by Clyde Ericson H. Nolasco
One sunny afternoon in a rural municipality not far from Manila, I chanced upon seeing young children hurrying to the church while carrying flowers. Neither roses nor sampaguita but gumamela and some bougainvillea obviously picked from their backyard gardens. Nothing fancy but it was nostalgic. It brought me back to my summer days spent in the church when I was younger. I realized it was May, it was Flores de Mayo.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Flower of May More so, the Philippines is also known as pueblo amante de Maria or “a people in love with Mary.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ pastoral letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1975, Ang Mahal na Birhen, affirms the very special place of the Blessed Mother in the life of the Filipino people expressed in different colorful local devotions.
Mary is both a loved and misunderstood figure in the Catholic faith. While most would easily see her as a refuge in times of troubles, some would still question her place in the entire salvation history. The following is a list composed of names, titles, devotions and apparitions associated with Mary. Let them be our flowers that we offer each day this month and may these “flowers” help us get to know more about our Mother and be able to grasp her place in the salvific plan of God.
1. Theotokos or Mary, Holy Mother of God - This is Mary’s first and the most important among her dogmatic titles. Theotokos derives from the Greek terms Theos (God) and tiktein (to give birth). Thus, Mary is the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God or simply the "God bearer." The title, defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., refers to the Virgin Mary as the Mother of the incarnate Son of God. Her feast to celebrate her Motherhood is January 1. 2. The Immaculate Conception or Mary, Conceived Without Original Sin - This 1854 dogma was issued by Pope Pius IX. Mary is referred to as the Immaculate Conception or believed that as she was conceived by her parents, she was given the grace of being saved by Christ before she was born. She was redeemed and remained sinless from the moment of her conception throughout her life. December 8 is the feast day of the Immaculate Conception and day of obligation. Most churches, minor basilicas and dioceses in the Philippines are dedicated to this title of Mary. 3. Mary, ever Virgin - The perpetual virginity of Mary is expressed in three parts found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 510: in her virginal conception of Christ; in giving birth to Christ; and in her continuing virginity after His birth. In order to carry the Son of God, Mary needed to be a virgin for many reasons. 4. Queen Assumed into Heaven or Our Lady of the Assumption - Every August 15, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary or that Mary's body did not experience corruption but was assumed into heaven as defined by a dogma issued by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Mary, after completing the course of her earthly life, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven. 5. Our Lady of Antipolo (Philippines) - This title is also known as the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Her history dates back to the 16th century during Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Spanish traders from Mexico crossing the perilous Pacific Ocean would seek protection from the Black Madonna they have aboard. Eventually, the Black Madonna became the patroness of those “galleon trades” and was named “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage” or Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje. Decades later, the image was left in the Philippines. It would disappear then would be found atop a tipolo tree. The town was named Antipolo and so was this Marian Image. 6. Our Lady of Mother of Perpetual Help - This title is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with the Byzantine icon of the same name whose history traces back to the 13th to 15th century. The miraculous image is very popular among Catholics around the world. It is now enshrined in the Redemptorist Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome. Locally, the most venerated version of this image is in Baclaran, which is why Wednesdays are called Balcaran Day. 7. Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico) - Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Virgin of Guadalupe, is based on Mary’s appearance before St. Juan Diego in a vision in 1531.Our Lady of Guadalupe’s role in Mexican history is not limited to religious matters; she has played an important role in Mexican nationalism and identity. Her feast is on December 12 and she is the patroness of Mexico, the Americas, and the unborn. 8. Our Lady of Czestochowa or The Black Madonna (Poland)- This is Poland's national shrine to Mary. Her history is rooted in a legend that St. Luke painted this icon on a table that Jesus built. It was discovered in the Holy Land by St Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine and a collector of Christian relics, then eventually brought to Poland. Popes, pilgrims and the Polish have all recognized the miraculous nature of the image. 9. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (France) - The Medal of the Immaculate Conception, or commonly known as the Miraculous Medal, was shown to St. Catherine Labouré, a spiritual daughter of St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul. This took place in the chapel of the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity, Paris, France. The Medal was made according to Our Lady's design. It was freely circulated and in a short time was worn by millions and many miracles were associated with it. 10. Our Lady of Lourdes (France)- Revered