GRACE DESCENDS, AS PRAYING CROWDS STOP THE TANKS

There is a moving photograph taken at Sunday night, February 23rd, 1986. It shows a portion of a crowd at a street corner we call Libis. Several hundred people are praying the rosary, kneeling or sitting there on the road — everyone in deep and earnest prayer. The beads are in their hands, and candles flicker beside them.

What the picture does not show is the image of Our Lady to one side of the praying crowd, and facing them, the hundreds of combat-ready marines whom this assembly of prayer had stopped. Behind the soldiers, ready to climb up the little hill, are tanks and armored personnel carriers and trucks, two battalions about to launch an attack. Was there ever before such a battle joined?

Later I spoke to a priest who was part of that scene that unforgettable night. And he told me how he felt the presence of God in the midst of that crowd in prayer. He said he saw the soldiers praying too. He saw their lips moving, as the Hail Mary filled the air in waves. Some of them he saw joining the Ave, Ave, as, under the silent stars, the crowd broke into that song, which every Filipino knows from the years of childhood.

The miracle, the priest said, was in the heart. The troops were stopped, the tanks were halted, not by any force of weapons, nor even by the force of bodies bound together in human barricades.

The outward miracle was only the manifestation of what was taking place “within,” of deeper forces which were the ones truly at play. The tanks and troops were halted by the ultimate fate that brother should not slay brother; they were halted by solidarity in brotherhood and love.

Jaime Cardinal Sin Archbishop of Manila
Excerpts from an address to Stonehill College, Massachusetts, USA Pentecost Sunday, 18 May 1986

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