Thursday, July 16, 2009

Praying the Rosary

I remember growing up in our town praying the rosary once a week. It was one of our pious habitual activities. As a family, we prayed the rosary every Friday evening because it was the evening assigned to us by the Catholic Women’s League for our devotion and prayer to the Virgin Mary. My grandmother was the president of the group CWL, and as president, she must lead us by example in devotion. My grandmother said that praying the rosary every Friday was our way of thanking and returning back all the blessings we got for the week. Exactly at five thirty in the afternoon on Fridays, my grandmother would assemble us including the women househelpers to fetch the statue of the Virgin Mary from a neighbor’s house. Our neighbour was also a member of the Catholics Women’s League and her assigned time of praying the rosary was every Thursday evening. It was our commitment to fetch the Virgin Mary and we did it as one big family.

I was spiteful of this rite and deep inside me, I found it arduous and wearisome task that consumed valuable time. I adhered to it because of custom and because I was afraid of my imposing grandmother. I was also afraid of the wrath that God will inflict on me if I did not join the family in this religious belief. They said God will not bless you, and instead, will inflict unimaginable evil if you miss the Friday ritual. As a ten year old boy, I was easily threatened. I believed that evil things would come upon me if I stopped joining the family in praying the rosary every Friday.

After we fetched the statue of the Virgin Mary with a big rosary brambling on her neck and put it in the altar inside our house. Then the long mechanical, tedious, boring ritual begins. The kneeling is what I despised the most for my knees ached and cannot stand for the long duration of the praying. I was up to all the shenanigans that I can think of. I would go to the kitchen as if to get myself some water from the fridge, but heaven knew I was not thirsty. I just wanted to relieve my self from the long period of kneeling. I would go to the bathroom to force myself to pee. I would stand inside the bathroom to rest my knees and have recess from the boring ritual that was going on outside. My grandmother would always look at me with her dagger look after the shenanigans I made to avoid being choked up by the senseless praying of the rosary.

Sometimes I laughed inside myself, for I cannot fathom the way they prayed. It’s like they were robots that droned while praying. They murmured the words and I could not understand the words they uttered. To appease my grandmother and the family, sometimes, I murmured the words simultaneously with them. Of course, this gibberish manner of praying never came from my heart. I only looked at the beads of the rosary of my grandmother when she was already on the fifth or the last mystery. Being on the last mystery would soon end my burden of kneeling and boredom. I could not endure the torture for just even another minute.

That was 27 years ago. I was only 10 years old then. My grandmother would always scold me after the boring ritual. I would hear her say, “Someday you will go back her (She meant the Virgin Mary) and you'll understand the importance of praying the holy rosary. But I didn’t mind what she said. “The hell with those murmuring, kneeling, the five mysteries of the day,” I said to my self. Besides I didn’t believe in the invisible who lorded over as they told me. I didn’t believe in his miracles. For me it was all magic and trickery. I didn’t believe that this invisible lord created the first man and woman. For me our origin was a conundrum that could be answered by science in the future.

On December last year, I was hospitalized. I encountered what I used to know as near death-experience. Manang Flor, the wife of my friend Manong Hener who on certain occassions would drive for me, visited me in the hospital. I saw a rosary in her hand. She was a devotee of the Virgin Mary and a member of the religious group Brgy. sang Birhen in our village. She always carried with her a rosary and prayed it every time she felt like praying it. She told to me that praying the rosary is like meditation. She said that praying with the rosary with the beads was just like what Buddhists monks do with their beads and the Hindus when they perform yoga. I found out through the internet that the medieval roots of the rosary was grounded on the efforts of lay people to have their own extended prayer an equivalent from the Divine Office said and sung by monks and friars. The office was a complex set of biblical and hagiographical readings of prayers and hymns, each part keyed to a different time of the day in the different seasons of the year. A more brief form of this, a breviary, was created for itinerant (mendicant) orders that did not have a monastery to keep the eight different hours of the full office.

I felt nostalgic remembering my childhood when I used to join praying the rosary with my family.
I asked Manang Flor her if she could teach me how to pray the rosary. Even if I joined praying the rosary back then, I had not really learned to memorize it. Yes, I did join the murmuring in a gibberish uttering of the prayer without learning it. She told me she will give me her extra rosary and teach me how to pray it.

After two weeks of getting used to praying the rosary I felt the lightness of my spirit and I was high on something indescribable. I am an addict now, but of a different addiction and that is praying the rosary everyday. I relieved myself of the everyday problems by praying the rosary. To me,it has become a form of meditation or yoga that cleanses the spirit and frees the mind of evil thoughts. I also found out that the rosary was invented by the Carmelites as a tool for meditation. As I roll the beads of my fingers and uttering the prayer I lift up my spirit bit by bit as if I'm in a sort of meditation. I already made it a habit to pray it everyday just like my grandmother. I no longer conjure to some shenanigans anymore as I am spiritually addicted to it. Just like what my grandmother said that someday I will go back to her and understand the importance of praying the holy rosary.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Braved The Rain

Last Sunday, I braved the rain to go to church. The rain kept pouring as I walked the three kilometers from my house. My umbrella was not wide enough. My pair of rubber shoes were wet and so were the seams of my jeans. I reminisced the years when I hated to go to church. For me, going to church was an unpleasant and useless ritual that had existed as a mere tradition. Listening to the sermons of the most hypocritical creatures on earth made my blood boil on Sundays.

I began to have doubts on my religion. I know that many considered going to church as meditation and a cleansing of the spirit. But for me it was different. I saw religion as more of the devil wearing the habit of a priest, who has long horns, speaking in the pulpit. So I made myself complacent just a prayer every time before I went to bed every night. I thought that was enough to nourish me spiritually and I didn’t have to show it publicly as in the church.

But something happened, which changed my spiritual life. I was admitted to the hospital last December. My case was fatal. I then came to know my God. the God who I knew long before to be a forgiving God.

I asked for another chance to live. In my hospital bed I promised God, my creator, that I will serve Him and give the remaining marrow of my life in obeisance to Him. “God, give me another chance to live,” I said. God taught me a lesson I will never forget. It was a lesson in humility, a very good one. You cannot be am antagonist of your creator. The one who makes is the one who breaks. I realized that I was just a pebble in an infinite desert. But a pebble can make itself different. It can make a great difference if it glitters! The greater is the difference when the pebble reflects more light from the sun the way we humans reflect the glitter of God in our lives.

But spiritual metamorphosis was gradual. After I was discharged from the hospital, fifteen hours before the eve of the new year 2009, I was glad that I spent the first day of the year at home. It lightened up my being. I allowed light to get into my being. It was spiritual light. The glitter in my heart increased each day as I allowed to more light to get into my being. I tried to reflect the light.

I no longer think of the devil in the pulpit when I listen to the sermon during mass every Sunday. I only think that we are all humans even the man standing and giving sermons in the pulpit is another human like us and can be more prone to commit sins than we do.

Right now I look at myself first before I condemn others. In this way, I unloaded my self with a very heavy baggage, which I carried for a long time. My spirit lifted up and threw away that load of a gigantic stone, which was stuck to me for decades.

I walked the four kilometers and when I was almost at the church, it stopped raining. The sun shone. The dark clouds disappeared. I passed through the wide open church doors with panels of antique wood and sat on my favorite pew beside one of the painted big stained glass windows of the cathedral. I contemplated while waiting for the mass to begin. I looked up the window and I saw the shine shining brighter, reflecting its light on me for now.I then felt I was a pebble in the desert turned into a piece of diamond reflecting the brightest light in the vastness of the desert.