Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baclaran Wednesday



The devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help only started in the twentieth century in the Philippines, but since that time, it has evolved to become of the most enduring devotions in the country. In Manila, one always expects traffic on Wednesdays and Fridays; the former, because of the thousands who troop to Baclaran church (Baclaran Wednesdays), and the latter, because it is the day of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Fridays). Baclaran church is staffed by the Redemptorists; the church can hold an estimated 2,000 people seated and up to 9,000 standing. From midnight to the wee hours of Thursday, hundreds of thousands would have visited the church, walking on their knees as they approach the lofty image of Our Lady. The crowd is diverse; pimps and whores and lonely housewives and cheating husbands all beg the Lady's help. The photo was probably taken during one of the many Masses that always mark a Wednesday in Baclaran.

The Redemptorists brought the picture of the Mother of Perpetual Help to the Philippines in 1906. Forty years later, the Redemptorists introduced the Perpetual Novena to the nation. The honor of conducting the first Perpetual Novena in the Philippines goes, not to Baclaran, but to the Iloilo community, in May, 1946 in the Redemptorist Church of St. Clement.

That same year, the Redemptorist Rector of Lipa City in Batangas happened to be visiting Iloilo. He was present at the Novena devotion and determined to introduce it in Lipa. There it was started the following year. When the Rector of Lipa, Fr. Gerard O’Donnell, became Rector of Baclaran, his first thought was of the Novena which he began at 6.00 pm on June 23, 1948.

That same year, the Redemptorist Rector of Lipa City in Batangas happened to be visiting Iloilo. He was present at the Novena devotion and determined to introduce it in Lipa. There it was started the following year. When the Rector of Lipa, Fr. Gerard O’Donnell, became Rector of Baclaran, his first thought was of the Novena which he began at 6.00 pm on June 23, 1948.

Fr. Leo English conducted the first Novena in Baclaran. There were only 70 people present. The capacity of the church at that time was only 300. Within the next year, a second session had to be provided, and some extensions were made to the small wooden church. Before the end of 1949, there were eight crowded sessions of the Novena. The Wednesday of each week became a day of prayer to the Virgin of Perpetual Help throughout the entire nation.

The increasing attendance of the devotees forced the Redemptorists to consider a more spacious church. Fr. Lewis O’Leary, Superior at the time, assumed management of the massive construction. The bulk of the money that financed the building came from the small offerings of ordinary people. An appeal made from the pulpit was for ten centavos per person per week. This is why it took six years to complete the construction of the church. When the money ran out, the construction was suspended; when more money came in, the work began again. The old church continued in use as the new rose over it; the Novena continued as usual.

The foundation stone had been laid by Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney on January 11, 1953. On January 1958, the Philippine hierarchy officially declared the Baclaran Church to be the National Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help. And on December 1st, 1958, the completed church was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Santos of Manila, assisted by Bishops Antiporda and Shanahan.

The official opening ceremony was held on December 5, 1958. Archbishop Santos celebrated the Mass, assisted by Cardinal Agagianian and several other bishops. Since the day when the Shrine was opened, it has never been closed, day or night.

The Church’s architecture is described as Modern Romanesque. Cesar Concio, its architect, and Jesse Bontoc, his associate, had planned a higher church with a bell tower. But because of its proximity to the airport, civil aeronautic regulations prevented them from carrying out their plan in full.

The church has a seating capacity of 2000 persons, with another 9000 standing. On each Wednesday, seven sessions of the Novena with benediction along with three novena Masses and two sung Masses are held. About 120,000 devotees visit Baclaran each Wednesday to pray the Novena. Far larger crowds attend on the first Wednesday of the month. Devotees arrive from 4.00 am and are still entering the church past midnight.

Confessions are heard daily in the Shrine at almost every hour of the day. On Wednesdays, the Confessional boxes are occupied all day long. The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation makes the Shrine an important centre of spiritual renewal.

Every week, hundreds of Petition and Thanksgiving letters are received at the Shrine. Many are from foreign lands wherever Filipinos happen to be. The more significant Thanksgiving letters are kept on file.

The Feast day of the Mother of Perpetual Help is celebrated on June 27. A Novena of nine consecutive days precedes the annual celebration of the feast.


Learn more about the devotion here.

2 comments:

Semper Eadem said...

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Sofia said...

he Baclaran Phenomenon is, first and foremost, the incredible number of people who come to the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran every Wednesday to make the Perpetual Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It is estimated that at least 100,000 devotees come on regular Wednesdays, reaching about 120,000 on the First Wednesday of each month. The biggest turnout of the year is on Ash Wednesday. The crowd for that day simply defies estimate.

Baclaran Church Official Website