Faith and Reason
Feast of the Holy Child

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” —John Paul II

A few days ago I surfed the net and found an interesting article that says the Japanese government is encouraging families to have more babies. This is also true in Singapore. There are not too many babies there. The same reality is found in many so-called “developed countries”. They are developed in many things, except a younger generation of people. Their populations are getting older and babies are becoming rare.

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Not here in the Philippines. We see many children around us. There are many babies. Thanks be to God for babies.

Filipinos love children. That may be the reason why we love the Sto. Nino. We have a great devotion to the Christ-child. Devotion is a matter of the heart. Just as we dress up children, some devotees dress up the image of the Sto,. Nino in beautiful clothes or in clothes that reflect the interests of the devotee. I have seen the image decked in basketball uniform, the national costume, police uniform, and other creative attires aside from the traditional one.

This Sunday the St. Nino will be honored in our chapels, churches and basilicas. This fiesta is identified with arrival of the Christian faith in the Philippines in 1521 and also its colonization under Spain for almost four centuries. The original image now kept in Cebu was brought by the Magellan expedition. The colonizers are gone. The faith remains.

Faith is expressed in many ways. Side by side with official, orderly and oftentimes cerebral aspects of the practice of the Catholic faith is what is called popular religiosity, oftentimes emotional and non-orderly. One case in point is the recent Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo where two people died amidst the jostling crowd. Our Sto. Nino celebration is a mixture of the official liturgy and the popular practices. While clergy and catechists point to the meaning of the celebration (reason), common folks are drawn to the image by their religious sense (faith). Over the centuries, such faith has been maintained by rituals (folk dance) and symbols (the image itself). The theological understanding and rationalizations come at a later stage, if ever.

A case in point is in a barrio chapel where the priest was delivering his homily. He started with the question, “Who is the Sto. Nino?” The answer came fast from one of the listeners,”The little brother of Jesus.” Indeed faith must also be accompanied by knowledge. As Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical Fides et Ratio (1998 ), “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth in a word, to know himself so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

As we celebrate this important fiesta in the Philippines and in other countries where they are observed, we unite ourselves with our brothers and sisters in the faith in their various devotions. It would not hurt us if we do the traditional dance, walk on our knees, or touch the image with our handkerchiefs. It might even put us in touch with our affective faculties. It would of course be a lot better if we understand and are able to explain what we believe in. Faith and reason come together.

Today I go back to my hometown. After the masses I usually watch the little groups that dance the sinulog in the side of the church, with only a biscuit can to beat a rhythm with. The dancers pray for a child, a good harvest, healing, protection. They dance with hope sometimes tentatively or with abandon. There would be the mardi gras style and tourist-drawing street dances with bands, big floats and splendid costumes. I prefer this little corner with the ordinary folks. Then I just stand before the image and make my prayer and wish. “Senor Sto. Nino bless your people.”