A recent trip to St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal made me ponder my perpetual struggle with organised religion. To be clear, and much-like many of my generation, I am as broad minded as the human mind allows, and thereby accepting that religion exists. Through being so forgivingly spread I can also be decisively objective. One tradition at the Oratory is for pilgrims to climb the lengthy steps up the hillside on their knees as an act of penance. With the hung up crutches of the healed plastering the walls inside the walkway to the main oratory building, it is understandable that believers have the faith that through this act of subjugation they can be healed. But it is within this knee-heavy climbing that I personally uncover one fundamental flaw.
Catholicism teaches that we are all made in the image of God. Should we take this principle as our stance, for arguments sake, we can easily extend this to, we are made in the image of God, therefore we look like God and therefore something of God resides within us: that allows us to look like him.
So far, I can personally concur but on a tangent. The God that people refer to, for me, is purely and more simply, just love. The fact that we are ‘made in Gods image’ just means that there is a beautiful soul in us all that acts as a channel of pure love and has the capacity to love infinitely. Through my human eyes, the goal of our existence is to nurture our soul through loving others and ourselves. Every mistake that we have ever made, or indeed will ever make, is made from a lack of love for ourselves or indeed for someone else.
But this is just my personal philosophy.
Returning to the concept of subjugation. The pilgrims go up the steps on their knees prostrate to their God. But by their own teachings they are bowing to the very same God that resides within them. In short, they are praying to themselves. Aside from playing the lead role in a self-glorifying vanity show, this also opens up a confusion that I have with the fact that many of the current Catholic principles simply ignore the fundamental and founding principles, much like a band playing a reunion show but refusing to play the original music that made them famous.
Without entering a religious debate, I simply ask, if you truly believe that you are made in God’s image, and therein have this glorious light residing within you, then why bend a knee and detract from the time you should be proudly shining?
Why not shine as a beacon of that love within your society, instead of going up on your knees, why not carry a paraplegic on your back?
Rhetorical questions to spontaneous thoughts.
Returning to my fundamentals, I can tell you that love is all that matters.
With this in mind, I must show nothing but love for these pilgrims, even though what they do contradicts my personal understanding of the universe.
Equally, should this act help them unlock their love, then I can do nothing but support it, with humble hope that one day my openness will be reciprocated.
(Photos – Eli Woodbine, Montreal, 2015)