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Cultural Potpourri | The Rosary for Healing and Protection

(l-r): Rosaries of black-and-white glass beads, glow-in-the-dark beads, bone beads, and
turquoise beads

The Philippines is the only predominantly Roman Catholic country in the whole of Asia. It is known globally as a Marian country owing to the Filipinos’ passionate devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that has persisted through the years for centuries. As Filipinos are recognized to be the 10th most religious people in the world, Filipinos have shown a great love and devotion to the Rosary thus making it a most recognizable Catholic devotion. Filipino Catholics believe that praying the Rosary has allowed the faithful to receive God’s blessing through the divine intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is distinctly a Pinoy practice to see Rosaries in homes and shops; hanging in front view mirrors in both public and private vehicles; and stashed in bags or pockets. Even the dead are made to hold a broken Rosary inside the coffin.

Antique rosary necklaces

When I was still a student from the elementary till high school, the La Salle Brothers of the Christian School along with the faculty members would always remind us to carry a rosary in our pockets daily. I even remember that there would be surprise inspections for us to show our rosary and woe to those who didn’t bring one. We were told that bringing a Rosary with you every single day was a mark of a real Christian gentleman that La Salle was molding its students into. Obedient as I was, I always carried one; and I continue the practice until this very day. The La Salle tradition of bringing a rosary with me thus started my love for collecting Rosaries at the same time. I am truly grateful to relatives and friends who would give me Rosaries as souvenir from the foreign countries they’d visit.

The Rosary is said to be “one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal for spiritual warfare and one of the greatest aids in the pursuit of a fruitful spiritual life.” Through praying the Rosary, we can ask the Blessed Mother Mary to obtain for us the graces we need to live that is conducive to our salvation and the salvation of our family and our friends.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Rosary of colorful glass beads from Spain given by Dr. Pablo Prados

The Rosary, thus, has become a part of the Filipinos’ cultural heritage, that is “a legacy of physical artifact and intangible attribute of a society that is inherited from past generations,” according to the definition of Wikipedia. History has it that the Rosary devotion started in the Philippines with the arrival of the Dominican Order on our shores in 1587 bringing with them the image of Our Lady of the Rosary from Mexico.

The original statue of Our Lady of the Rosary brought by the Dominican friars was, sadly, destroyed during World War II. I still remember the time when Filipinos used to pray the Rosary complete with the tiring outstretched arms. The month of October is always celebrated with block Rosary practices held in parishes, schools, barangays, and Catholic assemblies all over the Philippines. This year’s not so merry month of May could have seen the country’s Flores de Mayo processions with the praying of
the Rosary along the route.

Rosary of blue cloisonne beads from Belgium given by Gema Velez

Since centuries past during critical parts of our country’s history, praying the Rosary would play an important role in the people’s lives. Fast forward to 1986 when the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, then the Archbishop of Manila, went down in recorded history for leading a “Rosary Crusade/Revolution,” a
popular and bloodless uprising never seen before in the country’s history, to end the Ferdinand Marcos Dictatorship. I took part in that crusade armed with my Rosary together with my UP classmates, yes, despite our fear of facing the army and battle tanks along EDSA. And who can forget Msgr. Socrates B. Villegas’ fervent appeal for “a-Rosary-a-day” to fight against the blatant political corruption in the country. The Archbishop emphasized on his unwavering belief in the power of prayer and its ability to influence major events in the country.

Mar E. Dakudao’s vintage Rosary of crystal beads with meshed silver container

Last March 25, 2020, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, launched the Healing Rosary for the World every week from the Vatican in Rome in response to the invitation of Pope Francis. Italy has been the most COVID 19-affected European country. The praying of the Rosary every Wednesday is for healing and protection as part of the Church’s response against the dreadful COVID 19 pandemic. Naturally, the faithful Filipinos’ response could only be described as “overwhelming.”

Souvenir Rosaries bought from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, USA

“In these trying days while humanity trembles due to the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together, we lift our voices towards heaven,” said Pope Francis.

Do pray the Rosary. May God protect us and heal the world through the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary in this challenging time we are facing. Please stay safe everyone.

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