Devotion or fanaticism?
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