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A Cafeteria Catholic Meets Father Robert Reyes

We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe. — Venerable John Henry Newman

I am not ashamed to admit that I am not a devout Catholic. You can say, a Cafeteria Catholic. Ah, I can just imagine my dear departed dad worried about my eternal salvation. Is that what you call it? I believe in God, though. I pray and meditate a lot. Praying and meditating are ways to take care of my spirit and it is not necessarily connected to organized religion. I try to live a meaningful life by being of service to others. But I don’t attend sunday mass except Christmas day or Easter Sunday. Does that make me a sinful person? I will let God be the judge.

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I can’t remember when my disillusionment with the Catholic Church started. My husband and I joined Couples for Christ in the nineties and politics within the system disbanded us when we needed each other most. Yes, politics. Then, I travelled with my then pre-teen girls during their choir tour to different churches in the USA and Canada. I loved the spontaneity of prayers in the Christian churches so unlike the rote praying in the Catholic Church. Some priests just don’t have the gift to deliver inspirational homilies and reflections. I loved the fellowship and the community support groups. When I started looking for a room for my grief advocacy, Compassionate Friends in my parish church, they had no room to accommodate my ministry. Why would they care anyway? The Compassionate Friends is a non-denominational group. Greenhills Christian Fellowship took us in through my friend, Cathy for the past 4 years. Then came the Reproductive Health Bill 5043 which the Catholic Church opposed, of course despite rise in poverty and maternal deaths. Philippine Congress is supposed to be deliberating on its passage this week but it is postponed again. Are they afraid of the wrath of the Catholic Church and lose votes in the process?

Yes, politics.

I can go on and on why I choose to be a Cafeteria Catholic but my biggest peeve is the politics within the church itself. I met Father Robert Reyes of the Parokya sa Web for the first time last night. He is a Catholic priest known for his social and political activism. At the peak of his protest activities against the Arroyo’s government, he was advised by the Catholic Church to take an indefinite leave. In short, he was told to shut up.

Yes, politics again.

No parish for the past 3 years yet he launched Parokya sa Web, the first virtual parish in the Philippines, where his reflections on daily Bible readings, his homily at Sunday masses, and inspirational messages are posted and shared with everybody. The idea of Parokya sa Web is to spread spirituality and reach out to the millions of Filipinos working in other parts of Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.

I really enjoyed talking to him about the Catholic church, the Reproductive Health Bill, my grief advocacy, his missionary work, including administering to sick and dying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Now, that is a Catholic priest I truly admire. Quite an energetic and positive guy who is not afraid to rock the boat, I am ready to work with him . I am sure you have heard of this controversial priest. Before meeting Father Robert, I thought he was really weird to be so “rebellious”. I suspect many of his critics never met Fr. Robert and that they might feel differently if they did.

Reading Father Robert inspirational entries at his Parokya sa Web truly connects me to God. He is an excellent writer that applies biblical passages in an engaging format. His prayer for our country is a prayer we all seek.

“Renew our country, Lord. Rid us of selfish and corrupt leaders. Raise up only those who lead with pure hearts and wise minds. Amen.”

I may not live by the rituals, the novenas and the rote praying but I know I can do my share within and outside the Catholic Church. These are exciting times in our country. God is constantly inviting us. I will be sensitive to the more important tasks that calls for action.

And you should meet Father Robert.

SIGN UP BELOW- Bloggers’ Meet and Greet with Father Robert on September 21

10 thoughts on “A Cafeteria Catholic Meets Father Robert Reyes”

  1. I love this Noems. On your twitter you said, “bless me Father, for I have sinned. I am a cafeteria Catholic.”
    I said something similar to Fr Robert when I met him.. We hit it off right away, we were running and I had to tell him… Father, I am born-again. He smiled, he didn’t seem to mind.

  2. Haha, Noemi, I was in the Youth for Christ. my parents were in the same boat. Not that they weren’t at fault too for bailing out. too much middle class self-absorption and ego, I believe. The YFC is full of blowhards trying to outdo one another in being former sinners. I heard this has been toned down significantly. Ha ha. And you got the really insecure types trying to use talks as a platform for their own wild versions of the world. I’m one of those intellectual snobs, tried anyway, but I was immediately suspect. Elders didn’t want me talking too much because of my “heretic” tendencies. he he.

    Yes, I suppose the CFC should’ve concentrated more on their primary purpose: helping out couples. Then it became a miniature representation of Philippine society until it became a fullblown representation of Pinoy society–I guess, you have to swap ordinary Pinoy cynicism with naive idealism. But idealism is not enough, is it? A truly decent, rational mind, fairness, lack of hypocrisy is needed, too. Compared to my experiences there, organized religion… the one we have now courtesy of Bishop Irenaeus–in all its impersonal glory–doesn’t look too bad.

  3. Hi Noemi, tama ang sinabi mo about Cafeteria, but I am no longer a catholic but a Seventh Day Adventist! Why I believe ? because it hurts me to learn people in the church (all) are NOT really following what the Bible is telling us to do and their preaching. There is a willing – ignorance even to leaders in the churches of any denomination, though they know what the Bible really want us to do, still they go againts because of the impact in donations or whatever business they have! I understand no one is perfect, so I keep murmuring to myself, better to read the Bible and pray for myself at home, than going and joining church activities that hurts me when I see hypocrites, maybe I am one too, God forgive me!
    .-= Cecile Yap´s last blog ..September 20,2009 – CVC Wellness Centre =-.

  4. Hi Noemi.. My catholic journey was like yours. I skipped Sundays and other stuff. Then I thought I was a sinner to the nth degree. But when I sought God with my whole heart.. He revealed Jesus to me. I have ceased to be a catholic and instead genuinely embraced Christianity for Who it is about. Bottomline is in this simple bible verse John 3 :16. “For God so loved the world that He have His only begotten son (Jesus) that whosoever believe in Him shall have eternal life.” You asked about your eternal salvation? There is your key to salvation. The bible asks that you repent of your sins and Believe. And He who believes has eternal life. Eternal life does not happen after death, it happens the minute you acknowledge that Jesus is your Savior and Lord. iT can happen here and now. This is when the ‘born again’ experience ( referring to a spiritual birth) begin in one’s life.

    Nor It is about traditions. It’s about Jesus who died for your past present and future sins. He has paid it all. And what do we need to do? If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord then we shall be saved.

    Jesus further says, No one goes to the Father except through me.

    I pray Jesus will continue to reveal himself more and more. And as the bible says ‘ whom the son sets free, is free indeed.”

    I admire Father Robert. He is not afraid to rock the boat and live as Jesus lived. May Jesus continue to work in his life as he becomes His eyes, arms, feet and mouth. That is a taste of heaven on earth!

  5. It was a good home for me for five years but it also ruined my ordinary social life. Lost touch with a lot of useful friends. People there were OK, helpful when you need help, but they are just too different from me. Ordinarily, you measure people before they become your friends and they measure you. What you get in the end are people like you and people who can truly help you because they know you. Not there, where friendship is just offered and taken without judgment. In the end, you end up with nothing except basic companionship.

  6. Not everyone is fortunate to get in touch with a priest like Father Reyes. I am lucky enough to hear great homilies from lively priests. After reading this, I recalled reading an article about Catholics in a certain western Asian country who waited 70 years for a priest to administer confirmation and such other rites. These priestless Catholics keep the faith and endure persecution and politics until the time the ban on the Catholic religion was lifted. Even without a priest for the long span of time, they inspired others and helped them in the faith. They have suffered too much for the Lord who suffered for them. In their persecution, they refused to give up their faith. They chose to die, spilling their blood for Christ’s name, drop by drop even if they are unworthy servants. They were never daunted.
    After reading that, I began to include the Church, priests, and many lay people in my prayers. Being aware of the persecutions many Catholics and the Church endure stopped me from being critical of the church. I can’t afford myself being critical if I did nothing to lift the burden of these people.

  7. Hi,
    Yes sadly, there is politics even in church organizations. In fact, there is politics everywhere. I have yet to learn of an organization, religious or otherwise, that is not sullied in some way by human infirmities.

    I am active in CFC and in the Parish Council. Yes, there are nutty things in there that make me want to scream sometimes. There are also ineffective systems in there. But I am there to help out in my own way, and see if I can make a difference, because I am no good outside of it. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it’s not, but it is fulfilling work overall…after all, everything is for the glory and love of God. (and also love of neighbor –even the nutty ones).

    The search for truth is a life-long journey. The fullness of truth. It’s good you learn and are inspired by the good Fr. Robert (who is not perfect either).

    May you find your peace. God bless you.


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