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Dublin’s Filipinos prepare for Christmas with Simbáng Gabi devotions in Church Street

By Cian Molloy - 18 December, 2017

The Archibshop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, visited the Church of St Mary of the Angels in Church Streeet to join members of the Filipino community at the start of their traditional pre-Christmas Novena, Simbáng Gabi.

The tradition of Simbáng Gabi, which means ‘night-time Mass’ in Tagalog, is a much-loved part of Christmas devotions in the Philippines, where they date back to the 17th century when Spanish missionary priests decided to organise pre-dawn devotions instead of the usual evening Novena Masses found in most of the Hispanic world. The reason for the innovation was to allow agricultural workers to worship in the cool of night, rather than having to endure the oppressive heat of day.

Such is the strength of the tradition in the Philippines  that Simbáng Gabi devotions are continuing in parts of the country that have been placed under martial law and which would otherwise be under night-time curfew restrictions.  The Novena concludes on Christmas Eve with Midnight Mass, known as the Misa de Gallo, which is Spanish for ‘Mass of the Cockerel’.

In recent year’s, Dublin’s Filipino community have found a spiritual home in St Mary of the Angels Church, which is part of Halston Street Parish, which is run by the Capuchin Order.

“The Filipino community has evolved here in Ireland,” Archbishop Martin told the congregation. “You play an important role in the Catholic Community of the Archdiocese of Dublin and indeed within Irish society. Your kindness and spirit of service and your deep faith are renowned and much appreciated.”

The archbishop added that one of his staff was perplexed by the invitation received to attend ‘Misa de Gallo – Simbang Gabi Mass’. “It was easy for me to explain what the celebration was about, as I attended the Misa de Gallo in the Cathedral of Manila in 1978 – almost 40 years ago – before many of you were born,” the archbishop sad.”I was a guest of Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, and he was very pleased to welcome me by saying ‘It is probably the first time you have celebrated Christmas in the house of sin!’.

“It was a wonderful experience. Naturally, everyone wishes to be at home for Christmas and I am sure that many of you would also love to be at home with your family this year. It is good however that you can celebrate something of family and tradition here in Ireland.”

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