Monday, March 7, 2011

Travels with Faith: Have Faith... Will Travel

      There are a lot of cultural traits that make the Filipino distinct from other races in the world.

     Filipinos are family-oriented; hospitable; naturally creative and resourceful; we are known the world over for world-class individuals who have lit up the world stage in theater (Miss Saigon: Lea Salonga, Leo Valdez, Junix Inocian), music (Rock band Journey: Arnel Pineda;  Oprah's prodigy: Charice; Black Eyed Peas: Apl de Ap), sports (Billiards: Efren Reyes; Boxing: Manny Pacquiao).

     An undeniable love for the family has resulted in families being separated by time and distance as well-educated mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers go out of the country to work in almost all parts of the globe as construction workers, house help, nurses, teachers, consultants in multi-national firms and practically, any job conceivable just so they can send money back home for their children's education and make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Most Filipinos who work abroad bring with them not only their industriousness, but this self-sacrificing love. You could say that all they have in their backpacks when they leave, apart from a few clothes and pictures of their loved ones are the three theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. In this country where 85% of the population is Roman Catholic, faith of course, is something most Filipinos never live or leave home without.

What do you pack when you travel?

     My faith is also a source of security for me. It is a big part of my identity. Where I am living, there are so many reminders of my faith that it's easy to overlook the fact that I needn't exert any effort to practice it.  Even in places of work like the country's premier business districts, it is easy to practice my faith. There are churches or chapels nearby. If not, a priest says Mass during lunch break in certain offices; if not everyday, then during days when there are popular devotions like Wednesdays for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or first Fridays for devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here, I am never far from a spiritual lifeline.

      About three weeks ago, I was chatting online with a cousin who has since migrated to Canada. In the course of our conversation, I happened to mention that it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and had just attended Mass. Well, he thanked me for the reminder of the feast day and told me that he would be hearing Mass too later that day. Now with Ash Wednesday only two days away, I am still struck with that conversation I had with my cousin.

     I imagine that he and other Filipinos now living abroad have to exert the extra effort to keep and practice the faith that they were born with. Masses in churches abroad may only be one or two in a day on Sundays, unlike here that Masses are said every hour starting at 5:00am or 6:00am, with some churches having the last Sunday Masses from 8:00~9:00pm. In some countries, you really have to be careful about talking about or practicing your religious beliefs lest you want to be accused of violating someone else's religious freedom. And what about children's faith? How do you cultivate it in a society where talking about religion is almost taboo? For Roman Catholic parents abroad, how do you teach and preserve the beautiful and wonderful aspects of our faith to the new generation when there are very little reminders of the faith around them?

     Nowadays where a typical day is run by clocks, blackberries, meetings, meet-ups with friends, and deadlines, it's getting harder to MAKE THE TIME to slow down and pray. It is easy to forget days which, if they were in the country, would see them attending Mass or paying a visit to a church or chapel which may have been part of their routine once.  Thankfully, new technology has websites like EWTN and others on social networking sites where Catholic Filipinos abroad can reconnect with the faith, and more importantly, participate in the Sunday Mass when there are no churches near where they live or work.

     Admittedly, I still have a long way to go in growing in the faith. There is more to discover and re-discover on this journey in faith. After all, the three pillars of Lent are Prayer, Fasting (and Abstinence), and Alms giving :-) For Lent 2011, I hope to spend a little more time in prayer and share with you little reflections of faith here and on :-D . I hope you can accompany me on the journey. 

     Here's to wonderful life discoveries on a journey in the season of Lent!

©CherWriter 2011.03.07

1 comment:

  1. It is difficult and frustrating to only have 1 or 2 options available to you, especially on Ash Wednesdays like this! Here our church has one mass for laying of the ashes, and it's not even a full mass! After the homily, they lay ashes and everyone goes home. Makes you appreciate so much more living in a Catholic country!



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