Friday, August 5, 2011

"Of Gods and Men" and Some Reflections

How far can one go for his, or her, faith? How far can one go for what he, or she, stands for? Yes, I have asked myself those questions after watching the movie “Of Gods and Men”. It’s about the Trappist monks who were assigned in a poor part of Algeria. There, they tended to the poor and the needy. They gave food and medical assistance, including medicine. Some people say that the only reason why Christians help the poor is because they want to convert them to Christianity but that’s not always true. These Trappist monks peacefully coexisted with the Muslims in that area. They never tried to convert the Muslims to Christianity. They were there to live their faith and to show the love of Christ, by example. As a Catholic, I know I have failed to show my faith in, I think, most aspects of my life (No, I’m not proud of that). But I have always wondered how many Catholics have died for what they believe in. Oftentimes the Catholics are portrayed to be manipulative, controlling, murderous, evil, and all the vile things that people can think of. But that’s not true and it’s sad that people would rather believe anything that’s anti-Catholic, even if it’s a lie, a twisted truth, or an exaggeration, rather than know our side of the story. I once talked to a bible fundamentalist who’s very passionate about his hatred for Catholicism - for what he decidedly believes Catholicism to be. I asked him why he only listens to what his pastor tells him about the Catholic faith and not ask a Catholic apologist about Catholicism. He didn't answer - at first. I also told him I’m not the right person to ask about Catholicism either, because I’m not a Catholic apologist and I might give him a wrong answer. I told him that, if he really is looking for answers about our faith, that he should ask a Catholic apologist, or he should just do some research, himself. Well, he got mad at me for even suggesting – as in really mad. Tsk, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his blatant refusal to educate himself about something he hates so much when it’s his ignorance that feeds his hatred. I mean, hating something you are so ignorant about, and refuse to educate yourself about it, so that you can continuously hate it - wow - isn’t that absurd? I think it is. I don't know how protestant-kjv fundamentalists see any sense in that. He obviously just wants to hate the Catholic Church and there’s nothing I can do about that. All his questions are accusations/baiting questions, based on false premises, and not really questions. He asked me why I couldn’t answer his questions but, actually, I already have, to the best of my ability, but it’s obvious that he had already made up his mind that Catholicism is evil, other than the fact that most of his questions are all rhetorical and statements in a question form. To him all my answers are wrong simply because they’re not what he wants to hear. He said asking a Catholic apologist is like asking Satan to deceive him. Isn't that grand (rolls eyes)? That’s not the only time he called the Catholic "Church of Satan". It offended me, of course. Still, I tried my best to remain amicable to him and suggested that he and I should just agree to disagree but he refused and insisted that I convert to his understanding of Christianity (which is not even close to real Christianity). I am not mature in my own faith, that I admit, so I can’t continue my conversation about Christianity and God with him without getting infected by his hatefulness. I might end up being a very bad example of a Catholic to someone who declared to be the enemy of my faith. I don’t want to give him any reasons to add to what he could come up with in his mind to hate Catholicism and Catholics even more. I encountered many protestant-kjv fundamentalists like him when I was younger but he’s the one who really pushed me to the edge. I guess it’s a wake-up call for me to defend my faith because a lot of people are attacking it on all sides, both from the inside and outside the Church. Sometimes I wonder how can I defend my faith when I am not even a good example of it. Catholicism is the very core of my being; what molded me as a person and continuously doing so. So, insulting Catholicism is insulting my every cell. Even though I feel that my own faith is stagnant in me ( as of the moment at least, because, after talking to that protestant - who even denies being a protestant - I realized that I should take my being Catholic seriously), I am, at heart, a Catholic and will always be to the day I die. I am nothing without Catholicism, because if not for the Catholic faith, I don’t think I would know about God and His love and not knowing about God and His love means death to me; a senseless life that I don't want to live. I consider myself blessed to have been born and raised in the Catholic faith for in the Catholic faith I find my peace and comfort. I’m not denying that many atrocities have been done by a lot of people in power, both in the past and in the present by politicians and religious leaders alike, in the name of Catholicism but, that doesn’t make Catholicism, the faith, bad, and that doesn’t mean that the good that Catholics have done in the name of God and Catholicism are surpassed by the evils that other Catholics have done. Like the monks in the movie (Oh by the way, “Of Gods and Men” is based on a true story), they stayed because they genuinely cared for the poor and genuinely wanted to do God's will. ­If I were in those monks’ shoes, I don’t know if I’m going to leave or stay. Most probably I would leave. But then again, if I had left, would I be able to live with myself knowing that I saved my own skin like a coward while the rest of my companions decided to stay behind, to tend to the poor, knowing that it would mean their death? But who can really tell… everything is grace, and I ask God for the grace of faith and the strength to live my faith and fight for it each waking moment of my life.

“Of Gods and Men”, for me, is not a movie for only Catholics but for people of all walks of faiths. The monks served as an inspiration and as a very good example; to stand for what we know is righteous no matter what the cost. That’s what makes people different from animals and that’s what it means to be the image and likeness of God.

In conclusion, here’s a very touching quote from that movie: Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to his country; that the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion. I've lived enough to know, I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder. I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They're a body and a soul. My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father's and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them. This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of last minute, who knew not what you were doing. Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen. Insha'Allah.

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