During the seven decades of Cold War ideological conflicts, popes for the modern times—John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis—have repeatedly called for the reinvigoration of fundamentals in the growth of the existing Christian flock and in the universal call for holiness. These are the lifelong clerical and lay missions of Catholicism to keep the faith durable.
Frustrated by the widespread onslaught of atheism, which virtually wiped out Christianity in half of Europe, the rise of secularism in the upper and lower classes, and multiple-choice consumerism, the traditional teachings of the Church’s magisterium, a major factor for flock unity, have also been devalued.
The figures on fallouts and lapsed members are alarming. The growth of relativism in North and South America and the Catholic migration to evangelical assemblies are symptomatic of the people’s attraction to a more biblical encounter with their religiosity and the hyped eloquence of charismatic preachers.
In comparison, Catholic worship is suffused with formats, repetitious prayers and devotions which do not arouse an original one-on-one connectivity with Jesus in the Gospel, the way energized evangelicals do.
Lent is the season when Catholics confront their duty to the salvific sacrifice of Christ in Calvary. The multidimensional acts of worship will come to the fore. It is the best time to heed Pope Francis’ call for a more widespread and present pastoral clergy and laity reaching out as Samaritans, embodied by saints such as Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the nonstop confessional of Padre Pio in Italy.
Considered the stronghold of Catholicism in modern times, the Philippines leads in the evangelization of many former Catholic communities in Europe and North America, thanks to the workforce migration of Filipino Catholics.
At home, the Catholic hierarchy and a huge number of faithful Catholics are providing stiff opposition to the populist and human rights clamor for laws that will allow abortifacients, divorce and same-sex marriage.
Catholicism in the Philippines has deep roots. It’s a social establishment that was founded in tandem with the civil government of the Spanish colonizers who governed the country for 400 years.
In an insightful and graphic description, Benedict XVI, our recent Pope philosopher-theologian, described Filipino mass religiosity as folk Catholicism, the type of religion that is embedded in the culture of the people. It permeates family life and social obligations, inclusive of civil functions. It transmits transcendent values to personal, social and civil acts, enhancing the culture with spirituality.
Folk Catholicism can only come from a tribe or people who can quickly grasp, with childlike wonder, the messages of the Old and New Testaments. Other religions sprouted from the fertile minds of sages and philosophers who concocted the gods who dwelt in Mount Olympus, or the dazzled visions of the Hindus, or the blissful meditation of Buddhists.
For Catholics, their rites, rituals, meditations and constant referral of their lives to the episodes in the New Testament, together with their communal prayers and congregational religiosity, provide them with immediate formalities in connecting with God.
The Church has practically enriched the life of a Catholic at every moment of his awakening, his physical and spiritual growth, his working hours and his vocational existence. He can fulfill the commandments of love to the hilt, extending charity to the pastoral culture Pope Francis so desires to be incarnated in today’s lukewarm flock.
The Church has instituted the touch points of Catholic existence with the sacraments and priesthood, as the continuing agent of God’s grace on earth.
Overall, Pope Francis’ call for a greater pastoral presence among spiritually impoverished, lapsed Catholics and estranged sinners must be prioritized, in a world made jaded by materialism, made heartless by fundamentalism and divided by racism.
Christianity is the most lovable of all religions. Its core values of love and charity are the ultimate source of happiness for humans using human senses for the most tactile worship of God.
Our appreciation of Christ’s teachings is as clear and simple as the Law of Moses, and as engaging as the parables taught by Jesus. God’s declaration that love is the greatest of all commandments is the exact allusion of Pope Francis’ proclamation that the Church’s role must be that of a hospital for sinners, where love is dispensed as the biggest need of a troubled society.
Catholicism has crafted in three beautiful prayers the summary of man’s salvation, the fatherhood of an all-merciful God and the source of man’s material and spiritual life.
Hence it is an amazing reflex action for Catholics to pray the Hail Mary to honor the incarnation of Jesus, and the Our Father to glorify and honor God’s fatherhood of men acknowledging total dependence on Him, and the asking of forgiveness of those who sinned against his fellow men.
The Glory Be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our enlightened answer to the quintessential query, “Who are we, and why are we here?”