Of Love

Let’s talk about love today.

This morning, I went to Mass, and Father L said humans are created out of love.  Thus, our nature is not to hurt but to love.

Something that’s always bothered me is why people become bitter when relationships end.  They would say mean things to their friends about the ex, smearing her or his image in the process.  Calling them names.  Why do they do that to the people they supposedly loved?

I’ve been called idealistic many times before.  (I also wonder why being one is such a bad thing.)  They meant it in contrast with being realistic.  They accused me of being ignorant of real-life experiences – because they misrepresent me as a pampered princess growing up – to understand the realities of this world.  They called me naive.

But sometimes being idealistic or ignorant or naive could be positive.  For example, today’s question: Why do they do that to the people they supposedly loved?

Having grown up without real difficulties or serious responsibilities, I had all the time in the world for thinking.  Many years ago, when I experienced heartbreak for the first time, I was surprised to discover that I cannot say any bad word about this person who hurt me.  On the second time, despite all the trash talk people who were supposedly consoling me said, I can’t get myself to say or think bad things about him.

I wondered if that was because I didn’t love them enough.  But this would be untrue because I know in my heart there was nothing more I could have done or given at that time.  I also wondered if that was because what I felt for them wasn’t true love.  But that would be wrong because the very reason I can’t be cruel even to their memories is because I loved them.

Admittedly, I’ve been bitter over some people.  I’ve had my fair share of trash talking to friends.  And that is because I didn’t truly love them.

Because to truly love someone is to set them free.  Of course, it’s almost impossible not to ask of something from the other person – I can’t imagine a truly unconditional love by a human being.  You can only hope that you’d be enough for them and they’d choose you and stay with you forever, but that is something you can’t force or manipulate them to do.  If you can’t set them free, that means you love yourself more than you love the other person.  That means you love the things you do, the happiness they give you, the emotions they stir, or the future you envision with them… more than them.

Think about God for a second.  He gave us free will.  He loves us.  He gives us everything.  He nurtures us.  But He doesn’t force us to follow Him.  That decision is up to us… because we, his beloved, are free.

To love is to place the other person’s happiness before our own.  (But take note I do not in any way condone staying with sociopaths and psychopaths.  If their happiness is torturing and destroying you, by all means, leave.)

To try to give unconditional love is a tough choice that requires hard work but it will always be worth it.  When you set them free, you are set free.

 

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Confession

Today is First Friday and I want to confess about burnout.

As some of you know, I haven’t been back to the Catholic church for long (just since December 2014) and have been reading at the Mass for much shorter than that.

Some of you are living testimonies of how I loved it.  There was a time I felt everything else – daughter duties, work, leisure, relationships, self-love – was sagabal to my service, and if I could only be in church every minute of my life, I would.  I could stand not eating on Sundays.  I bought books that taught how to read and practiced everytime I can.  I researched the context of each reading to properly convey the right emotion.  My copies of Sambuhay had marks indicating emphasis and where to have eye contact, pause, or stop.

But I’ve lost it.  It’s only been two and a half years but I don’t love it anymore.

Today, getting myself to wear the uniform I once thought were the most beautiful pieces of clothes ever designed is a struggle.  Dati, I would spend half an hour doing my face and my hair so I would look at least presentable (and hopefully sophisticated) but now I just don lip balm and tie my hair in an effortless ponytail.  There were even mornings in the recent past that I don’t shower or even wash my face.  Now I don’t even polish my black heels.

At our monthly meetings, I’d rather stay in the back, wishing I were somewhere else.  I’d wish we’d just go straight to the schedules and adjourn.  Then, when I see how many serves I have, possibly more than anyone, I’d curse inwardly.  Always on the verge of crying and breaking down, I secretly (but not anymore now) hate that I’ve been doing First Fridays ever since I learned how to.  I’d scream inside: ano bang tingin niyo saken, walang pamilyang kailangan asikasuhin sa umaga?!  Or, alternatively, kayo lang ba ang busy?

I learned to despise Kuya Sarsi’s “lika n holy hour ngaun” messages.  When I used to be at church at least twenty minutes before the Mass, I’m now a buzzer beater.  I don’t even have time to, or bother to, pray the Panalangin Bago Magmisa.

Then came the judgments.  It turns out, for some, I’m not good enough.  In the beginning, I only cared about the idea that God was smiling at me for what I was doing.  I didn’t care whether I was appreciated by people because I knew God appreciated my efforts.  But later the criticisms and gossips and parinig and sumbong just turned too much, eventually alienating me, numbing me, making me think, if you’re so good why don’t you do it?, making me wish they’d just kick me out instead.

And then came the envy.  I started to envy the people who have lives, who own their mornings and their weekends.  I envy the anonymous parishioners who have the freedom to be at the Mass without the fuss.  I even started to envy those who do my much-needed yoga… because apparently Catholics must not.

Gone is the reader who Father Peter praised to be “very good,” coupled with his happy smile and two thumbs up.  In her place is this spiteful, empty robot who can’t even remember the readings of the day when she leaves the church.  In her place is this person who wishes she can go back to the invisible anonymous churchgoer.

I’m so tired.

Today is First Friday.  On First Fridays, we confess.  This was what I confessed and I’m confessing this again now.

I’m sorry for feeling this way.

I’m sorry for being ungrateful.

The Gift of Sadness

I had a meltdown yesterday and it was a blessing.  Am I the only one who actually looks forward to those moments when I can’t take it anymore and I’ll just crash and break down?  I guess it’s because they’re the times I feel closest to God, that only in those moments are all my thoughts and focus solely on Him.  Everyday, I’m distracted with a lot of things – doing my obligations, pursuing my dreams, trying to make a difference, chasing happiness – that I set my relationship with God aside.  My mind can’t be silenced.  Most times I think going to church is enough, praying for ten minutes is enough, reading the Word sporadically is enough.  Truth is, even if people know I serve the church, God always is just an afterthought.  Many times, He is also just a routine.  But in times like this, in times of anguish, it’s different.  In a rare moment like this, all my mind, my heart and my thoughts are on Him.  My mind is silent.  And it’s liberating.

In a rare moment like this, I can meditate.  This is a gift.

My First Beginning of the Year Convivence

Francis and I just came from our first Beginning of the Year Convivence from November 26 to 30 at Candon City, Ilocos Sur.  Having been walking in the Way for barely a year, it was both a privilege and a responsibility for us to be invited to join the Neocatechumenal Way communities of North Luzon.

By the way, I am going to be posting neither details or pictures.  Following Kiko Arguello’s instructions, our catechists told us that we can take pictures but keep it to ourselves.  I guess one of the most important things I learned from this event is obedience to our catechists.  And so this is going to be a brief text-only post on what I have learned from the convivence.

This year’s beginning of the year convivence is for the 50th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way which will take place next year.  Communities from dioceses in North Luzon gathered together for this event.  After four days of living together, sharing experiences, reading and contemplating on Bible verses, learning more about The Way, and praying as a community, I:

  1. finally understood that the Neocatechumenal Way is not a group, an association, a movement, or an organization.  Rather, it is an initiation for Christians.  In my own words, it is a training program to fully understand your baptism and be a true Christian;
  2. learned that although God wants to save all people, only those who accept His salvation are going to be saved;
  3. realized that God’s kingdom is coming very soon;
  4. felt that my God-given mission is to bear children who will walk the Way; and,
  5. knew that I cannot become the coordinator of the Lectors and Commentators.  I have to choose and I am choosing the Way.

These are just some of the things I learned from the convivence.  I do not regret at all that I attended this event and skipped the seminar for the non-teaching personnel.  I am also really thankful that Francis was there to share this beautiful moment with me.

I am very grateful that we get to walk the Way together.

I’m the New Leader of the Church Readers. Happy Halloween.

2017 must be the year that changed my life.  God finally gave the best man for me, I joined the Neocatechumenal Way, Inoo flew to dog heaven, and I became the coordinator of the Cathedral’s Ministry of Lectors and Commentators.

Unfortunately, you’re not mistaken: I’ve just become the coordinator of the ministry of the Word at our parish.

Scare of the year, right?

It wasn’t part of the plan.  In fact, I’ve been contemplating on my service of reading at the Mass.  These past few months I’ve been experiencing ministry burnout: I was given four ordinary day schedules, all the Holy Hour Fridays ever since I became a member, and two Sunday Mass services.  It was just exhausting.  Add to that the resentment I felt when I would hear criticisms from my fellow members and the churchgoers.  I just felt unappreciated.  I thought if our spiritual director asked me to choose between being in the ministry and the Neocatechumenal Way, I’d pick the Neocatechumenal Way.  Up to now I still think so.  Also, I had applied for a higher-paying government job in Manila that I thought I had a high chances to get.  I prayed God will give me what He wants.

Then, all of the sudden, God willed for me to become the new coordinator of the lectors and commentators.  It was a snap election, all others who were nominated declined, and I had no valid excuse.

And I’m scared.

Honestly, I only have a little experience when it comes to leadership.  I prefer to be a mere member.  The only time I took on a leadership role was when I was at UP and I led a heterogeneous group of fellow students for our “Suroy-suroy, Lalolalorar at Vochok.”  We won second, by the way.  But aside from that, I don’t have any more experience in leading people.  Plus I also know myself: I’m ENTJ.  I’m a commander.  And given that I’m one of the youngest members in the ministry, I’m not sure the commander type would really make everything harmonious and peaceful.  But truth is, I know no other way.

I’m ENTJ through and through.

But how would a 29-year-old comeback Catholic lead a group of mostly older people who had been devout Catholics their entire lives?  I feel so unworthy of the responsibility God has given.  The verse I read at Mass “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” has taken on a new form and meaning.

How unworthy I am indeed.  I was anti-Christian for a long time.  I always secretly complain about my schedules.  I make fun of the priests.  Then suddenly this.

God does have a twisted sense of… Halloween.

But His will be done.

Because It’s Pentecost Sunday: The Girl Called “Makahiya”

I remember that Friday in March two years ago.  I was wearing blue and praying intently, thanking God for the gift I didn’t deserve.  Then, the girl who read at the Mass said the priest wanted to see me.  Without any idea why, I followed her to where the priest was and he said, “Would you like to read?”

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Would I like to read?

If you’d known me just recently, you’d find it hard to believe that I used to have a bad case of stage fright.  (On the other hand, people who knew me from college would find it hard to believe that I talk a lot now.)  In school, I dreaded having to recite and report.  If only I can get away with just sitting there listening and taking exams and doing papers, school would’ve been a piece of cake.  I remember losing my voice in the midst of a Shakespeare report and once in college I literally wept.

Someone even had a simile for me: I was “makahiya” – or bashful mimosa, a sensitive plant that folds to the slightest touch.  Talk to me and I would be lost for words.  Literally.

Would I like to read?

Being a lifetime reader, of course I would like to read.  I became a librarian because I thought I could read everything I wanted.  Guess I’d leave everything for a job that paid me to do nothing but read.

But reading for the Mass is different.  Reading for the Mass means walking up in front and proclaiming the Word of God for the whole congregation.

I, the girl who would cry if asked to speak before more than five people, the girl whose social vocabulary consisted of “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.”  I can’t do it.  Knowing my limitations, I replied, “Yes, Father.”

Why did I say that?  I don’t know.  All I know, and I remember the feeling clearly, is something inside compelled me to answer nothing but “Yes, Father.”

On May 30, 2015, I was installed as a member of the Ministry of Lectors and Commentators.

Today, I read for ordinary day and Sunday Mass.  I am also an anchor of our radio show.  I sing (and dance) in public now.  I do emcee-ing for trainings and programs, even without preparations.  And I talk to people now.

Who would’ve thought this “makahiya” would be cured of her stage fright by nothing but that “Yes, Father”?

#OffTheBucketlist: 10 Churches + 1!

It’s April, the fourth month, and I’m happy to announce that I’m checking one goal off my 2017 bucket list.  I’ve visited ten churches.  Yey!  In fact, I got to visit more than that.  Here they are:

NUEVA ECIJA (REGION 3)

1. St. Andrew Parish Roman Catholic Church, Poblacion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. (Visited on January 28, 2017)

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2. St. Joseph the Worker Parish Roman Catholic Church, Rizal, Nueva Ecija. (Visited on January 28, 2017)

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TUGUEGARAO CITY (REGION 2)

3. Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Peter, Tuguegarao City. (Visited on February 25, 2017)

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4. San Jacino Church (Ermita de Piedra de San Jacinto), Tuguegarao City. (Visited on February 25, 2017)*

ILOCOS NORTE (REGION 1)

5. Simbahan ng Sta. Maria (Church of Sta. Maria), Santa Maria, Poblacion Norte, Ilocos Norte. (Visited on April 13, 2017)

santa maria

6. Church of Laoag, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. (Visited on April 13, 2017)

laoag church

7. Pasuquin Church, St. James the Greater Parish, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte.  (Visited April 14, 2017)

pasuquin church

8. San Nicolas De Tolentino Parish Church, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte. (Visited April 14, 2017)

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9. Paoay Church, Batac, Ilocos Norte. (Visited on April 14, 2017)

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ILOCOS SUR (REGION 1)

10. Cathedral of Vigan, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. (Visited on April 16, 2017)

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11. St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish, San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. (Visited April 16, 2017)

san esteban

One goal down. Sixteen more to go. ❤

*I can’t find the photo!!!