In the spirit of the theme, “The Incarnation well understood” we embarked on a Marian pilgrimage to this revered place of Meishan (literally means Plum Mountain), in the county of Chiayi, that traces its roots to the Qing Dynasty.
Up to the mountain
Our pilgrimage began early morning with two groups of members travelling by land: one group coming from Tainan and another one from Taipei. Cruising through 36 winding curves within a span of 1000 meters began the ascent to the town of Meishan. Here one starts to pray and contemplate the robust growth at the slope of the mountains of coffee, beetle nut trees, pine trees and all other trees of different shades of green while feeling the sudden jerks and turns of the vehicle when the driver maneuvers to go through the “labyrinth”.
On our way to Mary’s sanctuary, our first stop was at Taiping Suspension Bridge, the community’s meeting place where we welcomed and greeted one another as fellow pilgrims. Taiping means peace which perhaps was an amazing coincidence where we exchanged our greeting of peace! We were a total of 24 pilgrims, the eldest of whom was 83 years old and the youngest, 3 years old.
Consciously or unconsciously, it was ritualizing our entrance to our Marian destination. We entered together, walked in pairs or in groups through the total length of Taiping Suspension Bridge of 281 meters with an altitude of about 1000 meters above sea level. It was a short distance but a meaningful crossing over to the other side of the mountain trying to overcome our fears; testing our strength; enjoying the sea of clouds, the plain of Chiayi and green-peaked mountains and hills and crop-planted valleys; and breathing in fresh air in praise of God for the spectacular display of His creation from that vantage point where one can see things differently.
A special eco-lunch
An agape feast followed at Kuang Ye Minsu (Villa of the Desert), owned and ran by the family of a diocesan priest. A sumptuous lunch was served with vegetables and fruits organically grown in their gardens. A special treat was the pine tree leaves drink! Everyone was satisfied and contented with the meal, appreciated it more when the family attending to us explained the source of what we ate.
After the communal meal, the head of the family (who voluntarily serves the parish too) showed us the garden as he powerfully shared the marvelous things that the Lord had done to him and his family through prayers and sacrifices. He explained as well the symbols of the boulders of stones and the growing trees in the garden, seeing God in them. Could there be a better way to prepare and send us forth to the culminating place of our day’s pilgrimage from that place of the agape?
Fr. Marius Regencia, a Filipino priest of the Marian Missionary of the Holy Cross and is the present parish priest of Our Lady of China Parish celebrated the mass before our “Voto”. In his homily he narrated the origin of the statue of Our Lady of China from a small village called Dongluo, 140 kilometers southwest of Beijing in China. During the Boxer Revolution in China, Dongluo was miraculously saved through the apparition of Mary. To commemorate the unusual occurrence the parish priest then, Fr, Wu, obtained an oil portrait of the Chinese empress dressed in her imperial robes. He took it to an artist who used it as a model for painting an image of the Madonna with the Christ Child dressed in the imposing robes of a non-Christian empress.
The statue in the church of our pilgrimage is a replica of that of Our Lady of Dongluo where healing and miracles continue to take place to this day.
Seekers of God, seekers of humanity
The prayer for the “Voto” followed after the mass with each offering a spiritual bouquet to Our Lady written on either a flower-shaped or a heart-shaped paper pasted on a stick to be arranged along with others in a vase. Four simple questions guided us to contemplate on our spiritual bouquet as a response to TA President, Maite Uribe’s invitation for us to “live as seekers of God, seekers of humanity”. We sang litany of praises to Our Lady and solemnly ended with the prayer to Our Lady of Covadonga.
With our hearts, minds and spirits renewed we bid goodbye to Our Lady of China, entrusting to Her our personal and family needs and that of the Teresian Association and the vast territory of Asia that still has to know Her Son. On personal note, October as the Month of the Missions, our strong and deep experience of a day pilgrimage reminded us that we are His missionaries in this part of the Teresian geography. Our Lady of China, pray for us.
Text and photos: Amalia T. Ledesma and Rachel Cerbo. Tainan City.