I don’t usually write about religion. Faith is very personal to me. I can say that I have a good relationship with God, though there are moments when I feel so challenged! Pope Francis’ teachings helped me look at the Church a little more differently. He’s coming to Manila tomorrow, and I’m excited for the stories and advice he will bring. When I was asked to write a piece on the Pope for the Philippine Online Chronicles, I was worried at first. Religion and faith — too personal for me to talk about. But I embraced the opportunity, and I felt liberated just writing the piece. I wrote from the heart, and I was happy it connected with my friends! I share it with you here today. This was originally posted on Waiting for Pope Francis, Philippine Online Chronicles.
Growing up Catholic liberated and stifled me at the same time. From prep to college, Sunday masses were regularly attended. The Holy Rosary was prayed often, especially during October. After graduation though, I began to question my faith. I didn’t see the point of going to Mass, especially when the homilies became too preachy about politics. I built a relationship with God outside the confines of a church, finding Him more in the quiet moments of a morning run or a midnight reflection. I felt guilty, feeling like I was being berated by the whispers of nuns and teachers from the all-girls Catholic school I attended for 12 years. My mother, a devout Catholic, also kept asking me why I didn’t go to Mass anymore. How could I explain to her that I felt more distant when I was in the midst of ceremony? That I found more joy in a quiet conversation with God than a community get-together? I felt like a bad Catholic, even though my relationship with God was becoming more solid.
Then Pope Francis came along.
Who is this rock star Pope?, I wondered. Social media was instrumental in building awareness and emotional affinity with this different kind of pope. Every week, there was a quotable quote in my news feed from this radical pope. Every week, I became more curious about him.
He’s the pope who refuses to live in luxury. No fancy cars or papal apartments for this man of God. We’ve read of him picking up the phone to call people, saying prayers for them. we see pictures of him riding the metro or walking down the streets and being welcomed by worshipers. He’s a Pope who doesn’t seem to be caged in an ivory tower. He’s reachable, simple, and friendly.
His words are big but relatable. When he met with his Vatican employees before Christmas, he had some reminders for them which may very well be reminders for our daily lives too. What touches me about these reminders is the simplicity in how it is said. There’s his reminder on how I feel talks about work-life balance: “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
There’s the reminder that can hit any chismosa. “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
Are you unhappy with work? Reflect on this statement from Pope Francis and you may just have a change in outlook. ““Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
One statement I’ve reflected on is this: “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.” Feed your spirit. Nurture your soul. With this, all will be well.
Then there was this reminder from him for the youth during World Youth Day. ” I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide.’ Have the courage to be happy.” Take a risk on love!
This is the first Pope I’ve come to truly follow. Yes, he is the Pope. But I also see him, as some Filipinos have started calling him, as Lolo Kiko.
With him, I have been rediscovering my Catholic faith little by little. I have been trying to understand Mass and teachings with more openness this time. I am getting drawn back to the Church without the feeling of being stifled. Lolo Kiko has been gently provoking me to build my relationship with God again, this time with the community, but I don’t feel pressured. That’s what I like about this pace, this Pope. He’s a Pope with a gentle power, the Pope with the open arms you don’t feel shy running into because you know you’ll be blessed, no matter what kind of relationship you have with God. I can’t wait to welcome Lolo Kiko with the rest of the community this week! For the first time in my Catholic life, I am waiting for the Pope, my Pope. For the first time in growing up Catholic, I’m giddy about the Pope and learning more from him. Thank you, Lolo Kiko, for the gift of rediscovering my faith!