Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sensitivity 101

By means of catechesis, in which due emphasis is given to her social teaching, the Church desires to stir Christian hearts “to the cause of justice” and to a “preferential option or love for the poor,” so that her presence may really be light that shines and salt that cures.

p. 21, General Directory for Catechesis

We tackled a number of paragraphs in the Introduction of the book “General Directory of Catechesis” in our Catechetics class last meeting, but the paragraph above affected me most. The expressions enclosed in the quotation marks such as “cause of justice” and “preferential option for the poor” struck some sensitive chords in my heart.

These expressions seem so fresh and so real and yet I encountered them for the first time, eight years ago, in one of our religion subjects which went by the name Social Teachings of the Church.

Upon further reflection, I realized that these expressions ought to be emphasized in the brand of catechism the Church dispenses to the faithful, and an integral part of the evangelization in which we wish to educate our brothers and sisters who are yet to accept the Good News.

No, I am not questioning the catechetical curricula that we follow. However, there has to have a necessary focus towards social justice. As I see it, the Church’s stance in safeguarding the right and dignity of every human being is unparalleled. As a video documentary puts it, “Ang Pinakatatagong Lihim ng Simbahan,” our social teachings is basically our invaluable treasure.

Reflecting on my personal experience as a young boy who would religiously attend the catechism class in our parish on warm Sunday afternoon, I cannot remember of any concrete manifestation of these teachings lectured to us by our well-meaning catechists. When I myself became one, I followed suit, emphasizing on the importance of teaching the kids the importance of going to Mass, making sure that they know that we only have one God, and that we don’t worship the Blessed Mother.

Only when I took that course in Social Teachings that I get to be oriented about the stance of the Church in terms of its social outlook; that as we nurture our relationship with God, we also have to take care of the “social” context of this very relationship.

Last week, Ceres Doyo, one of the seasoned columnists of the Inquirer, gently raised issues against the Church in terms of its anemic response in helping the victims of the capsized boat Princess of the Stars.

…but I wish the zeal and over-eagerness of the nuns, priests and brothers who were falling over themselves to support, surround and sustain (for weeks and months) NBN-ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. were also seen in the aftermath of the recent sea tragedy that claimed more than 700 lives. “Falling over themselves,” translated in Filipino, is “nagkakandarapa.”

I didn’t see that same zeal in the wake of the sinking of Princess of the Stars and I felt let down. I thought the Catholic Church as an institution and as represented by its consecrated members (the clergy, the religious priests, nuns and brothers) was generally lukewarm to the victims and the bereaved after the sinking of Princess of the Stars.

I don’t wish to come in defense of the Church. I am aware that the first ones who responded to aid the kin of the victims were members of the Church. But then again, the impression of Doyo and the rest of the Filipino Catholics is something that the Church needs to be sensitive about. The slogan of the Catholic Church should not end in the documents, but to be lived in especially in the crucial times like this.

The challenge for the Church to prove its effort to catechize and evangelize is not to be manifested by the attendance of the catechumens in the halls of parishes, but in its effort to lift its fingers to help the poor.

St. Francis of Assisi ordered his brothers: “preach” and if it need be “speak.” The Church ought to do the same.