Father Tirso

Now that a new year has begun, I again would like to take this opportunity to share a new event that we will be having here at the parish on Sunday, January 19 th . On that day, we will be celebrating the Feast of the Santo Niño aka the Infant Jesus.

The image of the Infant Jesus is one that holds a special place in the hearts of many Catholics. Many of us may have grown up with traditions and customs surrounding the holy image of Jesus as an infant made popular, of course, by the well-known Infant Jesus of Prague.

In the Philippines, the Infant Jesus—or Santo Niño—has a revered place in practically every Catholic church, chapel, home, office, place of business, and vehicle. It has been said that when the Spaniards first attempted to catechize the natives of the islands, the ancient Filipinos were unimpressed with the image of Jesus crucified. However, when the Spanish friars introduced the image of Jesus as a child dressed in the finest royal garb imaginable, the idea of God becoming a human child and yet remaining a powerful ruler became the catalyst by which virtually every Filipino converted and embraced the Catholic faith.

Customarily, the feast of the Infant Jesus would be associated with the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus which is January 3 rd . However, in the Philippines the third Sunday of January has been given the honor of being the Feast Day of the Santo Niño and huge celebrations can be found in virtually every part of the nation. In particular, though, there is the region of the Philippines where it all began. On the island of Cebu in the region known as the Visayas, the history of the Santo Niño celebration began. It was there that Ferdinand Magellan arrived onto the shores of the Philippines and first introduced the image of the Santo Niño to the reigning chief and his wife. The chief’s wife embraced the image of the Santo Niño and as a result everyone followed her in embracing the Catholic faith. The image of the Santo Niño has been loved ever since.

For centuries as an essential part of the celebration, there has been a unique dance in Cebu and the Visayas regions. Known as the Sinulog, it is a dance that dramatizes the coming of the Spaniards and the gift of the Catholic faith. The Sinulog is part of every procession on the Feast of the Santo Niño and the dance itself brings the energy and life out of every devotee.

Here at the parish, we will take the time to honor the Infant Jesus at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, January 19 th . Several of our Filipino parishioners who hail from the region of Cebu (or the Visayas) have volunteered to organize the Sinulog dance and bring this beloved festival to us. The will be a procession with images of the Infant Jesus prior to the start of the 10:30 a.m. Mass and ALL are invited to participate by bringing your images of the Infant Jesus—the Santo Niño—on January 19 th and carry him in the procession. As part of the procession, our Filipino Cebuano parishioners will lead us in the Sinulog dance up the center aisle. Even if you do not know this particular dance—or have “two left feet”—you can still take part in this joyful procession. Let the energy of the dance get you into a festive spirit to honor our Savior. The images of the Santo Niño will be displayed prominently in the sanctuary.

Then, during the Mass, we are planning to have parishioners and friends of SMM share a few hymns in the Visayan dialect of the Philippines. This is the dialect spoken in the region of Cebu where, again, the feast of the Santo Niño began. After Mass, there will be hospitality in the Gathering Space of church.

Again, ALL are invited—Filipino and non-Filipino parishioners alike. ALL images of the Infant Jesus are welcomed—big or small. Bring them on January 19 th and let us honor our King who became a human child to show us the way to become more like God.

Fr. Tirso S. Villaverde, Jr.

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