Did you know that the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in the Philippines is a popular and favorite pilgrimage destination of local and international devotees who come from afar from all over the world? To understand why this is so, come with me as I guide you for a brief tour of the Shrine's interior premises.
Historically, the Sacred Heart Devotion is one of the oldest devotions from France introduced by the Jesuits in the Philippines in the early 18th century. Awareness to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is so devoutly rooted among the Filipinos that various Churches all over the country are named after Him; complete with an Image of the Sacred Heart erected in their parishes.
However, it was only in January 1957 when this National Shrine was officially declared and through a decree from the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); formally declaring this Parish Church in San Antonio Village, Makati City to what is now known as the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart (NSSH).
In his declaration, the late Julio Cardinal Rosales, then President of CBCP said that, "I trust that this long drawn project of the Catholic Hierarchy will find its lasting fulfillment in the realization of this Shrine; and in a special way render great homage to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Philippines." Finally, the Church became both a Shrine and a Parish, indeed it has come to pass.
As a National Shrine, it has actively become the center of devout devotion to the Sacred Heart from all parts of the country. Thousands regularly come here to visit and encounter the Sacred Heart in a more personal and intimate way. Devotees and pilgrims have also come from the United States, Canada, France and Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Guam also pay homage to this internationally renowned Shrine.
It is a historic monument of the Community and a fitting testament of their great love for the Sacred Heart. The Shrine hosted the District Visit of the Relics of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in 1999 and was declared a Jubilee Church in the Year of the Great Jubilee 2000.
Over the last 30 years of its existence, it has moved three times, from its humble temporary beginning as a Community Chapel to its present sprawling permanent home on Sacred Heart Street which it was honored and named after. By God's grace, it has undergone 2 major improvements and has metamorphosed into a fitting solemn place of worship and tribute to the Sacred Heart.
From its humble beginnings as a small Chapel built into a vacant lot in Kamagong Street, the modern Church continued its renovation defining its custom-made Betis carved Altar and ambo; with the addition of a Rectory and Convent, Meeting Halls, Medical and Dental Clinics, and Mortuary Chapel and Niches. Its Second Rector, Fr. Maximo Ocampo, also known as the builder priest have expanded the Shrine's premises from a place of worship to a place of community service.
Bishop Crisostomo Yalung, who was Rector after Fr. Max Ocampo, undertook a major renovation of the Shrine's interior promises to make it more focused on the Sacred Heart and make its Holy Presence visibly felt and more intimately experienced by all Church goers as reflected in every corner. And the end result of such well-executed and finely detailed renovations is this awe-inspiring majestic Shrine as it is now.
As you come in from the gate, staring from the front of the main door, at once one sees this majestic bronze statue of the Sacred Heart, elevated and floating as if suspended on the Shrine's parapet. During Monsignor Nico's tenure as the First Rector, this bronze statue lovingly referred to by him as "the Macho Christ" was the highlight of the Altar and used to be located inside the Shrine.
Monsignor Nico's endearing concept of the Sacred Heart was that of a strong, muscular, and well-built Jesus, rather than the young Sto. Nino or the frail Good Shepherd. Jesus is accurately depicted as strong and muscular, because He was a Carpenter's Son smiling with outstretched sturdy hands ready to offer Himself because He loved man so much and willingly welcomed everyone here at His special place.
In Fr. Max Ocampo's time, this strikingly majestic bronze statue was relocated to become the centerpiece of the Sacred Heart Plaza, from where it is visibly seen by many who had come to see this remarkably handsome and smiling Sacred Heart bronze interpretation as crafted by a Filipino art craftsman.
From the main to the center aisle, immediately one is greeted at the center of the Altar with a magnificently huge, larger than life classic portrait of the Sacred Heart. The artistic rendition of a smiling Jesus with His Sacred Heart in outstretched hand, intimating, "Behold this Sacred Heart which has loved man so much, I love you with an Everlasting Love."
This special portrait is unique in that it cannot be found anywhere else in the world except only here at the Philippine National Shrine of the Sacred Heart. Even noteworthy is the fact that this is a masterpiece impression by world class Filipino painter, who is also a priest Fr. Armand Tangi, SSP who lovingly refer to this portraiture as the Smiling Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Recognizably, it is the compassionate Jesus rich in mercy and grace, as faithfully interpreted in the Apparition Vision of the Sacred Heart as revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 16th century.
Proudly unique in the Philippines, there is no likeness of this Divine Portrait of this Vision in the whole world, an inspired work of an equally inspired and gifted Filipino artist priest, Fr. Armand Tangi of the Society of St. Paul. He is also responsible for many of the Shrine's statues and paintings.
On the left side of the Altar is the exquisitely carved wooden statue of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother Mary and on the right is that of St. Joseph. Both statues are finely finished gold to match the dominant gold motif edges of the Altar.
Above the Holy Altar are painting representations of the four (4) Evangelists gracing the base of the dome. St. Matthew is shown in human form because he begins his Gospel with the human ancestry of our Lord.
Second from the left is the winged Lion, a desert dweller symbolizing St. Mark; whose Gospel begins with the story of St. John the Baptist, proclaimed as a voice in the wilderness. The third is St. Luke; who appears as a winged bull, an ancient animal of sacrifice. And the fourth is St. John; who is depicted as an eagle, reminding us that he lifted us heavenward with the phrase, "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God."
On the further right hand side is the artistic hand painted faithful rendition of the Apparition Vision and special Altar for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the First Apostle of the Sacred Heart, and our Shrine's Secondary Saint. The relics of St. Margaret, the only one in Asia is safely enshrined here beside her Altar.
A plenary indulgence is granted to all those who venerate on First Fridays, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart as well as Her Feast Day; under the usual conditions of Confession and reception of the Holy Communion with a prayer of one Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for the intentions of the Holy Father on the Day of Veneration.
The Altar on the left side is for St. Anthony; the San Antonio Village Patron Saint and is also alternately reserved for other important Saints, whose Feast Days are celebrated in the Shrine. Further left, is a beautifully artistic hand painting framed Image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help with the appropriate Novenas faithfully held every Wednesdays.
Over the concrete posts, are hung the Fourteen Stations of the Cross intricately carved in individual terracotta frames also spray finished in gold to match the general setting of the Altar. Each Station clearly depicts the gradual suffering of our Lord Jesus, as He makes Way of the Cross and are situated at the concrete partition of the gallery floor to guide those who wish to follow in sequential prayer of the Way of the Cross.
Located close to the upper ceiling and evidently aligned all around the left and right side walls of the Shrine are the intricately done color-glass interpretations; depicting the 12 Promises of the Sacred Heart, assured Sacred Promises always fulfilled to those who are truly devoted to Him.
While at the back of the Shrine directly facing the Altar, are elegantly adorned with artistic color-glass interpretation windows depicting the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Pentecost as creatively crafted by Filipino painter-priest, Fr. Armand Tangi.
From the choir loft, one can easily see and appreciate the full splendor and stunning panorama of the Holy Altar. Collectively with all the pictures, icons and statues speaking to us of the inexhaustible and immeasurable Divine Love of God; which He graciously pours out to all of humanity, today, tomorrow and forever, because there is His merciful Sacred Heart that always cares.
An Adoration Chapel and a Petition Corner is just outside the main Church. Inside, a life-size glass sculpture of the Sacred Heart hangs suspended in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors as it centrally dominates the Adoration Chapel. The Blessed Sacrament is securely housed and still visibly exposed from within the center part of the Sacred Heart glass vessel.
Noteworthy are the deeper symbolism of the colors emanating from the Sacred Heart are intensely white and bright nearer His Heart, fading into darker hues as it goes further from it; symbolizing that our Spiritual Life nearer to Him is light and bright, becoming heavier and darker as we slowly move away from Him.
Here Jesus invites you to, "Come, stay a while, for an hour. Bring me your problems, your concerns, and your joys too. Come to me, for I am meek and humble of Heart," and again "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest."
This Chapel has been the source of comfort and great consolation to those who make it a point to visit every day. The remarkable thing is that it has been observed that many men as well as women have been drawn to visit the Blessed Sacrament here at odd hours during the day.
Here is a welcome place, a secure refuge where the rich, the poor, the famous and the lowly come and are all equal before the Blessed Sacrament who listens intently to the hearts of those who unload their burdens upon Him.
The Petition Corner to the left side of the Chapel is equally busy. The Petition Box regularly receives about 1000 Letters of Petition and Thanksgiving a month, from people who visit from all walks of life, a silent faithful testimony of their never ending trust in the mercy and graces of the Sacred Heart. Their remarkable stories of granted petitions are real testimonies of the Living Promises of the Sacred Heart that are granted according to one's faith.
Elsewhere in the Shrine's grounds is a memorial statue of dedicated to the Souls of Unborn Children. Aborted Children, who never came to be because of man's cruel inhumanity and selfishness.
Nearby are the Medical and Dental Clinic, and the more recent improvements within the Shrine. In line with our current Rector Monsignor Jose Clemente F. Ignacio's vision of making the Shrine closer to the Parishioners, he built a Computer and Book Library for the scholars and the school children of the Parish beside the Pastoral Offices.
Then, there's Mary's Corner, a coffee shop and adjoining it is the Rector's Office (formerly the office of Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Bernardino Cortez who once resided in the Parish), and a mini Mary's Garden with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes as its centerpiece.At its front is St. Joseph's Shoppe which alternately serves as a practice place for the Choir, as a small informal meeting place for the various Church organizations, and also as a waiting place for the patients of the Medical and Dental Clinics.
Beside the St. Joseph's Shoppe and near the gate's left side entrance are where the huge generators installed; which provides ample and ready power supply for the Shrine's uninterrupted electrification requirements. This and the prayer room exclusively for the resident priests within the Convent were the prominent improvements of Father Pericles (Prex) F. Fajado in his brief but fruitful term as previous Shrine Rector.
Even at evenings, the Shrine's open space premises come alive with various trans-parochial organizational meetings held here, and is frequently a ready and friendly inviting home to visiting priests.
Come, the Sacred Heart of Jesus beckons, "All of you, My Children, you are always welcome here. Come be refreshed, with My bountiful Grace and Mercy. As this is My Home, so it is yours too."
Regular Celebrations are often held here at the Shrine and elsewhere but the most important celebrations are observed on:
February 14, Anniversary of National Shrine of the Sacred Heart
Novena Masses and Feast of the Sacred Heart in the month of June
Annual Procession held in honor of the Sacred Heart
Half-Day Conference on the Sacred Heart with guest speakers
October 16, The Feast Day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
For those interested, a special Pilgrims Program is available upon request to be arranged at least a month in advance prior to intended date, which may be coordinated with the Shrine Administrative Office with phone number (632) 8956331.
STELLA P. DENOGA
Shrine Promotions and Devotions Ministry
NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE SACRED HEART