On being a struggling Catholic and the Catholic Church as an authority/ an institution. Also, why I have a penchant to be more critical of Diocesan Priests. (Personal) Spirituality being a separate aspect of this reflection.
Despite having been brought up a Catholic attending Catholic school, the Church that was presented to me as a child became the opposite when the age of adolescence arrived. True, I was somewhat an apathetic Catholic, going through the motions of Catholic practices as if doing daily chores. But having witnessed the carelessness of Diocesan priests in dealing with the Church’s internal and external affairs, in effect staining their vow to uphold faithfulness to God and what is Good, I eventually lost heart- for the Church, for the Home that I was brought into as a child full of hope
It was when my brothers were already attending school in Santa Maria that my heart beat once more for the Church of the God of all things. I once read in the Inquirer of how one Filipino artist, who struggled as a Catholic, found God in a parish church in New York of all places. He said something like this: you have to find a parish, a home, where you feel most comfortable, where you feel closest to God. It helps, knowing that you are welcome, that the Lord welcomes you, like the prodigal son who was welcomed by his father with open arms and a loving smile.
I was resigned to think that I did not need to attend mass to have a relationship with God. Being comfortable with the spiritual guidance of the Assumption Sisters, I felt I did not need a priest telling me to do things that he himself have or might have failed to follow through. But these thoughts were brushed aside by the words shared by Pater, SJ in his homily one ordinary afternoon. Why we need to attend mass- we are a community of the faithful and as a community we share God in all things. We share the experiences we have with and of Him, to help and inspire others to return to His embrace.
I understand it now, if we had to rely solely on ourselves in our spiritual growth, then we might not survive the challenges of reality. Without a community WHERE GOD IS PRESENT, we might not be able to garner new experiences to inspire the constant rebirth of our faith in God and in the Goodness that he provides us with. These two aspects of spirituality- spirituality as an individual and spirituality as part of the faithful community, should go hand in hand. It also helps that the community, especially the clergy, are able to welcome the downtrodden with words that do not instill fear, exclusion, or admonition. What we need, in this age of technology and easy distraction, is to have a Church that encourages the young to feel welcome, to feel relevant.
If there are Catholics who can say that they are confident in their faith, I do not envy them. Being a Catholic does not mean we do not struggle, we should not struggle. On the contrary, it may also mean that in struggling we have accepted that we are human and can only do so much. Corollary to that is the ability to persevere in our faith, which makes our journey all the more fulfilling. Being Catholic means to relish in the beauty of our journey as faithful followers of Christ.
Attending Mass- as we may have failed to realize- is not only a way for us to give back to the Lord or give Him thanks, it is also a way for us to Receive His Grace, to be blessed. Because our God is a generous God. Always.
Dearest Fr. Edwin Castillo, SJ
(aka Pater, SJ)
With God’s grace, you helped restore my faith in the Catholic Church.
Thank you for encouraging the young to feel welcome, to feel relevant, to be humbly proud of our Catholic faith, to have HOPE for and with the Church.
The honesty by which you convey in your homilies, may it be about Hope in the Good or may it be about the Sadness of Reality, made it all the more REAL- reachable, attainable to me as a struggling Catholic.
Today, in these trying times, we need it, we desperately need it; society needs it, society desperately needs it.
I wish there were more priests like you, I wish there were more Jesuits like you.
PS I know how you hate being put under the spotlight. But I could not not share something that gives light to God in all things, YOU. Your humility is inspiring. It is always humbling to see the sincerity by which you carry yourself and how you treat your contemporaries regardless of the differences.