Faith at fifteen

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Philippine Star

 “Do you believe in the Bible?”


“Do you think that everything written there has to be taken literally?”

“Certainly not!” I still have not read the Bible in full but I do remember a passage advising that if one’s eyes cause one to sin, it was better to pluck them out.

My fifteen-year-old son asked me these questions one afternoon. I was surprised by and completely unprepared for them. I never imagined that he would be interested in my opinion about the Bible. I have never discussed faith and religion with him before that. I was a little afraid of what to say. My husband and I had chosen to send him to a Catholic school when he was six years old. This is his tenth year. I thought that the least I could do was not to contradict what he was being taught in school. Teenagers are confused enough on different matters. I did not want to add to his confusion. Thankfully, he moved on to another topic and then left to do his homework.

It was because of this conversation that I exerted extra effort to wake up early on a Saturday to listen to talks by the President and Associate Principal for Formation of the school where he studies. I was worried that he would bring up the topic of faith and religion again. I wanted to be more prepared if there was going to be a next time.

The subject of that morning’s talk was Ignatian spirituality. It was not going to be my first time to hear about the topic but both speakers started occupying their positions only this year. I wanted to know what their vision for the school was going to be. I also wanted to know what their approach would be to teaching children to live life for the greater glory of God.

I learned that apart from the subject Christian Life Education, the boys have a reflection period everyday. Freshmen and sophomores have yearly recollections. Juniors have an annual overnight retreat. Seniors have a three-night retreat. The retreats are Ignatian silent retreats. Silence helps one focus on what God is saying.

The associate principal talked about the “intellectual basis” of faith. I have always thought that faith came from an inner knowing, something that comes from the heart and not the mind. The phrase baffled me. I guess several theologians and Catholic writers have written on the subject.  I still have not found the need to have my faith explained.

I am grateful I went to that talk and had the chance to listen to Jesuits explain methods and exercises for discerning God’s will. Some parents even asked about the school’s stand on the Reproductive Health Bill and the school president answered the question candidly and gently. At no time did I feel as if my reproductive system was under attack by men who wanted to control it, the way I had felt when some priests talked about the RH Bill during mass.

We started that morning with the Prayer for Generosity by St. Ignatius. It states: “Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; ?teach me to serve you as you deserve, ?to give and not to count the cost, ?to fight and not to heed the wounds, ?to toil and not to seek for rest, ?to labor and not to seek reward, ?except that of knowing that I do your will.” The next time my son asks for my opinion on the Bible, I will not be afraid to tell him the truth: I’m no Bible scholar but the Prayer for Generosity sums up what it means to be Catholic for me. 

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