When Filipinos saw the Pope: Tears said it all
LEYTE, Philippines – Tears welled up in the eyes of typhoon survivors outside the Palo Cathedral in Leyte on Thursday, January 15, as we watched the arrival of Pope Francis at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.
More than 200 people, including myself, watched the Pope's arrival on a giant screen in a grassy area outside the renovated cathedral, whose roof Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) tore away in 2013.
There, Betty Hermosilla cried while watching the Pope's arrival on Thursday. She felt “blessed” that the Pope is in the Philippines, and is set to visit her town of Palo on Saturday, January 17. “Iba na rin ang feeling, na parang si Jesus Christ na rin ang nakita ko,” she said. (It's a different feeling, like I'm seeing Jesus Christ himself.)
Gigi Mular, who came to Palo from the Ilocos region to see the Pope, was also in tears. “Sobrang masaya, nandito na si Lolo Kiko,” she said, citing the nickname Filipinos gave to the Pope – “Lolo Kiko” – “lolo,” the Filipino word for grandfather, and “Kiko,” the nickname for Filipinos named Francisco.” (I'm so happy, Lolo Kiko is here.)
I myself couldn't control my tears when the bell of the Palo Cathedral rang to signal the arrival of the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness Pope Francis. Finally – as a former altar boy and catechist, and as a journalist preparing for the papal visit since July 2014 – the long wait is over.
From Leyte, I also saw tweets that said people cried when they saw the Pope arrive. Celebrity Bianca Gonzalez tweeted, “'Yung sa TV ka lang nanonood pero grabe ang iyak mo! Mahal ka namin, @Pontifex!” (I'm just watching on TV but still I'm crying hard. We love you, @Pontifex!)
When the Pope ended his arrival motorcade, I walked away from the Palo Cathedral trying to make sense of the tears many Filipinos shed. Why did we cry?
'Name your feelings'
Then I remembered a major criticism against the Pope's visit: That it means nothing.
So does it mean anything at all?
A prayer technique of the Jesuits – the religious order of Pope Francis – can point us to the right answer. The Jesuits taught me this style of prayer: “Name your feelings.” For them, feelings serve as the barometer of the spirit. God speaks the loudest through our feelings. So we ought to get a grip on our feelings – to “name” these, like identifying a mood on the Rappler Mood Meter – and to sift through these to hear the God who speaks.
But why our feelings? Why not the more “logical” choice – our thoughts? A spiritual director explained it to me this way: Thoughts – including those used to ridicule faith – can always be manipulated. Feelings point us to our deepest desires.
Why did we cry when we saw the Pope?
Is it because we saw a holy person? Is it because the trip finally happened after waiting for so long? Is it because we see the Pope as hope? Is it because it rekindled something from deep within our souls? We all have different reasons.
But for sure, our tears prove critics wrong: The visit of the Pope means something.
Each of us will need a bit of introspection to figure this out. How I wish this process helps us also reexamine our lives. – Rappler.com