AS POPE Francis journeyed around the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas on his jeepney-fashioned Popemobile, images of Sto. Niño that resemble seafarers cruising through an ocean of cameras, smartphones, and tablets, bide time for His Holiness’ blessing.

With the Feast of the Child Jesus coinciding with the Holy Father’s visit in the University, some lay faithful found an opportune time to have their Holy Child images be blessed by the Vicar of Christ himself.

The Supreme Pontiff’s holy blessing of the images of Sto. Niño on His feast day makes the images more valuable since it is he, the Pope, the leader of the largest Christian religion, who personally gives the benediction, said James Diaz, 17, a representative of the Youth For Christ (YFC) in Cavite.

Diaz and his fellow members of the youth ministry began filing along the stretch of Dapitan Street at around 12 MN and with them is a foot-tall Holy Child image clad in a beige garb wearing a typical Filipino salakot.

Diaz’s co-YFC member, Za Estayani, 19, believes that by experientially receiving the Pope’s blessing, Christ will be able to guide the services of their ministry.

Among the strong believers of Pope Francis who braved the crowd congestion at 2 AM was Marissa Eringko, 42, a vegetable vendor in a public market in Pasay City. With her in this pilgrimage are her husband and their two children. She was also with her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.

Marissa and her family waited six hours before they were finally made to enter the premises of the University. As Marissa led the rest of her family in looking for a spot at the Quadricentennial Square where they could get a good look of the Pope when he passes by, she gladly clung onto a foot-tall Sto. Niño, dressed in a bright red garment with gold embroideries, like her own child.

This humble lady recounted the second visit of Saint Pope John Paul II in Luneta in 1995 and said that she planned to join the faithful members of the Church before, however, she was not able to witness Saint Pope John Paul II since she could not leave her eldest son, who was just one year old back then, at home. This year, since her two children are already old enough, she wanted her whole family to experience Christ’s presence through Pope Francis and have their Sto. Niño be blessed by the Holy Father.

“I believe that when the Pope blesses our Sto. Niño I will be able to feel his presence and guidance whenever I pray to this [image],” she said.

Calixta Samoy, who was born on the same year as Pope Francis, was among the elderly who camped outside the gates of the University. She was with husband and wife Cesar and Emily Catalan, who, according to lola Calixta are ‘faith healers’ who cured her grandchild’s illnesses.

Lola Calixta and the Catalans brought two images of the Holy Child to have them be blessed by the Holy Father. Cesar believes that God is the supreme healer and that the images blessed by Pope Francis will guide their “hands in service,” which began 20 years ago in Rizal.

“For a person to be truly healed, he must first have a firm faith in Him. We are just mere humans who are called to be instruments of the Lord to help His people. We are here [in UST] to ask for guidance,” he said. Juan Carlos D. Moreno


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