Fetalvero: The ‘seasonal, traditional trap’

Noemi Fetalvero

SEASONAL and traditional. Practicing Catholics in the Philippines gravitate to churches to attend novena masses for grace: “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo” during Christmas season. Similarly, on Lenten season, particularly on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, Catholics participate in religious activities such as Stations of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, Washing of the Feet and Veneration to the Cross.

Traditionally, Filipinos are active participants in town fiestas to honor their patron saints. In observance of the two most celebrated fiestas, millions of devotees venerate the Black Nazarene and Señor Sto. Niño, attend the hourly masses and join processions.

In contrast, Sunday masses barely fill Catholic churches in ordinary days. Have we become seasonal and traditional members of the Church?

Millions of devotees claim miracles and healing happen when they worship the relics of the Black Nazarene and the Child Jesus. Protestants do not worship relics. When did the worshipp of religious relics begin? Or should the question be: “Who started it all?”

When Europeans were propagating Christianity in this part of the world, they must have found it convenient to introduce religion through something tangible like wooden or ceramic religious statues. We think that the worship of images and relics is part of our faith experience as believers. We touch and wipe the relics to establish our connection with God, Mother Mary, Jesus Christ and to the saints.

The Church has been reminding us not to worship these relics. However, the reminder is not in consonance with the activity at the Quirino Grandstand, where millions of devotees line up to get their chance to kiss the feet of the Black Nazarene. Similarly situated in our city, Sto. Niño devotees fall in line at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño to get a close glimpse of the enshrined Child Jesus.

We question spiritual maturity when some Catholics admit they are believers but are no longer “practicing Catholics.” I am wary as to how our observance of our faith will affect the next generation of believers. Has the powerful mystique of religion been replaced by materialism and consumerism?

Faith in God keeps Filipinos strong in facing complex problems such as climate change, fresh water shortage, unemployment and poverty. Pope Francis has acknowledged the role of Filipinos abroad as missionaries of our faith.

Where do we stand in all of these issues?