STEADFAST faith is much stronger than the rain.

Unwavering faith and devotion characterized the active participation of devotees despite inclement weather during the celebration of the La Naval de Manila feast at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City last Oct.12.

Heavy rains fell hours before the 4 p.m. procession but thousands of devotees continued to assemble in the church, expressing their desire to honor Our Lady of La Naval.

Despite the ankle-deep flood caused by the heavy outpour, Rynah Magbitang, a fourth-year entrepreneurship student from Angelicum College of Quezon City, said she was ready to stay for the procession which had strengthened her faith through the years.

“I have been doing this for years. I don’t mind the weather because I have a devotion to the Blessed Mother and my faith is strengthened every time I attend the procession,” Magbitang said.

In line with the Year of the Laity, this year’s celebration had the theme, “Maria: Inang Layko, Ina ng Layko,” which extols the Blessed Mother as the best example of a lay person in the Church. The Blessed Virgin accepted the call of becoming the mother of God and this “obedience and complete surrender” is an act the laity was urged to emulate.

The faithful present during the procession said their faith had never been stronger. Strong devotion to the Lady of La Naval had also yielded miracles in terms of deepening family relationships.

Gloria Mutuc, a pharmacist from Parañaque, said her strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was influenced by her mother, who was a cancer patient. Mutuc’s mother had asked the Blessed Mother to help take care of her children as she went through the difficulties of having cancer.

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“My mother would always invite me to pray the Holy Rosary. It was a way for our family to get through our mother’s cancer period,” Mutuc said. “I inherited my mother’s devotion and learned to imbibe Mary in my life.”

Now a mother of five, Mutuc shared her Marian devotion to her children by encouraging them to join her in praying the Holy Rosary daily.

Fely Serafico, a devotee from Pasay, said her devotion to the Marian image started when she asked the Blessed Mother to grant her daughter a child.

Serafico’s daughter was struggling to have a child but after three years of joining the La Naval procession and novenas, her daughter finally got pregnant.

Serafico also attributed her 90-year-old mother’s lengthy life span and healthy disposition to her faith in the La Naval.

A role model for the laity

In his homily during the feast day’s High Mass, Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P., UST vice chancellor and newly appointed member of the International Theological Commission, said Mary is revered because she had done her part by accepting God's.

“We revere and pay respect to Mary though she is a laity because we recognize her role as Christ’s mother and as our mother,” Timoner said.

Timoner said recognizing the importance of Mary's role in the Church meant recognizing the laity as an integral part of the Church as well. “The laity is as important to the Church as the clergy. It is not that that being ordained means you are on top. Think of it as a relationship where one complements the other,” he said.

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Timoner compared the laity-clergy relationship to that of a husband and wife, wherein “the husband is not a husband without a wife.” He added: “It is the laity that gives meaning to what they do. The laity lives out the teachings. The clergy are the teachers, but what is a teacher without students?”

Fr. Lauro de Dios, O.P., director of Angelicum School in Iloilo, said devotees should not attend for the sake of having their prayers or wishes answered, but to demonstrate and live out the message conveyed by the rosary and other traditional practices in the Church.

“The laity is recognizing the challenge of our faith. It’s easy to kneel down or give donations. But it is more important that we learn how to apply the value of the Holy Rosary in our lives,” Lauro said in an interview.

Fr. Christopher Jeffrey Aytona, O.P., assistant director of the Dominican Province of the Philippines’ Institute of Preaching, said the number of devotees was not important.

“The success of the feast does not rely on numbers. No matter how many devotees come to the procession, if they do not embody the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is to follow and entrust ourselves in God's will, then the feast would not be a success,” Aytona said.

The image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, also known as Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila, is the oldest ivory carving in the country. In 1907, it became the first local Marian image to be canonically crowned.

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The feast of La Naval is celebrated in commemoration of the miraculous victory of outnumbered Filipino and Spanish warriors over Protestant Dutch invaders in 1646.

With only two trading galleons to fight 15 Dutch warships, the Filipino-Spanish force asked for the intercession of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to help them win the battle, vowing to walk barefoot in procession to the old Santo Domingo Shrine in Intramuros. Danielle Ann F. Gabriel and Marie Danielle F. Macalino

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