Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma issued last April 2, Maundy Thursday, the pastoral letter on the “Kaplag,” the “finding” of the “miraculous image” of the Santo Niño de Cebu by the Legazpi expedition whose 450th anniversary will be celebrated this month.
“The Archdiocese of Cebu joins the Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines in celebrating three significant events this 2015—the 450th anniversary of the Augustinian presence in the Philippines (1565-2015), the . . . Kaplag . . ., and the 50th anniversary of the elevation of the Santo Niño Church in Cebu City to the rank of a ‘minor basilica’ (1965-2015),” the letter opens.
“Our people’s devotion for the Child Jesus constantly reminds us of the humble beginning of our faith in God,” writes Palma.
The Cebu prelate says the three-fold commemoration is “a manifestation of divine grace bestowed upon our people and an occasion to express our gratitude and thanksgiving to the Almighty God for the gift of faith and for having chosen our country to be a beacon of light in this part of the world, being a nation in Asia with a predominantly Catholic populace.”
Palma likewise praises the Augustinians. “Looking at the past 450 years of the Augustinian presence in the Philippines, we realize how the early missionaries’ work went well beyond religious matters.” He explained the legacy of the Augustinians “covered various areas of our culture, like education, politics, urban planning, foundation of towns and cities, literature, sciences, philology and so forth.”
“Today the Augustinians continue to promote the devotion to the Child Jesus wherever they work, both in the Philippines and abroad,” Palma writes, adding that the center of the devotion remains to be Cebu, where the devotion started.
Palma writes that the 450th anniversary of the Kaplag this year would be part of the larger celebration of the fifth centenary of the Christianization of the Philippines in 2021.
The Cebu archbishop explains that the 2015 Kaplag “is an occasion for us to prepare ourselves for that big event and, at the same time, an invitation for us to thank God for the countless blessings that he unfailingly has showered us through our devotion to his only begotten son who, in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4) took the form of man, becoming a small child.”
Kaplag 2015 opens on April 18 at 7 a.m. with the traslacion (transfer procession) of the image from the Basilica Minore de Santo Niño de Cebu to the Redemptorist Church.
The commencement exercises of the Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology (LST) on March 18 was addressed by Dominican Province of the Philippines prior provincial Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III.
Father Timoner, recently appointed to the International Theological Commission by Pope Francis, assuaged the shock of his presence by breaking the ice.
“I am sure you are wondering how a Dominican got invited to the commencement exercises of the renowned Loyola School of Theology.
“I met one of the graduating students two weeks ago at a book-launching event and he said there were ominous murmurations among the graduating students whether the presence of a Dominican in LST could be one of the portents of the parousia!”
Rector of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Central Seminary before he became head of the Philippine Dominicans, Fr. Timoner recalled that during the Pope’s visit of UST on Jan. 18, LST president Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, SJ, told him he would invite the Dominican to LST. Timoner said he had though the invitation would be “for coffee and cake.”
Father Timoner hails from Daet, Camarines Norte, and he said his father used to be a varsity basketball player of the Jesuits’ Ateneo de Naga in Camarines Sur. He added a Jesuit priest said Mass for the family when his eldest sister died.
“I am here to give thanks to the Jesuits who have been kind to my family,” he said, “and to Fr. Catalino Arevalo, the acknowledged dean of Filipino theologians, whom I revere.”
“Yes,” Fr. Timoner added, “we Dominicans also admire Jesuits, especially now that we have a Jesuit Pope!”
Gilbert C. Balana, a retired teacher of Barangay Tinago, Ligao City, Albay, and Jimmy Ang from Manila wrote to ask for several prayer cards.
For those who would like to receive free prayer cards, write to “Miss Josephine Darang c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City.” Please enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for easier mailing.