It isn’t a rare sight to see Filipinos flocking to churches in the wee hours to celebrate Simbang Gabi mass during the advent season. But this year’s first night mass is extra special for Filipinos around the world—as Pope Francis was the one who presided over it!
The Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo is a nine-day mass during the advent season. It usually starts on the morning of December 16, sometimes the night of December 15, and ends on Christmas eve. The masses would often be celebrated by parish priests, and sometimes cardinals or archbishops. But this is the first time a Pope has celebrated it!
Pope Francis celebrated the first night of Simbang Gabi at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, much to the delight of the Filipino community there—who were lucky enough to attend—and Filipinos around the globe. The Holy Father said that the tradition of Simbang Gabi has crossed borders and had spread throughout the world because of Filipino migrants and their devotion to the tradition.
In his homily, Pope Francis drew from the Sunday liturgy by saying, “from the words of the Responsorial Psalm, we learn that there are those “vulnerable people who also deserve a look of special love from God.” He was talking about the “inhabitants of the existential peripheries of yesterday and of today”—they are the orphans, widows, oppressed, hungry, immigrants, and prisoners.
The Santo Papa also told those in the Basilica that they “have a special mission.” He says that they who have left their homes in hopes of improving their and their families’ lives should share their faith and spiritual wealth, and listen to others’ experiences as well.
To end his homily, Pope Francis imparts that “we are called to practice charity together with those who live in the existential peripheries.” He says that we must use the gifts we are blessed with to restore people’s faiths and that we are called to share the Good News and proclaim the Gospel, “in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible.”