By Tracy Cabrera
File photo shows churchgoers leaving the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also known as the Redemptorist Church, in Baclaran after the Misa de Gallo
MANILA — Not only skilled workers are now being ‘exported’ to other countries—even Filipino priests are now being sent to places where they will be ‘borrowed’ for the celebrations scheduled this Christmas.
Father Roy Bellen of the Office of Communications in the Archdiocese of explained that there are some parishes abroad, especially in the Middle East, who need to ‘borrow’ priests from Manila for their Yuletide celebrations.
“Because they know that we have this tradition (of Misa de Gallo), they request a Filipino priest,” the priest enthused.
He added that the situation in other countries where there are Filipino communities, foreign priests working with the country’s migrant workers actually “don’t understand our culture.”
He described that in most cases, the early morning masses during the Christmas season in several parishes abroad were being officiated by Filipino priests.
“Many Filipinos working or living abroad usually write to priests back in the Philippines months before December to conveying their request,” Fr. Bellen disclosed.
In Malaysia, a local church hosted the Misa de Gallo by inviting priests from Manila. The idea for hosting the traditional Filipino masses came from a local parish priest who wanted to express gratitude to Filipino workers and students in the country.
The Misa de Gallo, which became a Filipino tradition after the arrival of Spanish colonizers about 500 years ago, is a novena of Masses from December 16 to Christmas Eve. The celebration is held as early as 3 a.m. in several provinces.
During his pontificate, Pope Sixtus V ordered that the mass be heard before sunrise because it used to be the harvest season in the Philippines and farmers needed to be in the fields immediately after the celebration.
During the nine-day celebration Filipinos adorn their homes with star-shaped lanterns called parol, which were believed to help parishioners before electricity was invented make their way to church in the early morning.
After mass, Filipino families would share rice cakes known as puto, pastries and other delicacies and drink hot chocolate.
The Christmas season in the Philippines officially begins with the start of the Misa de Gallo and ends on the first Sunday of January on the Feast day of the Three Kings.
Fr. Bellen, however, warned those inviting priests to lead the traditional Filipino celebration to be wary of fake priests.
“The protocol is for the priest to present his célèbret or identification card to make sure that he is not fake,” he pointed out.
Earlier this month, the Manila Archdiocese warned the public about a person who has been posing as a Catholic priest and exorcist.
The archdiocese received reports that a certain Fr. Cheeno Lledo was performing ‘exorcisms’ around the capital.
In a circular, Bishop Francisco de Leon of Antipolo likewise issued the same warning about Lledo.
“He should not be allowed to celebrate Mass or perform religious rites in our chapels, churches or other places for our Catholic faithful,” read the prelate’s letter. (Source: Union of Catholic Asian News)