Pilgrim image of Our Lady of Consolation in Manila
Joaquim Magalhães de Castro
During this month, the traditional Marian month, pilgrimages to Our Lady of Consolation take place nearly everywhere in the Philippines, a devotion with particular expression at the Shrine of Saint Augustine, located in the historic district of Intramuros, Manila. The first pilgrim image of Our Lady of Consolation was recently presented and blessed there during the Mass that marked the First Main Congress of the Archdiocese of Shrines in Manila. The rector of the shrine, Father Edwin Hari, recalled that the initiative was aimed at “further promoting” devotion to Our Lady, not only in the Archdiocese of Manila, but also in other parts of the country.
“We want pilgrims to become increasingly familiar with the historic devotion to Our Lady of Consolation, which for centuries has sustained the faith of devotees here in Intramuros. We want to popularize the practice of the coronilha, a method of prayer in which the Virgin is invoked in a special way,” Father Hari told the CBCP News agency.
Initially, the image will circulate among parishes in the country where there are active units of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Consolation, lay associations under the guidance of the Augustinian friars. According to the Association of Catholic Shrines and Pilgrimages of the Philippines (ACSP), the Church of Saint Augustine is one of the most popular in the country, welcoming thousands of faithful and devotees every year. Designated by the then archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, as an archdiocesan shrine in 2000, it was also there, during the Great Jubilee, that the original image of Our Lady of Consolation received a pontifical coronation. Among the most venerated figures of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, as is well-known, are the Virgin of Antipolo (in the province of Rizal), the Virgin of Peñafrancia (in the region of Bicol), Our Lady of the Visitation (in the province of de Cagayan) and the Virgin of the Rule (in the Visayas Islands).
The origin of the cult of Our Lady of Consolation derives from the Augustinian friars because they, along with Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, have her as their patron saint. The title Consolatrix Afflictorum (Consoler of the Afflicted) is part of the Litany of Loreto and, at least since the beginning of the 18th century, it has become customary to invoke her blessing on the dying.
Among the devotees of Our Lady of Consolation are the most humble and needy, and, incidentally, the Archdiocese of Manila very recently created a new apostolate service that intends to “assist the poorest faithful in the region and train them to become self-sufficient” through the creation and management of social cooperatives to accompany groups and communities living in extreme poverty “on the path of food security and development.” Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal José Advincula, entrusted leadership of the initiative to the priest Anton Pascual, who explained the project to Agenzia Fides: “We intend to promote and strengthen social cooperatives that allow the most needy a path of sustainable and inclusive development.”
Father Pascual emphasizes that social cooperatives allow, on the one hand, profit, that is, people can support their families; and on the other hand, “if correctly oriented towards socially useful services,” they contribute to sustainability “taking care of the well-being of people and the environment,” which is why the Church in Manila is willing to get directly involved in this field, “in the spirit and indications of the encyclical Laudato Si.”
As part of the project, all Catholic-inspired social cooperatives in any way linked to the values of the Church’s Social Doctrine, will be registered in the Manila region. Educational opportunities and legal assistance services will also be offered to enable the creation of new cooperatives and help existing ones to improve employment opportunities.
The new ecclesiastical institution of the Archdiocese of Manila is convinced that cooperatives play a fundamental role in the welfare of the poorest: the path taken aims to strengthen cooperative enterprises also through financing and partnerships. The new service will analyze projects for the creation of new cooperatives, both in the primary sector (agriculture and livestock) and also for specific sectors related to urban life, such as the recycling of materials and the commercialization of products made by small companies in the textile or craft sector.
According to data from the Philippine Government Agency for Development, there are 18,000 cooperatives across the country, with a total of 11 million members, and they are divided into categories: primary, secondary and tertiary cooperatives, depending on their legal nature.