Sunday, August 2, 2015

Of Rites and Rituals

I remember from long ago, how Catholics were criticized as being ritualistic. We have memorized the lines and actions of Masses and novenas in observance of the prescribed rites. Because of this 'automation' we are dismissed for lacking sincerity and mindfulness when praying and worshipping. Moreover, they look at the traditions as holdovers of Roman paganism and this was something Jesus explicitly wanted to abolish.

With that in mind, some had broken away from Catholicism and set up their own groups. They started out not prescribing any set list of prayers and actions. They preferred to be spontaneous and prayed from the heart. They would 'go with the flow' and sing and pray. That was how a lot of these break-away groups started, in the 80's and well into the 90's.

Some of them remain up to this time. However, I have observed that for a lot of these groups, they have started to institutionalize their worship services. And though most of their prayers remain spontaneous, spoken by their heads and ministers, the worship activity itself has taken on form and structure, followed regularly by the members. I look at these and think that they have evolved their own rites and rituals.

I believe that rituals, institutionalized forms and activities, naturally 'come into being' in any organization. Even the most amorphous of organizations would eventually establish some regular, structured meeting, if only to be more efficient with its use of time and resources. In the readings of Friday and Saturday, the Lord God himself was prescribing the rituals to be observed by the Jews for the year, in much detail.

I didn't think Jesus was out to abolish these. He observed the rites of the Jews. He instructed his followers to follow them but not their example (of hypocrisy). He knew the need for these. And ultimately, the Last Supper was a similar prescription - "Do this in memory of me." But He did not just say "Do this." He added " memory of me", emphasizing the need to be "mindful" of the reason for the ritual, of the spirit behind it. This, for me, is another great example of what He meant by saying "I did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it."

Our formula prayers, one of which Jesus himself taught us, direct us to focus on the best way to express ourselves to our God. These were never meant to replace personal prayer, in my opinion. These were written by inspired writers to express their loving relationship with God and with the Saints. But we find such beauty in the prose, such eloquence and relevance that we could not help but adopt these as our own, to articulate our own personal relationship.

Yet, I do agree that there is a need to 'reintroduce' mindfulness in our observances. By carefully 'minding' the words in the prayers and novenas, you would delightfully come across terms that have not been in 'general circulation'. "Lamentation" "Sorrow" "banished children of Eve" "Clement" "Begotten" "Beseech" Re-discovering these terms and trying to use them in everyday language is quite a mental exercise. "I am sorrowful." "I have such a clement boss." "I beseeched my partner to watch the Madonna concert with me. " Hihihi These always make me smile.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It is a Choice.

I was still euphoric over the SCOTUS pronouncement. A few weeks ago, Time Magazine discussed this. At that time, it still didn't seem clear how the justices would vote, even Justice Kennedy (who later penned that moving statement). My timeline was filling up with rainbows all over.

It's not even the first country to declare same-sex marriage legal. But somehow, decisions in the US will always carry that much weight, by sheer economic power at the very least. Anyway, it carried much weight in my mind. I could just imagine how joyous every LGBT must been feeling!

Not too fast. Not everyone. Soon enough, I would read dissenting opinion. Reading these from outright gay-hating fanatics was of no surprise, of course. But eventually, reading a friend, a friend like me, gay, and his post of negativity started to put some dark clouds in my rainbow-filled sky. Eventually, as much as people were celebrating the decision, others felt that they needed to be just as loud about their feelings of disgust, of outrage.

Looking at my other, alter-ego 'professional' FB profile, I read more negative feelings and reactions, many of them from my friends. I could feel some vomit rising from my gut.

The feeling of hate and disgust over the negative, bigoted statements is real. That is part of my humanity. But I didn't want to stoke further anger so I chose to post something more benign - a sadness over the negativity I have been reading, in between the rainbows. Some were quick to tell me to 'unfriend'. I was tempted.

But I felt there was something inherently unsettling if I just immediately 'unfriend' them. Have they really become 'unfriends' because they chose to believe otherwise? Have they suddenly become mean to me because of that negative post or that hateful comment? Where have all the years of friendship, of genuine, reciprocal concern gone? Has that changed because they felt differently, even if strongly, from mine?

No, I cannot reduce their humanity into one negative post or comment. I cannot erase the friendship because of that difference. Now, if they choose to change their attitude and behavior towards me because we belong on opposite sides of a fence, then I cannot do anything about that. But until they do, I will not allow myself to hate these friends of mine just because their opinion differs.

It is a choice I have to make. I will fight the seemingly overwhelming anger I have started to feel towards them as I read their comments. I will choose to react differently and just let that pass. I make this choice because ultimately, it will build my character. Not letting my emotions 'click' for me will always be better for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, June 26, 2015

SAHC: 1st Sem Confusion

My elder sister was one year ahead of me in UP. During the first days or even weeks of school, I'd go to their tambayan to hang out and eat my baon. I thought that was the most natural thing to do. Be friends with her friends. After a few days she told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should find my own friends. And stop hanging out with her and her barkada.

Ouch. After having been quite popular in high school, I was suddenly this nobody, this invisible freshman, one of thousands. Since I wasn't comfortable with my blockmates yet, I was forced to roam Palma Hall alone.

But that didn't last. I resolved to start befriending my blockmates. And soon, I was hanging out with some of them, mostly those from the provinces. We all felt quite alone and we needed company. Beyond them, too, the block started to gel as one group. Though there were existing cliques, grouped by school, the shared experience of a boring Philosophy class, a challenging Botany course, and the ones in between (Psychology, English, Humanities) made it easy for us from such disparate backgrounds to stop being strangers.

We also decided to participate in those interblock contests. There were the volleyball and basketball competitions, both of which I avoided. But I joined the team in the Quiz bee (feeling brainy enough). More opportunities to bond as a block. And for me, I started to socialize more and my circle grew larger.

But I also started to turn my attention to the pretty ones in class. Psychology in UP always attracts some very pretty girls. I was determined to make ligaw. I wanted to know if I could do it: if I could have a girlfriend. And if it would silence the gay voice inside. I chose this sweet girl, cute and petite. Always in a skirt. She was always so nice to me anyway.

So torpe me did it the only way I knew how. I wrote her a letter. (Oh my, just thinking about that makes me cringe.) I professed my intention to get to know her better. (Ugh.) Thankfully, she turned me down in her sweet, sweet way. "I believe we are better off as friends." But though I still had a bruised ego, I felt my question was answered. No, I can't do it. I shouldn't do it. It's God's way of telling me that I should be myself, be my gay self. That first semester ended with more friends and some measure of peace.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, June 19, 2015

SAHC: Unang Yugto: Iskolar ng Bayan

I can't recall how I spent the summer after graduating from high school. All I remember is how excited and anxious I was about entering UP, my first taste of co-education after having spent at least 8 years in an all-male school. Very few of the batch was going to UP. The barkada was spread out - Ateneo, De La Salle, UST, UE, Mapua. I was going to this big university with virtually no friends. Afraid.

The much-talked about 'medical examination' at the infirmary was another source of anxiety. We were all going to be stripped naked. It both scared and delighted me. I just hoped that I would be with some interesting co-examinees.

But during the day itself, there was hardly any time to even check out the other students. I was nervous. We stripped down to our underwear. And we exposed our genitalia, and our rectal area only in front of the doctor. Much ado about nothing.

My first subject on the first day of school was Psychology. We were a block of about 20 freshmen. I quickly checked out my classmates. There were just two cuties. One of them was the cousin of a cousin. That one got crossed out immediately. The other one was Chinese, and borderline nerd. That got crossed out, too. The block was not going to be anything inspiring.

But on a deeper level, I made a decision to hide my sexuality. I wanted to give myself a shot at being straight. A fresh start. Maybe the presence of females as classmates would 'stimulate' my straight hormones. I went back to the closet in my first semester at UP.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Previously, a friend asked me if I actually believed that the host turns into the body of Jesus at consecration leading to communion. I didn't know how to reply. Years of school catechism (or my understanding of it) has ingrained in me the concept that transubstantiation happens, matter of factly. The consecrated host I receive is His Body. No questions asked. I even recall viewing photos previously showing a bloody host on a communicant's tongue. I think it was part of the photos of some miracle, maybe related to Padre Pio. But I'm not sure. Those photos were supposed to reinforce the transubstantiation that actually happens.

As a Catholic, am I supposed to believe that it really happens?

I thought I was. Yet as I searched my heart, I knew that I swallow a host that symbolizes his body, his death offered for my sins. It was not going to turn into his flesh. Am I not being true to my Catholic faith by believing in this?

Now I think that my faith does not dictate believing in transubstantiation. I pondered on the events of the Last Supper. As Jesus was instituting the Sacrament, he did not turn that bread into his own flesh. For one thing, he was still alive and well. Even Jesus himself was raising that bread and breaking it as a symbol of his impending death and sacrifice. And as I eat the bread or the host, and consider it as His Body, I am reminded of this ultimate loving sacrifice. "Do It In Memory Of Me.", he commands.

I don't think I am less of a Catholic because this is what I believe in. I continue to remember His Death and His Victory over death and sin every time I hear mass. And that memory serves to reinforce my resolve to be a better human being - loving, caring and real.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Late Post: Thoughts on Mother's Day

My social media timelines were bursting with mom photos, mom tributes last Sunday. It felt wonderful going through each and like-clicking. Moms of all shapes and sizes I saw there. Some mothers remarkably resemble their sons. Others were so different that you'd think "he must have gotten his looks from his dad." Some moms looked so young they looked like siblings beside their children.

Last Sunday, it turns out, is also the Feast of the Lady of the Abandoned. The elderly home nearby celebrates the feast, for the home was named after her. The irony is that this home houses elderly women, mostly mothers who have been left by their families to fend for themselves. I wonder how their children feel when Mothers' Day comes around.

But who am I to judge? I have been very lucky to have a mother, actually parents, who are so sweet and lovable. They are so easy to take care of. And up to now, they would rather not be a burden to any of us, their children. But I also know of the strained relationships some of my friends have with their mothers.

One girl friend shares her pain as she take care of a 'difficult' mother - one who always complains, never grateful, very demanding. Luckily, her mom does not stay with her but with her brother and his family. That family is being stressed out by her presence. My girl friend, much as she wants to take care of her mom, fears letting her inside her home. They might kill each other, she says in jest.

Is it a child's responsibility to take care of his or her folks? Should parents demand that of their children?

I don't think so. Parents should not be raising children as insurance for their old age. They have a responsibility to rear their children properly, to become fully functioning, well-adjusted adults who might eventually have their own families. Then those adults become parents themselves. And the cycle moves forward, ever forward.

What becomes of parents when they become empty nesters? In a perfect world, the society and its infrastructure are designed to allow the elderly to live with dignity independently. They have access to health care, recreation, entertainment until the very end. Senior citizens are supposed to ensure that they have provided for this retirement during their productive years.

But it is not a perfect world. Some elderly parents can't even retire as their families continue to depend on them. And for those who have provided for themselves, infrastructure is still not senior-citizen friendly. What happens to them?

Could it be that this is the role for those children who remain single or without children to take care of? I can't help but sometimes feel that this is my special role as the gay son, the one without a family and kids to support. It is my unique privilege to be able to honor and serve my parents within the context of an imperfect society that cannot allow them to be independent.

I call it a privilege because as I honor them through serving them in their twilight years, I obey a commandment, the only one among the Ten, that comes with a promise of a blessed long life.

Perhaps in His wisdom, though God designed it that children do not have the responsibility to care for their parents, but they would be rewarded for doing so.

I see many of my gay friends, especially on social media, taking on that role. Even as they pursue their careers, even as they have their boyfriends, they put their parents as top priority. May God continue to bless them as they take on this privileged role. And when it sometimes feel like a burden, may He lighten their load so they continue to honor and serve their parents in the best manner possible.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad