Posted in Miscellany

A gift from a heaven’s dove

Going to mass every Sunday morning has become a mechanical reflex of programmed biological locomotion ever since I realized that my beliefs were abstract ideals hard to fit in the real world. All those sacraments of the church I learned by rote as a child has become the artifacts of ancient esoteric religion that has turned into institutional paganism itself. In a word, I am on the verge of losing my faith altogether, if not already, still tempted to recourse to the fragments of the belief that I try to reason on my own terms, which I often find hard to win because something such as the message supposedly from the Holy Spirit I randomly picked up yesterday after a mass permanently binds me to the old religion.

I didn’t care much less about Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit descended from heaven filled the hearts of the faithful with messages from God to each different individual. The little bookmark-like cards containing each of Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit were randomly distributed to the attendants after the Eucharist. The priest said they were blessings from God curtailed to individual needs, never coincidental and ever mysterious. I picked up one that was not what I would like, but that what I had denied. It was not Wisdom, Understanding, or Knowledge that I still crave the most. But it was Piety instead, that not so wonderfully mysterious or romantically awe-inspiring banal word for showing respect for God, the church, and the religious people. St. Thomas Aquinas would rebuke me for my low regard for Piety, but it is rather clerical and prosaic virtue that even the most unlearned would have. After all, absolute obedience to God and the Church was what drew Luther’s bow of the Reformation.

A Gift from God in the Holy Spirit: “Piety”

But how could it be possible that my gift from God was Piety amid my own religious turmoil in soul’s dilemma? Indeed, there must be more than a respect for priests whom I think as presumptuous elitists inured to be respected, not accustomed to respect. Piety encompasses dutifulness, fidelity, allegiance, and loyalty, giving the impression of militaristic steadfastness. In my own words, I interpret this augury as indicating patience to endure and fulfill obligations till the ripe time and chance happen to me during my journey to a preordained end. My loyalty then requires fidelity of my consistent devotion to a job, filial duty, and the church by not falling wayside to the current instigation of a rebellious spirit. Am I not being an Oracle of the Holy Spirit?

I keep the card and wonder if it is a manifestation of synchronicity. Whatever and from whom it may be, one thing is sure that reverence for obligations arising from a sense of duty helps your ship’s sailing across life’s undreamed shores and unpathed seas against the thunderous maelstroms in nature’s whimsical and capricious temper. It might be just a random message, but then there is nothing as coincidence because we are made of such wonderful stuff of fire, dew, and spirit. What’s more, if I can use the message as a divine oracle to guide my journey into the unknown tomorrows, then it will be all the more beneficial, just as the people of the ancient civilizations did the same. And I think that is why religion exists.

Posted in Miscellany

go francis – viva papa!

There has been much ado about it. Some say it’s unthinkable. A few say it’s schismatic. Many say it’s heretical. They are talking about Pope Francis’s intention of rewriting a sentence of Lord’s Prayer with their eyebrows raised in contemptuous incredulity. The fact is that most of these dissidents are like the insular Pharisees and have never liked the pope for his munificent largess of humanity without boundary. The so-called “conservative” Catholics do not want the pope to make Lord’s Prayer as close as to what it is supposed to mean, even calling his purpose an audacious challenge to the infallibility of the Holy Spirit by which the prayer was inscribed in the Holy Writ. But is the pope, who himself is an eminent Jesuit scholar, willfully shaking the bedrock of the teaching and faith of the faithful indeed? Or is the pope really an Antichrist incarnate?

The subject sentence at issue is: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The Pope has recently told Italian TV that it nuances that it is God himself that puts us in temptation, whereas it is us who fall into the trap of evil by our free will. Yet, the dissidents argue the pope’s bona fide, ad homine intention on the following grounds: (1) the change of Lord’s Prayer will sever and bifurcate Christian unity; (2) it will obfuscate the original meaning of the Greek version; and (3) it is simply outrageous to change the most sacred, ancient form of universal prayer as taught by Christ himself.

It is understandable that the root of such misunderstood sentence arises out of the old translation from the Greek to Latin Vulgate and then to vernacular language. However, in terms of the original language of the bible, it is hard to pinpoint one because (1) Jesus and this twelve disciples spoke Aramaic; (2) the new testament was mostly written by Hellenistic Jews (Jews speaking Greeks) and Greeks converted into Christianity; and (3) the bible was further translated by scholars into vernacular language, so that it could be rendered naturally comprehensible to the faithful in their own language. In this regard of clarity, the pope wants to make it lucid to chime the bells of the souls.

If the dissidents regard the pope’s noble purpose of making necessary changes to Lord’s Prayer as a subverting act toward the sacred authority of Lord’s Prayer, then they should look back on the history of Church from the First Council of Nicaea to the Council of Trent and to the Second Vatican Council to remind themselves of the intentions of the Church to render herself accessible to the masses throughout the turmoil of epochal waves of changes according to its corresponding zeitgeist. So why not this time? Call me schismatist or heretic. For all what’s worth in all good faith, I side with Pope Francis.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Blasphemous

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The state of my heart is incarnate in Snoopy. The collective criticism on me is expressed in Charlie Brown.

It’s 10 minutes before regular Saturday Vigil mass begins, and I am sitting on my regular pew, feeling responsible rather than faithful. I wonder if I am being irreligious or irreverent toward the existence of God and the observation of the ancient rite of faith that has been performed for a long thread of centuries from the Last Supper to this Modern Day of Social Media. For my trinity of Heart, Soul, and Mind is not one with this belief when my emotions run counter to the teachings of the Church that seem incongruent with everyday reality. If this sentiment had been read aloud in the 16th or the 17th century Europe, then I would have been labelled an immoral atheist, a pariah cut adrift from the traditional mooring in the canonical faith and morals of Christianity.

My anxiousness about the existence of God is emotional, rather than logical in the working of the intellect, which has been shared by writers, philosophers, and even canonized saints of the Church. According to Professor Alec Ryne’s article of “The fury that filled the rise of atheism” as featured in this month’s BBC History, the workings of emotions and the first-hand experiences of uncharitable Christians and dogmatic clerics laid out a foundation of atheism in the 16th and 17th centuries, which later became nourishment of modern western civilization.

The French polymath Blaise Pascal knew about the power of emotions: “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” In fact, humans make the great choices of beliefs, values, purposes intuitively, unable to articulate how and why they have been made. This means that prior to the establishment of conformed sets of moral code and religious doctrines, the Creator has already imprinted moral and ethical guides in the human mind. This can be also meant that you can be an atheist or unbeliever with a good heart because your conscience, the law of nature, can be a guide to an outward moral virtue.

In fact, the Enlightenment’s prime critique of Christianity, that is the churches in a broad sense, was that it was “immoral.” Thinkers, such as Voltaire and Thomas Paine declaimed against the churches because of their moral revulsion. Paine furthered his vehement subjective on religion as a human invention, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, bereft of advanced metaphysical views on the churches. In other words, religion as an institution should not govern human free will to decide moral choices laid out by arbitrary set of invented rules.

Thanks to the works of philosophers based upon humanism, a discovery of belief in contemplative retreat to natural wonder percolated institutionalized belief through individual spiritual reformation. That you can find God in the beauty of nature and the wonder of how the human body and mind work is a way you can affirm the existence of God as a manifestation of God because all of it could not have created itself. As a matter of fact, this natural way of finding the existence of God was St. John Paul II’s favorable method of praying during his lifetime because being a former student theater actor, he could see the clear signs of God in the workings of nature. Which coincides in the Enlightenment thinkers’ views on belief, free from institutionalized doctrines of belief.

In light of the above, my crisis of belief was more of emotional than of intellectual. The temptations that there was no God, also sprang in the minds of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. John of Cross, and other saintly men and women. Even Jesus on the Cross cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Which indicates the workings of emotions in the face of existential strife, a vantage point from which belief they had steadfastly held no longer or momentarily felt true. From angry unbelief that religion was morally intolerable to anxious unbelief that religion was an ethical institution, the history of atheism has ironically redefined the notion about belief, authentic faith, by pointing out the corruption of the churches and purifying the understanding of God as the modern world is familiar with. For me, it’s high time I went hiking on the nearby mountain trails to seek a manifestation of belief for My Own Reformation of Belief.

Posted in book review

Before I go by Catherine Cookson

Before I GoBefore I Go by Catherine Cookson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first encounter with Mrs. Cookson in her writing. What a world of writing she immersed herself in out of the melee! The book is one of her post mortem work discovered by her estate with the other unpublished novel, and I can see Mrs. Cookson must have intended to have this memoir published after she’s long gone because of the self-evident title of “Before I go”. This book is filled with her innermost feelings towards her family – her mother whom she called “Our Kate” and her dearest husband Tom and the people who entered her life, such as Nan Smith, the various doctors who attended to her lifelong health frailty, and her faith as a doubting Catholic. As an illegitimate child of an unwed mother from a poverty-stricken family, Mrs. Cookson however did not yield herself to the the bare necessities of life as it demanded.

Mrs. Cookson was a true example of a triumph of will and hope over experience and condition. Working as a manageress in a laundry, the author did not resign herself to the complacency of her social class. Instead, she raised herself above the hubbub of life and arrived as a fine writer who wrote about people whom the readers could relate to based upon her experiences. Also, her Catholic faith, which she had been fighting with reason to no avail, was the bedrock of her character and shaped the way she looked at the world around her. For it was her faith to which she held on in times of trouble and from which her compassion, pity, and forgiveness sprang.

What I like about Mrs. Cookson is her feistiness and pride which distinguished her from her peers and people of similar social origins. But this does not mean that she became haughty and untouchable with her literary success; on the contrary, Mrs. Cookson still retained her charitable nature although she often lamented about it because of people’s appropriation of her compassion and pity gratuitously.

The reader will be able to read the mind and heart of this fine and very human writer. It’s not about her lifelong health problems of nose-bleeding, 8 miscarriages, and a peripheral vision by advanced age; this memoir is about Mrs. Cookson’s resilient spirit that enabled her to rise above the planes of biological hindrance and societal prejudices.