chapter  5
Reinterpreting religion: Creative Catholics and their reflexive spirituality
Pages 22

Coinciding with Manila’s nightfall is the priest’s prayer to commence the Way of the Cross. Tonight’s annual Taizé worship uniquely begins with the Way around campus, signalling the early start of the Lent season. Gathered in a plaza that is a landmark of one of the country’s oldest universities are over 80 students and religious adults from various institutions in Manila. Vince, my main contact who is also president of the liturgical organisation

coordinating tonight’s Taizé, is in front carrying his golden processional crucifix. Surrounding him are his fellow acolytes garbed in white cassocks and carrying their respective torches. Right behind them are students holding tarpaulin banners depicting images of Christ’s suffering and the words “Repent and Believe.” A few selected students share the portable sound system in leading the rest of us in prayer and hymns. We move reverentially from one station to another in a manner that is beautifully punctuated by the university’s classical architecture. The procession, simple but elegant, exhibits the solemnity of Catholic practice in the midst of various student activities. As we proceed, cars driving by, students playing on the sports field, and others merely walking by take their moment of silence in obvious deference to the ritual. About half an hour later, the Way leads us into a dim indoor basketball court

converted for the purposes of Taizé. As I follow the others in removing our shoes, Vincent places the wooden crucifix at the centre of the altar which it now shares with a magnificent image of the Virgin Mary. If words fail me, it is perhaps because of the simplicity of the altar illuminated by a few candles that captivated my emotions. I realise then that the Way of the Cross has been a reflective preparation of the heart to meet Christ here. I surreptitiously position myself at the courtside where I can perform my own reflection while observing. With over 300 students and a few nuns now gathered around the altar and

drawn by the live meditative music playing in the background, the basketball court has been effectively sacralised. For over an hour, participants, prayer leaders and the choir echo to each other a repertoire of fantastic liturgical hymns, poetry and supplication. Broadly, I have found the liturgy to revolve around the themes of man’s guilt, the need for mercy and forgiveness, God’s love, and Marian devotion. Towards the end, everyone is given a chance to come to the altar, kneel and plant a kiss on the crucifix.