Sept. 17, 2015 – It was a wonderful day of commemorating the Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi at the old “La Verna
Hermitage” which we now simply call “La Verna” in Pusuak-Davila, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. On 17 September, fifteen (15) long years after the Capuchin friars left the hermitage in the year 2000, the Davila folks and churchgoers, led by the guardian of the Capuchin community, Br. Dennis Jose, OFMCap, our parish priest, Br. Cesar Gutierrez, OFMCap, and Br. Paulo Jesus Nazareno, OFMCap, came to attend the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The commemoration began with the praying of the most holy rosary, entreating the Blessed Mother her holy intercession. It was followed by the reading of the account of the stigmatization of Saint Francis by Br. Paulo from the Proper Offices of the Franciscan Saints, taken from the Legenda Minor of Saint Bonaventure:
“Through the sacred stigmata Francis bore the image of the Crucified.”
At ten o’clock in the morning, the very good Bishop Renato Mayugba, DD celebrated the Holy Mass, concelebrated by our parish priest, Fr. Cesar Gutierrez, OFMCap. A surprise was on its way because the bishop carried good news for La Verna, the Capuchin brothers, and the parishioners of Davila!
Bishop Renato inspired us with his homily with a challenge to be part of Christ’s suffering on the cross for our sins. He marvelled at Saint Francis’ love for God; he really was a holy man who followed so closely the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said that “Francis did not care what God asked of Him, only that he showed great love to God, willing to stay in His presence and be as close as possible to Him, even in his sufferings on the cross.” It was indeed because of this reason why our Seraphic Father Saint Francis received the most holy five wounds of our Lord. In this, we must follow Saint Francis.
The climax of the feast day was when the very much inspired bishop bravely proclaimed his vision, dream, and mission for Saint Francis of Assisi Parish and the “La Verna of Ilocos Norte.” He encouraged everyone to continue building the chapel at the foot of the old hermitage in preparation for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy this coming 2016 – making La Verna a pilgrim site for this special time. Alongside this news, he named Saint Francis of Assisi Parish as one of the “Jubilee Churches” in the Diocese of Laoag.
He commissioned Fr. Cesar to take charge of setting up the fourteen stations of “The Way of the Cross” on the mountain of La Verna. The bishop dreams that La Verna will be a place of “prayer and f asting” for the coming Holy Week 2016, when pilgrims of the other vicariates of the diocese shall come to contemplate the Way of the Cross. He also encouraged that retreats may be facilitated where the pilgrims/penitents shall enter into a “one- day” or “three-day” prayer and fasting penitential exercise with only bread and water as sustenance. With God’s grace, may the bishop’s dream, vision, and mission for the folks of Davila come to a reality!
After the liturgical celebration, a sumptuous lunch was served with the earnest efforts of the Daughters of Saint Francis, parish officers, and other parishioners. Brothers Cesar, Dennis, and Paulo also delighted everyone, young and old, with ice cream! May the good Lord bless our humble beginnings once more and lead all of us to the complete realization of His holy will in our lives and in the lives of people we shall come to meet.
It was indeed a “historic” celebration of the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis for the whole community; a blessing to us all.
Ms. Purita Cariaga (lector, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Davila, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte)