Number of devotees reflects people's suffering: analyst

Posted at 01/09/14 2:57 PM


Nazarene devotion a bridge to God - Catholic church

MANILA -- A sociologist believes the number of devotees joining the annual procession of the image of the Black Nazarene reflects the amount of pain and suffering the public is experiencing.

In an interview with "Mornings @ ANC" on Thursday, the day of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, UP Professor Emeritus Randy David said there was more fervor for the tradition this year due to the recent calamities that struck the country.

Last October 15, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao, killing over 200 people and damaging several structures including historic churches.

On November 8, less than a month after the massive quake, super typhoon "Yolanda" slammed into Eastern Visayas, leaving over 6,000 people dead, scores missing and wiping out houses.

"I'm inclined to think na kung gaano kalaki ang kalamidad, ganoon kalakas ang pananampalataya. Kung gaano ang paghihirap, dun nararamdaman ang pangangailangang maging mas malapit ka sa Nazareno. Kaya siguro this year's crowd will be one of the biggest in memory," David said.

He said the nature of the annual festivity as well as the degree of pain and suffering attached to it set it apart from all other devotions in the country.

"To me, the Nazarene devotion is one of the most successful examples of what the church likes to call inculturation, yung ang relihiyon, ang Christianity ay maging intergral na bahagi ng kultura na pinapasukan nito," he said.

"The magical moment, the mystique, the collective energy takes place not during the pahalik but the procession itself. From a sociological perspective, that's the essence of religion. It's the mass fervor that is somehow incarnated into a throng of people. Individuals losing themselves in the crowd, that is what makes it different... The more injury, the more mortification, the more pasakit ang nararanasan, the more intense the experience becomes," he added.


But for Fr. Francis Lucas, president of the Catholic Media Network, the phenomenal following of the Black Nazarene is a manifestation of faith -- proof that people are looking for significance in their lives and that God exists.

"[In the past], we were talking only about hundreds of thousands; now we're talking of millions and it's still growing by about 15 percent or more every year," Lucas said in a separate interview on ANC's "Headstart."

"Without any devotion to anybody or to your own God, you will lose your moral compass and your direction in life... This has become a national and an international event, so maybe it also signifies that God cares for the least, the last and the lost," he added.

Lucas also pointed out that despite the passionate display of devotion in the annual procession, the religious tradition does not smack of idolatry.

"You cannot call this idolatry. It's a bridge, it's a significant reality that allows you to touch your God... This is what the Catholic church is trying to further deepen and purify, the kind of faith that the devotees have," he said. -- Report from ANC