But fa­nati­cism is true de­vo­tion!

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - BY: JAMES EDGAR T. SIA

It seems to me that Car­di­nal Ta­gle in Manila got all de­fen­sive in his mid­night Mass ser­mon on the ques­tion of whether they are fa­nat­ics those who throng the streets for the sake of the Black Nazarene. To as­suage the name­less, face­less crit­ics who ask this ques­tion ev­ery year, he had to re­sort to a bit of word­play: no, he says, these peo­ple are not “fa­nat­ics,” but “devo­tees.” He then ex­plained that a real devo­tee loves, while a fa­natic just clings on to some­thing from which they de­rive their sense of self-worth.

The prob­lem with words is that they can al­ways be re­de­fined at whim, es­pe­cially when one needs them to back up their own ar­gu­ments. This is a trick that peo­ple ed­u­cated in top-tier uni­ver­si­ties of­ten use to slip out of ver­bal quan­daries, make them­selves look smart and their op­po­nents look fool­ish, and in the end win the de­bate. Even though Car­di­nal Ta­gle is un­de­ni­ably one of our coun­try’s most learned church­men, he did the Catholic faith no fa­vors by re­defin­ing words the way he did to sup­pli­cate to crit­ics who would re­main stub­born in their un­be­lief any­way.

The good car­di­nal ought to have stood by the faithful as their di­vinely-ap­pointed shep­herd. If I were on his shoe, I would have said some­thing like this in­stead:

“You ac­cuse these peo­ple of be­ing fa­nat­ics. You mock them for their un­so­phis­ti­cated faith. You de­ride them as mere sim­ple­tons for turn­ing out in droves, de­spite all in­con­ve­niences, all for the sake of an old wooden statue of Christ bear­ing his cross. If to you that makes them fa­nat­ics, then they are in­deed fa­nat­ics – and I for one see ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with that. For what is a fa­natic, if not one whose love and de­vo­tion is sin­gle-minded and all-con­sum­ing? And what is the Black Nazarene, if not the very rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Christ’s own fa­nati­cism for us? If his suffering and dy­ing for un­grate­ful and stub­bornly sin­ful hu­man­ity isn’t fa­nati­cism, I im­plore you – tell me what it is.”

Our edi­tor-in-chief Mr. Aguilar writes that he once asked a stu­dent if he is Catholic, and while the stu­dent said yes, he sadly could not say for sure what it is that Catholics be­lieve in. This stu­dent is no fa­natic; he’s not even one of Car­di­nal Ta­gle’s so-called “devo­tees.” But if he were a fa­natic – and again, a fa­natic is a devo­tee of the high­est or­der – he would have im­me­di­ately stood at at­ten­tion as he re­cited with­out hes­i­ta­tion and with­out a hitch the Apos­tles’ Creed... or per­haps even the older, longer, and more com­plete Ni­ceno–Con­stanti­nop­o­li­tan Creed! “But why the longer creed?” you might ask. Well, why not the longer creed? Af­ter all, as the philoso­pher Ge­orge Gur­d­ji­eff once wrote, “If you go on a spree, then go the whole hog, in­clud­ing the postage!”

Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Chris­tians like Gur­d­ji­eff have this no­tion called “fool­ish­ness for Christ.” A holy man or woman be­comes a fool for Christ when they com­pletely aban­don the world out of their love and de­vo­tion for Je­sus. This idea of be­ing a fool for Christ is plainly stated in the Bi­ble: “Let no man de­ceive him­self. If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him be­come a fool, that he may be wise. For the wis­dom of this world is fool­ish­ness with God.”

Our own great Catholic saints such as St. Fran­cis of As­sisi and St. Ig­natius of Loy­ola no doubt be­came laugh­ing­stocks when they gave up their wealth and lofty sta­tions to live as Je­sus Christ and his dis­ci­ples did. But it must be said that their fa­nati­cism – their will­ing­ness to carry out the will of God no mat­ter what the cost and even if they un­der­stood it not at all – was blessed by God, and thus their faith breathed new life into a Church whose faith was flag­ging even then. If Car­di­nal Ta­gle took a closer and harder look at how things are nowa­days, he’d see that the Church’s faith is badly dwin­dling even now. And worse, un­der at­tack from all sides.

I do not be­lieve that it is more think­ing and spec­u­lat­ing and ideat­ing and pon­tif­i­cat­ing that we need to save our faith. Christ him­self said, “In truth I tell you, un­less you change and be­come like lit­tle chil­dren you will never en­ter the king­dom of Heaven.” All we truly need is a faith as pure as a child’s – and noth­ing more!

jamesedgar­[email protected]

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