Living in the Philippines where the religion of majority is Catholic, I am used to seeing people participate in almost every occasion relating to religion. Though I am not a Catholic, I admire them when it comes to their dedication and willingness to sacrifice. Among all their religious practices, the Celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene puzzled me most. Millions of barefoot men try to make their way as near to the Black Nazarene as possible in order to glance, touch, and wipe towels on it. These people push, fight, squeeze, and do almost anything just to fulfill their panata. As a result, a number of devotees are injured and killed, but they do not really care much because the devotees believe that the more sacrifice one performs, the higher the reward. This can be attributed to the Filipinos’ inclination to self-punishment and devotion to the images of Suffering Christ. According to the article written by Dr. Chua, the procession should actually inform and attract public to become converts of the faith.
But based on what is commonly seen in news during the feast, I don’t think that the said procession is an effective way of encouraging new believers. Actually, there is a better and more peaceful way of celebrating the feast such as by praying the rosary or making a personal prayer. Joining the procession seems to be absurd for some people, even for the Catholics, but we must never judge or despise them. Instead, let us try to understand their motives by “putting ourselves in their shoes”. In my opinion, this is indeed a very helpful tool in comprehending the actions of other people in any given circumstance, not only in understanding the devotees of Nazarene. I have realized that in any ritual or vow performed, what is important is the heart. Without the right one, all sacrifices and effort will just be put to waste. Showing devotion and love for the Divine being should be manifested not only during the Lenten season or Feast of Nazarene; rather, it must be within oneself daily and naturally.