By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Cardinal Justin Rigali is asking the faithful to join him for the fifth annual archdiocesan “Bless the Baby Jesus” devotion and Second Sunday of Advent Mass which he will celebrate at 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Families across the Archdiocese are invited to bring their images and statues of the Baby Jesus, including the statue that graces their Nativity crèche, for the Cardinal to bless at the conclusion of Mass.
Donations of new clothing for infants and infant formula will be collected for local families in need through Catholic Social Services (CSS). The Bless the Baby Jesus devotion is sponsored by CSS and the archdiocesan Family Life Office.
Cardinal Rigali began the tradition in the Archdiocese in 2005. As Advent is a time when Catholics prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, the Bless the Baby Jesus devotion provides the faithful an opportunity to reinforce the central place of Jesus Christ within the family.
It also gives them the opportunity to grow in faith as the “domestic church,” said Tara Plymouth, coordinator of Family Life Ministry and administrator of Natural Family Planning in the Family Life Office.
“The Second Vatican Council spoke of family as the domestic church, in which the Christian faith is lived and passed on to the young, and where all pray together,” she said.
All ages are represented at the Bless the Baby Jesus devotion, Plymouth said.
The little children who file up to the Cardinal to get their statue blessed are a precious sight to behold, she added. “It’s beautiful. You see them very gently holding it in their hands and then holding it up to the Cardinal.”
All nationalities are represented as well and are welcome to wear their native dress.
Regardless of age or nationality, the Bless the Baby Jesus devotion provides an appropriate way for all to celebrate Advent.
“It’s important to get close to Jesus at this time of anticipation and longing,” Plymouth said. “It’s such a miracle to celebrate Jesus’ birth. This is just a special way to really participate in our Catholic faith in a way that is unique in our culture.
“With all the commercialism and shopping and busyness, it’s nice to slow down and come to a beautiful celebration like this to enjoy time with other families, with the Cardinal and think about the miracle of Jesus’ birth,” Plymouth said.
William Tangradi, manager of CSS’ Volunteer and Community Relations, is coordinating the donations of new clothing for infants and infant formula collected at the Mass.
“Our first obligation is to help those in need,” he said of CSS’ commitment.
Given the country’s ongoing economic crisis, the needs are greater than ever, he added.
But Tangradi is confident that just as they are in CSS’ causes throughout the year, including past Bless the Baby Jesus devotions, the faithful will be generous in their contributions.
Advent music will be provided by the Archdiocesan Boy Choir and the Cathedral Choir.
For more information, call the Family Life Office at 215-587-3516 or e-mail email@example.com.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.