Saturday, January 10, 2015

Faith a Great Gift

The magazine With Bible gives us a picture of life in an old Catholic family going back ten generations. The priest writer recounts growing up in a Catholic village. Up until the II Vatican Council marriages were always among Catholics so all his relatives were Catholic. Until the day he went to Elementary School he thought the whole world was made up of Catholics. In his class the only other Catholic was his cousin from his village. This was a bombshell to him, he had been deceived, using today's words it was a cultural shock.

From that time on he was embarrassed to be known as a Catholic. He would very surreptitiously make a small sign of the cross on his forehead before eating, and persecution had ended hundreds of years ago. 

One day his father went with a married Buddhist monk friend to a temple bringing him along, where he saw that the hands of the Buddha were bigger than the hands of Jesus, which caused some consternation, and he ate without any problem the rice given.

He envied the Buddhist children who did not have to do anything on Sundays. Mass was one of his biggest difficulties. He would with friends steal and eat the melons in the farms. He dreamed of time on Sundays to go catching frogs, and lamented being  born into a family of Catholics. He was dreaming of the day he would be able to skip Mass.

The day came one summer, he skipped Mass, and with a friend went prancing around the mountains and streams and came back for lunch. When he arrived the family was eating lunch and they all stared at him. There was no place at the table and his bowl was missing. His grandfather asked did he come to eat? There was no sympathy for him and he went outside under the eaves of the house wiping his tears. He hated everybody: God, Jesus,  his grandmother, the Blessed Mother-- from that day on he became a tepid Catholic. 

He dreamed of getting rid of his Catholicism. In the family they would have the morning prayers: for him it was the continuance of a bad dream; evening prayers a lullaby. The holy pictures on the wall would  be glaring at him, he was afraid of Jesus' family. After evening prayers there was the rosary and even at times the office for the dead.

This was not all, everyday three times you would hear the bell of the mission station calling him to pray the Angelus. Every evening he would have a string  rosary on which to pray, he would not get beyond the first decade. His grandmother told him if he fell asleep his guardian angel would finish it for  him. He says his guardian angel was was busy saying his rosaries. His family home was a monastery and he was a lonely tepid Catholic.

As the years passed he ended up in the seminary. How in the world he ended up in the seminary he doesn't know. When he finished his studies he went into the military. During that time he was at camp there was no opportunity to go to Mass, which he liked. He refused an appointment to work as a religious assistant figuring he would be doing that for the rest of his life. He was living the life of a tepid and was enjoying it. As long as God allowed him to do what he wanted all was well, and he feels this is common among the tepid.

Even after he became a priest he felt that his tepidity continued. The joy at ordination quickly left and he did not feel God's love. It was not easy to talk about God's love. When he was saying the breviary it was like the morning and evening prayers he knew as a child. He was curious about the things of the world.
He felt he received little from God. He tried to forget  the emptiness by filling it up with all kinds of works, not only by possessing material things but also knowledge, and working excessively with great pride: using God to grant what he wanted.

This all came to an end when after a year as an assistant priest he was sent overseas to study. During this time he found it difficult to breathe, and they did not know the origin of the problem; he was faced with a serious operation. Death became a possibility and he  began to see everything differently. He was looking for forgiveness. He wanted forgiveness and wanted to love.  It was at this time that he received the peace that he had never experienced before in his life. All the joys and sorrows of his life, his tears, regrets and worries were all washed away. Everything had changed. He had met God.

The article finishes with his gratitude for his gift of faith. It was packaged in a box that he opened when he faced death. God's love for him he saw with new eyes, and he wants to make this love known to others.

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