Critics often chime the Christian faith of Filipinos for being divorced from reality.
Clerics are not in denial.
In a recent Christmas gathering with journalists, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma counted as a blessing the popular religiosity of Filipinos that is quite incomparable to that of Christian communities abroad.
The archbishop, however, simultaneously counted as a challenge for religious leaders in the country the lack of correspondence of people’s everyday lives to the faith they profess.
For Archbishop Palma, faith must go beyond devotions and lead the faithful to servanthood even beyond their comfort zones.
The story of one of the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist who attended the penitential “Walk with Jesus” procession at the beginning of Cebu’s feast of the Holy Child Jesus is a lesson in faith that works.
John Paul Abarquez, 33, was enmeshed in addiction to drugs for one decade until he figured in and got stabbed during a fraternity brawl.
Hitting rock bottom, Abarquez surrendered himself to God and walked the road of recovery from substance abuse. He was one of at least 80,000 devotees who participated in the dawn opening salvo of Fiesta Señor.
A crucial character in Abarquez’s story was the friend who invited him to serve as a lay minister. This person demonstrates the indispensability of personal, human connection in nurturing another’s faith.
Priests of the Order of Saint Augustine have been bringing the image of the Santo Niño Jesus de Cebu to hospitals and jails to visit the sick and imprisoned.
This gesture, when backed by persons who attend to the infirm or ensure the correction and rehabilitation of the wayward will assure that the faith of the flock will not be stillborn in empty ritualism but result in lives changed for the better.
Even science is on the same page. Medical researchers have found that at least for persons recovering from substance abuse, faith lived in community is a necessary element to success.
According to the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry (2016), spirituality helps recoverers:
1. accept the fact of their addiction
2. understand that recovery requires spirituality
3. stay open to possibilities and
4. receive hope and replenishment.
Against drug addiction, we Filipinos possess the powerful weapon of faith. It is high time we use it to maximum effect.