The season of lent stands on three co-equal legs—prayers, penance and love. The prevailing atmosphere of this season is truly penance and mortification. More prayers are also offered to God on these penitential days. Sadly, the almsgiving and charity component of the Lenten season is not given the consideration it rightfully deserves. It is good to be reminded that what make the Holy Week holy are not the prayers we offer and penances we do. Prayers without love are empty. Penance without almsgiving could be just an ego trip on strengthening will power. Love makes this season holy. Prayers can be inspiring and penances can be admirable but only love can redeem. Only love saves. Love alone sanctifies us.
As we move closer to Holy Week, the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan will carry a pilgrimage of charity in the poor sections of Central Pangasinan by conducting charity medical, dental and surgical missions. The sick and the poor in our marginalized areas will receive charity medical assistance from their healthier brothers and sisters.
The pilgrimage of charity will start on April 4 at the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Canan, Malasiqui. Here are the succeeding areas of piligrimage—April 7 at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish, Villanueva, Bautista; April 9 at Cristo Divino Tesoro in Buenlag, Calasiao; April 11 at Holy Family Parish, Tandoc, San Carlos City; April 16 at the Lay Formation Center, Bonuan Gueset, Dagupan City; and May 2 at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, Wawa, Bayambang.
Our friends from Pangasinan, Edsa Shrine, Order of Malta, Makati Medical Center and the Saint Paul de Chartres Sisters will extend their help for the project.
Let us explore an alternative way of celebrating Holy Week. As we keep our pious practices like the stations of the cross, confessions, visita iglesia and penitensiya, let us also consider making acts of charity to the poor as the way to share in the spirit of the Lenten season.
Our Catholic faithful can consider visiting fourteen patients in our government hospitals and meditate, as you visit them, on the sufferings of Christ. As we console them or bring them some food or drink, we can see how the sufferings of Christ continue in the midst of us.
In honor of the passion of the Lord who was treated as a criminal although he was sinless, we can visit the jails in our towns and cities and share the mercy of God to those behind bars. We can bring them our prayers and greetings and volunteer to be couriers of their letters that they want to send to their loved ones who are unable to visit them.
We can bring food to the children in the Mother Teresa Home of Charity in Dagupan City or clear our clothes cabinets and send our used clothes and footwear to the poor in honor of the stripping of the Lord and his humiliation at Calvary.
In 1981, when Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines for the first time, he expressed his wish to visit the lepers in Tala leprosarium in Novaliches. Because of the restrictions of security, he was unable to visit but the lepers were brought to Radio Veritas in Fairview so the Pope could at least bless them. As soon as the Pope saw the lepers lined up behind stage in the auditorium, even before the lepers could kneel to kiss the hands of the Pope, Pope John Paul II knelt down in front of the leper, kissed his leprous hands and exclaimed before the leper “My Lord!”
Give love this Lenten season. Pour love into your prayers. Let your penance overflow into charity.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, April 1, 2011
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan