ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE
FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION, UNITY AND PEACE
22 August 1986 to 29 November 1986
A Pastoral Letter Addressed to Priests and
their Pastoral Collaborators,
to Religious Families, to the Faithful of the Catholic Church
and to all our Brother and Sister Filipinos
In the National Marian Year of 8 December 1984 to 8 December 1985, we called all our Filipino Catholic people to a year-long effort of Renovation of Life through profound CONVERSION of heart, penitence and amendment; through the OFFERING of the tasks and duties of our daily lives, performed with greater fidelity; through REPARATION, by time spent in eucharistic worship and by deeds of justice, compassion and sharing with those in need.1
We asked all of you to enter this project of personal and collective renewal in union of spirit with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, joining her intercession for our people on a time of trial and crisis.
The message which our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, addressed to our people on 8 December 1985 ended with these words:
• Be confident that turning to Mary’s intercession in this difficult period of your history, will not be in vain. She will help you find your way out of your present crisis. It may be a way marked by such hardship and labor, a way that will ask from you even more difficult sacrifices. But as long as you call upon her, and strive to “do whatever her Son commands you,” she will not abandon you. Always, she will accompany you, and pray for you to Her Son.2
The events which took place in the month of February of the present year are now part of our history. And whatever be our own political stances, past and present, we are one, we believe, in the conviction that if Mary’s supplication for us and if prayer and penance played a role in bringing about the dramatic changes that have taken place in our country, they must again play a role in the “new journey” that our people are embarked upon, as our new leadership and government pursues our way towards tomorrow.
In the same 8 December 1985 Papal Message we have already cited, Pope John Paul II says:
• It is my hope and my wish that you will not bring this renovation of life to an end with the closing of the Marian Year, but that you will continue it in the months and years that are to come, to bring down God’s grace and favor on all of your beloved people during this time of difficulty and crisis. My beloved Catholic people of the Philippines: May I urge you to continue to follow the way of conversion and penance during this “new Advent”… You will do this, with the profound conviction that Mary is indeed omnipotentia supplex, she whose prayer, while remaining human prayer like ours is yet all-powerful before God and before Christ who will not refuse the prayer of His Mother.3
It is with these reflections in mind that we bring now before you, our dear Catholic people, a “new crusade” which has been proposed to us by several Marian organizations in our country: ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE FOR RECONCILIATION, UNITY AND PEACE.
We ask all our believing people, all Christians, our Moslem brothers and sisters, all those who believe in the power of prayer before God, to join us (each person and community in the way that shall seem most appropriate), in this “new crusade” of prayer and penance. For our own Catholic people, we urge that their prayer and penance, directed to our Father in Heaven through His Son Jesus Christ, be offered in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that the symbolic image of the crusade by Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journeying –for what we ask is peace and safe journeying for our nation, for the new government, through reconciliation and unity: the reconciliation and unity we all seek, so that we may work together towards rebuilding our new nation in truth and justice, in freedom and love.
The problems that beset our nation at present are known to all; the media, often in a sensationalist way, parade them daily and in detail before us. The economic disaster, the billions of dollars in foreign debt, and the consequent climate of uncertainty that make up the major roadblock to national recovery; the massive issues of poverty and social and economic injustice which have been with us for decades, which have worsened in more recent years, with the growing insurgency as their most visible and most violent manifestation; the uneasy mix of divergent and opposed power groups within our present society–differences reflected within the new coalition government itself; the need of untangling interlocking networks of corruption, cronyism, and warlordism, and the like which prevent the setting in place of an effective machinery of democracy and justice; the impatience of people who want almost immediate miracles of reform and renewal… The new regime, and all of us, face a situation of undeniable difficulty. A long and ardous journey lies ahead to peace, progress and justice for which we have longed and sacrificed.4
But despite all these problems, there remains with our people at this present time, a genuine sense of hope. This is no small thing. The events of February have renewed in us our faith in each other, our faith in our people, and deeper still, our faith in God. Today we possess a confidence that if somehow we can come together truly as one people, setting aside factional differences and finding a common ground in our love of country and our faith in God’s help, we can together build a future in hope, a more prosperous, more humane, more just, more responsible society. Today we have regained the confidence that we can–given time and good will–turn together to the tomorrow we want, and construct it with joined minds and hearts, side by side as one nation under God.
The past few months especially have taught us to take with all seriousness the words we meditated on, from the 2nd Book of Chronicles:
• If my people, upon whom my name has been spoken, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence, and turn from their evil ways, I will forgive them their sins, and I will revive their land.5
So many of our fellow Filipinos believe that we have seen the fulfillment of that promise God made to this own people–in our regard, in the recent developments in our national life. They have thus been strengthened, and in different ways all of us have been strengthened too, in the conviction that even if a new “miracle” is necessary, we can pray (and work too!) for such a “miracle”, by taking God’s word into our lives, by renewing once again our efforts with God’s prevenient grace, of course–in prayer and penance, in conversion, life-offering and reparation. There are mountains of problems and difficulties our nation and our new government confront, no doubt about it. But there is once again a sense of hope, rooted in faith, that if we listen to God’s promise in all seriousness, and do what the Lord bids us do, then “new miracles” are really possible, through the goodness and mercy of God. Once again we can say: this is no little thing.
It is within the context of all that we have just said that we, the CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES, desire to launch the crusade of “ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE” for reconciliation and peace, for unity in our effort at national reconstruction.
We do not say–far from it–that prayer and penance are by themselves enough to make national reconciliation and reconstruction possible. We do not say–far from it–that well-considered, wisely-chosen, massive efforts in the economic, socio-political and cultural areas are not necessary and urgent; they are! In fact we believe that rarely in our history has the national situation demanded from all of us such a total, all-encompassing, decisive unity of mind, heart and hand,–such a collaboration “with blood, sweat and tears” toward the realization of common goals of our nation. We cannot say this strongly enough or insistently enough.
And yet, as Bishops and pastors of our faithful, it is incumbent on us to remind our people of the faith-dimensions, the spiritual dimensions of the task at hand, to recall to them the words of the Psalmist that we labor in vain to build even the earthly city unless the Lord labor with us.6 It is our part to remember that as we believe the Lord in his providence brought about our passing over to a new moment in our history, so he will bring about too, a lightening of (and hopefully, in time, deliverance from) the burdens of want and poverty, and of so many other burdens which press so heavily on the backs of the majority of our people.
Hence the ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE should serve to keep before our eyes our debt of gratitude to God for the gifts he has already given us, and our duty to learn from those very gifts the lesson that we must now not “grow faint in prayer”7 as we strive for genuine reconciliation, peace and unity. In a special way, these days should keep alive in our hearts our special love and affections toward our Blessed Mother, to whom we turned so fervently during the Marian Year and who, we believe, accompanied us in the days of our struggle and deliverance.
Concrete Programs for “The One Hundred Days of Prayer and Penance”
In this part of the Pastoral Letter, we will try to spell out in some detail what each diocese, each parish, each family can try to do, as a possible program for these “100 days”. These are suggestions merely; we must leave it to you, dear pastors and people, to work out concretely what will seem to you the best ways of practicing deeds of prayer and penance in your own situations.
1. The “ONE HUNDRED DAYS” should begin on 22 August 1986, Feast of the Queenship of Mary. They should end on 29 November, the Saturday just before the First Sunday of Advent for 1986. (On 30 November, Sunday, Advent begins, and likewise the Novena before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.) The one hundred days will thus include (a) several religious feast days, e.g., the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity on 8 September; the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on 7 October (October, of course, is dedicated to the Holy Rosary); the Solemnity of Christ the King, 23 November; the feast of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, 27 November; (b) in our national life: the hoped-for completion of our country’s new Constitution, its presentation to our people and the referendum regarding its ratification; the announcement, most probably, of local elections and the beginning of electoral campaigns; the stepped-up efforts for fuller reconciliation of opposed forces in our country, for national economic recovery, and the like. All these can enter into the objectives and purposes of our one hundred days of prayer and penance.Particular groups may wish to include special intentions in this crusade of prayer and fasting, e.g., the beatification of Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, Foundress of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM).8 To repeat: the 100 days begin on 22 August and end on 29 November.
2. The most important dimension we wish to point to, of this period we are setting aside for prayer and penance, should be the continuation, in some way, of the C-O-R program we pursued during the Marian Year. As we indicated above, the Holy Father’s message urges us to follow through on that program, based as it is on the message of Our Lady in her appearances at Fatima.9 We do not need to develop here what we said in our Pastoral Exhortation, “Pilgrimage of Hope,” given on 24 March 1985.10 We urged an ever-deepening and ever more authentic CONVERSION, OFFERING OF OUR DAILY LIVES, and REPARATION. The “societal translation” of these objectives should also be reflected on and converted into programs of action.11
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ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF PRAYER AND PENANCE FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION, UNITY AND PEACE