My stepson (the 14 and almost 15 year old) started a discussion about abstinence from meat on the Fridays of Lent. He seemed to be planning on doing it, and I simply told him that if he was going to go through the ritual, he should know what it’s about. As religion is not a part of his day-to-day education like it was for me (at St. Paul College) and for his Dad (in La Salle), he didn’t have any idea. So I went through the motions of explaining to him how it was a religious sacrifice meant to be part of the Lenten season commemmorating Jesus Christ’s supreme sacrifice. I didn’t bother to go into the essence of Jesus Christ dying on the cross as a means of ensuring mankind’s salvation. Alan and I have steered clear of profound conversations to enable the kid to absorb the main point of what we were trying to get across.
Sitting here now and looking back to that conversation, I wonder how it will be for my son, Angelo. While Alan has made up his mind we ought to maximize the benefit of being in Zone 3 (formerly District 26) on the New York school system by enrolling Angelo in public school, part of me is saying that he is missing out on his religious formation by not being raised in the same structure Alan and I had in our early education in two of the Philippines’ premier Catholic schools.
While most of the ministrations of the nuns of St. Paul appeared to me to be useless if not overly ceremonious routines back then, I now find that the lessons on the virtues, the beatitudes, the prophets and the ceremonies of my religion have helped to anchor me in my faith when external forces made me question my Church. And as elementary as the 10 Commandments may be to most other Catholics, I find that knowing in my heart and soul that the fourth commandment was to honor my father and mother has made me respectful of them despite the rebellious streak of my youth.
I only wish that I can afford my son the same education and exposure to the rudiments of Catholicism that I was fortunate to have been enlightened with in my early years. It would be great if I could somehow see him go to La Salle Greenhills like his father did. But we are here in New York. We are in America. The system is different and so is the environment. Parenting by itself is already a gargantuan task. Doing it in this day and age is proving to be more and more a challenge as I dream my dreams for my son.
We do not go to Church every Sunday. My husband seems to think I don’t have that deep a religious side to me — all he knows is that I pray my novena every Wednesday. He does not know I pray the rosary every day and I talk to both the Virgin Mary and Jesus as I walk out of the house. I am teaching my son to say his prayers and make the sign of the cross not because I find it cute but because I want him to learn how to talk to God in his own way. I want my son to be able to open up his heart to Jesus the same way I do when I find myself downtrodden, and I actually see Him sitting in front of me, and I actually feel His arms wrap me in a warm embrace that lifts the burden off my shoulders.
I try to abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and I do it on my own, not imposing it on Alan. But I hope that when Angel is old enough, he will know to do it on his own volition, for the reason it was meant to be done.