Pope Francis receives image of La Salud

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On 17 March 2022, Fr. Dionisio Q. Selma, OAR, Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno presented the replica image of Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health) to Pope Francis at the Clementine Hall in Vatican City, Rome during the special audience of the delegates of the 56th General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects.

Fr. Selma said these words to the Pope: “This is a gift from the Philippines, a testament of our celebration of the 500th year of Christianization in the Philippines last year; this image was brought by the Augustinian Recollect missionaries to the Philippines in the year 1634. The image of Nuestra Señora de la Salud has brought healing to many Filipinos during the pandemic. We offer prayers for your work and leadership of our Church.”

Pope Francis responded with simple words of encouragement to the Prior Provincial: “I am praying for all of you, and of your missionary works.”

The devotion to Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health) among Filipinos can be traced in the early years of Spanish Recollect missionaries in the Philippines. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, prayers, supplications and healing were attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Health.

During this official visit of the General Chapter delegates, Pope Francis encouraged the Augustinian Recollects with the message: “[…] every priest is called, like Joseph, to have a “father’s heart”, that is, a  restless heart  that goes out of his way to love and care for his sons and daughters who have been entrusted to him, especially the most fragile, those who suffer, those who have not had the experience of paternal love; and leads them  not to rest  until these brothers and sisters of ours are in the encounter with the Lord, and thus everyone can have an abundant life… another characteristic of Saint Joseph that I would like to highlight is “creative courage”…God trusted Joseph, and gave him his grace to be able to carry out the mission that he entrusted to him.

In the light of the synodal journey of the Church, Pope Francis offered this challenge to the Recollects: “[…]have we prepared the laity, have we prepared people to continue with pastoral care in the Church? And you, have you prepared people to continue with your spirituality, which is a gift from God, so that you can carry it forward? I do not dare to be a prophet and say what will happen. It worries me, it worries me. I trust in the Lord, but I also have to say these things: let us prepare ourselves for what is going to happen, and let us give our charism, our gift to those who can carry it forward. Please do not mend the things that cannot be mended because a culture is imposed on us[…]”

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