Palo, Leyte – Whether it is a fully-reconstructed barangay chapel or one that is currently being built, the people of Leyte flocked to the Misa de Gallo, the nine-day dawn masses in preparation for Christmas. “This year, it has a specific vibrancy and fervor because of the impact of the Pope’s coming. We also received guidelines to include the spiritual preparation of the people about mercy and compassion, the theme of the papal visit in January 2015, in our homilies during the Misa de Gallo,” said Fr. Oscar L. Florencio of the papal visit secretariat in Palo.
“Thanks to Caritas, NASSA, and the CBCP more than 50 barangays chapels have been reconstructed in Palo alone,” Fr. Florencio continued. Because of this, the people are also in high spirits, so happy to have a beautiful chapel where they can gather for the mass, fellowship and the sharing of the Word of God.
So they come in droves to the Christmas novena masses – in gratitude for the past year as they picked up the pieces after Yolanda, and also to present to Jesus and Mary their wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Almost all the barangays chapels have their own choir and they have a ‘misa cantada’ everyday! The responses of the faithful to the prayers of the priests are sung, not only to create a beautiful liturgy, but also for pastoral reasons. Since mass is celebrated at 4:00 AM, singing the responses helps the congregation to remain alert and awake during the celebration.
Another particular feature of the Misa de Gallo this year is the project Lamesa ni Marta as part of the Year of the Poor activities. This means inviting everyone, particularly those still struggling with the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, to enjoy the food and the community after the celebration of the Eucharist. The Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) started this practice in some parishes in the past years. This time the whole diocese has committed to live the essence of the papal visit’s theme – mercy and compassion, and the Year of the Poor – do justice and love kindness by feeding the flock through Lamesa ni Marta.In some parishes, this project is carried out in close collaboration with local government units and generous lay people.
In Palo where the chapel of the Archbishop is still under construction, the faithful go to the chapel early and bring with them the images of San Roque, Our Lady, the Sacred Heart, etc. for the Aurora – the dawn rosary procession. This beautiful devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary was re-introduced by Archbishop John Du in Palo and he would often join the people in procession. They go around the barangays holding the sacred images while saying the Holy Rosary, and the crowd expands as they go back to the chapel. The elderly who grew up with this devotion, families, young people and children, and even adult males join the crowd, each with a fervent wish and a prayer for Christmas.
After mass, more than 300 people partook of the hearty breakfast provided by the good bishop and prepared by volunteers.