Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holy Week: Filipino Style

Our family has been so blessed to be able to celebrate Holy Week here in the Philippines.  On Monday, each Catholic church sends out 12 apostles to bless all the homes, sari sari stores, businesses, etc. in their area.  I had heard about this, but it was very humbling on Monday when I was shopping in town at one of the local vegetable stands and witnessed a family's little stand be prayed over and blessed with Holy Water.  Later in the week, three men from our parish showed up at our house to bless our home and pray for our family.

On Thursday, Travis tried to go to the bank and to the bakery to buy bread for our Good Friday tuna fish sandwiches. NOTHING was open in town.  All the banks, bakeries, stores, vegetable stands, fruit stands, restaurants, etc.  The entire city had closed down.  Praise God! We would definitely be fasting the rest of the week! We were in awe of reverence the people here had for what was about to take place. I wanted to jump on Facebook and the phone to everyone back home to tell them how awesome it was and that everyone needed to jump on a plane to come celebrate Easter here!

But during Holy Thursday Mass, I was beginning to feel a little homesick as I watched Father Emmanuel wash the feet of the 12 apostles that had been scouring our neighborhood blessing homes and stores earlier in the week.  I wanted to be at home with my parish family where I actually understood the words of the liturgy and knew the people getting their feet washed.  I was just about to feel sorry for myself when the twelve men stood up and walked down the aisle to find their wives.  Each one bent down and tenderly washed the feet of their wives. 

My eyes filled up with tears as I realized that "love" was really the only language that needed to be understood.  The love in these couples' eyes revealed the love that Christ had as He washed the feet of His apostles that night.  And the love that He feels for us each time He washes away our sins when we fall.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself and concentrated on what really mattered, "God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for us."

Olivia bringing up the water for "Pilate" to wash his hands.
The next morning, the kids left for the church at 5:00 am.  They had been practicing with the youth group for weeks to present the Passion of Christ for the parish Good Friday morning.  Isaac was an apostle. Philip was Barabbas. Emily was Mary Magdalene.  And Olivia was one of the women of Jerusalem.  I was anxious to see their performance, but I was not ready for what I was about to actually witness.

Travis and I walked over to the church about 7 am for the "play" to find that there was standing room only.  People were standing outside the church all the way to the street.  We squeezed in towards the front and found a spot with the youth kids.  The Way of the Cross began and as it was read aloud, the youth began to dramatize the Gospel parts being read.  I thought, "Awe, how nice."

Until the soldiers actually began to whip Jesus right before my eyes.  No pretending.  Real lashes on his back.  The pain I felt in my heart intensified when the children watching began to laugh as the soldiers scourged and spit on the boy portraying

 Jesus.  "Jesus" was finally forced to pick up His cross, and the crowd followed as we left the church and began to walk.  I was so overwhelmed as I watched hundreds of people file out of the church to follow these teens.   And was more in awe as we walked through the crowds gathered on both sides of the street who joined us as we passed them by.

My heart began to sink as I walked along side of "Jesus" and the "soldiers" as they whipped him, mocked him, pushed him.  There were kids running alongside throwing paper rocks at him and laughing each time.  At first, I began to get mad as I wondered where their parents were and why no one was telling them that this was serious, that this really happened, and that it was not funny.  Then I realized, this is exactly how it happened. Whoa!

This was the "way to the cross".  There were people following Jesus weeping.  There were people following in disbelief.  There were people laughing.  There were people following just to see the show.  There were people following to help torture Him.  There were people in their homes and yards that didn't care about what was happening on the road in front of their house.  There were men sitting on the side of the road drunk from the night before.  Some were still drinking.  There were people chitchatting and laughing along the way as if it were a regular day.  There were people throwing real stones at Him, spitting on Him, kicking Him, mocking Him the entire way.

My heart broke as I began to think about the "realness" of this walk.  But soon, Satan crept into my thoughts.  I began to get a little prideful as I thought about how I would NOT have been one of the ones mocking Him, spitting on Him, throwing stones at Him, laughing at Him had I actually been there for the "real" way of the cross.  Then it hit me---I mock Him each day when I choose not to love those around me.  I spit on Him daily when unkind words spew from my mouth.  I throw stones at Him when I choose not do what He asks of me.  I mock Him each time I sin and refuse His love.

At this point, I am about to burst out crying and throw myself on the street to beg for God's mercy, when two small boys from our neighborhood come up from behind calling my name.  "Tita MeeLeeza, we walk with you." And then one reaches out to hold my hand as we walk in silence the rest of the way back to the church for the "crucifixion."

The rest of the "Passion of Christ" was just as passionate as the beginning was.  I was in awe of the teens that had worked so hard these last few weeks to provide such a profound experience for the parish, for me in particular.

After it was over, so many wonderful people came up to thank me for allowing my kids to participate and to officially welcome us "foreigners" to the parish.  I looked around the church before we left and realized that I do know these people, they are my family.  They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And our language is Love.

To see more pictures from the Passion of Christ, visit our family's Facebook page. (Link at the top of this page.)


  1. Thank you god for the successed in our play . And thank you that no accidents happened in our play.

  2. Awesome. Thanks for sharing. Certainly brings The Passion to a new level of understanding. God Bless all of you.