Young Catholics yearn for spiritual fulfillment



(First of two parts)

The Philippines remains a Catholic bastion, but many of my students claim to be agnostics, putting their faith in reason instead.  Some friends, who went to Catholic schools, have turned their backs on the religion of their birth to join Born-Again movements they feel serve their spiritual needs better.

Why the shift?  Is it because of secularization? Ineffective teaching? My college classmate and Ateneo colleague Michael Demetrius Asis says it is both.

“The globalizing forces (such as neo-liberal economics and the unprecedented development of communications/information technologies) behind the ever-growing process of urbanization in contemporary Philippine society have given rise to certain relatively new cultural elements that are poised to shape the Filipino cultural landscape in the years to come,” says Asis in his book “Reimagining the Sacred: A Fresh Approach to Prayer, Liturgy and the Sacraments.”

“Among these elements are:  the experience of religious pluralism; the excessive, and often uncritical, emphasis on individual freedom; and a personal disorientation or fragmentation.  Faced with a wide range of options (from religious beliefs to ideologies, career choices to consumer products, and the like) all equally vying for our personal attention, many of today’s youth in particular tend to suffer from a sense of aimless relativism.  This so-called fragmented pluralism is evident, for example, in the apparent failure of so many young people today to make lasting personal permanent commitments.”

Associate professor Asis has a doctorate from the Loyola School of Theology.  He also studied sacramental theology, sexual ethics, marital spirituality and religious education in Harvard University Divinity School, Boston College and the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.  He wrote earlier “I Am Because We Are:  Reflections on Love, Relationships, and Life,” a finalist in the 2010 Catholic Mass Media Awards.

Asis says moral values in many Filipino families are at risk of being undermined by secularization which, at the same time, has ignited spiritual hunger in many people.

“The sudden popularity and steady growth of so-called  ‘Born-Again’/Fundamentalist groups and ‘new-age’ movements, caused in part by the generally poor religious instruction of the Catholic faithful, indicate a widespread and earnest yearning among the young for spiritual fulfillment,” says Asis.  “PCP II (Second Plenary Council of the Philippines) observes that this apparent success of ‘covenanted communities’ and non-Christian religious movements could be interpreted as a ‘sign of the times’ … The council admits that the Church has failed in many respects to fulfill the spiritual hunger of many Filipino Catholics.”


Asis adds, “What continues to plague the faith life of most Filipino Catholics, however, is the severe gap which, knowingly or not, many of them place between their worship and their daily life,” evident in the practice of sacraments.

For instance, more effort is spent on choosing baptismal sponsors than on helping them fully understand their responsibilities.

Though churches are usually filled on Sundays, this may not be because of genuine interest, “but simply the unfortunate lack of priests to celebrate enough Masses,” says Asis. One priest, on average, serves 10,000 Catholics, with others serving twice that number.

Even those who attend Mass regularly seems to lack proper understanding, says Asis.  Many attend to avoid committing mortal sin or to ask God for help.  Asis notes “the false impression that prayer is just some magical exercise to win divine favor.”

Many churchgoers are often indifferent to the plight of the needy.

“How can many pious Church members continue to act as abusive landlords, usurers, oppressive employers, or unreliable employees?  Why do so many graduates of our best Catholic schools turn out to be corrupt government officials, unfaithful husbands and wives, or cheating businessmen?” the “Catechism for Filipino Catholics” asks.  “There seems to be a serious gap between external ritual expression of Christian faith, and authentic discipleship:  following Christ in action.”


Fewer Catholics are going to confession perhaps due to loss of “a sense of sin” and confusion over what is right or wrong.  Asis cites figures from the 1992 McCann Erickson Filipino Youth Survey:  51 percent find premarital sex acceptable, 44 percent find viewing porn acceptable, 40 percent do not view cheating in school as wrong.  The figures may be much higher today.

“What proves to be more alarming is that … 60 to 70 percent of the affluent … find the above activities acceptable and might very well engage in them,” says Asis.  “This is … distressing … given that most of those who belong to the affluent class are schooled in some of our best Catholic institutions.”

Social conformity is often deemed more important than morality.  Asis says the question “Is it in?” has more impact than “Is it morally good?”

The National Catechetical Directory of the Philippines questions whether the common “practice of herding school children to weekly confession ever represented an authentic ideal.”

“Doing penance often meant ‘rattling off’ some memorized prayers without any serious effort to address the root causes of sins habitually committed,” says Asis.  “Priestly absolution is taken as a mere magical formula that wiped away sin, without modifying in any real way the penitent’s predispositions.”

Religious educators, Asis says, have to help the laity reimagine the sacraments.  Have a blessed Christmas!

“Reimagining the Sacred” by Michael Asis is available at Claretian Communications, 9213984 or e-mail cci@claret.

org.  E-mail Asis at

(To be continued)

E-mail the author at

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  • srvnts

    Many Catholic Covenanted Communities are doing steady formation programs and seminars.
    Most of it without Church support.  Ironically these have even experienced persecution inside 
    the Church itself at their respective parishes.  These communities have gone thru the hard times but still survived continuing their calling and inspiration from the Holy Spirit.   Many lives have been changed from nominal to genuine Catholicism with the ministries they pursue.  This is actually the New Evangelization whom the Church have been talking about recently. The Communities have long been doing it. Hoping the Church will not again take for granted these Communities but instead give them the support they need. At the least, moral support!     

  • EREC

    Catholic church needs REFORM……let Pilipino priest get married to have family and STOP intruduction of SAINTS that Vatican keep influincing the church, Focus on Jesus Christ teaching through the quidance of New Testament. CBCP must respect the constitution of the Philippines….else members will inactively reduce gradually without having notice. I repeat NEEDS REPORM….better late than never!

    • politics201138


      Reform? Reform for what? For Philippines to be like what Western nations are undergoing right now?

      “Filipino priests getting married?” And YOU THINK that solve the problem?

      Get a life Erec! You feign concern for the Catholic church but it is obvious reading what’s behind every word you said — that what you really mean is just to destroy the Catholic religion.

      “Better late than never..”  of what, Erec? Of what?

      Don’t force your religion to the Catholic church. We, serious Catholics do not force ours to you.

      • Edward

        very well said…

    • Edward

      indeed, little learning is very dangerous thing…

      erec, if you do not know everything about the Catholic Church especially on the priest getting married issue, etc. better keep your mouth shut… The Inang Simbahan have known the issue before you’re born…

      The Church is there 2,000 years and She knows secularism and relativism will come in Her way to test the Wisdom of the Early Church Fathers as collectively deposited in the Magisterium…

  • $5699914

    The sugar within….savor its true taste and one will experience the bliss he/she is looking for….

  • EREC

    Yong sakop po ng Dioces na mga pari ay nagpapakasarap lang sa kanilang kombento paniniwala nila sa sarili sila pa yong DAMASO noong panahon……. subalit yong mga pari na nasa MISSIONARY yon po talaga ang nagpapakahirap at natitiis para mapalaPIT ang tao sa panginoon. Kaya kailangan mag isip at mag obserba sa pakikitungo dito sa mga kaparian at obispo. Ako po nanlamig na sa mga taong ito…. dahil ginagawa lang ang taong IGNORANTE para sa kanilang objective….gising na po ako.

  • dorothyanne88

    Lee Chua. naturally you came out with this article to malign the Catholic Church for you’re another Chinese infiltrator molded by China to sow dissension. We don’t need Chinese here so move back to where you belong. You’re a communist so you despised catholicism

  • Sandiego

    Lee Chua do me a favor go F yourself! Filipinos are waking up. We hate China. So sick of you flat faces in the country. You flat faced mongloid small eyed ugly people bring nothing but corruption and evil to society. Middle finger to you and your kind. C h i n k !!!! Hate you

  • rosaddiaq

    To Sandiego and dorothyanne88. Look at Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index ( using google and see Wikipedia entries on religion in countries ). Catholic Philippines is more corrupt than Muslim Malaysia, Buddhist Thailand, and “godless” ( communist ) China. The most honest countries, northwestern Europe ( catholic Italy is the most corrupt there ), New Zealand, and Singapore, all have catholic minorities but more non-religious ( humanists, atheist, agnostics ). Therefore, the more catholic, the more corrupt; the more honest, the more atheists. Explain that to us, please. Btw, Pinoys, Malaysians, and Indonesians all belong to the Austonesian ( you can google this ) group of people who came from southern China,about 5,000 years ago.

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