Monday, 14 August 2017 15:12
Wednesday, 09 August 2017 16:45

The Missing Link

“Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”– Mark 1:17

When I was 12 years old, I came to know Jesus in a personal way.

While watching a religious program on TV, I knelt down and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

But thankfully, it didn’t end there.

My parents discipled me. Getting to know Jesus was only step one. They saw to it that I would grow in this great relationship with Jesus.

So they taught me how to pray and how to read my Bible. They saw to it that I attended weekly Catholic prayer meetings. They encouraged me to join a ministry within that prayer group. They connected me with other friends my age who also wanted to serve God.

But more than all these, they loved me. By their presence, their words and their life, they mirrored to me who Jesus was. It was my relationship with my parents that caused me to love the Lord for the rest of my life.

Friends, the reason why I’m still here loving Jesus after 33 years is because I was discipled.

What Is Discipleship?
In essence, discipleship is relationship.

Discipleship doesn’t happen in prayer meetings or spiritual seminars or prayer rallies. Real discipleship happens only in a loving, one-on-one relationship. So it’s not even just a “program” done in a one-on-one setting. It’s first of all a relationship before it’s a program.

There really are only two elements to discipleship:
1. Discipleship is a friendship.

Discipleship is love. It’s delighting in the person as Jesus would. You’re talking to a child of God. Jesus gave His whole life for that human being. By loving that person, he or she will know what it means to be loved by God.

2. And within that friendship, discipleship is training this one person to love God, love others and bless the world.

How? By sharing habits that will make this person grow in the Lord. And here’s where this little book comes in. Love Someone Today will help you make disciples. It contains seven important lessons a person needs to start his relationship with Jesus.

This kind of discipleship is the missing link of the Church.

Very little discipleship is happening today. Parishes are like sacramental gas stations. People go in and out like ships in the night. Even many prayer groups are weak or dying. They’ve become so focused on rituals and activities, and they don’t offer discipleship.

Don’t get me wrong. Weekly prayer meetings are very important. In my community, Light of Jesus Family, we call it The Feast. Each week, we gather to worship and listen to God’s Word. Each week, we keep tweaking and improving it, making it more uplifting, inspiring and seeker-friendly. And each week, thousands of people come. And they go home blessed and inspired. But at the end of the day, for the thousands to keep growing in the Lord, they need one-toone discipleship.

The lack of one-to-one discipleship is also why real evangelism isn’t happening. Because you can’t separate evangelism with discipleship. Without one-to-one discipleship, any evangelistic activity will create the revolving door syndrome: after the evangelistic activity, new people will soon drop out.

This is also the reason why many young people are no longer attending Church. our aging religious leadership is scary. Here’s a fact: 70 percent of the Philippine population is below the age of 30. If we’re not reaching young people with the Gospel, that means we’re not reaching 70 percent of the population. The solution? To disciple the youth — and let the youth disciple other young people.

This is my prayer: That this little book — and all the little books of this entire discipleship series — will help you make many loving disciples for Jesus. 

Bo Sanchez

Light of Jesus Family 

 

Get Love Somone Today EBook for free - Download Now

Wednesday, 02 August 2017 11:53
Monday, 24 July 2017 13:31
Monday, 17 July 2017 12:45
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 11:24
Friday, 17 March 2017 15:27

Every year, we have the Holy Week Retreat and it’s always extra special. It’s done in a very different way and people are just wowed. The way we do it, is we actually go to the level of where people are. We don’t begin with what is the revelation of God. We begin with what are the needs of the people.

What’s your need? What are you going through?

What’s your personal experience? Right now, what is your reality? And based there, we bring the revelation of God, we bring the voice of God in that situation you are in.

Are you in pain? Are you going through a need? Are you confused? Are you wandering? That’s where we’re going in. We’re allowing God to address your deepest needs.

And we’re very excited at what’s gonna happen in the Holy Week Retreat and in the Grand Easter Feast. Shining forth. That’s our theme. We’re so excited how God will make you shine forth.

At the end of the day, all of us have our own darkness,. All of us have our own confusion, All of us have chaos inside us. And yes, it is dark. But listen to this. Light dispels all darkness. And we’re gonna be praying that God’s light will come in and push out the darkness that is right now there within you.

It’s gonna be an awesome time and I want you to be there.

SHINE FORTH!

Get your tickets online at https://smtickets.com/events/view/5568

Friday, 27 January 2017 12:55

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Paz Santillan, 58, single, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Communication Arts.

She lives in Antipolo City.

Paz used to go by the nickname Bangoy. Somewhere  along her spiritual journey, she changed that nickname to BanJoy.

Her Story

WITH my AB degree in Communication Arts, I ventured to work in various publications. In one of the magazines I worked for, I met and fell in love with one of my officemates. I got pregnant, he could not marry me, and I went through an episode of anger and resentment.

I felt I was a sinful person and so I didn’t go to church. 

One thing, I found the Mass— the songs, the homilies boring. The priests said things that I felt were insignificant to my life at the time. The people serving in the church were not of much help either. They were serious in their tasks to a fault, looking glum, hardly smiling, like they were walking dead.

So I neglected  attending Sunday Mass, didn’t give much importance to the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.    

I thought, might as well stay at home and read inspiring books and gain more insight and deeper knowledge about life.

I had a daughter to raise, so I brazed myself up for a life as a single mother.

I focused on how I could have extra income as contributing writer to various publications including publications about movie stars.

Although my career was beginning to flourish, I felt this emptiness inside me. I needed to know what else my life was for.

So I explored prayer groups as well as popular “spiritual” movements— even those critical of my Catholic religion.

Still, I did not feel complete.

Finding The Feast

In the ‘70s, I became a contributor for the country’s leading lifestyle magazine. The editor kindly polished my articles and I learned from her how to improve my writing skills.

This editor happened to be already a member of the Light of Jesus Family. She talked about the founder, Bo Sanchez, his inspiring talks, the blessings she had been receiving since she‘d been applying the lessons in her life. She also talked about her Caring Group, which met weekly, sharing burdens, praying for one another.

I realized I needed to belong to such a faith community. So I asked her to bring me to the Light of Jesus.

She invited me to the Jesus Encounter, the community’s version of the  Light in the Spirit Seminar, which at the time, was the first major step to be able to join the Community. I attended and I experienced such an amazing spiritual awakening, I wanted to really belong to the Community.

I then attended the Community’s major assembly called Victory Celebration with Jesus.

Since, then, I did not just attend the LOJ prayer gatherings regularly,  I also served as member of the Cornerstone Ministry— the group that prayed 24/7 for all the needs of our community, as well as the petitions of each member. Yes, it is the intercessory ministry, called Cornerstone, for indeed prayer has been the strongest foundation of our faith community.

In the ‘90s, the Victory Celebration with Jesus eventually became The Feast.

The Feast is the happy place where I hear practical teachings about life. It is like a big family to me where I feel so loved and cared for. It’s where I feel so much blessed for being faithful to my commitment to God and the Community. It’s in The Feast where I hear the Word of God,  of love, of hope, of encouragement. It is in The Feast where I grow more in love with God.

I served as mentor for members of the Intercessory Ministry of Feast Bluewave Marikina. Then Feast Bluewave flourished with increasing number of attendees. So I moved to Feast Cardona where I also served as mentor in the Intercessory Ministry.

Although I gave my humble service to God, God gave me back so much more.

First, I found a fulfilling job as news writer, and head writer of Good Take on IBC-13.

Second, I’d been so financially blessed, I was able to send my daughter to college. She is now gainfully employed abroad and as of this writing, getting ready to marry the love of her life.

Third, I had the grace to leave my secular job and choose to serve as volunteer in the Light of Jesus Pastoral Care Center, the counseling ministry for the lost and the lowly and the depressed.

Yes, this wounded woman is now being used by God to help in the healing of the wounded in this, our broken world.

Back to The Church

I remember one time, in one of his talks at The Feast, Bro. Bo Sanchez  said, “If you have been fed here.  Go back to your parishes and serve there.”

I reflected on Bro. Bo’s words, and I felt God calling me to obey this mandate.

Now it happened that a friend invited me to join the Catechetical Ministry of our parish church. So I started giving catechism lessons in public schools in my parish.

Then, I received a scholarship from the De La Salle University  to work on a Certificate on Teaching Religion,  and St. Vincent School of Theology for a Master of Arts degree  in Theology, major in Pastoral Ministry.

My parish priest told me, “If  you want to study, then study.  But if you want to teach, then teach.”

I chose to study and still continue my service in Feast Cardona.

Now, I am being offered a job to teach Religion and Values Education also in Cardona.

Yes, I once abandoned Catholicism. Now, I am teaching the subject!

Catholic means one, holy, apostolic church. So our Catholic Church is universal.  It’s where I find hope, peace, and rest,  and I never entertain anymore thoughts of abandoning my Faith.

I once felt incomplete. Now, with my Catholic Faith, I’ve been completed.

So, I am now going by the nickname BanJoy!

 

Friday, 27 January 2017 12:36

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MJ, 43, single, holds a diploma in Nursing.

She works as a product manager in a pharmaceutical company.

MJ was raised a Catholic and she practised her Faith— until she fell for the wrong man, and strayed away from God.

Her Story

I was raised by my grandmother on my father’s side. And then I lived with various families to finish school. 

My grandmother taught me to pray the Holy Rosary every day, attend Mass every Sunday and holiday of obligations, go to Confession, receive Communion, and even fast as often as necessary.

When I was in high school, I experienced for the first time attending recollections and retreats. I loved attending such activities. Also, I attended prayer meetings as well as a Life in the Spirit Seminar.

Later, I also joined our parish choir and an Opus Dei group.

Straying Away

Despite my fairly strong Catholic foundation, I got derailed from my spiritual journey. 

I lived with a married man who early on left his family. And I had a son with him out of wedlock. I felt lost. I knew I was not doing the right thing. 

Since I knew I was in a situation that was not the Will of God, there came a point when I just could not  attend Mass. 

Then, I even went as far as attending a non-Catholic fellowship. At the time, I was already thinking of ending my relationship with this man. But he wanted to work out our relationship, so he brought me to this non-Catholic service.

But there was really no saving this relationship. He was abusive. Yes, I was actually a victim of domestic violence.

Finally, after a decade or so, I decided to turn away from my sinful life and  move on to a life with God.

Finding The Feast

At the time I was suffering the pains of abuse from my partner, an officemate invited me to attend The Feast in Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig.

In 2010, I attended Feast Valle Verde twice, and I moved on with my life to pick up the pieces of my broken self.

In 2014, I looked for a Feast near where I lived. As if on cue, my brother invited me and my son to attend Feast Bluewave Marikina. So we attended.

What I like about The Feast is it explains the meaning of the Bible verses.

During my first days at The Feast, I  well appreciated Bro. Bo Sanchez’s talk series titled His and Hers where he pointed out the difference between a man and a woman and how they should understand and relate with each other with compassion.    

My son, now a teenager, so loved The Feast  that he went on ahead of me to join a Feast Ministry. He joined the Ushers group, and he encouraged me to join the ministry. Now we are both members of the ministry now called the Connect and Warmth Ministry.

My passion to serve God has grown so strong, that I am now involved in the Liturgical Ministry and Intercessory in a church near our place.

The Feast keeps reminding us how God loves us. It strengthens my relationship with our Lord. It enlightens me about what is right and what is wrong.

Moreover, The Feast teaches me how to be a good mother, sister, daughter, neighbor.

Back to the Church

The Feast constantly teaches about our Catholic Faith.

What I like about the Catholic Faith is it gives us freedom to practise our Faith— but without abusing such freedom.

 

Thursday, 26 January 2017 17:46

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Grace Subia, 24, youngest in her family, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, major in Economics, at the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija. 

She works as a Quality Assurance officer in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in Metro Manila where she also lives.

Like her siblings, parents, and grandparents,  Grace was baptized in a non-Catholic church. But, as she grew older and got exposed to other faiths, she had a change of heart.

Her Story

I remember religiously attending church with my family in my younger days. We were close to God as we perceived Him to be. We prayed a lot as a family. At a young age, I learned to worship God and see Him as our Great Provider.

But one thing I didn’t like about our church, the crowd was composed mostly of old people singing old, sleepy songs.

I guess that’s the reason my siblings later got baptized in other religions. I remember when I was in high school, my older sister Susan tagged me along to the service of the church she had joined. I liked the service because of the lively music and young audience. I kept attending with Susan. I wanted to convert but some circumstances hindered me.

In college, I attended a Christian church and became an active member.

Then, there came a time  I got exposed to the Catholic rites, one of which was the Simbang Gabi. My Catholic friends invited me to attend and out of curiosity, I went. But, I didn’t know what the rites were for, didn’t  understand a thing.

After graduating from college, I found a job in Metro Manila in July 2012. At work, my supervisor invited me to attend a Christian church and I went with her every Sunday. But, when I left this job, I stopped going to this church.

Finding The Feast

In October 2013, I joined another office. There, I met Ms. Ereen Biong, who became my team leader. She talked about The Feast being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and right away, she invited me to attend. I said yes, as I was really looking for a church. On the Sunday I was going for the first time, it rained hard. I was tempted not to go and just stay home. But, wanting to keep my word with Ms. Ereen, I went with three other colleagues.

Am I glad I did. It was my first time to step into the PICC. Awesome. And so was The Feast. I loved the music, it was lively. During the Mass, I well understood the priest’s homily, and I was touched by his message.

I didn’t know Bro. Bo Sanchez but I liked what he preached. He asked, “How can you be saved?”

I realized I didn’t know how.  So, I listened to him attentively as he spoke about God’s love and mercy for us. That I need not do a thing to earn His love.  Amazing!

After the session, first-time attendees like me were given a copy of the Novena to Gods Love where you are supposed to  write down your dreams or petitions to God. The first dream I wrote was that I may consistently attend The Feast. And from that day on, I’ve only missed a couple. I don’t mind going alone because my Sunday is incomplete if I don’t make it to The Feast.

Attending this weekly prayer gathering has made me a better person. People close to me say they see changes in me. One who knows me well says I’m not sassy anymore and that I’ve become patient with people. 

I would say I’m also bolder in my dreams now. And now, I know how to handle my finances. I have savings and investments. I have learned to appreciate simple things in life like my being under Ms. Ereen who invited me to this prayer meeting. I feel so blessed by her presence in my life. She also taught me to see how God reveals Himself in every circumstance in my life.

One example was my trip to Kuala Lumpur in April 2016 for a convention organized by the insurance company where I work part-time. My team went ahead of me and I followed.  It was my first trip alone outside the country so I was a bit apprehensive.

But I believe God made sure I was taken care of. At the airport, I met Jervin Santos and his wife who kindly gave me a ride to my hotel. I found out later what great convenience the couple gave me. I had planned to just take the train. But if I did, I would have had to walk a great distance, with my luggage in tow, from the train station to my hotel. But, God sent His angels for my ease.

After that incident, I’ve learned to stop being a worry wart and allow God to do what I can’t do for myself.

Also, I am now more grateful with what I have— like the time I spend with my family and friends.

Speaking of simple things, one time, I wished to have my own rosary beads. The very next day, my friend Leah gave me one. But I didn’t know how to use it. So, I asked that God send me someone to teach me.

Last summer, on my way back from Kuala Lumpur, I met this gentleman at the airport who happened to be taking the same plane I was riding on. He helped put up my bags in the luggage compartment.  We got into small talk and I found out we were in the same insurance company. What’s more,  he attends Feast PICC.

Long story short, he is now my boyfriend. He’s a Catholic and he taught me how to pray the Rosary. 

Joining The Church

I came to appreciate the Catholic Faith more because of The Feast. At the God Exposed series in 2014, I understood that the Sign of the Cross meant honoring God for He died on the Cross for us.  I came to know about Mama Mary and the saints, too. That they serve as models of virtues, of righteous living.  That Catholics do not worship the saints, but they respect the statues and images, like we cherish photos of our loved ones.

From Fr. Alex Balatbat, one of the regular priests at The Feast, I learned about the importance of the Holy Communion. That what the Eucharist offers is the Body and Blood of Jesus and He is giving Himself to me. So who was I not to receive Him?

After learning about all these, I started to make the Sign of the Cross during the Mass, and when I prayed before and after meals. And  then I desired to become a Catholic.

I asked my parents’ permission that I be baptized a Catholic and they gave me their blessings. I already asked Miss Ereen to be my godmother. As of this writing, I am waiting to get started with my Catechism class so I could receive the rites of Baptism and Confirmation and finally become a true blue Catholic. 

Thursday, 26 January 2017 17:27

About the Author

Azucena B. Magana, or Zena, 29, was born in Makati, and raised in Pasig and in Mandaluyong, where she lives today. She has three siblings and she is the youngest.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology at the St. Paul University in Manila in March 2007.

Zena said her family seldom went to church. In those rare moments, she remembers  that her eldest sister, Gigi, was the one who took her to church.

Her Story

I went to Doña Pilar C. Gonzaga Elementary School in Mandaluyong City. Parish church workers came to our class, giving short talks about God. They also invited us to volunteer for parish activities. I have to admit I only joined to get extra points in school, just a favor.

While I got the idea that going to Mass every Sunday was a Catholic obligation, I didn’t take it seriously because my family was also lax about it. If Ate Gigi would take me with her, then I’d go. If not, Sunday was spent playing, working on my school assignments or projects, or shopping in malls.

My perspective changed when I entered college. I went to a Catholic university as a working student where Ate Gigi also worked. There I was surrounded by priests and nuns, got exposed to noon Masses, frequent recollections, and retreats. I discovered the beauty and rudiments of my Catholic faith. I found spiritual awakening and my faith started to deepen. I learned to love praying the Holy Rosary, which I now do every night.

Finding the Feast

I would see my friends posting about The Feast on Facebook and I got curious about it. I mentioned this to my good friend and colleague at St. Paul’s, Myrlinda Rose Ngo.  She is an active member of the The Feast Bay Area’s Awesome Kids Ministry. So I asked her to take me to The Feast.

I will never forget the day I first visited The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) because it was my birthday-- October 23, 2012. I was going through challenges in life back then and was craving for spiritual growth. I felt uplifted after. Despite that, it took two years before I could go back. 

In 2014, wanting to learn sign language, I enrolled at the College of St. Benilde and took up a one-year course on Filipino Sign Language (FSL). One time, there was this event in school called Sing It with Signs. As I was really interested in sign language, I attended the affair, along with some classmates. This is where I met Miss Naty Natividad, coordinator of the Deaf Life Skills Development Program. After the session, she approached us and invited us to practise sign language at The Feast.

In my desire to improve my signing skills, I did not hesitate to accept Miss Naty’s invitation.

Back at The Feast, I had a good time because I found a place where I could enhance my signing skills. 

Yes, I must admit that at first, my only purpose in attending the prayer gathering was to improve my skills. But, as time went by, my purpose changed. As I got immersed in my service, I began to love attending the Mass and listening to the talks. I also realized and remembered why I studied FSL in the first place -– not for my own sake, but really to help the deaf.

Now, it warms my heart that I am contributing to the spreading of the Gospel and bringing more people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Back to The Church

I now always look forward to the Mass and receive God’s message for me and to learn something new about God’s word and our faith. I am now a regular churchgoer on Sundays. I may not have a perfect attendance but I try as much as possible to go every Sunday. In a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I would rate myself as 7. 

I also make it a point to go to Confession every year before a retreat.

I now have a closer relationship with God and my faith in Him grows deeper and stronger every day.

 

Thursday, 26 January 2017 17:06

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The author is a businesswoman, now 55 years old. We decided to withhold her identity  to protect her privacy and the privacy of the people involved in her harrowing life. We also changed names of the people and places in this edifying story.

Her Story

IN 1998, my husband Bob and I separated and I was left with three young children to raise. Six years after, in 2004, I found a boyfriend, Carl.  Seven years after, in 2010, we separated. Then my business deteriorated and I faced a P20-million debt. I wanted to die.

How did I hit this rock bottom of my life?

In the beginning, I thought I was just a simple girl, one of three children in our family. My father ran a furniture business. It wasn’t easy  so he wanted me to study Nursing so I could go abroad, earn dollars, and live a better life.

So I studied Nursing like the rest of humanity hoping to earn dollars. But by the time I graduated, the once lucrative Nursing field was just about saturated. I couldn’t find a job so I settled to work without pay in a hospital— just to be able to have a better credential in my resume that should snag that job abroad my parents wished for me.

After a year, however, I realized  Nursing was not  for me. I quit my job and for lack of something better to do, I helped out in my father’s furniture business.

After just a year or so, I realized doing business was what I wanted to do. I was good at it and I eventually learned the best way to prosper the furniture business.

By this time I had already married Bob. Alas, Bob turned out to be a bum and a drug addict. We quarrelled a lot and the bitter fights led to our separation in 1998.

With three kids to raise, I didn’t have a second to grieve over the collapse of my marriage. I quickly moved on, concentrating on succeeding in my business.

A Charmed Life

Six years after Bob and I separated, I met Carl, a married man. We fell in love and he took good care of me. 

And I must say at this point, I enjoyed a charmed life. Aside from my happy relationship, I was also doing great as an entrepreneur.  I expanded the furniture business to lumber and construction, and other businesses.I had some 700 employees under me. And business was so good, in no time, I was able to buy units of heavy equipment,  a condo, and a couple of townhouses in Manila— plus seven luxury cars, with chauffeurs at my beck and call.

Money came pouring unto my office, my staff had to stuff them in various bayongs or native baskets before we could deposit them in banks.

I had so much money I shopped in high-end stores, pampering myself with imported,  branded clothes, bags, shoes— name it, I had it.

I also had been able to send my children to good schools. Dan went into medicine, Earl in culinary art, and Fiona in medical technology.

Then suddenly, all these good things came to an end.

Falling Rock Bottom

In 2010, on the seventh year of our relationship,  I noticed Carl was getting chummy with his secretary, Genna, 55 years old, and a married woman.

To my horror, I found out Genna had been engaging in the occult and had used some kind of devilish power to separate Carl and me.

Relentlessly, I fought for Carl — even to the point of learning some occult practices myself to counter Genna’s attacks.

But to my despair, Genna succeeded in snagging Carl from me.

This evil battle so drained me, I just didn’t have anymore energy left for my businesses. I did not feel like meeting with suppliers and clients or fulfilling my commitments to them.

When my staff came to my office to refer something about our  work, I simply could not respond to them. They found me just staring to nothingness.

As a result, one by one, my businesses deteriorated.

All that was viable was my furniture company. I had to let go of my employees, leaving only a skeleton force to get the furniture business going.

Worse, I found myself buried deep in debt. The banks  and private groups I was transacting with all sent me demand letters to pay up loans which, with accumulating interests and charges, bloated to a whopping P20 million!

That meant I must earn at least P700,000 a month  in the next three years or so to pay up my obligations— which was simply impossible as I had only the furniture business as my source of income.

I wished my life to end. But I didn’t even have energy to contemplate suicide.

My hapless life then  so paralyzed me I just stayed at home most of the time watching TV— which, on hindsight, I can now say was a blessing in disguise.

On television, I chanced upon the program of Bro. Mike Velarde and hearing his preaching, I began to realize how empty my spiritual life was.

All throughout my human existence, I really had no connection with God. I hardly prayed. I was Catholic but I did not go to Mass.

Of course, with my material possessions, I simply had no need for God. I could just have everything I wanted by my sheer intelligence, talent, skill, and sweat.

But, with close to nothing, in this, my emptiness, there was now a space for God.

I began to yearn for Him. I called on Him to come and help me.

Finding The Feast

Also on television, I chanced upon a program of The Feast, the prayer gathering being led by Bro. Bo Sanchez at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Among Bro. Bo’s Feast talks what most impressed me was his teaching on financial literacy. That money is not evil. That what’s evil is the love of money.

Bro. Bo explained that when bad people become rich, they use their money for bad things. So, he said he is preaching to good people to strive to be financially abundant because good people will use their money for good things, especially sharing their wealth to spread God’s Word and help the poor rise above their misery.

For me, that was a mind-blowing perspective about money. Because all my life, I had worked only for my own aggrandizement!

So, I believe in response to my plea for God to fill the emptiness  that pained me, He  eventually led me to meet Bro. Bo.

It happened one Sunday.

Earl, my second son, was to go abroad for his on-the-job training  to finish his culinary course. I had to drive for him to the airport. Yes, I had to drive myself because by this time, I had no more chauffeurs.

After I saw Earl off, as I was coming from the airport, I realized I was on Roxas Boulevard, the road leading to PICC where Bro. Bo led The Feast.

Promptly, I made a turn that was to change my life forever.

The first floor of PICC’s Plenary Hall where The Feast was being held was already filled so I went up and found a seat at the second floor.

Since I was way far from the stage, I watched the program on the big screen onstage. Then, at one time, to my surprise, I saw my face flashed on the screen!

And I was like, of the big crowd in that huge hall, was God singling me out, focusing on me, welcoming me?

The Holy Mass, the moving Worship, and Bro. Bo’s talk— they all awakened me to God’s Glorious Presence, reducing me to tears.

Then, as the band played the closing music, I saw people swarming around Bro. Bo, shaking his hands, taking pictures, even asking for his autograph.

Quickly, I went down and joined the crowd.  I didn’t need to shake Bro. Bo’s hands, or take his picture, or have his autograph. What I needed was to pour out my woes to him. And that’s what I did. At the top of my voice, I called out to Bro. Bo.

To my amazement, above the din of the crowd, not to mention the blaring band music, Bro. Bo heard me, turned to me, listened to me, and comforted me.

I went back to The Feast the next Sunday, and the next, and the next… Even as at the time, I was already scrimping on money to be able to pay my loans.   Wretched me, who had seven fancy cars and was served by chauffeurs, now had to take the bus from my house in Quezon City to Feast PICC.

Anyway, every closing time of The Feast, I scampered to Bro. Bo just to talk about my sorry life. When I could not catch him by the stage, I even sought him backstage, in his holding room, asking him for a way out of my miserable situation.

Bro. Bo patiently listened to me and shared with me practical steps to pay up my loans.  In time, I attended his Truly Rich seminars and learned more steps to gain back my losses.

Back to the Church

Maybe the sub-title of this portion should not be Back to the Church because I was never really a practising Catholic, right?

Maybe, the title is Back to God, because without me knowing, I’ve been with God— or all along, God has been with me. I strayed away, but He never let go of me, and He drew me back to Him through The Feast and Bro. Bo.

Since then, I have been practising everything Bro. Bo says about following the teachings of our Lord Jesus— to the letter, mind you.  I now attend the Holy Mass regularly, I have a non-negotiable prayer time, just basking in God’s Loving Presence, and I share a portion of my income for the poor.

And I must say when you believe and trust in God, when you follow Christ, everything in your life will fall into place.

Since attending The Feast, I have gradually cleaned up my act. Following Bro. Bo’s practical advice on managing my finances, I now have just a few loans to pay.

I am now good and ready to resuscitate my crumbling businesses. But on second thought, I am making a  new decision. I know that if I work again on all my businesses, I won’t have time for The  Feast. So I am turning my back on those bad businesses. I am just continuing the furniture business so I can live a descent life, have time for The Feast  and deepening my relationship with Jesus —which is now my top priority.

Anyway, with Jesus in my life I believe that everything else I need will follow.

I actually now see God working powerfully in my life.

To my pleasant surprise, I am blessed with suppliers and clients — coming to me much easier than in the olden days when I was struggling on my own to build my businesses.

My children who had to suffer with me throughout my bankruptcy have eventually recovered too. Dan is now a doctor, and Earl an executive chef. Both are working abroad. Fiona, my youngest, will soon finish her Med Tech course. She still lives with me and she goes with me to The Feast.

Most important, with the spiritual nourishment I get weekly at The Feast, I have decided to turn away from my old ways and I now trek nothing but the road to righteousness, especially in my business dealings.

Friends who knew my old life are so impressed by my transformation they have been inspired to join me at The Feast.

The Feast has brought me back to God and to His Holy Mass, and to my Catholic Faith which I fervently pray I will never ever lose anymore.

To God be the glory.

     

Friday, 20 January 2017 13:24

About the Author

Lorenza Pilar C. Salvador, 33, married, is a college graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Psychology.

She serves as guidance counselor at a public technical-vocational high school where she works with high school students, teachers, parents, and the community, aiming to develop a healthy environment that’s conducive for learning. 

“I help students make wise and informed career decisions and better choices in life,” she says.

Lorenza lives in Quezon, Bukidnon.

Her Story

I used to be a nominal Catholic, making justifications why I could not go to church every Sunday, why I could not tithe, why I had vices, and why I could not follow certain Biblical principles. I never read the Bible, in the first place.

I lived as if I owned my life. I believed I could do with my body whatever I pleased and I just asked for God’s forgiveness afterwards-- although I never really understood what it meant to be forgiven. 

I believed I was a spiritual being, but I didn’t realize my spiritual life was dead and non-existent. I always ended up empty. 

Straying Away

I never went to Sunday Mass regularly. I grew up believing it was okay not to go to church every Sunday as long as I prayed before going to sleep every night— as long as I believed in God. 

I did not attend other non-Catholic churches but I came to a point where I almost joined another religion. I listened to their teachings, I enjoyed sharing Bible readings with a member of their church, and I read their magazines.

Finding The Feast

I came to know more about The Feast when Feast Baliwag builders Madylene San Juan, Mark Timothy Pagaduan, and Jodhie Hizon came to Bukidnon. A colleague and I organized a one-day training for teachers and we invited Madylene and Mark as trainers/resource persons.

Since 2013, I have been regularly “joining” The Feast in PICC without leaving my kitchen. I watch The Feast via You Tube. I play Feast Videos on You Tube, turn the volume up high, and immerse myself in worship like I am at the PICC. 

One thing I like most about The Feast is that the preachers are able to deliver God’s message without sounding too preachy, thus creating an inclusive and welcoming environment that makes even the not-so-religious person feel at home and comfortable. 

When people feel comfortable and welcomed, they tend to be more open-- open to ideas, and eventually open to teachings.

Back to the Chuch

Listening to the speakers in The Feast, I’ve realized how important it is to attend Sunday Mass regularly. And so I’ve come back to the Church, as if there’s an internal check within me that just got reactivated. Today, Sundays are never complete without me going to church. It makes me happy and I can tell God is happy about it, too. I know, because gradually, He is answering my prayers for my kids and husband to go to church with me. Actually, my husband agreed that we become members of the Seminary Benefactors Association in Bukidnon.

The Feast has made me understand why I was born and raised Catholic.

One thing about The Feast that has influenced me to go back to the Faith is its ability to strengthen people’s faith and its subtle way of helping people acquire an understanding of God’s purpose for them. 

Before knowing The Feast, I was a nominal Catholic who only went with the motion-- getting blown by the wind into every direction. With the help of The Feast, I somehow came to understand God’s plan for me -- an understanding that I thought could only be provided to me by another religious group that takes religion “religiously.” 

Most important, I like how The Feast tells me how I am freely blessed, and so I will bless others freely. It encourages people to reach their fullest potential not for personal gain but to be able to serve other people just as Jesus did. This has given me a sense of direction--a sense of purpose. 

I never saw this in Catholicism before. Probably not because it wasn’t taught, but because I never had the enthusiasm to listen. The Feast has fired up that enthusiasm in me.

It isn’t until lately that I’ve come to see the beauty of Catholicism. It has no restrictions in a sense that it does not impose its beliefs, practices, and rituals on Catholics. It does, however, provide the perfect medium for everyone to experience Christ in everything one does. And once we do, one freely surrenders to Christ’s leading without coercion.

I like The Feast simply because it’s fun. People like to have fun. In the process, however, you get to gradually fall in love with Jesus. And when you love, you do everything to make your relationship with this Someone work. 

In The Feast, I’ve fallen in love intensely with Jesus and this time I’ve found the determination to make this relationship work-- to preserve and protect the relationship so that I may never leave His side again. 

There’s nowhere else I’d rather be but here. 
 

Friday, 20 January 2017 12:01

About the Author

Shellie Anne Javier, 26, married, holds a diploma in Information Technology.

She lives in Mandaluyong City.

Shellie got married on May 8, 2016, one of the best blessings she has ever received after being unchurched throughout her young life.

Her Story

I WAS baptized a Catholic but I was what you might call unchurched— because  I hardly attended Mass.

There are  two reasons I didn’t practice my Catholic Faith.

First, attending Mass was not part of my family’s life. We just didn’t feel like going to church because well, it was hot and humid there. Yeah, such plain and simple reason.

Second, when I was in my teens, a relative  who used to be Catholic but who converted into another Christian religion, pointed out to me “wrong” Catholic practices. So I did not appreciate being a Catholic.

Although I was unchurched, I can say I was not at all a bad girl. Though we didn’t go to church, we kids imbibed  desirable values from our parents— such as kindness, honesty, responsibility.

Although I was not a practising Catholic, I somehow felt a need for spiritual enlightenment. This longing started one day when I was in fourth year high school. I saw on the desk of  a classmate a book titled The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Curious, I reached for the book, and as I got to hold it, it flipped open on the first page. I started to read the page, but my classmate pulled the book from me, as she was not yet done reading it.

What I remembered reading was something like, it was not an accident that I got to see the book— that there was a purpose for it.

Since then, I began to think about this purpose. What could it be?

Also at this time, through another friend, I got hold of a book titled Simplify by Bro. Bo Sanchez. Impressed by what he wrote, I wished I’d meet him someday.

But I was not able to pursue this quest for my purpose. Life became hard as my parents faced financial troubles.  Although still studying, I took a part-time job to help lighten my parents’ burden. I so focused on surviving life, I forgot all about finding my real purpose for living.

Finding The Feast

By sheer determination, I finished college and began working full time. I hopped from one job to another. In one company, I met Kevin who talked about The Feast, the prayer gathering of the Light of  Jesus Family where, he said, the main speaker was Bro. Bo Sanchez.    

Hmmm, I wished I would meet Bro. Bo, didn’t I?

Kevin invited me to attend Feast PICC, and I readily accepted his invitation. At The Feast, I got to listen to Bro. Bo Sanchez and well appreciated his talks.

But my focus was still financial success. In the next two years, I got so busy with my job I skipped attending The Feast.

In my busyness, I didn’t notice my life was already a mess.

One day, I just found out my parents had already separated. I was so busy, I hardly spent time with my siblings. They had grown fast —without a close relationship with me.

Then, I lost my regular job.  At the peak of my career, I spent my money as fast as I earned it. Until by the time I lost my job, I realized I had no savings.

And I still was not clear what I was really living for.

I was empty inside out.

Back to The Feast

On hindsight, I now thank that I was drained of everything that mattered to me. For then in my emptiness, God was able to come into my heart.

Needing relief from my woes, I went back to The Feast. I went there to ask God what’s going on in my life, to cry, to rant, and yes, to surrender. Every pain, I gave it to Him.

It was already 2013. I attended The Feast regularly and became a member of the Light of Jesus Family.

In 2014 I began to serve as writer for The Feast bulletin.

Hearing Bro. Bo’s talks on establishing close relationship not only with God but with our family as well, I began to spend time with my siblings, and my parents

By this time too, I had already found a job in an Information Technology firm. Everything—my family relationship, my job, my ministry— seemed to fall into place for me.

And I grew closer and closer to God. Yet, I learned that even as you have a close relationship with the Lord, you are not exempt from challenges in this imperfect world. For it is in the time when you are in deep trouble that you realize God’s Power and His Amazing Grace.

One day, my father lost his job and I had to stand as sole breadwinner in the family. In the past, my knees  would have buckled with fear over such heavy responsibility. But hearing Bro. Bo’s talks about God’s abundant provisions, I didn’t lose hope. And indeed, I saw how God move in my favor.

First, the talks so fortified my faith that I did not leave The Feast as I did before.

At this time, I lived in Laguna. It cost me P70.00 for a bus ride from my place to the Vito Cruz area, plus P8.00 for the one-kilometer jeepney ride to PICC. In sum, the round trip cost was P156.00  I figured I would save the P16 I spent for the jeepney ride if I just walked. So I walked— a total 2 kilometers—to The Feast and back to Vito Cruz, Sunday after Sunday. And happily, I added the money I saved to my tithe for each Feast Sunday.

Second, God provided. It is often said that God will not be out-given, that He will return whatever you give Him a hundredfold. True.

Also in 2014, the Light of Jesus started a project to build an online library and called for applicants for the post of researcher. I applied for the post which gave the salary I hoped for, and now I serve as Information Technology (IT) resource staff of the Light of Jesus Library Ministry. Wow, what could be a better job than working for my faith community!

Third, I found my one true love. I met Ronald in one of my jobs when I was 19 years old. We became good friends and in 2013, when I went back to The Feast, I invited him to attend too. Ronald in time became my boyfriend. He was kind and caring and fall inlove with the Feast too. So, I realized he would be the man I would marry.

On May 8, 2016, we got married in a beautiful wedding that gathered together my dad and mom, my siblings, and all the persons who matter to me, including Ronald’s family, relatives, and friends.

After our wedding, Ronald and I flew to Bali, Indonesia, for our honeymoon.

Finding The Church

The first time I made the Sign of the Cross was when I was 7 years old.  Back then, my dad brought me for an overnight visit with my godfather Rico,  in Batangas.

In the evening, before we went to bed, my ninong’s sister, Tita, taught me to pray, starting with the Sign of the Cross.

Then, Tita encouraged me to talk to Jesus. Young as I was, I felt good, peaceful, even.

After our prayer, Tita turned off the light. In the darkness, I saw something luminous on her altar.

It was a rosary. It was the first time ever in my life that I saw a rosary— the first time I learned about Mary.

After that visit, I began to be conscious about God. I started to pray at night.

But it was such a wobbly faith, barely nurtured because my family was so hard up, we just focused on surviving  the daily grind.

When I was in high school, my classmates and I went to church— when there was no Mass. We went there  just to hang out. I did not like attending the Mass because it was noisy throughout the service. I could not hear, much more understand what was going on.

Now, at the air-conditioned PICC, and with the good sound system, it is so pleasant to attend the Mass. I well understand what the priest is saying throughout the various parts of the Mass, the readings, and the priest’s homily.

Hearing teachings about the Catholic Faith, I’ve begun to appreciate the Sacraments.

I went to confession for the first time in our parish church. I was already 24 years old, and I confessed to the priest that it was my first time ever to go to confession.

The priest told me, “Welcome home, my child. Heaven is rejoicing because you are finally home.”

Those words so moved me, I began to love attending Mass not just in The Feast but in my parish church as well.

Once, I was unchurched. But now, as staff of the Library of the Light of Jesus Family, I pleasantly conserve materials that define my faith community’s role in Church history!

  

 

Thursday, 19 January 2017 14:40

 About the Author

Fatima Angela E. Santos, 22, single, is a graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Management, majoring in International Culinary Arts.

She was previously employed at UCC Café, Ermita, preparing salads, spaghetti, and other short orders.

She lives in Cainta, Rizal.

Fatima attended Mass only because her family members  were attending. She had a change of heart when she learned more about the Catholic Faith,

Her Story

In my younger years, my father left us. I felt abandoned and consequently, I’d been wary about being close to people, afraid they’d also leave as my father did. I felt I needed to overcome such feeling.

As for my spiritual life, I attended Mass because my mom, my brother, and sister were going. I attended Mass regularly only because I felt it was my obligation to do so.

Finding The Feast

My mom and sibs are members of The Feast and they serve actively in Feast Marikina. Eventually, I attended The Feast in 2013. But it was only in February 2015 that I decided to serve. I signed up at the Events and Media Ministry.

At The Feast, I feel accepted, loved as I am. 

My Ministry head, Sis. Abegail M. Birosel, makes me feel comfortable at The Feast. And she trusts me in my service. That is why I am motivated to work better. And our Feast Builder, Bro. Monching Bueno is a person who truly appreciates every work you do. He recognizes my effort and this makes me more inspired and happier each time I attend The Feast.

Loving the Church

The Feast is a happy place. We happily learn about the Word of God. It’s one reason I like most about our  Catholic Faith. It is not as strict as other Christian religions. We are not obliged to memorize the Word of God phrase by phrase.

Because of the easy ways at The Feast, gradually, I am overcoming my feeling of being uncomfortable with people.

Yes, the people at The Feast make me happy. They encourage me to join in various activities. They make me love myself more each time.  They do not judge, either, and they do not ask too many questions. Instead, they just take me as I am.

I am now serving at Feast Marikina as in charge of the Multi-Media projector. I take care of our Easy Worship backgrounds, lyrics for the songs for the Mass and the Worship session.

I feel happy and proud that now I can connect with other people as I am, and they accept me and love me as I am.

 

Monday, 09 January 2017 12:30

About the Author

Eiselle Joyce R. Hidalgo, 27, single, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Technology.

She works as recipe researcher and developer and baking instructor for one of the oldest culinary schools in the country. She also makes baking recipes for food and lifestyle magazines and social media pages.

Eiselle  owns an online bakery called Flour Revolution: Art That Can Be Eaten. She bakes customized cakes, cupcakes, and cookies for any occasion.

She lives in Quezon City.

Eiselle said she didn’t think much about “spiritual stuff”. She centered her life to her boyfriend, they broke up, and she thought of committing suicide. A friend helped her change her mind.

Her Story

I used  to have a wrong notion about what love is. As a child I thought that for me to be loved, I had to earn it. Like, I must perform well in school— always be on top of the class, join extra-curricular activities and be the best at it, go home with stars stamped on my hand. If I performed less, I would not get what I want. Like an increase in my allowance, a new toy, and such.

Then, when I was in Grade 6,  a boy courted me, said he loves me,  and so I learned that I didn't need to do much for a guy to like me. I so enjoyed that kind of attention, I became a boy addict, jumping from one short relationship to another. From Grade 6 until I graduated from college, I never missed a day without being in a relationship or even just in a fling.              

I was so engrossed with boys, I didn’t think much about spiritual stuff. But then in college, a classmate invited me to attend a service of a non-Catholic church. For the first time,  I experienced lively worship, an inspiring talk, and Bible reading,  and I felt  connected to God.

The classmate who invited me to attend this church service became my Discipler who journeyed with me to have a personal relationship with the Lord. It was her discipleship in the form of friendship that accompanied me in those unstable days of my life.

So I attended the church’s services for the youth. I joined a small group of young people and eventually led one. I loved my role leading my fellow young friends in Christ.

But I didn‘t have the courage to convert into this sect because at the back of my mind, I knew my Catholic parents would not approve it.

Anyway, in this church, I learned to surrender my life to Christ. Except one area— my love life. I  told the Lord to take charge over my life, but the area of my love life is mine. I will take charge.

I was then 20 years old. I was in a relationship —one of my longest and which I thought was the most serious.

On our fourth year of relationship, however,  we suddenly broke up. I was ashamed to tell my family that my relationship failed. I had no one else to talk to. I so centered my life to this boy, I just didn’t have any close friend. I was devastated. I could not eat. I could not  sleep. I lost a lot of weight in just one week. I thought of committing suicide. But on that day, my Discipler friend, who I had not seen for the longest time, texted me.

Apparently, she found out about  the breakup, and she suggested we meet and just hang out.

The last part of her text message was what saved me. She said, “Don’t do anything stupid, okay?”

At once, I came to my senses, and I just burst into tears.

I met up with my friend and I poured out my anguish to her. My friend stayed with me and simply listened.That night, I was able to sleep peacefully. I realized, I was just keeping all the hurt inside me, and I just needed a friend to talk with to lighten my burden. From there,  I decided to put myself back together.

Finding The Feast

In college, I had a best friend who grew up belonging to a charismatic community and eventually joined The  Feast of the Light of Jesus Family.

A month after the breakup with my boyfriend, out of the blue,  my college best friend invited me to Feast Makati where she has been attending.

I attended and am I happy I did. The first time I attended The Feast, I knew I was at home. I so felt accepted and loved.

I can’t forget the talk that night. It was about pruning your being to rid of excesses that serve as obstacles to your victorious life with the Lord.  The preacher was Sis. Rissa Kawpeng-Singson, but I felt the Lord was speaking to me through her.

What she said was etched in my mind: "God takes away something in your life, with or without your permission, because He wants you to grow.”

It was my turning point. I cried so much to the Lord as I knew He was calling me to surrender that aspect of my life that I'd been withholding from Him for so long. It was the night I gave my all to Christ and made Him captain of my life.

It was the most glorious surrender I’d ever done. In God, I rooted my identity. I learned to be secure that no one can make me see myself of lesser value than what God created me to be. I experienced that with His love, I don't need to perform. His Love  is freely given. He accepts me the way I am.

I realized that no man on Earth can ever satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. Only Jesus can. I learned that God created me beautiful and even made me more beautiful, twice over, because of what He did for me on the Cross.

From then on, I spent time reading the Bible and in prayer. I took my eyes off myself, and began to fix my eyes on Jesus. I realized, in Him and His great love for me, I am well secure.

I’ve been a regular attendee in Feast Makati for five years now. I am a member of a Light Group. And I am one of the youth heads and a campus mission volunteer for the Campus Life Ministry at the University of Sto. Tomas and University of the Philippines.

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I’ve learned to love being a Catholic. I now appreciate the Sacraments and I like praying the Rosary.

 

Monday, 09 January 2017 12:21

About the Author

Blaise Cedrick Nethercott Gomez, 29, married, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Multimedia.

A photographer, Blaise had many questions about religion that made it difficult for him to practice his Catholic Faith. But in time, he found answers that, in his words, “pacified my troubled mind.”

He lives in Quezon City.

His Story

I AM a product of a university that encourages critical thinking and academic and intellectual freedom. So I learned to challenge every social concept and norm.

Yes, I challenged even the concept of God and religion. Questions plagued my mind and challenged the belief that regular Sunday catechism gave me. Questions like:

If theres a God, why is there so much hate and anger in the world? Amid all of these chaos and inequality,  what is the Church doing to help ease the plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Where is God during these times of difficulty and anarchy? Is religion still relevant?

It took me years to finally pacify my troubled mind. I read, researched, and discussed my issues with peers— like how a real scholar should when searching for the truth.

As a result,I concluded that perhaps God is real but religion is, at best, an option for a life worth living. My point was, if the Holy Bible indeed contained everything that we need to live a moral life why do we still need religion?

During this period in my life I  attended Sunday Mass regularly but not for the right reasons. I was there not to take part in the holy ceremony but just to observe.

Going Astray

The Sunday Mass looked to me as a useless ritual that society required Church members to participate in, in exchange for social acceptance. During the homily, I heard priests who seemed to be more interested in local showbiz gossip and the latest twist in the local teleserye than explaining the Gospel to the common Juan. So that did not help.

Sometimes I heard priests who were able to explain the Gospel logically—but that was a rare occurrence.

It seemed to me that I would eventually end up like my friends in the university who believed in the existence God but not in the importance of religion. I absolutely agreed with Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” 

Because it made total sense to me: if God was love, then why are Christians fighting and hurting each other? Why is there still corruption, division, and inequality? I was certainly not seeing Christ in the community of believers that I was in.

Finding The Feast

One day, my parents and I accepted the invitation of our friends, Peter and Fe Zambale, to attend The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) where they have been attending and serving regularly.       

At first, my parents excused themselves from attending The Feast, saying that the venue was too far from where we live—in the northern part of Quezon City. Besides, the round trip fare was expensive.

Then it happened. In 2011, a few days before Christmas, my mother slipped and fell outside a mall.  She suffered a broken leg, so she was confined in hospital. There, while she waited for her leg to heal,  she conversed with God and promised that once she is able to walk, we will all attend The Feast. Then as soon as she could, even with a heavy cast on her leg, she brought all of us to Feast PICC.

Upon hearing Bro. Bo Sanchez’s explanation of God’s word, I slowly but surely changed my mind about religion’s importance in my life.

It is in attending The Feast every Sunday that I discovered the Light of Jesus Family and experienced the kind of caring community of Christians that I was longing for.

My hobby is photography so I attended the Photojournalism for the Lord seminar conducted by the Feast Media Ministry and I joined The Feast bulletin’s pool of photographers. To this day, I also use the skills I learned from the seminar to spread God’s message to others through social media.

Back to the Church

The priests who celebrate Mass in The Feast made me appreciate the importance of this Eucharistic celebration, explaining the Gospel in a manner that I can understand.

The cool, quiet Plenary Hall of PICC helps enhance the solemnity of the Mass--  this is in contrast to most churches where the environment is less than ideal for meditation and understanding God’s message.

Once I was filled with God’s love, I decided to share it— by serving full time in our parish church’s choir group as a guitarist as well as in another community’s music ministry.

So, I’ve been through an amazing journey-- from being a skeptic and critic of religion to a true believer, follower, and servant of God. God indeed has His way of winning His people back.

In my case, I was able to appreciate God and the highest form of praise, the Mass, through The Feast and the Light of Jesus Family.

God, through the talks of Bro. Bo Sanchez, erased all my logical arguments against religion and replaced them with His everlasting, overflowing love.

As Stanley Lindquist put it: “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them.

I found and understood such meaning at The Feast.

Monday, 09 January 2017 12:08

About the Author

Denelyn Loterte, 28, single, lives in Antipolo City.

She holds a Bachelor of  Science in Technical Teacher Education degree,  major in English. And for a while, she taught English in grade school and high school.

But Denelyn loves public speaking and writing. So she would have time for these activities, she  prayed for a home-based job with higher pay. Some 30 days after she filed her resignation, she found a home-based job.

Denelyn also went through a phase of searching for a church service where she could really feel God. It took a while for this prayer to be answered.

Is This What God Wants?

I belong to a Catholic family. We attended Mass only on occasions like birthdays,  Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter. And when we did attend, we left even before the priest  gave his  final blessing. 

I have been to various religious groups seeking for something. I could not figure it out before, but deep down in my heart, I knew there was more into this life.

A friend invited me to attend a non-Chritian service and I attended just to please her.

I also attended various Christian services, enjoying  the lively praise and worship songs, but still feeling disconnected to God throughout the talks.

I remember, I first felt connected with God when I was in fourth year high school. I attended a leadership seminar held by the Alagad ni Maria, a community of priests whose apostolate is evangelizing the youth through Samahang Likha Para sa Kabataan ng Ating Bayan (SLK). It was the first time I really felt close to Jesus. I also learned to revere the Blessed Virgin Mary and to pray the Rosary.

One time, I attended a Christian service.  To my dismay, the pastor degraded Mama Mary asking why Catholics adored her when she was  just a mere human being.  I thought the preaching was divisive.

In my mind, I asked,  “Is this what God wants? Is this what Jesus teaches? Pitting religious groups against each other?”

I went home with a heavy heart and did not go back to that group.

I then asked God, “Is there a Catholic group that has Mass, talks, and lively worship?”

Finding The Feast

One Sunday morning, at 8 a.m., I turned on the television to look for an anime or any good TV program.

I happened to go to IBC 13 and saw a young preacher  speaking. His words were so kind and gentle, yet so powerful, I wanted to hear more. I then learned that the preacher was Bro. Bo Sanchez, and the prayer gathering was called The Feast being held live at the Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC). The time for the second session was flashed on screen.

I was like, “I am attending!”

I jumped off my seat, took a bath, and dressed up.

I texted friends and asked for directions to PICC. I received text messages from my friends giving me two directions. I decided to follow the first instruction— go to Taft via MRT. But instead of riding in a jeepney, from there,  I took a taxi to PICC.  Easy right?

I felt so welcomed and so loved at The Feast. In the first few months that I was attending the gathering, I always found myself crying.The talks were like really intended for me.  I remember I prayed for a Catholic fellowship similar to the non-Catholic services,  and I realized, The Feast was the answer to my prayer. I knew then I no longer needed to go and search for other religious groups —because I found all that I had been looking for at The Feast.

I have been attending The Feast since 2011. I  served  at the Training Ministry  and when it was reorganized as the Formation Ministry, I also volunteered as a servant  there. I also served with Campus Missions,  but  I had to quit as I got busy at work and other training courses that I  had to attend.

My friends in the ministries and I formed a small group like the Light Group and we now meet to discuss our reflections on The Feast talks, share our concerns, and pray for each other.

Back to the Church

In my heart, I  know now that the Catholic Faith reflects Jesus’ teaching of acceptance and belongingness. The Catholic Church may not be perfect— as all human beings who are part of the Church are not perfect— but I feel at home when I am in a Catholic church.

Most of the priests I know do not condemn other religious sects. Sometimes, I am even surprised to witness their love for others regardless of their religious orientation.

I love being Catholic especially now that  we have Pope Francis who is showing us Catholics how to be really Christ-like.

I do believe in God now not because the Church or other people told me to do so. I believe now because I believe. I’ve experienced God’s love and mercy in my life and no matter what others may say about my Faith, I will just smile and be patient with them. Because I understand them. God has been patient with me in my times of  wandering, seeking, questioning Him, until I found the answer. I know they will, too. So who am I to judge them?

Right now, I am contemplating on what  vocation to choose—entering a religious life,  single blessedness, or the married life.

I am attending Mass in my parish church and I stay in the adoration chapel more often now, to listen to God’s directions for me.

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 13:42

About the Author

Anamaria Teresa C. Aquino, 36, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Computer Science. 

She lives in Marikina City.

Anamaria’s  job has to do with an online casino which she describes as a “sinful place.”

Her little son brought her to a happier place.

Her Story

I was not a regular churchgoer. I heard Mass whenever I just felt like going. I did not join any religious community. And neither was I a Bible reader.

Finding The Feast

I heard about The Feast from my six-year-old son. He heard about Feast Bluewave Marikina from his cousins whose parents brought them to the prayer gathering. The children became members of The Feast version for children called Awesome Kids,  and whenever they played with my son, the cousins gushed about,  yes, the awesome activities.

So day in and day out, my son bugged me to bring him to Feast Bluewave Marikina. Yes, God would do all He can to bring us unto His fold. For me, he used a kid’s Pester Power to drive me to Faith Power.

The first time I attended The Feast, people warmly welcomed me, even hugged me, as if we’ve known each other for a long time. 

Aside from the life-changing talks, this is what I like most about The Feast: There, you are accepted whatever your status in life is. There, I don’t feel like I am an outcast. I feel from my brothers and sisters God’s unconditional love for me.     

Within three weeks that I’d been attending The Feast,  I faced a trial I never thought would happen to me—  especially at the time when I had started to get close to God. I thought He was being unfair to me, and so I cried out to Him, “Why?!”

I felt so bad, I did not feel like attending The Feast anymore.

But friends in Feast Bluewave comforted me. They did not allow me to stray away from the Lord. They embraced me and gently guided me closer to God. They let me feel how much God loves me— even as I’d questioned Him a lot. And so I realized there are trials that  have to happen to you so you will hold on to God.

Instead of walking away, I decided to serve God in Feast Bluewave. I am now a member of the Food Ministry.

 Back to The Church

Through The Feast, I learned so much regarding the Catholic Faith. 

Like, before, I thought the Holy Mass was simply an obligation Catholics must fulfil. At The Feast, I learned that the Holy Mass is the “highest form of worship.” I learned that the host we take during Holy Communion is not just a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is Jesus we take and accept as we remember that God loves us so much, He sent His only begotten Son so that we may be redeemed from sin.

 

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 13:26

About the Author

Maria Cristina B. Haleco, 41, married, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology.

She’s a stay-at-home mom, happy to serve as tutor for her child.

She and her family live in Angat, Bulacan.

Maria Cristina said she was hardly serious about her Faith, and, she added,  “There was no peace in our home…”

Her Story 

There was a time I didn’t have deep faith. I’d always felt there was something missing, or lacking in my life.

There was no peace in our home. I’d have arguments with my husband even about small stuff.

I hardly prayed, hardly read the Bible.

Finding The Feast

A relative invited me to attend The Feast. I’ve been a member for five years now.

What I like most about The Feast is that we are one in spirit. Everyone is welcome. When you need someone to talk to, many are ready to listen to you.

The talks have helped my family in our everyday life, giving us shield against trials.

Since we became regular attendees, our family life has become beautiful. We are happy even if we have problems. We became real close to one another and to God.

I also like that we pray not only for ourselves but for others as well. I like that we are reading the Bible and we are encouraged to share the teachings with others.

Back to The Church

The Feast has strengthened my once faltering faith. I’ve since appreciated that Catholicism is alive and cannot be moved or destroyed.

I’ve  served at Feast Baliwag. In 2013 I was a member of the Prayer Warriors Ministry and in 2014, head of ushers and greeters ministry.

 

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 13:09

About the Author

Ma. Lourdes de los Angeles, in her 30s, lives in Pasig City and works in a Japanese electronics and appliance company in Makati.

Lou is the youngest among her 11 siblings.  All  of them were baptized Catholic like their parents, but later, some of her brothers and sisters converted to various religions.

Growing up with her pious Catholic mother, Lourdes loved the Holy Eucharist. Then her mother died in 2002. Distraught, Lou stopped going to church.

Her Story

The year 2002 is an unforgettable year for me. In June, my boyfriend Jasper (not his real name) told me he had leukemia. He was the athletic type so I found it difficult seeing him lose his vigor.

I wanted to take care of him, but he refused. His business in the country also suffered. Eventually, he decided to close his company and he went abroad for chemotherapy. At the same time, he gave up on our relationship because he did not know if he could ever recover.

I felt so alone.

But nothing prepared me for the next blow. In the morning of September 14, 2002, I felt uneasy in the office. I felt sick, so I decided to go back to my apartment and immediately went to bed to sleep off the malaise. I woke up at about 10 p.m. as my phone rang incessantly.

It was my brother calling from our home in Bacolod. He said our mother suffered a heart attack and was in serious condition. That’s probably why I felt sick for no apparent reason earlier that day.

My mother used to smoke heavily. Thus she    suffered a lung disease and her doctor prescribed a  medicine which she was to take regularly so her disease  won’t get worse. In the latter part of August, she took the medicine on an empty stomach, so she suffered acute gastritis. She had to be confined in hospital.

I spent sleepless nights over losing Jasper. But the pain was nothing compared to the thought  that I might also lose my mother.

Being the youngest in our family, I was closest to my Nanay. The very thought of her dying made me lose my appetite for two days.

I wanted to go home to take care of my mother. But my siblings convinced me that my mother’s condition was improving and she would soon check out of the hospital.True enough, soon, the doctor gave her permission to go home.

I found out from my brother that since she felt well already, Nanay called her brothers and sisters to come see her. It was a happy reunion but which exhausted her so much that she succumbed to a heart attack that morning of September 14.

I started packing right away. On my trip home, I prayed the hardest in my whole life. Please, dear God, give my mother some more time with us.

My siblings and I all came to be with our mother. On September 17, when we were all by her bedside, my mother peacefully breathed her last.

That day, I felt God being inconsiderate and heartless. Why wouldn’t He grant my simple wish? I only  asked to have more time with my mother so I could take care of her as she lovingly took care of me when I was little. Was that too much to ask?

I felt unsafe without the prayers of my mother. My faith stood on shaky ground.

In Manila, I lived with my sister and her family who are members of a religion opposed to Catholicism. Swayed by her, I started undergoing indoctrination to become a member of this sect. I actually completed the 25 sessions required to become a member. But somehow, I couldn’t get myself to become a full-fledged member. I sensed that something was amiss.

I have four other siblings who belong to various   religions.  So nobody encouraged me to practice my Catholic Faith—actually, not even my fellow Catholic siblings.

My sister continued to bug me to join her religion. So I decided to look for my own apartment. I found one and roomed with Jane (not her real name), who followed another non-Christian religion.

Eventually, under Jane’s influence and with the  lessons I learned from my sister’s church, I began to question my Catholic teachings, especially about   the Mass. Confused, I even stopped praying.

Years later, after somehow recovering from the pain of losing my mother, I forgave God. I started to read the Holy Bible. As I did, I started to fall in love with the Lord again and I wanted so much to seek Him.

In 2009, I got scared that I might be having cancer.  I opened up about my fears to a friend in the office. He happened to belong to a popular church which practices the teaching of Jesus that Christians can pray over the sick and the sick would get well. He invited me to attend a service in his church.

“Come,” he encouraged me, “so our prayer warriors can pray over you.”

I attended the service and some of the church members prayed over me.

I confided to another friend— a Catholic charismatic— that I attended the Christian service. She gave me a copy of the Kerygma magazine and encouraged me to attend The Feast. Finally, God found me.

Finding The Feast

In March 2009, I went to The Feast at the Valle Verde Country Club by myself. That day, after seven long years of absence, I heard the Holy Mass again. My spirit suddenly perked up. I then realized this was what I’d been longing for -– the Holy Eucharist. I surmised my Catholic foundation was what had held me from embracing another religion.

That Sunday, I started again my devotion to the Holy Eucharist.

 I was accustomed to the solemn way in Masses I used to attend, so at first, I was squeamish about the Worship part of The Feast, about raising hands and all.

But I saw the Feast attendees, especially the teenagers, having the time of their life during Worship—singing and dancing and jumping, raising, waving their hands in praise of God as if He was just right there in front of them.  And I realized that’s probably how God sees us when we worship Him.

Now, I couldn’t get enough of proclaiming His glory with my whole body and spirit.

Even when I was regularly attending The Feast, I still had many questions for the Lord. But through the formation program of The Feast, my questions were answered one by one, including the need for Confession.

Back to the Church

Today, seven years after my return to the Catholic fold, I continue to love the Eucharist. I have not missed going to church on Sundays. I even attend Mass on weekdays now.

Shortly after joining The Feast, I signed up for a Light Group (LG). Not long after, I became an LG head of the Singles Ministry. I am very much involved in its activities.

I’m glad to have met and made friends with wonderful people through The Feast. With them, I am able to apply the lessons from Bro. Bo Sanchez’s talks. Life has meaning, there’s so much joy, when you have true friends who love Jesus and are trying their best to walk the right path.

I am thankful for the formation program of The Feast because through it, I now have a better understanding and appreciation of my Catholic Faith. The Feast has led me closer to God and have an intimate relationship with Him. 

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 12:57

About the Author

Ayen, 36, is a Business Management graduate. She works as finance officer at an Information Technology (IT) consultancy firm.   

She lives in Marikina City.

Her Story 

I am an only child. So, when I was young, everything was easy.   I always got what I wanted.

Growing up, I did what Catholics do—pray, go to church every Sunday. I even studied in a Catholic school.

But I did these things out of sheer obligation. I went to church because my mom, who was very religious, told me so,  and our school required students to attend Mass.

I did not have a deep, personal relationship with God. Although I went to church every Sunday, I felt that my faith was not as strong as it should be. Even when I was married in a Catholic church.

Straying Away

In 2008, my life turned upside down. That year, my husband left me. So, all by myself, I had to raise our son.  He was diagnosed as suffering Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), having trouble focusing on tasks and subjects. Thus, he was difficult to take care of.

The following year, in 2009, my mother passed away.

To forget my misfortunes, I turned to alcohol. Because I had become an alcoholic, I was not exactly the kind of person you’d want to live with. I was always angry, bitter, resentful, simply filled with pain.

I quarrelled with my dad who, perhaps also burdened with life’s blows, got seriously ill. My father has a daughter from a previous relationship. I didn’t relate well with my half-sister, either.

Self-centered, I didn’t care much about my relatives and friends, so one by one, I lost them.

Neither was I the kind you’d like to work with. Impatient and selfish, I had practically turned off my officemates. So one day, I just had to quit my job. And since I was jobless, my finances dwindled.

The times when I was financially struggling, people close to me did not trust me anymore. I had no credibility.

In short, my life was simply one big mess.

I asked God, “Why me?”

I questioned Him so bad that I sounded like I was challenging Him.

I rebelled against my fate. I went on dates and had relationships even with married men.

Finding The Feast

I was so broken, I felt like I needed inner healing. Then, in March, 2014, someone invited me to attend Feast Quezon City. And this was when all the good changes in my life began.

At first, I felt awkward attending The Feast. Since I’d messed up my life, I was like,  “Do I really deserve to be here?”

But people at The Feast warmly welcomed me. In time I found out there’s a Feast in Marikina where I live, so I decided to attend there.

The Worship session renewed my faith in God. I began to believe that God indeed is a Healer and that no matter what happens, He would accept me and fight my battles with me. 

The inspiring talks have pierced through my heart of stone, making it a heart of love.

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I have been reminded that the Catholic Faith is powerful. Because I’ve been accepted at The Feast, I’ve been reminded our Church does not judge people. It embraces sinners and reaches out to the unchurched wholeheartedly-- as God has embraced His people without condition.

My life is not perfect but I know that through The Feast my healing is now in progress. Up to now, yes, I am still struggling but I know with the grace of God I will be healed.

Today, I serve God by being a member of the Food Ministry of Feast Bluewave Marikina.

With friends at The Feast you’ll feel like you’re family. You feel incomplete whenever you miss one Feast Sunday. Despite your busy schedule, you always look forward to attending The Feast, because at The Feast, you really feel God’s love.

It is true what they say-- that The Feast is the happiest place on Earth.

 

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 12:41

About the Author

Sheryll Joy F. Viguilla, 32, was born in Manila and now lives in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. She graduated from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila with a Bachelor’s degree, major in Mass Communication. She works at GMA 7 as associate producer for the morning show, Unang Hirit.

Shelly is the second in a brood of four. She says she’s blessed to have devout Catholic parents. She was brought up in a wonderful family, a family she wouldn’t trade for the world.

She went to a Catholic school for primary education Still, she came to a point in life when she questioned the need to go to church and hear Mass.

Her Story

FROM Kinder 1 to Grade 6 I attended Mass every Sunday in church, and every first Friday of the month in school. We also had monthly confessions, daily school prayers. Every October, we prayed the Rosary daily. I went through the motions of these religious rituals because we were required to do them.

One thing I liked about the Mass was singing from the book of praise. Other than that, I’d just come and go from one Mass to another, leaving without remembering receiving any spiritual nourishment.

For college, I went to a state university, where there was no requirement to hear Mass or pray the Rosary. So, I felt liberated from what I felt then was simply my Catholic obligation.

In school, I didn’t cheat, I had clean fun. I was a good girl— or so I thought.

My mom, however, constantly reminded me to go to Mass. So I just had to go to church— occasionally.

I finished college in 2010 and landed a job at GMA-7— my dream studio.

Busy with work, I just didn’t have time to go to church anymore.

Okay, honest, I didn’t give time for church. But my mom, bless her, didn’t stop encouraging me to attend Mass. She often reminded me how God had been so faithful to me—  giving me a comfortable life, a happy family.

She would say, “How can you not spend an hour with Him, to thank Him?”

I didn’t listen. I went my own ways.

In 2011, I often travelled with my friends at work—two of them members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.

One time, we went to Bohol. On Day 1, we planned to visit tourist spots, of course. But these two opted to miss the day tour just so they could attend the Iglesia service.

With raised eyebrows, the rest of us asked, “Why come all the way down to a beautiful place and miss out on the tour? Weren’t we here to have a good time and enjoy?”

In another travel spree, this time in Hong Kong, our two Iglesia friends again demonstrated their faith. Dead tired from the day tour, we all slept late and simply stayed in bed the next morning. But these girls woke up early, took a shower, and went to church.

I was impressed and inspired. I also felt kind of guilty that I neglected going to my church.  So, from then on, I made an effort to attend Mass. To lighten up the burden, I met up with my Catholic high school friends and we agreed to hear Mass together. There were many Sundays that I was successful. But then there were days when I felt lazy to go. And sadly, on busy weekends, going to Mass wasn’t my priority.

Finding The Feast

Fast forward to 2014. By this time, Grace, my best friend since grade school, has been regularly attending The Feast with her husband Zandro.

One time, Grace and Zandro, along with my parents, were going to attend a Marriage Encounter in Tagaytay. I asked if I could go with them. But Grace told that the seminar was only for married couples.

I insisted but it got me nowhere. After that, I thought nothing of it.

Then, a few months after, Grace called me up about this retreat for singles called LoveLife. She suggested I go. I wasn’t keen on joining but I tried to register. Unfortunately, there was no more slot in the batch I was signing in.

“Maybe next time,” I thought.

Then, sometime later, a friend from work, Athena, tagged me on Facebook about a LoveLife retreat sponsored by the Singles Ministry of Feast Bay Area. It turned out to be the same retreat Grace told me about. So I tried signing up again, and this time, I got in.

The talks in the retreat made me realize who God really is, why He created me, how He has never abandoned me— even as I had been unfaithful to Him.

Finally, my mom’s words sunk in. I realized indeed, how blessed I am, for God has given me a loving and wonderful family, my dream job, and all the comforts in life.

During the time for prayer and reflection, I really felt God’s Presence, His warm embrace simply reducing me to tears.

The retreat was held on a Saturday. Before it ended, the leaders invited us to join The Feast the following day. I attended.

That was in July 2014. Since then, my Sundays have never been the same.

Because of the retreat, I met friends I now consider dear to me -–my big sisters in Christ who are journeying with me in my faith walk. They’re like God’s gift to me and I thank Him for bringing us together.

Back in the Church

Today, I travel all the way from Bulacan to Pasay City to attend Feast Bay Area which includes the Mass. For me, that’s a feat because a few years back, I couldn’t attend Mass in our parish church which was just several steps away from our house.

Now, when I go on weekend vacation out of town, one of the things I first ask from the concierge in the resort hotel I am staying in is the location of the nearest Catholic church. I don’t want to miss out on a chance to offer my thanksgiving and listen to His word for me in the Mass.

I never imagined myself doing production work for the Lord but that’s been part of my Sunday life for almost a year now.

My routine goes like this: With my soul sisters, I attend the the first session of Feast Bay Area at 8:00 a.m. led by Bro. Bo Sanchez. And then, I help out in the 11:30 a.m. session led by Bro. Migs Ramirez.

That way, I get blessed as an attendee during the first session and I am blessing others as I serve during the Singles session.

My love tank is overflowing with the amazing love and goodness of the Lord. He never stopped looking after me and calling me to be back to His loving arms. I am truly grateful to the people who were instrumental in my journey and to the people at The Feast who are God’s blessing to me

Sometimes, I wish I found my Feast family sooner. But as the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. God has always been with me but I didn’t realize this until The Feast opened my mind and heart so that I’ve been able to let Him come into my life.

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 12:07

About the Author

Marcus, 28, chose not to be identified as circumstances in his story reveal some sensitive matters. Names of others in his testimony were also changed.

Marcus entered the seminary, hoping to become a priest. But he was an only son, so his mother wished he would marry and have children to carry on the family name to the next generation. Mother and son made a deal that not only cut short Marcus’s seminary days, but inadvertently shook his Catholic Faith as well.

His Story

I grew up in a traditional Catholic family. We went to Mass together every Sunday. My favorite church was the Greenbelt Chapel for its unique structure. In my child’s eyes, it resembled a turtle.

A tragedy hit my family. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004. This misfortune brought the family closer to each other and to God. We prayed a novena every night for 100 days. On Sundays, we went to the Pink Sisters Convent to hear Mass and to pray for a miracle.

Then my father went to another doctor for a second opinion. The doctor said test results showed the malignant tumor was gone. The doctor declared him cancer-free. We couldn’t be any happier, our faith in God strengthened more than ever.

In high school, I fell in love with Clarisse, my bestfriend in grade school. I courted her but she chose my friend Damian over me. Heartbroken, I signed up for the seminary. I enrolled in a college seminary that offered secondary education. I enjoyed the peaceful life inside. I felt happy there for three years.

But my mother struggled with my decision. I am her unico hijo or only son, the only one who could carry on our family name.

So she made a deal with me. She said, “Take  an entrance examination for college. If you don’t pass the exam, you may go on and become a priest.”

I said, “Deal!”

I took the entrance examination in one of the premier universities in Manila. I passed it. So I left the seminary.

My second dream— after priesthood— was to become a journalist. So I enrolled for a course in Mass Communication in my chosen university. It was a Catholic school, so I thought I would be safe there. I mean, I would not wander away from my Faith.

Going Astray

I got real busy in school. Aside from my academic subjects, extra-curricular activities ate up my time. I joined five student orgs— a writers’ society, a glee club, a cheerleaders’ squad, a theater ensemble, and a political group.

With a group of college friends, I enjoyed parties and, of course, the booze.

I had a girl whom I met in school, and we went all the way, having pre-marital sex.

How did I go from godly to carefree life?

In college, my liberal professors in Philosophy, Social Science, and Political Science presented various beliefs, ideologies, philosophies. I learned negative things about the Church, the Pope, and the priests. My belief system was shaken. I began to question the foundation of my principles, my values and beliefs, including my religion.

I started to look at life differently, and I thought I  was wasting time going to church. A whole new menu of religions presented itself to me, beckoning me to embrace each one of them. I surmised, I could change my religion every day, as often as I change my clothes. Monday, I could be a Buddhist, Tuesday, a Taoist, and so on…I found the idea exciting.

It didn’t help that my girlfriend didn’t attend Mass, either.

I’d gone so far away from my Faith that in my fourth year, I directed a play that ridiculed Catholic Charismatics.       

The play was about Jose Rizal and a friend he met in Europe, Austro-Hungarian Ferdinand Blumentritt, who wrote about Rizal and the Philippines, and thus to this day is memorialized in a number of our public parks and streets.

In the play, Rizal, who supposedly embraced another religion, returns to the Catholic Faith through a Charismatic group.

I presented the members of the Charismatic group in a comical, irreverent way. I received hate letters after that. But I ignored them. I justified my action saying, “But that’s how the Charismatics really are!”

Finding The Feast

In time, I broke off with my girlfriend, and went on with my wanton life.

Because of my gallivanting, I neglected my studies and suffered failing grades. That was one of the few times I remembered to pray to God for help.

And I must say He came to my rescue, leading me on until I finally graduated from college and got a job in a business process outsourcing company in Parañaque.

I believe God didn’t let me go at all. Instead, He drew me back to Him— through a girl who I met through friends at work.

Here, I name her Hazel. I believe she must be god-sent, for she would lead me to The Feast.

I courted Hazel and, I tell you, it was not an easy courtship. Her parents were strict, checking up on her whereabouts if she was not home within the 20 minutes that normally took her to get from her office to their house.

I succeeded in wooing Hazel, but her parents forbid her to go on dates and she obeyed them. So our time together was only those 20 minutes when I picked her from her office and brought her home.

Now it happened that one day, Hazel got sick. She went to a clinic near their place for a checkup. And the nurse who attended to her invited her to The Feast.

Actually, Hazel, like me, was not a regular churchgoer. She told me about The Feast and we saw that attending the gathering would be a good excuse for  us  to meet up and stay out of the prying eyes of her parents for a couple of hours.

So Hazel asked for her parents’ permission to attend The Feast and, as we expected, they agreed. But, on one condition:  that they would drive us there.

So, one Sunday, I went to pick up Hazel from her house, and we rode with her parents to The Feast, then being held at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig.

Hazel’s mom and dad didn’t plan to attend The Feast. They just let us off the car, and waved goodbye, like we were little children being seen off to school.

As we stepped into the Valle Verde hall, I saw people singing and raising their hands. I then realized the group was Charismatic— just like the characters I ridiculed in my play back in college.

And, I was like, “Oh my God, I’m attending a prayer meeting of crazy people!”

I wanted to get out of the room.

But there was the band, with drummers and even violinists, and their upbeat music— so enticing, that we stayed for a while.

And then the preacher, Bro. Bo Sanchez, came onstage. It happened that his talk was about financial literacy— the Christian way of earning and handling money. We stayed on our seat and listened attentively.

But the best part was that we got to go out on a short date at the nearby mall before I brought Hazel home.

We went back to The Feast the following Sunday and later, auditioned for the Music Ministry. In April, we were already singing at the Grand Easter Feast, the biggest annual event next to Kerygma Conference.

It was at the Grand Easter Feast that I first felt God’s loving presence. Overwhelmed by His mercy, acceptance, and forgiveness, I couldn’t help crying that Easter Sunday. It felt good to be back in His loving embrace. My soul rejoiced.

It didn’t take long before I signed up for a Light Group, and much later, for the spiritual formation program and the retreat for singles called ILovelife in 2013. 

But my spiritual walk was not without a detour. Given the freedom to sneak away from her parents, Hazel and I succumbed to temptation and engaged in pre-marital sex.

Remember, we attended The Feast only so that we could be together, so we didn’t really take the talks seriously.

But it is said that the Word of God is like a double-edged sword that can pierce through even a heart of stone. That may sound cliché, but I must say it is true, so true to Hazel and me.

Listening to the talks and the homilies during the Mass at The Feast, somehow, Hazel and I began to be bothered by our conscience. We knew we were leading a double life— singing, and praising, and serving God, yet afterwards succumbing to sexual sin.

One day, we decided to end our sin, and our relationship as well. We broke off and concentrated on our spiritual renewal at The Feast.

Back to the Church

I have to confess that even as a regular Feaster, I still did not appreciate the Mass. Being part of the Music Ministry singing both for the Mass and the Worship sessions,  I had no choice but to listen. After some time, I began to hunger for God’s Word. My Sunday was no longer complete without hearing  Mass.

Soon, I looked forward to the Mass. I particularly liked listening to the homilies of the kindhearted Fr. Titus  Mananzan,  the poetic Fr. Alex Balatbat, humorous Fr. Eric Santos, and the sage Fr. Bob Mcconaghy. They had different ways of delivering God’s message of love and mercy but all imbued with wisdom.

One of the reasons I turned my back on the Catholic Church was my bias against priests. To my mind, the priests didn’t understand us, the lay people. They lived an easy life different from the common masses and so, they didn’t have a right to impose such heavy religious tasks, or to preach on living a righteous life.

But at The Feast, I learned that priests are but human. Like me, they have their misgivings. But still, humbly, they do what they are called to do: to communicate and share God’s unfailing and prefect love.

Like what I— God’s work in progress— have done with this testimony.

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 11:46

About the Author

April Ann De Guzman, 24, single, is a college graduate, with a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Civil Engineering.

Her Story

MY work is stressful and yet fun.  In my job, I get to learn a lot of new things every day, explore various concepts regarding the field and deal with different kinds of people.

There comes a point, however, when you need to be able to sort out your priorities-- align your plans and consider a lot of other factors to improve your life, especially your relationship with people who matter to you.

Straying Away

I belong to a family where we have spiritual freedom – we are not forced to be Catholics or join any other religion for that matter. So I believe I am blessed. To be a Catholic has always been my personal choice.

Yet, time was when my family and I had not been what you’d call devout Catholics, whatever the word devout entails. Like, we didn’t pray the Rosary at 6:00 p.m., like I know Catholic families do.

But we kids were raised knowing the value of prayer, knowing God’s Word, attending Holy Mass, Simbang Gabi or Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, celebrating fiestas.

Our sitio usually was assigned to lead the Pasyon, a sung-through version of the Passion of Christ, during Holy Week, specifically on Holy Wednesday, so we participated in the ritual.

Actually, I remember, when I was a kid, I read parts of the Bible during the Holy Week, and I thought the Bible was the only book that we were allowed to read during those days. I was kind of sad because all the television channels shut down during Holy Week, unlike today, when TV stations air shows during the week.

Also, at one time, I was even a member of the choir in our parish church.

To sum it up, we were a typical Catholic family—  we went to church, lived our faith, and tried to do something good in the outside world.

But I would be a hypocrite if I say I went to Mass regularly— because I might have missed quite a few Sundays especially when I started working. Sometimes, I just could not find the time for Mass--which made me feel guilty that I didn’t spend an hour or two for Him when He had given me His all.

When friends invited me, I attended services of other religious groups—basically out of curiosity about how they view God.

But I am glad to had been raised open minded about people’s religious beliefs. I believe that when you know your faith, and Who you really stand for, you will not waver in your love for God even as you are introduced to various teachings and practices.

It helped that a sister in Christ at the workplace got me into a One-on-One session on a series of topics concerning the Scriptures-- basic knowledge and facts that every believer should know to be able to make disciples. It was a good experience to be able to open up with another soul and a great eye-opener for me, getting me back into the right perspective about my Catholic faith.

Finding The Feast

I was practically okay with how I was raised spiritually and so I did not feel the need to get deeper with my faith.

But I got to appreciate my Catholic faith, particularly the Holy Mass, when I joined The Feast.

In 2011, I took the Civil Engineering Board Examination. I did not pass the exam but my failure led me winning a lot in life.

You see, when I was reviewing for the Board Exam,  a friend asked my friends and I to go with him to Feast SM Manila.

I had no idea what The Feast was all about, but I said “Yes.”

It was a Friday-- time to chill out after a week of studying for the Board Exam.

That's how I was introduced to The Feast, how I came to meet the Feast Builder, Bro. Obet Cabrillas, or Daddy O as we call him, who practically became my spiritual daddy.

Since then, I’ve been Feast-hopping-- from Manila, to PICC, to Alabang, Malolos, and Baliwag for nearly four years now.

Actually, I knew about Bro. Bo Sanchez and his books prior to attending The Feast. But I’d lived in the province all my life, and there was no one to basically drag me--not that I needed to be dragged or something-- to go attend The Feast.

What I like most about The Feast is first, the connection.Everything just made sense when I was introduced to The Feast.

What I like most about The Feast is the energy.

The Feast gives off that vibe that reminds us that we will never be alone because we always have God, through His loving community and children.

It still amuses me how before, when we were all basically "newbies", my friends and I would send text messages to each other asking everyone if they wanted to go to The Feast and since we were a solid squad, whenever one was not available, the plan would not push through.

But now, we go even if one of us can’t make it. We simply got hooked.

I now belong to a small group, Light Group, it is called, and I am assigned to call up members to attend our weekly meeting.

Back to the Church

In his talks, Bro. Bo Sanchez reminded us that knowing about your faith is not enough. You have to live your faith and share God’s Word to others.

While I am okay with the conventional Catholic church practices, I had always sought this certain connection. Sometimes, you listen to homilies and the priests’ message gets you straight in the heart. But then there are times when you are so distracted that you do not understand a single word the priest is saying.

I used to blame priests when I did not get to remember anything about the Mass I attended. I thought the priest was to blame if I did not get anything substantial from his homily.

But The Feast has made me realize that what’s important is to focus on Jesus—that He, not the priest, is the One talking to me. This way, the Mass has become a joy for me. It is now easy for me to listen to the homily, understand the priest’s message, and remember the teaching.

Also, religion had always been a very touchy subject that I would not dare go on a debate with anyone. I’d been afraid of getting stereotyped and judged for being a Catholic. I had always wanted to defend my faith but I did not know how.

The Feast, however, has taught me that I do not have to be afraid about standing up for my faith because Jesus will always back me up. Like His disciples in the past, we may be judged or persecuted for our beliefs-- but it doesn’t matter,  as long as we live for the truth, and that is with Him.

I now truly appreciate our Catholic faith. I like how deeply rooted to Christ we really are. Some of our rites may be different from fundamental beliefs about Christ’s Church—but if you dig deeply into our doctrines, you’ll find out everything about our Catholic faith and rituals are really all about God.

 

Thursday, 22 December 2016 14:25

About the Author

Edcel Magtira, 26, single, is a college graduate, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering.

She is an Information Technology (IT) freelancer,  working at home on search engines for an employer based in the United States.

Edcel lives in Malolos City.

Early on, Edcel thought she was “okay” with her relationship with God. But not her Catholic religion. She strayed away from the Church

Her Story

Even before I found The Feast, I was already attending Sunday Mass regularly.

I was already ‘okay’ with my relationship with God. I mean, I had already received Jesus as my Savior. But I am not perfect. I still sin.

I have a boyfriend, and I wished to lead him to the Lord, too. But I was having a hard time doing this since I still battled with my own weaknesses.

Straying Away

I was not exploring other religions but I have close friends from non-Catholic groups and they kept on inviting me to attend their services.

I had entertained their invite. So maybe around three to five times, I had attended services in these non-Catholic churches.

Finding The Feast

In 2012, a friend invited me to attend The Feast in SM Baliwag.

I asked my boyfriend to accompany me and we loved the experience like this was what our heart and soul have been longing for all along.

Thank God for The Feast.  It has helped me, it has helped my boyfriend to know and receive God personally.

I love the energy of The Feast. The talks, especially shared by Bro. Bo Sanchez and Bro. Alvin Barcelona. I am from Bulacan but I don’t mind going all the way to PICC just to hear their talks.

I love the singing and dancing at The Feast. I had experienced such lively worship in other churches.  So I was surprised to find out that us Catholics have it pala—at The Feast.

Back to the Church

I have faith in God. But there was a time I did not have such faith in our Catholic Church—influenced as I had been by my non-Catholic friends.

 The Feast has helped renew my faith in the Catholic Church.

What I like most about our Catholic Faith is that you don’t feel condemned. Every sinner is accepted and given a chance to change.

Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:40

About the Author

Shirley Molato, 43, married, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in English, plus a Bachelor of Laws degree.

She lives in Marikina City and  works in a government office.

Her Story

I am an only child, a self-proclaimed brat. I was pampered and exposed to all kinds of comfort.

My parents  sent me to an exclusive Catholic school for girls, from kindergarten up to college. I attended Mass regularly and in school, we celebrated the feast day of just about every Catholic saint. Also, in Christian Living, a must subject,  most of my teachers were nuns.

So I thought I was already packed with knowledge about God.

Straying Away

After college, I took up Law,  this time, in a coed school. Since I’d been in an all-girls school all my life, I had a hard time interacting with the opposite sex— until I joined a Law fraternity.

I admit, those were the days that I tended to forget God.

My week days in Law school were so exhausting, I needed to rest on Sundays. So I stopped attending  Mass. I went to church only if I had to attend family gatherings— you know, baptisms, weddings.

Oh, but frankly, if I  was invited to a night out drinking spree, easily, I was conveniently available.

In time, I graduated from Law school and began  working in the Judiciary.

Handling various legal cases, I was exposed to life’s harsh realities— which somehow diminished my faith in God.

Away from the Lord, I fell into a trap. I had an illicit affair, and my boyfriend became the center of my life. I neglected my parents, disregarding their feelings against my indiscretions.

After more than a decade, the affair ended— to the relief of my folks.

Then, my mother passed away. She was my ally,  embracing me whether I was right or wrong— as opposed to my father who was an uncompromising disciplinarian. I guess he meant well. But even under what I perceived as his iron rule, my brattiness prevailed.

I was so devastated when my mom died. I rebelled against my loss, escaping my sorrow by gambling. I exhausted myself in casinos all night, so I could sleep right away once I got home.

Then, one night, I felt so lonely, I just simply broke down. At that moment, I remembered God, and sobbing, I prayed,  "Lord, if you have somebody really meant for me, please give him to me ASAP. Otherwise, I will never risk myself to love once more."

Truly I say, God works in mysterious ways. I met Chris. He’s a man whom I could never be attracted to as he didn’t seem to measure up to my standards for my Mr. Right. Except that he loved his mother dearly, and he’s godly. So, I told myself, I should give this man a try.

Chris  attended Christian fellowships and he brought me along. But I felt uncomfortable during the service, especially when the people raised their hands during the worship time. I just didn’t feel edified.

Finding The Feast

Chris’s friend, Banjoy Santillan, invited him to  Feast Bluewave Marikina. Chris wanted to bring me along but the gathering was early Sunday morning. Exhausted from my work all week, bratty me didn’t want to wake up that early, so I didn’t join Chris.

But Chris went on inviting me— without let up— so I gave in and went with him to Feast Bluewave.

Throughout the talk of the Feast Builder, Bro. Monching Bueno, goosebumps crept all over me. The talks were so inspiring, I went with Chris again to Feast Bluewave the following Sunday, and the next, and the next, until The Feast became our Sunday habit.

Back to The Church

In time, Chris decided to convert back to Catholicism. I realized then my first impression of Chris was wrong. I realized that he is indeed the answer to my prayer for the right person to live with the rest  of my life. As of this writing, I just got married to Chris.

Although I explored other non-Catholic services, I want to remain Catholic. My family is Catholic and we honor Mama Mary and other saints.

The Feast has well influenced me to go back to my Catholic Faith.

Foremost, our Feast Builder,  Bro. Monching Bueno, is a strong influence for me to be back with the Lord. I easily relate with Bro. Monching’s sharing about what he’s gone through in life. He has inspired me to continue worshipping God.

I feel very much welcomed, like I am already part  of the family of The Feast.

Time flies fast in The Feast. My week won’t be complete without attending The Feast every Sunday.

Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:20

About the Author

Marvin Michael G. Tan, 60, married, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Business Administration. 

At first unchurched, he went through a long journey of seeking God which has made him today one of the  longtime leaders of the Light of Jesus Family. He held various leadership positions in LOJ and he now serves as central administration head of The Feast, LOJ’s prayer gathering with over 200 branches worldwide. 

He lives in Valenzuela City.

His Story

Before I joined the Light of Jesus Family, I had a very simple routine – work-school-home. I was a working student. Sometimes I spent my free time joining my friends for a few bottles of beer or watching movies.

I was not a practising Catholic. I got inside the church only when I had to attend baptism, wedding, and burial rites.

Not until I met Liza. We attended Mass together. Then an officemate invited me to attend a Cursillo movement. From then on, I began to seek God, starting with attending Bible studies.

When we got married, Liza and I continued to attend Bible studies, the Life in Spirit Seminar, and we joined a Charismatic group in our parish. We were so hungry for God’s Word, we joined various spiritual activities here and there and everywhere. 

Finding The Feast

Someone invited Liza and me to attend the Victory Celebration with Jesus, a general assembly of the Light of Jesus Family held at St. Paul College Auditorium.     

In August 1989, Liza and I attended LOJ’s first Christian Life Series (CLS) in LOJ Monumento, an 18-week seminar similar to the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS), including the Growth Series. After the seminar, we were invited to serve as facilitators for the next batch of CLS attendees in LOJ Cubao.  

At the time, service was a new thing for me but as I continuously served in the ministry, I realized that I just loved serving God and the people assigned to my care.

Liza and I attended prayer meetings of the Light of Jesus which eventually levelled up to what we now call The Feast.      The Feast fills our hunger for the word of God. It feeds our soul and meets our practical daily needs.

The Feast provides a small group for intimate friendship where we could share our joys and struggles in life.

Liza and I are now on our 27th year as members of the Light of Jesus Family.

I’ve been privileged to serve now as Feast Builder for Feast SM Baliuag and as District Builder for all the Feasts in Bulacan. 

Back to The Church

Though busy with our LOJ service, Liza and I are attending Mass regularly in our village chapel where I serve in the Formation Ministry.

Since I've been hearing the inspiring talks at The Feast, Faith has become real for me. During the Mass, Jesus becomes real. Attending the Mass becomes an experience of Jesus’ merciful and compassionate love for me.

My image of God has changed. My image of Christianity has changed. Christianity becomes a joy. Serving God becomes sharing of my inner joy. Christianity becomes a relationship with God and His people.

 

Thursday, 22 December 2016 12:10

About the Author

Marinel Samantha V. Gloriani, 19, is a fourth year student, working on a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Accounting.

She lives in Quezon City

Marinel said she used to be “part-time Catholic.”

Her Story

I WAS actually not a religious person. I wasn’t consistent in going to church.

My family attended the 5:45 a.m. Mass—too early for me. I was lazy to get up from bed. I knew there were still Masses  in the succeeding hours, but I dilly dallied, until I altogether decided not to go, knowing I would be going by myself.

It was like I was only a part-time Catholic. It was a drag to simply go to Mass. But that was my old life, my old self.

Finding The Feast

When I was about 10 years old, an aunt invited my family to attend the Feast in Valle Verde Country Club, Pasig City. Auntie promised we’d have ice cream after the talk, so that motivated me to join my family to go to The Feast.

But then we got busy with family gatherings and school work, so we stopped attending.

In 2014,  we were invited again, this time, to attend in Feast Greenhills. Soon, everyone was attending there regularly—except me. Somehow, I always found an excuse not to attend.

And if anyone asked why I was attending The Feast at all,  I answered, “My family attends, so I don’t really have any other choice.”

At the time, when I was in The Feast, I couldn’t focus. I was  always thinking about school work or chores I left at home. I was bored every time I was in the prayer gathering.

Then, I started serving in Feast Greenhills in its Music and Dance Ministries—which motivated me to already attend weekly.   I’ve been serving in Feast Greenhills for almost two years now.

What I really like about The Feast is it is so welcoming. The more I became interested when I joined a Light Group for the youth.  That was the point when I felt that I already really belong in this family, this  community.

The friendly nature of The Feast is what really binds me. No matter what your past life is, The Feast members still wholeheartedly accept you. Everyone is approachable. It is never awkward for you to share whatever problem you have.

Back to the Church

Since it is Catholic, The Feast has pointed to me the Catholic Faith which makes its members feel like they belong to a family.

One more thing I love about the Catholic Feast is it makes you think that anything is possible if you just believe and trust in God.

 Today, I serve as one of the council members in the Youth Ministry of Feast Greenhills whose main duty is to make sure young people take an active part in the Catholic life and we also help them cope with the challenges of their youth.

I am also head of the Dance Ministry and a member of the Vocals Ministry. Our goal is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus through dance movements and songs.

 

Thursday, 22 December 2016 11:40

About the Authors

Lhei Jatap, 32, and Jhay, 35, were baptized Catholics but didn’t find any reason to attend the Mass because they thought, “We were complete by having each other.”

The two first met in December 2003 during the orientation of their first job in a call center in Ortigas.

They have a baby boy in heaven, Isaiah Emmanuel, whose passing they commemorate every year by spending time at the Grace To be Born, a home for pregnant women in crisis and their babies.

Her Story

WHEN I was growing up, our family prayed the Angelus every day. I remember, we all knelt before our altar, and my mom led the Rosary, mumbling the prayer —in Spanish. I didn’t understand a word, so I couldn’t appreciate it. Besides, the daily ritual so disturbed my playtime, I simply detested it.

I am the youngest in the family, so Mom usually brought me along when she attended the Sunday Mass in our parish church.  

My dad was an overseas contract worker and was only home on vacations. 

When I was already in my teens, he retired. I wasn’t used to him being around all the time. He imposed some rules that I felt like he was restricting me. I rebelled silently.

One day, he suffered heat stroke and died. The  family deeply mourned his sudden passing. I was sad and at the same time angry that he left us so soon. I remember, after his burial, every afternoon, I would get his pack of cigarettes and dare him to come and stop me from smoking.That went on for a month or two until I got tired asking questions about his death. Unfortunately, because of his sudden demise and funeral expenses, our monthly payments for our house that was on loan got delayed.

A fresh college graduate at the time, I felt lucky to have landed a job at a top advertising firm. It was every Marketing graduate’s dream to work there. But I had to give it up and find a high-paying job to help my mother settle our dues for the house. Otherwise, we would’ve been thrown out of our home.

In December 2003, I started working in a call center company to earn more money. Because of the stressful nature of my job,  I learned to drink as a way to relax, have fun, and socialize.

My job took my mind off my woes. I worked hard and so every year, I got promoted. I attributed my success to myself – my skills, diligence, and expertise.

The higher I stepped up through the ranks, the farther I strayed away from God. The last time I was inside a church was in 2005, when I needed to pray for something.

But generally, I was on top of my career. So I thought, I could live without God. 

Then I met Jhay.

His Story

My family lived a comfortable life but suffered financial setback by the time I was born. 

We were so hard up, I had to save my school allowance so I could buy toys. There were times when I couldn’t join Boy Scout activities because my parents simply couldn’t afford the expenses.  

In my young mind, I felt deprived, and I perceived that I was deprived because I was unwanted. Like, I was unaccepted because there must be something wrong with me. 

And ultimately, I blamed God for creating me so imperfect. In hindsight, this deep resentment must be a reason I didn’t take my religion seriously. 

I was baptized a Catholic, but I hardly practised my religion. Actually, I was confused about faith. You see, I went to a non-Catholic school, and the teachings there about religion were contrary to what I knew little about Catholicism.

Meanwhile, I got to continue my studies because an uncle kindly paid part of my schooling.But my uncle was not able to continue financing my studies  because he got swindled by one of his business partners.

Fortunately, my sister promised to take  care of my school expenses. And so, I took a certificate course in a technological school and later, found a job as an insurance encoder.  But this would not last long. 

In 2003, I was out of job. Today, I see losing my job as a blessing in disguise. 

Finding out I wasn’t working, my cousin and some of her friends invited me to come along with them to apply for work in a call center in Ortigas.

Aside from giving me a hefty salary, the job presented me an added bonus. There, I met Lhei. 

I first saw her on December 6, 2003, during our office orientation but we got introduced only on December 8.

Their Story

Jhay: Shortly after we met, Lhei and I became a couple. Most of our life revolved around work. On Sundays, we were working, or catching up on sleep. Our relationship got stronger by the years. And soon, we felt we were both ready to move to the next level.

I proposed marriage to her. 

Lhei: And I said yes.

But by the end of September in 2009, our relationship was put to a test at the onslaught of super Typhoon Ondoy

Jhay: There was heavy flooding in Metro Manila, especially where I lived in Pasig City. My apartment was not spared. Water reached almost up to the ceiling. 

It was terrible. I lost everything to the flood— all the stuff that I’d labored to possess, even my clothes. I had to buy new clothes to wear to the office. I spent all my money to buy basic necessities.

Lhei: I got frustrated. There we were planning our wedding and then, in one snap, Jhay was back to zero. I felt like it was useless to continue our relationship. It’s as if we were stuck and going nowhere. When are we ever going to get started again?

Jhay: We decided to cool it off for a week and see if we could actually stand being away from each other.

Lhei: But during our “cool off” period, we actually had lunch together daily. 

Jhay:  That’s when we realized, we’ve found our match, our #forever.

Lhei: So we pushed through with our plan to get married on December 8, 2009, without considering the cost and the short lead time to arrange it. We labored to get going again. We worked harder and soon, we got married.

Jhay: With just a little over a month of preparation, I still wonder now how we were able to raise P60,000 to pay for our civil wedding. To think our combined income in a month then was less than that figure.

I realize now that even when we hadn’t made peace with God yet, He was already blessing us and showing us a hint of what was up ahead.

Finding the Feast 

Lhei: For about seven months before my wedding, a friend, Melissa Fernandez, a servant usher at The Feast in Valle Verde Country Club, Pasig City, had been inviting me to attend the prayer gathering.

In New Year of 2010, as Jhay and I just got married, we were so happy and grateful. So I thought why not check out this gathering Melissa had been nagging me about. Sort of a thanksgiving for all the wonderful things we were enjoying.

So I said “Yes” to Melissa, and I told Jhay about it.

Jhay: When my wife said we’d go to some feast, I really thought we were going to a partywith food and booze. So I quickly agreed.

But then, when Lhei and I stepped into Valle Verde Country Club, something stirred within me.

You see, my spiritual journey started way back in 2000 when I attended the Christian Life Program (CLP) of the Singles for Christ (SFC) in Laguna. At the time, I had a girlfriend—my first— who was into this spiritual thing. So I attended just to please her.

But during the 13 Sundays of the CLP, I learned so much about Jesus that I experienced a spiritual awakening. I was the only one in my batch who went through the CLP without any absences. 

Then, my girlfriend and I broke up. Consequently, my relationship with God, then still in its infant stage, also went awry. 

Now, at Feast Valle Verde, I suddenly felt God’s presence. The warm welcome of smiling ushers at the lobby, Bro. George Gabriel, then the worship leader of the second session, leading worship onstage, with his eyes closed, hand raised, one teardrop on his cheek, plus the heart-piercing music—all these rocked me to my core.

Then, the talk about God’s unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness— the entire experience rekindled the sleeping spirit in me. It felt wonderful. 

I told Lhei, “Let’s attend every Sunday!”

Lhei: I was glad I finally accepted my friend’s invitation. At The Feast that day, I learned that God loves me so much. I had a totally different picture of Him all the while. I never thought that He is that loving. That He blesses us with so much every day. 

I must admit though that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that teaching that God is a good provider. It took a while for it to really sink in my head. 

Jhay: At first, Lhei couldn’t understand or believe the concept. I had to explain to her every teaching.

Lhei: I had to see proof. For me, all of these things should have a logical explanation.  To see is to believe. And God showed me.

Back to the Church

Jhay: The Feasthas led us to God and our Catholic Faith.Attending the Holy Mass, we began to appreciate the Sacraments. We asked God for forgiveness that we had not been practising our religion, especially the Sacrament of Marriage.

So, in February, we decided to get married in Church. Initially, we wanted to hold the wedding later in December to give us time to save up for it and so that it’s on the same date we met and went through the civil rites. But because of the teachings at The Feast and her mom’s insistence, we set a sooner date— June 2010. 

And since then, the blessings started to pour in one by one.

Lhei: We set our budget to P100,000 for the wedding expenses— the reception venue, the photographer, the hotel. Yet we wondered where we would get the funds that we needed.

Jhay:That’s true.You see, before we got married, were living from pay check to pay check. Most of the time, the pay check was already pawned for a loan that would sustain us through the next payday.

Then out of the blue, Citibank called up to say they can give me a personal loan of up to P85,000. I was so surprised and so happy. I knew God was behind it.

Lhei:Skeptical as I was, I asked, “Why didn’t He make it P100,000 instead?

Jhay: Then sometime before the wedding, on a Friday night, we needed to pay the photographer the next day, but we were out of cash. We didn’t know where to get the money. Lhei was throwing tantrums already. 

Lhei: Not knowing what else to do, we decided to calm down and pray. 

Jhay: After our prayer, my mom knocked on our bedroom door and said that one of our wedding principal sponsors called up to say she couldn’t attend the wedding. So she just sent us her gift. 

Lhei: It was money— more than enough to pay our photographer.

Jhay: She could have sent us a check, which would have been a problem because we needed to wait for Monday to have it encashed. But God knew what we needed. Our ninang sent us cash.

Lhei: But still, I complained. I was like, “If God was going to bless us anyway, why wait the last minute?” Why not save us as well from worrying?”

I didn’t understand back then that while God wants to bless us, He also wants us to grow our Trust in Him.

Jhay: Pretty much the same thing happened when we needed to pay for the venue. We were at our wit’s end, not knowing where to get money for the down payment. 

Lhei: We were already fighting. But eventually, we got down on our knees and prayed.

Jhay:Then my best friend Marcus called up saying that his dad who’s one of our principal sponsors is asking if we could see him in his house.

Our ninong told us that by the time of our wedding he’d be flying to China to get an operation done. He wanted to congratulate us and give his gift to us personally.

Lhei: We couldn’t believe our eyes when he handed us his gift— a generous amount of cash.

Jhay: We were able to give the down payment for the venue.

Lhei: But still, I asked, “Why not sooner? Why not send us the money in advance? Save us the trouble of worrying and fighting.” 

Jhay: On our wedding day, we had zero cash on hand. We didn’t know where to get the money to pay for our other wedding bills.

Lhei: When we counted all the bills and our cash gifts, we were relieved because we received cash gifts more than enough for payment of our bills. We even got to afford to go on a date.

Jhay: We were also able to extend our hotel stay. I thought, wow! Incredible. God is so good! But Lhei was not impressed. 

Lhei: I was still not convinced. But as we faithfully attended The Feast, after listening to the teachings, I realized how materialistic I was — how much money had become my security blanket— when I should have mustered instead enough faith in God and His best plan for me. 

Hearing God’s Words, I began to understand and accept His love and His goodness.

Call To Serve

Jhay: The more I went to The Feast, the more the roots of faith planted in my heart during my first CLP seminar gained ground and were growing deeper and deeper.

I felt my heart was overflowing with love for God and I could hardly contain it. I wanted to serve at The Feast.

Lhei: This time, we were already attending The Feast being held at the Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC). So, we signed up for a Light Group and we eventually became LG heads. We went through the leadership program to prepare us to be LG heads. 

Jhay: We were so fired up with the love of God. We said “yes” to all invitations and opportunities to serve the Lord. 

Lhei: We found ourselves joining the The Feast Secretariat, not knowing exactly what we were getting into.

Jhay: At the same time, Bro. Danny Pasa, co-leader of the Liturgical Ministry, of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) asked if I wanted to become a lay minister. I said, “Yes!”

Lhei: We also joined the Media Ministry, then  the Creative Events Group (CEG) with Bro. Mike Vinas and Bo. Audee Villaraza.

In 2011, Bro. Audee, head of CEG, asked us to serve as head of the ministry.

We said “Yes!” 

Three years later, the CEG was merged with other groups, so we joined another ministry— the Servant Resources and Development Ministry (SRDM) through the initiation of its head, Sis. Ruth Collantes.

Jhay: All these years, I realized that every time I stepped up in my service in my faith community, the Lord would in turn bless me in my career. That my career is a reflection of my service.

I distinctly remember that on my first Sunday to serve at the Liturgical Ministry, I was asked to wear black formal pants, white button-down shirt and black shoes. I wore only casual clothes, even in the office, so I didn’t have any formal wear in my closet. I had to buy new ones. I needed P2,500 for the items.

Lhei: I complained and said, “Why do you have to spend P2,500 just to be able to serve? That’s too much.”

Jhay: But later, before I was installed as a lay minister, I got promoted and received a salary increase which was P2,500! 

And so I told Lhei, “See how generous God is? I spent P2,500 only one time, but He’s giving it back to me every month.”

Lhei: It’s really amazing!

Jhay: When Lhei and I agreed to lead CEG, I got promoted at work— again a huge break for me. You see, to deserve the promotion, it was not enough that you are an efficient worker. The job calls for a college degree. I only finished a certificate course. But, with God, truly, nothing is impossible. The company gave me the post.

Lhei: How else will you explain that?

Jhay: Last year, when we said yes to SRDM, I was pirated by an international investment bank. I was given a generous compensation package that allowed us to purchase this house and lot in Binangonan, Rizal.

Lhei: It’s a two-storey house near my mother’s house.

A Test

Jhay: Not everything was smooth sailing though. In September 2012, at the height of our spiritual renewal and service, our faith was tested. 

Lhei: Atthe time, we werealready two years married, but still we weren’t blessed with a child. Then in mid-2012, I got pregnant. We were so ecstatic, we practically announced the good news to the whole world. And everybody was so happy for us.

Jhay: But our joy was cut short.  Lhei suffered severe stomach pains so I brought her to the hospital. The doctor told us that the baby was coming out premature— at 14 weeks— and nothing could be done to stop the miscarriage.

Lhei: It was difficult to accept but what could I do but surrender to His will?

Jhay: I was more devastated than her. I got mad at God. I told Him, “I deserve this miracle, I deserve this baby. Why won’t You give this to me?” 

In my grief, I didn’t know I dialled Bro. Audee’s office phone number. Thank God, he answered. That was a crucial moment. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t get to speak to him that time.   

Over the phone, Bro. Audee comforted me, as I just walked around the hospital. When we finished talking, I found myself in front of the chapel. I stayed there, continuing to pour out my woes to God.

And as if to manifest that He heard me in this trying time, God came to me through Bro. Audee and the members of the CEG who visited us in the hospital that evening. If it weren’t for the love and support that they showed us, I would’ve probably reverted back to my previous lifestyle— a life without God.

But just the same, my ill feelings against God didn’t instantly go away. Harboring the resentments, I went back to my Feast service— but without the passion I felt earlier.  I just went through the rudiments of my service. 

Sometimes, I didn’t attend praise and worship, didn’t listen to the talks. I delighted in the fact that there were times when on Sundays, I was so busy with ministry work that I wouldn’t be able to attend the Feast proper.

I hardly prayed for more than two years. I couldn’t. I was hurting inside. The loss of our baby was too hard to take.

Lhei: I was hurting myself. And it was more painful seeing Jhay aching so much too. 

But God never let us go. During Holy Week of 2015, we got to attend The Feast’s Holy Week retreat. And there, we were able to accept our fate.

Jhay: During the retreat, I talked to God again. I realized that no matter how you try to go away from God, He won’t let you go astray. You can’t go far away from Him. He will always be there, near you, beside you, with you. 

And He’s such a good sport. He could’ve struck me down with lightning when I started acting up, throwing tantrums at Him, hating Him. But He’s such a loving God. He just took them all in — all my anger and hatred directed to Him. And when I was already okay, He just accepted me as if nothing happened. 

Lhei: Thanks to The Feast, I have learned to surrender it all to our Almighty God. For He has got us covered. He knows what’s best for us. 

I am more patient now and I’ve also become prayerful, especially during the times when Jhay was hurting. I prayed hard for his inner healing.

Jhay: I’m also more patient now. Our marriage is stronger because it is anchored in Christ. Even before going to The Feast, we had as our motto, Walang bibitaw or No letting go. But now, our motto is No letting go of each other and Jesus.

My wife’s prayers for me worked. If it weren’t for her prayers, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me.

Lhei: It’s good that we have an amazing God, who loves us unconditionally, who thinks of us every moment, every day, and wants to be with us now and forever. 

Jhay: And thank God we found The Feast that teaches us all these things and guides us to live a life that is centered on God. 

 

Thursday, 22 December 2016 11:23

About the Author

Bernard, 38, is a high school graduate and a solo parent.

He is an employee in the head office of his Barangay, working as a street sweeper. On the side, he is a dealer of a powder vegetable juice drink.

He lives in Marikina City.

To protect the privacy of his loved ones, we did not include Bernard’s last name in his story which he wrote  in Filipino. Following is the English translation.

His Story

I HAVE been  a fairly good and loyal Catholic.

I joined a Cursillo Class in Marikina in 2002. I attended the Basic Bible Study (BBS) of our parish church in 2010.  In November 2013, I was part of a Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) seminar for a rediscovery of our faith and a strong recall to belonging to the Church.

I was also part of the Singles for Christ seminar also in Marikina, in 2014.

By now, you must have noticed that I had attended a number of faith gatherings. That’s because I felt lonely. I felt there was something lacking in my life. I felt I needed God so I was out searching for Him.

It all started when my wife left me for another man. Our children were then in their teens— the boy, 15 years old, and  the girl, 14.

Since then, my life was nothing but in shambles.

I stopped praying and I disobeyed just about each one of the Ten Commandments. 

I joined a gang and a fraternity. I learned to use drugs. Since my wife left me, I began to hate women and I sought revenge by having an affair with a married woman.

As a consequence of my messy life, I lost my job. Without money, I went to my father for help. He scolded me for my foolishness, with such cruel words, I felt like killing him.

I went on to look for a job and found one as  an attendant in a gasoline station. With my reckless ways, it didn’t take long for my employer to fire me.

I then worked as a volunteer worker in my barangay’s head office with a measly P3,000 allowance— the only money I had to support my children.

All these I kept from my parents and siblings, as I wanted them to think I was doing all right, I was strong. But in truth, I was really weak. Amid my tough stance, despite my wicked ways, there was a part of my being, a place in my heart, that said that I must already stop my wrongdoing. Gradually, I realized how I had destroyed my life, how I had already neglected my children.

So, one day, I just found myself talking to God. I told Him, “Lord, help me out of this mess I am in. Set me free from my foolishness. Send me a woman who would lead me back to You.”

God heard my prayer. One day, I met her—  sweet as her nickname Sugar, who became my best friend.

I found out she was going through her own spiritual journey.

Finding The Feast

In her quest for spiritual nourishment, Sugar found The Feast. When I met her, she was already attending Feast Bluewave Marikina, and she brought me there on March 23, 2014.

On my first day at The Feast, an usher welcomed me with a brief, yet so strong, it felt like a manly bear hug— and at once, I felt like it was God lovingly welcoming me, telling me, “Come, my son, come close to me. Let me make you feel my love for you.  I’d been waiting for you for so long, and I am very happy that you’ve come back to Me!”

I felt tears in my eyes, but I stifled them, as I didn’t want people to see silly me so emotional.

Since then, I’ve been attending Feast Bluewave regularly. It is at The Feast that I found my good self. Hearing the inspiring talks, I decided to fix my life. 

I thank God that through Sugar, He brought me to The Feast. I thank my brothers and sisters at Feast Bluewave for accepting me and loving me with the love of the Lord. They are so humble, so friendly, and so good to me.

I am so grateful I found The Feast that now I serve there as an usher. I am also a member of the Singles Ministry and the Rainbow of God’s Ministry.

Gradually, God has been changing me to the person He wants me to be.

Back to the Church

I’ve learned so much at The Feast about life and my faith. The Feast has well taught me that I remain a loyal Catholic to this day.

 

Thursday, 22 December 2016 10:52

About the Author

Alyssa Matulac, 18, single, is a college student. She lives in Quezon City.

Her Story

There was a time when as long as I felt happy, I couldn’t care less about other people.

Neither did I think much about God.

I was not used to praying. I hardly attended Mass. I was just plain lazy. The few times I attended Mass, I did not listen to the homily. I usually just dozed off.  Then somehow, I would wake up, only to find out the Mass had already ended.

Finding the Feast

One time, an aunt who was working in Singapore, came home to Manila. She said she attends The Feast in Singapore, and she went on and on gushing about the prayer gathering.

So naturally, she looked for a Feast in Manila—and found Feast PICC. I had to accompany her to the venue.

Listening to the talks of Bro. Bo Sanchez, I learned that God has a specific plan for each of His people. Bro. Bo said you may not be certain what His plan is for you, but you just have to have faith that God will eventually reveal what He’s got in store for you.

Then, one time, on Facebook, we found out about Feast Bluewave Marikina, just at the outskirt of Quezon City where we live. So we now attend this Feast, and as we do, we learn more about God’s unconditional love for His people.

Such idea—that God really cares for me— so pierced through my heart that I resolved to attend The Feast regularly and serve God there.

It helped so much that at The Feast you need not hide about who you really are.

Like, I come from a broken family. My parents are separated, and I live with my uncle and aunt, far from my brother who lives someplace else. So there was a time I felt I lacked so much in life.

But The Feast, somehow, has completed me.  

At The Feast, you will feel most welcome. You will feel no one would judge you. Anyway, you go there not for the people, but for God. That you find friends at The Feast, who accept you as you are, is simply a delightful add-on freebie.

Aside from my uncle and my aunt, I now have an extended family at The Feast. I am now a member of the Youth Ministry. My friends there and I are not at all related by blood, but never once have my friends made me feel that I do not belong to them.

Loving the Catholic Faith

The Feast has taught me a major aspect about our Catholic faith-- that we welcome everyone, sinners and all, to our Church. We don’t ostracize other peoples’ beliefs-- unlike some other religious groups who criticize us for like having images of our saints.

I think we all believe in one God, and we should just be thankful for all the blessings He bestows on us, regardless of our religious conviction.

As for me, I just serve God the best I can. At Feast Bluewave Marikina, I am now a member of the Core Team of the Youth Ministry, co-head of the Dance Ministry, and member of the Events and Media Ministries.

 I am so blessed!

 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 17:32

About The Author

Joshua, 20, single, is in third year college, working on a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, major in Financial Management.

He lives in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Young as he is, Joshua perceived he didn’t measure up to his parents’ expectations, and thus  he struggled through a low self esteem which led to   lamentable consequences, including straying away  from his Catholic religion.

We are withholding his last name to protect the privacy of people involved in his story.

His Story

We are nine children in our family, and I’m the seventh child.

When I was a kid, I felt unappreciated by my parents because my brothers and sisters were all outstanding students. They received academic awards while I just got a ribbon for being the “Most Behaved”. I felt so sorry for myself that I developed low self-esteem. I felt I could not do anything right, I was no good, and thus I was of no use to my family.

With this mindset, I guess I coped by trying to impress people.

First, my parents. I was like,  “If I could not excel in school, at least I should not be so much of a burden to my parents.”

I was only 7 years old then. So I won’t have to rely on my parents for my school allowance, I decided to earn money by selling pan de sal. I woke up as early as 4 a.m. to pick up the pan de sal from a nearby bakeshop so I could sell them in the neighborhood before going to school.

It wasn’t easy. One time, a dog came running after me. I was so scared, some pan de saI fell off the box I was carrying. I escaped the dogs only because I was able to climb up to the nearest wall.

Even at the time, I knew the Lord was protecting me and I still managed to sell whatever was left in my box.

When I entered high school, I promised myself to focus more on my academics to prove my worth to my family and make my parents proud. I discovered I loved Mathematics— and I was good enough to represent my school in Math competitions.

I also liked basketball, so I worked on my shoots— and I made the varsity team.

Going Astray

Thinking I was not appreciated at home,  I guess I tried next to get attention in school— although the wrong way.

When I was in third year high school, I hang out  with the tough guys in school who introduced me  to smoking, alcoholism, and addiction to computer games. Since we were the rowdy bunch, we  got into fist fights and bullying.

Alas, the vices led to three lamentable consequences.

First, if earlier, I peddled bread to earn money for my allowance, this time, I had to take money from my parents to sustain my vices.

Second, I cut classes so I could go to my drinking sessions. But surprisingly, I finished high school— I guessed, then, out of pure luck.

Third, the vices worsened to a third one— womanizing. Getting into college, I fooled around many times.

Then, I  met “the one”— or so I thought. I loved her so much that I did everything for her and took care of her in a way I didn’t for the other girls.

We got so passionate, she eventually got pregnant. Confused, we fought, playing the blame game. I accused her of frustrating my plan to be of service to my parents and she chided me for destroying her future. Stressed out, she went away to her hometown,  far from Puerto Princesa, far from me.

Our time apart gave me enough space to think things through and to plan for our soon-to -be “family”.

I decided to stop schooling and work for her and our coming baby. I was willing to take risks for them, ready to face ridicule, if not recrimination from my family and other people.

I didn’t hear from her for three months. Then, I just found out from a friend that she aborted her pregnancy. I went to see her, asked her about the abortion, and she confirmed it, but feigned no remorse.

I was so mad, I just couldn’t stand facing her, much more live with her. So we broke off.

After our breakup, I promised myself to change and be a better man. I didn’t want to commit the same mistakes I made and cost a life again. Thus, I resolved to shape up. I started cutting down on my vices. I focused on my studies, and ignored the temptation of beautiful women around me. I told myself that I should not put to waste the second chance for me to live upright.

My life went pretty well then. I replaced my addiction to computer games with a new hobby.— reading books.

Instead of cutting classes for my drinking sprees, I stayed in the schoollibrary, studied hard, and as a result, my grades went high. Eventually, I made it to the Dean’s List.

I felt that finally, I had a new purpose— I had something good to do with my life.

But my naughty days were not yet over. I was tempted to court two girls at the same time, not knowing they were bestfriends. I was close to get each girl’s “Yes”. But one day, I bumped into them  in the campus— together! Needless to say, they dumped me. And so I went back to my good boy image and I didn’t look at any girl — for some time.

After a long year, I met who I thought—again— was “the one”. She was my classmate and she was the first woman I ever brought home to meet my family. But my parents were against our relationship because we had different religions. My parents worried that the girl would get me baptized in her church.

I did attend a couple of her church services. But still, we could not reconcile our differences. She wanted me to convert to her religion, I wanted to remain Catholic. We fought a lot about our beliefs. Tired of our fights, I flirted with other girls. She found out about it, and so we broke up.

Our breakup was a wakeup call for me. I was in third year college then when I realized how I was totally missing out in life. I realized that my dreams were not coming true as they are supposed to because of all the crazy things I had been doing against women and against myself. I also thought that as I was growing up, my parents too were growing old and it might be too late for me to give them the life I had always wanted to give them. They became my motivation to study and work harder.

I joined a business club for multilevel marketing and exerted so much effort to be finally of help to my parents. I did everything so I could make them proud and happy for me. In time, I became financially independent at a young. age. And I became  the family breadwinner—providing allowance for our home, paying our bills, paying for my tuition fees.

My parents couldn’t be any prouder and happier and it felt really good to see them smile because of my achievements. And to actually they used to think I had nothing better thing to do than computer games and basketball— but now they were proud that they had a successful businessman son.

I bought myself a motorcycle as a reward for my hard work.

I already had achieved what I longed to achieve in my life. I never felt so fulfilled and satisfied. So at that point, I thought that I could already get into a serious relationship. It was a dream relationship with the famous girl in school. She was running for the highest academic honors, and so she was like a  trophy for me.

I took care of her and we gave ourselves enough boundaries to stay pure and simply to pursue our careers. I supported all her dreams and served her like a princess. I must say, I was enjoying my life shared with her.

But perhaps, the Lord had better plans.

As I was enjoying life with my girlfriend, I overlooked —yet again— the family that I was working hard for. Since I’d been providing for my family, I guess I must had become swell-headed, and thrown my weight  around at home — something my mother pointed out one day. She must had meant well— like a mother just keeping a son in line.

But I didn’t take the correction well. Stunned, I could not say a word. After all, she was right. I walked out of the house with a heavy heart, and drove off in my motorcycle. I was so hurt I wanted to go on a drinking spree, or worse, commit suicide. I felt so worthless, thinking that I could never give enough, do enough, and be enough for my family. I never felt this depressed in my entire life.

With such anguish that evening, I found myself in the most unexpected place for a man like me. I went inside the Adoration Chapel of our parish church and wept. For the first time in my entire life, I cried my heart out to God—all my frustrations and dismay, all the pains of feeling neglected and rejected by my own family. I brought them out to the Lord I only just met that night – which happened to be on a Sunday.

I believe that the Lord brought me into His presence that evening where I could just cry out to Him and ask Him anything. And so I ranted about the life I was living all these years. I asked Him what else had I not done for my family? What else was the reason I was alive? As tears fell from my already swollen eyes, I blurted: Lord, draw me close to You. I want to be near You!

After crying my heart out to the Lord,I attended the Mass— only to find myself crying even more  as I heard the words of the priest and the community of believers around me. I cried as I heard every hymn and every prayer. I cried over the simplest things that were happening that night, in front of the altar, in front of the Cross where the image of the crucified Jesus was something that I could relate to. To think, I was never a crybaby until that fateful night.

I can never forget what the priest said in his homily: Lahat ng bagay na ginagawa natin, kaya natin to ginagawa kasi gusto natin maging masaya.. Everything that we do, we do because we want to be happy. True.

I wanted to do what would make me happy. And right there and then, I realized that only Jesus could give me such happiness. So I cried even more. I was not ashamed that I was crying like a baby during the Our Father, even as the two persons at my either side looked at me with pity. They must had wanted to give me a tissue  paper or something as my face was already drenched with tears. 

I felt that the Lord was embracing me at that very moment, giving me all the love I’d always longed for. I went home tired, worn out, but happy— knowing that something was changed inside of me.

I felt really light the next day seeing my parents in our living room. I knew that somehow, they were worried about me.

After looking at them for a moment, I approached them and said, “Ma, Pa, sorry  for  my excesses, for neglecting you.”

My parents hugged me and we cried together. At that moment, I felt loved, accepted, my pride torn off from me. Even as early on I thought I had done everything for my parents, my heart told me that apologizing was the more appropriate thing to do.

 Two days after, I broke up with my girlfriend.

 I told her, “Let us give each other space to make things right in our life first, and to keep ourselves focused on our goals.”

Finding The Feast

I have a friend who always told me about The Feast. Thursday, four days after that fateful night in the Adoration Chapel, this friend invited me to attend The Feast Video gathering at A&A Plaza Hotel in Puerto Princesa. I went with her with so much excitement because I had heard a lot about Bro. Bo Sanchez and I really looked up to him.

It was as if the talk Bro. Bo was giving was exactly for me. I asked the Lord, “Is this the answer to my prayer last week?”

I cried even more during the Worship time. The next few days were days of crying yet days of redemption, I must say.

That week was full of blessings— God lovingly  embracing me, forgiving me, and showing me His Light. I knew then that I had found real happiness at The Feast.

I once thought that happiness could be found in peers, girlfriends, and vices.  But I was wrong.  Genuine happiness can only be found in the Presence of the Lord, in loving Him back, in serving Him.

I had failed many times because I relied on my own strength. Now, I have come to realize what was or  rather, Who was  missing in my life.

Because of The Feast Video and the Light of Jesus Family, I was able to build a stronger relationship with God and my family. I also found great friends to support me every step of my spiritual walk.

Four months after that blessed week, I was invited to join ALAB 2016, a Light of Jesus Youth Missions Leadership Camp.

I was just 1 out of 300 young persons in that camp. We where divided into groups and my teammates  chose me to be their leader as we competed in various camp games. I had doubts about my leadership but I knew then who the real Leader was, so I raised my hands in full surrender and trust in God. By God’s grace, out of 24 teams, our team emerged as champion!

Perhaps, it was God’s way of telling me: “Give me your best and I will do the rest…”

It was surreal. It was amazing. It was the hand of the Lord working right before me.

Jesus said, “Many are called but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

Indeed, so many young people need this closeness and deep relationship with God, and so I felt very blessed that I’d been among the ones chosen to attend this youth camp.

I now realize, God has always been there for me, answering my every question, attending to my every need. And His plans are always way better than mine.

I know that my journey with Him wouldn’t be that easy. It might be filled with struggles, temptations and tears, but at the end of the day,  it will all be worthwhile as long as I am with Him in this thing called Life.

Back to the Church

Before, I prayed only when I had problems. I went to church only when I just felt like it, or when I was with a girlfriend.

Aside from the church one of my girlfriends invited me to, I also explored other non-Christian services.

At The Feast, I feel like I have a second family, guiding me, comforting me. There, I always feel that God is at my side, looking at me, speaking to me.

Only seven months in The Feast, I am now a member of the Choir, the Dance Ministry, and the Warmth Ministry. I am also already leading a Light Group.

The Feast has also well inspired me to attend Mass and appreciate more my Catholic Faith. I now attend Mass regularly and I even serve as member of the Choir in my parish church.

What I like most about our Church is being a good shepherd to others and sharing the Light of Jesus to anyone who is in darkness.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 17:05

About the Authors

Married couple Carlo and Carla chose to tell their story under anonymity.

The two dated and became a couple in 1993 in their college days. After their graduation in 1997, they got married. Today, they live in Makati City and they have three beautiful children.

The couple didn’t take going to Mass seriously until Carla encountered a bitter family problem.

Her Story

I grew up with somewhat distorted idea of why Catholics ought to go to Mass on Sundays.

My pious grandmother who went to church every day imposed that we, her grandchildren, should do so, too. She’s the type who would constantly check if the children in our family were already baptized as Catholics, took their First Communion, and had their Confirmation. For her, non-Catholics will never reach Heaven, and Born-Agains are anti-Christ. She was what I would call a traditional Catholic. She also attended Simbang Gabi without fail.

My family lived in the same neighbourhood where my grandmother and some other relatives lived.  On Sundays, on her way to the church, when she catches us siblings or our cousins playing on the streets, Lola would bark, “Hey, come to church with me!”

But first, she shooed us back to our house to  dress up and put on our Sunday best.

Then one day, I observed that my mom had stopped attending Mass. I asked her why.

She said, “God wasn’t answering my prayers anyway, so why bother.”

Her answer got my young mind thinking, “Is that why we go to church?”

Later, my mom shared that she dreamt of God telling her to go to church. Fearing God, she obeyed, though she attended only on occasions,not regularly.

She even went on pilgrimages to faraway churches, like the Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan when she needed a big favor from God. I noticed though that she became financially successful. Her business boomed when she started going back to church.

So I went about life carrying these ideas in my head — that I’d go to Hell if I didn’t attend Mass, and that if I did,  I’d receive favors from God.

Moving on, I went to college and there, I met Carlo.

His Story

I went to a Catholic school from pre-school to high school. We had Religion class every day, heard Mass and received Communion in school weekly.  Then on Sunday, I attended Mass with my family.

Then I went to college and as I was on my own, I easily dropped the habit inculcated in me in my younger years. I stopped going to church regularly but only when I wanted to.

Growing up, I heard gossips and scandals about priests in our school and in church. Our school principal and adviser, a priest, said something in our class that rang loud and clear to me.  He said, it wasn’t necessary for us to go to church since we already have a personal line to God.

Yes, a priest said that. For my convenience’s sake, I bought it without questions. 

It was during my college days when I met Carla and we fell in love.

We held the same views and agreed on a lot of things, including our nonchalance for attending Mass. We were both turned off by people who were pala-simba, those who frequent the church, or those with panata or devotions to a saint, but are actually unkind and ill-natured. We didn’t want to be branded like them.

We reasoned we would not be disconnected from God for as long as we prayed and had a personal relationship with Him. That should be enough. 

We got married in 1997 and resided in a condominium in Manila.

Life was easy and smooth sailing until my wife had a squabble with her mom.

Finding The Feast

Carla: I woke up one day with a heavy feeling in my heart. I came to the conclusion that my mom hated me. She didn’t love me. Ate, my elder sister, was her favorite.

Mom and I exchanged some cutting remarks and next thing I knew we stopped talking. For days. Then the days turned into weeks, weeks into months.

I cried a lot during those agonizing days. I had no peace of mind. I couldn’t sleep at night. I sank into depression. I even went to see a counselor.

After some time of therapy session, I wasn’t getting any better so my counselor prescribed medication. But I didn’t like taking the pill. I knew taking medicine was just cosmetic.

I knew I needed something more powerful, a more holistic approach— like spiritual healing.

One time in the middle of the night, I heard the sound of bells clanging. Curious, I went down to ask from our condo security guard where the sound was coming from.

That’s when I found out that there was a chapel near our condominium. From then on, I  walked to that chapel and heard Mass every day, at 6:00 a.m.

Slowly, I began to feel lighter. But I wanted to sort of fast track my healing. I confided my dilemma to my friend, Candice, and she said, “Maybe you’d like to try going to The Feast at the PICC.”

The Feast? Bo Sanchezs The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center? I’d seen that on television. I would watch it sometimes on Sundays. Go and attend it?

I was wary of religious organizations. What with the scandals of pastors and priests and scams and pyramid schemes we hear on the news. What if Bo Sanchez was one of those who exhorted people to tithe for his mansion or something?

These thoughts ran in my mind. But what if I find the spiritual healing I needed there? I resolved to check it out.

So, one Sunday in February 2014, I asked my husband to go with me to The Feast. But not before asking Candice what we should wear. Formal, gala? After all, it’s a grand venue.

When we got there, I observed most of the people were in casual clothes. But more than the people’s attire, I noticed the atmosphere was friendly and inviting. It seemed like everyone knew each other. The people were amiable and high-spirited.

I cried during worship. My spirit felt joyful to praise and glorify God’s presence.  

Carlo: I saw how devastated Carla was during those times when she had a spat with her mom. As her husband, I just wanted to give my full support to her and stand by her decisions and plans.

When she started going to the chapel, I just let her. When she asked that we go to this prayer meeting, I admit I hesitated.

I said, let’s go but at the back of my mind, I was cautious. What if it was a cult? And, you see, I knew of celebrities belonging to religious groups who do drugs after worship.

But we went just the same. I couldn’t believe what I saw! People raising their hands and openly expressing themselves in worship. I thought this kind of praise and worship happened in the United States -–— but not in the Philippines. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I was mesmerized by the place, the people.

For me, church or Mass meant quiet and solemn prayer. When I saw the band, the drum set, my first question in mind was, The priest allows this?

It was amazing! Carla and I had a wonderful time praying and listening to the talk.

On our first few sessions, I even cried at one point, deeply touched.  And I couldn’t believe Bro. Bo stopping by to shake my hand and comfort me. Great guy!

We kept going back and started bringing the kids with us. We became regulars and barely skipped a Sunday.

Carla: It took awhile, but my mom and I reconciled in November 2015 and I couldn’t be happier. I knew she still held some grudges against me but I brushed them aside.

The reconciliation happened after Bro. Bo’s talk series titled Haunted House about quirks and quarrels of parents, children, and siblings, and how they may be reconciled. Bro. Be said to honor and be respectful of our parents and that’s what I did.

My mom and I may not agree on some points but as her daughter, I just showed her my love by not talking back. I kept in mind that I’d rather be loving than be right.  She’s my mom after all, and I love her and she loves me. She said she loves me.

Hearing those three words from her meant a lot to me. She didn’t say it like that exactly but she meant it and it was all that mattered.

When I talk to Candice and other friends nowadays, they say I have changed a lot in my perspective in life. And I also walk my talk.

That’s why my family keeps going back to The Feast. It’s a complete package! You have the Mass, praise and worship, and practical talk.

In gratitude to God and to our new faith community, Carlo and I have signed up to become servants in the Feast Bay Area.

Back to the Church

Carla: I continue to go to Mass every day for I find solace in the church. I am still plagued with worries about my kids and our business, but when I am in the church, I feel calm and peaceful.

I am a visual person, I need to see the statues and images of Jesus, Mama Mary, and the saints to tell me, everything will be all right. 

I cannot go on a day without hearing the Mass now. It’s my oxygen.

Carlo: The Mass is very important and sacred to us now. Carla and I go to church every day to get recharged, especially when I’ve had a rough day and I’ve got a lot of things in my mind.

We don’t see going to Mass as an obligation anymore. We know we need it. We also like going to the Adoration Chapel. I like thinking I go in a kitten and come out a lion, like on that viral video on Facebook. Which I really think is the case!        

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 16:33

About the Author

Ginger Aganon, 41, was born in Quezon City where she still lives. She is ate, elder sister, to her only sibling named Celery. Both daughters are helping their parents with their garments business and, at the same time, run their own businesses.

Ginger spent her childhood watching her parents grow their family business venture. Ginger remembers attending Mass at their parish church only when it was their family’s turn for the processional during Offertory and for the readings, aside from special occasions. In her teenage years, she sometimes went to church with her cousins.

Her Story

I spent my childhood days playing, working on school projects. visiting cousins, or gong to  the malls with my family on weekends.With my parents busy with their business venture, we seldom went to church, which was fine with me because I found the Mass boring. I didn’t understand why we had to listen to so much talk, and be quiet and be still for so long.

I went to a Catholic school during my grade school days. Our Christian Living class helped me understand my Catholic faith. In Grade 2, I learned the importance of the Holy Mass and one’s proper decorum during our preparations for our First Holy Communion.

Before I, attended a Catholic school, my only concept of God was Jesus as a baby in the manger. I remember my parents explaining that Jesus is our guide, our protector who keeps us safe from bad elements.

When I was in Grade 5, my family moved to California, USA. My sister Celery and I attended a public school. Religion is not taught in American public schools. We hardly went to church while we were there. Thus, my Catholic faith became weaker.

In my younger years, I felt  my eldersperceived me as weak  in academics. But in the U.S. my teachers helped mediscover my talents, like  I was good in sports, such as volleyball, basketball, softball, and track and field. My teachers helped me overcome my weaknesses. So I realized I was smart, after all.

I also felt good that even as I looked different from them, my classmates treated me as an equal.

Then,my parents decided that wego back to the Philippines. So I feared I might not fare well in my classes again.

Fortunately, I found Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS) in Quezon City. They took me in even if the school year had already started. JASMS is an institution known for its non-traditional and progressive educational approach, similar to the American public school system that hones an individual’s talents.

Here, I became a well-rounded student. I felt proud as I discovered my capabilities and it reflected in my school performance. I excelled in academics and in extra-curricular activities. 

With my impressive school record, I made it to the University of the Philippines Diliman where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Clothing Technology. After that, I enrolled in the same university for a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA).

I had a great time in UP. In between my academics, I was an active member of the UP Mountaineers and even became a Varsity Softball player. My success and achievements continued even after college. I held a good job and even started businesses with friends. I was doing well in life. But, despite my achievements, I felt dissatisfied and unhappy. I began to question what all these achievements were for.

I made an inventory of my life and realized that I lacked spiritual direction. Perhaps, my Catholic Faith was not deeply rooted for I began searching elsewhere for my spiritual nourishment. I checked out non-Catholic churches and attended their services. I found some church services just okay while some, I knew, were not for me. I continued my search.

Finding The Feast

My closest cousin Kristine had been inviting me for some time to check out The Feast then being held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. I finally went with her in 2004.I felt awkward on my first visit. The participants were smiling and greeting me. I wasn’t used to being greeted by strangers and I thought they were being over-friendly.

The music during Worship as well as during the Mass was lively. I didn’t feel sleepy. Instead, I felt my spirit revived. I liked listening to Bro. Bo Sanchez’s talks. He caught my attention because he often started with anecdotes.

After every Feast, I went home knowing more about my God and feeling closer to Him, uplifted, and hopeful.

After a few months, I went to The Feast by myself when Kristine couldn’t make it. I followed The Feast as it changed venues until it settled at Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City.

Much later, in 2008, I joined a small group, now called Light Group (LG), that met weekly for prayer and discussion of the talks. That’s when I felt I was already part of the Light of Jesus Family, Bro. Bo’s faith community. I met new friends with varied backgrounds, who all wanted one thing— grow deeper in our faith.

As I attended The Feast and my LG meetings and discovered more about God, I learned more about myself and how to get over my issues in life, how to manage my finances, and appreciate life.

Our LG head, Bro. Albert Zabala,assigned me as his assistant head. Our LG grew to about 60 at its peak. We had to split up during the sharing sessions. I took care of the group of girls, while Bro. Albert took care of the boys. I immensely enjoyed those times with my LG.

Bro. Bo envisioned Feasts all over the country and across the globe. The Feast grew bigger such that Valle Verde Country Club couldn’t accommodate us any longer. The Feast had to move to a bigger venue in May 2010. That Feast is now called The Feast Bay Area  (FBA) which now holds its Sunday gathering at various venues at the Manila Bay Area in Pasay City. At the same time, the Feast Valle Verde was born.

With this development, some of my LG mates stayed at Valle Verde while others went to FBA and other Feast venues. Until now, we still meet up on special occasions. I get invited to the members’ wedding or baptismal of their babies.

Prior to my attendance of the Feast, I was apprehensive about going to Confession. I feared that the priest would scold me for my sins.

After listening to Bro. Bo talk about how forgiving God is, I finally had the guts to confess my sins. This would probably just be the second Confession in my whole life. My first was prior to my First Communion when I was in Grade 2. I prepared myself for a scolding.

But the priest just said, “You’re forgiven, my child.”

I thought to myself, “Did he not hear how grave my sins are that he just forgave me that easily? He must not have heard me. Surely, he must be deaf.“

So, I decided to go to another priest confessor. This time, the priest was Fr. John Sherlock, Feasters’ favorite confessor. He was said to have the ability to discern your sins before you even tell him.

I remember the moment clearly. I sat beside Fr. John. He held my hand and he started to talk to me and tell me about my sins.  All I said were, “Yes, Father,” “No, Father,” and “I am, Father.” I was in awe because he knew what I was about to confess.

Fr. John said, “You had confessed these sins before but you don’t believe that you have been forgiven. Know that as long as you are sincere, you are forgiven.”

That day, I really felt absolved of my sins. Like magic, I felt inner peace. Amazing! The wonders of our Sacraments!

Back to the Church

I now appreciate the Sacraments, which I used to take for granted. I wish more Catholics would learn about the beauty, richness, and the many supernatural favors accorded to us through the Sacrament of Communion during the Holy Mass and other Sacraments such as, Confession, Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage.

Because of my business obligations, I sometimes miss attending The Feast.But I  hear Mass every Sunday. Unlike before, I now feel bothered if I don’t receive the Body and Blood of Jesus at least once a week. I now make it a point to listen to God’s Word to nourish and satisfy my soul.

 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 16:12

About The Author

James Joseph D. Bardos, 38, single, finished a course on Telecommunications at the AMA University.

James is a freelance video editor and events video provider.

He lives in Malabon City.

James says he used to be a “typical guy” joining friends for happy hours after work, and a “typical Sunday Catholic” going to Mass now and then, but not really serious with his spiritual life.

His Story

I was a typical guy who went along with friends after work for a happy hour, where there was always drinking and singing, especially my favorite Gary Valenciano songs.I was just having fun.

I entered into a relationship also just for fun. I did it just to conform with my peers. You know, so I won’t be out of place, because everybody was doing it.

I was also just a typical Sunday Catholic. I was attending Mass. And I was active in the Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) program.

But my church activities  didn’t put a stop to my carefree ways.

Since I was not serious about my faith, I also attended other non-Catholic church services.

Finding The Feast

One day in December 2002, I saw a religious magazine in a bookstore and I was attracted to it because I saw a picture of Gary V. on the cover. As I was his fan, I bought the magazine right away. The magazine turned out to be the Kerygma magazine. I read it and there, I found out about the Light of Jesus Family and its prayer gathering, The Feast, then being held once a month at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Theater in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

I liked what I read about The Feast. But it took a while before I went to check it out.

I first attended The Feast in June 2003. It was a life-changing experience for me that intensified my Catholic Faith.

From Camp Aguinaldo, I have followed The Feast as it transferred to the Arena in San Juan City, to the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig, and now at the Manila Bay Area.

I’ve  served as member of the Music Ministry, and I even got employed in the Light of Jesus administration office in Cubao, Quezon City.

Back to the Church

The Feast made me appreciate more my Catholic Faith. I learned more about the Faith as I got to attend the Light of Jesus’ series of seminars on  Apologetics—  the defense of the great truths about the Catholic Faith— conducted by Atty. Marwil Llasos, a lay preacher, apologist, and catechist. I then learned so much how to give a defense or explain my Faith to anyone who asks about it. 

I also attended the Light of Jesus Roots program.Roots, held at the St. Francis Parish Church in Mandaluyong, is a weekly study about the Catholic Faith, explaining the structure and the traditions of the Catholic Church. The program was named Roots because the study digs deep into the foundation of our Faith— yes, our roots. It also teaches how to defend the Faith from criticisms of other denominations.

The Feast has well upheld Catholic rites such as the Visita Iglesia or visiting churches during the Holy Week. I’ve joined brothers and sisters in the community in these visits to reflect on the passion of Jesus Christ.

Through The Feast,  I’m also serving in various retreats for students as  facilitator and speaker. It’s the least I can do to express my gratitude to God for calling me to be His disciple and giving me an opportunity to serve Him in my humble way through The Feast.

 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 15:58

About The Author

Jennifer Chuatoco-Clemente was born and raised in Metro Manila.

She graduated from college in 2010 with a diploma in Hotel Restaurant and Institution of Management.

She is married to Jun, an accountant.

Jenny’s mom is Catholic and so are the rest of the Chuatoco household, except for her dad, who belongs to a non- Catholic sect. This, Jenny says, is one reason the family heard Mass only on occasions.

When Jenny met her husband, she started to appreciate the Catholic rites. But, it took some time before she would finally accede to attending regular Sunday Mass.

Her Story

We had this activity in kindergarten where we’re supposed to write about what we did during the weekend. I distinctly remember lying about going to Mass.

You see, my classmates wrote that every Sunday, they attended Mass with their family.

My family hardly went to church.So, wantingto conform with the class, I wrote that my family and I were regular churchgoers.

There were three reasons I didn’t attend Sunday Mass regularly.        

First, my father belongs to a non-Catholic sect.So even as my mom and we siblings are Catholics,we heard Mass only on occasions.

Second, instead of going to church, my family often went on out-of-town trips on weekends.Or, we watched movies. My sibs took every chance to watch movies, especially because that was the only time our mom allowed us to eat chips.

Besides, I rationalized, we heard Mass in school every Friday and I could always pray at home. That should be enough.

Third, something happened in school that made me disappointed with priests.  One of the priests serving in the school renounced his vows and married one of our teachers. The teacher happened to be the grouchy kind.

I thought, maybe, if he married somebody else, I would have been fine with his leaving the priesthood.

Disillusioned, I remained lukewarm about my faith.

My first little step toward a spiritual journey started when I went to high school. I attended my first retreat where I realized that I lacked something that should put some sense in my life — and I began to search for what it was.

So, from then on, I attended spiritual activities I was invited to— up to when I already went to college. But not one of those activities could  make me go deeper into my faith quest. My enthusiasm simply waned after each activity.

Going Astray    

My parents brought me up well. I knew I had to be a good girl and I was. Life took a bit of a turn when I got into a complicated relationship. 

I was already working then in a high-end department store. And I had a boyfriend.

One day, a woman texted me saying she was my boyfriend’s wife, and they already have a child.

Following moral lessons I learned in the retreats I attended,I decided to call it quits with this guy. But, he knew exactly what to say so I’d take him back.

We went on an on-off relationship. I would break off with him, he would woo me back, and I would give in. We went through that cycle for a while.

I knew then that I couldn’t let go of him on my own. I had to seek a higher power. I prayed to God that He grant me the grace to do what is right.

God made a way. This guy told me he plans to work for the annulment of his marriage. To be able to afford the expensive annulment procedure, he decided to work abroad. I believed him.

We had a long distance relationship. I was paying thousands for our overseas calls.

Then, one day, some girl called me up saying she’s with my man. That was my wake-up call. I broke off with him and never looked back. 

To get over him, I started reading inspirational books. It happened that my elder brother read Bo Sanchez, so I got to read him too. I was deeply touched when Bro. Bo wrote that God never abandons us, because He loves us without condition. I realized then that despite my wrongdoing, God has always been there, watching over me, that despite what I had gone though, I still had a beautiful life. 

As I pored over this preacher’s works, I started to hunger for God’s Word.

At the time, my mom happened to start going to Mass regularly. So I went with her sometimes.

Then, Jun came into my life.

In 2007, I enrolled for a Master in Business Administration course. Jun was one of my classmates and later, one of my groupmates.

At first, I was not attracted to him—too serious, old fashioned, even in the way he dressed up. But then I got to know him more— he talked sense, so we became good friends.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. When I met Jun, he was also searching for a deeper relationship with God. Where he went, I followed—Opus Dei, Masses, retreats.

Jun also introduced me to the Holy Rosary and taught me how to pray it.

Eventually, we became a couple and we got married on October 9, 2010.

At this point, I must say I still remained lackadaisical about my faith. I was not enthusiastic particularly about going to Mass. Jun attended Mass regularly. I joined him only when I felt like it. Sometimes, I dillydallied, and we would be late for Mass. Jun would reprimand me.

There were times when I’d be tired from office work, so I didn’t go. There were also times when I feigned sickness just so I could skip Mass.

I guess it all boiled down to my mindset then about prayer or relating to God. I prayed only when I needed something from Him.

We had a comfortable life, so I did not feel any need to  pray, much more attend Mass.

But one day, I woke up and found our marriage in shambles. I didn’t know what happened. We were surrounded by happy couples but between Jun and me, something was amiss. We were close to separating.

Finding The Feast

A friend of Juninvited us to The Feast back when it was still being held at Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig.

We went just to please the friend. We got in late and nothing sunk into me.

Amid our marriage trouble, Jun thought it wise to attend The Feast again, and I agreed because I really wanted to save our marriage.

The year was 2014. The prayer gathering, now called Feast Bay Area (FBA), was then being held in three different venues -–Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Aliw, and Star Theater. We went to PICC.

Our timing couldn’t be more perfect. The talk series was for couples like us. The title: His and Hers. We lapped up everything Bro. Bo said that day. After that, Jun and I sat down and talked. I began to understand my husband and I found it easier to express myself to him. As we discussed things, I had this amazing feeling that I had an ally in Jun. Apparently, he felt the same thing for me. The funny thing is we didn’t even know why we were fighting in the first place.

We finished The Feast talk series and since then, we have never stopped attending The Feast. We also rarely had a fight since.

The Feast is the first prayer gathering that we agreed on. I realized that the reason I skipped Mass was I preferred a happy and festive setting when worshipping God. My husband likes to pray in a contemplative environment but this weekly gathering suited his taste.

In May 2015, Jun said it was time to serve our faith community, so he joined the Formation Ministry. I took my time. In July, I signed up for the Media Cluster but didn’t show up. I had too many excuses.

My work in the office was causing me stress. I was also taking up a short fashion course back then. I didn’t have time for ministry service.

Actually, my biggest hindrance was my self-doubt. Up at this point, I must say, I still had not dealt with guilts over my past life. So I guess I felt I was not worthy to serve God.

But at The Feast, I learned that God loves us so much,  He is determined to mold us into the person He purposed us to be. True.

One day, it was announced at The Feast that the Light of Jesus Family would be holding a Jesus Encounter (JE) seminar.Jun, who had gone through it already, asked me to attend, and I did. That’s whenI had a big change of heart.

Aside from the edifying talks, the JE included a Baptism in the Holy Spirit, a defining moment for me.

Remember, when I couldn’t let go of my first boyfriend, I prayed to God to do it for me? At the JE, I realized  it is the Holy Spirit I needed to take control of my mind and my heart, my entire being— that I may be strong enough to turn away from sin, and to get rid  of my feeling of unworthiness.

Indeed, engulfed by the Holy Spirit, I then really encountered Jesus in a close, personal way. I already felt I could do anything through Jesus Christ.

At the same JE, Sis Rezza Custodio-Soriano, head of the Feast Bay Area Media Cluster, spoke about the various ways we could serve in the ministry.

I then felt the Lord telling me to help Him with marketing.

So, I approached Sis. Rezza and told her to count me in in her group. It’s the best decision I have ever made. Today, I am managing the promotion of FBA events.

Now, I know that my service is not about me— it’s all about Him. My service is my way of saying thank you for all His blessings. 

Back to the Church

It took me a few months of attending The Feast before I began to appreciate the Mass. Now, I understand why Jun didn’t want us to be late for church. I now value listening to the homily.

I thank Bro. Bo and the community for I learned the importance of the Mass, as well as having my own prayer time and reading the Bible. Jun and I also developed the habit of praying together as a couple daily. All these brought us closer to each other, which was our original intent for attending The Feast.

More than that, we are also being brought to an intimate relationship with the Lord. 

 

Saturday, 12 November 2016 19:28

About the Author

Emmanuel ‘Emer’ Encarnacion, an only child, lived comfortably with parents who were devoted Catholics and who made sure he got a Catholic education.

But he said he reached the point of becoming unchurched. Life’s trials in his adult years tested his faith and rendered him so hopeless that he asked if he might as well end his life.

His Story

I’m an only child so I lived a charmed life, loved and protected as I was by my parents. 

Since I had no siblings, at home, I sort of created an imaginary world of my own where I was hero as well as villain and other characters. 

In reality, I was simply an ordinary boy, bespectacled and thus looking so nerdy, I was an easy prey of school bullies.

Little did I know, life’s blows would be much, much harder.  

I got married in my early 20s and my wife and I were blessed with three children— our eldest a boy, the one in the middle mi unica hija, and our youngest a boy.

In the early years of our marriage, my wife and I engaged in a flourishing business. But amid the Asian economic crisis in 1997, our business went bankrupt the following year. We plunged deep in debt and my wife even faced legal impediments.

She then saw an opportunity to earn money to pay our debts— by working in the United States in 2002.

But alas such move worsened my already deteriorating life.

In just three months in the U.S., my wife sent a message that she met someone there and she’s planning to marry him. I thought she was just doing this to gain American citizenship to legalize her stay in the U.S. But as it turned out, she filed for divorce which I had no choice but to approve— and she went ahead and got married to this man. 

So there I was— without a source of income, without a wife, my children without a mother, our family broken.

And as if I had not received enough blows, at the time, my mother, who could have been my refuge, passed away.

Later, in 2005, petitioned by their step dad, my only daughter and youngest son migrated to the United States. In 2007, my daughter came back to the Philippines to finish college. She graduated in 2010 and in May of the same year, went back to the U.S. to stay there for good. My eldest son is still with me waiting for the approval of his petition.

Feeling alone in this grim situation and facing a bleak future, I couldn’t help asking, “Should I now end my life?” 

Going Astray

Suicide, however, was not an option for me. And I must say that’s because I was raised a Catholic and had been taught taking one’s life is a mortal sin.

We were an average Catholic family. My father was an altar boy. Priests in the church where he served granted him scholarships up to high school and helped him get a job in a Catholic university where he was a working student until he graduated with a degree in Accountancy. After graduation he continued working for this university as an accountant until he died in 1981, succumbing to lung cancer.

My mother, a full-time housewife, devoted a life of service in our parish church until her death in 2004.

From elementary, high school, up to college, I studied in the university where my father worked. 

But I must admit that despite my Catholic upbringing and education, I had been what is called simply a nominal Catholic. I guess I attended Mass and went through the Sacraments simply as my Catholic obligation.

Amid my troubles, however, I began to search for the meaning of it all, a relief from such heavy burden, by looking up to God. 

Now, it happened that after my mother’s death, I had to clean her room and sort out her stuff. And as I did, I chanced upon a copy of Our Daily Bread, a little book on daily reflections on God’s Word. 

I sat and read a few pages… and before I knew it, I was already asking questions: Who is God? Who is He in my life? Who am I?

I then went on in this search for my spirituality… a renewal of my relationship with my God. My search led me to a book titled The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.  I read the first page and in the next 40 days, I just couldn’t put the book down until I reached the last page.

And for the first time, another question nagged me: Should I go back to the Catholic Church, or find a new one? 

Yes, I must say that I had reached the point of becoming unchurched.

Not sure of what to do, I stopped attending Sunday Mass. Neither did I attend non-Catholic services.

But I did ask the Holy Spirit to guide me where to go.

Finding The Feast

Five years after I read the Purpose Driven Life, in May of 2010, my prayers were answered… 

One Sunday, a very good friend of mine invited me to attend a charismatic prayer meeting being held at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City. 

I said, “Sure!”        

The preacher said, “Welcome to the Feast. This is your new spiritual family now.”

Those words simply blew me away.

Those words were spoken by Bo Sanchez. But the one I heard was God, welcoming me again to His Church! 

Tears stung my eyes, my heart pounded with gladness. I felt peace, I felt joy! 

It is a feeling of rebirth, a renewed relationship with my God.

The talk that Sunday was the start of a six- week series titled Life of No Regrets.  

God could have not chosen a better time to get me to The Feast. That Feast talk was simply what I just had to hear. Indeed, God is perfect. God is good.

I followed Bro. Bo when he transferred to the Philippine International Convention Center. 

At Feast PICC, on September 2010, I was so moved when the choir sang the Potters Hand. Written by Darlene Joyce Zschech and popularized by the Hillsong praise band, the song goes:

 I’m captured by Your Holy calling

Set me apart

I know you’re drawing me to Yourself

Lead me… Lord I pray

Take me… mold me

Use me… fill me

I give my life 

To the Potter’s Hand

Call me… You guide me

Lead me… walk beside me

I give my life 

To the Potter’s Hand…

Earlier, I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me, right? And so through these words that must have come from the Potter Himself, I figured He did guide me toward The Feast.

And so I prayed to God: “Father, I would like to serve you in any of your ministries. Use me where I’m good at —use my core gifts.”  

First, I applied for membership in the Music Ministry, but I did not receive any reply. I guess there were already many applicants they were no longer taking in more members.

The next year, January of 2011, I signed-in to join the Creative Events Group and still, I didn’t get a reply.

Then one Feast Sunday in March of that year, I just assisted a lady usher in arranging the chairs at the second level of the Reception Hall.  

The usher looked at me and said, “Would you like to be a greeter?”

I grinned from ear to ear and answered, “Yes Ma’m! I would love to.” 

Guess what? A week after I joined the Greeters’ Ministry.  The Creative Events Group accepted me as new member.

Back to the Church

Since it includes the Holy Mass, The Feast led me back to my Catholic Faith, which now I truly understand and appreciate. 

The faith community that holds The Feast, the Light of Jesus Family, warmly welcomed me and so I have embraced LOJ as the community where God called me to be molded in the person He purposed me to be.

Through this community, I’ve felt God’s unconditional love. I’ve also received His forgiveness for my unfaithfulness and so I’ve learned to also forgive.

In 2014, I was already a member of the Light of Jesus when I received word that the husband of my wife was in Manila as a balikbayan. 

My eldest son and I met with him in the hotel where he was staying. We talked and he answered my whys and wherefores, and at the end of the day, I felt relieved from the pains of the past.

Before we parted, I found myself saying to him, “You’ve loved the people that are closest to my heart— my only daughter, my youngest son and their mother. What had happened is not your fault. I love you with the love of the Lord.”

And I hugged him.

Never in my wildest dreams would have I thought I’d befriend the man who had replaced me in the heart of my wife.  But I must say it was not human me who spoke, but the Holy Spirit, our God of the Impossible, who uttered those kind words.

Just like Job in the Bible, I’ve lost not only my family but all of my properties.  Our ancestral house was repossessed by the bank, we had to sell our properties in the province, and our business never recovered.  

I guess God took away all my worldly possessions — so I could start anew. He took away all of my distractions for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel —and that is Jesus Christ.

All of my children are now professionals. I am in sales, working for an imported luxury cars showroom. 

Yes, God is so great, He has simplified my life.

Today, I continue to learn back everything about my Catholic Faith. What I read daily now is the Companion, which includes the daily Mass readings, a brief explanation of the readings from priest writers, and a space for one’s reflections on the liturgy for the day.

And as I reflect on God’s Word, the more I realize that even as I’ve made a detour in my faith walk, the Holy Spirit never abandoned me. All along, He’s been there with me, especially during my darkest moments. And so I pray I will continue to open my eyes, my heart, my mind, and spirit to His leading.

 

Saturday, 12 November 2016 19:14

About the Authors

Jay Deynata, 40, is a jeepney driver while his wife Criselda, 36, works as sales coordinator for a hotdog business.

Criselda and Jay met in 1992 when they were teenagers.They were neighbors in Dasmariñas, Cavite. They started out as friends and later, entered into a relationship. The two got married in 1999. They have a son, Carl Justin or CJ.

The couple were baptized Catholics but did not practice attending Mass every Sunday. They said they only went on occasions or when they needed to pray for favors and thanksgiving.

His Story

I never met my father. My mother said he’s Swedish. That’s all I know about him. No picture even. I don’t even know if he knew about me. My mother didn’t say much about him.

I didn’t know much about my mother either. She left me to the care of my grandmother and aunts when I was only five years old. My mother worked in Bahrain and we had no communication. I saw her again only when I was in my 20s.

In 1998, my mother showed up on our doorstep. It was a joyful and at the same time tearful reunion. She said she already has a husband, a Norwegian, and they have two daughters.

One time, my mother took me to Norway for a visit with her family. I stayed there for three months, and I enjoyed bonding with my stepsisters.

I didn’t have an easy life but I couldn’t complain. I may not have had my parents beside me when I was growing up but I was loved by my grandmother and aunts.

All those years, I never felt bitter. I rationalized there were people whose circumstances were more unfortunate than mine. 

One day in 1992, a family moved into our neighborhood. Their daughter, Criselda, would become my wife.

Her Story

I was born in Manila and grew up in Quezon City.

In 1992, our family transferred to Cavite and I met Jay. He became one of my first friends in the neighborhood.

Jay would also become my first and only boyfriend. He became my ex-boyfriend when we tied the knot in 1999 in our parish church. We are blessed with one son, CJ.

Our family went to hear Mass quite regularly. But, later, we dropped the habit.

In my younger years, my parents went to church on occasions, like Christmas. During Holy Week, we observed Lent rituals, like the Visita Iglesia visiting a church and meditating in the adoration chapel.

But an unfortunate incident led my father, Romulo, to seek God.

In 2005, my brother, Romulo III, suffered over fatigue that he had to be confined in hospital. We thought we would lose him but the medical team was able to save him.

Thankful, my father joined a Christian faith community. He became so passionate about his newfound religion, he invited Jay and me to join the group’s prayer meetings. We attended a couple of meetings but after awhile, we  realized that such religion wasn’t for us.

Meanwhile, I was content as a plain housewife, spending my spare time playing tong-its, a card game, and mahjong.

Then, one day in 2010, I met up with an aunt. Aunt Rowena is just a few years older than me, so we were best buddies when we were growing up. When my family moved to Cavite, I lost touch with Aunt Rowena.

When we saw each other again, I found out Aunt Rowena had a thriving hotdog business, and she asked me to join her as a sales coordinator. At the time, my son CJ was big enough to be left alone, so I accepted the job offer.  The job didn’t just give me income, it pulled me away from my gaming vice.

But while my aunt pulled me away from the card games, but I went with  her to the casino.   

Jay sometimes went with us because he didn’t like the idea of two women going by themselves to the casino.

Finding The Feast

Criselda: In May 2015, my aunt started singing a different tune. She invited us to a prayer meeting called The Feast.

Jay: At first, we gave all sorts of excuses.

Criselda: Finally, we ran out of excuses so we went, with our son in tow.

Jay: Why not, when Rowena even lent us her family’s car to use to get to The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

Criselda: We first came on June 7, 2015. I loved it the first time I went. Everybody was happy singing, clapping their hands, and dancing.

To this day, what I like most about The Feast is the talk after the Mass. The lay preachers give inspiring practical tips on Christian living.

Everyone wants to be a good person. Sometimes, we just need proper guidance from successful people.

Jay: The place is comfortable and peaceful. You can really pray, focus, and understand what the priest is saying. Each session is packed with learnings that we can apply in our daily life.

Criselda: We used to fight a lot. Even on petty matters like who gets to choose the channel on television.

Jay: Because we are applying what we are learning at The Feast, we have become more patient and caring for each another.

I used to drink a lot with my barkada. I would go home wasted in the wee hours of the morning, almost every other day. Now, I seldom drink with them. I prefer to drink at home— but only moderately.

Criselda: My aunt and I don’t go to the casino anymore. That’s a thing of the past. We now go to a weekly Light Group (LG) session. We meet with other couples and talk about the talk and how we are applying it in our daily grind. We pray for each other’s concerns. It’s great.

Back to the Church

Criselda: We have become regulars at The Feast. Our Sunday is not complete without attending it. If we can’t make it to PICC, we make sure to watch The Feast on television. And hear Mass in our parish.

Jay: We look forward to Sundays now, for the Mass, for the talk. We always go early to get front row seats.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 12 November 2016 18:43

About the Author

Jellie Anne C. Palencia, 28, single, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Nutrition and Dietetics.

She works in a government agency as a public health nutritionist.

Jelly also has an online business selling accessories, and T-shirts that promote God’s word.

She lives in San Pedro, Laguna.       

Her Story

My spiritual life was boring. I prayed only in the morning when I woke up and before I went to bed in the evening.  Sometimes, I fell asleep praying.

My life was great but I felt empty and lost because my spiritual life was zero. I was so busy with my work and had no time for spiritual growth.

Before I attended The Feast, I was not a fan of Sunday Masses. I went to church only if my family asked me to or my friends invited me to be with them.

But going to church alone was not my thing since I was busy with my work and that my work was my life. I also thought that people who go to church were all hypocrites pretending to be holy but deep inside they were evil.

That was my mindset before. I was like, I don’t need the Church for me to be called a “good person”.

Religion really didn’t matter much to me. So I didn’t have qualms attending a non-Catholic Bible Study group when a friend invited me.

Finding The Feast

I was already interested to attend The Feast since I am a subscriber of Bro. Bo Sanchez’s  online Soulfood newsletter.

But I was afraid to go alone. So when an officemate invited me to attend The Feast, without thinking twice, I said yes to her invitation.

I started attending The Feast on July 7, 2013, so I’ve been attending for two years now, and counting.

Today, I serve as assistant teamster of the Feast Bay Area Intercessory Ministry, working as on-site intercessor.

The first time I attended the Feast, I immediately felt the acceptance and love from the members, especially from Bro. Bo Sanchez. He welcomed the first-time attendees, asking them to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, I saw my face on the wide screen.

What I like about The Feast is that there is no discrimination. Everyone is free to attend. There’s no strict attire, no religion barrier.

What I love about The Feast is that it teaches God’s love in a more practical way that we can appreciate and relate to. God’s love is just like the Father who loves his child unconditionally. I am confident enough to say that I now have a personal relationship with God through the help of The Feast. I gained back the love of God that I was running away from for many years.

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I learned to like  the Catholic Faith— its magisterium and beautiful tradition. The Catholic Faith is so rich with teachings that help us to love God even more.

 

Saturday, 12 November 2016 18:23

About the Author

Micah May V. Naluz, 22, single, graduated with a Degree of Bachelor of Library and Informationn Science and currently working at Bulacan State University as Para-professional.

She lives in Pulilan, Bulacan.

Micah serves as head of the Youth Ministry of Feast Baliwag— a miracle for this girl who didn’t go to church regularly.

Her Story

I studied in a private Catholic school but I really did not have deep faith in God. I did not go to Mass regularly.

For college, I wanted to study Pharmacy at Centro Escolar University but because of financial constraints, I had to enrol in another school. I didn’t like to go to this school simply because I didn’t like the school uniform. Yeah, that was me— so shallow.

In my teens, I learned to say bad words because that was the cool thing to do then. I said cuss words to be “in”. I guess I just really wanted to be accepted, to belong to the majority.

Finding The Feast

Five years ago, I joined The Feast— because my uncle was a Feast Builder.

At The Feast, I heard talks about how God has created us in His image and likeness, and how we are supposed to be Christlike.

I then realized how far I was from God and what He purposed me to be.

So, I began to change.

First, in my words. I have refrained from speaking bad words. I didn’t have to say cuss words anymore just to be accepted by my peers.

At The Feast, I have been accepted as I am. The Feast welcomes everyone— old and young, rich or poor. You are welcome no matter how grave your sins are. People don’t judge you. Instead, they make you feel you are loved.

What I enjoy most at The Feast is the Youth Ministry, especially the evangelization  summer camp dubbed Camp Calye. I learned so much from the camp which has paved the way for me to change my ways.

Before, I really didn’t care much about other people. I didn’t greet people if they didn’t greet me first. Now, The Feast has taught me to love my fellowmen, as Jesus told us.

Before, I regarded raising hands to worship God as really weird. Now, I raise my hands to express my surrender to Him, who deserves all my praises. I feel The Feast worship songs express what I want to say to God. And so I sing to Him, expressing my gratitude to Him for my spiritual awakening, unmindful of what those around me would say even us I let tears flow down my cheeks— because, well, they, too are crying, I guess, like me,  crying tears of remorse, and then of joy for His unconditional love for us.

Back to the Church

Before, I preferred to watch television rather than go to Mass. Now, I regularly attend Holy Mass because it is the first part of The Feast.

The Feast has made me appreciate my Catholic Faith— finally. What I like about being Catholic is that we celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus— which is what we do in The Feast.

In the Catholic Church, there aren’t that many conditions for you to be accepted. No many rules prohibiting this or that. Just like in The Feast, everyone is welcome in the Catholic Church— just like God loves us without condition.

Today, I serve as head of the Youth Ministry of Feast Baliwag. I really didn’t know my tasks would be. But I said “Yes,” to God because I know that since He called me to this post, He will guide me all the way.

Saturday, 12 November 2016 17:36

About the Author

Alexander D. Marco, 47, married, is a graduate of  Electronics and Communications Engineering.

Alexander works as an IT Systems and Exchange specialist for TeaM Energy Corp. at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. He handles the email server and network infrastructure of the company.

He lives in Antipolo City.

His Story

I first considered myself spiritual but not religious. I knew that there is a God who guides us but I did not speak to Him regularly. My old life was a mess. I was a drunkard, a gambler, a drug user, and a womanizer. It came to a point that my priority was not my family. Rather, top priority were my vices.

I rarely attended Mass—only when I got invited to the baptism rites of my friends’ kids, or during Christmas Day.

At the time, I felt the Mass was boring. I’d rather pray in one corner of our house if I needed something from God.

One time, my wife Cecilia and I were invited by her relatives to attend a Christian fellowship. So we attended the services now and then. 

From time to time, we also watched a religious television program. But we never got to the point of joining their religious community.

Finding The Feast

Hungry for spiritual nourishment, my wife and I then looked for a religious community where we could also bring along our three children.

I had thought about The Feast which was already familiar to me because I was already hearing  about Bro. Bo Sanchez since the early ‘90s. I had watched his Preacher in Blue Jeans program on television, and I’d wished that one day, I could attend a Feast near our place.

Then one day, one of my Facebook friends posted on his wall the opening of Feast Bluewave Marikina. In May 2012, my wife and I decided to pay this Feast a visit one month after it opened.

In time, The Feast has become like an extended family to us. There, my family and I have been welcomed with so much love and care that we had never experienced in other communities. I really could feel the genuine concern for us by everyone in The Feast.

What I like most about The Feast is that it gives me hope and fulfillment. The Feast understands me personally and at the same time does the same for others.

I appreciate that in The Feast, there’s Holy Mass, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ--which is what I like most about our Catholic Faith. Now, I am like, I was born a Catholic and will die as a Catholic.

My wife and I practice our faith by serving in The Feast. I’m the Logistics and Security head of Feast Bluewave Marikina and my wife serves at the Secretariat Ministry.

We are attending the Holy Mass at Feast Bluewave Marikina every Sunday and my wife serves as a lector / commentator.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 19:38

About the Author

Mary Joyce, 25, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

She married Jo,  her high school classmate who  she met again in a class reunion. They now live in Melbourne, Australia.

Mary Joyce comes from a broken family. To protect the privacy of people involved in her story— especially the minor children— we are withholding her last name.

The pain of being abandoned by her parents was so excruciating, Mary Joyce strayed away from her Catholic Faith.

Her Story

I WAS raised by my grandparents on my mother’s  side.I didn’t think that was odd until when I was 8 years old.

Some classmates wondered why my parents were not around during activities requiring their presence.

They bullied me, lashing out, Anak sa labas!

I was born out of wedlock? I confronted my grandparents to know if that was true.

“Where are my parents?” I asked my Lolo and Lola.

Gently, my grandparents let it all out. They said my father already has a family of his own. He lives with his wife and children in a province far from our place. My mother married a foreigner, they have two children, and they all live in her husband’s country.

That night, I cried in my room, unable to fathom, much more accept, why my parents left me.

Am I not important to them?

My grandparents are well-off so I did not want for material things. But what I needed most— the love and care of my  own parents— I just couldn’t have.

One day, my Grandma said my father was coming to visit me. Promptly, she prepared his favorite dishes. I was so excited, I trembled.

But my father did not come. He then promised again— several times— to visit me. And every time Grandma cooked his favorite dishes. He never came. And every time, I sobbed in my room.

As for my mother, she did come to visit me— with her husband and their two children— every two years, in December. I wanted so much to hear from her why she left me. But she was so busy attending to her family, we hardly had time to be alone together.

Apparently to make up for the absence of my parents, my grandparents and aunts and uncles always  held a party on my birthday. My birth parents were never present. Again, after each party, I withdrew in my room and cried myself to sleep.

But despite my ordeal, I managed to do well in elementary school, always the first honor every final grading period, and I marched as valedictorian on Graduation Day.

I remember, a classmate received a minor award as Most Industrious, and another classmate was named Well-Mannered. And their parents were beside themselves with pride and joy, noisily cheering for their kids.

I watched them,  struggling to hold back my tears. For there I was, with the top, most coveted award, but with no parents to share with me what could have been— or should be—one of the happiest days in my life.

That day, I cried — again— silently in my room. I couldn’t help asking God why He gave me such parents, why they couldn’t love me like how other parents love their children.

I went on to my teen years wishing   my parents would come and care for me.

Then one day, as if God had heard my prayer, a breakthrough.

I was already in my senior year in high school. Suddenly, my father came to see me in my school. He said he had to go for some business in a farm near my hometown, so he decided to come and see me. He invited me for lunch during my break.

Surprised, I felt my heart thump. Finally, here he was in the flesh — a parent I so pined for, standing right before me.

It was strange, like a dream, as I walked with him to a mall just next to my school. There we had lunch and we talked. He talked telling me his side, why he left me.    

“Your mother was 35 years old, and I was 55 when we met,” my dad started.

He said  that before he met my mother, he already had three wives. He said my mom didn't know— until I was born.

I began to shake.

He added that  I have 10 siblings. His eldest child is almost the same age as my mom’s.  His other children knew about me.

I wanted the truth but I didn’t expect the truth could be so painful. It hurt so much, I must have buried it deep in my consciousness, because I can no longer recall how the lunch with my father ended. All I remember is going home, and crying in my room for the nth time.

Going Astray

I was baptized as a Catholic. But I didn’t know much about my faith, as I hardly attended Mass nor did I join any religious community.

In my junior year, I became active in a Christian community and there,  I received Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour.

I surrendered my anger and pain to God, and forgave my parents— or so I thought.

But still, I was bitterly jealous every time my mother would come and visit me with her family in tow.

Still, again and again, the pain would come back, every time my father said he’d visit me, but he would never come.

I hated my parents. I hated myself even more, thinking I was such a worthless person that my own parents wouldn’t have me.

Finding The Feast

In 2012, I attended a high school reunion and among my classmates,  one of  the boys— Jo— caught my attention.  After the reunion, we  started dating and after months of courtship, he became my boyfriend.

 Jo is the best blessing I could ever have for he introduced me to The Feast in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.

During the Holy Week of 2014, Jo and I  joined a pilgrimage held by Feast Cabanatuan to various churches in Pampanga and Bulacan— which renewed my interest in the Catholic faith.

Since then, our Feast Builder, Bro. Noel Tamin, has helped me to appreciate Catholicism. He explained Church doctrines to me, especially about the Sacraments, and he told me stories of the saints.

I listened with awe, amazed at the uncompromising faith of these holy men and women.

In 2014, for the first time in a long, long while, I made the sign of the cross. Tears welled in my eyes as I felt  a renewed sense of being. 

And before I knew it, I was already attending Mass week after week.

From darkness, I felt I had begun living in the light. But hearing The Feast talks about family relationships and loving people without condition, I realized I was not yet healed from the wounds of my past.       Yes, the pain was still there, and I just couldn’t have it in my heart to truly forgive my parents.

As the Feast talks on Love put it, my Love Tank remained empty. I could not serve in any Feast ministry. There was no love in my heart, so how could I ever give love to others?

I confided my dilemma to Bro. Noel and he said something that simply  blew my mind.

“Before you can forgive others, you must first forgive yourself,” he said. “Before you can love others, you must first learn to love yourself as God loves you so much.”

 Back to the Church

It took a while, but gradually, one step at a time, I began to follow our Feast Builder’s advice.

In time, I learned  to love and value myself. And I knew I had already enough love to give when I finally began to serve God as member of the Music Ministry of Feast Cabanatuan.

I also was able already to accept Jo’s offer of marriage. We tied the knot in 2015.

We have since migrated to Australia, where I now serve as worship leader of the Music Ministry of Feast Melbourne.

Best of all, I also hear Mass in parish churches, aside from attending Mass in The Feast.

I knew I’ve been healed of my pains when

one day, I just felt God telling me to visit my father. For the first time, I would be meeting my dad’s wife and my siblings. I was scared. I  knew I would be encroaching on their privacy, so I feared they would snub me, if not totally spurn me.

With Jo accompanying me, I mustered enough courage to make the trip to the province where my father  and his family live.

What I saw was for me beyond disbelief. 

I had always thought that coming from a wealthy family, my father would be providing well for his own family and they would be living comfortably.

Instead, they live crowded in a small house.  And they had to make-do with an old car.

In a snap, it became clear to me why my father could not visit me, much more support me. It was not because he didn’t care for me at all.  He just couldn’t afford coming to my place often. That plain and simple.

The next second, my anger simply dissipated. In its place came guilt. All this while, I was so consumed by my pain, there was just no room in my heart for sympathy for my parents.

I felt so ashamed of myself, especially because in contrast to my fears that I would be rejected and disdained, my father’s wife and children spontaneously welcomed me, like I just naturally belonged to this family.

They hugged me, and almost simultaneously, they told me how much they longed to see me, how my dad talked about my achievements in school, how he was so proud of me.

That night, I hugged my father tight.

I’m sorry,” I told him. “I love you.”

Never in my wildest dreams that  I could say such words. But as I learned at The Feast, with God nothing is impossible.

That moment, I knew God had just answered my longtime prayer. Not only did He give me a family,  He also got rid of my hatred and He healed my pain. Now I am able to  love and forgive — the way only Jesus could ever make me.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 19:27

About the Author 

Lila is a pseudonym for a lady who struggled through a difficult childhood. Names of others involved in her story were also changed.

Lila’s family was rarely complete because her father worked as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW).  She remembers going to church only a few times— when her father took her and her younger sister Angela. Whenever they did, Lila looked forward to climbing up the belfry, dropping coins during the Offertory, and eating out afterwards. Those were the happy memories.

She couldn’t say the same for the rest of her childhood days. One particular incident remains a blur in her mind, the time when her younger sister Angela got molested.

Her Story

My father is my mother’s third husband. I remember, about the time I was five years old, there were four of us siblings living with our mother:  Ate Nora, a half-sister from mom’s first partner; Kuya Dong, a half-brother from her second; and my younger sister Angela and me.

My dad took in my half-siblings and provided for all of us. I didn’t find the set-up odd and thought having a blended family was no big deal. We led a simple life.

Growing up, I didn’t see much of my father. He worked abroad as an OFW. To help out in the household expense, my mother plied goods at the pier and left my younger sister and me under the care of Ate Nora, or a distant relative who lived nearby, like Lolo Badong.

One time, Ate Nora left us by ourselves and next thing I knew, Angela, then only 3 years old, was beside herself crying aloud. Neighbors came around and started asking me questions. Rattled, I didn’t know what to tell them.

Later, Mom sued Lolo Badong, accusing him of sexually abusing Angela, fighting him tooth and nail. After seven years of trial, he was put behind bars.

Since that wretched incident happened, life seemed harder. Mom was constantly angry.

Soon, Angela showed signs of autism, and she also suffered epilepsy. I heard talk about the cause of her ailment—like my mom was taking doses of cough syrup while she was pregnant with Angela.

I found out later that my mother was addicted not just to cough syrup, but to some illegal drugs as well. I knew— because I watched her and her friends enjoying pot sessions at home. Sometimes, I found her drug paraphernalia in the bathroom.

 Mom also gambled. She played bingo with the neighbors. 

I suppose that was her way of coping with what happened to Angela. But that was not all that she had to contend with.

I guess with this what you might call dysfunctional family, there was hardly a chance my older siblings would turn out all right.

They didn’t finish their studies. So Kuya Dong could not hold a job.

Ate Nora, meanwhile, got pregnant out of wedlock. With her baby boy, she left us and lived with her partner. Soon, they got married but separated later, and Ate came back to us with her son.  

With my father away, and my mother and older sibs in such a mess, I knew I would be the only one who had to take care of Angela. Just me. 

Okay, as a child I didn’t really know much about God or asking help from Him. We were Catholics — but with our sorry situation, obviously, I didn’t learn much about my faith.

But  I would not be alone in my darkest hours. God had seen me through it all, sending me angels to guard and guide me as I was growing up.

First, there was this van that came to our neighborhood every so often, with a couple of missionaries who told us Bible stories. I liked studying so I enjoyed the Bible sessions. Besides, the missionaries gave away prizes —like cookies in decorative tin cans.  

The Bible lessons kindled a spark of faith in me that on my own, I went to church and attended Mass.

Second, during my teens, there was this high school classmate of mine who was a member of the Youth Ministry and served as lector in church. I liked the lectors’ all-white uniform so I joined her in church and soon I started training to be a lector too.

But alas, my friend and I had an argument so I stopped my training and stopped attending church altogether.

Going Astray

I have a cousin— Deena— who is a member of a non-Catholic sect. She gushed about the sect’s television program, so I watched it, and I got hooked.

Distraught, feeling empty, I easily found solace in the sect’s church service, so I wanted to be baptized in this religion.

But my mom, for all her flaws, won’t hear of my plan.

A relative of mine, however, told me, “Do not obey your parents if you think they are not good role models.”

We may not be good Catholics, but I guess we have somehow imbibed age-old Church teachings about consequences of straying away from our religion.

So, on her bidding for me to remain a Catholic, I obeyed my mother.

I guess God also wanted me to remain Catholic. Because it happened that cousin Deena and her family left our place and lived in the province. So, without Deena, I eventually lost interest in her religion.

Still, I felt lonely, incomplete, longing for a relief from my emptiness.

Finding The Feast

I went to college.

By God’s grace, I got into a wholesome group of friends who, instead of gimmicks during our free time, preferred to hold Bible studies. So, I’d been fairly a good girl during my college days.

For one, I did well in school, even receiving academic recognitions.

And I didn’t entertain suitors. From my Bible sessions, I learned that the right man for me is looking for the right woman and so, I had to be the right woman. Among other traits, I had to stay pure and I even took the vow of chastity during a Christian event.

After college, I started working in a multi-national company.

One day in January 2011, one of my closest friends invited me to attend The Feast Bay Area being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

I went with her. Amid the crowd of the Feast Bay Area I felt odd, especially during the Worship time. Raising  hands. Do I really have to do that?

Anyway, I kept going back and became a regular.

But, deep in my heart, I had a confession, a prayer to God.

I think as a defense against my difficult life, I must have taught myself to be strong, to the point of being stoic— containing my feelings to be able to endure my ordeal.

I couldn’t feel God’s presence during the Mass, during praise and worship. I couldn’t feel Him in my heart. I knew I love Jesus but I didn’t feel His love. I felt empty inside. I didn’t know why.

And so, I cried, “Lord, send me someone to teach me to feel you physically, to feel you personally.”       

Then came Bien –a sweet guy I met in my office. He comes from a decent family.

Angela and my mother liked him at once. It was a different case for my dad though. My mom had to talk to him to allow Bien to court me.

I’d set a high standard for my suitors. I turned Bien down twice but he was persistent. In time, he met, and even exceeded, my requirements for a boyfriend.

For unlike me, he was expressive of his emotions— especially his love for me and his family.

Back to the Church

God indeed was always with me even in my sordid surroundings. I’m glad He protected me from harm. He took my hand and patiently led me back to the Catholic Church. He taught me how to love through the people who love me, like Bien and other friends, who are now my regular companions to Feast Bay Area.

At The Feast, I learned about God’s unconditional love for me, and soon, I had no more reason not to love Him back and give my life to Him.

Now, I attend the Mass regularly. I even serve at the First-Timers Ministry of the Feast Bay Area.

The Lord, the same God who blessed me with academic recognition, good job, material and spiritual rewards, a loving community, Bien, and a caring family despite their imperfections, is not finished with me yet. I know He has a lot of good things in store for me and Bien, who is now my boyfriend.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 19:24

About the Author

Ma. ElenaV. Roxas-Amistad, or Mariel to friends, 47, lives in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. She is married to Orlando. They have three children and one grandchild.

Mariel retired as territory sales manager for DMCI, a construction giant and land developer, in 2015.

Mariel did not appreciate going to Mass in her younger days not even when she joined a church choir and attended Catechism class.

Her Story

When I was still a kid, I felt sleepy when I attended church. I only went because I had to, because the whole family went. I didn’t want to be left alone in the house. 

In my teen days, I joined the parish choir. Though I attended Mass regularly, I still didn’t appreciate it. Not even when I joined Catechism class and retreats.   

Then I went to college and took up Dentistry in the University of the East. Schoolwork was so demanding I hardly went to Sunday Mass.

In college, I met Orlando, and after graduation we got married. 

I then started working in my sister’s dental clinic.

Finding The Feast

I found out about The Feast through my good friends Jay and Rowena Lizarda. They were raving about this prayer gathering by Bro. Bo Sanchez and invited me to go check it out with them.

In June 2015, I obliged. I went with them to The Feast held at the Philippine International Convention Center, or PICC, in Pasay City. It’s a beautiful and happy place filled with friendly people.  During the session, I just started crying for no reason, tears of joy, perhaps.

On my first visit, I got enlightened on a lot of things about God. I liked listening to Bro. Bo. And since then, I’ve been going back because I knew that I would learn a lot from him about my faith and on strengthening it.

Back to the Church

Thanks to The Feast, I now know and appreciate the importance of the Mass and receiving the Holy Eucharist.

I have always loved God, prayed to Him, and felt His presence in my life. I had always held on to Him during lonely and trying moments. But today, I feel even closer to Him.

Today, I feel so happy in life.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 17:24

About the Author

Paul Anthony De Jesus, 37, is married to Marie Paz, 36. They have five children: Joan Irish, 14; Josh Ivan, 13; John Irvin,12; Jazh Ivonne, 8; and Jan Iram, 4.

They live in Dasmariñas, Cavite.

Paul is a cancer patient. He was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPCA) in 2012.

After a year of treatment, he was cleared of NPCA. But the disease recurred in May 2014 and the cancer had spread to his lungs.

Despite his illness, Paul teaches Accountancy at the Far Eastern University (FEU) in Manila.

Sometime in 2001, after his eldest was born, Paul stopped going to church.

His Story

I thought I had a strong spiritual foundation. I studied in a Catholic school from grade school to high school, and even served as a sacristan, or altar boy in my younger years.

As I grew older, I led a simple, ordinary life—getting a diploma, getting married, having children, working, smoking, drinking.

There was just one thing not-so-ordinary about me.  I had a mindbinder— a theory, if not a crazy superstitious belief.

I noticed that every time my family and I would go together to church, my wife Marie or one of our children would suffer an illness— a simple cold or cough, or something grave requiring hospital confinement.

So, sometimes, I skipped church to test if no one would get sick. True enough, I somehow established my theory was correct. Eventually, I stopped going to church.

Or, the mindbinder may just be an excuse for not going to church. Actually, I could not go because I had to work on Sundays.

My wife Marie and I both worked but our combined income was not enough to support our needs. So, I sought another job on weekends. I taught in a review center for students who would take up the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) board examination.

That totally took up my Sundays leaving me no time for church and even my family.

My wife was wiser. She regularly went to Mass with our kids. She would go with all four kids in tow at our parish church.

Eventually, she found out about Feast Valle Verde through her friend Jeck Suratos, and she attended in October 2009. From then on, she and the kids would attend there regularly.

When I still wouldn’t go with them, she complained that she was having difficulty bringing our four kids to The Feast. But, I stood my ground. I had my reasons and she knew it. She just didn’t agree with it.                

Finding The Feast

One Sunday in October 2010, I was left with no excuse to skip church. It was the day for the Accountancy board exam. There was no review class. So, I went— albeit reluctantly— to Feast Valle Verde with my wife and children.

It happened that on that Sunday, the talk of Bro. Bo Sanchez, titled Relationship Reborn, was about giving ample time to loved ones to strengthen one’s relationship with them.

Listening to the talk, I realized the trap that I put myself in. I focused on my job because I wanted to provide well for my family, but in the process, I did not have time anymore to bond with my wife and my children.

Bro. Bo’s talk inspired me to resolve that henceforth, I would keep a balance between my time for my family and my work.

I liked the Feast so much, I also decided to attend regularly. But wait, one thing troubled me— my superstition that every time I attend Mass, a family member gets sick. It was really a crazy belief and to shake it off,  the following day, I checked if any of my kids or my wife got sick because I heard Mass at The Feast. To my relief, everybody was fine.

I then realized how wrong I’d been all those years of not attending Mass. The Feast had set me free from my crazy mindbinder.

But I was still tied with the contract to teach in the review class every Sunday. So, I was not able to go back to The Feast right away.

My contract ended in December 2010. I decided not to teach on Sundays anymore so I could spend time with God and my family.

My family and I now regularly go to The Feast. And I now enjoy a better relationship with my wife and kids.

I’ve learned much more from the talks of Bro. Bo. One lesson is about tithing. Marie and I decided to set aside a Love Offering to God every Feast Sunday.

Bro. Bo said the Bible teaches that God would not be outgiven— that whatever you give Him, He would return to you double or more. True enough, since we’ve been tithing, we’ve been enjoying financial blessings.

One other lesson I learned from Bro. Bo’s talks at The Feast is Jesus’ mandate to make disciples for Him. I’ve applied the teaching by echoing the talks in my class and encouraging my students to attend The Feast.

As a whole, The Feast talks make you put order into your life so you become a winner. This is so true for me and my family. And now for my students too. Some of them are now attending the Feast Bay Area.

But the most important blessing I’ve received is that  The Feast has strengthened my faith in God— so well, that I’ve held on to Him in the most harrowing trial I now face.

But with prayer support from my family and friends at The Feast, I held on, until one day, the cancer just went away.

In May 2014, however,  the cancer cells recurred. And doctors also found malignant tumor in my lungs— apparently a consequence of my smoking and drinking sprees in the past.

The first time I had cancer, I believe God used many to help my family get by the first time. Our relatives, Feast friends, colleagues, and my students—even those from different religions prayed for me and raised money for my treatments.

So we managed to pay for the children’s tuition fees, expenses at home, and amortization for our house and car.

Now, surely, God will make a way again. Who am I to question Him or His ways? Facing life with two cancers and five children to look after, I can only hold on to His hand tighter.

Instead of wallowing in despair, I am moving. Despite my cancer, I have decided to join The Feast’s spiritual formation group called Radical Men so that God may better use me to inspire more people to go on with life despite the difficulties. I believe I am one living proof of God’s love and faithfulness.

In September 2012, I was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPCA) or cancer of the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose and near the base of the skull.

The mindbinder  was back as if hunting me. I couldn’t help asking God why did had to happen. I struggled to get it off my system and to focus on God’s love.

I underwent chemotherapy and radiation sessions. To be able to pay my medical bills, we had to cut down on expenses. We had to transfer the children to a less expensive school. It was heartrending.

It helped that my insurance claim for critical illness was approved. I was told that my insurance company has a tendency to deny such claims due to my faulty medical records.

I attribute the approval to my wife’s regular tithing.She told me later that one time in December 2012, when we were down and out, she stuffed P2,000 in the Love Offering envelope at The Feast and surrendered our case to God. We received much more than that in return.

And, with prayer support from my family and friends at The Feast, I held on, until one day, the cancer just went away.

In May 2014, however, the cancer cells recurred. And doctors also found malignant tumor in my lungs— apparently a consequence of my smoking and drinking sprees in the past.

The first time I had cancer, I believe God used many to help my family get by the first time. Our relatives, Feast friends, colleagues, and my students—even those from different religions prayed for me and raised money for my treatments.

So we managed to pay for the children’s tuition fees, expenses at home, and amortization for our house and car.

Now, surely, God will make a way again. Who am I to question Him or His ways? Facing life with two cancers and five children to look after, I can only hold on to His hand tighter.

Instead of wallowing in despair, I am moving on. Despite my cancer, I have decided to join The Feast’s spiritual formation group called Radical Men so that God may better use me to inspire more people to go on with life despite the difficulties. I believe I am one living proof of God’s love and faithfulness. 

Back to The Church

When I came back to the Church in 2009, I came back for good. Nothing can come between the Lord and myself now. The bigger and harder the trial, the closer I cling to Him. He’s all I’ve got. I have more to lose if I let go of His hand now.

Looking back, I am thankful to my wife Marie, who never got tired of reminding me of my obligation to God and who, to this day, stands with me through this challenge. Through her, I found my way back to God and was reminded of His generosity, His infinite love, mercy, and blessings. Through her and our children, I find the strength to keep on living and to dream for a long and happy life with them and my future grandchildren.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 17:07

About the Author

Joemer Ernn C. Embernate, 25, works as team manager in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in Taguig City. He hopes to finish writing his fiction novel one day and have it published.

Ernn grew up in Pampanga and by age 9 became a sacristan or an altar boy until he was 12, according to his family’s tradition.

When he entered high school, however,  he mixed with the wrong kind and got into drugs. In college, he got even worse as he joined a satanic group. Then a friend introduced him to a non-Catholic church, and he thought he found his home.

His Story

Despite being a sacristan during my grade school years, I had zero knowledge about the meaning of my Catholic faith back then. I just went through the motions of the rites not understanding what they were for. When I left Pampanga to enter high school, I also put aside my Catholic faith.

My father, Ernesto,  died when I was 2 years old. My mother, Gudelia, lived in Taguig City in Metro Manila. She worked as an employee in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

I lived with my siblings in Pampanga. When it was time for me to enter high school, my mother enrolled me at a high school inside Camp Aguinaldo. So I left Pampanga and lived with her in Taguig.  Every day, I commuted from Taguig to Quezon City.

Going Astray

In my teens, I was a belligerent child. I joined a group and I got into smoking and drinking liquor. Not long after that, we also skipped class to smoke pot. Our group also got into gang wars. It was no surprise that I got kicked out of my school when I was on my third year. Worse, because of my bad record, I couldn’t be accepted in any public school.

Luckily, there was Eastern Achiever Academy of Taguig. It was near our house, I didn’t have to make a long and tiring daily commute. My mom said I can’t cut class anymore because the school was just walking distance from our house.

She was right. I took my studies seriously and  I even graduated valedictorian the following year. Miracle of miracles, you would say. I guess it’s  because I felt acknowledged there. My teacher in English and History, my favorite subjects, was kind and appreciative of me. He was like the father that I didn’t have. He encouraged me to do well in my studies.

But the drinking didn’t stop. I still found bad company and found ways to continue smoking and drinking. I got clean from drugs though.

I entered college in Pasay City and there, I went back to using marijuana. I would say it was one of the darkest moments of my life. I joined a fraternity. I had enemies  left and right. And it was around this time when I joined a satanic group, which was composed of students like myself and musicians. All of us there were into drugs. There, we were taught that man is not a slave. We were  born with free will and so we could do what we want. We met weekly in a small group. The teachings there contradicted God, of course. For example, while Jesus preached about loving your enemies, this evil group taught us ways to destroy our enemies. 

Like a ray of light in the dark moment of my life, a bully from my neighbourhood, an unlikely character, encouraged me to watch the television show The 700 Club. The show featured a drug addict whose life was almost completely destroyed but he made a turn around and became a Christian. I saw myself in that guy. I told myself I didn’t want to go through the hardships he went through. It was not too late for me. I decided to change my ways. I took the advice of this bully-turned-friend and joined his church. On December 31, 2005, I was baptized in this church.

More than anything, what made me turn my back on my vices and embrace the church was Jesus. That night when I watched the 700 Club show was the first time I met Jesus intimately. I felt that He was real and that He forgave my sins even before I asked for forgiveness.  That night, I felt His love.

I became active in the church. I joined youth camps and the Music Ministry. Not long after, I started leading the Music Ministry and I also became a youth pastor. Initially, I preached among our youth but later, I started to preach before the entire congregation during the main service.

And I remember, I bashed the Catholic Faith, questioning why Catholics worshipped Mary and the saints. I did that weekly. I even posted negative comments about Catholics on Friendster and Facebook. I remember creating caricatures of Pope Benedict looking scary and posting them on my FB Timeline. When I passed by a Catholic church, I laughed at the churchgoers to a point that I was rude and provoking a fight. I even bullied a Catholic I met.

I don’t know where that anger or hatred came from. Thinking back, I can liken myself to St. Paul. But I’m getting ahead of my story.

As I said, I am really into music. I play the keyboards. One day, I attended a fellowship of musicians outside our church and there was this pastor who touched my heart with his brand of  preaching. He preached about brotherly love and did not lambast other religions. He was welcoming and accepting of them. I was enlightened by his preaching and enthralled by the group’s music. The group was responsible for the conversion of many musicians in the country, including big names in the industry.

I became active with this group called Musicians on Fire (MOF). I even brought members of my church’s Music Ministry there to observe and be inspired to be better musicians. I also stopped mocking the Catholic Church.

Our senior pastor, however,  reprimanded me for attending MOF. He told me to stop associating with the group, especially because I was a young pastor and may be easily influenced by the group whose practices where not approved by my church. Like they played and held praise and worship inside bars.

At this point, I lost interest in our church. I received disciplinary action because I would deliberately skip service. But I didn’t care much about it for I began to question their teaching on love. The words of the pastor at MOF kept coming back to me about loving the Kingdom not the religion. He said this sets apart a righteous man from a religious one.

Around this time, I was already working at my first job in a BPO company, where I met Cris Monroy. Cris first caught my attention when I heard him praying in his own words for someone he was talking over his phone. Later, I approached him and I was surprised to find out he’s Catholic.

“Really? I never thought you Catholics pray like we do,” I heard myself blurt out.

He just smiled, tapped me on the shoulder and totally disregarded my brazen remark.

Like we do? I got embarrassed with my arrogant comment.

Finding The Feast

It turned out, Cris regularly attended the Call Center Feast (now called Feast Mandaluyong), where he was actively serving. Sometime in 2012, after work, I went with Cris to The Feast. I instantly loved The Feast. What’s more, I was introduced to the people there including the main preacher, Bro. Ebb Magtuba. I was surprised when they invited me to play the keyboards the following Wednesday to pair up with Cris who led Worship.

I said, “What? Are you sure? Don’t I have to undergo formation?”

They looked at me as if I spoke Martian.

“In our church, you have to undergo six months of cleansing and Bible Study,” I explained.

“You can serve next week if you’re willing,” Bro. Ebb said.

“It’s actually perfect for Cris and me since we work in the same company. It’s easy for us to practice together,” I said and agreed.

I liked going to The Feast but soon, I got confused. I felt guilty. A voice in me nagged me to quit. And so for a few months, I didn’t show up. But Cris was like a big brother to me. Always checking on me, asking how I was, and asking me to join him for a one-on-one Light Group (LG). I felt he really cared for me. If I was a girl, I would’ve thought he had a crush on me. Kidding!

In September 2013, I gave in to his invitation to attend The Feast being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (now called The Feast Bay Area). It was my first time to hear Bro. Bo Sanchez preach. And of all talk series that I could walk into, I came in during the Big Questions series. Throughout the series, Bro. Bo answered the difficult questions we usually ask about the Catholic Church, including the very reason I was against Catholics: Why they gave so much importance on Mary, the saints, and statues?

It was as if God wanted me to be there that day to hear Bro. Bo explain things for me. I will never forget that moment. I will never forget his answer.

Explaining the reverence to statues, Bro. Bo said even during the Old Testament, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He asked that the Ark of the Covenant be made with angels on it. The Ark symbolizes God and through the Ark, God is worshipped.

The Cross, he said, is a symbol of God’s love. As for Mama Mary and the saints, they continued the ministry of Jesus and so we imitate them in their loving imitation of Christ and their love and obedience to Him.

From then on, I became a regular attendee of The Feast. On May 23, 2014, at the Lovelife retreat for Singles, I made my first sign of the cross— in 12 years. 

Bro. Didoy Lubaton, the main speaker, talked about “going home” to God, to our Catholic Church. His message struck me. My heart said I was home. For I was back into the fold. 

For many years, I walked astray not knowing where I was headed, not knowing what I was looking for. But all this time, I was just looking for my God. And to think He was just there all the time. But I kept my heart locked and didn’t let Him in. This time, I was ready to receive Him. 

I’m so glad to be back. I have also invited people from my office, including my girlfriend Cez. Like me, she is now a regular attendee too.

As I said earlier, I am like St. Paul who used to lambast the Church but who had seen the Light. Thanks to Catholics like Cris. Thanks to the people at The Feast who were so kind to me. I felt loved. Everybody was Jesus to me.

I usually serve at the Music Ministry for the Singles Ministry’s events. I have started undergoing the formation program of The Feast. This year, I signed up with the Young David’s Ministry, the foot traffic management and service ministry, and the Radical Men, a group of young men who are undergoing formation in preparation for leadership and preaching positions in our faith community.

But I guess, the happiest with my return would be my mom. I remember when I was with a a non-Catholic church, we used to fight over the statues of saints at home. I hope someday she can join me at The Feast. For now, she is content watching it on television.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 16:43

About the Author

Ivory is a pseudonym for a young lady who grew up in a non-Catholic family. But she had cousins who were Catholic and, hanging out with them, hearing them talk about their faith, she longed to become Catholic. 

Her Story 

My parents were baptized in a Christian church, and so was I and my siblings. We attended church service every Sunday.

I was just a kid then, so I didn’t understand what the rites were for. But eventually, Sunday service became a habit and I looked forward to it.

In time, however, Mom and Dad became busy with work so we stopped going to church.

During my adolescent years, my heart yearned for a church I could belong to. It happened that I had cousins  who were Catholic. I started attending the Mass with them—secretly. I knew my mother would not approve of it and I was afraid she’d scold me.

At the Mass, somehow, I felt a strong connection with God. And even when I already went to college and got busy with school work, I still continued going to Catholic churches to hear Mass for my spiritual nourishment.

Finding The Feast

In 2010, after graduation, I started working in an international children’s organization.

Around this time, I already found me a boyfriend— Bien. And would you believe, one of our regular dates was attending Mass at the St. Francis Church in Mandaluyong City.

You see, at the time, I already liked not only the Mass, but other Catholic practices as well, such as venerating the saints. I had become a devotee of St. Francis so I attended Mass at the St. Francis church once a week, after office hours. And Bien accompanied me.

One evening, we came early so I whiled away the time by checking out items in a book table in the church and got to chat with the lady selling the books. I found out from her that there would be a talk after the Mass. I got curious so I asked Bien if we could stay and check it out. He agreed. 

The program started with Worship — people singing praise songs and raising and waving their hands. Like what we did in the church service I attended with my family when I was a little girl.

I thought, “Wow, a Christian service in a Catholic church!”

 My spirit swelled with joy.

That night, the speakers, Bro. Migs Ramirez and Bro. Arun Gogna, talked about their weekly prayer gathering called The Feast.

I couldn’t contain my joy over finding about this prayer meeting and I couldn’t wait to attend it. I started researching online about The Feast and found the Kerygma Family website. I even joined the site’s chatbox to gain new friends there who could tell me more about The Feast.

Little did I know, the people I was looking for were right under my nose. In the office, I gushed about The Feast and I found out that one of my teammates, Agnes, was attending Feast Bay Area.

She told me all about The Feast and I begged her to take me there. So one Sunday in November 2011, Agnes ushered me to the Feast Bay Area being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

The first time I got to PICC was in April 2010 when I graduated. Who would have thought that I’d be back in that grand place in a year’s time and to join a prayer gathering at that!

At The Feast in the Plenary Hall that day, I must have cried a river. I really felt God’s presence there. Yes, I’d been His lost sheep— for the longest time— and finally, I’ve been found. That day remains to be one of my most cherished moments in life.

From then on, I’ve been attending The Feast regularly. I love it because I came to know more not only about God but about myself as well. I realized I’d been such a sensitive person and I’d get hurt easily. The Feast has helped me to be forgiving and loving people without condition.

Yes, The Feast has changed the way I see life, people, and situations. It has become God’s instrument for me to allow Him to take over my life, including my plans and goals.

At The Feast, I have made a lot of friends. I call them my brothers and sisters in my spiritual journey.

Today, I continue to undergo spiritual formation in my faith community. 

Back to the Church

I love the Mass, everything about it. For me, it is a sacred reminder of Jesus dying for me for my sins. That He loves me that much.

I want to be baptized Catholic. I hope I get to settle this matter with my parents soon.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 16:27

About the Author

Alexis Rainier V. Jacoba, 37, or Ekkis to friends, was born and raised in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. He is a lawyer by profession, like his parents. He is now setting up various businesses –- a pre-school, an events company, and a consultancy company among others.

Ekkis took up Law at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila. He passed the bar in 2004 and began practising in a leading renewable energy company while holding his own law office with partners.

Going to Mass on Sundays was an obligation inculcated to the 11 Jacoba children, their mother being a devout Catholic and a member of the Third Order of Carmel. When Ekkis entered college though, he went to church only on occasions, or when he needed favors.

His Story

I served in our parish church at an early age of 7 as sacristan, or altar boy until I was 12. I enjoyed my duty, assisting our parish priest during the Mass. I couldn’t imagine myself just sitting still on the pews for an hour’s time. As a sacristan, I felt I was doing something important for God. I felt special.

Then, I turned 13. Past the age of an altar boy in our parish, I was relegated to the pews. As a regular attendee, I began to see the Mass as a repetitious ceremony. I couldn’t wait for it to finish. I just looked forward to the family lunch afterwards.

I went to high school and started to take interest in girls. This time, I saw the Mass as a good excuse to get girls to go out with me on a date. It gave me that good boy image not just to the girl I was courting but to her parents as well. The girls readily said yes to my invitation and it was easy for them to get their parents’ permission. Not only that. I could even get to hold hands with my date when the Our Father was sung.

My journey back to the Church started when I began to read Kerygma magazine. My sisters were members of Charismatic groups which subscribed to Kerygma, so copies of the magazine were always just there, lying around our house. One day, I picked up a copy, browsed through it, and instantly liked Bro. Bo Sanchez’s writing style.

 I copied his beautiful prose for my love letters to impress the girls I was courting.

Soon, I stepped into college. Free from my mother’s watchful eyes, I no longer felt pressured to attend Sunday Mass. I only went to church when I was in dire need like I had to pass an exam, or a subject, especially later in Law school where it was difficult to keep good grades. Or, when I had love problems, or I committed a sin, and needed cleansing. Otherwise, I would rather stay longer in bed on Sunday mornings.

While I was thankful to God for helping me finish Law, pass the bar exam in 2005, land a job in a  reputable company, and put up a law office, nothing changed in my Sunday schedule. I had heavy workload in my offices, so I had better excuse to get some rest on Sundays.

From 2005 to 2010, I was in the peak of my career. I don’t even remember going to church if it wasn’t on special occasions.

During this period, I received a lot of good fortune. In addition to my work, I taught in various schools, like San Beda College and Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I earned my first million. I afforded and lavished myself with luxury items, like a BMW car, expensive watches, among others.

To top it all, I had a beautiful girlfriend.  Let’s call her Rita.

The world was mine. Life was good.

Just as surely as I worked myself up to the ladder of success, I eventually ruined everything I worked for because of an addiction that began unexpectedly.

I had to meet a client at the Resorts World hotel which is famous for its casinos. After our business discussions, my client gave me cash and encouraged me to try the  game  tables. I took the money out of courtesy but didn’t gamble.

Then we had to meet again at the same hotel. He gave me money again and this time, he was more insistent that I play.  He actually made sure I used the cash.

I thought, “What harm can one game do?”

But alas, in my case, a lot.

I thought I’d play once just to please my client. But what started as a harmless game on the tables became a full-blown addiction in no time.

In six months, I didn’t just become a regular, but a VIP. The casino indulged me with freebies, like free hotel stay, with my own concierge to boot. Yes, I received royal treatment.  

Then, the unthinkable happened. In 2012, I found myself without savings and with a debt worth millions.

This was my secret indulgence and later, dilemma for two years. Nobody knew about it, not even Rita, who was by then my fiancée, as we had already scheduled to   tie the knot on April 8, 2013.  But she must had noticed something was bothering me.

Finding The Feast

Sensing I needed help, Rita, who attends Feast PICC, encouraged me to join her one Sunday in 2012.

What first impressed me was the lively music during the Mass and worship time.

I thought, “This is something different. Good different.”

I also loved the place –- the plush accommodation and the air-conditioning.

Then, Bro. Bo came onstage. I couldn’t contain myself. This was the guy who wrote those beautiful lines I copied for my love letters. He was right before me in the flesh!

The Feast soon became my refuge. I found inspiration to get out of my addiction. Attending The Feast became my weekly habit. But, I couldn’t forego my craving for high stakes and the thrill of winning.

My prayer then was, “Lord, make me win big time and I’ll stop.”

Before going to the casino, I would attend the prayer meeting for good fortune.

In November 2012, I gathered enough courage to tell my family, Rita, and her family about my real situation. The wedding that we planned for April 8, 2013, was set aside as they all advised I seek counseling first.

In November 2012, I decided to go for counseling at the Ateneo’s Center for Family Ministries.

But the road to my salvation was a rough one. I slipped, I slid, I fell.

After five months of keeping my hands off gambling, on April 7, the eve of our supposed wedding day, I had a huge fight with Rita. I sought refuge in my happy place -- the casino. I stayed up all night playing until I had only P500 on hand. Then, I saw a fellow who owed me money. I made him pay so I could continue my game. The fellow obliged and paid me.

I played until dawn and lost everything, except P20 in my pocket.

Day came and I was spent and hungry. But I was in a high-end hotel, there was nothing I could get for 20 bucks. Pitifully, I lapped up the free-flowing iced tea in the casino.

I couldn’t go home because I couldn’t get my car out of the parking lot— I just didn’t have cash for the parking fee.  I couldn’t call for help. My mobile phone ran out of battery.

That day, April 8, 2013, I knew I had hit rock bottom. The very same day I was supposed to tie the knot with the love of my life, I wanted to die. I looked at myself and realized I was a wreck, a foolish wreck. 

After our fight, Rita sought the help of AJ, my younger brother, to look for me. They found me like a destitute in the casino, helpless and hopeless. When I saw my distraught brother and the harried look on Rita’s face, I despised myself for putting them in such state. I wanted to bury myself alive out of shame.

At the same time, I’d never felt loved and accepted by the very people I took for granted. I was really a jerk. I remember, I tricked one of my brothers just to get money for my addiction. I lured him into “buying” a car for P250,000. Actually, there was no car. When he found out the money went to the casino instead, my kuya forgave me— just like that.

What was I doing with my life? As if it wasn’t enough that I dug myself into a pit, I had to drag my loved ones there, too.

I thought I could do it on my own. I thought I had things in control. I thought I could do everything.

Amid my troubles, I managed to graduate from Law school. I passed the bar, I won my cases, I made things happen. I attributed my success to my intellect and hard work. I never recognized the presence and power of God working in my life.

That wretched day at the casino, I said enough is enough. Remembering the teachings at The Feast, I resolved to change and turn my back against gambling. 

I attended Bro. Bo’s Truly Rich Club seminar. I applied what I learned there and after a year, I managed to pay almost all of my debts. In two years, I didn’t just get back the money I squandered, I even almost tripled it.

I also joined the Philippines Gamblers Anonymous, a support group for addicts like me that meet twice a week. I even got to bring people there to The Feast. 

This time, I knew better and recognized God’s guiding hand.

But none of these helped to save my relationship with Rita. We parted ways last February 2014. I realized my love tank was empty. I needed to work on my relationship with myself before I could return her love for me.

On May 2015, I signed up with Recovery Circle Foundation’s sobriety program with the help of my family. To this day, I continue to meet up with my pyscho-spiritual coach. 

As part of the sobriety program, I made amends with Rita and her family. We are reconciled now as friends but as for our getting back together, that remains uncertain.

One thing I’ve learned at The Feast is to surrender to God’s plan. I have entrusted my future to Him, including my love life.  My only prayer now is that I find His will for me. And I promise to do my part fulfilling it.

I never stopped asking God why He gave me this Cross to bear. I got His response lately. He said, “I wanted you to come back to me and bring others with you.”

So today, I continue to invite more people to The Feast.

I have signed up for The Feast retreats and formation programs such as the Radical Men, a training  for future leaders of our faith community.  I can’t wait for it to start. I even became the head of Batch 13 of ILovelife, a retreat for Singles which I attended in May 2015. Now, I also have a Caring Group (CG) with Bro. Didoy Lubaton, as head as I am now a Light Group (LG) head.

Back to the Church

When God came to my rescue and transformed my life, I got a deeper understanding of the teachings of Jesus through the talks of Bro. Bo, and of the Church doctrines, mainly through homilies during the Mass at The Feast. I now have a personal and intimate relationship with God.

For the past two years now, I have hardly missed a Sunday Mass— either at The Feast or at a nearby parish church. I savour each Holy Eucharist as if it were my first and last.

I have come to appreciate the Eucharist because I now know what the rites are all about, especially the miracle of the Bread and Wine turning into the Body and Blood of Jesus. I never fail to receive Communion knowing how much I need Jesus in my life and how He can cleanse me and transform me as I partake His Body.

I have also learned to listen intently to the Mass readings and the Gospel, not just the priest’s homily.

Hungering for His word, I now keep a Bible in my room for my daily study.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 16:07

About the author

Emmanuel Galang, or Knowie, 37, was born in Makati City and he grew up in Pasay City. Growing up hard of hearing, he learned sign language and in time earned a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Applied Deaf Studies, at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila.

Knowie’s parents were regular churchgoers but he seldom joined them.  There was no interpreter in the church, so he could not understand the Mass, so he said he found it tiresome and boring.

His Story

I learned sign language when I was seven years old at Justo Lukban Elementary School in Paco, Manila, which has a program for Special Education for Learners with Special Needs (SPED). I enjoyed school. I acquired a new skill to communicate and made new friends in the Deaf community.

I continued my studies at the Philippine School for the Deaf. There, I met Maricris, who is also Deaf*. We were classmates and became good friends.

When I went to college in 2001, we saw each other again and became a couple. 

We got married at the San Rafael Parish in 2007 and we have been blessed with three children: Crismari, 7; Emmari, 5; Mariko, 3.

Finding The Feast

In October 2012, Mariko, our youngest son, was born with a  congenital heart disease. Because of his ailment, we were in and out of the hospital. Fearful of our baby’s condition, my wife and I longed to go to church and pray for him.

When he was four months old, Mariko suffered pneumonia and was confined in hospital.

During those difficult days, my good friend Rodolfo Maturino, or RR, came to visit. He told me about this prayer gathering that he’s been attending called The Feast.

“They have interpreters using Filipino Sign Language,” he said.

“Really?” I was pleasantly surprised. Could this be the “church” I’d been looking for?

RR added The Feast includes Mass, praise and worship, and inspiring talk by Bro. Bo Sanchez.

The following Sunday, I attended The Feast held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) with RR. I was happy to find out that there were interpreters, as he said. I understood everything that transpired, including the songs.

There, I prayed to God with all my heart that He shower mercy and healing for my son.

After the session, RR introduced me to Naty Natividad, head of the Deaf and Interpreters Ministry and to other members of the same group like Szarah, Jennel, Marivic, and Ana. By their prompting, I approached the Pray-Over Shepherding and Healing (POSH) Ministry corner and asked for intercession for Mariko.

The POSH intercessors formed a circle around me and was  I moved and really felt uplifted by their prayer.

I believe something supernatural happened during the pray-over. One of the members, Jiji Retulla, shared that while praying for me, she felt warmth within the prayer circle. She said it must have been the presence of the Holy Spirit extending His healing grace for my son.

I left the venue grateful for the pray-over, for the new friends I met, and the wonderful prayer meeting I experienced. I knew then that I found a community for myself and my family.

In a matter of days, the doctors declared my son already healed. The following Sunday, I heard Mass at The Feast 8:00 a.m. session with my daughters Crismari and Emmari. From then on, we have been attending The Feast every week.

I signed up for the Deaf and Interpreters Ministry and its Light Group (LG) also headed by Naty. We met weekly after the Sunday Feast at PICC discussing the talk series and sharing our thoughts and experiences on the topic.

At the time, I didn’t have a job. My fervent prayer was that I would find employment. It felt good to know that my LG prayed with me.

In November 2014, through the generosity of Nicky Templo-Perez, my co-servant at the ministry, I got to attend the annual inspirational gathering Kerygma Conference with the theme Empowered. I’m so glad I did.

A few weeks after, I received a call for a job interview and eventually landed a job. Today, I work at Towes Watson in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) doing data analysis and desktop publishing.

I continue serving at The Feast as a Deaf relay interpreter and co-facilitating our LG sessions. I delight in explaining the Mass readings, the homily, and the talk of Bro. Bo to my LG-mates.

Both Crismari and Emmari are now part of the Awesome Kids Ministry.

Maricris and Mariko have yet to join us at The Feast. Given our son’s delicate condition, Maricris has to stay home to take care of him. It is my prayer that we can all attend The Feast as one family soon.       

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I am glad that I can serve God and nurture my Catholic faith. I now attend the Mass with anticipation for God’s word and for the Holy Eucharist. I also go to Confession regularly.

To God be the glory!

*Deaf, with the capital "D" refers to those who use sign language as their natural language and who are involved in the Deaf community while deaf is a general term for people with hearing loss. Terms like deaf-mute, hearing-impaired, deaf and dumb or pipi, are socially unacceptable by the Deaf Community. The Filipino Deaf who belong to the Deaf community use Filipino Sign Language (FSL) in particular as their language, with its own syntax, grammatical rules, and order.

 

Saturday, 05 November 2016 15:26

About the Author

Angela Merici S. Bacosa, 23, lives in Palawan.

She holds a  Bachelor of  of  Science in Business Administration degree,  major in Human Resource Development Management. And works as an instructor on Human Resource Management at the Palawan State University External Campus, some 180 km from the City of Puerto Princesa City.

Angela went to a Catholic school, and even joined a faith community. But for some time, she seemed to be in a spiritual slumber, not really feeling God in the Church rituals, and she even ventured to find Him in a non-Catholic religion.

>Her Story

I used to have a simple routine I called HWC — House- Work-Church. I was contented hearing Mass at least twice a week.

I joined a faith community, where members where grouped into what is called Household. The Household met at least once a month for prayer and fellowship.  There were other community activities but I rarely attended them.

I also attended Christian prayer meetings.

But still, I remained lukewarm  about my spiritual life.

Finding The Feast

In February 2014, a friend invited me to attend a Christian Life Program held by a Catholic community. I attended and I graduated in May 2014.

During the graduation, my friend gave me a gift packed in a  brown envelope. I opened the envelope and saw a copy of Kerygma magazine.

At home, I quickly read all the articles, and was I impressed, especially with the article of Bro. Bo Sanchez where he talked about The Feast.      

Reading about the blessings of The Feast, I whispered a prayer to God,  Lord, sana magkaroon din ng ganito sa Palawan.

Yes, I prayed we would have The Feast in our province. And It was a prayer God did not waste time to answer.

One day, my Household head announced that as part of our fellowship of the month, we would watch The Feast Video (TVF).

As I watched the video, I felt it was the blessing my soul had so hungered for. It radically changed my life. Like, I made a 180-degree turn— away from my lackluster existence.

The talks have so filled up the empty space in my heart that  I feel I am a better person now —and trying to be best. It has been an amazing experience.

I have been attending The Feast Video with my Household weekly. I’ve been a member of  the TFV ministry for almost two years now. I serve as an emissary of The Feast Video in our town. And we just started our own TFV ministry five months ago to bless more people.

Back to the Church

One of  Bro. Bo’s talk series in The Feast Video that really woke me up from my spiritual slumber was God Exposed.

A Feast Lenten series in 2014, God Exposed focused on seeing God, hearing God, and touching God through the Sacraments.

For me, the talk series was such an eye-opener on the richness of our Catholic Faith. Indeed, aside from the Holy Mass, our highest form of worship, we have the various Sacraments — all given to us by the Church, so that, as Bro. Bo pointed out, we will grow closer to God and experience Him more in our life.

I appreciate my Catholic Faith more right now.  Years ago, even as I went to a Catholic school,  I just attended  Mass, prayed the Rosary and Stations of the Cross without even thinking that God is really behind these Church activities. But I know now —fully— why we are doing this and that.

Today,  aside from my TFV ministry, I’m serving as lector in our parish church every Sunday. It is really such a blessing to be a Catholic.

 

Friday, 28 October 2016 13:52

About the Author

John Michael Calabia Aniel, 21, or Mikko for short, hails from Lopez, Quezon. He graduated from the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP)-Manila with Bachelor of Science degree, major in Information Technology.

Mikko is now based in Manila and works as an associate account manager for NetSuite Inc., a software company. 

Mikko grew up thinking Mass is boring and a Sunday obligation that was difficult to comply with.

His Story

I was not the religious type. At home, we prayed together, but I went to church only on special occasions, which was fine with me because I found listening to sermons boring.

I reasoned there were more important things to do than spend an hour in church. I saw the Mass as an unnecessary ritual, a burden for Catholics.

I went to college in Manila and I would go to Mass on my own volition. I went only when it was convenient and when I needed favors.

 But because of my tight class schedule, I found it challenging to go on Sundays. Then, there were times when I wanted to go but there wouldn’t be a friend to go with. Then, I would think I had a strong relationship with God anyway, so I didn’t need to go to church. I didn’t need to hear Mass. 

Finding The Feast

In 2012, I felt my life was in disarray. I experienced challenges in life. I began to see myself as a big failure.

Why not, when I started getting low grades in school. I couldn’t fulfill my duties as a student leader. And my relationships were failing. 

One day, my friend Manelyn Alura invited me to attend Feast Manila. In July of the same year, I agreed to go.

The moment I stepped inside the theater, I knew I had stumbled into something beautiful, the beginning of something spectacular -- my journey with the Lord.

I thought to myself, this indeed is the happiest place on Earth! I got a sense that it was a place where broken hearts get healed. That moment, I felt that God was giving me a second chance. He is, after all, the God of second chances.

I am glad that He touched my heart and opened my eyes that day. I’m thankful He led me to The Feast. Now, I have lots of friends in my new faith community. Friends I met in the Lovelife retreat, in my Light Group (LG), who journey with me in my faith walk. I’m glad to be part of this LG that celebrates life. We meet every week to pray, share how God’s Word apply in our daily grind.

Back to the Church

Through my constant attendance at The Feast, I now see the Mass differently. I am like a child called to dinner, to dine with the Father and to receive sacramental nourishment for me to be spiritually healthy.

I now believe that attending the Mass is not an obligation but it is for my spiritual sustenance. It is my way of saying, “Lord, you are my top priority. You first.”

For me, going to Mass is the best way to remember the One who laid down His life so that I may have eternal life. Sunday is now the oasis of my week to get recharged, be nourished, and feel my deep connection to the Father.

Friday, 28 October 2016 13:37

About the Author

Mae Angeles-Amihan, 33, married, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Computer Engineering.

She works as senior account manager for an Information Technology security consultancy company. The company provides network security solutions to customers to protect their information technology assets.  

Mae lives in San Mateo, Rizal.

Mae said she hardly saw her family as a big blessing from God, she didn’t  take her Faith seriously, and attended non-Catholic fellowships, and didn’t think much about it. But soon, she experienced a spiritual awakening that led her to a joyful service to God and the Church.

Her Story

I had no solid religious life before I joined The Feast. Praying, at least once a day, was never a part of my daily routine before. At the time, I prayed to God only when I was in a difficult situation. 

Sure I love my family, my parents, my siblings, my nieces, my nephew, my husband, and my one and only daughter— but I didn’t appreciate the blessing of having a family.

There was a time when my husband and I were like two broken souls, two complete strangers, who lived together for no definite purpose. There was even a point in our marriage when I asked myself, “Why did I ever marry this guy?” 

We both said and did so many negative things that really hurt each other and almost tore us apart. For quite some time we kept going astray farther and farther away from each other and we got really close to giving up on our marriage.  

Going Astray

I didn’t regularly attend Sunday Mass. I remember going to church only during Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or whenever I celebrated my birthday.  

I didn’t attend Sunday Mass because I was so busy with work and family life. I also used to believe that it was okay not to go to church every Sunday for as long as I was not doing anything bad against other people. I thought if I didn’t think ill of my fellowmen, I was still a good Christian.

I attended a Christian fellowship service a couple of times and didn’t think much about it.

Finding The Feast

My sister-in-law, who was invited by her friend to attend Feast Marikina early part of year 2013, encouraged our  family to attend The Feast with her. We joined in July 2013.

In Feast Marikina, I met people who explained to me that God doesn’t desire those who have ‘religion’ but those who are willing to have a ‘relationship’ with Him through faith and belief in His Son Jesus Christ. 

What I love most about The Feast, Feast Marikina specifically, is that this community made me realize that God is alive and He is very real. In The Feast, most teachings and the worship sessions made me believe that Jesus is the only way, He speaks to me, and I honestly feel He is guiding me. 

I also love that those who attend Feast Marikina are mostly families. Because for me, family is the foundation of everything else. Your first ministry will always be your family. 

 I never appreciated the blessing of having a family until I became a Feast attendee and servant. Attending The Feast made me realize that my husband and daughter, parents, siblings, and other relatives are the most precious treasures in my life.

My married life before was not as fulfilling, as happy, as secured as it is right now. With God’s grace my husband and I found The Feast and it has been somewhat a smooth sailing for us from thereon. With God at the center of our marriage, every day is indeed sweeter than the day before.

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I also learned to appreciate my Catholic Faith. We, as Catholics, hear many Bible stories and church teachings about salvation and grace and this is what I like most about our Catholic Faith. We all believe that we are saved only by God's grace. We believe in salvation by God’s grace alone, solely on account of the works of His Son Jesus Christ.

And so I have committed to serve Him through The Feast. Today I am head of the Food Ministry of Feast Marikina.

 

Friday, 28 October 2016 13:31

About the Author

Pacino Puno, 30, works as a reservoir engineer at the Energy Development Corporation in Ortigas, Pasig City.

He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Mechanical Engineering.

Ace, as he is called by friends, grew up in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, regularly attending Mass on Sundays with his family.

He went to Manila for college. Away from his parents’ supervision, he chose not to hear Mass anymore. From 2002 to 2013, he attended Mass only on three occasions: Christmas, New Year, and Easter Sunday when he was home for the holiday.

His Story

After college graduation, I decided to just stay in school and be part of the academe so I could be with my girlfriend, Kate (name was changed) who studies in the school I worked for.

For the next three years, we enjoyed our perfect relationship. Both our families approved of us as a couple. When she was about to graduate, we started planning to save money for our wedding. So, I left the academe and entered the corporate world for higher pay.

This meant I had to be away from Kate for periods of about one to two months. After her graduation, she got a job that also required her to be on site for about a month..

Our perfect relationship started to crumble. We started to have less time for each other, talked less, and started to have fights even for the shallowest reasons. Eventually, we separated.

Suddenly, my world seemed to be void of purpose. I felt lost and broken. In pieces.

Devastated, I poured my energy on work and devoted time into running and playing badminton. Some days, I’d push myself to the point of exhaustion so that when I got home, I would easily fall asleep.

Finding The Feast

Back in 2012, I found myself watching The Feast on IBC 13 on Sunday mornings. Not regularly— but it was rather frequent. The Feast became part of my Sunday ritual. So, when a college friend of mine, Gabriel Villar, invited me to attend it live, I gamely joined.

All along I thought that The Feast was a gathering of a popular sect opposing Catholicism. I was both happy and relieved that Bro. Bo Sanchez is Catholic.

In July 2013, I made my first visit to The Feast Bay Area, which was at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). I went with friends.

Immediately, I liked the place, the ambiance.

During the Mass, I told myself, “I like it here.”

The Mass was not at all boring.

The next time I went, my friends Sophie Auditor and Kristine Reyes came along. The latter is already a Feaster at the time. After the session, they made me sign up for a Light Group (LG) with Genalyn Baal as head. Our LG meets every Wednesday in Ortigas where I work.

I find the LG helpful in understanding the talks. This time, I appreciated the talks more because I get to apply what I heard to my circumstances. The talks made more sense to me.

Joining The Feast took my mind off my heartache. It helped me meet new friends and most of all, it brought me closer to God. 

I joined the Formation Ministry which conducts the Feast Bible Study (FBS) and other spiritual development courses for The Feast ministry members.

Through my ministry, I had an opportunity to serve at the Jesus Encounter (JE) seminar hosted by Feast Bay Area, which included an anointing of the Holy Spirit. During the solemn rite, I felt a warmth that wrapped around me as if I was being embraced.

In that embrace, it was as if God was telling me, “My child, are you done solving your problems on your own? Come here, let me hug you. All you ever had to do was come to me. I am here. I love you.”

During the JE, I experienced a spiritual awakening, so intense, that I resolved to center my life in Jesus and serve Him the best I can.

I also joined the ILoveLife Retreat, also organised by Feast Bay Area, which helps singles to deal with their personal issues and face life with enthusiasm.

Through the various Feast ministries, I met my wonderful travel buddies in this journey called Life. Through their love and kindness, I see Jesus in them. I am grateful and blessed to have known them.

Back to The Church

I know God is transforming me to be the best man I could ever be for my future wife. I know that what I am going through right now is a process so that I may be worthy of the princess, His precious daughter, whom He has planned for me.

 Going through the formation program of The Feast, I now know how valuable the Mass is in my life and for my transformation and eternal salvation. I regret the times when I missed to hear Mass and take the Communion. But now, I know better.

 

Friday, 28 October 2016 12:56

About the Author

Gladys ann mae A. Hernandez, 25, hails from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. She studied at the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU) where she earned her Bachelor of Secondary Education degree, major in Physical Science.

Gladys has been teaching Science to Grade 6 pupils, her advisory class for five years now at the Barcelona Academy in Marilao, Bulacan. At present, she is also the school’s librarian.

Gladys was baptized and raised as an Adventist.

Her Story

In May 2010, fresh from graduation, I decided to begin my teaching career in the Barcelona Academy. For convenience, I stayed in the dormitory, which the school provides for teachers and staff, along with friends from NVSU who became my co-teachers.

I am the quiet type. During break time with my co-teachers, Reygie Hernandez, our administration officer and school registrar, often told us in jest, “There must be a ghost in your dormitory.”

I knew he was alluding to me. And since he’s the boss, I dared not respond to his joke. I just  smiled politely. Little did I know, he was already setting his eyes on me.

At first, I didn’t think much of his attempts to win me. First, a relationship among teachers and staff was not allowed in the school. Second, he’s Catholic, I am Adventist. I thought a relationship with him would go nowhere.

Finding The Feast

The owner of Barcelona Academy is Bro. Alvin Barcelona, the builder of Feast Marilao back then.

Reygie started out as Bro. Alvin’s personal assistant and as such, he attended The Feast with the Barcelona family.

Reygie became Events head, managing Bro. Alvin’s video presentations and related work every Saturday. 

Even before he courted me, Reygie already invited my friends and me to attend The Feast.

At first, I attended because, well, you can’t say “No” to the boss, right?

Anyway, I found the service at The Feast similar to our Adventist service, except ours lasted the whole Saturday.

Eventually, because of work requirements at school, I was not able to attend our Adventist service on Saturdays and ended up attending The Feast which was scheduled late in the afternoon, when I was done with my school work.

I didn’t  have qualms about going to a Catholic service as I believed Adventists and Catholics worship the same God. We just differ in our practices.

Meanwhile, Reygie was already courting me in earnest. I guess attending The Feast helped to bring us closer. A good strategy, I should say because after several months, we became a twosome.

But we kept our relationship discreet because, you know, our situation was complicated—he’s boss, I am subordinate; he’s Catholic, I am Adventist.

But in time, we got caught. Reygie got caught by Bro. Alvin nonetheless when he was buying me an engagement ring.

A sad moment in my life proved Reygie’s sincerity. I took the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) and failed. Passing the exam defines one’s teaching mettle, and so is considered a major gauge for a teacher’s career advancement. Since I failed the exam, I felt like my career was over, and so was my life.

But Reygie, my boss, the one person who should be disappointed in me, and most likely ease me out of the roster of his bankable teachers, comforted me. I thought I would be an embarrassment for him. But he became all the more loving, caring, and supportive. I knew then he was for keeps.

During Christmas break following that, Reygie showed up on our doorsteps to meet my parents.

Reygie had a long talk with my parents, assuring them he had nothing but good intentions for me.

After sometime, we started talking about getting married and so we scheduled the pamanhikan, Reygie and his family coming to our house to ask my family for my hand in marriage.

But that would take a while. First, I had to straighten things out with my family, especially my mom. She didn’t mind my attending The Feast, but I knew deep in her heart, she wanted me to choose to stay as an Adventist. Mama never said it before, but she finally did when we had a heart-to-heart talk. She never thought I’d actually chosen to be baptized Catholic. Mama was Catholic who converted to be an Adventist in her 20s.

I told her I love Reygie, and if we are going to be a family, we should have just one religion so as not to confuse our children.

Actually, Reygie and I started praying about it a few years before I had the courage to tell my mother I would like to be baptized Catholic.It was in our Novena to Gods Love, a booklet where The Feast attendees are encouraged to write down their dreams and pray for it.

Before making the decision, I prayed hard one last time and Reygie and I sought the advice of  our priest friend, Fr. Benny Justiniano.

He told me, “Look into your heart’s desire, not in Reygie’s wishes.”

Fr. Benny also told us that the Adventist religion is one of the denominations where members need not be converted into the Catholic Faith to be wed in the Church.     

It’s hard to explain, and yet, it was easy and simple for me to choose to be Catholic. It came naturally, I would say.

Honestly, at first I attended The Feast only for convenience’s sake. But at The Feast I also fell in love with God more and as I fell in love with Him more, I kept going.”

I told my mother I want my family to worship and serve God as one in one church. Reygie and I have been doing this the past years and it makes us both happy to be able to do this.

In the end, my mother  said, “It’s totally up to you.”

In April 2015, after undergoing four sessions of Catechism, I was baptized Gladys Ann Mae Alliovida, same as my maiden name, by Fr. Benny.

My godparents at baptism were Bro. Leonardo and Sis. Sheila Cruz, husband and wife servants at Feast Marilao, who I look up to.   

Almost five years in our relationship, Reygie and I tied the knot in Bulacan on May 15, 2015.

It’s  a blessing that The Feast founder, Bro. Bo Sanchez and his wife Marowe, Bro. Alvin and his wife, Tes, as well as Bro. Leonardo and Sis. Sheila stood as our principal sponsors. 

Today, Reygie and I are expecting our first baby. The baby in my womb hears the talks and festive worship songs at The Feast Manila Bay Area where we now attend, following Bro. Alvin who’s now one of the preachers there.

Every day, I thank God for Reygie, a God-fearing man, kindhearted, sweet, loyal,  treating me like a princess.     

I thank Reygie for introducing me to my second home, The Feast.

I am thankful for The Feast for it has brought me closer to God. It has given depth to my faith in Him.

I hope my story will inspire people not only to attend The Feast but to experience God, as I have, in an intimate, joyful way.”

 

Friday, 28 October 2016 11:54

About the Author

Alvin Carlo B. Buenagua, 30, lives in Taguig City. He works as service advisor at Ford Global City.

Even in his childhood days, Alvin was already interested in cars. So after high school, he took up a vocational course in Automotive. Later, he studied at the Technological University of the Philippines in Manila and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Administration, major in Management.

In 2005, he worked as automotive technician at a Japanese car company in Manila. Living with his family then, he spent Sundays at home resting after a week’s hard work. He hardly went to Mass.

His Story

We are three siblings in the family and I’m the youngest. Because of financial difficulty, my parents decided that I live under the care of my grandparents and aunt in their home in Quezon. We led a simple and happy life.

I remember going to church only on Christmas and New Year. On those occasions, my lolo and lola took me with them to attend Mass at the Our Lady of Peace and Good Travels in Antipolo, as part of their panata, or devotion to Mama Mary to keep  safe their children who were in Manila working.

I didn’t think much about my spiritual life. I got addicted  reading pornography magazines and didn’t really think it was wrong.

At the time, since I love cars, all I wanted was to find a good job in a car company. But I was like going in and out of jobs, finding it so hard to land my dream job.

Finding The Feast

My journey to The Feast began at my dentist’s clinic. There were Kerygma magazines in the waiting room. I read them and so I got to know about Bro. Bo Sanchez.

One day, while channel surfing, I chanced upon Bro. Bo Sanchez on television. I watched the show and I found his brand of preaching motivating. Eventually, I would wake up early in the morning just to catch his talk.

It took me years, though, to finally find my way to The Feast.

One time, Raffy Ancheta, my supervisor in one of my earlier jobs, happened to get a flyer about Feast Manila, held at SM Manila in Quiapo, every Friday. He invited me to attend the prayer meeting  with him. At the time, we were joining a networking company on the side to augment our income. So Raffy said it would be a good idea for us to go together to The Feast and meet people who could be our target clients.

 The minute Raffy mentioned The Feast, I remembered Bro. Bo. So I went with Raffy, thinking I would see Bro. Bo in Feast Manila.

We went to the prayer gathering in November 2009. But the preacher was Bro. Obet Cabrillas, not Bro. Bo. I didn’t mind though. I found the experience as I had expected -– spiritually nourishing and inspiring.

I went back the next Friday, and became a regular. I even served there as a greeter. My frequent attendance slowly but surely healed me of my addiction to pornography.

In April 2011, I joined a two-day Singles retreat in Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan.

At the retreat, I said a bold prayer: “Lord, stir within me and cause me to be restless. I want to live according to Your will.

Later that summer, Ralph Sioson, a fellow servant at Feast Manila, invited me to Feast Bay Area. I went and this time, I saw Bro. Bo Sanchez. I was all ears when he gave his powerful message.

I found it more convenient attending The Feast on a Sunday so I chose to continue joining this prayer meeting instead.

I also signed up for a Light Group (LG) with Rhoda Marmol as our head. She gave me a Holy Bible as a birthday gift. This got me started to take studying God’s Word seriously. I joined various spiritual formation classes, like Roots and Prayer and Life Workshop. I signed up for Radical Men, batch 4, and I Lovelife Retreat, batch 3.

I also attended the Kerygma Conference. By this time, I have already imbibed Bro. Bo’s teaching on financial literacy— giving tithes and, as God promised, you will receive more than  you give. 

At the time, since I could not hold a job, my money was down to P10,000. Still, during the time of the Love Offering at the Kerygma Conference, I gave 10 percent of my cash.

Indeed, in time, my tithe has come back to me. In February 2012, I found a job at Ford Global City where I am now  service advisor— the job I’d always wanted.

I’ve since been consistent in tithing.

Back to the Church

The Feast has not only helped me find my dream job. It also helped me find my way back to the Church.

The Feast taught me the importance of attending the Mass and receiving Communion for my spiritual nourishment.  So now, I try my best not to miss the Sunday Mass.

As for Confession, I go twice a year, at least. I remember going to Confession. The priest was Fr. Bob McConaghy. I poured out to him my difficulties in finding a job I like. He advised me to leave the past behind and gave me pointers how to make my job easy and and how I can be happy in the workplace.

Since I’ve been receiving the blessings of the Sacraments, I’ve never been a happier person.

How true it is that when we move closer to our God, our Creator, our life becomes more joyful and prosperous!

 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 14:01

About the Author

Rowena Grace Lizarda, 41, works as territory sales manager for a meat processing company and is also a business owner.

She is married to Jayson, a regional sales manager for a global company distributing consumer products. They have a teenage son. The couple separated in 2013.

Then later, their son met an accident. The unfortunate incident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For it brought Rowena and Jayson back together in 2015 and led Rowena back to the Catholic Church.

Her Story

My mother was my father’s second wife. I am their only child. We are my father’s second family.

As far as I can remember, my father lived with us in a house not too far away from his first family. Once in a while, my Dad took me with him when he visited his children. They were friendly to me, I had no problem with them.

Sadly, when I was but 14 years old, Mom suffered cardiac arrest and died— the first of three major tragedies of my life.

Dad, a geodetic engineer by profession, did not have a regular income. For practical reasons, we had to live with his first family a few years later.

Soon, it was time for me to go to college.  I didn’t want to be a burden to my father’s family, so I worked as promo girl even in summers to get by— until I earned a Bachelor of Science degree.

After graduation, I easily got myself a job as sales coordinator for a well-known international hair brand. I worked myself up the corporate ladder.

At the time, my father was already suffering a lung disease. With my good salary, I was able to pay for his medical needs.

In 1994, some tension in the house rose to an unhealthy level so I decided to stay away. With a heavy heart, I left my old father to the care of my siblings.

I went to live with my cousins in Biñan, Laguna. There I met Jayson. We became friends, and a year after, we were already a couple. On July 26, 1997, we got married.

In the following years, I suffered two more major tragedies.

First, I lost my father. He had to go to the United States to get treatment for lung cancer— to no avail. He died there. I didn’t get to see him before he was buried. It was devastating, to say the least.

Second, my marriage collapsed.

Jayson and I were only in our early 20s when we got married. We weren’t really prepared for the challenges that marriage beset us.

We were blessed with a child. But even with such a gift, we could not reconcile our differences.

For one, we had contrasting religious persuasions.       My husband grew up in a Catholic family. They were regular churchgoers. Jason even served as an altar boy.

I, on the other hand, hardly had a religious life to speak of. I was baptized Catholic but I rarely went to church. When I grew up, I only went when I felt like it.

When we started having marital problems, Jason suggested that I try out with him the Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) program of our parish church. I did. Later, we also attended a couples retreat of the Marriage Encounter group. But I guess, our problems had become so complicated, we couldn’t be helped by such programs.

Our arguments continued and in July 2013, Jayson and I agreed to separate ways.

I thought to myself, “I can carry on with life without a husband. I managed well enough without a mother and a father, didn’t I? At least, I have my son with me.”

The moment Jayson stepped out of our house, we  didn’t speak to each other anymore.

He kept close to our son, however. He invited our son to go to Mass with him, and our son went with him once in a while. The boy told me his father asked him to invite me to go with them. I declined.

I also learned through our son that Jayson was attending this prayer gathering called The Feast.

“Dad is inviting us to The Feast,” he said.

I just shrugged my shoulders.

From time to time, our son attended The Feast with his father.

One time, my son came home with a souvenir photo— he and his father at The Feast.

Unimpressed, and even irritated, I cut out the photo  of Jayson and threw it away, keeping only our son’s picture.

Finding The Feast

In May 2015, our son figured in an accident. He and a friend were riding his motorbike when they lost balance and crashed on the pavement, just a couple of blocks from our place.

Some neighbours who witnessed the accident called me and I rushed to my son. I gasped, gripped with fear, as I saw my son bloodied on the ground. The thought of losing him was unbearable.

Neighbors helped me to get him to the hospital. And as doctors attended to him, I prayed my hardest that day.

I thought of calling up Jayson but hesitated, given our situation. But I realized he is my son’s father after all, and my son needed his father that moment.

So, I called Jayson up and he came to the hospital right away. 

Our son sustained an ugly gash on his chin so he had to undergo operation to stitch it up.  He was confined for seven days. All those days, Jayson and I took turns to care for our son. Seeing him showing love for son made me think of what our son said the previous week…

He said, “Mom, I envy my friends and their family who go to church and spend time together on Sundays. Can’t we be a family again?”

When our son was out of harm’s way, Jayson again asked that we go to this prayer gathering. This time, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I thought maybe it was about time I gave us a chance.

My first experience at The Feast Bay Area was at Aliw Theater. I’d never been to anything like it. The worship, the Holy Mass and the talk, simply reduced me to tears as through them all, I felt God’s Presence, His love, mercy and compassion. I felt my heart was saying, “I belong here. This is my home.”

All these years, all the hurt I had gone through in life, I just kept them all in my heart, buried deep. That day, I felt God comforting me, soothing me, healing me, to the point that I just let go of all the negativities in my heart. And then I felt lighter, liberated. As if a dark cloud that had constantly been over my head was blown away. What a wonderful feeling!

Afterwards, Jayson and I had a heart-to-heart talk. It was not easy. All the hurt from the past came back but in the end, we reconciled and chose to give ourselves another chance. This time, we knew better and we invited Jesus to be in the center of our marriage.

Today, we continue to work things out between us as we go on with life together.

I am beginning to view life differently now. I used to think that having gone through hardships in life, I could do anything by myself through sheer hard work and perseverance. At The Feast, I realized my strategy was off. I went for the wrong things. I went after material things — beautiful home and a car— to feel happy. I splurged on expensive shoes and bags and latest gadgets.

Now, I just want a simple life. I don’t want gifts for myself anymore. I prefer to give to others and spend time especially with the less fortunate, in homes for the aged and orphanages.

When Jayson and I separated, I even got addicted to gambling, spending nights at a casino. It made me happy to squander my month’s salary in one night. But still all I felt was emptiness deep inside me.

I realize now that God is all that I need. He’s the one thing I’ve been missing in my life all along. 

Back to The Church

In the past, I used to get bored while attending the Mass and I couldn’t wait for it to finish. Now, I savor the Mass. I hunger for God’s Word. I get excited every Sunday at The Feast, and I can’t wait to hear Mass, listen to the talks, and praise and worship God. Rain or shine, my family attends The Feast. No typhoon can stop us from going to the Bay Area.

I like it that after the Mass, we get to hear practical teaching on being good Catholics in layman’s terms. I don’t just appreciate my faith now, I also appreciate life. I’ve realized life is good. Life is beautiful and worth living.

Now that I have God in me, in my marriage, in my family life, everything is all right. All that I want I already have -– my husband and my son.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:53

About the Authors

Maria Teresa Doctor-Lorenzo, or Tess, 56, was born in Manila and grew up in Sorsogon. A graduate of the University of the East, she has worked in the legislative branch of the government since the 1990s.

Her husband, Nichaelius Lorenzo, or Nick, 54, had been an Overseas Filipino Worker for more than 20 years. He is now a safety officer for a construction firm in Manila.

Tess and Nick met in college, where both were student leaders.  They come from Catholic families, yet life’s circumstances made them stray away from their Faith. 

Our Story

Tess: I am the youngest in a family that’s Catholic. 

My father, who served in our parish as head of the Family Life Apostolate,  taught my siblings and me to appreciate Catholic practices. He led our daily family Rosary prayer, and brought our family to Mass every Sunday.

So it’s no surprise that one of my sisters serve in the parish as catechists. Me, I represented our parish and my school in Bible competitions, and became a member of the Legion of Mary. 

Nick: Like Tess’s family, my family is typically Catholic. We went to Mass every Sunday. We also prayed the Rosary together daily and the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help every Wednesday.

Straying Away

Tess: I had to go to college in Manila and lived with my sister, who was working then and sending me to school. We lived in a compound among relatives. Away from my parents and exposed to urban life, I kind of strayed away from the Church. 

I can name a number of excuses for not attending Sunday Mass.

One, my sister was always away on out-of-town work assignments. So I didn’t have anyone to go to church with on Sundays.  

Two, I observed some people did not attend Mass because they had to attend to their business. I thought, if they were excused to go to Mass because they were working, I should be too, because  I myself was busy with school work.

Three, I was a student leader in the tumultuous ‘70s so I thought I had better things to do like join student rallies. 

In the midst of the protest actions, I met Nick, a student leader and an idealist like me. I got attracted to him because he and his family reminded me of my own household. Nick did chores like cooking, cleaning up, going to the market. And he and his family were practising Catholics. I was impressed.

Nick: Tess and I dated at Paco Park and attended Mass there and prayed the Rosary together. 

Soon we tied the knot— twice. First, in civil rites on February 25, 1985, and then, in a church wedding on April 5, 1986. We were blessed with a son.

After our wedding, I worked abroad, in the Royal Palace of Saudi Arabia. Away, tired and lonely, I became unfaithful to my wife.

Tess: During my college days, I actually did not totally abandon my Catholic Faith. An aunt— single, pious— always reminded me to attend Mass. So I did, but not regularly.

Also, since Nick and his family were practising Catholics, I did endeavour to practice my religion too, especially when we were already married.

But then soon, I discovered Nick’s infidelity.  I was angry, bitter. I began to question God why this should happen to us. I saw couples attending Mass, and they reminded me of Nick and his other woman. So I didn’t like going to Mass anymore.

One time, while Nick was with us in Manila for a vacation, I learned that he went out to see his mistress who was also in Manila at the time. And the woman had the audacity to call me on the phone and harass me. 

I blew my top! I immediately sought a lawyer to file for legal separation. 

Nick: I pleaded with Tess not to file for separation. I did something wrong, I hurt her. But I was not going to end our marriage. 

And to my relief, Tess did not go through with the separation.

Instead, we attended a Marriage Encounter seminar.

Tess: Actually, one thing stopped me— the thought that if I remained Nick’s wife, his mistress would always remain a kept woman.

The Marriage Encounter didn’t help. I was so hurting, I couldn’t keep my pain from my son. So our son grew up hating his father.

I continued to go to Mass but it felt more like an obligation. I tried to seek God by joining prayer groups but still, I couldn’t shake off my anger. 

Then, an unfortunate incident turned things around in our family.

Nick: In 2011, back in Saudi, I was accused of a crime I did not commit. A fellow Filipino identified me as an accomplice to a crime. I denied the act but I languished in jail just the same. 

Tess: I found out that Nick got into that trouble because of his girlfriend. The more I hated them. 

But still, I couldn’t just turn my back on Nick. So I asked the help of some of my friends, and we were able to arrange for the dismissal of his case. 

Nick: After three long months in jail, I was set free and I came back home to Manila long-haired and scrawny. 

I went into a hiatus. I slept, I woke up, went to market for our day’s meal, ate, then hibernated in the bedroom again.

Tess was frustrated with me. So I could find a job, she prodded me to attend a skills training seminar. I did but I could not find a job I wanted.

Tess: It seemed like he lost interest in life. I got totally impatient with him. I lashed out at him on the littlest thing. But he never fought back. He just kept quiet and moped in bed.

Nick and I lived under the same roof but we hardly spoke to each other. But, deep in my heart, I longed for us to get back together as in the old days.  

It was a prayer God was simply ready, willing, and able to answer. 

Finding The Feast

Tess: Yes, I believe God opened opportunities for my prayer to be answered. 

In 2013, while channel surfing, I came across The Feast on television. Soon, I was watching it every Sunday.

At the time, officemates were also giving me copies of The Feast bulletin and Kerygma magazine. I liked reading them.

Then, in the summer of 2015, I heard that there was this Feast near our house— at Marketplace in Kalentong, Mandaluyong City. So I went to check it out.

I kept going back. 

At The Feast, I received a copy of the Novena to God’s Love, a booklet with a prayer for abundance and spiritual growth, and a seven-page space where you can write your top seven dreams. My Number 1 dream of course was about my relationship with my husband. I bargained with God that if it wasn’t possible for us to get back together, at least just let us have respect for each other. I also prayed that God heal my wounded heart. 

But my anger and bitterness did not disappear overnight. Until one Feast day, tired of my burden, I finally, totally, surrendered my relationship with my husband to the Lord and let Him take over our marriage.

Nick: Every Sunday, Tess would leave the house before 10:00 a.m. I didn’t know where she was going but I had an inkling she was attending church. I got curious and so asked to join her one time. I thought it was high time I reconciled with God. 

Back to the Church

Nick: The Feast was such an eye-opener for us, that Tess and I  attended the gathering together regularly. Little by little, I saw the changes in us. We actually began talking— without spite, that is. 

Eventually, we found friends at The Feast as we joined the Couples Ministry. And now we are part of a Light Group which meets every Friday.

Tess: February 14, Valentine’s Day this 2016, fell on a Sunday, so The Feast gave out long-stemmed roses to the ladies. The Couples Ministry also held a Valentine’s Day fellowship prior and also gave roses to the ladies. That Sunday, I had two beautiful, fragrant red roses.   But the best treat was going out on a date with Nick again, our first for a long while. 

Nick: We are ever grateful for The Feast. I’ve learned a lot from the life-changing talks. It’s also great to find acceptance and support from our Light Group.  

Soon, by God’s grace, I got a job as safety officer at a cousin’s firm. While it is a blessing to be working again, my job also became a hindrance to my attending the prayer gathering weekly. But The Feast has made such an impact in my life that I cannot go on without hearing Mass and listening to the talks. So sometimes, I ask for a change of my work schedule so I can be with my wife in our faith community on a Sunday.

Tess: By the way, as I said, I so ranted about my husband’s infidelity in front of our son that he harboured hatred against his father too— to the point that he hardly  called his father Papa, and instead simply referred to him as The Other One in our conversations.

In March 2015, our began to work in Saudi Arabia. Before he left, I tried to persuade him to make amends with his father.

I told him,  “Your Papa may had been unfaithful to me but he was always a good father to you.”

But our son left us still angry with his father.

The Number 2 Dream I wrote on my copy of the Novena to God’s Love was for my son to be reconciled with his father.

On December 1, 2015, my birthday, God granted my other prayer. 

Our son called me up long distance to greet me Happy Birthday.  After our usual chitchat, he asked to speak to his father— the first time he did so since he left for Saudi. The two spoke for about an hour. My heart swelled with happiness.

Our son has also joined a faith community in Saudi and he always encourages us to keep attending The Feast.

Yes, God is healing the three of us all at the same time. We are back as Catholics in the true sense of our beloved Faith.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:51

About the Author

Paul Bacani, 38, married, is a college graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Electronics and Communications Engineering.

He works in an information technology company, in the Web Application Administration and Support Department, which focuses on data maintenance and daily monitoring of production servers to ensure their stability and availability.

He lives in Quezon City.

Paul said he had a fairly good faith foundation. But career priorities took him on a spiritual detour.

His Story

I was raised by my parents to be God-fearing and truly I was.

I studied briefly in a Catholic school, and during my youth, I joined the Youth for Christ, and then the Singles for Christ.

I was also a choir member back then so I can say I’d  had a fairly good spiritual foundation— but, I must say,  not deeply rooted enough for me to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

I took a detour in my spiritual journey when I started living in the corporate world back in 2002. I got busy at work, focused on improving my career, running the rat race.

A year later, I got married and the more I worked hard for my family.

Since then, everything about my job had been  falling into place and it felt like I could rely on my own efforts to be a success in my career.  

Before I knew it, I was already skipping Sunday Mass, preferring to stay home to take a breather from the past week’s grind. It came to a point where my wife and daughter got used to attending Mass without me.

I had been unchurched for so long and I thought that was going to be my life from then on. But inside me, it was like I was wandering and got lost.

Finding The Feast

One time, I attended Mass and afterwards, I wanted more of God—as there was this thirst in my soul. I felt that in my journey to get to know Jesus more I must join a faith community.

My wife and my sister knew about Bro. Bo Sanchez but were not regular Feast attendees. One day, they suggested that we go to Feast PICC.

I first attended Feast PICC in January 2014. Then I found out there’s a Feast in Ortigas, which is nearer where I live, so I transferred there.

Later, my family was  invited to be offerors during Mass at Feast Greenhills. We first attended there on the last Sunday of March 2014, then by April, I made a decision to serve there— in the Music Ministry as singer and bass guitarist.My family and I have been a member of Feast Greenhills since then.

I’ve found hope in The Feast, and I draw strength from its wonderful —wounded but healed—people. The Feast helped me rediscover my lost Faith in God. No matter how broken I was, God still held my hand and accepted me through this place. It's also a place where you can allow yourself to be vulnerable and be healed.

I am grateful to be able to worship God with others and the opportunity to be part of the Music Ministry, the Worship Team, and bless others through it— as its objective is to disciple people and build relationships. Also, the concert-feel is a bonus.

Back to The Church

Thanks to The Feast, what I now  like most about my Catholic Faith is the Holy Mass—the Holy Communion, where we receive the Body and Blood of Christ— and the Crucifix which reminds us how Jesus loves us.

This, we should always be in awe of: To be able to worship God and know Jesus the Catholic way.

 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:42

About the Author

KIKO is an alias of this man, now 26 years old, who went through a wanton life. He chose to use a pseudonym to tell his story because of some sensitive details he shared.

Kiko never liked going to church when he was in grade school. Like any kid his age, he preferred to play. In his teenage years, his mother’s insistence and guilty tactics all the more made him detest attending the Mass.

His Story

My parents constantly fought when I was young. They didn’t separate though. We lived together as a family under one roof but later, they had separate rooms.

The situation at home must have affected me, such that I didn’t do well in elementary school.

My parents enrolled me in a Catholic school, where students were obliged to attend Mass. I didn’t understand the Mass so I didn’t appreciate it.

In elementary school, I was what people would call a misfit. I had no friends. I was bullied. My teachers were not any help. They said I wouldn’t amount to anything.

One teacher told me, “You would probably will become just a tricycle driver.”

Tell me, why would I want to go to a place like that?

Things weren’t any different in my high school days.

Even as she constantly fought with my father,  my mother attended Sunday Mass. She often dragged me with her. And if I didn’t want to go, she called me an “evil spirit.”

I would rather play ball, or strum this guitar my parents bought for me, than pretend to be worshipping God. That early, I resented Him.

Deep in my heart, all I wanted was to ask, “Why, Lord? Why are my parents always fighting? Why aren’t my parents like other parents who get along well? Why am I not as smart as my classmates or siblings? Why don’t my classmates like me?”

Later, I got into smoking and drugs.

In school, there was this cool band. I so desperately longed to be in, to have friends. Since I played the guitar, I jammed with them. The members smoked weed during our practice sessions. So, I started getting into the habit.

It was easy to purchase illegal drugs in our school. I had this classmate who had contact with a guy who lived in the slums. He was the go-to guy if you needed marijuana or shabu. I didn’t take shabu. That was for the richer kids. I only smoked pot. 

I wanted so much to be in, didn’t I? So one day, I thought I’d impress my friends with a pack of weeds. I bought a few grams and planned to share  them with my friends the next day. But shucks, my mother caught me with the pack.

To my horror, she cried, as she thought I was already an addict.

 “It’s  just a one-time deal,” I assured her.

 Yes, deep in my heart, I really didn’t want to be an addict and totally live a crazy life. Actually, I was critical of the double life my friends were living. You see, they did drugs and yet, they attended Mass. And they even taunted me for not going to church! To me, that was horrible. Drugs and Mass didn’t go together. Either you do one or the other and stand by your choice.

 “Why should going to Mass be the basis for being a good person?” I muttered to myself.

I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, did I? So, I stuck with just being the real me.

The real me then was without any ambition. I didn’t know what course to take up after graduating from high school. Somebody said, take up a course in the aircraft industry, it’s easy. So I did. It didn’t take long before I realized I didn’t like aircraft, so I shifted to another course. I moved from one course to another, from one college to another.

The real me was living a carefree life. In college, I lived in a boarding house. I continued my vices. I cut classes and went on drinking sprees with friends. We smoked weed in the boarding house in the evening, and sometimes, even  in broad daylight.

The real me was going into sexual addiction.  I didn’t have a girlfriend so I hired a prostitute to satisfy my sexual needs.

I didn’t know it then but later, I realized that I already had sexual addiction. Actually, this must had started when I was still a kid. I once saw my dad playing cards with photos of naked girls and I got curious. I was in Grade 4 then. Before long, I was already reading pornographic materials. Later, masturbating. And next came casual sex.

The real me was actually trying to cope with depression and suicidal tendencies.I didn’t see anything worth living for. Certainly not my parent’s broken marriage, my failure in school, my vices, my sexual addiction. Or maybe, the weed was playing tricks on me?

 Then, I met Mr. Frederick Sanchez, my professor in college who was an ex-seminarian. Of all my teachers, from grade school to college, he was the only one who made sense to me.

He got my attention one day when he asked the class, “Is there a God?”

The students gave various answers. Curious, I just listened. In the end, Professor Sanchez  said our answers vary according to our experience— our experience of God’s presence in our life. The prof said good or bad, our experiences in life will bring us either closer to God or far away from Him. It depends on our response, he said.

Our professor introduced us to Job in the Bible. He said Job  went through major difficulties in life but all these brought him closer to God. Some would have lost faith and turned their back on God —but not Job. Because he relied so much on his Creator’s love.

That day, something stirred in me. Who is this God? I wanted to know Him more. The entire class was touched and enlightened by this teacher’s wisdom. I think it’s safe to say that we were all brought closer to God that semester in 2008.

Soon, I wanted to become a better person. As I attended my religion class, I overcame my depression and suicidal tendencies. I accepted I had a sexual addiction and started learning about overcoming it.

I then already appreciated my religion subjects.

Finding The Feast

My next professor, Mr. Albert Zabala, happened to be one of the leaders at the Feast Bay Area. He sometimes casually mentioned this prayer gathering founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. I searched and read about this Bro. Bo. I found my way to healing through his blogs.

In 2010, I thought I’d go check out this prayer meeting Mr. Zabala was talking about. I went by myself and I was surprised to find out how different it was from what I knew as a church.

The people there were expressive of their faith and love for God. I was kind of embarrassed for them. They were shouting praises, jumping, and dancing. I didn’t mind the clapping— that I could do. I actually liked it.

I thought, “These people are on a different kind of high. What gives? Maybe if I understood the depth of God’s love for me, I would be shouting praises, jumping, and dancing, too.”

So, I went back to The Feast and kept going back.

 As I came to The Feast on a weekly basis, I felt God’s love embracing me and healing me gradually. It helped that I found friends there when I joined a ministry to serve in. Finally, I felt accepted. Finally, I had friends who cared about me despite my dark past. Recently, I joined a retreat for singles and I felt liberated from my past experiences. I also gained more friends.

Back to the Church

Attending The Feast has made me appreciate life more because now I know God and myself more. I now wake up in the morning with zest because I have learned to accept and love myself. Now, I have dreams and plans for my future and that includes going to church on Sundays, be it at The Feast or at our nearby parish.

Looking back, I’m thankful for my parents who didn’t withdraw their support for my schooling despite my poor academic performance and my ambivalence in college.

By God’s grace, I finished the fourth course I enrolled in and I am now a freelance photographer. 

 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:19

Meynarissa Manuel, 32, nicknamed Emcy, is single and holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Computer Science.She works as an information technology (IT) consultant.

She lives in Caloocan City.

Emcy said she thought she lived just an ordinary, “normal” life. Then one day, she woke up and realized something else.

Her Story

 I THOUGHT I lived an ordinary, normal life. No life-altering events like terminal diseases in family, no death, no financial difficulties —we’re not rich but we’re able to eat more than three times a day. I never got into a bad crowd when I was a kid. I did drink liquor — occasionally, but just to socialize. But that’s it. No drugs, no cigarettes. I did good in school, above average I must say. 

In a nutshell it may look as if my life was perfect.  Even when Igraduated from college and found a job,  my  life simply revolved around work and friends. I  came to office early and stayed late. And during Fridays I went with my friends from the office to bars or hang out in someone’s home.

I had a so-so relationship with my siblings. We didn’t get into serious fights— only the usual squabbles  whenever they went into my room and used my stuff without  my permission. With  my parents, I had conflicts with my mom only whenever I didn’t tell her if I was not coming home and staying instead  in my friends’ home. It’s pretty normal.

My life was normal— or so I thought.

One day, however, I woke up and realized how empty my life had become. I was already 25 at the time, and I was living on my own abroad— far from my family and friends.

After that morning, the succeeding mornings became a drag. I sometimes thought that I was wasting the space I was using on this Earth. I looked at these great people who died so young — but lived a useful life. But me, poor, wretched me,  was useless.  I found myself asking God why He had to  wake me up still. I even kind of prayed He’d just end my life —  in a dramatic way, like in a car accident or plane crash. 

 Finding The Feast

Actually, I didn’t have to find The Feast. I literally grew up in the Light of Jesus Family. My parents have been members ever since I could speak. And they simply dragged my sibs and me to those weekly Feasts.

So going to Mass every Sunday was the norm for us. But I never had a real connection with God. I was in good terms with my family but I never had a real connection with them, either.

I’d attended The Feast like forever, but I was just that— an attendee.

I didn’t feel a passion to serve God. So one day, out of desperation, I prayed to God. I told Him, “I will say yes to you. I will serve, wherever, but you have to do the work, I don’t want to volunteer, someone has to offer me a service and this time I will say yes.” 

A few months later, Bro. Danny Anonuevo, a Feast builder, called me. He told me that Feast Valenzuela would be launched, and he asked me if I could be the Media Ministry head. I chuckled, as I remembered the promise I gave to God. It’s funny because  I had no skill in media work. I was only chosen because I was  working as an IT professional and everybody just concluded I could do  media as well. I was going to say no, but because I made a promise to God, I said yes nonetheless— and my life has now become far from the ordinary.

Today, I wake up with a purpose. The Feast has made me realize that.  I got to know a different side of God — not the One who was far and difficult to reach, but One who  is easy to talk to, Someone who cares, not  One who demands to be loved, but  One who courts me to fall in love with Him.

I found God at The Feast. I met Him there in a personal way — not the version I read from the Bible, or saw in movies, or stories I heard in the Mass. I met Him like a new friend, a long-lost friend, a father, a brother, someone who relates to me.

The Feast is a complete package — the worship, the practical talk on enhancing your relationships, on financial literacy, on fulfilling your dreams. Because of this, I found God in all areas in my life — not only in Church, but also in work, when I travel, when I play,  in the faces of people I talk to. 

I also like  the Light Group where you meet true friends who care for you.

Today, I serve as head servant of the Media Ministry of Feast Valenzuela, member of the Singles Ministry, and head of a Light Group.

Back to the Church

The Feast  has inspired me to explore more my Catholic faith. To understand the beauty behind our traditions and practices. In our local Feast, we don’t have Mass. But  I actually enjoy going to Mass in our local church now— more than ever before because now I feel God in every part of the Mass, because I understand now what each part is for.

I heard somewhere that Catholicism is the most lenient religion in the world. Because even in the Vatican City, seat of the Catholic faith, there are mosques.

During Mass, we never close the doors to late-comers. I guess that’s what I love about being Catholic. Yes, we have traditions and practices but at the end of the day, we arenot strict and bound by rules, and we don’t believe that we are the only ones who are going to be saved. We know we have flaws, we know we are human, so we welcome everyone. 

I also heard from one of the recollections that other Christians believe that we humans were originally ugly, so we want to mask ourselves with the face of Christ. 

On the other hand, we Catholics believe that we are beautiful inside — just like Christ. But we masked ourselves with the ugliness of sins. With God’s love, however, we are able to remove the mask and let our real beauty show. 

I like that idea—that we are all originally good —because that’s how we are made. 

Honestly, I believe that everything happens for a reason. I was born in a Catholic family — because God knows I’m better off as Catholic.

 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 13:09

Introduction: 85% of Catholics Dont Go to Church Anymore

I Was reading global surveys on Christian church attendance. 

They’re decreasing fast.  Especially in Europe, churches are losing their flock.  In Spain, only 31% go to church on Sunday.  In Germany, only 16%.  In France, only 10%.  And in Australia, only 9% go to church—Catholic or “Protestant”.

You’d think it would be a little better in the Philippines.  After all, we’re the only Christian country in Asia.  Well, yes and no.  For the Philippines, a Bishop told me only 15% of Catholics go to Church every Sunday.

Just to check this figure, I did my own informal survey.  I picked up the phone and called up parish priests in Metro Manila and in the provinces and asked them what is happening in their parishes.

One parish priest in Metro Manila told me that out of 23,000 residents in his parish, only 3,750 attend Mass every Sunday--which is only 16% of the total population.

Another parish priest in Quezon City told me that out of 15,000 parishioners, only 2,000 attend every Sunday--a measly 13%.

The parish priest in the capital city of a province has 83,000 Catholics.  But only 7,500 attend Sunday Mass—only 9%.

Finally, I asked a parish priest working in a barrio in a remote island.  He told me that he has 4,000 parishioners.  But only 200 attend his Sunday Mass--a shocking 5%.

Why Is This Happening?

Why are so many people not going to church?

Here’s one big reason: Because we havent seriously answered Gods call to love the lost.

We don’t deliberately look for the lost.

Jesus said if a shepherd has 100 sheep, but loses one sheep, won’t he leave the 99 sheep to look for the lost sheep?  

As Luke 15:5-7 puts it:5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Study all our church gatherings, our vocabulary, our songs, our sermons…  Much of what we do is geared to religious people.

Why?  Face it: Lost sheep are messy.  Because lost sheep act lost.  Broken people act broken.  Messed up people act messed up.

We’d rather hang out with people who are like us, who vibrate in the same spiritual frequency, who speak the same Christian jargon, who know the same Bible verses and hum the same worship songs.

But Jesus didn’t do that.

He always hang out with the wrong crowd.

And this is what this entire book is all about.

I’m excited. In the next few pages, I am sharing with you why we do what we do— and how we do it—so that you fulfill God’s mission for your life.

Go to Where They Are

Let me tell you a story. 

One night, a man was walking on the street, and he saw a little boy under a lamppost, looking for something. 

The man asked the boy, “Did you lose something?”

The boy said, “Sir, I lost my wallet.”

The man said, “I’ll help you look for it, son.”

After a few minutes of looking for the wallet, the man asked the boy, “Are you sure you lost it here?”

The little boy shook his head and said,  “No, I lost it over there,” pointing far away.

“What?” the man asked, bewildered.  “Then why in the world are we looking for your wallet here under the lamppost?”

“Because it’s dark over there and it’s bright here, it’s so much easier to look for it here.”

This is why we’re ineffective.  We’re looking for the lost in the wrong places.  We want the lost to come to usinstead of us going to them. 

How The Feast Was Born

Some years ago, our faith community, Light of Jesus Family, went through a transformation. 

Let me give you a little background.   

In the early 1980s, 35 years ago, by God’s grace, my family and I, along with some relatives neighbors, and friends, formed the Light of Jesus Family.

In the next few years, we were a happy inward-looking community —without knowing that we were inward-looking.  We were like a fortress with thick walls, and inside it were 2,000+ members who had to go through all sorts of hoops to be deemed worthy to be a member. 

We had a rigorous formation program for those who wanted to become holy.  If you failed in attendance or if you don’t live up to our other norms, you were gently advised that perhaps this was not your calling—because subconsciously, we felt we were better than other faith communities. 

I’m ashamed to tell you about our arrogance, but I like sharing about it because it reminds me never to fall into it again.

Obviously, no messy people could get in because we wanted to build a holy community.

We wanted to be holy, to live a new life— yes, because we ourselves have had issues, burdens, and at one time or another, in various degrees, we were “messy” too.

Then we found out a new way to live a godly life and so we formed this faith community. And I guess, we thought, so that we won’t go back to our “old” life, we should have all these rules — which inadvertently excluded those who won’t live the “holy” life we wanted to live.

But one day, God spoke to my heart and told me how foolish we all were.  He then showed me how we’ve forgotten the wounded, broken, and messy people outside our fence that needed our love.

I shared these disturbing thoughts to our Elders, and to my surprise, they all agreed to make the radical change. 

I asked them, “Are you sure you’re okay with this? Because we’re going to make Light of Jesus messy.  We’re going to love messy people.”

To implement the changes in community, they installed me as Presiding Elder  of the Light of Jesus Family— again.

I said again because 12 years before, I had relinquished this position to work on Anawim, our Mercy ministry for the poor, and Shepherds Voice, our Media ministry.

And so we did the unthinkable.  For a couple of years, we shut down all our “for-members-only” meetings. It was an upheaval, because for decades, closed-meetings were 90% of our activities. 

Around two years later, we brought some of those meetings back, but they never became the center of our community life.

In place of these closed-meetings, we built a special kind of weekly meeting that welcomed everyone.

That meeting we now call The Feast. 

The change was so radical, a few of our members left, because they wanted their old community.  But 99% of the members remained, and ultimately, many of those who left came back, because they saw God move in the Light of Jesus Family.

Our Target Defines  How We Do Things

We reached out to the unchurched.

We became a messy group loving messy people.

Today, there are 224 of these Feasts scattered all over the world, bringing thousands of unchurched people back home to God.

Who Are the Unchurched?

Let me just point out who we mean when we say unchurched. These are the people who are un-churched — those, for one reason or another, left their parish church, or their Catholic religion, or those who totally lost faith in God.

They stopped believing in God. They stopped doing Catholic practices. They did not go to church anymore.

This is the reason that in most parts of the world, we don’t hold The Feast in parish churches.  Even if it’s easier.  Even if they give us a free venue.

The rationale is simple.  If we put The Feast in church, we’ll only attract mostly religious people.  Many of the unchurched won’t go near a church.  Some are angry at the church or bored at the church. 

That’s why we put The Feast in malls, movie houses, restaurants, civic centers, offices, and homes.

And we don’t just preach religious topics.  We talk about messages that are relevant to secular people’s life. Our songs don’t sound religious.  And shucks, the preacher or worship leaders or singers don’t look religious, either.

Why Im Sharing Our Feast Story

This book has two parts.

First, I’ll talk about “How To Love The Unchurched”.  I’ll share with you the DNA of our work.  In these pages, I’ll share about the Light of Jesus Family and what we do at The Feast.

Obviously, we’re not the only ones who are reaching out to the unchurched.  There are many groups out there who are doing this—and they’re doing a better job at it.  So I apologize if I limit myself to sharing about what we do in the Light of Jesus.  I do so because this is what I know.

Second, you’ll read inspiring stories of unchurched people who have found their way back to God through The Feast, the main gathering of the Light of Jesus Family.  I know you’ll be inspired.

Three Kinds of Readers

In writing this book, I speak to three readers: 

Reader One: If you’re a part of Light of Jesus, please read this book so that you’ll be reminded of our DNA.  Our core.  Our purpose.  Our values.  Our philosophy.  Because it’s easy to drift away.  It’s easy to lose our focus.

Reader Two: If you’re not a part of Light of Jesus but a part of another community or you serve in a parish, I invite you to pick up what you can from our story and do it a hundred times better.  Imitate us and innovate us.   For we too imitated other groups and tried our best to make it work in our world.

Reader Three: If you’re the unchurched, I’m thrilled that you picked up this book. I hope these pages will speak God’s Love to you.  I hope that through this book’s message, your image of God will change.  And though I’m not a bishop or a priest, I’m a part of this Catholic Church, and in behalf of the Church, I ask for forgiveness if we have failed to mirror God’s Love to you.  I love you.  I pray for you.  And I hope to meet you soon so that I can hug you and welcome you back to His Love.

Shepherds of The Feast

Not a few times, the pioneers, the leaders of the Light of Jesus, even I  have been called heroes of The Feast. Yes, we are, because we did make heavy sacrifices to build this community, to get The Feast going.

But I must say, we are really just like the sheep  the Shepherd has found and has cared for to this day— so that like Him, we have, in our humble way, become shepherds for the people you will read about in this book.

By God’s grace, our writers experienced an amazing awakening. And  by doing this sacrifice to courageously share their stories, they have become shepherds too for the downtrodden and the lost. For I know there is power in their honest, straightforward stories that will bless more of the unchurched and bring them home into God’s loving embrace. 

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

PS.If you don’t have a spiritual home, you can visit the nearest Feast in your area.  Check out www.LightFam.com  And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.

Part 2:

Come Home  Unchurched Persons Who Found Their Way Back To God

This is the big reason we do what we do. 

In the next pages, you’ll meet more persons who, once upon a time, dropped out of church, for various reasons.  But through The Feast, they found their way back home to God. 

These brothers and sister represent thousands who have taken baby steps back home to God.

And if you build your own Feast Video or support one, you’ll add many more “homecoming” stories.

Join the party!

 

Read the Story of

Meynarissa Manuel - ‘I Wished God Would End My ‘Useless’ Life’

Kiko - Drug User, Sex Addict… I Didn’t Want This Crazy Life

Paul Bacani - A Detour

Nick & Tess Bacani - Infidelity… and Then Forgiveness

Rowena Grace Lizarda - Three Tragedies… and Then An Accident

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:09

I appreciated the Mass for the first time when I attended one in the historical Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan.

I was a Nursing student stationed in a hospital near the church. I chanced upon this magnificent church and got curious. I went in and heard Mass.

I was mesmerized by the beauty of the altar. I felt God’s presence there. I felt close to Him. For the first time, I absorbed the Word of God during the ceremony.

But I live in Quezon City, so I got to go there only a few  times.

You see, our family didn’t go to Mass regularly. I remember, though, that in my grade school days, my mom would bring me with her to Baclaran to hear first Friday Mass.

I went to a Catholic high school, so I regularly heard the first-Friday Mass in school because it was required. Thus for me, to still go on Sundays would be too much.

Also, I was confused about my religion as I had relatives who became members of a Christian sect saying negative things about Catholicism.

Amid the distractions, however, I remained prayerful. But I preferred to pray in my room alone, not inside the church.

I also have a gift of intercession. When I was young, a friend of my mother who visited us at home saw me and told her that I have this gift.

Since then, my family, my friends, and a few of my classmates have come to me asking to pray for their concerns. Later, they come back to say thanks for my help because their prayer requests were granted.

Trials in Life

I suffered a spiritual trial in 2013. My beloved grandmother died and I grieved so much over her passing.

Earlier, I took up the Nursing board exam. In the middle of 2013, just when I was mourning the death of my grandmother,  I found out that I didn’t pass the Nursing board exam.

Reeling from the terrible blows in my life, I felt miserable, to say the least. I didn’t know what to do.

Finding The Feast

I had a dream. In my dream, I saw Jesus in all His splendor and majesty. He was huge and towering high above me, his kind eyes looking at me lovingly.  He spoke to me and said, “I will not give you what you want but I will give you what is best for you.”

I heard myself replying, “Yes, Lord.”

When I woke up in the morning, I felt refreshed. I felt light. I lost all the pain in my heart in a snap. Amazing!

The year 2013 may had been a sad year for me but it was also the year when I experienced a most glorious spiritual experience. It was the same year when I found The Feast.

It happened this way…

Early on, I decided to take another Nursing board exam. I was reviewing for my second attempt when a friend invited me to attend a prayer gathering.

Although I hardly went to church, I knew from my Catholic education that I should not be attending non-Catholic services. So I asked my friend if the group is  a non-Catholic church.

“No! It’s Catholic!” he replied.

I didn’t think much of it. I actually didn’t want to go but, for some reason, I ended up going to The Feast one Sunday in September 2013.

I attended The Feast in the SM theater in Valenzuela City. My friend, who’s a servant at The Feast, said he’d meet me there.

 I arrived earlier than my friend because he had to attend first to an errand or something. I went inside the SM theater and took a seat at the last  row. The first thing I noticed was there was an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary onstage.

So I was like, “Hmmm, The Feast is indeed Catholic.”

Some ushers greeted me and guided me to a seat at the front row. They left to attend to other participants but they came back once in a while checking if I was okay. 

Later, I found out my friend phoned his co-servants and asked them to attend to me.

So I sat comfortably in the cool theater. When the preacher spoke, I felt like he was talking to me especially because I was at the front row. He said, the Mass is the highest form of prayer. If we don’t go to Mass regularly, something will always be amiss in our life.

I also liked what he said about God’s fatherly love for us. And how the Lord knows everything that is happening to us because He sees us with a bird’s eye view and yet, He is near us and is with us.

The death of my grandmother earlier in 2013 so saddened me, I distanced myself from friends. I just stayed at home, in my room actually. I just wanted to be alone.

But that day at The Feast, I felt invigorated. At first, the songs sounded different from what I was used to in the local church. Different but good. Eventually, I learned to like the upbeat songs.

That day, I learned that we all need one another to survive life, to get over our hurts and pains. I got fired up. I felt I wanted to reach out to other people and comfort them, too.

Feeling good after my first Feast, I knew I wanted to go back again the following Sunday. And I did. Not only that. After a month, I already signed up as a greeter.

After several sessions, I began to understand and appreciate the Mass. It no longer bored me. I learned that there is a reason behind all the things that the priest was doing at the altar.

In November 2013, I attended the Kerygma Conference, dubbed as the biggest Catholic learning gathering  in the country.

It was the first time I saw Bro. Bo Sanchez. His wise words so touched my heart, I couldn’t help  shedding a tear.

Life after I found The Feast ran smoothly. I was always on high spirits. I was happy with the way things were going in my life.

But then, I had a misunderstanding with my friend and he told me to go away. I got hurt.

So I stopped going to The Feast. But I didn’t and I couldn’t stop going to church, especially when I had already grown to love the Mass and my Catholic faith.

Some time after, I received the news that I failed the board exam again. But somehow, I wasn’t as devastated as the first time. 

My prayer was, “Lord, I may not understand why but I know that You have a different plan. I wont push what I want. Your Will be done.”

Believe it or not, when I whispered that to God, I actually felt His warm hug.

First-timer Again

One Sunday in February 2014, I turned on my television and the first thing I saw was Bro. Bo  Sanchez inviting people to The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) the Manila Bay Area. Remembering my prayer, I took it as a sign that God was leading me there. So, without hesitation, I went to Feast PICC the following Sunday by myself.

Actually, I had only a vague idea where the PICC was. I didn’t know how to get there. That morning, before I left home, I just prayed, “God, please help me to get there.” 

Confident that God would lead me, I just took the bus going south. I knew at least that it was in that area. And the bus conductor told me where to get off.

As I alighted the bus, guess what I saw? A guy wearing a Kerygma Conference T-shirt. I followed him and boldly asked if he was going to The Feast and he said, yes.

Hallelujah!

I told him I was going too but I didn’t know how to get there.

He said, “Let’s go together then.”

I felt God’s special attention for me that day. Sending me an “angel” to take me to my destination.

That guy, by the way, is Nap Oducado, who is now one of my good friends at The Feast.

Although it was my first time at the Feast PICC, I felt right at home that day. And why not, I already claimed sometime back that The Feast is my spiritual home.

Call to Service

My heart yearned to serve God as thanksgiving for all the joy and peace in my heart that I’ve been receiving. But I didn’t know which ministry to join.

And God led me to it. While I had that question in mind while attending The Feast, I opened The Feast bulletin and saw an ad by the Music Ministry  announcing an audition.

I was not sure if God was calling me to this  ministry, so I was like, “Lord, do you want me to join the Music Ministry?”

As soon as I asked, a lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Bro, how would you like to join the choir? No auditions just come to practice.”

So I did.

Although I didn’t get a license to be a nurse, God presented to me what I believe is a greater calling: to nurse to good health those who are spiritually ill.     

I have joined The Feast Light Group where, shy though I was at first, I learned to open up to my group. Together, we share our burdens and in the process help heal each other of our emotional and spiritual aches and pains.

Since I have a gift of intercession, I also joined the Prayer-Over Shepherding Healing (POSH) Ministry, helping many more to receive God’s healing grace.

My Promise

This early in life, I have decided to not to get married. I just want to dedicate my life serving God as a lay person. I have seen God’s Hand in my life, especially lately when I surrendered to His Will.

Generosity, humility, service to God and for others and, most important, a deeper appreciation  of my Catholic faith, are the valuable lessons I’ve learned at The Feast. And I know the longer I stay, the more I will learn to be a better and happier person.

About the Author

Mar Louie, 24, works as Quality Assurance officer in an insurance company in Makati City. He is the eldest in a brood of five and lives with his family in Quezon City.

Growing up, Mar Louie found the Mass boring. He didn’t understand or appreciate it. He only went because his mother said so. It didn’t help that he was surrounded by non-Catholic relatives who spoke negatively against his religion.

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:08

Every Sunday, my two daughters and I attended Mass at a local church near our subdivision.  For me, that was enough because I was a busy person and I thought other people crazy for spending beyond an hour to serve and worship God. 

I believed that for as long as you are not hurting other people and instead helping them, that was more than enough to please God.

I attended Mass but not from the heart and soul.  I felt attending Mass was more of an obligation to God.

I attended other Christian  gatherings and didn’t think much about it.

But then, I felt that I wasn’t that close to God.

Finding The Feast

My best friend Pamm, based in the United States, once came to Manila for a vacation. Her cousins, the Dela Vega family,  invited her to attend The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), now called Feast Bay Area, and she invited me to come along.

When Pamm left for the States, the Dela Vegas invited me again— this time to Feast Marikina.

My parents are in Heaven now. I am separated from my husband, and our two daughters are with me. Despite my status, I feel very much welcome at The Feast.

At The Feast, people do not judge you. Rather, they welcome you and treat you like part of the family.

The weekly talks at The Feast inspire me to live life to the fullest.  The Feast also uplifts my morale when I feel down.  I have learned to understand more about other people’s behavior.  And most important, The Feast enlightens and guides me on how to deal with  my daily problems and challenges in life.

Today, I am happy serving God as one of the ushers at Feast Marikina.

Back to The Church

I like The Feast because it has influenced me to go back to the Catholic Faith, especially  attending the Holy Mass which other religions don’t practise.

The Catholic Faith believes in the Holy Trinity and that celebration of the Holy Mass is sacred to us believers in Jesus Christ.

I’ve found peace and happiness with my new family at The Feast.

About the Author

Rora Pasco, 42, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in International Studies.

Rora is self-employed, into the field of sales and marketing working as an independent distributor and business consultant for a company called Phytoscience Philippines. She also does real estate and life insurance selling on her own time.

“I was a busy person,” Rora said about the reason she took for granted her Faith.

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:04

I remember going to Mass with my mom regularly starting when I was about six years old. After the Mass, my mom attended church meetings and other activities, while I joined Sunday school.

Later, my father asked Mom to spend more time at home on Sundays. She gave up her church duties and I quit my Catechism class. We still heard Mass, though.

In time, I started elementary school, got busy with school work, so I missed Mass now and then.

I had more reasons not to hear Mass when I went on to high school. I got so tired with school work during the weekdays that during weekends, I stayed in bed until late in the morning.

I went on to college, and my views on hearing Mass did not change. Come Christmas season, however, I attended the nine-day  Simbang Gabi or Mid-Night Mass, said to be a novena which you pray if you wanted a petition to be granted. I thought God would grant my prayers that way. I also participated in the celebration of Holy Week.

Life went on smoothly for me, until a fateful day in June 2011. My father suddenly lost consciousness and he was diagnosed with aneurysm. He went into coma, and after three days, he passed away.

Bitter over his death, I found myself keeping a distance from God. Still, I went to hear Mass because my mother insisted that I go. My heart wasn’t there, though. I lost interest in the rites— and in God. I felt that attending Mass was an obligation I just had to fulfill.

Also, we moved to a new house, far from our parish church. Before, I just walked to our church. This time, I had to take a ride. This gave me another excuse to skip Mass.

My mom, on the other hand, drew herself closer to God. She became active in church again.

Me, I just went on with life, which somehow perked up when I found a boyfriend. But the relationship did not last. We broke up and I was back to my old miserable self.

To make matters worse, I also suffered financial problems.

Finding The Feast

In 2015, I became acquainted with Ariel Gozon, a colleague. My friends at work and I knew that he was active in church and we would make fun of his feel good posts. But deep inside, I must admit, I enjoyed reading them because they sure did lift my spirit.

The messages could have not come at a better time. They gave me hope during my darkest moments.

One time, Ariel and I met up and I saw a copy of The Feast bulletin on his workstation.

Curious, I had to ask him, “What’s that?”

So Ariel told me what The Feast was all about, gushing over what he called its “blessings.”

And yes, he finished with an invitation for me to attend The Feast.

I declined.

But Ariel would not be discouraged. He continued to invite me to The Feast now and then.  One time, he told me about the LoveLife, a two-day  retreat for singles.

I thought maybe that’s what I needed -- a one-on-one talk with God. I knew I had to fix my life and undergo personal and spiritual development so I signed up. After the retreat, I felt like a new person— a better one. I made new friends. 

That weekend, I met people who were passionate about God. I saw them worship Him openly, unabashedly. That inspired me. I thought, “I want to be like them.”

The second day of the retreat being a Saturday, the Singles Ministry head, Pat Morales, invited our batch to attend the 11:30 a.m. Feast session.

We must be at The Feast, she said, because the preacher, Bro. Migs Ramirez, will acknowledge all those who attended the retreat. Knowing I would see my new friends there, I went.

In March 2016, right in the middle of Star Theater, I realized why Ariel came to this event every Sunday. It’s an amazing feeling to worship God with so many people. Right there and then, I knew where I would be spending my Sundays.

My mom could not believe how I have turned around. Now, I wake up early on Sundays to attend The Feast.  I don’t mind not getting enough sleep. My week is not complete without The Feast.

Before, I wouldn’t go to church, even if it’s so near our house. Now, I have to get a bus ride, or if I’m late, a cab just to attend The Feast— but I don’t mind.

I have had questions about the Catholic Faith— and I heard answers at The Feast— during the Mass or the talk proper. Today, I always go home with inspiring, new knowledge— a fuel for the work week ahead.

I used to be a negative person but now, I’ve become optimistic about life. I can conquer all for as long as I work hard— because God is always with me.

Back to the Church

Since March this year, I have been regularly attending Mass at The Feast and I go to Confession.

After years of being a lukewarm Catholic, I’m now back embracing the Catholic Faith— and this time for good.

About the Author

Ivy Jam Vegas, 31, is an Information Technology professional working as database administrator in a multinational business process outsourcing company. She lives in Mandaluyong City.

Her mother brought Ivy along to Mass when she was still a kid. But later, Ivy lost interest in the Mass and preferred to stay home on Sundays to work on school projects.

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 14:59

Today, I’m going to talk about Church.  I’m Catholic and the Light of Jesus Family is part of the Roman Catholic Church. 

But in this chapter, I’m not going to talk about the Universal Church.  I’m going to talk about the local church.

The local church is where you experience God’s Love.

Or at least, should.

When it comes to building a local church that will nourish you spiritually, it’s almost like choosing a spouse: Define your non-negotiables and negotiables.

Essentials vs. Extras

Recently, I was in the United Arab Emirates to visit our Feasts there.  We now have 11 Feasts in the Middle East.  And I was struck when I met some who used to attend the Feast Manila Bay Area where I preach.

They told me, “Brother Bo, we’re now attending Feast Abu Dhabi, and it’s as if we haven’t left Feast Bay Area.” 

Wow.  These people don’t miss me.  (Shucks.)

Just kidding. 

The Abu Dhabi Feasters’ statement is mindblowing to me. 

Because the contrast between these two Feasts is astronomical—like David and Goliath.  The last time I checked, Feast Bay Area now has 13,000 members.  The Abu Dhabi Feast has only 200 members.  Just the number of ushers of Feast Bay Area alone is more than Feast Abu Dhabi’s total attendance. 

Feast Bay Area has a giant LED screen—they don’t.  Feast Bay Area has giant chandeliers hanging from the rooftop—they don’t.  Feast Bay Area has a cute preacher, but they have one too. (Ha-ha.)

Yet these ex-Bay Area Feasters said that in their tiny Feast in Abu Dhabi, they were experiencing the same grace, the same blessing, the same Jesus.

That simply means one thing: Feast Abu Dhabi may not have the extras, but they have the essentials.

The Eight Gifts of a Healthy Church

You don’t pick a church.  You build it.

Because you are the local church.

Today, I’m going to define the non-negotiable essentials that a healthy local church should have.  It would be great if you have a local church that has world-class music, a beautiful air-conditioned venue, a LED screen in front, and a handsome priest or preacher (Amen).  But all these are not essential.  What you need are the basic stuff that will equip you to follow Jesus.

There are eight gifts of a healthy local church must have. 

1. The Gift of Instruction

Some people say, “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to go to church.” 

My response?  The busier you are, the more you need church. Why?  When your life becomes too busy, you’ll forget the ultimate purpose of your life.  You’ll get sucked into the monster of materialism.  You’ll forget the essence, the core, the meaning of what life is all about.  You’ll forget that life is about loving the least of your neighbor, about forgiving your enemies, and about dying to yourself so that others may live.

If you are looking  also for a local church that can give you practical instruction on how to love God in various aspects of your life—in your job, in your finances, in your health, in your family, in your relationships… 

2. The Gift of Impartation

One day, after The Feast, a middle-aged guy walked up to me and said, “Brother Bo, pagnagtuturo ka, hindi ko maintindihan.  Bakit ka ba Ingles ng Ingles?  Pilipino ka naman!”  (I don’t understand your preaching.  Why do you speak in English when you’re a Filipino?) 

This was at a time when we still didn’t have a Taglish session at The Feast.  So I explained a little bit about my history—that I lived in Cebu as a kid and to this day have not mastered Tagalog.  And at the same time, I told him that I feel that God has called me to reach out to the English-speaking audience.

But then the man said something astounding. 

He said, “Pero Brother Bo, maski hindi kita maintindihan, pumupunta pa rin ako lingo-lingo sa Feast.  Bakit?  Dahil sa blessing mo.  Pagpinagdadasal mo na kami, maski hindi ko naiintindihan anong pinagsasabi mo, tinatanggap ko ang pagpapala.  Simula nang dumalo ako sa Feast, God has been prospering me.  O, nag-Inglis ako!”  (Even if I don’t understand your teachings, I come every week.  Why?  Because of your blessing.  When you pray for us, even if I don’t understand your words, I receive your blessing.  And since I’ve joined The Feast, God has been prospering me.  Hey, I spoke in English!)

You don’t have to wait for my blessing.  Just by the fact that you stand in the presence of God, you’re being blessed for the coming week.

And as Catholics, we believe that the Sacraments are our greatest impartation of grace.  What is greater than receiving the very Body and Blood, Soul, Life, and Divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist?  When you take Communion, and you realize that the God of the entire universe is a tiny biscuit melting in your tongue, that is the most intimate moment you can ever physically have with Jesus.  

But as great as that moment is, we don’t get the core message of the Eucharist.  It’s supposed to be more than a date with you and God.  The Eucharist is a family meal.  But how can it be a family meal if there is no family?

3.The Gift of Intercession

If the local church is one big family then we should pray for one another.  But we hardly know each other!

Jesus said, Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:19-20)

Let me repeat our lesson on intercession: Communal prayer is powerful not because you increase God’s generosity but because you increase your receptivity to God’s generosity.

At The Feast, we’re always into small groups.  I always tell our leaders that in the Light of Jesus, we should always be growing bigger and growing smaller at the same time. 

Here’s the Rule at The Feast: If a Feast gets bigger, it should also grow smaller.  How?  Through small groups.  Daily, we’re building Light Groups and Video Feasts. 

Light Groups —because we’re the Light of Jesus Family— are small groups of 8 to 15 persons that meet each week for prayer and sharing.  Video Feasts are small Feasts that gather in offices and neighborhoods that watch a Feast video talk, pray together, and share together.

These small groups meet each week, know each other, journey together, and pray for one another constantly.  That’s church!

4.The Gift of Interaction

Sadly, for some people, church is a gas station. In a gas station, you drive in, get your gas, pay your bill, and drive out.  Which is exactly what some people do when they go to church every Sunday.  You walk in, get your blessing, give an offering, and walk out.

Some churchgoers' only interaction in church is towards the end of the Mass when the priest says, “Let us offer a sign of peace.”  And people look at each other’s shoes and bow.

But a church must be a spiritual family where we enjoy fellowship and friendship, where we share our sins and stories. 

You need a family and a family needs you.

Give yourself to your local church.

Love the people in your local church.

5. The Gift of Inspiration

Whether you like it or not, you’re a soldier.

Why?  Because life is a daily battle.

And when you’re a soldier, your inspiration comes from three things: Convictions and Commander and Comrades.

Convictions

What convictions?  Real soldiers love their country, their countrymen, and their family.  But in the heat of the battle, inner inspiration isn’t enough.  Soldiers need inspiration from the outside.  Soldiers are inspired by their Commander.

Commander

First, people need a Commander who is RADICAL.  Not a Commander sitting in a General’s Tent, far from the battlefield, drinking his cappuccino and munching on a donut. People need a Commander with battlescars on his face, fresh wounds in his arms, his boots wallowing in the same mud you’re marching on, leading you in front, ready to die with you and for you.

It’s the same way in church.  You want a spiritual leader—a priest or pastor or preacher—who is ready to die for the mission.  When you know that the guy in front isn’t just performing a job but is sacrificing his entire life for the King and the Kingdom, you’ll sacrifice your life too.

Warning: When any organization—whether spiritual or corporate or civic—is led by leaders who are no longer passionate for the purpose, but preoccupied with their positions, their promotions, and their politics—that organization starts dying.

Second, people need a Commander who is REAL.  Who shares his own journey with you.  Who will expose his own wounds.  A preacher that doesn’t divulge his weaknesses is giving a big disservice to his flock because he’s giving the false impression that he’s holy and they’re not.  So they’ll feel bad that they’re bad and he’s good.  Which is not true.  Because we’re all a bag of mixed bad and good.

 This is one of the reasons people love Pope Francis.  Our Commander is a human Pope who tells everyone, “I’m a great sinner” and “Please pray for me.”

Comrades

Your third inspiration in battle are your Comrades.  Your fellow soldiers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you, ready to die with you and for you. 

You know the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going”?   Sometimes, that’s true.  But from my experience, this is what is better:  “When the going gets tough, the tough friends get going.”

You need a small band of tough friends who have faced the same sort of trials you’re facing now, and who can tell you to your face, “It will get better; Everything will be all right.”

A few years back, I went into a depression most intense part of which lasted for four months —residue lasted for three years.  Every day I woke up, there was this heavy fog over me.  No matter how I prayed, I couldn’t see a sliver of light.  But throughout that journey, I had faithful friends who dove into that heavy fog of my depression, found me in the prison of darkness, and escorted me out.

 My mother used to say, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”  Because you’re impacted by the quality of your friends.

In your local church, get into a small group and grow spiritually together.  Serve together.

6. The Gift of Imitation

You will imitate someone.

This is just how human nature works.

Psychologists have tested this phenomenon thousands of times, and the verdict is out: From kindergarten kids to rocket scientists, from beggars to billionaires, we’re gullible people.  We’re very impressionable.  We’re always imitating someone.  So it’s just a question of WHO we’re imitating.  Are you imitating the right people or the wrong people?

One day, I was talking with a man in his 60s.  His complete honesty was striking. 

He said, “Brother Bo, my first marriage failed because I was young, selfish, and immature.  Years later, I got married again and I have a great marriage now.  But I realized that if I had the maturity that I have now, my first marriage would have been great too.  One of my problems was the kind of friends I kept.  When I was a young guy, all my friends—no exception—had broken marriages.  So when I told them, ‘I’m having problems with my wife,’ immediately, all of them told me, ‘Get rid of that witch!’  But today, things are different.  All my friends have solid marriages.  And we now support each other.  When one says, ‘I’m having problems with my wife,’ the other guys say, ‘Hang in there, buddy.’”

If you want to fulfil your dreams, here’s a huge tip: Surround yourself with people who are already living your dreams.  If you want to be an entrepreneur, surround yourself with entrepreneurs.  If you want to be an author, surround yourself with authors.  If you want to be a chef, surround yourself with chefs.  If you want to be a great father, surround yourself with great fathers.  And if you want to be a lover of God, surround yourself with other lovers of God.

 Find Your Discipler

In your local church, you need to find your discipler.  Not just a teacher or preacher.  A discipler is someone who will love you enough to walk with you in your spiritual journey. 

Of course, my first disciplers were my parents.  After them, it was Sister Aida Manongdo, my prayer group leader.  We were very different from each other.  I was a 13-year-old kid and she was in her 50s, a mother of six.  But before each prayer meeting, she’d take me aside, talk to me, listen to my questions, and pray for me.  From her, I learned to love the Bible.

My next discipler was even older—a 70-year-old Fransiscan nun—Sr. Angelina Lim.  Again, she would talk to me, listen to me, and pray for me.   From her, I learned about God’s Love.

My next discipler was Mike Joseph Jr.  I was 16 years old.  We’d chat about God and pray together.  From him, I learned to follow God radically.

This is the reason we built Light Groups.  Because your Light Group head will be one of your disciplers.

Note: Your discipler is not a perfect individual who knows everything.  His role is simply to be a friend who will journey with you in your faith walk.  Many times, his answer to your question will be, “I don’t know, but let’s find out together.”

7. The Gift of Inclusion

The local church must not only make you a disciple, but equip you to become a discipler too.

If the church does not do that, then the church has failed in its mission.  We’re not called to be a super gym for the super healthy.  We’re called to be a field hospital for the sick and wounded. 

One of the most important gifts that the church must give you is the spirit of inclusion.

Before He ascended into Heaven, what did Jesus say?  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and hold weekly meetings for holy people.”

I don’t think so. 

How about this?  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and build beautiful cathedrals for religious people.” 

Nope.

This is what He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. 

Pope Francis said something so special, I feel it’s the battlecry of The Feast: Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.

Be Scandalous

Warning: When you become inclusive, you become scandalous.  The legalists won’t like you.  The self-righteous won’t like you.  The holier-than-thou won’t like you.

Let me repeat what I said before in this book:  Jesus, the holiest person on the planet, was also the most inclusive, non-condemning person on the planet.  He had the scandalous reputation of being the friend of sinners—the friend of prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors.  And His church must have that reputation too.  Sadly, we’re not known as the friend of sinners.  The local church is more known as the judge of sinners.  We condemn them.  We reject them.  We look down at them.

And that’s one of the reasons I love Pope Francis.  He’s so like Jesus when he said, The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven.

One of the biggest temptations of Christians is legalism—when we insist that the law is more important than people.  For people who are not religious, the church is not a happy place, but a place of many do’s and don'ts.  About this, Pope Francis said something powerful.  He said, Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. 

8. The Gift of Imperfection

Announcement: The local church will let you down.  Always.  The local church will frustrate you, disappoint you, and disenchant you.  Why?  Because it’s a human organization filled with imperfect human beings.  Remember that Jesus designed the church specifically for sinners.  So don’t expect saints.

And the earlier you accept that, the less heartache you’ll have in church.  And the easier it is to keep serving God despite these frustrations.

I recall the story of a handsome young bachelor who was looking for the perfect girl.  He was looking for someone who has the beauty of Scarlet Johanson, the voice of Celine Dion, the body of Beyonce, the cooking skills of Rachael Ray, and the holiness of Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta.  After travelling from one city to another, from one country to another, he finally found her.  And he was so happy.  But when he got to know her, he couldn’t get her.  Why?  Because she was looking for the perfect man.

You have no business looking for the perfect church.  Because even if you found it, the moment you join, it won’t be perfect anymore.

Why does the church have to be imperfect? 

Two reasons.

First reason, to make you perfect.  The only way for you to become perfect is if you go through imperfect situations.  The only way you learn to love is if you have to love very unlovable people.

Second reason, to make you uncomfortable in church.

The temptation of any local church is to become an inward-looking holy barkada that won’t let others come in.  To hang out only with people who speak your language and sing your songs.  To be comfortable.

But the church exists not for itself.  It exists for the world.

Once we become too comfortable in church, our human weaknesses show up.  And the ugly politics begin—when religious people start jockeying for plum positions in the organization.  Soon, you’ll have intrigues.  Conflicts.  Gossip. 

I noticed that in these kinds of inward-looking churches, you can’t remove people from their positions because they’re married to their positions— instead of being married to Jesus.  I urge you: Forget your positions in church.  Forget your titles in church.  Go out of the building where you have no positions and titles—and make disciples there.

If you don’t, you usher the death of a dream.  And the church becomes a shadow of its former self.

Why does this happen?  We forget the ultimate purpose of church—to go out of the building—and be God’s Love in the world.

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 15:07

Vanges Story

My father ran a family business while my mother stayed home taking care of my brother Jun and me. We lived with relatives in a compound typical of Filipino-Chinese clans.

Ours was an ordinary life—until my mother had an affair with another man. And she got pregnant. To escape my father’s outrage, she ran away with her boyfriend—with Jun and me in tow.  Jun was 12 years old, I was only 9.

 My mother’s partner was poor as a rat. He didn’t have a regular job. We lived in a shanty in Tondo, Manila,  near the Smokey Mountain—  so-called because it was dumping ground of the metro’s garbage which settlers burned to rid of the stench, the smoke clouding our already hapless life.

Even with a big tummy, my mother had to work to provide food for us.

Mama gave birth to a baby girl she named MJ. Now with three mouths to feed— not to mention her jobless partner— Mama could not afford to send us to school. So she decided to bring Jun and me back to our father.

In my father’s house, life was not any better. After we left him, he carried on with our maid. When Jun and I got back, the maid was already acting as our stepmom— the monster kind. She treated us like house helpers, demanding we do household chores, and lashed out at us every little mistake we made.

Our relatives were not of any help, either. I felt that apparently, on account of our mother’s indiscretion, our aunts and uncles looked down on us. I guess at their parents’ bidding, our cousins stayed away from us— lest they be infected with our misfortune— I guess.

I felt miserable, pining for my mother, especially during special occasions like Graduation, Mother’s Day, Christmas. 

It is no surprise then that I’ve been gripped with low self-esteem. It is no surprise either that I did poorly in school.

At night, on my bed, I often asked God, “When will my suffering end?”

In hindsight, however, I now realize that in my darkest moments, God did not abandon me.

In high school, I chanced upon a Marian program on Radio Veritas and I got into the habit of listening to it. I came to know Mama Mary and learned to pray the Rosary. I looked up to the Blessed Virgin and imagined her as my mother.

Finding The Feast

Among my cousins, there was Pinky— kind, prayerful, and who was brave enough to defy her parents and began to hang out with me when we were already teenagers.  Through her, I learned to go to Mass.

One day, Pinky gave me a copy of Kerygma magazine. I read it and was I edified. Since then, Pinky kept sharing her copies of Kerygma where I read about The Feast.

A year later, I went to check out The Feast, then being held monthly at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Theater in Camp Aguinaldo.

Indeed, The Feast was such a happy place, I forgot my problems whenever I attended it. It became my second home. I even brought friends there. Much later, even MJ, when she was about 10 years old.

Through Bro. Bo’s articles and Feast talks, I was inspired to straighten out my life.

First, I decided I would get out of poverty. I strived to do well in school. And by God’s grace, I fared well in my subjects.

Second, I attended to my family. After so many years of us not seeing each other, my mother called me up. We talked and I found out how hard up she and her family had remained. I promised I would help her.

As soon as I stepped into college, I started working as a fast food crew and sent a portion of my salary to my mother. With that, I was able to send MJ from grade school to college.

By God’s grace, I did not harbor hatred against my mother. Instead, I continued to love her and my sister and take care of them as much as I could.     

At 19, I graduated from college, joined a pre-need company, and became its youngest manager.

Year 2004 saw a new phase in my life. My father passed away, and his partner went away. So I invited my mother and MJ to live with Jun and me.

MJs Story

I was born in poverty.

My father was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He  worked as a stevedore at a nearby pier, but given his vices, he couldn’t keep a regular job.

There was no food in the house. I was constantly hungry.

My grandparents later took a pity on us and gave us a home in Rizal.

Mama eked out an income working as a laundrywoman. So I would not disturb her, she placed me in a cardboard box.

When I was big enough to walk around, Mama let me hang out with my step sibs Jun and Vange. I remember, our only happiness was playing with tadpoles in a canal lining our street.

Mama could hardly make both ends meet, much more afford to send Jun and Vange to school. So she returned them to their father.

I was left alone to suffer hell in our house.

At the time, my mother was already working as helper for her sister. But she escaped her misery by gambling, so we remained poor.

Meanwhile, my father was always drunk or high on drugs.              

With no money to get by, my parents often quarrelled— she berating him for his irresponsibility, he, beating her up.

I was not spared from my father’s outrage. I was only five years old when Papa banged my head on the wall when he didn’t like what I did or said.

Despite my miseries, I was at the top of the class when I began grade school. But I lost interest in my studies as early as when I was seven years old. Throughout the rest of my grade school years, I rebelled. I learned to smoke and at age 12, I tried marijuana. In high school, I began drinking.

The violence at home continued as I grew up. I remember, in yet another vicious fight, Papa and Mama were about to attack each other with knives. Attempting to stop them, I dashed in between  my parents. In the skirmish, my father’s knife grazed my finger, scraping off a bit of flesh.

When I was 12, it was my turn to flash a knife at my father. In the midst of another altercation, he beat me without letup— until I managed to scamper to the kitchen and got hold of a knife. I lunged at him, but I missed.

But if there’s one incident I would find difficult to forgive, it was when I was already earning money. My father borrowed cash from me promising he would use it to find a job. But he spent the money on booze and came home drunk.

Irked, I reprimanded him. He hit me with five hangers and a stick, and he pulled my hair so hard, uprooting a bunch of strands. Defeated, I sobbed uncontrollably as I counted the loose strands and put them in a bottle— as if I could put them back on this bald spot on my head.

Things somewhat changed in 2005. Vange’s father  died, his partner went away, and so Vange kindly invited  Mama and me to live with her and Jun.

But alas, life didn’t come any easier. For what good can you expect from four broken souls living together under one roof? Struggling with our individual issues, we just couldn’t stand each other.

Me, I was already in a deep mess. At 16, I tried all kinds of illegal drugs. I entered into relationships for fun. I had a string of lovers. I two-timed my partners.

Then, I had this best friend, a guy, who attempted to rape me. From then on, I shunned the opposite sex. I preferred same-sex relationships until I stuck it out with a special one—Apple. One day, I left home and lived in with  her.

After three years of this wanton life, however, I got back to my senses.

I went back home. I told my family that I wanted to go back to school. I finished college and found a job in a popular hotel. But I took my job for granted. I was always absent because I preferred going on evening gimmicks with friends.

For life remained senseless to me. I guess that’s because I did not get much inspiration from my parents, especially my father. Actually he was nothing but a burden to me. Booze had so damaged his body he was in and out of hospitals. I had to pay for his hospital bills again and again.

I hated him so much that one day, I ranted to his doctor, “I don’t want to see my father anymore!”

Finding The Feast

 I resigned from my job and found a better one in another hotel. I was doing well in this new job, but still I didn’t feel good about myself, about my life. I felt so empty deep inside that one day, I just found myself going to church.

In 2015, after more than a decade of smoking, I quit. I hardly drank nor went on gimmicks.

By the end of that year, Apple, my girlfriend for seven years by then, left me. She got jealous of Vange. And she complained that I was so engrossed with pursuing my dreams that I didn’t spend enough time with her.

At the time, Vange had been talking about inspiring articles in Kerygma, as well as books of Bro. Bo Sanchez.

Vange gave me a copy of Bro. Bo’s book titled How To Stop Hidden Addiction. I tried out the steps Bro. Bo recommended in the book. I wrote down everything that hurt me and cried my heart out. I understood that I had to love and forgive myself before I could truly love others.

In the past, Apple and I had an off-and-on relationship.  We’d fight, call it quits, then she would always come back and I would accept her. Not this time, though, I decided to cut and cut clean my relationship with her.

Vange supported me all the way. She gave me another book— Bro. Bo’s, 7 Keys to Freedom. I read it, and learned practical, doable steps on how to release myself from the shackles of sin.

In January 2016, Vange casually broached the idea of us attending The Feast together to start the new year right.

She reminded me, “Remember, I brought you to The Feast way back when you were about 10 years old? Come and try it out once more.”

I did. By now, The Feast has grown really big and there are now hundreds of it in the country and some even abroad. We chose to go to the Feast Bay Area where Bro. Bo preaches.

At The Feast, I felt God in an intimate way. I felt He was embracing me, beckoning me to trust Him. And I felt this amazing surge of power, so strong, I knew then I would be able to overcome my weaknesses.

Back to the Church

Vange: God has blessed me with a good life. Now, I am married to a man I prayed for and we have a daughter,a gift from God through Mama Mary’s intercession. We were childless for eight years and I gave birth to my daughter on September 8, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin.

God’s timing could have not been any better. He gave us our baby when I was ready, when I had undergone healing— my heart cleansed of hatred and anger over my bitter past.

With my family and work obligations, I cannot attend The Feast regularly, but I attend Mass at our parish church every Sunday.

MJ: I thank my sister for not giving up on me, for guiding me to the path of righteousness. She believed in me when nobody thought I could become a better person. I didn’t deserve her kindness, love, and patience because at one time or another, I was hostile to her. Despite that, she became Jesus to me.

My mom and Jun thought Vange was crazy for putting so much trust in me. I, too, doubted myself, but because I felt how much Vange cared for me, I agreed to be mentored by her. She prodded me to quit my job and join her insurance group instead. Her efforts paid off. After a few months, I received an award for outstanding performance on the job.

I attend The Feast every Sunday. There, I’ve learned to love the Mass so much that now I go to Mass in our parish five times a week.  I now pray the Rosary with Vange every day.

Recently, I met my father and we talked. I am amazed that I was able to stand his presence. I even hugged him and told him to come back during pay day so I could give him some money.

Vange: Thank God for Bro. Bo and The Feast, for the good life we are now enjoying.

vange and MJ are two sisters who led a difficult life growing up. But by God’s grace, their faith saved them from further harm.

About the Authors

Vange and MJ are two sisters who led a difficult life growing up. But by God’s grace, their faith saved them from further harm


 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:21

I can describe my old life as miserable and messy. I was lost, confused, and pessimistic about life. I didn’t know myself and God. I didn’t know what and for whom I was made for.

Straying Away

My spiritual life used to be dry and dull. I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I only talked to Him whenever I needed something from Him or when I was undergoing a difficult situation. 

I rarely attended Sunday Mass. I went to church only during Christmas, New Year, or special occasions. That’s because I was usually bored and uninterested with the long homily of the priest.

There was a time when I went through a spiritual identity crisis. I had doubts and lots of questions about my Catholic Faith. I even thought of leaving and forgetting the Catholic practices and teachings.  I attended Sunday services of another Christian church.

Finding The Feast

Actually, no one invited me to join The Feast.  I came to know it by accident.

Sometime in 2012, I was at the premises of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) attending an event.

I saw a bunch of people in uniform distributing copies of some sort of bulletin along the hallways of the PICC Plenary Hall. I wasn’t able to get a copy of the bulletin. But I did have a glimpse of its front page. I saw the names “The Feast” and “Bro. Bo Sanchez” in bold characters. I got so curious about them that I looked up those names in the Internet. And I found out that The Feast is a weekly spiritual gathering headed by the famous author and preacher, Bro. Bo Sanchez.

I became interested when I found out that The Feast caters to the lost and unchurched Catholics. I was passive in my spiritual life then and was going through a lot, so I attended one of the Sunday services.

I enjoyed my first Feast experience. I was blessed by the lively worship, the beautiful Eucharistic Mass, and radical preaching of Bro Bo. I so enjoyed The Feast that I just found myself becoming a regular attendee. I have been a member for more than three years now.

I like how The Feast teaches and preaches the Word of God, in a very practical, relatable, and contemporary way.

Back to the Church

Through the talks at The Feast, I was able to fully understand the Catholic Faith. Through its unconventional and practical way of preaching and sharing the word of God, The Feast has taught me to embrace, love, and practice my Catholic Faith.

I like the Catholic Faith because it is universal. The Catholic Faith is capable of promoting unity among different individuals. The Church is made up of members from various cultures, races, lifestyle, and language.

About me

Lerry Royce B. Monteiro 25, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Accountancy.

He works as an auditor in an auditing firm in Makati.

Lerry lives in Liliw, Laguna.

Lerry said he went through a “spiritual identity crisis.” But he eventually found his way back to his Catholic Faith.

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 13:44

 I grew up reserved and always trying to please people, especially my parents. I am the eldest of  our brood of four, so my parents had high expectations of me to be a role model to my siblings. I toed the line but I felt I didn’t measure up to the standards set especially by my father.

I wallowed in low self-esteem.

I felt like a failure, especially when I didn’t pass the board exams for Certified Public Accountants, and couldn’t get a job.

I asked God to help me, but I felt He didn’t answer me. So I blamed Him for all my troubles. I accused God of playing favorites, of not listening to my pleas.

I rebelled. I stopped going to our parish church in 2005. Never mind that I neglected my duties as servant-lector commentator.

I also rebelled against my parents. I spent more time with my friends, went on drinking sprees, came home late at night, and even indulged in pornographic materials.

My parents tried to correct me, but I simply answered back. I did that at every chance I got, blaming them for the hurt I had kept in my heart.

It happened that after I turned my back on God, I finally got a job as accounting consultant. So I didn’t give Him credit for my success. I became conceited thinking I didn’t need God. I did get a job by myself anyway. So, I continued straying away from Him— and the Church.

In 2007, I met Patrick (not his real name),  a work colleague. I fell in love with him. Finally, here was a guy who appreciated me for who I was, or so I thought. We became a couple. My life for once turned rosy.

I showered Patrick with undivided attention, cared for him, bought him stuff. I gave him everything he asked for, including sleeping with him. I did these things just so I could keep him as my man.

Then I found out he was cheating on me. As foolish as it may sound, I turned a blind eye at his blatant unfaithfulness.

And again, I felt like a failure because I chose the wrong person to love. Yet, not knowing any better, I clung to him, afraid that without him, I would drown in loneliness.

Finding The Feast

Three years into this unhappy relationship, I attended The Feast at Valle Verde in Pasig City. I finally agreed to go with my sister Candice, who had been inviting me to this prayer gathering for almost a year already.

I remember that day in April 2009 when I heard Bro. Bo Sanchez talk about eagles soaring the skies, how a mother eagle teaches her young to fly, and not giving up even at times the young bird fails to soar. Bro. Bo pointed out that God is like the mother eagle. He said our failures are not God’s rejection but redirection. I felt his words pierce my heart. I felt God was talking to me through Bro. Bo’s teachings.

The Monday after I first attended The Feast, I found out my boyfriend resigned from work —because he was going to Singapore with his other girlfriend!

I didn’t know of the other girl, didn’t know of his plans, of leaving me until then.

I was devastated. But it must be providential that I went to The Feast the day before and heard Bro. Bo’s message. Otherwise, I would have completely lost my mind. Bro. Bo’s preaching prepared me for that ordeal.

The next Sunday, I went again to The Feast and this time, after years of silence, I spoke to God again. I asked Him to take me back and I felt overwhelmed when I sensed God telling me that despite my turning my back on Him, He never left my side. That He was just there all along, catching me every time I fell.

Eventually, I started attending a Light Group (LG), enjoying the company of members who have  accepted me, the way I am. And I also became a happy servant at the LG Secretariat.

The Feast has made me a stronger person. Another Patrick, I would say, came into my life. I entered into a relationship with a guy who acquired the qualities I was looking for in a lifetime partner. But I was cautious this time around. My vigilance paid off because later, I found out he was married and he and his wife have three kids.

I was dismayed, to say the least. But I was thankful I discovered his deception.

Back to the Church

The Feast made me appreciate my Catholic Faith more. I never miss a single Mass now. My Sunday is never complete without attending Mass in our parish in Marikina City, where my family and I live. And I now regularly go for Confession.

I have learned to love myself and truly love God, my family,  and friends.

In his Feast talks, Bro. Bo said our trials are just “detours” in our spiritual journey, but that ultimately, God, with His unconditional love, would bring us back to Him and to a life of peace, abundant  blessings, and joy.

I know now that God allowed me to “detour” for me to realize that without totally surrendering to Him, I cannot succeed in life.

Now I am confident, I have high self-worth. I’ve recognized my aptitude for accounting. As an accounting consultant, I’ve been enjoying a substantial   income.

Whereas before I used to think the whole world about Patrick, now I am bidding my time about  going into another relationship.

I believe there is that someone I best deserve on his way to me.

I am just enjoying life, and learning to love myself more.

I’ve joined a mountaineering group and an international organization whose philosophy is service before self. We conduct medical missions we conduct and hold Christmas parties for indigent children. With such advocacies, I now feel  complete.

Like a vase, I was broken but God carefully put back together the pieces of my life. Now, I am healing. You can see the cracks, but these cracks have become part of the vase like its ornate design.

Like cracks on the vase, the scars of my past might stay with me forever. But never mind, for I know these scars make me more beautiful.

About the author

Desiree, 32, chose to tell her story under the cloak of anonymity upon her parents’ request, who are active church servants.

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 12:41

part 2 of Chapter 5 - Messy Church for Messy People  

This Is What Church Is All About

Yes, this is our mission in our community, The Feast and Light of Jesus Family.  But I believe this is the mission of the entire Catholic Church.

We want to welcome everyone.

I love telling my audience, “Just come as you are.  With your sins.  Mistakes.  Wounds.  Failures.  Brokenness.  Our role isn’t to change you (Only God can do that).  Our role is to love you.

One day, a young woman came up to me.  With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “Brother Bo, I’m a sinner.  I’m in a relationship with a married man.  And I don’t have the strength to give him up yet.  Will you accept me in your community?”

I embraced her and said, “You’re welcome.  Don’t just join us.  Serve in a ministry.  Be part of our small groups.”

Three years later, she came up to me again.  With a big smile, she said, “I did it!  I was able to leave him.”

Imagine if I rejected her the first time I met her.  Imagine if I said,   “I’m sorry, you’re in adultery.  We’re a prayer meeting.  This is a holy place.  When you’ve gotten rid of that sin in your life, please come back…” 

 If I did that, where would she go?

Let me end with two big questions for you…

First Big Question

Friend, ask yourself: How do you deal with people who are sinners like yourself?

When you deal with your uncle who has two wives, or your officemate who is “living in” with her boyfriend, or that guy in the gym who is a practising homosexual—how do you relate with them? Are you like Pope Francis, who offers friendship and a hug?

Second Big Question

Pope Francis loves to say, “I’m a sinner in need of God’s mercy.”  He proclaimed a Year of Mercy because like everyone else, he needed it.

My second big question: Do you need Gods mercy today?

If the answer is yes, get ready.

Because God will do a 100-meter dash towards you and embrace you.

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

P.S. If you don’t have a spiritual home, you may visit the nearest Feast in your area.  Check out www.LightFam.com  And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.

 

About the Authors

Desiree - Rebel Without Love 

Lerry Royce B. MonteiroWho I Am

Vange and MJ - Two for the Lord

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 11:50

part 1 of Chapter 5 - Messy Church for Messy People  

Pope Francis has been preaching about God’s extravagant mercy.  He proclaimed 2016 the Year of Mercy.  In his book, titled The Name of God Is Mercy, he said that Mercy is the very essence of God. 

Jesus hang out with questionable people.  And so does Pope Francis. 

When he went to the United States, the Pope called up one of his former students, Yayo Grassi, someone who he knew has been a practising homosexual for a long time. The Pope asked Yayo if they could visit each other.  He said he just wanted to give him a hug.  And that meeting happened.  Yayo brought his partner with him and the Pope received them warmly.

When someone asked him about homosexuality, he shocked the world by focusing on love.  He said, If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge? We shouldn't marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society. 

At another time, on this same question, he replied: Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.

By the way, the Pope is not changing doctrines.  He still believes that a sexual relationship between the same gender is sin.  But he’s asking, “May we disagree and still be friends?”

What Are You Known for?

A few years ago, someone wrote to me:

 “Brother Bo, whenever I hear you preach at The Feast, you don’t preach against abortion, homosexuality, and other grievous sins.  Especially now that congress is passing the RH Bill, you need to make a stand.”

I wrote back:

“I am Catholic.  So I stand by what my Church believes in all these matters.  And yes, I’ve taught about these things at different times.  But I don’t talk about them every time I open my mouth. Because God gave me a special assignment.  My call is to reach out to people who are no longer attending church, who are no longer religious, who don’t find Church relevant in their life, who feel angry at the Church, who feel uncomfortable in a church, and especially those who feel rejected by the Church.” 

I was surprised when Pope Francis was asked the same question.  A journalist asked him, “Why don’t you speak against abortion and gay marriage more often?”

He gave a similar answer, but 1,000x better.  He said:

It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time... The churchs pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.  We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.       

Sad Fact: When secular people were surveyed about the Church, they said, The Church is more known for what it is against rather than what it is for.” 

We’re known for being against this, and that, and this, and that…  This is not the Forgiving Father.  This is the Better Brother, telling the world, “I’m better than you are!”

I want to be the Forgiving Father, not the Better Brother.

If there was one thing that Jesus was against, it was the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. 

But to the sinners, Jesus was their friend.  He ate with prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, and drunkards. 

He said, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come not to call the righteous but sinners. (Mark 2:17)

 

About the Authors

Desiree - Rebel Without Love 

Lerry Royce B. MonteiroWho I Am

Vange and MJ - Two for the Lord

 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 16:59

I DON’T KNOW where to start so I’ll just begin my story when Jim and I met. I was working as a saleslady in a department store. Jim worked as a contractual clerk in another store.

I must admit, I was not religious. I was an Aglipayan but I did not take my religion seriously. Jim was what you may call a nominal Catholic.

Since we were not at all spiritual, Jim and I didn’t have qualms about engaging in pre-marital sex. I got pregnant and so we had to get married. Jim was 23 years old, and I was only 21.

Within the year we got married, I gave birth to our first baby boy. At the time, Jim’s work contract ended. His parents sent him to school. So he studied while I worked and took care of the baby.

After two years, I got pregnant again and gave birth to another baby, also a boy.

Straying Away

Young, unprepared for this marriage, Jim and I fought a lot. Jim acted like he was still single, going out with his buddies on drinking sprees and flirting with girls. I nagged him about his irresponsibility. He complained about my nagging.

Then, the squabbles stopped— for a while— because he found a job as a factory worker in Japan. He sent money enough for us to be able to buy a house and lot.

The job contract, however, ended. Jim came home, and since we were back to the hard times, the fighting began again.

He questioned me about the money he sent, insinuating that I squandered it. I countered that we used the money to buy our house and lot. I reminded him I was working and my salary went to the kids’ school expenses.

His accusations hurt, but little did I know, I was up for more pains.

I caught Jim having an affair with a woman he met in Japan. I was so angry, I told him I wanted out of the marriage.

Jim won’t hear of it. He asked me to stay for the sake of the children. He promised he’d end the affair. So I forgave him and we patched things up.

But nothing prepared me for the next blow.

I got pregnant again. I told Jim that we were going to have another baby, and was I surprised by his reaction. He got mad.

“You’re so careless,” he said, blaming me for not taking contraceptive pills. “Didn’t you know we can’t afford having another baby?” Then, what he said next was incredibly bizarre: He told me to have an abortion.

I was speechless. I couldn’t believe he’d even think of getting rid of our baby. But the following days, the heavy burden of bringing up another child tortured me no end. Jim was right. We could not afford to have another mouth to feed. As it was, with two kids, we could hardly make both ends meet. We were deep in debts, actually.

I was afraid of what would happen to our two children should we lack money for their needs. I feared Jim would put the blame on me should we end up bankrupt

I had an abortion.

But the transgression would not end there.

The following year, I got pregnant again. Again, Jim drove me to have an abortion.

Two abortions, struggles to survive the hard times, endless squabbles— and nine years to the day we tied the knot, our marriage was over.

We separated and decided to take turns in taking care of the kids, then aged 8 and 6 years old. The boys would stay with me during weekdays, and with Jim on weekends.

I went back home to my mother who warmly welcomed me. I worked six days a week, so my mother, bless her, took care of the boys.

At the time, I was only 29. And finding myself “single” again, I lived a carefree life. I missed the single life since I married early. So I rationalized I deserved to have fun. I lived precariously, drinking liquor, smoking even pot and going on gimmicks with friends almost every night.

Around the time Jim and I separated, I was working as a makeup artist and was making good money. But I didn’t have savings because my money all went to my vices. What’s worse, I started borrowing money to be able to enjoy my nightlife.

But then, somehow, I soon got tired of gimmicks, especially when I realized my money was dwindling and my so-called friends started to keep their distance when I asked for financial help.

When I had money, they flocked around me. Why not, when I was so generous and led an ex-travagant life. But when I had no money, my friends were nowhere to be found.

Finding The Feast

I never told anyone about my abortions, except when I confessed to a priest years later when I found The Feast.

In my wanton life, there seemed no place at all for anything spiritual. It didn’t help that my day off from work was on a weekday. I worked on Sundays. So I really had no time to go to church.

Yes, I strayed away from God, but now I realize, God never strayed away from me. It is said that deep in our heart, there is a void that only God can fill for us to feel complete. This is so true for me.

One day, I got tired of smoking, drinking, and partying. I decided to quit my vices and start a new life. But how?

This was when, out of the blue, a cousin invited me to The Feast. I got curious and went by myself.

I couldn’t explain the joy I felt the first time I at-tended. It was like finding something which I lost a long time ago. So long ago that I didn’t even remember losing it.

Suddenly, I felt this hunger and thirst for God. So I kept going back to The Feast. After a year, I couldn’t be satisfied by just attending The Feast. There, I heard Bro. Bo Sanchez preach that we need to be like Jesus, to love and care for others, just like He loves us and helps us especially during our trying times.

My heart ached to serve the Lord.

But at the time, I was still working on Sundays. I just had enough time to attend the morning session of The Feast, then I hurried to my job. So I didn’t have time for service in a ministry.

Still, I felt God was calling me to serve Him. So I did the unthinkable. I took a leap of faith. I quit my job.

I started scouting for a job that won’t require me to work during the weekend. And at the same time, happily, I began serving in a Feast ministry.

But, as we are often told, God will not be out-given.

Through Facebook, I happened to reunite with a colleague who works in a foundation. When she found out I was looking for a job, she referred me to her boss. Five months after my resignation, I got a job as a secretary in the foundation— which did not hold office on weekends!

Finding The Catholic Church

I learned about the Catholic Faith as I attended the Holy Mass during The Feast, and listened to the talks of Bro. Bo. So I desired to be baptized as a Catholic— which happened one sunny day in September 2015. I was confirmed on the same day.

The best part of my conversion process was the Confession. The day I confessed my grave sins remains my happiest. I broke my silence. And that’s when I heard the sweetest words from the priest, “Child, you are forgiven.”

Afterwards, I even offered a Mass that I may learn to forgive my ex-husband.

Eventually, hearing Bro. Bo’s preaching on God’s love and mercy, I’ve learned to forgive Jim— and myself.

Jim and I continue to be civil towards each other. He is supporting our kids’ schooling, so I am grateful about that.

By God’s grace, my sons have become regular attendees of The Feast. During the weekends when they stay with their father, Jim drives them to the venue. Once, my sons were able to persuade their father to attend one Feast session.

“But he won’t stay put inside in the plenary hall. He kept going out to the lobby,” they reported to me.


Oh, well, this is already quite a long story. But I know it has not yet ended. I believe I’ve gone this far because God has been with me all the way. He didn’t give up on me— even as I’d been such a wreck. And I know He is not about to let go of me. No, never, not at all.

About the Author

Sarah Rose is a pseudonym. The story of this woman is such a sensitive matter, that we deemed it necessary to withhold her true name and change some circumstances in her story to protect her pri-vacy and the privacy of persons involved in her story, whose names we also changed.

Sarah Rose opened up and agreed that her story be told to serve as a lesson to women who may be going through what she went through and, as she said, to glorify God for her amazing spiritual awakening.

 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 16:22

I WAS born a Roman Catholic.

And I grew up a Roman Catholic. 

During my grade school years, I even served actively as one of the knights of the altar in our parish church. I was a very religious person then.

But something happened in me when I entered college in 1987.

A group of senior students came to our class-room and conducted an evangelization program which included a part where we had to recite what was called “The Sinner’s Prayer”. Then we were asked to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour.

It was unexpected but I did accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour as my heart was convinced that I needed Him.

I then embraced the belief of the group’s church. I was 17 years old then.

The members of the group warmly welcomed me and made me feel they love me and care for me as a brother in Christ. They taught me how to understand and interpret the Bible which I really longed for when I was still serving as an altar boy. They also taught me how to pray spontaneously— so different from the memorized Catholic prayer I’d been used to. Above all, they guided me how to become closer to God.

As weeks went by, I saw gradual changes within me— a good, positive transformation. I felt peace. And joy. And love.

And whatever good happening in me, I attributed it to my newfound faith.

Going Astray

Slowly, the more that I was engaging in this new group, the more I was slipping away from my Catholic Faith. I began to lose interest in the activities of our parish church. Gradually, I withdrew my friendship from those who didn’t share my new belief. The Catholic rituals that I once loved to do as I was growing up became taboos to me. And worst of all, attending the Holy Mass had become a bore for me.
My Catholic religion didn’t matter anymore. I told myself, It is my faith in God and His Word that matters.

My new behaviour didn’t go unnoticed among my family members. And soon my problem began. The former good boy of the family had become the “black sheep”. My family egged me on to stop my “stupidity” otherwise they said they would disown me. Thus threatened, I heeded their command. But I kept this promise to myself: I’d leave the Christian group, but I won’t practise my Catholic Faith, either.

In short, tabla lang!

In the next 20 years, I was like wandering in the desert — a backslider both as a Catholic and as a Christian.

Finding The Feast

In 2001 I got married to Irish, my girlfriend of two years, and things began to change.

Irish is Catholic, so we got married in a Catholic Church. She’s also firm in her faith, so I was obliged to attend Mass with her every Sunday.

But it was not easy for me to participate in the Holy Mass. Taught early on against Catholic teach-ings, I found myself resisting what I heard in the Mass.

Actually, I even tried to convert Irish, inviting her to join a non-Catholic prayer meeting— to no avail. Instead, Irish made me choose between her or that group. I love her, so I chose her.

But not entirely the Catholic Faith. I still felt lost, unable to discern my true spiritual identity. Until one day, as the first quarter of 2007 was ending, I was impressed by an amiable lady in our company.

In our office, everyone knew Yoyi Mercurio as a very religious person, a devout Catholic. Every morning in the office, before we started working, she led us in prayer and Bible reading.

Although serious in her faith, Yoyi was not the manang type, not even a killjoy. Everyone loved her and enjoyed her company. Actually, it’s her spirituality that had somehow attracted people to her. Not only was she prayerful. She was also friendly, kind, didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She genuinely cared for you, so you felt safe, comfortable with her.

Me, I was like, “Hmmm, she’s Catholic, but she’s Christian in the true sense of the word.”

I got curious. So one day, I set a meeting with her to talk about her faith and my wobbling, if not non-existent one. I expected her to lecture on Catholic doctrines but in that meeting, I did all the talking. She simply listened. And when she finally spoke, she didn’t preach nor utter any Bible verse to make backslider me feel guilty. No, she didn’t judge nor condemn me. But she simply told me her story— how she came to know Jesus.

She said once upon a time, she was lost. Hmmm, like me. Until she found the Lord in her life in a much unexpected way.

Our meeting ended with Yoyi suggesting that I check out a Catholic faith community so I could ex-plore the richness of the Roman Catholic religion. I was curious about her faith community. So she guided me to the Light of Jesus Family and The Feast.

Irish and I are now active members of LOJ. I serve as lay minister and Irish serves as lector dur-ing the Mass at The Feast.

Why have I embraced again my Catholic Faith? It is because someone became a good witness of her Catholic Faith and she showed that God’s Spirit does live and is fully manifested in the Catholic Church. Yes, Yoyi became a Jesus to me.

In her witness, she was able to bring me back home to the Catholic Church— not with words but through her sterling Catholic example. Her witness exemplifies what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “You yourselves are our letter, written in our heart, known and read by everybody”.

In the beginning, I was born a Roman Catholic. And forever, I will live as a Roman Catholic.

About the Author

Louie Ramos, 45, finished Engineering at the Mapua Institute of Technology. He works as assistant manager at Jollibee Worldwide Services – Logistics

He and his wife Irish serve in the Holy Mass— Louie as lay minister, and Irish as lector. That’s after Louie spent over 20 years as what he himself calls “a backslider Catholic.”

 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 16:00

I GREW UP in a Christian family, but as I grew older, I struggled with my Faith.

I entered high school at the age of 11. I was much younger than my classmates, so I felt I would not be accepted by this group. I desperately wanted to blend in. At the time, a “cool” person in school was supposed to be one who was smoking and drinking alcohol. I wanted to be cool, so I got into these vices.

As time passed, family and church became unimportant to me.

I sunk deeper and deeper in my vices as I went through college and even after I graduated and started working.

By January 2012, I realized I had hit rock bottom of my dilemma. I felt so alone, so abandoned, so useless that I turned to drugs to ease the pain in my heart. At first, I thought it would be enough to kill the pain— but I felt even more depressed.

I left my job without telling anyone. I went to look for something or someone to fill up the emptiness in my heart.

“More drinks, please,“ I remember telling my friends as I drowned myself with alcohol for weeks. But nothing eased the pain.

One day, I woke up, found myself on a friend’s bed wailing like a baby, desperately longing for my mother.

Finding The Feast

My messed up life hurt not only me but my family as well— especially my mother. She worried so much about me that she got sick and was confined in hospital several times.

Later, I got to have a long talk with my mother.

She asked me, “Do you love yourself, anak?”

I thought I loved myself but the truth was I didn’t even value myself at all. I thought I didn’t need to shape up because nobody really cared about me.

With my sorry condition, I then thought no one could ever love me or even just like me.

But an aunt kindly told me, “It’s not you I dislike. It’s the things you do.”

My aunt invited me to attend The Feast. She and her husband encouraged me to join a Caring Group and so I joined one.

What I love about The Feast the most is how Bo delivers each message in such a simple way. Also the praise and worship session is so uplifting and it feels so good to be singing out loud.

The Feast is HOME— if you want me to describe it in one word. The Feast made me feel ac-cepted.

I am so blessed! With all the love around me, I no longer have time to be depressed. More im-portant, I know I will be able to overcome obstacles to my spiritual growth for now I’m back with my family, I have great friends, my Light of Jesus Family, and above all, God is with me.

Today, the truth is clear to me. My family loves me, and God loves me. It was I who rejected their love. It was I who built a concrete wall around my heart. I was the one who made my world miserable because I thought I was miserable.

Of late, I have opened my heart and my mind. I have learned to respect, value, and love myself. I have learned to smile even during bad times, to think positive and be patient. It feels so good to be able to focus more on my ambition, on how I can improve myself and how I can help others more.

Back to the Church

Before finding The Feast, I did not attend Sun-day Mass regularly. I was too busy with being de-pressed and going out with people I considered “friends”.

Now, I love the Catholic Faith for its openness to understand other religions.

About the Author

Sipha Yoshiko Okubo, 24, single, holds a de-gree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She works in a web development and telemarketing company.

She lives in Baguio City.

In her teen years, Sipha wanted to be “cool” so she would be accepted by her classmates. This way, she got into vices and church became unimportant for her.

 

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16:34

part 2 of Chapter 4 - Messy Church for Messy People  

Stage Two: Better Brother

Stage Two is a beautiful stage of growth. Why do I call this the stage of the Better Brother? I’m referring to the older son in the story who remained faithful to his Dad.

Because at this stage in your spiritual journey, you learn faithfulness. Reliability.

Consistency. Commitment.  You start praying every day.  You start reading the Bible. You join a church group. You become active in ministry. You start seeing changes in your life.

In short, you become the Better Brother.

Dangers of Stage Two

But like every stage in the spiritual journey, Stage Two has many dangers too. Many temptations.

Example? When the older brother found out about his younger brother’s homecoming party, the Bible says he became angry and wouldn’t join the party. And he said, ‘All these years I’ve worked hard for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to; and in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the finest calf we have on the place.’ (Luke 15:25-29 TLB)

These are the temptations of Stage Two: Rigidity, Self-Righteousness, and being Judgmental.

The older son served his father faithfully. And He wanted everyone to do the same. He was saying, “If you’re not faithful like me, you have no business living in the Father’s house.” In the same way, Rigid Christians want their church group to consist of holy people only.    Their message to everyone is to shape up or ship out. The Pope disagrees. He says the church is a field hospital.  Our mission is to heal the wounded. About rigidity, Pope Francis said, "I will tell you sincerely, I'm scared of rigid priests," he said. "I keep away from them. They bite!"

Pride Rears Its Ugly Head

I can relate. Because I was rigid and self-righteous and judgmental.

I was 12 years old when I joined a

Charismatic seminar called Life in the Spirit. It changed my life. But after that seminar, I remember feeling superior over everyone else that didn’t have this charismatic experience. I looked down at all the other religious movements—from the Cursillo, or Legion of Mary, or Opus Dei, or Fokolare. I actually pitied them for not being a charismatic.

Because I read the Bible, I looked down on anyone who didn’t read the Bible. My friends and I spoke Bible to one another…

My friend would say, “Hi Bo, how are you?”

I’d say, “Great, because God so loved the world that He gaveth His only Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. And how are you today?”

My friend would say, “I’m fine, because this is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoiceth and be glad in it!”

I remember looking down at anyone who couldn’t talk the way we talked.

And because I fasted once a week, I looked down on anyone that didn’t fast. Because I gave up TV for God, I looked down on anyone who still watched TV.  Because I gave up my girlfriend for God, I looked down on anyone who still had a girlfriend around his arm. Because I evangelized by talking to total strangers on the streets, I looked down on anyone who was too shy to evangelize on the streets.

I remember a conversation with my friends —which I’m ashamed of today.  We were thrilled that we spoke in tongues. And we both asked, “Do you think the Pope speaks in tongues? We should go to Rome and pray over him.”

This is the danger of Stage Two.

Sincerity Is Not Enough

One day, I was buying groceries when a guy came up to me and asked me, “Are you Brother Bo?”

When I said, “Yes”, he said, “Brother Bo, you need to repent because you worship Mary. Do you know that Catholics will all go to Hell?”

He began to rattle off many Bible verses to prove his point.  After he finished lambasting me, he said, “By the way, may we have a selfie?”

I noticed he was very sincere. He really believed I was going to Hell and he was in a mission to save me.

Do you know who are also very sincere? Terrorists. They’re very sincere when they shoot people. They are very sincere when they blow up a building. Truth: Sincerity is not a sign that you’re right.  Because you could be sincerely wrong.

 Only humility can make you move to the next Stage.

 

Read the Story of

Sipha Yoshiko Okubo - Being ‘Cool’

Louie Ramos - A Jesus to Me

Sarah Rose - A Prodigal Daughter

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16:34

part 3 of Chapter 4 - Messy Church for Messy People  

A Preview of the Next Stage

People in Stage Three are at home with mystery. They are at peace with the fact that they know very little.

Why? They realize that God is infinite. And they are not.   If God is infinite, growth is infinite too.

Do you know what you’ll be doing in Heaven? My guess: Discovering new facets of God. My hunch is that after you’ve stayed a billion years in Heaven, you still can’t even claim you know 1% of who He is.

Sadly, religious people love to argue with other religious people, insisting they are right and the others are wrong.

Oh, how foolish this is. I remember this story of four blind men who were walking on the road.   Suddenly, a giant elephant crossed their path and stopped in front of them.  They didn’t know what it was, so they started touching it.

The first blind man held the trunk and said, “OMG, it’s a giant snake!”

The second blind man held the ear and said, “What are you talking about? It’s a giant fan!”

The third blind man held the body and said, “Are you both taking drugs? It’s a wall!”

The fourth blind man wrapped his arms around one of the legs and said, “All of you are wrong. It’s a log!”

And they argued non-stop.

Just like religious people who insist they’re right and the other is wrong. It is all foolishness.

Please don’t get me wrong: As a Christian, I’m convinced that Jesus is the full revelation of who the Father is. And I will share my faith to others—but I will do so gently, humbly, and passionately. But I will never condemn others for believing something else.

Because when we try to describe God, we are all blind men trying to describe something bigger than all of us. We need to be a little bit more humble when we share our faith.

And this beautiful humility will bring you to Stage Three.

Stage Three: Forgiving Father

You have a choice: When you relate to sinners, will you relate to them as the Better Brother or the Forgiving Father?

Jesus never told us what happened to that older brother. Did he join the party, or did he stay outside?  I believe Jesus left that part of the story hanging because you are that older brother.

And He’s waiting for you to make that choice.

Today, God is hosting a party of mercy. You can either stand outside, with your arms crossed in front of you, shaking your head, self-righteous, and angry that God is insanely forgiving, or you can join this extravagant party of mercy and dance with God and His angels.

God is always begging us to join the party: ‘Look, dear son,’ his father said to him, ‘you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours.   But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’” (Luke 15:31-32 TLB)

Join the party.

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

PS.If you don’t have a spiritual home, you can visit the nearest Feast in your area.  Check out www.LightFam.com  And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.

 

Read the Story of

Sipha Yoshiko Okubo - Being ‘Cool’

Louie Ramos - A Jesus to Me

Sarah Rose - A Prodigal Daughter

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 16:33

part 1 of Chapter 4 - Messy Church for Messy People  

I believe there are three broad stages of spiritual growth.  

And I’m 100% convinced that the only way to keep growing is humility. Without it, you end up getting stuck in one stage.

What are these three stages of your spiritual journey? They are represented by the three characters in the story of the Prodigal Son:

Stage One: Surprised Son

Stage Two: Better Brother

Stage Three: Forgiving Father

Stage One: Surprised Son

Jesus says the youngest son asked for half of his inheritance, left home, and made pleasure his god. The Bible says he spent every peso he had on parties and prostitutes. When he became poor, he ended up taking care of pigs and eating what the pigs ate.

One day, in his hunger, he decided to go back to his father, beg for mercy, and ask that he be accepted as one of his hired workers.

But when the guy was still far away, the father saw him, did a 100-meter dash towards him, embraced him, welcomed him home, and threw a party for his homecoming. This is why I call him “Surprised Son”. He was not expecting to be taken back as a son. He wanted to just apply as a hired worker.  But God gave him more than what he deserved.

Overwhelmed!

Everyone who experiences a spiritual conversion starts here. I call it the Stage of the Surprised Son because we’re shocked by God’s love.  Dumbfounded.  Floored. We’re overwhelmed by the sheer idea that the God of the Universe even thinks about us.

And we’re forever smitten by Divine Love!

Perhaps this happened when you first attended The Feast, or in a Retreat, or a Seminar. Perhaps this happened when you felt God’s touch while reading a spiritual book or watching a spiritual talk on television.

Perhaps you were baptized in a Catholic church but you never took your faith seriously. Until now.  All of a sudden, you experience God in a fresh way.

This season of your life is marked by joy. Because you’ve found the greatest discovery in the world—God Himself! You’re never the same again.

My Story

I found Jesus as a 12-year-old kid through a small Catholic prayer meeting.  I was high— on God. Nothing mattered anymore except my relationship with Him.

When I turned 13, I announced to my mother, “Mom, I don't want to go to school anymore. Why bother with school? Jesus is coming again! But so many souls are going to Hell. We need to evangelize the world!”

My mother said, “You just don’t want to do your homework.”

Well, that was true. But I was serious about saving the world.

It was intoxicating. God was real, alive, and involved in my life.

But in each of these three stages of your spiritual journey, you face many dangers...

Dangers of Stage One

And Stage One has one big danger: To return to your old life.

Imagine the Prodigal Son now living back with his father and brother, at fleeting moments, recalling his wild parties and prostitutes, and getting the itch to worship the god of pleasure again.

The temptation in Stage One is to backslide. To drop off from attending The Feast and put top priority on other things than on God…

But through humility and faith, you fight this temptation, and move into Stage Two...

 

Read the Story of

Sipha Yoshiko Okubo - Being ‘Cool’

Louie Ramos - A Jesus to Me

Sarah Rose - A Prodigal Daughter

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 13:30

Cheryl : When I was younger, my mom brought me along to this non-Catholic church where I got to attend Sunday school or Bible Study. We spent the first 30 minutes of the class singing praises, then another 30 minutes for Bible study. I loved it there!

On weekdays, I went to St. Jude Catholic School. We didn’t have classes on Thursdays as my school observed St. Jude’s Feast Day. Instead, we went to school on Saturdays where we were also required to attend the anticipated Mass. I never gave much thought about the Mass back then. To me, it just felt like an obligation I needed to fulfill because it was simply the “right” thing to do. But, I found it somewhat fun since I was with my classmates.

I met Philippe at St. Jude, when I was already in high school there. We became best friends.

Philippe:  I attended the anticipated Mass in our school every Saturday. This was more of a requirement than a choice. Come Sunday, I attended Mass again with my family in our parish. Despite my almost perfect attendance, the Holy Mass never really had that much of an impact on me. I didn’t think I needed to do something more about my faith. I thought that my mere presence in the church was enough.

Besides, although I was not enthusiastic about the Mass, I felt I was still very close to Jesus. I looked to Him as a brother and friend, someone I could talk to and who would listen to me whenever I needed Him. It was only later that I realized how shallow my relationship with God was at the time.

Straying Away

Cheryl: After high school, and almost 10 years of Saturday Mass, I went to college and I felt I was now in the real world. I got busy with college work that going to Sunday Mass now became a chore. Many times, I glanced at my watch, wishing the Mass would already end. 

Philippe, then already my boyfriend, insisted that I continue attending Mass. He often reminded me how it was through Christ that our relationship blossomed and through Him that it would continue to grow. I agreed and attended Mass with him and his family.

Over time, however, I began to put top priority on other activities instead of the Mass. One skipped Mass turned to two, then three, and so on. Eventually, I reasoned it was a bigger sin going to Mass and wishing I was somewhere else. So, I stopped going altogether.

Philippe: In college, I failed a lot of my subjects and each time, I would be reminded to say a short prayer, asking Jesus to help me finish my course. But when I started working, I had to meet so many deadlines that Christ placed only second in my order of priorities. And as I became successful in my career, I simply forgot the role of Jesus in my life and credited only myself for my accomplishments. 

Finding The Feast

Cheryl:  I love running. I started blogging about it back in 2010 and soon became part of the bloggers running community. There, I met Edwin Soriano, who was also affiliated with the running community. Later, we became Facebook friends.

There came a time when I felt lost and confused. I posted on my Facebook page questions like where life was headed. Edwin, who I wasn’t really close to at the time, sent me kind and encouraging comments. He even invited me to a number of seminars that he said could help me. One of these was a gathering of the Light of Jesus Family dubbed Light Thursdays, held at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City.

“Come this Thursday,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun night with good food, amazing music, and wonderful stories.”

I decided to look for more information on the event online. Keywords such as “God” and “worship” appeared and that kind of threw me off. I didn’t really feel like going to a worship gathering.

But I happened to have a media event in BGC that very day. Though the event was happening earlier than Edwin’s gathering, I had a good excuse to tell him I couldn’t make it to Light Thursdays.

After my media event, I decided to leave BGC immediately, but as if planned by God Himself, I ran into the very person I was trying to avoid— Edwin!

Not knowing that I was dodging him, Edwin happily ushered me to the Light Thursdays venue. Not wanting to embarrass or disappoint him, I chose to follow him instead.

To my surprise, the songs in the gathering were not really praise songs— just upbeat secular ones. The mood was pleasant, and food was even served. I surmised it was called Light Thursdays because the gathering wasn't like the rather heavy, serious worship services I knew of. In Light Thursdays, I felt relaxed.

The main preacher, Bro. George Gabriel, talked about defining one’s life directions. He shared something about being in the right place at the right time and things happening for a reason.

To my amazement, the talk actually answered my questions. I realized I was exactly where I needed to be. And I just felt God embracing me, like He was calling me back home.

There was a small group sharing after the talk. When my turn to share came, I broke down in tears as I found myself telling strangers, and Edwin, how glad I was to be there. I am thankful that God used Edwin to draw me back.

That first visit made such a huge impact on me that I kept going back week after week. Later, I started helping out by promoting the gathering on social media and inviting people to join Light Thursdays. I soon became part of the core group of servants, welcoming new guests and serving the attendees every week. Slowly but surely, I felt I was getting closer and closer to God. 

Philippe: Cheryl asked me to attend Light Thursdays with her. I went not knowing what it was. I went only because I liked being with her.

As I listened to the talk, I thought, “I’ve heard that before.”

I’d been going to Mass so I felt that I’d heard a lot already about the teachings of Jesus. Also, I was never really a fan of other church-related activities. I felt that my Mass attendance and random prayers were enough.

Cheryl: I learned a lot from Bro. George’s talks. One time, he talked about sex and addictions. I couldn’t believe it! I thought such topics were taboo in religious gatherings. He also revealed how he was once addicted to pornography and how he surrendered his vice to God and really felt His forgiveness and unconditional love for him.

Bro. George’s openness made me realize that I didn’t need to be perfect to be loved by God, because He already loves me despite my imperfections. It was okay to make mistakes and that just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, my Father in Heaven was waiting for me to return home.

Bro. George spoke highly of Bro. Bo Sanchez, the founder of the Light of Jesus, and about The Feast he leads at the Philippine International Convention Center. So one Sunday, Philippe and I checked it out.

At the Feast PICC, Bro. Bo talked about religious fanatics who did atrocious things thinking they were doing these in God’s name. This made me remember certain people in my life who sometimes made me doubt the Lord because of their beliefs. Understanding then the difference between fanaticism and faith, I felt I could love the Lord more openly without turning into a fanatic and hurting others.

Philippe: I continued attending Light Thursdays and The Feast only because of Cheryl. My heart wasn’t there. I liked the people I met there, especially the Light Thursdays core group, but the gathering itself could hardly make a dent on my already hardened heart.

Sad to say, I couldn’t keep pace with Cheryl’s spiritual growth. There were times when she and I argued because we were not in sync spiritually.

Cheryl: I observed that Philippe was losing faith in God. In one of our fights, he said, “How can I worship Him whom I don’t even see?”

We were already planning our wedding then and it pained me to think that I was marrying someone who didn’t believe in God, especially at a time when I was getting closer to Him.

I cried to the Lord, telling Him not to make me choose between Him and Philippe.

Philippe:  Cheryl’s family had always intended to migrate to the United States. Her parents petitioned for her sometime in 2004, the same year she became my girlfriend. The petition papers indicated that Cheryl was single. So we thought we should wait until the petition is approved before we got married. But it turned out to be a long, long wait.

Cheryl: In 2014, we got wind of my petition’s approval. We got so excited that we quickly set our wedding date for July 26, 2015. But the papers needed for my green card got delayed. To our dismay, we had to postpone the wedding.

Philippe: That was very difficult for us to accept. We had already waited 11 years for this wedding. And now, when we were all set— we had already printed the invitations, and we had booked services from various suppliers— the wedding had to be postponed.

Cheryl: I guess the postponement was a blessing in disguise. It happened that in May 2015, Feast PICC, now called Feast Bay Area, announced a retreat for singles called LoveLife. With no more wedding to plan, I opted to sign up for this retreat instead. I enjoyed it so much that I begged Philippe to sign up for the next seminar— scheduled in July.

Philippe: Remember, I was the guy who talked to Jesus only when he had some heavy burden. Cheryl asked me to attend the Lovelife retreat in July. Though hesitant, I agreed to it to make her happy. Moreover, being close to God as a child, I felt slightly guilty for turning away from Him. Hence, I committed to keeping an open mind and attended the retreat.

Cheryl: I was anxious that Philippe won’t be impressed with the retreat. I prayed that he’d be touched deep enough that his faith in God would be restored. I shared my fears with Bro. George who helped calm me down by saying, “Give up to God what you have no control of.”

And so I surrendered my anxiety, I surrendered Philippe to the Lord.

Philippe: During the retreat, I realized that I had taken Jesus for granted and had forgotten to acknowledge Him for all the blessings I had in my life. There, I promised to start communicating again with Jesus.

Cheryl: We met after the retreat and I could see that a heavy burden was lifted off Philippe’s shoulders. He didn’t say much but he later admitted that he cried during the retreat, something very uncommon for Philippe.

The following Sunday, at The Feast, I saw Philippe praying intently. I knew then that God was well working in him. Tears of joy welled in my eyes. Incidentally, that Sunday was July 26, 2015— supposedly the date of our wedding.

Philippe: After LoveLife, I joined Cheryl, Edwin, and friends from Light Thursdays in a discipleship program, Love Someone Today (LST), following a booklet of the same title by Bro. Bo Sanchez.

Rezza Custodio-Soriano, Edwin’s wife, and one of the senior members of Light Thursdays’ core group, led the LST sessions. Talking to Rezza, I started seeing things in a new perspective. I began to accept how pride got the best of me and that I had lost my way.

One chapter of the Love Someone Today booklet talked about surrendering to God and letting go of one’s pride. Through Rezza’s guidance, I realized I became too dependent on myself and didn’t know that I needed to lift both my failures and successes to the Lord. As I slowly learned to surrender to the Father, I also sensed myself drawing closer to Him. I actually felt God working His way to me.

Now, I understand why things had to happen the way they did. I was sick— spiritually. And so God, in His goodness, let me go through a healing process first, before I was to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Cheryl: It wasn’t until September 2015 that I got my green card and finally, after 12 years since we went steady, we got married on February 7, 2016, in the same place we first met, at the National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus.

Philippe: Many of our guests said it was one of the most beautiful weddings they had attended. They saw and felt the love between me and Cheryl. And knowing what we went through and our journey in faith, they were overjoyed, just as we were, to finally fulfill our dream to become a married couple.

It was a lovely wedding. But it wouldn’t be as beautiful if it happened sooner. Looking back, it had to happen that way so I could go through some of my faith issues and undergo a healing process. Things definitely happened for a reason.

Cheryl: Our Light of Jesus Family joined us on our special day, including Fr. Bob McConaghy and Fr. Alex Balatbat, who celebrated the rites. They helped us grow spiritually and tremendously the past months prior to our wedding. To this day, we are grateful that they are part of our life.

Though we were roughly the same age and very close friends, we opted to make Edwin and Rezza, as well as George and his wife Dinah our godparents. The couples had such huge impact on our life that we just wanted them to play as big a role as possible in our wedding.

Philippe: It’s been more than 12 years since Cheryl and I became a couple. To this day, we remain committed to each other, our love getting stronger every day— thanks to our faith community.

Back to the Church

Cheryl: As time went by, I had a change of heart towards the Holy Mass. During one of our Light Thursdays, retreats, our guest speaker, Fr. Bob McConaghy shared how feeling sleepy at Mass was normal and that what was important was that we pray for that one word or phrase that God wants us to hear.

With that approach, I learned to appreciate the Mass. I no longer felt going to Mass as an obligation, but I saw it as a way for me to listen to God’s message for me. 

Philippe: While Cheryl already learned to love the Mass and was really into it when we started attending The Feast weekly, I only got to appreciate it again sometime in November 2015 after our LST sessions.

Though I don’t raise my hand in worship as other people do, I now close my eyes with my hand on my heart to really hear and feel God’s personal message to me. I actively participate in the Mass now and attend it not out of obligation but out of thanksgiving and in awe of our Almighty Father.

I realized that even though you’re not into it yet and you’re just going through the motions, God will find a way to pull you into His loving arms.

About the Authors

Cheryl and Philippe Villareal

Cheryl, 29, and Philippe, 32, were both born in Quezon City. They met in high school at St. Jude Catholic School where they became friends, best friends, and eventually, sweethearts.

Although they had a Catholic foundation, it took years before they truly appreciated their religion.

After graduation, Cheryl took up Early Childhood Education in De La Salle University-Manila to become a pre-school teacher. She is the blogger behind LittleRunningTeacher.com.

Philippe, on the other hand, finished his course in Computer Science at the Central Colleges of the Philippines, also in Manila. He now works as a software engineer.

The couple had to wait 12 years to get married because Cheryl had a pending petition for citizenship in the United States. It was a long wait because, apparently, God had so much more in store for them. As His plan prevailed, both went through a rediscovery of faith just months before their wedding.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 13:22

I grew up in a regular Catholic family. We went to church on Sundays, prayed the Rosary daily during the Rosary month of October and during the Holy Week, we practised the Way of the Cross and went on Visita Iglesia, visiting various churches for prayer and meditation.

I took up Commerce and majored in Accounting at San Beda College in Manila. In school, I attended the Friday Masses religiously.

After graduation, I worked in a bank for six years until I went back to my first love—landscaping. I put up my own landscaping business in 1992 and called it Garden One. Through the years, I was able to provide for my family and we lived comfortably enough.

 Straying Away

I started to drift away from the Church the moment I began working. I was in church physically but my mind wandered away. Either the sermon was too heavy to take in, or I didn’t understand what the priest was saying since the audio was bad.

In 1994, Richie and I got married. And I remember a year after, I stopped going to church. I was busy with my business and I simply lost interest in going to church. I felt like I didn’t need to. I didn’t get anything from attending the Mass, anyway.

To think that our parish church was just a few meters away. Actually, just 50 steps away and yet, I didn’t go.

My usual Sunday consisted of having breakfast, attending to the car — having it washed and cleaned— having lunch at my mother’s house in Marikina with my family, and spending the rest of the day there.

The priests turned me off because they were discussing government issues. For me, the pulpit was an improper venue for political issues. I went to church to listen to the Word of God but all I heard the priest said was how corrupt our government was. And then I heard about corruption in the Church ranks. I thought to myself, why bother go and listen to the priests? I wasn’t learning anything, I was not nourished spiritually.

I rationalized, anyway, I wasn’t bad. I didn’t offend anyone. So I didn’t need to go to church.

But it was not like I didn’t believe in God. I still prayed every night. Though I realize now that my prayer was self-centered. It was all about me. I never bothered to listen to God. When I faced challenges, I blamed God.

In 2000, I fell into a grave sin. I had an extra-marital affair. And while it was happening, sadly, I never felt that what I was doing was wrong. Until Richie caught me and confronted me about it. She cried and seeing her so distraught, how much my unfaithfulness grieved her, I got back to my senses.

I asked her for forgiveness and my loving wife forgave me. We agreed to go on a retreat at the Carmelite sisters’ convent in La Union province. Our bond as husband and wife became stronger after that.

Meanwhile, my business flourished. Money flowed in.

But still, I felt empty inside. I was at a loss. I felt an inner longing.

Finding The Feast

Something happened in 2013 that made me turn around and question my values.

Around this time, my business began to bog down. The projects came in trickles. Money became scarce, just enough for us to make both ends meet.

Frustrated, I asked my wife, “Why is the Lord making things hard for me? Why is He giving me just enough? He’s going to bless me anyway, why not go all out?”

And then, to make matters worse, our marriage began to wobble again. There was this promo girl I met in a golf tournament— once, twice. She became friendly, sending me text messages now and then. Given my past indiscretion, my wife got jealous. We fought over it.

Stress over my finances and our marital squabble took a toll on my body. I suffered high blood pressure. My doctor instructed me to stay at home and get a good rest for a few weeks.

Call it house arrest, but those two long weeks at home turned out a blessing in disguise for me.

At the time, my father-in-law, a religious man, had started following a show on PTV 4 every Sunday at 8 a.m. featuring the talks of Bro. Bo Sanchez at The Feast, then being held at the Valle Verde Country Club, Pasig City.

My father-in-law suggested we watch the show. He often called us on the phone, telling us to turn the TV on once Bro. Bo’s show was already airing. My wife would then turn the TV on and call me to watch the show with her. I would sit, for a while just to please her, but never really listened to what Bo was saying.

Little did I know, as she listened to Bro. Bo’s preaching at The Feast, Richie was already experiencing spiritual awakening.

When I had to stay home for awhile, she downloaded Bro. Bo’s talks from YouTube and played the talks for me. For lack of better things to do, I watched and after listening to every single talk of Bro. Bo at The Feast, I became a changed man.

One Sunday afternoon, I told Richie, “Let’s go and check out The Feast.”

At the time, Bro. Bo had transferred to the Philippine International Convention Center, and so his prayer gathering was then called Feast PICC. When Richie and I walked in, The Feast ushers warmly greeted us as if they knew us, as if we were regulars. People smiled. The place resonated with joy, I felt goosebumps all over me.

We just wanted to check out The Feast so we didn’t stay long.

For another week, I watched The Feast videos again and again. I never got tired of them. Bro. Bo’s talks sent me meditating on my life, my misgivings, my self-centeredness. I knew then I needed to attend The Feast.

The following Sunday, Richie and I attended the first session of Feast PICC.

For the first time in 18 years, I heard Mass again. I felt God was there welcoming me back.  Feeling guilty that I’d gone astray, I couldn’t hold back my tears.

Fr. Eric Santos celebrated the Mass, delivering a homily so laced with funny anecdotes, I didn’t get bored as I did in the past. Fr. Eric explained the Gospel so well, that for the first time in so long a time, I readily understood God’s Word.

When Bro. Bo came onstage and preached, I was all eyes and all ears. I don’t know how to describe that day. It was magical, wonderful, and miraculous. I felt like the darkness that enveloped me, that clouded my reason, vanished into thin air. I felt lighter and more alive. Truly amazing!

Richie and I went back to PICC the next Sunday, bringing along our kids. And from then on, we kept going back.

Not long after, we signed up for a Light Group (LG) with Bro. Ervin and Sis Malour Montecillo as our heads. There, we met other couples who are now our good friends. We met weekly initially at a fastfood joint but since it closed at 10:00 p.m., we offered our house as venue. That way, our group had privacy and we could stay late in the night and share our stories. We loved our meetings so much, we met regularly, even during LG breaks set by the Feast Secretariat.

Little by little, I was being renewed. I began to see changes in me.

Before, I was self-centered, now I have become self-less. I also noticed that I am calmer. I used to be hot-tempered. Faced with conflicts, say with a business colleague, I’d be plotting schemes against him, or, I’d be charging toward him like a raging bull. But since I was renewed, I’d say to an opponent, “Let’s talk about it.”

In times of conflicts, I’d take a deep breath, say a silent prayer for understanding, listen to both sides of the issue, and weigh the situation.

It used to be that when I was on the road, I was impatient over the traffic most of the time. But then in one of his talks, Bro. Bo said we have no control over traffic but we can control our self. So I became a calmer driver.

I’d become not just relaxed, I’d also gained confidence in myself, boosted as I was by Bro. Bo’s talks especially about God’s way of empowering us His people that we may live abundantly.

Last year, Garden One, my landscaping business, slowed down. But I did not question God as I did during my pre-Feast days. I did not waver in my faith in God. In time, my business recovered and I realized He allowed the setback to happen for a very good reason.

You see, Richie is a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate, so we thought to put her education to good use.

In August 2014, we decided to help her father in his bakery business. I scouted for a place to set up a bakeshop. But I couldn’t find one, so I just offered bakery products on consignment basis to small variety stores and canteens around our place.

The strategy clicked and we raked in substantial profit. I then realized the reason for my landscape business setback. Since the business was slowing down, I had all the time for the bakery business.

And since Richie and I worked together, we bonded well, too— which was really a priceless bonus.

In December, we found a commercial space for our envisioned bakeshop in Sta. Elena, Marikina City. On December 18, we opened our first branch, named Burichies my father-in-law’s pet name for Richie.

The second branch opened on September 1, 2015 along Marcos Highway in Cainta, Rizal. And soon, to our pleasant surprise, my father-in-law gave the bakery business to us! Apparently, that was his plan all along.

Then, as the bakery business flourished, big projects for Garden One came in!

God’s promise of abundance simply came true for us, as Bro. Bo boldly taught us.

Back to the Church

Little by little, The Feast has also guided me back to my Catholic Faith. I began to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I also attend Mass now even outside The Feast. I have found the Mass my respite, my drinking fountain to quench my thirst for God’s Word.

Today, despite the struggles that come our way, I am almost worry-free because I follow and apply the teachings of Jesus.

The verse from Romans 5:3-5 is my guide: For I know that suffering produces endurance which in turn builds our character and our character gives us hope in God.

About the Author

Rading Decepida, 51, a landscape artist and business owner. He lives with his wife, Richie, and their  two children, Darren, 20 and Juno, 15, in Antipolo City.

Rading, youngest in a brood of three, belongs to one of the old families in Marikina.

He started to question the Church when, as he said, all the priests did in their homilies was to denounce corruption in the government. It didn’t help that he heard rumors of corruption in the Church too. In protest, he stopped attending Mass.

 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 10:58

When I was young, I attended a Bible School in a Pentecostal Church near our barangay.

At the time, religion didn’t matter much in our family.  I seldom went to church. The only “spiritual” thing I did was pray  before meals, and sometimes, before sleeping.

I was the kind of person who’s like, “Yeah, I know that there is a God, but I’m busy to know Him more.”    

Something like that.

I attended the  Catholic Mass when friends asked me to come along with them. I attended just for the sake of attending. I mean not really focusing on what the priest was saying. I found the Mass boring. I didn’t feel a need for it. So sometimes while the Mass was going on,  I chatted with my friends.

I also attended some other Christian fellowships a few times with friends.

Finding The Feast

A friend told me about Feast PICC. He invited me to attend with him. But I declined because PICC is far from Laguna. But patiently, he kept on asking me to attend until I ran out of reason to decline his invite.

I attended with him in October 2010.

Today, I serve as writer and photographer for the Media Ministry of Feast PICC, now called Feast Bay Area, covering the Sunday Mass, and other events like the Kerygma Conference.

What I like most about The Feast is the Inner Connection. I like the way The Feast warmly approached me. The way Bro. Bo Sanchez talks to my soul. The way he clearly explains the topic. The way the talk is uplifting and gives me hope. The way the talks enlighten me with things that I cannot understand on my own. It felt different. God’s call, I guess.

I also like that The Feast is serving the unchurched, and focusing on discipleship as well. I like the Worship session, the talks, the Holy Mass. Everything.

Back to the Church

Through The Feast, I learned to appreciate the Catholic Faith. What I like about Catholicism is it gives hope to everyone including those who had committed grave sins. The Catholic Faith preaches the profound love and forgiveness of God, which we experience when we also forgive other people.

About the Author

Diana Jessica Aguila, 26, single, took up Information Technology.

She works as a master data, responsible for the Global Master Data SAP Material Master, marketing, material billing block, new product introduction, product marketing support, for the North America-Workplace Safety Division of Europe, Middle East Africa Workplace Safety and Identification Solution Division (EMEA).

When she was young, religion didn’t matter much for her. She attended Catholic and other non-Christian services.

She lives in Binan, Laguna

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 16:52

part 3 of Chapter 3 - Messy Church for Messy People  

I compare a spiritually proud person to this woman who goes to the doctor and says, “Doc, it hurts everywhere,” as she was touching different parts of her body with her finger. “My arm hurts, my neck hurts, my shoulders hurt, my head hurts…”

After the tests, the doctor says, “Do you know why everything you touch hurts? Because your finger is broken.”

A spiritually proud person likes pointing to what’s broken with other people. Not realizing that he is the one who is broken.

Religious Leaders

By nature, people whose relationship with God is based on the Law are zealous, and they eventually become leaders of a church or community or organization. And very quickly, the group morphs from a community of love to a community of laws. From a community of compassion to a community of condemnation. From a community of gentleness to a community of judgments. Norms become more important than people. If you can’t follow the norms, you’re condemned. You’re ostrasized. Ultimately, you’re kicked out.

But Jesus built a very different community. A community of grace. He welcomed the worst sinners—prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors. This is the irony of Jesus. He befriended the Prostitute with 7 demons, the Adultress with 5 husbands, the Chief Tax Collector who cheated his fellow-Israelites—but he condemned the religious leaders of his time, Pharisees and Sadducees. Because of their spiritual pride.

One day, a prostitute wanted to go to church. But after attending the church, everyone looked at her in such a mean way, she finally left. She sat under a tree outside the church and started crying.

She said, “Lord, the people in church don’t want me to go in.”

That was when she heard God tell her, “That’s okay, my daughter. I myself have been trying to get into that church for many years now, but they wouldn’t let me.”

We in the Light of Jesus Family welcome everyone. Mistresses. Adulterers. Practicing homosexuals. Prostitutes. Anyone.

And then there’s a second kind of religious person…

  1. When Your Relationship with God Is Based On Grace

He is someone who believes that before he does anything good and despite his sins, God already accepts him, forgives him, and loves him—and that it’s God’s unstoppable love that will ultimately change him.

Result? Humility. Gratitude. Compassion. Kindness.

Because if you know you’re accepted by GRACE, then you’ll also accept others by grace too.

That is what happens on the Road to Damascus. God wakes up Saul from his spiritual pride… As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:3-5)

On that fateful day, Saul experienced God’s unconditional, unstoppable love. How unstoppable? He realized that God will not stop loving you until He totally fixes your brokenness.

 Years after his conversion, Paul said, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT) The man of the Law became the man of Grace.

On the Road of Damascus, Saul became Paul. Why? Because Saul met Jesus. Saul met Grace.

Read the Story of

Cheryl and Philippe Villareal - Journey to Love

Diana Jessica Aguila - A Promise of Hope

Rading Decepida - Blessings In Disguise

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 16:51

part 2 of Chapter 3 - Messy Church for Messy People  

The Worst Sin in the World

Question: What is the worst sin in the world?

Let me read to you Saul’s story: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-3)

Saul was a veeeeeery bad boy. If you’re a bad boy, and you know you’re a bad boy, it’s not too bad.Because admitting you have a problem is solving 50% of the problem.

But Saul was adamant he was good. Why was Saul doing this? Spiritual pride. I believe spiritual pride is the worst sin of all. Why? Because you’re rejecting God’s Love by telling God that you don’t need it.

Saul didn’t think he was a bad boy. He thought he was really doing the will of God. Here’s what I realized: Some of the biggest crimes in this world are caused by people who think they’re doing the will of God. If you look down through history, you’ll see how religions and violence go together. Creeds and Cruelty go together. Faith and Force go together. Because of the sin of spiritual pride.

Second, when you’re spiritually proud, you’ll persecute.

But you don’t have to look at history to observe this happening. Just look at your own backyard. Look at your own family, or your own office, or your own neighborhood, or your church, or your prayer group. Who can be the most difficult people in the group? Who can be the most judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous people? Answer: Religious people.

Paul describes his spiritual pride: I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. (Galatians 1:14) He also said, If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)

Read the Story of

Cheryl and Philippe Villareal - Journey to Love

Diana Jessica Aguila - A Promise of Hope

Rading Decepida - Blessings In Disguise

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 16:20

part 1 of Chapter 3 - Messy Church for Messy People  

IN a small town in America, there was an old barber who was very kind and also very rich.

One day, a florist got a haircut. When he was about to pay, the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.”

The florist was very grateful. One hour later, when the barber opened the door, he saw a thank you card and 12 roses from the florist.

The next day, a baker walked into his barbershop and got a haircut.

When he was about to pay, the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.” 

The baker was very grateful. One hour later, when the barber opened the door, he saw a thank you card and 12 ensaymadas from the baker.

The next day, a Filipino software engineer walked into his barbershop and got a haircut. When he was about to pay, the old barber said, “It’s free. This is my community service.”

The Filipino software engineer was very grateful. One hour later, when the barber opened the door, there were 12 Filipinos looking for a free haircut.

God is like that old barber. His love is free. You don’t pay for it by being a good boy or girl. Instead, you want to be good out of gratitude. And you tell other Filipinos —and other non-Filipinos—to come and have a free haircut.

This is what evangelism is. 

Which brings me to the two kinds of religious people in the world: those whose relationship with God is based on Law or those whose relationship with God is based on Grace....

  1. When Your Relationship with God Is Based On Law

These are the religious people who are working very hard to earn His love.

Because of this, the Law rules their life. These are people who believe that because of their sins, God is angry at them, and for God to love them, they have to follow the Law. Sadly, this is very common. For many, they’re religious to appease an angry God.

If your relationship with God is based on Law, it’s a NO-WIN game. Because only two things can happen: If you’re not able to follow the Law, the result is Self Pity. But if you’re able to follow the Law, the result is Self Righteousness. Which leads to being judgmental towards others. (“How can they not follow the Law? It’s so easy.I did it!”)

Read the Story of

Cheryl and Philippe Villareal - Journey to Love

Diana Jessica Aguila - A Promise of Hope

Rading Decepida - Blessings In Disguise

Friday, 26 August 2016 10:38

I USED  to be a member of a faith community so I had strong moral convictions.  Actually, I was  close to being a judgmental prude.

I didn’t like seeing young teenagers wearing short-shorts and mini-skirts especially when they attend a prayer meeting. I frowned upon them clinging with their boyfriends or girlfriends all the time.

But I was not without blemish myself.  

I come from a family which struggled to make both ends meet, especially when my siblings and I were already in college.

Actually, in 2010, my younger sister stopped schooling for a year because our parents could not afford her tuition fee. They had only enough fund for my tuition. So  I had to work part-time to have money for my meals and boarding house rent.

In 2011, my parents were able to afford sending  my sister back to school. But that year, my brother had to start college, too. So there were already three of us in university. To help my parents with our finances, I worked on two jobs.

Going Astray

Life was so difficult, I needed to find respite from my  heavy burdens. 

I escaped— through an addiction with pornography and getting involved in a secret same-sex relationship.  I had two girlfriends. My relationship with my first girlfriend started in December 2009 and lasted for 10 months. The second one started in December 2011 and lasted for a year and a half. 

I just  needed comfort to lighten my burden— and I found this in my girlfriends. But I felt guilty about it all so I stopped attending  prayer meetings.

I attended Sunday Mass now and then. But I also  attended other non-Catholic services— just to please friends who invited me to their church. 

Finding The Feast

I found out about The Feast in 2012. My family is based in Surigao but I am based in Iligan where I workd. At the time, my brother was with me as  he was working on his Bachelor degree in Metallurgical Engineering.

One Sunday after a Mass I attended in the parish church near where I live,  a young man— I now call him Kuya Joey—conducted an info drive about the Light of Jesus among members  of the Catholic Center Campus Ministry where I was a member. Kuya Joey talked about The Feast, LOJ’s fellowship being led by Bro. Bo Sanchez at the Philippine International Convention Center. (PICC).   

The name Bo Sanchez rang a bell since I’d heard it mentioned now and then in my faith community. 

Kuya Joey then said The Feast has provincial versions, and the nearest to us is Feast Cagayan de Oro (CDO). He added that The Feast has a program called Love Someone Today (LST), designed by Bro. Bo to encourage newcomers to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and become His disciples. Joey invited us to the LST, and encouraged us to bring along more friends.

I attended, bringing with me my friends and even my siblings.  

But I did not finish the LST program— nor did I attend Feast CDO. 

Up at this time, I was still struggling with my burdens. I was angry that I had financial problems, while others didn’t— and I envied them for being so comfortable in life.

How could I be a disciple of Jesus, a servant of God, when I could not even cope with my own daily grind? 

 My friends continued with the LST sessions. Me, I continued working because financial relief was just what I needed at the time. 

But Kuya Joey did not easily let go of me. One day, he invited me to attend the Kerygma Conference, an inspirational learning event also led by Bro. Bo to be held in Davao. 

I attended. But still I did not commit to attend The Feast, much more serve God there.

Then, for a while, Kuya Joey and friends attending Feast CDO let me be, so I thought they had already given up on me. But they came and invited me again. So I finally attended Feast CDO in February 2013.

At The Feast, I simply felt overwhelming joy. I am really glad that I found The Feast where I came to realize my wrongdoings, where I came to know more about Jesus, and really felt His forgiveness and unconditional love for me.

I try not to be judgmental anymore. I realized though that same sex relationship is not for me. So now I am no longer in a relationship with the same sex —for almost three years, down to forever! And I am never going back to that kind of life. 

In 2015, Feast CDO leaders met up with my youth group and challenged us to build a Feast in Iligan.

By God’s grace we were able to start the Feast Video Iligan in February 2015. And we had our first live Feast in Iligan with a Big Day Celebration in August 2015. 

I now happily serve in the Feast Video Iligan as an emissary and an admin head.

I am also a member of a Light Group.

I thank God that my brother and mother have also experienced The Feast. My brother first attended the Northern Mindanao Grand Feast in April 2014, and he now attends Feast Video Iligan. Our mom visited us in Iligan, and so she  was able to attend our Feast Video.

My father came with me when I attended the Emissary Gathering in Mandaluyong on April 23, 2016. It was his first time seeing the people I serve with in The Feast Video.

Our youngest brother had also attended the Campus Feast in Philippine Science High School -SMC in Davao City last February and my sister finished the LST program before she went to Surigao del Norte for work. 

I just feel happy and super blessed that my family knows what I do and they have attended the Light of Jesus  events.

Back to the Church

I have always liked the Catholic Faith and it makes me feel really blessed to have this faith. I attend the Mass at the Redemptorist Church on Sundays. On weekdays, I attend the Mass at the Catholic Center Campus Ministry. 

At The Feast, I have learned more about my Faith. I have known Jesus Christ in a deeper sense and I will strive hard for other people to know the Good News.

About the author

Syrah Jean J. Sanchez, 26, single, holds a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Electronics and Communications Engineering. 

She serves as a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) for Chinese students, via Skype. She is also involved in a network marketing business which is more of a direct selling and private franchising. It is affiliated with a leadership program to help small scale entrepreneurs in developing their own businesses.

She lives  in Iligan City

Syrah suffered financial problems. She said she escaped her woes through addictions, and guilty about them, she didn’t feel worthy to attend Mass.

Friday, 26 August 2016 10:35

I COME from a broken home.

My father had an affair with another woman.Unlike other wives who nagged their husband, my mother chose to give my father the silent treatment. This enraged him and he would beat her up. When my mother couldn’t stand the abuse any longer, she  decided to leave him.

I was in Grade 5 then. My mother, my two sisters, and I went to live with my maternal grandmother, where my mom’s siblings and their children also lived.

It was not easy adjusting living with an extended family. To make matters worse, my mom left to work abroad.

Then my eldest sister ran around with her boyfriend and she got pregnant out of wedlock.

Lola, naturally, got mad. She was so angry, she imposed so strict rules my sisters and I felt shackled in her house.

At this time, I was seeing Jasper, my boyfriend since my high school days. Following my sister’s mistake, my Lola prohibited me from seeing Jasper.

My sisters and I so longed to be free from our Lola’s harsh rules. So we agreed that soon as we finish school and find jobs, we would move out of Lola’s house.

We eventually finished school,  found jobs, and in 2008, my sisters and I finally moved out and began to live in a house we rented.

Thinking back, I now realize Lola actually meant well. She just wanted to discipline us. She wanted us to concentrate on our studies, to go to church even if we didn’t feel like it.

Going Astray

Far from Lola, I felt so free, I did just about everything I wanted to do. I met up with Jasper and we  engaged in pre-marital sex.

With my work as an excuse, I stopped going to church. Besides, my grandmother was no longer around to check on me.

Meanwhile, things weren’t working out with my boyfriend. He turned out to be such an insecure, jealous jerk. He didn’t want me to meet up with my friends. Afraid to lose him, I obeyed his commands.  To please him, I even rarely visited my family.

Ours had become an unhealthy, dangerous relationship. One day, I caught him cheating on me.  Instead of ending it all, I turned a blind eye and forgave Jasper. But not without making it clear to him that he could not leave me.

“You’re mine,” I told him. “If you leave me, I will kill myself.”

On our ninth year as a couple, I began to take stock of my relationship with Jasper. That’s because I found out he’d been having an affair with another woman.

I found out about Jasper’s indiscretion because one day, I dialled his number and this woman answered, telling me she’s his girlfriend. At first, I thought it was a prank because only the day before, Jasper promised he would buy me an engagement ring!

Then the woman said they have a four-month -old baby.

I fought with Jasper, and demanded that he leave his girlfriend. But he wouldn’t do this, so we fought a lot, even slapping each other.

One day, we screamed at each other, making a scene witnessed by our neighbors.

It was so embarrassing, I finally broke down. And that’s when I finally told myself, “Enough.”

I remember going to a chapel and crying to God: “Lord, I cant go on like this. I need You in my life. Im sorry if I neglected You. Bring me close to You. I want to feel Your presence in my life.

Now, even as I was in despair, I couldn’t help  feeling uncomfortable because the chapel was hot and humid.

You see, early on, I was already longing to go to a place where I could unburden myself. I actually prayed I’d find a cool church with a clean rest room and the parishioners smell good.

The chapel was certainly not the kind I had in mind. I remember telling God, “Please, not this one.”

Finding The Feast

God must have heard me that day because soon enough, I got an invitation from an old college friend to join a networking company. He also invited me to attend The Feast at the Philippine international Convention Centre (PICC).

So longing for a change in my life, I attended Feast PICC in April 2014. And to my surprise, I realized it was an answer to my prayer.

As I stepped inside the PICC, I felt excited. Like a little girl, I marveled at the place— the lights, the cool air-conditioning.

I was like, “Wow! Lord, this is it!

I just kept attending every Sunday. After a month, I even attended the ILoveLife Retreat for Singles. I learned a lot there as the talks addressed my personal issues. I felt better, exhilarated even.

Straying Away Again

At The Feast, I met Mike, a friend of a friend. He started courting me, pampering me with flowers and chocolates. I told him about Jasper, and I guess that gave him the signal that I was an easy catch.

I was. Mike got me to sleep with him.  And the day after, I didn’t see him again.

I felt worse than ever. But I told God, “Please dont let go. Just hold my hand. My trust is in You, Lord.

Hearing talks in The Feast especially about abusive relationships, I began to have the courage to fight for myself. I decided I won’t let anyone trample on me again.

Mike started calling me again but I blocked his number so he won’t reach me anymore.

In the meantime, there was Danny, this guy in the sales department I worked for. I had a crush on him because he had the qualities I wanted for in a guy –- stable career, no vice, only drank on occasions, with good family background.

An inner voice told me to run away but I liked  Danny enough to take the risk of going into another  relationship. We started dating but I didn’t allow any physical contact.

 Then after a few dates, Danny started ignoring me for no apparent reason. I felt dejected.

Meanwhile, my phone block against Mike faltered and so did I. Ignored by Danny, I gave in to Mike’s invitation. I went out with him and we had casual sex. Mike actually became my spare tire. When Danny would set a date with me and later cancel, I’d call up Mike to take me out.

It felt good to feel wanted and appreciated but  such feeling didn’t last long. I felt remorseful, as I knew I was sinking deeper into the pit of sin.

I felt heaviness in my heart. I wasn’t happy with my situation but I couldn’t give up Danny.  Then, on what would be our last date, he began to fondle me, but I resisted. I realized that he was only after having sex with me. He had no intentions for us being a couple. Come to think of it, he never courted me. We just went out, and hang out.

I then realized I really needed to straighten my   life. I gave up Danny and I stopped seeing Mike, too.

A friend of mine advised me to go to Confession. I did, and I felt so much better after. As if a burden had been taken out from my heart.

Confession became the start of my inner healing.

A Work in Progress

Today, I know that healing is a process and there is no quick fix solution to my dilemma. My priest confessor advised me to just hold on to Jesus. He said, “Jesus never lets go of your hand. It was you who kept on letting go of His hand.”

I realized it’s been awhile since I dreamed for myself. For a long time, I had neglected myself. I was so contented going through the motions of life that I forgot to take care of myself, to love myself, and ask what I want for myself.

Listening to The Feast talks, I began to discern what I want. I resolved I would improve myself and so I would take up a short course on personality development.

And immediately, the universe responded to me. Last September, my godfather promised to send me money for the fee for the course. And he said there’s extra to buy myself a nice bag.

After the personality course, I’d like to work on a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) so I can get promoted.

 I told my mom about my plan and she was so happy for me. She said she would pay for my tuition. 

I used to be content as a call center agent and why not, when I was making good money. But I know I have the potential to become more than what I am now. And so, today I am dreaming for myself.

 I’m not afraid to aim high because I know God is with me.

Back to the Church

Despite the mistakes I committed in the past, God has been good to me. I’m glad I got out of my unhealthy relationship with Jasper. I heard he separated from his girlfriend and he now has another child with another woman.

While Mike apologized for taking advantage of my weakness, I didn’t feel his sincerity. Thus, I decided to totally avoid him. Eventually, he got the message. When I see him at The Feast now, he keeps his distance, too. Lately, a mutual friend told me he regretted having done what he did to me.

Sometimes my friends in the office or I myself would catch Danny checking me out looking as if regretting what could have been.

 Knowing these things, I’m glad I chose to keep my peace and didn’t resort to get back against these guys who hurt me.

I may have fallen a few times but I’m not on the losing end.

Today, I am a regular attendee at The Feast and a servant of a ministry under the Events-Program cluster. I have also signed up for the formation program for servants.

I hear Mass every Sunday and on days my work schedule allows. I am in awe at how far I’ve gone. I know it’s a long journey to becoming the person God wants me to be. But I’m not afraid for He is holding my hand and I am holding His. 

About the author

Rachel, 29, was born and raised in Makati City.

We decided to withhold her identity to protect her and the people involved in her story of a wanton life that drew her away from the Church. We gave persons in her story pseudonyms.

Friday, 26 August 2016 10:04

My mother suffered lupus and died when I was only 8 years old. My father remarried, so my three sibs and I lived with him and our step mother and their four children and another half-brother in Roxas City.

In my teens, I hang out with friends, going to gimmicks, smoking, drinking and got involved with fights. I would go home in the wee hours of the morning— wasted. I even had friends who were drug users, pushers and gun runners. But I didn’t get involved in those activities.

When it was time for me to go to college, I lived with my siblings in our house in Manila. Away from my father, I was free to continue with my vices.

I even got worse when I started working a sales consultant in a pre-need multinational company

I can proudly say, though, that I was good on the job— not a single absence.

Something I can’t say, however, about attending church. Sometimes, I would go when one of my siblings insisted hard enough for me to go— and if I was not too drunk the night before. 

Otherwise, I preferred to stay home and sleep off my hangover.

Life took another wrong turn when I had a girlfriend six years younger than me. Both our families did not approve of our relationship. Rebelling against her family, my girlfriend left home. I brought her to the house I was sharing with my sibs.

Naturally, my sisters did not approve of the live-in arrangement, so my girlfriend and I had to move out. We stayed at a close friend’s house for a week until we found a studio room for rent in Parañaque. We lived like a couple for two years. I worked, she studied in a school near our place.

Then, one day, she broke up with me, saying she had found another lover in school. 

That sucked. But we didn’t separate right away because it was convenient for us to stay in that studio. We remained civil, even as at times it was so annoying, to say the least, hearing her talking on the phone with her new boyfriend. 

Back Home

One day, I was retrenched from my job. A blessing in disguise, I guess, because without money, I heeded my father’s invitation to go back home in Roxas City.

Without a word of recrimination, my dad accepted me back. Even as for a year, I just bummed around, drinking with my buddies every night. 

Then, just suddenly, I got to my senses. I decided to try my luck in the nearby city of Iloilo. I found a job at a telecoms office. Soon, the company re-opened a sales center in Roxas, so I asked to be reassigned there and my request was granted. 

At the time, I also found a new girlfriend. 

I was feeling so good, I decided to go into politics, like my grandfather did. I was selected to be under the incumbent mayor’s slate as one of the councilors for Sapian for the 2010 elections.

My heart was not really into it initially. I was afraid if I quit my job, I’d nothing to go back to. But the call to make a difference in the municipality of Sapian beckoned and I couldn’t disregard the opportunity to continue my family’s public service legacy. I gave in and put my heart into the challenge of government service. But first, I had to win. 

One Loss After Another

Despite the efforts that I put into campaigning, I lost. And it was a terrible loss because I was top 9 but only 8 town councilors were needed. No. 8 councilor beat me by mere 6 votes.

I just needed 7 votes to become a councilor. To think, I had more than 10 sisters and cousins who didn’t get to register and vote for varied reasons. If only… 

Still hurting from my political loss, I suffered another tragedy in December 2010. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died a month after.

All was not lost because I found a job a month later. But only to lose it again after about a year and a half.

Following that loss, my girlfriend and I broke up in the summer of 2012. And as if the blows were not enough, I got to invest in a company, whose owner which turned out to be doing a financial scam. I lost all my savings. Worse, I got some friends to also invest in the company and so I had to bear the brunt of their anger.

Down to the pit of depression I fell.

Finding The Feast

A year after my father’s death, I decided to go back to Manila. My cousin Mariter invited me to work with her as financial advisor in an insurance company.

Mariter also invited me to attend The Feast at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

I did not think much about her invite. But one Sunday in June 2013, while I was jogging at the Cultural Center of the Philippines grounds, I decided to take a peek at The Feast at PICC which was just a block away.

In my jogging suit and all sweaty, I dared enter PICC and to my amazement, I was actually drawn in. Ushers warmly welcomed me, and instantly, I felt God’s presence in the grand hall. 

Note, I was literally running that morning. But looking back, I realized, I was really running all my life away from God. He had been chasing after me for a long time, and finally, He caught up with me. 

After that first encounter, I couldn’t wait for the next Sunday to come. I couldn’t contain my happiness. I started posting about it on my Facebook account. My friends and family were surprised to see photos of me at The Feast. For what they were used to seeing on my timeline were those taken at rave parties. They were happy for me.

I wanted to learn more about God. I realized I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I enrolled in a Prayer and Life Workshop and for the first time in my life, I bought a Bible. 

I also joined a Light Group (LG) with Che Yap as my head and I was welcomed like an old friend. Later, I attended ILovelife, a two-day retreat for single people like me that opened up opportunities for me to meet new friends. I eventually became head of Batch 6, Team ROAR when Pat Morales, Singles Ministry head offered the post.

I never handled a group in my entire life and in a faith community at that! But I said yes because Mama Mary’s words to the servants came to mind, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5).

I felt Jesus was asking me to do this service for Him and with all the positive things happening in my life, I couldn’t help but say yes to Him.

Because of this new role, I got to join another LG under Bro. Didoy Lubaton with amazing brothers, who are my fellow batch heads and other core servants in the ILovelife program.

I also joined the Music Ministry to serve God through my musical talent – singing.

I cannot believe it. In just a few months, I was already living a different life. 

Back to the Church

In the two years following my joining The Feast, blessings poured down on me.

Since The Feast includes the Holy Mass, I’ve begun to appreciate my Catholic Faith. Going to church has become an important part of my spiritual journey.

I prayed for a job and wrote it down on my Novena to Gods Love, with the following conditions: that it be a multi-national company, with workshift between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., near Baclaran in Parañaque City so I can attend the Wednesday novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help; and where I can apply what I studied in college.

I couldn’t believe it but the job God gave me has met all of my conditions! As a bonus, it’s only a five-day work schedule, so I am free during the weekend to attend The Feast and serve in a ministry.

I have new friends at The Feast helping me deal with my problems and struggle against my vices, so my healing, by God's grace, is happening.

Most important, I’ve become a changed man. I used to be a hothead. Now, most days, I am calm, at peace with God.

About the author

Napoleon F. Oducado JR., 36, or simply Nap to friends, took up Business Administration major in Computer Application.

He works as a business process consultant for a company in Makati providing Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing (SAP) handling clients in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan. 

Nap was born in Roxas City, Capiz to one of the distinguished families there as his father, a lawyer was one of the well-respected citizens the city. While his grandfather served as mayor of a neighboring town, Sapian.

Nap said with money to burn, and surrounded by friends, he didn’t care much about going to church.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 13:58

Chapter 2 of Messy Church for Messy People by Bo Sanchez

ONE day, Carol walked up to me after our prayer meeting. She said, “Bo, I'm so happy, God answered my prayer!
“What prayer? I asked.

She said, “Bo, my officemates are worldly people. Two of them are separated from their husband. One of them has an affair with a married man. Two of them have boyfriends and I'm 100% sure they're having premarital sex. Every day, I have lunch with them—and all I hear are green jokes and foul language and useless talk. Before I got spiritually renewed, I enjoyed that kind of talk. But not anymore. I hate it now. I'm not comfortable anymore with them. So I prayed to God to get me out of this group. And last week, God answered my prayer…
“How? I asked.

“Last week, I met this woman from Accounting who attends another Christian community. And so now we have lunch together every day. And it's been amazing! We first pray before the meal, then we share favorite Bible verses, then we share about our prayer intentions, then we share how God has been working in our life… Sometimes, we'd even cry together. Oh, Brother Bo, it's like we're having church every day!

Jesus Was Comfortable with Messed-Up People

I said, “May I give you a history lesson?

“Uh, sure… Carol said.

“Once upon a time, Jesus was in Heaven and He was sitting on His royal throne, surrounded by Angels, and enjoying a great life. Everything was holy, clean, pure, and beautiful. But one day, Jesus decided that people needed an audio-visual presentation of God's Love. Jesus does the unthinkable: He decides to be that presentation. He decides to leave His perfect, comfortable, flawless world and dive into the messy, dirty, filthy, sinful world of humanity. He became comfortable with mess.

“What are you saying? Carol asked.

“Carol, you can't just walk away from your officemates. Look at the guys Jesus hangs out with: Peter was a coward, James and John had temper problems, Matthew was a traitor to his country, Philip was indecisive, Thomas was cynical, and Judas was a thief. Can you select a more messed-up group than the apostles of Jesus?

And all throughout the Bible, you see this same thing happening: God dealt with very defective human beings. Abraham lied, Jacob cheated, Noah got drunk, David had an affair with a married woman and killed her husband, and Solomon had 1,000 wives, with 1,000 mothers-in-law, who influenced him to become an idol-worshipper.

Carol kept listening. I told her, “You won't like what I'm about to tell you. But you need to love the lost.

“How can I do it? she asked me.

I gave her 10 Things To Do…

1. Be Comfortable with Mess

If you're not comfortable with mess, don't love the lost.

I remember a gay person who came up to me at The Feast and said, “Hi Brother Bo. I love The Feast. By the way, I brought my boyfriend with me… and pointed to the guy beside him.

For a split second, I froze. Thankfully, I recovered. I stood up, embraced both of them and said, “Welcome to The Feast. This is your home. This is your family.

I told Carol, “Don't flinch when your friends curse. (Don't say, “Yuck!) Don't scowl when they tell a green joke. And when you talk to the woman who is having premarital sex, don't say, ‘Susmaryosep, Santa Maria Ina ng Diyos, maawa ka sa mga makakasalanan sa mundo…' (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Holy Mother of God, have mercy on the sinners of the world…)

I told her, “Jesus was the holiest person and yet He was the most non-judgmental person in the world. The Bible says Jesus did not come to condemn but to save. (See John 3:17)

You've got to learn to be comfortable with mess.

2. Be Known as a Friend of Sinners

Jesus was known as a Friend of Sinners. Religious leaders of his time criticized him for it. It seemed that Jesus was always hanging out with the wrong crowd—with prostitutes, drunkards, and thieves.

I asked her, “Carol, are you known as a friend of sinners?

She shook her head, “No. They think I'm too holy for them.

“Let me guess, I said. “None of them are close to you.

She sighed. “Yes, they avoid me. But that's because I've been trying to avoid them, too.

Sadly, many Christians are like Carol. Our reputation sucks. We're not known as the friend of sinners-- we're known as the en-emy, the critic, and the judge of sinners.

We've heard these words before: “Hate the sin, love the sin-ner. But in real life, we just hate the sin without really loving the sinner.

From my experience, however, when I really love the sinner, in due time, the sinner learns to love himself and stops sinning.

3. Don't Forget Your Own Mess

Recently, a huge survey was made among thousands of un-churched young people, asking them, “Why don't you go to church anymore?

One of the biggest reasons: “Because Christians are self-righteous.

Ouch.

Do you know why we're self-righteous?

Because we forget how messed-up we are!

Let me define self-righteousness: When we believe that other people's sins are bigger than our sins. But many people's weighing scale of sin is busted. For example, a lot of people think sexual sin is the biggest sin. But that's not true.

One day, a priest told me that most of the confessions he hears are about sexual sins—masturbation, pornography, sexual fantasies… But he said very few people confess sins of gossip, when we destroy the reputation of others, or sins of injustice, when we exploit the poor, or sins of omission, when we don't lift a finger for those suffering around us.… These are the biggest sins of all.

We're all messed up. The more you can accept your mess, the easier it will be to accept the mess of others.

When you invite people to church, one common reason for not going is, “I don't want to go to church because people there are hypocrites.

Once upon a time, I used to say, “Don't generalize"

But now, I answer differently. I say, “You're right. We're all hypocrites, including the preacher. And that's why we go to church—because we're ALL messed up. The church is not a community of perfect people but forgiven people.

4. Care Before You Confront

Some people ask me, “But Bo, shouldn't we confront sin?

Yes, you should. But you only confront within the context of a caring relationship.

Here's the Truth: You can't correct people who don't trust you. If you do, they'll get turned off, become defensive, and run away from you. And you lose your opportunity to be Jesus to them.

Jesus was the total opposite. The first thing He did was not to confront people but to care for people.

To confront means you point out their badness. To care means you point out their goodness. And when you point out their goodness, their goodness grows and flourishes and multiplies until it pushes out the badness from their life.

5. Allow God To Do the Changing

Bottomline, you can't really change anyone.

You need to allow God to do the changing.

And speaking of confronting people of their sin, there's something that's 100 times more powerful than confrontation. It's called self-confrontation.

From my experience, when I love a lost person, many times, I don't need to confront him of his sin. Rather, in due season, the person spontaneously self-confronts. It may take time, but the change is PERMANENT because he owns his decision to correct himself.

6. Journey with People

Not too long ago, a woman came up to me and said, “Brother Bo, thanks for The Feast, I'm growing closer to God. But I have a problem, she paused and inhaled, mustering courage, and added, “I have a relationship with a married man. It's been going on for seven years now. I know what I should do, but I must be honest with you, I can't give him up yet. I just can't…"

She just sobbed in front of me.

I embraced her and said, “God accepts you as you are. And so do I. Just surrender your life to Him. One day, God will give you the strength. In the meantime, just keep on coming to The Feast every Sunday. And I'm inviting you to volunteer to serve with us in a ministry.

I know very few spiritual communities who will ask an adulteress to serve in a ministry. But that's what we do. (No high level responsibility, mind you. I don't let her stand on stage. But I want her to serve because I want her to grow closer to God.) Why do we do this? Because we journey with people.

Three years later, she came up to me with tears running down her cheeks—but this time, they were happy tears.

“Bo, I did it, she said, “I was finally able to leave him.

At The Feast, we journey with people. We take you where you are. Because we know that only God can change you. And change takes time. So we'll be patient.

Why do we do it? Because God journeys with all of us.

Think about it: God puts up with your sins. He doesn't condemn you or throw you to Hell. Instead, He journeys with you. And that's what He wants you to do with the people around you.

7. Keep Planting Seeds of God's Love

When you love the lost, befriending them, accepting them, being comfortable with their mess, you're planting seeds of God's Love in their heart.

Sometimes, those seeds don't grow right away.

But those seeds will never die because God's Love will never die. A day will come when those seeds will grow and bear fruit.

8. See Them as Persons, Not Projects

When you love the lost, you don't do it just because you want to convert them. You love them because you love them, period. Love is the goal! If they respond and start following Jesus, that's wonderful. But if they don't and just remain your friends, it's absolutely wonderful too because you were able to love someone.

Don't see the lost as projects that you need to fix, but as people you need to love.

9. Pay the Price

After the story of the lost sheep is the story of the Prodigal Son.

When the Prodigal Son comes home, his father throws a welcome party for him, kills a fatted calf for him, gives him a ring, gives him a robe, and gives him new sandals.

That party is The Feast today.

Question: Who pays for the party, the calf, the ring, the robe, and the sandals?

Answer: The elder son.

Remember that the youngest son already asked for half of his property. So technically, what remained of the property belonged to the older son. And all those given to the youngest son when he came back home were already part of the older son's inheritance.

What am I saying? Reconciliation is expensive.

Someone has to pay for reconciliation.

Will you be that older son?

Loving the lost is difficult. When you reach out to lost people, someone has to pay by giving up their convenience and comfort and time and effort and energy. It won't be easy. It will be messy.

But that's the price you'll pay.

10. Pray for Three Persons

Today, I challenge you to write down the name of three persons with whom you will share God's Love.

1. ___________________________
2. ___________________________
3. ___________________________

Pray for these persons every day. And then seek them out. Invite them for coffee. Listen to them. Care for them. And pray for them.

When they're ready, invite them to read together the little booklet called Love Someone Today. (You can find a copy at www.KerygmaBooks.com) Say, “May we meet for 30 minutes each week over coffee and read this book together?

Together, read one chapter each week and just follow the instructions in the booklet. You'll be surprised at how God will use you to help the lost find their way back to Him.

Love the lost.

Next week, in Chapter 3 I share with you more specifically about The Feast.

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

PS.If you don't have a spiritual home, you can visit the nearest Feast in your area. Check out www.LightFam.com And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.

Read the Story of 

Napoleon F Oducado Jr.No Love, No Job, No Money …Then The Feast 
RachelFallen, But Not a Loser
Syrah Jean J. Sanchez - No Turning Back 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 11:56

MY MOTHER is a religious woman. Because of her, the family prayed the Rosary every night, and we went to church every Sunday. She still does to this day.

Once, when I was still a teenager, my mom even brought me along to attend The Feast in Davao. She subscribed to kerygma magazine and bought the books of Bro. Bo Sanchez. Growing up, I got to read only three sets of books: my textbooks, the Harry Potter series, and Bro. Bo’s books.

But I was young and I just didn’t absorb the teachings. Or, I guess I didn’t feel worthy of the spiritual journey because of my horrible past.

I was molested by an older cousin. I was 7, he was 9. It happened in our family’s ancestral house. My grandfather died and so the whole family gathered for the wake at the old house. That was the first time I set foot there.

To this day, I have mixed emotions about that house –- sad memory of my lolo’s death and the shame of a dark secret of how I lost my innocence.

I was the victim but I felt guilty just the same. It was an ugly past I kept to myself. Deep inside, I felt that incident had become my identity. And I tried very hard to mask it. Nobody should find out.

To cover up my shame, I had to keep a good image. I worked on excelling in my academics. As a result, every year, I consistently topped my class and I graduated with first honors in grade school. In high school, I got accepted in a specialized school where only top students were admitted.

But still, I couldn’t shake off my guilt. To add to my inner turmoil, the environment at home was just as troublesome.

My mother caught my father having an affair. They fought over it. I got mad at my father. I lost my trust and respect in him. I had a hard time trusting people after that.

To my relief, I got to escape the constant fighting in our house because I had to take up high school in Davao City. The school was far from our place so I stayed in a dormitory and was home only on weekends.

Going Astray

Throughout my high school days, I’d be home by Friday night or Saturday morning and would be back in the dorm by Sunday afternoon. Going to church would mean one hour less of rest or study time. For convenience, I skipped hearing Mass.

My mom egged me on to go to church. But I said to myself, I don’t need to go to church to talk to God. I can pray anywhere. Anyway, I was part of Youth for Christ (YFC). We had our prayer meetings, retreats, and other activities. That should suffice for my spiritual needs.

I was proud. I knew everything that I needed to know about God. I didn’t need to go to church.

But I guess my indifference may again have its roots from my dark past. In hindsight, I now see the dire consequences of my molestation.

First, in high school, I got exposed to pornographic materials. Since I kept to myself, I read the magazines secretly in my room. The addiction led me to masturbation.

Early on, my mom told me not to read men’s magazines. And I took that to heart. She said when I look at naked women’s photos, it’s like disrespecting her and my sisters. In my twisted mind, since I had no respect for my dad because of his extra-marital affair, I turned to gay magazines instead.

Second, I got attracted to the same sex. My twisted logic prevailed as I went to college. My mom said no girlfriend until I graduate and as a dutiful son, I complied. Afraid that I could get some girl pregnant, I turned my attention to boys and it was then that I had my first sexual experience with the same sex.

Third, to escape my guilt feelings, I entertained myself with DOTA, a computer game. Another addiction.

Fourth, feeling so dirty, I strayed farther away from the Church.

After college, I found a job in Manila. I tried my best to excel in the company and I accepted responsibilities left and right. I worked even on Saturdays even if it wasn’t required. I could have gone to church on Sunday, but I preferred to rest the whole day.

Later, I realized that the real reason I kept excusing myself from hearing Mass was I felt I wasn’t worthy to take Communion. Feeling dirty and sinful, I didn’t deserve to take the Body and Blood of Christ without Confession. So, if I wasn’t going to take the Host, what’s the point of going to church?

The last time I went to Confession was in my fourth year high school prior to our baccalaureate Mass because it was required. I felt good after I reconciled with the Lord. But, I still didn’t feel the need to become a regular churchgoer.

Finding The Feast

A friend invited me to go with her to The Feast being held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). Curious, I went with her in September of 2012.

Instantly, I felt the warm welcome from the ushers and the people inside the hall. During the Communion, I felt an inner prodding as if the Lord was asking me to take Him.

When Bro. Bo Sanchez came onstage, I realized I knew this man from the kerygma magazines and books I’d read, and I remembered I saw him in Feast Davao. It was amazing to see him again in person in this wonderful place.

Then we prayed the Novena to God’s Love . I recited it from the heart. I realized my hunger for God’s love.

It was the Big Day for the talk series Younique and Bro. Bo spoke about God seeing every person as, yes, unique and He loves you no matter who you are. As God accepts you, you must also accept your strengths, and weaknesses, and past mistakes. I felt like Bro. Bo was talking to me directly… as if I was the only one in the hall.

Right there and then, I made a commitment to attend The Feast every Sunday.

After five months of regular attendance, I joined a Light Group (LG). I felt welcomed and safe in this brotherhood. We met weekly and we edified each other with our presence, the time we spend with each other, and stories of our everyday struggles. Eventually, I was able to open up about my past. And what a relief to finally tell all, to divulge my pain, the hurt I kept inside.

But then, it is said that when you try to get close to God, the enemy comes up with clever ruse to get you off track. That’s exactly what happened to me.

I met him at The Feast and we started dating. Later, we became exclusive. While we professed to love and care for each other, guilt nagged me. Something was wrong. I knew something was wrong because we couldn’t tell people about us.

But even as I was immersed in The Feast, I couldn’t give up my boyfriend just yet. I bid my time.

Then, Bro. Bo started a talk series on discipleship. He said our Lord Jesus mandated us to make disciples— to share the Gospel teachings to the unchurched so that they will become followers of the Lord.

As I listened to the talks, I was like, “How can I be a disciple maker if I myself am not treading the right path?”

But in time, I finally had the grace to start changing my life. My boyfriend and I broke off eventually. We chose to stop our illicit relationship and agreed to remain good friends.

Back to the Church

In the past, I could count on the fingers of my one hand the times I went to church. When I started attending The Feast, this time, I could count on the fingers of my one hand my absences. I felt like something was amiss when I didn’t go to The Feast.

What I like most about The Feast is its formation seminars where I am learning a lot about my Catholic Faith. One seminar I attended was the Jesus Encounter (JE)— an introduction toward a personal relationship with Jesus, so moving, I experienced an intense spiritual renewal.

Right there and then, I begged God to make straight my path toward a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with Him.

It was a prayer God was only too glad to answer. I believe He directed my attention to a girl from my past.

You see, in high school, I had a girlfriend. I first met Sheila when I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman. We didn’t date, we were just text mates. We communicated by sending phone messages. I didn’t court her because I was not supposed to have a girlfriend until I graduated from college. Our relationship went on until I was in the middle of my college years. We lost touch after that.

I happened to meet Sheila again sometime after I attended the Jesus Encounter. And we started from where we left off. I regret not finding her sooner. I told her about my past and she accepted me wholeheartedly. I knew then that letting her go the first time was bad enough and committing the same mistake this time is unforgivable.

I started courting her in April and we became official in July. We are the best of friends. To make up for the lost time, I really exert extra effort to make her feel my love and care for her. One of my dreams is to have my own family and with her, I know it’s possible.

I used to ask God why He gave me the burden of a dark past. I didn’t know how to handle it. I thought it best to hide it. But keeping it to myself led me to graver sins that drove me far away from God and the Church. The chain of transgressions was broken only when I found The Feast which has helped me embrace my Catholic Faith again.

By telling my story, I hope to inspire those who went through the same ordeal, the same sin. That like me, they may be enlightened and see the truth about themselves. That God loves us so much despite our sordid past. That in His eyes, we are beautiful and worthy to be in His presence for we are His children. That He wants nothing but that we become our best self and live a beautiful life.

About the Author

DRAKE N is a pseudonym of a young man who went through a harrowing experience at an early age.

While he already opened up and shared his past to a few of his closest friends and relatives, he has yet to disclose it to his parents and siblings.

Twenty years after the incident, he says he has already mustered the courage to finally reveal this secret to his family but has yet to find the right time. Only then will he come out in the open to tell the world.

For now, he prefers to be under the cloak of anonymity as he tells his story.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 11:32

IN 2000, Mel, a co-worker in a networking company, invited me to a Christian service in Greenhills, San Juan.

I was impressed with the jubilant atmosphere, the lively music, so different from our solemn Catholic Mass.

The pastor lectured not only on spiritual matters, but on practical topics as well, such as becoming an entrepreneur. I wanted to become a business owner so I quickly got interested.

Gradually, I was drawn to join this church, whose members were also my newfound friends in the networking company. Before I knew it, I was already attending the prayer group meetings and Bible Study sessions regularly. These are activities which I didn’t experience at my parish church.

This was all new to me and I felt like a little girl entering not just a candy shop, but a whole new world. Joining the new religion came naturally for me as I guess I had a hunger to get to know God more.

As I pursued this new experience, my interest in attending Mass waned—until I stopped going to my parish church, and eventually left to be part of this non-Catholic denomination. But not for long.

Even as I attended this church, I still asked God to confirm whether this was the religion He wanted for me.

After three years, the honeymoon was over. I started to see some cracks in the glass. I noticed core members formed into an exclusive group— which turned me off.

The key message of the talks was that only those in this church will be saved. This kind of thinking just didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t jive with the kind of God that I knew loving, merciful, and compassionate, accepting everyone unto His fold.

Then, money issues rocked the church and I began to question the leaders’ values. Demoralized, I started to lie low.

It happened that around this time, my father began to prepare for his retirement. He asked me to go home weekly in Guinobatan, Albay, to help him prepare his retirement documents. And so I had a good reason to stay away from the church.

Also around this time, I heard that one of the church’s core members-in-training had to leave. Her parents brought her to their hometown in Romblon because they didn’t agree with her joining this church which to them was a cult.

I found a way to have a word with her and I wouldn’t forget what she said: “Stay with your parents and listen to them.”

It was the confirmation that I asked for. I cut my ties with the church and went back to attending Mass but still not regularly.

Actually, even when I swore off attending Mass, I still went with my parents to our parish church— just to show my respect to them. But I didn’t take the communion. My parents never said a word about it and just respected my choice.

During my spiritual hiatus, my soul craved for a church service that could quench my thirst for God. And I couldn’t find it in my parish church.

Finding The Feast.

I happened to meet again with Mel, the co-worker who brought me to the Christian church. Apparently, she noticed I’d been listless.

She asked me, “Do you know Bo Sanchez?”

“No,” I said.

“You will like him,” she gushed. “He’s a powerful lay preacher. I started reading his books and I thought of you. I know you’ll like him.”

My friend prodded me to buy Bo’s books and watch his midnight show. I did. I devoured his books and waited for his show despite its late airing.

Almost religiously, Mel and I would meet and discuss about Bo’s television program. The show included announcements of his Sunday prayer gathering called The Feast which at the time was being held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

We decided to attend The Feast but unforseen circumstances always prevented us from going. Finally, after several attempts, we were able to attend in 2006, on what would be the prayer gathering’s last day at Camp Aguinaldo.

The Feast moved to the Arena in San Juan. We followed Bo there. And we followed him to Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City, where The Feast was held for a while, then to the Philippine International Convention Center, and then, as of this writing, to various venues around PICC in what is now known as The Feast Bay Area.

Honestly, at first, I was not that impressed with the prayer meeting. I found the praise and worship part too long. I was not comfortable raising my arms in the air and hearing other people shout their praises. But, I felt God’s presence there and I knew I was home.

Still, I did not attend The Feast regularly. I didn’t go if my friend couldn’t make it. You see, Sunday became like our bonding session. After the prayer meeting, we would have lunch together and catch up with each other’s life.

I’m a shy person and I guess I got a little intimidated because the people at The Feast all seemed to know each other. I felt like an outsider.

When my friend found out I missed The Feast because she wasn’t going, she confronted me about it. Her question became my wake-up call.

“Are you going there for me or for God?”

I felt guilty. So I started going by myself and made new friends. Before long, I felt the urge to extend myself to service. I joined the Intercessory Ministry as an encoder of people’s prayer petitions. I also joined a Feast small caring group now called Light Group.

This time I was convinced, Mel is God-sent, my angel without wings.

Nine years after I first joined The Feast, I have taken various roles as a servant. Today, I am one of the coordinators of the Singles Ministry.

But more than my roles at The Feast, I value how The Feast has changed me into a better person. Thanks to Bro. Bo’s weekly preaching and practical tips on how to live a happy and abundant life. I have a better picture of myself as God’s child. And I am able to get to know God more and deepen my relationship with Him through the formation program for servants.

What’s more, I now understand and appreciate the importance of the Catholic Church’s Sacraments.

The Feast format is suited for people like me, who is looking for something more welcoming, not intimidating or threatening. That teaches us more of God’s love and mercy than scaring us with punishments. Part of Bro. Bo’s charm is that he doesn’t condemn or judge sinners. He exposes himself as a sinner and people can relate to him. And he invites us to move with him closer to God.

About the Author

Myee Campos was born and raised in Manila and now resides in Pasig City.

She works as a finance officer at the regional headquarters (RHQ) of a shared services company at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in the city of Taguig.

With both parents Catholics, Myee was baptized and raised Catholic, and she was sent to a Catholic school from elementary to high school. But she was attracted to another religion.

Monday, 22 August 2016 11:05

IN my “old life” I’d been a hard drinker, chain smoker, bum, and porn addict. I could not care less about my future.

Straying Away

I served in our parish church as member of the Youth Ministry and member of the Chorale. I even led the Worship Team of our faith community.

But I must confess, I struggled to get rid of my vices.

Finding The Feast

Five years ago, a friend invited me to The Feast. I accepted the invitation. The Feast has given me hope. At the Feast, you can really feel God accepts you.

The preachers deliver life-changing talks, presenting God’s message in a creative way. I’ve been so impressed by the inspiring, talented, and loving people of The Feast.

Back to the Church

In 2012, I served as guitarist and back-up vocal of the Music Ministry of Feast Marilao. In the same year, I joined the Radical Training Course for future leaders of the Light of Jesus Family.

Today, I serve at Feast Meycauayan as head of the Creative and Events Media Ministry, adviser of the Worship Ministry and Youth Ministry.

I also serve as retreat facilitator and resource speaker.

About the Author

JL Chico ,27, single, studied Computer Technology and troubleshooting at System Technology Institute (STI Munoz-Edsa).
Today, he is a freelance graphic artist, editing photos and videos.

He also organizes events, facilitating retreats for various schools, and giving seminars — such as on Leadership, and Teambuilding.

JL said his “old life” reeked with vices. Then, a friend invited him to The Feast.

JL lives in Malabon City.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016 13:05
Chapter 1 of Messy Church for Messy People

IT’S amazing what crazy things phones can do today.

It's a camera, a sophisticated map, a music player, a movie player, and even a flashlight…

I’m waiting for the day my phone has a laser beam sword. Like the Star Wars sword.

The Star Wars sword can come in three modes—short, medium, and long. If it’s in short-mode, it’s a nail cutter. If it’s in medium-mode, it’s a chopping knife. If it’s in long-mode, it’s a deadly sword. But I guess that will never happen because while you are making a phone call, if you press the wrong button, swoosh, you cut off your head.

One of my Business Mentors was telling me that he set up CCTV cameras in all his office buildings. And so even if he’s lying down on the beach in Boracay, he sees what’s happening in those offices just by looking at his phone. Neat.

You know what’s even more nifty? One of my friends uses his phone to control his home appliances while he’s away. Fifteen minutes before he arrives home, he turns on the airconditioning unit in his bedroom— just by pushing buttons on his phone.

When I told this to my other friend, she said, “Ha! My cellphone can do that too. I just call up, ‘Darling, turn on the aircon…’”

But imagine if one day, a company makes a phone that can do all these other crazy things but forgets to put one important feature. It can’t call up anyone.

Then it’s not a phone.

Why We Are Church

Before fully ascending into Heaven, Jesus gave us the purpose of the existence of church: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:18-19)

Let me say it the way I understand it: Our ultimate mission is to go out of the church building, love people in the world (give them an experience of God’s Love), and invite them to follow Jesus.

Like the phone today, the Church does many things. The Church provides powerful sacraments. The Church holds worship services. The Church builds beautiful churches and cathedrals. The church opposes the government when it violates moral values. But sometimes, we forget its ultimate purpose. If we forget our ultimate purpose, we stop being Church.

Here’s God’s big message for you today: Get out of the building.

The Feast Is for Outsiders

Many years ago, our community, Light of Jesus Family, created The Feast.

We held first The Feast on August 3, 1997, in a military theater— at the auditorium of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

We knew we were building a strange animal.

We designed it for one specific purpose: To reach out to the Unchurched. We didn’t design it for insiders. We designed it for outsiders.

Yes, The Feast is still the main gathering of our spiritual family, Light of Jesus. But as unnerving as this may sound, it’s not designed for our members

.

But guess what: When we give, we receive so much more. That’s why our long-time members are so blessed every time they attend The Feast.

Every part of The Feast—from the smiles of the greeters, to the choice of music, to the topics of our preaching—is designed for outsiders.

The Feast works because it’s focused on one thing.

This Is What We’re Born To Do

We have found our destiny.

We’re called to love the Unchurched.

Those who don’t attend church.

Those who are uncomfortable with religious settings.

Those who feel distant from God.

As I walk around The Feast, I meet these people:

A pagan.

A 50-year-old lapsed Catholic who hasn't gone to church since he was a kid.

A married guy who's having an affair and is searching for God.

A separated woman who's seeing a married guy.

A few porn addicts.

A young man who had an affair with the same sex.

And lots of young people who don't go to church at all.

A few ex-Catholics.

On and on and on, I meet them.

And I tell myself, “We’re getting the right people.”

Listen To Outsiders: What Do They Want?

Sometimes, I get suggestions from our well-meaning long-time members

  • “Brother Bo, please include more Doctrinal Teachings.”
  • “Let’s sing more liturgical songs.”
  • “Why don’t you preach about the Sacraments more?”
  • “Give us more in-depth Bible studies.”
  • “Our music is too loud, too fast, and too modern. Some of our members are old—and they don’t like it…"

Great suggestions.

I actually do some of them once in awhile.

But I always remind people that their suggestions are great for our other “member-only” activities (we do have those), but not for The Feast.

Because The Feast is for outsiders, we need to listen to our target audience. What do they want?

Why should the Church listen to outsiders?

Because Jesus didn’t come for the healthy but for the sick.

Because of this, I tell people the Light of Jesus Family is the worst community in the world. We’re all sinners. We’re messed up, broken, and fallen.

But we’re all taking baby steps in this journey towards home.

Why We Stink

Sometimes, the local church stinks.

Let me tell you why. If you spread manure on the earth, it becomes fertilizer and enriches the soil and the harvest will be humongous. But if you keep the manure in one place, it becomes very dangerous. Because of combustion, it will explode, kill, and destroy. That’s what is happening in many local churches.

Face it. There’s a lot of manure in us. Sin. Pride. Wounds. Insecurities. I always tell people that it’s very dangerous to stay in church too long without going out into the world to make disciples. Because God created us not to fill churches but to fertilize society. That’s who we are. That’s our identity. That’s our purpose.

I challenge you: Don't just serve inside the church. Serve outside the church. How? Be God’s Love to everyone you meet, especially the unchurched.

Go to the church for nourishment, and then, get out of the building… and make disciples.

In the next chapter, I’m going to explain how we can love the Unchurched…

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

PS.If you don’t have a spiritual home, you may visit the nearest Feast in your area. Check out www.LightFam.com And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.

Read the Story of 

JL Chico - Past Imperfect, Future Perfect 
Myee Campos - Cracks in the Core 
Drake N - Victim Anonymous 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 16:42

85% of Catholics Don’t Go To Church Anymore

I WAS reading global surveys on Christian church attendance.

They’re decreasing fast. Especially in Europe, churches are losing their flock. In Spain, only 31% go to church on Sunday. In Germany, only 16%. In France, only 10%. And in Australia, only 9% go to church—Catholic or “Protestant”.

You’d think it would be a little better in the Philippines. After all, we’re the only Christian country in Asia. Well, yes and no. For the Philippines, a Bishop told me only 15% of Catholics go to Church every Sunday.

Just to check this figure, I did my own informal survey. I picked up the phone and called up parish priests in Metro Manila and in the provinces and asked what is happening in their parishes.

One parish priest in Metro Manila told me that out of 23,000 residents in his parish, only 3,750 attend Mass every Sunday--which is only 16% of the total population.

Another parish priest in Quezon City told me that out of 15,000 parishioners, only 2,000 attend every Sunday--a measly 13%.

The parish priest in the capital city of a province has 83,000 Catholics. But only 7,500 attend Sunday Mass—only 9%.

Finally, I asked a parish priest working in a barrio in a remote island. He told me that he has 4,000 parishioners. But only 200 at-tend his Sunday Mass a shocking 5%.

Why Is This Happening?

Why are so many people not going to church?

Here’s one big reason: Because we haven’t seriously answered God’s call to love the lost.

We don’t deliberately look for the lost.

Jesus said if a shepherd has 100 sheep, but loses one sheep, won’t he leave the 99 sheep to look for the lost sheep?

As Luke 15:5-7 puts it:5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to thi, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Study all our church gatherings, our vocabulary, our songs, our sermons… Much of what we do is geared to religious people.

Why? Face it: Lost sheep are messy. Because lost sheep act lost. Broken people act broken. Messed up people act messed up.

We’d rather hang out with people who are like us, who vibrate in the same spiritual frequency, who speak the same Christian jargon, who know the same Bible verses and hum the same worship songs.

But Jesus didn’t do that.

He always hang out with the wrong crowd.

And this is what this entire book is all about.

I’m excited. In the next few pages, I am sharing with you why we do what we do — and how we do it —so that you fulfill God’s mission for your life.

Go To Where They Are

Let me tell you a story.

One night, a man was walking on the street, and he saw a little boy under a lamp post, looking for something.

The man asked the boy, “Did you lose something?”

The boy said, “Sir, I lost my wallet.”

The man said, “I’ll help you look for it, son.”

After a few minutes of looking for the wallet, the man asked the boy, “Are you sure you lost it here?”

The little boy shook his head and said, “No, I lost it over there,” pointing far away.

“What?” the man asked, bewildered. “Then why in the world are we looking for your wallet here under the lamppost?”

“Because it’s dark over there and it’s bright here, it’s so much easier to look for it here.”

This is why we’re ineffective. We’re looking for the lost in the wrong places. We want the lost to come to us—instead of us going to thi.

How The Feast Was Born

Some years ago, our faith community, Light of Jesus Family, went through a transformation.

Let me give you a little background.

In the early 1980s, 35 years ago, by God’s grace, my family and I, along with some relatives neighbors, and friends, formed the Light of Jesus Family.

In the next few years, we were a happy inward-looking community — without knowing that we were inward-looking. We were like a fortress with thick walls, and inside it were 2,000+ members who had to go through all sorts of hoops to be deemed worthy to be a member.

We had a rigorous formation program for those who wanted to become holy. If you failed in attendance or if you don’t live up to our other norms, you were gently advised that perhaps this was not your calling - because subconsciously, we felt we were better than other faith communities.

I’m ashamed to tell you about our arrogance, but I like sharing about it because it reminds me never to fall into it again.

Obviously, no messy people could get in because we wanted to build a holy community.

We wanted to be holy, to live a new life— yes, because we our-selves have had issues, burdens, and at one time or another, in various degrees, we were “messy” too.

Then we found out a new way to live a godly life and so we formed this faith community. And I guess, we thought, so that we won’t go back to our “old” life, we should have all these rules — which inadvertently excluded those who won’t live the “holy” life we wanted to live.

But one day, God spoke to my heart and told me how foolish we all were. He then showed me how we’ve forgotten the wounded, broken, and messy people outside our fence that needed our love.

I shared these disturbing thoughts to our Elders, and to my sur-prise, they all agreed to make the radical change.

I asked this, “Are you sure you’re okay with this? Because we’re going to make Light of Jesus messy. We’re going to love messy people.”

To implement the changes in community, they installed me as Presiding Elder of the Light of Jesus Family - again.

I said again because 12 years before, I had relinquished this position to work on Anawim, our Mercy ministry for the poor, and Shepherds Voice, our Media ministry.

And so we did the unthinkable. For a couple of years, we shut down all our “for-members-only” meetings. It was an upheaval, because for decades, closed-meetings were 90% of our activities.

Around two years later, we brought some of those meetings back, but they never became the center of our community life.

In place of these closed-meetings, we built a special kind of weekly meeting that welcomed everyone.

That meeting we now call The Feast.

The change was so radical, a few of our members left, because they wanted their old community. But 99% of the members remained, and ultimately, many of those who left came back, because they saw God move in the Light of Jesus Family.

Our Target Defines How We Do Things

We reached out to the unchurched.

We became a messy group loving messy people.

Today, there are 224 of these Feasts scattered all over the world, bringing thousands of unchurched people back home to God.

Who Are the Unchurched?

Let me just point out who we mean when we say unchurched. These are the people who are unchurched — those, for one reason or another, left their parish church, or their Catholic religion, or those who totally lost faith in God.

They stopped believing in God. They stopped doing Catholic practices. They did not go to church anymore.

This is the reason that in most parts of the world, we don’t hold The Feast in parish churches. Even if it’s easier. Even if they give us a free venue.

The rationale is simple. If we put The Feast in church, we’ll only attract mostly religious people. Many of the unchurched won’t go near a church. Some are angry at the church or bored at the church.

That’s why we put The Feast in malls, movie houses, restaurants, civic centers, offices, and homes.

And we don’t just preach religious topics. We talk about messages that are relevant to secular people’s life. Our songs don’t sound religious. And shucks, the preacher or worship leaders or singers don’t look religious, either.

Why I’m Sharing Our Feast Story

This book has two parts.

First, I’ll talk about “How To Love The Unchurched”. I’ll share with you the DNA of our work. In these pages, I’ll share about the Light of Jesus Family and what we do at The Feast.

Obviously, we’re not the only ones who are reaching out to the un-churched. There are many groups out there who are doing this and they’re doing a better job at it. So I apologize if I limit myself to sharing about what we do in the Light of Jesus. I do so because this is what I know.

Second, you’ll read inspiring stories of unchurched people who have found their way back to God through The Feast, the main gathering of the Light of Jesus Family. I know you’ll be inspired.

Three Kinds of Readers

In writing this book, I speak to three readers:

Reader One: If you’re a part of Light of Jesus, please read this book so that you’ll be reminded of our DNA. Our core. Our purpose. Our values. Our philosophy. Because it’s easy to drift away. It’s easy to lose our focus.

Reader Two: If you’re not a part of Light of Jesus but a part of another community or you serve in a parish, I invite you to pick up what you can from our story and do it a hundred times better. Imitate us and innovate us. For we too imitated other groups and tried our best to make it work in our world.

Reader Three: If you’re the unchurched, I’m thrilled that you picked up this book. I hope these pages will speak God’s Love to you. I hope that through this book’s message, your image of God will change. And though I’m not a bishop or a priest, I’m a part of this Catholic Church, and in behalf of the Church, I ask for forgiveness if we have failed to mirror God’s Love to you. I love you. I pray for you. And I hope to meet you soon so that I can hug you and welcome you back to His Love.

Shepherds of The Feast

Not a few times, the pioneers, the leaders of the Light of Jesus, even I have been called heroes of The Feast. Yes, we are, because we did make heavy sacrifices to build this community, to get The Feast going.

But I must say, we are really just like the sheep the Shepherd has found and has cared for to this day— so that like Him, we have, in our humble way, become shepherds for the people you will read about in this book.

By God’s grace, our writers experienced an amazing awakening. And by doing this sacrifice to courageously share their stories, they have become shepherds too for the downtrodden and the lost. For I know there is power in their honest, straightforward stories that will bless more of the unchurched and bring thi home into God’s loving ibrace.

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez

PS.If you don’t have a spiritual home, you can visit the nearest Feast in your area. Check out www.LightFam.com And if you want to start a small Feast in your office, school, or home, go to www.TheFeastVideo.com and see how you can change the world by loving someone, one person at a time.


Read the Story of
Primitivo Ochoa - 4 Excuses then 2-in-1 Blessings
Melody Reyes - Bored, Broken, Blessed
Cris Rioflorido - A Way of Forgiving
Diana Miranda - From Sadness to Sundate

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 13:13

IN my younger days, I attended Sunday Mass at my parish church. I started serving at the church when I was 9 years old as member of a group with a devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. I was also a member of the Choir and a youth team.

But then I got busy with school, and so parish service became just second priority to me.

Once in a while, I served as leader of some of the organizations in church whenever there were parish special activities. But I begged off from service whenever a personal matter arose.

The more I didn’t have time for parish service when I began to work as trainer-coach in call centers where office hours vary.

Straying Away

Sadly, because of some issues in the parish church, our youth team became inactive way back in 1998. Our leaders and members ventured into other groups.

Out of curiosity, I explored other non-Catholic churches and services.

Finding The Feast

I have been a fan of Bro. Bo Sanchez, and most especially his talks. I read his books, listened to his teachings, and just followed him, and became inspired.

I attended The Feast at Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City

.

I am thankful that I got to be part of the Light of Jesus Family founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez, from where The Feast started.

The Feast is the biggest factor why my spirituality is now intact and complete. The Feast is my forever spiritual nourishment! The Feast has taught me a lot about life, love, and faith. That even if I am imperfect, I am loved by my perfect God. I’ve learned that I am loved by people who, like me, are God’s work in progress. All im-perfect but sharing and expressing God’s perfect love through Jesus Christ. No judgments. Just pure love!

So at The Feast, I am free to worship God with all my heart, my body, my mind, and my soul.

The Feast gave me the reason for my existence, my life’s purpose, and mission.

The Feast made me realize the true meaning of service and commitment. That selfless love and dying to oneself to be Jesus to everyone.

I’ve become a shepherd, searching for the unchurched and introducing to them our loving God. The Feast made me faithful and nurture the faith that I have with fellow believers.

Serving at The Feast

At Feast Valle Verde, I volunteered as ministry servant starting 2010 when it had a Feast in Alabang, Muntinglupa City.

I am thankful that since then, I have been privileged to serve God as member, worship leader, even speaker in various Feasts. I’ve been serving in the Dance, Media, Special Events, Music, or Youth Ministries in Alabang, Makati, Sucat, Baliwag and Pacita, our Feast in my own village.

Back to The Church

The Feast opened my eyes to the truth about the Catholic Faith. Now, I love even more being a Catholic because I’ve learned that I am able to love God and have a special time for my Him, and my Jesus Christ, the Blessed Trinity, through the Holy Mass and the Sacraments.

I’ve learned that I am able to honor our dear Mother Mary, our Saints and the Blessed as intercessors. And I appreciate that we are being guided by our Guardian Angels.

I am now sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ because of what The Feast made me feel.

At about the same time that I’ve been awakened about the truth of my Catho-lic Faith, there was a change in my parish church.

Promptly, our youth team came alive again. Last 2013, we conducted again our seminar for youngsters — mostly aged 12 years old— to let them know God and how wonderful it is to have Him in their life. The seminar was a success.

I work with some other members of this youth group who also have gone through The Feast Experience. We now share with our new members what we have learned at The Feast — knowledge and wisdom imparted by Bro. Bo Sanchez as well as our pioneer Feast Builders-- the Kerygma 5, as we call them—and the younger leaders who with Bro. Bo, are now called Preachers in Blue Jeans.

Today, I also serve as adviser and elder of the Corinthian Community at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish, Pacita 2 Village, in San Pedro, Laguna. I help plan and supervise implementation of our Community projects, and sometimes, I serve as speaker in our gatherings, sharing what I’ve learned at The Feast-- God’s Word about His unconditional love for His people.

Our Corinthian Community in our parish church is now flourishing, with almost 200 members, ages 12- 40, and we have an active Core Team of servant-leaders.

We have a weekly fellowship gathering we call our Sundates. Fired up at The Feast, our Corinthian Community members go on community outreaches and participate in our parish projects.

Eager, marching on with our community chant: “Pass it on: God’s Love.” With The Feast and the Corinthians, we will Know, Love, and Serve!

About the Author
Diana Lim Miranda, 34, is single and she is working on a Certificate in Theological Studies.
Diana works as a freelance eventologist and talent for film, television, and theater.
Diana was an active member of her parish church. But she got busy with school, then with work. And following issues in her parish, she explored non-Catholic churches.
She is currently recovering from stroke and request for your prayers for her full recovery
She lives in San Pedro, Laguna.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:19

MY family didn’t go to church regularly on Sundays.

One time, when I was 12 years old, I wore white polo shirt and black pants to church. Noting my outfit, a parish worker remarked, “You could be a sacristan.”

Apparently, my outfit was the prescribed uniform for the altar servers in our parish. Hearing this, my mom later decided that I serve at the altar to overcome my shyness. I obeyed.

Since then, I regularly attended Mass on Sundays. With a role to play in the parish, I began to love the rites that used to bore me. I learned to pray to God when I needed something like to be able to pass my exams in school. I also prayed for my family.

From age 12 to 20, I served in the church.

In 2004, at age 20, I even became the president of altar servers.

Now, one Sunday, offertory envelopes were reported missing. Then, one of the offertory baskets also got lost. The problem continued and nobody could tell who was behind it. Accusations flew left and right. In the end, the blame was pinned down on us altar servers and since I was president, I was asked to step down.

The parish leaders said they believed my innocence but since the cases persisted, it meant I was not being effective in instilling good conduct among my members.

Hurt, I did not only relinquish my post, I stopped attending Mass altogether. I went to church only on important occasions, like Holy Week, Christmas, weddings, or baptisms.

I reasoned I was better off not mingling with the parish people. To me, they were not loving people. They found faults on people and gossiped about them at the sacristy at that!

Those years away from the church was not easy. I dealt not only with problems in the parish church. I also had issues with family.

Also, I had a girlfriend, and I had problems with her, too. We broke up in 2007.

I fell into depression and to escape, I got addicted to alcohol and pornographic materials.

Finding The Feast

At the time I was battling depression, I was already working in a software company. Things weren’t going well in my job, either. Because of the economy recession, information technology companies were either closing or cutting down on their staff. I struggled to keep mine.

Little did I know, it would be at work I would find my way to my spiritual awakening.

In the office, I met and became best friends with Jaime Borromeo. One time, he decided to celebrate his birthday at He Cares, a home for street children in Quezon City. There, Jaime found out about The Feast of the Light of Jesus Family, then being held at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City, led by Bro. Bo Sanchez.

Curious, Jaime decided to check out The Feast and invited me to go with him. I didn’t mind him, but he kept on nagging me about going to The Feast. One Sunday in July 2008, to get Jaime off my back, I told him I’d attend The Feast. But, that was one Sunday Jaime couldn’t go. So I went alone.

Bro. Bo’s teaching that day was about the Catholic Church and the richness of our religion. God couldn’t have timed my visit any better. You see, around that time, I was thinking of giving up my Catholicism and checking out other churches.

Hearing Bro. Bo’s talk, I cried that day and vowed never to leave the Church.

I loved The Feast so much that I was at Valle Verde every Sunday, with or with-out my friend Jaime.

I began watching Bro. Bo’s online video clip, Preacher in Blue Jeans. I read his books, Your Past Does Not Define Your Future, 7 Secrets to Freedom, and How To Find Your One True Love.

Bro. Bo inspired me to cut my addictions.

I also read Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life where I learned ways to deepen my faith. One way was to join a small group with whom I could share my con-cerns. I searched for one, and I found the Light of Jesus Family Caloocan chapter, headed by Albert Zabala. We met bi-monthly at the St. Gabriel Parish Church.

Bro. Albert became a servant at The Feast which also organized the participants into small groups, now called Light Group (LG). I joined the one with Albert as head. We met weekly discussing and applying The Feast talk in our personal life. In no time, Albert endorsed me to be an LG leader. So I led my own LG, and later, I became coordi-nator for LG heads.

Through the books I read and my regular attendance in the prayer gatherings, I eventually found healing and arrested my addictions.

What’s more, I received blessings after blessings, most important of which was meeting the girl I would marry.

I read Bro. Bo’s book, How To Find Your One True Love, where he recommended that singles come up with non-negotiables about the person they hope to marry. I came up with a list, and I also wrote that I want a fellow Feaster to be my future wife so that we would have the same values in life.

By God’s grace, I found at The Feast my one true love— Mary Michelle Mercado, a doctor by profession. After three years of being a couple, Mim and I entered into the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony in December 2015.

Back to the Church

At The Feast, I also found it in my heart to forgive and reconcile with those in our parish who hurt me.

I may have gone astray from the Church— like a lost sheep. But I’m glad that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came to hold my hand and led me back to the fold.

Today, attending the Mass every Sunday, if not at The Feast, in a nearby church, has become my bonding moment with Mim. We think it’s a good way to start our marriage, and keep it intact— with God in our center.

About the Author
CRIS RIOFLORIDO, received a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Computer Science, from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM)..
Now 31 years old, Cris works as software tester in an Australian investment bank with an office in Makati City.
Cris is a former sacristan, or altar server. He stopped going to church after parish leaders asked him to step down as president of altar servers because of a series of unfortunate incidents in his church.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:05

IN school, I was an honor student. I studied well and graduated with honors in grade school and high school. I went to a respected engineering university.

In college, I stopped going to Mass altogether because I didn’t have time. Besides, Mass for me was boring and so I usually dozed off every time I attended.

I remember spending my Sundays working on school projects. But, I didn’t forget to hear Mass on my birthday and Christmas. This went on until I started working.

The company shut down, so with nothing better else to do, I played online games and got addicted. Online, I met a guy –- a foreigner. Here, let me call him Joel. We started chatting online daily and eventually, he courted me. I liked him but I never agreed to be his girlfriend. I took it as child’s play. Who takes a virtual relationship seriously? But, since I enjoyed his company, we remained friends and kept in touch every day.

In the course of one and a half years of our “relationship,” Joel sent me letters, greeting cards, chocolates, and stuffed toy via courier. He kept on insisting that we become a couple. I didn’t want to get into a relationship with someone I just met on the Internet, so I chose to dump him. I thought maybe if we met in person then I would consider being his girl. But he never had plans of coming over to the Philippines.

We didn’t have any communication after I said “No.” After six months, Joel resurfaced and told me he was getting married. That’s when I realized my folly. I started asking myself, why didn’t I take him seriously back then. I felt bad and cried about it.

I stopped playing in the virtual world. I knew I would only feel bad if I saw him playing online, too.

Finding The Feast

It was around this time in 2010, when my co-worker, Melvin Yee, invited me to attend The Feast at Valle Verde, Pasig City. I thought it would be good for me to get my mind off Joel and online games.

So, I gave The Feast a try. I loved it. People welcomed me warmly. I felt at peace attending the Mass and listening to the talk there. The lively music and the flashing lights kept me awake during the entire session. For the first time, I felt so passionate in praising and worshipping God. So I kept going to The Feast until I could already laugh about my heartbreak.

Eventually, I started serving as an usher and signed up for a Light Group (LG) with Rhoda Marmol as head, and for the spiritual formation program.

Back to the Church

Today, eight years after, I have gone a long way, not just in my faith community but more important, in my faith walk. I became an LG head and a Head Usher some years back and to date, I continue to serve God fervently through these tasks.

I am now a new person and I see things differently. I see how God truly loves me. With His benevolent love, I have learned to become loving and generous to myself and others.

My Sunday is now incomplete if I don’t go to The Feast. I rarely miss attending one on Sundays. If I do, I make sure I hear Mass at our parish church, at least.

In my dealings with my family, I am able to share with them the teachings at The Feast. With nuggets of wisdom I have learned at The Feast, I have been able to help my family cope, especially when we face trials.

I am glad that my 15-year-old brother Jason goes to a Catholic school, where he is taught the importance of Mass and to become a regular churchgoer.

About the Author
Melody Reyes,29, lives with her mother and brother in Cavite. Her father works as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia.
She is a graduate of the Mapua Institute of Technology and she works as integrated circuit layout engineer at Lattice Semiconductor in Muntinlupa City.
She says she grew up not going to Mass every Sunday. Her family heard Mass only occasionally.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016 10:43

I CANNOT remember exactly when in 2009 that I became lazy and disregarded going to Mass. All I know is that I felt dragging myself to church every Sunday. There was no joy performing this religious obligation so I abandoned it altogether.

I surmise, the root of my laziness must be any of these four excuses: I just didn’t like our parish priest; I thought some priests were hypocrites as they condemned homosexuals when some of them were; I didn’t agree with the Church stand against the Reproductive Health bill; I observed some lectors or commentators didn’t meet standards of godly living.

I admit, I’d been quite judgmental. But in time, my conscience bugged me. And why not? You see, I am a Religion teacher and head of my school’s Religion Department. But I wasn’t practising what I taught my students, especially about attending Mass.

I was also president of a Catholic schools association in Laguna where I lived. But I simply wasn’t walking my talk in this group.

When I didn’t attend Mass, and people in the parish asked me where I was, I told them I heard Mass somewhere else. Yes, and somehow, I’d feel guilty about it.

But shame and remorse were not enough to bring me back to Church. I rationalized that I was praying to God anyway, and that the Lord understood me well enough to forgive my “petty” shortcomings.

Finding The Feast

I wasn’t actually looking for a way back to Church. But one time, I had to look for a speaker to inspire students during my school’s Youth Fest. My search led me to one motivational speaker named Bo Sanchez.

The next thing I found out was that Bo leads this Sunday prayer gathering at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) called The Feast.

Then, in September 2011, I had to go to Manila to attend a retreat. So I thought I might as well check out The Feast.

The first time I attended Feast PICC, I really felt God’s Presence inside the hall. During Worship, I felt the warmth of the God’s embrace. It was then that I realized that He is truly alive. I felt a changed man after that.

I began to have enthusiasm not just for worshipping the Lord but for life as a whole. Even my friends and colleagues saw the difference in me. Back in Laguna, someone even remarked how zealously I clap my hands now.

I believe the Lord spoke to me through Bro. Bo. Since I didn’t want to miss any of his Feast talks, I drove two full hours every Sunday from my residence in Laguna to PICC in Pasay City just to listen to him.

To me, there was no other way to show my gratitude to God but to serve at the Single Men’s Ministry.

God promised that whatever you give will come back to you a hundredfold. True enough, God has given back to me much, much more than what I’d given to serve Him.

You see, I had two big dreams: one, to get married and have a family of my own and two, to go and work abroad.

I saved up to be able to go abroad, but every time I had enough savings, something would come up and my earnings would be spent.I was then already 39 years old, so I gave up on both dreams and surrendered them to God. I even told my nephews and nieces that I had no more prospects of getting married.

“You will have to take care of me when I am already old,” I told them in jest.

But little did I know God had a 2-in-1 plan for me. In 2012, I had to organize my school’s reunion. In the process, I met an alumna and family friend, Mrs. Milagros Punzalan-Galang, who in turn introduced me to her daughter, Mafie, who was single and available— like me.

Mafie and I became friends online and eventually, we got married in October same year. That’s Dream #1 come true!

Mafie, by the way, is a Canadian immigrant and so after our church wedding, I went with her to Vancouver where we now live, and where I found a good job. That’s Dream #2 come true!

Back to The Church

Yes, since I’ve opened myself to God at The Feast, miracles have poured down on me.

But the best of all blessings is God had guided me back to my Catholic Faith. Little by little, I found myself devoting time to hear Mass again and now, I am a regular weekly attendee.

I’d been a lost sheep but God has found me. And I’m not ever letting go of Him because He never let go of me.

About the Author
Primitivo Ochoa,or Bheer to friends, 42, was a Religion teacher. But there were a number of reasons he did not practise what he taught his students..
But even as he practically abandoned his Faith, in time he found out God never abandoned him.

Tuesday, 02 August 2016 15:45

TODAY, August 3, 2016, The Feast marks its 19th Founding An-niversary!

We celebrate this milestone with the soft launching of the e-book Messy Church for Messy People: How To Bring Jesus To People You Love

Inspiring Stories of Unchurched People Who Found Their Way Back To God

For one reason or another, they strayed away from the Church, away from God. Then by His Grace, they found The Feast where they experienced His Unconditional Love that guided them back to His loving embrace, back to His Church.

Why The Feast?

This is The Feast Story…

The Feast of the Light of Jesus Family may trace its beginning way back in the time of Abraham, the patriarch of the Israelites destined to be the father of all nations. When Abraham was 100 years old, his wife Sarah, then 80 years old, gave birth to their son Isaac.

Abraham would then face a test of faith. God commanded him that instead of the usual lamb killed as sacrifice to honor the Lord, Abraham must offer Isaac. Humbly obeying God, Abraham brought Isaac to Mount Moriah to start the sacrificial rites. But at the last mo-ment, an angel stopped him. God rewarded Abraham’s steadfast faith with abundant prosperi-ty and the honor to become the father of all nations. (Genesis 22:1-19) True enough, Abraham became the patriarch of numerous de-scendants from whom came Moses and later Jesus Himself.

The Passover

The rite of killing a lamb as sacrifice is repeated in another major event in our faith history.

Suffering a seven-year famine, the Israelites migrated to Egypt where in time they were treated as slaves. Moses, who grew up as an adopted son of the Egyptian princess, was anointed to lead the Israel-ites in escaping from Egypt. God revealed to Moses that He would send ten plagues to force the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The last plague would be the death of the first-born males, one of whom would be the Pharoah’s eldest son. To save the first-born among the Israelites, the Lord instructed Moses to tell each family to slaughter a young lamb and mark their doorposts with the blood of the lamb.

And so when the Angel of Death went around to kill the first-born in Egypt, he passed over the houses of the Israelites marked with blood, and thus sparing the first-born among the Israelites.

We now know this event as the Passover which God instructed the Israelite to celebrate every year: “This observance will be a re-minder, like something tied on your hand or on your forehead; it will remind you to continue to recite and study the Law of the Lord, be-cause the Lord brought you out of Egypt, by His great power. Cele-brate this festival at the appointed time each year.” The Egyptians, fearing more mishaps to come upon them, then shooed away the Israelites who promptly embarked on what we now know as the Exodus. (Exodus 12-14).

The Last Supper

And so it came to pass that the Israelites continued to celebrate the Passover every year.

The Bible tells us that Jesus and the disciples in their time cele-brated the Passover. It was at the end of the week of the celebration of the Passover when Jesus came to Jerusalem for what would be the Last Supper That day, which we now call Maundy Thursday, Jesus and His disciples gathered in the Upper Room for dinner which was going to be Jesus’ last before His crucifixion.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26: 26-30)

The Holy Mass

Instead of the lamb that was slaughtered as an offering to God in the olden times, Jesus became the Lamb who offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. The Bread in the Last Supper would then be the Body of Jesus and the Wine would be His Blood, and the solemn rite would be done, as the Lord commanded, during the Holy Mass now celebrated every day in all Catholic churches.

The Charismatic Prayer Meetings

The Charismatic Movement in the early ‘70s popularized the rousing, upbeat way of worship services in non-Catholic communities which attracted trickles and eventually hordes of parishioners who preferred to attend those lively services instead of the solemn Mass.

The Charismatic Movement, however, was acknowledged by the Vatican as a welcome development in Church life. The Vatican thus established an office for the Charismatic Renewal which we know to-day as the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS).

In 1978, the year the ICCRS was established, was also the year Gene and Pilar Sanchez, the parents of The Feast founder, Bro. Bo Sanchez, first attended a Charismatic prayer meeting held by the Up-per Room Prayer Group, which led to the foundation of the Light of Jesus Family. The Light of Jesus then established prayer groups holding lively Charismatic prayer meetings. The members came together for the celebration of the Holy Mass every Sunday which also included Char-ismatic worship, plus a talk on practical application of the Catholic teachings in one’s day-to-day life.

The Victory Celebration with Jesus

Every quarter, the Light of Jesus held assemblies called the Vic-tory Celebration with Jesus, which eventually would become the weekly Feast, starting in 1997.

The Feast

In her diary, Pilar Sanchez, mother of our Feast Founder, Bro. Bo Sanchez, wrote:


1997 Aug 3
The FEAST - 1st day - 8:30 am to 12 nn - sched-uled every Sunday


The first Feast was held at Camp Aguinaldo in Cubao, Quezon City, headquarters of the Armed of the Philippines, because some of the members of the Light of Jesus Family were AFP soldiers and em-ployees who helped arrange for The Feast to be held at the AFP The-ater. Yes, a part of the Philippine Army had joined Christ’s Army, to fight a good fight— to bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus and make them disciples of the Lord.

In Messy Church for Messy People, Bro. Bo Sanchez further re-veals the reasons for The Feast.

In her diary, Sis Pilar listed down the rapid growth of The Feast:


1997 Aug 3
The FEAST - 1st day - 8:30 am to 12 nn - scheduled every Sunday
1997 Aug 31
During the FEAST, Bo announced the Glory of God Community will now be called Light of Jesus Community
1997 Nov 9
The FEAST was held at Music Museum instead at AFP. This went on for 3 months. - held every Sunday yet
1999 Feb 28
1st FEAST at LOJC East Sector held at Binangonan Rizal
1999 Mar 28
FEAST at Biñan Laguna by South Sector
1999 Aug 1
FEAST at AFP 2nd Anniversary - Start of 2 sessions - 8-10am & 10:30am - 12:30pm
1999 Mar 7
FEAST at AFP Theatre becomes every 1st Sunday of the month, 9:30am - 12nn (instead of every Sunday)
1999 Nov 7
FEAST at AFP Theatre, launched the book Boss 2 & Sabbath
2002 Sep 1
Bo launched his book BOSS 3 during the FEAST
2002 Dec 3
1st FEAST at Mandaue Sports Complex, Mandaue, Cebu City
2003 Jul 6
Bo gives 3 different talks per FEAST in a day - taping done for future TV show
2007 Dec 15
1st FEAST in Pasig

THE FEAST STORIES

To be able to “franchise” The Feast, Bro. Bo invited the best lay preachers he could find, as well as mentored young men in the Community with leadership potentials to help him build Feasts in the Philippines and abroad.

To date, there are 224 Feasts worldwide. From some of the-se Feasts, attendees stepped forward to tell stories of their amaz-ing awakening now in the book Messy Church for MessyPeople, which we must say, are continuing the Greatest Story Ever Told…

NEXT WEEK: The Introduction to Messy Church for Messy People. Watch for it!

Friday, 15 July 2016 14:08

Our dear founder and Feast Builder Bro. Bo turned 50 years old last July 11 and the Light of Jesus Family took this as an opportunity to say "Thank you!" for all the love that he has shared through the years.

Because he is uncomfortable with events where he is the guest of honor, the surprise birthday celebration and all its activities were painstakingly kept secret from Bro. Bo for 2 months. The festivities started with the Family Day in Anawim where representatives from Feasts, donors and partners gathered last June 9 for a half-day of festivities. It was a double celebration - for Anawim’s 21st Anniversary and Bro. Bo’s 50th Birthday.

Next was the 50-day countdown to July 11 online. Everyday, a Facebook campaign anchored on Bro. Bo's birthday countdown on Light of Jesus Family's Facebook page was made. The simple online contest was able to gift many deserving winners who excitedly joined and gamely gave answers to the questions of the day.

Kerygma Magazine also prepared a Special July 2016 issue honoring Bro. Bo. This also coincided with the release of Bro. Bo's 2 new books - You're Weird and How Good People Like You Can Become Rich. A tribute album featuring the songs of Bo Sanchez through the years, interpreted by different generations of Light of Jesus Family Music Ministry, was also launched this July ("While I Have Breath" is available on iTunes and Spotify).

Listen here at Spotify Click Here

One of the biggest surprise that LOJ planned was the P50 Birthday Gift Envelope from Feasts. Wanting to raise funds for the different ministries, this birthday collection started 50 days before Bro. Bo’s 50th birthday in all Feasts, with the local Feasts sending in their gift enevelopes week by week. The provincial and international Feasts also sent in their donations during this period.

As a final surprise, a birthday celebration at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was held on Bro. Bo's 50th birthday. Titled, Bottomless, the free event was an opportunity for honoring and thanking Bro. Bo for the blessing that he has been to the Light of Jesus Family, to the mercy ministries he has supported through the years such as Anawim Lay Missions, as well as to his other personal projects - the TrulyRich Club, Catholic Filipino Academy - and his friends and family.

Visit our Youtube Channel for complete video of Bro. Bo's ‪#‎BOttomless‬ Celebration

Monday, 04 July 2016 14:50
Monday, 04 July 2016 13:41
Monday, 04 July 2016 13:03
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 13:47

Our dear founder and Feast Builder is turning 50 in 50 days! Yes, you heard it right! Bro. Bo turns 50 years old this year! How time flies!

It has been a grace-filled 50 years... 50 beautiful years overflowing with selfless love and service.

And of course, Bro. Bo's journey to 50 wouldn't be complete without you. Yes, YOU!

Allow us to thank you by treating you with gifts everyday, for the next 50 days. It's our way of celebrating the love, life and service to the man who has given his all to serve God's people.

Enjoy, our dear friends!

#50daysofLove

Friday, 13 May 2016 12:18

Jewels Conference 2016: A Gathering of Women

Last Saturday, April 30, 2016, the first National Jewels Conference was held at the SMX Convention Center Manila. It was a special gathering of women - from different backgrounds, with unique experiences and going on special journeys - who came together to worship, pray and reconnect to God.

Speakers Rissa Singson-Kawpeng, Rosanne romero, Selene Yu and Ditas Español drew on their own experiences and led everyone from truth and trial to transformation and triumph. Bro. Bo Sanchez then closed the conference with a special message on the wonderful calling of women - to testify and nurture the people around them.

In this moving event, women felt loved, empowered and left refreshed and renewed, bringing home the knowledge that each one is "worth more than gold!". Under the stewardship of Marowe Sanchez, together with the wives of the Light of Jesus Feast Builders, it was a moment that was truly blessed and precious.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 15:51
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 14:02
Thursday, 11 February 2016 13:30
Thursday, 05 November 2015 13:47
Kerygma TV wins CMMA Best Religious Program Award Kerygma TV, the weekly TV show featuring Bo Sanchez at The Feast was awarded Best Religious Program at the 37th Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) ceremonies. The theme for this year’s CMMA is “Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love”, which is based on Pope Francis'message for World Communications Day last Jan. 24, 2015. The CMMA Foundation received a total number of 803 entries in 60 mass media categories in the broad fields of print, radio, television, advertising, music, the Internet, and student CMMA for the 37th Catholic Mass Media Awards. Of these, exactly 284 made it as finalists. The CMMA was established in 1978 by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of Manila, as the means by which the church pays tribute to those who “serve God by means of the mass media.” Kerygma TV is produced by Shepherd's Voice Radio and TV Foundation, an all-media organization that produces world-class inspirational and spiritually-enriching programs, while also providing support to the work of evangelization and poverty alleviation. Kerygma TV is supported by generous donors through Kerygma TV Partners.
Monday, 21 September 2015 10:55


Bacolod Grand FEAST Draws 1,300

SMX Convention Center Bacolod was shaking from the worship and thanksgiving of 1,300 people attending the Grand Feast Bacolod last September 3, in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of The Feast Bacolod.

Guest preacher, Bro. Arun Gogna (Senior Feast Builder for Feast Alabang), with his wife Lallaine leading worship, shared God’s message to an SRO crowd.

Focusing on the Grand Feast theme, “I Am Salt”, based on Matthew 5:13, “You are salt of the earth,” Bro. Arun shared God’s message that each one, no matter who he may be or what he may have done, is far more beautiful and precious than any created thing or natural wonder. He shared about the time he went to the Grand Canyon and marvelled at how awesome it was – and in the middle of all that, he heard God tell him, “Mas maganda ka pa dyan. ” (You are more beautiful than that.)

The Grand Feast started with a concelebrated Mass headed by Bishop Vicente Navarra, who in his homily endorsed The Feast as a new evangelization; that is, going out of the confines of the church to spread God’s word in malls, parks, and public spaces.

The regular Feast Bacolod is held every Thursday, 6PM, at the Saltimboca Function Hall. More details are found on www.facebook.com/TheFEASTBacolod.

Thursday, 03 September 2015 15:17
Thursday, 03 September 2015 15:12