‘The More You Honor Me, The More Will I Bless You’- is the assurance of Infant Jesus to Devotees. The Annual Feast of Infant Jesus of Carmel Hill-Bikkarnakatte in Mangaluru with the theme ” Unite the Hearts, Build a Healthy Society” will be held this year on January 14th at 6 p.m. with Solemn Mass by Most Rev Dr Leo Cornelio-the Archbishop of Bhopal, who will be main celebrant, joined by Rev Fr Charles Serrao-Provincial Ocd, Rev Fr Joe Tauro-Superior and Rev Fr Elias D’souza-Director at the Shrine-and other clergy. The masses will be held from 6 a.m. to 1.45 p.m.(in Konkani, Malayalam and Kannada). In preparation for the Annual Festival, the Novena Prayers will be held from January 5th till Feast Day. On 15 January, there will be a Mass at 6.30am in Konkani, Solemn Thanksgiving Mass at 10.30am, Inner Healing Prayer Service at 5pm, and Mass in Konkani at 6pm.
Mangaluru: Remember that Jesus is timeless! Just as we honor Him as a baby at Christmas, when we read in Isaiah how a little child will guide the coming messianic era of peace (Is 11:6), so too can we honor him as the Infant Jesus of Carmel Hill-Bikkarnakatte with the prayers. And remember also what our Lord said in the Gospels: “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). As long we approach Jesus with Childlike faith as children of our Heavenly Father, rather than being Childish, we should be on the right track!
Devotees in thousands will be attending the annual feast at the Infant Jesus Shrine- Carmel Hill-Bikkarnakatte here on 14 January, with many just about finding space on the periphery of the shrine. Hundreds will be gathered on the road outside to catch a glimpse of the celebrations. The Shrine draws people of all faiths as it’s believed that prayers made here never go unanswered. Even as people jostled to see the cultural programme in the evening, many devotees will be seen worshiping unaffected by the festivities.
“I can’t wait for the big feast, because I love the whole atmosphere at the feast. It is the belief in Jesus that we will see thousands of people attending the event to seek his blessings,” said 26-year-old Susan, an IT employee, who seeks blessings at this Shrine everyday before she goes to work, and also has been a regular visitor to this feast for the past 10 years. Many non-Christians also come to this Shrine to seek blessings and are seen lighting candles. “This is the second time I’ll be attending the feast. Though I’m a Hindu, I come to the shrine because I feel at peace every time I’m here. I haven’t wished for anything yet but I may just do that in future,” said 30-year-old Ramesh, a engineer by profession.
People have had their prayers answered and that’s why the shrine is famous. The days of novena commencing from 5 January till 13 January is an institutional act of devotion in the Roman Catholic Church, during which regular prayers in various local languages are held and the festival concludes with the big feast on 14 January. The Shrine which is located in the vicinity of Bikarnakatte, in the east of Mangaluru City attracts many people from nearby and faraway places to the shrine during the Novena days and on Festival Day.
“Miracle Hill – Carmel Hill” – The history of this place dates back to about 60 years. The Carmelite priests from Belgium had set their foot on the barren hilly place called “Bangera Padav’, Bikarnakatte, coming within the jurisdiction of Holy Cross Church, Kulshkear, Mangaluru. This place filled with stones, was dug by the priests and they never had the slightest idea, that this place would one day be changed to famous and popular Shrine for the people of near and far away places. But the miracle did happen. This barren land was developed and is known as “Carmel Hill” among all the walks of people. And many people visit this place now, which was earlier barren and not inhabited. The place which was treated as not useful, has now become “Holy Place” on account of much goodness that it has brought to the people; and that is why it is called as Infant Jesus Shrine”.
“Grants whatever asked – Infant Jesus of Prague” – “The more you honour me, the more will I bless you”, was the assurance of Infant Jesus to the Carmelite monks. This message has spread throughout the world. Those who came to him in faith and trust never went back with empty hands; they did experience his goodness and healing miracles. Jesus who was born as an ordinary humble and simple infant has become the source of inspiration to the entire mankind. He has become very famous throughout the world under the title of “Devotion of Infant Jesus of Prague”.
“New Shrine at Bikarnakatte – New Architectural Design” – The day, 11-1-1996 was the golden day in the annals of the history of the shrine. The late Bishop of Mangalore Rt. Rev. Dr. Basil D’Souza had blessed the Shrine. The devotees who enter this shrine feel the serenity of this place. The image of the Infant Jesus gives encouragement and blessings from his hands. Those who come to him to seek his blessings and favours are the witnesses to his miracles and the member of devotees is not less than 1000 a day.
The Statue of Infant Jesus kept for veneration at the Shrine, attracts good many people of Mangaluru for the last 18 years. The shrine has been designed based on the old and New Testament preaching’s; besides it has incorporated Indian Architectural design. The five pillars of the shrine indicate the five fingers of God and his hand. It denotes that the world is safe in his hands. The Dome and the Cross on the top of the dome, proclaims his Divine Majesty. The Holy Mass in English and Konkani are held daily and in Malayalam language on Monday at the Shrine. Every Thursday the Novena prayers and Masses are held. The Konkani Novena held six times and English Novena once on Thursdays.
The Infant Jesus has been honored with a magnificent shrine at Carmel Hill, Mangaluru. The architectural structure and design of the newly inaugurated shrine is unique in many ways. Carefully planned, it has a rich symbolic meaning and significance derived principally from Biblical themes, of both the old and the new testaments. Here below we give in brief its main features.
The General Structure:
Five huge columns encircle and uphold the main structure, while rising to a height nearly double that of the roof and converging under a globe atop of which is planted a luminescent Cross. While at the base the shrine is hexagonal, the roofing is pentagonal. The flooring is generally of marble, except for the aisle and the border along the walls which is granite. The wall itself is constructed of bare granite stones, skillfully chiseled. The columns and ceiling are solid concrete as also the overhead globe. The tubes for illumining the church are concealed; their light is reflected and diffused by the ceiling.
The basement surrounded by the five huge columns is intended to represent the palm of the hand of God, in accordance with the text of Isaiah, ‘I have carved you on the palm of my hand’. And the five columns represent the fingers of this Hand converging towards the overhead globe which obviously symbolizes the universe. The Cross atop the globe is an indication and symbol that God’s love has redeemed all humanity through Christ.
The Church may be entered by three doors, all of which are equally ‘main’ entrances: centre, right and left. The doors are all made of seasoned teak wood, into which familiar Biblical themes are represented. Over each of the doors too, part of the same theme is represented in ‘krinklglass’.
On the door to the right of the centre, as one enters the Church the krinklglas above represents God the Father giving the law on Sinai while the door itself has a figure of Moses giving the law to the people. Here, there is of the Christian assembly.
The door at the centre has a representation of the Nativity scene whereas krinklglas above, pictures the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary. Over the door, viz. the one to the left, the krinklglas pictures the last trumpet to the final judgments. On the door itself Jesus is depicted at Emmaus; breaking bread for His two disciples. The Holy Sacrifice will be celebrated till the end of the world.
Flanking the doors:
Each of the doors is flanked by a grills with sketches of Carmelite Saints wrought into them. The door to the right has a frame for St Elias – the prophet – founder of the Carmelite Order and Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified – one of the foundresses of Mangalore Cloistered Carmel. Flanking the Central door are representations of the two great Carmelite reformers (also mystics and doctors of the Church) – Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. And the third door is flanked by grills wrought-in with images of the ‘Little Rower’ – Patroness of the missions and St Raphael Kalinowski – a Polish Carmelite.
There are eight windows on the grills of each of which is depicted a scene from the infancy of Jesus Annunciation, Visitation, Presentation, Journey of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, Jesus in the Carpenter’s shop, the boy Jesus in the temple and the first miracle of Cana.The ventilator grills above the windows contain scenes of the passion and glorification of Jesus and Mary.
Circular Krinklglas Frames:
There are five circular krinklglas frames built into the centre of the pentagonal structures supporting the roof. The central picture represents the Risen Lord, while the four others have symbolic representations of the four evangelists, in accordance with the book of Revelation: the ‘lion’ for St. Mark, the ‘man’ for St. Mathew, the ‘calf’ for St. Luke and the ‘eagle’ for St. John.
The Altar: The frontispiece represents the hands of God, sustaining the universe and the Cross marking the globe symbolizes the sacrifice that is celebrated on the altar for universal redemption. The Crucifix is not elevated above the ground but planted on the floor of the Sanctuary to indicate ‘God with us’. The image of the Crucified is a carving, all of one piece of teak. To the right of the altar is the Tabernacle and to the left is the Bible, symbolizing God’s presence among us, in word and sacrament respectively. The ‘ambo’ and the tabernacle are cast in heavy metal, the latter displaying modern artistic forms representing ‘life and light’. There are two niches, one on the right and one on the left, for the statues of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and of the Infant Jesus respectively. As the ‘star’ guided the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem, so may this shrine draw people from East and West, North and South, over land and sea, to the Savior and Creator of mankind.
Interacting with Fr Joe Tauro Ocd- the Superior of the Shrine, I asked him, what is the origin of the devotion at the light of Infant Jesus at Carmel Hill-Bikkarnakatte?
“The early disciples of Jesus who were the witnesses of his life, death and the surprising resurrection were unanimous that Jesus was not merely a human being but that he fulfilled all the promises and expectations of the Old Testament so surprisingly in his great love and painful sufferings and powerful resurrection. So they looked back to his infancy and collected material from the traditions that showed his divine origin and his being the leader of the humanity for liberation and fulfillment. The devotion grew in the church but it was the vision to St. Teresa of Avila of Infant Jesus that made it to spread in this form in Spain in the 16th century and later in Eastern Europe especially the Carmelites in Prague. The Carmelites coming from Belgium brought this miraculous statue here and we have this devotion here from the very beginning of the Carmelite presence here” he replied.
Fr, what does this devotion stand for? “It stands for two things. In the first place it is the incarnation of God. This means the closeness, kindness of God to human beings. God has not left us so that we have to make great efforts to find Him. He said kingdom of God is near you and even within you. It says Jesus has shared your painful and challenging situation and hence the vicinity of Jesus Christ to the humanity. Everybody who is honest and is in deep search for meaning finds in Jesus Christ a brother and friend and God’s presence”
“Secondly it signifies the profound and ultimate unity of the human race. In Jesus life and message all human beings find dignity, equality and fraternity. He gives a universal model of human growth and holiness that has satisfied the mind and hearts of greater part of the humanity of the world even after two thousand years, and has been the basis for all the scientific, human and technological progress of the world” said Fr Tauro.
Tell me something about this Shrine at Carmel Hill? Fr Joe replied saying, “The main reason why people flock here is to find a place of prayer. This house of God is open from morning 4.30 till 10.30 in the night. Some people come still later and pray at the gate and go away. It is the common belief that those who come here experience a special grace of interior peace and happiness and often find a solution for their worries and problems”.
What would a pilgrim or a devotee appreciates here? I asked, for which Fr Tauro elaborately explained :
– Church is open any time of the day and till late night and it is sufficiently away from the noise of the traffic, but is easily accessible by bus and personal vehicles.
– People enjoy spending time in prayer in this simple and yet architecturally rich construction that is spacious. The clean, silent, open space and green environment also helps
– The Thursday Eucharist is celebrated in pilgrim friendly way to cater to their convenient timings. H. Masses on Thursday start at 6.00 and go one for every 1.30 hours. till the last Mass at 7.30 pm with a interruption between 2,00 – 5.00 pm.
– Eucharistic adoration chapel underground in a very inspirational context, is open for 24 hours for prayer. Some spend whole night in prayer there on special occasions and emergencies.
– Attractive grotto of Infant Jesus on a cliff overlooking the green palm rich Bajjody valley and the Mumbai high way and part of the city of Mangaluru.. The sight of the city lights in the twilight silhouetting the sunset in the not so distant sea is mystifying horizon.
– Ready availability of our Fathers for the Sacrament of Confession any time of the day esp. on all Thursdays and other holy seasons
– Fathers well qualified in theology and helping ministry for guidance, offering a listening year, or striving for moral clarification and spiritual guidance, family counseling, career guidance and value education for youth.
– Special Prayers for the sick, and the children as well as for vehicles etc.
– There is a grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel which has always attracted devotees of Mary in large numbers especially on a Saturday. A stall with things needed for the spiritual life and liturgy like rosaries, pictures and medals etc at a very cheap rate
– The liturgical programmes like Eucharist, novena, divine office with the people on Sundays, and a special Eucharistic adoration on Tuesday evenings and whole day on first Fridays. On every Sunday in Kannada and on first Sunday charismatic prayer service in Konkani are creative and lively. Also effort has been made to respect and take into consideration the time constraints of the people who come here for the Holy masses.
Finally, what would be your message to the people who believe in Infant Jesus? Fr Tauro replied, ” Dear devotees and Friends of Infant Jesus, God the ultimate reality from whom the world and all of us have been created has still concern for us all. He does not compel, but guides us to be what he wanted us to be and he does it in many and varied ways.
Jesus Christ for us Christians is the definitive embodiment of that God’s reality understood as the emanation or real presence of God in human form, who shows us the way to God and the means of selfless love as the ladder to that end. He upheld even to the point of extreme form of suffering and death, the selfless kindness or love as supreme meaning of this life, instead of being a slave to comforts, pleasures and power. That is why there is universal appeal to Jesus Christ, God in our humble human form.
We celebrate the Infancy of Jesus Christ combines in a symphony of a prince child his immense divine love and creative healing in the form of kindness and human childlike openness and acceptance to all human beings. Jesus is what we all want to be one day – a new humanity of love and kindness where there is selfless love that results in respect for the dignity of every person, equality of opportunities to all and a basic unity of the entire human race, without space for hatred, jealousy and discrimination and narrow domestic walls of affiliation.
We welcome one and all to join us in this wonderful experience of celebrating love and unity of mankind and God Closeness amidst us even as a child as we celebrate His feast on 14th January”.
I end this column with a prayer to Infant Jesus:
O Miraculous Infant Jesus, look upon us, as we, turn to you, imploring your assistance in our needs and anxieties. Let your compassionate heart be moved to pity by our supplications and grant us the favour which we ardently implore you. Free us from all afflictions and despair, all trials and misfortunes and give us your support and consolation so that we may praise you and the Father and the Holy Spirit now and for ever, Amen.