Devotion to Sto Niño should heighten social awareness — priest

As thousands of tourists and devotees flocked to Iloilo City during the weekend of the Dinagyang Festival—one of the most famous fiestas in the Philippines celebrated on the fourth Sunday of January—an Augustinian friar reminded everyone to focus on the religious aspect of the festival and reflect on the message the Sto Niño is telling us today.

Source: CBCP News
Presiding the concelebrated Mass at San Jose Parish Church on “Dinagyang Festival 2014”, Fr. Czar Emanuel Alvarez, O.S.A., told the faithful that “devotion to Señor Sto Niño should not only deepen our faith in the Child Jesus but also heighten our social awareness and motivate us to fight the various forms of evil that exist in our society.”

With thousands of devotees, including the Senate President and other national and local government officials at the Mass, Fr. Alvarez challenged them to respond to the higher demand of the Gospel by saying that devotion to the Christ Child does not end in imitating His humility only.

“Remember that, like Jesus’ disciples, we are exhorted to welcome the children around us and are warned against scandalizing them. While we are invited to humble ourselves, we are likewise reminded of our duties and responsibilities towards the ‘little ones’ of the society,” he said.
The Augustinian preacher said it is sad that today, “children worldwide are not always well taken care of.”

On the contrary, they are, more often than not, exploited and disrespected, he said.

He noted that the exploitation takes many forms: “child prostitution, child trafficking, abortion, children who are forced to work, malnutrition, children deprived of education, and so forth.”
Even as many people rejoice and party, eat, drink and dance in the streets of Iloilo to the rhythm of the drums during the days of the Dinagyang Festival, Fr. Alvarez reminded the faithful not to forget the religious dimension of the event and the message that the Lord Jesus is giving us.

“The fun and entertainment accompanying the Dinagyang will end. But our desire to imitate God and to listen to Him should never cease but rather accompany us throughout our lives,” Fr Alvarez added.

To highlight this message, the Augustinian Friars, the faithful of San Jose Parish, and other devotees of the Sto Niño, celebrated the Dinagyang Festival not only with the usual Novena Masses and religious processions. Programs in favour of the “little ones”, such as the Dinagyang Food Aid for Children, Dinagyang Medical and Dental Missions, Catechism for Barangay Children, and the Healing Mass for the Aged, Sick and Abandoned, were also held.

Dinagyang—originally called “Iloilo Ati-Atihan”—began when the late Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, O.S.A., at the time Pastor of San Jose Parish, introduced in Iloilo the devotion to the Sto Niño de Cebu in 1967.
The following year a replica of the original image of the Sto Niño de Cebu was brought to the Queen City of the South by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez as a gift to the Parish of San Jose.

The devotees, led by members of Confradia del Santo Niño de Cebu, Iloilo Chapter, gave the image a fitting reception starting at the point of arrival, parading down the streets of Iloilo, until it arrived in San Jose Parish. This became a tradition that is replicated annually at the Dinagyang Festival. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas)

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