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Philippines: Catholic Church Offers Online Rituals

The Philippine Catholic Church has been actively using the internet to fulfill its evangelical mission. In recent years, it has launched several online platforms which allowed Filipinos around the world to celebrate Christian traditions.

For example, Visita Iglesia gives Catholic Filipinos the opportunity to watch and listen to Lenten reflections. More importantly, they can pray in all Stations of the Cross and listen to Pasyon, a Filipino tradition of reciting the death, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paskong Pinoy sa Mundo (Filipino Christmas in the World) was launched in 2010 for the Christmas celebrations

Paskong Filipino sa Mundo ay isang website para sa global Filipino. Ang tanging layunin nito ay makapagbigay ng pagkakataon sa ating mga kababayang magpalitan ng mga pagbati at magbahagi ng mga karanasang kapupulutan ng aral.

Sa website ding ito, mapapanood ang mga pagninilay na tugma sa lahat ng araw ng Simbang Gabi. Marahil ito ay makatutulong sa ating mga kababayang nasa pook na walang Misa o kaya’y naglalayag sa karagatan o di kaya’y kasalukuyang may karamdaman.

Filipino Christmas in the World is a website for the global Filipino. It’s only aim is to give opportunity to all Filipinos to exchange Christmas greetings and share stories and lessons in life.

Through this website, Simbang Gabi (Midnight Mass) video homilies can be watched. This can be helpful to Filipinos living in places where there is no Mass or travelling in the seas or currently suffering from an ailment.

Church in Bohol Island. Photo from Flickr page of besighyawn

Simbang Gabi is another Filipino Catholic tradition which is celebrated a week before Christmas Day. The Inquirer Group, a mainstream media network, has offered an Online Simbang Gabi service. The church of Monsignor Rolando Dela Cruz is a partner of this initiative:

The Web coverage of the dawn masses will be good for those who don’t have a chance to personally go to church as well as for the Filipinos all over the world

It will be appropriate for the people who don’t have a chance to go to church, or if there are no churches in countries where Christians are a minority

We are providing them with the avenue by which they can still participate and spiritually prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus on Christmas day

The online Filipino can participate in the Simbang Gabi but the frequent mall shopper can’t, warns the Archdiocese of Manila

Simbang Gabi may not be celebrated in malls or shopping centers, unless there is a chapel in the establishment, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated with frequency and duly approved by us. We do not allow Simbang Gabi to be celebrated in corridors and hallways of shopping malls where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is needlessly exposed to shoppers that are indifferent to the celebration.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles delivering a homily

Catholic bishops and priests are also blogging to spread the Faith. Junjun Faithbook reflects on the meaning of the Christmas celebration:

I drove passed the city this morning and I can see how busy the streets are. I can see Christmas signs and symbols everywhere, but it made me wonder, is Christmas in everyone’s hearts. It made me wonder what really is our motivation of celebrating Christmas? Is it because it is a holiday? Is it because of the time catching up with friends and relatives? Is it because of the presents we give and we receive? Or is it because of our faith in God-Incarnate, the God who chooses to be personally identified with our humanity in order to save us and lift us up from our fallen humanity?

Fr. Amado Picardal asks if it’s still meaningful to celebrate Christmas amid poverty, destruction, and violence everywhere:

Is it possible to celebrate Christmas amidst tragedy, suffering, poverty, violence, etc? Can we have a Merry Christmas when we do not have enough money? When we do not have enough food? When we are sick?

Christmas is for people who are in the dark, for people who are suffering, for people who are looking for hope. Christmas tells us that God has given us the greatest gift — his only Son who brings salvation into the world, who will overcome all evil — all darkness.

Undas is another important Filipino Catholic tradition when the faithful visit cemeteries and offer prayers for their dead loved ones on November 1. The Catholic Church launched Undas Online to help Filipinos abroad in commemorating this event:

This project has materialized with the following in mind: a) Filipinos who are homebound and have no way of visiting the cemeteries: b) Filipinos who are far from their love-ones, such as those in other countries; c) Filipinos who are seafarers.

Catholic Filipinos can even request for masses:

For those who cannot make it to your parishes, especially Filipinos in other countries or the Seafarers, you may request for masses to be celebrated for your beloved dead. Kindly list down the names of the souls that you wish included in the masses that will be celebrated at the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) Chapel

Aside from Timor Leste, the Philippines is the only Catholic-dominated nation in Asia.

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