My father made it a point not to miss a Sunday Mass (Friday, actually, during his two decades in the Mid East.) During my vacations with him I was still obligated to attend even if I was then an adult and married. As per the norm during my childhood, he ‘sleeps’ during the rites. Sleeps, I say, because his eyes are always closed and I have caught him softly snoring several times. What amazes me is that he manages to stand, kneel, and sit at the correct instances. More amazing is he recites the priest’s parts (I think he does this to wake himself up and ensure he is following the right part of the Mass.) He doesn’t merely reply, he recites almost the whole Mass alongside the priest.
Growing up with a religious family and spending elementary and secondary years in a Catholic school, I regularly attended Mass and novenas during my childhood and early teen years. I also regularly visited three Churches during the week for Rosaries – Mondays in Tondo, Wednesdays in Baclaran, and Fridays in Quiapo. Sunday mornings were for Sunday Mass. Block Rosaries were also the norm. At five years old, I was already leading the Rosary in the neighborhood. Everyday there was the noon Angelus while the six p.m. was almost everyday. There were also visits to the Blessed Sacrament throughout the week, sometimes several times a day in different Churches. Also count in the visits to saints coupled with lighting a candle with a short prayer. The Holy Week and Simbang Gabi activities we adhere to regularly.
Everyday I was near several Churches, all within walking distance. Our house in Tayuman then is near the Espiritu Santo Church. My school in Taft has one Church and one chapel. After class, I either stay in the university in Quiapo where my mother taught or in my maternal grandparents’ fruit store in Blumentritt (San Roque Church) or their other fruit store in Baclaran.
But after leaving the Catholic school, my religious activities became almost nil. It coincided with the family crisis. It partially resumed when I enrolled my children in a Catholic school. Except for those school-sponsored religious activities, I did not willingly participated on any others. Holy Week and Simbang Gabi activities were not done regularly.
Six or seven years ago, I suddenly developed a desire to visit a monastery which I have been passing by a lot of times since we transferred here in Pampanga. It is a monastery known far and wide for its nook for lighting candles for prayer requests. I noticed two things there: (1) others recite the Prayer Before Lighting the Candle only once before lighting several candles all at once and (2) there was no instruction if the prayer was to be said before lighting a single candle or any number of candles.
My way is reciting the prayer with my own worded prayer and request before lighting a single candle. I always buy a dozen candles for every visit. I assign a candle for every member of my family amd a candle for all our dearly departed and a candle for a good friend who I feel needs a prayer at the time. So I spend about an hour or two in there that is why I make it a point to make the visit alone. But the visits are few and far between. It lost steam after about two or three years. It coincided with my father’s stroke.
About the same time, my sister and I made the effort to make the Holy Week and Simbang Gabi activities regular and complete. Other than those two occassions, I do not instigate any other religious activity for me and my family.
Since residing here in Pampanga, I rarely get to hear an English Mass. More than two decades here and I still reply to the priest in English. I also find myself doing what my father did, reciting the priest’s parts but not because it helps me keep awake but to hear the English version.
All these religious activities and yet…
Do I believe in the Catholic’s God? I believe in a higher being/power.
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