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Our Peñafrancia Devotion: A Lens for the Present and a Window to the Future

Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona blesses the image of Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, upon her arrival at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral after the Traslacion, September 13. - Natalie Hazel Quimlat

We have customarily looked back to the past with nostalgia, whenever we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. It has been a yearly ritual to recall the story, the origins of the devotion to INA. We remember Don Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, cimarrones, the cholera epidemic, the beginnings of the traslacion and fluvial processions, and the tragedies related to the devotion to the Lady of Peñafrancia. The story is gets longer every year.

We continue to remember the past. Our Christian Faith is, in fact, an Anamnesis, a remembering of the great sacrifice of Jesus. Yet, our remembering is also making the past present. And we need to take stock of the present, which we call 21st Century.

Devotion in the Digital Age

Our devotion to INA, in the present, takes shape in the context of the 3rd and the 4th industrial revolutions. While we continue the traditional novena, processions, and other devotional practices in honor of the Virgin of Peñafrancia, we now share the same devotion through our modern tools. While the actual rituals happen inside the Basilica or the Cathedral, with digital communications, these events reach other parts of the globe.

Still, we must realize that while our tools have advanced, our hearts remain the same. Those that bring us true joy and deep hurts have not really metamorphosed with our tools.

We have new ways of amplifying our sentiments, but the sentiments are the same. What makes us angry and sad; what invites envy and passion; what triggers gladness and excitement, have remained the same. Thus, our prayers, the basic content of our prayers did not radically change.

We, then, distinguish between updating and renewal. We update our tools and gadgets, but we renew the human heart. It is good for us to see that even if we have in our hand the latest computer, cellphone or gadget, yet our hearts have not been renewed, we become monsters. Updating without renewal is dangerous. Renewal without updating is incomplete.

Our devotion to INA is a path to the renewal of the heart and renewal of our faith. As we remember the past, we wish to learn its lessons and be inspired by them as we live the present moment.

The Young as Agents of Renewal

This year’s Peñafrancia celebration takes it cue from the celebration of the Year of the Youth of the Church in the Philippines. After the Synod of Bishops for the Youth, the Holy Father in his letter speaks of the Youth as the ‘Now of the God.’ The youth is not merely the future, they are the ‘now’.

The Holy Father calls for greater listening to the Young as they have much to contribute. Thus, our devotion in the present, is also call to translate our love for INA to greater love for the young. To respond to the call and need for renewal, there needs to be greater trust and confidence in our young people. It helps to remember that Mary and Jesus offered and committed themselves in their youth.

Anamnesis, in this sense, is not only taking hold of the present, but also looking towards the future. Our devotion to INA is also a looking forward. We recall Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which speaks of God faithfulness. God promised a Savior, and we continue to hold on to this promise. Our devotion to INA is an expression of our confidence on Mary’s maternal help and protection. Our devotion, then, is also a window to the future.

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