The news came in the “Diario de Noticias” and, what do you want? I had to laugh. In the beautiful homeland of John Paul II, Poland, the rosary of the 21st century was born: it is in the form of a credit card.

Maciej Salomon, the inventor, is happy for life. The third of the future is much more discreet. It can be used on the bus, train, plane, in the office or in waiting rooms. A Christian shaves his tercito and nobody bothers him, because he doesn’t even notice.

I remembered João Guitton, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. When he was called up to the army in 1921, he had a problem: once I am used to saying my prayers on my knees, at the foot of my bed, before going to bed, should I do the same in the barracks, exposing myself to the scorn of my colleagues?

He consulted two priest friends. One gave me this advice: “Pray under the quilt, quietly, without flaunting your faith, so as not to unnecessarily provoke the irritability of your colleagues”. The other told me precisely the opposite: “It is your duty as a believer to give this testimony, naturally, with humility, even to assert the right to practise your faith in public, at a time when many want to reduce it to a private act”.

John Guitton followed this advice. His colleagues said nothing, but this gesture marked them deeply. Twenty years later, one of them died in the mountains and Guitton, now a university professor, went to pay his condolences to the family. The father of the deceased, who was also a university professor and an atheist, asked him: “Are you the one who said prayers on your knees at the foot of the bed in the barracks? You are a true believer.

I was also reminded of Bruce Marshall and his 1993 novel, The World, the Flesh and Father Smith. According to the protagonist, “it would be nice if God were present in our ballrooms and in our theatres as he is in our churches. But we’re afraid to be ourselves….

And so everyone pretends to be less virtuous than they really are. Once people pretended to be better than they were: nowadays they pretend to be worse. Men once swore they went to church on Sunday, though they never set foot there; now, on the contrary, they say they go golfing on Sunday, and would feel bad if their friends found out they were going to church.

It is not uncommon, in fact, to hear Latino males (and female Latinas) bragging about taking stabs at marriage, even though they dare not set foot on a green branch, because they shudder at the thought of the beating they would receive from the other spouse. They remember that skinny, frail boy who, after having taken as many as he wanted, shouted to the bystanders: “Hold me, I still kill that devil” (the devil who had crushed his bones).

In the end, it is more swill than ruin and more cowardice than anything else. They are afraid that, if they are honest, well-educated, true to their word or to their contracts, someone will tell them that “they are still from the good old days!

But there are those who rave and glory in their immorality and corruption or in having the intelligence to steal and cheat others.

In the face of these things, what is left for us? To smile: to smile at the human condition, because, according to the Bible, “the multitude of fools is great”. Today’s world creates these adult-adolescents who try to impose themselves by opposing others, to hide their cowardice under the cloak of impudence, to appear great and feats, when they are full, yes, but like a tyre?

And then, it is also important to see the other side: the legion of luminous and ardent people who are not afraid, who defend truth and justice, the honour of others or their own faith with gallantry; and who prefer forgiveness to revenge, solidarity to selfishness, simplicity and meekness to consumerism and arrogance. The hope of the world lies in those men and women capable of embracing “socially incorrect” causes such as the fight against abortion or so-called “free love”.

Such people do not need to pray under the quilt or hide their rosary in the form of a credit card. They are proud to be a person, to be free.


Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf

(PHOTO: Milada Vigerova)



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