Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Forced Prayer

'Anna, please lead the prayer,' she said. 

It was another Intro to Journalism class with Miss de Villa. I say another because I know her style of teaching already. She will give a lecture, let us have a short break and then send us out to write. Another because I have this love hate relationship with writing. I love it because Miss de Villa knows and I know that I can write. I hate it because she pushes me to my limit and I sometimes resist that pressure. Another because the class is supposed to be easy, but I end up complicating my life. Another class. Another day to try to get away with eating in, sleeping and talking in class. Just another day.

Not really. Before Miss de Villa asked me to lead the prayer, I was contemplating if I should buy breakfast at the canteen. My friend, Char, was already out of the room buying her own food. Tria and Bea were yakking away at some interesting happening I already knew about. I remembered that I had a pack of lollipops in my bag, but that would not keep me full from 9:10am to 1:50pm. I suddenly jumped up from my seat, grabbed my wallet and ran to the door of the classroom. I was all set to run to the canteen when I noticed that Miss de Villa was standing right in front of me giving me the look my mom gives me when she catches me trying to do something naughty. 

She laughed. Miss de Villa laughed, walked right into the room and I walked right back in with her. My stomach was grumbling so I stuck a lollipop into my mouth. The class calmed down since the professor was there already. She arranged her things on her table and we tensed up knowing that class was about to start. Unlike all my other professors, only Miss de Villa starts her classes with a prayer. Last semester, when she was my professor for Creative Writing, I got away without having to lead a prayer in her class. In fact, in my two years of going to a Catholic college, I had never led the prayer. And then she asked me to lead the prayer.

In that split second, I thought of all my opinions when it came to religion and faith. I thought about my stand about praying in public and how I run away whenever the pastor asks us to pray in groups. I tried to get myself to say that I was not a Catholic and that I did not belong to any religion, but I believed in a God. But that did not matter because all religions still pray the Our Father because we just have to. It's required. I wanted to say that by praying their prayer or even by just praying in school, the college is kinda like forcing religion on the students. I wanted to say that religion is a private thing that some people do not even believe in. But it is a Catholic college and I signed the waiver. 

I did not want to act like having to lead the prayer was the worst thing someone could ask me to do. On the other hand, it annoyed me that I had to compromise my beliefs just so that people would not think I was weird or anything. People assume that everyone prays, everyone goes to church or mass, that everyone shares the same morals and values and that everyone will just accept religion. And if you make a statement that you do not do those things, you will be mocked, laughed at, punished and questioned. I was not in the mood to get into the nitty- gritty of my personal beliefs. I'm tired of all that. 

And so I walked to the front of the classroom to lead the class in prayer.  

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