Tag Archives: family

AN INSPIRING SPANISH BAPTISM

Joy and I were on a trip to Sanlucar de Barrameda in Southern Spain. We went there because I was going to be a godfather to the daughter of a good Spanish friend of mine. The baptism ceremony was a short but solemn one. The family of my friend was complete: parents, siblings, cousins and close family friends. Oscar and Edyta Sergio Garcia christened their daughter Nadia. And as they were travelling all over the world, it took them 5 years to finally get their daughter baptised into the Catholic Church. Since I made a promise to be a godfather to their child even before she was born, I had no choice but to fulfil that promise. So on August 18 2018, I became a godfather to Nadia.

Baptism Ceremony

Baptism Ceremony

The ceremony was performed in a beautiful church of the Parroquia del Carmen. This church was originally constructed by the Carmlites in 1677 and was completed in 1689 through the generous contribution of the Marques de Arizon.

After the baptism, we proceeded to the reception at Patio Los Galanes, a cavernous restaurant with a very beautiful patio built centuries ago. The food was excellent and the wine was overflowing.  What really struck me though was how the family members interacted amongst themselves. I could feel the love and warmth among Oscar’s siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

Oscar with Nadia, Joy and Edyta

Oscar with Nadia, Joy and Edyta

In spite of the fact that many of them hardly spoke any English and we (Joy and I) could barely pass conversational Spanish, we all had a lot of fun.  The family made us feel welcome. I was especially happy talking to Eduardo, Oscar’s father.  He spoke a bit of English because for many years he was a harbor pilot in Sanlucar and Seville. Most importantly we shared two of the best things in life: red wine and bacalao.

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Oscar has two other siblings – Eduardo Jr., and Raquel, a diplomat in the EU in Brussels.  She, of course, spoke perfect English, as did Ricardo, a cousin of Oscar who is an investment banker in London.

 

Raquel, Oscar's only sister

Raquel, Oscar’s only sister

Having heard and read of how much secularised Spain has become, it was a surprise to me to see, later on, Spanish families going out together.  Local.es, an internet-based English news service provider reported that Spain’s tight-knit family unit is not what it used to be. According to its research, the latest study by the country’s official stats body (INE) showed a drop in the average number of members per household from 2.58 in 2011 to 2.53 in 2013. With the population dropping and the the number of homes growing,that meant, according to the report, that the number of Spaniards lving by themselves is going up.

While indeed this may be true on paper, it did not seem that way on the ground.  I thought Oscar’s family was an exception. We could sense his family was not unique when we went out later that night.

Families eating and and having fun

Families eating and and having fun

We had dinner at a local restaurant where we listened to some flamenco music.  And there we saw local families enjoying the dinner together. Then we went around Plaza Cabildo close to midnight for tapas and drinks and we saw children, young parents, and grandparents frolicking around the fountain in the plaza.

Of course we never got to talk to them, but definitely Spain is far from being an individualistic country. The happy faces I saws among the parents, and the impish smile and laughter of the children made me conclude that Spain is still very much a family-centered country.

This was a short trip for me and Joy. Thanks to Oscar, Edyta, and Nadia, this trip opened our eyes to how God continues to bless humanity. Indeed what we have seen in this short trip serves as an inspiration for us back home to continue to safeguard our families, our values, and our tradition.

 

EMPTY CHAIRS AND EMPTY TABLES

St. Paul Cathedral in Bergen

St. Paul Cathedral in Bergen

It was Sunday in Bergen, a day after a friend’s daughter’s wedding. My iPhone map said St. Paul’s Cathedral is just 9 minutes’ walk from our apartment. So, I took my time knowing fully well that churches in Europe rarely ever get filled even for Holy Mass. The walk on a sunny and crisp day was enjoyable and the scenery along the way had a lot of “photo ops.”

When I got to church, however, I was shocked to find the place full. My family had difficulty finding seats even if we arrived a good 10 minutes before the mass. There were locals, young and old, as well as foreigners mostly Vietnamese and Indians. The mass was a sung mass in Norwegian and everyone participated piously and passionately.

“Empty chairs and empty tables” is a line that comes from a song in Les Miserables. It’s a phrase that I used to describe the churches and the masses held in Europe. In many masses held in the places I have been to, only the elderly attend, and only a few of them do. A Holy Banquet is attended by only a few; empty chairs and empty tables. This is in contrast to the grandeur of these churches.

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There are exceptions, of course. And these exceptions are in countries where culture has continued to embrace the Christian faith unabashedly. Fr. Pastor Iueventus in his article in Catholic Herald last April 2015 entitled “Why Poland’s Culture is Healthier Than Britain’s” pointed out that while magnificent churches may be found in both countries, there are profound differences.

In places like Norwich or Rouen, most churches are used for art exhibits or organ recitals. Whenever there are churches open for tourist visits, more often than not, these churches are piped in with Gregorian chant muzak to give visitors that “authentic” religious experience.

In Krakow, on the other hand, Iueventus remarks that church bells ring to actually invite believers to Holy Mass and where Easter celebrations are actually more than just another event in merchandising. Masses are attended by both young and old and their voices fill every nook of the cavernous cathedrals when they sing the hymns.

There are many reasons certain cultures have veered away from the faith and have entrusted their moral standards to a secular power — the government or the state. The often touted reason is the “separation of the church and state”. In the zealousness of the state to make sure that this is the case, it has gone one more step and made sure that faith, as expressed in established religions, are stamped out of the country’s culture.

And this was the proverbial Pandora’s box.

Once the state started to legislate morality purely in human terms that opened the door for almost any standard that a majority of the population would define as acceptable moral behavior. In trying to defend this as a democratic principle, our society has moved closer to one where morality is a pluralistic standard. And I think there is where the flaw lies.

Someone observed that regardless of culture, killing another human being is universally deemed “immoral,” or “bad.” However, we have, through the years, redefined “killing” to suit our current realities. There is, of course, capital punishment in many countries. In some countries, killing another person for medical reasons has also become legal. Euthanasia is now practiced and accepted as a basic human right in these countries. Abortion, too, is legal in even more countries. There is just a debate on what constitutes “human” life, but killing of the unborn is generally accepted as legal and a basic right for women.

Given these developments, there is no telling that many more activities which we abhor today will become acceptable and “moral” and definitely legal in the future. I will not make predictions here, but let your imagination run free and almost anything will be possible. When politics — through the state — start influencing the way society shapes our culture, then we are going to be in trouble. One must remember that in a democracy, the powers of the state are often controlled by an elite, an elite whose morality may not necessarily agree with ours.

It boils down to this: who should I entrust to define society’s morality?

Pastor Iueventus makes a very strong point when he concluded this about Poland:

“So strong was the link between religion and culture in Poland that, unlike in our own country, they were able to resist a state that claimed rights over people’s consciences. The same right is being claimed by an aggressive secularism which not only seeks the removal of religion from the public sphere, but also the reshaping of the public realm to something entirely at the mercy of power, money, and vested interest in which the flourishing of man is a secondary interest.”

Let’s fill those empty chairs and empty tables. This is a more fulfilling banquet, a banquet where man is the primary interest. And where humanity has a better chance of survival.