Eduardo B. Noda, Jr.
We are all the same
He is calling us by name to help the poor and lame
And learn what life is really for
It’s to know and love and serve the Lord”
Since November last year, it has been part of our morning ceremony to sing and animate “We Are all God’s Children” in anticipation and preparation for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. It was a daily morning routine so to speak being in a school run by Catholic priests. Two months later, here I am in front of my laptop, the song finally hit me big time, putting thoughts into writing. I have to ask myself, was it all just the media hype or was it the mysterious charisma of the head of the Catholic Church that affected millions of Filipinos?
January 15-19, 2015 will definitely be part of our history; five days of overwhelming and mixed emotions. Delight on the first day: Pope Francis landed in the Villamor Airbase. Excitement on the second day: Thousands of Filipino, myself included, waited patiently and eagerly in the streets, not minding the long hours of waiting just to have a glimpse of His Holiness. Awe-struck on the third day: Pope Francis continued his visit to Leyte despite the inclement weather. The feeling was unexplainable seeing thousands in Tacloban and Palo braving the heavy rain and storm just to attend the mass and be blessed by the Pope. Inspiring and amazing on the fourth day: Thousands of youth attended the meeting with the Pope at University of Santo Tomas and millions of faithful gathered at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta for the Papal Mass. Nostalgia engulfed me, bringing back beautiful memories 20 years after, every time the 1995 World Youth Day Theme Song, “Tell the World of His Love” was sung in every Papal activity. It was such a record breaking feat of unity and solidarity as estimated 6 million Filipinos attended the mass despite the rain brought by Typhoon Amang and the cold winds brought by the Northeast Monsoon. Finally, sadness and happiness on the fifth day: Pope Francis left the country and ended his 5-day Apostolic Visit.
The papal visit created a massive hype in all forms of media – broadcast, print, and online. Who has not developed a last song syndrome (LSS) on the We Are all God’s Children? Almost all posts on Facebook and Instagram told stories and shared pictures of their Papal encounter, and surely, hashtags such as #PopeFrancisPH and #PopeTYSM to name a few ere just some of the trending topics on Twitter worldwide.
His Holiness has indeed rejuvenated the faith of millions of Filipinos. His words are food for the soul: We are life a little child in the moments when we have so much pain and no longer understand anything. All we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say “mommy” – like a child does when it is afraid. It is perhaps the only word we can say in difficult times – “mommy”. This is one of the lines in his homily in Tacloban that struck me most which talks about devotion not just to Christ but to Mary as well. Truly it is a fitting word to rekindle and strengthen the faith of millions in Leyte devastated by super typhoon Yolanda. For five days indeed, Pope Francis has touched the hearts of millions.
I am not a devout Catholic but I am a spiritual person. I pray a lot but I often miss attending Sunday Mass due to the demands of my work and chores. However when Pope Francis endured to conduct mass in Leyte despite a Signal No. 2 typhoon, I asked myself: Who am I to make excuses? When I attended the mass at Quirino Grandstand, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized and inspired by the millions of Filipinos who flocked to the venue despite the nonstop rain. Certainly, it was a manifestation of Filipino spiritually and devotion that is “typhoon proof”. It was a moment of pride being part of those millions. It is in this rare moment that Filipinos from different walks of life united for a singular goal: to show love for Christ and for others.
They say, Pope Francis is a Rock Star Pope, the Cool Pope, a crowd drawer. But wouldn’t it be much cooler if the words and teachings of our pope continue to live on even after his visit? Pope Francis revitalizes our faith but he also challenges us to become merciful and compassionate to others. Easier said than done I know. That’s the challenge though we must take.
Hope and inspiration through compassion are what Pope Francis left us with. That I believe is the Pope Francis Effect and may that effect continue to last a lifetime.
(Mr. Eduardo B. Noda, Jr. teaches World History to Grade 9 students at San Sebastian College – Recoletos Manila.)