Friday, April 14, 2006

Ever since I can remember I've always checked R.C. as my religion --- Roman Catholic.
My parents would regale me with stories of me being all of 2 years old and they would take me to hear Mass at the Manila Cathedral. I would totter up from the aisle all the way to the main altar where the priest was saying Mass and just explore away. Much to the embarrassment of my father who had to run after me to pry me away which in turn meant I would start wailing at the top of my lungs like a petulant brat.
My parents enrolled me and my sister in Catholic schools from kindergarten up to college. So we got our education in institutions with names like Holy Child Auxillium (New Delhi, India); L'Ecole de Saint Joseph (Brussels, Belgium); St John's Academy (San Juan, Metro Manila) and of course UST (University of Santo Tomas, Manila)!
During our travels to neighboring countries like Germany, France, Switzerland from Belgium where we are based in the early 80s, the first place we explored would be the churches. My mother taught me to say 3 'Our Fathers' in every church we visited for the first time, I admit I still do that to this day whenever I travel.

So the highlight for a Catholic would be Holy Week.
4 solemn days from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
For my family, it means visiting 7 churches on Maundy Thursday after the Last Supper Mass for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There was a time in my now distant past when we visited 21 churches in one night. Back in the late 80s, right here in sunny Lenten week Manila which is peppered with churches - those forlorn days where you didn't have cable TV, the radio stations only played classical music, no Internet, no cellphones, the streets were deserted, the churches were still full and it was blasphemous to be spending Holy Week at the beach.

Throughout my adult years, I've been weaning in my Catholic faith. I've began to question the teachings of the Catholic Church in my infinite quest to fully understand if religion serves any purpose and or plays any important role in my existence. I've also had this fascination with books which discussed the mysticism about the Vatican, the Catholic church as well as conspiracy theories regarding the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Books like "Angels and Demons", "The Day of Confession" and "The Third Secret" have fueled my extreme fascination and piqued my interest.
But despite the fact that I don't go to Church regularly anymore and I've stopped receiving Holy Communion for reasons I rather keep private, I still look forward every year to our Visita Iglesia outing.

This year we decided to stick to 7 churches, all of them holding much significance in our lives.
Our first stop was the Manila Cathedral, the church of my early infancy. After the 2 hour Last Supper Mass officiated by Cardinal Rosales, we hopped over to San Agustin under a full moon shining down on us. It is just a cobblestone walk away. I like this church for it reminds me of the old Spanish edifices during an era of much turmoil in our rich historical past and the fact that it is located in Intramuros adds to its charm.
Our 3rd stop was at UST, my alma mater. The chapel where I prayed during my tertiary education so I could pass every single exam I took during those 4 years.
Cruising further down Espana street, you will run smack into the Santo Domingo church. My family frequented this church a lot during my childhood. It is quite spacious and has ample parking spaces within its premises.
Exiting towards Araneta Avenue then crossing Aurora Boulevard near the SM Centerpoint, down Blumentritt Street in San Juan, you won't miss the Santo Cristo de Sanctuario church. Another church I'm quite fond of because it was just a few blocks away from my high school in San Juan.
Next stop on our itinerary was the Santa Ana church located in Punta, Santa Ana. This tiny yet cosy church is where my parents became husband and wife, 38 years ago.
Our 7th stop was at the San Felipe Neri church located in the Gabbys area on Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong. This ancient church was another refuge for me during my high school days. It is located on my route home so when I had some inner conflicts, I would drop by to pour out my woes to GOD.
Since it was only 11:30 P.M and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was still open till midnight, we dropped by St. Francis, the one located near the Edsa Shangri-la complex. We recited the 14 Stations of the Cross here. The place where I worship nowadays when I find the need to hear Mass to atone for my worldly sins in this age of multitasking, the Internet, materialism and numerous distractions which tempt us every single day! So I end this post with a quote I received by SMS:
Let this season of Lent remind us that our life and our material possessions are just being LENT to us.
We are all passing by. We are all pilgrims on the road.
We bring nothing when we die. But we can leave behind the love, we have shared and the hope we have given and the goodness we have done. May we all have a meaningful Lenten season.

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