Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
April 18, 2023 | Minor Basilica and Shrine Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary of Orani, Bataan
64th Canonical Coronation Anniversary of the Queen, Mother and Patroness of Peninsula of Bataan, Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario del Pueblo de Orani
Your Excellency the Most Rev. Ruperto C. Santos, D.D., Bishop of Balanga: first of all, thank you for the invitation, and thank you for your very kind words of introduction and reception to me here, at the beginning of Mass.
It is always a great joy for me to be here in the Diocese of Balanga. Especially today with all of you here in this splendid and glorious Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, La Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario de Pueblo de Orani, for the 64th Anniversary of her Canonical Coronation back in 1959, the year of my birth.
I greet in a special way, the political and civic authorities who are gathered with us this evening, and all of you: the lay faithful of the diocese, especially the priests of the diocese, and the religious. It's a great joy for me to be with you in this minor basilica: this basilica, as I said, of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Pope Pius XII and the Our Lady of the Rosary of Orani
In October 1958, Pope Pius XII was 82 years old and in failing health. He was coming to the end of his life. He had spent the summer in Castel Gandolfo, which is the summer palace of the Holy Father, outside of Rome. (These were in the years before air conditioning where to go up in elevation meant that you had a bit of cooler weather.) There he was in October of 1958, and on the 7th of October of 1958, he was given the decree which would undertake the canonical coronation of Our Lady, La Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario de Pueblo de Orani. He approved that on the 7th of October 1958. Two days after that, he went to God. So it was one of the final acts of Pope Pius XII in October of 1958: to approve the canonical coronation of your beautiful image of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Bull of declaration of the canonical coronation of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Orani, signed by Pope Pius XII in 1958
Pontifical Honors of the Orani Church
It took a while for the news to come here to the Philippines in those days but eventually it did. Then on April 18th of 1959, in the Plaza of Orani, in front of the Municipal Hall, the Papal Nuncio came from Manila, as I did today. His name was Salvatore Siino. There in the plaza, with the Archbishop of San Fernando (Most Rev. Emilio A. Cinense, D.D.) -- because remember, in 1959 Balanga was not yet a diocese; you were still part of the Archdiocese of San Fernando -- together the two of them on April 18, 1959, enacted, completed the canonical coronation of your beautiful image of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Then of course history goes forward: in 1959 the president of the Philippines was Carlos Garcia. History moved forward until a few years ago, in 2019, when once again another papal honor was bestowed on this beautiful church, this parish church here in Orani. When the church was declared and elevated as a minor basilica. You can see the images of the basilica here: the bell and the umbrella of the Holy Father. So, you have a double Pontifical honor here: a canonical coronation of Our Lady by the authority of Pope Pius XII; and then, the elevation of your church as a minor basilica.
Why were these honors poured, bestowed upon this church in Orani? Because here, there are people who love Our Lady. Here there are people who are devoted to their Catholic faith. Here there is an image, a miraculous image of Mary, which has truly worked miracles in the history of Bataan, in the history of the Philippines.
Miracles of the La Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario de Pueblo de Orani
As all of you know, back in 1647, during the battles, the five battles of La Naval de Manila, in a struggle between the Netherlands and Spain, non-Catholic forces from the Netherlands were threatening this part of Bataan. Old women and children, and old people gathered here in front of that image of Our Lady and prayed for protection. In an almost a miraculous fashion, the non-Catholic forces from the Netherlands were dispersed, and the City of Orani was saved, and the Catholic faith continued.
Then of course, the other famous miracle in 1718. When a plague of locusts descended upon the entire central part of Luzon; but here, again people came in 1718 and prayed to Our Lady, the Patroness of Bataan, that she would save you. In a miraculous way, a wind seemed to have come and banished the locusts from Orani, and indeed from Bataan. Once again, this area was saved and blessed by Our Lady. The image represents the faith of the people of Bataan. She's the patroness in many ways of the peninsula of Bataan.
Participation in the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
We now re-enact and remember her canonical coronation, which as I said, took place 64 years ago. It's beautiful that we do this at this time of the Liturgical Year, in the Easter season. I stand beside the Paschal Candle, the image, the example, of Christ risen from the dead. We are praying in these days the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The Our Lady of the Rosary is next to me on the other side of the sanctuary.
We think about those mysteries: the holy Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary during this Easter Season begins with the Resurrection of the Lord. Which we celebrated only about ten days ago at Easter. Then the next mystery is the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, which we will celebrate on the 21st of May. Then Pentecost, that moment in which all the apostles were gathered with Mary, praying, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which came upon the Church at that moment in Jerusalem, and transformed a frightened, terrified small group of apostles into courageous missionaries who went out throughout the entire world to bring the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of God’s love. The fact that we are created by God in love and for love. Then of course in August we will celebrate Our Lady's beautiful Assumption into Heaven. Then on the 22nd of August her coronation: the Crowning of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
In a certain way, every coronation of Our Lady -- and we remember the coronation that took place here in 1959 today, 64 years ago -- every coronation that we partake in here, and every reenactment of a coronation is our way of participating in that fifth glorious mystery, Mary Crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
We can imagine Our Lady even now looking at us with so much love and smiling on us the way a mother smiles when a small child brings a mother a flower taken from the garden. Something simple, something small. We do everything we possibly can to present to Our Lady a beautiful crowned image of her; and she looks at us, and she smiles, because all of that coronation represents our love for Our Lady, our love for the mother of God, our love for the queen of heaven, our love for Our Lady of the Rosary.
Pueblo Amante de Maria
That is what is so distinctive about this town, about this place, about this minor basilica. Here there are people who love Our Lady. As I said, here, you truly are the Pueblo Amante de Maria, the people who love Mary. Think about that. That's what it means to be a Catholic: it means to be one who's redeemed by Jesus, and who sees Mary as his or her special intercessor in heaven, a mother who prays for us.
We as the Pueblo Amante de Maria need to be a people that shows the love of God to those around us.
That is what we just heard in the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-37) in that First Reading. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”
What does it mean? It means: to be the Pueblo Amante de Maria, a people redeemed by Jesus, a people gathered around Our Lady in prayer, we need to be a people of one heart and one mind. Cor unum et anima una: one heart, one mind, sharing our gifts with one another, sharing, especially our material gifts with those who are less fortunate than we are; being generous with those who are marginalized, those who are in poverty. Because when we give generously to those who are poor, we ourselves benefit spiritually.
When we come to the end of our lives, when we pass from this world into the life of the world to come -- and that will happen for all of us -- it may well happen that as we approach the gates of heaven and see Saint Peter there, a poor person will come out from those gates and tell Saint Peter, “Let this one in. Because this one was kind to me.” Let's remember that. The poor will be our intercessors when we come to the end of our lives.
That is why we need to be Cor unum et anima una (one heart and one soul): generous, kind, merciful with those who are less fortunate than we are. That's what it means to be a Pueblo Amante de Maria. That's what it means to imitate Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their love for one another, in their love for the marginalized.
So for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, on this historic occasion in which we remember what happened in the plaza, here in front of the municipal hall sixty-four years ago today, it gives me so much joy as a representative of Pope Francis to be with you this evening. To bring you his greetings and his affection. Whenever I see Pope Francis, and it's whenever I go to Rome of course, I have a meeting with the Pope, he always asks me to ask you, his beloved Filipino people, to pray for him. What better place for me to make that request than here: with Our Lady of the Rosary. With La Virgen Milagrosa del Rosario de Pueblo de Orani. To ask her (by) asking you (to) pray for Pope Francis. Pray for his mission. Pray for his good health. Pray that God will help him in his mission as the successor of Saint Peter.
Rejoice in your Catholic faith. Rejoice in the gift you have been given. This is a gift that needs to be shared. A gift that needs to be given to others, as we know from the Gospels.
So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ: thank you for the invitation this evening. Congratulations on this 64th Anniversary of the Canonical Coronation, which was done, as I said, in the year of my birth, 1959. It's a joy for me to be with you.
God bless you!
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo