De­vo­tion or fa­nati­cism?

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TOPSTORY! -

AS THE Catholic com­mu­nity cel­e­brated re­cently the feast of the Black Nazarene and as devo­tees from all over flocked to the streets for the an­nual “Trasla­cion,”it would be good to come to mind why we do what we do in the name of re­li­gion and faith.

You see, cer­tain re­li­gious prac­tices, while they are founded on very sound the­olo­gies can eas­ily be­come fa­nati­cism if not well un­der­stood by the devo­tees. Al­low me to share again with you my notes six years ago on de­vo­tion ver­sus fa­nati­cism to drive a point and raise fun­da­men­tal ques­tions. Here goes:

I do not want to pass judg­ment to those who have strong de­vo­tions to the black Nazarene. Hav­ing for­mally stud­ied the­ol­ogy my­self, I know the im­por­tance of de­vo­tions in cul­ti­vat­ing the faith that I am blessed with. But the phe­nom­e­non of mil­lions of Filipinos cel­e­brat­ing the feast of the iconic Black Nazarene is quite puz­zling.

The hun­dreds of in­juries and some­times even deaths that are re­ported yearly due to such event also present quite a con­trast of the Catholic phi­los­o­phy of put­ting the oth­ers’wel­fare be­fore the self.

Let me first share my take on de­vo­tion. De­vo­tion per se is not bad. In fact it is very essen­tial in keep­ing ones faith alive. You see, there are three ma­jor as­pects of a per­son’s faith, these are Doc­trine, Dis­ci­pline and De­vo­tion (3D’s). Let me dis­sect them for you.

Doc­trine is fun­da­men­tal in ev­ery be­lief. These are ei­ther writ­ten or not. Ev­ery act of a faith­ful is al­ways based and de­ter­mined by the doc­trine of his faith. For Hin­dus, they have Vedas, for the Jews they have To­rah, for the Mus­lims they have Qur’an, and for Catholics we have the bi­ble. By study­ing our re­spec­tive holy books we get to know what our God ex­pects of us and how we are sup­posed to live our lives in ac­cor­dance to our faith. Yet what baf­fles me is how mil­lions of Filipinos claim they are Catholics es­pe­cially those who have not even opened a bi­ble in their life, much more read it.

I once ran­domly asked a student if he is Catholic, he proudly said yes. Then I asked what do Catholics be­lieve? He had a long pause and then said “basta sir, mag simba kada domingo (just go to mass on Sun­days).” Then I fur­ther asked him if he goes to mass for which he hon­estly said ”some­times.” With­out the doc­trine, there is sim­ply noth­ing to be faith­ful to.

Dis­ci­pline on the other hand is sup­posed to fol­low if the proper doc­trine was learned. When a per­son knows what is ex­pected of him, he then lives up to such tenets.

This is where real dis­ci­pline comes in. For a true Hindu, it would be very ev­i­dent how he re­spects na­ture. For a de­vout Mus­lim, you can see how he pauses at cer­tain times of the day to say his prayers facing the Holy Land. For a true Catholic, he would find it easy to for­give his neigh­bor.

Yet such is not the case in Filipino Catholi­cism. Since most of us do not know our doc­trine, we do not know how to be­have as Catholics as well. This is why while we con­sider our­selves as a dom­i­nantly Catholic na­tion we are also one of the most cor­rupt. Re­li­gion has just been re­duced into a Sun­day re­al­ity.

De­vo­tion on an­other note is also essen­tial in keep­ing our faith. These are small acts that cul­ti­vate and strengthen our faith such as mantras, rou­tine prayers, or forms of wor­ship we do reg­u­larly. De­vo­tions don’t an­swer our prayers, but our acts of de­vo­tions show how sin­cere we are in keep­ing our faith and how we desire to grow in it. With healthy de­vo­tions it be­comes easy to dis­ci­pline our­selves to live in ac­cor­dance with our faith. But de­vo­tions with­out cor­rect doc­trine and dis­ci­pline re­sults to re­li­gious fa­nati­cism.

I still could not rec­on­cile the Black Nazarene phe­nom­e­non to the fun­da­men­tals of my faith as a Catholic. But then again who am I to say with fi­nal­ity that I am at the right side of the truth on mat­ters be­yond logic.

— Churchill Aguilar

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