Bach/Gounod, "Ave Maria"


by Fr. Raymond T. Sabio, MSC

We, members of the Chevalier Family are very familiar with the special favors or intercessions extended by our Blessed Mother to our Founder, Fr. Jules Chevalier, more specifically on Dec. 8, 1854. On this very special day, a donor approached Fr. Chevalier and offered a very substantial financial assistance to start a good work, thus laying the groundwork for the foundation of the congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. This, Chevalier and companion considered as a providential sign from heaven after having made a nine-day prayer (novena) to our Blessed Mother requesting her assistance. In gratitude for this, Fr. Jules Chevalier gave Mary, our Mother, a very special title, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Moreover, a subtitle, "Hope of the Hopeless" was attached to it.

In the subsequent years, Fr. Founder sought her assistance when faced with very serious difficulties in the face of the government persecution, an offshot of the French Revolution; as well as in the face of the internal grave problems or conflicts experienced by newly founded congregations. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart indeed helped him in very many ways.

I, (Fr.) Raymond T. Sabio, MSC is one of the Chevalier's sons who is fascinated by this title way back in my minor seminary days in Cebu, Philippines. I remember very well, it was Fr. Alex Smulders (Vice Provincial) who in early sixties, gave us a three day holy retreat and he focused on the intercessory power of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart towards the end of that retreat. Later, he gave me a book authored by Fr. Mullane, MSC and my appreciation for this devotion grew much deeper.

After ordination in Dec. 1971, I was assigned as a minor seminary teacher and later as a formator. I always made it a point to present to our formandees and seminarians the role of our Lady of the Sacred Heart in our congregation and I encouraged them to seek her assistance in times of need. Also during those years, I was extending a part-time assistance to Fr. Louis Boeren, MSC, parish priest of Capitol Parish in Cebu City. I suggested to him, which he strongly endorsed, that the statue of our Lady of the Sacred Heart would make a visitation to the various sitios or puroks (small communities) of the parish prior to the big Parish Fiesta in her honor. After a careful organization with the parish leaders and eucharistic ministers, the visitations took place and there was a very enthusiastic reception from various receiving communities/districts. The final day was the fiesta, and all roads led to the parish church, for a big celebration, honoring Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

(Parenthetically, the major shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is in Rome fronting the famous Piazza Navona, not far from the Vatican. A basement chapel is dedicated to her in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Issoudun, France. She is also honored in the churches, chapels and oratories of the members of the Chevalier Family: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart; Sisters of our Lady of the Sacred Heart; and Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They are spread in 50 countries the world over. In the Philippines, she is the patroness of the following parishes: 1) Holy Redeemer Church, Brixton Hill, Quezon City; 2) Capitol Parish, Cebu City; 3) Marigondon Parish, Lapulapu City, Cebu; 4) Guimba Parish, Nueva Ecija. Furthermore, she is also honored in the Q.I. Chapel in Quezon City, as well as in the chapels of the M.S.C.'s in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Metro Manila, Cebu, Surigao and Agusan. Likewise in Korea, she is also honored in the MSC chapels in Seoul; Kuwoldong House of Prayer in Inchon; MSC Formation House in Kanghwa; as well as in the chapels of the MSC Sisters located in various dioceses of Korea.)

As a missionary presently based in Korea, I recommend the devotion to our Lady of the Sacred Heart among the seafarers and foreign workers as well as among our Korean Associates, benefactors, friends and acquaintances. In the subsequent paragraphs, one will find a good number of stories and accounts dealing with her intercessions and what could be considered as miracles. I am deeply convinced, she is the "Hope of the Hopeless."

Since I personally received so many favors through the intercession of our Lady of the Sacred Heart, I included among these accounts, some stories that are based on my life experiences. This for me is a special way of expressing my heartfelt thanks to Mary, our Mother, whom we address as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. I do hope, St. Ignatius will not object to my faith-laden declaration: "Ad majorem Mariae, Matris Nostrae Gloriam."

1. When I was in the Philippines, usually I was hospitalized for 3 or 4 days every year, oftentimes because of intense fever or serious stomach ailment. My health was rather poor. When I came to Korea in May, 1986 I was indeed worried because of the severe winter. So I requested our Blessed Mother for assistance. Already in my seminary days, I was so fascinated by an appendage or subtitle to her name, "Hope of the Hopeless."

I sort of promise her that if she keeps me healthy, I will constantly proclaim her name and her intercessory power as "Hope of the Hopeless." And indeed, very special thanks to her, I was not confined to a hospital in Korea since 1986. (Although I did visit the hospital several times as an out-patient.)

So in thanksgiving, I printed the prayer, "Memorare" to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Hope of the Hopeless and distributed them to the seafarers, workers and trainees. I had also copies of the prayer in Korean (with the Imprimatur of the Bishop of Inchon) and distributed them to various religious groups and individuals. All of them appreciated this prayer for indeed many of them experienced her maternal assistance. They too, are impressed and fascinated by her sub-title as "Hope of the Hopeless."

2. I have never met a lay person who is so convinced of the maternal power of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart until I providentially met a humble, deeply religious and very personable Mr. Vicente "Bing" V. de Villa, Jr. (He is the husband of Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa, Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See). Because both of us are so convinced of Mary's power of intercession, we became very good friends. In the Philippines, this generous couple sponsored the printing of the Novena to Our Lady of Sacred Heart, Hope of the Hopeless.

In one of his early trips to Rome, when Ambassador Henrietta de Villa was newly apppointed Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See, he was so happy to relate to me that by chance he and his family visited the Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, dedicated to St. Andrew the Apostle along the road Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and in one of the side altars of the Church, saw for the first time in Rome, the image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. So I suggested to him to visit in the future, the Shrine of our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Piazza Navona (in the olden times, this piazza was the site of the Circus Maximus). Much later he had a chance. Together with Ambassador Henrietta T. de Villa, family members and Bishop Ted Bacani, D.D., he visited the Shrine of our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The account "Bing" gave me of his visit to the Shrine was so dramatic and very profound that it defied description, because to him, it was the very culmination of his special devotion to Her.

Last February of 1999, we had our MSC Provincial Chapter in Manila and Fr. Superior General was present. I arranged for a visit of Fr. General to Mr. Bing de Villa's residence on the following day, Wednesday. I was a bit surprise that there was an extraordinary dash of enthusiasm in the acceptance of the request. When Fr. General and the three of us who accompanied him arrived, we were surprised to see several cars arriving. Upon entering, Bing and his family welcomed Fr. General and us very warmly and informed us that our visit providentially coincided with his birthday and he thanked us profusely for gracing his special day with our presence. Shortly after, his relatives and other guests started to arrive.

Indeed our dinnertime and the period after the dinner was an interesting period of the rendering of the accounts and stories related to the various kinds of intercessions and miraculous assistance given to himself and to his friends by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. He even named one of his business companies, OLASAHAR in her honor, which made his friends ask whether it is an Arabic name. All of us, MSC Fathers were indeed overwhelmed, even humbled by such a great devotion to our Mother Mary.

I hope and pray Bing will continue to propagate zealously the devotion to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and recount with so much enthusiasm all the great and marvellous deeds done by her to himself as well as to all those whom this devotion was introduced.

3. Prayer for Good Weather. Last Sept. 11 and 12, 2000 we held our Inchon Basketball Sportsfest at the campus of the Inchon University. There were 12 participating teams and our "Guest of Honor" was the Consul General, Minister Benito B. Valeriano because the Ambassador was out of town for a month. OWWA (through Welfare Officer, Mr. Ross Octaviano) sponsored the Trophies and Medals.

In the midst of the grand and colorful opening ceremony of Sept. 11 complete with the parade of athletes and selection and awarding of trophies to the team with best uniform and best muse, we were informed that according to the weather forecast it would rain on the next day, 12th of Sept. because the typhoon was coming. So I asked the Committee Leaders and Sports Organizers to request our Lady of the Sacred Heart for assistance.

Early the next morning, I celebrated an open-air Mass in the Sportsfest venue attended by the Committee Leaders, Sports Organizers and a good number of athletes. I earnestly requested them to seek the intercession of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and prayed wholeheartedly the "Memorare" for this very special intention.

And voila, the second day was equally blessed with an excellent early autumn weather. When the final/championship match was played at 5:00 P.M. of Sept. 12, the sky started to turn greyish. But it did not rain. The Capampagano Dragons (mostly Pampanga players) became the Champion with the Ojung-dong All Stars as the 2nd Placer. At the dawn of the following day, Sept. 13, it started to rain heavily. So few days later, I told the Leaders, Organizers and several athletes, "See, our Lady of the Sacred Heart postponed the arrival of the typhoon until the next day. She is the Hope of the hopeless." And they answered in unison, "Yes, we do believe. She is truly our Mother." And I was very happy that everything went exceptionally well.

4. Wanting to be a Captain. One day in one of my ship visitions, I met a Chief Mate/Officer who was rather friendly, gregarious and I considered him a good conversationalist. In no time, we could inter-communicate very well. And later, we accidentally touched the topic on examination for ship master/captain. He told me he failed twice in the captain's licensure examination. So I recommended to him to pray the Memorare to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart for 9 days before the exam. And his response was, I prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and to many other saints, and still I failed. So I said to him, "Remember this, she is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; and this means she is the "Hope of the Hopeless." His sort of diplomatic last response was, "Well, I will try, Father."

Six months later, this same Chief Officer returned to Inchon Port but on another ship, and as I was approaching this ship, somebody was calling my name. When I looked up, I saw that familiar face of Chief Officer. And he said with a loud voice, "I have a very good news for you, Father." On reaching the ship's main deck, he told me, "O, Father, at last, I passed the examination. I am very, very happy! I just recently received my Master's license." And I immediately answered, "Thanks to our Blessed Mother." And right away he retorted, "Now I see, the title of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is more powerful than that of Our Lady of Perpetual Help."

5. Automobile Accident. As a support group to the Apostleship of the Sea, we have a lay association called Hangman Sadoho-e (Harbor Workers' Apostolate) which was started in 1988 by then Fr. Choi Gi-San Bonifacio (now Co-adjutor Bishop of Inchon Diocese.) They are dedicated Catholics who are in some way or other are related to the Inchon Sea Port either as office supervisors, employees or services-to-ship providers.

Very recently, the secretary of this Association had a very serious car accident. She was admitted to a hospital that specialized on neuro-surgery because her head and spinal column were seriously affected. The Association members and myself as the chaplain, were very worried and concerned with the precariousness of her health.

One day, the president as well as another member and myself visited her in the hospital. I took along a postcard size framed picture of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and prayed the Korean version of the "Memorare" at her bedside. After that, I sprinkled her with holy water. She was so uplifted by that experience and, consequently, I requested her to pray the "Memorare" to our Lady of the Sacred Heart daily.

Two and a half weeks later, she was discharged from the hospital and declared fit to work. She herself could not believe at the fast pace of her recovery. On the last Sunday of May we commemorated the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and this secretary was present to offer special thanks to our Lady. And on her behalf, I recounted the miracle done through the intercession of our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Indeed, she is the "Hope of the Hopeless".

6. Among the seafarers, you have the officers, petty officers and ratings. Officers are 3rd Mate and 4th Engineer and above. Petty Officers are: Boatswain (Bosun); Chief Cook; Electrician. The rest, Oilers, Wipers, A.B.'s; O.S.'s as well as Cadets and Messman are considered Ratings. By chance, I met an A.B. (Able Bodied Seaman) to whom I gave a copy of the Memorare a year earlier. He approached me and said, "You know Father, I almost could not sign on aboard this ship." "Why so? What happened?" I asked. And he answered, "I did not pass the physical examination. I had some problems with my stomach. But since I run short of money I could not go and seek medical treatment. So instead, I invited my wife and two young children to pray together the Memorary to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. I remembered you, emphasizing that she is the Hope of the Hopeless." My response was, "O, I see. Good of you to have done that!"

And he said, "After a week, without any medication, I submitted myself again for physical examination. And I was declared fit to work. I was so surprised by the result. Indeed, I was dumbfounded and immediately I went the nearest Church and thank our Lord, especially our Lady of the Sacred Heart who interceeded for me."

7. Third Engineer of M.V. Heung-A Dragon. He just signed off from this ship and he wanted to take the promotional examination for 2nd Engineer. Earlier, he received from me a laminated copy of the Memorare to our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Since the span of time for reviewing at school as well as his funds were not sufficient, he decided to have his review at home and be with his family. Although I said that whose who seek her assistance should pray the Memorare for 9 days before exam, he prayed it daily for almost one month. When he took the examination, he told me, he had a lot of confidence and there was no trace of nervousness in him.

To make the long story short, he passed the examination. Shortly after, his crewing company knew about his newly received 2nd Engineer license, and he was called to sign-on on another ship named M.V. Heung-A Asia. He related to me this story and he said, he was just overwhelmed by the abundance of graces he received though the intercession of our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

8. Miscarriage. One of our Sunday English Mass Leaders at Tapdong Cathedral, Inchon City, talked about a number of miscarriages in her life. So she is still childless. I encouaged her to put her trust in the Lord and seek the assistance and intercession of our Blessed Mother under the beautiful title of our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

One day she informed our community that she was pregnant and so we rejoiced with her upon hearing this piece of good news. When she requested me to officiate the blessing of her apartment, I gave as a gift a framed picture of our Lady of the Sacred Heart and encouraged her to pray regularly the Memorare. After several months, she gave birth to girl and I was privileged to officiate the baptism of the child, and she was given a beautiful Christian name, Maria Ana. Indeed a gift of new life through the mediation of our Blessed Mother.

9. One of our Community Leaders has a devotion to Our Lady. Her daughter was doing well in volleyball sports. Her team representing the school F.E.U. was the over all national champion. But for the MVP award, her daughter was a contender together with two other candidates from U.S.T. and U.E. She prayed to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart with a special request for help, that if possible, the award be given to her athlete daughter.

Later we were informed, that indeed her daughter received the MVP award. This gave her a lot of joy and inspiration. But she would not be present there at the reception of the award because as she explained this very well to her daughter, she had to continue working in Korea in order to support and finance the schooling of her other younger daughters.

10. A friend of mine who is married with one daughter and one son was in crisis. She had incurred a number of financial obligations; her funds were running low and furthermore, her work supervisor gave her a poor evaluation of her work performance. She was very worried that all these problems would just crush on her, leading to a hopeless situation. So I invited her to pray and our friends to pray for her intentions, laying our hands on her shoulder, beseeching the special assistance of our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She being herself a Mother to our Saviour Jesus, could understand very well the worries, needs and cares of our married lady friend.

Two weeks later, she informed us that there was an emergence of hope in her life; because her daughter got employed in the same firm where our friend was employed. Thanks to our Blessed Mother, once again she has shown that indeed, she is the Hope of the Hopeless.

11. A Seaman wanted very much to be on board the ship because his vacation had somewhat become long since there was a delay in the change of the crew. In the meantime his funds were getting low (since a lot of family members and also relatives were counting on him for financial assistance.) So he prayed to Our Lady with a hope that his ship-signing-on could be realized as early as possible, and with an additional request for a specific ship, because that ship had a prayer leader and it had a good and healthy atmospher for work and companionship.

After praying the "Memorare" for nine days, he got a phone call from his crewing agency, that he should prepare himself because he could soon board that ship. He almost could not believe the news; indeed it was true. Thanks to our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

12. An Officer whom I met two years earlier approached me in one of my ship visits. He told me that he was too long in the rank of 3rd Officer, and he wanted so much to move up to become a 2nd Officer. He failed the licensure for 2nd Officer once. He prayed the Memorare for several days before examinations; and when he got them, he had so much confidence and felt there was a great assistance extended to him. When the results were release, he was overwhelmed for having passed it. And three weeks later, he was called to board the ship as a 2nd officer.

This is very extra-ordinary. Usually, after passing the exam, you need about two or three years before one could use that license. Indeed, he considered this a "double favor" from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart!

13. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Lourdes. Toward the end of September, 1999 our M.S.C. General Chapter ended. Bro. John Kaake of Kiribati (Micronesia) and myself decided to visit Lourdes, since there is a popular belief that a visit to France is not complete without Lourdes. We took the night train from Paris and arrived there early next morning.

It was indeed an overwhelming experience to see thousands of people including those on wheelchairs making a pilgrimage to Lourdes. We attended the Holy Mass at the basement of the Main Church and we went around, enjoying the sights surrounding the pilgrimage site. When noon time came, we looked for a nearby restaurant, and fortunately, we found a medium size one with this name: Notre Dame du Issoudun. So I told Bro. John, there is only one Notre Dame in Issoudun; so the name must refer to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (Notre Dame du Sacre Coeur). We had a simple but substantial meal and we were inspired by the thought that the restaurant we chose was related to our Blessed Mother.

Toward the end of our pilgrimage in the late afternoon, we walked our way back to the train station. We went to the station restaurant and, with a very limited knowledge of the French language, requested for evening meal menu at 5:45 P.M. because our train would leave for Paris at 7:00 P.M. We were very disappointed when we were informed that in France, evening meal could be served only at 7:00 P.M., never earlier. On the next table, an Indian lady in her late 50's was observing us.

Noticing our difficulty, she approached us and courteously suggested that instead of a full meal, we take the sandwiches (stuffed with cold cuts and vegetables) together with our drinks. It was a good idea and we took her friendly suggestion. Shortly after, we had a very interesting conversation. I introduced myself as an MSC priest and my companion, Bro. John Kaake as a lay MSC Brother. And she started to tell her story. She said, being a resident in France, this was her third visit to Lourdes, because of a special intention: that her daughter-in-law bear a child. So far she is childless.

Since I always brought with me copies of the "Memorare" I gave her three copies, one for herself, one for her son and another for her daughter-in-law. And I emphatically explained to her, that since our Lady of the Sacred Heart is the Hope of the Hopeless, her intention will hopefully be granted. She thanked me profusely for the copies I gave her, and she said, she will pray the "Memorare" everyday. It was then 6:30 P.M., time to say goodbye.

On our way to the train platform, Bro. Kaake was shaking his head in disbelief that I had the gall to propagate the devotion to our Lady of the Sacred Heart in a very famous Marian shrine of Lourdes. My answer was: "Well, our Lady of Lourdes should be happy that she is presented as a Mother very closely related to the Heart of the Saviour, precisely as our Lady of the Sacred Heart."


There are two very important reasons that inspired me to put in writing these stories and narratives.

1) To highlight the great significance of our Jubilee Year 2000 Foundation Day (Dec. 8, 2000) and to commemorate the miraculous assistance of our Blessed Mother (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) to Fr. Jules Chevalier 146 years ago. It was She who helped make possible the very foundation of our MSC congregation on the very memorable date when the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated on December 8, 1854.

2) Many of us MSC's (I observed, correct me if I am wrong!) tend to be reserved if not shy or inhibited to recount and share numerous stories related to the intercessions or various forms of miraculous assistance extended to us and to others by Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Definitely, Fr. Jules Chevalier was not! It could well be that this Jubilee Year and the subsequent years of the 3rd Millennium would be the "kairos" to give Her a renewed look as well as to acknowledge and speak openly and courageously about Her maternal power to interceed for us and God's people in need.

I am convinced that the more we proclaim her name, the more we will attract Associates, friends, vocations, conversions and at times, even financial assistance. I honestly believe that the significance and meaning behind her name, precisely as a "Woman of Love"; as a "Mother who taught Jesus how to love"; as "Our Mother who could teach us the way Jesus Himself realified Love"; and more significantly as the "Hope of the Hopeless" are very appealing to the lay people.

I tend to conclude then that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is the special gift of Christ's Heart to our M.S.C. Congregation to be shared with people we work with and for; just as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is . . . God the Father's gift par excellence to the World. Happy Foundation Day! (Raymond T. Sabio, M.S.C.)

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