MANILA, May 18, 2015—Thousands flock to Quiapo on Fridays, and perhaps just as many flood Baclaran on Wednesdays. But how many Black Nazarene and Perpetual Help devotees care to attend Mass on Sundays or pray consistently and constantly?
A Catholic priest has stated it will do no good looking down on devotees, arguing that what these people need is the understanding and education which will enable them to deepen their faith, not a patronizing treatment.
“While it saddens us that many Nazareno devotees seem to take their Catholicism seriously only once a year during the Quiapo fiesta, we would like to think that at least they have something we can use in order to deepen their spiritual lives,” shared Fr. Melvin Castro in a talk he gave members of the Company of St. Dominic (CSD) on Sunday, May 10, at the Santa Catalina College in Sampaloc, Manila.
Towards spiritual maturity
“Let us not belittle them. Let us rather help them move forward in their spirituality,” he added.
According to the priest, there is nothing wrong with novenas themselves, but stressed Catholics must realize there is more to the faith than a series of nine-day prayers and petitions.
Instead of mocking them for their folk religiosity, Castro called on the spiritually mature to help the former go beyond mere devotions towards a more fruitful and solid prayer life centered on the Holy Eucharist.
Gift from God
“Prayer is a gift from God. Some find praying a breeze. Others may pray all day but don’t really feel God’s presence. There are different levels of prayer. As such, we cannot just force people to meditate and contemplate at once without really knowing what they are doing, especially when they are not ready for it. But it has to start somewhere. Mystics are not born overnight,” he explained.
In this regard, the priest, who also founded the Confraternity of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, underscored the importance of adequate preparation, conditioning, and discipline if one wants to progress in prayer life.
“If parents do not feed infants solid food for fear of indigestion, in the same way, we should not impose on ‘novena Catholics’,” he said.
Constant, consistent praying
Castro noted many novenas like the Perpetual Help take almost as long as the Mass to finish, so reciting lengthy prayers is not new to many devotees; it’s the quality that matters.
“What’s important is the depth, the consistency, and the constancy of their prayers. We can encourage them to set aside a fixed time each day exclusively for meditation and contemplation, preferably when they are most calm and after all work is done,” he said.
“For example, five minutes of deep prayer now… Make it 15 minutes next time,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)