AN AUGUSTINIAN friar has urged the public not to patronize images of Sto. Niño de Cebu adorned in green vestments or other colors due to their association with superstition.
Fr. John Ion Miranda, one of the friars at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, said they do not venerate or bless these images as they are being used as “lucky charms.”
The Basilica, overseen by Augustinian friars of the Order of Saint Augustine, preserves the Holy image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu, which was brought by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Miranda said the image wearing a green garment is called “Sto. Niño de la Suerte (of luck),” which is used as a lucky charm.
“In our belief, in our faith, we do not need a [lucky] charm. In our faith itself is enough. We receive enough blessings from the Lord,” he said in an interview on Jan. 9, 2024.
He said the use of Sto. Niño de la Suerte was popularized by a cult in the ‘90s. He, however, was not able to specify or name the cult.
Miranda cited a document from around 20 years ago, authored by the late Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, saying that only the Sto. Niño image adorned in a red vestment should be blessed by the Church.
He explained that in Christian iconography, each color holds symbolic significance. Miranda added that red, signifying suffering, is why the venerated Nazarene in Manila is depicted wearing red attire.
However, Miranda said the red velvet clothing of the Sto. Niño also means kingship of Jesus Christ.
He said the image of Sto. Niño de Cebu is bearing a golden crown, globus cruciger, sash, sceptres, owing to its honorary title.
During the Spanish colonial era, the Sto. Niño was given the highest military rank of captain general of the Spanish forces in the Philippines, Miranda said.
According to a 1994 report from the Union of Catholic Asian News, the late Archbishop Vidal noted that opportunistic businessmen took advantage of people’s inclinations toward materialism and superstition. This was achieved by selling Holy Child images in various colors, catering to a desire for different temporal benefits.
“We have only one Sto. Niño and that´s the Sto. Niño de Cebu. That is enough,” the writeup quoted Vidal.
It noted that another variant wearing the yellow vestment, which is also called Sto. Niño de la Paz (for peace), is also being sold.
“That is our limitation and where we draw the line between fanaticism with the lucky charms... and we have limitation with our Christian faith,” he said.
During the blessing of religious icons, they refrain from blessing Sto. Niño images adorned in various colors of clothing, and instead encourage the owner to choose a red vestment, Miranda said.
He said this practice is also related to the Feng Shui beliefs of many, which he emphasized should not be integrated into Christian faith.
Miranda also shared an incident where a devotee came to the Basilica to have a money tree, intended to attract wealth and abundance, blessed after a Holy Mass, but Miranda declined to do so.
Miranda emphasized that Catholicism emphasizes faith in God, sacred traditions, and divine grace, discouraging reliance on superstition to prevent a distortion of true religious devotion. (KJF)