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Managing popular piety

Rev. Fr. Roy Cimagala

Candidly Speaking


WE have to give thanks to God, of the whopping kind, for the tremendous devotion Cebuanos and many others have toward the Sto. Nino, the child Jesus dressed as king for indeed he is king of the universe.

This devotion has not waned one bit. On the contrary, it has grown through the years in spite of the trials and difficulties not only in terms of economics and politics but also in terms of the faith, what with all the scandals also swamping the Church in recent years.

It is obvious that the hand of God is behind all this overwhelming manifestation of popular piety. How else can we explain the staggering turn-out of people for the procession and the Masses for this feast?

And I must say that it’s not only in numbers that are breath-taking. It’s more the very clear external manifestations of piety that truly show what the people have inside their hearts. This is no mass hysteria. Just look at the dancing and all the gestures!

We have to show our deep gratitude by feeling the grave responsibility of taking care of this vast popular piety. We have to understand that this is a continuing task. We can never rest in this. We have to be wary of our tendency to be taken in by a sense of euphoria, very understandable, that can deaden our sense of duty.

We have to make sure that the religious dimension is always preserved as the main animating element of the celebration. We need to strengthen it, and equip it with the appropriate “antidote” against foreign elements that can also be expected to come.

Popular piety can attract all sorts of things. It’s like a pie or a cake in the open air. Politicians will take advantage of it. For good or evil, we cannot determine for now. So, some regulating indications have to be made.

Business people, the big ones and the small ones, obviously will also do some milking and killing of the big event. This is all very understandable. Again, some effective regulating provisions have to be made.

Different people from different fields will use it from their respective interests. There has to be a way of determining which is compatible with the over-all celebration and which is not. People from the fields of culture, education, sports and entertainment, etc. will all have a field day.

The Church leaders have to be most active and persistent in underlining the spiritual and supernatural dimension without detracting from the legitimate human dimension. This is not an easy task.

Often, the way to go is by trial and error, and errors will surely come. But as long as the concern remains, and the people involved have the proper dispositions and competence, then we can only expect success especially in the spiritual side. A lot of coordination is inevitable.

For sure, a lot of catechesis given in ways very much adapted to the different mentalities of the people is a must. Priests, nuns and others can expect a more receptive attitude from the people given the general atmosphere.

Homilies and other forms of preaching have to be very well prepared. As much as possible, we avoid improvised preaching that either turns off people or spoil them in their ignorance, confusion and other forms of deficiencies.

By now, Church leaders should have a good idea of what to tell the people, how to motivate and inspire them. This idea should be well articulated and developed in appropriate modules and preaching plans that can make use of modern technologies like the social media.

With the vast popularity of this devotion, Church leaders should acquire the skills of using the mass media properly. They are the new pulpit, the new Areopagus. And actually there are a lot of things to say, to preach, to clarify and explain, to correct, etc.

People have to be gradually introduced to the intricacies of theology and philosophy and the other sciences that deal with our faith and devotions. We should never be afraid to do these, since these are necessary. Otherwise, only the secularizing forces can dominate the public consciousness.

Obviously, relevant educational, social and cultural activities should also be pursued. Seminars in schools and other venues, exhibits, etc. can be promoted.

Underlying all these efforts should be intense prayer and sacrifice, mostly personal and hidden, though these can also be made collective.

We need to review how each one of us is taking care of our life of prayer and sacrifice. With God’s grace, this is what determines the success of popular piety.

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