Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Elmo and the sacraments
Elmo gets ready to receive his first communion. I'm not sure he gets it all, though. Then again, he doesn't have to.
First confession. Elmo looks adorable -- and all innocent -- even from the back.
Elmo does not have any pictures from his baptismal party. That's because he had none.
In December 2002, when he was six months old, our family was just getting back on track after his father had been retrenched from his job in Singapore. I had just resumed working, myself, and did not have any savings. So one Sunday we decided a baptism was more important than a baptismal party. We took Elmo to church and had his brother and sisters occupy the entire pew meant for godparents. I did scribble some names on the information sheet at the parish office. And then we drove off to Max's for a simple lunch for six.
Elmo is nine now, and he will be having his first holy communion in a few hours. Our conditions today are very much different. So are my religious thoughts and practices.
The kids and I don't go to Sunday mass or pray the rosary. We have only one religious relic -- a small statue of the Holy Family given us by my erstwhile dad-in-law -- in our apartment. We don't talk about our Catholic faith. We generally agree that the Bible is not a faithful chronicle of historical events. What we talk about is the superiority of openness to any faith or idea. We know that our being Catholic is an accident of birth that does not make us any better or worse than the next fellow.
Why is Elmo still taking his communion? I asked him this and he told me: "Why, Mom, because you said so."
Why do I say so?
It is always good to begin somewhere. After all, I myself was born and raised a Catholic. When I was a kid, my Lola used to read aloud a chapter from the Old Testament -- in Tagalog - every night. We listened to a radio show that always culminated in prayer, where the listeners had to put their left hand on the radio and raise their right as if reaching for the hand of God. I spent sixteen years in Catholic educational institutions.
I did not turn out so bad.
I admit I am what one would call a cafeteria Catholic, choosing only the aspect of the faith which do not come into conflict with my own beliefs and practices. I am averse to rituals. I was not married in Catholic rites (a relief!) I admit, too, that this state is a result of my exposure to double-speaking cerrado Catolicos: pious outside, rotten inside. On the other hand, I am secure in my spirituality. I believe in a god -- although I hesitate to tag him, her or it as Allah, God the father, Jesus Christ, etc. I believe I am a good person, and I am one just because -- not because I dream "of the gates of heaven and dread the gates of hell."
Later, I would wish for Elmo to have this same kind of serene acceptance and inner strength. If he finds it elsewhere, outside of this faith he was born to, then that is good. But that would be for later, when he is able to think, evaluate and decide for himself.
For now, he's just a boy, and here is a good foundation.