On Celebrating the Feast of the Divino Rostro and the Solemnity of Our Lady of Peñafrancia

By Fr. Juan Pablo Z. Carpio



Our current practice today of celebrating the Feast of the Divino Rostro and the Solemnity of Our Lady of Peñafrancia obeys both history and the signs of the times. The day of the Solemnity of our Lady of Peñafrancia is the Sunday after the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was laid down by the Rescript granted by Pope Saint Pius X on April 8, 1905 upon the request of Bishop Jorge Barlin, the first Filipino Bishop, who was the Diocesan Administrator at that time. The Octave of the Nativity of Mary is the 15th of September. Thus, the earliest possible day of the Solemnity is the 16th, and latest, the 22nd. Very often, the day of the Solemnity falls on the third Sunday of September. But this is not always the case because when September 8 falls on a Sunday, the Sunday after the Octave is the 22nd which is the Fourth Sunday of September. Thus, it is not always true and correct to say that the Fiesta of our Inâ is on the third Sunday of September.


Inâ’s Fiesta is and was always celebrated in September. Almost. The recent Rescript of 1905 was granted because for a period of ten years, from 1895 to 1904, the Fiesta was transferred to the 1st Sunday of July from the Rescript issued by Pope Leo XIII upon the petition of Bishop Arsenio Campo. But from the birth of the devotion, the Fiesta established by Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias was in September that coincided with the Feast of the Sweet Name of Mary which was, before, celebrated on the Octave of her Nativity. This was also why, the very first approved Novena for Inâ was an adaptation of the Novena to the Most Sweet Name of Mary.


The Nine days before the Solemnity are the days of the Novenario. On the 1st day, which is always a Friday, the sacred images of the Divino Rostro and Inâ are brought to the Naga Cathedral through the Traslacion (transfer). On the afternoon of the 9th day, always a Saturday, the sacred images are brought back to the Basilica through the Traslacion por el rio (transfer via the river), presently called the fluvial procession, for the celebration of the Solemnity the next day, Sunday. This follows the decree of Bishop Francisco Gainza issued on September 1, 1864. We have to note here that when the decree was issued, the processions did not include yet the Divino Rostro that started only in 1882, and that the Sanctuary of Inâ was still the Old Shrine and not yet the Basilica, that was dedicated in 1982. More important to keep in mind, is that, it was Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias who started the Traslacion tradition, because, as the Parish Priest then of the Naga Cathedral, he saw the need of a bigger church for the multitude of pilgrims and devotees of Inâ which the sanctuary could not accommodate.

One of the Fruits of the Tercentenary Celebrations in 2010, is the fixing of the day of the Feast of the Divino Rostro on the morning of the Friday of the Traslacion, to give more time and importance to the Feast. The very first Fiesta in Bicol was celebrated on September 10, 1882 because that was the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary, as it was celebrated in Osa de la Vega, the native place of Fr. Pedro de la Torre who gave birth to the Divino Rostro devotion in Bicol.


The Feast of the Divino Rostro was also given its own Novenario. On the eve of the first day, the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Caceres, reminiscent of the 1882 procession by the Clergy then, brings the Image of the Divino Rostro from the Basilica to the Old Shrine, as the conclusion of our Peñafrancia Recollection.


Although it would seem that the Feast of the Divino Rostro and the Solemnity of our Lady of Peñafrancia are already separated, albeit, they remain intimately joined. On the dawn of the Feast of the Divino Rostro, Inâ, through a penitential procession that passes through the Colgante Bridge, is brought from the Basilica to the Old Shrine to join her Son, the Divino Rostro, for the celebration of His Feast. Needless to say, they are together for the Traslacion and Fluvial Processions, and enshrined at the same Basilica. With this observation, perhaps, the time is ripe for the “Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro”? Especially since we celebrate next year, 2022, the 40th anniversary of the Basilica’s Dedication?


Have you ever noticed that the eyes of Inâ are exotropic? One looks at Her Son and the other at us, her children, telling us as it were, “I will lead you to Jesus”. Just as for Catechesis to be authentic, it must be Christocentric, so every devotion to Inâ must find Jesus at its heart and must lead to Jesus himself, the same Christ, our Lord. Amen. Viva el Divino Rostro! Viva la Virgen!