Priest calls for “correct” popular devotions

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JARO, Iloilo, June 2, 2014—In a bid to lead the faithful to a correct understanding of worship, Msgr. Alejandro P. Esperancilla, special assistant for liturgical affairs of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles in Jaro, Iloilo pointed out the many defects inherent in the practice of popular devotions, which he believes can endanger their spiritual lives if left unchecked.

The devotion to the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno (Our Father the Black Nazarene) is one of the most beloved and popular devotions in the Philippines. (Photo: CBCP News)

Esperancilla cited “dangers” which popular devotions in general and Marian devotions in particular can expose Catholics to.

“Popular devotions can end up becoming more important than the liturgy. We have seen people attach greater importance to devotions like novenas and processions at the expense of the sacraments,” Esperancilla said.

Some people, the shrine liturgist explained, prefer going to mass on Wednesday for the Perpetual Help novena rather than go to mass on Sunday, or they attend processions and novenas, but fail to give importance to the Eucharist.

Esperancilla observed that popular devotions “can cause people to develop false priorities and values in their spiritual life”.

He wondered, “We have seen the rich and powerful build shrines and donate money for the propagation of devotions to Mary and the saints, but neglect the works of justice, good government, and charity to the less fortunate, let alone their workers.”

The devotions’ aim, Esperancilla stressed, is life transformation.

“If devotions do not transform our lives then there must something wrong with them or with the people practicing them,” he said.

The priest also called attention to popular devotions’ excessive emphasis on subjectivism, externalism, and sentimentalism. (Raymond A. Sebastián with reports from Fr. Mickey Cárdenas)

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