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.
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 won’t push what I want. Your Will be done.”
Believe it or not, when I whispered that to God, I actually felt His warm hug.
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.
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.
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.