Almost ten years ago, a neighbor’s cleaning lady knocked on our door and spoke to my youngest son, who happened to open it. He was only ten years old at that time. I began to wonder what they were talking about so I walked closer to where my son stood. She was introducing him to her faith!
I quickly pulled my son into the house and told her that she had no right to do that without first asking my permission. I felt that she was undermining my parental authority over my son.
She was defiant, insisting that because she was talking about Christ, there was nothing wrong with what she did! I complained to the person who seemed to be the leader of their group. He apologized and said it was not their practice to approach children the way she did without their parents’ permission. I summoned my most unfriendly tone and expression as I thanked him for having recognized the error, turned away and closed our door.
To me, faith is a personal matter and a stranger like her should not be allowed to discuss it with children (as young as my son) without the parents’ permission. Even so, I kept asking myself whether I over-reacted. I think any mom would have done the same thing.
Parents (and godparents) are charged with the obligation to nurture the faith in their children. If that woman had succeeded in winning my son over, she would not have been able to do that. And, in times like the one we are witnessing these days, how does one answer questions about the actions and statements of people whose duty is to spread the faith?
For twelve years, Religion was a subject I took in school. I read Bible stories over and over, memorized prayers and sacraments and even helped prepare for noon Masses when I was in high school. I was raised in a home that was basically Catholic, but our prayers were in different languages. My mother was most comfortable in Tagalog, having been raised in the tradition of the Philippine Independent Church and my father was “old school” Catholic and prayed only in Spanish. My brother and I were more comfortable with English, which was what we got used to in school.
But my faith was strongest when I was in college. Amid the many trials I faced during that period and even if no religion subjects were required at UP, I realized that my faith grew stronger there.
Looking back, it was when no one could answer my questions that I found the answers myself. It no longer mattered what those charged with spreading and nurturing the faith said or did. And I recalled the last two lines of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."
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