(Lee-an Rosal, CFC-SFL)
It was last year when I found myself falling in love again with Mama Mary—ever since I had a beautiful encounter with Nuestra Senora del Buen Suceso (Our Lady of Good Events, the patroness of my diocese (Paranaque). On the afternoon of June 2010, when it was my heart’s ardent desire to go to Madrid for World Youth Day, she seemed to tell me, “Yes, I will see you in Madrid.”
As a kid, I recall that having bedtime stories meant Bible miracles and Mama Mary apparitions. In grade school, I recall yearning to have a close encounter with her; similar to St. Bernadette in Lourdes and the three shepherds of Fatima. In high school, my nun-adviser never stopped telling me stories on Medjugorge; it was also at this point when she taught me mortification: offering my little discomforts for the conversion of sinners and the poor souls in purgatory. But it was only this year, at World Youth Day when I experienced her beautiful presence in all the places I went; it was this year when I found myself walking with Mary for two weeks, as if she was leading me to experience something out –of-this-world!
The day before WYD, a friend contacted me to inform me that Nana Buen Suceso’s feast day in the Philippines will be during my 1st day in Spain! To add to that, I learned that her image was originally from Madrid! It brought tears to my eyes. She did mean what she said last year! She brought me to Spain, The Land of Mary! Pondering what could be the reason for all these, I had one prayer in mind: that she help me pray to God to strip off all the fears and hesitations that held me captive for a very long time; I prayed for newness, for vitality in my faith and for direction.
First week: Valdefuentes, Coria Caceres. One thing I would never forget about this place was its generosity! The heaps of food that came with each meal, the warm and accommodating smiles of the residents, the tireless touring of Joaquin, our guide for one week, the fatherhood of the parish priest, Fr. Juan Antonio…all these and more made me realize how gracious our God is! He always filled you to the brim and blessings seemed to overflow. I learned how this awesome generosity was but an expression of His love for us. He gives it freely; it is in His nature to love and give. On the third day of our stay here, I came to know Mama Mary in the nature of their Patroness—Nuestra Senora del Bienvenida, Our Lady of Welcome! On my advent to Spain, here she is again-Mama Mary welcoming me to her land. I was indeed, meant to be here. Then August 13th allowed my childhood bedtime story to come into life-I WAS IN FATIMA, PORTUGAL! Setting foot at the land where Mama Mary called everyone to pray for the conversion of sinners brought me great joy. It was that kind of joy that I pray will continue to last on despite despair and adversities. The whole day in Fatima was my date with Mary: peaceful, serene, full of joy.
Second week: Madrid, the WYD proper. Here, I learned so many things that will forever be imprinted in my heart: 1. the place of accommodation, the long walks under the heat of the sun taught me humility; I cannot complain for His grace exceeds the little discomforts I had; 2. the aching feet and almost-giving-up-spirit, I remembered what I learned in high school…offer all these for the conversion of sinners. Doing that made it a bit easier to do.3. Vale la Pena: I may have walked a thousand miles and the heat could be unbearable but in the end, it is all worth it! Of all these, one message struck me the most: it is about time I put my feet out of my boat to Walk on Water so that I can experience the miracles He can do in my life. To Walk on Water! I still had hesitations I my heart; I felt the strong grip of fear holding me back from finally putting one foot out of the boat. I asked Mama Mary again to help me understand.
It was the second to the last day, the vigil with the Pope. We had to walk 5-6 kilometers to reach Cuatro Vientos, under the 41-44 degrees heat of the sun. The walk seemed to be unbearable; my heart was aching finally sit and cool down. As we reached Cuatro Vientos and waited, the heat became more and more unbearable. But just as I was on the brink of complaining and wanting to shout, “Tama na please, Lord,” a cloud covered the sun, enveloping Cuatro Vientos with a relieving dimness. The heat subsided. Just as I thought I had the miracle of the day, God did the unthinkable. As Pope Benedict XVI sat down His chair to make his speech, rain suddenly poured down and gusts of wind came forth. There came a hurricane! And flashes of thunder. As I closed my eyes and felt the rain and wind, God seemed to say, “Here I am. I am bigger than your fears, stronger than the ropes that are holding you back. This is me, your mighty God.” Tears just flowed in an instant. It was God, indeed. I also realized all along what Mary had prepared for me to witness: this awesome, undeniable strength of God. I had to literally feel it. 30 minutes after was the calm after the storm. It was suddenly still just as the Blessed Sacrament was about to be exposed. My heart was screaming, my tears were falling. It was God. It was definitely God.
On the last day of WYD, I paid a visit to Nana Buen Suceso in Madrid to thank her for that wonderful experience of God. She definitely was my North Star who unceasingly directed me towards Him. I ended WYD with yet another celebration of Mary-her Queenship. My heart was overwhelmed with the message she left me with: “Do whatever He tells you.”
I write this in Manila, a week after WYD. I started to step out of my boat to walk on the waters that will lead me to His will. I am determined now to do more for God who has also started to strip me off of all the fears I have. The day after I set foot in Manila, He has been showing me miracle after miracle…in all aspects. This journey I am taking with Mary by my side. She has been my North Star, holding my hand all along. I know she will not let go of me and I..I will never let go.