MANILA, November 19, 2003 (STAR) By Bambi Sitaca - Spectators experienced a virtual Marian pilgrimage at the Long Gallery of the PNB Financial Center where an interactive multi-media exhibit was mounted for the Rosary Month last October.

The "pilgrims’" first stop was the display of seven popular Philippine Marian images: Nstra. Sra. De Guia – the oldest Marian image in the Philippines which was venerated by the Filipinos even in the 16th century; Our Lady of Antipolo, Our Lady of Peñafrancia de Bicol, Our Lady of Peñafrancia de Manila, Our Lady of Buen Suceso, Our Lady of Piat and Our Lady of Manaoag.

The pilgrims were then ushered to 10 shrines of Mary all around the world. With their stamped-and-validated pilgrim’s passports with souvenir visas, they traveled to 10 countries where the shrines are found.

In Spain, they visited the region of Catalonia for the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. The original sculpture is known to have been carved by St. Luke and brought to Montserrat by St. Peter in 50 A.D. St. Ignatius of Loyola, a former Crusader, decided to become a missionary after having prayed before this image of Mary.

In the land of waffles and Leonidas’ chocolates, the French-speaking town of Beauraing in Belgium commemorates the apparition of Mary where she promises the conversion of sinners to the five children to whom she appeared.

In Ireland, pilgrims paid homage to the shrine of Our Lady of Knock. In the 16th century, the "potato crop famine" hit the Irish people and it was while the Catholics were starving that they were bribed with food in exchange for conversion. Mary appeared to the Irish people to give them comfort and hope in a time of adversity.

In Italy, the basilica of Our Lady of Loreto holds the original house of the Holy Family found three hours north of Rome. The Holy House was where Mary was born, where the Annunciation occurred and where Jesus was brought up. Legend has it that the house was flown out of Nazareth by a band of angels when Israel fell to the hands of the Moors who were destroying Christian relics.

Next stop was Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Mary appeared to an Aztec named Juan Diego at the time when the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism. She left an image of herself on Juan Diego’s tilma (Indian cloak) as proof of her apparition.

In Israel, the shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel bared a little known fact: prophet Elijah of the Old Testament already anticipated the birth of the Mother of the Savior. With his band of hermits, he made it his day job to pray for the coming of Mary.

Then onward to Japan, in the shrine of Our Lady of Akita for the most recent canonically-approved apparition of Mary. In 1973, Mary requested the faithful to pray for the priests and for the Pope because the work of the devil will not spare the Church.

In the birthplace of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), we find the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Jasna Gora in Poland. The painting, a work of St. Luke, depicts the Holy Family in dark skin tones. Tradition holds that Mary herself sat for the portrait at the request of the Christians. The miracles attributed to the portrait finds its strength in the words of Mary: "My grace shall accompany it."

Portugal holds the image of Our Lady of Fatima. The apparition of Fatima is associated with the miracle of the dancing sun as well as the "Oh My Jesus" prayer which Mary taught to the three shepherds.

The last stop was France for Our Lady of Lourdes. People who have gone to the actual shrine recount how they bathed in the healing springs and partook in the stirring evening procession of the thousand lit-candles held by pilgrims.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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