As we celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, I look back on my journey as a “Catholic” since I sat in my Religion class in grade school with more than a few burning questions in my mind.
I am not a Catholic by choice. I am one by birth. My parents are Catholic. Upon my birth, they passed on their religion to me. By their actions, I was baptized, confirmed, schooled and raised Catholic.
On my own, I did nothing to acquire membership into the Catholic flock. So, I call myself, a natural-born Catholic.
I look upon religion like I do, citizenship — something one automatically acquires at birth. And much like custom and tradition, something handed down from one generation to another.
I didn’t question what I was taught or told in school though I actually had more than a few questions in my mind, even as a young child, about the tenets of Catholicism. But I did not dare open my mouth. I was already in enough trouble for talking too much.
And so, I kept mum. Perhaps, it was then when my journey began.
As a child, I did not question the existence of God. I was raised to believe in God and to believe in the power of prayer. But there were moments in my life — when I was 13 or 14 when I became an atheist. I can’t recall how and why. It was a brief period. Thereafter, I declared myself an agnostic.
Today, I can’t exactly say I have returned to the fold. Once I had discerned that I could not accept dogma as what God actually decrees for us — human beings made in His image and likeness and granted the exceptional gift of free will, I could not, in good conscience, call myself a Catholic — at least, not without qualifying that I was no longer a practicing one.
And yet, I am surrounded by Catholics. My friends and relatives are predominantly Catholic and from what I know, likely practicing Catholics. A few are Protestants but most were Catholics first — until they converted.
You’d never believe it but I was devastated when they left the Catholic Church. Perhaps it was because they were so devout that it gutted me to see them convert. I felt that Catholicism had failed them. I saw their departure as a great loss to the Catholic Church.
Why them? I still ask myself until today. Had it been me, it would have been no great loss. I would have been voted most likely to leave the Catholic Church and convert, anyway.
And yet, I’m still here. Not exactly a model of Catholic piety. But still a Catholic, if only nominally — with no plans of converting to another religion.
Today, I cannot say I am a practicing Catholic because I do not practice the rituals or follow the tenets but I can say that I am a natural-born Catholic who looks to God for guidance every day.
God is my compass. Prayer is the cornerstone of my faith.