S e n t i r e C u m E c c l e s i a

"To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls..." - Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius [365]

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Feast of the Santo Niño, Protector of the Philippine Islands (a titular feast of the Philippines)

We celebrate today the Feast of the Santo Niño. Every third Sunday of January, the Philippine Church holds this solemn feast to honor the Christ-child. It is said that this feast is being celebrated to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in the archipelago more than four hundred years ago through the Spanish friars and missionaries. It is important then to thank the Lord for the gift of the Catholic faith as we celebrate the Fiesta Señor.

But on a deeper level, this feast has relevance other than historical. The Gospel passage captures it clearly: “unless you become like little children, you shall never enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus reminds us of the importance of becoming “childlike” in our disposition towards life, and in the final analysis, towards God.

We might wonder what it is in the child that Jesus admires so much. I think that there are basically three admirable qualities. The first is trust. The child can do nothing but trust. No matter what the circumstance is, the child continues to trust. This is the kind of trust (basic trust) that the psychologist Erik Erikson talks about in his psychosocial theory of development. The second quality is innocence. The child remains innocent in all aspects of his childhood. He never harbors grudges; he never breeds hatred; he never wishes misfortunes for his neighbors. And lastly, the child always loves. No matter how hurt the child may be, the child continues to love. The child never gives up on loving.

These qualities are seemingly impossible to practice in this present time. It is difficult to trust, most especially if we have been betrayed. It is hard to be innocent since we have been trained to be wise and cunning. It is never easy to love, most especially if we have been hurt. But Jesus gives us the example – his very self manifested in the Santo Niño.

So as we celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño, let us beg the Lord for the grace to become childlike in all our ways: to be constantly trusting, innocent, and loving. and in union with the Church we pray:

Almighty God,
Your only Son, begotten from all ages,
Humbled himself as a child in Nazareth
And became subject to Mary and Joseph.
Grant that we may learn from his example
To embrace your will in all things and,
Holding fast to the dignity of all,
Serve our lowly brothers and sisters
With open hands and gentle heart.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. AMEN.

The image above is the one given by Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana in the 1500s as a gift during her baptism. With the acceptance of Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana of the Catholic faith, the whole of Sugbu (presently Cebu) was Christianized. This image is enshrined in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City and has been a place of pilgrimage since then. The Basilica is in the care of the Augustinian Fathers and Friars.


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