Shaken Not Stirred

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

For almost 30 years now, my family has gotten together with several other Filipino familes to pray novenas (nine days of prayers). We started some 30 years ago doing the St. Nino Novena at Christmas time. The prayer would be held in different homes for nine days, the last night being on Christmas. This tradition has now spread into a weekly prayer for St. Anthony. We still continue to do the St. Nino novena at Christmas, but we have added the St. Anthony weekly prayer into our routine.

When we first started doing the prayers, I was in awe. As a child, religion can be a scary issue. Since my family is strict Catholic, some of our punishments consisted of kneeling in front of the alter and praying for forgiveness. At a young age, I associated religion with punishment. These novenas were then a way to redeem myself and get back in the good graces of God. As I further began to understand the prayers, I realized that these novenas were a way to ask for help from God. So then it became an issue of "please help me pass this class" or what have you. The once yearly novena was a time I could ask for complete intervention. And by His grace, my prayers were mostly answered.

I then went through a phase in which religion was an embarrassment. These prayers to an outsider (mostly my friends) could be perceived as ritualistic or even pagan like. In rebellion, I attended them less or just sat thru the service hoping that none of my friends would call or drop by. I didn't realize the power of prayer until I fell away from it. Little by little, and as I started growing up, I realized that a lot of my Filipino culture was steeped in the Catholic religion. These gatherings became a way to celebrate that culture. It was a way for our parents to get together and hold onto something that they had left behind.

As I reminisce about the prayers gone by, I think about our extended families. I remember all the talks we had, the laughter and of course pain (is this sounding like the back cover of a cheesy novel?). These prayer groups have now extended into a new generation as most of us have grown up and brought new families into the circle. There is a new generation of children. I wonder how they feel about these "ritualistic" ceremonies. They are now the ones leading the prayers.

I went to our Tuesday prayer meeting yesterday. I hadn't gone in so long. It was great seeing everyone again. I see them on a regular basis, but it was great to see them all gathered here for this purpose. I realized that the prayers were for the well being of our families. All of our families have stuck together thru thick and thin. We have leaned on one another and have used one another as a shelter from the storms. The prayers were a way for us to deal with problems and to draw strength from one another and from God. Mostly I realized that these prayer rituals were a way for us to express how much we need God and one another. It's our way of coping with whatever loop we get thrown into. And I think that I have become a better person because of it.


Post a Comment

<< Home