hovers over the country and highlights how the health emergency and "socio-political turmoil" render us not knowing what to do, how to serve as spiritual leaders and how to be disciples with the disciples with the disciples of the Lord in crisis." Hence, the invocation to the Virgin Mary - because "if we cling to her," underlines the Archbishop, "we are never helpless".
Archbishop Villegas explains that the meaning of the number 21 refers "to the twenty-one acts of rebellion of the Israelites after the liberation from Egypt. "Today, we are in a state of rebellion against God and for this, we see the consequences of our sin”, adds the Archbishop. “We must repent if we want to be healed". Specifically, during the twenty-one days of the initiative, the Act of Consecration of the country to Our Lady and the "Prayer for national healing" will be recited at each Mass. The recitation of the same prayers is also encouraged in families, at the end of the daily Rosary.
On August 5, the last day of the initiative, solemn Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag. "Because of the limits imposed by the pandemic”, underlines the Philippine Archbishop, “only diocesan priests and religious will be present in the Basilica. However, the Mass will be streamed and the faithful are encouraged to participate through the available social media platforms". "Let us not give in to discouragement and depression," he concludes, "but let us go to Our Lady, our Mother", let us trust in Her and seek comfort.