A few years ago, I visited my family in the Philippines during this time of year. It was a nice vacation until Holy Week started. By “Holy Week,” I mean the week preceding Easter. By “Holy Week in the Philippines, I mean the week preceding Easter when people covering their faces with masks and bandanas are crawling all over the streets for a few paces before they lay down and are hit with a coconut shell, when people are whipping themselves and splashing blood onto anything they pass by, when people are dragging crosses around twice their size and when old people can be heard reading the bible 24/7 as it blasts through large speakers. Some people even crucify themselves on the last day, but are of course taken down from their crosses soon enough that they won’t die.
This is Holy Week in the Philippines. It’s interesting to see how the dominance of Catholicism greatly influences these traditions during this time of year, but it’s a reason I feel lucky to have been raised in the U.S. where I don’t have to experience those things every year. My mom told me that people take part in these customs because they may have serious sins they want to be forgiven for, or maybe they have something they are greatly praying for or longing for, such as the recovery of a very sick family member. People take these extra steps because they truly believe God will better acknowledge their concerns.
I take this as something with such a powerful meaning. I grew up Catholic, and I still go to church every Sunday, but sometimes I have my doubts. God is supposed to love us unconditionally and he is supposed to have a plan for us, so sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want at the exact time we want it. I came to understand that maybe the things I want, such as a career with decent pay that I feel I worked hard for and rightfully deserve, are delayed because God has a different plan for me, or because he knows it’ll work out better this way.
But if he already has a plan, then it’s difficult for me to understand why people would put themselves for this profound suffering for a week thinking that He will respond faster or with a greater intensity. And then sometimes I wonder if just believing that He is listening and that He is helping you out will make things seem to be better. Ultimately, I guess that it’s still something to be happy for, right? My mind wanders way too much.
Tomorrow is Good Friday and my mom is going to make our family take it so seriously. We won’t be allowed to laugh or be happy. I’m going to have to fatten myself up tonight because she will make us fast tomorrow. She’ll probably make us say the rosary together, which is fine, but then she’ll probably make us watch The Passion of the Christ, which is NOT okay. I have probably sat down to watch that movie every year since it’s come out, but I’ve probably only seen five minutes of it total because I cover my eyes and plug my ears the entire time.
I know Jesus did so much for us, and it’s only right for us to honor him on these last days of Lent, but the suffering that people put themselves through is way too much, and it makes me cringe. In the end, I probably shouldn’t complain about having to fast, pray the rosary, watch the Passion of the Christ and be sad because at least I’m not having blood splashed on me by passers-by, or having to listen to old people read the bible day-in and day-out like my cousins in the Philippines have for the last few days.
“For through your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.”