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Sharing the faith in a `smart-shaming` Pinoy culture
Thursday, February 4, 2016

“Eh di wow.”  “Nosebleed!”  “Ikaw na!”

If you live in the Philippines, chances are you’ve heard these reactions once in while, usually when someone speaks in straight English or perhaps is struck by some deep insight and passionately shares it with the rest of the group. Essayist Shakira Sison observes that saying these words is like putting up “a figurative hand that signals, ‘No more thinking.’”

For Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, who gave a talk to thousands of people at St. Paul’s College in Pasig on Jan. 24, such “smart-shaming” attitudes give rise to a “banners and balloons” type of Catholicism that can only lead to a “pastoral disaster.”

In “An Afternoon with Bp. Robert Barron”, the Word on Fire Ministries founder lamented the fact that despite Vatican II being the fruit of the cream of the crop of Catholic intelligence in the mid-twentieth century, the era that followed was one of a superficial understanding of the faith. 

He said he himself was one of the young faithful during that time and recalled how many Catholic adults of his generation realized their seemingly childish religion “no longer fed them.” 

Barron described it as a “happy-clappy, not very intelligent, superficial presentation of the Catholic faith.”

“Nobody did this to us; we did it to ourselves. We dumbed down our own richly intelligent faith,” said Barron who also gave two talks at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City during his first trip to the Philippines. 

According to the prelate, the mass exodus of Catholics from the faith can be explained by the fact that the watered-down version of Catholicism – the only version they were familiar with - did not correspond with “the deepest longings of their heart”—so they left in droves.  

The bishop quoted John Henry Newman who said: “One of the signs of a vibrant Catholicism is that it thinks seriously about the faith”. When you stop thinking about the faith, it loses vibrancy and persuasive power, he added. 

Barron went on to share about his niece’s reading list for her senior year in a very good Catholic high school: Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Virgil’s Aeneid, a complex Physics textbook and—for religion—a text resembling a comic book!

Old media before new
Things won't be much different in the Philippine setting but instead of just settling for a lukewarm, uninspired brand of the faith, the prelate called on the Filipino faithful to shake things up. 

“Reclaim it!” urged Barron, noting that the “compelling evangelical power” of Catholicism lives on in the “richly intelligent tradition” of faith. 


So, how does this reclaiming happen? Barron said before we use the “new” media, we should first use the “old” media. 

According to the prelate, Catholics should read books, and lots of them. 

For Erwin Bulahon, a seminarian from Holy Apostles Senior Seminary, what struck him most about Barron’s talk was that his message was rooted in the “lives of the saints” and how he spoke deeply about “the science of our faith.”

Today, the faithful is being exhorted, as St. Augustine was once encouraged: Tolle et lege (take up and read)! (Katrina Martin/Leo Abot)



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