A Child's Prayer - Give Us Saints!
By: Ma. Nila Ortega - Argel, ocds
What we need in churches are ways to bring back Roman Catholics to the fold
More candles that burn;
Incense that sweetens the air;
Ringing bells at Angelus;
Vestments of rich designsâ€¦.;
And more saints!
The key point is that we need saints as models.
When we see the saints and their response to God - it is a challenge to
our own lives. There is a path to holiness that lies within ourselves.
The province of Ilocos Sur, my second home, is blessed for its 32
municipalities and 2 cities. 12 are named after saints: San Emilio,
San Esteban, San Ildefonso, San Juan, San Vicente, Santa, Santa
Catalina, Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia, Santa Maria, Santiago and Santo
Twins often share the same interests and ideas with an equal intensity.
Therefore, it is no surprise that my twin Maria Luz Bolong and I work
together for the greater honor and glory of God.
I attended a one-day convention in Manila on May 30, 2003 as part of my
work at the Philippine Information Agency. Then I proceeded to Baguio
arriving on time for my twin’s class at Maryknolls. I would have wanted
to sit-in on their Journey in Life last session but her professor told
me to wait at the library. There I saw and read the book written by
June Keithley. In his message Fr. James B. Reuter, S.J., Director,
National Office of Mass Media said: Years
ago, the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines investigated the strange
events that occurred at Lipa, and came to the official conclusion that
there was in them no evidence of the supernatural. June Keithley feels
that there was evidence of the supernatural in the things that happened
at Lipa. She is asking the Catholic Church to re-consider the decision
that was made many years ago. “Lipa”: The book contains the events
at Lipa Carmel in 1948. Mother Mary Cecilia of Jesus, O.C.D., wrote on
the apparitions of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace to Teresita
Castillo, or “Teresing”, a Carmelite postulate and the showers of
petals she witnessed together with the sisters and the people who went
One day I told my officemate, Carlo Caňares, about the Lipa
apparitions. He too had read the book and, he believes that the replica
of the statue of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace which was mentioned in
the book that Bishop Verzosa had in his possession, was the one he saw
at the Baptistry at the Vigan Cathedral. So we went to the Cathedral
and I learned that it was indeed the replica left by Bishop Verzosa.
In one of our visits to Lipa, my twin and I were ecstatic. While we
were at the prayer house where Sister Teresing give talks and healing
sessions every First Saturday, a lady who came from abroad allowed us
to kiss a preserved rose petal which she claims, was one of the
reported shower of petals in 1948.
53rd death anniversary
A Pontifical Mass led by Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles was held at
the Metropolitan St. Paul’s Cathedral at Vigan City on June 27, 2007,
which marked the 53rd death anniversary of the late Bishop Alfredo
Verzosa. Concelebrants were Archbishop Ernesto A. Salgado and
Archbishop Emeritus Edmundo M. Abaya of Nueva Segovia; Bishop Rey
Evangelista of Boac, Marinduque; Bishop Sergio Utleg of Laoag; and
Bishop Emeritus Salvador Quizon, who was ordained by Bishop Verzosa in
1949. Coincidentally, we twins celebrated our 53rd birthday anniversary
in that year.
Just like Fr. Erickson Josue, parochial vicar of the Diocese of Laoag,
something stirred me that led into knowing the life of Bishop Verzosa.
For Fr. Josue, it was Bishop Verzosa’s remains kept in the crypt for
bishops; for me it was the statue I discovered earlier.
Life-sized statues of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite Saint
and St. John Vianney, patron saint of Diocesan priests stands at the
entrance where the statue of Bishop Verzosa known as Our Lady Mediatrix
of All Grace is enshrined. At times when I go to mass at the cathedral,
my friend Fran Quitoriano and I go for a short visit. Teaching at the
ICST, my friend asks for the intercession of St. Vianney to take good
care of the seminarians. On my part, although my sons had gone out of
the seminary, I pray that that they live the path of holiness on their
chosen vocations. Of course, I being a Carmelite seek the intercession
of St. Therese and Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, for all the graces
needed to do God’s Will Always.
The angel of the Lord brought God’s message to Mary. And she conceived
by the power of the Holy Spirit. On March 24, 2008, the feast of the
Annunciation, Msgr. Roque Reyes, parish priest of the Vigan Cathedral,
brought the parishioners good news. Starting that day, the Adoration
Chapel opens after the 6 o’clock mass in the morning and closes at 6
o’clock in the evening. He was referring to the same Shrine of Our
Lady that was transformed to an Altar of the Blessed Sacrament. The
image of our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace is now placed beside the
Marian altar located at the right side of the main altar.
When St. Frances of Chantal was 5 years old her father had a visitor
and Frances interrupted their conversation. She said. “But sir you have
to believe Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus
Himself said so.” Her father said: “Jane, you’ll be more interested in
these nuts than in our theological discussion.” Jane received the nuts
and later threw the peelings of almond nuts at the fireplace. When the
nuts hit the flames, Jane said: “This is what happens to people who
don’t believe what our Lord says. I welcome the exposed Blessed
Sacrament where I can go directly to the Source of Life Himself to the
Heart of God.
Lady who at the same time holds the title Queen of All Saints, is an
added push to our prayers. Saints are avenues to Christ. Having read
and shared on the lives of countless saints at my radio program at
DZNS, the archdiocesan radio station from July 2004 up to the present,
the life of Bishop Verzosa as narrated by Fr. Josue brings up high
hopes for a new saint. I firmly believe that God sends the Church the
saints it needs at the time it needs them.
A Child’s Prayer - Give us Saints!
is Bishop Verzosa? Alfredo Verzosa y Florentin was born in Vigan in
1877 to Alejandro Verzosa and Micaela Florentin. Ordained in 1904 by
Bishop Dennis Dougherty of Nueva Segovia he started his priestly
assignment at the cathedral of Vigan. At 39 years old, he became the
second bishop of Lipa. He took over the diocese from 1917-1950 for 37.4
years His diocese covered Lipa, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon / Tayabas,
Marinduque and Mindoro.
He preached in Spanish for he spoke only Ilocano and Spanish. As a
pioneer, Bishop Verzosa founded in 1923 the Missionary Catechists of
the Sacred Heart; was the first to welcome the Carmelite Fathers to the
Philippines, also the Pink Sisters and the Daughters of St. Paul. He
was endowed with forsight and right judgment, when he built a major
seminary in Tayabas, now Lucena, in 1942, placing it under the
protection of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. That seminary was to be
the keystone in the building of the new diocese of Lucena.
As acknowledged that there are resemblances of holiness but formed in
different molds, noteworthy of Bishop Verzosa’s qualities as a bishop
was his prayerfulness. He knelt before the altar in prayer for fifteen
minutes before and after celebrating Mass. With a thorough knowledge of
Moral Theology, he instructed his priests to refresh themselves on the
matter as an aid in hearing confessions.
Irreproachable morally, he did not even allow himself to be
photographed with women. His moral standards would fare deeply in
contrast to the likes of Cardinal Richard Cushing. In a visit to a home
for Elderly ladies, an old woman reached for his hand and tried to kiss
his ring. The Cardinal said: “Don’t kiss the ring, kiss the cardinal.”
He gave her a holiday buss and danced with her.
Bishop Verzosa was Lipa's bishop during the apparitions of the Blessed
Virgin Mary to postulant Teresing Castillo in 1948. The auxiliary
bishop then was Bishop Alfredo Obviar. Both believed in the
apparitions. They were asked to "retire" by the Vatican In 1951, after
a six-bishop commission declared the Lipa apparitions a hoax. Bishop
Rufino Santos became apostolic administrator of Lipa and, the
veneration of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace was stopped. But pilgrims
have continued to visit the Virgin Mediatrix of All Grace until now.
In 1951, he was appointed Titular Bishop of Capsa. A titular bishop is
a bishop holding the title of a see which no longer politically exists
or no longer has any Orthodox Christian flock. Titular bishops usually
serve as assistants to ruling bishops, similar to an auxiliary bishop
but not holding a title which is within the territory of another
bishop. This reminds me of St. Chad _ patron saint of Losers for his
title of bishop was revoked. According to the story of his life, St.
Wilfrid had been chosen as Bishop of York, went to Gaul for
consecration and remained so long absent that King Oswiu determined to
wait no longer, and procured the election of Chad as Bishop of York.
St. Theodore, the newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury decided that
St. Chad must give up the diocese to St. Wilfrid, who had now returned.
When he further intimated that St. Chad's episcopal consecration had
not been rightly performed, the Saint replied, "If you decide that I
have not rightly received the episcopal character, I willingly lay down
the office; for I have never thought myself worthy of it, but under
obedience, I, though unworthy, consented to undertake it".
After the bishops left Lipa, Bishop Rufino Santos became apostolic administrator.
Two miracles reportedly occurred through the intercession of Bishop
Verzosa but the nuns had not officially announced them. The miracle of
Lipa has yet to be approved. It is believed that St. Augustine was the
first to attempt a definition of a miracle. “I call a miracle, wrote
St. Augustine, “any difficult or uncustomary thing which appears,
exceeding the hope and expectation of the onlookers.” Centuries later,
St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologicae, wrote: “Miracle suggests
something full of wonder, whose cause is unknown simply and absolutely.
This cause is God. Hence what God does outside of causes known to us
are called miracles”.
In another book written entitled, “Wonders of Lipa”, Dr. Francisco
Villanuena interviewed Bishop Verzosa on January 23, 1949 and he said:
“Personally I believe in the Divine Apparitions. But as a bishop and
dignitary of the Holy Catholic Church, subject to the jurisdiction of
His Holiness, the Pope, I can not make any decision hastily, thus I
appointed a committee of theologians, headed by Father Angel de Blas,
rector of the University of Santo Tomas, to make a study on the
theological aspect of the case. When asked if it was true of the
reported rose-petals that fell on his feet, Bishop Verzosa said: “Yes,”
I was inside the locutory of the Carmelite Monastery, and the windows
and the doors were closed. When I was about to step out of the door
outside, several petals fell on my feet, to my great surprise. I picked
up some of them.”
Scorned and even persecuted, he remained devoted to the Apostolic See
(Faithful to the Magisterium of the Church), Bishop Verzosa went home
to Vigan when he retired taking with him Msgr. Salvatus whom he met in
Lipa. He died in 1954, the same year we twins first saw the light of
Pope John Paul ll first visited the Philippines in Manila on February
18, 1981, for the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz and his companion
martyrs. Blessed Lorenzo, a married man was canonized on October 18,
1987 at Rome, and his feast day is celebrated on September 28.
How would the Bigueńos react if ever the city of
Vigan’s name be changed to San Verzosa City, in honor of the late
Bishop Verzosa, a Vigan’s son? For now, only God who peers into the
heart knows if he would be deemed worthy of such an honor. The cause
for the beatification of Bishop Obviar has been submitted to the Holy
See! Fr. Josue feels Bishop Verzosa, the first Ilocano Catholic bishop
who died in utter poverty in Vigan, had been forgotten.
On February 19, 2008, the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia witnessed the
blessing of the upgraded tower of DZNS and the bust of Bishop Alfredo
Verzosa. D.D. by Archbishop Salgado. Are these expressed signals that
very soon the cause for the beatification of Bishop Verzosa will
likewise be submitted to the Holy See? I am very delighted whenever I
hear Rev. Simeon Peralta, a priest staying at Domus, a retirement home
for the priests of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, mention the name
of Bishop Verzosa during the mass he celebrates. Hopefully DZNS and
Timek Ti Amianan _ the Archdiocese arm for Evangelization will prepare
a program that would influence the faithful to seek Bishop Verzosa’s
Saints transcends the limitations of time and space. They are always
there to help us. Could we hope for Pope Benedict XVl to visit the
Philippines for another beatification? Give us Saints,” we pray _
saints in our times and in our country and in our province of Ilocos
Sur! Give us San Verzosa, we pray!
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