“I hope that I don’t burn.”
This is my typical out-of-church response when its been awhile since I last attended mass. My sisters use it as a joke whenever I come home to the Philippines and attend the Sunday service.
Perhaps like many young Catholic Filipinos my age going to mass is just as much a habit born out of familial obligation as it is a religious devotion. What happens when you factor out family from the equation? Move abroad and find out.
Your true self surfaces when no one is watching. The same thing can be said about faith. When no one tells you to go to mass, will you?
Now I’ve always subscribed to the Church of Kindness, that you don’t have to go to Church every Sunday to be spiritual, or to be a good person. But after attending the service in Singapore last Sunday (a personal milestone!), it got me thinking again about the role religion plays when you move abroad.
Singapore is a melting pot not only of race but of different religions — Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism — to name a few. Indeed it’s cosmopolitan, but in my observation it’s not often that you see a mix race couple with different religions. As a foreign national, forget bringing home a ‘bad boy’ to mom and dad. Perhaps the ultimate test of being open minded is when you date (or marry) outside your race, someone of different skin color and ideological values. That will surely shock your parents and test your relationship.
Even holiday leaves and scheduling meetings can be sensitive to religion. If you’re Catholic, a bulk of your leaves might go to Holy Week or Christmas, because it’s not declared a public holiday in your new home. If you work with Muslims, you need to respect their time for prayer.
When you move abroad, the walls come down and the Universe becomes your church. Therefore faith is not only the complete trust in something, but the discipline to practice when no one is watching. You get the freedom to write your out-of-church response. What’s yours?