From the 8th to the 10th of July the pope made a 3-day visit to Bolivia. We were there also. We had planned to pass through Bolivia sooner or later, but not at that exact moment. It was a case of expiring visa that speeded up our departure from Peru and that landed us in the Bolivian capital right in the middle of the preparations of the papal visit. Bolivia is already pretty chaotic on a normal day, but this is nothing compared to Bolivia during a papal visit. Try to imagine a Michael Jackson concert that takes places in all corners of the city simultaneously.
From the moment of our arrival in La Paz, we were bombarded with the image of the pope: posters, calendars, flags, buttons, mugs with the picture of the pope and all television channels were dedicated to his future visit. The city bustled with the town’s employees that hurried along to repair churches, clean the roads, secure the trajectory, etc. Having a natural allergy for everything that involves mass hysteria, my first reaction when I learned of the visit of the pope was “Oh…shit”, especially when I noticed that the non-refundable hotel I booked was right in the epicenter of the pope’s trajectory in La Paz.
Catholicism and myself, we’ve not always had a friendly relationship. I’ve been raised an atheist, by parents who “endured” a Christian education and who told me their reasons for not raising me and my brothers in the Christian dogma: classmates that were publicly humiliated by the “good” sisters that were in charge of their education, sexual harassment or abuse by priests in boarding schools, the tyranny of compulsory sermons on Sunday with the sole objective to scare people into staying catholic, etc.
Their decision was a courageous one because it certainly wasn’t an obvious one at the time. It caused some conflicts in the family and provoked a certain contempt by other people. The idea of my parents was that once we had reached adulthood, we would be able to make our own choice of consciousness and decide whether religion would be part of our lives or not. This was well-intended in theory, but in practice it proved a lot harder to liberate myself from a belief system (atheism is just another belief system) that I had grown used to since so many years.
During my adolescence I witnessed the liberalisation of the educational system in Belgium and secular education, that was an oddity during my childhood years, became the norm. Add to that all the pedophilia and corruption scandals involving the catholic church in my country (and all across Europe) and the public opinion towards christianity turned from sceptic to overtly hostile.
Since my youth I’ve become aware that my resistance toward religion prevented me from accessing my spiritual path sooner: I mistakingly confounded spirituality with religion and my rejection of religion became a rejection of spirituality. Even if I reconciled myself with religion today, I’m still in disagreement with a large part of religious writings and catholic dogma as well as the institution of the Catholic church itself (for me no-one needs an intermediary between himself and the eternal, every person is capable of finding his own connection). And I’ve always been rather suspicious towards it’s main representative.
My feelings being as they may, I know very well that there is no such thing as coincidence and that there would be a good reason for me to be at the same place at the same time as the pope. His presence was a sign for me to let go of my preconceived ideas and go explore how I really felt about his person. And so I decided to take an interest in the pope for the first time and follow up on his visit, make a connection to his person to feel what he was all about.
Words that took me by surprise
During the Pope’s visit to Bolivia, I’ve been astonished by some of his speeches and amazed by his values, his honesty and outspokennness, to a point where I could hear myself speak through some of his words. Here are some examples that really touched me and their translation in my own words:
The goal of religious life is to find joy: The Pope smiles all the time, in my knowledge the first pope that has this aura of happiness and that motivates people to be happy and to love life. He explains that to love life is to love god, because this is a way to honour our existence. This is a radical change of philosophy from a church that tried to bind people to it’s faith by scaring them with horror stories of hell and divine wrath.
It’s important to respect the earth, our home and to take good care of it: The pope mentioned this several times during his visit. It’s an important message in times where there is very little respect for the earth, for animals and for our natural environment. The awareness that respecting the divine means respecting all that lives, including animals and our natural environment is a train of thought that is often missing in a lot of people. It’s an example of the fragmenting that some people are capable of by choosing to apply a spiritual consciousness in certain parts of their existence or in certain areas of life, but not in others. For example: I am kind and polite with my neighbours, but at work I act like an ogre; or I engage myself for human rights, but I pollute my environment. If you respect creation, you respect ALL the elements of creation.
Indifference kills the heart. “We have to change this globalisation of indifference and exclusion.” Someone who doesn’t belong to my group (family, country, ethnic group, religion, social class, continent, etc.) doesn’t affect me with his suffering. He talks about the media that constantly flood us with negative news to feed the illusion that we best just look after ourselves, because it would be impossible to take on the mountain of injustices that exists in the world. The only problem with this is that this behaviour accustoms us to images of suffering, we get used to injustice and little by little we cut off our feelings and our heart begins to close. He asks people to open their hearts, to let themselves be moved and touched and to heal from indifference. He continues by saying that a spiritual life has no value if we are blind and deaf in everyday life and we ignore the reality that surrounds us.
Don’t try to drown out opinions that disturb you. Here the pope addressed himself to all catholics and he asked them to stop judging non-religious people or people that practice another faith. He talked about the contempt certain people harboured towards non-religious people. He particularly addressed himself to the clergy and asked them to let go of the belief that they belonged to a caste of “chosen ones”, untouchables that have a larger claim to spirituality than other people.
An open heart doesn’t make the distinction and there is no hierarchy in universal love. He asked the members of the catholic church to stay close to the people and to not separate themselves from them, to help people, not because they felt better than them, but because they wanted to help the people.
Religious people should be witnesses of love instead of witnesses of some kind of methodology or intellectual ideology. He asks religious people to stop chastising people and start to listen, start being kind with them. It doesn’t help to point someone who isn’t doing well with the finger nor should you try to convince him with intellectual arguments. All you can do is open your heart and listen.
A change of organisation that isn’t accompanied by a change in philosophy will always get caught up in bureaucratics. Every action that doesn’t originate from the heart, that doesn’t come from good intentions, will end up missing it’s point. If you do something, do it because you like doing it, because you do it with all your heart. The intention with which you do something is more important than the action in itself. Don’t expect a reward, do things for the pleasure of doing them.
He blows the whistle on the “channel-hopping” mentality that reigns in spirituality. People today are always looking for the latest spiritual novelty, and they hop from one technique to another, from one philosophy to another, without really taking the time to integrate anything. He speaks about religious people that worship Jesus from afar, that go to the church and pray, but that don’t apply any of the Christian values. All the spiritual knowledge in the world is useless if it is not integrated and any Christian value is empty of meaning when not applied in daily life AND lived and felt with the heart.
Eventually, of all my objections against his person, not much was left. He even condemns the things that always bothered me about the catholic church: the feeling of superiority, the hierarchy, the hypocrisy of many religious people and believers (Sunday morning – Christians), the preference of dogma before heart, the disdainful behaviour of some representatives of the Catholic church, the scandalous morals of many of the clergy (the new pope fights against pedophilia in the church) etc.
I saw and felt what he evoked in people, he gives them hope and they say to themselves “Finally. Finally a pope that loves people.” He symbolises a return to true values in life.
And even if I don’t agree with the blind adoration that people have for the pope, I can see that the pope himself does nothing to be put on a pedestal: he doesn’t want to sleep in the papal palace, he wants to be at the same level as the people, he breaks papal protocol at least 10 times a day and he openly says he’s no superman and he cannot make all the people’s problems disappear like magic. He gives them back the power the church has been taking away from them since centuries.
The Pope’s life mission
All that I saw and felt made me appreciate the pope as a person, I appreciate the change he’s implementing within the Catholic church and above all the awareness he sparks in people. This does not mean I became a follower of the Christian church, I’m still of opinion that people don’t need any intermediaries between themselves and the eternal and my main objection with the catholic church stays intact today: the lack of respect and the inferior position of women.
Since my spiritual reconnection, we (Jean-Baptiste and I) have been receiving messages from different energies that identify themselves as historical figures from the time of Jesus. Through this communication we’ve already received messages from certain saints, apostles, or from Jesus and Marie-Magdalen themselves. I will spare you the internal torment and my mental objections when we first started to receive these messages… Now however, I’m completely fine with this and this kind of communication is just another part of existence that I was oblivious of before and that is now part of my everyday life.
Thanks to these connections, I know that Jesus really existed and that he was a historical figure, as were all biblical figures. The words that have been attributed to these people are often far from the truth however and the catholic church took advantage of the spiritual fervour that was sparked by the lives and words of Jesus and Marie-Magdalen to seize power over the people.
Even if some of the foundations of Catholicism are very accurate, my conscience will not allow me to support an institution that is based upon a lie. This lie is the church’s version on the person of Marie-Magdalen. And this lie has caused a lot of suffering in the Christian world and all societies that were subject to Catholic doctrine: discrimination of women to begin with, but beyond that, the church institutionalised planetary imbalance. It provided the moral legitimacy to ignore and scorn female energy and to go into excess with male energy. The institution of the church has always fed imbalance and drawn humanity away from harmony.
Marie-Magdalen was never a prostitute, but the wife of Jesus, his partner, his pupil and his master, his lover, his friend, his confidante… Jesus could never have accomplished his life’s mission without her. They were destined to meet, destined to work and evolve together. When one thinks about it is logical: the foundation of life is harmony, a perfect balance between masculin and feminine.
The last thing the pope said before leaving Bolivia was this: “If you need an example on how to act and how to live, look to Saint Teresa. She is an example to all because of her simplicity and her humility.” He couldn’t have done any better to leave me speechless… Saint Teresa has been accompanying us during our travels (see article), she chose to be one of our guides and she is very present during every step of our journey.
For those that have been following our travels: she helped me heal Jean-Baptiste when he was down with yellow fever and she reassured me during the whole ordeal, she guides us with advice and she tells us some bits about her life from time to time. I know that her spiritual life was rooted in simplicity and the present moment and that the inequality of women within the catholic church was a concern of hers.
When the pope evoked Saint Teresa (of all the saints), I knew he had a real spiritual connection. With these words I saw and understood his life’s mission. All his acts and words prepare the road for a spiritual emancipation of his followers. Little by little he guides people towards true values, towards an authentic spiritual life and towards independence by opening their hearts. His life’s mission is to rectify what was bent, to reveal the truth and to redress what has been misinterpreted.
How he chooses to fulfil and interpret his life’s mission, only he can tell, but his presence at the head of the church is encouraging. What will the future of the Catholic church look like? I have my hunches, but I’d rather let the future show us. The future of humanity and spirituality however, seems pretty straightforward to me, we’re evolving towards a way of life where the divine will become obvious and we will recognise it in every act, every instant. More and more we’re starting to realise that the only temple we need is our human body and more and more people find their own path and personal way to experiment spirituality.