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.
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.
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 Sanchez’s 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!