THE SISTERS OF the Alliance of the Two Hearts brought together a 40-strong mixed groups of elderly and mostly young audience to the First Friday-First Saturday Devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The gathering is an offshoot of their successful efforts to enthrone the Two Hearts in several houses of BF Homes (in coordination with the Annunciation praesidium of the Legion of Mary there) and had the nod of HS Parish Priest Fr. Bobot Clemen. One-(wo)man formator Ate Ella Doller was at the church as early as 6:30 Friday night to prepare the venue with the assistance of Kuya Jess Romano, sacristan mayor. It was the first time the vigil was conducted in the parish. The devotion, already ongoing in other parishes visited by the ant-industrious nuns, is an urgent response to the rise of the culture of death pervading the country today. It continues to instill prayer and reparation in the hearts of advocates and devotees on a monthly basis to bring back sanctity in the home, Church and society.
Holy Mass was celebrated by Fr. Bobot at 8:30 pm. His legendary humor, put to great advantage, was apparently aimed to cushion the sacrificial impact of, if not keep the vigilants awake at, the 12-hour watch. It was evident from the intermittent snickers of the congregation that his homily hit home. I was in stitches myself.
The Pledge of Conjugal Chastity was led by a married couple and consensually prayed by the married in the group who were without their spouses. It was followed by the Promise of Virginity prayed by two young ladies from Goldplan Insurance Services, the major contingent of the gathering. Afterwards, Ate Liza Infante led the Scriptural Rosary. She and the assembly availed themselves of the prayer guide which used the acronym MACTS for Marian, Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
The Nine Offices of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was carried out next. In this form of worship, nine people/groups make an alliance with nine choirs of angels, with one person sharing her/his insight or life experience on the particular Office. The Office is announced, a hymn lifts it up, a reading follows, then a motivational passage and, finally, the witness shares her/his reflection of the Office.
Before the first Office was presented, a familiar face took the floor and introduced herself as Sister Jenny, a lay servant whose long narrative of her involvement with the Virgin Mary and the Holy Face of Jesus originated from dreams. Her tale was full of visionary awe and (dis)belief, goosies and a contemporary omen implying President Duterte. Claiming to be unschooled in church doctrines, her story nonetheless sounded spontaneous, clear and authentic. She later led the praying of the Little Chaplet of the Holy Face (one of several holy booklets plus chaplet beads the nuns distributed).
Worshipper was the first Office, whose sharer was the most senior sister of the Twin Hearts Order. She expounded on the continuance of the Eucharist’s living in our hearts. This is done, she said, by striving to acquire a profound feeling of lowliness before the divine majesty of God. Second was the Lover’s Office, shared by Jhanet Bautista, sister of Ate Jenny. Jhanet confessed that they came from an average family and, like her sibling, she was not as deep into church activities until Mary came into their lives. She attributes the major changes in their economic condition to fealty to the Virgin Mother and encouraged the young in the audience to devote some time for her while they have plenty of it in their prime.
Sr. Linden announced a 30-minute break after which the Victim’s Office voice was heard. It was from another nun whose father’s dedication and devotion to his family made a mark in the her mind. The Office of the Disciple was shared by Ate Liza Infante, a dear friend and fellow legionary. She admitted that, like Ate Jenny, Mary thrice appeared to her in her dreams. She thought her legion work was already sufficient until her knelt ascent to a grotto in La Scala, Spain, an learning lesson that humbled and corrected her mistaken certainty. Long story short, she commended the youth for being there and for having more time and energy than the senior citizens in the gathering.
While the nine Offices were being conducted, a sister announced that Fr. Francis Tiquia, vigil master, was at the far end of the church to hear confession.
The Office of the Faithful Servant was tackled by a brother who used to be a seminarian. His idea of faithful servanthood is giving selflessly to strangers. He cited as his particular apostolate a special child, with whom he has developed a caring affinity. Another nun of the same order, who recalled the virginity pledge for its worthiness of rendering our full lives to Jesus, spoke for the Suppliant Office. Suppliant, she said, comes from the root word “supply.” The crux of her concern was charity toward our neighbors in imitation of the Sacred Heart’s spirit of prayer. Promoter’s Office was presented by a priest whose approach to keeping us awake was a story he kept going back to, asking the names of the characters and places to test our memory and awakeness. We did not disappoint him and he did not fail in leaving us with the impression that giving an example is always much more moving than preaching. Kuya Ed shared in the Office of Zealous Friend who, to him, was a dear childhood buddy in a circle of four friends whose death may have been timely but still struck him as sad and sore.
The last Office was the Reparator and it was no surprise that it was handled by ubiquitous Sr. Linden. Reparation, she said, was pagbabayad-sala. It is a humble craving for God’s pardon for all the sacrileges, outrages and indifference which the Sacred Heart of Jesus continually receives. At its conclusion, the Saturday Office of Readings recited prayers for the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Fr. Francis exposed the Blessed Sacrament before celebrating the 3:30 am Holy Mass. He appreciated the energy and enthusiasm of the congregation who looked none the worse for wear after the nightlong watch. His homily described vigils as prayers to transfigure ourselves from worldly to spiritual persons. Because, he admonished, we do not know when the Lord is coming and, the bible says, He does like a thief in the night, when not expected. Preparation is the key, he intoned.
Of Sacred Heart images, he admitted he is partial to the one which depicts Jesus holding his heart in his left hand and his right one beckoning us to take it even if it meant losing His life. He does not mind losing His life over and over again for us. And His paradoxical parting shot that He will go up to heaven yet will be with us till the end times only underscores that great love: He doesn’t want to leave us. Which is why His sacrifice translates to the language of love. Something worth sinking our teeth into this season of Lent.
Change of heart for us, therefore, is to repent for our sins. The heart describes the kind of love that we can give to others. What your heart is describes the person you are. Which is why, then as now, men proposed to the love of their lives with the standard “I love you with all my heart.” Shifting to a humorous banter, Fr. Francis asked, “Can you say I love you with all my liver, intestines, esophagus, or the like?”
The attitude of the lover is not to allow to be separated from the loved. Jesus was like this to us. Therefore, we owe Him reparation, the correcting of the wrongs done to Him, the pulling of every thorn of sin from His heart. The sins we commit destroy not only ourselves but the whole church; let us give ourselves back sinless to the lord because we came from Him without it.
Fr. Francis said other funny/witty passages but what stuck in my mind was that, during the consecration, he leaned his head back to fix his eyes heavenward, the first priest out of more than a hundred I’ve prayed Mass with to revere Christ so.
Along with what the others may have felt on our way home, I was lightheaded. Lighter though was my heart. Fr. Francis said the surefire way to unburden oneself is to offer one’s pain and suffering to the Lord. As though we didn’t know Gary V’s musical exhortation. I did. Only then was I able to still my head and yield to a baby’s sleep.
ABRAHAM DELA TORRE