Last Thursday, the first thing I asked myself when the pope came to the Philippines was: “What is this fanfare?”
I was born Catholic, but deep inside, I had other beliefs. I never understood why there was a need to wipe or kiss or embrace or parade a wood with Christ’s or Mary’s or a saint’s face. Never did anyone explain to me why there was a need to pray the rosary, and I grew up doubting that repeated prayers could save us sinners. I never understood that in some of the masses I attended, there was hatred for LGBT saying that “Adam is for Eve”, where as Christ taught us that we must love our neighbors. And while I do attend mass, I never get myself to celebrate it. You have to attend the mass because it is the third commandment, but does attending mass alone make Sunday holy? And locking in my room to give myself time to pray doesn’t make my day holy?
And this is not only for Christianity. I respect religions, but I wonder, why they tend to be contestants in a game show, competing to answer all questions given by a game master to get into the final round and win the title “we are the only ones to be saved”.
And as my faith crumbled, Pope Francis came to preach. And his teachings were different from all those I had heard in masses.
I was humbled.
I listened to Pope Francis, and watched the news about him. There was something in his smile that made me smile too, and I knew it was pure and genuine. And I guess, that was what people wanted to see.
They wanted to see the pope who went out to visit the poor.
They wanted to see the pope who auctioned his bike and gave the money to charity.
They wanted to see the pope who stopped by to embrace children.
They wanted to see the pope who said, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?”
They wanted to see the pope who respected other religions.
They wanted to see the pope who made it clear that it was not about being a Catholic or being a Muslim or being an Atheist. It was about doing good. “Do good: we will meet one another there.”
They wanted to see the pope who restored a lot of people’s faith.
They wanted to see the pope, but to me, it was okay to hear him speak even from afar.
Yesterday, we left as early as 4 AM (and we were late) to see the pope. And even when I knew that they wanted to see the pope for the reasons stated above, to me, if I wouldn’t see him close enough, it wouldn’t make sense. Besides that, I still had doubts.
I did not understand the extravagant welcome.
I did not understand why people would stay there for 24 hours or more to see him quickly pass by, or to not even see him pass by, but to say at least they were there to witness.
I did not understand the difference between hearing him deliver his preaching on TV more clearly and being there personally, really far away from where he stood.
I did not understand how murderers and killers and thieves might be with the same crowd I was in, only to be back to where they were after that.
There were so many ‘I do not understand’ and ‘Why’.
I stood there, pretending not to be irritated with all the thoughts that lingered inside my head. I even heard a woman say to her son, “Putang ina mo naman, basta pindutin mo yung record pag dumaan na si Pope!” (Motherfucker, just press the record when you’ve seen the pope).
I looked around and asked, were they all wearing masks? I knew I was wearing one too, for I did not intend to go but I still did.
I remained calm amid my self-doubt. Why was I there when I knew, deep inside, that I did not intend to go?
Just when I heard the people’s screams that the pope was already there, I found the answer when I heard my mother shout, ‘Pope!’
I was there not to see the pope, but to see my family as one. We barely had a chance to be together, just so you know.
I went because I learned from Pope Francis that dreaming in the family is important. My parents dreamed to be there, so I wanted to be a part of fulfilling their dreams.
That was a good start, I thought. As Pope Francis said, “Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.” Though I’m a little bit slow, but I will learn.
I may not have seen the Pope, and I will never understand why people, even when meters away, cry after seconds of his pass. But I understand that the pope is the leader of the Catholic church, and he is a leader who reminds us to do good, yet not forget to love thy self.
I understand that he is a leader who is admired not just because of his words but also because of his actions.
I understand that the pope is human, and each of us learn from every human.
“Think well. Feel well. Do well.” -Pope Francis