The first time I met Fr. Marz, a young visiting priest in our parish, I greeted him by offering to shake hands but instead he took my hand and placed it on his forehead in the traditional "Mano or Pagmamano" * way found only in Filipino culture. Even if I am probably about twice older I said, "Father, it is I who should do this because you are a priest."
Yesterday, before Sunday Mass, a middle-aged parishioner was about to do the "mano po" gesture but instead Fr. Marz took her hand and put it on his forehead. She had a look of surprise on her face. I commented, "You are truly respectful of the elderly, Father." "Not only that really," he replied, "it means I am asking her to pray for me. Like everyone else, I need prayers, too," he added. "In the diocese I come from we priests were encouraged to do this."
Even as many Filipinos who have migrated to the United States have imbibed the new culture and replaced the "Mano Po" with a hug or a kiss, many still have not forgotten this beautiful tradition from the old country. In church, many children and even parents still do the gesture when they see the priest or even the deacon before and after Mass. And they give the blessing.
The new insight I got from Fr. Marz reminds me of the virtues of humility and respectfulness, and more so, our need for prayers from one another. We do ask for prayers from friends and family and the clergy when there is that important something that we ourselves pray for. This is also in keeping with the teaching of our Faith that we can ask for prayers from one another, especially from those who are already in heaven and are there in closeness and union with God. These are the saints, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus Who is God, to intercede for us, to pray for us, who are still struggling in this "vale of tears" so that like them we can also be in eternal union with Him.
" . . . pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." (James 5:16)
No, Virginia, when we ask our friends, the saints and Mary our Mother, to pray for us, we are not worshiping them, but we acknowledge that we are members of the same Church, the same Body, of which Christ, Our Lord, is the Head. #
* "Mano po" or "Pagmamano" is an "honoring-gesture" used in Filipino culture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of requesting a blessing from the elder. Similar to hand-kissing, the person giving the greeting bows towards the hand of the elder and presses his or her forehead on the elder's hand. Usually performed with the right hand, the person showing respect may ask "Mano po" to the elder in order to ask permission to initiate the gesture. Typically someone may "mano" to his or her older relatives upon entry into their home or upon seeing them. (Wikipedia)