IN THE past, the pontifical mass for the feast day of the Sto. Niño every third Sunday of January was celebrated at the Pilgrim Center of the Basilica del Sto. Niño and attended by hundreds of devotees.
On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic changed this familiar setting. The pontifical 6 a.m. mass celebrated by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma took place inside the Basilica. Only a few people were in attendance, including this year’s hermano and hermana mayores and Augustinian priests.
Palma, in his homily, appreciated the “ambiance” inside the Basilica in the presence of the original image of the Sto. Niño in the context of the pandemic.
“The realization that, yes, pandemic (is still) around, but it does not paralyze us because one who is touched by the love of the Little Child knows that when we realize our gifts and when we believe that our gifts are meant to be shared, then we know there is real meaning in every song that we sing: Batobalani sa Gugma. There is meaning in every exclamation, ‘Pit Senyor!’” the prelate said.
This was the first Fiesta Señor without the annual foot procession and seaborne parade in as many years. It also marked the first virtual-only Sinulog.
However, Palma said this year’s Fiesta Señor, despite not having street festivities that usually gather millions of spectators, was still a blessing and a moment of thanksgiving.
Palma said limited access to pilgrim grounds and the Basilica on a notable day for Cebuanos was only a small challenge for true devotees who adore and have enthroned the Sto. Niño not only in their altars but also in their hearts.
He said, indeed, the best expression of devotion to the Sto. Niño is to see Him as a blessing.
“Even as I look back on my own family or yours, you may recall years ago, we are a simple family, but because of the devotion to the Niño, we have become closer as brothers and sisters. We have become more prayerful. We have become more zealous, industrious, hardworking and even in our own little business, through Niño’s gifts, it has grown,” he said.
He encouraged the faithful, especially those who are burdened by serious problems and doubts, to continue offering their prayers to the Sto. Niño and to continue to voice out their concerns and problems as the Niño, the “Batobalani sa Gugma,” listens and awaits them in prayer.
He said the Niño is a guarantee that the faithful and the devotees are assured of God’s continuing presence and support.
“Many times we only have fear, but today, the Niño tells us: ‘Have faith rather than fear. Put your trust in this little child – small but powerful. Batobalani sa Gugma (magnet of love)!’” he added.
The prelate said the image of the Niño, the little child who needed the care of Mary and Joseph, is a reminder to the faithful that the “little” ones in society, may it be helpless children, the unfortunate ones, the marginalized, the sick or the weak, also need help and tending. (WBS)