Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Recollection on Prayer

My friend and dragon boat teammate Anna Liese invited me to a seminar on prayer held yesterday at Union Church of Manila (UCM). The event was organized by UCM and Open Hearts Open Minds.

When I accepted the invitation, I had no idea who the speaker would be or how it would be conducted. Somehow, knowing that it’s a seminar on prayer was enough for me. It was therefore a very nice surprise to discover that the speaker was Father Thomas H. Green, S.J. Father Green is a spiritual director and a prolific writer of books on prayer and spirituality.

The seminar (or recollection as Father Green calls it) was very timely especially after my family’s recent loss. On a more personal level, I wanted to process some specific events during our time in Cebu that shook my belief in the act of praying. Perhaps one of the most trying times for me during that period of mourning and handling all funeral arrangements for my Lolo was the experience with the second wife’s prayer group (my Lolo became a Catholic after he remarried).

My Lola was a Protestant so I have vivid memories of the family’s daily prayers at dawn in my grandparents’ home and Sunday services at the UCCP in Davao City. But despite being devoted to their faith, I felt the openness of it. I grew up very open to other faiths as well.

Religious preferences have never been an issue. I even have a Tito and Tita who chose to become Catholics and I don’t remember that creating any ripple at all in the family. I even went to a high school run by the Society of Jesus. My stint in that school instilled in me a great respect for the Jesuits.

I think it’s because of my upbringing and exposure to different faiths that I haven’t been one to encourage religious debates or to allow myself to see religious denominations as a barrier for treating others as fellow children of God. And I’ve been exposed to a lot of people to believe that there are many who share this belief. This is probably why I was unprepared to find myself around people who taught me that sometimes faith without discernment can breed certain prejudices.

To my utmost disappointment, the second wife’s friends and prayer group challenged my perception. Without going to the sad and painful details, there were several decisions made by the girl that were heavily influenced by the group. And all these decisions were made without regard or respect for us in the family who were grieving as well.Apart from the extremely inconsiderate behaviors I’ve observed, there was also that matter of money. At first I thought the traditional prayers done by rote were sincerely given for someone they’ve known and said to respect. But it seems that even prayers need to be paid.

The seminar helped me process the desolation that was gripping me. I guess at this point I need to teach myself to forgive for I’m still honestly filled with grief and anger over everything that’s happened. I need to understand and accept this because I’m done feeling all these negative emotions.

Father Green said that loving is not liking, that God asked us to love our neighbors. He said God didn't mention anything about liking everyone. Love is an act of will and like is about feeling. To love is to desire the good of others regardless of how we feel about them.

I think that loving is really the most difficult thing to do. But sometimes, to choose to love can be a form of penance or purification as we seek to step closer to that place and time where we hope to see God.

I wish I could choose to love and start by forgiving them:
-For insisting that we bury my Lolo there instead of bringing him home to Davao
-For leaving us alone to fend for ourselves in an unfamiliar place
-For finding out that the family would take care of all the arrangements and fees despite the fact that it was them who insisted that we bury him there
-For not even offering words of sympathy and for treating us like we’re not my Lolo’s family as well
-For always demanding as if we have an obligation to them especially in providing money for the prayers that their traditions require

It’s been a truly difficult time, and continues to be still. It’s hard not to react in anger from the continued demands. I hope things get better. As I write, things are already looking up. God’s purpose for all of these will unveil itself in due time.

(Image used was found on the Internet.)

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