The seven churches visitation has been a tradition of Filipino Catholics during the Lenten season. It is usually done on the evening of Maundy or Holy Thursday, after the last supper mass. Born and raised as a Catholic, I got used to doing VIsita Iglesia with my parents usually after attending Chrism Mass at the Antipolo Cathedral because, for one, we were already out. Second, it was hard to travel during night-time.
During the Visita Iglesia, some people would usually visit seven churches to pray and meditate before the Blessed Sacrament, which is exposed and placed on the Altar of Repose in each church, or say the Stations of the Cross. But some, like us, go to 10 to 14 churches depending on our mood – if it’s already within the vicinity or along the way, or if there’s still time.
This year, my parents and I visited these 10 churches and here’s why:
- Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo City – This is where we attend the yearly Chrism Mass every Maundy Thursday. Chrism Mass is a religious service usually held in the diocesan cathedral at 6:00 am. It is considered as the largest annual gathering of the clergy and faithful. During Chrism Mass, the faithful are called to renew their baptismal promises, while priests/ministers and deacons also reaffirm their ministry by renewing their promises made at their ordination. Holy oils are also being blessed during the mass. Those oils are given to priest/ministers which they can use in their parishes.
- Monasteryo de Sta Clara, Quezon City – St. Clare of Assisi is an Italian Saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. St. Clare is the patron saint of eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, and television, and the most popular for childless couples. St. Clare being also the patroness of good weather is where the Filipino custom of offering chicken eggs originated from to ensure good weather. If you go to St. Clare even on regular days, you will see dozen or half a dozen of eggs being sold outside the church as an offering. Once inside, there’s this room adjacent to the church where you can pray, write your petitions using papers and pens, and/or offer your eggs. People with all sorts of petitions and prayer requests go there from students who are about to take their exams to single people praying for his/her better half, or couples praying for a child.
- Diocesan Shrine of St. Joseph, Quezon City – St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, married people, and good husbands or those praying for a spouse. I decided to visit St. Joseph this year because it’s been a while since I last visited it. It’s one of the old churches I grew up visiting with my mom.
- Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, Cubao, Quezon City – Immaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. As the driver, which my parents have no choice, I particularly requested to visit this church because this church is very memorable. This is where my parents got married and this is where my sisters and I were baptized. This is also where my mom used to pray before the Blessed Sacrament during lunchtime when she was still working as it is only about 300 meters away from her office.
- National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Quezon City – The devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the well-known and widely practiced Catholic devotions, taking the heart of the resurrected body as the representation of the love by Jesus Christ, which is “his heart, pierced on the Cross”. Some of the 12 promises of the Sacred Heart made to St. Margaret Mary for devotees include giving them all the graces necessary for their state of life, peace in their families, consolation in all their troubles, assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death, abundant blessings on all their undertakings, blessed homes where the image of Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored, and many others.
- Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Church, Marikina City – The church enshrines one of the several images of the Virgin Mary venerated as miraculous, which has received Papal recognition. According to Rev. Fr. Marvin P. Borda, the parish is said to be the house of the Assistant/Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Antipolo. It is where the incumbent Bishop of Antipolo Most. Rev. Francis De Leon was assigned back in 2006 to 2016 when he was still the Auxillary Bishop of Antipolo.
- Immaculate Conception Parish, Marikina City – This is also one of the old churches I grew up visiting. When we got there, we chanced upon the choir practicing probably for the Last Supper mass in the afternoon being accompanied by only an acoustic guitar and it was really good. I was really touched upon hearing them sing.
- San Isidro Labrador Parish, Nangka, Marikina City – San Isidore the Farm Labourer is the patron saint of all farmers for his piety toward the poor and animals. Carabao festival and Pahiyas are just some of the known festivals in the Philippines during May in honor of the good saint for plentiful harvests. As we all know, the Philippines has an agricultural economy and our farmers take pride in producing rice, corn, sugarcane, and coconuts.
- Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, San Mateo Rizal – Our Lady of Aranzazu is the title of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in this town. The image is said to be widely known due to claims of miraculous healing and flood safety. This parish and I have a long history together. This is where my sisters and I finished our elementary. I was also in grade 4 attending one of my classes in this school when the 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Luzon on July 16, 1990. Reportedly, an estimated 1,621 people were killed, most fatalities were located in Central Luzon and the Cordillera region during the earthquake. My classmates and I were told to go out of our rooms on the second floor to the grounds in complete shock and disarray. Our school has improved a lot though. No more traces of creaking stairs. Thank God!
- Cecilia Parish, Maly, San Mateo Rizal – Saint Cecilia is the patroness of musicians. While I am a singer, I am also a frustrated keyboardist/pianist so Sta. Cecilia is one of my patron saints. It is one of the nearest parishes from where I live so we took advantage of Visita Iglesia to visit it and we’re glad we did. From an old, small chapel, Sta. Cecilia Parish has really transformed into a beautiful and stunning parish as you can see in its interiors.
So there you have it! That concludes my 10 go-to churches to visit this Holy Week. Remember, it’s not the distance, it’s not the church or the history, it’s the sacrifice, effort, and prayers you’ve put into during those visits that count. Happy Easter!