PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Saturday, February 16, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 5 - The radix of radicalism

pp. 21-24 http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=EOg19fGyNyoC&pg=PA21&lpg=PP1&output=html_text

It's a good thing Stef, my co-retreatant this Lent (a friend online and fellow Catholic blogger/writer/prolifer), goes into the etymology of the word radical (from the Latin radix, meaning root), which is a word I used to dread or regard with suspicion.

Coming from a thoroughly secular background -- barely-practicing parents, public school education from kinder grade to college -- I would view 'radical' from the mainstream viewpoint, which is suspicious of the left. Radical, to me, would mean troublemaker, akin to a revolutionary given to violence, if not cold-blood murder to attain what he wants: a drastic change in society, an overhaul of the 'rotten' system. Synonyms of radical would be militant leftist, communist, nonlegit left, atheist -- in other words, people warped by their misplaced idealism, to my mind.

Since I had a UP (University of the Philippines) education, I was constantly exposed to this voice, which always came off as the voice of UP, being the noisy voice, certainly an unfair generalization, because UP has so many other voices. It was not unusual for me, too, to have professors who professed a leftist ideology without batting an eyelash or confessed to being an atheist with nary a trace of embarrassment, guilt, or apology.

I wasn't totally blinded by my prejudice, though, for I would also recognize these people's idealism. Their love of country and care for society's downtrodden, though I perceived to be excessive, was quite genuine: I saw the proof in their lifestyle, their bags of choice (the pasiking of the Igorots), preferred hankies (the tubao of the lumads of Davao), their writing (patriotism in pure Tagalog), their eschewing of American establishments (the colonizer at the time), etc. Patriotism, idealism, love of fellowmen -- these are three things I shared with these radicals, even though we were coming from different, say, paradigms.

I only regained my respect, if not reverence, for the word when I rediscovered Christianity on my own -- or should that be Christianity found me and met me where I was -- and was convinced that Christianity was even more revolutionary and radical, if not the most, than all of the ideas I had been exposed to in class (I took all the required units, after all, in philosophy, psychology, and the social sciences). I thought Christianity was truly revolutionary because it constantly upset man's line of thinking yet it always emerged far more commonsensical and always, always in a unified way. When I recognized how Christianity or Catholicism was, in fact, the coolest idea I had ever encountered, I joined UPSCA or UP Student Catholic Action instead, preferring it to the other orgs on campus. (I did join UP Biology Society too, though.)

Little did I know that my journey into radical Christianity had barely started. I would revisit radicalism only at around age 26, long into my working age. This time, I was searching for an anchor in a world that felt increasingly rebellious. I found solace in a Catholic charismatic community, thanks to a newly arrived officemate who glowed with an otherworldly aura that I instantly coveted. Being in such a community brought me into a host of new spiritual sensations, particularly of the evangelistic bent. I was yanked out, way out, of my comfort zone, in ways I never ever expected. It was a euphoric time in my life.

After the euphoria had died down (yes, it did; not even the praise and worship charismatic songs could sustain the addictive high on the level of my "first fervor"), that's when the real deepening, the real radicalism took place, because it meant confronting the hardest front of all: not social ills, not other people's defects, but the hidden ills, darkness, demons deep inside myself.

I got my first taste of this radical surgery in the recollection held by Bishop Ted Bacani in Don Bosco Church, Makati. There, he talked about transformation and mentioned a curious Greek work, metanoia. Even though he explained what it meant (a radical change of heart and mind), I felt like I had yet to grasp the concept more fully.

I took me decades to understand what metanoia really meant, from an experiential viewpoint. For a fuller understanding, I would have to thank the field of psychospirituality. I am not sure who to recognize first, but there was surely a progression of Mass sermons, retreat masters, and spiritual thinkers who proved to be influential in my life as a Christian radical-wannabe.

Before this talk gets boring, let me end it abruptly by saying that this part is where the really wild ride happens. I am not sure how to detail it because it is currently ongoing. It is a new road that forked this way and that, leading to various strains I never envisioned would someday, um, crosslink: encyclicals and papal writing, counseling, psychotherapy, communication, developmental psychology, human ecology, Henri Nouwen, Jean Vanier, meditation, silence, even that secular thing called Landmark Forum, and most recently, an encounter with the lectures of Anthony de Mello (I know, a controversial Jesuit). Lest I get misconstrued that all this is nothing but navel-gazing and self-absorption, let me clarify that, yes, the forked roads also led me to some sociology, some anthropology, and a familiarization with the Church 's social teachings. I found out that the more I studied and understood my true and false selves, the more I studied and the better I understood society as a whole. This part of the journey is a punishing but exciting enterprise. That's all I can say for now lest the lone reader of this post gets a spiritual indigestion (tee-hee!).

Comments:
LOL. Actually what I was going to say was, "Now you're talking!" Indeed, I am amazed at how all the different "journeys" of my life converge at this one point. I can see how that is true with your life as well. Interesting. I am amazed at how you are able to arrive at some sort of synthesis of all that. Eager to hear (read) more :)

here's mine
 
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