Why I like attending Mass

Today was my fifth day in my new role (more about this on a later post, probably), and also the longest day I’ve had in the office in a long time. I was so busy today and I had to put off some of the other things I wanted to do just to finish some work but there was one thing I was silently praying that I would get to do: attend Mass. Thankfully, my 5pm freed up, so I was able to head to the nearby chapel and attend Mass with my parents. Interestingly, the Gospel and the homily said something about God’s presence and how He never lets go of our hand, and that’s why I decided to get this post out of the drafts and post it now.

The first time I said I would go to Mass everyday was back in 2008, after I had submitted my requirements for the Australian visa application because I wanted to attend WYD 2008 in Sydney. I told myself that I would go to Mass everyday to pray for my visa and WYD. I did it, and people asked me about it and I told them why I was doing it and they didn’t say anything else. It was a struggle, really, because back then, there was only one mass schedule in Eastwood. It was lunch time, and our team usually ate lunch together, so I had to miss out on that. And then some times, I just got lazy, but I dragged my feet to church, because I really, really, really wanted to go to Sydney.

Well, I didn’t get to go to Sydney that year, and so I stopped going to Mass everyday, too. I went back to the usual Sundays, as well as the first Wednesdays and Fridays of the month, and all the other holy days of obligation when I needed to attend.

Some time around April in 2013, I decided to take a break and attend Mass because I felt unsettled. It was one of those many days back then when I didn’t know what to do with myself, and my thoughts just kept running and running and running and running, so I went to church in hopes of my thoughts stopping and my heart to go still.

And it did.

Ever since then, I started attending mass everyday.

It was an hour (or perhaps about 45 minutes, because it’s a weekday mass) of peace. Inside the church, as the Holy Mass happens, my heart quiets down and somehow all the noise of the world is left by the church’s doors. Oh, sometimes thoughts make their way in, and I get distracted. Sometimes I even get so sleepy that I actually nod off during some parts. Of course that happens. There were days when I didn’t really pick up anything from the readings or the homily, and some days it made me feel a little distant when that happens. But there were days when something just hits — and when it does, it usually hits hard — and sometimes I find myself crying because it was just exactly what I needed to hear. It was exactly what my heart needed.

The more I go to Mass, the more I craved for the peace being there gives me. And I suppose it’s just logical, since the Holy Mass is the highest form of worship, and if needed any help to get closer to God, then going to mass is the first answer. I mean, I get to receive Jesus in communion here, and I get to celebrate His life, death, and resurrection with fellow believers. I don’t know how I can’t not find God in this celebration.

I remember one time, on the last mass after the vigil at the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, where I stood in wonder as we attended a Mass in a different language with millions of Catholic youths all over the world. I could not understand half of the mass because it was in Spanish, but I didn’t feel confused because it was exactly the mass I grew up with. Later in that trip, my friends and I attended mass at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paris, and I didn’t understand a word of it because it was in French, but I didn’t mind. And just recently, when my SFC friends and I were in Cagayan de Oro, we attended a Mass that was in Bisaya, and again, I hardly understood anything but it didn’t feel any different. It was still the same Mass that I know.

That’s the beauty of this celebration, and the Roman Catholic Church. Anywhere you go, you can attend Mass and it’s exactly the same. Sure, the homily may be different because of the priest, and there may be small differences like how long you hold hands after the Lord’s Prayer (if people actually hold hands) or how the communion is given…but at its very core, it is still the same Mass anywhere. The same readings, the same responses (albeit different languages), the same opening and closing. And there’s something just nice and comforting about that. :)

The Holy Mass reminds me that no matter how chaotic my life is, no matter how confused or broken or sad or excited or happy I may be, God is still the same. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness. It’s a reminder of God’s permanence, of how He is really the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It’s Jesus reminding me where I could find Him, where I could find peace amidst all the troubles of life. How He is always waiting to celebrate with me in church, and how He always offers himself through the consecration and the communion, in the changing of the bread and wine into His body and blood, and even in the people who attend the Mass with me as we exchange greetings and wish each other peace. In every response, in every action, in every reading, I am reminded that God is holding my hand and He will never let go, and that I never go through this life alone. :)

* Photo credit: Lifeteen.com

We are the Easter People

I don’t know about you, but there’s really something about this particular Easter season that has me…well, joyful.

I suppose Easter is reason enough to be joyful, but in the past years, after Easter Sunday has come to a close, I go back to the daily grind, and well, forget that it is still Easter. I go back to work, to everyday life, and go back to my old struggles, like Easter didn’t happen at all.

But this year, I don’t know. I go to mass, and every time we pray the Regina Coeli, or recite Glory to God, I start tearing up. I love it when the priest says “Alleluia” at the end of his blessing, and I say, “Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia” back. I love it, and every time I remember the victory of Easter, I couldn’t stop smiling and singing inside because…well, it’s Easter!

I suppose it is because of knowing that I am truly forgiven and all. And I suppose it’s because this Easter is a stark contrast from last Easter, where everyday was a struggle to believe in the victory of Christ’s resurrection.

I remember reading somewhere, probably on Twitter, last year that Easter is the longest season in the church for a reason. I guess it’s because we frail and imperfect humans need a reminder that Jesus’ resurrection is really important, and it is a real cause for celebration. So we should celebrate. We should remember, and we should live it, until it gets ingrained in our hearts even after Easter is over. I mean, the resurrected Christ could have just showed up for a week, and then ascended, but He chose to stay with the people to teach them and equip them for 50 days. And what’s more, even after His ascension, He sends the Holy Spirit to prepare us even more and remind us that Hey, you are neveralone.

How amazing is that.

I guess one of the reasons why this Easter feels different is because…well, it is. It’s like I am finally waking up, like I have finally reached something and I am about to start a new journey.

It’s so incredibly exciting.

So yeah, it’s still Easter. And if you had a particularly good and blessed Holy Week and you’re wondering where it all went, remember this: IT IS STILL EASTER. There is still a lot of reasons for us to sing Hallelujah. :)

do-not-abandon-yourselves-to-despair-we-are-the-easter-people-and-hallelujah-is-our-song-pope-john-paul-ii

And today, the second Sunday of Easter, there is cause for more joy. It’s Divine Mercy Sunday (which I would write about in another blog post, but I think this one from Lifeteen has it covered :D), and the canonization of two Popes, Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.

Truth be told, I knew nothing about Blessed John XXIII until recently, but I’m starting to read up about him and he’s pretty awesome, too. But JP2…he was the first Pope I knew in my lifetime. If you know me in real life, you know how much I love JP2, and how every time I read or watch something about him, I start crying. I didn’t get to see him when he was in Manila for World Youth Day 1995 because I was too young to appreciate it, but I knew, even in my young heart, that he was a great and good man. More than a decade later, when I started praying and preparing for WYD 2011, I asked for his intercession everyday for the pilgrimage. And I believe that it was because of his intercession that the WYD dream finally came true. :)

I love it that JP2 knew what it is to be an Easter person, to have Jesus’ resurrection in his heart and to believe in the love that redeemed us from the depths of our sin. This is a person who knew and believed in God’s mercy and grace, and lived it his whole life even in the face of death. This is someone who knows how to take delight for real, and who loves fully because he is loved.

So yeah, this Easter is definitely something. :) And we’re only just in the first week! Hallelujah, indeed.

Happy Divine Mercy and Canonization Sunday, everyone! St. John XXIII and St. John Paul the Great, pray for us! :)

It counts for love

Also known as: Saying goodbye to my favorite month with love

Look, March is almost over. I meant to blog more, but life just got in the way so I’m back only now after posting about my birthday.

Yesterday I finished rereading one of my favorite books, May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly. I remember loving this solely because it was a book about Catholicism and it made my appreciate my faith more. The last time I read this was 2009, and I admit to being a little bit shaky with my faith back then. I’ve moved past from that part of my life, and I’d like to believe that I am better now. Reading the book this time around was different, because I think I got it a bit better now than then.

It’s also these times I believe that God sends affirmations to me about some things I am determined to live out. At the very end of the book, I ran across some passages about love that totally supported why I chose LOVE as my word for 2012.

May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly

The aspect of the cross that stops me short is that, throughout his passion and death, Christ was himself. He never tried to be anything else, never tried to please anyone, never tried to run away, never wavered from the truth; he only occupied himself completely and authentically with his own calling. He just loved, no matter what the outcome; just loved because that is what he was created to do. The miracle of the cross is that God loves anyway, no matter what the result, no matter our choice, no matter the flighty vacillations of the sometimes fickle human heart — loving one minute, resenting the next, indifferent or self-involved in still the next. Instead, he flings the door to his very sacred heart wide, wide, and invites all to enter and make themselves at home…

Christ’s suffering counts for something the most important things, the essential things. It counts for grace and for mercy. It counts for authenticity and for resurrection from our ruination and into who we truly are: children of light. It counts for being genuine and honest. It counts for love.

As my faith grows up within me, more and more the prayer I once clung to, “God remove my pain,” becomes “If I must experience this suffering, then please let it count for something. Just don’t let it go to waste.” When I can open my heart and love anyway, no matter the outcome, no matter the choices of people around me, no matter the risk involved, I become more powerful in heaven’s kingdom than any army, any fear, any cruelty or any rejection. Instead, those things are swallowed up whole and lost in grace and mercy. I find that when they are awash in love, they’re not such bitter pills after all.

I want to love anyway, to love because that’s what I was created to do. And I can trust that God will never let any potential resulting suffering go to waste if I’m doing that. It will always count, and that’s a promise. Even when I don’t know it; even when I can’t feel it. And that gives me courage, courage to love again, to love anyway.

I don’t understand the cross. I don’t believe understanding it is the point, or even necessarily a very worthy or interesting goal. But I think accepting it is — accepting that we were created to love no matter the outcome. The cross is God’s promise to love us, no matter what. And deep in my spirit where the most essential parts of me are anchored, there is a knowing, growing and resonant and burning with an eternal ache that tells me: the cross counts. It matters. It counts for grace and mercy. It counts for love.

– May Crowning, Mass and Merton: 50 Reasons I Love Being Catholic by Liz Kelly (pp. 269-270)

The cross counts for love. What a beautiful way to put things in perspective. I will never understand it, but even so, what I can do is to love anyway no matter what the outcome and trust that that is enough.

March is ending, but we’ve got a month full of new possibilities ahead of us. :)