Are you religious?

About a month ago, I went on an impulsive solo day trip to Nusa Penida, Bali.  I was in Bali for a 3 day training program that finished on Friday and my flight back home was scheduled on Saturday morning. I figured, why not make it Saturday night and spend the day somewhere. I was thinking of having some well deserved me time in a beach club in Seminyak or a nice infinity pool in Ubud. After doing some research (as in endless browsing on Instagram), I figured I’d go on a motorcycle day trip at Nusa Penida, a nearby island from Bali.

me & le travel buddy in Nusa Penida

I thought I’d be completely alone, well with my tour guide of course. To my surprise, there was another girl, also on the same solo and guided motorcycle day trip, a European tourist who has been in Bali solo travelling.  Long story short, after passing some introductory small talk our conversation drifted to school, Indonesian snacks, and then spirituality.

There was one question that particularly got me stumped.

She asked me, “Are you religious?

Nobody has ever asked me this question before. Besides, I prefer not bringing up such a delicate topic especially with someone I just knew for 20 minutes. Normally, especially in our lovely country, you’d hear the quite classic (and rude) “What’s your religion?” question but asking “Are you religious?” triggered a different kind of response. At least, it made me think a bit instead of blurting out mindlessly that I’m a Catholic.

I paused a bit. Since I’m currently in a phase which my spirituality is limited to going to church every (other) Sunday and praying before flights. I almost never participate in church activities whatsoever. We were never church kids. I could go through weeks without going to church.

I answered quite sloppily, “Well I’m a Catholic and I go to mass, but I haven’t gone to church in weeks. I pray sometimes. I guess I can’t really say I’m religious.”

My understanding of being religious is being devout. Being pious. In the context of being a Catholic, I’d say that being a religious Catholic is, at least, praying every morning and night, going to mass every Sunday, and praying the rosary. Claiming to be religious, in my opinion, would be lying.

You often hear the saying, if you ever feel lucky it’s because of your mother’s prayers. In her spare time, my mother reads the bible literally everywhere, in the car, in a Starbucks, you name it. She does so with a highlighter in one hand to underline verses that leave a deep impression on her. One day, while gazing at her focused reading, the bitter truth hit me. My mother won’t be around forever. As selfish as this may sound, but who’s gonna pray for us then?

I’ve read somewhere that when it’s hard to pray, is when you have to pray the hardest. So here I am struggling to pray again. Praying again feels like reconnecting with an old and distant friend. It’s like an awkward dance: trying to remember the moves and matching them with the rhythm. Consistency is key and it’s not easy.

So here’s something to think about. Are you religious?

I took this picture on my trip to Mexico a couple of months ago. This is in the beautiful Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Mexico City. Despite of not being so religious, coming to a Catholic church always feels like coming home.


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