The old St. Anne Church
For as long as I can remember, Mum would always make a pilgrimage to Bukit Mertajam for the Feast of St. Anne at the St. Anne Church. When Dad could drive, he would take us, although he was not a Christian. We would clamber up the granite steps worn smooth by the feet of millions of faithful who had gone to pay their homage before us. Many pilgrims, some from as far as Singapore and Brunei, would devotedly come with their petitions or to give thanks for prayers answered.
The new St. Anne Church
I do not know what petition Mum gave to St. Anne but I guess when I was young, she would have prayed for my safekeeping and good health for the family. When I grew up, I think she would have prayed for me to do well in my studies. After my accident, she prayed for my recovery. After saying her prayers, she would light a few candles just before the altar and then at selected spots all the way up to the top of the hillock where the shrine of St. Anne stands. As a tradition, Mum would always take some blessed salt and holy water from the well beside the church home.
Mass in the new church
St. Anne is the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although she is not mentioned in the Scriptures, the Catholic Church has acknowledged her as the wife of St. Joachim and mother of Mary. The Feast of St. Anne falls on July 26, which is celebrated together with St. Joachim’s. We would usually go a few days before the feast proper to avoid the ocean of people. The compound of the church would be packed to the brim with people holding candles and flowers joining in the procession. Peter had planned to make two trips this year, one especially for Wuan and me on July 24. I almost did not make it as I had an upset tummy. I was struggling with whether I should risk it and possibly mess up whatever I was sitting on. As I sat there weighing the odds, I was touched and the worries disappeared just like that.
The Crucifix behind the altar
We started our journey at 8.30pm, reaching the church just after nine. We had not planned to participate in the Mass but as it was just beginning, we followed the proceedings from outside for a while before getting a place near the entrance. It was in Mandarin. The new church is a magnificent structure that is truly awe-inspiring. One can only experience the ambience by being there. No words can explain how I felt, especially since this is the first feast that I am attending since Mum passed away. Throughout the years, all the feasts that I attended were with her.
Statue of St. Anne.
While we were in the church, Wuan took the camera and traipsed all over the church grounds. There were many places that I could not access because of the hilly terrain and the images that she took will complement her description of those spots. She also took the little container for Holy Water that Mum bought while she was there a few years ago for filing up. After Mass, we browsed around at the makeshift stalls that had been set up in the church compound to sell religious items. I bought one five-decade rosary, one one-decade rosary and a rosary pouch. Wuan and I each also got a Divine Mercy pendant.
St. Anne’s Water Fonts
We left the church at around eleven. Traffic was heavy but it was moving. I cannot imagine how congested it would be on the Feast Day. We had our late dinner at the coffee shop that was just a hop away from the apartment before going back. Just as I entered my apartment, my tummy started to rumble again. Call it coincidence or call it anything you want. The timing could not be more perfect. A little earlier and everyone in the car would have had a very unpleasant experience. Someone up there really likes me.
Penang Trip 2 - Day 1 - 25 August 2013
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Multiple benefits of accessible tourism - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 5 October, 2013