By Leandro DD Coronel
Where I was this past Holy Week, the Catholic Church starts the day early. At 4 a.m. they start playing instrumental tunes through loud-speakers to wake up the faithful.
The thing is, why so loud? Can’t they tone it down a bit so people can finish their sleep?
Church participation there is robust, the faithful are enthusiastic. The pews, I’m told, are full during Sunday Masses. The loud-speakered music from the church is meant to rouse up the people, remind them that there is Mass that day.
But the faithful, if they’re truly faithful, needn’t be reminded. Why rouse the whole community just to wake the people who are going to wake up for Mass anyway?
And what about the sensibilities of those who subscribe to a different faith, why do they have to suffer through loud-speakered music of a rival faith?
And what about the old folks who just want to have a full night’s sleep because they need the full rest in their old age? And what about working people who also need a full night’s rest?
And what about the sick? There’s a good reason why motorists aren’t allowed to blow their horns near hospitals — to give the sick peace and quiet.
The Philippine Church has been accused over the years of being neglectful of its duty to bring in people into its fold and multiply the numbers of its flock. The Church has been accused of becoming irrelevant to the burning issues searing society today.
If this is true, then the Church must do more than interrupt people’s sweet sleep and bring them inside the church.
What the Church needs to do instead of bringing in the crowds is to take the Church to them. Go to the grassroots and plant the seeds and fertilize the soil there. Instead of preaching inside the church, priests should share the teachings of Christ with the common folk where they live. Instead of lecturing to the people, they should exchange stories with the masses in an informal, unintimidating setting.
Parish priests are proud when they’re able to refurbish their churches and make them glittery and shiny again with the contributions of the faithful. But shouldn’t they, instead, help build homes for the homeless, however humble? Shouldn’t they come with warm soup for the poor and the miserable in society? They should preach the Word of Christ and in return let the poor teach them how to plow the soil.
There are strict priests who scold churchgoers when they’re late for Mass. Some priests even lock the church’s doors to bar latecomers from entering. Religion, as politics, is addition. But participation must be voluntary. People shouldn’t be coerced into joining. They shouldn’t scold people who, after all, have other concerns in life.
The Church, if it’s to increase its members, must be the Church of the masses, not just of the town’s elite. The Church must be compassionate, forgiving, and accommodating.
I have often mentioned the Church as a key player in Philippine politics in the near future. During these times of socio-political ferment, the Church needs to go out there and lead the faithful in fighting what is not right in society, what is corrupt, what is evil.
Playing music to wake up the faithful in the wee hours of the morning isn’t going to bring in those who had left. The Church has to inspire and it has to lead. But, more importantly, instead of just being active, it has to be activist.