Monday, November 26, 2007

Something about Immaculate Conception (first draft)

I was in college when I came across a writing teacher who taught us the basics of scriptwriting. He told us to forget about the overused storylines and challenged us to think out of the box. Classical, award winning movies are all based on timeless scripts. The setting is meticulously researched upon. The characters are not of a "card board" type, they are of complex personalities able to live out a persona that is completely human.

The scripts of these films aren't merely a product of a spur of the moment thinking, it is a result of deliberate, careful planning of story line. And the story line carries with it not merely a statement on the human life, but more importantly, it embodies within it a moral that has a universal character. We cannot but be affected by it for it touches us gently or otherwise. It has an impact on our live because in one way or another, we have experienced it. We could see ourselves in the roles those characters portray.

In one of our sessions in our scriptwriting class, he introduced an activity he called "What if?" He asked us to come up with crazy situations.

Some of my classmates came up with their "what if" situations:

What if ants were as big as elephants?
What if an alien falls in love with a human being?
What if the President of the republic is gay?

I won't tell you what was my "what if?" It's so crazy that I'm afraid that I might be expelled from the novitiate, if I'd make it public.

A couple of months ago, I encountered a novel that has the same formula. It was authored by Mitch Albom, the same author who wrote "Five people you meet in heaven" and "Tuesdays with Morrie." The novel is about a deceased mother and a son. It explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?

I wouldn't want to ask you about what you'd do if you were in the shoes of the character. But Charley, the main character did what he was supposed to do when he saw his mom, who had died for eight years, sprang back to life on the very day he wanted to end his.

Both of them knew the strange situation they were in. But death is such a taboo topic in a family. No child is supposed to ask his parents "Why are you preparing my breakfast? We buried you already!" And so, he went on to enjoy his life again with his mom, if only for one more day.

What follows is the one "ordinary" day so many of us yearn for, a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets, and to seek forgiveness. Somewhere between this life and the next, Charley learns the astonishing things he never knew about his mother and her sacrifices. And he tries, with her tender guidance, to put the crumbled pieces of his life back together.

The book entitled "For one more day" is a good read. And if you would have the chance to read it, grab it. It is one book that you should never miss.

The story of the Immaculate Conception is as interesting as the best films you've ever seen. It's even better than the novel I was talking about earlier. Only thing, it's not merely a story. It is history.

We know from our catechism that the Immaculate Conception is a Roman Catholic doctrine asserting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved from the effects of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception. The doctrine was defined as a dogma binding on Catholics by Pope Pius IX in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus.

Perhaps, however, we are not aware that the doctrine as defined was debated by theologians during the Middle Ages. Dominican teachers and preachers vigorously opposed the doctrine, maintaining that it detracted from Christ's role as universal savior.

Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, defended it, establishing in 1477 a feast of the Immaculate Conception with a proper mass and office to be celebrated on December 8. He did not define the doctrine as a dogma, thus leaving Roman Catholics freedom to believe in it or not without being accused of heresy.

In 1950 Pope Pius XII with the support of the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic Bishops,
solemnly defined as an article of faith for all Roman Catholics the doctrine of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven.

Let me highlight three reasons why I think Immaculate Conception has the best plot:

I don't believe that the saga of the Blessed Mother is a one-time epic. I'd say that it has a plot longer and meatier than that of Mahabharata because it is a story that is not finished yet. It goes on as I speak in front of you. The drama and the passion of the Blessed Mother as she intercedes for us to the Father go beyond the stories we see on the celluloid.

It is a story greater than life because it is a story written by God himself to show that His love is not an empty promise. It is a promise fulfilled in the life of the Blessed Mother, and it is a reality that awaits us when we meet Him finally one day.

The evolving historical drama of the Immaculate Conception is not solely about the Blessed Mother. As her children, we are all part of her story.

And finally, the story of the Immaculate Conception is a story of a mother. We human beings have such a soft spot for our own mothers. Albom said that "when death takes your mother, it takes the word "mom" forever. It's just a sound really, a hum interrupted by open lips. But there are a zillion words on this planet, and not one of them comes out of your mouth the way that one does." We'll only realize how it is to lose a mother if we'd experience it.

I don't know how to end this piece. This is one writing skill I need to polish. But I challenge us to only do one thing: to nurture our love for the Woman, filled by God with His Grace. We can do this by our faithfulness in those little acts of devotion we offer her. Let us say every single "Hail Mary" of the Rosary with love. Let us pray the Angelus with fervor. These are but the practices of our Great Founder he has left as a legacy to His boys. Nothing much. Nothing more.