Published on September 17-18, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
The last place that I would expect to hear someone give a witness to her Faith would be at a beauty pageant. Imagine then my surprise last Monday night when, at the 2011 Miss Universe pageant in São Paulo, Brazil, Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup declared for all the world to hear that she chooses to love God first.
It was during the question and answer portion of the pageant. Vivica A. Fox had asked Shamcey: “Would you change your religious beliefs to marry the person that you love? Why or why not?”
From a Catholic perspective, the answer would be: No. By virtue of our Baptism, we belong first to Christ: we have made a singular commitment to Him, a commitment that is meant to shape this life and the life to come. In the words of Saint Paul: “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).
This does not mean that a Catholic cannot marry someone who is not Catholic. What it does mean is that a Catholic must honor first his fundamental promise of baptism even as he gives his word in marriage. Thus, he should be prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the Faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church (CIC, canon 1125.1). He too must inform his intended spouse about this promise and obligation as a Catholic (CIC, canon 1125.2).
For some, this might seem an intolerable obligation for a Catholic. But the Church simply challenges us to live according to what we say we believe. When we profess our Faith, when we give our word to the Word-made-flesh, we are expected to let every other word that comes from our lips echo that first Word. Otherwise, if we cannot keep a promise to a most perfect God, how can we even attempt to honor any pledge to anyone else who will prove to be flawed?
I think Miss Philippines summed it up better in her response: “If I have to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love because the first person I love is God who created me. I have my Faith and my principles and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God, too.”
Some say that this controversial answer cost Shamcey the title (she placed fourth). Yet, there is something to be said about this woman who was unafraid to say in her own words what the first and greatest commandment calls us to do: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your mind” (Mt. 22:37). In the midst of all the glitter of Miss Universe, for one brief moment, she gave the world a witness to the cost of being a Christian: to love God means to choose an incorruptible crown over one that is corruptible (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25).