Colombian devotion brings baby Jesus out of the manger

For many people, Advent is the only time they contemplate the infancy of Jesus, but there are many devotions that reflect on His childhood. 

“Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a child,” said Father José E. Hoyos, director of the Spanish Apostolate of the Arlington Diocese. He compared faith to a child, and described Advent as the time for faith to grow, just as Jesus grew from a baby to a man. 

“A child expresses tenderness. When you look (at the image) — with his arms open he says, ‘Hug me,’ ‘Take me,’ ‘I am here.’ ” Father José E. Hoyos, director of the Spanish Apostolate of the Arlington Diocese

There are many popular devotions, such as the Infant of Prague, the Holy Child of Atocha and the Divino Niño Jesús (Divine Child Jesus). Father Hoyos prefers the Divino Niño Jesús, which originated from his native Colombia. He says the various forms are like the many titles of Mary, and any of them that depict Jesus as a child are powerful.

CONNOR BERGERON  |  CATHOLIC HERALDFather Hoyos explained that prayers to Christ as a baby are not inventions but, “is part of our church’s history, it is part of Jesus’ story.” The history of Jesus’ birth and His childhood has been preserved in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The actual practice of honoring this aspect of Jesus’ humanity can be traced back hundreds of years to saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Cajetan and St. Teresa of Avila. 

It is believed that the Carmelites, the religious order begun by St. Teresa of Avila, presented a statue of the Child Jesus to a princess in Prague in the 1500s. When she died, the statue was bestowed to a community of Carmelite priests, where the devotion grew into the Infant of Prague. When missionaries came to South America during the colonization, they carried this devotion with them. Since then, it has taken various names and garments, but the intention has remained the same. 

In Bogota, Colombia, the roots of the Divino Niño Jesús shrine date back to 1914 when Salesian Father Juan del Rizzo claimed to have a vision. While praying in front of a statue of Mary holding the Child Jesus, the Child Jesus spoke, saying, “Take me with you, I want to accompany you on your trip.”

For those unfamiliar with the image, the Child Jesus is dressed in a pink gown with a blue sash, and an ornate halo behind the head. He stands on a cloud that says, “I will reign,” with his arms open.

CONNOR BERGERON  |  CATHOLIC HERALD“A child expresses tenderness,” said Father Hoyos. “When you look (at the image) — with his arms open he says, ‘Hug me,’ ‘Take me,’ ‘I am here.’ ”

According to Father Hoyos, the devotion to the Divino Niño Jesús has grown in popularity due to the miracles associated with it, and the shrine in Colombia has become a pilgrimage site. After returning from the site, Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN, built the Temple of the Divine Child, located in the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. She claimed to have had a vision of the child asking her, “Build me a temple and I will help those who help you.” 

Padre Hoyos was invited to Argentina by a bishop to preach on the Year of Mercy. When he arrived he noticed that the bishop was using the Divino Niño Jesús as the symbol for the Year of Mercy. When he asked the bishop why, he responded, “Because the child is the expression of God’s mercifulness. God gave us His own son.”

Traditionally, a novena of the Divino Niño Jesús is prayed from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24. Each day, focuses on a different moment from the Nativity story, from the Annunciation, to the manger scene, to the magi, and so forth. 

The Divino Niño Jesús is a treasured devotion for Father Hoyos. When he moved to the United States 28 years ago, he didn’t bring any books or fancy clothes, just a statue of the Divino Niño Jesús, which he keeps in the office of the Spanish Apostolate. 

“The Divino Niño Jesús calls us to be open, to open our arms,” said Father Hoyos. “And when we open our arms, we can be open to others.”

The Novena to the Divino Niño Jesús

O God, who out of love for us have sent your only Son as our Savior and Redeemer, we ask that through the intercession of the merits of His childhood, you increase our faith and that we abound in good deeds. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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