As I've mentioned in my first entry, I will be posting old blogs from time to time while waiting for October 1st. Well, perhaps even after October 1st as bright ideas pop into my head.
Here's the first of the series of old posts.
Originally posted on Aug 11, '07 1:42 PM on Multiply.com.
I live in the Philippines. And in the Philippines, the most predominant faith tradition is Roman Catholicism. On that note, most people go to church to hear mass every Sunday. Most entire families wake up at the ungodly hour of four in the morning to take a shiver-causing, downright freezing shower just to be able to catch the mass at six a.m. This has been everyone’s Sunday routine since who knows when
For the past 16 years, I have lived in observation of such monotony. At a point in my life, I was even blessed with the privilege of having to participate in it.
I was born Roman Catholic. Both my parents used to be so on account that both their parents are. However, my parents are not typical shallow “stick-to-the-tradition” people. They have always been into the study of different religions in the guise of understanding diversity and uniqueness, so they learned to accept different views on God as a supreme being. Even then, since long before I was born, they have never really been regular church goers. They have always been among the kind of people who would rather spend Sundays meditating or oversleeping rather than forcing themselves to attend some profoundly over fanaticized act of worship and hearing a bland palaver from some chronologically advanced hypocrite in an expensive bleached robe. The funny thing was that I actually thought negatively of such cultural divergence. I was enrolled in a Catholic kindergarten school run by nuns and every Monday, they would ask us to raise our hands had we attended the mass the day before. I was very honest then so I kept my hand down. And each time, they would spot the absence of any of my hands in the air and brand me with grown-up terms I really did not understand then—words such as slothful, indolent, apathetic, etc. But I never really bothered asking my parents what they meant. Eventually, because of my having-no-hands-in-the-air’s incessant recurrence, they branded me “lazy boy”. And I really did not like that so I urged my parents to attend mass on Sundays. That was not impossible for them to do, though. We did go a couple of times or so, but we eventually regressed to what we were used to doing. And at such an early age, they knew I would not have understood if they had explained it to me the way they viewed it so, for my sake, they devised a simple solution. They would have the maid take me to a church or a chapel for as long as I wanted and have me taken back home upon my whim. That way, I would be able to proudly raise my hand on the day that followed.
Such routine was eventually halted when I entered grade school. Life went about until I grew to learn the dire truth about people’s obsessive fixation with attending masses on Sundays. Yes, I have now understood why. My grasp of this discernment did not take a single word from my parents. It just slowly dawned to me that there are several reasons why people seem so self-willed to attend masses every Sunday, and the most ubiquitous reason is depressing. Alas, it is not faith that drives people to the churches and the chapels every Sunday; it is fear. True, people do go because they want spiritual enlightenment but they do it not because they really want to. It comes as no surprise since instillation of fear has been the tradition since childhood. No less than twice a dozen times have I heard a mother scaring her children that Jesus would get mad if they misbehaved in church. And that is just plain revolting. Such mentality has been carried into adulthood. People do the things they do because they dread the consequences they might be faced with if they fail to do so. Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that not to honor the holy Sabbath day is a mortal sin. And for most Roman Catholics, attending mass is the only way of honoring it, and that is the very thing that saddens me. As a result of this prevailing fear, people fool themselves to thinking that the lies they tell themselves and others are true. Many times have I borne witness to people who seemingly keep a façade showing how inspired they are of they priest’s sermon but then, afterwards, they completely regress to the way they were as if nothing had happened. Once, I sat beside a woman who repeatedly nodded her head as the priest spoke about understanding children. But then, when the sermon concluded, she pinched her son’s ear for hugging her inside the church. That left me wondering, “Where did all the priest’s words go and what was all that nodding for?”
When I was living with my dad, each Sunday I would wake up to the earsplitting sound of our neighbor’s baby girl’s screeches while suffering the remorselessly low temperature of the ice cold water she was being bathed with right after having been taken out of her bed inside an air-conditioned room. And then I would hear the high-pitched yells of a woman, who was obviously the mother figure if not the mother, pressuring everyone to hurry up and threatening the children that they would otherwise be left behind. Come noon, the same family would return to their house in a mood no different from the way they were before they had left. Sometimes, the children would even come home quarrelling and I would hear a door being slammed and a scream from one of the female children. That made me ponder, “Is that really what mass does to people? I would have better chances at entering their heaven not attending their masses if that is all it does to me.” It is all just plain and utter hypocrisy—nothing more. Well, there are people who do heed the words they hear but they can only be counted with fingers out of all the people inside one colossal cathedral.
In my outlook, to be a good person, one does not really need to go to church and listen to some rehearsed speech. One simply has to act upon the will of his positive conscience. We must always remember that there is no magical phenomenon whatsoever that transpires when a priest gets ordained. He is still a human being who commits the same mistakes we do—some even worse. The only differences are that he is no longer allowed to walk down the aisle as the groom; he gets people to willingly work for him without him having to pay for it; he could eat at practically anyone’s home and be served the best of everything; he does not have to queue for anything; he is treated better by common society and looked up to by common people; and people now believe he is someone holy. It is rather amusing, is it not? No question, priests do give good advice. The ability to speak positively spontaneously is one of the prerequisites to their ordainment. But it is an entirely different story when we speak of priests who actually practice the things they preach. Their number runs along the same number of people who actually heed their advice—poignant to say. Well, there is no reason why we should not heed good pieces of advice if we hear them. If we find that an idea is useful for us, then let us apply it. But let us not let the church, or any institution for that matter, dictate our beliefs. There are a lot of better things we could do with our time on Sundays. But then again, if you do want to attend mass then, by all means, go! Just make sure you go by your own unfeigned will. Do not go because you feel obliged or because you fret something bad might come out of not going. Always remember that anything done out of fear will amount to nothing good.
Try to ask yourself why you hear mass in the first place. Let us all be real. Let us all stop fibbing and bamboozling ourselves! Do you not think it is about time?