3 H’s Experiences: Heavenly, Harrowing, and Humbling

Canonization at the Vatican

On May 9, 2004, a video on the life of Blessed Hannibal was shown to familiarize the faithful on the life of Blessed Hannibal.  Blessed Hannibal was born in Messina, Italy, where his incorruptible body is kept in the Temple of the Prayer for Vocations near the cathedral. Founders of the Rogationist Fathers and the Daughters of the Divine Zeal, he is the apostle of prayer for vocations. After the showing, the sisters gave us souvenir items and we bought a bag at 10 euros each.

About 50,000 people were present with almost 100 pilgrims from the Philippines in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, May 16, as Pope John Paul II presided at the canonization of six new saints in St. Peter's Square. Coincidentally, it is the birthday of my twin’s eldest daughter, Maridi.

We left for Vatican at 6:30 a.m. and arriving early at the St. Peter’s Square dressed in white with a blue sash, we were asked by a fellow pilgrim if we belong to the Daughters of the Divine Zeal.

In his homily for the canonization Mass, the Holy Father remarked that the new saints:  St. Hannibal Maria Di Francia, St. Luigi Orione, St. Josep Manyanet,, St. Nimatullah Kassa,. St. Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, and St. Gianna Beretta Molla came to know the "true peace" which is "the fruit of Christ's victory over the power of evil, sin, and death. "Those who follow Christ faithfully become witnesses and builders of peace," he added.

After the ceremonies, Luz and I went forward to see the pictures of the newly canonized saints and it was there that Luz saw Bishop Antonio Tobias of the diocese of La Union. He was one of the delegates from the Philippines which included Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. Bishop responded with the request from Bishop Tobias for a souvenir picture asking his companion, “Por pabor” to take his picture with us twins.

Pilgrimage at Nice, France and Avila, Spain

In our Mid-Course Break at the Gregorian University, we twins were supposed to go to Avila, Spain to see the first Carmelite monastery founded by St. Teresa of Avila. On May 28 we went to the train station to buy our tickets for Spain but we were told that we can only buy tickets up to Nice.

We left Rome on May 31 riding on an ordinary class.  When my twin woke up the following morning to go to the comfort room, she saw my two small bags in front of the door.  She asked, “Why are your bags outside?” I immediately opened my bag to see our money.  “Thanks God, our money was intact. I exclaimed, St. Hannibal prevented the thief from getting our money.” I kept our money inside the bag we used during the canonization of St. Hannibal, which had his picture, a rosary and God the Father beads.

The virtue of Humility

Arriving at Nice, France on June 1, we immediately went to buy our tickets for Spain. We had another dilemma. Contrary to the cost of ticket we knew, it turned out that our money is just enough for a round-trip ticket to Spain for one. When I told Luz that we go back to Rome for I was afraid that she would get lost, she said, “It’s like you have pierced my heart with a dagger”. I know I had to let her go; it was my twin’s obsession to see the place.

After buying her ticket, we went out of the station and started walking when I saw the signage ‘Caritas’. I told Luz they might be able to help me. We asked where we can find a Filipino community or a Filipino priest, and we were told us to go to the Basilica. There a foreigner priest looked at the directory and gave us the address of a Missionary House.

At a computer shop, Luz called the number and indeed a Filipino priest was on the other line. Here was the conversation that transpired:

Luz: Fr. we are Ortega twins from the Philippines. We were supposed to go to Avila, Spain, but we don’t have enough money. Fr., can my sister stay with you while I go to Spain?

Fr. Yes, but where are you calling from?

Luz asked the location from the computer shop owner who informed the priest.

Luz: Fr. Really? Even the food?

Fr. Yes, but you have to come here, for my place is far where you are.

We took the bus and reached the place. Seeing a fortress nearby, Luz climbed while I waited down to look after our baggage.  Then we reached the place of Fr. Clavero Guerrero, a Filipino priest based at the Mission Philippines, Nice, France.


Fr. mentioned that there is a church at the market place and he promised that he will bring me to the bus station to see the Laghet Sanctuary. In the morning, Fr. handed me a leaflet about the Sanctuary and he brought me to the bus station, explaining that he couldn’t accompany me because he had many things to do. As I was reading, Fr. came back and reminded me, “Tell the bus driver where you are going.”  I was so overjoyed when I reached the place.

What could be the reason why God wanted us to go into different destinations? Not wanting me to feel so sorry for not proceeding to Spain, I was informed that at Nice there is a wax body of St. Teresa of Avila and there is also a Carmelite monastery at Carros Village.

According to the history of Notre-Dame de Laghet, it was at the chapel of Laghet, early in 1652, the Holy Virgin manifested her invisible presence by miracles: cures, liberation of prisoners and the deliverance of those possessed.

In view of these, Don Fighiera, who possessed a beautiful statue of the Holy Virgin decided to give this statue to the sanctuary. It was carried in procession by the White Penitents of Eze on June 24, 1652.

On October 13, 1674 twelve Carmelite monks took up residence at the sanctuary. The venerable statue was hidden by a shepherd in the year 1792, when French revolutionary troops pass the bridge over the river Var and enter the County of Nice, when the buildings were sacked.

I went down the stairs and saw the wax body of St. Teresa of Avila and also Ex-Votos works brought by pilgrims and exhibited. These Ex-Votos serve for us Christians of the 20th century, as witness to the Faith as it was lived by the ancients and as a sign of love for Our Lady in times present and in times to come.

In 1802, the chapel re-opened and the 19th century witnessed the birth of he who would become Saint Francois-Marie de Camporosso. As a child, he had been cured by Notre-Dame de Laghet. As a monk of the Capuchin order, he spread his devotion throughout the city of Genoa. The radiance of his holiness extended over the entire Riviera. Pope John XXlll canonized him on December 9, 1962 in the presence of the whole Catholic hierarchy assembled in Rome for the Ecumenical Council Vatican ll. Today, still, Genoese come in pilgrimage to Laghet where an altar is consecrated whom the people of Genoa venerate under the name of Padro Santo.

The Golden Book of the church lists such illustrious visitors as ancestors of Prince Raineir of Monaco, the king and queen of Sardinia, and Rene Coty while was president of France. In the chapel Prince Louis of Monaco, named by Louis XlV as Chevalier of the Holy Spirit, announced his oath of loyalty to the Catholic faith on January 20, 1689, From 1907 to 1930 the monastery, became the lesser seminary of the diocese.

On October 17, 18 and 19, 1952 the tricentennial celebration was held in the presence of Monseignor Roncalli, the future Pope John XXlll, at the time Nuncio in Paris.

In 1978, the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre, came to serve in the diocese. As in the time of the Carmelite Fathers, the liturgy of the hours is celebrated every day and the adoration of the Holy Sacrament. The Rosary is said daily, and the Eucharist each morning and evening. It was a grace that a mass was held at the Sanctuary when I was there.

At around 3 p.m. I decided to go home but I dropped by the fortress Luz saw earlier which had waterfalls. I went around and around looking for the waterfalls. No wonder I could not find the wonderful waterfalls for it was man-made. But anyway, it was a nice experience before reading a letter Fr. Clavero left with the sacristan at the Church where I stayed.

Fr. Clavero had gone to Torino to accompany his superior whose brother had died. I took some medicines to help me get my sleep for I was frightened being alone at a strange place. The following morning I courageously took the bus going to the Carmelite Monastery and then went to see the Cathedral in the Market Place strolling down narrow, cobbled streets between rows of medieval structures.

When Fr. Clavero arrived I informed him that I went to see the Carmelite Monastery at Carros and in the morning handed him a copy of our booklet, A twin’s encounter with God the Father. He was disgusted and said that there is no statue of God the Father. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I went out to buy my ticket back to Rome at the train station. I was just like a little child who easily forgot my hurt feelings. I met Fr. on my way home at the market. I remember savoring the delicious ‘sinigang’ fish for our lunch and he brought me to the train station.

Meanwhile, Luz was so happy having seen Avila, Spain. With the inspiring Saint Teresa’s Bookmark _ ‘Let nothing trouble you, Let nothing frighten you. All things are passing; Only God is changeless. Patience gains all things. Who has God wants nothing,’ Luz is ever ready to serve God better and had a life-size statue of St. Teresa of Avila made out of tin.

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