A dam-burst of popular piety

- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

It's truly a great blessing to practically have a dam-burst of popular piety in many places of our country. It can only mean that in spite of our warts and all, we have an inculturated, if rudimentary, faith that can't help but show itself in public in some specific forms.

It means our faith has already entered deep into our people's psyche and ethos, such that it more or less spontaneously, and surely under God's grace, bursts forth in public display. It means the Holy Spirit is at work and we are responding to his promptings.

The devotions and other pious practices surrounding our faith and love for the Black Nazarene, Santo Niño, our Lady and saints attest to this wonderful phenomenon, now hardly seen in many other countries, especially the more developed but already secularized ones.

We have to do all to keep, nourish and protect such popular piety from forces that seek to undermine, weaken or empty it of its proper substance and spirit. We cannot deny the fact that while Christ attracted a great crowd, a good number of them were there for inadequate if not wrong reasons, and with ulterior motives flowing galore.

In fact, at one point Christ lamented: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk 18,8) We need to understand that while our popular piety can contain a lot of good, it will always need some purification, some improvement. This is not supposed to be a wet blanket, but a norm of prudence so that what is good can keep on being good and even better.

We have to understand that this is a continuing task. We can never rest in this. We have to be wary of our tendency to be taken in by a sense of euphoria, very understandable, that can deaden our sense of duty.

We have to make sure that the religious dimension is always preserved as the main animating element of the celebration. We need to strengthen it, and equip it with the appropriate "antidote" against foreign elements that can also be expected to come.

Popular piety can attract all sorts of things. It's like a pie or a cake in the open air. It can delude people to think that with it, they would be already spiritually ok. They can easily fall into self-righteousness.

Many other people can take advantage of it. We have to be most wary of the possibility that these expressions of popular piety can deteriorate into some ugly mob rule.

Politicians, for example, will certainly be most tempted to exploit its possibilities. For good or evil, we cannot determine for now. So, some regulating indications have to be made. And we have to remind and encourage politicians to always have rectitude of intention whenever they take part in these manifestations of popular piety.

Business people, the big ones and the small ones, obviously will also do some milking and killing of the big event. This is all very understandable. Again, some effective regulating provisions have to be made without alienating them.

Different people from different fields will use it from their respective interests. There has to be a way of determining which is compatible with the over-all celebration and which is not. People from the fields of culture, education, sports and entertainment, etcetera will all have a field day.

The Church leaders have to be most active and persistent in underlining the spiritual and supernatural dimension without detracting from the legitimate human dimension. This is not an easy task. They have to acquire the necessary competence.

Often, the way to go is by trial and error, and errors will surely come. But as long as the concern remains, and the people involved have the proper dispositions and competence, then we can only expect success especially in the spiritual side. A lot of coordination is inevitable.

For sure, a lot of catechesis given in ways very much adapted to the different mentalities of the people is a must. Priests, nuns and others can expect a more receptive attitude from the people given the general atmosphere.

Homilies and other forms of preaching have to be very well-prepared. As much as possible, we avoid improvised preaching that either turns off people or spoil them in their ignorance, confusion and other forms of deficiencies.

By now, Church leaders should have a good idea of what to tell the people, how to motivate and inspire them. This idea should be well articulated and developed in appropriate modules and preaching plans that can make use of modern technologies like the social media.



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