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Visita Iglesia: Making it more meaningful

by RepublicAsia

IT is that time of year: to reflect, repent, and reaffirm our faith. It is the final week of Lent, known as Holy Week. It is a week filled with many religious activities and rest, so there are usually no classes or work that week. 

One such activity is Visita Iglesia or, in English, “Church Visit.” It is an activity Filipinos do as part of their sacred vows. For this activity, Filipinos are tasked to visit seven Churches in honor of the seven last words of Jesus, or fourteen, as a representation of the stations of the cross. 

This is typically done on Maundy Thursday and Friday, but Father Randy from the Parish of Sacred Heart says that you can do it anytime during Lent.

During each visit, people offer up prayers such as the rosary, the stations of the cross, or personal prayers of repentance. Father Randy also mentions that people pray before the Blessed Sacrament and attend mass during their visits. 

Father Jojo from the Sacred Heart Parish says that people also take this time to reflect on Jesus’s passion and death and make small offerings through candles and light donations. 

Before you go out and visit seven or fourteen Churches, you might ask yourself, why do we do this? Where did it start?

Like all things related to Catholicism, it started in the 16th century. The Spanish Friars taught us this, and they learned it from St. Philip Neri. 

St. Philip Neri was a Roman priest who helped the sick, tutored people, and even founded a confraternity of poor laymen so they could practice their faith. With so many people coming to join his fraternity, he decided to do a pilgrimage and take people to seven different Churches. 

It soon reached the Philippines, where we still practice it today. Yet, with a practice that we do yearly, how can you make it more meaningful each time? 

Well, here’s how: 

SET AN INTENTION

Once again, our first tip comes from Father Jojo. He suggests that you set an intention while doing this. Why are we doing our Visita Iglesia? What do you hope to gain from this? Is it to reflect? To repent? Or is this a way to spend time with your loved ones? 

Gen Zs also do this when they visit. Enzo, a college freshman, says that he prays with intentions for others, like his country and others, not just for himself. This allows him to deepen his relationship with God and show compassion for others. 

Whatever your intention, set it aside and keep it in mind as you go to each church. This will give meaning to your Visita Iglesia; hopefully, you will be more invested in it. 

PLANNING

Father Jojo also suggests planning your day. Look up the churches you are going to, such as where they are and how long it will take to get there. He also recommends looking up the church’s history and significance. 

Enzo and his family usually list Churches they would like to visit and go there. 

Enzo and his family also bring other important things, such as snacks, fans, and rosaries. This is important because Holy Week usually happens in the summer time, which means it can get very hot, so fans will help. 

Snacks and water can also help you feel more comfortable. For those who get lightheaded, this can also help you get through the day. Also, when you start feeling faint, you can just start drinking or eating, 

PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS

In addition to planning, you should also consider your physical limitations. Are you physically able to walk or travel to different churches? 

If you can’t walk far, maybe you can choose nearby Churches for you. Or if you really cannot walk, you can take other modes of transportation like cars to go to each Church. 

Father Jojo also says you can spread the churches over a few days. Maybe go to a few on Maundy Thursday and then the rest on Good Friday. 

BE PRESENT AND REFLECT

Father Jojo also suggests being present during the activity. Keep all distractions away in the meantime. Keep your phone on do not disturb. Leave your work and assignments at home. Just focus on being there with God and your companions. 

While you are being present, don’t forget to reflect. This is the primary purpose of Visita Iglesia to reflect. Reflect on who you are and what you have done. Acknowledge your wrongdoing and move forward with God. 

Enzo also suggests reflecting on what you are grateful for. What are the good things in your life? What have you accomplished so far? Reflect on that, and thank God you were able to do so. 

Reflect on what Jesus did during this time, such as his passion and death. 

After each Church, Father Jojo also suggests reflecting on each prayer or station of the cross.

PRAY

Another purpose of Visita Iglesia is to pray. Earlier, we were reminded to set intentions; now, it’s time to pray for them. You can pray personal prayers like Enzo, who prayers for others, or lift your concerns like his friend, Liza. 

Liza, another college freshman, prays seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys, Seven Glory Bes, and prays for three wishes with her family. 

Another thing people read is the Pasyon and the Bible, which Father Randy says happens. During their visit, people also go to confession or pray before the Blessed Sacrament. 

There are many ways to pray during Visita Iglesia; there’s no strict ritual. Father Jojo says that people do pilgrim prayers or just silently reflect. 

You just need to pick a prayer that fits you and your intentions. 

COMMUNITY AND FAMILY BONDING

The last tip from Father Jojo is to make it a family or friend bonding activity. Visita Iglesia can be a way to reconnect with yourself and the people around you, so invite them to join you.  

Maybe you and your family have been too busy these past few months with work and school, so you can just be together and catch up as you renew your faith.

This can also be a way to teach the younger members of the family about your faith. As you visit the Churches, tell His story and why you are doing what you are doing.  Allow them to connect with you and God early so they can be more in touch with their faith as they grow older. 

Gen Zs usually go with their family and take this time to spend time together. Liza also did this. She has gone to Visita Iglesia with her mom’s side of the family ever since they invited her to join them. She says that this has made her experience more enjoyable. 

Enzo also goes with his devout Catholic family and invites more relatives to spend time together and deepen their relationship with God. Then after, they have a meal together. 

Whatever your intentions and whoever you go with, just take this time to be together with God; that is how you can make your visits more meaningful. 

With reports from Brigitta Feliza R. Aquino
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