Lucban shrine’s ‘battalion’ of saints ready for pilgrims
The coming May elections will be “safe, clean and honest and the Filipino people are expected to elect sincere public servants” what with millions of Lenten pilgrims praying for help from more than 150 saints whose images are scattered across the five-hectare Kamay ni Hesus shrine in Lucban town in Quezon province, according to a popular healing priest here.
“As God performs miracles to heal our physical bodies, we will also collectively ask for the intercession of heaven to heal the wounds of divisiveness around us for the eternal unity of the Filipinos and their elected servants,” said shrine administrator Fr. Joseph Faller.
Faller, 48, who is believed to possess the gift of curing the sick, said he would lead the prayers to ask for intercession from the “battalion of saints” inside the shrine to guide the Filipino people in the coming May elections.
The images of saints are donations from healed devotees, benefactors and friends with more pilgrims signifying their intention to donate replicas of their favorite saints.
Faller reiterated that no campaigning or any form of political gimmick would be allowed inside the shrine as a way of showing respect to devotees whose sole intent in flocking to the place is to have spiritual cleansing.
Faller, a native of Lucban, built the shrine in 2002 on a hilly part of Tinamnan village, two kilometers away from the urban center.
Close to two million devotees are expected to visit the religious center, which was visited by around 1.5 million visitors during Holy Week last year.
Shower of glitters
Faller said he has been fully recharged for the spiritual and healing task this Holy Week and cited how his four-day healing mission in Brunei last week resulted in another manifestation of God’s miraculous ways. During the healing session, his companions noticed the presence of shiny multicolored glitters in his hands and face.
“At first, I didn’t mind it but it appeared again after a couple of hours while we were in a restaurant,” he recalled.
In an interview with a Manila-based television reporter following his arrival at the shrine, the strange phenomena occurred again. He said when he shook hands with the reporter after the interview, shiny glitters also appeared in her hands, which was witnessed by her two crew members. The reporter, who is not a Catholic, cried.
The same phenomena also happened during Faller’s healing prayer the following day. “The phenomena is not experienced by all those I encounter. Maybe, it is designed by the blessed Mother to her chosen few.”
The priest healer said he looked at the strange event as a manifestation of the presence of the blessed Mother. Faller said his experience is similar to that manifested to Emma de Guzman, a known Filipino visionary.
Faller said in the past three months, the shrine staff gave much effort to planning how to cope with the influx of pilgrims for Holy Week.
The shrine has close to 100 staff members and volunteers who would be assisted by local policemen and Army soldiers assigned to secure peace and order. Closed-circuit televisions were placed in various parts of the pilgrim center while a multipurpose gym was constructed near the entrance gate to serve as briefing area for the mass arrival of new devotees.
He said the pilgrims, particularly those conducting Visita Iglesia, would first get a briefing from the shrine staff on the history of the shrine, location of different religious spots and decorum of guests while inside the center.
Faller stressed the vast complex is a religious ground, particularly the top of the hill, where the statue of the resurrected Christ is located. “The spot is a perfect place for prayer and meditation,” he said.
Faller said pilgrims should not miss the chance to commune with the Lord after the physically challenging but spiritually sanctifying climb.
A devotee has to climb the 300-step “Stairway to Heaven” to reach the 50-foot tall statue of the Risen Christ, touted to be the third tallest icon of Jesus Christ in the world, next to Bolivia (70 feet) and the tallest, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (150 feet).
Faller cited other improvements at the complex like the construction of a covered church extension to accommodate 1,000 devotees, concreting of the parking lot area, construction of additional comfort rooms, accommodation of more food stalls and souvenir shops for the convenience of devotees.
The mini-rock dome, which houses the former audio-visual room, has been converted into a museum called “Museo de las Manos de Jesus,” where devotees can have a glimpse of the shrine’s humble beginnings through its illuminated wall photos and 15-minute video documentary.
The Noah’s Ark House of Prayer and Spirituality and the Kamay ni Hesus retreat center are both fully booked, with most returning overseas Filipinos as their guests.
“It is my ultimate dream to accommodate the multitude of sick people and make them comfortable while seeking God’s help,” Faller said.
PHOTOS BY Delfin T. Mallari Jr.