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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Catholicism helps shape lives of juniors

Entering the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City for the first time in spring 2011, junior Camille Bismonte gazed at the beautiful scene surrounding her. She stood in front of Pietá by Michelangelo, the stunning sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding newborn Jesus. Above her were arched ceilings depicting intricate angels and saints. The scent of old marble filled the space, as hundred became captivated by the peaceful ambiance of the massive building. All around her were people waiting to see the Pope.

Soon there was a noise in the crowd, and Bismonte turned her head to see what the commotion was about. Just 30 feet away, Bismonte caught a glimpse of Pope Francis, who was wearing a simple yet sacred white cassock, a type of Catholic clerical clothing. She called it “one of the most important moments in her life.”

Bismonte is one of millions of Americans who follow the Catholic faith. Bismonte has been a Catholic since birth. Born into Filipino culture, she was also immersed into Catholicism. According to  BBC, about 81 percent of Filipinos actively practice Catholicism.

Bismonte said that Catholics worship God and saints, unlike Protestants, who are monotheistic. Catholics are members of the Roman Catholic Church with the Pope acting as its leader.

Over the years, Bismonte has joined the music ministry of her local church,the Church of Resurrection, becoming an integral part. In her music ministry, she strives to encourage and inspire other Catholics through song.

“I've become way more involved in the church, rather than just sitting there for an hour,” Bismonte said. “I enjoy it because it forces you to become more proactive and attentive to the parts of a mass, as well as how the music relates to whatever the readings are for that particular Sunday.”

Junior Gabby Fontanilla is also Catholic and has practiced her faith since birth. In fact, both of their families have been practicing Catholicism for the past 300 years.

Both Bismonte and Fontanilla have made their faith a large part of their lives. Both wear crosses around their neck to symbolize their devotion.

One Catholic tradition that both students participate in is Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday in February and continues for the next 40 days.

During Lent, participants must give up something they love. It is meant to symbolize the time that Jesus Christ spent fasting in a desert.

One year, Bismonte decided that she would refrain from eating sweets. The task was challenging, and after a few days, she went back to eating sweets.

Another major aspect of Catholicism is confession. During confession, Catholics tell their sins to a priest who then absolves them of their wrongdoings.

You should go every year during Lent, because that’s the time you’re suppose to reflect,” Bismonte said.

Bismonte said that the Bible explains why confession is important.

“There is a line the Bible that says, ‘Blessed are you whose sins are retained on earth shall be retained in heaven,’” Bismonte said. “You are supposed to tell [all your] sins to God, so when you're in heaven, He won’t judge you.”

While confession may seem intimidating, Fontanilla said it has the effect of lifting the pressure off her shoulders.

“The priest is supposed to keep your confession a secret unless you say you’re going to murder someone later,” Bismonte said.

Confessing means that the priest is hearing the worst things one has done during the year. For Bismonte, this is the most difficult part of holding true to her religion.

“It’s really nerve wracking, because you are telling someone things that you wouldn’t want to tell to your parents,” Bismonte said. “When the priest finally says, ‘I absolve you from your sins,’ it’s a huge relief.”

She remembers once confessing to stealing an someone else’s eraser when she was in elementary school; though it was not a major sin, she still breathed a little easier after the confession.

Bismonte also applies Catholic principles to her decision making. If Bismonte feels like something is against Catholic beliefs, she tries to stay away from it. For Bismonte, this might mean restraining herself from going to a party where there could be illegal activities.

Fontanilla shares similar beliefs, explaining that Catholicism has led  her to make good decisions.

“It’s more of a moral thing,” Fontanilla said. “[The church] says that [certain] activities are sins, so you have to question whether it is right or not [to partake in potentially sinful activities].”

According to Bismonte, some of the more controversial parts of Catholicism, like prohibitions against divorce, gay marriage and abortion, are not specifically stated in the 10 Commandments and are additional, more complicated rules.

“Catholicism is more of a hospital for sinners as supposed to a museum for saints,” Bismonte said, “so it's important to remember that although there are controversies in the church, man isn't perfect.”

Bismonte and Fontanilla both said Catholicism will remain a bedrock in their lives.

“Catholicism is meaningful to me in that it gives me hope in humanity, as cliché as that sounds,” Bismonte said. “You learn to see the best in people.”

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