I confess, this is a tradition I hadn’t heard about until today. But it strikes me as something unexpectedly beautiful (in a “Lion King”-y sort of way.)
A few weeks before the church celebrated Christ’s presentation in the Temple, some 100 faithful in the city’s Frankford section “got a little glimpse of what Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced,” according to one Capuchin friar.
Brother Andrew McCarty and his fellow Capuchins at the Padre Pio Center invited area families to a Jan. 15 evening Mass, where infants were formally presented before the altar and the community.
The Capuchin Franciscan order purchased the former St. Joachim Parish convent in 2016, converting the building into a friary and prayer center. Through a partnership with archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), the center offers parenting classes, diaper assistance, activities and resources.
That same commitment to supporting neighborhood families was reflected in the infant presentations, said Brother McCarty, noting that that tradition “helps us to better understand our Catholic spirituality and theology by recreating the presentation in the Temple.”
Lifting an infant before the altar is an act of thanksgiving, he said.
“We’re thanking God for the gift of this baby, and thanking God for the gift of the mothers” after a safe childbirth, said Brother McCarty.
The tradition is a favorite among Hispanic Catholics, he added.
“Latino Catholicism has held onto this in a way that Anglo Catholicism has not,” he said, although he pointed to “many Anglo Catholics in the neighborhood, now in their 60s and 70s, who have stories of having been presented at the altar.”