At some point in his odyssey, the modern Filipino politician would have experienced being nominated by some group or institution as an “outstanding” something or other. I think it started with the “Ten Outstanding Young Men” recognition given by the Jaycees in the 60s. The concept has since been put into operation in various fields and disciplines; in some cases, abused to transmogrify into barely disguised money-making schemes: the nominee eventually discovers that he has to pay, to shell out some cash, in order to get the award.
There is, of course, something laudable in the effort to accord social recognition to virtue or excellence. The honor serves as an incentive, and the awardee as a model and inspiration, for people to strive to acquire the highlighted virtues. The problem, however, is whether or not the honoree truly deserved the recognition; or worse, whether or not the character trait recognized were truly virtue in the moral sense. One can imagine a thief somehow becoming the recipient of an award for honesty; or a Casanova receiving a trophy as Playboy of the Year. In any case, these awards are supposed to elicit the “act” of admiration on the part of the audience or public—which act some would even consider indistinguishable from “envy”, one of the seven “capital sins” of Catholic teaching. Even so, presupposing Faith, admiration would be incontrovertibly good with regard to the saints presented by the Church for veneration by the faithful.
RA 10966 (signed into law by President Duterte, which took effect in 2017) declared December 8 of every year a “Special Nonworking Holiday in the Entire Country to Commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Principal Patroness of the Philippines”. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is also the Patroness of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa.
Prescinding from the (debatable) meaning of the constitutional injunction against laws “respecting the establishment of religion”, RA 10966 surely facilitates religious practice concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is celebrated in the Catholic Church as a Solemnity (great feast) and “holiday of obligation”: the faithful must attend Mass on that day.
The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a truth of the Catholic faith from the earliest times of the Church, was solemnly proclaimed as dogma in 1854 by (now Blessed) Pope Pius IX: “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin” (Encyclical Ineffabilis Deus).
That Mary was conceived “free from all stain of original sin” in the womb of her mother (Saint Anne) can be understood as an “in advance” application of the benefits of the Redemption accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ—analogous to Noah’s Ark which “escaped entirely safe and sound from the common shipwreck of the whole world” (ID). At the Annunciation of the Birth of our Lord, the angel Gabriel saluted our Lady, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee.” (Lk 1:26-28). Indeed, being “full of grace” leaves no room for any stain of original sin.
Still, apart from their being examples, teachers, and inspirations, why honor or venerate the saints?
Veneration of the saints (dulla) honors God, the Creator; more so in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary (hyperdulla), the most perfect of God’s creatures because she is God’s mother. Also, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary is to comply with the fourth commandment of the Decalogue: “Honor your father and mother.” She is our mother because she is the Mother of Christ; and, as baptized Christians, we are members of Christ—other Christs, Christ Himself, alter Christus, ipse Christus. As such, Mary is truly our mother.
We also invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary to benefit more from her intercession. Intercession is an integral part of the “communion of saints”; hence, the “us” in the Our Father, and the numerous miracles performed upon the intercession of others in the Gospels: the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:22-43; Lk 8:41-56), and of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7:1-10), the healing of a paralytic (Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26); and of the Canaanite woman’s daughter (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30), etc. The benefits of the Redemption must reach everyone through the help—love—of others.
St. Josemaria writes: “Almighty God, Omnipotent and Infinitely Wise, had to choose his Mother. What would you have done, if you had to choose yours? I think that you and I would have chosen the mother we have, filling her with all graces. That is what God did: and that is why, after the Blessed Trinity, comes Mary. Theologians have given a rational explanation for her fullness of grace and why she cannot be subject to the devil: it was fitting that it should be so, God could do it, therefore he did it. That is the great proof: the clearest proof that God endowed his Mother with every privilege, from the very first moment.” (The Forge, No. 482; italics mine)
May our Lady of the Immaculate Conception help us all to live well this season of Advent and so prepare ourselves to welcome her Son into our hearts. (4.XII.2020)