Devotion and the Makings of a Minor Basilica

By: Augusto Urbano II
October 13, 2023

Artwork by Vince Allen Atienza of The LANCE.

The celebration of the feast of Nuestra Señora del Santissimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila happened last October 8. A great number of devotees attended the masses and, most especially, Her grand procession. During the celebration, emotions were high and we can really see the level of devotion of the people to the Blessed Virgin. But as always, there are these inevitable and peculiar sights during the mass and the procession.

Immediately after the procession, catholic social communities on different social media platforms have been quick to call out on a person who carried a placard having the words “MINOR BASILICA NOW” written with blue paint on a piece of cardboard. The man in question is Mr. Alexander Jayson Manaligod of the UP-Student Catholic Action, a devotee of Our Lady of La Naval. Catholics on social media expressed their distaste for Mr. Manaligod’s actions during the celebration, and frankly, I myself was intrigued by this. 

Was it really necessary? I beg to disagree. Pulling off such a stunt during what is supposedly a solemn event was somewhat uncalled for. If we want one of our churches, in this case, the Sto. Domingo Church to be elevated to a Minor Basilica, there is a certain process that the Church must follow in order to attain the status. 

Mr. Manaligod might have had the idea for the placard from the time of the funerals of both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI where the people exclaimed “SANTO SUBITO,” meaning “Saint, now”. But doing this during the feast of the Virgin of La Naval? Again, unnecessary. 

The process of elevating the church to a minor basilica is not only by the request of the faithful but also falls upon the discretion of the church’s administration. In this case, the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans, and also the petition of the local ordinary or the bishop. 

Supporting documents must also be prepared, which will then be sent to Rome to be approved by the Pope himself. The Sto. Domingo Church currently holds the title of Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila given at the same time as the sixth Sto. Domingo’s inauguration on October 10, 1954. 

While Mr. Manaligod’s actions were the root of the controversy, his cause was in fact praiseworthy. According to him, “this honor is already overdue,” and I agree with him on this one. The fact that the Sto. Domingo Church or the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila garners so much devotion, and the image of Our Lady which is housed in the church itself is considered miraculous, the church deserves the special honor of being elevated as a church which is directly tied to the Pope. 

The annual feast day celebration and the grand procession of the ivory image of the Blessed Virgin pulls devotees from different parts of the Philippines in such great numbers that we may consider the event as something second only to the feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

A day after his controversial actions during the feast of Our Lady, Mr. Manaligod issued a letter of apology to the friars and the prior of the Sto. Domingo convent Rev. Fr. Roger C. Quirao O.P. As a fellow devotee of Our Lady of La Naval. I believe that this is the right thing to do, stating that his intense feelings to honor Our Lady and her shrine got the better of him. His bravery in facing the consequences of his actions should serve as an example for us Catholics and Christians, and the fact that it did not take him a long time to realize his mistakes is applaudable.

On this note, we must always be mindful of the level of solemnity during church events and give utmost respect not only to the church itself but also to the Mother of our Lord. If we want the Sto. Domingo Church to become a minor basilica, we must pray for it. We must pray that the Holy Spirit guides the people who are to become the keys to the fruition of the dream that Sto. Domingo Church, the shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of La Naval receives the honor it deserves. And someday, possibly soon, we may see that the Sto. Domingo Church finally become a Minor Basilica.