Sunday, August 22, 2010

St Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam (Pt.2)

Continuing from Part 1 of our pilgrimage tour...

July 26, 2010 - The actual feast day of St. Anne :

About 5pm:
We arrived at the Church of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam, about an hour's journey from the Stella Maris Holiday House in Penang island where we were residing. There were two Masses that evening to celebrate St Anne's Feast Day, one scheduled for 5.30pm while the second one at 7.30pm and we chose the latter so that we'd have more time to do the Stations of The Cross and personal devotion to St Anne.

Church of St Anne, Bukit Mertajam
Church of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam with a beautifully-designed multi-tiered Minangkabau roofing

5.30pm - Way of The Cross:
George Yeow, the charismatic tour organizer suggested that we pray the Way of The Cross following the stations erected up the hill slope behind the Shrine of St Anne (old church), and not those newly erected stations around the new church's flat grounds as originally planned. He shared that it'd be more meaningful with the climb uphill and also to trace the Church's origins. Optional though for those who preferred otherwise due to poor health or whatever reasons. Of course, my beloved John who has lumbar spondylosis were among the few who chose to remain at the foot of the hill though he did reached the 2nd station in his feeble attempt. :-(

Shrine of St Anne (the old church) and Stations of The Cross, Bukit Mertajam
Top left is the Shrine of St Anne. Others showing pilgrims along the uphill Stations of The Cross behind the Shrine.
It's alleged that St Anne's apparition was first sighted at the grotto shown above (5th Station) or
is it the grotto at the peak of the hill in the next image below?

George Yeow was right! Somehow, prayerfully following the Way of The Cross up this popular and well-trodden hill had me so choked and emotional as I recalled my recurrent sinfulness and unworthiness before Our Lord Jesus. Yet experiencing joy at the same time, being fully aware and convinced that my Savior continues graciously to save me no matter what. Didn't He redeem the whole of humanity by His passion, death and resurrection? Thank You, Lord for your great sacrificial love and mercy...I'm forever most grateful and thankful!

14th and final Stations of The Cross at the hilltop, Bukit Mertajam
The 15th Station as depicted by Jesus Christ's Crucifixion in the foreground, to signify His glorious resurrection.
In the background is the famed St Anne's grotto at the peak of the hill, the historical site of
the 1st Chapel of St Anne that was built in 1846 by the French visiting priest, Fr. Adolphe Couellan

After the Way of The Cross, I continued to spend much time in prayer at the 15th Station and St Anne's grotto, oblivious that the crowd had dwindled to just a few. John and I had decided months ahead to join this pilgrimage to St Anne's Church for a spiritual experience, not expecting to be devastated just 10 days before the pilgrimage of news concerning the marriage breakup of a dearly beloved couple, sort of beyond reconciliation. Thus, as I spent time before the large Crucifix, overwhelmed by Jesus' unconditional love and mercy, and recalling the couple's despair and other events, tears just flowed uninhibitedly as I poured out my burden and pleaded for Jesus' blessings and healing for the couple, my family members (especially John with ill-health) and others. As I felt the heaviness in my heart waned by God's grace, I then proceeded up a flight of steps that led to the 15th station to spent some moments in silent prayer before St Anne, the blessed mother of Virgin Mary. I asked her to intercede for all my prayerful intentions of healing and reconciliation for family members, friends and others, to her beloved grandson, Lord Jesus.

Shortly, a miracle happened right before my eyes:
Upon completing my prayers I looked up and was just in time to witness this miraculous event. I could see the whole wide grotto clearly as I stood centrally on flat ground, with my back leaning against the railing that was about 2m away from the foot of the steps. Moreover, there were just less than 2 handfuls of people up there then.

A lady in blue (one of the pilgrims belonging to our tour group) standing nearby the tray of lighted candles, took one backward step down after praying, missed it (probably because it was waxy and slippery, plus narrow too) and totally lost her balance. Straightaway and uncontrollably, she fell backwards down a flight of 6-8 steps to the ground. But amazingly, she fell all the way to the ground in an erect position, though haphazardly with hands and legs 'in all directions' so to speak! Her water bottle was flung out from her bag and came rolling to where I stood about 2-3 meters away. It took me some moments to bend down, pick it up and hand over to her as I was too stunned and startled with the whole falling event, all happening just within seconds.

Can you just picture the scenario if she had tumbled and fallen upside down and hit her head on the hard surface? Eeek...she could have broken her skull and gone into a coma, to picture the worst! The fact was THERE WAS NOBODY close enough to save or break her free and rapid descent! But someone did, guess who?

A male friend of hers who stood quite close beside me rushed towards her, steadied her and remarked, "Thank God, you're safe!" And, she just blurted out without hesitation in reply, "the lady" or did she meant "The Lady". She felt someone had supported and prevented her from the headfirst plunge down the steps! Both of them must have pondered the miraculous event the whole night through because the next day while traveling homeward, the male friend asked me curiously whether I was the lady who supported his friend from falling flat? He was adamant that it was I he saw. I can safely affirm that it definitely was not me! If he could not have reached her, then neither could I who was standing 2-3 feet away to his right! As I stated earlier, "THERE WAS NOBODY close enough to save or break her free and rapid descent! But someone did, guess who?"

You're right, your guess is as good as mine! I can vouch that the unseen hand that saved the lady in blue was none other than St. Anne, The Lady...the Blessed Grandmother of Jesus Christ, who has saved and continues to save and give hope to countless people through her intercessions to Jesus, Our Lord and Redeemer! After all, wasn't she the Queen of that Day, whose feast day we were celebrating and who just wouldn't say no to our invitation to join in the 'fun'? :-)

I praise and thank God for the gift of St Anne to us. I'm grateful and thankful too to be blessed with witnessing the saving miracle at her grotto atop the hill on her actual feast day, July 26! Incredibly amazing for me to witness it at all because the Stations of The Cross was not initially scheduled to be done on that evening. Moreover, it was supposed to be prayed at the Stations erected on the grounds around the new Church! God's grace has no boundary, He loves blessing us with unexpected joy! His love and mercy is inexhaustible. As I write this article, John and I are experiencing much peace and joy as Our Loving Father has listened and answered our heartfelt prayers and that of St. Anne's - the dearly beloved couple mentioned above has decided to forgive and be reconciled with each other, to love and begin afresh with God's blessings! Such wonderful news received about 10 days ago! Praise the Mighty Name of Jesus! He's ever merciful, mending our broken hearts and lifting up our drooping spirits over and over again, assuring us of His endless love, care and presence in the world!

Psalm 40:16
May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout,
"The LORD is great!"

Psalm 77:14
You are the God who works miracles; you showed your might among the nations.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

So, do continue to have faith in Jesus as nothing is impossible with God as it's stated in the Bible:

Luke 1:36
"And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."

Matthew 19:24-26
"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

(Bible text taken from The New American Bible @ USCCB)

Frankly, I just lost the sense of time while at the peak. Though still a little dazed from what I've just witnessed at the grotto, I hurried downhill when I realized that it was already late. My beloved John was nowhere to be seen at the foot of the hill and that got me really scared! Gosh, how was I going to find him in such a huge area and with so many pilgrims and devotees who have converged to St Anne's Church to pay homage to the revered Saint? Thank God that John saw me from afar frantically searching for him... haha, he was still at the same spot where I've left him slightly more than an hour ago, but it was just my blurry self coming downhill at the wrong stairs! Being a first-timer, I hadn't known there were two set of steps!

Having found each other, we happily went inside the Shrine of St. Anne to give thanks and prayed, asking St. Anne to intercede for us. She's especially invoked as Patroness of Mothers as well as of The Childless and The Unmarried, Comfortress of the Sorrowing especially for broken marriages and troubled families, Health of the Sick, Protectress of Widows, and others. No wonder, thousands will converge to the Church of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam during the feast 10-day celebrations to ask for her intercessions, besides paying homage and giving thanks for prayers answered. Just looking at the numerous bouquets of gorgeous flowers and countless candles being lighted continuously inside the Shrine and elsewhere, outside at the grottos, is more than enough to urge us to have faith and trust in her powerful intercessions and abundant blessings!

Shrine of St Anne and life-size statues
of St Anne and the young Mary, plus one of Our Lady and Her spouse, St Joseph with baby Jesus
Top left is the Shrine of St Anne (the old church) and the other pictures show the inside with life-size statues
of St Anne and the young Mary, including one of Our Lady and Her spouse, St Joseph with baby Jesus.
The stained glass set on the wall at the background is more than a century-old, installed in 1896 by Fr. Charles Grenier.

The actual Feast Day Eucharistic Mass Celebration at 7.30 pm was preceded by the 4th day Novena prayers and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy that started at 7pm. Not surprising to see the Church almost fully-packed in spite of it being on a Monday. The main celebrant of the Mass was the Most Rev. Archbishop John Ha and concelebrated with 14 (if I'm not mistaken) priests from other diocese!

Archbishop John Ha and other concelebrants of the St Anne's Feastday Mass
Most Rev. Archbishop John Ha presenting his homily. To his left is the uniquely-shaped Tabernacle.
Right image shows Arch. John Ha as the main celebrant with the other concelebrants during the Consecration

Since the day's theme was 'The Mission To Promote Life', the Archbishop in his homily, spoke much about God's breath of life in every person. He made bible references of the Old Testament on the creation story in Genesis 2:7 and the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14 as presented below:

Genesis 2:7
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and led me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones.
He made me walk among the bones in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were!
He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come to life?
I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.”
Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:
Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.
I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.
Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

(Bible text taken from The New American Bible @ USCCB)

He exhorted all present to appreciate and value life, to promote life irrespective of the physical conditions, disabilities and the like because God lives in each and every person. Be pro-life! And, no one has the right to take a life but God the Creator who determines who lives or who dies!

Interior of St Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam, with focus on its ceiling
The ceiling design inside St Anne's Church at Bukit Mertajam is simply remarkable, to say the least!

Beautiful interior of St Anne's Church, Bukit Mertajam and statue of St Anne and her daughter, Our Blessed Virgin Mary
Inside St Anne's Church: left photo shows a marvelous view of its interior taken from the entrance, while on
the right is the statue of St Anne and her young daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the extreme right
in a glass reliquary is displayed a golden vessel bearing St Anne's relic (a tiny 3mm fragment of her bone)

A candlelight procession followed soon after the Eucharistic Mass. A group of volunteers shouldered a palanquin bearing the statues of St Anne and her daughter, the young Blessed Virgin Mary. Pilgrims carrying lit candles, creating a stream of light, followed the procession closely and prayerfully reciting the Holy Rosary and singing hymns of praise and worship. The whole procession around the vast church grounds took about 40 minutes and ended with the Benediction inside the Church.
Moments later, the celebration culminated with a short display of fireworks at the grounds before 10pm!

St Anne Feastday procession: statues of St Anne+Our Lady, palanquin bearers, Shrine of St Anne and pilgrims with lit candles
Clockwise from top left: the processional statues of St Anne and her virgin daughter, Our Lady, palanquin bearers
leaving the Church, Shrine of St Anne (the old church) and pilgrims with lit candles following the procession

Praise God that the whole event went along fine without a hitch! Weather was very fine and I could see that the parish priest, Msgr. Stephen Liew who gave a short thank you speech after the Mass was very pleased indeed with the successful feast day celebration! The glorious St Anne must have prayed with us and for us, for a perfect day!

A big thank you to Msgr. Stephen Liew and his community of parishioners and volunteers for their wonderful hospitality and generosity! There was free flow of meals and drinks for all!

10.20pm onwards:
We then traveled back to Penang with contented and joyful hearts that were spirit-filled! Stopped over at Gurney Drive for a quick supper and what a disappointment it was! Humph...without warning it suddenly poured heavily just when we were about to eat and got some of us truly drenched and food included too! By the time we hit the sack after a hot bath, it was way passed 1 am!

Nonetheless, John and I had a truly enriching experience spiritually and an eye-opener too with regards to St Anne, about whom we know so little! We hope to repeat the pilgrimage next year, again with George Yeow (bless and thank you, my friend!). There's much more to explore at St Anne's Sanctuary in Bukit Mertajam that we hadn't time to do this time round! :)

Keeping a useful link on Novena to St. Anne by Catholic Doors Ministry here, just in case.


  1. Dear Jackie,

    Keep up the good work, very well written, very inspiring to hear that you actually witnessed a miracle right in front of you.

    It's great to hear St. Anne answering your prayers for for the couple who was having marital problems.

    This explains why the big crowds are present at St. Anne's feaat. She always answers our prayers.

    Best regards

    Rose Yeow

  2. Thanks, dear friend! Appreciate you taking your time to visit me here and leaving your kind comments.
    Have a great day and rest of the week, Rose! :-)


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