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Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage: An Inexhaustible Source of Inspiration

Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella

Pro-Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization

Section on New Evangelization

At the Misa de Gracia for the Solemn Declaration

of the International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage

February 26, 2024

My dear brothers and sisters, before I make some reflections on the Word of God that we have heard, allow me to express, first of all, a word of thanksgiving.


A few days before leaving, I met with Pope Francis; and I told him about my coming to the Shrine of Antipolo. And giving me the Gold Rose, the Holy Father charged me to say to all of you that he will send his own Apostolic Blessing. Then, he recommends to all of you, each of you, to pray for him. So please, remember in your prayer, the Holy Father, Pope Francis.



Then, first of all, I would like to say my thank you to my dear brother, the Bishop of Church of Antipolo, His Excellency Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos for the invitation he had extended to me on numerous occasions so that I would be present in this celebration.


This local church has the responsibility of having in its land the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, that we have established as an international shrine. The presence of such a shrine is a sign of grace that calls all of us to a deep witness of faith.


I extend also my greetings to the representative of the Holy Father, the Nuncio, Archbishop Bishop Charles John Brown who graciously received me, and who carries out his mission to the Church in the Philippines with a great commitment.


A cordial greeting to His Eminence,Cardinal Advincula, Archbishop of Manila. To all the bishops present, to the priests, deacons, seminarians, to the consecrated person, the civil authorities who are participating in this moment of celebration and prayer. And I don't want to forget Fr. Reynante Tolentino and the staff that take daily care — pastoral care—of this shrine.


To all of you, my brothers and sisters: Peace, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ risen from dead.


Plea for Peace

We have listened to the Word of God, that illuminates our lives, and especially brings a distinctive light to the Eucharistic celebration we are expressing. We are in a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who intercedes for us before all else, so that peace may reign in the whole world, and in our homes. Only if peace and serenity is present in our families, in our communities, then we can hope that it will be present in the whole world in spite of the violence of men that always claims innocent victims.


Today, in a special way, we are here to ask for peace for all those regions of the world where people suffer unjustly because of the dominance of the violence of war.


All the wars around the world are the monstrous face of sin. They are the expression of those who turn away from God and do not listen to His voice.

We recall the word of the Psalm that bear a particular sadness: “When I speak of peace, they are thinking on the war” (Psalm 120:7).


Truly, God’s thoughts are not our own (cf. Is. 55:8). Whenever we turn away from Him, the streets become filled with fear, violence, and war. Nevertheless, my dear brothers and sisters, we heard the proclamation that helps us to hope.


We are pilgrims of hope in this world. To all of us falls the responsibility to be not only heralds of Christian hope but, above all, builders of hope, creating concrete signs that give credibility to our words.



A Father and Mother Who Never Abandoned Us

As in the opening book of the Bible, the Genesis, also today in this shrine, there is a ladder that ascends to God. Accompanying us in this ascent to heaven is the Virgin Mary. She, who at the cross was commissioned by Jesus to care for each of us, as if we were her children. And we are really her children.


So, let us open today our hearts . Let us keep our gaze fixed on her face. Let us be looked upon by her with a mother's love. Never abandon us. There is no need to increase our words. She already knows what we need. We need only to trust in her help; and be certain that her closeness and sharing will never be lacking in our lives.


If we are joyful, she rejoices with us. If we suffer, she suffers with us. If we address our prayer, she intercedes for it to be answered.

How much confidence and consolation the words we heard bring to us today? “Know that I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go. I will never leave you.” (cf. Gen 28:15). My dear brothers and sisters, God never leaves us.


In whatever situation we may be find ourselves, He remains beside us.


As we heard, Mary stood by the cross as Jesus suffered and died (cf. Jn. 19:25). Her mother's heart, however, had a certainty that her Son's words would be fulfilled: "After three days, I will rise again.” How much hope Mary must have had in her heart during those three days? Inside her were alternating moments of deep sadness and sorrow; but accompanied also by the hope of resurrection.


The mother of God repeats the same to each of us here, now, today, in your shrine. Where the icon shines in all its beauty, and gathers the prayers of millions of faithful who come to her to pray and be consoled.


My dear brothers and sisters, can we find stronger and more convincing words than this: that God Himself addresses us today? He will be with us forever. The Father of Jesus Christ never abandons us.


The message that comes from the Shrine of Antipolo becomes a true message of peace because it assures us of God's presence and closeness forever in our lives.

The Mission of Pilgrims as Evangelizers

Whoever experiences God's closeness becomes in turn, an instrument of closeness for those in need.


There is a necessary consequence for those who make a pilgrimage to the shrine.


The experience of grace lived here needs to be communicated and passed on to others.

We do not live for ourselves, but rather, we are always evangelizers.


A pilgrim to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage knows that he [or she] cannot leave the shrine without taking with him the message of peace that the Mother of God gives him/her. It is certainly a message for himself, but it also becomes a responsibility for it to be shared.


The pilgrimage to the international shrine has the mission of spiritually uniting Christians with all believers scattered around the world. Being an international shrine is not just a privilege that is granted but a mission that must be shared.


As the Papal Bull we have signs states:


“The faithful people of the Philippines have seen in the National Shrine of Antipolo Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage an inexhaustible source of inspiration and in the school of the Virgin Mary on her way to bring Elizabeth the announcement of the peace of the Messiah, they continue on their journey of adherence to the faith, and Christian witness.”


This International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, therefore, is open to the mission of having no boundaries but instead opening wide its doors to welcome all, especially the poorest and those in need of consolation and peace.


Today the Virgin Mary repeats to each of us the same words that Jacob heard, “Know I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go; I will never leave you....” (Gen 28:15). For each of us, too, it is important to climb the ladder that leads up to heaven in order to live in fullness the eternal life that was given to us on the day of our baptism; and whose responsibility we have every day to share with our brothers and sisters who come to this Shrine.


Prayer

Therefore, may this house of God be a place where:

faith becomes stronger, because of the unceasing prayer

that goes up to the Father through the intercession of the Virgin Mary;

hope is strengthened because of the journey we must make

until the final goal is reached;

charity is lived with an abundance of the heart

in recognizing the various forms of mercy the Lord has left us.


My dear brothers and sisters, may the Gold Rose that we lay at the feet of Our Lady (be a reminder) to all generations of pilgrims this life of faith, hope, and charity. Amen.


Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

Photos: Antipolo Cathedral Facebook page


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