WEST VALLEY CITY —Candlemas, a feast that commemorates the day when Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem exactly 40 days after his birth, is Feb. 2.
During the celebration, candles are lit as a symbol of the light conquering the darkness (cf John 1:5). The day is also known as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and in the Hispanic tradition, on this day families bring their images of the Christ child to be blessed by the priests. In Utah, many Hispanic Catholics prepare for this celebration months in advance, whether it is by acquiring a new image of the Christ child or designing or buying new attire for the image they already have.
For Catalina Beristain, a parishioner of Saint Francis Xavier in Kearns, venerating Jesus and devotion to the image of the Child Jesus have been part of her life since she was young, living in Michoacan, Mexico and intending to become a nun.
“One day I was walking with one of the sisters of the convent that I was living at and I saw the image of the Child Jesus in a window in a store,” Beristain recalled. “I wanted it, but had no money, so I asked her if she could get it for me. There was something attracting me to it; I cannot explain exactly the feeling.”
Although the sister didn’t buy the image for her, Beristain said that she nevertheless felt it engraved the Child Jesus in her heart.
Years passed. Beristain’s life took a turn when she met the man who would become her husband, and she decided she wanted to become a mother.
“I also started to research the devotion to el Divino Niño (the Divine Child) and fell in love with him, so I got an image and started venerating him,” she said adding that as soon as she put her heart into the prayers, she saw how the Holy Child started pouring blessings in their lives.
“My husband got his [United States] citizenship and we were able to start a new life in Utah,” Beristain said. Before moving to the U.S., she donated the image she had bought to her hometown parish.
Once in Utah, Beristain acquired a new image but donated that one, also.
“When Father Joseph Frez was the administrator of Saint Francis Xavier [Parish, in 2013], he gave me permission to donate an image for the parish, so I could share the devotion with my fellow parishioners,” she said.
From then on, Beristain had a rosary each week dedicated to el Divino Niño; this rosary continues every Monday to this day.
“I want people to always remember that Jesus was a child. With this devotion we are venerating him in his first 12 years of life,” Beristain said, adding that the image of the Christ child that she now has in her home, and which she uses as she recites the rosary, has brought her many more blessings than she could ever imagine.
“Through his intercession many good things have happened in my life and in the lives of others,” she said. “All the families have to look for the intercession of Our Lord. The world that we live in is full of challenges, but with him by our side everything is possible.”
Through the devotion to el Divino Niño, “in the past nine years ago many people have gathered and prayed together. Whether is in person or online, whether is at the parish or in different homes, we all have figured ways to get together and pray,” Beristain said.
As part of this devotion, she donated another image of the Christ child that has been traveling to other people’s homes every other week.
“I keep on telling people that through him everything is possible; they just have to have faith, pray and put everything in his hands,” she said.
Although el Divino Niño has his own feast day in September, Beristain takes her image to the parish every Candlemas for the presentation and blessing.
The devotion to el Divino Niño began in Bogotá, Colombia in 1914, where the Christ child appeared to Father Giovanni Rizzo, a Salesian priest. In his vision, Fr. Rizzo saw the child Jesus standing and holding out his arms, saying, “Take me with you, I want to accompany you.” Fr. Rizzo built a shrine, which people visit to this day.
“When God shared his son as a child with the world, he poured a lot of blessings on us. … His arms open wide to embrace us,” Beristain said. “His smile encourages us to accept and embrace him as our savior.”