Thursday, July 18, 2013
ST. ANTHONY'S SHRINE
ST. ANTHONY'S SHRINE - SAMPALOC, MANILA
St. Anthony is alive and well in the Philippines! With the feast of Anthony of Padua approaching on June 13, it’s a good time to recall my February visits to two Franciscan churches in metro Manila. Both churches honor St. Anthony as their patron saint, and both are popular shrines. As we shall see, St. Anthony, who holds the Christ child in his arms, draws many people to Christ.
The façade of St. Anthony Shrine in Sampaloc fronts a busy street with market stalls and street merchants. (Photo by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.)
The St. Anthony Shrine in Sampaloc is featured first, not only because it was built before the second one (Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park), but also because the historical roots of the Sampaloc Shrine stretch back to a very old and venerable statue of St. Anthony that once stood in la Iglesia de San Francisco (the Church of St. Francis). This huge church, built of stone in 1739, is directly linked with the very first church built (in 1578) of bamboo and nipa by Spanish Franciscan friars shortly after they arrived in the Philippines. This large stone edifice, like its humble predecessor, stood in Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila. The large church, named after St. Francis, attracted many Catholics because of its very popular St. Anthony devotions and because of Anthony’s highly revered statue there. This massive stone structure, like many others in Intramuros, was totally destroyed by bombings at the end of World War II.
This statue of St. Anthony behind the main altar is the famous statue found in the rubble after World War II bombing of Manila. (Photo by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.)
St. Anthony’s transfer to Sampaloc
In the eyes of some, it seemed miraculous that the statue of St. Anthony survived the bombings of 1945 and was found intact amidst the crumbled ruins of the church. The statue was taken for safe keeping to the Franciscan church in Santa Ana (featured in last month’s E-spirations), but was ultimately transferred to St. Anthony Shrine in Sampaloc. According to Father Cielo Almazon, O.F.M., present rector of the shrine, the old, venerable statue of St. Anthony thus came to be mounted on the wall behind the main altar of the Sampaloc shrine.
This is the interior of the Sampaloc shrine with statues of San Pedro Bautista and St. Anthony on left and main altar in the distance. (Photo by Jack Wintz, O.F.M.)
On February 12, Father Cielo graciously took me on a tour of the shrine and spoke of the amazing number of people that St. Anthony draws into that church each week. St. Anthony devotions are held each Tuesday. Father Cielo estimates that some 5,000 people (collectively) attend the 10 Masses on ordinary Tuesdays. The first Mass begins at 5:45 a.m. and the 10th at 7:30 p.m. During the solemn novena held on the 13 Tuesdays preceding the feast of Anthony, Father Cielo estimates that the number of people attending rises to 8,000 each of those Tuesdays, with as many as 200 people standing outside during these Masses. The Prayers to St. Anthony are said after the gospel/homily of the Mass. According to Father Cielo, “the popularity of St. Anthony helps draw the faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the center of Catholic prayer and worship.”
Father Cielo points out that the thousands who come to the shrine represent a wide range of people—poor and rich. “There are beggars and street vendors, as well as retired professionals, students and teachers. The shrine is surrounded by various schools and colleges,” he adds, “with a good number of people traveling to the shrine from remote places far beyond the metropolitan area.”