As April ends, the month of May begins. Flowers, fiestas and flags characterize this month. In addition, the celebration of mother’s day every second Sunday of May has gained popularity to honor our awesome mothers. But the figure that looms big all through this month is our Blessed Mother. May has always been considered the month of Mary, at least in the Philippines.
My childhood memories of this month have been associated with the Flores de Mayo organized by catechists of our parish. Before heading for church, most of us kids would scrounge for flowers in the neighborhood. Our church in Lourdes Parish would teem with children after lunch joining the Flores de Mayo, which began with catechesis. Children were categorized by gender and age group for religious instruction with an assigned catechist. The little ones were taught basic prayers while the older children were educated systematically in Catholic doctrines. The afternoon activity would culminate with all kids lining up towards the altar bringing flowers to our Lady. Flores de Mayo would usually end with the melancholic adieu “Adios Reyna sa Langit.”
The main aim of Flores de Mayo, besides being a floral offering to Mary, is really catechesis. Through it, parishes have a venue to gather children during vacation for faith formation.
In the recent survey carried out by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) research group at the University of Chicago revealed that 94 percent of people in the Philippines said they always believe in God. This worldwide survey indicates that in terms of faith and spirituality, Filipinos lead. We continue to be strong believers in God because our parishes, schools and our homes continue their commitment to transmit the faith in the best way they can to our children and young people.
However, catechesis continues to be a big challenge today. Pope Benedict XVI gave a prognosis that we are now living in a secular world: “A way of life that seeks to exclude God.” Since the term of Pope John Paul II, the Church has issued an urgent challenge to reevangelize the modern world. He called on the lay faithful of the Church to assist in this primary mission of salvation. In our secular world, only the lay faithful have access to the public realm and that through their witness they can transform the world for Christ. In his address to the Pontifical Council for Culture in 1992, Pope John Paul II said: “The spiritual void that threatens society is above all a cultural void, and it is the moral conscience renewed by the Gospel of Christ which can truly fill it.”
The latest declaration issued by the United States Conference of Catholic bishops is on evangelization. Among other things, this 31-page document invites inactive Catholics to return to the practice of their faith. It says: “The new evangelization does not seek to invite people to experience only one moment of conversion but rather to experience the gradual and lifelong process of conversion: to draw all people into a deeper relationship with God, to participate in the sacramental life of the church, to develop a mature conscience, to sustain one’s faith through ongoing catechesis, and to integrate one’s faith into all aspects of one’s life.”
One of the programs that can help a catechist, a parent or anyone interested in growing in the faith is the Evangelium Program. This two-year certificate course in catechetics and youth ministry is offered every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Don Bosco Formation Center in Lawaan, Talisay City. The program aims to deepen the students’ knowledge of the Catholic Faith and at the same time let them acquire educational methods and strategies to become better educators of the faith. The course is given by modules with a clear and structured curriculum which includes scripture, doctrine, liturgy and morality issues.
For Filipino Catholic to be initiated into the fullness of Christian life, where his life of faith overflows in his action, an ongoing catechesis is needed. In fact, it is the Church’s primary task and priority: “to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded.”