My main problem with the RH bill during my “confused” phase was thinking of an alternative solution. Let me rephrase that–the solution was obvious: widespread, effective formation and education of Catholics, regardless of socio-economic standing, on the tenets of our faith. This must start with a deeply loving and trusting relationship with God, (the only context that makes sense out of the call for chastity in marriage), and should cover the beauty and genius of Church teaching on sexuality, marriage and family. The solution was obvious, sure…but seemed dauntingly impossible. The Church needs to reach out to more than a hundred million Filipinos? Okay…any other ideas? Anyone?
I still can’t think of an alternative solution to the monumental task of education, but I do know this: criticizing the Church of all Her shortcomings, sitting back and expecting everyone else to do all the work, does nothing to help the situation. If you call yourself Catholic, then you are saying that you are part of the One Body, the Mystical Body of Christ. And any part that does not move in sync with the rest (e.g. stubbornly staying put when the rest of the Body is straining to move forward) does harm to the Body. If you find yourself saying, “the Church should do this or that,” realize that YOU are the Church. And any part that is not part of the solution is part of the problem.
So what can we do?
Here are 3 things, I think, that can get us started on the road to healing our fragmented nation, as well as our divided Church.
Be a Better Filipino. That is, be a better brother or sister to our less fortunate countrymen. Though it has been repeatedly stated that the RH bill was drafted for the health and well-being of the poor, I can’t help but think of how much time and energy we’ve wasted just arguing over the bill, time and energy that could have been spent actually doing something–feeding, helping, giving, anything. If we really care for the poor as much as we profess, then let our actions–not just our words or our stand–show for it. You don’t have to go at it alone–there are so many outreach programs in existence, parish-based and otherwise, that are just begging for your help. Do more than just shell out a few pesos, be involved. Get close enough to know their faces, their names, their stories. They need to know that we really do care for them, not just in congress or on our Facebook pages, but right where they are.
(Here’s an opportunity for you to start right now: Living Hope Community is organizing relief efforts for Talim Island in Binangonan which is still affected by floods from continuous rains since the Habagat. We are planning to bring relief goods to around 300 of the over 1,500 families in need on Saturday, October 20th. Click here for more information, or leave a comment below.)
Be a Better Christian. Strive to follow Christ and to live out the Gospel more each day. No doubt there are a lot of ways you can do this, but in the context of the whole RH bill debacle, I propose that we all turn our attention to the 2nd greatest commandment: to love our neighbor as ourself. That, granted we have our differing opinions on what is and what isn’t right for our country, we are free to state our views plainly without having to attack others (or religious institutions) for theirs. Christians, no matter what denomination, should never resort to judging, ridiculing, name-calling, insulting others (no, not even if they started it). Going back to my first suggestion, I would have that we all do, rather than talk. But if we must, then let it be with courtesy and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Be a Better Catholic. Sure, you can content yourself with just going to mass on Sunday. But here’s the thing: knowing the reasons behind the Church’s stand on contraception, divorce, IVF and other issues won’t come from just listening to weekly homilies. You need to educate yourself. Only after educating yourself can you educate others.
It may seem intimidating to read actual Church documents, especially those that sound like the names of plant and animal species (Lumen Gentium, Humanae Vitae, Gaudium et Spes). Thankfully, we have been blessed by some very inspiring, and very accessible, authors that can teach us a lot about living our lives, our faith, to the fullest. Here are 3 books that opened my eyes, heart and mind to the beauty of the Catholic faith. Far from being didactic, these books are not just about knowing what the Church is about, but about why it makes so much sense to love the Church, and belong to THE Church.
1. Surprised By Truth. A compilation of stories written by modern-day converts to Catholicism. What’s interesting about this is that most of the contributors of this book were former pastors/theologians, and in their search for the Truth, they were led to the Catholic faith. If Protestants are finding something beautiful and true in our Church, don’t we owe it to ourselves to behold this beauty and truth as well?
2. Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism. The story of Scott and Kimberly Hahn, whose story of conversion started the bandwagon for some of the stories in Surprised By Truth. A very engaging read because they recount not just their search for Truth, but their struggle to embrace it as well. Interestingly, the first truth Kimberly accepted after a great deal of study was the Church’s stand on contraception, embracing it long before she accepted Catholicism.
3. Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion and Purpose. My most recent discovery, this book by Matthew Kelly had me nodding and saying “Amen!” at almost every page. What I’ve always called the “beauty of the Church,” he calls the “genius of Catholicism.” This book uncovers the common traps of this world, teaches how living one’s faith in the Church defends us from these traps, and challenges us to be the best-version-of-ourself. This book has made such an impact on me, I’m sure I will write more about it in future posts.
The fate of the RH bill is NOT in our hands (unless I have some Senatorial readers I am not aware of). Shouldn’t we focus instead on what is within our capacity to do? The relevance of these suggestions does not depend on any final outcome; I pray we will not wait for a verdict to spur us into action, so that we can ALL start being part of the solution.