MARIKINA City, July 29, 2015—Even as he praised the veneration of saints and the making of religious images, a Catholic priest-theologian has advised “santeros” (sculptors, custodians, enthusiasts) and devotees against “devotional excesses” many of them fall into, reminding them about the virtues of simplicity and moderation.
“Being deeply devoted to the saints through their images is a laudable thing. Through it we carry on and continue not only a cultural heritage, but above all, a religious heritage that we received through our evangelization almost 500 years ago,” explained Fr. Timoteo José M. Ofrasio of the Society of Jesus (S.J.) to participants of Visitación III.
Organized by Esculturas Religiosas en Las Filipinas, the annual event was attended by santeros, devotees, and religious photographers from all over the country, and held most recently in Marikina City, dubbed the “Santo Owners Capital of the Philippines.”
The Jesuit father, who also teaches Systematic and Sacramental Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), likewise underscored the importance of prudence in expressing devotion to the saints, especially in public.
He noted, “Our aim is not to impress other people and compete with each other in the expense and décor we are able provide our images but rather to inspire devotion to the saints that they represent, so that they may help us in our daily struggle, and may be our model in following and serving the Lord.”
Ofrasio went on to cite examples of “ostentatious” practices some devotees are guilty of, comparing these to food that is too tasty it is no longer appetizing.
Among others, these are: adorning images with the finest gems and jewels—earrings, rings, brooches, crowns, aureoles made of precious stones, gold and silver—and dressing them up in exquisitely embroidered gowns.
The priest lamented processions of such images often devolves into a mere fashion show that is devoid of spiritual significance and scandalizes, rather than edifies, the faithful.
“What people see in it is the lavish display of wealth they can only dream of having, and something which the saints themselves do not represent,” he said in Filipino.
‘Santos’ not dolls
Ofrasio stressed religious statues are not “Barbie and Ken Dolls” whose clothes can be changed on a whim, depending on the taste and the budget of the owners or custodians, like what many Catholic Filipinos do to their household Santo Niños.
“Subconsciously, these people are already transferring the honor to their own person, instead of the saints they [claim to] venerate,” he added.
This year’s Visitación coincided with the Fourth Saturday devotion to Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados de Marikina, the Patroness of Esculturas Religiosas en Las Filipinas.
Affectionately called “Mama Ola,” she was canonically crowned on October 23, 2005, the first under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)