“The Song of Bernadette”

IMG_0580I watched this musicale at Cinema 1, SM City Mall. You may wonder why: I am out looking for unbelievabilities in your plausibilities. You who are disciples of “Mary the Virgin” and believers of the so-called vision at Lourdes, France, can’t say I have never given you a chance to prove your point. I do and I have. I can even listen to improbable stories the whole night long— I can do it out of respect for you.

I like the play, I like the songs, and I like the acting. The play tells the story of one little girl’s journey of faith—one little French girl who could not give even a single satisfactory answer to the doctrinal question posed by her catechism teacher.

The story came about when the religious of the lower rung in France kept hoping for faith and fell short of it, while they of upper rung who claimed religiosity and hoped they had faith had none of it. And as the show went on, it kept evoking pity in my heart for those Catholic religionists who suffered at the hands of their fellow religionists.

And I could vent my anger if not indignation for that catechism teacher (the nun who later became head of the nunnery) whose altruism and religious zeal run roughshod over simple minds in an effort to promote doctrine and instill faith. If you’re out looking for respect for individual rights and faith differences, you can’t find it here. Be thankful, however, that that nun, for all her bad mouthing and fire-spouting lips is not the general rule, otherwise religion would have no hope to convert other men of no faith, nor have any chance of perfecting those who are already of faith.

That simple child named Bernadette Soubirous became the adherent of one simple mystery that only she had seen but never understood. But that experience of hers is more of faith and less of reason. That is the kind of faith that is dependent on someone’s say-so.

Which brings us to the question of which is more important: Faith without reason? Reason without faith? Or faith tempered with reason?

Reason without faith, in spite of its vaunted claims to having the upper hand among the elite and the educated, could not claim to make the educated and the elite better persons. Reason without faith is the kind of reason that recruits more minds to the ranks of atheism. This is the kind of reason that has produced the age of computers but rejects miracles.

Faith without reason, on the other hand, makes believers of a lot of men and women and swells the ranks of the faithful. While it accepts miracles and visions and revelations, it also makes dupes of men, since this faith runs roughshod over evidences to the contrary. Faith without reason asks no question of what it hears and believes. It makes you accept something because someone so simple says so.

However let us take note that even the minds of the apostles of Christ never operate this way— believing everything without any valid basis for doing so. They always have a reason for believing, and they never believe anything where no evidences have been shown. For example, when Jesus showed himself to men and women after He rose from the dead, He allowed himself to be touched by the very man who doubted that He indeed had risen. That man was Thomas Didymus.

And when Jesus showed himself alive, He showed himself to MANY MEN AND MANY WOMEN. He showed Himself to five hundred people, in fact. He did it so there would be no question, so the agnostic among them would find no reason for not believing.

Faith with reason, on the other hand, accepts the supernatural based on the light of reason. It does not find company with atheists, because it has faith. It does not find pleasure in the ranks of the dupes because it too rationalizes. Faith with reason lives in comfort with knowing that there is always a reason for believing.

The latter was the kind of philosophy that governed my thinking as I watched the play. And even as the event showed to me what happened as the “Virgin” made her revelation known to one little girl, I would also question the method of finding out the truth of that revelation. I would be looking for the evidence, one that is rational. I admit this could be rough sailing of some sort in the case of a Catholic who is out looking for truth.

If I were to analyze the proofs, I will be forced to conclude there were not enough, or that there were none. Because you just have the word of one little girl to settle that one great question on the matter of faith. That kind of testimony cannot endure the pressures of the investigative courts.

When I say this, I do not mean to be unkind to you or to anyone who accepts Bernadette’s testimony, I am only showing that such testimony has to undergo much test, that such claims as hers must be verified, before they are to be imposed on the believer.

This story of Bernadette, may we be reminded of it, happened in the age of early France just fresh from the bloody French Revolution. It was this bloody France that produced Rousseau and Denis Diderot, Voltaire and the Jacobins and the rest of them, ushering that Revolution that destroyed many lives in the late 1700s. The story of Bernadette came in the late 1800s. That’s too close.

That story too was a journey of the French soul, from one not believing anything to one believing everything — One extreme to another.

The faith of Bernadette does find refuge in the heart of kids. But if I grow to more refinement in the soul, I have to be careful to examine the evidence for my faith. Somebody else’s say-so is no explanation.

But the musicale made my day. It is one respite from the pressures of school. It could make you a good Catholic. It could not however make you a good Catholic truth-seeker.

And it has not hindered me from leaving the Roman Catholic Church.

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