MANILA, Jan. 8, 2013— As devotees of the Black Nazarene continue to grow, the Quiapo Parish Church has tried to improve its formation programs and catechizing people about the devotion.
Citing superstition or occultism in the devotion, Quiapo Church parish priest Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio said they are doing everything to address these concerns.
“There are things that still need to be purified in our expressions. Human as they are, our expressions need to achieve their perfection,” Ignacio said.
“We have taken baby steps, reorganizing the parish and its ministers, doubling the personnel and prioritizing formation, liturgy and devotions…,” he said.
According to him, Black Nazarene devotees have different levels of faith – some are young and some are mature.
What are needed, he stressed, is the devotees to understand their faith more, and put things in the right perspective.
“With proper formation, we hope the devotees could experience more the love of God in their lives and realize their faith in Jesus,” Ignacio said.
The priest also said that whether some expressions are delusional or devotional, it is the heart, the interior of the person that will often decide if an expression is right or wrong.
“I hope, before we make easy judgments about devotions, we must first understand why people express their faith the way they do. Those who could judge better about these acts of religiosity are those who understand fully the heart of the devotee,” he said.
“I admit, I am still trying to understand the heart and the life of the devotee. I am still far from being considered a true devotee,” Ignacio added.
Regarding the lack of doctrinal understanding of the people’s faith, he said that it is not the people’s fault but their lack of opportunities for formation.
He said that many devotees in Quiapo and those who appear once a year during the procession need to be given opportunities to be formed in the faith.
“Slowly, we have tried to reach out to more Mamamasans (devotees pulling the ropes) but we are only ‘scratching the surface,’” he said.
Ignacio said that the overnight vigil before Jan. 9 is an attempt to reach out to more devotees hoping to bring the good news and share the teachings of the Church with them. Quiapo Church has also tried to begin a tabloid newspaper, a website and TV Masses.
Church and government officials are expecting six to eight million devotees to join in the yearly procession of the Black Nazarene statue in Manila on Wednesday, January 9.
Last year’s procession was the longest on record since it took more than 22 hours to transport the revered image from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church.
The wooden Black Nazarene, carved in Mexico and brought to Manila in the early 17th century, is cherished by Catholics who believe it performs miracles.
Authorities have also deployed more than 3,000 police officers to secure the religious event. (CBCPNews)