My God, my friend

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - May 3, 2014 - 12:00am

I was packing for a short business trip when I caught glimpses of media coverage in Rome. There were two new saints: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. I knew both of them, but loved one more than the other. Maybe it was a question of timing. When John XXIII was pope, I was young, fresh, and just slowly losing my innocence. I loved him. He was short, very chubby and walked a lot around Rome at night, earning himself the nickname Johnny Walker. That’s what the Romans called him in his day. That’s what the tourist guide told me when I went to Rome in 1974, I think it was.

The auditorium for papal public audiences wasn’t built yet in his time. So they didn’t have to carry him in or out on a dais like they did the succeeding popes. He was too heavy, anyway, so he walked in. I don’t think he wore the Prada or Gucci or whatever designer shoes that requires a red velvet cushion — the shoes Pope Francis nobly refuses to wear. That’s what began to turn me off to the papacy and all the accouterments of the Catholic Church. Slowly over the years I began to lose my faith in the Church but not in God. Never in God.

But I had to keep my religious views to myself. My mother had a priest brother and a nun sister. I remember having an argument with my uncle over my life. I asked him, “What do you expect from me? I am young, attractive and single, for all purposes (even if he had officiated at my marriage, which later broke up). You expect me not to see anyone?”

“What do you expect from me?” he countered. “I am a priest.”

“Oops,” I think we both thought at the same time. I understood him. Maybe he also began to see my point of view. But I loved him like a father. I had lost mine when I was six months old.

The Philippines, I think, is the last Catholic nation in the world after the Vatican. In Italy, right next to the Vatican, they have divorce. In Spain, which brought the religion to us, they have divorce. We don’t. We’re still playing games. We have legal annulments, which serve as divorce by annulling the marriage but keeping the children born from the marriage legitimate. Child support is not mandatory, or if it is and it is not observed, there are no penalties.

For me that is ridiculous because it ignores the children. I know. I had to support my own children as they grew up. Their father was only responsible for their education, which he paid after I presented receipts (in other words, I advanced the tuition) and he always paid late.  That was frightfully unfair. But what could I do? Take him to court? Pay lawyers? I would have run out of money and he wouldn’t move, anyway.

So today I am no longer a practicing Catholic. I do not believe in the Church and its rules. But I believe in God, the one power we do not control, in whose face we humble ourselves or we are forced to be humble. For me God is Nature. Earthquakes. Typhoons. Tsunamis. The beautiful blue sky on a lovely day. Our gorgeous sunsets. The loveliness given to us that we do not control, that is out there waiting for us to admire, to love, to accept the rage of disasters and to help out. That, for me, is God.

And yet, because of what I learned in school and because I live alone and sometimes need someone to talk to, I talk to God a lot. No, I don’t formally pray. I don’t do novenas anymore, though once upon a time I did.

What do You think I should do? I ask. I am getting old but my life needs something new. It needs new energy but I don’t know what to do. Then, suddenly, a thought flashes: why not volunteer in the children’s home that I see from my porch? Every day since I moved in I look at it and feel a call. Is it beckoning? I must check it out. 

Then there’s another flash. Go downstairs to the administration office and look for their number in the phone book.  Call. Talk to the nun in charge. You can do that. Maybe you need to go there. Go on. Volunteer.

I guess I will when I return from my trip. Until then I hope all the people who send me those biblical quotes on my cell phone lose my number. I have my own relationship with God and it’s a wondrous one.

* * *

There’s a lady who asked for my cleaning woman’s services. I inadvertently erased her text. Please text again.

Please text your comments to 0917-815-5570.


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