June 23, 2024

Despite heavy rains last Sept. 14, the Diocese of Quiapo in Manila held a religious procession along the streets of Quiapo.
During the procession, the statue of the Black Nazarene was paraded out of the church. The parochial vicar of the basilica explained the reason for the procession was to give hope to those who may be in despair because of quarantine restrictions. The event did not disappoint.
Notwithstanding, the gathering gathered a lot of flak. Some netizens felt that the procession of the Black Nazarene breached health protocols in that those who marched with the holy icon did not observe proper physical distancing. It was further asserted those who organized the event should have been mindful about the possibility of Covid-19 transmission due to the convergence of a crowd. Come on, give the devotees a break. They, as much as we, deserve to regain their spiritual sanity. And, what better way to achieve it than to observe the religious sacraments and practices that make us conscious about the intervention of God in our daily lives.
For six months, we were deprived of visiting churches, chapels, mosques or temples. There was a general feeling that these places are natural magnets to people seeking a divine solution to the pandemic, with no care for their health and safety. After all, isn’t God the greatest physician? That He can provide a solution to all the problems that are presented before Him? Think about it. This is why we need to reach out to a higher entity. We need to participate in religious activities that will give us the assurance that God is still in control. That He will heal us and our land and our planet.
But the ways of God are not the ways of men. Hence, the better judgment was to shut down all forms of religious activities that involve the gathering of worshippers. Ironically, the deprivation wrought a worse scenario than what Covid-19 inflicted.
The lockdown had almost everybody feeling jittery, useless, and unfulfilled. We began to feel mentally depraved so much that the incidence of suicide is on the rise. We are no longer connected to a higher being that gives meaning to our existence. We had been cut-off much like when the Jews were cut off from Yahweh in their search of the Promised Land. We need to impress God once more that we deserve better than what we are encountering.
This is what makes religious practices or sacraments significant. It is the one activity that gives hope. It is what we can easily cling to in the darkest and direst of our circumstances. As revealed in a survey while the lockdown was still in force, the thing that a majority of the respondents want to do if allowed to leave their homes is to visit a church or a religious place to pray. With the easing of lockdowns and restrictions, this can now be realized. We are trooping to churches, temples and mosques to present our petition to God. And, we feel good and fulfilled about it as if our thirst is being quenched after a long arid desert.
So, if the procession was held in honor of the Black Nazarene and in the process, attracted a lot of persons, what’s the fuzz? It was bound to happen. Millions are devoted to the Black Nazarene with a special feast in its honor being held every year. What’s one more? Many devotees have given testimony on the healing prowess of the icon. If this is true, should we not give the people who believe in it the benefit of the doubt by leaving them alone to adore as they wish? To be cured by what they believe?
The power of faith to fight the Covid-19 contagion should not be underestimated just because it entails the gathering of people. While worshipping in the form of masses, processions or services ought not to be encouraged due to circumstances of the times, neither should it be discouraged or prosecuted because religion, in any form that it is practiced, will always be the tonic of the people.