It’s been very rainy and bleak here, a perfect backdrop for the ongoing spiritual chastisement we are suffering under Francis the Humble®. A devotion which offers solace in these times is that of the Divine Infant Jesus, Who draws us by His perfect humility and loving obedience to Our Father in Heaven.
Devotion to the Holy Infant is complementary to that of Fatima. Both call us to mortification, true humility and perfect obedience. And devotion to the Divine Infant is a necessary part of the devotion recommended by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the beloved Little Flower.
Devotion to the Infant Jesus originated in Spain and then spread to many countries in a variety of manifestations. Many saints have been favored with this devotion, notably St. Anthony of Padua/Lisbon, St. Teresa of Avila and St. St Thérèse of Lisieux and Sister Lucia of Fatima.
Here’s a bit of background on just a few of the numerous devotions to the Holy Infant Jesus:
Santo Niño de Atocha
According to tradition, devotion to the Santo Niño de Atocha originated in devotion to Our Lady of Antioch and her Divine Child and “Atocha” derived from “Antioch” over many centuries. The original statue is said to have been sculpted by St. Luke the Evangelist and so dates to very early times. By 1162, the devotion had spread to Spain and became immensely popular. The following story is taken from the site El Santo Nino de Atocha:
The pious legend of the wonder working little Santo Niño is set in Spain.
In Atocha, a suburb of Madrid, many men were imprisoned by the Moors (Muslims) who terrorized the Christians there because of their faith. The prisoners were not fed by their jailers, so food was taken to them by their families. The caliph issued an order that no one except children twelve years old and younger would be permitted to bring food to the prisoners. Those with young children would manage to keep their relatives alive, but what of the others?
The women of the town appealed to Our Lady, begging her to help them find a way to feed their husbands, sons, and brothers. Soon the children came home from the prison with a strange story. Those prisoners who had no young children to feed them were being visited and fed by a young boy. None of the children knew who He was, but the little water gourd He carried was never empty, and there was always plenty of bread in His basket to feed all the hapless prisoners without children of their own to bring them their food. He came at night, slipping past the sleeping guards or smiling politely at those who were alert.
Those who had asked the Virgin of Atocha for a miracle began to suspect the identity of the little boy. As if in confirmation, the shoes on the statue of the child Jesus were worn down and dusty. When they replaced the shoes with new ones, those too were quickly worn out. After Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Moors from Spain in 1492, the people continued to invoke the aid of Our Lady of the Atocha and her Holy Child.
And so we see in the foregoing the miraculous intervention of the Holy Virgin and Child to assist Catholics against muslim persecution. Perhaps a useful devotion for our present times, isn’t it?
Santo Niño de Atocha in Mexico and New Mexico
In Mexico, the devotion to was brought by the Spanish and carries on the tradition of devotion to the little pilgrim Child Jesus. A major shrine is in the state of Zacatecas in Fresnillo/Plateros, where many miracles were attributed to the Holy Infant Who miraculously saved miners who had been trapped in an explosion in the Fresnillo silver mine. In New Mexico, the Shrine is near the Sanctuary of Chimayo. Among the many veterans of World War II, were the brave New Mexicans who survived Corregidor, the Bataan Death March and internment in Japanese prison camps. When they returned, some 2,000 made a pilgrimage to the Holy Infant of Atocha at Chimayo, many walking barefoot.
The Holy Child Jesus is believed to travel through the countryside, seeking poor sinners to heal and help. In some areas, He is thought to be absent from the church at night, due to His peregrinations in search if souls to save.
Santo Niño de Cebú
In the Philippines, devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus known as “Santo Niño” was brought by the Spanish to Cebu in about 1521 when a member of
Magellan’s crew gave the local queen a statue of the Santo Niño as a baptismal gift. The little statue has a wonderful, miraculous history and has been known to survive many calamities, as far back as 1565, when, after a battle in which the then-village of Cebu burned to the ground, soldiers found the wooden box containing the sacred statue unscathed amongst the ruins.
And again, during World War II, when the Santo Niño Church was bombed, the statue of Santo Niño de Cebú was found to be completely undamaged. There are many other such miracles both for the statue and for the devout Filipinos who treasure devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus of Cebú. Devotion to the Holy Infant is an excellent example of humility, and is the basis for the practice of spiritual childhood .
In the Philippines, according to site, SantoNinodeCebu.org, the Feast day of El Santo Niño is celebrated on the third Sunday of every year and many Cebuanos and Filipinos in general, do not consider the Christmas season over until the Feast of the beloved Santo Niño.