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Divino Rostro: Cholera Morbo then, Covid19 now

By Fr. Luisito Occiano

Something to think about... I received a call from a worried grandmother. He said “two years na dai pa nahahali an Covid19, tapos dakul nang variant. Kaipuhan ta po garo an tabang ni Divino Rostro”

Same as last year, we cancelled all the major religious activities – traslacion and fluvial processions. This year we are allowed to conduct mobile processions in our parishes so that the devotees will no longer flock to Naga. As we celebrate the novenario in honor of the Divino Rostro, let us recall this gift of devotion to us.

Divino Rostro in Spain

*In the town of Osa de la Vega, Spain there lived once Gregorio de la Torre and Isabel Corral, a very religious couple who inherited from Father Juan Montilla, a picture of Jesus Face (Divino Rostro).

To the amazement of many who bear witness of its veracity, the miraculous image of Our Lord began to sweat blood. Fast as a prairie fire, the news reached every corner of the town and in no time throng after throng of people fought hard to have a glance of the holy picture. The house became too small for a huge crowd, so the couple decided to request for its transfer to the church. There it easily stole the show, so to say becoming in a becoming in a short lapse of time the object of a very special devotion of the inhabitants.

In the year 1834, 1855 and 1865 the “cholera morbo” broke in Spain. Many of its towns suffered from the rueful effects of the dreadful malady. Thru a special flux of Divine Providence, however, attributed only to a special devotion of the people to the Divino Rostro, Osa de la Vega did not witness of demise of even one of its inhabitants. From them, the already popular devotion to the Divino Rostro soared to its heights and Osa de la Vega’s confidence in its power knew no bounds.

The Divino Rostro in Bicol

When Father Pedro de la Torre, recently named Provisor and Vicar General of the Diocese of Nueva Ceceres came to Naga, he brought with him to this place a picture of the Divino Rostro, a carbon copy of the one found in Osa de la Vega. The picture was exposed to the piety of the inhabitants of the town and after a lapse of years, it became very popular.

In the year 1882 a “colera morbo” broke out in Manila. A cure for the disease was not yet discovered so many died of the disease rapidly the dreadful disease reached Naga and according to Fr. Jose Ma. Lesa, who was then the Chaplain of the Shrine of the Virgin of Peñafrancia many people died during the epidemic. The bishop, Msgr. Casimiro Hererra had the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia brought to the Cathedral imploring her natural and maternal protection and help for the townspeople from the dreadful disease.

The Divino Rostro during the Harubay Mobile procession held at San Jose Parish last September 1 to mark the start of the novenario in honor of the Divino Rostro.

As if inspired by the impending danger, Fr. Pedro de la Torre remembered a similar catastrophe in Osa de la Vega and the miraculous intervention of the Divino Rostro. Fr. De la Torre made this miracle known to the people in Naga. A carbon copy of the Divino Rostro was brought to the Cathedral for special prayers and devotion, imploring for the same prayers and mercy that was long ago shown. For the first time the two images were together. However the epidemic continued taking more lives. Undaunted Bishop Casimiro Herrera with his priests then made a promise . . . should the dreadful disease spare Naga, the Divino Rostro will be venerated with special festivities together with the Virgin of Peñafrancia. There were many people who died on that day, while on the second day only two died. On the third day the dreadful disease disappeared. The people saw the hand of God in this miraculous saving of the town and made good their promise. When the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia was to be taken to the Cathedral from the shrine on September of that year (1883), the Divino Rostro was also carried along in the procession with the priests themselves carrying it on their shoulders.

The people from all parts of the Bicol Region who came to attend the fiesta heard of the miracles of the Divino Rostro when they went back, they talked about it to their own folks. Thus unknowingly the devotion to the Divino Rostro became regional.

To make it easier for the devotees to give vent it their special devotion to the Divino Rostro, Fr. Pedro de la Torre decided to donate it to the Sanctuario of Peñafrancia.

The Chaplain of the shrine Fr. Jose Ma. Lesa with the approval of Bishop Herrera accepted the replica of the Divino Rostro and placed it on the altar constructed at the gospel side, the very place where it was until recently.

Divino Rostro in the present times

If Divino Rostro spared the Bicol region from the cholera outbreak, we are very hopeful that Covid19 will finally end soon. There are almost 218 million cases around the world and the Philippines has almost 2 million already. In Bicol we have recorded more than 20,000 cases already. We pray that the number of new cases will decrease soon.

The above data has been causing us alarm knowing the miserable medical facilities our country has. Let’s pray that our government will work harder to respond to this crisis and avoid taking advantage of the situation. We really need the divine assistance. We need once again the help of Divino Rostro.

O Divino Rostro, O Jesus, free us and heal us from Covid19.

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