El Santo Niño: Sunday processions, Mass will celebrate departing icon

June 07, 2013
Santa Paula News

Sunday thousands of pilgrims will say farewell to El Santo Niño de Atocha with processions and a Mass honoring the religious icon visiting from Mexico.

The doll of The Holy Child of Atocha, nicknamed El Niño Azul for its usual blue garb, depicts the Christ Child and is the Catholic Church’s third-most cherished religious icon in Mexico. 

The June 9 farewell will include a 3 p.m. gala procession to Las Piedras Park, where City Manager Jaime Fontes will be among those making remarks. At 4 p.m. the procession will return to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, where a Mass will be held at 8 p.m.

The wood-and-plaster doll dressed in Renaissance-style clothing has drawn a steady stream of visitors to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, said Father Charles Lueras, who flew to Mexico City to meet the icon and accompanied it to Santa Paula when The Holy Child’s scheduled travel companion misplaced his passport. El Santo Niño has been on display at the North Oak Street church, where Father Charles said the Holy Child has drawn worshipers “every day all day long,” from 7:30 a.m. to about 10 p.m. since the icon’s arrival May 25.

Father Charles noted that people throughout the nation travel to the church each year to see The Holy Child: “I met a woman from Nebraska” who with her husband had visited the icon at his shrine in Plateros, Mexico to pray for a child after years of failing to become pregnant. 

After their prayers were answered the couple and their child found returning to Mexico too expensive, but traveled to Santa Paula to thank “and honor” the Holy Child. “He’s an inspiration,” as are the collectibles and jewelry that depict the likeness of the Holy Child, distinctly characterized over the centuries by a basket he carries, along with a staff, drinking gourd, and a cape with the shell symbol of a pilgrimage to Saint James.

Father Charles said, “Much like the photo of my 94-year-old mother in my wallet that I look to for inspiration, having an image of The Holy Child,” known as a miracle worker, “signifies much and inspires many, many people,” including those in the overflow crowds at the nightly Mass. And helps many others: aside from donations, the sale of El Santo Niño de Atocha merchandise is a fundraiser that helps Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in its own mission and has helped the congregation purchase a nearby home for expanded meeting space as well as helped individual families in need with household expenses. 

This is the fifth consecutive year El Santo Niño has been on loan from its shrine in Plateros, Mexico, where the original remains on display. Offerings to the Holy Child include elaborate dresses made by worshipers, brought to the church daily for the doll to be changed into. 

The history of the icon dates back to the 13th century, when reports of a small boy helping religious prisoners surfaced in the then Spanish town of Atocha. When villagers noticed that the shoes worn by the Infant Jesus statue held by Our Lady of Atocha were tattered and dusty no matter how often they were changed, it was seen as proof that the infant Jesus was helping those in need.

In Mexico, the Holy Child was credited with saving those trapped in a silver mine explosion, the statue’s dirty and tattered clothing and shoes used as proof the El Santo de Niño had led the men to safety. Thereafter, the Holy Child was declared the protector of miners and placed in a special glass box for all to see and celebrate.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.