Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feast of the Santo Niño

The Santo Niño of Cebu, the oldest Christian icon in the Philippines
The Feast of the Santo Niño is celebrated in the Philippine Church on the 3rd Sunday of January.  The Philippine Church got a papal indult to celebrate the feast on this day. On this day, even overseas parishes with a significant Filipino membership celebrate the Mass of the Santo Niño .

For many Filipinos Christmas really "ends" on this day. It is not only the Catholics who have a devotion to the Holy Child. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente which traces its roots from Roman Catholicism has a strong devotion to the Santo Niño. The IFI national cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Child. The IFI's charism is to identify the Holy Child in the struggle for national liberation and dignity of the Filipino people.

The Holy Child devotion dates back to the earliest introduction of Christianity in the Philippines. The evangelization of the Philippines began when Magellan presented the statue of the Santo Niño to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521. After Magellan was killed by Lapulapu and the Spanish left, the image was kept by the natives. When the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi landed in Cebu in 1565, he found the image in a native hut where it was venerated. The natives seem to have lost memory of its origin and claimed it was of ancient provenance. Thus the image survives to this very day and venerated in the Basilica of Santo Niño in Cebu where it have been enshrined since 1565. The Basilica stands on the exact spot where the image was rediscovered.

The Feast of Santo Niño is memorable to me. On this day I was confirmed as a Catholic in the Church. The Military Bishop, the Most Rev Severino Pelayo DD asked my confirmation sponsor if I had a Protestant background. When the bishop learned that I had an Anglican/Episcopal background. He immediately told my sponsor that "he is not a convert" and he need not undergo an RCIA program. The bishop just required me to study the catechism he gave, spend the night in prayer, have confession early in the morning and be confirmed during the 09:00 AM Mass of the Santo Niño. And so I was confirmed. The Gospel reading on the Finding of Jesus in the Temple, remains memorable for me. The Gospel's "I must be in my Father's house" is etched in my heart.

And that is where the Santo Niño comes into my Anglican story. I have always believed Anglicans never convert to become Catholics. They just go back to their old rooms at the big house after a time of being away. My father once told me that when I am away, I will always have a room in the old house. In the same way Anglicans will always have a room at the Catholic house. Pope Paul VI told the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome that by coming to "our house, you enter your own house". Anglicans are always welcome and they have a place to stay.

The Ordinariate now up in England can be likened to a newly refurbished room in the old house. The Father has taken care to make everything good in this room. It is now up to Anglicans to enter and they are doing so.

And what could we call these "ex"-Anglicans. They are Anglicans still but now they can be called best as Anglican Roman Catholics. Anglican in their particular heritage, Roman in their essentials and Catholic as the Lord has willed them to be.

This is no longer the "separate branch" of yore, but a living branch united with the life giving source.

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