I’m taking a breather from the madness of my work — I may actually have a real lunch today — and I realized there’s some things about “Brown” Catholicism I couldn’t fit in with the previous installments, so I may as well put them here, as a postscript of sorts:
1) Heaven and Hell. Hell** is a place of total and unending despair. The whole “flames of hell” is a vivid metaphor, but it’s only just a metaphor of how painful is the burning in the soul of never being happy, of giving up hope, of being forever cut off from those who tried to love you but you pushed them away. Sister Pauline, a really cool nun and one of my CCD teachers back at Guam, once said, “Recall a point in your life where you felt totally and utterly alone, and the pain you felt. Make that permanent. That’s Hell.” Conversely, she said, “Recall a point in your life where you felt totally and utterly complete, surrounded by those you love and they love you, where you felt you belonged, and the joy you felt. Make that permanent. That’s Heaven.” Fluffy clouds and the bright light are vivid metaphors, but they’re only metaphors of how peaceful is the rest of the soul, of finally achieving perfect satisfaction, of all hopes being fulfilled, of being in perfect communion with God and one’s neighbor. I can easily believe in Hell, for the fallen world easily gives a taste of Hell. I have to work to believe in Heaven, because, even in moments of joy, there is the knowledge that that joy in this world doesn’t last.
2) Good Spirits — Even before the Spanish came, Filipinos believe in ghosts, in spirits, active in the world although unseen. Believing in the Communion of Saints is a no-brainer. Of *course* grandma and grandpa are still here, even though they are dead. Of *course*. And angels — yes, that’s a no-brainer, too.
3) Evil Spirits — See above.
4) Marianist leanings in “Brown” Catholicism — Yes, we dance with the heresy of “Mary” worship because we are a crypto-matriarchal culture. Of course we believe women are the keepers of the faith; pre-Catholic Philippines usually had women as the shamans in the animist/ancestor-worship religion at that time (with the exception of the southern part of the Philippines, where the Islamic sultanates ruled). But we are Christian, reminding ourselves that although Mary is extraordinary, the Virgin Mother of God, she is not the Redeemer — her Son is. “Brown” Catholics see her the first of all saints, and it totally blows our mind that God was born from this woman, who, from the world’s perspective, was as powerless and insignificant as the Filipinos who stared at the armed Spanish who arrived on their land.
No mas. I go eat now and then teach.
**thanks, kashi, for pointing out my errata — goes to show I shouldn’t write with low blood sugar!