Purifying our popular piety

THIS, of course, will be a continuing, endless task. We first of all should be most thankful that in spite of the many secularizing factors affecting the world today in general, we in our country still manage to have a very moving popular piety or the showing of our faith, devotion and religion in a collective and public way.

But we should not forget that while we are most happy that we still have a vibrant spirit of popular piety, we should also feel the need to continually purify that piety from elements that actually undermine it even if they look like they are reinforcing it.

We cannot deny that popular piety is very vulnerable to all kinds of superstitious beliefs and practices that can have the appearance of faith, devotion and religion, but actually do not lead us to God but rather to our own sense of self-fulfillment.

Not that with God and the authentic practice of piety and religion we would not have this sense of self-fulfillment. In fact, with God and the authentic practice of piety and religion we would have a deep and abiding sense of self-fulfillment.

But it is a self-fulfillment that does not confine us to our own selves alone. It is one that will truly bring us to God and to everybody else, irrespective of our differences and conflicts. It is a self-fulfillment that fills us with the awareness that we are truly getting closer to God, following his will more faithfully and lovingly, and also getting closer to everybody else.

We just have to realize that our spirit of popular piety is not a product of what is called as the ‘herd mentality,’ where like animals we would just blindly follow where the tide goes, where the public trends and atmosphere suggest.

We need to put all our mind and heart into our piety and practice of religion, and not just be dragged by the unreliable impulses of our human instincts and emotions that are not yet inspired by true faith, hope and charity.

In this regard, we should always feel the need to rectify our intentions, because it is very easy for us now to fall into self-deception and hypocrisy. Christ told us, for example, that we “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mt 6, 1)

Then he continued, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others…But when you pray, go into your room close the door and pray to your Father…” (Mt 6, 5, 6)

It is not that we cannot pray collectively and in public. We can and, in fact, we should, because that is simply an expression of our social nature. And our piety and practice of religion can also have this collective and public character because of our social nature. But we should see to it that our intentions are pure.

That is, that we are truly talking and adoring God, and not just making a show. And that our relationship with everybody else becomes tighter and more meaningful and goes along the ways of true charity.

Toward this end, we need to examine ourselves to see if indeed our participation in the acts of popular piety is authentically motivated by faith and love for God and others. From there, let us help one another develop a true spirit of popular piety, doing a lot of catechesis and, of course, giving good example of how this popular piety ought to be lived.

We need a lot of role models in this department of our life. Let’s take advantage of what we already have in terms of popular piety and develop it further, pushing it to a higher level, and not allowing it to deteriorate into a pagan, orgiastic celebration!

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Fr. Roy Cimagala is the Chaplain of the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise, Talamban, Cebu City ([email protected]/PN)

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