Thursday, July 20, 2006

the blog on religion

The Blog on Religion
I came across several things that made me ask this question: What's wrong with Catholicism?

Among the most striking, would be a non-Catholic Christian's reaction to discovering that his/ her beliefs has some similarities with Catholic belief. Really now, is that so strange? Don't we all worship one and the same God? Isn't your God, my God, and mine, yours? Don't we all believe that Jesus Christ was brought into this world to bring salvation to us all? As antidote, so to speak, for Adam's sin? Don't we believe that 'Jesus Christ, through his life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal redemption'?

I won't claim to be an exemplary Christian, or even a so-so Catholic. Oh, goodness (see b***h, I'm such a good girl now :p you should be proud) I have plenty of friends who are amazed that I still consider myself Catholic with all the shocking, occasionally blasphemous things that come out of my mouth. One in particular, is convinced that the devil is personally digging the 11th level of hell just for me. I won't make any pretensions to knowing Scriptures intimately, or having all the answers to all the questions. I have so many questions myself.

I had a non-Christian friend ask me why I consider myself Christian, him knowing about my reservations with organised religion and the misuse/ abuse of faith. He questioned even my belief in God. I told him the honest truth: I don't know. I have no answers as to why I believe in God. All I can say with all certainty, is that when I pray, my prayers get answered. It may take time, both for the answer, and for my actually noticing the answer, but it will come, and if I am open to the answer, I would see it.

All I can say, with utmost certainty, is that when I have my one-on-one moments with God, be it in a quiet place, or a crowded one, I find a tranquility that I cannot find in any other place, or in any other thing, or in any other person. It is distinctly different, as different as whiskey is from stout :p or beef from chicken :p

What's most telling, is that I know God is protecting me, he is watching my back, guarding me and keeping me from harm. 5 years away from family, 5 years with the need for independence, and thank God, but little harm has come my way. My body is intact, and so is my heart. 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil.'

I believe in God. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in faith, despite everything. Pray without ceasing. Prayer is power. Prayer is peace. Prayer is strength. And Jesus is my rock. Cliche, but true. Prayer has kept me from going insane.

He asked me, too, to explain about faith. His question being: How do you expect me to believe something that I cannot feel? And I said: I cannot speak for you, I can only speak for myself. I speak with conviction, because faith is tangible for me. I do feel the presence of God in my life, and I would not lie because of it. Not that my life has been smooth-sailing, but what's important is that when life was getting tough, and I feel my world collapsing on me, prayers and faith brought me peace. Faith pulled me through. Faith gave me strength.

I am probably a mediocre Catholic, but I know the above to be true. I shall stand by them. How can I not? Oh, I am probably a lousy Christian. I do not evangelise, church-plant/ -seed/ -whatchamacallit. When I have friends asking about Christianity, I certainly do not try to convert them. What I do, is speak to them concerning their motivations for wanting to know, tell them what I know, and what I feel, and what I experience. I tell them about what God has done for me, and I leave it at that. Oh, I certainly do not have any converts to Christianity or Catholicism to my name, but I did get a couple to open up the Bible :) and that's good for me. Because I feel that religion is personal, that it cannot be force-fed, that it has to come from the heart. Perhaps my approach to the whole thing is just quite different from others.

I know I'm very unqualified to give lessons in Catechism, and so I leave it to the experts. Maybe my approach to religious studies is just too lackadaisical for words, but it works for me. Then again, maybe not. I've had quite a number of friends who tell me about how they've wanted to learn about Christianity, and to know it better, because they are intrigued by some basic concept, but how what they term as 'Christianity direct-selling' or the 'Amway approach to Christianity' totally turned them off to the idea. I find that very sad.

What I find even sadder is how denominations seem to fight over 'souls'. I think that ridiculous. How could joining one denomination after another save a soul? Isn't your God, my God, and my God, yours? We're all branches from the same tree. Brothers and sisters in Christ. It's just the approach, probably, that's different. Differences in opinion, perhaps interpretation. What would Christ think if He saw us this way? He didn't live 33 years and die on the cross for His followers to fight each other like lions and hyenas during the drought season along the Serengeti.

What's wrong with us? Religion wasn't meant to be this way. Neither was faith. And this is just among Christians. How about religions all over the world? To a certain extent, Sam Harris was right. Faith, followed totally blindly brings more harm than good. Why do we kill each other just because of our Gods? Why would a non-Catholic find himself shocked witless when he discovers that his leanings are actually quite Catholic?

What's so wrong with Catholicism? It's bloody history? All monotheistic religions in this world have a bloody history. Hasn't anyone noticed that? Perhaps it's because monotheistic religions in this world have their settings in arguably the most publicly violent region in this world: the Middle East. Judaism, Christianity (including Catholicism, smart-smart. As England birthed the US of A, Catholicism birthed the other denominations of Christianity. Just trace Christianity and its founding fathers, you'd catch my drift) and Islam all have their roots in the Middle East. One can't help but have a bloody past in a bloody region, can one? Logically speaking, of course.

So what else. Catholics' worship of Mother Mary? That's the grossest and worst misconception of Catholicism I've ever encountered. Please lah, no one has ever called Mary a Goddess or a God. Yes, candles are burnt for her, but the prayer goes like this: Hail Mary, full of grace. The LORD be with you. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, PRAY FOR US, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Emphasis is all mine. Now all ye who can read, which part of that prayer is worship?

And yes, anyone who has ever opened a Bible, that sounds familiar. It's partially in Luke. 'When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice, she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke: 1: 41-45, NIV) If we are told to honour our father and mother, shouldn't we honour the woman who became the 'handmaid of the Lord'?

In John: 19: 26-27, NIV, it was written, 'When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." And to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.' If Christ would say that to his disciple, asking him to honour His mother, shouldn't we, as Christians, honour her too? Who are we to ignore His request, probably one of His last, spoken with his dying breath?

Being brought up Catholic, I've never been instructed to worship Mother Mary. Her name IS spoken with reverence, but we have always been told to distinguish between honouring her as the mother of Christ and worshipping ONLY God Himself. Respect and honour accorded to the mother of God is very different from the adoration reserved for the worship of ONLY God Himself. In my humble opinion, the most obvious can be seen in the Easter Triduum Masses. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday. The Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as the Body of Christ. Mother Mary had never been accorded such worship, and she shouldn't be. She isn't God. She is a blessed vessel who carried Christ's human form. So NO, we do NOT worship Mary.

I wonder what else is there. The intra-denominational tension boggles my mind. I have many good non-Catholic friends, and I really could not comprehend the 'fighting'. Then again, who am I to speak? Sometimes people forget I am Catholic.

While writing this blog, I wonder if I would stomp on anyone's proverbial tail, and I also wonder what others have to say. I hope to hear it, as the question baffles me. It's no secret, my dissension with organised religion, and the ridiculous factions that are a natural progression of such organisation.

Just so I make myself clear: This isn't meant to incite anyone, or to offend anyone. It's the personal opinion of a yes, confused, and yes, probably misguided, soul. But no, :) do not attempt to 'save' me. I'd just get annoyed. I do my religious reading in my own time. But DO leave your opinions if you have any, I'd really like to know if I am the only sad soul out there :p

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer

I know this means a whole lot to me right now, and to some of my friends out there as well :) Well, here's the full version of The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things that I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can; and
The wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship
As the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right,
If I surrender to His will.

That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943

Class drama

Class drama
Thursday, July 13, 2006. 2033 hrs
Months ago I prepared a blog on world politics and shit like that based on several things. The movie Munich, for one, was a big catalyst. Sam Harris' The End of Faith and Caleb Carr's The Lessons of Terror were two others. It ended more an essay than a blog. And I ditched it. Too incendiary. Too personal. Too acrimonious.

Today, I became to an extent, a mouthpiece for anti-establishment voices. Class rep, the voice of the floor. I've always detested being put in the limelight. I've always tried to shy away from too much attention, except maybe when I'm dancing in a club. That's different. That's escapism. In that instant, I'm no longer me, I'm whoever and whatever I want to be in that moment. Flowing water, coming storm, an eagle. Jessica Alba, Shakira. Mata Hari. Whatever. But there I was, a voice for the masses. Because, they say, I am diplomatic. I had a way with words. I could get my point across without sounding too fierce, too harsh. Well, ok. I should have bloody taken up bloody law when offered, shouldn't I? Instead of getting stuck in a crap place now.

The official class rep was too angry and too upset to speak, poor girl. She was shaking with the effort to check her temper. I could identify. When pushed to the very brink, I was like that too. I literally see red. And when requested to represent, I couldn't say no. Because I do believe that the voice of the masses should be heard. I believe in the power of the people to move mountains into seas. I believe in freedom to speak freely and to have our rights. And I abhor bullies of every kind. I was there. I know. I hate the feeling. I hate being trampled on like a baby mouse in a stampede. *SQUEAK! SQUEAK!* *SPLAT!* *gone*

It sucks. It was as unsavoury a 'meeting' as it could go. I had a mind to bash someone up. And yes, with 10 fingers full of damned huge-ass rings. And a spiked and studded wrist band. And when it ended, all I felt was drained. All I could do was come back home and sleep. No dinner. Too tired to eat. To drained to think of food. Yet here I am, putting my frustrations on paper, so to speak. Because this is about the only avenue I have to vent my pent up frustration and anger. There's no one home. I am running out of credit to call someone and rant. I am too poor now to go out and get a drink to get pissed drunk, dammit! This is the poor single student life. Welcome to my world.

All I can think of to console myself now is this: That nothing in life worth having comes easy. That everything requires some form of effort. Even to stay motivated. Even to keep the faith. There's only so much I can do to keep from crying. I wonder if I'm too idealistic, if I'm a bloody fool. If life itself is one huge joke, and it's keeping me out of the loop. That at the end of it, it all really isn't worth it at all. Who remembers? Who cares? When dreams come crashing down around me, who shall keep the faith? Who shall hold the pieces together to keep them from falling to pieces? Because what's life when hope dies? When faith's gone?

In The Serenity Prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Where's serenity when I need her? Courage has failed me, and wisdom has fled my senses. Oh, the drama of it all! The irony!