RANDOM THOUGHTS: Voices from yesterday and today…by Peachy Maramba

1080 – 1134
June 6

Norbert was born in Xanten in the duchy of Cleves, Germany in 1080 to a wealthy family of distinguished origins. His father, Heribert was Count of Gennep and related to the emperor as his mother Hedwig of Guise was from the house of Lorraine. Related thus to the German imperial house he led a pleasure – seeking and worldly life as an almoner at the court of Emperor Henry V.

To obtain financial benefit and to ensure his success at court he accepted minor religious orders as Canon in the church of St. Victor at Xanten and even as subdeacon. Thus Norbert though never a bad person exploited the church for his own profit as he was content to devote the early part of his life to the world and its pleasures.

One day at age 33 as he was riding across the countryside his horse was startled when a bolt of lightning in a violent thunderstorm almost hit them. Thrown to the ground where he lay unconscious for nearly an hour Norbert awoke to the fateful words of the Lord to St. Paul on his way to Damascus. Timidly Norbert asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” An inner voice replied, “Turn from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it.”

So this is what Norbert did as his accident had been the occasion of his conversion. He became a sincere penitent reforming his life by adopting a rigorous life of prayer, fasting and meditation. A retreat he made in the monastery of St. Sigebert completed his conversion. He then studied for the priesthood, which he had steadfastly avoided in the past. He was ordained at Cologne in 1155. As a changed man, Norbert tried to reform his brother canons at the Chapter of Xanten but they resented this, persecuted and ridiculed him. He was denounced as a hypocrite at the Council of Fritzlar in 1188 for his extreme ascetism and unauthorized preaching without a license.

In disgust he re-assigned his canonry, gave all his possessions to the poor to prove the sincerity of his intentions and wandered barefoot and penniless to St. Giles in France. On a visit of penance to Pope Gelasius II he traveled barefoot in the snow and made a public confession to him. In return the Pope gave him permission to preach the gospel wherever he wanted. So Norbert became an itinerant preacher in northern France. He was even credited with performing some miracles. Soon he became known as the most famous missionary of his time.He was also called the “Apostle of Eucharist” because of his zealous preaching and vigorous stand against heresy, which denied that Christ was in the Eucharist.

In 1112, after being given a grant of land at Premontre, Laon from the Bishop there, Norbert founded his order The Premonstratensian Canons. This monastic order was also called “White Canons” after their white vestments. Norbert also founded was a second Order for women and the Confraternity of the White Scapular. The white Canons quickly spread all over Western Europe especially in Hungary. Pope Honorious II officially approved their constitutions in 1125.

Then in 1126 Emperor Lothair chose Norbert as archbishop of Magdebourg, Germany in recognition of his services as a reconciler. Though now a bishop, Norbert still lived the austere life, which he had set up for his order. Unfortunately soon after consecration he fell ill and after four months of sickness died at the age of fifty-three on June 6, 1134.

He was canonized in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. His shrine at Magdebourg became famous for many miracles. He was proclaimed Patron and Protector of Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) because 600 Protestants of Magdebourg became reconciled to the church when his body was transferred to Prague in 1627.

His relics are now resting in the abbey of Strahov in Bohemia.
SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. II – pp 484-487; Saints for Our Time – pp 121-123; Saints of the Day – pp 131 – 132; Voices of the Saints – pp 342-343; and others.


“Voices from yesterday and today. . .” RANDOM THOUGHTS by Peachy Maramba

Father of English History and Doctor of the Church 672 – 735

May 25
St. Bede popularized our current way of dating time – devised by Dionysius a Roman abbot – from the birth of Christ as B. C. and A. D. or anno domini, which means “in the year of the Lord.”

Bede was born at Monkton, in the county Durham within the territory of Wearmouth, Northumbria, England in 673. He was educated by Benedict Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth. Bede was chiefly interested in prayer and study. It was the Bible that remained his chief study. He was first an oblate in the Benedictine order and later ordained a deacon when he was 19 and finally a priest at the age of 30.Besides saying the mass he was also a great preacher.

As our Lady’s homilist he wrote all the lessons for the Common of her feasts. In his writings, he abridged larger works to make acquiring knowledge of them easier for his countrymen. In this way did the Englishmen learn in simplified form the teachings of the four great western Doctors: Sts. Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory. Bede wrote over 40 treatises on almost all fields of human knowledge especially on theology, science and history. He also wrote Latin poetry and a hymn in verse. His writings are said to be major influences on English literature. He is the only English doctor of the Church and the only Englishman who sufficiently impressed Dante to name him in his Paradiso.

He declined the office of abbot because he felt it would interfere with his chosen path of “learning, teaching and writing.” His title of “venerable” means “worthy” and was given to him for his scholarship and holiness. He merited his name Bede whichin Anglo-Saxon means prayer. Bede’s other delight was teaching. He himself taught all the subjects necessary for the service of the church such as music, rhetoric and languages. His whole effort was to teach history and doctrine exactly.

He died on May 25 and his feast day is celebrated on this day. He was canonized and named a Doctor of the Church in 1899 by Pope Leo XIII. His relics are to be found in the Galilee chapel of Durham Cathedral.

SOURCES of REFERENCE: Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. II – pp 402 – 405; The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – p 126; Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I – pp 221 – 222; Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 237 – 239; and others.

Voices from Yesterday and Today-Random Thoughts By Peachy Maramba


Original Sto. Nino de Cebu
Do you know that the original Sto. Nino de Cebu is the oldest religious image brought by the Spaniards to the Philippines?

Although the odd thing was that the image was not really Spanish at all but came from Flanders, Belgium, which was then a colony under Spanish rule. However, it is known as a Spanish image because Ferdinand Magellan brought it with him to the Philippines at the beginning of the 16th century as he was colonizing it and claiming the archipelago for Spain.

It is believed that when Juana, the wife of Rajah Humabon, Cebu’s chieftain, was shown by Magellan a crucifix, an image of the Blessed Mother and the Sto. Nino, which was dressed in rich Flemish costume with a velvet cloak and a plumed hat, she openly admired the statue and immediately asked for it to take the place of her idols.

Probably, it was because the Sto. Nino, in all its princely robes, contrasted sharply with the cruder and more ritual character of the native idols. It suggested pomp and riches which the indios of that time valued highly. It is no wonder that Juana did not respond at all to the crucifix and to the Blessed Mother statues.

Magellan, thus, gave the Sto. Nino to Humabon’s wife, Juana, thereby introducing a new religion embraced by Humabon, his household and his followers, making them the first converts in the Philippines.

However, forty years of unrecorded history left no trail as to what happened to the Sto. Nino during that time.

Recovery by the Legaspi Expedition
According to tradition, the image was “recovered” by the Legaspi-Urdaneta expedition in 1565, that came forty-four years after Magellan’s incursion into the islands.

The story goes that when the villagers saw the Spaniards approaching, they not only set fire to their villages but fled to the hills with Tupas their chieftain. Poking around the houses for loot, the sailor Juan de Camus, on that fateful April 28 found, in one of the unburned huts, the wooden image of the Sto. Nino which they suspected was the same image Magellan had given Humabon’s wife Juana for being the first Christian convert in the Philippines. The Spanish historian, Esteban Rodriguez, wrote that the image was “covered with a white cloth in its cradle and its bonnet was quite in order. The tip of the nose was rubbed off somewhat and the skin was coming off its face.” The Adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, added that the image was still in its gilded cradle and except for its missing cross, it was in perfect condition.

When the image was found, it had flowers placed before it, leading the people to conclude that the image must have been valued highly by the descendants of Juana. In later reports by Pedro Chirino, SJ he said the natives “had recourse to it in all their necessities…anointing it with their oils as they were accustomed to anoint their idols.”

First Church in the Country
Years later a church was built on the exact spot where they found the image of the Holy Child and dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus. Most probably, it was the first church in the country and was made of nipa and bamboo.

Both the statue and the Church were referred to by the Spaniards as Santo Nino (Holy Child).

The image of the Sto. Nino was canonically crowned in the name of His Holiness Pope Paul VI on the Fourth Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines in 1965.

Controversy over the Sto.Nino
However, a Franciscan priest, Fr. Lorenzo Perez, does not agree with this tradition on the origin of the Sto.Nino. He believes that the Sto. Nino and the Nuestra Senora de Guia, which was found in 1571 were brought to the Philippines by Franciscan missionaries.

Because the Franciscan mission was established in China sometime in the thirteenth century continuing up to the fifteenth century, Fr. Perez argues that they may have passed the archipelago before the coming of the Spaniards.

He also claims the images were made in China because of the oblique slant of the eyes.

The Sto. Nino Today
This image that has managed to survive centuries of wars and earthquakes is now once again restored to its former glory. Now crowned and ornamented with gold and precious stones dressed in a replica of its original gold embroidered garments, He is ensconced and greatly venerated in the Basilica of Sto. Nino, near the so-called Magellan Cross under the custody of the Augustinians who came with the Legaspi-Urdaneta expedition.

Devotion to the Sto. Nino rapidly spread. One possible explanation for this is the fact that Filipinos have a soft spot for children.

Many Sto. NInos
As the devotion to the Sto. Nino continued to spread, the original Sto. Nino de Cebu “became the prototype for thousands of images in wood carved by local artisans in the Visayas particularly in Cebu, Panay, Samar, Iloilo and Negros where popular devotions center on the Infant Jesus.”

The Cebu Sto. Nino became the inspiration of Filipino art and greatly influenced the Christian sculptural movement in the Philippines.

It is no wonder that one of the favorite popular folk santos for the home altar is the Sto. Nino or the image of the Child Jesus.

Rarely is He seen as an “official” statue in the church. Most often, His images are small, home-sized types meant for intimate devotions. His features are often modeled on Malay faces rather than on the Spanish, as most santos are.

In the Visayas, the Sto. Nino is commonly mounted on a mortar-like stand.

In Manila
The Sto. Nino is also the patron of Tondo, one of the oldest and most populous districts in Manila.

A famous image of the child Jesus can also be found in Pandacan, Manila.

Found in the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros is Sto. Nino the Conqueror in the ornate style made in Ivory and wood.

Santo Nino de Ternate
This image dated 1663 originated from the East Indies. Made of dark wood, it was brought over by Ternatan converts who chose to follow the Spaniards when they abandoned the fort of Ternate, Cavite.

The personal dressmakers of the Nino enshrined in the Ternate Church claim that the Nino sometimes plays with his clothes.

Nino Dormido
Sometimes the Sto. Nino is portrayed as a “sleeping infant” set in a crib or bed. In the Church of Morong in Rizal province east of Manila is a charming ivory image of Nino Dormido with eyes half closed wearing a dreamy half-smile.

Other Sto. Ninos
Many of the images have highly personalized names such as Sto. Nino de Bombero(holding a fireman’s hose), De lasFlores(holding flowers) and De La Esperanzade la Luna(holding an anchor symbolizing hope and standing on a moon).

Some are replicas of existing famous images as Sto.Nino de Praga, de Cebu, de Pandacan and de Tondo.

A few bear Tagalog names such as Sto. Nino Mapagkawanggawa (Charitable Child Jesus) or Sto. Nino Maawain( Merciful Child Jess).

Besides being found in home altars, the Sto. Nino is found in almost every shop. Go to Divisoria and one will be amazed to see how the image of the Child Jesus can be found everywhere. It is as if He is a talisman of good luck.

Historical Background of Devotion
While many Filipinos believe their devotion to the Christ Child is a truly Filipino devotion, this devotion seems to have actually originated in Spain at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It later spread from Spain to the rest of Europe and later on to the other parts of the world.

In fact, the devotion to the Child Jesus was already popular in Belgium by the beginning of the 16th century so that, tradition says, the original Sto. Nino de Cebu was actually made in Flanders.

While our devotions here were spurred by devotions to the Infant of Prague, the Cebu Sto. Nino antedates the Sto. Nino de Praga by at least thirty-three years.

But though European by birth and school (half-Spanish, half-Flemish) the Sto. Nino is purely Filipino by adoption and veneration and remains the oldest and best-loved image of the Filipinos. “Viva Sto. Nino!”

Congregacion del Stomo Nombre del Nino Jesus
Many people, especially Manila couturiers, attribute their good luck to the personal image of the Sto. Nino which they dress up with jewels, fineries and festoon with flowers and fruit offerings.

They organized in 1979 the Congregacion…whose goal was to propagate devotion to the Holy Child. The Congregacion sponsors an annual procession on the last Sunday of January and as many as 260-300 images of the Sto. Nino are carried, some in carrozas, on pushcarts, tricycles, jeeps and even on foot.

Other Sto. Nino Festivals
The annual procession of Sto. Nino in Malolos, Bulacan is a must see for Filipinos and tourists and is not to be missed.